McQueen Movie Review

This is top notch documentary filmmaking. It’s both incredibly entertaining and highly inciteful.  It’s exceptionally well done not only in its value for its own artistic endeavors but its ability to show how truly talented fashion designer Alexander McQueen was. You may not be into fashion but you don’t have to be to enjoy this you just have to want to see an entertaining documentary on an interesting subject… that would be this film.

Alexander McQueen was an artist who, at a young age, was bitten by the fashion bug. Once he realized what it was he wanted to do he never let the fantasy of doing it die. At the age of seventeen, he was making his sister skirts. From very humble beginnings, he knew he didn’t have the money to go to expensive schools for his craft, so he got a job tailoring suits and thus began his dream. Realizing his talents, his aunt (who always supported and encouraged him), helped him get into Saint Martin’s School of Art. There, he felt he could let his true self out and it wasn’t long before he expressed what that was for the entire world to see. He had a legitimately dark side and after reading ‘Perfume,’ a book about the murder of women, he started doing research on Jack the Ripper and out of these influences came his ’92 graduation show in London called, ‘Jack the Ripper Stalks His Victim’s.’ It’s here where he catches the attention of Isabella Blow who was enamored with the craftsmanship, intensity and passion in his work. His ability to capture beauty and violence made her decide to take him on as her prodigy to which a deep friendship developed, one peppered, sadly, with ups and downs until her death at only forty-eight years of age. I don’t want to get into that too much here but know that their relationship was, most likely, more important than either one of them ever realized. This is stated and captured very well in this film.

McQueen was so good at what he did, such a uniquely complex visionary, that he didn’t even have to measure people before he made their clothing. He could size a person up and make something for them by just his eye just as a pianist might play a piece of music they’ve heard only once. His gifts were noticeable and vast as he always had a natural, physical association with what he crafted.

In this documentary we see him move from England, who loves him, to Paris, France where his work isn’t quite as understood. He is asked to be the creative director of Givenchy and with boyfriend Murray Arthur in tow, he goes to expand his technique and portfolio. He has more money than he ever dreamed of, but it hasn’t changed him… not yet. He tries the best he can to fit into the world of Paris fashion and does this by exposing a softer side. As far as fashion went, it didn’t matter which side he disclosed, it was always brilliant… but not necessarily for him.

Of all people, he deserved to be successful and by the end of this documentary, you’ll wish, for yourself, he had left one move in his life behind. If he had, we’d still be enjoying his broad, unconventional completely stunning work today. God knows how far he would have gone. That said, his last show will devastate you. What Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui reveal is a man crying out for help but too quietly to be heard. You can tell the filmmakers appreciated and loved him and his work because you can feel it in the way the movie was shot. By the time it’s over, you’ll feel the same way and want to Google everything you missed. So, do that and watch this, too. It’s a good way to get to know Alexander McQueen and it’s the least he and his intellectually complicated collections deserve. 

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Wont You Be My Neighbor? Movie Review

Fred Rogers or ‘Mister Rogers’ as he was always called later in life, was once a child. As a child, he was known to those who bullied him as ‘Fat Freddy.’ This bullying made him become the man he was, a philanthropic humanitarian and caretaker of young minds. He grew up to understand, feel for and love children to the degree that he changed his life’s path of becoming a minister and having his own church. He grabbed ahold of a wildly new medium at the time, television, and created an avenue in which to speak to children, one on one, and let them all know that they were special and that no matter what they were hearing from people around them, that they were loved and worthy of love. He saw television as a way to educate children and what was mostly seen as a tool used to entertain, he could use to add value to their lives, help them understand how to communicate, how to handle adversity and how to… love their neighbor.

This documentary goes deeply into why certain characters on the show were created. It fills in the blanks of who Fred Rogers was, speaking not only to cast and crew but to his family members, friends and his children, who must have felt that they had millions of siblings across the globe.

Puppets were originally given life as a way to fill in time. One puppet, in particular, Daniel the Tiger, was believed to be who Fred used therapeutically to speak words he himself could never utter. Though it was a kids show, Fred spoke of serious issues, even those paralleling the real world, knowing full well that subliminally children would pick up on and understand the theme he was conveying to them.

