David Crosby: Remember My Name

A new review from The Movie Snob.

David Crosby: Remember My Name (B).  I caught this new documentary and learned a few things about music legend David Crosby, who is somehow still alive and making music at 76 despite doing an astonishing amount of drugs up into at least the 1980s.  For example, his father was Floyd Crosby, a photographer who won a Golden Globe for cinematography for High Noon.  He was a founding member of The Byrds, which I should have known but don’t think I did.  He didn’t like The Doors because Jim Morrison was rude to him once.  And none of the other members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are on speaking terms with him.  The film does a good job of conveying the trippy music scene of the 60s and 70s.  But it left me wanting to know more about Crosby’s personal life.  Like, what happened to his brother, who is mentioned as also being into music when they were kids?  And I think he mentioned in passing that he’s not on speaking terms with his daughter.  What’s the story there?  But it wasn’t bad, and I appreciated the efficient 95-minute run time.

Apollo 11

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Apollo 11 (A).  Longtime readers of this blog know The Movie Snob doesn’t hand out the “A” very often.  This new documentary was a solid “A.”  It consists almost entirely of film footage and a few photographs from the first moon landing back in 1969.  The first 20 minutes of the film’s efficient 93-minute run time lead up to lift-off.  We briefly meet the astronauts and get lots of footage of the rocket, the control room, and the many, many ordinary folks who camped out to watch the historic event.  Did you know there were a couple of pre-lift-off alarms about a leaky valve?  Neither did I!  But the countdown continues, and then we’re off and running.  Even though we all know what happened, I was on the edge of my seat for every key moment of the mission–the rocket burns, the spaceship separations and dockings, and of course the landing of the moon lander itself.  And there’s no contemporary voiceover; just a couple of snippets of Walter Cronkite’s reporting.  It’s like a time capsule from 50 years ago.  Check it out.

California Typewriter

A new movie review from The Movie Snob.

California Typewriter  (C).  This new documentary about typewriters and the people (mostly men) who love them is strangely uncompelling.  We learn a little about the invention of the first practical typewriter in Wisconsin in the decade or so after the Civil War.  We have some monologues by some people who still use and love typewriters, such as Tom Hanks (That Thing You Do!), John Mayer, and David McCullough (1776).  We meet a collector of old typewriters who is still trying to get hands on one of the very first run of typewriters produced in Wisconsin back in the day.  We meet the folks who own and run one of the last typewriter repair stores (called California Typewriter).  And we meet a guy who disassembles old typewriters and makes sculptures with them.  One of the first Christmas presents I can remember wanting as a kid was a typewriter, and yet this documentary still didn’t do much for me.  Maybe the four other people in the movie theater with me liked it more than I did.

Born in China

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Born in China  (B-).  I don’t think I have seen one of these “Disneynature” Earth Day releases in a while.  This one focuses on several species indigenous to China.  Cranes and a certain kind of antelope get brief coverage, but the movie focuses on the giant panda, the snow leopard, and some kind of snub-nosed monkey I had never heard of before.  The photography is exceptionally good, as you would expect, but the narration (provided by John Krasinski, Leatherheads) is way too sentimentalized and occasionally downright goofy.  There’s very little gore, but there is still a death that might trouble the little ones and the exceptionally tenderhearted.  Personally, based on the previews, I’m hoping for more from Disneynature’s 2018 release Dolphins.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (B).  Happy MLK Day!  As a government employee, I had the day off, so I thought I’d check out this new documentary.  I presumed I would have the theater virtually to myself, but surprise!  There were probably 60 or 70 other moviegoers there for the 1:15 show.  Who’d have thunk it?  Anyhoo, I knew nothing about Peggy Guggenheim going in, so this documentary–biopic was very educational for me.  PG was born in 1898 and lived until 1979, and in between she became one of the most influential people in the art world, despite having no formal training.  Instead she had some money (being an heiress), a good eye, and some excellent advisers, as well as a personality that allowed her to meet and befriend (ahem) many of the artists who came to define the 20th century.  Jackson Pollock was apparently one of her discoveries.  Anyway, she lived an unconventional and seemingly pretty sad life, but it made for an interesting movie.  Among many other things, I learned that both parents of actor Robert De Niro (Stardust) were artists whose work was shown by Guggenheim back in the day.  Worth seeing, if you like this sort of thing.

