The latest installment of Michael Apted's epic, now 8-part documentary series reunites us with thirteen of the original fourteen participants, who've aged from 7 to 56 before our eyes. Fascinating and genre-defining, one of the singular achievements of the documentary cinema. Roger Ebert had the Up Series on his Sight and Sound list of the 10 greatest films of all time before they changed their rules and disallowed including series or trilogies as single entries.
The new documentary Beware of Mr. Baker takes as its central subject Ginger Baker, world-famous drummer from '60s supergroups Cream and Blind Faith. It goes to great lengths to explore all the different aspects of his character. Which basically boils down to a) he was a tremendous drummer and b) he was a tremendous heel. Recommended.
So many child actors are cast to be cute, rather than for any nascent acting ability, that it's astonishing when a performance comes along with real depth and nuance. Director Hirokazu Kore-Eda has demonstrated a knack for eliciting these sorts of performances from his child leads, first in 2004's heartbreaking Nobody Knows and most recently with I Wish's real-life brothers Ohshiro and Koki Maeda. Kore-Eda's other notable skill is in uncovering real emotion where most directors would find only empty sentimentalism. Roger Ebert says Kore-Eda is "as gentle and wise as any director now working" and the Star Tribune's Colin Covert called I Wish "kind and wise". So, I guess if you're seeking wisdom, you could do worse.
Art house distributor extraordinaire Oscilloscope Laboratories presents two beautifully shot documentaries about young people finding their way in the world. The Star Tribune's Colin Covert said, "If you think one summer in the lives of three skate punks in a sunny Southern California Podunk wouldn't make a fresh, engaging documentary, Only the Young is here to prove you wrong," and of Tchoupitoulas Covert said, "On the blurry border between fiction and documentary, this likable 80-minute ramble ... follows three New Orleans teens through the French Quarter after they miss their ferry home.... The city's seedy charm has not often been captured so atmospherically."
Who could have guessed, when his splatstick classic Evil Dead II made $5 million, that Sam Raimi would go on to gross three-and-a-quarter billion dollars worldwide at the box office in his directing career? The world is a strange and wonderful place. His latest, a prequel to The Wizard of Oz, stars James Franco (among many others) and received generally favorable reviews.
This most recent film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, directed by Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank) and starring Kaya Scoledario (British TV's Skins), stripped Emily Bronte's classic novel to the barest of bones, and critics were sharply divided. The Star Tribune's Colin Covert praised Arnold for "drastically [paring] back dialogue and exposition, telling the classic tale of passion and revenge with probing, harshly sensual camera work and a minimum of sentimentality." The New Yorker's David Denby hated it, "All of the book's poetry is gone; it isn't even a memory." NPR's Jeanette Catsoulis praised it, saying, "[it] attacks our very notion of what a costume drama should look like. The result is neither dainty nor remotely refined: It's an animalistic, mud-splattered howl of torment." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir named it the best film of 2012, where the Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips called it "a bit of a slog." The New York Times' A.O. Scott split the difference, calling it "an admirable, frustrating attempt to strip away the novel's inherited 'classic' status and restore its raw and earthy passion." Give it a watch, see what you think.