Monday, June 24, 2013
It's A Bikini World was filmed in 1965, but not released until 1967, this may account for the fact that I had never seen this movie, since by 1967 I had lost interest (with most of the rest of America) in "Beach Party Movies". Tommy Kirk is the beach playboy and when he can't add Deborah Walley to his list of accomplishments, he disguises (well he wears a pair of glasses and dresses like a nerd) himself and pretends to be his own twin brother in order to win her over.
There was a pretty good line-up of music acts in It's A Bikini World: The Animals perform "We Gotta Get out of This Place," The Castaways sing their hit "Liar, Liar." The Toys perform "Attack," The Gentrys sing "Spread It On Thick" and Pat & Lolly Vegas (who would later morph into Redbone) perform "Walk On (Right Out of My Life)." Bobby "Boris" Pickett doesn't sing in the movie, but he has a supporting role as Tommy Kirk's best friend.
Tommy Kirk's acting really surprised me in this movie. People will probably think I'm crazy, but Kirk reminded me of a young Cary Grant. He would have been perfect in some light romantic comedies, but soon after this film (except for some sporadic appearances) he left the world of acting and for 20 years operated a carpet cleaning business. Even though the plot was light and silly (just as expected in a "Beach Party Film"), I thought It's A Bikini World held its own against the Frankie and Annette films of the same ilk. If, like me, you didn't catch this one the first time around, check it out now; I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Sunday, June 23, 2013
Nowhere Boy takes a look a John Lennon's life from 1946-1960 and his relationship with his mother and his Aunt Mimi, who raised him. We also briefly see John's Uncle George, who had a huge influence on molding Lennon's sense of humor. Aaron Taylor-Johnson looked somewhat like John (or at least like he could be Julian's brother), and that resemblance and being able to copy Lennon's speech cadence helped make his role believable.
Nowhere Boy doesn't travel into Beatles territory, although there are subtle references in the film to events/places that appear later in Beatles' songs. As far as the music part of the film, it shows Lennon forming The Quarrymen, how he met Paul McCartney and Paul's friend, George Harrison, and having them join his band. At the end of the movie, John leaves for Hamburg and this is as close to The Beatles as the film gets.
As with any biopic, I'm sure there are probably inaccuracies in Nowhere Boy, but I'll leave those to the Beatles' experts to point out. I will say, I thought Thomas Brodie-Sangster was miscast as Paul, he appeared too young and too short of stature to play Paul. I came away from the movie with a better understanding of what made John Lennon the person he became as an adult. Even if you're not interested in John Lennon, you might still like Nowhere Boy, since it is an excellent family drama, one that just happens to be about a famous person.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Rock, Rock, Rock is primarily a concert film molded around a very slight plot about Tuesday Weld (13 years old at the time) trying to get the right dress for the prom. Most of the songs in the movie are presented during two points in the movie: when Weld and her friend watch The Alan Freed Show on TV and when Alan Freed brings his show to the prom. There are a few other songs in the film that are incorporated as if the movie was a standard musical.
My favorite performances in the movie were by Chuck Berry, Johnny Burnette Trio, and Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. There's a little something in the film for everyone: Doo Wop Groups, Rock Groups, R&B singers, Pop singers, and as noted above, even a child novelty singer. Rock, Rock, Rock moves at a pretty brisk pace, since in 85 minutes it manages to have all the music acts, the other musical performances and the storyline. Although the plot was silly (at least by today's standards), the movie is well worth watching for the great line-up of stars.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Dynamite Chicken is a potpourri of skits, old film footage, comedy sketches, spoken word segments, on the street interviews, music and comedy sketches, and lots and lots of naked dancing women. All of these diverse elements are held together with interspersed bits of comedy from Richard Pryor.
Even though the the announced cast listed at the first of the film leads you to believe the movie will have appearances by Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf, they are only seen briefly in archival footage. The only real performance is by Joan Baez who sings a short song. John Lennon and Yoko Ono appear in a clip from The Bed-In and Sha Na Na has a very very short bit in the movie.
