Tuesday, May 14, 2024

More Good Movies You Might Not Know About, Part 2

[I review the new documentary "Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg," as well as an indie character study, "Mickey Hardaway," and the rom-com, "Somebody I Used To Know."] 

Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg (2023)

A documentary about a famous person you have probably never heard of....rock and roll muse, Anita Pallenberg, who was most famous for her relationships with the Rolling Stones (yes, more than one) in the 1960's and 70's, but who was much more than that. 

I was a child of the 60's and loved the Rolling Stones.  I knew who Anita Pallenberg was, but I didn't really know anything much about her.

What I knew:

She was a model and an actress who was the girlfriend of Brian Jones, then Keith Richards with a bit of dabbling with Mick Jagger.  Well, I didn't really know the Mick Jagger part. She was a style icon of the 60's and 70's, starred in some movies, and she and Keith were both addicted to heroin.

What I didn't know:

Born in either Rome or Hamburg (her early life is unclear), she moved to New York City at 19 and became part of Andy Warhol's Factory.  She became a model and traveled the world, meeting the Rolling Stones back stage in Munich in 1965. She was a free spirit who drew people to her infectious personality. Immediately attracted to Brian Jones (he was the handsome Rolling Stone), the two became an item and she gave up modeling and moved to London to be with him.  The two got involved in taking drugs, but Brian's drug use overtook him.  He was abusive to Anita, at which point Keith, who had always had a crush on her, moved in to rescue her, though she hardly needed rescuing.  When she and Brian would fight, she threw as many punches as he did. 

It didn't help the relationship with Brian when Anita discovered acting and starred in "Barbarella" and later the cult classic "Performance," the latter film also starring Mick Jagger. Those two hooked up briefly, though Anita always said she was never that attracted to Mick. By then, Anita had moved on from Brian to Keith and her affair with Mick upset Keith so much he wrote "Gimme Shelter." And when she went back to Keith, Mick wrote "You Can't Always Get What You Want." Drugs had always been a part of Anita's life but with Keith, the heroin addiction began in earnest and when Brian Jones died and she had her first child, she started going off the rails.  There was the death of a child, a breakdown and and break-up but like a phoenix from the ashes, Anita endured.  She died in 2017.

After watching this riveting documentary directed by Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill, now I know all about her and what a presence she was. Her impact on the Rolling Stones and others who knew her was enormous. She was the ultimate 60's rock chick.

Both of Keith's and her living children - Marlon and Angela (aka Dandelion) - weigh in on their mother's life and her impact on them.  At her death, an unpublished autobiography was found and in the film, Scarlett Johansson tells Anita's story "in her own words." Keith and Marianne Faithfull also weigh in along with others who knew Anita. The film is full of never-before-seen footage, film clips, photographs and home movies. 

Keith calls Anita "a piece of work (in a good way)," and others talk about her charisma, her intellect and talent and what a force of nature she was. Keith ends the film by saying "She made a man of me."  Mick does not weigh in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...an absolutely fascinating true story that is a must-see for Rolling Stones fans, and you Baby Boomers out there will enjoy reliving your youth. I know I did. (in theatres or for rent on Amazon Prime)
Note: A great double feature would be this film along with "The Stones and Brian Jones," another documentary I reviewed back in April. 

Mickey Hardaway (2024)

A young man tries to rise above the trauma and abuse he suffered as a child to follow his dreams.

Mickey (Rashad Hunter) is a talented artist who dreams of being a cartoonist and sketch artist, but he can't seem to rise above the abuse he suffered at school and at home. His father (David Chattam)not only beat him physically but beat down his dreams. He thinks art is a waste of time. But Mickey finds encouragement from his art teacher (Dennis L.A. White) and later his counselor (Charlz Williams) at the Art Institute where he was awarded a scholarship.  But sometimes, when abuse runs deep, even well-meaning people are not enough. After being taken advantage of by an employer who Mickey thought was going to help him with his animation career, he starts drinking and his life unravels.  But Grace (Ashley Parchment), his caring girlfriend, encourages him to seek help. He meets with Dr. Cameron Harden (Stephen Cofield Jr.), and in a series of flashbacks during his sessions, we see just what Mickey has gone through.