Best of Enemies

From the desk of The Movie Snob.

Best of Enemies  (B+).  This may be the first documentary I have seen this year.  It is about the Republican and Democratic National Conventions of 1968, and more particularly about ABC’s decision not to provide wall-to-wall, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the conventions, but rather to broadcast only selected highlights from the conventions, followed by “debates” between a well-known provocateur from each end of the political spectrum.  Those provocateurs were William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal.  The movie consists in large part of contemporaneous news footage about the conventions, as well as excerpts from the “debates” themselves.  I use scare quotes because, as far as I could tell, Buckley and Vidal used the occasion mainly to insult each other, and certainly not to discuss in depth any of the salient issues of the day.  As a long-time subscriber to National Review and admirer of Buckley, I winced when the movie finally got to the most famous exchange between the two, when Vidal called Buckley a “pro- or crypto-Nazi,” Buckley lost his temper, called Vidal a “queer,” and threatened to punch him in the face.  The film-makers want to trace the shouting style of modern punditry to the Buckley–Vidal debates, but I can’t imagine things would be much different by now even if Buckley and Vidal had been more civil and actually made arguments.  Nevertheless, I thought it was an interesting and well-made movie.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

New from The Movie Snob.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar (B). I do enjoy a good IMAX nature documentary, and this was a pretty good one. Morgan Freeman (Evan Almighty) narrates this 40-minute overview of the lemurs of Madagascar. We also meet an American scientist Patricia Wright, who has devoted her life to studying the critters and, of course, trying to protect their habitat from human destruction. The lemurs are pretty interesting, especially the adorable little mouse lemur (but note the thick gloves worn by the lab tech handling the little guy. I bet he has sharp little teeth!) And the scenery of Madagascar is pretty gorgeous too, with lots of huge stone formations jutting up unexpectedly out of the forests. This one is good for all ages–there aren’t even any disturbing scenes of animals getting killed or eaten or anything.

 

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Life Itself

The Movie Snob sees a tribute to a colleague.

Life Itself  (B).  Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) brings us this movie about the life and times of world-famous movie critic Roger Ebert.  I thought it was very well done, going all the way back to his upbringing as an only child, his college years and his early years in journalism, and then his ascent to stardom after he became (and not at his own request) the movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper.  Of course there’s a decent amount of material about his TV show and rocky relationship with fellow movie critic Gene Siskel, who predeceased him by several years.  There is also lots of footage of Ebert’s sadly debilitated final years, after two bouts of cancer in the area of his lower jaw.  Ultimately, his jawbone had to be removed, and he never spoke, or orally ate or drank, again.  Watching Ebert struggle with rehab and his declining health, and the suffering of his wife Chaz, really becomes rather hard to watch by the end.  But it’s a good movie and worth seeing–even if a little horrifying to those of us who are getting to be a certain age.

Particle Fever

The Movie Snob gets a fever for the flavor of a boson.

Particle Fever  (B).  The Dallas Morning News loved this new documentary about the construction of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and its “maiden voyage” just a few years ago.  I’ll give it two cheers.  I’m a lawyer, not a physicist, but I gathered from the movie that by the 1970s theoretical physics had gotten far ahead of experimental physics, meaning the theory guys had no way to test whether their outlandish theories were true.  To test the theories, physicists needed a huge and hugely expensive piece of machinery that would duplicate and record subatomic conditions that existed just after the Big Bang–and, they hoped, create the theorized particle known as the Higgs boson in the process.  A run was made at building the device near Waxahachie, Texas, but the government funding got pulled, and that was that.  So the European nuclear agency built it in Switzerland, at a cost of billions of dollars, and in 2011 and 2012, they actually got the thing up and running.  The film focuses on a few of the thousands of physicists involved, including a gal, apparently an American, who is doing her post-doctoral work right there at the LHC.  You already know that the thing worked and it didn’t create an Earth-destroying black hole like some people predicted.  The film gives only a minimal explanation of the significance of the LHC findings, but I was pretty much fine with that.  I just enjoyed the computer graphics and watching the nerds get all happy when their giant tinkertoy (eventually) worked without falling apart.