Through this documentary, I was immediately taken by this person I never gave much thought to and was thoroughly impressed by the lengths he went through to do the right thing. President Nixon wanted to cut funding to PBS, the Public Broadcasting Station Fred’s show was spread across America through. Upon hearing this and without hesitation, Fred went to Washington and in front of Congress he told them of the great importance to our youth public television was and managed to do did what no one else could have done. He changed their mind on the spot.

He considered the space between the TV and the receiver, where he spoke to the nation’s youth, very sacred ground, filling it on occasion with special episodes when children needed him most, such as the assassination of  Robert F. Kennedy and what happened to American during 9/11. For a short time, he tried a show focusing on helping adults but it didn’t take; best he works his magic with the kids who receive him better.

Director, Morgan Neville, shows some of the parodies that had been created and though he had a sense of humor about them, it was said that what bothered Fred most was when they made fun of the ideology behind the message. There was heartfelt, touching moments with the cast. They spoke highly of him and always felt his love and they, too, were open to receiving that special gift. The end of this film leaves you to wonder what he would have thought of how we live today. Would he be having a special episode for us right now? Believing that true evil came from people who try to break your spirit, he didn’t fear any ridicule and was never afraid to tackle any issue where a tremendous lesson had to be learned. This is why we needed him then and why we need him now.

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Mountain Film Review

BAFTA-nominated director, Jennifer Peedom, follows up her film about an angry mob fighting on Everest called ‘Sherpa’ with ‘Mountain’ which keeps us looking in a more positive direction. This film starts impressively with the Australian Chamber Orchestra setting up in front of a screen that begins to play the film. They play along with the movie. It’s synched perfectly which is such a good way to prepare you for the beauty you’re about to witness. Surprisingly, not only does the Orchestra lead you into the story but it stays there the entire time, caressing your ears with breathtaking notes while the screen cradles your eyes visually. Now, one cannot exist without the other; it’s mystifying how well the two go hand in hand.

These mountains do put those who climb them into precarious situations at times but how each circumstance is captured is shocking and or awe-inspiring. One might think the people who are drawn to reach the summit of a mountain mad for not feeling at home at or near the base but it’s not for us to decide who and what is in the hearts of others. The film, with Willem Dafoe as narrator, explores why people are driven to new heights and when it all began. It makes for an appealing subject whether you would have first thought so or not.

Mountains were once considered either hostile or holy there was no middle ground. That changed as people got more familiar with them and more daring. Though people created new ways to soar they never gave up on the introspection and high they achieved when tackling some of their deepest fears… ocean depths, outer space and mountains. One by one the mountains were conquered and some, sadly, turned into tourist traps, for a limited base. Here, you’ll see it all happen along with eye-opening before and after photos of mountains being cleared for play. However, nothing is more surprising to see than the downfall of Everest, the king of all. What I mean by downfall is that of its mystery and of its allure. You’ll see footage of what goes on there, especially at night, and it’ll leave you to wonder if there’s anything left in this world to pursue or since it has been reached, will man ever be satisfied and leave nature be?

The narration is deep and profound, informing as it entertains. It asks what is the ‘siren song of the summit’ that moves us upward? We’re told that fascination replaced fear and skyward we climbed. This abundant planet that we call home offers delights that some feel necessary to explore while others want only to protect it from harm.

From the filmmaker’s curiosity comes this enchanting and gripping footage which stretches beyond the expectations of any documentary of its kind. Aching fingers, soaring bodies, bikes riding trails where bikes should not be, men sleeping where there is no air; it’s exceptional to witness and you get to watch it all without packing your bags.

If you go see this you will not be let down… you’ll only be propelled up. Please, do yourself a favor when watching. You must be seen on the big screen. Watching at home would not do it the justice it deserves.

See this in Phoenix at *Harkins Shea 14

Troll, Inc. Movie Review

“Troll, Inc.” is a case study of how the online experts in cracking and hacking systems are treated like modern-day terrorists. There are groups of elite hackers who know all of the insecure weak points on the Internet, and then they know how to kick open the door and cause havoc. One such person is Andrew Auernheimer, who goes by the online handle ‘weev’. What he did in 2010 is what can be called either a wake-up call to a large company, or a large-scale attempt at computer sabotage and extortion.

There are some computer experts who can find web site exploits and they inform the company in charge. These are sometimes called ‘white-hat hackers’. But there are other people who can locate some of the same security flaws, and they steal lots of valuable information. These are known as “black-hat crackers”. These people are in for a profit, or just to mess up a company real bad. But sometime there is a person in the middle, a guy like Andrew Auernheimer. He can find out about a flaw and he can set up a way to ‘obtain’ over one-hundred thousand valid e-mail addresses.

