New Releases for the Week of July 2, 2021


THE BOSS BABY: FAMILY BUSINESS

(DreamWorks) Starring the voices of Alec Baldwin, James Marsden, Amy Sedaris, Ariana Greenblatt, Eva Longoria, Jimmy Kimmel. Directed by Tom McGrath

Over the years, the Boss Baby and his big brother have slowly drifted apart, but a new Boss Baby comes into their lives to reunite the brothers and bring them into a whole new family business.The movie is simultaneously debuting on Peacock’s premium service (not the free one, the one with no ads) for no additional charge.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: PG (for rude humor, mild language and some action)

Against the Current

(Zeitgeist) Veiga Grétarsdóttir. The journey of Grétarsdóttir, born a man 44 years ago but after having a wife and child, felt she could no longer live that way and transitioned into a female. Now she is taking on a challenge that would give most of us pause; kayaking alone around Iceland counterclockwise, “against the current,” a feat judged as difficult as climbing K2.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: LGBTQ Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

The Forever Purge

(Universal) Ana de la Reguera, Josh Lucas, Will Patton, Cassidy Freeman. As the government begins to lose control, a group of marauders decide that the Purge should last longer than 12 hours. Why not make it the norm? A family of ranchers and their workers must find a way to survive a purge that never ends.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for strong, bloody violence and language throughout)

The God Committee

(Vertical) Julia Stiles, Janeane Garofalo, Kelsey Grammer, Dan Hedaya. When a donor heart arrives at a New York hospital whose recipient passes away before surgery can begin, the transplant committee is left with an hour to decide which of three other patients should get the heart, bringing into play ethics, morality and money.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Thriller
Now Playing: Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Shiva Baby

(Utopia) Rachel Sennott, Danny Deferrari, Fred Melamed, Polly Draper. While sitting shiva for a family friend with her parents, a college student has awkward encounters with her ex-girlfriend and her current sugar daddy.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: LGBTQ Comedy
Now Playing: Cinematique
Rating: NR

Summer of Soul

(Searchlight) Lin-Manuel Miranda, Chris Rock, Stevie Wonder, B.B. King. In 1969, the same summer as Woodstock, the Harlem Cultural Festival which promoted African-American music and unity, but whereas the former became a cultural phenomenon with a hit documentary, the latter was filmed but the footage was never seen – until now. Airing simultaneously on Hulu, but for that big concert sound you might want to catch this in your local theater.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: AMC Altamonte Mall, AMC Avenue 16, AMC Classic New Smyrna, AMC Disney Springs, AMC Lake Square, AMC West Oaks, CMX Merritt Square, CMX Plaza Orlando, Enzian Theater, Fashion Square Premiere
Rating: PG-13 (for some disturbing images, smoking and brief drug material)

Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation

(Kino Lorber) Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Dick Cavett, David Frost. Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote were two of the great literary giants of the mid-20th century. They were also friends, and that friendship was often a combustible one. Both spent their lives finding their identity as gay men in a world hostile to gay men, geniuses striving to bring their artistic triumphs into being and deeply wounded by sometimes toxic family relationships. Much of this was expressed in conversations and correspondence with one another.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: LGBTQ Documentary
Now Playing: Cinematique On-Demand, Enzian On-Demand
Rating: NR

Zola

(A24) Riley Keough, Taylour Paige, Colman Domingo, Nelcie Souffrant. A waitress and a stripper hook up for a wild road trip to Florida that turns into a bizarre nightmare.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for language throughout, graphic nudity, a sexual assault, strong sexual content and violence)

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

First Date
Kid Candidate
Let Us In
Long Story Short
Scenes From an Empty Church
Some of Our Stallions
Sun Children
Till Death

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Boss Baby: Family Business
The Forever Purge
Summer of Soul
Till Death

The Changin’ Times of Ike White


Ike White, striking up a 70s rock star pose.

