Friday, October 11, 2019

"Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the documentary "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice" as well as DVDs "Wild Rose" and "The Secret Life of Pets 2."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Targets."]



Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice


A documentary chronicling the life and career of singer, Linda Ronstadt.

One of life's cruel ironies would be a singer losing her voice.  And that is what has happened to Linda Ronstadt.

Ronstadt, of the full and throaty voice, was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and in 2013 retired saying she could "no longer sing a note."  Well, that is not entirely true, but the perfectionist that she is, it might as well be true because she can no longer sing as she used to.

This documentary showcases Ronstadt's life and career, one that was stellar, indeed. She has earned 10 Grammys, three American Music Awards, two Academy of Country Music awards, and an Emmy, as well as Tony and Golden Globe nominations, the Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award by The Latin Recording Academy and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 and was awarded the National Medal of Arts and Humanities.  She released over 30 studio albums and 15 compilation/greatest hits albums, has had 21 top 40 hits and a number one single with "You're No Good."







She also starred in "The Pirates of Penzance" and collaborated with Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. 

So what a career!

But her story is also a sad one, because she is only 73, and we could still be enjoying her voice if not for her Parkinson's, not to mention the money she could still be making performing.  Her age wouldn't have been a barrier.  I mean, look at Tony Bennett.  He is 93 and still singing.

Ronstadt narrates much of the film herself and she does it honestly and poignantly.  She seems to have no regrets and even sings at the end of the film. Music was such a part of her and her family that she had to sing and when she heard a certain song that spoke to her, she had to sing it, because as she says over and over in the film, she was compelled by the music. That is why Ronstadt has gone from folk to folk/rock to rock to country to standards to traditional Mexican music and had successes in every genre she took on.  

Ronstadt grew up in Tuscon, Arizona, in a musical household, the third of four children with a Mexican father who loved to sing.  Her mother was from Michigan of German/English/Dutch ancestry, and her mother's father was a prolific inventor who invented an early toaster and microwave oven. Ronstadt sang in a musical group with her brother and moved to L.A. when she was 18 where she hung out with the likes of Don Henley and J.D. Souther, who became her boyfriend (Henley was also later her boyfriend). After performing at The Troubadour with the Stone Poneys, the rest is history. 

The film takes a fairly linear approach on Linda's early life and career with the usual talking heads weighing in (Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt), but what was especially satisfying about this film was seeing her early performances where we once again were able to bask in the sound of that full-bodied voice.  And I was also struck by her honesty.  At the end of the film, we see her in her living room singing with her family, or trying to sing.  Yes, she can still sing, but not as she once did, so her being a perfectionist, she will no longer put herself out there.


Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, one can't help but compare this film to the David Crosby documentary - "David Crosby: Remember My Name" - which I reviewed recently.  Where that one was mostly Cameron Crowe interviewing Crosby, and Crosby holding forth and pontificating with supporting footage and interviews, this one concentrates on chronicling Linda's career, highlighting just how successful she was, and showcasing those fantastic performances which, in turn, gives the film poignancy - that she and we have lost that voice.

However, if you go expecting to learn why Ronstadt never married or getting some insight into her personal life, you will be disappointed. This is foremost an homage.  But it's not surprising since Ronstadt plays such a big role in the film.  I'm sure she didn't want her personal stuff out there. 

And on a more technical note, there was a lack of continuity when it came to identifying the talking heads.  Early on in the film someone I didn't recognize at all talks and later he was identified as one of her producers.  Now, I can recognize a lot of people but music producers?  Not so much.  Later in the film he was identified.  Also there were a LOT of talking heads and once identified, often they wouldn't be identified again, so if I had forgotten who that person was, too bad, I probably wouldn't find out who he or she was again.

But that was a minor complaint in what was a lovely homage to a lovely performer.

Rosy the Reviewer says...happy to be in her presence again; sad that she won't sing again. Bring a hankie.  The ending brought tears to my eyes.



***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


On DVD

Wild Rose (2018)


And now for something completely different as they say.  Here is the story of a singer on the rise, except she is a wannabe country singer from...wait for it...Glasgow, Scotland!

You can't get any more strange than a girl from Scotland who wants to be a country singer.  Well, in my eyes, anyway. The thought of Brits liking country music always seemed so incongruous to me, but I am the first to admit I was wrong. After watching Ken Burns' extraordinary "Country Music" series, I have learned that country music has had a great deal of influence all over the world, so it's no surprise it made it across the pond.

