Cameraperson (Blu-ray) Criterion

A thoughtful examination of what it means to train a camera on the world.

The Search for Weng Weng (DVD)

He’s tough, he’s tender, he’s three feet tall. A few years ago, the greatest movie ever made was sent to my house. That movie? For Your Height Only. Bequeathed to the universe in 1981, For Your Height Only is a playful James Bond knock-off from the Philippines, starring Weng Weng, a three-foot tall man with a tremendous bowl-cut. The movie’s one of my all-time favorite bizarro cult oddities, and much of the credit is due to Weng Weng, who just turns in a hilariously earnest performance, terrible dubbing and all. Apparently I wasn’t the only on smitten by the little dude’s charisma. Andrew Leavold, an Australian lover of cult cinema, made it his mission to unearth the story of Weng Weng. So he hauled his cameras to the Philippines and kick-started his way to this, the most comprehensive documentary on diminutive Filipino action heroes ever created. But The Search for Weng Weng turns out to be a lot more than a simple biography of  a little-known B-movie mini-celeb. Leavold ends up opening his story up to cover the breadth of the Philippines movie-making scene n the late 1970s and early 1980s–the ups an downs, the unsavory dealings, the political maneuverings, even the underbelly, which one might even classify as seedy. Leavold gets his camera in front of a lot of the old players on the industry and they’re more than happy to dish. Which was all well and good, but if I’m honest–I don’t really care a whole lot about this particular subject matter. Kudos to Leavold for being exhaustive with his lens but give me the Weng Weng goods bro! Eventually, he does get his narrative re-configured and we get the rest of the story on the little guy, both from his family and his colleagues. And…it’s a bit of a downer to honest. The guy never really got to enjoy his dough or, really, his short-term fame, thanks to some weird relationship with his producers. In the end, as much as I’m a fan of Weng Weng and, particularly, For Your Height Only, I left this documentary feeling bummed. So, I guess it’s good that his story was told…right? THE VERDICT Not Guilty. Good documentary. Sorta sad though. And maybe a little pointless.

Iverson (DVD)

The killer crossover.

Heart of a Dog (Blu-ray) Criterion

Imbuing the everyday with a sense of dreamlike wonder.

World Trade Center: Anatomy of a Collapse (DVD)

Did an unconventional structural design contribute to the World Trade Center collapse?

Twist (DVD)

“If you don’t do it, you’re considered ‘out’.”

The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (DVD)

“I never saw Hank Greenberg play, but he was a legendary ballplayer, especially in Jewish households like mine.” (New York sports columnist Ira Berkow)

On the Road with Duke Ellington (DVD)

“All musicians should get down on their knees one day to thank Duke Ellington.”

Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale (DVD)

“I am a cannibal…No matter into what far corner of my mind I push those words, they flash along the surface of my brain like news along the track that runs around the building at Times Square.”

India: Kingdom of the Tiger (DVD)

“Soar over blue-hazed Himalayan peaks and sweep down towards the thundering Indian Ocean as we celebrate the power and beauty of India’s greatest ambassador — the mighty Bengal tiger.”

Hearts and Minds: Criterion Collection (DVD)

“The ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there.” (Lyndon Johnson)

American Roots Music (DVD)

“Nearly every immigrant to America brought folk music with him. It wasn’t written down; it was learned by memory and passed on.”

Empire (DVD)

The perfect antidote to British self-esteem.

The Image Revolution (DVD)

When do I get my own button-fly jeans commercial?

This Changes Everything (Blu-ray)

“People are starting to realize that this is no longer an Indian problem. And that’s the good thing. Because they’re starting to realize that if you drink water and you breathe air this is about you.”

Secrets of the Dead: Vampire Legend (DVD)

“This is an energetic, deliberate, decisive measure to keep this person down in the grave so they can never walk around again.”

Craft in America: Music (DVD)

Before they can make beautiful music these instruments need to be made beautiful.

Monkey Kingdom (Blu-ray)

“Mm. I like pink flavor.”

Red Army (Blu-ray)

Cowards don’t play hockey!

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