In this case, it was 2010 and Apple had just released the iPad. Apple had partnered with AT&T to be the data provider for the iPad product. To make it super easy to sue, the security was minimal. That was a selling feature. It also opened up a door to allow Auernheimer to capture all the e-mail addresses that people used to sign up for the data service. There were many celebrities, military and academics in this huge list of addresses. He contacted Apple and AT&T, but neither was interested. So ‘weev’ did the next logical thing (for him). He dumped all of the data  out on the open Internet, mostly to shame the companies.

But the Justice Department and the FBI were not amused. They found out that Andrew Auernheimer was pretty much the guy behind that massive ‘data breach’. But AT&T even agreed in internal e-mails that the security was so poor that it was not really a criminal event. Regardless, Auernheimer was treated like a data terrorist, and he was  pursued for years and then arrested,  before the eventual trail and conviction. He has a bit of an anarchist streak, and he basically told the court where to go and what they could do there. So the ruling came down pretty hard on him.

There was a successful appeal, and Andrew Auernheimer eventually had the conviction overruled. It was a technicality on where the trail was held, no on if he was innocent. So the thing that he did was not excused, but he was free once again. He decided to get better results elsewhere so now he lives overseas. Plus he is in a country that will never be extradited back to a USA prison anytime soon.

“Troll, Inc” is a short but to-the-point documentary about this event and this man. There are plenty of ‘talking head’ interviews with professors and other “white-hat hackers”, plus a handful of people who helped with the ‘involuntary email address extraction’ process. There are plenty of talks with Auernheimer, also. He gives his side of the story. He explains that he has no love for companies that have no idea about how important security is for keeping the public’s data safe and locked up.

So, when he could, he would make the company feel they were the butt of a huge practical joke. But that joke was not funny and the tables got turned on him.

Always At The Carlyle Movie Review

At the corner of Madison Avenue and 76th Street in Manhattan’s Upper East Side sits an exquisite and beautiful Rosewood hotel called The Carlyle, which has been described as the very definition of class. It’s a 35-story, 190 room hotel that has been there since 1930, complete with galleries, boutiques, and a famous Café’. The Carlyle has housed many of the most famous and well-off clientele from around the world who feel comfortable there, knowing that what goes on in the hotel stays at the hotel. In this documentary, director Matthew Miele does his best to get some private information out of people and though he has a hard time getting staff and other guests to give anything up, the goal he does achieve is letting us know of the existence of this distinguished landmark. While many of us can’t afford thousands of dollars to reserve a room at the elegant Carlyle, after watching this documentary I wish I could and you will, too.

I feel compelled to tell you that watching this on the big screen would be ideal for it may be the best way to appropriately appreciate its grandeur. If you can’t be there, this is the next best thing. Through watching ‘Always at the Carlyle’ you’ll be totally awestruck by what an exceptional experience staying there would be without stepping one foot inside its lobby.

Miele interviewed entertainers about the hotel who’ve stayed within its walls, as well as other ‘Loyal Guests’ and peppers their comments throughout the film. Some speak so highly of it and spend enough time there that it’s considered their second home. All throughout the hotel are magical reasons to stay, from dining to the personal touches they give each guest. Then there are the paintings that hang on the walls and the nostalgia one has for who stayed there previously such as Princess Diana, Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor and more. Some mention the energy each guest has left behind in their wake. The Carlyle is popular with famous guests of all types; Royals, those involved in the film industry, politicians, and sports figures, because most important to the guests is that whatever is said or done there stays there. JFK often stayed, and it’s rumored that Marilyn Monroe had a special way in. True or not true… what’s your opinion?

The Elevator Operator is said to have the best stories as they see everything going on, but they also have the ‘tightest lips,’ so you won’t learn anything from them! This is a key argument for paying such high prices, not to mention the luxurious surroundings you’re bathed in. Regardless of who’s on duty when someone checks in, the staff will not divulge their presence to anyone, not even their own spouse. With so many famous people walking through their doors, the staff does get blown away, they are human after all, but they don’t show it outwardly. They do seem to have some fun getting to talk about who they’ve seen for the documentary, however. They reveal very little but what is said is both fascinating and provocative.

