Morgan Spurlock

Werner Herzog in We the Economy

Going to the movies is expensive, and in this economy there’s less incentive than usual to make it to the multiplex just for a couple hours of entertainment, especially when so much of it is just reruns on the big screen (another Dracula, seriously?) — never mind all the other complaints you all have about the theatrical experience. The movies should be seen as a getaway from our troubles, just as they were for much of the Great Depression, but this time around we have so many other options to keep us distracted. Well, what if there was a movie playing in theaters for free? Yeah, you’ll still have to pay for a babysitter, gas, parking and concessions, if those things apply, but the main event costs you nothing on October 20th when you go out to see a bunch of new movies by Adam McKay (Anchorman), Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight), Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation), Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Albert Hughes (Menace II Society), Mary Harron (American Psycho), actor Bob Balaban and Entourage star Adrien Grenier. There are also directorial debuts from James Schamus (producer of Brokeback Mountain) and Chris Henchy (writer of The Campaign).

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supersize-me-spurlock

Imagine a nonfiction television series focused on greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, pride, envy and wrath. Well, doesn’t that just describe the whole gamut of reality TV? Yes, but not in a condemnable way that acknowledges these things as the cardinal sins they are. We need someone to take these vices back and put them in their place, and Oscar-nominated documentarian Morgan Spurlock seems to be that person, like a premium cable version of John Doe in Se7en, only without the killing. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he’s got a new show headed to Showtime called Seven Deadly Sins, which he describes as being like Alfred Hitchcock Presents but with true stories. I’d say this joins the new trend this year for major documentary filmmakers hitting the small screen with nonfiction miniseries, but Spurlock has been producing and hosting stuff for TV for years and already currently has the continuing Inside Man on CNN, which kicks off its second season in a few weeks. Seven Deadly Sins will premiere on June 19th and the channel has it scheduled for 11pm, which might indicate this won’t be the most PG-rated program. In a statement, Spurlock said of the show, “You won’t believe it until you see it … and even then, you may not believe it.” Does he mean it’ll be dirty? Gross? Violent? Something too dark for primetime, apparently.

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dujour

I understand that not a lot of FSR readers are even marginal One Direction fans, let alone “directioners,” so bear with me this week as I offer this list to any who find their way here. Also, if you’re not into 1D and don’t plan to see their new documentary One Direction: This Is Us — even if you normally like Morgan Spurlock‘s films or are a Martin Scorsese completist (he has a cameo) or think it could be a good place to pick up chicks (and not just tweens, as my screening had a number of adult women fans in attendance) — you may discover something of actual value among the selection of films below. The easiest and even most logical way to go with this week’s hottest new movie is to just offer a basic list of the best concert films and tour docs of the past. But really there’s not much there to connect Gimme Shelter (nobody dies at any of the 1D shows) or Woodstock, even though the latter involved Scorsese. There are mostly music movies picked for this list, but they’re specifically relevant and they’re joined by other kinds of films.

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One Direction

Let’s not bury the lede here – attending Morgan Spurlock’s latest film, a Frankenstein’s monster of concert film and cliché-laden personal documentary about Britain’s insanely popular boy band One Direction, solo during its first night of showings is incredibly boring. Perhaps because the excitement among fans wasn’t palatable (most of them were surprisingly sedate, at least until a shirtless 1D-er ambled across the big screen, which happens in Spurlock’s film a lot) or because attendance was low or because it was a school night or even because I am so, so old these days (at least, that’s how I felt), but the experience of attending One Direction: This Is Us at 7PM on a Thursday night in an Upper East Side AMC theater was one of the most flaccid movie-going experiences of my entire life. There weren’t even special edition 3D glasses. I arrive early. Afraid I’ll get a “bad” seat because of a swollen attendance, I walk up to the theater a full half an hour before showtime. It is far too early. Most likely expecting both a larger crowd and a more rowdy one, the theater provides a roped-off area for fans to line up before being admitted into the theater. No one is wearing any One Direction gear, there is only the occasional scream, and the only thing festive is one sad balloon, bobbing above its owner’s pig-tailed head. It’s star-shaped. (The balloon, not its owner’s head.) The teen girls behind me don’t chirp about the film […]