(2019) Music Documentary (Kino Lorber) Ike White, Lana Gutman, Greg Errico, Stevie Wonder, Big Mama Thornton, Jerry Goldstein, Deborah White, Rico Fanning, Daniel Vernon, Monalisa White, Bruce Jackson, Carole Michaela Reynolds, Baron Ontiveros, Alvin Taylor, Angelique Stidhum.  Directed by Daniel Vernon

Some films need to have a detailed description of the plot. Others actually benefit from having the viewer know as little as possible going in. This is one of the latter types of films.

The basics: Ike White was a talented songwriter and musician whose 1976 album Changin’ Times garnered him comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and the admiration of Stevie Wonder. But Ike White didn’t have the usual route to a record release; he recorded the album while in prison for the murder of a shopkeeper.

During the course of a convenience store robbery, the 86-year-old store owner was shot by White who claimed that the shooting was an accident. Nonetheless, the 19-year-old Ike was convicted and sent to prison for life. Ike escaped from prison life with a small portable keyboard, a guitar and a harmonica which he played whenever he could. Legend has it that while cleaning the execution chamber, he would take breaks playing his guitar – while sitting in the electric chair (a nice story, but the electric chair was no longer in use by the state of California by the time Ike was incarcerated).

Word got out to producer Jerry Goldstein who arranged for a mobile studio to be driven to the prison, along with a couple of supporting musicians and a trio of female backup singers. Goldstein’s teenage secretary Deborah became so enamored of Ike that she married the guy and had a daughter by him. His music came to the attention of Stevie Wonder, who arranged for a high-priced lawyer for Ike who got his sentence commuted and Ike was a free man after 14 years.

But here is not the happy ending you’d hope for, but perhaps the realistic twist you’d expect. Ike continued to make bad decisions once out of prison, getting involved with drug use. Deborah left him, reconciled, left him again, reconciled again and finally left him for good. Shortly after that, Ike disappeared. That’s where the story gets weird.

Documentary filmmaker went on the hunt for Ike and found him – singing in Las Vegas lounges under an assumed name, married to a frowsy blonde Russian woman (who also doubled as his manager) and surprisingly eager to discuss his convoluted story. And that’s where the story gets really weird.

We get to hear Ike’s story from those close to him, and from Ike himself. He is full of all sorts of stories, but he is the epitome of the unreliable narrator. The more the film unravels, the more untrustworthy he proves to be. The movie heads off into directions you don’t expect it to take, complete with some jaw-dropping revelations and one very massive change in the narrative about halfway through which may leave you wondering what next – and where the movie can possibly go from there. Trust me, it’s not over by a long shot and even when the final credits roll you might be still wondering just what the heck you saw.

Vernon wisely leaves it to the viewer to reach their own conclusions, and not all those conclusions are going to be charitable. White was undoubtedly a superior musician and maybe at one time in his life he might have had the talent to be a difference-maker, although listening to his music later on you might wonder if it was all a con. No, not all of it was but there are plenty of revelations here that may leave you feeling dizzy in a good way. Undoubtedly, he was a chameleon who floated through life, never showing the same face to anyone.

I can’t say that you’ll really get to know Ike White ub any of his other guises by watching this. He remains an enigma to those who knew him best and a 77-minute documentary isn’t going to give you much more than surface impressions. I don’t think you’ll ever meet anyone quite like him, though.

If you’re tired of the typical obscure artist music documentary, this could well be what you’re looking for. It’s not typical of anything and like any great documentary, it doesn’t always lead you to where you expect it to. It might make you sad, it might make you angry, it might even leave you feeling like you’ve glimpsed genius, but it won’t leave you bored.

REASONS TO SEE: Not your usual music documentary. Takes some sharp left turns. Occasionally so surreal you may wonder if it really happened.
REASONS TO AVOID: Loses a little steam near the end and feels a bit incomplete in places.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity, sensuality, drug content and adult themes.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ike White’s father played keyboards for Ella Fitzgerald.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Virtual Cinema
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/6/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews, Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Searching for Sugar Man
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
The Test and the Art of Thinking

New Releases for the Week of June 21, 2019


TOY STORY 4

(Disney*Pixar) Starring the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Joan Cusack, Keanu Reeves, Timothy Dalton, Christina Hendricks. Directed by Josh Cooley

With the gang now firmly in the care of Bonnie, Woody takes on a craft project-turned-toy named Forky, who thinks of himself as trash and not a toy, as his new project. He tries to show Forky the joys of toy-ness. However, when Bonnie takes them all on a road trip and Woody meets up with an old friend, he discovers there are many viewpoints on what it is to be a toy.

