Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band


The name of the band is The Band.

(2019) Music Documentary (Magnolia) Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Taj Mahal, Dominique Robertson, John Simon, Peter Gabriel, Jann Wenner, Ronnie Hawkins, John Scheele, Jimmy Vivino, Larry Campbell, George Semkiw. Directed by David Roher

 

There is absolutely no disputing that The Band were one of the most talented and influential ensembles to ever grace a rock and roll stage. Guitarist Robbie Robertson, drummer/singer Levon Helm, bassist/singer Rick Danko, pianist/singer Richard Manuel and keyboardist Garth Hudson essentially created the Americana subgenre and made music that was both timeless and timely, both symbolizing an era and transcending it.

They formed as the back-up band to wild blues singer Ronnie Hawkins, known initially as The Hawks. When Bob Dylan absconded with them to back him up during his “Dylan goes electric” tour, they were roundly booed at every appearance. It was only when they went out on their own under their generic “The Band” moniker that they finally began hearing cheers.

Albums like Music From Big Pink and The Band were classics, yielding such songs as “The Weight,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Cripple Creek,” but the strength of The Band was in their tight arrangements, superior songwriting and raw, emotional vocals particularly from Helm but also from Danko and Manuel. It would all come to an end in 1975 with the release of The Last Waltz¸ the group’s last concert (and the last time all five of them would appear together onstage) and the accompanying documentary by Martin Scorsese.

This new film comes mainly from Robertson’s perspective; he is the only band member interviewed for it (although remarks by Helm and Danko appear from earlier interviews) and it is based on his own memoirs. There is sadly a real lack of contemporary footage of the Band in concert, particularly in their days as backup bands for Hawkins and Dylan so there is a lot of reliance on talking head interviews from fans like Scorsese and Springsteen (whose “Atlantic City” they covered on their post-Robertson album Jericho) as well as with Robertson’s wife Dominique and producer John Simon.

Robertson is an engaging storyteller but we really only get his viewpoint – only he and Hudson remain still alive from the group, and Hudson who was notoriously shy, doesn’t appear other than as a performer in the film. Much is made of the group’s drug abuse, with Manuel, Danko and Helm all flirting with heroin (Robertson and Hudson did not, and Robertson blames the group’s eventual dissolution on drug abuse, citing a harrowing story of Manuel getting into a car wreck with Robertson’s wife aboard). Although the film essentially ends with The Last Waltz, it neglects to mention that the group went on to record several albums and tour sans Robertson afterwards, although Robertson insists that he had always intended that The Last Waltz was meant to signal a temporary hiatus and that they always planned to get back together, shrugging it off with a disarming “but they just forgot, I guess.” By that time, Robertson was continuing to record on his own and was also pursuing an acting career.

He also glosses over the post-breakup feuds and enmity having to do with royalties and songwriting credit, which Helm in particular felt should have belonged to the entire group and not just Robertson since they did most of the arranging. Although there was bad blood, Robertson tells that when Helm was dying in 2012, he flew out to be by his side when Helm was on his deathbed.

That the group was once close and had a rare kind of cohesion can’t be argued; that there was bad blood afterwards – well, even brothers fight; sometimes more bitterly than most. This is a pretty decent tribute to a group that deserves more recognition than they got from the public, having shaped country, rock and roll and folk music with a sound that at the time was revolutionary but toI day is merely influential. I would have preferred that the film be less hagiographic and include more voices than just Robertson’s but that wasn’t to be; Manuel passed away in 1996, Danko in 1998 and Helm as mentioned before in 2012. With three fifths of the group gone, it just makes one wonder how the perspective would have changed had some of them been there to give their point of view.

REASONS TO SEE: Some pretty nifty performance footage. A bittersweet look at one of the most influential groups of all time.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little heavy on the celebrity testimonials.
FAMILY VALUES: This is a fair amount of profanity and some drug references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Robertson penned two songs for the 1959 Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks album Mr. Dynamo when Robertson was only 15 years old.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/8/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 80% positive reviews: Metacritic: 62/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING:  The Last Waltz
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
Beanpole

New Releases for the Week of March 6, 2020


ONWARD

(Disney/Pixar) Starring the voices of Tom Holland, Chris Pratt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Tracey Ullman, Wilmer Valderrama, Ali Wong. Directed by Dan Scanlon

