Cinematic Love, Literary Legends, and Space | Real Reels

The far reaches of outer space, Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher’s hilarious fictional “strongmen” Chop and Steele, and life in the Laemmle family movie business are among the subjects of this month’s must-see documentaries. 

Chop & Steele. 82 min. Drafthouse Films. 2022. DVD UPC 1010368974. $26.99.

The first thing to know about Chop and Steele is that they are not real people but fictional “strongmen” created by the comics Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher. Some local morning news stations didn’t realize that they were being pranked when the outlandish duo appeared on the airwaves across the country. The results are frequently hilarious, not something that happens in many documentaries. Pickett and Prueher have a long history of pulling pranks, and this collects all their best work—from small scale to the mainstream on America’s Got Talent. Their work ultimately lead to a surreal, wildly entertaining, David vs. Goliath tale via a lawsuit from an angry, litigious media conglomerate. VERDICT Will put a smile on the faces of adventurous comedy fans.

New Eye on the Universe: The James Webb Space Telescope. 55 min. PBS. 2023. DVD UPC 4188704742. $24.99.

The James Webb Space Telescope can look farther into space than any telescope has before. In 2022, when its images began to arrive, scientists were stunned by the amount of information the telescope provided. Part of PBS’s Nova series, this documentary takes complex ideas about space and explains them, so that viewers needn’t have scientific degrees to find the topic extremely interesting. Various scientists talk about exoplanets, spectroscope readings, and black holes, all done in an easy-to-digest manner, rendering the topic both beautiful to look at and fascinating. VERDICT Go to the far reaches of outer space with scientists and a powerful telescope.

Only in Theaters. 93 min. Kino Lorber. 2022. DVD UPC 3832926323. $19.99.

The Laemmle family has been in the movie business since practically the dawn of the industry, having have owned theaters in the Los Angeles area since 1938. Director Rapheal Sbarge’s intimate look into the challenges (like streaming and COVID) of owning a movie theater in 2023, as current CEO Greg Laemmle contemplates selling the company, is poignant, heartfelt, and bittersweet. This isn’t just a family story; it also taps into Hollywood nostalgia by telling about phases of film history as they have been linked to the movies shown in the beloved collection of arthouse theaters. VERDICT Even for viewers unfamiliar with the theaters owned by the Laemmle family, this portrait is an emotional, cinematic love story for movie fans.

Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb. 114 min. Sony Picture Classics. 2022. DVD UPC 043396632110. $28.99.

An illuminating look into the working relationship between two literary legends, Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb, who have been connected as writer and editor since the late 1960s, when Caro began his mammoth landmark book The Power Broker. Both men are now deep into their 80s but are still working every day, full of wit and sharp-tongued opinions about their relationship, the use of semicolons (Caro loves, Gottlieb loathes), and philosophies about writing and editing. This thoughtful and intelligent film from Lizzie Gottlieb (Robert Gottlieb’s daughter) is a joy from start to finish. VERDICT An up-close and erudite look into the private world of a writer’s life and what it takes behind the scenes to sculpt great books.

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