Filmed in black and white, with a brief bit of color, this is a grim character study, very neo-noir and talky with some actors better than others, but, you will keep watching, because you want to see what will happen to Mickey.  Will he make it?  And you care because of Hunter, whose portrayal of Mickey is poignant and effective. And when Mickey says things like, "When you feel the world doesn't give a damn about you, you feel you have nothing to lose," you worry about Mickey, and, as the film progresses, and he says,  "It's hard to be good when all you know is evil," you worry even more as you get insight into why some young men turn to violence.

Written and directed by Marcellus Cox and based on his short film of the same name, this is his feature film debut, a bit of raw naturalism reminiscent of early Spike Lee, and a look at what can happen when someone feels he has nowhere to turn after years of abuse and disappointment.  

Cox says the film showcases "the generational trauma and mental exhaustion that people, in particular black men, have to endure and how we're taught to keep moving on with life without discussing our emotions and seeking help until it's too late and even then sometimes it's not enough once you find it...it's a conversational character study that doesn't seek to give you answers but more to show how folks, in a time more than ever with depression being a mainstay, reach their breaking points...with mental health being at an all-time high in the Black community, I really wanted to bring this subject to a much needed forefront."

And Cox has done that.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some grim realism but the film shines a light on the effects of generational trauma and mental illness, and for a first feature film, Cox shows promise for a long career as a serious writer/director. Make some room, Spike! (Tubi)

Somebody I Used To Know (2023)

Workaholic Ally returns to her hometown and reconnects with her old boyfriend - trouble ensues.

Ally (Alison Brie) is a showrunner for a reality show called "Dessert Island," that is part "Survivor," part "Love Island" and part "The Great British Baking Show (sounds like my kind of reality show)!" In case you didn't know, a showrunner literally "runs the show," so Ally is a bit of a workaholic and doesn't have much going on except work.  And she has never taken the time to evaluate her life and ask herself if she is happy, so when her show is canceled she decides to go back to her hometown - Leavenworth, Washington and visit her mother (Julie Hagerty).

While there, she runs into her old boyfriend, Sean (Jay Ellis), at a bar and they spend the evening together reminiscing. Ally had always wanted to leave town to follow her dreams to become a documentary filmmaker, but so far that dream as eluded her, but Sean likes it in Leavenworth, thank you very much.  He is close to his family and even has a house on their property. With no job and few prospects, getting back together with Sean seems very appealing to Ally. Maybe she made a mistake to leave. The evening ends with a kiss with Ally wanting to go further but Sean begs off.  She finds out why the next day - Sean is getting married the next weekend. Awk-ward!  And even more awkward is the fact that Sean's mother, Jojo, insists that Ally come to the wedding and film it! Ally jumps at the chance because now she thinks she should be with Sean, not his fiance, Cassidy (Kiersey Clemons). 

But wait, there is more awkward stuff.  With a nod to "My Best Friend's Wedding," Ally starts meddling in an effort to split them up.  But then things get complicated when Ally and Cassidy get to know each other and their initial suspicions about each other fade away. Things continue to be awkward and go from bad to worse... until they get better.

The Christmas-oriented Leavenworth, Washington makes for a scenic backdrop for a rom-com. Having lived in Washington for several years, I have personal experience about the cuteness of Leavenworth, and it has an interesting history.  It is a small town in the Cascade Mountains styled after a Bavarian village. In the 1960's when the lumber mills closed and the town was in decline, the city looked to tourism to revitalize the area.  They modeled the town after the Danish-themed town of Solvang, California, and today Leavenworth is a hotspot of tourism, especially at Christmas.  There are countless restaurants serving German food, pretzels and beer, a nutcracker museum and even a Snow Train from Seattle that takes visitors there (I've done that too)! 