In what Disney describes as a “suburban fantasy world,” two teenage elf brothers go on a quest to complete a spell that will allow them to reunite with their deceased father. The problem is that the spell will expire in 24 hours and they will lose the chance forever if they don’t complete it in time.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG (for action/peril and some mild thematic elements)

Baaghi 3

(Fox Star) Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Ritesh Deshmukh, Jameel Khoury. A man whose brother has been brutally kidnapped by jihadists goes on a bloody rampage to get his brother home safely, even if it means he must single-handedly take on an entire nation.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: AMC West Oaks, Amstar Lake Mary, Cinemark Universal Citywalk, Touchstar Southchase
Rating: NR

The Banker

(Apple+) Anthony Mackie, Samuel L. Jackson, Nicholas Hoult, Nia Long. The true story of two African-American entrepreneurs who buy a bank using a working-class white man as a front, to serve the African-American community and help them achieve the American dream. Their success brings the scrutiny of the federal government.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Biographical Drama
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater
Rating: PG-13 (some strong language including a sexual reference and racial epithets, and smoking throughout)

Beneath Us

(Vital) Lynn Collins, James Tupper, Rigo Sanchez, Roberto “Sanz” Sanchez. A group of undocumented workers get a job working for a privileged white couple. The job turns into a nightmare when they are brutalized by the couple, but the men fight back.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, Regal The Loop, Regal Waterford Lakes, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for violence, language and some nudity)

Final Kill

(Cinedigm) Billy Zane, Randy Couture, Ed Morrone, Danny Trejo. A mercenary takes one last mission: to protect a family hiding out in Central America from a crime cartel. However, the job proves to be far more complicated than it seemed and it will take all of the merc’s skills and experience to get himself and his charges out alive.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater
Rating: NR

Greed

(Sony Classics) Steve Coogan, Isla Fisher, David Mitchell, Shirley Henderson. A retail billionaire, the very face of conspicuous consumption, decides to plan a spectacular 60th birthday party for himself on the Greek island of Mykonos.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16 Melbourne, AMC Disney Springs, Epic Theaters of Clermont, Old Mill Playhouse, Regal Pointe Orlando, Regal The Loop, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for pervasive language and drug use)

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band

(Magnolia) Robbie Robertson, Levi Helm, Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen. The story of one of the most revered and influential bands of the Sixties, who backed up Dylan on some of his seminal albums and who made timeless hits of their own before falling apart.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Music Biography
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for some language and drug references)

Ordinary Love

(Bleecker Street) Liam Neeson, Lesley Manville, Amit Shah, David Wilmot. A fiercely loving couple entering their golden years face their greatest challenge together when the wife is diagnosed with breast cancer.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Romance
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: R (for brief sexuality/nudity)

The Way Back

(Warner Brothers) Ben Affleck, Al Madrigal, Michaela Watkins, Glynn Turman. A one-time high school basketball phenom who had a chance to attend a major college and eventually go pro instead walks away from the game, a decision he comes to regret. Years later, he gets a chance at redemption when he is hired to coach the basketball team at his alma mater.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Sports Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for language throughout including some sexual references)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Foxtrot Six
Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal
Mayabazaar 2016

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

And Then We Danced
Balloon
Foxtrot Six
The Jesus Rolls
Mayabazaar 2016
Only
Trance

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Kannum Kannum Kollaiyadithaal
Mayabazaar 2016

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Mayabazaar 2016
Where There is Darkness

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Greed
Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band
Onward
Ordinary Love
The Way Back

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Jewish Film Festival, Boca Raton, FL
Miami Film Festival, Miami FL
Through Women’s Eyes International Film Festival, Sarasota FL

Shutter Island


Shutter Island

Ruffalo and di Caprio have wandered from a Scorsese movie into an episode of Tales from the Crypt.

(Paramount) Leonardo di Caprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Michelle Williams, Patricia Clarkson, Max von Sydow, John Carroll Lynch, Jackie Earle Haley, Elias Koteas, Emily Mortimer, Ted Levine, Robin Bartlett. Directed by Martin Scorsese

Reality is a very subjective thing. We often see things as we want to see them and not as they truly are. That’s true of all of us to a certain extent, but every one of us usually does that only to a certain extent. When we can’t get past our own self-delusions, we are walking the fine line between sanity and insanity.

