About carlosdev

I am a graduate of Loyola Marymount University, a former rock and film critic and have also worked in the computer and financial industries. This is an outgrowth of our podcast Friday Night Movie Bunch which is currently on hiatus.

New Releases for the Week of August 23, 2019


ANGEL HAS FALLEN

(Lionsgate) Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson, Piper Perabo, Danny Huston, Nick Nolte. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh

An assassination attempt on the President leaves his trusted Secret Service agent and confidante Mike Banning wrongly accused. He is forced to go on the run to clear his name, keep his family safe and root out the real threat to the country and stop it before it’s too late.

See the trailer, video featurettes and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence and language throughout)

After the Wedding

(Sony Classics) Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Billy Crudup, Abby Quinn. The administrator of an orphanage in India gets an unexpected and generous donation from a mysterious benefactor in New York. She must go to the Big Apple to accept the gift in person but there is much more going on there than meets the eye.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic material and some strong language)

Luce

(NEON) Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Tim Roth. Ten years after adopting their son from Eritrea, a pair of suburban white parents believe their son has a bright future ahead of him. An academic all-star, well-regarded in the community and an example for his peers, Luce turns in a term paper with a troubling point of view. His African-American teacher begins to fear the worst which puts her into direct conflict with his parents.

See the trailer, clips and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language throughout, sexual content, nudity and some drug use)

The Nightingale

(IFC) Aisling Franciosi, Sam Claflin, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman. In early 19th century Australia during the penal colony days, a woman suffers repeated sexual assault at the hands of a British officer. When her husband intervenes, the officer murders both her husband and her infant. Destitute and bereft, she goes on a journey to exact revenge. This previously played at both the Miami Film Festival and Florida Film Festival; you can read the review by clicking on the link in the “Scheduled For Review” section below.

See the trailer, a video featurette and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Historical Drama
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for strong violent and disturbing content including rape, language throughout and brief sexuality))

Overcomer

(Affirm) Alex Kendrick, Priscilla C. Shirer, Shari Rigby, Cameron Arnett. When a small town is devastated by a plant closing throwing thousands out of work, the local high school basketball coach wonders what sort of future he has in the town. Pressed into service to coach the girl’s cross country team, he encounters an extraordinary athlete whose faith may very well move mountains.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Faith-Based Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for some thematic elements)

The Peanut Butter Falcon

(Roadside Attractions) Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern. A young man with Down’s Syndrome and a yen to become a professional wrestler, confined to a nursing home because the State doesn’t have an opening at a proper facility for his care, runs away to find his wrestling hero who runs a wrestling school. He falls in with an ex-con on the run from some angry fishermen as the two search for a place where they can live life on their own terms.

See the trailer, a clip and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Disney Springs, AMC Lake Square, Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content, language throughout, some violence and smoking)

Ready or Not

(Fox Searchlight) Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Andie MacDowell, Henry Czerny. A young woman marries into a wealthy family who have an eccentric tradition; a game must be played at midnight on the night of the wedding to welcome the new member of the family. When she selects a game of Hide and Seek, she discovers that the game is no laughing matter and she is in a fight for her very survival.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Mike Wallace is Here

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

The Best Summer of My Life
Comali
Tel Aviv on Fire

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Jacob’s Ladder (2019)
Tel Aviv on Fire
Tone Deaf

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Comali
Twice the Dream

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Angel Has Fallen
The Nightingale
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Ready or Not

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Sicario: Day of the Soldado


Hispanics with guns: Donald Trump’s nightmare.

(2018) Action (Columbia) Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Ruffo, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Elijah Rodriguez, Howard Ferguson Jr., David Castañeda, Jacqueline Torres, Raoul Trujillo, Bruno Bichir, Jake Picking, Tenzin Marco-Taylor, Alfredo Quinoz, Nick Shakoour, Lourdes del Rio Garcia. Directed by Stefano Sollima

 

Our Southern border has been a hot button item for those on the left and on the right. Blue staters tend to look at the issue as a humanitarian crisis born largely of our own policies in Latin America while red staters see it as an invasion of criminals, layabouts and terrorists.

