Cocaine Cowboys (2006, Billy Corben)

Categories: 2006 and Movies.

I have heard about this film from a number of people and wonder if we watched the same movie. This is a poorly made film that absolutely reeks of early digital technology (even if 2006 would suggest it wasn’t made with early digital technology). Why is it that so many people are okay with watching movies that look like they were assembled in somebody’s basement? Read More

Bigger Stronger Faster* (2008, Chris Bell)

Categories: 2008 and Movies.

This is an entertaining and thought provoking documentary about steroids in particular, and performance-enhancing drugs in general, in the US. The filmmaker uses the often annoying framing device of how the filmmaker and his family is affected by the issue, but here it actually works as it turns out the family is a bit of a microcosm of American society at large. This movie raises many legitimate questions about why steroids in sports are bad, when numerous other substances are legal when either the health risks are worse or they are just as “performance enhancing.” It’s well worth it if Read More

Amy aka Raw: The Amy Winehouse Story (2015, Asif Kapadia)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is a documentary about Amy Winehouse, her life, short career and struggles with fame and substance abuse. As a society, we always seem to gravitate to those artists we lose early in life, but in this particular case it seems that more of the story is about the problems of fame (and, particularly, the awfulness of the UK tabloids) than the music, as Winehouse apparently didn’t produce very much music in her lifetime (if the movie is anything to go by). It’s a tragic story that we’ve heard many times before: music is salvation from personal demons but the Read More

Cartel Land (2015, Matthew Heineman)

Categories: 2015 and Movies.

This is a documentary about vigilantes that have appeared on both sides of the US-Mexican border as a result of the Cartels. The filmmakers takes a journalistic approach – as far as we can tell – for the most part and aims to document the vigilantes and their beliefs, rather than support or condemn them. (However, it is fairly clear from editing and from some scoring that he is on the side of one particular Mexican vigilante…you might say the “hero” of the piece.) The film gives you unbelievable access to two groups and you get as close to the Read More

The Armstrong Lie (2013, Alex Gibney)

Categories: 2013, Movies, and Sports.

This is a fascinating film. It began as a documentary about Lance Armstrong’s 2009 comeback attempt but, before it was finished, new allegations emerged about Armstrong’s use of performance-enhancing drugs and the film was eventually altered significantly to focus on the revelations that soon followed. So there are really two movies that have been combined into one. One which may have started out as a puff piece and a sequel, as it were, that tries to figure out how so many people could have believed Armstrong for so long. And it pretty much works. What we get is nuanced approach Read More

American Gangster (2007, Ridley Scott)

Categories: 2007 and Movies.

This review is of the extended version, not the theatrical version. This movies tries to balance a number of competing crime genre tropes: the true crime story, the drug dealer biography, the police procedural; it often feels like a couple separate films put together. It’s ambitious but I’m not sure it’s entirely successful. However, how Scott handles the climax is so adept – it manages to combine moments of extreme tension with a nearly Godfather-esque handling of the arrests – that I want to forgive him for the minor missteps over the rest of the film. Personally, I don’t care Read More