‘Particle Fever’ and ‘Mr. Dynamite’ Top This Week’s Nonfics Home Picks


Most people don’t get to see documentaries until they arrive on a home video platform of some kind, whether it’s DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, iTunes, TV, Netflix streaming, etc. Join us every Tuesday for a look at what documentaries and reality programming is recommended by myself and other contributors to the site. As always, if you know of something we missed or should be aware of, drop us an email or a note down below.

Here are our ordered picks for October 29, 2014:

1. Particle Fever

[New to Vimeo On Demand] — From my non-review: “I didn’t understand about 75% of it, but that’s not the point. Particle Fever is not necessarily a film about what the Large Hadron Collider does or might prove or disprove. It’s a film about the people involved in its creation and/or with the scientific theories it will impact, such as the young post-doc Monica Dunford and the patient physicist Savas Dimopoulos, who’s been waiting three decades to test out his theories, and even the great hero of particle physics himself, Peter Higgs. And as this, it’s among the very best portrayals of passion and excitement ever put on screen. […] While watching this film and being amazed at how captivated I was in spite of not always knowing what’s going on, I thought of two things in particular. One is that the science here might as well be like a documentary MacGuffin, something that drives the story but doesn’t have to be understood. This should be the case with more documentary subjects, though I know it won’t catch on since many still want a doc to be informative.” (★★★★)

Also available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Google Play and Netflix Watch Instantly.

2. Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown

[New to HBO, HBO On Demand, HBO GO] — Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) has made a pretty good music doc to balance out his not so good Finding Fela. This is a rather conventional affair, with talking heads telling the history supplemented by a valuable bunch of archival clips, but it’s edited perfectly by Geeta Gandbhir (When the Levees Broke) and Maya Mumma (Moms Mabley: I Got Somethin’ to Tell You) and does what it needs to do very effectively. For the full performances, definitely check out the concert films starring James Brown we recently showcased, but as another, probably more apt doc option against this year’s biopic on the singer, Get On Up, this doc produced by Mick Jagger will make you feel good. (★★★★)

3. The Queen of Versailles

[New to Vimeo On Demand] — From my review at Movies.com: “An outrageous, despicable, guiltily hilarious and appropriately superficial good time. This doc follows an extremely rich family as they attempt to build the largest home in America, but then the economy collapses and turns their lifestyle upside down like a heroin addict dropped into a world without poppies. […] Obviously there are traces of reality television in the subject matter, everything from the Real Housewives franchise to shows about hoarding, hawking and housing. But Greenfield manages a compact story of the American dream and subsequent awakening that doesn’t seem either sensational nor necessitating a full series pickup. At one point Siegel says this film could go on and on — and such is life, sure — but the film is perfectly structured and sufficient as it is. I found it occasionally exaggerated, exploitative and contemptuous, and the fact that I didn’t mind due to my own disdain is likely caused by the very thing I accept. Still, I’m sure there’s a great degree of truth to how smug, defensive and clueless the Siegels are depicted.” (★★★★)

Also available on DVD, Hulu Plus, iTunes and Google Play.

3. Brakeless

[New to PBS Video] — Director Kyoko Miyake addresses an issue in Japanese culture while tackling the tragedy of a commuter train disaster. In appropriate manner, it takes its time covering the story and its effects, yet now in its cut-for-TV version it’s a more efficient work, as well. Normally I hate recommending the Independent Lens abridged versions, but I dozed off near the end of Brakeless when I saw it at Sheffield this year, so I think for once it might be for the better. (★★★)

New to DVD [and/or Blu-ray]:

America: Imagine the World Without Her [Nonfics rating: ★; Nonfics review] [Also on Blu-ray]

Big Boy: On the Road to Restoration

Bone Shop of the Heart

Bound By Flesh

Egmont Passage: The Facts Behind the Fiction

Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of the Human Race

Guns N’ Roses: After the Destruction

How We Got to Now

In Search of Ancient Mysteries

International Zirkus Highlights

The Lincoln Hypothesis

Martha Argerich: Evening Talks [Also on Blu-ray]

Running From Crazy

Wagner Vs. Verdi: A Documentary in 6 Parts [Also on Blu-ray]

New to Netflix Watch Instantly:

Birdmen: The Original Dream of Flight

Bound By Flesh

Cocaine Unwrapped

E-Team [Nonfics rating: ★★]

Rise of the Drones (Nova)

New to iTunes/Amazon Instant/VOD:

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case — Vimeo On Demand

Alive & Well — Amazon

American Scary — Vimeo On Demand

Apocalypse — Fandor

Bound By Flesh — Amazon, iTunes

Brakeless [Nonfics rating: ★★★] — PBS (Independent Lens)