Following the destruction of a Kansas City big box store by suicide bombers, the U.S. Government has had more than enough. They bring in “consultant” Matt Graver (Brolin) and his nearly indestructible assassin Alejandro (del Toro) to ferment war among the Mexican cartels who were responsible for smuggling the bombers across the border. To do that, Alejandro kidnaps the daughter (Moner) of a particularly vicious cartel boss. This predictably stirs up a hornet’s nest and while it gets the desired results, the conscience of Alejandro – whose family was wiped out by drug lords like the girl’s father – doesn’t go unscathed.

The movie sorely misses Denis Villaneuve who directed the first one; his sure hand could have made this a better film. Italian television director Sollima, best known for the ultra-violent Gomorrah series, does pretty well with the action series and keeps the pacing of the film up to snuff. He has more trouble with character development as other than the three characters mentioned above, nearly all the characters get lost in the shuffle, including a young Mexican-American boy in McAllen, Texas played by Rodriguez who falls into working for the cartels and ends up in a violent confrontation with Alejandro. A little more depth of character there might have given the film some oomph.

Del Toro and Brolin are both outstanding and are the real reason to see the film. I understand that this is meant to be the middle chapter in a proposed trilogy and although the box office numbers don’t really seem to point the way for a third installment, I nonetheless wouldn’t mind seeing one.

Emily Blunt, who starred in the first film, is also sorely missed and while the filmmakers assert her story had gone full circle, it still leaves the film without much of a moral center and I suppose that is merely appropriate. When one considers that in many ways this movie is making the case for the right’s take on the border, it’s hard to justify it in the face of children who continue to be separated from their parents at the border. But then, that’s just my own personal bias rearing its head. I guess it is fairer to say that Sicario: Day of the Soldado is a solid action film that has political elements that makes it very relevant to what’s going on at our border. If you leave the theater chanting “Build that wall” though, it’s on you.

REASONS TO SEE: Brolin and del Toro make an excellent team.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little less focused and a little more cliché than the first film.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a surfeit of violence and profanity as well as some fairly bloody images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Denis Villaneuve, who directed Sicario, was unable to commit to the sequel due to scheduling conflicts.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Starz, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/20/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 63% positive reviews: Metacritic: 61/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Miss Bala
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Tomorrow, Maybe?

Perception (2019)


It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out what’s coming in Perception.

(2018) Thriller (Gravitas Ventures) Wes Ramsey, Meera Rohit Kumbhani, Caitlin Mehner, Max Jenkins, Jro, Vee Kumari, J. Barrett Cooper, Adam & Ali Zoumzoum, Valerie Jane Parker, Matthew Davis, Apollo Bacala, Kelly Mengelkoch, Takayla Williams, Tshombi Basemore, Davis Aguila, Daniel H. Shoemaker, Shaleen Cholera, John French, Sarah East. Directed by Ilana Rein

 

When we lose someone we care about, their spirit stays with us in a sense; they are on our mind as we hold on to their presence for as long as we can. We see them wherever we go; in memories and sometimes as apparitions from better days. We have a tendency to forget the bad memories but they’re there as well.

Daniel (Ramsey) is a high-powered go-getter at a bank that is foreclosing on a suburban shopping strip in L.A. that has seen better days. One of the last tenants of the strip mall is a palmistry shop. When a silent little boy named Hugo (Zoumzoum) stows away in Daniel’s SUV, he figures out that the boy might have come from the shop which, indeed, he has. His mom Nina (Kumbhani) is shocked – “he’s never done this kind of thing before,” she explains once she gets over the shock of seeing her boy with a complete stranger.

Out of a sense of gratitude she gives Daniel a free reading and tells him that he has a spirit attached to him, following him, someone recently deceased. “Your wife?” she inquires. In doing so, she hits a raw nerve. Maggie (Mehner) indeed passed away recently and Daniel is desperate to contact her, willing to pay anything if Nina can do the job for him. Nina’s business partner Jro (Jro) congratulates her on hooking what is an apparently wealthy fish and urges her to reel him in. In the meantime, Hugo is acting out in school and his teacher (East) suggests an expensive private school who can better take care of Hugo’s needs.