Rose-Lynn (Jessie Buckley) is just out of prison for a little thing like smuggling some drugs and is back in gritty Glasgow.  Her dream is to sing at the Grand Ole Opry, and despite the fact she has two young children, Lyle (Adam Mitchell) and Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield), who have been living with her mother (Julie Walters) and who barely know her, she has one desire and one desire only -- to make it as a country singer.  And did I mention she has anger issues?  As she leaves the prison, she gives it the finger and yells the F-word at it and then beats up a local manager of a club who refuses to hire someone just out of prison.  And that's just Day 1.  She is not a very likable young woman.

But she manages to get a housecleaning job for a rich family.  The mistress of the house, Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), takes a liking to Rose-Lynn and wants to help her.  Rose-Lynn is finally able to get her own apartment and move into it with her kids.  Susannah sends a tape of Rose-Lynn singing to someone she knows at the BBC and sets up a an audition for her.  But Rose-Lynn is kind of a screw-up, which might explain why she thought smuggling heroin was a good idea.   She doesn't make the audition but with the help of her mother gets to Nashville on her own. So she leaves her kids and goes to find her dream except she soon discovers it's everyone else's dream too.  I mean, her cab driver has a box of his own CD's in the trunk. When she discovers that her son has had an accident, she has an epiphany.  So does she get to sing at the Grand Ole Opry?  Sort of.

Written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper, this is a simple story of dreaming big and finding redemption despite the odds but that simple story can be deceiving. There are some surprises along the way. Rose-Lynn's life is a country song, which explains why country music is so universal.  It's the story, it's the pain, it's about redeption and about emotions we can all relate to. And there is a moment when we see that Rose-Lynn's mother also had a dream unfulfilled.  That's why country music speaks to so many people.

Buckley is a power house of an actress and a power house of a singer.  I first encountered Buckley in 2017 when she starred in "Beast" and now she is all over the place.  She was in the highly rated series "Chernobyl" as well as "Judy (which I reviewed last week)" and has four films in post-production scheduled to come out next year, so remember her name.  She is a star on the rise.  And speaking of stars, veteran actress Walters can always be counted on to deliver and she does.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a satisfying country song of a movie!





They're baaack!  Those cute little pets of ours who are doing stuff they aren't supposed to be doing when we aren't home!

But despite how cute these little animated creatures are, THIS IS STILL A SEQUEL!!!  And you know how I feel about those.  And this film doesn't change my mind. Why can't I just be left with the happy memory of the first film which I enjoyed.  This one let me down.

Okay, so once again we have Max (except this time Max's voice is provided by Patton Oswalt instead of Louis C.K. and if you are up on your pop culture you know why Louis C.K. lost that gig) and Duke (voice of Eric Stonestreet).  Max loves guardian, Katie (voice of Ellie Kemper), but then Katie meets Chuck (voice of Pete Holmes).  They get married and then Liam comes along.  Max is not happy about playing second fiddle to a baby, but when Liam gets a bit older and tells him he loves him, he had Max at goo goo.  So Max is now on a mission to take care of Liam.

"I'm never going to let anything happen to him."

Sound familiar?  Like say, mmm, mumble, whisper - tttt-oy ssss-tory 4?

But poor Max.  Looking after Liam in NYC is a full time job with danger around every corner. He is so anxious about it that he scratches nervously, so much so that he is taken to the vet and fitted with the "cone of shame."

But Max is not our only star.  Remember fat cat, Chloe (voice of Lake Bell)?  She is still self serving and vain. And Snowball (voice of Kevin Hart), the bunny who was on the evil side in the first film has now mellowed considerably and, in fact, fancies himself a superhero.  

The family decides to go on a vacation to a farm which is going to make Max's life even more miserable.  Meanwhile, Max has asked Gidget (voice of Jenny Slate), the sweet Pom, to take care of his favorite toy, Busy Bee, but Busy Bee falls into another apartment by mistake.  Sadly, it's the apartment of an old cat lady, meaning it's full of cats, and Gidget is too intimidated to go in there and fetch Busy Bee.  Enter Chloe to teach Gidget how to impersonate a cat.

Yet another plot line involves Snowball and Daisy (voice of Tiffany Haddish). Daisy has discovered that a tiger baby is being abused by an evil Russian circus owner (voice of Nick Kroll), who looks suspiciously like the Wicked Witch of the West.  She enlists Snowball to help her save the baby tiger.

