Sunday, April 25, 2010

David Wants To Fly [Hot Docs review]

96 min ~ Germany, Austria & Switzerland
Director: David Sieveking ~ Producers: Martin Heisler & Carl-Ludwig Rettinger

Rating (out of 4 stars):
Hot Docs showtimes

Young, German filmmaker David Sieveking takes the advice of his idol, David Lynch, and studied transcendental meditation (TM), which was founded by the same guru whom The Beatles embraced in 1968, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. David embraces TM and one days hope to "fly" while cross-legged in the meditative position, which looks like a dodo hopping across the floor.

Problem is, the deeper he delves, the more inconsistencies he uncovers: a power struggle that erupts after Maharashi dies; an estate worth billions; the German yogi who wants to open an institute to make Germany "invincible" again, which sounds like Hitler to some; finding a former assistant who poured his savings into serving TM until he was tossed away; a woman whom Maharishi seduced then abandoned; a disillusioned donor who poured $150 million into TM; and so on.

I don't know if Sieveking set out to expose TM or if it came about by serendipity. What's more convincing is TM being a cult with gurus riding stretch limos, mind control, and lawsuits threatening nosy filmmakers.

Oddly enough, Sieveking uses his rocky relationship with his girlfriend as a subplot and it somehow works. Their rollercoaster romance emotionally grounds the film, which is really an investigative piece but told in a wide-eyed tongue-in-cheek manner. David Wants To Fly won't expand your consciousness, but open your eyes.

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Space Tourists [Hot Docs review]

~ 98 min ~ Germany
Directed & Produced by Christian Frei

Rating (out of 4 stars):trailer & showtimes

Cash-strapped Russia is now sending tourists into outer space. Well-helled businesswoman Anousheh Ansari is willing to pay $20-million to don a space suit and orbit the Earth for a week. We cheer her for fulfilling her childhood dream of beholding the world inside her capsule. Back on Earth, Kazakh scavengers salvage valuable, but dangerous rocket debris that tumble from the sky after each flight. What are dreams to one person is dinner to another.

Though an award-winner at Sundance, Space Tourists suffers from a languid pace and muddled storytelling. There are some intriguing threads here and contrasts to be made. However, I found the pacing too slow to hold my interest and felt that the story meandered in the middle, despite breathtaking footage of the heavens and intriguing characters like Ansari.

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Disco and Atomic War [Hot Docs review]

78 min ~ Estonia & Finland
Director: Jaak Kilmi ~ Producer: Kiur Aarma

Rating (out of 4 stars):Hot Docs showtimes

The little Baltic nation of Estonia was a pain in the butt of the old Soviet empire, according to this entertaining, tongue-in-cheek doc. Lying across the Gulf of Finland was a bourgeois capitalist country that beamed decadent Western shows into Estonian TVs that were rigged with an illegal antenna. Shows like "Dallas" undermined the Workers Paradise, because those antennae as well as videotapes of those shows spread across the Soviet empire like a virus.

Never mind Reagan and rampant corruption, "Who Shot J.R?" and the soft-porn classic Emmanuelle helped bring down the U.S.S.R. Director Klimi sets the right tone throughout. He weaves together stock footage and excerpts from vintage Estonian and Finnish TV (the disco footage is hilarious) to poke fun at the bad old Soviets, but features interviews with historians to keep his story grounded and complex. Tune in, comrade.

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Soundtracker [Hot Docs review]

88 min ~ USA
Directed & Produced by Nicholas Sherman

Rating (out o
f 4 stars):trailer & Hot Docs showtimes

Gordon Hempton collects sounds for a living. It's his passion, his calling. He's an Emmy Award-winning sound recordist who has spent the last 30 years gathering the sounds of nature before they disappear in the face of expanding civilization. He roams the U.S. in his microbus and scours forests wearing his sound recording kit. In this film, he doesn't so much record those sounds, but chases them like rare butterflies.

I have never seen a person react with such bliss upon hearing the sound of a whistling locomotive, or get so excited capturing the howls of coyotes at night. In contrast, the deadening hum of hydro poles grates him like fingernails on a chalkboard. Those hums represent the destructive expansion of humans. Little wonder, because Hempton was a botanist before he discovered his calling, one that may have cost him his marriage. He is an environmentalist, but in a class of his own.