Brie is a talented comic actress and she and Ellis are an engaging couple. Brie is especially good at awkward, and I mean that in a good way.  The rest of the ensemble are also first-rate and the town of Leavenworth also stars. 

Written by Dave Franco and Brie (who are married in real life) and directed by Franco, this is not your usual silly rom-com. It's a smart one with real, believable characters and a message about loving yourself before you can love anyone else. Instead of "boy meets girl, boy and girl break up and then get back together," this is more "boy meets girl and girl finds herself."  And there is even a satire on reality TV thrown in.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sweet and enjoyable rom-com with a serious message. (Amazon Prime)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Now Playing in a Living Room Near You! - "Unfrosted," "The Idea of You," "Argylle" and "The Zone of Interest."

[I review the new Jerry Seinfeld movie "Unfrosted," now playing on Netflix as well as the May-December love story "The Idea of You," now playing on Amazon Prime, the spy spoof, "Argylle," now playing on Apple+ and a 2024 Best Picture nominee "Zone of Interest," now playing on Max]


Unfrosted (2024)

The story of the creation of Pop Tarts - well, kind of.

I had the pleasure of seeing comedian Jerry Seinfeld live on a couple of occasions and despite the fact that he avoids politics and never goes "blue," he was and is very, very funny.  Sadly, I wish I could say the same thing about his latest effort writing, directing and starring in this feature film. Though there are some funny bits, much of it falls flat.

Here's the set up.  

It's the early 60's and cereal makers Post and Kellogg's are in a bitter rivalry to be King of the Cereals. Bob Cabana (played by Jerry but not a real person) is an executive at Kellogg's and is on a mission to stay ahead of Post. It just so happens that both businesses are in the small town of Battle Creek, Michigan, which adds to the competition. So far, Kellogg's is kicking Post's butt, but then, Post comes up with a little breakfast fruit treat with a long shelf life called "Country Squares" and Kellogg's can't stand that.  They must come up with their own product, one that little kids can pop into a toaster.  And they do.  This is the Kellogg's story about Pop Tarts.

Well, let's just say, that's the only part of this story that is true and it's actually Jerry's story which is 99% fiction populated with big name comic stars, a sort of cereal manufacturing version of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World."

But despite all of the comedy stars in the film, the film is surprisingly unfunny most of the time.  It's very slapstick with old-fashioned schtick that made me groan more than laugh, but I did chuckle a few times. Jim Gaffigan always makes me laugh, and I enjoyed Amy Schumer as Marjorie Merriweather Post.  But Hugh Grant as Thurl Ravenscroft, a Shakespearean actor who was the real life voice of Tony the Tiger, was particularly funny, especially in a bit where he leads the Kellogg's mascots on a takeover of the Kellogg's building as the bigwigs are certifying the Pop Tarts, a funny spoof of January 6th. Likewise, another stand-out was Kyle Dunnigan who played both Walter Cronkite and Johnny Carson, though sadly those characters were probably way over the head of younger viewers as in "Who are they and why is this supposed to be funny?" 

But other than that, despite appearances by Melissa McCarthy, Christian Slater, SNL past and present cast members Mikey Day, Kyle MooneyFred ArmisenBobby Moynihan, Beck Bennett and Darrell Hammond, Max Greenfield, Cedric the Entertainer, Sebastian ManiscalcoJames Marsden, Peter Dinklage, George Wallace Dan Levy, and Jon Hamm, who of course channels "Mad Men," and other recognizable faces, the movie just wasn't that funny.

But here's the thing.  

Jerry Seinfeld has revealed that Pop Tarts changed his young life. Obviously, if he wanted to make a film about them, he is obsessed, and if he has the means to feed his obsession, then who am I to judge? He is clearly enjoying the heck out of this movie, and I rather enjoyed watching him and the others enjoy themselves.

I also have a personal angle.  