Dynamite Chicken is a movie that belongs to its time period (late 60s, early 70s). Viewed in 2013, it now seems terribly dated. If you can view it with the mindset of that period, you might get some enjoyment out of this film. For myself, even being a child of the 60s, I found only Richard Pryor's comedy to be entertaining, the rest of the movie was a pain to get through.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Directed by Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, 2000 Maniacs), the only horror in Blast-Off Girls is the one experienced by lots of musicians over the years. An unscrupulous manager (who you know is evil since he carries a cane during the whole film) manipulates a group to fame, but he's the only one who receives any monetary gain.
There are two groups featured in the movie, Charlie (a pretty rough but fun sounding group and my favorite of the two) and The Faded Blue (a fairly decent garage band from Chicago). There's lots of music throughout Blast-Off Girls, most of it pretty good, but one number (an instrumental) they play for Col. Sanders (yes, that Col. Sanders) irritated my ears to no end and I was glad when it was over. Some of the songs are lip synced, but a few appear to be recorded live. During the end credits, The Faded Blue/Blast Off have what amounts to a music video, so stay tuned for it.
Is Blast-Off Girls a good movie? Not a chance in hell, it's poorly filmed, poorly acted, poorly edited...well you get the idea...still it entertained me from start to finish. If you don't have the disposition for cheap-ass films (which sometimes I do and sometimes I don't) then you definitely want to pass this one up. But, if you like garage music and want to see what a movie would be like starring an obscure group from The Windy City, then you owe it to yourself to check out Blast-Off Girls.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Anthony Geary (General Hospital's Luke) is deep in gambling debt, but if his uncle (Ralph Bellamy) dies, he can collect his inheritance. To speed his uncle's demise along, he hires three bumbling orderlies (Markie, Buffy & Cool - The Fat Boys). Much to Geary's chagrin, The Fat Boys total ineptness actually works in reverse and they have his uncle feeling better than ever, so Geary has to go to plan B, murder his uncle and blame it on the Disorderlies.
The Fat Boys only perform one number in the movie, "Baby You're A Rich Man". The only other song performance in the film is by Laura Hunter who sings "Work Me Down Down" during a roller rink segment. There are several cameo appearances: Ray Parker, Jr. is a pizza delivery guy; Helen Reddy appears as a socialite; Broadway's Linda Hopkins plays Buffy's mother; Rick Nielsen (wearing a Cheap Trick t-shirt) has his car hijacked by two of The Fat Boys; and The Beach Boys (Brian and Carl Wilson and Mike Love) show up near the end of Disorderlies.
The Fat Boys in Disorderlies are akin to The Three Stooges, but without the sophistication. Maybe in 1987 this movie was funnier, but I doubt it. I don't blame The Fat Boys, they were just stuck in a bad movie and appeared to be giving it their all. The best part of the film was when they performed "Baby, You're A Rich Man". At least Ralph Bellamy got some practice being in a wheelchair, which came in handy when he played Roosevelt a couple of years later in the TV mini-series War and Remembrance. If only Bellamy as Roosevelt could have used one of his lines from this movie and told Hitler "Step Off, Homeboy", WWII might have ended sooner.
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Purple People Eater is based loosely (very loosely) on the song of the same name made popular by Sheb Wooley. In this movie version, Neil Patrick Harris finds some old records which once belonged to his father. When Neil plays Wooley's song, the purple people eater comes down from space. No reason given, it just happens. Purple people eater is one horned and one eyed, but only eats purple people. He's like a big goofy stuffed animal (or a ballpark mascot) and Neil names him Purple. Purple can play the horn out of the top of his head (and sometimes, actual notes are present on screen), so him and Neil form a band, which becomes famous locally and they even cut a record. They use their fame to do a benefit to save some old folks from getting kicked out of their homes by a greedy developer.
There are three musicians of note in Purple People Eater: Chubby Checker makes a guest appearance with the band and sings "Twist It Up ". Sheb Wooley has a part as an old friend of Neil's grandfather and Little Richard appears at the end of the film as the mayor of the town and helps get an ordinance passed saving the old folks from having their rental homes turned into expensive condos.
