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Documentary Review | Let’s Get Real

Let’s Get Real (PN 1995.96 .D65 L48 2004) highlights the urgent need to stand up to bullying, empowering youth to be the difference that the world needs. Let’s Get Real has a different take in this issue, in that it consists entirely of the kids themselves sharing how things really are. It is unscripted and no adults are taking the lead in the discussions on camera—the kids speak openly, freely, and from many different viewpoints. Some of these varying viewpoints are those of the people who are bullied, those who do the bullying, those who have been in both situations, and those who have been witnesses of bullying. The stories shared by the kids in the documentary are a unique, eye-opening reminder of how brutal bullying can be.

I gave this documentary such a high rating because it addresses an issue that I strongly believe needs to be more heavily and frequently addressed to people of all ages. The personal stories of the kids make any watcher step back and think about how his/her words and actions of the past have influenced the lives of the people around them. I loved the change of pace in this documentary where the kids spoke openly about the issues of name-calling, fighting, and other forms of bullying. I think that this documentary is definitely worth watching with people of any age group because these are real issues that increasingly need to be addressed. There is some language throughout the film; however, it is used in a descriptive context of what these kids actually hear and deal with so I think that in this case, it adds to the film as a whole.

Written by: Jeff Stolk

Movie Review | The Princess Bride

It is my personal opinion that no review can do this film justice, but I will try my best to do so. Princess Bride (PN 1995.9 .C55 P75 2001) is a classic tale of adventure, true love, chases, escapes, fighting, miracles, and more. Princess Buttercup has lost her true love. Disinterested and depressed, she reluctantly is to marry Prince Humperdinck. But as fate would have it, her true love Westley is alive and willing to risk everything to have her. He fights through piracy, a swordsman, a giant, quick sand, fire, rodents of unusual size, and the prince himself in an attempt to win her back.

This movie lives up to the magic of the book itself, unlike most movies which fail to do so. It is brilliantly filmed and the actors and actresses are perfect for the roles they play. This is a wonderful movie to watch with anyone at any age, and its witty satire and clever script never get old. It is one of my absolute favorites, which is why I recommend it so highly and rate it 5 out of 5 stars.

Written by: Hannah McBride

Documentary Review | House of Cards

This film takes a deep dive into the workings of the US monetary system to discover the origins of the 2008 financial crisis. It includes interviews with workers on Wall Street, families, and investors, to get to the bottom of the issue. It covers the crisis from beginning to end, leaving the viewer with implications for the future.

I liked their historical and statistical approach to the financial crisis, making sure to cover the facts. At the same time, they got the perspective of both Wall Street investors as well as families, getting arguments on both side of the aisle. It was very informative and gave a comprehensive analysis of the economy during the time. However, at times is was difficult to follow, with many technical financial terms.

Written by: Brandon Orullian

Documentary Review | The Red Pill

The Red Pill (PN 1995.96 .S47 R43 2017) is a documentary made by Cassie Jaye covering the men’s rights movement. This documentary explores gender bias, media manipulation, the power of words, the disfigurement of concepts and the truth behind simplistic blurbs on a news reel. Tackling this ongoing discussion of women’s rights, Cassie tries to understand the opposing view. Some may say that “men’s rights” comes off as “What about me?” but as she interviews the leaders of the MRA (Men’s Rights Association) Cassie starts questioning her own beliefs on feminism and gender inequality.

While this documentary does bring up some good points about some challenges that males face, it becomes almost unbearable to watch after 30 minutes. Within the first 30 minutes the topic is only about men complaining about being valued for their productivity, the money they earn, and being judged on the value they bring as a husband or to society. This documentary allows MRAs to get away with various assertions without actually dissecting or analyzing the claims. It treats anecdotal evidence as statistics. In short, the filmmaker fails to do her part in presenting this issue and as a consequence this documentary tilts to one side, falls off the hinge, and plummets down a rabbit hole of bad information and stories.

Written by: Tiffany Chao

Documentary Review | Searching for Sugar Man

Sixto Rodriguez had the potential to be the greatest 70’s rock icon, but after his first album bombed for unexplained reasons, he vanished. Searching for Sugar Man (PN 1995.96 .M86 S43 2013) documents how Rodriguez mysteriously became famous in South Africa and sparked a musical revolution, without any success in America. After wild rumors about the musician’s dramatic death had circulated the country, Rodriguez’s most devout South African fans tried to find out what truly happened to him and why he disappeared.

Searching for Sugar Man was full of unexpected twists and turns. The interviews of the South American people did an excellent job capturing what Rodriguez meant to them, and how magical his music was. The story was well paced and did an excellent job detailing the many mysteries involved. I would recommend this movie to anyone, especially those who love classic artists like the Beatles or Simon & Garfunkel.

