Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Stardust picks up a few years after the end of the film That'll Be The Day. Jim MacLaine (David Essex) has formed a band (The Stray Cats) and become a big star. So big, he decides he no longer needs his band and goes solo. In the end, fame and riches have a detrimental effect on his personal life
Besides Davie Essex, Stardust features several other musicians: Adam Faith, Marty Wilde, Keith Moon, Nick Lowe, Dave Edmunds (who went on in real life to produce the rockabilly band Stray Cats), and Paul Nicholas. There's a lot more music performed in this movie than there was in That'll Be The Day (where most of the music was on the soundtrack), but the soundtrack here is also filled with great songs from the era (in fact, more people bought the soundtrack than ever saw this film).
While I enjoyed That'll Be The Day immensely, I was a little bit let down viewing Stardust. It's not a bad film, but the hackneyed storyline about a musician who thinks he's too big for the band he's in, goes solo and puts out egocentric music, gets hooked on drugs, pines for the old days, and o.d.'s in the end, just didn't do it for me. Even though Jim MacLaine was somewhat of an unlikable character in the That'll Be The Day, I still rooted for him. In this second feature, I never felt or cared much about MacLaine. Still, this film is well worth seeing and is almost a requirement if you've seen the first movie.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
That'll Be The Day stars David Essex as Jim MacLaine, a young man in search of his own identity. The film is based on Nilsson's song "1941" and also has some parallels to the life of John Lennon. The movie begins in the late 1950's with MacLaine's father abandoning his family after WWII (a theme which I have seen in several British films set in this era) and ends in the early 1960's with MacLaine abandoning his own family for the world of rock and roll.
After dropping out of high school, MacLaine works a number of dead end jobs, and while working as a barman at a holiday camp he meets Mike (Ringo Starr) who becomes his mentor. Ringo is superb in his part, as good as any other actor in the film. I imagine his familiarity with the era helped a lot in making his character so believable. Billy Fury plays Stormy Tempest (based on Rory Storm) in the house band at the camp's bar. The drummer for the band is Keith Moon of The Who, who also has a small acting part. Moon has one of my favorite lines in the film, when asked if he has ever thought about writing his own songs, he replies "you got to be American to write Rock and Roll songs".
Most of the music in That'll Be The Day is on the soundtrack (comparable to the American Graffiti soundtrack), but besides the Stormy Tempest band, there are only two other bands in the movie: a Trad Band and an early rock and roll band (featuring Eugene Wallace as the lead singer). After seeing the rock and roll band, MacLaine/Essex buys a guitar and the film abruptly ends, and MacLaine's story is continued in the film's sequel, Stardust.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Viva Las Vegas would be a pretty standard Elvis movie except for the presence of Ann-Margret, who obviously inspired Elvis to do some of his best film work. Elvis plays Lucky Jackson, a race car driver trying to raise enough money to buy a new engine for his car. Ann-Margret plays Rusty Martin, a swimming instructor at the hotel where Elvis is staying. Elvis tries to woo Ann-Margret and she resists these advances at first but, of course, she eventually falls in love with Elvis.
In Viva Las Vegas, Elvis sings seven songs solo and has a duet with Ann-Margret on one song. Ann-Margret has two solo songs in the movie and The Forte Four have one song. I thought the stand-out songs were "Viva Las Vegas" (Elvis has an edge to his voice when singing this tune that really makes the song), "C'mon Everybody" and his duet with Ann-Margret "The Lady Loves Me". A few of the other songs were ok and, as usual with an Elvis movie, a few of the songs were just "filler". Supposedly, the scene where Elvis performs "Viva Las Vegas" was done in one unedited shot, the only time this ever happened in Elvis' movie career.
It's rumored that Ann-Margret and Elvis had a love affair while making this film and I have no doubt this is what brought out the best in Elvis. Ann-Margret had only made a few movies before this one and Elvis turned out to be the better actor in the film. When Elvis and Ann-Margret have a scene together their chemistry exploded off the screen. They truly made a dynamic duo (take that Batman and Robin!). There are a few dull moments and a few silly moments in Viva Las Vegas, but they're few and far apart. I think the worst part of the movie, for me, was Ann-Margret's second dance number. I felt like I had already seen the same routine the first time she danced in the movie.