And so, Nina starts doing “sessions” with Daniel, even though she is shocked to discover that the spirit of Maggie is angry. “She’s in control,” Nina tells Daniel forthrightly, “She decides what memories she wants you to see.” Indeed, the memories of Maggie are not always pleasant but Daniel wants more. Nina is reluctant but she needs the money so she allows the sessions to go deeper but deeper is dangerous – much more dangerous than even she knows.

This thriller harkens back to the sort of psychosexual thrillers that were popular in the 90s, often as direct-to-VHS or cable. The supernatural element is never overplayed and although we see Maggie as a ghostly apparition once, mostly we see her in flashback.

Sadly, the script veers from what was a promising thriller into fairly cliché territory. Ramsey is a veteran soap opera actor and in some ways the sudsy froth of this script is likely familiar territory for him. Most of the acting performances are pretty strong, although as the movie reaches its climax Ramsey indulges in some serious scenery chewing. However, both Mehner and Kumbhani deliver strong performances and Jro delightfully steals the scenes that he appears in.

The pacing is pretty slow for most of the film and the script gives away a bit too much to make the big twist really effective. That’s the real shame; a little more imagination could have taken this film a long way. As it is it’s fairly mundane but not entirely without entertainment value.

REASONS TO SEE: The performances are for the most part decent.
REASONS TO AVOID: Slow-paced until the plot goes off the rails near the end.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, violence, sexuality and nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film had its world premiere at the world-famous Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Fandango Now, Google Play, iTunes, Microsoft, Redbox, Vimeo, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/19/19: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dead Again
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT:
Sicario: Day of the Soldado

Xenophobia


Why is it that aliens always get the pretty girls?

(2019) Science Fiction (VisionKristen Renton, Manu Intraymi, Rachel Sterling, Brinke Stevens, Angie Stevenson, Kelly Lynn Reiter, Alexander Kane, Alan Maxson, Nick Principe, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Mark Hoadley, Karlee Perez, Keavy Bradley, Jed Rowen, Baker Chase Powell, Shaun Blayer, Scott King, John Karyus, Jack McCord, Douglas Epps, Sheila Brandon Allen. Directed by Thomas J. Churchill, Steven J. Escobar and Joe Castro

 

Sometimes, a filmmaker’s reach exceeds their grasp. That’s just the way things go sometimes; someone comes up with a good idea but doesn’t have the expertise or the budget (or both) to pull it off. As a critic, those are the most disappointing movies of all. You might think that we critics get off on ripping a bad movie a new one but speaking for myself, that’s simply not the case. Truthfully, I want every movie to be a home run. Sometimes they strike out swinging, though.

A support group for alien abduction victims meet to tell their tales of woe. The members are at turns terrified and hostile, paranoid and sympathetic. They’ve all been through hell and are trying to help one another make it through to the other side, but what could be waiting there might well be worse than what they’ve already been through.

This is told anthology-style with each abduction tale getting a different director, so there are tonal shifts from segment to segment. The segments include a photographer who gets abducted and probed while taking pictures in the desert, a group of young women who have a captive audience, a camping trip that turns deadly when an alien artifact is discovered, and a house in which a dog-sized alien stalks a babysitter.

Despite the presence of one of my all-time favorite Scream Queens in Brinke Stevens (who plays the mother of an abduction victim here), the acting is almost uniformly bad. The digital effects look like something you might see on an early PlayStation games, but much of the effects are practical and even though the aliens look a little bit on the rubbery side, the aliens are still nifty enough (some of them Gigeresque) to be enjoyable.

The trio of directors also wrote the film and they could use some work on their dialogue; much of it is written like nobody bothered to actually speak any of it out loud before giving it to the actors to read. It sounds thoroughly unconvincing and not at all the way people actually speak to each other.

I wanted to like Xenophobia a lot more than I did and I will have to confess that my score is probably a bit generous but I hate to thoroughly eviscerate a movie like this one. Clearly there  was some pride and passion put into the finished film but this was certainly a case where ambition overrode realism.

REASONS TO SEE: The aliens are fairly nifty in a B-Movie kind of way.
REASONS TO AVOID: The acting is subpar. The story is disjointed.
FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of profanity as well as violence and gore.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Veteran Scream Queen Brinke Stevens originally got a Masters in Marine Biology and briefly worked as an environmental consultant for a nuclear power plant before venturing into modeling and acting.
BEYOND THE THEATER: Amazon, Fandango Now, iTunes, Vudu
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/18/19: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Communion
FINAL RATING: 4/10
NEXT:
Perception

Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America


Saying goodbye doesn’t have to wait until you die.