I'm not going to be too harsh on Purple People Eater because it's really a movie for kids....and I'm a long way from being a kid. For an adult, it's pretty dull with a weak plot and even the acting isn't very good; but I bet there are kids out there who have watched, or would watch this film over and over again.
Friday, June 14, 2013
The director, Alan Arkbush worked at the Fillmore East and Get Crazy is his tribute to that venue (and what a poor tribute it is). Get Crazy is set on December 31, 1982 and The Saturn (Fillmore) is in danger of being torn down to make room for a high rise office building. If the evil real estate baron gets his way, this will be the last New Year's Eve concert at the famous music hall.
There are a lot of musicians appearing in Get Crazy and they're the only reason I would recommend watching this disaster of a movie. Howard Kaylan of The Turtles plays Captain Cloud (think Jerry Garcia), who arrives with his band The Rainbow Telegraph in a bus that looks very similar to The Merry Pranksters Further bus. Lori Eastside from Kid Creole and The Coconuts is joined by Lee Ving (of the punk band Fear) who plays a character named Piggy (as in Iggy Pop) . Bill Henderson plays King Blues, a ripoff of any great blues artists you might think of and Malcolm McDowell does a great job as a composite of Mick Jagger/David Bowie and his drummer Toad is played by John Densmore of The Doors. Lou Reed plays a version of Bob Dylan and when we first see him in Get Crazy, he's in a set reminiscent of Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home album cover. Teen Idols Fabian and Bobby Sherman do not perform, but have roles as henchmen to the real estate developer.
It's beyond me how the director of Rock n Roll High School, one of the best and goofiest Rock movies ever made, could have made a movie as bad as Get Crazy. Filled with tons of sight gags that would only be humorous to 10-12 year old kids (and even they may be too old for this type of humor),this movie is terrible from start to finish. Even Arkbush, the directo,r has commented he wanted to make a realistic movie about a venue like The Fillmore, but the producer forced him into making an Airplane! type movie. I waited years to see this out of print movie, since it was loaded with so many great musical stars...what a major disappointment. I have read that Get Crazy has a cult following, all I can say is what kind of kool-aid are they drinking.
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
The Loved One is an absurd black comedy based on a book by Evelyn Waugh and borrowing also from Jessica Mitford's The American Way of Death (highly recommended). The screenplay was co-written by Terry Southern. The film has so many stars it's almost like a funeral business version of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Check out this cast - Robert Morse, Jonathan Winters, Rod Steiger, Dana Andrews, Alan Napier (Batman's butler Alfred), John Gielgud, Roddy McDowall, James Coburn, Milton Berle, Liberace, Tab Hunter, Bernie Kopell (Love Boat), Paul Williams, and even Jamie Farr of M.A.S.H. has an uncredited role.
While there are no actual songs in The Loved One, there are two musicians making significant appearances.
Liberace is superb in the part of Mr. Starker who is in charge of the casket room and funeral wardrobe selections. If the top of the line products are not chosen he shows just the slightest condescension to the buyer. He appears in one other scene where top army brass have an orgy in this room with a girl in each casket. When one of the generals opens one casket, Liberace is inside. Maybe this was an earlier simpler version of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
Paul Williams (pre-singer/songwriter fame), who was 25 at the time, but due to his short stature, appears as a wunderkind with an interest in rocket science. His part plays heavily into the ending of the film. This was Williams movie debut, but he appeared a very competent actor easily holding his own with the rest of the cast.
Johnathan Winters plays two parts in the film and as usual lights up both and has my favorite line in the film. He's a movie producer who is going to do his own version of James Bond and says "We're going to give them the one thing Jim Bond doesn't have, warmth". But, a real standout is Rod Steiger's over-the-top acting role as head embalmer, Mr Joyboy. I think I had more laugh out loud moments with him than any other character in the movie. If you enjoy a dark comedy and don't have any squeamishness about the business of death, then you'll really enjoy The Loved One.
