Category: Movie Reviews


 

the-beatles-8days

Ron Howard’s tribute to the rise of Beatlemania, is a good movie, if not a great one.

‘Eight Days a Week’ is made for the hardcore Beatles fan, which is its blessing and its curse.  If you’re invested in the mythology of the Fab Four, you know this story, and you’ve probably seen 90 percent of the footage here somewhere else, whether it be ‘The Beatles Anthology’ or one of the excellent docs that focus on John or George.  Doesn’t mean this film doesn’t work for what it is.  It’s still cool to see, like everyone else, the Beatles were working small clubs for little money before they became a phenomenon.  The focus on their brief run as live artists drive home the point that beyond the marketing and the pop stardom overdrive, these were four talented musicians. (I always thought it was cool that even though John and Paul were the obvious leads, there was always a spotlight song for George and Ringo in the early albums/shows.)

It’s not the farthest reaching comparison, but with so much info already being public knowledge, I’d like to see whoever makes the next Beatles documentary take the approach Spike Lee has done with Michael Jackson: pick one of the iconic albums, set the time and place in the world and in the artist’s career, and then break down the track list and everyone who was influenced by it.

I’m nitpicking some because we’re definitely in a golden age for documentaries.  ‘Eight Days a Week’ is still worth checking out if you love the boys from Liverpool.  On Hulu, iTunes and most digital platforms.

 

JLA-AlexRoss

It’s a dope trailer.  And the song of course, clinched it for me.

To borrow another title from that catalog, Don’t Let Me Down Warner Brothers.

Enjoy!

 

 

chuckbarris

We lost Chuck Barris last week.

If I’m being generous, I have ‘cloudy’ memories of the Gong Show.  I do remember ‘Confessions of a Dangerous Mind’ as Clooney’s first film as a director, and the scene below was a heavy influence on the last short I directed ‘Santa’s Third Wheel’ (love story, body language over dialogue).

Rest in Peace Chuckie Baby.

 

 

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While my childhood was one of many defined by what came next, as an adult I can’t really argue with anyone who feels ‘Off the Wall’ is a superior album.  Spike’s documentary captures all the reasons why.

As the title suggests, the first half covers the journey and how (absurd as it sounds now), Michael Jackson was having a hard time figuring out how to be taken seriously.  He was the bubblegum kid singer, he was the novelty at the front of the novelty act the Jackson 5.  As (a nice interview choice here) Kobe Bryant explained, young Mike was a hardcore student of his craft.  Not just studying Sammy Davis Jr’s moves, and James Brown’s moves, but how the industry treated them as black stars.

After ‘the Jacksons’ became a success after leaving Motown, it was time.  The concert footage really captures why ‘Rock With You’ is one of my favorite videos.  No one (in all the good and bad ways) was more theatrical than Michael Jackson, but he could blow you away with nothing but the microphone in his hand.  A great vocalist.

The last third of the film is the track by track breakdown.  Everyone from Questlove to his brothers, to Stevie Wonder breaking down ‘the last great disco record.’ Rock With You. Off the Wall. She’s Out of My Life. I Can’t Help It. Turn this Disco Out.

Yep, that album still holds up.  So does this doc.

Was a Showtime exclusive for a long time, now you can rent it on iTunes and I assume your other digital channels.

 

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Been on a Hans Zimmer kick all day.  Of course I’m biased, but after John Williams I’m pretty sure he makes my favorite scores.

This movie was divisive, but the score was great (in my opinion).

Enjoy!

 

 

jedisteps

So last night around this time I was in Texas with Aaron and my old professor Dr. Rodriguez talking about ‘Trojan War’ and the Business and life.  I’m familiar with Southern hospitality because of my roots but it was still a fun night for myself and Aaron and judging by the immediate feedback it seems the feeling was mutual.  I talked on a live microphone about a lot of the things many of you are used to hearing me say here: I’ve had an incredibly blessed life I wouldn’t trade with anyone else, I have more I plan to do, but the state of the world and my age has reignited my desire to be very active in helping the next generation do things I probably won’t see.

So short version I was on full Kenobi mode last night, thus today’s song choice.

Enjoy!

 

‘Get Out’

 

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The number one movie in America this weekend is extremely clever.

As I and others have pitched, start with a Key and Peele premise (‘black guy goes to meet the parents of his white girlfriend’) and instead of one upping on the side of silly comedy, one up the stakes with awkward, creepy comedy.  And you have ‘Get Out’.

