Showing posts with label Taylor Dayne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taylor Dayne. Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Echo in the Canyon" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the documentary "Echo in the Canyon" as well as DVDs "Escape Room" and "Johnny English Strikes Again."  The Book of the Week is "Tell It To My Heart" by singer Taylor Dayne.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Distant Voices, Still Lives."]

Echo in the Canyon

A documentary about the historic L.A. music scene of the 1960's.

"Young girls are coming to the canyon..." 

So wrote The Mamas and The Papas founder John Phillips, and the canyon was Laurel Canyon, a little oasis amist the hustle and bustle of L.A. And along with John Phillips and those young girls, artists and musicians also flocked to that canyon during the 1960's and sparked a musical renaissance like no other that influenced American culture for ever after.

The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show February 9, 1964 and the musical world would never be the same again. Well, even the world in general.  That show was musically and culturally as ground-shaking as putting a man on the moon.  After that performance, every young man (girls, too) wanted a guitar and wanted to start a band.  Meanwhile, in Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip, bands like The Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, and The Beach Boys were making music, turning what was once considered folk music into rock and roll - the California Sound.

Writer/director Andrew Slater and Eric Barrett along with Jakob Dylan (yes, Bob's son) recognized that time and phenomenon and wanted to pay tribute to the trailblazers, those who were at the musical epicenter of what was to be a culturally shattering earthquake of talent and brilliance and preserve it for the younger generation. The centerpiece of the film is a 2015 tribute concert led by Dylan called "Echo in the Canyon" which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Southern California folk rock scene with performances of the iconic songs from that era sung by him, Cat Power, Jade, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple and Beck (Norah Jones also performs in the film) interspersed with his interviews with the key players of that time - Roger McGuinn and David Crosby (The Byrds; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Ringo (guess), and music producer Lou Adler, along with reminiscences from the late Tom Petty (his last film interview), Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, and others.  The film gives us a then and now - some iconic performances back then with the performers talking about them now .

The Byrds' 1965 debut album is given credit for starting the whole Laurel Canyon music scene.  They were inspired by The Beatles and, in turn, Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds" supposedly inspired "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." In fact, as the late Tom Petty says in the film, there was "cross pollination" going on all over the place during those times, and it's those kinds of insights from the musicians that makes this film so fascinating. 

Those songs were the soundtracks of many Baby Boomers lives.  It was a great time to be young, to believe anything was possible. It was a time of innocence but the film ends with a strange, grainy performance by Neil Young that is perhaps a foreshadowing of the end of that innocence.

Now if you are a regular reader of my blog, you know my reviews often include my personal thoughts, memories and, yes, rants.  That's what makes my reviews special, right?  Watching this film was a delight because of the music, but it also brought back so many memories. It's a phenomenal film that brought tears to my eyes (Hubby cried through the whole thing) remembering back to such an amazing time - the mid-1960's, the time of my youth.

That was when I was in high school. And what a time for music! It was a time when listening to a new album was an event.  We listened to the whole record and played it over and over again.  Some of us, who will remain nameless, memorized the liner notes. I would stay up late on Thursday nights to hear the latest Beatles 45 played on the radio at 10pm on WLS and then my friends and I would talk about it at school the next day. 

And oh, those concerts!  Lying on the living room floor with my friend, Linda, we saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I think we might have cried. I saw the Beatles at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit in 1964 with my friend, Janice, and I saw The Byrds with my friends when the band performed at the roller rink in Grand Haven, a small Michigan coastal town ten miles from where I lived.  David Crosby, enshrouded in a cape (much is made of his affinity for capes in the film), was out on the dance floor dancing with some of the girls in the audience.  I stood so close to Gene Clark I could have grabbed one of the harmonicas he had tucked into his belt.  I saw Bob Dylan when he first went electric.  He played the first half of the concert as the usual folkie Bob Dylan, and then after the intermission, he came out with his band and played electric and everyone boo'd him.  I didn't.

I have always sort of felt sorry for the younger generation, that they missed out on what we Baby Boomers had.  Not just the music, but the changing times.  It was an exciting time to be alive.  It was a revolution on a magnificent scale and I was there!  

And you can be there too when you watch this wonderful film!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film deserves an Oscar for Best Documentary because it is one of the best films of the year.  DO NOT MISS IT, especially if you are a Baby Boomer!

