On VOD: SCOTT’S PIZZA TOURS

Coming to VOD tomorrow, Tuesday, May 23:
SCOTT’S PIZZA TOURS

Directors:
K Ryan Jones and Shawn Willis

Premiere:
DOC NYC 2016

About:
A man transforms his love for pizza into a career.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
Scott Wiener probably knows more about pizza than anyone else in the world. Channeling his infectious enthusiasm into a successful pizza-tasting tour business, the New Yorker has found unlikely fame, winning fans around the world, who contribute to his massive collection of pizza boxes. Jones and Willis’ film delectably demonstrates Wiener’s appeal, following him on several tours, on a trip to Naples – the birthplace of pizza – and as he organizes his annual charity event to feed the hungry.

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On TV: THEY CALL US MONSTERS

they_call_us_monsters_still_2_h_2016Coming to PBS’s Independent Lens tonight, Monday, May 22:
THEY CALL US MONSTERS

Director:
Ben Lear

Premiere:
Los Angeles Film Festival 2016

Select Festivals:
AFI Docs, Austin, Human Rights Watch, Hot Springs Doc, Antenna Doc, Heartland,

About:
A consideration of juvenile offenders who are tried as adults.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: BECOMING BOND

Coming to Hulu tomorrow, Saturday, May 20:
BECOMING BOND

Director:
Josh Greenbaum

Premiere:
SXSW 2017

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, Cinedelphia

About:
The unlikely story behind George Lazenby’s single turn at portraying Agent 007.

Greenbaum blends extensive semi-fictionalized re-enactments with interviews in this fun look back at the remarkably quick rise and fall of Lazenby’s James Bond. He bluffed his way into the starring role in 1969’s ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, but even after his ruse was discovered, his charm – and later positive notices – would have kept him Bond for several other pictures. Against expectations, Lazenby bristled at the idea of losing his life to the celebrity spotlight and instead walked away. The debonair Australian model-turned-actor, now in his late 70s, confessionally spins his yarn directly to the camera, with actors recreating key developments in his freewheeling career. Greenbaum embraces the camp and tell-all nature of the project, making the usual clunky technique of re-enactments actually work much better than expected.

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On VOD: THE KEEPERS

Coming to Netflix today, Friday, May 19:
THE KEEPERS

Director:
Ryan White

Premiere:
Netflix (May 2017)

Select Festivals:
Nantucket

About:
An engrossing docuseries re-examining the unsolved murder of a nun in 1969 uncovers a larger, disturbing story of clergy abuse.

Who killed Sister Cathy? This question is at the heart of White’s seven-part series, but it only scratches the surface of a much bigger story, one with profound consequences that reverberate over close to half a century. This true crime hook concerns the fate of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun and schoolteacher in Baltimore who vanished in November 1969, and whose body was discovered dumped in a field two months later. In the first episode. White introduces two unlikely investigators, who have renewed interest in the cold case over the past several years: Gemma and Abbie, former students of the beloved nun. Armed with little more than Facebook and their personal connection to Cesnik, these amateur sleuths have dug up a surprising amount of information. But just as the viewer settles into the assumption that Gemma and Abbie will be the central figures in the investigation, White upends expectations by introducing a new player in the final moments of the initial episode: “Jane Doe,” another of Sister Cathy’s former students, and one who came forward in the 1990s to reveal a harrowing tale of abuse suffered at the school in which Cesnik taught. From here, White expands the scope of his investigation to tell Jane Doe’s story – revealing her identity as Jean Hargadon Wehner – and, in the process, confronts an even more disturbing tale of extensive, ongoing victimization and high-level cover-ups that indicts the Catholic Church. Taking full advantage of the project’s serialized structure, White offers viewers intriguing cliffhangers and unexpected developments that encourage obsessive viewing and spark debate.

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In Theatres: HELL ON EARTH: THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS

Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 19:
HELL ON EARTH: THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS

Directors:
Sebastian Junger and Nick Quested

Premiere:
Tribeca 2017

Select Festivals:
Hot Docs, Greenwich, Provincetown

About:
A comprehensive exploration of the conflict in Syria and the origins of the Islamic State.

Taking an overarching view, Junger and Quested seek to illuminate a large and complex topic that encompasses the motivations of dictator Bashar al-Assad, the revolutionary potential of the Arab Spring, the consolidation of power by radical Islamic militants, the resultant refugee crisis, and the inaction of Western powers to the conflict. At the same time, the filmmakers weave in more personal stories as a supplement to the larger recent political history lesson, following the efforts of a family of Syrians seeking an escape from the war, and Kurdish forces defending their home, among other threads. While perhaps taking on a bit too much at times, the overall effect is still soberly compelling.

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In Theatres: LEGION OF BROTHERS

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Friday, May 19:
LEGION OF BROTHERS

Director:
Greg Barker

Premiere:
Sundance 2017

Select Festivals:
Minneapolis-St Paul

About:
Green Berets relate their secret missions to overthrow the Taliban after 9/11.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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On TV: JAMES BEARD: AMERICA’S FIRST FOODIE

Coming to PBS’s American Masters series tomorrow, Friday, May 19:
JAMES BEARD: AMERICA’S FIRST FOODIE

Director:
Elizabeth Federici

Premiere:
Sonoma 2017

About:
A portrait of the influential food author, instructor, and personality.

While devotees of the Food Network and culinary magazines like Bon Appétit have no doubt heard of the James Beard Foundation Awards, it’s less certain that they know for whom the awards are named. Federici constructs a loving tribute to the man whose name has come to represent the highest honor in the American culinary world today, tracing the importance of Beard’s role in the history and development of modern food culture. He was the first would-be television food star – a bit too early to the table in the 1950s – and popularized entertaining at home with his nearly two dozen cookbooks, while also being a key presence at just about every social event one could imagine attending. The film draws on some enjoyable archival material, though it largely depends on a parade of interviews with and anecdotes from a who’s who of the culinary world and with those who knew the man best.

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