Not even a horror guy but I dug this one.  Not scary in terms of gore, scary in terms of suspense and…not really knowing exactly what’s going on until well into the third act.  It’s a hell of a step on his own play by Jordan Peele, who provides just enough silliness to cut the tension and keep the audience relaxed.  This film is a like microaggression Hall of Fame (with Obama and Tiger compliments and more than a few passive aggressive comments on the black man’s physique).  The layers here go deep, I can’t even give you a really good comparison movie wise.  My only real critique (after I had time to think about it) was the reveal of one character’s intentions came five minutes too early.

As far as the ‘racist’ critique, I know where that comes from, but I think it’s too general.  The villains in the film aren’t ‘the white race’; it’s a very specific subset.  And even the choice of that subset is part of the social commentary of the film.

So if you didn’t get to this over the weekend, high recommend here.

 

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KIMMEL: And here to present tonight’s final award, from ‘Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later’ Malik Aziz, and the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.

(Malik and Obama walk on to the stage.  There’s a fifteen minute standing ovation, shattering Chaplin’s record.)

OBAMA: Thank you.  West Texas outlaws.  An African-American homosexual in Miami.  A female linguist who discovers how to take to aliens.  The films nominated for Best Picture this year are as diverse as the American experience itself, and by recognizing these films, we acknowledge that no matter who you are, or where you come from, your voice is a valuable part of why, this country has always been great.

(polite applause).

MALIK: I couldn’t agree more.  Three of the nominees are driven by female protagonists (possibly four, depending on your point of view); as you noted, one is a window into the homosexual experience, and three of the films take place within different eras of the African-American experience. If we’ve learned nothing else over the past ten years, it’s this: when we acknowledge or even agree that the most qualified option might look different than us, than racism is over.  So is sexism.  So is xenophobia.  And so is homophobia. And anyone who complains that any of that stuff still exists is a sad loser who needs to get over it. Right, Mr. President?

(Malik and Obama both try to hold in their smirks as the audience laughs…)

OBAMA: Come on man…

MALIK: Here are the nominees for Best Picture:

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

Who Should Win: In another decade, I’d easily say ‘Hell or High Water’ or ‘Moonlight’ (best picture that feels nothing like a studio picture).  ‘Hell’ is this year’s best ‘right of center’ pic, ‘Moonlight’ the best ‘left of center’.  You already know what’s in the ultimate center (everyone likes something about it): La La Land.

Who I’m Cheering For: I’m not the crying type, but the only one of the above films that had me suffering from allergies in the third act was Moonlight.  And I was truly impressed by most of the field this year.

Who Will Win: As I said before, its ‘passionate’ fan base may be smaller, but across the board nearly everyone ‘likes’ something about La La Land.  Will be surprised if it doesn’t win the big one.

 

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Here are the nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role:

Isabelle Huppert – Elle

Ruth Negga – Loving

Natalie Portman – Jackie

Emma Stone – La La Land

Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Who Should Win: Oh boy.  Well, let’s see.  We’re talking ‘best use of 2017 Emma Stone’ or ‘best use of 2017 Natalie Portman’ in most film geek minds.  They have two different career types, but within each of their ‘types’, my feeling is Portman’s performance is more Oscar worthy.

Who I’m Cheering For: Portman is my generation so there’s a lot of obvious bias there, but as a comedy fan I dig Emma Stone too.  The worst thing I have to say about her is in relation to her peers, she’s been very quiet as far as ‘the state of the world’ is concerned.  That doesn’t automatically mean she’s Tom Brady, just one of those things I notice.

Who Will Win: Emma Stone.

Here are the nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role:

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea

Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge

Ryan Gosling – La La Land

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Denzel Washington – Fences

Who Should Win: Very much a personal preference category.  Funny because on actor terms I like Gosling a lot, but I consider him the ‘weakest’ of these five.

Who I’m Cheering For: You look at that list and guess. Your first four guesses don’t count.

Who Will Win: Casey Affleck.

 

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Here are the nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role:

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight

Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water

Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea

Dev Patel – Lion

Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Who Should Win: It’s been a good year for movies, which means the supporting categories could easily go 6 or 7 deep with worthy candidates.  None of the five nominated feel out of place in my opinion.  It’s a genuine personal taste choice.

Who I’m Cheering For: My akhi of course.

Who Will Win: Feels like this is the finishing touch for a career year for Mr. Ali.

Here are the nominees for Best Actress in a Supporting Role:

Viola Davis – Fences

Naomie Harris – Moonlight

Nicole Kidman – Lion

Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures

Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Who Should Win: Same general feeling as with the guys, I could add a couple other great supporting roles that didn’t make the cut, and there’s one that’s really a lead but, it is what it is.  By the definition of the award, Naomie was heartbreaking in her few scenes.

Who I’m Cheering For: We’re here now so I agree with the consensus that it seems off that Viola Davis doesn’t have an Oscar, so hopefully nothing really wild happens Sunday.

Who Will Win: Viola.