(And yes, these smaller indie films are sometimes difficult to find, but it's worth looking for)!

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


Escape Room (2019)

Six strangers are in an escape room trying to win $10,000 - and end up fighting for their lives!

We all know about escape rooms, right?  They can be creepy, but what if they are also deadly?  That's the premise in this thriller about six strangers, all with their own story, who have come together to try to win $10,000.

The film begins with a young man anxiously trying to escape an escape room as the walls start moving toward him to crush him.  Ew.  Then flashback three days earlier.

Meet Zoey (Taylor Russell), a young student who appears to be a science phenom.  But she is so shy she won't speak up in class nor does she have much of a social life.  Her teacher calls her over at the end of class and says, "Life is not a science experiment.  You can't contain your world forever.  Try to do one thing that scares you over break."

Then she receives a mysterious box that says "Open new doors."


Then there is Ben (Logan Miller), who is kind of a screw-up.  He works in a grocery store but has been sent back to the stock room because his customer service skills aren't so good.  Does he care?  Not really. He also receives a mysterious box.  His says "A chance to escape."

Next Jason Walker (Jay Ellis), a rich, arrogant day trader, receives a mysterious box in the mail with the note that says "Think outside the box." 

After struggling to open the mysterious boxes, a ticket to an escape room spits out, an escape room with a prize of $10,000.

Those three find themselves at the escape room where they also meet trucker Mike (Tyler Labine); Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), a troubled war vet; and Danny (Nik Dodani), a nerdy kid who has already done most of the escape rooms around. And as they wait in what they think is the lobby of the escape room, suddenly horrifically hot heat lamps come on, turning the room into a real life convection oven.

Game on!

The six get out of the first room just in time, but as they encounter more rooms - a cabin, a freezing cold exterior with a frozen lake, an upside down pool hall, a hospital - of course, they start to turn on each other but eventually bond and reveal their secrets.  The escape rooms have the ability to make our victims relive some of their worst experiences and the power to eventually kill them. Who will die?  Who will make it out? And what links these six people together?

Though the actors are relatively unknown, they all form a really good ensemble. They make you care about them. You root for them.  And each of the escape rooms is a fascinating set piece on its own.  Kudos to the set designer.

I like the occasional horror film but not the really gory ones. Written by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik, who did a great job fleshing out these characters, something not often found in horror films, and directed by Adam Robitel, this is actually more of a thriller than a horror film.  Yes, some of the characters meet some scary deaths and it's very tense, but it's not in the same category as some of the really gory films like "Hostel" and "Jigsaw."  This kind of horror film I can do.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I always thought an escape room might be kind of fun.  After seeing this film, not so much. But as an escape film, lots of fun!

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

After a hacker reveals the real identities of all of the MI7 agents, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) comes out of retirement to find the mastermind.

Johnny has been retired and is now teaching in the country but he can't help himself.  In addition to the usual curriculum, Johnny is teaching his charges spy techniques.  But when the current British spies are outed and the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson with not much to do here) orders that an "old one" be brought back, enter Johnny English once again in this third installment to the Johnny English franchise. Johnny must once again save the world, this time against a massive cyber attack.

In case you don't know, Johnny English is a confident, arrogant spy in the James Bond tradition, except he is also incompetent and stupid but surprisingly lucky, because even though he is incompetent and stupid, he always seems to get the job done while creating havoc for everyone else.  Think Mr. Bean as a spy, except Johnny talks.

And in case you don't know who Mr. Bean is, Rowan Atkinson made a career out of his Mr. Bean character, a silent confident, arrogant little man who as he goes about his business creates havoc all around him. Sound familiar? He has been playing him since the early 90's. Before that he was Blackadder so he is a sort of British National treasure.  All of those characters let Atkinson do the bumbling that he does so well. And this film is no exception.  It's a series of gags that lets Atkinson do his thing.  He is a one-man show who I usually find rather funny but in small doses.

Written by William Davies and directed by David Kerr, there are some funny observations as Johnny, who is a throwback to the 1960's and knows nothing about computers, takes on the hacker.  Likewise, the film comments on gun control, virtual reality and other current topics as well as hauling out all of those old spy movie tropes. The talented Ben Miller as Johnny's faithful side-kick is back, Olga Kurylenko provides some glamour and the European landscapes are beautiful, but none of that is enough to save this one-joke film. It's been 14 years since the first film and seven years since the sequel.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why we needed to see Johnny English again.

