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Thumbnails Nov 15

by Tony Medley

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (10/10): This is one of the more astonishing, action-packed, eye-opening films I have ever seen. Director Evgeny Afineevsky has remarkable footage of almost every moment of the 93 day winter 2013 Ukrainian revolution that was virtually ignored by American media. The videos are from his 2 cameras, but also from the phone and GoPro cameras, of some of the hundreds of thousands of revolutionaries (of whom 82 died and 1,100 injured), and from TV crews. The result is a view of the revolution from the ground as it is happening. It is an astonishing production. The viewer becomes a part of the revolution. The films he got are shocking in the violence they show and in the courage of the people.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon (10/10): The National Lampoon was the magazine that satirized virtually everything. This documentary tells how it was started from scratch by Doug Kenney and Henry Beard, with lots of interviews and archival footage. Myriad examples of its irreverent humor, sure to offend multitudes, are included. One was entitled, “Children’s Letters to the Gestapo” by Michael O’Donoghue (who, according to this film, was almost always angry): “Dear Heinrich Himmler, How do you get all those people into your oven? We can hardly get a pork roast into ours. Respectfully, Uta Grotewohl.” This just touches on the mass of jokes, anecdotes, and information in this film. I was captivated.

The Walk (5/10): This is a plodding retelling of Philippe Petit's high wire walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. But the last 45 minutes still presents exceptional visual effects and wonderful cinematography. It is so realistic that people with a fear of heights will have a hard time sitting through it. The 2008 documentary, “Man on Wire” doesn’t have the amazing cinematography, but it’s a much better movie.

Bridge of Spies (4/10): In addition to being deceptive, Director Steven Spielberg’s film creates a moral equivalence by spinning KGB spy Rudolph Abel (Mark Rylance, who gives a bravura performance, the main reason for seeing this movie, equaling his work as Thomas Cromwell in the TV miniseries Wolf Hall) as “just another guy working for his country.” Well that’s what Hitler and Dr. Mengele were, too. I don’t have space to list all the troubling distortions and slants of this movie (one of which defames the U.S. judge in Abel’s case as no better than Nazi judges in prejudging a case before the trial began). This is an insidious film of which the blacklisted Hollywood Ten would be proud. But even they would need some NoDoz to get through its 140 minutes.

Love (2/10): If you weren’t sure if this was a porn film when you bought your ticket, the opening sequence showing Aomi Muyock stark naked giving a sexual message to stark naked and excited Karl Gusman for a period of approximately three minutes tells you what’s in store for the next two hours 14 minutes. To set it apart from normal porn, it’s shot in 3D.  In case you’re curious, seeing sex in 3D is no different than seeing it in 2D.

Knock Knock (0/10): In this gothic horror film two young women seduce happily married Keanu Reeves and then torture him for being a pedophile (which he isn’t), claiming that they are underage, and destroy his home and ruin his family life. It’s horrible and fatiguing to watch and has no redeeming social value. Director Eli Roth stunningly says he wants the audience to “sympathize with the women,” which says all you need to know about Mr. Roth.

Truth (0/10): Even worse than Robert Redford’s laughably dreadful performance as Dan Rather are the deplorable political bias of the film and its unashamed misrepresentations. It spins two disgraced, prejudiced journalists as victims instead of the scoundrels they were when their reporting about George W. Bush’s National Guard service was jaundiced, shoddy, and inaccurate. If you want to know the real truth, go to the report of the CBS independent investigation, not this reprehensible movie.