A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which offers an inside look at Beatlemania, the three years when the best pop band in history toured the world. The messy title is a hint as to how compromised this film is: it's not a proper journalistic look at the band, but rather an approved portrait with the rough edges removed. But with its never-seen footage and lots of great music, it can't help but be hugely entertaining.
John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr spent years developing their sound before they hit the big time. And when they set off on their first tour in 1963, things immediately went crazy, with unprecedented displays of fan adoration. Fans couldn't get enough of these cheeky young guys from Liverpool, and their irreverent antics during interviews further endeared them to their audience. As they embarked on their first major tour of America, young journalist Larry Kane was sent to accompany them. Initially annoyed at this fluffy assignment, Kane was won over by their talent and the way they stood up to segregation laws in the South. But by 1966, they found that playing concerts in stadiums was simply too exhausting (they couldn't hear themselves above the screaming), so they abruptly stopped performing in public. The rest of their career took place in the studio.
All of this is recounted in a terrific range of home movies, archive footage, snapshots and interviews from the time, plus present-day recollections from Paul and Ringo. Added to this are interviews with celebrities who as children saw them perform, artists who worked with them and historians who examine their talent and impact. With access to this kind of material and a skilled editing team, Howard creates a film that's energetically gripping, offering a perspective on the Beatles that we may not have seen before.
Continue reading: The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years Review
Essentially a feature-length In Memoriam reel, this entertaining Formula One documentary thrills us with its whizzy editing while it traces the sport's deadly legacy. It took some 45 years after F1's inception in 1950 for proper safety guidelines to be implemented, so watching the parade of iconic drivers, living and dead, is often quite emotional. And the film tells this story with a pumping kinetic style.
Motor racing has a long history in Europe, becoming a proper sport with the birth of Formula One in 1950. But as car-building technology developed, the safety systems didn't keep pace. So drivers were racing at double the speed without up-to-date barriers, safety equipment and emergency procedures. Between 1968 and 1974 alone, the sport lost such iconic drivers as Jim Clark, Jochen Rindt, Roger Williamson, Francois Cevert and Peter Revson in terrible crashes. Over the years the regulations were changed, but it wasn't until Ayerton Senna's shocking death in 1994 that the entire system was overhauled. And no driver has been killed in an F1 Grand Prix since.
In addition to Fassbender's enthusiastic narration, the line-up of on-screen interviewees is seriously impressive, with a collection of champions, team leaders, businessmen, journalists and others recounting their memories as the film presents a chronological history of the sport. Director-editor Crowder ramps everything up as he mixes archive film and stills with thundering music to get the adrenaline pumping. Many of these sequences generate a lot of vroom-vroom energy, even if the video trickery sometimes gets too flashy. Intriguingly, the film's most riveting segment is a single take with no edits, shot from Senna's helmet as he does a qualifying lap in Monaco.
Continue reading: 1: Life On The Limit Review
Dwayne Johnson tries to flex his acting muscles in this smarter-than-usual action movie, based on a true story that gets under our skin. He's never played someone as fragile as this, which is fascinating even if the film ultimately can't resist cranking up the action while turning rather preachy.
Johnson plays John, a construction company owner whose bright 18-year-old son Jason (Gavron) is caught in a drugs sting by an undercover agent (Pepper). Jason is facing 10 years in prison, and offered a way out if he can finger another drug dealer. But he doesn't know any, since he was set up himself. So John makes a deal with a federal prosecutor (Sarandon) to find a big dealer himself. He convinces reluctant ex-con employee Daniel (Bernthal) to work with him, contacting a local dealer (Williams) before going after the kingpin (Bratt). But of course things get increasingly dangerous the deeper they go.
While Johnson's acting chops aren't terribly subtle, he's such a charismatic screen presence that we are fully engaged with him from the start. The tender scenes between him and Gavron add weight to the whole story, while the tetchy connection between him and Bernthal keeps the film on a knife edge. By contrast, Sarandon and Pepper are pretty much just scene-stealing sharks using innocent people to do their dirty work.
Continue reading: Snitch Review
In 1939 Poland, Janusz (Sturgess) is charged by the Soviets with spying and sent to a Siberian gulag. In the middle of the bitter winter, he and six other prisoners manage to escape: veteran American (Harris), hothead Russian criminal (Farrell), helpful comic (Bucur), artist (Potodean), nice-guy Latvian (Skarsgard) and night-blind youngster (Urzendowsky). The first 300 miles to Lake Baikal almost kills them, but they've only just begun the 4,000-mile trek to freedom in India. And they've also picked up a young Polish girl (Ronan).
Continue reading: The Way Back Review
In 1983 New Mexico, Owen (Smit-McPhee) lives with his absent mother (Buono) in a generic apartment complex. It's the dead of winter, and a new neighbour attracts Owen's interest: Abby (Moretz) is also 12 years old, "more or less".
Although she says they can't be friends, they clearly already are. And Owen needs a friend, since he's being horribly bullied at school by Kenny (Minnette) and his pals. But Abby has problems too: she needs human blood to survive and her guardian (Jenkins) is struggling to supply it.
Continue reading: Let Me In Review
You really hear all there is to know about The Who along the way: from Tommy to two drug overdoses to the influence of guru Meher Baba (the "Baba" in "Baba O'Reilly") to the 11 people killed at a 1979 Who concert trampled trying to get into the show, still the deadliest concert event in American history. Even Townsend's run-in with the law over a child pornography incident earlier in the decade is covered, if only on a surface level.
Continue reading: Amazing Journey: The Story Of The Who Review
The result of this combination is an overly ambitious film that's as muddled and cryptic as a mumble-filled Dylan vocal. Dylan stars as the symbolically named Jack Fate, an apparent musical legend, jailed in the midst of a brutally downtrodden America where the government has taken over, war is rampant, and even the counter-revolutionaries have counter-revolutionaries.
Continue reading: Masked & Anonymous Review
Already, T3 has a strike against it. Sequels with "Three" in the title tend to reek, from The Godfather: Part III to Jaws 3-D. Strike two comes in the form of high expectations. Twelve years ago, James Cameron raised the bar with Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a superior sequel and a long-standing leader in the high-tech special effects field. The shoes director Jonathan Mostow (U-571) was asked to fill look mighty big.
Continue reading: Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines Review
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The Who, Stormzy and more coming this month.
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