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Jodorowsky’s Dune (B+). This is quite an interesting documentary about an eccentric (if not totally bonkers) Chilean stage and film director who attempted to make a movie of the classic Frank Herbert science-fiction novel Dune. If I may briefly digress, I absolutely loved the novel Dune when I was a kid. Written in 1965, Dune is a space opera set in a far distant future in which humanity has settled into a quasi-feudal sort of imperial government, with various noble families jockeying for position and power within the Empire. The whole civilization runs on a spice called mélange, which gives its users longer lifespans and, more importantly, allows some gifted people to see the future (which is essential to space travel). The spice comes from only a single planet, a harsh desert world called Dune, whose main natural inhabitants are monstrous and voracious sandworms that grow to be a quarter-mile in length. The hero of the story is Paul Atreides, young heir to the throne of one of the noble houses, possessor of some unusual mental and physical abilities, and possibly a political revolutionary, religious messiah, or both. I read Dune several times as a kid, and I think I did an oral book report on it when I was in about the seventh grade.  My brother and I even had a board game based on the novel.

Anyway, David Lynch made a movie of Dune in the 1980s starring Kyle MacLachlan, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, and Sting, and it is generally considered to be pretty terrible. I saw it back at the time, and I know I didn’t think it was very good. What I never knew was that a Chilean stage and film director named Alejandro Jodorowsky had already tried to make a movie of Dune (without actually reading the book himself) back in the mid-1970s. He is still alive today, in his mid-80s, and this movie consists mostly of interviews with him and with various art guys that he enlisted to draw up the storyboards and other supporting artwork so he could try to get a Hollywood backer for the project. For example, H.R. Giger, whose designs would later be used to such great effect in Alien, was one of Jodorowsky’s artists.   Jodorowsky tells lots of stories about the people that he got to commit (informally) to appearing in the movie: Orson Welles supposedly said he would play the evil and bloated Baron Harkonnen, Mick Jagger supposedly said he would play the evil and sensuous Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, and none other than Salvador Dali supposedly said he would play the Emperor of the Universe (for $100,000 an hour, and on condition that a burning giraffe appear in his scenes). I don’t know about all that stuff, but it is apparently true that Jodorowsky and his team spent a lot of time and money putting together an immense book of storyboards and artwork to use in shopping the film around in Hollywood, and we see a lot of that artwork during the course of the movie. Jodorowsky says he wanted to make a film that would have the same effect on the viewer as LSD, and if he had gotten the necessary funding he might have succeeded. But the studios all passed on the opportunity, and the French fellow who had backed all the pre-production pulled the plug on the project. It’s a crazy story, and a fun one if you’re a fan of movies or a fan of Dune.

Tim’s Vermeer

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Tim’s Vermeer  (B).  This documentary actually came out last year.  It is the story of a Texas inventor named Tim Jenison and his years-long project to (1) figure out how Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer painted such amazing paintings, and (2) see if he could recreate a Vermeer painting himself.  His buddy Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame) is both narrator and participant in the film.  (Teller is the director.)  It is an interesting little movie (only 80 minutes long) with lots of amusing moments as Jenison gets sucked deeper and deeper into his hobby or obsession or whatever it ends up being.  Worth seeing, if you have even a modicum of interest in painting and art and that kind of stuff.  Or if you saw and liked Girl With a Pearl Earring, starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.

Blackfish

A new review by The Movie Snob.

Blackfish (B).  This documentary is a propaganda piece.  The thesis: It is bad to confine killer whales and have them perform in shows in places like Sea World.  It’s bad for the whales because they are immensely intelligent, social, and even emotional beings that belong in the open ocean, not in small concrete pools.  And it’s bad for us because keeping the whales in captivity makes them crazy and dangerous to their human trainers.  Most of the evidence presented in the film focuses on the second point.  You probably remember the incident just a few years ago when a killer whale named Tilikum killed a female Sea World trainer; of course the movie goes into that incident in some detail, and it also provides some facts about Tilikum’s killing of a young trainer twenty years earlier.  The facts are much sketchier about the only other trainer killing discussed in the film, a killing that involved a different whale in a Spanish park in the Canary Islands.  The film also features some footage of a couple of other nonfatal attacks on trainers; it’s pretty amazing those two people survived.  Sea World did not cooperate in the making of the film, but some of its ex-trainers certainly did.  I have heard that Sea World issued a rebuttal, and the filmmakers have issued a response to the rebuttal.  Anyway, I’m sold; Sea World won’t be getting any more of my money unless they stop their killer whale shows.

