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last update 15.Nov.08
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Anvil: The Story of Anvil
dir Sacha Gervasi
with Steve 'Lips' Kudlow, Robb Reiner, Chris 'CT' Tsangarides, Tiziana Arrigoni, Glenn Five, Ivan Hurd, Jane Reiner, Ginny Kudlow, Lemmy, Lars Ulrich, Slash, Scott Ian, Tom Araya
kudlow and reiner release US Jan.08 sff,
UK Oct.08 lff
08/US 1h30

SUNDANCE FILM FEST london film fest
anvil This documentary centres on one of the most influential bands you've never heard of. And it plays out like a true-life version of Spinal Tap. But besides being hysterically funny it's also an emotional story of two men who find their passion in life and stick with it.

Lips and Robb first began playing music together as teens in 1973 Toronto, forming the metal band Anvil in 1978. Although hugely respected by their peers, their records were produced cheaply by an indie label, and they never got their big break. But Lips and Robb never gave up, continuing to work day jobs to support their real love: big hair rock. Now in their early 50s, the film follows their disastrous European tour in 2005, the production of their 13th album in England and a metal festival in Tokyo.

The key to this movie is the open-hearted attitude of Lips and Robb, who allow filmmaker (and former Anvil roadie) Gervasi to capture everything from teary love-in moments to knock-down fights. We also meet their families--mothers, wives, siblings, children--all of whom support them to varying degrees. And just as telling are tributes paid throughout the film by legendary rockers who haven't had to struggle nearly as much in their careers, but clearly owe a huge debt of gratitude to Anvil.

Gervasi assembles this in a straightforward narrative style, with historical clips and to-camera interviews augmenting the footage of Anvil's tour, recording sessions and personal interaction. Gervasi has a clear adoration for the band that stops short of hero worship: he shows them warts and all, but ensures they come across as deeply loveable, neither precious about who they are nor resentful about who they might have been.

So why has Anvil struggled in obscurity for 40 years? Beyond the irrationality of fame, the answer could lie in Lips' and Reiner's Canadian sense of earthy humour. They enjoy the small things just as much as the big ones. And they also genuinely love the music and their fans. Perhaps as the music industry shifts away from narrow-minded executives to online people power, Anvil will get the recognition they deserve. Certainly anyone who has seen this film will be rooting for them.

15 themes, strong language
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The Day After Peace
dir-scr Jeremy Gilley
with Jeremy Gilley, Jude Law, Annie Lennox, Angelina Jolie, Jonny Lee Miller, Kofi Annan, Dalai Lama, David Beckham, Martin Bell
law and gilley release UK Jul.08 bdf
08/UK BBC 1h22

peace one day
the day after peace This remarkable documentary charts the 10-year journey of filmmaker Gilley from his spark of an idea to have global day of peace to astonishing events in 2007. It's a terrific story of what one tenacious person can do if they put their mind to it.

Jeremy Gilley was a child actor in Britain who moved into documentary filmmaking in the 1990s, becoming interested in the issue of world peace, and how war affects humanity. In 1999 he founded Peace One Day, with the goal of creating a single day when everyone would observe a ceasefire. The UN adopted 21 September as global Peace Day in 2001, but nothing happened. So Jeremy got to work, spreading the word, finding sponsorship and making high-profile friends like Jolie and Miller. Eventually it was Law who kicked things into high gear, travelling with Jeremy to Afghanistan in 2007 to broker peace between the warring factions.

Frankly, this is one of those campaigns that no one could possibly be against. Even people who fight and kill are essentially seeking some form of peace, and everyone recognises that in order for humanitarian work to be carried out, the workers need a safe environment through which to travel. In 2007, more than 1.4 million children were vaccinated against polio directly because of Peace Day.

The documentary is assembled from a decade of footage, as Gilley filmed his every move, including some pretty tough conversations with all kinds of people all over the world. It's telling and fascinating to watch him forcefully challenge UN officials, and to present Law with the idea of accompanying him to Afghanistan. And Gilley assembles the film with an electric sense of purpose and energy, plus several moments of raw, honest emotion.

He's also a seriously compelling figure on screen, simply refusing to give up as he dedicates all of his energy and time to this cause. It seems like the kind of thing that couldn't help but catch fire, and it's just him there in Afghanistan literally negotiating peace with every side in the conflict. Not to mention walking inadvertently right into the middle of the Israel-Palestine issue. But his example is truly inspiring, as are the stories he tells in his film. And the fact that he's only just begun.