Several staff members have become somewhat famous themselves. Dwight, a departing concierge at the time this was filmed, is one such example, very well known. Another is pianist and cabaret singer, Bobby Short, who played at the Café Carlyle for over thirty-five years. Bobby Short not only had an appearance in Woody Allen’s ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ in 1986, but Allen used Short’s version of the song ‘I Happen to Like New York,’ which is excellent by the way, for the opening to his film ‘Manhattan Murder Mystery’ in 1993. Several talented musicians speak of how much they adored his music stylings, some of whom play there now. Lenny Kravitz tells of how much he was influenced by the man.

Possibly not surprisingly, Donald Trump says the Carlyle is a joke. This is a comment Bill Murray has a little fun with as he happens to love the place and feels obliged to protect it. Others, and there are many, have only positive things to say. Vera Wang mentions how unique it is, George Clooney can’t help but go on and on about how much he loves it there and why wouldn’t he? He is a staff favorite and knows it. He and Anthony Bourdain talk about the rooms breathtaking views but one of it’s biggest compliments comes from Jon Hamm who says when you’re there it, ‘feels like you made it.’ Piers Morgan covers the monarchy and fills us in on how loved it is by the palace, calling it a royal place which makes sense as the builder of the hotel built it to rival the glorious, stately hotels of Europe.

This is a special documentary. I recommend it because it’s not often you get to see celebrities talk about something other than their latest projects. Here we also have, before she died, Elaine Stritch, a legend, talking about how wonderful it was to stay there. Watch for a special scene during the credits regarding what the hotel did for her. The examples of extraordinary service this establishment delivers that are shown in this film, are enchanting. Shots of the building in the gorgeous New York Skyline will make you wish upon a star that you could be whisked away to a room there during any time period and get a chance to experience just a hint of what the well to do have… if even for a moment. Wes Anderson describes being at the Carlyle as though you’re, ‘Stepping back in time.’ One guest has had over 11,000 overnight stays, a record for which he carries as a ‘Badge of Honor.’ See the film at a theatre near you today to see what they’re all talking about.

Opens in Phoenix this weekend at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre and the Harkins / Shea.

Social Media for the film:#AlwaysAtTheCarlyle

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For more information please visit the Carlyle’s website or follow the hotel’s social media channels

@TheCarlyleHotel – Instagram,Twitter and Facebook

Pope Francis – A Man of His Word Trailer

Focus Features will soon release Pope Francis – A Man of His Word

StoryWim Wenders’ new documentary, “Pope Francis – A Man of His Word,” is intended to be a personal journey with Pope Francis, rather than a biographical documentary about him. The pope’s ideas and his message are central to this documentary, which sets out to present his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions.  From his deep concern for the poor and wealth inequality, to his involvement in environmental issues and social justice, Pope Francis engages the audience face-to-face and calls for peace.

Director: Wim Wenders (“Buena Vista Social Club,” “Pina,” “The Salt of the Earth”)

For more info, please follow the film on social:

Official Site I Facebook I Twitter I Instagram


In Theaters May 18th


Focus Features will release Won’t You Be My Neighbor? 

Directed By Morgan Neville

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America’s favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination. 

94 Minutes

For More Info:

Official Site I Facebook I Twitter I Instagram

In Theaters June 8th

Dealt Movie review

Dealt is a fascinating documentary about an extraordinary individual who overcame tremendous odds to become, not only a black belt in karate but an award-winning Mechanic Magician.  Every goal he set for himself was met and sometimes exceeded. 
At an early age, an unlikely event befell him, and he felt he had no choice but see the mountain on top of him as something to climb rather than to simply lay under and do nothing to get it to move.  A lesser person may have faced this with great contempt but Richard Turner ignored the weight that had just been dropped on top of him and found a way to adjust it to suit him. How?  With loving support, the strength of character and a deck of cards. 
The incredibly likable, energetic and humorous Richard can trick the best of them and with only what he’d call one small roadblock in his life, Richard is blind.

The film is magnificent as it goes through his life in sections, when he lost his sight and what brought him to meet the magician that turned his life around.  That magician was Dai Vernon, one of the most important figures in magic ever.  It’s said even Harry Houdini couldn’t figure out his tricks.  Vernon taught Richard, who started his interest in cards from watching westerns, how to properly handle a deck, starting with how to hide a trick from your audience.  From that moment on, there wasn’t a time when he was without a deck in his hands.  He became so close with Vernon that he was even told some of his secrets which have never been shared.