See the trailer, clips, video featurettes and an interview here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: G

Anna

(Summit) Sasha Luss, Luke Evans, Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren. Anna is without doubt a beauty but she’s also a beast; beneath the exterior of the woman lies a cold, ruthless assassin.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong violence, language, and some sexual content)

Burn Your Maps

(Vertical) Vera Farmiga, Jacob Tremblay, Virginia Madsen, Marton Csokas. A young American boy believes himself to be a Mongolian goat herder – so much so that he crowdfunds a trip to Mongolia, throwing his fractured family into further disarray. His mother makes a desperate trip across the globe for one last shot at making her family whole again.

See the trailer and a video featurette here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Touchstar Southchase
Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements including some mature sexual material, and brief strong language) 

Child’s Play

(Orion) Aubrey Plaza, Mark Hamill, Tim Matheson, Gabriel Bateman. A young mother buys her son a special doll, unaware of the sinister nature of the toy in this reboot of the iconic horror franchise.

See the trailer, interviews, video featurettes and clips here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for bloody horror violence. and for language throughout)

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir

(Cradle Walk) Dhanush, Erin Moriarty, Bėrėnice Bejo, Barkhad Abdi. Upon his mother’s death, a young fakir from Mumbai decides to visit Paris to find the father he never knew. Things don’t go quite as planned and what was supposed to be a simple trip turns into a frenetic odyssey.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Regal Oviedo Marketplace
Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive content and brief strong language)

Pavarotti

(CBS) Luciano Pavarotti, Stevie Wonder, Bono, Nelson Mandela. The story of one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century featuring cutting edge sound and never-before-seen footage. This doc was directed by Oscar winner Ron Howard.

See the trailer, clips, interviews, a video featurette and B-roll video here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Music Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village, Rialto Spanish Springs Square
Rating: PG-13 (for brief strong language and a war-related image)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Agent Sai Srinvas Athreya
Holy Lands
Kabir Singh
The Spy Behind Home Plate
Unda
Vault

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

Agent Sai Srinvas Athreya
Echo in the Canyon
Game Over
In the Aisles
Kabir Singh
Ladies in Black
Mallesham
The Spy Behind Home Plate
This One’s for the Ladies
Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation
Yomeddine

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

Agent Sai Srinvas Athreya
Holy Lands
Kabir Singh
Ladies in Black
Mallesham
Sindhubaadh
Swinging Safari

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Kabir Singh

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Anna
Child’s Play
Echo in the Canyon
Toy Story 4

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

The Dog Film Festival, St. Augustine, FL

Hearing is Believing


The joy of music.

(2017) Music Documentary (Gravitas/Foresight) Rachel Flowers, Dweezil Zappa, Keith Emerson, Jeanie Flowers, Arturo Sandoval, Stevie Wonder, Andy Radford, Dan Flowers, Ian McDuffie, Frank Cavenee, Taylor Eigsti, Ellis Hall, Brian Hutchison, Vaughan Flowers, David Pinto, Benny Chong, Larry Tuttle, Joy Cavenee, Mari Kawaguchi, Leo Medina, Cynthia Gonzalez. Directed by Lorenzo DeStefano

 

Maybe once in a generation (if you’re lucky) comes a musical prodigy who has the ability to be a game changer. That person for this generation might just be Rachel Flowers. An absolutely lights-out pianist, she is able to hear a song once and then play it, possessed of true perfect pitch. She is also similarly skilled on a multitude of instruments, including guitar and flute. She is an amazing composer, working in a variety of styles and genres including pop, progressive rock, jazz and Latin. She is, in short, the real deal.