PG some themes, violent images
21.Sep.08 rah
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dir Larry Charles
scr Bill Maher
with Bill Maher, Mark Pryor, Steve Burg, Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, Ken Ham, John Westcott, Fatima Elitak, Propa-Gandhi, Reginald Foster, George Goyne, Kathy Maher, Julie Maher
maher meets jesus release US 1.Oct.08,
UK 27.Mar.09
08/US 1h41

TORONTO FILM FEST london film fest
religulous With his comically irreverent attitude, Maher examines the nature of religious belief in a documentary that's definitely not made for true believers; it's clearly aimed at agnostics, atheists and cynics. And it's both intriguingly fair and very entertaining.

Teaming with the director of Borat, Maher takes a similar approach: asking seemingly innocuous questions that actually reveal the person who's trying to answer. While it can often feel like Maher is poking fun at their beliefs, he maintains the stance of a seeker trying to understand why people believe in what he calls fairy tales. And he blames his Jewish-Catholic background for his confusion.

The film opens with Maher standing at the site of the book of Revelation's Armageddon, talking about the irony that humans now have the power to bring about the end of the earth themselves through both weapons and pollution. And this is the core idea that spurs him to take a look at whether mankind still needs God. Along the way, he wonders about any other Bronze Age beliefs we still hold onto (giant sea monsters?), questions tenants that are religious but not biblical, and challenges the faith mindset that since we have the answers, we don't need to think anymore.

He also delves into specific aspects of religion in culture, including peace and violence in both Christianity and Islam, plus a revealing look at America's founding fathers. But most of the film is an examination of dogma--blindly held, unquestioned beliefs that seem utterly irrational to nonbelievers, from the creation-evolution debate to the hot potato issue of homosexuality. And he broadens his approach to explore other religions as well as ancient myths that pre-date Christianity but tell the exact same story.

This is assembled with the same snarky, sassy editing style as Borat, which seems to undermine some interviewees but makes the film hilariously good fun--as long as you're not easily offended and are willing to have your beliefs tested. But beneath the witty cynicism, there's a genuinely probing thoughtfulness. It may be rude, packed with amusingly cheap shots and pointed questions, but until his final rant, Maher holds it in balance by saying, "I don't know. My product is doubt, not certainty."

15 themes, language, strong images
7.Oct.08 lff
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Young @ Heart
4.5/5    MUST must see SEE
dir Stephen Walker
with Bob Cilman, Eileen Hall, Joe Benoit, Bob Salvini, Fred Knittle, Stan Goldman, Dora B Morrow, Len Fontaine, Jeanne Hatch, Jean Florio, Patricia Linderme, Brock Lynch
climan, morrow and fontaine
release US 9.Apr.08,
UK 17.Oct.08
07/UK C4 1h49
young@heart This extraordinarily engaging documentary vividly illustrates how age is a state of mind, as a choir of retirees travels the world to perform lively pop numbers. Feisty and childlike, these people wonderfully refuse to act their age.

Ranging from 73 to 93 years old, these residents of Northampton, Massachusetts, sing because simply can't stop. Encouraged by their energetic director Climan, they tackle a range of songs that take on new meaning through their voices. Imagine any of these performed by a great-grandparent: Bob Dylan's Forever Young, David Bowie's Golden Years, the Ramones' I Wanna Be Sedated, James Brown's I Got You (I Feel Good), Bruce Springsteen's Dancin' in the Dark. There's even an astonishing rendition of Sonic Youth's Schizophrenia, when they finally get their heads (and voices) around it, that is.

The film is compiled of interviews with the singers and participants along with footage of them preparing for a big concert with several difficult new numbers. It's punctuated with a few extremely witty music-video clips. And along the way, two singers face serious health issues, which adds a stunning resonance to songs like Cold Play's Fix You and Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U. All of these people are living life to the full, for however many days they have left. And they're clearly having a ball together, even as they struggle with health issues, the death of their friends and some astonishingly difficult musical passages.

As the film progresses, several of the choir members become terrific movie characters, most notably mischievous great-grandmother Hall (whose signature tune is the Clash's Should I Stay or Should I Go?), life-of-the-party Benoit, returning veteran Knittle and the sardonic, forgetful Goldman. And at age 87, the impulsive Fontaine still drives in the carpool. Watching them joke with each other and explain the importance of music in their lives is as gripping as it is inspirational. This is the kind of film that makes it impossible to consider a quiet, sedate retirement. Just because your body has a few aches and pains doesn't mean your passion has to fade away.

PGsome language, themes
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