Doc Review: “Superheroes”

Tonight, Michael Barnett’s “Superheroes” is the latest film to premiere as part of HBO’s Summer Series program of new documentaries. A sufficiently fascinating look at real-life costumed crusaders (like a true “Kick-Ass”) around the U.S., it wasn’t produced by HBO, so it’s great that the doc is airing on the cable network in general, let alone was chosen as part of this weekly spotlight. Obviously the geek niche appeal figures into the deal since it’s hardly as well-crafted as some of the other titles included in the series this year (it does look a whole lot better than “Sex Crimes Unit,” at least). But as silly as much of it is, there are a lot of great points made beneath the surface of the characters’ showcases. For real real-life superheroes, I recommend you seek out Steve James’ “The Interrupters,” but this doc is worth checking out too.

I excitedly started following “Superheroes” in early January, in anticipation of its Slamdance unveiling. From there I reviewed the doc for Cinematical, in which I noted it’d be popular enough through VOD and online outlets. HBO is an even greater place for it to debut. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

The film doesn’t exactly mean to make fun of the characters, but it is easy to laugh at much of what they do and say in the film. Some, like Master Legend are sillier and less intelligent than others. But I have to admit to feeling guilty in finding humor in their idiocy, just as I’m led to feel at the end of ‘Dinner for Schmucks.’ It’s okay, though, since a lot of the RLSH represented don’t seem to mind being viewed as a joke as long as they’re visible and can thereby bring awareness to the causes they’re fighting for.

Often ‘Superheroes’ comes off as also being more about the problems of the world than the costumed crusaders on screen. Through people like “Zetaman,” “Life,” “Mr. Extreme” and the simply named “Super Hero,” we are made to think about the issues of homelessness and violent crime, as well as police corruption and bureaucracy that lead to the necessity for these RLSHs to pop up in cities across the nation.

Watch the film’s trailer and a bunch of clips after the jump, and hopefully you’ll tune in tonight at 9pm for more.

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Doc News: “Connected” Acquired; CIA-Produced Film Discovered; “Superheroes” on HBO

– Tiffany Shlain’s “Connected” (formerly subtitled “An Autoblogography About Love, Death & Technology”) has been acquired by Paladin four months following its Sundance debut, according to indieWIRE. The distributor will release the doc in the fall, beginning with a bow in San Francisco this September ahead of the usual NYC/LA opening. I saw the film in Park City, where I was impressed with its ability to balance a personal first-person story with an informative exploration of, well, everything. At the time I wrote a note about it being like a sequel to “We Live in Public.” Mix in the ambition, if not necessarily the levels of achievement, of “Sherman’s March” and “The Tree of Life,” and I’m maybe still with that note.

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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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