I grew up two hours from Battle Creek.  I remember a school trip or two to visit the Post and Kellogg's manufacturing plants.  And then I went to college in Kalamazoo, just a half hour from Battle Creek, so there is a little Michigan pride going on there for me.

And in case you didn't know, frosted or unfrosted Pop Tarts is a thing amongst Pop Tart aficionados.  From the title you can see where Jerry stands on that issue.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's 90+ minutes of positive silliness. Though not as funny as I would have liked, I could describe it as cute, so if you are in the mood for that, you might enjoy this, especially if you have kids.  Kids would love it. (Netflix)

The Idea of You (2024)

Older woman, younger man.  My kind of love story!

Solène Marchand (Anne Hathaway) is a divorced gallery owner in Los Angeles who ends up at Coachella with her teenaged daughter, Izzy (Ella Rubin) and her friends. Solene meets cute with Hayes Campbell (Nicholas Galitzine), one of the members of the boy band, August Moon (she mistakes his trailer for a porta-potty), and despite the age difference they are instantly attracted.

After Coachella, Hayes tracks Solene down and shows up at her gallery and they hook up, have hot sex and enjoy a May-December love story until Solene gets outed in the press and on the Internet as a Cougar - though 40 and 24 doesn't seem that bad to me (but perhaps that's just my wishful thinking) - and she can't handle the heat, pardon the expression, and then we have the usual coming together, breaking up, coming together, yada yada yada, because whether you are 24 or 40, as Gene Pitney told us (and if you don't know who Gene Pitney is, you are probably both 24 or 40), "True love never runs smooth." 

"I'm too old for you..." kiss...kiss...kiss...no, no, no, yes, yes, yes...you know the drill. And then Izzy is totally embarrassed at school by her mother's relationship, forcing Solene to make a choice. She breaks up with Hayes.  Will our lovers be able to get together? C'mon. Like I said. You know the drill.

Based on the book by Robinne Lee and written by Michael Showalter (who also directed) and Jennifer Westfeldt, the plot of this film is nothing new when it comes to a romantic movie. What makes this film stand apart from the usual love stories?  Two very attractive people and giving older women some props.  Anne Hathaway is luminous on screen as a woman over 40 who is actually an object of desire. It used to be when a woman turned 40 she was invisible, especially in Hollywood. Now 40 is the new 20. (Can I ask if 75 is the new 55)? And then there is newcomer Nicolas Galitzine who made his mark in "Red, White and Royal Blue." He is a handsome fellow if ever there was one. I have always been a sucker for an English accent.  And all of the romance is punctuated with some fun boy band music.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you need a little romance in your life (and some hot sex), this is a sweet little romantic getaway! (Amazon Prime)

Argylle (2024)

A reclusive author, who writes spy novels, discovers that her latest book has come to life.

Elly Conway (Bryce Dallas Howard), an introverted spy novelist, who is working on her fifth book about Aubrey Argylle (Henry Cavill), the eponymous character of her Argylle series, is saved from a mysterious altercation on a train by Aidan Wilde (Sam Rockwell), who identifies himself as an actual spy.  He also tells Elly about a nefarious organization called the Division, and she has been targeted because her novels appear to predict their future.  The two join forces, hoping that what Elly writes next will come up with a plan to stop the Division. In the meantime, Aidan and Elly search for a Masterkey that would help expose the Division.

A convoluted plot ensues, much like James Bond films of the past where I never knew what was going on or who was doing what to whom, but I still loved them.  Turns out, Elly has some suppressed memories and a big secret is revealed about Elly's true identity.

Written by Jason Fuchs and directed by Matthew Vaughn, this is a fun premise and a stylized spoof of spy movies with some great stunts and performances from Bryan Cranston, Richard E. Grant, Dua Lipa, John Cena and Samuel L. Jackson. And then there is Alfie, the cat.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like stylized versions of spy movie spoofs like "The Man from Uncle" or "Our Man Flint," and you can suspend disbelief for some major over-the-top goofiness, you might like this. (Apple+)

The Zone of Interest (2023)

The everyday life of Rudolph Hoss, the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and his family as they go about their daily lives living next door to the camp.