(2019) Documentary (HBOLeila Johnson, Linda Johnson, Steve Berkoff, Guadalupe Cuevas, Guadalupe Cuevas Jr., Amalia Cuevas, Alicia Cuevas Gonzalez, Barbara Jean, TJ, Sarah Singer Green, Lisa Bransine, Dick Shannon, Will Corbett, Ryan Matthews, Emelie Matthews. Directed by Matthew O’Neill and Perri Peltz

 

Death is a taboo subject. We tend to shove it to the back of our minds; we don’t like to think about it and we certainly don’t like to talk about it. Our mortality makes us uncomfortable, regardless that all of us are eventually going to die. Most of us have little clue as to how we want our endgame to play.

The Baby Boomers who are of an age now where they are beginning to get visits from the Grim Reaper with regularity are changing the way we think of death and dying. While some still opt for coffins that cost as much as cars, a ceremony in a place of worship and a viewing at the local funeral home, there are other ways to say goodbye now.

This new HBO documentary revisits the way we look at the end of the road. A visit to the National Funeral Directors Association convention in Boston reveals holographic final messages from the deceased to their loved ones, elaborate urns – don’t call them urns, they’re memorial art – and boxes of good Irish soil so that the deceased may get buried at home, even if their casket is thousands of miles away.

Others may prefer having their cremated remains shot into outer space as one teacher’s family did in New Mexico. His family was one of 45 whose loved ones became part of the final frontier. Although I would imagine that would be fairly pricy, so those cost-conscious about final send-offs may want to be aware of that.

There are also things called “green burials” which Texan Barbara Jean has selected. She wants instead of a coffin to be wrapped in biodegradable material and have her decomposing remains nurture the life of a new tree. I admit there is some appeal in having your corpse be put to good use.

One of the hardest segments to watch was that involving a celebration of life. 5-year-old Garrett Matthews was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He told his mommy and daddy (Emilie and Ryan) that he didn’t want a funeral. He wanted a party complete with fireworks, bouncy houses, snow cones and an appearance by the Caped Crusader himself, Batman so after their child passed on, his parents did exactly what little Garrett wanted. Yes, it was a celebration of life but I don’t know if I could have had the emotional ability to approach it with the kind of joy they did and to be honest, one imagines there was a whole lot of tears and grief that didn’t appear on-camera.

Silicon Valley engineer Dick Shannon had terminal lung cancer and decided he wanted to decide for himself how and when to die. California’s “Death with dignity” laws enabled him to do that so Dick had a cocktail of drugs that would ease him off into the void peacefully and painlessly. Before he goes, Dick helps design (and build) his own coffin and also throws a farewell bash with a hefty amount of gallows humor.

We are shown Dick drinking his hemlock and sharing his final moments with his wife and family and that was a little uncomfortable, like we were invading the privacy of the family at a particularly painful time. I suppose we are conditioned to think that way.

The option that I’d go for was the first one presented; having your ashes mixed with concrete and made part of a Memorial Coral Reef. Considering the harm we’ve done to the ocean, it feels like the least we can do. Again, though, that one might be pricier than some of the other options presented here.

Some of this might seem a little new age-y to you (certainly the green burial had some elements of that) which might detract from the merits of the various options here, so try to keep an open mind. As Dick Shannon accurately says, the dying in America have no part of their own process of dying. They are removed from it to a large degree. Obviously those who die suddenly may not have time to consider what they want for their end of life choices, but it behooves most of us no matter how young we are to have at least some idea of how we want our families to handle our final arrangements. And death doesn’t necessarily have to be more about those left behind; I must admit I take some comfort in that.

