Doc Trailer: TIFF ’11 Entry “The Patron Saints”

Newly announced as part of the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival‘s ‘Canada First!’ program, “The Patron Saints” has just hit my radar and left me with an itch I really hope to scratch in a month, press accreditation provided. Directed by Brian M. Cassidy (best known as a co-director of “Fish Kill Flea”) and Melanie Shatzky (Cassidy’s collaborator on two prior short docs and an upcoming narrative starring Melissa Leo), the film has both a new teaser trailer and an old, shorter one, plus a clip uploaded to YouTube in early 2008, which may or may not still be footage in the finished work. I hope that it is.

Based on these glimpses I’m getting a vibe that it’s somewhere between Wiseman’s “Titicut Follies,” minus the abuse, and any one of the non-narrative eclectic docs out of Finland in recent years (“Steam of Life,” “Living Room of the Nation,” etc.). You can check out all three of those videos after the jump, but first an official synopsis:

THE PATRON SAINTS is a disquieting and hyperrealistic glimpse into life at a nursing home. Bound by the candid confessions of a recently disabled resident, the film weaves haunting images, scenes and stories from within the institution walls.

Sidestepping conventional documentary methods for a heightened cinematic approach to storytelling, filmmakers Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky employ lyrical realism and black humor in this charged portrait of fading bodies and minds.

The black humor part has me wary — do they mean we are to laugh at these people? — and also all the more curious, for the same reason.

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Doc News: “Being Elmo” Hits Theaters October 21 (Plus Two Cute New Teasers)

Back in May, Submarine Entertainment announced it would release Constance Marks’ cute and heartwarming Kevin Clash profile, “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” this fall for an Oscar-qualifying run before quickly hitting DVD and then PBS. Now the distributor has unveiled its theatrical strategy, and it appears to be a more substantial run than previously hinted at. There’s a possibility the doc’s ongoing acclaim and festival success (including recent wins in Traverse City and Nantucket) got Submarine thinking bigger, so following an October 21 bow at NYC’s IFC Center, they will take it around the U.S. through November and December. For already booked dates/cinemas head over to /Film.

After seeing the film at Sundance, I wrote the following in my Cinematical recap:

Many Sundance attendees fell for Special Jury winner ‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,’ but it’s probably too short and simple to be a substantial theatrical title. And while kids seemed to enjoy it out in Park City, I don’t know that a documentary about the guy who operates their favorite Muppet is as appealing as simply watching ‘Sesame Street’ or an Elmo home video.

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Doc Clips: “Sarah Palin: You Betcha!”

The other Sarah Palin documentary, “The Undefeated,” hasn’t been a huge hit, though its gross is not awful for a non-fiction release, especially one so right-leaning. Could a lefty take on the former Vice President candidate do better? We’ll have to wait a bit, as Nick Broomfield‘s “Sarah Palin: You Betcha!” doesn’t even hit the festival circuit until next month, when it premieres in Toronto. I can see it being the filmmaker’s highest grossing doc since 1998’s “Kurt & Courtney,” which would put it well above the pro-Palin doc, if it can garner some positive reviews and decent distribution (Arc Entertainment holds U.S. rights) that sells it as a Michael Moore-ish doc.

And based on the first “teaser” clips, that shouldn’t be too hard. I prefer Broomfield’s sensationalist shtick to Moore’s, because he aims less for laughs and tends to seem genuinely a curious, albeit emotionally distanced, investigator in spite of his reputation for paying interviewees and hawking conspiracy theories. But it’s also hard to imagine he’s gotten much of substance here that other journalists have failed to get. Unless Broomfield has found people to testify that Palin shot both Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls and is currently hiding Tupac in her home — and I’m sure Broomfield could — I don’t even know how entertaining or interesting it will be compared to the filmmaker’s past works. I’m bracing for disappointment yet I also can’t help anticipating his first feature doc in five years, following a great two-film jump into narrative works.

Check out the two new clips after the jump.

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Trailer: “Chasing Madoff”

It seems the time for docs about Wall Street villains is over. “Inside Job” won the Oscar, its weak British cousin, “The Flaw,” already left on the wayside. And Alex Gibney doesn’t appear to have any films involving finance out anytime soon (of course he could rise out of nowhere with one). But here’s “Chasing Madoff,” which looks kind of like a Gibney doc while sounding like a movie in which Ben Affleck tries to woo ex-NASDAQ Chairman Bernie Madoff despite the fact he’s not into dudes.