We don't see much happening in this depiction of Rudolf Hoss (Christian Friedel), his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Huller), and their five children, as they go about their lives in 1943, enjoying their lovely home with a garden... right next door to Auschwitz.  But there is no enjoyment next door where gunshots and shouting can be heard and smoke can be seen rising out of chimneys.  

And that's the horror here, how Hoss and his family are going about their mundane lives while hundreds are being killed next door.  One particular horrible scene shows Hedwig and her German friends going through the belongings of Jewish women deportees, with Hedwig trying on a fur coat that once belonged to a doomed Jewish woman and whirling around in it without a care in the world. One of their sons plays with his collection of gold teeth.

Hoss clearly loves his job as he meets with some people to design a new crematorium that will kill more efficiently, and he is rewarded for his work by being promoted to deputy inspector of the camps.  However, he must move but Hedwig wants to stay behind in the house.  Why not? It's idyllic...for her.  Later, he heads an operation that will transport 700,000 Hungarian Jews to work camps or to be killed.  Once again he does a good job and reunites with his family at Auschwitz.

Based on the novel by Martin Amis and written and directed by Jonathan Glazer, this is a Polish film that was nominated for an Oscar, not just for Best International Feature Film, but also for Best Picture.  It's slow moving and almost feels like cinema verite as the cameras follow the family, going about their lives, nary a thought about what is going on next door, except Rudolf who is always working on how to kill more people faster. The horror is in the mundanity of it all. And watching, we don't see anything either except for smoke billowing out of chimneys next door and hear sounds of screams, dogs barking, and trains coming and going, which makes the film truly horrific, bringing home the atrocities without actually showing them. It's like reality TV at its most horrific. 

The cast is excellent. Christian Friedel is chilling as Rudolf and Sandra Huller gives another great performance as Hedwig (She was also in "Anatomy of a Fall" and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress for that). The last couple of years have been big ones for her.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...you have never seen a film about the Holocaust like this one. It's not an easy film but we need to bear witness and never forget. The indifference of the Hoss family to the human suffering taking place next door is a sad reflection of the kind of indifference that still exists today. (In German, Polish and Yiddish on Max) 

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

And next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Sunday, April 21, 2024

"Civil War" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Civil War" as well as "The Miracle Club," and the documentary "The Stones and Brian Jones." I also review a stellar local production of "Sweeney Todd"]

Civil War (2024)

It's the future, the United States is in a civil war and a team of journalists travel to Washington D.C. to try to get an interview with the President.

In this dystopian tale, the President of the United States (Nick Offerman) is an authoritarian, has given himself a third term, speaks in hyperbole, thinks journalists are the enemies of the state, has disbanded the FBI and is kind of stupid.  Sound familiar?

In a very unlikely scenario, California and Texas have banded together to secede from the United States and a civil war has erupted against the authoritarian U.S. government.  War photographer Lee Smith (Kirsten Dunst) and her colleague, Joel (Wagner Moura), have decided they need to travel from New York City to Washington D.C. to interview the President before the city is taken over by insurgents.  But before they leave, Lee saves a young girl - Jessie (Cailee Spaeny) - from a suicide bombing attack. Jessie just happens to be an aspiring photojournalist and manages to beg a ride from Joel.  Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson), an older journalist and Lee's mentor, also tags along, wanting to get as far as Charlottesville where the Western Forces (Texas and California) are assembling.  Lee is not happy that young Jessie is tagging along.  Lee is kind of a sourpuss.

The four go on a kind of dystopian road trip as they make their way to D.C. from New York.  They have to take a meandering route by way of Pittsburgh and West Virginia because the freeways are closed. The movie reminded me a bit of "The Last of Us" as the foursome encounter harrowing incidents as they make their way to D.C. but it wasn't nearly as good as that dystopian series. Will they make it to D.C.?