This is one of my all time favorite Elvis movies and I imagine everyone has seen this film at some point in their lives, if not, do yourself a favor and rent it, buy it, or download it at your earliest chance.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
The title Glenn Tilbrook: One For The Road pretty much sums up this documentary. In 2001, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze came to the U.S. and bought an RV to enable him to make a month long solo tour of America and not have to stay in hotel/motel rooms. The movie was directed by fan Amy Pickard, who supposedly sold all her possessions to finance the film.
This was a thoroughly enjoyable documentary and the main reason is Glenn Tilbrook. His love for his music and his easy going manner with fans or in the face of RV breakdowns makes you really like the guy. I had such an enjoyable time watching that the one thing that kept running through my mind while was, "Gee, I wish I'd seen this tour when it came through Greenville". I would highly recommend this film for anyone who loves good music, not just fans of Squeeze.
Monday, July 22, 2013
Suck is about a bar band that's going nowhere, until one of the members gets turned into a vampire. The audiences start getting bigger, mainly because they're curious to see a band with a vampire. The rest of the band members decide to also get turned into vampires. This results in the band becoming a huge hit all across the country.
The musicians in Suck all play supporting roles. Alice Cooper plays a bartender and has another surprise part at the end of the film; Iggy Pop is a famous record producer; Henry Rollins (wearing a wig) is radio host Rockin' Roger; Dimitri Coats of the bands Burning Bridges and Off is the vampire who turns the first band member into a vamp; Moby appears as the lead singer of a heavy metal band, Secretaries of Steak; and Alex Lifesong of Rush plays an American customs/border crossing agent. All but two of these musicians are eventually killed by one of the vampire band members, but I won't spoil the movie and reveal who lives and who dies. Non-musician Malcolm McDowell, who plays Eddie Van Helsing (a vampire hunter who's afraid of the dark), rues the fact during the final credits that he didn't get to sing.
I went into Suck expecting little or nothing much from the film. To my delight I found a very light-hearted spoof of the music business with many deft comedy touches.There's a lot of sly musical references throughout the movie and even three scenes which recreate famous album covers. Topping off the fun is Dave Foley (as the band's manager, who advises the band that they need to fire their manager), who made me laugh out loud in several of his scenes. I did think the ending was a little weak while I was viewing the movie, but looking back, now I think the ending fit perfectly. If you're looking for a good horror/comedy, I would recommend checking out Suck.
Friday, July 19, 2013
In W.W. and The Dixie Dancekings, Burt Reynolds plays W.W. Bright who has a personal vendetta against the S.O.S. company, so he rides around the country robbing those gas stations. With a little cash and a lot of con, he convinces the gas station attendants to give a false report to the police about what the robber looked like. Burt Reynolds is at the top of his game as a "good ole boy" with a bucket load of charm, and his on-screen charisma is what holds the movie together.
While almost getting caught during one robbery, he hides out inside a local dance hall. Burt ingratiates himself with the local band playing there, which features Conny Van Dyke (Dixie), Jerry Reed, and Don Williams. In a "put up or shut up moment", Burt convinces the band he can take them to Nashville and make them famous. When funds run short in Music City, Burt gets the band to help him rob another one of S.O.S.'s businesses, a bank. This plan goes awry and the gang flees to the rural country, where they hide out at the home of blues singer Furry Lewis.
This is one movie that always makes me happy when I watch it. I don't know if it's Burt's charm, the presence of Jerry Reed, in his big screen debut, or sad sack Don Williams. Not to mention the great bits by Mel Tillis (as a gas station attendant) and Roni Stoneman (who plays the ticket taker at the dance hall). Something just has me grinning all through this movie. The only flaw in the film is Art Carney's role as a fundamentalist preacher, who is also a private detective trying to catch Burt. Carney did a fine acting job, it's just his character never rang true for me and seemed over the top (which is saying a lot, since the movie is filled with over the top characters). It's a shame that W.W. and The Dixie Dancekings is out of print, since it's such a great film, but it shows up now and then on cable TV or can be obtained easily on the "grey market".
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Hank Williams is being driven to Ohio for a show. As he rides along he imagines what it would be like to give a show again in a small honky-tonk, thus the title Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave. The movie then cuts back and forth from Hank's concert in the bar and him riding in back of the Cadillac. Most of the film centers around the concert he is giving in the club.