REASONS TO SEE: Presents different viewpoints on death and how to deal with it.
REASONS TO AVOID: Some might find this a little too new age-y.
FAMILY VALUES: The matter-of-fact approach to death and dying may be too intense for the sensitive and the immature.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: In 2018, more people opted for cremation than for traditional funerals in America for the first time ever.
BEYOND THE THEATER: HBO Go
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/17/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Gates of Heaven
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT:
Xenophobia

New Releases for the Week of August 16, 2019


THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE 2

(Columbia) Starring the voices of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Eugenio Derbez, Tiffany Haddish. Directed by Thurop von Orman and John Rice

The Angry Birds and their formal rivals, the Green Piggies, must set aside their differences and work together when a new threat imperils both of their island homes.

See the trailer, video featurettes and an interview here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for rude humor and action)

47 Meters Down: Uncaged

(Entertainment Studios) Sistine Rose Stallone, Corinne Fox, Brianne Tju, Sophie Nėlisse. A quartet of teenage girls are trapped in an underwater ruin of an ancient Mayan city. Their dwindling air supply is the least of their worries however; the city has become a hunting ground for Great White Sharks.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Adventure
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for creature-related violence and terror, some bloody images and brief rude gestures)

Blinded by the Light

(New Line) Viveik Kalra, Hayley Atwell, Rob Brydon, Nell Williams. A young immigrant to London in 1987 is torn between two worlds; the traditions and expectations of his strict Pakistani father and the exciting world of his adopted country in the midst of a music revolution. When he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen, he finds a kindred soul who gives him hopes to find his own way through the darkness on the edge of town

See the trailer, clips and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic content and language including some ethnic slurs)

David Crosby: Remember My Name

(Sony Classics) David Crosby, Cameron Crowe, Henry Diltz, Graham Nash. One of rock’s most influential voices from the Byrds to CSNY is battling age and poor health as he struggles to face the ups and downs of his past.

See the trailer and a clip here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for language, drug material and brief nudity)

Good Boys

(Universal) Jacob Tremblay, Will Forte, Lil Rel Howley, Keith L. Williams. A 12-year-old is invited to his first middle school party where there is sure to be kissing. Not knowing how to properly kiss a girl, he enlists his friends and his dad’s drone – which he is forbidden to touch – to see if he can figure out the right way to kiss a girl. Things go from bad to worse from there.

See the trailer and video featurettes here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout – all involving teens)

Honeyland

(NEON) Haditze Muratova, Nazife Muratova, Hussein Sam, Ljutvie Sam. The delicate natural balance of a remote village of the last female beekeeper in Europe is threatened by the arrival of itinerant beekeepers.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: NR

Mission Mangal

(FIP) Akshay Kumar, Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha. The Indian Space Agency must overcome a spectacular history of failure and severe budgetary limitations to launch a cost-effective probe to the surface of Mars.

See the trailer and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks, Cinemark Artegon Marketplace
Rating: NR

Where’d You Go Bernadette?

(Annapurna/MGM) Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup, Kristen Wiig, Judy Greer. A suburban supermom decides that she must reconnect with her own artistic impulses, taking her on a journey slash adventure that will jump start her life and lead her to an epic rediscovery of herself.

See the trailer, video featurettes and an interview here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for some strong language and drug material)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Alien Invasion
Already Gone
Evaru
Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church
Light of My Life
Ode to Joy
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

After the Wedding</em
Already Gone
Awake
Batla House
Evaru
Good Time
Piranhas
Ranarangam
This Changes Everything

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Awake
Batla House
Comali
Evaru
Gwen
Mike Wallace is Here
Ranarangam
The Souvenir

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Batla House
Evaru
Ranarangam

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

47 Meters Down: Uncaged
The Angry Birds Movie 2
Blinded By the Light
David Crosby: Remember My Name
Honeyland
Ode to Joy
Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

ZZ Top: That Lil Ol’ Band from Texas


You can’t help but have a good time at a ZZ Top concert.

(2019) Music Documentary (Abramorama) Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, Billy Bob Thornton, Joshua Homme, Terry Manning, Steve Miller, Winston Marshall, Robin Hood Brians, Tim Newman, Ralph Fisher, Howard Bloom, Dan Auerbach. Directed by Sam Dunn

 

Texas, it is said, is a state of mind and there’s a lot of truth in that. Texans are kind of a breed unto themselves. They revere their frontier past and pride themselves on being outlaws and rulebreakers. A Texan will give you the shirt off his back or shoot you in the face with a shotgun. Texans are Cowboys, oilmen, roughnecks, barflies, ladies’ men and asskickers. In Texas, they still remember the Alamo – Texans first, Americans after.

