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What's Up, Docs?

Hugh Hefner, Phil Spector, and Jean-Michel Basquiat are the subject of three new documentaries

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Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child

Who It’s About
The gifted and still-controversial art-world superstar of the 1980s, who died of a heroin overdose at age 27. body

The Movie’s Take
Director Tamra Davis was a friend of Basquiat’s and builds the movie around an interview she did with him in 1986. His cagey charisma is on full display, and so is the fascinating roller coaster of his journey to fame. body

Biggest Surprise
His upbringing was relatively upscale — his parents owned a Brooklyn brownstone. body

Bottom Line
A dazzling and definitive look at a tragic prodigy whose canvases pulsate with life. A body

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Phil Spector

Who It’s About
The legendary pop-music producer of the ’60s and early ’70s, famous for his lushly romantic Wall of Sound. body

The Movie’s Take
Featuring a rare interview with Spector, who’s as freakishly captivating as Truman Capote, the film is at once a rapturous musical portrait and a look at his first trial for the murder of B-movie starlet Lana Clarkson.

Biggest Surprise
Despite the film’s shaky legal defense of Spector, it’s as potent as a nonfiction Blue Velvet. A? body

Bottom Line
Spector’s laundry list of perceived ? rivals extends from Bob Dylan to Tony Bennett. body

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel

Who It’s About
The fabled creator of Playboy, who turned himself into a silk-pajama-clad American icon of male hedonism.

The Movie’s Take
A tad too worshipful, but quite enlightened when it looks at all the doors Hefner opened — not just sexual but political and racial (his 1959-60 TV variety show featured groundbreaking black comics and jazz artists). body

Biggest Surprise
Hef’s most ardent moral defenders include crunchy folk-music legend Pete Seeger.

Bottom Line
A pop history lesson that holds you, but it’s no deeper than an E! True Hollywood Story. B+

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