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American viewers may know him best as the British correspondent on “The Daily Show,” but John Oliver is also an accomplished stand-up comic. In his first Comedy Central special Oliver tackles the topics that perplex him about the United States. He takes well-aimed shots at the American political process and the invasion of Iraq (including how the Brits would have done it differently), and argues for reparations from the Revolutionary War.
The Original Kings of Comedy achieves the seemingly impossible task of capturing the rollicking and sly comedy routines of stand-up and sitcom vets Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, and Bernie Mac and the magic of experiencing a live concert show. Director Spike Lee and his crew plant a multitude of cameras in a packed stadium and onstage (as well as backstage, as they follow the comedians) to catch the vivid immediacy of the show, which is as much about the audience as it is about the jokes.
Vancouver-based voice artist Ashleigh Ball has been the voice of numerous characters in classic cartoons such as Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Cinderella and more. When Ashleigh was hired to voice Apple Jack and Rainbow Dash for Hasbro’s fourth series to use the My Little Pony name – My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic – she had no idea she would become an Internet phenomenon and major celebrity to a worldwide fan-base of grownups. Bronies are united by their belief in the show’s philosophy. This documentary gives an inside view of the Pony fan-world, and an intimate look at the courage it takes to just be yourself…even when that means liking a little girls’ cartoon.
Arguably the most influential creator, writer, and producer in the history of television, Norman Lear brought primetime into step with the times. Using comedy and indelible characters, his legendary 1970s shows such as All In the Family, Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons, boldly cracked open dialogue and shifted the national consciousness, injecting enlightened humanism into sociopolitical debates on race, class, creed, and feminism.
Body Team 12 is tasked with collecting the dead at the height of the Ebola outbreak. These body collectors have arguably the most dangerous and gruesome job in the world. Yet despite the strain they emerge as heroes while the film explores their philosophy and strength.
During President Obama’s terms extreme energy extraction grew faster than anyone could have predicted, putting the 17 million people in America who live within one mile of a new gas or oil rig in harm’s way.
Brooklyn Castle is a documentary about I.S. 318 – an inner-city school where more than 65 percent of students are from homes with incomes below the federal poverty level – that also happens to have the best, most winning junior high school chess team in the country. (If Albert Einstein, who was rated 1800, were to join the team, he’d only rank fifth best.) Chess has transformed the school from one cited in 2003 as a “school in need of improvement” to one of New York City’s best. But a series of recession-driven public school budget cuts now threaten to undermine those hard-won successes.
North Korea. The last communist country in the world. Unknown, hermetic and fascinating. Formerly known as “The Hermit Kingdom” for its attempts to remain isolated, North Korea is one of the largest source of instability as regards world peace. It also has the most militarized border in the world, and the flow of impartial information, both going in and out, is practically non-existent. As the recent Sony-leaks has shown, it is the perfect setting for a propaganda war.
Comedian Dave Chappelle does what he does best in this outrageous and hilarious standup performance, which allows him to push the envelope far beyond what he does on his TV show. Taped in San Francisco at the famed Fillmore, Chappelle lets loose on such topics as black celebrities, what it’s like to have raunchy fans of his TV show approach him while he’s trying to enjoy Disneyland with his kids, Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant… and crackheads, of course. It’s comedy Chappelle-style and, for what it’s worth, no one is safe from his barbs. But you already knew that!