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One Direction

Morgan Spurlock just came off directing a documentary about male grooming, and now he’s turned his lens toward five young men who don’t even need to shave yet. The band is One Direction, the English-Irish pop band that was formed on the television show The X Factor and vaulted to international fame  the way that dancing boy bands often do (even, impossibly, when they don’t feature Professor Ashley Angel from O-Town). It would be easy to write something like this off as pablum for the screaming tween crowds, and there are a lot them in the trailer, but recent behind-the-scenes concert movies have been able to weave bubblegum into bold looks into what it’s like to be desired by mobs of millions. There’s a safety to the subjects, but as cultural feeds off itself, it’s also interesting to see what the pressure of superstardom entails. Plus, if there’s anyone who can lend a bit of quirky credibility to a project like this, it’s Spurlock. The new trailer for 1D3D isn’t too surprising. When you can hear anything above the screaming fans, there are teary phone calls with parents, harmless antics and a whole host of male bonding.

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You Don

Plane tickets to Park City aren’t too terribly expensive, but with the added cost of puffy winter jackets and hangover cures, Sundance can be a bit out of reach for most of us. I mean, that’s why I’m not there right now, and charcoal doesn’t really prevent a post-drinking headache anyway. Fortunately, we’re covering the festival from top to bottom (at least other FSR writers are), and there are websites like Focus Forward Films which has added a few Sundance titles to its roster of movies so you can watch them from home. As of an hour ago, they’re hosting Morgan Spurlock’s You Don’t Know Jack, Albert Maysles’ The Secret of Trees — which are both in the fest’s short film competition — as well as The Cleanest Pig, Techistan, and The Contenders – which are all getting a special premiere screening at the Holiday Village Cinema today. For more information on the films, check after the jump:

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One Direction

The news flicks by without raising any bells – of course Sony is making a concert film to showcase the world’s (current) biggest boy band, One Direction. Of course this film will be in 3D and of course it will open on a holiday weekend (on August 30, 2013, just in time for Labor Day, as it were). And of course this film will be directed by Morgan Spurlock. Wait, what? Yet, as insane as this news might be at first blush (and, we’ll admit, we stared at its announcing press release slack-jawed for at least ten minutes), it’s hard to deny that Spurlock’s Super-Size Me and Where in the World is Osama bin Laden? days are long over. Spurlock’s work has rarely been close to truly “hard-hitting” (who among us has not eaten McDonald’s for weeks at a time? let you cast the first stone), but his films have steadily been declining in terms of seriousness and and wide-ranging import for quite some time, shrinking his audience to nothing short of niche levels (Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope didn’t even break the bank for either Comic-Con or Star Wars fans). Why not direct something guaranteed to bring out screaming, poster-shaking teenagers eager to spend their almighty dollars? In short, why not direct a One Direction 3D concert film?

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Were you a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer long before Marvel Studios even thought about a summer tentpole release of The Avengers? Do you find yourself swearing in Mandarin when you get angry? Have you made a Facebook post with that image comparing the one-season cancellation of Firefly to the multi-season accomplishments of The Jersey Shore? If you’ve answered yes to these questions, you still might find Morgan Spurlock’s charming documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope entertaining, but you’ll also have ulterior motives for buying it when it hits DVD on July 10. Spurlock’s documentary will be released in a special Collector’s Edition with action figures of both Spurlock himself and geek-hero-turned-billion-dollar-director Joss Whedon. That’s right, you can be the proud owner of the first ever Joss Whedon action figure, and all you have to do is buy Spurlock’s latest film.

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Take a deep breath and prepare to learn everything you need to know about Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope straight director Morgan Spurlock‘s fast-talking mouth. Will it change the world? Probably. Plus, Junkfood Cinema enthusiast Brian Salisbury accepts the dangerous mission to play Movie News Roulette. Download Episode #128

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Editor’s Note: This review first ran as part of our Fantastic Fest coverage, but Comic-Con Episode Four hits limited theaters this week. Delivering a massive event with his trademarked smile behind the camera, Morgan Spurlock‘s Comic-Con Episode Four: A Fan’s Hope is the kind of joyous celebration that might also serve as a gateway drug for those not initiated into geek culture. It’s a documentary that easily straddles the line between service to those already fascinated by the subject and to those that haven’t ever heard of a comic book. It could have been annoyingly fluffy, but Spurlock has crafted a film that doesn’t just act as advertisement for the largest comic book/multimedia convention in the country. In fact, the question of whether the convention is still faithful to its comic book roots is at the center of the multi-faced exploration that gives the movie much more dimension than it initially lets on. The doc is composed of several stories – a pair of artists looking to break into the business, a costume designer and her crew looking to make a mark, a young couple who fell in love at the event, and a comic book dealer who is trying to justify coming back financially. All are woven together with expert timing (and a fun, comic book style art element that turns them into characters of a different sort).

