Trailer: New Clarence Clemons Doc “Who Do I Think I Am?”

Saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died yesterday following a stroke he suffered last Sunday, was in a number of movies. Among them are “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Scorsese’s “New York, New York” and of course the recent HBO documentary “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town,” in which he appears as he’s best known, as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. His last film credit (excluding any posthumous soundtrack credits he receives) is also a doc, one that’s strictly about “The Big Man” himself. Titled “Who Do I Think I Am? A Portrait of a Journey” and directed by Clemons’ friend Nick Mead, the hour-long film follows Clemons during multiple trips to China in the last decade to both find himself and simply visit a land where no one knows who he is (here’s where I admit that I never knew him by name before his death). Among the highlights is apparently footage of The Big Man playing sax solo at the Great Wall.

“Who Do I Think I Am?” is currently without distribution, but it screened a few months ago at the Garden State Film Festival in New Jersey. It doesn’t look like anything of interest to anyone but diehard Clemons fans, but that interest has surely increased this week. It also seems a potentially fitting companion to Tom Shadyac’s new soul-searching first-person doc “I Am,” which I think is still playing around the U.S. arthouse circuit.

Check out the trailer for the Clemons showcase after the jump.

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Trailer: “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”

After the poster for “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” hit last week, I knew the trailer couldn’t be too far off. Of course, Sony (or was it just Yahoo!?) got the film’s recognizable actor-turned-director, Michael Rapaport, to introduce the ad, because stars can sometimes sell audiences on documentaries. Sure, the members of A Tribe Called Quest are stars in their own right, but Rapaport’s goofy face will have you smiling and drawn in before you even spot Q-Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on the screen (following or intercut quickly with some more famous people like Common, Ludacris, Questlove, Pharell Williams and Beastie Boys). By the time the “Can I Kick It?” beats explode, you’re probably already hooked.

But if not, let me remind you all that this is not just a typical music biopic and being a fan of Tribe or any hip-hop is not required. The drama of this group, through its back story and more direct, current documentation, is must see stuff for anyone who enjoys movies. Rapaport has an inquisitive eye in doc-making I wouldn’t have pegged him for, and the result is one of the best non-fiction films of the year. Check out my review from Sundance for more praise and watch the trailer for the film, which opens July 8, over at Yahoo! Movies.


Trailer: “General Orders No. 9”

The (appropriately timely) comparisons to Terrence Malick are obvious even without the pull quote from Hammer to Nail‘s Michael Tully or the acknowledgement from /Film’s Russ Fischer (on whose post I saw this trailer). Just look at the award-winning, visually poetic cinematography and listen to the pensive voice-over narration from William Davidson, who sounds like a drawling Emilio Estevez (son of “Badlands” star — but not narrator — Martin Sheen). The film in question is titled “General Orders No. 9,” and it’s the longtime effort of first-time filmmaker Robert Persons. Perhaps he’s inspired by Malick, but I might be more inclined to think about another disciple, David Gordon Green, whose earlier work seems more similarly interested in the rusting decay of the changing Southern American landscape.

The “tone poem” style documentary, which made its way through the festival circuit in ’09-’10, is also being likened to the work of Godfrey Reggio (“Koyaanisqatsi”), but I’d place its kinship even before that with his city symphony predecessors. “General Orders No. 9” isn’t about just one city, though, so let’s call it a South symphony film. It additionally seems like both the perfect companion and the very antithesis of something like “Sherman’s March.” As much as I hate to say it, I kind of understand why the doc currently has an embarrassing 3.4/10 rating at IMDb. It must be really fresh and wonderful.

I literally just marked June 24 on my calendar, because that’s when “General Orders No. 9” opens at Brooklyn’s awesome reRun Gastropub Theater (playing through June 30 only). Join me there for the first showing. You’ll want to after viewing the trailer after the jump.

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Trailer: “Skull World”

One thing to love about documentaries is all the little-known worlds they unveil. But just their trailers alone does this in a way. For example, I recently discovered the Canadian documentary “Skull World” by way of its latest (third) trailer. And through that trailer I got my first ever look and information about the underground phenomenon known as Boxwars. Simply put, it involves a whole ton of people going at it “Braveheart” style while wearing elaborate cardboard costumes. Kind of a less-sissy version of the usual Ren-fair medieval battle reenactment thing, as this “extreme sport” seems a bit dangerous. “Skull World” focuses on a Boxwars chapter up north created and led by Skull Man, a metal-obsessed gravedigger who wears a skull mask as part of his celebrated look (at times he reminded me of “Hesher”).

I don’t know if this movie will be great, but I bet it’s big with Gwar fans. Outside its niche demographic, though, there could be a cult audience waiting out there if it’s humorous and wild enough. It reminds me a bit of the new real-life superhero doc “Superheroes,” except these costumed warriors aren’t trying to fight crime.  And I’m always up for learning more details on strange subcultures. Hopefully “Skull World,” which was at the Cannes film market earlier this month, will hit at least DVD soon. Check out the third trailer for the doc after the jump.

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Must-See: “How to Die in Oregon” Debuts on HBO Tonight!

