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Roger Ebert has a wonderful life in 'Life Itself' trailer -- VIDEO

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The late Roger Ebert liked to think of movies as a great empathy machine that helped people identify with the characters they watched onscreen and the people that sat next to them in the theater. For more than 40 years, Ebert was a giant engine that helped drive that machine, and in Life Itself, the Sundance documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, his friends and colleagues look back on his most wonderful life. He won a Pulitzer Prize — a rarity for film criticism — and also penned the screenplay for Russ Meyer’s boob-tastic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This was a complex man of many talents and interests who can’t be graded with a simple thumbs-up or down.

In the first trailer for the film, which opens in theaters and VOD on July 4, Ebert jousts with balcony nemesis Gene Siskel, while legends such as Martin Scorsese try to explain his legacy. Watch it below: READ FULL STORY

Roger Ebert doc, 'Life Itself,' unveils poster -- EXCLUSIVE

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In Life Itself, the poignant documentary based on Roger Ebert’s 2011 memoir, director Steve James focuses on the two faces of the famed Chicago film critic that fans came to know and adore. There’s the rounded cherub who jousted furiously and famously with frenemy Gene Siskel for nearly 25 years on television’s most successful movie-review show. And there’s the fleshy, asymmetrical features he introduced to the world after cancer left him without most of his jaw and robbed him of his voice.

Ebert remained the same thoughtful, eloquent man through it all, and the documentary — which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and opens in theaters and on VOD and iTunes on July 4 — tells the story of a man who loved film and the people who made it, was drawn to others who shared strong opinions, and lived a wonderfully full life that touched millions. READ FULL STORY

Roger Ebert documentary 'Life Itself' picked up for distribution

After premiering at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Life Itself, a documentary about the life of film critic Roger Ebert, will be distributed theatrically by Magnolia Pictures. Directed by Steve James (Hoop Dreams), the film will also be broadcast exclusively on CNN later this year after its scheduled summer release. This is the second such deal with Magnolia and CNN after their collaboration last year on the documentary Blackfish, which also premiered at Sundance.

“Roger Ebert gets the tribute he deserves with Life Itself,” said Magnolia President Eamonn Bowles. “Steve James has done a beautiful job capturing Roger’s complexity and energy in a loving but wonderfully clear-eyed portrait.”

Based on his memoir of the same name, Life Itself explores the fascinating and flawed journey of Ebert from school newspaperman to the movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, and from Pulitzer Prize winner to finding love later in life. Ebert died last year after a decade-long battle with papillary thyroid cancer that left him no longer able to speak. In his “third act,” the first critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame emerged as a major voice on the Internet.

“Magnolia is the perfect partner for bringing this film on such a seminal figure in film to the big screen,” said Steve James. “Roger’s story deserves it.”

Sundance 2014: Roger Ebert makes an enthralling documentary subject in 'Life Itself'

The first time we hear Roger Ebert talk in Life Itself, a deeply enthralling documentary about the late film critic who changed film criticism, he’s giving a speech (which he did quite often — sometimes, I can testify, when he was just standing in a room with you), and he observes that every one of us is more or less trapped inside the person we are. It is therefore our job, says Ebert, to attempt to understand who other people are; that’s basically the premise of civilization. And that, for Ebert, is where movies come in. Movies, he says, are “a machine that generates empathy,” and that’s just about as perfect an evocation of the primal appeal of movies as I have ever heard. It’s also a great example of why Roger Ebert was such a compelling writer, thinker, talker, and human being. It didn’t even matter whether you agreed with him — he had a way of putting things that was pithy and practical and philosophical all at the same time. He stopped drinking in 1979, but the easy, flowing panache of the barroom raconteur never left him. His thoughts, and the way that he expressed them, were catchy, infectious, contagious. Even when you did disagree with him (which, in my case, was often), the way he put things created a logic of enchantingly fused thought and passion. READ FULL STORY

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