Credit director Sherman for putting us in Hempton's shoes and forcing an audience watching a series of images to hear the world like Hempton does. There are no dead spots in this film. Sherman fills the frame with beautiful landscapes and haunting sounds. A film worth hearing as much as seeing.

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Candyman: The David Klein Story [Hot Docs review]

76 min ~ New Zealand & USA
Director: Costa Botes ~ Producers: Bert Klein, Jennifer Klein, Costa Botes

Rating (out of 4 stars):
trailer & Hot Docs showtimes

David Klein made a lot of money selling JellyBelly jellybeans, starting in 1976. He's driven, smart and successful. He's also a super mensch--generous and kind. Maybe too kind. He sold his beloved jellybeans for peanuts and today that company earns millions.

This film nicely captures Klein's personality, and his invention will likely attract audiences. However, Candyman lacks a deeper issue to justify its feature-length running time. Are there other sides to Klein's personality? What exactly was the schism between Klein and his son after he gave away the company and now lives in a modest house? With one of its producers being Klein's son, the film only hints at those threads that it should've explored more. Candyman is too sweet for me.

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The Invention of Dr. Nakamats [Hot Docs review]

~ 59 min ~ Germany
Director: Kaspar Astrup Schröder ~ Producer: Mette Heide

Rating (out o
f 4 stars):
Hot Docs showtimes

Dr. Yoshiro NakaMats invented the floppy disk, a pedicab that runs on water, and an inflatable bra. He boasts 3,375 patents compared to Thomas Edison’s measly 1,093, and received the Nobel Prize for Nutrition after photographing and analyzing every meal he has eaten for the last 34 years. At 80 years young, he has his own fan club, works out regularly, and worships his deceased mother.

This film is lighthearted and could have easily trivialized this man, but director Schröder maintains Dr. NakaMats' dignity while celebrating his many facets. NakaMats is brainy, stoic and charming, but also stubborn and imperious. A highlight is watching NakaMats tear a strip off an entrepreneur wanting to buy his bicycle cart at half the price. Some moments, though, are truly surreal, such as NakaMats swimming underwater to jot down ideas on an inkless notepad.

Overall, what shines through in this film is NakaMats' relentless work ethic and unbounded imagination.

For more Hot Docs reviews, visit REEL 'N' ROCK, or sign up as a Follower to this blog.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tallhotblond [Hot Docs review]

~ 76 min ~ USA
Director: Barbara Schroeder
~ Writers: Barbara Schroeder, Pat Lalama, Glenn Boozan

Rating (out of 4 stars):
Hot Docs showtimes

A middle-aged man in a loveless marriage meets a lonely teenager on the internet. That sounds like a cliche, but it isn't in this extraordinary film.

When we look for twist endings, we expect them in fictional films, not documentaries. Tallhotblond reminds me of Forbidden Lie$, which started with a common situation that ricochets in unexpected directions like a squash ball. Needless to say, I was hooked watching this suspenseful tale.

I'm not going to say much else out of fear of spoiling the story, but I can reveal that something bad happens in this tale of love, lust and the internet, and the villains and victims are not who you'd expect.

For more Hot Docs reviews, visit REEL 'N' ROCK, or sign up as a Follower to this blog.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Allan joins AUX.TV as movie blogger

Allan joins rock cable channel, AUX.TV, as its new rock movie blogger. Allan's reviews will appear at AUX's Box Office program of the finest rock films from around the world.

First up tonight is Todd Haynes' ode to glam rock, Velvet Goldmine. For more of Allan's reviews and essays on rock cinema, please visit REEL 'N' ROCK.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

3 DVD reviews in EXCLAIM! magazine

Spring arrives with some fine comedy and action DVD releases. See Allan's reviews at :

Red Cliff
Directed by John Woo

The Yes Men Fix The World
Directed by Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno and Kurt Engfehr

Robin Williams: Weapons of Self-Destruction

I Want To Be A Desi 2 plays DisOrient

Desi2 plays DisOrient on April 24

I Want To Be A Desi 2 screens at the DisOrient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon in Portland on Saturday, April 24 at noon as part of the Life As We Know It program. The screening marks yet another west coast screening for the six-minute documentary, following successful festival appearances in San Diego and Vancouver. Full festival details and ticket orders at:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Green Living Enterprises

Allan has started researching and writing on Special Projects for Green Living Enterprises, a leading eco-marketing firm in Toronto that is organizing the upcoming Green Living Show. Live green, save money and save the environment.