Monday, June 10, 2013
When The Boys Meet The Girls was originally a stage play and made into a movie in 1932, but has more in common with the 1943 remake starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. This 1965 version stars Harve Presnell (Fargo) as a rich playboy who has to change schools to avoid marrying one of his many girlfriends, who insists he proposed to her. When he arrives at his new school he is smitten by the local postmaster (Connie Francis) and helps save her ranch from being sold to pay for her father's gambling debts.
A good chunk of the songs in the film are the original songs written for the play by George and Ira Gershwin, with Peter Noone singing one of them "Bidin' My Time" and Louis Armstrong reprising "I Got Rhythm" at the end of the movie. There are a few other songs written especially for the movie that are sung by Connie Francis and Harve Presnell, and they also handle most of the other Gershwin numbers. The special musical stars all have their own songs. Herman's Hermits sing "Listen People", Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs perform "Monkey See Monkey Do", and Louis Armstrong sings "Throw It Out Of Your Mind", Liberace does one of his own compositions "Aruba Liberace". In an uncredited performance, The Standells can be seen in the background of one scene playing "It's All In Your Mind".
All the musical guests are good and it's worth watching the movie just for them. Peter Noone even has a small part as a college student. I especially enjoyed Sam The Sham and The Pharoahs, although what a shame that their performance was interrupted at times with part of the storyline.
When I first ran across When The Boys Meet The Girls and saw the line-up of the special musical stars: Herman's Hermits, Liberace, Louis Armstrong, and Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs, I knew I had to get a copy and thought this would be a blast. To my chagrin, it turned out to be more of an old school musical (there's one scene that could be right out of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers) than it did any type of "beach party" or "teen" film. While I'll never watch When The Boys Meet The Girls again, it's still worth checking out if you haven't seen it, especially if you're a fan of Connie Francis or any of the other musicians in the film.
Sunday, June 9, 2013
In Hell On Wheels, Marty plays a popular race car driver/country music singer named Marty Robbins. John Ashley is his brother and his mechanic who makes Marty's car run so good he almost always wins. Their other brother (played by future congressman Robert Dornan) is a revenuer. John wants out of Marty's shadow and to become a driver himself. Ashley quits Marty's operation and opens his own garage where he plans to build his own stock car. In order to get the money for his car, Ashley becomes involved in the local moonshine operation.
Naturally, Marty sings the majority of the songs in the movie - "The Shoe Goes On The Other Foot Tonight", "This Song", "No Tears My Lady", "Would You Take Me Back Again", "I'll Have To Make Some Changes", and "Fly Butterfly Fly". Connie Smith sings two songs - "Ain't Had No Lovin", "The Hurtin's All Over" and The Stonemans perform "Five Little Johnson Girls".
Marty Robbins actually drove a race car in real life. He competed in over 35 NASCAR races entering his last race only a month before he died. So, it's a natural fit for Robbins to play a race car driver who is a county western singer. Hell On Wheels is the perfect drive-in movie because 3/4 of the movie is taken up with either singing or stock car racing leaving plenty of time to go to the concession stand or to make-out. (Do kids today still make-out or does that term seem foreign to them.....if so then how about the word necking?). Watching the film at home, all the filler (singing and racing) gets old after a while, so unless you're really into Marty Robbins or vintage stock cars going round and round the same track be prepared to use your FF button on this one.
Friday, June 7, 2013
Rio Bravo is Howard Hawks and John Wayne's right wing answer to High Noon (a movie Wayne called "un-American"). John Wayne is a small town sheriff who's holding a big ranch baron's brother in his small jail until the U.S. Marshall comes through town. The only help he has is an ex-deputy who has become a drunk (Dean Martin), a young gunslinger (Ricky Nelson) and a crippled deputy (Walter Brennan).
There are a couple of song performances in Rio Bravo. Dean Martin sings ""My Rifle, My Pony, and Me" with Ricky Nelson joining in on the song. This is followed by Ricky Nelson singing the old folk song "Get Along Home Cindy" with Martin and Walter Brennan accompanying him.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Groupies is a look at the women (and a couple of men) who sleep with rock stars for the fame and notoriety it brings them. Supposedly Cinema Verite, the movie is really just a bunch of poorly edited footage that is extremely hard to watch.
