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Fiction takes a backseat to documentaries this week

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

Documentaries dominate this week's DVD review column.


One might argue that when Woody Allen fired actress Annabelle Gurwitch from a play he was directing he was truly doing her a favor. Gurwitch was inspired by the incident to start producing theatrical events in which people would relate their own stories of being "let go."

Those stories helped form the foundation for Gurwitch's book, "Fired! Tales of the Canned, Canceled, Downsized & Dismissed." The book then became this 70-minute documentary.

Having been fired three times myself, I was both amused and angered by some of the stories in the film. The stories told by both Gurwitch's celebrity friends and by every day folk are compelling.

The weakness in the film is Gurwitch herself. She comes across in many sequences as trying to be a lighter version of gadfly Michael Moore and it just doesn't work too well.

The stories of termination are the heart of the film and there are some great ones in the DVD's extras. Comedian Dana Gould's "Jimmy The Idiot" is laugh-out-loud funny.

Ultimately, the film is up lifting with the message that there is life after being fired.

Although not a thoroughly successful film, "Fired!" may be the thing to help put your own situation into perspective.

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The War Tapes

In 2004, filmmaker Deborah Scranton gave video cameras to several members of a New Hampshire National Guard unit deployed to Iraq. The goal was to make a film from the perspective of the people who were actually fighting the war. The result is a very powerful film that everyone should see.

The three soldiers featured in the film - Sergeant Steve Pink, Specialist Mike Moriarty and Sergeant Zack Bazzi - come to their deployment with different attitudes about the war itself but share the same objective of fulfilling their mission. The men and the soldiers in their unit are given the task of protecting supply convoys as they deliver supplies in Iraq.

Facing the risks posed by snipers and explosive devices on a daily basis, the men record both moments of horror - the death of an Iraqi woman who runs across a road during the passing of a convoy - to the mundane.

The film also follows the three men home to see how the war has affected them and how they adjust back to civilian life.

The DVD has more combat footage in its extras section and new interviews that update the three men.

This is essential viewing.

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Escape to Canada

I like to think I keep up on the news, but this film surprised me as I had no idea about the events shown in this film.

In the summer of 2003, a series of legal decisions made both marijuana and gay marriage legal in our neighbor to the north and this film shows how those changes took place and what were their effects.

Part of the film deals with what some people see as a lack of a national Canadian identity and that making pot and same sex union legal gave the country a needed boost in how it looked at itself. These changes made Canada more "free" than the land of the free in some eyes.

One of the film's premises is the changes also made Canada a threat of some sort to the United States and how pressure from this country sought to overturn Canada's domestic policies.

This film is a very intriguing look at a relatively brief experiment at reforming the laws around marijuana and how legalizing same sex marriage opened the door for the landmark decision here in Massachusetts.

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Terror Storm: A History of Government Sponsored Terrorism

Last year when this newspaper ran a story about a local screening of the film "Loose Change" that challenged the accepted version of the events around the Sept. 11 attacks, I had a reader call to cancel his delivery of "The Reminder." He objected to this newspaper giving any publicity to the film.

Well, I'm sure if he were angry about that story, this review of "Terror Storm" would give him a stroke.

The work of radio talk show host, writer and filmmaker Alex Jones, the film puts forth the premise that the Bush and Blair administrations have engaged in "false flag" campaigns to create reasons to go to war in the Middle East.

Jones had some very interesting documentation to support these premises and if you have an open mind, you will be riveted by this movie. Any one who is suspicious about the status quo will want to see this film. Those who can't view current events with a jaundiced eye should stay away from this production.

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