Peter Gilbert

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It's the Rage Review


Terrible
Quite a cast has been assembled for this Altman-esque tale of interlocked lives, all clamoring around the "serious social problem" of gun control. While there's no denying that the USA has over fifty million gun owners and it's a subject worthy of address and debate, this movie thuddingly hits the same numb point over and over again: guns are bad, guns can kill. That's about as resonant as It's the Rage will get.

Jeff Daniels and Joan Allen play a miserable suburban couple whose marriage is disrupted by an accidental shooting in their living room at midnight. As it turns out, the guy was Daniels' business partner. Allen moves out in disgust and, through a process of self-discovery, figures out that her happy little life was nothing more than a middle class prison. She hides away at her new workplace, in the employ of eccentric millionaire and computer guru Gary Sinise. Daniels sits at home fuming, renting pornography and playing with his gun.

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Hoop Dreams Review


Excellent
Before Hoop Dreams, they didn't make documentaries like this. Non-fiction films were almost invariably a series of talking heads placed against a backdrop of some kind of studio drapery, intercut with archival footage. After 90 minutes, some critical, cultural subject (say, the Vietnam Memorial, the plight of undernourished children) would be illuminated -- with the goal of driving the audience to either run immediately for a museum or to make a donation to some relevant charity.

Hoop Dreams was something different: A three-hour film that documented the lives of two underprivileged black youths, William Gates and Arthur Agee, both trying to make it from high school and street pick-up games to college and eventually professional basketball. Filmmakers Peter Gilbert, Steve James, and Frederick Marx followed these "hoop dreams" for five long years, cutting a mountain of footage into what has become one of cinema's most beloved and enduring documentaries. (At the time, it was the highest grossing doc ever.)

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Risk/Reward Review


Grim
Of the 1,366-odd members of the New York Stock Exchange, only 44 are women. Unsurprising as it may be, this is an incredible statistic, the provenance of which the documentary Risk/Reward - which follows four women through the fluorescent-lit jungle that is Wall Street - hopes to shed some light on. Even though that isn't quite the case, this isn't a film that ever wanders too far from its sources to dig into the murky reasonings behind things, that doesn't mean it's an unrewarding piece of filmmaking, just an incomplete one.

In a leisurely manner, filmmakers Elizabeth Holder and Xan Parker set up their subjects, who are well-chosen to represent a good sample of different jobs on The Street and each of whom is, if not remarkable, still pretty impressive nonetheless. Carol Warner Wilke is a market researcher who is consistently ranked at the top in her particular field by the trade publications, and who seems to have no trouble balancing the demands of her family (she already has one kid, and is pregnant with another when the film starts) with the demands of her job. A world away from Wilke's calm, quiet office is the floor of the NYSE, where Louise Jones plies her trade. A high school graduate who basically talked her way into her job, Jones has an agreeably no-nonsense way about her ("It's kind of like playing poker on a very large scale") that probably helps her get by in that particular testosterone-heavy milieu - but this is an area that isn't really explored. Straddling these two settings is Kimberley Euston, a foreign exchange sales trader whose team is responsible for billions of dollars in trades a day. Cool doesn't even begin to describe the temperament of this woman, who calmly and rationally works her way through Byzantine international transactions that are so huge that a million dollars is referred to as "a buck." Representing the up-and-comer is Umber Ahmad, a Pakistani-American who's an MBA student at Wharton and suffering through a summer internship at Morgan Stanley that regularly keeps her in the office until 1am, making her feel as though "my life is passing me by."

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Prefontaine Review


OK
Slightly less-realized than late-to-the-race competitor Without Limits, Prefontaine is still a reasonably good retelling of the life story of Steve Prefontaine, the opinionated and brash distance runner who choked during the Munich Olympics and died in an untimely car crash before he could redeem himself in Montreal in 1976. Prefontaine focuses more on tertiary characters than Limits, some of which are interesting and some of which are not, but really gets annoying for its mock-documentary style. Namely, the actors are "aged" and interviewed in the present day, talking about Pre, complete with subtitles identifying who they are. The problem, of course, is that it's all fake -- and the last thing you want to feel when watching a biography is that you're being lied to.
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