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The reason that Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope works is because it focuses on the very human story that’s sometimes lost during the event itself. Amidst the sprawling, sweaty mass of storm troopers and manga characters come to life, it’s easy to forget that there are people with hopes and dreams hiding under their latex. When footage was shown at Comic-Con last year, it seemed like it would be a huge explosion of good vibes toward a complex event. When it showed at Fantastic Fest, it proved itself to be sugary, but level-headed enough not to feel like a syrup-chugging contest. No, not everything about Comic-Con is sweet – especially the shifting focus away from comic books and toward other mass media – but director Morgan Spurlock is seasoned enough to know where the real stories are: in the people. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Last week the programmers for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival introduced the main course of this year’s festival lineup, fifty-three films from all over the world, big and small, about any number of subjects. The list was so impressive I ran out and booked a hotel room. So, now that I’m financially locked in to heading up to the city of David Cronenberg and that rapper who called himself SNOW, I’ll be following future announcements by the festival pretty closely. Today brought a big one. Adding to their initial lineup of films, TIFF has added a bunch of documentary works by fairly large documentary filmmakers and a bunch of genre works from fairly deranged genre filmmakers. First let’s take a look at some of the docs. Thom Powers is the lead programmer for documentaries, and about this year’s lineup he said, “I’m thrilled at the large number of veteran filmmakers who have brought us new works this year. The line-up contains a wide range of memorable characters – crusaders, convicts, artists, athletes, nude dancers, comic book fans, dog lovers and more. Not to mention the epic 15-hour Story of Film. These documentaries will have audiences discussing and debating for months to come.” I don’t think I’ll have time for that fifteen hour one, I’ve only got five days in the city, but the one about nude dancers is definitely on my docket.

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The Hall H floor at Comic-Con was an easy audience for it, and Morgan Spurlock took full use of the home field advantage when he introduced a trailer for his new documentary Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. He’s partnered with Stan Lee, Joss Whedon and Harry Knowles from Aint It Cool to make a film about the event that offers fans the freedom to dust off their Ryuk costume and wear it without shame. The trailer was sleek and featured memories and observations from Whedon, Eli Roth (who brought up the first time he “took a piss next to a stormtrooper and a Klingon), Seth Rogen, Kevin Smith, Seth Green and Guillermo del Toro. All Con favorites, they were joined by a few fans as well as what appeared to be an aspiring artist getting his work reviewed from working comic book producers. The trailer itself was otherwise vague, but it looks like it will have the same humor and heart that Spurlock’s work is marked by, and with full access, there are a ton of great stories that might be told.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s like watching CNN or the New York Times, but funnier and without all of the big words. It covers movie news every night in a way that no other movie news column set to run at 11p CST can. It was also far more punctual than President Obama’s speech tonight. So it’s got that going for it. Earlier this evening it was announced that Osama Bin Laden was killed by American forces. Great job to our fighting men and women. That guy was a real douche. Perhaps just as interesting, as Badass Digest points out, was the fact that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was aware of the news before anyone else. This is what happens when you kick ass in Fast Five and open with an $83 million dollar weekend.

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Culture Warrior

I am not a fan of 3D. Even in the most technologically adept cases where the 3D landscape has layers of depth, even in those most “Cameronesque” of instances, I am unable to get past the gimmickry in the mode of viewing. As a human being, I’m already trained to perceive two-dimensional images in three dimensions, why would I need to attach cumbersome glasses to my face to show me a pronounced version of what I already perceive? I had never encountered a situation in which the forced depth of 3D actually added to any depth in content of the film itself. That is, until I saw Werner Herzog’s The Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

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In this season of meta (Rubber, Scream 4), Morgan Spurlock trumps all. Leave it to the Super Size Me documentarian, who has made a career out of sacrificing his mind and body for his projects, to humorously sell out his dignity to corporations for the most painstakingly self-reflexive movie of any sort since Adaptation. His POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is, yes, exactly what that above-title sponsorship suggests it to be. Rightfully disturbed by the ubiquity of product placement in modern entertainment, Spurlock sets out to spoof that synchronous blend of corporate schilling and art by crafting a documentary about his attempts to accrue corporate sponsors for a documentary about his attempts to accrue corporate sponsors for a documentary. And on and on we go.