Visually, to get the point across as to what life was like for Richard, director Luke Korem shows us what he experienced as his vision started to go but quickly refocuses attention on the fact that for most of his life he refused to live as a blind man.  Teased as a young boy, when he grew up and had more control over his life, he examined his circumstances and didn’t see being blind as a disability but as a challenge, one he accepted without fear as some might choose to.  He and his wife had a son and named him Asa, his middle name is Spades, who he loved very much and who assisted him but no one other than those two individuals has ever really helped him.  Even so, he all but hid the fact that he couldn’t see from anyone who didn’t need to now that about him, even from a live audience.  Soon with his tremendous experience came success and with success came attention but whenever people mentioned his abilities and skill with cards, they’d always equate them with the fact that he couldn’t see which upset him greatly.  This became a hurdle that was difficult to jump.

The documentary is over an hour long and in that time, we see Asa leave for college and though he tries to suppress it, Richard crumbles.  The boy who has been by his side since he was old enough to peek over a card table is gone.  The mighty and impenetrable Richard Turner, maybe the first time, now realizes how much he truly has depended on someone other than just himself.  This is how the documentary ends, with Richard finally admitting to himself that it’s okay to accept your weaknesses and the generosity of others.  Perhaps the healthiest thing he did was see the loss of his visions as a blessing in disguise.  He would have never accomplished what he had otherwise.  Similarly, you wouldn’t have known about this had I not told you about it.  Since I did, do something for YOU and see this over the weekend!

*In Phoenix at Harkins Shea 14 or a theatre near you.

Trophy Movie Review

“Trophy” is a study of balance. It is the balance of nature vs. man. Is it the balance of conversation vs. natural resource usage. It is the balance of animal rights vs. the ability to hunt big game. It is a question asked, and the answer is elusive. Many endangered species may be lost forever, but large funds are collected by groups to allow hunters the permits they want. These funds are used to protect the animals in their habitat, while only allowing a few to be hunted.

The documentary focuses on several groups of people. There is a big game hunter from Texas who wants the ability to hunt in Africa. And he is willing to pay top dollar for that privilege. There is a South African rhino breeder who has many hundreds of the animals. His groups will go out and regularly saw off the horns of the rhino, to prevent the animal from being poached and killed only for the horn. There is a wildlife officer in Africa who wants to prevent illegal trade in rhino horn and ivory. But many people in his back country can only exist of what they take from the land, including some endangered animals.

The film-makers travel to various parts of the world to explore themes in different places. There is the rhino farm in South Africa. There is a guided hunting safari in Namibia. There is a crocodile farm in Africa, and a Las Vegas convention that brings in all the major players in the big-game hunting industry. There is a lot of details to catch during the documentary. Sometimes a brief rundown is put up on the screen, a contrast of the number of animals in this year to another year. It is quick, but it is a fascinating way to see how the process of the endangered species came about.

The photography was very beautiful, since much of it was in the outbacks of Africa. There were a few very well-composed shots taken from overhead (from an airborne drone?). These shots are like viewing the landscape from God’s perspective, and they quite amazing. There are the normal ‘day in a life’ segments and the ‘sit down for an interview’ segments, and these are good. There is a couple of times where it looks like two opposite sides are going to have a loud confrontation, but these never do pan out to anything. One of the Wildlife officer guys starts talking with some animal right activists, and it gets a little heated.

Occasionally, the ‘pay for play’ hunters are shown to be a little too goofball. A little too much of a ‘hold my beer while I shoot this elephant’ type of thing. There probably are some who do behave that way, but it seems that all of them have spent quite a bunch of money to do just that. Also, that money then provides conservation methods and helps the local impoverished economy. The hunters are the not the bad guys in this picture, or at least, they shouldn’t be only bad.

This situation is a matter of life or death, to the animals that might become extinct. But man does have a role to play. By keeping the poachers at bay, and by bringing as much cash into the conservation of the animals – the right balance might be reached. “Trophy” does not say exactly where that balance lies. It lets the viewer think about what is best for the planet.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

A decade after AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH brought climate change into the heart of popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant — as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

With the White House threatening to leave the Paris Climate Change Agreement, I cannot imagine a better time to go to the theatre and learn all you can about what this means to you and the future of your world!!!  DO NOT MISS THIS FILM!


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