Twenty Feet From Stardom

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Twenty Feet From Stardom  (B).  You know, you probably can make a good documentary about just about anything.  This aptly named documentary is about back-up singers in the rock era.  They have been mostly black women, and, despite their obvious talent, they are pretty much anonymous.  So this movie gives them a rare leading role, and we get to know quite a bit about a small handful of them.  We learn about their backgrounds (lots of preachers’ daughters) and their experiences in the music industry, especially in the 1960s and 1970s.  A few try to become stars in their own right, and it just doesn’t pan out for them.  Several bona fide rock stars give some interviews about their back-up singers, like Sting (Dune), Bruce Springsteen, and Mick Jagger (Freejack), and though they are all appreciative, Jagger does say something to effect of, “Who wants to spend their whole career singing oohs and ahhs?”  There are some interesting anecdotes, like the time one back-up singer answered a 2 a.m. call to participate in a recording session with the Rolling Stones and wound up getting immortalized in “Gimme Shelter.”  All in all, a very pleasant little movie.  I’d give it a higher grade, but it did start to feel a little long towards the end, even though IMDb says it’s only 91 minutes.

56 Up

A new review from The Movie Snob.

56 Up  (A-).  I’ve already written about this series of British documentaries on this blog several times.  Basically, in 1963 or 1964, somebody gathered up a bunch of seven-year-olds from different social strata and interviewed them singly or in small groups.  Every seven years since then, director Michael Apted (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) has gone back and interviewed them again to see what has happened to them in life.  Some stopped participating along the way, but many have continued to participate.  Now they are 56 years old, and they seem more philosophical than ever as they deal with illnesses and deaths of loved ones, the growing-up of their own children, and the arrival, in many cases, of grandchildren.  The fellow who has struggled with mental illness still has his struggles, but he seems to be doing reasonably well living in a small village where he is active both in politics and in the church.  The kids from privileged backgrounds all seem to be doing quite well, but happily even the ones from the lower rungs of the social ladder (including the two boys who lived in a state-run home for a while) generally seem to be doing okay.  I think I was getting a little bored with the series, but I really enjoyed this entry.  See if you can find it on Netflix or something, and check it out.  (You can see my previous reviews in the series here:  49 Up, 42 Up, 35 Up, 28 Up, 21 Up, 7+Seven, and 7 Up.)

my kid could paint that

A DVD review from The Movie Snob.

my kid could paint that  (B).  You never know when you might find a gem in the $3 DVD bin at Big Lots!  I picked up this 2007 documentary and gave it a watch.  It’s pretty good.  It’s about a four-year-old girl named Marla Olmstead, who became famous in 2004-2005 for her abstract paintings.  Her paintings came to the attention of an artist and dealer in her hometown of Binghamton, New York, and then her story got picked up by the local newspaper, The New York Times, and then the national news shows including 60 Minutes.  Her paintings began selling for thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars.  But then the 60 Minutes piece aired, calling into question Marla’s parents’ claims that she painted her paintings by herself, without her father’s help.  Where does the truth lie?  You’ll have to watch the movie and draw your own conclusions.  I didn’t really care for the way the filmmaker himself became personally involved in the story, but on the whole I thought it was an interesting and enjoyable movie.  And it’s only 83 minutes, so it’s not a huge time commitment.

Katy Perry: Part of Me

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Katy Perry: Part of Me  (B).  This is what happens when you have a 13-year-old goddaughter.  But I can’t complain too much; as evidenced by my grade, I thought this was a pretty interesting little documentary about one of the moment’s biggest pop stars.  The temporal focus of the film is 2011, when Perry dominated the airwaves with her songs, the arenas with her concerts, and the tabloids with short-lived marriage to Russell Brand (Get Him to the Greek).  But the movie also lets us see how Perry got where she is.  We learn about her strict Pentecostal Christian upbringing, her eventual discovery of secular music (with a specific tip of the hat to Alanis Morissette), and her several painful years of gutting it out in the music biz until she finally got her big break.  There’s lots of 2011 concert footage, too.  Personally, I find some of her songs to be pretty catchy, but some are so vulgar and tawdry that it’s appalling to see so many young girls (and some boys) at her concerts.  And I’m no music critic, but her voice seems pretty unexceptional to me.  Still and all, she seems like a nice enough person, and you feel a little sorry for her when tour fatigue and her failing marriage threaten to really tear her up.  Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that her grandmother is a scene-stealing hoot.

