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last update 2.Oct.16
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The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years
dir Ron Howard
scr Mark Monroe
prd Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Paul McCartney, Scott Pascucci, Nigel Sinclair
with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, George Harrison, Larry Kane, Richard Lester, Elvis Costello, Whoopi Goldberg, Sigourney Weaver, Eddie Izzard, Kitty Oliver, Howard Goodall
the beatles
release US/UK 15.Sep.16
16/UK StudioCanal 2h17
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week The messy title of this documentary kind of hints at how compromised it is. Ron Howard assembles the film skilfully, but it's hard to escape the feeling that everything has been simplified for a mass audience. And the film's equally misleading tagline ("The band you know. The story you don't.") betrays the problem: aside from never-seen footage, nothing new is revealed here. And yet it's a hugely entertaining movie.

After spending years honing their sound, the Beatles hit the road in 1963 to instant mayhem. Screaming crowds of young women had never seen anything like these four long-haired cheeky chaps from Liverpool. And their lively antics in interviews kept everyone entertained. Young journalist Larry Kane was assigned to fly with them on their tour across America, initially annoyed but completely won over in the end. And they had the world on its knees until 1966, when they decided playing live was impossible.

It's not too difficult to make a documentary about the greatest pop band in history, especially when you have access to all of their personal photos, home movies, unseen performance footage and of course that iconic music. Howard shows considerable skill assembling this, seamlessly animating stills and editing footage together with a knowing wit and a frankly astonishing sound mix, which cleverly irons out the discrepancies between the disparate recordings.

The backstage material and firsthand narration (Lennon and Harrison are present in archive footage) make everything intimate, bringing out the energy of young men living a life they'd never dared to dream about, then realising that as artists they needed to grow and progress. This allows Howard to kind of skip over the band's more provocative years, with only one throwaway mention of marijuana and no mention of sex at all, as if teenage stars being confronted by thousands of screaming girls never indulged.

All of this is augmented by terrific on-screen memories from people who worked with the Beatles and celebrities who saw them in concert as children or were influenced by them. There isn't anything revelatory, but the familiar story is told from an inside perspective that makes things like the famed Shea Stadium concert take on a whole new meaning. And their stand against racial segregation in the South is impressive. But what makes this film unmissable is the music itself, which is enough to prove why The Beatles will endure long after we're gone.

12 themes, language
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Coming Out
4/5     MUST must see SEE
dir Alden Peters
scr Alden Peters, Megan Mancini
prd Alden Peters, Pat Murphy
with Alden Peters, Ritch Savin-Williams, Greg Hinckley, Kayla Kearney, Janet Mock, Julian Peters, Rick Peters, Veda Challenger, Greg Challenger, Callahan Peters, Jacquelyn Peters
peters and friend release US/UK 5.Oct.16
15/US 1h12

bfi flare
Coming Out Despite the blandly generic title, this documentary has plenty to say about the topic, especially for people living in tolerant societies. Filmmaker Alden Peters filmed the moments he told his family and friends that he was gay, but the bigger issue is his own personal journey to understanding himself. It's a sharply well-crafted film that's both witty and moving.

Unable to find a film that explores the aftermath of the coming out process, Alden decides to make his own documentary, videotaping himself admitting his sexuality to his big brother in Phoenix, his university friends in New York and his parents and younger siblings in Seattle. Shot over four years, the film then follows Alden as he grapples with what it means to be gay, learning to identify with a subculture and define who he is within it. He also faces questions from loved ones who don't understand why he doesn't have any of the stereotypical characteristics.

The most intriguing angle here is the churning uncertainty Peters expresses throughout this process. Everyone he tells is absolutely fine about it, and yet he is still terrified about opening up. In other words, this is a striking exploration of a young man standing up to what is seen as "normal", even among people who accept him. Yes, tolerant cultures still pile heavy expectations and stereotypes on children. And despite living in an open-minded community, Peters confesses that he lied to himself about his sexuality throughout his teen years in a desperate attempt to fit in.

Peters expands the film with video diaries from other young people who tell their own stories, some of which are much more painful to recount. And he also talks about the event that sparked this journey for him, when a young musician jumped to his death from a New York bridge after his college roommate cruelly outed him as gay. In other words, this is an issue that resonates very deeply within young people, whether or not they face persecution themselves.

So while this may be essentially a "first world problem" documentary, it's also sharply well made, shot with a refreshingly snappy sense of humour and edited skilfully to combine various visual formats into a seamless narrative structure. It's entertaining and eye-opening, with earthy wit and some very raw emotion. And it's a film that will give plenty of hope to both teens and parents who are trying to understand how to traverse this minefield.

