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Can't Miss: ‘Man on Wire’ documentary soars

"Man on Wire" recalls the high-wire artist who walked between the unfinished World Trade Center towers in 1974. Other top picks this week include Lewis Black's "Root of all Evil" and a concert film about the Rolling Stones.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Movies

You’ve heard the expression, “working without a net”? Phillippe Petit didn’t coin the phrase, but he certainly became the embodiment of that notion. In 1974, the young French daredevil decided that he would walk a tightrope between the then-under construction Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. But to do so, he and his accomplices had to plan the stunt out in intricate detail, and they shuttled between New York City and France to research and practice it. “Man On Wire” is a gripping documentary by director James Marsh that chronicles the escapade from beginning to end, using interviews with the principals as well as dramatizations and visual effects. Petit was on the wire for over an hour, crossing eight times, before he was arrested. Who needs a net anyway? (Magnolia Pictures, in theaters now)

Television

When I was a kid, we played a game in which we asked questions like, “How would you rather die — get dipped into a cauldron of hot oil, or be pulled apart by wild horses?” Comedy Central’s idea for “Root of All Evil” is in the same ballpark. Lewis Black acts as judge, jury and executioner as a court convenes to determine which of two evils is worse. Some of the people and institutions on trial include Oprah vs. the Catholic Church and Paris Hilton vs. Dick Cheney. “Root of All Evil” premieres its second season this week with a choice between ultimate fighters or bloggers, and even more blustery blow-ups from Judge Black himself. Here’s another question: “What would you rather do, sit home and watch something that isn’t as good as this, or this?” (Comedy Central, Wednesday, 10:30 p.m.)

Music

On Wednesday, Buddy Guy turns 72. Back in the day, the five-time Grammy Award-winning blues guitarist was known for doing some crazy stuff, like playing behind his head and tossing his ax around the stage, which folks like Jimi Hendrix picked up on. Father Time has slowed his antics somewhat, but thankfully not his fingers. “Skin Deep” is a CD of pure, unadulterated blues played with passion and imagination. The album is also played with the help of some illustrious guests, such as Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph and the guitar-playing married couple of Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks. Some of the more memorable tracks on this collection include “Best Damn Fool,” “Out in the Woods” and “Lyin’ Like a Dog.”  When some people play the blues, it’s a sad occasion. This isn’t one of those times. (Zomba)

DVD

Yes, there is an IMAX film about dinosaurs, but no, it’s not “Shine A Light,” the concert film about the Rolling Stones directed by Martin Scorsese. The former is called “Dinosaurs 3D,” although I can understand the confusion some young children might experience after seeing a 50-foot-high Keith Richards. “Shine A Light” is an excellent experience, although it could have used some more behind-the-scenes glimpses and interviews. As a pure music happening, it’s a lot of fun, and it includes appearances by Jack White, Christina Aguilera and Buddy Guy. This week it comes out on DVD, with a few extras such as four bonus performances not in the film plus a behind-the-scenes featurette. Check it out while you can. Keith isn’t getting any younger. (Paramount Home Entertainment)

Books

It’s open season on Cuba. Now that Fidel Castro is lying around on the sofa sipping mojitos in his track suit while his brother runs the run-down nation, some intriguing looks at the place have emerged. T.J. English wrote a splendid non-fiction book called “Havana Nocturne,” about the mob and Cuba before the revolution. And now Rachel Kushner has come along with a terrific novel called “Telex From Cuba.” Using multiple voices, mostly of American expats, Kusher makes her fiction debut a memorable one by examining the nickel-mining and sugar-cane businesses in the last years before the revolution as well as the nightclub scene. “Telex From Cuba” is the kind of book that will make Castro glad he retired so he can have time to read books like this. (Scribner)