Sneezy Waters portrays Hank Williams and while he doesn't really look or sound like Williams it's not that hard to suspend belief and think he's the legendary singer and you're getting to see an up-close concert. Sneezy performs twenty-three songs, most of which were hit songs for Hank, but he also does a couple of Luke The Drifter recitations, and a couple of cover songs. A special note about whoever cast the audience at the club, the people looked like "real" people and not just a bunch of actors, this really helped lead credence to making the film seem more real.
While Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave doesn't delve a lot into biographical material like An Evening With Hank Williams, Sr., it does touch on his life with some of the stage comments between songs. This movie is more akin to some of the "tribute" shows which currently tour the U.S. recreating concerts by The Beatles, Queen, Michael Jackson, Pink Floyd, etc. Anyone interested in what it would have been like to see Williams do a concert in a small club will certainly enjoy this film.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Your Cheatin' Heart was an entertaining but not very factual movie about Hank Sr. and The Last Ride was a terrible movie that turned Hank Sr.'s last 48 hours into a buddy/road movie. An Evening With Hank Williams, Sr. strives and succeeds in giving you an inside look at the famous entertainer.
As you can see from the photo on the box above, Jim Owen doesn't look that much like Hank Williams, but once he's in character, he's very believable as Hank. His voice and mannerisms really make you believe you are getting a close-up, personal look at one of the most important figures in Country Music.
An Evening With Hank Williams, Sr. is a one man show with Jim Owen presenting the life of Hank Sr. through a series of stories and songs. It's a great overview of the life of the the Country Music legend and I think it's something any casual or serious fan of Hank Sr. would enjoy.
Sunday, July 14, 2013
The Last Ride purports to tell the story of the last 48 hours of Hank Williams' life as he leaves Alabama on a road trip to West Virginia and Ohio for a couple of concerts to revive his career. It stars Henry Thomas (Elliott in E.T.) as one of the the most important figures in Country Music.
There are no songs sung by Hank Williams in this film. A few of Hank's songs are on the soundtrack, but they are sung by other performers. I imagine since this was a low budget film, that the rights to Hank's recordings could not be procured. Also, I'm guessing that's why the words "Hank Williams" are never uttered by anyone in the movie. Hank's illegitimate daughter, Jett, sings a few songs on the soundtrack and she has a great voice. I guess her contribution is the closest this film gets to anything really related to Hank Sr.
The Last Ride is a terrible movie with so many things wrong with it. First and foremost, the filmmakers turn the last few days of Williams' life into a buddy/road film. What a shame and a waste of a good story, this could have been a really interesting tale. Instead, it's a coming of age film about Hank's driver (played by Jesse James).
And now a few of the other things wrong with the movie:
Unlike George Hamilton as Hank Sr. in Your Cheatin' Heart, I never believed for one moment that Henry Thomas was the legend he was portraying. Thomas did a fine acting job, but I just never bought into him as Hank Sr. Although Thomas is about the same height as Hank Williams, for some reason, he seemed shorter. Maybe he just wasn't lanky or emaciated looking enough.
People in Tennessee in the movie refer to a state called "Carolina"...sorry folks, but people in Tennessee know there's a South and a North Carolina and they can tell the difference. This is a mistake people North of the Mason-Dixon Line and West of the Mississippi make all the time.
Hank Williams drinks constantly out of a flask and the flask doesn't go empty for at least 24 hours. Must be like those six-guns in the old Westerns that never ran out of bullets.
It was supposed to be urgent that Hank got to his concerts on time, but in most of the shots it appeared the old Cadillac wasn't doing much more than 25mph (and many times it appeared slower than that), so the movie never really conveyed any urgency.
The end credits are wrong when they state "new songs by Hank were found in the back seat of the Cadillac" (these were actually uncompleted songs in notebooks). The credits go on to state "Bob Dylan acquired them and working with various modern artists recorded the album Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute." What a boneheaded mistake...that's a tribute album as the title clearly states. The actual album with these songs was called The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams. I guess this is just another factor in showing how little the filmmakers cared about any type of accuracy.
Finally, I never could suspend belief long enough to think one of the most famous entertainers of the time was never recognized anywhere he went, or even if he was, his name was never spoken....Guess what I can recognize....this was a disaster of a film!
