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<p>&quot;American Promise&quot;</p>

"American Promise"

Credit: PBS

Sundance Review: 'American Promise' is a provocative look at education and more

Lengthy documentary will air on PBS later this year
For the most part, the proper length for a Sundance Film Festival documentary is between 80 and 95 minutes. There is almost literally no subject matter that I don't have an hour-and-a-half of interest in. I just watched "The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear," a 97-minute documentary from Georgia -- the former Soviet republic, not the home of the Falcons -- in which nothing at all happened, but it was still worthy, because it offered a series of vignettes from a national and a culture that are totally foreign to me. The same is equally true of docs about cows, killer whales and several variations on economic inequality themes.
 
"American Promise," already set to air on PBS' "POV," has a running time of just over 140 minutes. It isn't just the longest documentary in either the US or World competition, but it's the only doc in either competition to top two hours. 
 
"American Promise" has many lessons -- It runs an intellectual gamut -- but its biggest lesson is probably that there actually isn't a "proper" length for any documentary. Spanning over a decade in the lives of two kids and two families, "American Promise" is substantive and emotionally epic, one of the most thoughtful and nourishing films I've seen for this year's Festival. 
 
Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson's documentary breaks the peculiar B-range grading logjam I've been in since hitting Sundance. It's a film that should have people talking, both in Park City and, in a few months, in living rooms and classrooms.
 
[More after the break...]
 
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<p>&quot;The Way,&nbsp;Way Back&quot;</p>

"The Way, Way Back"

Review: Sam Rockwell steals Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's rocky 'The Way Way Back'

Comedy works, drama weak in duo's directorial debut

PARK CITY - Not all screenwriters are meant to be directors, and there are many directors who should be kept arm's length away from a keypad.  After winning a best adapted screenplay Oscar along with Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon ("Ben and Kate") and Jim Rash ("Community ") move to the director's chair with the funny, but rocky "The Way Way Back."

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"The Bachelor"

 "The Bachelor"

Credit: ABC

'The Bachelor' recap: It's a battle on the beach and paramedics are called

Twelve bachelorettes play a nasty game of volleyball to win time with Sean

Okay, I had massive Slingbox problems, so I missed the first ten minutes of the show. Still, I think I can get up to speed pretty quickly. I'm just guessing, but I'm sure some bachelorette said she's falling harder than she expected to fall, another said she's worried she's going home, another said she will do anything to get a rose, and Sean said he's just so happy and blessed. Am I right? Am I right? 

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<p>James Purefoy as serial killer Joe Carroll in &quot;The Following.&quot;</p>

James Purefoy as serial killer Joe Carroll in "The Following."

Credit: FOX

'The Following' - 'Pilot'

What did everybody think of Kevin Bacon's new FOX serial killer drama?

I posted my review of "The Followingon Friday, and there doesn't seem to be a lot of middle ground for this one, based on the other reviews I've seen; the critics either love it or strongly dislike it. I'm assuming your reaction will be much the same way — and am prepared for a great number of you to disagree with me on this one — but as always with a major new show that's just premiered, the floor is now yours.

Did you find the show disturbing? Silly? Somewhere in between? Did you find all the Edgar Allen Poe talk profound or pretentious? Did you like James Purefoy as a hunkier Hannibal Lecter? Did Kevin Bacon work for you as the haunted profiler? Did the various twists and scares work on you, or feel clichéd? And will you watch again next week? 

Have at it.

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<p>Rob Corddry, Keegan Michael Key, and Leslie Bibb share the best part of waking up in a rare quiet moment from Lennon and Garant's 'Hell Baby'</p>

Rob Corddry, Keegan Michael Key, and Leslie Bibb share the best part of waking up in a rare quiet moment from Lennon and Garant's 'Hell Baby'

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: Lennon and Garant's 'Hell Baby' is gross, dumb, crass, and wildly funny

A very good cast is game for a dirty silly gem

PARK CITY - Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant addressed the fact that they seem to have two very distinct careers that they are enjoying simultaneously when they stood in front of the packed Library on Sunday night a few minutes before midnight to introduce their directorial debut, "Hell Baby."

