Allen Hughes says that the biggest challenge he faced while filming “The Defiant Ones,” a four-part HBO documentary series that premieres July 9, was “thinking that it would be easy.” The 45-year-old Hughes brother (one half of the directorial duo, along with fraternal twin Albert, behind “Menace II Society” and “Dead Presidents”) got an immediate green light from HBO in 2013 when he pitched a project on the life of Dr. Dre, 52, whom he had met on an N.W.A music video set 25 years ago.
What was supposed to be a hip-hop documentary ended up as a music-business education centered on the relationship between Dre and Jimmy Iovine, following Apple’s $3 billion acquisition of Beats in 2014. Hughes filmed the series — which features commentary from Lady Gaga, Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Nicks — over three years, after initially planning for a 12-month shoot; in early June, he was still finishing an interview segment with Kendrick Lamar for the final episode.
“I thought it would be fun, and challenging,” Hughes says of helming the series, “but I didn’t think it would be brutal.” Along with offering insight into Dre and Iovine’s working relationship as Beats Electronics co-founders — Eminem’s line “Jimmy is the levitator, Dre is the innovator” has become the standout sound bite from HBO’s ad campaign — “The Defiant Ones” explores the failures and hardships each has suffered, from Iovine’s high school struggles in 1960s Brooklyn to Dre’s effort to move on from Tupac Shakur’s 1996 death. “When [Hughes] called me to do this, Dre thought it was a good idea, and I trust him,” says Iovine, 64.
One of the series’ biggest surprises is the inclusion of Dee Barnes, the journalist/hip-hop artist who alleged that Dre assaulted her in 1991 (he issued a public apology to “the women I’ve hurt” in 2015). “What I told Dre was, ‘You saying sorry is not enough,’ ” recalls Hughes. “Dee had to have a voice in this, because she was like a little sister in the early N.W.A days.” Although Dre and Barnes don’t appear onscreen together, Hughes made a point to include Barnes in early footage of N.W.A and stress her importance in Dre’s rise to stardom. “I didn’t want her to be a footnote,” he says.
There are moments of levity that break up the heaviness; a young Dre is captured singing along to Nirvana, while the first episode begins with a drunken Tyrese Gibson leaking the news of Apple’s Beats acquisition in a comical viral video.
Yet the heart of “The Defiant Ones” is the shared intensity of Dre and Iovine. “They read every fiber of you,” says Hughes. It’s what Iovine, formerly chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, credits for their decade of success after co-founding Beats in 2006. “It’s unfortunately an unusual thing, for a white man and a black man to go into business like that,” says Iovine. “[But] I knew there was something powerful that could cross musical and geographical boundaries.”
“The Defiant Ones” is set to debut Sunday, July 9, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
When Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia first graced the screen in 1977’s “Star Wars,” many women and girls were excited to see a strong female character confronting ruthless villains like Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, shooting at Stormtroopers, smuggling stolen Death Star plans and organizing a revolution.
Leia represented more than just a beloved Star Wars icon. She stood as an symbol of feminism and strength for many female fans longing for a sci-fi character they could finally relate to.
Now, an upcoming documentary, “Looking for Leia,” wants to pay tribute to those millions of women and girls.
“Female Star Wars fans include everything from film buffs, cultural critics, cosplayers, gamers, artists and authors. The film reaches beyond Princess Leia to discuss how female characters and fans have shaped and expanded the Star Wars universe, and how these stories speak to experiences of gender resilience and resistance,” reads a description on the movie’s website.
Filmmaker Annalise Ophelian raised over $25,000 for the film, via Kickstarter. “Looking for Leia” is still in production, and has no release date yet.
It’s why the “Psycho” shower scene makes you jump and the opening of “Up” makes you cry.
Music is one of a filmmaker’s most powerful emotional tools, and movie scores have been manipulating our feelings and challenging our expectations ever since a Wurlitzer organ player first accompanied a silent film. But with the exception of a few iconic melodies — think “Star Wars,” “Rocky,” or “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” — scores are one of the most underrated components of moviemaking.
Matt Schrader’s Score finally gives film composers their due with a documentary that’s part geeky history lesson, part tribute to some of the greatest musical moments in movie history.
Schrader’s assembled some of the industry’s best to talk about all things film music, and it’s a bit like getting to spend a few hours in a mad scientist’s lab, as legends like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Rachel Portman, Quincy Jones, and Howard Shore all dissect their composing process. (John Williams and Thomas Newman also appear in archival footage.)
Structurally, “Score” isn’t all that innovative, mostly just weaving together archival film scenes with talking heads. But it’s the detail that makes this doc so fascinating, exploring everything from how Tom Holkenborg got those epic drums in “Mad Max: Fury Road” to why you can hear Elfman’s “Batman” theme in every superhero movie since.
Think of it as the most melodious film-history lecture ever.
The iconic singer’s incredible talent, rise to fame, struggles and untimely downfall are all chronicled in “Can I Be Me,” a new documentary set to premiere on Showtime.
“Can I Be Me” is directed by Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal. The doc offers an inside look at how Houston became one of the most successful female artists of all time, her tumultuous marriage to Bobby Brown, her struggle with addiction and tragic death at the age of 48.
“There was this emphasis on [Whitney] being the perfect girl,” a voiceover says in the first trailer for the film. “She never had this belief that she was this perfect person.”
“Success doesn’t change you, fame does,” Houston says in an additional clip.
The seven-time Grammy winner died on Feb. 11, 2012, after she was found unresponsive in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Her cause of death was attributed to drowning and drug use. “Can I Be Me” will include never-before-seen footage, candid interviews and performances from Houston to showcase the impact that her life and death had on her fans around the world.
“Can I Be Me” will debut on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 9 p.m. on Showtime.