 You either like this kind of British humor or you don't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't.  I thought it was kind of dumb.

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

87 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)

The lives of an English working class family in Liverpool in the 1940's.

The film consists of a series of vignettes told from the perspectives of different family members, the centerpiece being the abusive father (veteran actor Pete Postlethwaite), who terrorizes his wife (Freda Dowie) and three children, Eileen (Angela Walsh), Tony (Dean Williams) and Maisie (Lorraine Ashbourne). Based on director Terence Davies' own life, the film has a gauzy sepia look, the look of fragments of memories because that is what this film embodies, family memories.

The film begins with a lingering shot of the entryway of a house and the stairs leading to the second floor.  Voices of a mother and children are heard off screen.  Oh, what those stairs have heard.  Then the camera pans the entryway as the mother sings a tune and then focuses on the front door as a hearse pulls up - an intriguing way to show the passing of time.  

And that's what this film is - intriguing.

Father has died but then the film skips around, much as our memories do - a wedding, babies, a christening, Father putting out the presents from St. Nick and then the next day ruining dinner by pulling the tablecloth off of the table, friends sitting in the pub singing. 

Life in England after WW II was hard, but music helped make a dreary life less dreary. Singing was a release. The film's soundtrack and the pub singing punctuate this film, which could almost be called a musical. Watching this film after seeing "Echo in the Canyon (see review above)," I was reminded that this was the Liverpool that John, Paul, George and Ringo were born into.

In addition to the autobiographical elements of this film, Davies makes a statement about families in general and the scars we all carry. Families are complicated and lives are often predetermined by the past. Women with abusive fathers often end up with abusive husbands. But he also celebrates women who, though in a patriarchal society are often stifled by their men, remained strong.  You might not be able to kill your husband in real life, but you can sing a song about it in the pub!

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] remains Terence Davies' masterpiece.  One of the finest features ever produced in the UK, it's a highly distinctive marriage of style and content..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

This was Terence Davies first film, and it won the International Critics' Prize at Cannes in 1988.  I see why.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...I have never seen anything quite like a good way! It's part musical, part family photo album, part impressionistic painting and put altogether it is a memorable film experience.

***The Book of the Week***

Tell It To My Heart: How I Lost My S#*T, Conquered My Fear, and Found My Voice by Taylor Dayne (2019)

Before there was Taylor Swift, there was Taylor Dayne. This is her story.

And if you were born after the 80's, you might ask, who is Taylor Dayne (you also might ask that question if you don't remember the 80's)? 

If that's the case, let me help.

This song was Dayne's first single which became an international top ten hit in 1987 and she went on to become one of the world's top selling artists with such hits as "Love Will Bring You Back," "Prove Your Love" and "I Will Always Love You."

But despite her success, life wasn't particularly kind to Dayne in her early years.  She had to overcome major health problems as a child, an abusive Dad, debilitating panic attacks and a long hard road in the club scene (cue the Russian mobsters) before her "overnight success." This memoir tells how she began, where she went and what she has learned.

Born Leslie Wunderman, Dayne grew up in a Jewish household in Long Island and her musical talent was recognized early and was her savior.  A chance encounter with a friend led to her first record "Tell It To My Heart" which immediately hit it big internationally and she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, touring with Michael Jackson on his "Bad" tour.

This is not one of those "been through hell and back" redemption autobiographies, despite the usual money troubles and problems with the music industry that "overnight successes" often experienced.  Neither is this a celebrity gossip memoir, though she name drops the rich and famous who crossed her path (Whitney, Elton, Prince) and reveals her romances, though with few juicy details (she never married).  It's more of a self-empowerment journey, sharing what she has learned about her career, her issues and the story of how she made the radical decision to have twins as a single mother via surrogate. 

So if you have been wondering what happened to Taylor Dayne, you might enjoy this, but in a nutshell, she's doing just fine, thank you! 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one of those "what I have learned" books so if you are a celebrity gossip maven you might be disappointed (I was), but if you like to hear about a celebrity finding happiness, this is for you!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Toy Story 4"


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, 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.