Obit

Documentary ‐ April 26, 2017
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The fascinations of “Obit,” Vanessa Gould’s slick but entertaining documentary about the New York Times obituary department, operate on two levels. On the more superficial level, readers of the Times are bound to enjoy an inside look at one of the paper’s most dependably enthralling sections, a compendium of pithy, authoritative overviews of recently ended lives. At a deeper level, no interest in the Times—or any other newspaper or online obituary source, for that matter—is necessary to engage viewers with certain questions the film inevitably suggests. In what light will death cast my own life? Will it look more good …

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Burn Motherfucker, Burn!

Documentary ‐ April 21, 2017
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Burn Motherfucker, Burn!

Six in the morning, police at my doorFresh Adidas squeak across the bathroom floorOut my back window I make an escapeDon’t even get a chance to grab my old school tape.I’m a self-made monster of the city streetsRemotely controlled by hard hip-hop beatsBut just living in the city is a serious taskDidn’t know what the cops wanted, didn’t have time to ask.– Ice-T, “6 ‘n the Mornin’”The relationship between the LAPD and Los Angeles’ African-American community—particularly in South Central—is the subject of Sacha Jenkins’ documentary, “Burn Motherfucker, Burn!”, especially relevant as we near the 25th anniversary of “the Foothill Incident,” …

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Slack Bay

Comedy, Drama ‐ April 21, 2017
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“Slack Bay,” a black comedy set in the picture-esque French countryside during the summer of 1910, is a mystery that isn’t especially mysterious, and a comedy that isn’t all that funny. This is a deliberate strategy rather than a failure of imagination. For starters, writer/director Bruno Dumont reveals to viewers—within the first 20 minutes!—the fate and the culprits behind a series of disappearances that plague the film’s title location. Dumont (“Hadewijch,” “The Life of Jesus”) also sucks the air out of a number of broad slapstick gags, using long takes and medium-range photography that reminds viewers that what they’re watching isn’t supposed to …

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Sand Castle

Drama, War ‐ April 21, 2017
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Sand Castle

Fernando Coimbra’s “Sand Castle” offers too little to the War is Hell genre to be noteworthy. It’s a true story, and so that has some inherent value, and the young cast is relatively strong, especially a few stand-outs, but we’ve seen too many similar stories in the decade-and-a-half since 9/11 for this one to register as anything special. On a production level, it’s surprisingly flat, as if its story was strong enough to overcome a lack of visual language. Sadly, it’s just not. The most interesting thing about “Sand Castle” is when it takes place. Its protagonist, Private Matt …

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Drama, TV movie ‐ April 21, 2017
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Henrietta Lacks is one of those people who greatly impacted your life and you don’t even know her name. What’s even more fascinating about her story is that she didn’t even know how much good she would do in the world after she died. In 1951, after having five children, Lacks discovered that she had cervical cancer, from which she would pass away at a tragically young age of 31. Without the knowledge of Henrietta or her family, tissue from the tumor that killed her was taken from her body and essentially made immortal at Johns Hopkins. For decades, scientists …

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