United States Marshals Teddy Daniels (Di Caprio) and Chuck Aule (Ruffalo) are on what seems to be a routine assignment. A dangerous prisoner, one Rachel Salondo has disappeared from her cell at the Ashecliffe Mental Hospital on Shutter Island, one of the Harbour Islands just off the coast of Boston. Their ferry emerges from the fog and approaches Shutter Island like an earlier freighter approached Skull Island, with palpable menace exuding from every crevice on the island.

They are met at the dock by Deputy Warden McPherson (Lynch) who relieves the marshals of their firearms, which the marshals submit to reluctantly. He escorts them to the main building where they are met by Dr. Cawley (Kingsley), the chief psychiatrist of the facility. Here are the most dangerous lunatics in the Commonwealth, who are so violent that no other hospital can handle them. It is said that there are asylums that have been decommissioned where the horrors of the past seem to live on; you can feel the decades of suffering in the very bricks of the building. Ashecliffe is a lot like that.

It is 1954 and the patients are probably better off in there, safe from the concerns of atom bombs and HUAC witch hunts. Teddy himself is haunted; as a soldier during the War, he helped liberate Dachau and the horrors he witnessed there have driven him to drink. Even worse, his beloved wife Dolores (Williams) died in a fire a few years back.

Teddy realizes early on that the staff is being far from co-operative but he has an agenda of his own. He is looking for a man named Andrew Laeddis (Koteas) who was the man who set the fire that ended his wife’s life. Teddy had followed Laeddis’ trail to the hospital where it disappeared.

From here Teddy realizes that something far more sinister is going on at Shutter Island. A hurricane has further isolated the island and the answers Teddy is looking for are as elusive as driftwood on the tide. To find them, he is going to have to dig deeper; and once he does, he might not like what he finds.

This movie is a serious mindf**k. It is unlike anything Scorsese has done before. There are elements of Hitchcock and film noir in the movie, and certainly turns of gothic horror. I wouldn’t have been overly surprised if Barnabas Collins had stepped out of the shadows of Ward C, where the most dangerous offenders are kept and where Teddy has to go to find Laeddis.

Di Caprio is at his best here, playing the tormented Teddy with grit and just a hint of madness. Teddy is our proxy in the movie and we see the events through his eyes, and Di Caprio makes sure those eyes are wide open and staring. He keeps us off-balance enough to make us susceptible to the twists and turns of the script which is based on a Dennis Lehane novel.

This is a fine cast and Scorsese gets great performances out of nearly all of them. Kingsley does quiet menace like nobody else in the business, and can seem sinister with a dismissive gesture. Von Sydow has a brief but memorable turn as a doctor who may have at one time worked for the Nazis. His verbal sparring session with Teddy is one of the better scenes in the movie.

There are some disturbing images here, and a good deal of male nudity. There is also a score from former member of The Band (and subject of Scorsese’s documentary The Last Waltz) Robbie Robertson that I think was meant to further put us off-balance but sadly doesn’t succeed; it comes off as intrusive and annoying. I think a subtler approach might have worked better.

I have to admit that some of the scenes here are really tough to watch on an emotional level, but I really don’t want to get into much more detail than that. In fact, the less I tell you about the movie the better you’ll be able to enjoy it. That allows you to experience the full effect of Scorsese’s first venture into the psychological thriller territory that Hitchcock once owned.

This won’t go down as one of Scorsese’s better efforts, although ironically it might wind up being his most profitable. The final scenes are ambiguous and meant to be that way. Some critics have assaulted the ending, but I think its part of Scorsese’s plan to let you draw your own conclusions as to the nature of Teddy’s reality. Certainly it will have you questioning your own perceptions as you leave the theater and that’s pretty impressive on its own.

REASONS TO GO: This movie plays with your head long after the credits roll. Di Caprio does some of the best work of his career. Scorsese conjures up a real air of foreboding.  

REASONS TO STAY: The music was intrusive rather than supporting the overall mood. The building up of Andrew Laeddis as the most dangerous man in the facility doesn’t quite work.

FAMILY VALUES: Oh my God no. Dear God…what are you thinking? Kids? Shutter Island? NO! Seriously!  NO!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ted Levine and Patricia Clarkson starred in the short-lived TV series “Wonderland,” which was also set in a mental institution.

HOME OR THEATER: This is a movie that should be witnessed in the dark, preferably without a huge crowd. Home viewing would be more suitable.

FINAL RATING: 7/10

TOMORROW: Valentine’s Day