Whale of a Tale Productions

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Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry by Alison Klayman (2012)

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This is a fantastic and moving documentary about the world famous artist and outspoken critic of the Chinese government Ai Weiwei 艾未未. It starts talking about his art, and how he doesn’t even do his own artwork anymore, just conceptualizes it. The film really takes off with the Sichuan earthquake, where Ai takes it on his own to create a list of the dead from shoddy construction, when the government does nothing, and he becomes a fervent critic of the Communist government of China. The film is moving and powerful and very well done, must see documentary for anyone at all interested in China.

REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS! (more…)

Searching for Sugar Man by Malik Bendjelloul (2012)

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This is a fantastic feel good documentary about an incredible unknown musician in the US named Sixto Rodriguez whose songs became the South African theme songs in the struggle against Apartheid. In the US Sixto made only 2 albums, which though featuring impressive lyrics, never went anywhere. Fans in South Africa thought Rodriguez was dead, having killed himself on stage at the end of a concert, but amazingly eventually found him alive and well in Detroit, with no idea of his celebrity in South Africa! Sixto then makes a trip o South Africa with his incredulous daughters, and the manual laborer sang to sold out concerts in South Africa. A heart warming story with fantastic music by Sixto, an amazing musician who could have been the next Bob Dylan! I want his 2 albums!

Encounters at the End of the World by Werner Herzog (2007)

I had heard of Werner before I worked on his Blu-Ray disc of RESCUE DAWN, but did not know too much about the man, but after seeing RESCUE DAWN I was fascinated by this strange and possibly insane documentary and narrative director. This is the story of his journey to Antarctica to see the people living there, and to get footage from under the glaciers in the ocean, of the incredible creatures unlike anything else on Earth. Even though Werner is not in it, he is still a character, asking questions and narrating the film with his off the wall views of the world (the best are the lines about the blight of there being a yoga studio at the base in Antarctica!). And the people up there all seem a little bit insane in their own way, all poets and artists, and yet doing things they never trained for, lawyers working in greenhouses and the like. These people really seem like Werner’s kind of people, and that is why the documentary works so well. Not only do we see the amazing creatures, but we see these strange and quirky people and the world they live in.

Werner travels with his cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger to Antarctica, starting with McMurdo Station, the biggest settlement on the continent. Here they learn about the changing ice, and see the encampment that Werner seems to hate. They then take field training to be able to go out on the ice, and head to a seal camp. (more…)

Macheads written, directed, edited and co-produced by Kobi Shely (2008)

I love the subject matter, about the cult of Macintosh, and that they got Andy Ihnatko, Guy Kawasaki and Raines Cohen to do interviews for this, but honestly, overall I felt pretty disappointed by this film. The actual editing seemed a bit amateurish, especially all the cuts in an interview on screen, which felt to me like they should have been covered with something, and the music which was bad, and did not seem at all to go with the picture, and often times contrasted to it. It felt like a rough cut with a bad temp music score. And maybe that is just the editor in me, but that is certainly how I felt. Honesltly I felt a bit ripped off for the price on an under an hour documentary.

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Religulous by Larry Charles (2008)

Damn I am so far behind on my reviews! Ha, need to start catching up, and soon. This film is Bill Maher’s pain against religion in the modern age. A documentary, but very slanted, because Maher admits to not believing at all in religion, but the thing he is he brings facts to the table that many of the people he talks to are not aware of. I really enjoyed this film, and just think it is too bad because the people who really should see this film, will never see it, because of who made it. And in fact it is a well done, and funny and enjoyable film, and Maher does not just go after one religion here, but them all.

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Sicko written and directed by Michael Moore (2007)

Moore’s amazing follow up to Fahrenheit 9/11 is this time about the American Health Care industry, and it instead of being killed was in fact universally lauded, even liked by FOX News. This is an a film about the American Health Care system, ranked very low in the world, and the only high level country to not have a universal health care system. The film talks about the people unable to get healthcare, but mainly focuses on the people who have health insurance and who have been denied care for various reasons. It then goes into the universal health care systems of other countries like Canada, England and France. In fact the film is so powerful it made me cry, especially as an American with a pre-existing possibly fatal heart condition who is unable to get health care.