Into the Abyss

A guest review from The Movie Snob’s sister, Kentucky Rose.

Into the Abyss  (D+).  I really like 48 Hours Mystery type shows, and this documentary that my fiancee found on Netflix seemed like it would be similar.  It wasn’t very good, though.  The interviewer/reporter (Werner Herzog) who talked to the police, victim’s families, and murderers was European and was sooooo awkward in the interviews.  Plus, he seemed more fascinated by the redneck lives of the people than the actual story.  I have to admit, the redneck stories were pretty interesting.  It’s hard to believe people live like that!

Bernie

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Bernie  (B+).  Director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) reunites with Jack Black (School of Rock) and Matthew McConaughey (Dazed and Confused) for this half-dramatization/half-documentary about a 1996 murder in the small east Texas town of Carthage.  Black plays Bernie Tiede, a middle-aged mortician who moves to Carthage and becomes the toast of the town for his kindness.  Shirley MacLaine (Steel Magnolias) plays Marjorie Nugent, a wealthy widow that Bernie befriends after her husband’s funeral.  Marjorie is a mean old snake who is estranged from the rest of her family, and she gets her hooks into Bernie good–treating him to a high life of travel and culture, but also mistreating him as her personal slave.  Until one day he finally snapped, shot her dead, and hid her body in her own deep freezer.  Oh, the documentary aspect of the movie is that interspersed throughout the movie are numerous clips of interviews with actual citizens of Carthage who knew Nugent and apparently still know Bernie (and the county D.A., Danny Buck, played by McConaughey).  Some of the things they have to say are priceless.  You have to wonder how true to life the dramatized parts of the movie are, but they felt very authentic to me.  Fine performances and a really interesting movie about a bizarre crime.

Chimpanzee

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Chimpanzee  (B).  I just saw the latest offering from the Disney-nature people, and it was pretty good.  It’s the story of a smallish group of chimpanzees living in the African rainforest, and in particular about one young chimpanzee dubbed Oscar.  The filmmakers follow Oscar from his birth through the first few years of his life, effectively showing how he and the other chimps scratch a living out of the jungle.  As you know if you’ve seen any of the previews, there is conflict and tragedy too, as a larger group of chimps from a neighboring territory launches an invasion into Oscar’s home turf.  But the movie soft-pedals the tragedy, showing no disturbing images and instead using a lot of ominous music over shots of chimps running at or away from each other.  The narration by Tim Allen is over the top and should have been pared back, and the filmmakers definitely shied away from showing the “red in tooth and claw” aspect of life in the jungle, but it was still an enjoyable little nature documentary.

Food, Inc.

The Bleacher Bum reports on a 2008 documentary.

Food, Inc.: I have been watching more documentaries of late. My first rule is that the information being presented has to be truthful and accurate.  Secondly, the information must be presented in an entertaining way. Food, Inc. abides by these rules. Food, Inc. looks at and examines how America’s farmers, ranchers, and businesses grow, develop, raise, market, sell, and deliver food to America’s grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias, and dinner tables.  At times, the documentary did get a little preachy against big business, but the information presented was researched well and was thought provoking. Several individuals with their personal stories touched me. I finished the documentary thinking that I had learned something and had been enlightened.  I suggest you take a bite of Food, IncGRADE: B+.

Project Nim

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Project Nim (B+).  Seems like there have been lots of documentaries released this year, and this is at least the fifth one I’ve seen.  It’s a good one.  Back in the 1970s, a linguist at Columbia University named Herb Terrace got the idea to try an experiment: what if a human family raised a chimpanzee from infancy and taught it sign language?  Could the chimp do it?  And what would we learn about language in the process?  Terrace got a baby chimp from a primate research facility in Oklahoma, and it was named Nim Chimpsky, I suppose after the famous linguist Noam Chomsky.  Terrace decided fairly quickly that he wasn’t getting results with the loosey-goosey ways of the hippie-ish family that first took the chimp, so he took Nim back and had some graduate students raise him on a rural estate somewhere else in New York.  Fortunately the project was heavily documented, so we have lots of photos and video from the 70s, plus lots of people involved in the project agreed to be interviewed and filmed in the present day as well.  Plainly some of them really fell in love with Nim, even though he was a wild animal that gave many of them plenty of occasions to get stitches.  Nim’s story took a sad turn when Terrace shut the project down after four or five years, and Nim got bounced around from various more-or-less unhappy situations after that.  But don’t be discouraged from seeing the movie on the assumption that it’s all sad and depressing, because it’s not (entirely) that way.  It’s just an interesting movie about the life of a chimpanzee lived out under highly unusual circumstances.

