Film Reviews

Now playing: Bhutto, Never Say Never, and Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune


111 minutes. Not rated. 7 p.m. Friday, February 18 through February 20, at Bill Cosford Cinema, 1111 Memorial Dr., Coral Gables; 305-284-4861; Tickets cost $9 general admission, $7 for seniors, students, and UM alumni and employees, and are free for UM students.

Duane Baughman's nonfiction film pays reverential tribute to Benazir Bhutto, who, after the 1979 execution of her prime minister father, became the first woman elected to rule a Muslim state and assumed her paterfamilias' mantle as the country's leading proponent of democratic government, an agenda stymied by a military apparatus increasingly bent on hard-line Islamic law. The director's lionization of the prime minister — who was assassinated in 2007 after eight years in exile — is bolstered by Bhutto's stirring archival-footage calls for a more just society, as well as by an extensive itemization of Pakistan's ceaseless tumult. The film conveys a forceful sense of tectonic social and geopolitical shifts, as well as the courageous, heartbreaking personal sacrifices its subject made in service to both her homeland and ideals.

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

115 minutes. Rated G.

This Bieber movie, concert experience, and origin-myth documentary is draggily paced and lacks felicity of form; the 3-D is a ripoff and the songs are pap, save a snippet of Etta James singing "At Last" while Bieber's glossy fringe sways in slow-motion. The buildup to a Madison Square Garden climax-concert roughly structures Never Say Never; a throat infection creates the threat of cancellation, before "get well" tweets reinforce Bieber's rededication to show-business grind and "u," the fans. Interspersed is a retelling of Bieber's journey. A convincing case is made that the YouTube phenom was a talented kid with a knack for sponging up Top 20 radio styles when promoter "Scooter" Braun discovered him. From there, the movie admiringly details the stoking of a phenomenon by Braun and Team Bieber; ennobling marketing hustle, JB: NSN is A Hard Day's Night half-devoted to Brian Epstein.

Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune

97 minutes. Not rated. 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday, February 18 through February 24, at Coral Gables Art Cinema, 260 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables; 786-385-9689; Tickets cost $9.

Protest singer Phil Ochs found the sources for his lyrics in periodicals, titling his 1964 debut album All the News That's Fit to Sing. Kenneth Bowser's documentary traces his subject from handsome, skittishly affable troubadour in a turtleneck to mentally ill ranter irrevocably broken after the Chicago '68 riots (Ochs hanged himself in 1976, at age 35). Fans Christopher Hitchens and Sean Penn praise the sting of Ochs's songs such as "Love Me, I'm a Liberal," but more illuminating anecdotes come from those who knew and worked with him closely. Gaslight Café manager Sam Hood dismisses Bob Dylan, with whom Ochs had a friendly rivalry if pathological attachment, as a "prick"; journalist Lucian Truscott IV recalls the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and RFK, "I think Phil was a big enough egomaniac to take it all personally." Bowser's film is densely researched enough to yield insights not just into its overlooked subject but also into his overly analyzed era.

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Melissa Anderson
Nick Pinkerton
Nick Schager is a regular film contributor at Voice Media Group. VMG publications include Denver Westword, Miami New Times, Phoenix New Times, Dallas Observer, Houston Press and New Times Broward-Palm Beach.

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