“Best of Enemies” (Blu-ray, VOD) — Unlike other intellectuals of their era, William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal understood the value of television for advancing political ideas. And yet both complained about the medium’s inherent antipathy to intellectualism. Magnolia Pictures captures what happened when the two clashed on the small screen in a very entertaining 89-minute documentary “Best of Enemies.”
In the summer of 1968, last-ranked ABC needed a gimmick to get out of the ratings cellar. For the Democratic and Republican national conventions, ABC hired the conservative Buckley and the leftist novelist Vidal to debate on live television. Their explosive sparring propelled ABC News past the competition and transformed public discourse in the process.
Each of the two acid-tongued pundits saw the other as a threat to American values. They manifested the opposing cultural forces in 1960s America, and the debates shaped up as a way to determine in microcosm which way the country would turn. On a personal level, their seething enmity boiled over shockingly in the course of the debates.
Nonetheless, the ABC debates virtually created the familiar TV news model of pundits challenging each other acrimoniously on hot topics of the day. — Mark Tapson
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“Bleeding Heart” (VOD) — Movies like “Bleeding Heart” are pushing Jessica Biel’s career in unfortunate directions. Biel stars as May, a Yoga instructor whose “hippie” lifestyle is thrown for a Karmic detour when she meets her long-lost sister, Shiva (Zosia Mamet). The two meet and discover they have little in common, as May only drinks water at the local bar, while Shiva is a “masseuse” who specializes in sexual release. The two form a sisterly bond, despite neither fully trusting the other. Meanwhile, Shiva’s bad news boyfriend-pimp daddy, Cody (Joe Anderson), is always lurking around, ready to get violent whenever the movie gets bogged down with dialog.
“Heart” is even worse than previous Biel indies like “Powder Blue” and “The Truth About Emanuel.” It’s not that Biel can’t act, but she keeps making movies where she’s either miscast or utilized strictly as eye candy. Here, she’s wrong as the earnest yoga instructor (she has the physique, but she never makes us believe the naiveté of the character) and given two inevitable moments of walking around in her underwear.
Under the circumstances, Mamet is better than good, while Anderson’s character is so “evil,” it becomes comical. Attempts at mirroring May and Shiva (both have controlling boyfriends, use their bodies for profit, etc.) go nowhere. Sadly, Harry Hamlin, in his first major motion picture since “Clash of the Titans,” plays one of Shiva’s “clients.” The sight of Biel packing heat at Hamlin, declaring “I’m a yoga instructor,” is a howler. So is the climactic moment of Biel repeatedly declaring, “Shiva is free.”
Kudos to Biel for lending her modest star power to small, offbeat films, but she’s backing some serious turkeys. — Barry Wurst
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“Inside Out” (Home video/VOD) — The animation giant Pixar seemed to have lost its way in recent years. A company known for sterling, family friendly fare like “Finding Nemo” and “Up” kept cranking out ordinary sequels (“Cars 2,” “Monsters University”) rather than surprising us with fresh stories.
“Inside Out” proved a blockbuster return to form. The story follows young Riley as she deals with her family’s relocation from small town USA to San Francisco. Her emotional state is personified by a quintet of “emotions” battling for her state of mind — Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith).
That clever conceit proved both endearing and commercial dynamite. Pixar is back, and family movie night is all the better for it. — Christian Toto
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