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Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater by Julie Anderson (2006)

Honestly until very shortly ago I knew very little about Senator Barry Goldwater, and he didn’t really come into the forefront of my mind until I read the Goldwater Conservative John W. Dean’s book, CONSERVATIVES WITHOUT A CONSCIENCE. WIth that I found out about a man who I did not agree with on many issues, but on others I do, and I wish he was still around today because he would be right with many of us who are against the Religious Right having any say in Politics, and he stood for conservative values, values that the new Republican party espouses but does not believe in, such as fiscal responsibility and actually trying to make America a safer place.

This is an excellent documentary on the man and and his career of over 30 years as a senator and his run for President against Linden B. Johnson up until his retirement and finally his death. It has interviews with people on both side of the political spectrum talking about this man from Arizona who had no compunction about saying what he felt and fighting for. And many of his views were very Libertarian including his belief in a woman’s right to abortion, and later his support of allowing gays into the military.

REVIEW CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS…

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An Inconvenient Truth by Davis Guggenheim (2006)

This is a really well done and enjoyable, though horribly scary documentary based on former Vice President Al Gore’s slide show he presents on the environment, and on Global Warming. It is filled with facts that really refute the G.O.P.’s contention that Global Warming is just a theory and that the climate changes are cyclical, so that this is normal (yes climate is cyclical, since we using Antarctic ice we can plot the average temperature and CO2 levels of the earth, and never have the CO2 levels or temperature been so high. It is a really well done documentary intercutting Gore giving his presentation with footage of him around the world, as well as doing research and footage showing milestones in his life, and the environment and the world, and what is happening. It is very well done, and should be seen by everyone, not just liberals who already believe in Global Warming, but everyone so they can see the facts about Global Warming, and what is happening to the world that we live in before we have an environmental disaster that makes Katrina look like nothing.

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The Battle Over Citizen Kane by Michael Epstein and Thomas Lennon (1995)

This is included on the CITIZEN KANE DVD, but was a TV show from 1995, and is just under 2 hours long. It is the story of the making of Citizen Kane, as well as the story of Orson Welles and William Randolph Hearst and how he tried to stop and destroy this film. With old photos and video to fill in the story. This is an incredible documentary and a must see for all fans of Citizen Kane, and anyone who has seen it!

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Mondovino by Jonathan Nossiter (2005)

While filled a huge amount of very interesting information about the state of the wine world today, and with Interviews with so many of the people who are important, it is the production and editing that mars this film. The camera is so shaky it gives me a constant headache, often the camera wanders off to show something else while someone is talking, and the editing without narration seems really jumpy and off. Yes their is information here, but no overall story, with some scenes that shouldn’t be here at all, and do we really need to watch Dogs sniffing each others buts. While very informative I would pass on this one.

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Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D by Mark Cowen (2005)

Tom hanks produced and narrated this excellent documentary and 3 dimension recreation of the the Apollo moon landings, meant to bring that sense of wonder to a new generation of children and including the best 3D effects I have ever seen in a film. Sure it is a little short on science, and more into spectacle, but that doesn’t take away from the power and the impact of this film, and it doesn’t hurt having an almost all celebrity voice cast narrating the film, with some actors from the Right Stuff and Apollo 13 joining in. You should not miss this film at the IMAX because a home viewing experience just won’t be the same! The only thing bad I can say about it is the non-powered 3D glasses do make the image not as sharp as it could be

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John Cleese: Wine for the Confused by David Kennard (2004)

As as aspiring wine aficionado, at least since my trip to Napa with my girlfriend, I have wanted to learn more and more about wine, especially since my trip to Berringer, and since I am also a very large fan of John Cleese I thought this would be an ideal show, and it is, though a little short, so it could have gone farther.

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