What makes the 21-year-old musician’s accomplishments even more impressive is that she has been blind since she was a baby, having been born prematurely and developing retinopathy which caused her retinas to detach repeatedly until eventually her parents had to accept that she would be blind for the rest of her life. She lives with her mom Jeanie in a modest home in Oxnard along with her little brother Vaughan who seems a typical well-adjusted teen who admits that he lives in the shadow of his sister and then the film proves it by going virtually the entire rest of the film without him appearing on camera.

The documentary follows Rachel essentially for two years as her impressive YouTube videos garner her  notice from various music industry folks who begin to help her – some directly, some not – but she begins to get a following. That doesn’t mean she wasn’t already well-known; by the time she was 11 she’d been on 60 Minutes twice. However, until recently her notoriety wasn’t really translating into income to speak of as the small family lived hand-to-mouth, surviving on Jeanie’s paychecks.

She does get the blessing of some pretty impressive musicians, including jazz pianist Taylor Eigsti, trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, keyboardist Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer fame) who seemed to hold a special place in Flowers’ heart – she performs several of his songs during the movie – and fellow blind prodigy Stevie Wonder.

She leads off the film performing the Walter Murphy disco-era pop hit “A Fifth of Beethoven,” serving notice that not only is she into classical but she’s into pop in a big way. The movie follows her from an appearance at a local concert hall in Oxnard to a Las Vegas stage with Dweezil Zappa playing the music of his father Frank (some of the most difficult and demanding compositions of the 20th century) to performing in her church and an impromptu performance at a big box store trying out a variety of keyboards on sale in front of admiring shoppers.

Rachel is an engaging presence, smiling broadly whenever she is playing music (for the most part; for more somber pieces her expression is more serious) and charming all with her humble demeanor and her infectious giggle which you will either be annoyed by or look forward to depending on your tolerance for girlish giggles and she giggles a lot. She is clearly a talented performer but also her original music ranges from haunting to joyful. She is clearly a talent to be reckoned with and I can’t imagine that she won’t be getting multimillion dollar offers from big players in the coming months.

It’s a shame that the film doesn’t live up to its subject. I haven’t seen DeStefano’s other documentaries but I sure hope they’re better than this one. He obviously adores his subject and there’s nothing wrong with that, but we are treated to multiple scenes of musicians and admirers praising Rachel effusively. It isn’t that she doesn’t deserve it but her music speaks for itself; we don’t need to hear people endlessly remark on how talented she is. We all know it.

To make matters worse, DeStefano packs his film with cinematic ephemera that do nothing to really give us any sort of insight into Rachel herself. We see her at a self-defense course for the blind with other blind folks but as we see person after person practicing their techniques I began to fidget and wonder what on earth any of this has to do with the woman or her music. Occasionally Rachel talks about her creative process and how she expands on snippets of melodies that pop into her head, but we don’t get a sense of how she tackles the act of creating music overall.

The concert footage is extensive, giving us a chance to listen to entire pieces of her music which is a nice touch; so many music documentaries go for more is more, giving us 15-30 seconds of a song before going on to the next one. Not so here and it’s a good thing; really the best way to get to know Rachel Flowers is through her music. I say that because that’s essentially the only way we get to know Rachel Flowers here; the filmmaker does a poor job of showing us who this woman is.

That’s too bad because you will want to get to know her better once you hear her music. Something tells me that the director got so close to her subject that he lost objectivity and as a result made some poor directing decisions. I love the music of Rachel Flowers; I can’t say I can recommend the documentary about her as wholeheartedly. See it for the musical sequences which are enthralling but be aware that this is a severely flawed presentation that might send you scurrying for YouTube to watch more of her performances. That might be a much less frustrating way to encounter her.

 

REASONS TO GO: Rachel Flowers is an exceptional musician and extremely likable person. The extended concert footage gives you more than a snippet of a song to enjoy.
REASONS TO STAY: The pacing is ragged; there’s way too many cinematic non-sequiturs and extraneous footage. There is a little bit too much fawning going on.
FAMILY VALUES: There are a few instances of profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Flowers will be playing at a tribute concert to the late Keith Emerson in Birmingham, England on July 28th with, among others, Rick Wakeman of Yes.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 6/22/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Best and Most Beautiful Things
FINAL RATING: 5/10
NEXT: Transformers: The Last Knight

Twenty Feet from Stardom


Sweet harmony personified.

