Tough LAPD enforcer a character in search of a story in 'Rampart'
In 2009, filmmaker Oren Moverman staked out his turf with quiet authority in his debut feature, The Messenger. A fraught, yet spare and ultimately moving drama about a wounded young Iraq War vet serving out the rest of his tour Stateside, notifying families that their loved ones have been killed in the war, it featured a towering performance by Ben Foster in the central role. It also provided a showy, profanely funny supporting role for Woody Harrelson as Foster's new CO, assuaging the harrowing nature of their job with glib wisecracks and plenty of booze, but it was all in pursuit of Moverman's serious theme, exposing the true cost of warfare, in lives and souls.
Disneynature is back with its annual Earth Day Weekend wildlife documentary. Shot on location in the rainforests of Tanzania, Chimpanzee is presented as a narrative tale about an adorable baby chimp growing up within the support group of his community, working, playing, and feasting together. Made in association with the Jane Goodall Institute and shot by painstaking camera crews over a period of months as the story-in-progress gradually emerged, it's directed by Disneynature series veterans Alastair Fothergill and Mark Linfield.
‘Marley’ director Kevin Macdonald creates the definitive documentary of the reggae star’s life and death
Dead rock stars are a dime a dozen, but a rock star dead by natural causes is a rarity. The last minutes of the documentary film Marley recount Bob Marley’s physical decline from vibrant performer to diminished cancer patient, before his death in 1981 at the age of 36. It is difficult to watch. In one heart-breaking scene, a friend recalls the moment when Marley loses his dreadlocks. Weakened from metastasized melanoma, his body could no longer bear the weight of the long, thick, matted hair. In the presence of friends and family, Marley’s dreadlocks—worldly representations of his spiritual self and the religion that defined him—were snipped away.
Father-son academic rivals face off in wry, yet perceptive 'Footnote'
History and literature are full of fraught relationships between fathers and sons—from Kronos and Zeus to Darth Vader and Luke. Somewhat less epic is the father-son friction between rival Talmudic scholars at the heart of Footnote, an offbeat Israeli comedic drama about family, ambition, and recognition within the cloistered realms of Academia. Written and directed by American-born Israeli filmmaker Joseph Cedar, the film toddles along at its own measured pace, yet becomes engrossing as the moral dilemma at its core shapes up. The film's wry humanity earned it a Foreign Language Oscar nomination this year.
Gripping new doc 'Bully' exposes schoolyard epidemic
For many people, middle/junior and high school are ordeals to be slogged through on the way to one's "real" life. Yet, there's never any shortage of chirpy idiots around trying to convince us that these are "the best years of your lives." Tell it to Alex, Ja'Meya, Kelby, and Tyler, the real-life teen heroes and heroines struggling (or failing) to survive their school years in Lee Hirsch's gripping documentary, Bully. If, like me, you'd rather not spend another nanosecond inside of a school, even virtually, Bully will be a kind of endurance test—which is why it limns the endurance test of middle/high school with such effective and sobering clarity.
Fractured fairy tale 'Mirror Mirror' goes for the yuks
Did you hear the one about Snow White and the Seven Stooges? That's the prevailing sensibility in Mirror Mirror, the first of two dueling Snow White movies due out this spring. (The second, Snow White and the Huntsman, opens June 1.) Directed by the sometimes-brilliant Tarsem Singh (The Fall), Mirror Mirror tells the oft-told tale with plenty of visual pizzazz and the grrrl power element that's become de rigueur in updated fairy tales. Unfortunately, the emphasis on campy slapstick—especially among the dwarfs—is almost as fatal as a poison apple to the project.