12 themes, language
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De Palma
dir-prd Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow
with Brian De Palma, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Sissy Spacek, Sean Penn, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Michael J Fox, Melanie Griffith, Angie Dickinson, Amy Irving, Paul Williams
Pacino and De Palma release US 10.Jun.16,
UK 23.Sep.16
15/US 1h47

De Palma Without much flourish, this documentary hinges on a straightforward extended interview with filmmaker Brian De Palma, exploring his life and career. He has a rare perspective on all angles of Hollywood, from micro-indies to huge studio productions. As a result, this is a singular exploration of the past 60 years of movie history.

De Palma narrates his own story, recounting his childhood, studying science at university and developing a love of film later on through the French New Wave. Obviously, his main inspiration was Hitchcock's Vertigo and its romantic illusions, which echo in most of his films. The documentary continues film by film, through early hits like Sisters and Phantom of the Paradise to an account of holding joint casting sessions for Carrie and Star Wars with his pal George Lucas. He reveals the autobiographical elements in Dressed to Kill, and discusses experimenting with SteadyCam on Blow Out, a pointed merging of Chappaquiddick and Antonioni's Blow-Up.

Refreshingly, he addresses the controversies straight-on, including battles with the ratings board on Scarface and with women's rights group on Body Double. He also talks about happy accidents when elements gelled perfectly on films like The Untouchables. And he admits he's most proud of his politically charged war thrillers Casualties of War and Redacted. He also feels that Carlito's Way is his finest movie, and found making Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise an enjoyably crazy experience.

There's nothing flashy about this doc. Directors Baumbach and Paltrow illustrate De Palma's interview with home movies and personal snapshots, plus lots of clips from his films and the wide range of movies that have influenced him. Highlights include scenes from De Palma's 1962 student film and his first feature, the workshopped drama The Wedding Party, which was also Robert DeNiro's first film. There are also clips of his friends, including Spielberg, Scorsese, Lucas, Coppola and Schrader, as they emerged in the brief moment between the studio system and the industry becoming a corporate business.

De Palma's career is important because he has dabbled with such a range of genres and budgets. He's a rare filmmaker who understands the impact his decisions have on an audience and loves making viewers squirm by carefully building tension. He's also wonderfully candid, unafraid to name names as he comments about the egos that fly around a movie set. This fascinating trip through De Palma's filmography also places his work in social context, as he has repeatedly tapped into public fears about race, crime and violence. And his impact on cinema is clear: every scandalous movie he made changed the industry simply because he's always been ahead of the curve.

15 themes, language, violence, sexuality
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The Guv’nor
dir-scr Paul Van Carter
prd Jamie McLean, Nick Taussig, Paul Van Carter
with Lenny McLean, Jamie McLean, Martin Askew, John Huntley, Guy Ritchie, Jason Flemyng, Vas Blackwood, John Corbett, Tony McMahon, Mick Theo, Roy Shaw, Boo McLean
jamie and lenny
release UK 5.Oct.16
16/UK 1h25

east end film fest
The Guv'nor The life of British boxing champion Lenny McClean is told through the eyes of his son Jamie in this lively, muscular documentary. This means that it's a personal exploration of the inner turmoil that drove Lenny into his violent lifestyle. The film is a bit punch-drunk itself, revelling in the violent macho excesses. But it also says some important things about child abuse and mental illness.

Born in 1949, Lenny was beaten by his stepfather from age 4, so naturally developed into a thug, working as a bouncer and bare-knuckle fighter. He then found fame as a boxer, author and actor before his death from cancer at age 49. Everyone from his son Jamie and nephew Askew to his best pal Huntley remembers him as a lively, jolly man who repaid kindness for kindness and violence for violence. Director Ritchie and his costars Flemying and Blackwood recall him as a likeable, formidable presence.

Home videos, scratchy snapshots, TV clips and movie scenes that create a snappy account of Lenny's colourful life. Interviews are captured wherever possible, often in city streets, which lends the film a gritty edge. Filmmaker Van Carter cleverly juxtaposes Lenny's story with footage from present-day London, including the locations where he lived and worked as well as scenes of current bouncers and back-alley fighters.

In other words, the film nicely stakes Lenny's place in London's history, from the end of the war to the birth of London gangster chic in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, in which Lenny played the main antagonist. Along the way, details of Lenny's childhood emerge, as well as his obsessive-compulsive tendencies. This was a man who was constantly battling inner demons, lashing out violently at anyone who challenged his authority as the guv'nor, East End slang for the toughest guy in the room.

There are times when Van Carter rushes past something interesting, such as Lenny's brushes with the law or his family (his siblings refuse to appear on-camera, while his daughter Kelly goes virtually unmentioned). Perhaps this is a result of inside input from Jamie as a producer, but it makes the film a carefully crafted portrait rather than a journalistic documentary. Even so, Lenny is a fascinating subject, the kind of tough guy you'd rather like to have a beer with. Which bodes well for the narrative biopic My Name Is Lenny, currently in the works, written by Van Carter and Askew.

15 themes, language, violence
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