You know what?  After about a half hour, I didn't care if they made it or not. Though I liked the fact that the movie focuses on what photojournalists go through to try to bring us the news and dramatic pictures, that's all I liked.  What I didn't like was everything else. 

Kirsten was a one-note sourpuss throughout.  I know, I know, she is supposed to be war weary after having seen it all but as I always say...I judge a film on whether or not it's an enjoyable filmic experience and watching her act was not.  And Cailee Spaney, who starred as Priscilla Presley in "Priscilla," is practically unrecognizable and not given much to do. She deserves better than this. 

This movie was so slow going that I was actually glad for the gotcha moments because they woke me up.  The dialogue was over-dramatic, the acting was wooden and the story itself didn't seem to have a point other than paying homage to photojournalists, though we don't really get to know them as people. But as for the civil war motif, here was a chance to make some much-needed political statements, but...nope. Clearly, writer/director Alex Garland made that choice, but choosing to say nothing made the story really confusing.  Who was fighting whom or what? And why?

The movie was also fanciful. I still can't get over pairing California and Texas together. That would never happen!  But it really got me when the insurgents finally made it to the White House. Decoy cars left the White House and the President WAS STILL IN THERE. Number One, if the White House was under attack, I don't think anyone would be leaving via limo. And the President certainly would not stay behind on his own, Secret Service not withstanding.  Did British writer/director Garland not know there is a tunnel from the White House for just such moments as these so that the President and all of his allies can escape?  Why in hell wouldn't the President have left the building?  Well, remember what I said earlier. The President is kind of stupid. And the movie is, too, at times. I guess our journalists needed a quote from the President.  

Garland is better known for sci-fi and horror ("28 Days Later," "Ex Machina," "Annihilation") and, yes, a dystopic America in a civil war is a horror story.  I just wish he had made that point better. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like dystopian dramas, save your money and watch "The Last of Us" instead. (in theatres)

The Miracle Club (2023)

In 1967, four women travel to Lourdes from Ireland in hopes of a miracle.

Chrissie (Laura Linney), a woman in her fifties, returns home to Ireland from Boston for her estranged mother’s funeral.  Chrissie was banished from her home for something that happened when she was a young woman that is eventually revealed.  But she wasn't just estranged from her mother. She was also estranged from her cousin, Eileen (Kathy Bates), and her mother's friend, Lily (Maggie Smith).

Before her death, Chrissie's mother had arranged a talent contest and the prize was two tickets to Lourdes. You know, it's that place in France where the Virgin Mary was spotted and has since became a religious pilgrimage site where miracles are supposed to happen.  Lily, Eileen and, especially the much younger Dolly (Agnes O'Casey), are desperate to go to Lourdes.  Eileen has a lump in her breast, Lily has problems with her legs and has never gotten over the death of her son, Declan, and Dolly has a son who either can't or refuses to speak and she hopes that he will be cured.  Despite the animosity towards her, Chrissie also tags along because it was her mother's dying wish that she go. So the women go off to Lourdes, leaving their useless husbands (Stephen Rea, Mark McKenna and Niall Buggy) home to fend for themselves, something they are not used to doing.  But just as the women find resolutions in Lourdes, so, too, do the husbands learn some things about themselves.

Written by Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager and Joshua D. Maurer and directed by Thaddeus O' Sullivan, this is one of those films where you know what is going to happen.  The miracle isn't so much Lourdes itself, but what the women learn about themselves and the repairing of friendships but it doesn't matter if you know the outcome because it's the journey.  These Oscar-winning veteran actresses are always a joy to watch and it's a journey I enjoyed. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...an old-fashioned, feel-good movie where the miracle is those wonderful actresses. (Netflix)

The Stones and Brian Jones (2023)

A documentary about Brian Jones, one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones and an early member of the 27 Club.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  One could say that about the 1960's and Brian Jones. If you weren't there, you can't really understand the youthful excitement that was in the air, especially the excitement bands generated in those days. But there was also a dark side.

