Film review: Risk (2017)

On Friday I saw the new film Risk produced and directed by award-winning documentarian Laura Poitras, who won the Academy Award for Citizenfour, the film about Edward Snowden and his leaks. The focus this time is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and unlike the earlier one, the narrative structure of this film is, to say the least, a bit confused. But that is not due to the lack of skill of Poitras but due to the fact that after she started filming it, the story went off in many directions and she too became part of it.
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Film review: National Bird (2016)

[Note: You can stream the film for free until May 15.]

The documentary National Bird directed by Sonia Kennebeck and released by Independent Lens looks at the US drone warfare program from the point of view of three former US Air Force (Heather, Daniel, and Lisa) whose jobs were to identify targets seen in the drone videos, and from the survivors of the infamous attack on February 21, 2010 on a convoy carrying a group of families that resulted in the deaths of 23 people, all civilians, and caused serious injuries to many others. All three of them have since left the Air Force. They all suffer from guilt at what they were part of, with Heather being suicidal and diagnosed with PTSD. Daniel is under threat of charges under the draconian Espionage Act and all three fear that the government will take severe action against them as it has with other whistleblowers.
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How nature documentaries try to get you interested

Nature documentaries are not easy to make, involving patiently watching for hours, days, and weeks on end in very difficult conditions to get the footage they need. But they cannot simply show the footage. To get people to watch, they need to create some kind of story arc with animal characters and protagonists who seem to play roles within it that the audience can identify with.
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Film review: Hell or High Water (2016)

On the surface, this is another clichéd cops and robbers film. Two brothers, the older one having spent ten years in prison for a series of crimes, set out on a spree of robbing banks in rural West Texas, stealing fairly small amounts of cash from each, and pursued by a grizzled old Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement and his partner who is of mixed Mexican/Indian ethnicity.
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Black Acting School

In 1987, Robert Townsend wrote, directed, and starred in the comedy Hollywood Shuffle that satirized the then-popular blaxploitation films. He played aspiring actor Bobby Taylor and the limited range of roles that that he was able to audition for and the expectations the filmmakers had about how black people behave, as shown in this funny scene from the film.
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Murder inspired by film?

The Guardian has a bizarre story in which a New York state couple is charged with setting fire to their house and killing their 16-year old son who had unspecified mental and physical disabilities. Prosecutors allege that the couple did this right after seeing the film Manchester by the Sea starring Casey Affleck as a man who late one night accidentally sets fire to his own home that kills his three children after he went out shopping.
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Murder in the English village

The 19th season of the British TV series Midsomer Murders has started streaming on Netflix. This is quite an achievement in longevity. I wrote about this long-running show two years ago and it sparked a lot of interesting comments and suggestions for other similar series. Thanks to those, I have watched episodes of Death in Paradise, Inspector Morse, and the first two seasons of the much more superior show (in terms of writing, acting, and plotting) of Broadchurch and am looking forward to the third.
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Film review: A Man Called Ove (2016)

This Swedish comedy was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film though it did not win. It tells the story of Ove, a 59-year old man who lives in a housing complex. He is the type that we are all familiar with, someone who is grouchy and knows all the rules governing the immediate community and takes it upon himself to vigorously police the place to make sure everyone else is following the rules and upbraiding them when they do not. He is generally regarded as a pain, the one redeeming feature being that he is very handy at fixing things.
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Film review: The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2013)

The premise of this utterly hilarious Swedish film is right there in the title. On his 100th birthday, as the staff of the nursing home where he lives are getting a cake ready for the celebration, Allan Karlsson decides that he has had it with nursing home life. So he climbs out of the window of his room, wanders down to the local bus station, and buys a ticket for as far as the little money he has on him will take him.
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