Burn — Vimeo On Demand

Casa — Doc Alliance

Dong — Fandor

Finding Fela [Nonfics rating: ★; Nonfics review] — Amazon

Howard Hughes: The Great Aviator — His Life, Loves & Films — Amazon

The Journey — Fandor

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life — Vimeo On Demand

Mom — Doc Alliance

Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — HBO GO

Normalization — Doc Alliance

One Day Pina Asked… — Amazon

Particle Fever — [Nonfics rating: ★★★★; Nonfics review] — Vimeo On Demand

The Queen of Versailles [Nonfics rating: ★★★★] — Vimeo On Demand

Pretty Ugly — Amazon

Running From Crazy — Amazon, Vimeo On Demand

Season of a Lifetime — Amazon

Silence Radio — Doc Alliance

Stephanie in the Water — Vimeo On Demand

Super Women — Doc Alliance

Tape — Fandor

The Top Secret Trials of the Third Reich — Amazon

Unborn In the USA — Amazon

Waiting for Armageddon [Nonfics rating: ★★] — Amazon

Must-See Nonfiction TV:

(All Times Eastern)

Thursday — 10/30

12:40am: Private Violence [HBO East and HBO Latino East]

1:35am: Paris is Burning [Flix]

3:40am: Private Violence [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

6:00am: Jodorowsky’s Dune [Starz East]

9:00am: Jodorowsky’s Dune [Starz West]

11:15am: Soul Power [Starz in Black]

11:20am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 East]

2:20am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime 2 West]

5:30pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO East and HBO Latino East]

6:10pm: Tim’s Vermeer [Starz Cinema]

6:55pm: Soul Power [Starz in Black]

8:30pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

9:30pm: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime 2 East]

10:00pm: Private Violence [HBO2 East]

Friday — 10/31

12:30am: 12 O’Clock Boys [Showtime 2 West]

1:00am: Private Violence [HBO2 West]

2:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

7:20am: The Gatekeepers [Starz East]

10:20am: The Gatekeepers [Starz West]

5:00pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO 2 East]

8:00pm: The Amazing Race [CBS]

8:00pm: A Good Job: Stories of the FDNY [HBO 2 West]

9:00pm: Midterms Part 2 [Al Jazeera America]

9:00pm: Good Hair [OWN]

11:00pm: Good Hair [OWN]

Saturday — 11/1

12:00am: Midterms Part 2 [Al Jazeera America]

12:30am: Grizzly Man [IndiePlex]

2:25am: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) [Starz in Black]

4:45am: My Kid Could Paint That [MoviePlex]

7:00am: King Corn [Fusion]

8:00am: Reagan [History]

10:40am: Grizzly Man [IndiePlex]

12:45pm: Private Violence [HBO East and HBO Latino East]

1:00pm: King Corn [Fusion]

1:35pm: My Kid Could Paint That [MoviePlex]

3:00pm: Midterms Part 2 [Al Jazeera America]

3:10pm: How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) [Starz in Black]

3:45pm: Private Violence [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

5:35pm: Grizzly Man [IndiePlex]

Sunday — 11/2

10:20am: Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Starz in Black]

1:00pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO East and HBO Latino East]

2:00pm: Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison [Ovation TV]

2:45pm: Beware of Mr. Baker [Showtime Next]

4:00pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO West and HBO Latino West]

9:00pm: Midterms Part 3 [Al Jazeera America]

9:10pm: Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Starz in Black]

9:45pm: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Showcase East]

10:00pm: Downloaded [VH1]

Monday — 11/3

12:00am: Midterms Part 3 [Al Jazeera America]

12:45am: Mistaken for Strangers [Showtime Showcase West]

4:00am: Downloaded [VH1]

6:35am: Standing in the Shadows of Motown [Starz in Black]

10:05am: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

1:00pm: Last Days Here [Showtime 2 East]

4:00pm: Last Days Here [Showtime 2 West]

6:30pm: West of Memphis [Encore Suspense]

Tuesday — 11/4

4:05am: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

4:05am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase East]

5:30am: Paul Williams Still Alive [Showtime Showcase East]

7:05am: Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic [Showtime Showcase West]

8:30am: Paul Williams Still Alive [Showtime Showcase West]

12:00pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO East]

3:00pm: Midterms Part 3 [Al Jazeera America]

3:00pm: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown [HBO West]

3:40pm: Every Little Step [IndiePlex]

4:05pm: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia [HBO 2 East]

7:00pm: We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists [Pivot]

7:05pm: Hunted: The War Against Gays in Russia [HBO 2 West]

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.