This documentary highlights Brian Jones, one of the original members of The Rolling Stones, who has been virtually forgotten since his early death in 1969, and yet, he gave the band its name, was the leader of and spokesperson for the group when it began and was quite possibly the most talented of the founding members.  He could play any instrument and devised many of the memorable riffs we associate with The Rolling Stones today. He was also the handsome one, with that long blonde hair. But sadly, his personal demons, his rivalry with Mick Jagger and his insecurities about Mick's and Keith Richards' songwriting partnership got the better of him and drugs and alcohol took over to the point that he was fired from the band. It had been Brian's band and there is a sense here, that Keith and Mick stole it from him.

Jones started out as a dutiful son, but when he started playing guitar, he rebelled and his strait-laced father kicked him out of the house. So Brian started a blues band in 1962 with Mick and Keith. His family never came to his concerts and considered him a failure, even after becoming rich and famous. It didn't help that Jones also fathered a child at 16, and at the time of his death, had fathered at least five children. 

Written by Nick Broomfield and Marc Hoeferlin and directed by Broomfield, this documentary is filled with never-before-seen footage, interviews with ex-girlfriends and others who knew Jones, and the music.  It pays homage to Jones, who deserves to be remembered, though his is a sad story of success getting the better of a young, talented man. Not surprisingly, Mick and Keith do not weigh in here, but original Stones bassist, Bill Wyman, does, and he was clearly a fan of Jones, and offers some interesting insight. The film ends poignantly with a letter from Brian's father that Brian had kept and that was found after Brian's death. His father expressed regrets about the way he had treated him.

Rosy the Reviewer says...it's a sad story about the dark side of fame. It turned out to be the worst of times for Brian Jones in a time that some of us Baby Boomers remember as the best of times, especially because of the music. (Hulu and for rent on Prime and Apple+).

***Live Theatre***

"Sweeney Todd" at the Paper Wing Theater and Supper Club, Monterey, CA

A first-rate production of the renowned Stephen Sondheim musical.
I live in a small town but last night sitting in the audience of my small town at the Paper Wing Theatre watching their version of “Sweeney Todd,” I felt like I was sitting in a theatre on Broadway or in London’s West End. It is a wonderful production that does Stephen Sondheim proud!
I can’t believe I have never seen “Sweeney Todd,” especially since it opened on Broadway so long ago (1979). And I am a musical comedy gal. I mean, I starred in the musical version of “Irma La Douce (yes, I was Irma).”
Based on the 1970 play by Christopher Bond, book by Hugh Wheeler and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the subtitle of the play is “The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” and it tells the story of Benjamin Barker who was unfairly sent to prison in Australia by Judge Turpin, an evil judge who lusted after Barker’s wife. Now Barker is back in London calling himself Sweeney Todd and seeking revenge, not just on Turpin but everyone else who did him wrong. He reopens his barber shop and teams up with pie maker, Mrs. Lovett, who is having difficulty finding meat for her pies. You can see where this is going.
I am a believer in supporting local theatre but if you think this is a run-of-the-mill community theatre production, you would be wrong. This is an exciting professional production with a wonderful acting and singing ensemble. L.J. Brewer is first-rate as Sweeney Todd as is Olorin Braun as Anthony Hope, the young sailor in love with the ingenue, Johanna, played by Sarah Gaudoin. Braun has a gorgeous voice and reminded me of a young Orlando Bloom. And then there is Kate Faber as Mrs. Lovett. She lights up the stage every time she comes on!
This musical is not an easy one to pull off. Almost all of the show is set to music, and it is pure Sondheim with intricate lyrics and singers meshing with one another. And it’s also a dark tale…but funny dark.
Rosy the Reviewer says…thank you to producer Koly McBride, director Justin Gaudoin, Musical Director Taylor Safina, the actors and singers and everyone else who helped bring this show to our community. It’s very special and not to be missed! (playing in Monterey Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday through April 28 but if you are not local, support local theatre near you)

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