Lennon and Garant are incredibly talented, incredibly funny guys.  The work they do that is pure comedy, like "Reno 911" or "The State," tends to be very funny, and Lennon is one of those comedy character actors who works pretty much non-stop, and he's able to weave minor miracles out of weak material at times.  I say all this so that when I say that the films that have most defined them and their success are largely terrible, you'll understand that it's not an all-or-nothing proposition with me.  I really don't like the "Night At The Museum" films or "The Pacifier" or "Herbie Fully Loaded," but that's pretty unimportant.  Those are big broad mainstream movies, and writing two "Night At The Museum" films is what gives Lennon and Garant the freedom to do things that they want to do.  So be it.  Especially if the end result is something as non-stop filthy, crass, and funny as "Hell Baby."

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<p>&quot;Gideon's Army&quot;</p>

"Gideon's Army"

Credit: HBO Films

Sundance Review: 'Gideon's Army' advocates for public defenders

Earnest documentary will air on HBO
 
Few documentary subgenres are more enticing than the "Fact is stranger than fiction" model that was embodied at last year's Sundance Film Festival by Bart Layton's terrific "The Imposter." That film had more than a few viewers walking out going, "I wouldn't believe a second of that, except that it was all true."
 
Another parallel subgenre, though, is the "Yeah, it's true, but if we just sexy-ed things up with a little fiction, this might be terrific" documentary. HBO, for example, bought the 2011 Sundance doc "Knuckle" with the intention of turning the Irish gypsy boxing saga into a scripted series.
 
The 2013 Sundance competition doc "Gideon's Army" falls into the latter category. Director Dawn Porter has made a worthy and aspirational documentary populated by interesting characters and if somebody could just get this film to Shonda Rhimes, I'm betting that she could have a lot of fun with this backdrop and these people on a weekly TV series. 
 
That shouldn't be taken as a slam against "Gideon's Army," which is nourishing and right-minded, but I think we can all agree that sometimes real life needs just a little more sizzle.
 
Already headed for HBO, "Gideon's Army" is guaranteed to get exposure, which will be a boon for its important subject matter. And if Shonda Rhimes just happens to watch it? All the better...
 
More after the break...
 
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<p>They might be starlings.</p>

They might be starlings.

Credit: Sundance Film Festival

Review: Shane Carruth's 'Upstream Color' is a beautiful mystery uninterested in answers

The director of 'Primer' has returned to the fest with a worthy follow-up

PARK CITY - Seeing the insane line outside the Eccles Theater today, I couldn't help but wonder how many of those people knew what sort of movie they were getting into when they sat down for Shane Carruth's "Upstream Color" this morning.  Based on the conversations I overheard on the bus afterwards, I'd wager the film caught a lot of those people by surprise, and little wonder.  Dense, beautiful, hypnotic, and almost willfully opaque, "Upstream Color" is a great movie, but it is not an inviting one.  Carruth expects you to do a certain amount of the work for yourself, and for some viewers, there is no more frustrating kind of film than that.

Personally, I see plenty of movies every year where every little detail is spelled out in such an obvious manner that I don't mind when I see someone change it up.  Carruth's movie starts strange, gets very dark, then takes a left-turn into one of the most damaged movie romances I can remember before finally lifting off into about a half-hour long finale with no dialogue whatsoever.  It is completely different in aesthetics and narrative approach than Carruth's previous film, "Primer," but like that film, it seems to have no real interest in conventional narrative.

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Watch: Kelly Clarkson sings 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' at Inauguration

Watch: Kelly Clarkson sings 'My Country, 'Tis of Thee' at Inauguration

'American Idol' winner thanks Obama for 'opening for me'

Kelly Clarkson traveled from  “American Idol” to the American inauguration of President Barack Obama today, singing a stirring rendition of “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

[More after the jump...]