It actually blew my mind a little bit that the band was founded in 1969 as an answer to the Texas psychedelic kingpins 13th Floor Elevators in Houston with Gibbons, drummer Dan Mitchell and bassist/organist (!) Lanier Grieg. When Mitchell and Grieg bailed, drummer Frank Beard auditioned and won the slot. Beard talked Gibbons into auditioning Dusty Hill, who’d played with Beard in a band called the Warlocks in Dallas in the mid-60s.

The three clicked and began playing a fusion of Texas boogie blues and rock and roll. It began to click on songs like “La Grange” and “Tush” in the 70s. After the mammoth World Texas Tour (complete with a Texas-shaped stage and livestock onstage), the band planned for a 90-day break which with Beard’s drug addiction turned into two years. During that time Hill and Gibbons never shaved and returned to work with chest-length beards.

In 1983, the band would hit their commercial zenith with Eliminator, which spawned hit singled “Gimme All Your Loving,” “Legs” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” Nascent video music channel MTV played the heck out of their videos, directed by Tim Newman (cousin of Randy). Newman really established the “cartoon versions,” as Gibbons wryly put it, of the band which became iconic in 80s pop culture. In an era of New Wave, synthesizers (which the band did employ) and skinny ties, these Texas working class boys with Civil War-era beards became video superstars. I don’t think you could make up a more unlikely scenario.

Dunn opts to show the “Gimme All Your Loving” video in its entirety for some reason – much of the other musical clips are the band playing in the venerable Gurene Music Hall (the oldest in Texas) before an empty house, perhaps reminding us of the occasion in Alvin, Texas, when the band played to an audience of exactly one paying customer. (“He still comes to shows to this day,” says Hill ruefully, “He says ‘Remember me?” and I say “Of course I do,””). For some reason, the documentary abruptly stops with coverage of Eliminator with the 35 years afterwards being reduced to a graphic “The band still records and tours to this day,” which essentially ignores great albums like Afterburner. Still, I imagine that if Dunn wanted to cover all 50 years of the band’s existence, he’d need a mini-series.

Much of the credit for the band’s success goes to their manager Bill Ham, who sadly passed away in 2016. The band members consider him as integral to ZZ Top as the musicians himself but he rarely gave interviews and wanted the band initially to maintain a mystique, so they rarely gave interviews or performed on television in the early years which is why there is a dearth of band footage.

Part of the documentary’s charm are the members of ZZ Top themselves; they don’t take themselves too seriously and are the kind of guys you’d spend a Saturday afternoon fishing with, or a Sunday afternoon watching football and drinking beer. There is absolutely no rock star attitude to be found. They’re just working men whose job happens to be playing rock and roll.

The band has kept the same line-up for 50 years, a feat that is absolutely amazing. No other rock and roll band can claim that. Beard best explained it at the end when he said, humbly, “I found the guys I was meant to play with. After that, I didn’t want to quit and I didn’t want to get fired.” Judging from their interviews, they are guys you’d want to hang out with and who would want to stop working with guys you like hanging out with?

ZZ Top has always been a band that didn’t really get their due in a lot of ways, despite being elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. Gibbons is one of the best American guitar players and their music has always evolved over the years although their roots as a boogie blues rock band have always been present. While this isn’t the documentary I would have liked to have seen of the band – maybe it should have been a mini-series – it at least makes a terrific introduction to those who aren’t already fans of the band.

The film will soon be playing nationwide for about the next two months. There are no dates currently scheduled in Orlando but if you ask Tim Anderson or Matthew Curtis nicely, maybe they’ll add it to the Music Monday series at some point.

REASONS TO SEE: The boys in the band are the kind you’d want to have a beer with.
REASONS TO AVOID: Basically stops after covering the Eliminator album in 1984.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some drug references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film had its world premiere at the world-famous Cinerama Dome in Hollywood.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/14/19: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Honky Tonk Heaven: The Legend of the Broken Spoke
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
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Alternate Endings: Six New Ways to Die in America