Sweet harmony personified.

(2013) Musical Documentary (Radius) Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fisher, Judith Hill, Tata Vega, Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Bette Midler, Chris Botti, Lynn Mabry, Claudia Lennear, Sheryl Crow, Patti Austin, Gloria Jones, Janice Pendarvis, Stevvi Alexander. Directed by Morgan Neville

Florida Film Festival 2013

We all know the stars. Their faces, their voices, their music. We can hum their songs in our sleep. We don’t always get the full components of what goes into that classic music however. We rarely know who the backup singers are.

This documentary aims to rectify that. Focusing mainly on four African-American women, the movie looks at the importance of back-up singers to popular music of the last say, 50 years or so. There’s Darlene Love, for example, who not only sang leads on a lot of classic songs (“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” comes to mind) but her voice can be heard on some of Phil Spector’s classic hits – as part of The Blossoms, an early girl group she fronted, her powerful voice decorated some of the classic songs of the ’60s. Still, she’s primarily known as playing Danny Glover’s wife on the Lethal Weapon films.

Merry Clayton, like many of the great backup singers the daughter of a preacher, is perhaps best remembered as the female voice on the Rolling Stones classic “Gimme Shelter” for which she was awakened in the middle of the night to do and sang in pajamas and curlers.  She’s sang for some of the biggest names in music and while her face may not be familiar, I guarantee you’ve heard her voice many times.

Lisa Fisher may have the most amazing voice of them all. While much in demand (she has been the Stones’ touring backup vocalist for more than 20 years) she has for the most part shunned a solo career (although she won a Grammy for her lone solo album). She prefers to sing for the simple joy of singing, preferring to remain in the background rather than pursuing the solo career she more than has the talent to achieve.

Judith Hill famously sang at Michael Jackson’s memorial service and is heavily featured in the documentary of the rehearsals for his final tour that never happened due to his untimely death. She writes and performs not only for herself but for other big stars and recently became a contestant on the singing competition The Voice which I would count her a heavy favorite to win it all.

These women and many others like them (and a few men too) may not be well known but they are absolute titans in the industry. The respect that is paid them by the stars who are interviewed is palpable and as is mentioned by Claudia Lennear during the film, most people when they’re singing along to a song are singing what the backup singers are singing.

I will confess to having been a music critic for nearly a dozen years in the San Francisco Bay Area and like most people – critics included – I kind of took the contributions of these amazing singers for granted. One of the best thing this movie does is break down the importance of the background singers in the song. One stark illustration of this is found when ”Gimme Shelter” is played with the tracks removed one at a time until only Clayton’s vocal track remains. It’s a very simple yet effective reminder of the power of the human voice.

The human connection through music is universal. There are those who feel a particular passion for it and have the talent and the desire to express themselves through their music. Some of them make it and some of them don’t regardless of how good they are – it’s largely a matter of luck and timing. For my money, regardless of the fame and fortune these ladies and others like them have gathered (or lack thereof) they are every one of them stars in my book. If you love rock and roll or hell, any sort of pop music, you owe it to yourself to see this. It will change your outlook on music – in a good way – forever.

REASONS TO GO: Amazing music and spiritually uplifting. Everything a documentary should be.

REASONS TO STAY: If musical documentaries don’t interest you…

FAMILY VALUES:  There are a few swear words and some brief nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Producer Gil Friesen, the former head of A&M records, came up with the idea and title after attending a Leonard Cohen show with his friend Jimmy Buffett. Unfortunately, Friesen passed away shortly before the film debuted at Sundance earlier this year.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 4/6/13: Rotten Tomatoes: no score yet. Metacritic: no score yet; the film has appeared at Sundance but won’t see theatrical release until June 14th but frankly, I don’t see critics not falling in love with this early Oscar contender.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Young @ Heart

FINAL RATING: 10/10

NEXT: Nancy, Please and more from the 2013 Florida Film Festival