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Does anyone drink POM Wonderful? Who actually consumes that stuff? Besides the snoods who shop at the high-market grocery stores, it seems impossible to meet someone that genuinely enjoys POM Wonderful… except for Morgan Spurlock who, of course, just loves POM Wonderful. Whether or not he actually likes them for their product is neither here nor there, but he should love them for financing a huge chunk of his latest film, POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Spurlock’s doc is a comedic exploration into the shady and vicious advertising world. Spurlock has become known for his signature humor, and Greatest Movie Ever Sold fits the filmmaker’s bill that we all know. But if you had told Morgan Spurlock 20 years ago he’d be in the documentary business that may have not appealed to him. Surprisingly, Spurlock originally aspired to make horror films, and he names Clive Barker and the head explosion scene from Scanners as early inspirations. In some ways Spurlock did wind up making horror films, but instead of monsters and gore he’s focusing on the far more subtle horrors inherent in modern society. Here’s what director Morgan Spurlock, a film school reject himself that got turned down five times from USC, had to say about how he defines selling out as a director, commercialism, and that delicious pomegranate juice:

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Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock has another one of his investigative documentaries making the rounds of the festival circuit and about to be released in theaters. This time his subject is ad culture and the out of control way that corporate branding is taking over our lives. In a sort of Meta exercise, Spurlock funded the movie entirely on corporate endorsements and sponsorship deals. What a cheeky monkey. But the biggest stunt ever pulled in the history of this film’s promotion is to come on April 27th when Spurlock turns the tables and does some sponsoring of his own. The struggling town of Altoona, PA has agreed to rename their burg “POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold” after Spurlock’s upcoming documentary POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. Suddenly I’m feeling like this story has so many layers that I need Christopher Nolan to come explain it to me. But, concrete details: there will be a ceremony on April 27th at Altoona City Hall at 1PM where the name change will officially take place, followed by a screening of Spurlock’s film afterwards at the Jaffa Shrine, and the name change is set to last for 60 days. On why he is pulling this stunt, Spurlock said, “I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the shifting tide of business in America than by purchasing the naming rights to Altoona. For the next 60 days, POM Wonderful Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold, PA will be the […]

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Morgan Spurlock is headed back to Sundance, but the frosty air of Utah might seem a bit warmer if his movie is already sold by the time it gets there. The Hollywood Reporter is Hollywood reporting that The Greatest Film Ever Sold has already gotten a lot of interest from Sony Pictures Classics – a natural fit for the think-piece documentary from the ginger mustachioed cultural gadfly. If you were tired of the story crisis currently going on in Hollywood, maybe your eyes will open wide to the prospect of Spurlock making a movie by asking corporations to sponsor his movie. While he’s making the movie. His asking them to sponsor the movie is part of the movie, so whether they do it or not, they become part of the movie, making the question moot and the person trying to create a logline jumping off the roof. Yes, it sounds fantastic, and since Spurlock saved Neil’s life once, we owe it to the man to check out his new film. Fingers crossed that he approached McDonald’s about the hot new sponsorship opportunity.

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Culture Warrior

With the release of Pixar’s Up, last year saw a great deal of conversation surrounding the ghettoization of animated movies at major awards shows. This debate resulted in something of a minor, qualified victory for animated cinema of 2009, as Up was the first animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture since Beauty and the Beast, but then again it sat amongst a crowded bevy of nine fellow nominations, and animated films remain unthreatening to their live action competitors because of the separate-but-unequal Best Animated Feature Category. I’d like to take this space to advocate for the big-category acceptance of yet another marginalized and underappreciated category around awards time: non-fiction films.

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published: 12.19.2014
A-
published: 12.18.2014
C-
published: 12.17.2014
B+


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