That title is changed from the book it’s based upon, Harry Markopolis’ “No One Would Listen: A True Financial Thriller,” but it fits (unlike former title “The Foxhounds”). The doc is about Markopopis chasing Madoff, in the form of his whistleblowing investigation that too long was disregarded and blocked. On screen, Markopolis’ testimonial appears to be the foundation for the film to work, and based on the trailer he seems like he could carry it well.

Hopefully I don’t get scammed and the doc, directed by Jeff Prosserman, is actually as good as it looks. We’ll see when the film opens in major cities August 26.

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Trailer: William Shatner’s “The Captains”

Not to be overshadowed too much this past weekend by his “Star Trek” co-star (Leonard Nimoy can be heard voicing Sentinel Prime in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), William Shatner has received a lot of attention for a new documentary he’s produced and directed, “The Captains.” It’s the actor’s first effort as a filmmaker since the 2002 DTV movie “Groom Lake,” and it will premiere on the EPIX cable channel July 21st as part of a two-day marathon called Shatnerpalooza. In addition to airing the first six “Trek” films, including the Shatner-directed “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” there are some early films and TV shows featuring the actor, as well as another documentary he was involved with, “William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet.” 

“The Captains” is primarily a forum for Shatner to remind us all that he was the first “Trek” star by interviewing the captains from the other spin-off series, including Patrick Stewart (“The Next Generation”), Scott Bakula (“Enterprise”), Kate Mulgrew (“Voyager”), Avery Brooks (“Deep Space Nine”) and Chris Pine, who plays Shatner’s own role in the “Star Trek” reboot. We can already get a taste of Shatner with Bakula via an episode of the Bio interview series “Shatner’s Raw Nerve,” a show I can’t stand to watch because (1) the seat Shatner and guest share reminds me of the “Love Toilet” bit from “Saturday Night Live” and (2) the host regularly (and I guess fittingly) looks constipated.

I also won’t be seeing “The Captains,” because there are at least a thousand documentaries more important and worth seeing this year alone. But I’m somewhat curious about that “Gonzo Ballet” film, about Shatner’s collaboration with Ben Folds and choreographer Margo Sappington. See a clip of that after the “Captains” trailer after the jump.

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Doc News: Gary Sinise, John Lennon, Hot Dogs

– Because there’s not enough “Forrest Gump” reminders at the box office this weekend (Tom Hanks has a new movie, while “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” features a “Gump”-ish opening sequence), you can also experience one on the web. A new documentary about Gary Sinise’s rock group, Lt. Dan Band, which is named after the actor’s “Gump” character and regularly performs at U.S. military base, will debut on the web July 4th. Titled “Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good” and directed by Jonathan Flora (“On the Road in Iraq with Our Troops and Gary Sinise”), the award-winning film will cost about $4 to stream on its site. From that cost, $1 will go directly to the Gary Sinise Foundation, which supports a number of charities for U.S. troops. Check out a trailer for the doc, which apparently features interviews with Robert Duvall and Jon Voight, after the jump. [via Fox News]

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Review: “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”

One of the most accessible docs of the year, “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” opens tomorrow, so I’d like to direct your attention to my review of the film from SXSW, posted over at Cinematical (r.i.p.). Somewhere between “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” and the even more accessible “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” the Conan tour film, directed by “Leprechaun 2″‘s Rodman Flender, left me nearly dead from laughing so hard and also a bit dubious. Here’s an excerpt:

Some of ‘Conan’ almost seems unrealistically ingenuous, as if he’s either playing up his cantankerous behavior and biting insults for the sake of Flender’s camera or he’s simply just kidding around regardless of being filmed. There are only a few moments in which it truly comes across that he’s being mean-spirited and his words are met with discomfort rather than laughs (on screen, that is; all these bits are met with laughs from the viewer).

Maybe it’s that I didn’t hear enough of what O’Brien actually says, over the roar of the audience. Or, maybe it’s that, for example, Jack McBrayer, who gets a hilarious heap of derogation from his old boss backstage, appears to be in on a gag rather than truly functioning as the Donovan to O’Brien’s Bob Dylan (other cameos include Jon Hamm and Jennifer Westfeldt, Jim Carrey, Eddie Vedder and Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman). But ‘Conan’ isn’t likely more prank than frank, though occasionally it does feel like a better version of ‘I’m Still Here.’

Read the whole thing over at Cinematical. And check out a trailer for the doc after the jump.

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