Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Fake muscles, real rage.

Director Chris Bell traces the rise of steroids in athletics, with a personal twist.

A weightlifter who grew up in the ’80s world of comically-inflated supermen like Arnold, Sly, and the Hulkster, he chose purity in training. His brothers did not.

Injecting the ol’ Jose Canseco Sauce, they tangle with a world of roid rage, shrunken testicles, and talking about yourself in the third person.

Mixing humor with harsh reality, this doc dispels some horrifying myths about steroid abuse, while also never shying away from the dark side of wanting to get big and bad, super-quick.

Monster Camp

Release your inner Aragon.

This Seattle-shot doc follows a batch of men and women — well, mainly men — who take their love of all things Lord of the Rings and Dungeons and Dragons to the next level.

Participating in Live Action Role-Playing, they replace Viggo laying waste to Orcs with a Microsoft tech guy chasing a Safeway clerk through the underbrush, bellowing “Magic 15! Magic 15!”

Pulling back billowing curtains to reveal everyday people who revel in the descent into fantasy, it captures a nice mix of the mundane and absurd.

Plus, it’s more entertaining than anything the butt-numbing LOTR movies gave us.

The Heart of the Game

The female Hoop Dreams.

That’s the quickest way to describe this powerful doc, but it can more than stand on its own merits.

Following the Seattle-based Roosevelt High School girls basketball squad over the course of six years, it has everything filmmakers want.

A scrappy coach with unconventional ways, who shakes everyone up.

A star player chasing athletic success while dealing with real-world issues.

And, of course, a long-gestating bid for state title glory.

Like the other basketball film referenced above, this will endure as a bittersweet ode to the extreme highs and lows to be found in prep sports.

Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa

Life lived alone.

Or at least mostly alone, as the drifters and nomads who pop up in this solid low-key documentary prefer to reside far from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

They call a chunk of land stashed out by the Rio Grande, 25 miles from the nearest town, their home and build a unique community with other like-minded folks.

Some are battling illnesses, of the body or mind, while others just enjoy the sound of (relative) silence.

An interesting companion piece to current Oscar contender Nomadland, this is a fairly-obscure slice-of-life movie worth tracking down again.

Tricky Dick and The Man in Black

He walked the line.

Johnny Cash is famous as one of the biggest rebels in music history, but he was two men in one.

Republicans loved him, Democrats loved him, people from the sticks adored him, as did big-city slickers.

It was because he was that rarity — an authentic man.

One who loved country and church, but also one not afraid to speak out in support of anyone getting the shaft, whether they were convicts, Native Americans, or young people trying to find their voice.

Few films capture that duality quite as powerfully as this doc does in 59 lightning-quick minutes.