Friday, July 12, 2013
If you're looking for a movie that's an accurate portrayal of Hank Williams life, be forewarned, Your Cheatin' Heart is NOT the movie for you. This film takes some of the basic facts of Hank's life, adds in some events of its own, and then dramatizes a story around those facts and events. Hank's wife Audrey was the technical adviser for the film, which of course, makes the film somewhat slanted to present her in a good light.
The Hank Williams songs in the movie are done by Hank Williams, Jr. (who was only 15 at the time) and George Hamilton lip synches them. Hamilton does a good enough job with the lip synching that it doesn't distract from the film.
Just like when Richard Thomas played Hank Jr. in Living Proof, George Hamilton seemed an odd choice to portray Hank Williams, but Hamilton really does a credible job in making you believe he's Hank Sr. A few years later, he would also do another great acting job in portraying the title character in another biopic, Evel Knievel. As stated above, Your Cheatin' Heart is more of a dramatic film with a few true facts about Hank Williams' life mixed into the storyline. It's still a pretty good movie, and as long as you view it with that fact in mind, you should enjoy this film, I know I did.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
Living Proof presents the story of Hank Williams, Jr. starting with his early years, where his career was guided by his mother as she molded him into basically a Hank Sr. impersonator. The movie continues with Hank, Jr. leaving his mother and searching for his own sound. This era of Hank Jr.'s life is also dominated by a lot of partying and drug use. Just after Hank Jr. records his watershed album, Hank Williams Jr. and Friends, he has a tragic accident falling off the side of a mountain and breaking every bone in his skull. With the help of friends and family he is able to make a comeback from the accident with his own sound, and no longer be considered to be riding on the coattails of his famous father.
Richard Thomas portrays Hank Jr. and sings Sr.'s songs in the first half of the movie and lip synch's Jr.'s songs in the latter half of Living Proof. There were two other country musicians of note in this film: Naomi Judd of The Judds has a small part as as a groupie who, according to the film, was Hank Jr.'s first sexual encounter. The other musician is Merle Kilgore (writer of Wolverton Mountain and co-writer of Ring of Fire amongst other songs) who plays himself, a close friend of Hank Jr. in the movie and in real-life, and he does a fine job in his role. Also, Mickey Jones (drummer for Bob Dylan, First Edition, Johnny Rivers, and Trini Lopez) appears in many scenes.
I had seen Living Proof when it first aired on TV in 1983. Richard Thomas had just finished his run on The Waltons a few years prior and it seemed odd for him to play Hank Jr. In 1983, Hank Jr. was in full country outlaw mode having already recorded the classics “Family Tradition” and “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” and here he was being played by clean cut John Boy Walton, it almost seemed like a joke. Looking back now, Hank Jr. was a pretty clean cut looking guy, as can be seen in his only starring movie, A Time To Sing. Since time has passed, and I no longer strictly think of Richard Thomas as John Boy, I can see see what a good actor he was and what a great job he did in portraying Hank Jr. While I can't vouch for the accuracy of the movie (however it was based on Hank Jr.'s book of the same name), I can without hesitation recommend this film for any Hank, Jr. fan.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
A Time To Sing is Hank Williams, Jr.'s only starring film role. In this movie he plays the nephew of Ed Begley, who owns a small tobacco farm. Although Hank is a talented singer/songwriter, his uncle is dead set against Hank having anything to do with the music business. The reason why is revealed later in the movie. Through a series of convoluted plot twists, most involving Shelley Fabares, Hank winds up becoming a big star.
As far as music in the movie goes, Hank Jr. sings a handful of songs (1/2 of which he wrote), one with Clara Ward and the rest solo, plus Shelley Fabares sings one number. In several scenes, Hank Jr. is backed up by his real-life band, The Cheatin' Hearts. Hank Jr.'s country songs in A Time To Sing fare much better than the pop/folk style songs he sings. Those songs just didn't fit with Hank Jr.'s voice/personality.
A Time To Sing is a very poorly made movie with a badly written plot and lots of weak acting. And the weak acting doesn't just come from Hank Jr., I mean he's a singer and his acting reflects that fact, but there's no excuse for his co-stars. Only Donald Woods as Shelley's father, Clara Ward as herself, and Charles Robinson in the hilarious role of "hipster" agent Shifty Barker (think Maynard G. Krebs with a work ethic) show any talent in the acting department and that includes veteran actor, Ed Begley. I can only recommend this film for BIG fans of Hank Jr. (casual fans, don't waste your time).
