The Armstrong Lie
Distributor:
Sony Pictures Classics
The disgraced hero at the center of one of the most compelling rise-and-fall narratives in recent years gets exhaustive and penetrating documentary treatment in "The Armstrong Lie." Focusing primarily on the past four years of Lance Armstrong's life -- from his 2009 post-retirement comeback bid to his recent admission that he had used performance-enhancing drugs, despite vehement denials over the course of his extraordinary career -- director Alex Gibney delivers not just a detailed, full-access account of his subject, in all his defiance, hubris and tentative self-reckoning, but also a layered inquiry into the culture of competitiveness, celebrity, moral relativism and hypocrisy that helped enable and sustain his deception. Although unlikely to match the TV audience for Armstrong's revelatory interview with Oprah Winfrey in January, this authoritative and well-timed Sony Classics release should easily become one of Gibney's more widely seen efforts.
-- Justin Chang
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At Berkeley
Distributor:
Zipporah Films
On the surface, "At Berkeley" hardly breaks new ground: Frederick Wiseman's 38th institution-centered documentary presents yet another unblinking, very long-haul study of a hydra-headed organization, in this case the eponymous U. of California campus, an account so austerely democratic in its gaze that no one, from the highest-ranking figure to the lowliest freshman, is ever formally identified. And yet, the result is one of Wiseman's best, a summation of sorts of a career's worth of principled filmmaking from a director in his ninth decade. Pic will teach class at niche venues and on upscale channels worldwide.
-- Leslie Felperin
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Great Expectations
Distributor:
Lionsgate
"Great Expectations" is a passable feature-length adaptation that does little to burnish the estimable screen legacy of a Dickens classic. Working from a tightly compressed screenplay by David Nicholls, director Mike Newell strikes the beats of a deservedly oft-told tale with dour competence but little in the way of dramatic inspiration or visual flair. Still, juicy performances by Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes in the designated scene-stealing roles of Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch should prove enticing enough for arthouse patrons and Anglophiles to respond with favor.
-- Justin Chang
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How I Live Now
Distributor:
Magnolia Pictures