One of the best docs to come out of Sundance this year — in fact, it took the grand jury prize in the fest’s U.S. documentary competiton — is Peter D. Richardson’s “How to Die in Oregon.” And now you can finally see this tissue-box-depleting film, as it premieres on HBO tonight. Tackling the topic of Death With Dignity, which is a better way of saying physician-assisted suicide, and its legality in Oregon, you’re sure to be either debating or bawling or both by its end. Here’s an excerpt from my review from Sundance:

‘How to Die in Oregon’ features no bells and whistles or big narrative surprises or interesting camerawork that gets most docs notice these days (though the excellent final shot/moment is a distinct and unexpected way to end). All it has, and all it needs, is a controversial topic addressed sufficiently and respectably. It does raise awareness and inspires a conversation. There is not one of us who this moral dilemma and debate could not affect one day. So it will possibly scare you as much as it will rip your emotions. Even if you try to guard yourself up. I’ll be honest, I prepared myself so much to not get upset with the tragedy that I ended up exploding at a moment of sudden joy experienced by one of the characters.

Just go in knowing that pretty much every character you meet will probably die, maybe even on screen. It won’t necessarily keep the tears away, but it might help some.

Watch the trailer after the jump. And either prepare with or afterward visit All These Wonderful Things for a great interview with Richardson.

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Trailers: “Tarantino: Disciple of Hong Kong”; “Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth” and “The Flaw”

There are a few documentary trailers out this week for films that I haven’t yet seen but which seem pretty interesting. To both myself and other doc fans and non-doc fans alike. The range of topics include film history, biography and the financial crisis.

One that is obviously making the more mainstream blogosphere rounds this week is the French-produced film “Tarantino: Disciple of Hong Kong,” which of course covers Quentin Tarantino‘s HK cinema influences. And, um, I saw a “Cannonball Run II” poster slipped in there somewhere. Anyway, it features interviews with many filmmakers, such as Ringo Lam, and scholars, such as David Bordwell. Watch that one after the jump.

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Trailer: “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front”

One of the most underrated documentaries of the year so far, “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” debuted at Sundance to little notice save for a much-deserved editing award. I wish I’d written a full review, but I watched the doc before the festival and never found the time.  I haven’t stopped thinking about my experience with it, though. I went in thinking one thing about domestic terrorism and held onto that thinking almost up to the end of the film, after which I was left uncertain. Earth Liberation Front member Daniel McGowan is one of the most complex characters I’ve seen in film this year. I can’t stand him, but I can’t dismiss him either.

Directed by Marshall Curry, it’s not as brilliant as his Oscar-nominated “Streetfight,” but in spite of its comparative conventionality it really resonates and provokes a discussion — with yourself if not with fellow moviegoers. I like it a whole lot more than the other domestic terrorism doc, “Better This World,” which is getting more buzz, and I’m hopeful that it will end up doing well in theaters when it opens June 22 (then rolls-out through August). Tonight it plays its first Seattle Film Festival screening, by the way, and it’s also at fests in Telluride, Little Rock, Sydney (Australia) and Sheffield (UK) over the next couple weeks. Oscilloscope Laboratories just unleashed a spectacular new trailer, filled with fire and intense music, and you should definitely check that out after the jump.

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Trailer: “Bobby Fischer Against the World”

One documentary that keeps eluding me this year is “Bobby Fischer Against the World.” Directed by Oscar nominee Liz Garbus (“The Farm: Angola, USA”), the film premiered at Sundance, where I couldn’t fit it in, and later screened at the Miami International Film Festival, where I again missed it. It’s about to debut on HBO on June 6 (airing through September 11). Before then, though, you can see the doc on the big screen in NYC for one night only next Thursday, June 2, as part of IFC Center’s Stranger Than Fiction series (the summer season of which begins tonight). Garbus will be there for a Q&A, also, so be sure to get tickets in advance here.

As for what it’s about, this should be clear from the title. Of course, people thought “Searching for Bobby Fischer” was going to be about the chess legend, so maybe a title with his name isn’t exactly so obvious. But it is about Fischer, and “the disturbingly high price [he] paid to achieve his legendary success and the resulting toll it took on his psyche.” Also of note: this is the last work edited by the late, great Karen Schmeer, who was killed in 2010.

Watch a trailer made by Dogwoof, who will distribute the doc in the UK July 15, after the jump.

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Trailer: “Showrunners”

What a perfect week for this trailer to circulate online, as New York magazine also has a great issue on shelves right now focused on TV showrunners, aka series creators (I recommend the interview with Louis C.K.). The documentary “Showrunners” won’t be out for a while, but there’s a preview video featuring parts of interviews with geek favorites like Damon Lindelof and Ronald D. Moore as well as actors like Anthony LaPaglia — who apparently doesn’t use his native Australian accent on set at all? The film, which is directed by cameraman Des Doyle (“It Might Get Loud”), seems like a TV equivalent of the inspiring screenwriting doc “Tales From the Script.” Keep tabs on the production at their Facebook page. And watch the trailer after the jump.

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Trailer: “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop”

Want to see the funniest movie of the year so far? Nah, it’s not “Bridesmaids.” It’s most likely not “The Hangover 2.” At SXSW I and the rest of the Paramount audience were laughing so much during “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” that I missed about half the film. I’ll definitely be seeing it again. And the trailer that just hit yesterday has reminded me of how great it is beyond just the humor. You can watch it after the jump, but first here’s a quote from my review of the film at Cinematical:

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.’

And now the trailer, which really make the movie look most like this year’s “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work”:

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