Page One: Inside the New York Times

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Page One: Inside the New York Times  (B+).  This documentary delivers what it promises, a look behind the scenes at how the New York Times runs.  But the bigger story these days, of course, is whether traditional newspapers, the Times included, have any future in this era of new media.  That question is very much on the minds of the people running the Times, not to mention their employees (100 or so of whom got early retired or laid off in the last couple of years).  And, not surprisingly, no one has an answer.  An odd fellow and former drug addict named David Carr is the newspaper’s top social-media reporter, so he figures prominently in the movie. Anyway, if you have any interest in the decline of American newspapers or curiosity about how a newspaper is put together, you should enjoy this movie.  And at 96 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Turtle: The Incredible Journey

From the desk of The Movie Snob

Turtle: The Incredible Journey  (C).  This 2009 nature documentary just showed up in our theaters here in Dallas.  It is about the life cycle of a female loggerhead turtle, starting with the famous mad dash of hundred of little hatchlings from the beach to the ocean, through the perilous first few years riding the Atlantic currents, and culminating with more or less permanent residence in the Caribbean, with occasional trips back to the Florida beach for the laying of eggs.  (The movie’s conceit is that it is following a single turtle for the first 20 years of her life, but surely they didn’t really find and follow a single turtle for 20 years.)  It’s the not greatest nature documentary by a long stretch.  There are long periods in which pretty much nothing happens except that we watch the turtle swimming around.  The 3D wasn’t necessary.  There is emphatic environmentalist voice-over narration, with only a quick acknowledgement at the end that measures were actually taken–by human beings!–to protect the nesting beach from encroaching real-estate development.  But I did learn some stuff, and turtles are pretty interesting critters.  Very little children might be disturbed by the opening scenes in which marauding crabs make off with some hatchling turtles, but they are even more likely to get bored during the 81-minute running time.

African Cats

From the desk of The Movie Snob

African Cats  (A-).  I guess Disney releases a new nature documentary every year now right around Earth Day?  Anyhoo, this is a stunning piece of film making.  The movie focuses on two mothers: Sita, a cheetah with five tiny cubs, and Leila, an aging lioness with one cub named Mara.  Sita is alone in her task of raising her cubs, and she has to deal with all the predators that come her way (hyenas, lions, other cheetahs) while simultaneously feeding herself and her cubs.  Leila is part of a pride, but she has troubles of her own–the sole male in the pride, Fang, is threatened by another male named Kali, plus Kali’s three grown sons.  Throw in dangers like crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and drought, and it’s enough to give any mother fits!  I don’t know how they got this footage, but some of it is really amazing.  Although it’s rated G, you can predict that there will be some violence, and some animals are not going to survive.  I’d give it an “A,” but it started to feel just a little padded at the end, and the animals are ridiculously anthropomorphized by the narration (appropriately provided by known nature-lover Samuel L. Jackson, Snakes on a Plane).  Do watch the ending credits for some amusing bylines for the various animal stars.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

New review from The Movie Snob

Cave of Forgotten Dreams  (B+).  Acclaimed director Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man) brings us another interesting documentary.  In 1994, explorers discovered a cave in southern France, now known at Chauvet Cave, that contained some of the most remarkable cave paintings in the world.  For one, they are the oldest known paintings, dating back some 32,000 years.  Apparently a rockslide sealed the cave off about 20,000 years ago, so the paintings have remained undisturbed ever since.  Herzog got permission to take cameras in and film the cave’s interior, and he interviewed some of the scientists who are involved in the ongoing study of the cave.  The paintings are almost entirely of animals, including horses, bison, rhinoceroses, and even extinct animals like mammoths and cave lions.  Lots of bones were found in the cave as well, especially of the now-extinct cave bear.  You’ll almost certainly never get to see the cave in real life, so if you have any interest at all in this sort of thing, check it out.  Oh, it’s showing in 3D in some places, but I saw it in 2D and didn’t really feel like I was missing out on anything.