Written by: Michelle Greenwood

Movie Review | North by Northwest

North by Northwest is a classic Alfred Hitchcock entertaining American thriller. Cary Grant plays an advertising executive who gets unexpectedly kidnapped and intermixed with working alone side a spy and the FBI to catch the criminal Vandamm. The story starts out in Manhattan and takes the viewer along on a suspenseful journey all the way to Mount Rushmore, where the story ends at a climax, as the main characters’ dangle from the facial features of the presidents on the mountain.

I enjoyed this movie and gave it 5 stars because it was entertaining and suspenseful throughout. It represents the excellent influence that Alfred Hitchcock has left on the Hollywood movie industry and is definitely an American classic. The story line is coherent and leaves the audience wanting more. I would recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a good suspense movie or has enjoyed any other Hitchcock movie.

Written by: Mallory Meng

Streaming Documentary Review | A Poem is a Naked Person

A Poem is a Naked Person (kanopy.com) is a free-form style documentary recording singer-songwriter Leon Russell in his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma. There are fascinating scenes of Russell performing with his band, with some appearances from other acclaimed musicians. This film captures the easy-going life Russell and his friends live by to influence their creative musical abilities.

The live performances documented captivate viewers into thinking that they are actually there. Random scenes of the odd day-to-day life Russell, friends, and locals in the area are alluring and have no explanation. Despite the aimless nature of the film, it is still an interesting watch.

Written by: Michelle Greenwood

Movie Review | Star Wars: The Force Awakens


The long awaited continuance of the original trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens introduces us to new characters and a new story. Among the new characters are Rey, Finn, and Po. Finn in an act of courage abandons the evil first order and ends up crash landing on Jakku where he meets Rey. Rey and Finn run from the first order and are found by Han Solo and Chewy, but Rey is eventually captured and taken away. Finn, Han, and the rest of the resistance must mount an attack to save themselves from the latest weapon of mass destruction, and also to save Rey.

I thought the movie was great and that it did not disappoint. It is packed full of action, has surprising twists, and there’s humor added into the mix. It’s fun to see the new characters and their development throughout the movie, as well as the old characters and how they are different from the original movie. The lightsabers in Star Wars are just always really cool, making the movie even better.. A well made movie overall. I give it 5 stars.

Written by: Aaron Conrad

Documentary Review | Jazz, Our Language

Jazz, Our Language (PN 1995.96 .J37 J39 2000 pt.3) presents Jazz at a time where its popularity and talent began to soar to record heights just like the stock market. Jazz begins to highlight individual talent even more, as renowned artists like Bessie Smith, Bix Biederbecke, and Sidney Bechet emerge. Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw find their way out of the slums through Jazz, and as Jewish immigrant Americans they add to the already diverse demographics of the Jazz culture. Duke Ellington finds great success with his band when hired by the Cotton Club, one of the most famous Harlem clubs of the time. In the meantime, Louis Armstrong records “West End Blues” with pianist Earl Hines, which becomes his first great hit and establishes Louis as a Jazz legend.

As a jazz enthusiast I cannot find fault with this documentary. It is expertly documented and gives accurate and in depth information on the artists and music of the time in an interesting and exciting way. I absolutely love watching the documentaries from this Jazz series by Ken Burns, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in the music of America and it’s fascinating history.

Written by: Hannah McBride

Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones 1969 Tour

To use a single moment, film, or even musical group to describe the 1960s would be a mistake.  The cultural landscape changed in so many ways from 1959 to 69 that attributing one entity for all of it becomes flawed.  However, if any film or documentary comes close to really capturing the end of the 60’s, and the misguided lifestyles of so many (that were only to continue into the 70s), the Maysles Brothers’ Gimme Shelter does a pretty stellar job.  Centering around The Rolling Stones, who, behind the Beatles, were close to being the biggest rock band in the world, and the controversy that ensued from a free concert they organized in San Francisco, Gimme Shelter paints an intriguing and ultimately tragic picture of a collapsing world.  Hoped to be a crowning moment of the still emerging hippie ideology, the concert turned sour as 300,000 people arrived with their drugs and sex, culminating in the murder of one audience member.   

The film is expertly shot by legendary documentarians, the Maysles Brothers, comprising of footage from various Rolling Stone’s concerts, as well as shots of the Rolling Stones rewatching the events of the concert.  One particular poignant scene takes place as they attempt to play their song Sympathy for the Devil, but are continually interrupted by rioting in the crowds.  Mick Jagger quips, “something always happens when we try to play this song.”  Rather than interfere with the happenings of the film, the Maysles for the most part remain removed and separate from the goings about, giving the film a real life understanding, it otherwise would not have had.  Overall, Gimme Shelter gives a deep and interesting presentation of an era of history.

Written by: Parker Gehring

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