Saturday, July 6, 2013
Winter A-Go-Go has a plot.....it just doesn't have much of one. James Stacy inherits a ski lodge and for some reason he's able to attract a very lovely bunch of ladies to accompany him to the lodge and work for free. Of course, there has to be a bad guy and this time it's a mortgage broker who wants the lodge for himself, so he sends a couple of goons to try to wreck Stacy's success. In between the scant plot is a lot of skiing, riding on ski lifts, dancing, lame comedy and, of course, some musical acts.
Winter A-Go-Go has a very weak stable of music stars: The Nooney Rickett Four, an obscure Southern California band, serve as the house band and perform "Ski City" and "Do The Ski (With Me)". On the second song they are accompanied by Joni Lyman (another minor singing personality). Ms. Lyman also has a solo song "King of The Mountain". None of these tunes are anything you would ever want to hear more than once. I had hope that The Reflections ("Just Like Romeo and Juliet"), in their only big screen performance, would be the stand-out musical group of the film, but the best thing I can say about their tune "I'm Sweet On You" is, I was glad when it was over. The best tune in the movie is "Hip Square Dance" sung by James Stacy. It was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who also wrote the aforementioned song "Do The Ski (With Me)"
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is referred to as a jukebox musical. I would refer to it as a rock opera, which is narrated by George Burns and stars Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees. The Beatles' albums Sgt. Pepper's and Abbey Road provide the majority of the songs for the plot. It seems the original Sgt. Pepper's Band instruments are stolen by some bad guys and they must be returned to Heartland or the town's magic will disappear.
Peter Frampton and The Bee Gees (Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb) perform the majority of the songs in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but the movie also features performances by Aerosmith, Billy Preston, Alice Cooper, and Earth, Wind & Fire. The end finale, which sort of recreates the album cover, has a host of musical stars along with TV and movie personalities. There are way too many artists in that final scene to list, but if you're interested, you can find a list at this wikipedia page under Special Guests.
I had heard Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was a disaster of a film. I really couldn't figure out why it had gotten such bad reviews (other than people seemed to hate The Bee Gees essentially playing The Beatles). The movie seemed like a pretty innocuous musical based on the songs of The Beatles. At about the half-way point of the movie (somewhere near the disaster of Steve Martin singing "Maxwell's Silver Hammer"), I finally understood why the film doesn't get much love from people or critics....it became BORING, there just wasn't a strong enough storyline to propel the movie forward to the end. The only two saving graces in the second half of the film were Billy Preston's performance and the finale as discussed above. I guess the movie is worth checking out (something few did on its initial release), but I would recommend watching it in parts instead of trying to sit through the whole film at one time.
Monday, July 1, 2013
As I started to watch How To Stuff A Wild Bikini, all I could think was: Is it possible to get physically sick watching a "Beach Party Movie"? I don't know if it was the sight of John Ashley carrying an electric guitar around the beach, which he obviously wasn't playing, OR if it was when the whole cast jumped in and sang along with him (a trend which continued for the whole film). All I know is, my stomach was saying "I can't take too much of this".
What a shame since there was a great opening claymation title sequence by Art Clokely (creator of Gumby) which made it looked like this was going to be another light romp with the Beach Party Gang. After I accepted that this was not going to a fun hour and a half, my nausea abated and just turned into a dull headache. All the songs in the film, with just a couple of exceptions, are incorporated like a standard musical into the storyline....and I should mention listening to these songs sucked the life right out of me. The only reason, and I mean THE ONLY REASON, to watch this movie is to see The Kingsmen perform "Give Her Lovin", since this is their only big screen appearance. Annette also sings two songs in the film "The Perfect Boy" and "Better Be Ready".
One major thing (amongst many, many, many minor things) wrong with How To Stuff A Wild Bikini was casting Frankie Avalon in a bit part. My understanding is he asked for more money and was cut to only a supporting role as punishment. Trying to replace Frankie with Dwayne Hickman (a nice enough guy) was a good try, but it just makes you realize how great Annette and Frankie were when paired together. There just wasn't the same chemistry between Annette and Dwayne.
One final note: There has been some confusion about Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys being in this film. While there is a Brian Wilson in the movie, he is NOT Beach Boy Brian Wilson, but rather an heir of the Wilson Leather Company.