There are some musical performances interspersed throughout the film: Spooky Tooth rehearsing at The Fillmore, Joe Cocker and The Grease Band playing "Delta Lady", Ten Years After performing "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" and "Help Me Baby", Dry Creek Road doing "Mister Sun", and Terry Reid with two songs "Superlungs" (back of dvd labels this mistakenly as "Supertones") and performing what I thought was the best song in the movie, "Bang Bang".
As with any type of reality filming, the groupies play to the camera, not really giving you a true look at who they are, but only a look at who they want you to think they are. The sound is so bad that many times it was hard to even hear/understand what the groupies were spouting off about. The only reason I can see to watch Groupies is to see the musical performances, the rest of the movie, in my opinion is a waste of time.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Good Times was the directorial debut of William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection). In the movie Sonny signs a contract with evil Mr. Mordicus (George Sanders) for him and Cher to star in a film. The executive wants Sonny to do a script he has on hand, unless Sonny can come up with a better script before the movie starts to shoot. As Sonny thinks about different scenarios for him and Cher, Good Times has three mini-movies starring him and Cher in different scenarios (Western, Detective, Jungle).
Good Times features seven songs, all written by Sonny and six sung by Sonny and Cher and one solo Cher song: "It's the Little Things", "I Got You Babe" (two versions), "Don't Talk to Strangers", "Trust Me", "Good Times", "I'm Gonna Love You" and "Just a Name". "I'm Gonna Love You" a bluesy song sung solo by Cher is the only good song of the bunch, with of course, the exception of their signature song "I Got You Babe". All the other songs sound like something Sonny probably knocked off in a few minutes for the movie.
Good Times main crime is it's just boring. On Sonny and Cher's TV show, the duo could do a skit and if you didn't like it, well, it was over in a few minutes. The three mini-movies in Good Times are basically bad TV skits which run on 15-20 minutes, making for mind-numbing viewing. I thought Sonny and Cher's other film outing, Chasity, was pretty bad, but still better than Good Times. As a duo Sonny and Cher's best film outing is in Wild On The Beach where they appear as themselves singing one song. Sonny never had a lot of success in films; of course, Cher went on to appear in a string of great movies.
Sunday, June 2, 2013
Elvis: The Miniseries was a made for TV special that covers Elvis' years from high school to his 1968 Comeback Special. It was produced with the cooperation of The Presley Estate and used master recordings of Elvis songs in the production. Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Tudors, Dracula) plays Elvis and Randy Quaid plays Col. Tom Parker with Camryn Manheim and Robert Patrick co-starring as Elvis' parents and Rose McGowan portrays Ann-Margret.
Along with Elvis and Ann-Margret, the miniseries also features actors portraying Scotty Moore, D.J. Fonatana, and Bill Black as members of Elvis' band and Chet Atkins as RCA producer, plus Wynonie Harris in a club scene. All these actors do a credible job, although Chet Atkin's part is so small to be almost unnoticeable. Saving the best for last, Rose McGowan shined in her part as Ann-Margret.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers looked like he was born to play Elvis and he was also good at mimicking Elvis' speech patterns and movements. Although the movie touted original master recordings, this actually turned out to be the worst part of the movie. Meyers lip synch is ok, but each time he does a song it's so obviously Elvis' voice that it reminded me of only Elvis and it took me out of the movie. The movie seemed fairly accurate, but of course, there's some "whitewashing" going on. One of the most glaring examples is near the first of the movie, when three 1950s teenagers (Elvis and a couple of his buddies) sum up a very liberal worldly view on race relations. I won't even go into how nice and neat they made it look when Elvis started dating 14 year old Priscilla. Rose McGowan, as mentioned above, was a standout as Ann-Margret and it's too bad she wasn't in the movie more. Watching Elvis: The Mini Series, you probably won't find out anything about Elvis that you didn't already know, but it's still a pretty entertaining three hours and a good overview of Elvis' life from his teens up to The 68 Comeback Special.