Yay for divorce, poverty and suicide!
And much more in Videodrone's first monthly round-up of documentary and non-fiction releases
"Mel Brooks: Make a Noise" (Shout! Factory), the new profile of the legendary writer / director / actor / producer / all around funnyman from filmmaker Robert Trachtenberg, premieres on the PBS arts showcase "American Masters" on Monday, May 20, and debuts on DVD the next day. "A raconteur of the first order, Brooks is also gifted with near-total recall, and a wit that hasn’t ebbed with the passage of time," writes Variety TV critic Brian Lowry. "In Robert Trachtenberg’s film, Brooks concedes every bad review is like “a knife through your heart.” In savoring this valentine, that organ and every other can rest easy."
Shout! Factory has been doing right by Brooks, with its deluxe five-disc set "The Incredible Mel Brooks" (featuring some other standout documentaries and specials on Brooks) released in 2012. This joins the ongoing tribute, and the disc features bonus segments filmed for but not included in the documentary.
"Citizen Hearst" (HBO) profiles William Randolph Hearst, the legendary media mogul and yellow journalist, and the empire that continues on in his wake. "Sometimes "Citizen Hearst" feels as breezy and electric as the newsreels Hearst pioneered," observes Village Voice film critic Alan Scherstuhl, "other times it feels like the video they'll make you watch during orientation on your first day at 300 West 57th." Leslie Iwerks directs and William H. Macy narrates. DVD, with 30 minutes of bonus footage and the "Heart Castle" episodes of the A&E series "America's Castles."
"Gregory Crewdson: Brief Encounters" (Zeitgeist) profiles the acclaimed photographer as he worked on his magnum opus, a collection of massive prints he called "Beneath the Roses." "For those unfamiliar with Crewdson’s oeuvre, the docu serves as a delicious eye-opener, while for fans it furnishes an unprecedented look at his long-secret methods, utilizing crews and budgets suitable for independent features, by which his eerily frozen moments of Americana come into being," writes Variety film critic Ronnie Scheib. The DVD includes deleted scenes, bonus interviews, and a Q&A at a screening at LACMA with director Ben Shapiro, Crewdson, and writer Jonathan Lethem.
A superb Robin Wright dominates Ari Folman's trippy Hollywood satire
The Coen Brothers' latest film brings the '60s NYC folk scene back to life with a lot of love
Five features celebrating the glories of French silent cinema
"French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris 1923-1928" (Flicker Alley) presents of the DVD debut of five silent classics from Film Albatros, a French studio founded by Russian artists: "The Burning Crucible," "Kean," "The Late Mathias Pascal," "Gribiche," and "The New Gentlemen."
Three of the films star Ivan Mosjoukine, the great Russian actor who fled the revolution and landed in Paris, and the other two are directed by Jacques Feyder. All of them are examples of the sophisticated filmmaking coming out of France in the twenties.
Which is not to say that they are all masterpieces -- "The Burning Crucible" (1923), which not only stars Mosjoukine but is written and directed by the actor, is inventive and full of lively images and playful techniques but is all over the place and jumps willy-nilly through styles and episodes -- but they are all tremendously entertaining and full of filmmaking energy. Mosjoukine plays eleven roles in "The Burning Crucible," including the leading role of Detective Z, a man of many disguises, and Mosjoukine the director rolls Russian formalism, German expressionism, and French surrealism together in a simplistic but richly imaginative story that at times borders on craziness of Louis Feuillade's serials of the previous decade.
Mosjoukine also stars in "Kean" (1924) as the great 19th century stage actor Edmund Kean and in "The Late Mathias Pascal" (1926), the fantasy epic directed by Marcel L'Herbier that Flicker Alley released on Blu-ray earlier this year. I reviewed it for Videodrone here.
The final pair of films in the set are from Jacques Feyder.
The fest's first full day offers tricks, teens, trains and technological wonderment
Sofia Coppola takes on the kid crooks who both exploited and embraced tabloid culture
Of course it will be in 3D
Sony Pictures Entertainment announced this week via press release that they've picked up the worldwide distribution rights to the "eagerly anticipated" film from Rovio Entertainment, which will unsurprisingly be an animated 3D feature (want to get us interested in an "Angry Birds" movie? make it live action). The film does not yet have a writer, director, or voice cast in place, but while we'll make fun of such a film until the pigs come home, Sony has certainly had great luck with their other animated properties, including "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," "Arthur Christmas," and "The Pirates! Band of Misfits," so they will likely trot out some big name talent to puff up their new prize property.
There's also no word on the finer plot details of the film, but we can only assume that it will center on some pissed off birds, desperate to exact revenge on the green pigs who have stolen their eggs. Perhaps the film will be an origin story of sorts, one that explains why the pigs are green and why they would steal oodles of eggs from some birds with anger issues. There's so many questions to answer!