So back to Max, Duke and the family on vacation. Enter Rooster (voice of Harrison Ford), the proud farm dog, who teaches Max a thing or two in the way only Harrison Ford can. He is disgusted with these city slicker dogs and lets Max and Duke know it.  I mean, that dry humorless voice of Harrison Ford?  That's actually funny and one of the best things about a film that has some issues.

Those issues are those different and disparate story lines from writer Bryan Lynch and directors Chris Renaud and Jonathan del Val.  The film jumps around from one different and unrelated story line to another, and we see little interaction amongst all of the pets until they are finally brought together in a giant leap to try to save the baby tiger, and Max has to summon his inner Rooster to be the hero of the day.

There is nothing cuter than animated animals with big eyes, but those eyes can't save this film. There is nothing worse in filmdom than a sequel that doesn't live up to the first one.  This doesn't.  And the whole thing was surprisingly violent considering it's aimed at little kids.  I didn't like the mean witch-like circus owner and his brutality toward the baby tiger at all! It made me shudder and I'm a grown-up!

Rosy the Reviewer says...little kids might not be so critical, but if you have to watch it with them, talk them into watching the first one again instead. You will thank me.





***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***



59 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Targets (1968)



A boy next-door turned sniper meets up with an aging horror star.

This was director Peter Bogdanovich's first film before he blew the lid off with the highly successful "The Last Picture Show." Bogdanovich even stars in this film which affirms what I always say - a comic wants to be a dramatic actor, a dramatic actor wants to be a comic, an actor wants to be a director and a director wants to be an actor.  Yes, I do. I always say that.

Horror star Boris Karloff plays a version of himself, a horror star named Byron Orloff.  Can we get any closer to his real name than that?  He has decided that his kind of horror is an anachronism so he wants to retire, but he will do one last appearance at a drive-in that is showing one of his films.  Ah, drive-ins.  Remember those?  There are some winks at Karloff's career - a statement about his ending up in a wax museum, which is a jab at him because one of his horror rivals, Vincent Price, starred in "House of Wax;" and a quote from Edgar Allen Poe's poem "The Raven (Karloff starred in "The Raven").

Bobby Thompson (Tim O'Kelly) is a handsome boy next door type who is married, and he and his wife live with his parents.  But Bobby is also a nutter, who likes guns and owns an arsenal of them.  He kills his family and then goes on a sniper killing spree shooting people as they drive by on the highway. He is one of those white guy losers who can't solve his own problems so he takes it out on others.  Let's go kill some people. That will help. After killing his family, and shooting up the highway, he ends up at a drive-in by chance, but hey, good place to kill some more people. It just so happens to be playing a horror film by, you guessed it, Byron Orloff.  So Orloff thinks his kind of horror is an anachronism?  He's right.  Compared to the horror of real life, it is. But Orloff rises to the real life occasion and takes matters into his own hands.

What is telling about this film is how timely it is. 

It was made in 1968 and was possibly inspired by Charles Whitman, "The Texas Tower Sniper," who in 1966, after killing his mother, went to a bell tower at the University of Texas in Austin and started shooting. That was so shocking because nothing like that had ever really happened before.  But sadly, 53 years later, mass shootings are commonplace and nothing has really changed to try to stop it. Guns are still just as available as ever.

This was, unknowingly by Bogdanovich, a sort of bittersweet goodbye to Karloff who died a year later.  This was also a sad goodbye to Bogdanovich's wife, Polly Platt, who he married nine years before, with whom he had two children and who played a huge role in his carrer.  She co-wrote this script and was also the production designer.  Three years later, when she was once again working with him on what would be his defining directorial triumph, she recommended Cybill Shepherd for the part of Jacy Farrow in "The Last Picture Show," and there you go.  Bogdanovich ran off with Shepherd.  If it was any consolation to Platt, they didn't stay together and Bogdanovich's career was hit and miss after that.

Why It's a Must See:  "Coolly dissociative and intelligently mounted, [this film] is a sharp snapshot of America falling to a new, violent age."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a chilling foreshadowing of the world we live in now.







Thanks for reading!



See you next Friday

for 


"Joker"


and


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)


as well as


the latest on


"My 1001 Movies I Must See


Before I Die Project" 










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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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 down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.












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