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Watch: Beyonce performs 'Star-Spangled Banner' at Inauguration

Watch: Beyonce performs 'Star-Spangled Banner' at Inauguration

Does she hit it out of the National Mall?

On this uniquely American day, Beyonce added her own stamp to Barack Obama’s second inauguration as president of the United States.

[More after the jump...]

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The Postal Service to reunite for Coachella and other dates

The Postal Service to reunite for Coachella and other dates

Deluxe edition of 2003's 'Give Up' also coming

After Ben Gibbard emphatically declared in October to Spinner that there were no plans to record a second Postal Service record, the duo will reunite to play Coachella, according to Billboard. Additional dates are expected to be announced.

Additionally, Death Cab for Cutie’s Gibbard and his Postal Service partner Jimmy Tamborello have collaborated on a deluxe 10th anniversary package of “Give Up,” the pair’s one and only album. It will come out next month. The original set came out Feb. 19, 2004.

The band launched a new website today. It’s scant on details, to put it mildly, but definitely signals that The Postal Service is back in business. It features the band’s logo against a black background and “2013.”

“Give Up” spawned the hit “Such Great Heights” and sold more than 1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Coachella takes place April 12-14 and April 19-21.

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"The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

 "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"

Credit: Bravo

'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' recap: 'Battle of the Booty'

Phaedra and Kenya ask the eternal question: stallion or donkey?

Whatever did this show do before Kenya? Really, the girl is a one woman drama factory, and now that NeNe finds reality TV a bit beneath her, Kim has shuffled off to her own show and Sheree has been unceremoniously dumped, "The Real Housewives" desperately needs an unhinged nutbag like this one. Even with Walt out of the picture, she's still able to stir up plenty of drama all on her on with nothing more than a twirl-worthy dress and a hair flip. Bring it on, Crazypants!

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<p>&quot;Manhunt&quot;</p>

"Manhunt"

Credit: HBO Films

Sundance Review: 'Manhunt' examines the search for Osama Bin Laden

HBO doc features many of the analysts on Bin Laden's tail
It was Saturation Sunday at Sundance's MARC Theater as the film festival saw the premieres of a pair of documentaries with the potential to have viewers shrugging at oft-repeated stories.
 
I've already reviewed Evan Leong's "Linsanity," which adds Jeremy Lin's voice to an underdog story most sports fans hear ad nauseaum last spring.
 
Before seeing "Linsanity," I caught Greg Barker's US Documentary Competition entry "Manhunt," which follows the Oscar nominated hit "Zero Dark Thirty" (my favorite theatrical release of 2012) and the NatGeo telefilm "Seal Team Six" among recent depictions of the search for and killing of Osama bin Laden.
 
Both feature-length projects have been preceded by disagreements and controversy, which is a logical factor of a story in which some of the facts are classified, some of the facts are open to interpretation and many of the facts are coming courtesy of variably reliable sources. It's an informational quagmire out there and it's hard to get much consistency.
 
While "Manhunt," "Zero Dark Thirty" and "Seal Team Six" have some overlap, they have somewhat different main focuses, which has prevented Osama bin Laden fatigue from fully settling in. "Seal Team Six," which I'm not actually suggesting you watch, is mostly about the raid on Abbottabad that got Bin Laden. "Zero Dark Thirty" is about the raid, but also the intelligence gathering that led to the raid. And "Manhunt" is about the process that led to the intelligence gathering that led to the raid, but it only gets up to the "Zero Dark Thirty" intelligence gathering in its last quarter and it never gets to the raid at all.
 
That's my way of saying that while "Manhunt" is, indeed, the latest incarnation of a narrative you've heard before, Barker has a different angle on the story and a different set of sources. That angle and those sources caused me to be simultaneously appreciative and wary of "Manhunt," though I was never uninterested.
 
More after the break...
 
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