· Howl (2010) (Oscilloscope)
The Short Version: James Franco writes a controversial poem…promptly before cutting off one of his arms.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Moving back to the founding fathers of the Beat Generation for a bit, Howl takes viewers into a multi-tiered story about the controversy surrounding Allen Ginsberg’s notorious 1955 poem of the same name. James Franco plays Ginsberg here, who recites his sex-and-drug-fueled poem “Howl” during the infamous 1957 Obscenity Trial. The film also utilizes archive footage of the real Ginsberg during several interviews, and there’s some animation to go along with the reading of the poem. Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Daniels, David Strathairn, and Treat Williams (yes, he’s still around) also star in this multiple award winner and nominee from the dynamic duo of Rob Epstein (Juan’s brother) and Jeffrey Friedman. The movie is also available in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack.
· Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist And Rebel (2009) (Phase 4 Films)
The Short Version: A movie ‘bout that there Playboy Magazine feller.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: Long before he was turned into the world’s most convincingly lifelike ventriloquist dummy ever, Hugh Hefner struggled with various powers on a regular basis. Whether the government was breathing down his neck about his latest political piece in Playboy, or the religious nuts and feminazis were plotting his untimely demise for showing pictures of women nekkid and being an all-around swell philanderer-in-general kind of a guy, Hugh M. Hefner always managed to (ahem) hold his own. Brigitte Berman brings us an in-depth and captivating look into Hefner’s rise to being one of the publishing world’s most outspoken idols. Hefner appears as himself (who else could pull him off, right?) in both newer and vintage footage. A vast assortment of other celebrities (from the film industry to the political one) also appear.
· Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work (2010) (IFC)
The Short Version: It’s Joan Rivers, folks, so just accept her for who she is.
The Slightly-Elongated Version: From her straightforward approach to the world as we know it (or perhaps, as she knows it), to her excessively-rapid verbal skills, comedienne Joan Rivers always had a way of making friends and fans (or, at the very least, haters — see Johnny Carson) during her long 40-year-plus career. The aptly-titled Joan Rivers: A Piece Of Work gives those of you who remember her during her heyday a chance to see how she came to be (as well as what she’s done since), while the “unexposed” generation(s) can discover this Diva of the Droll for the first time. Documentary makers Ricki Stern and Anne Sundberg take the credit for putting this round of fun together. The title is also available on Blu-ray.