A Band Called Death

A Band Called Death – 4 out of 5

I originally reviewed this movie back in March during SXSW but it is opening this coming weekend.  I think it’s also already available on Amazon and DVD as well.  The Alamo Drafthouse has a screening on 6/26 with the band in attendance and doing a Q and A.  The band also played last night at the Parish and put on a great show so if they tour they are worth checking out.

This documentary is the year’s ‘Searching for SugarMan! Three brothers from Detroit weren’t into the Motown scene and recorded some punk music in the mid-seventies.  35 years later they become overnight sensations!  They were probably a little ahead of their time with pre-Ramones punk and they weren’t helped by their name. Their journey is an emotional one and luckily they were rediscovered a couple of years ago after detouring unsuccessfully into reggae music.


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Les Miserables

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

This is another one of those movies where my opinion is totally irrelevant on whether or not you should see this.  If you’ve a) seen this on Broadway and liked it, b) if you’ve never seen a musical you didn’t like, c) enjoy lots of closeups of Hugh Jackman or Anne Hathaway (even though she’s most likely crying), or d) like movies that have a lot of crying or that easily make you cry (even though I didn’t), then you should go see this. Otherwise you might want to skip this one. The other reason why my opinion should probably be ignored is that I am not a good judge of singing talent (remember. . . I’m the guy who likes to listen to Craig Finn of the Hold Steady).

The performances were all very good. The actors needed to do two things: sing and cry profusely (and do both at the same time!). They all came through with flying colors. I even was surprised by Russell Crowe’s and Sacha Baron Cohen’s singing (who along with Helena Bonham Carter brought needed comic relief). The two main kids in the movie were excellent. Special kudos go to Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. Jackman also seemed to transform physically as the movie went on. I barely recognized him in the first scene where he was an emaciated prisoner (with incredible strength).

For me, there were a few things that detracted from the movie:

– I’m ready for the slings and arrows from all Les Mis fans—I didn’t like the music that much. I have never seen the Broadway musical. But for most Broadway hit musicals that I only saw in the movies or years after they were a hit, I have always recognized and liked some of the music. For a show that opened over thirty years ago, Les Mis should fit in that category. But I didn’t recognize/remember any of it, and I’m not humming any songs today.

– Too many closeups! I’ve never seen so many closeups in a movie, especially of people crying non-stop or from the 1800s with poor dental hygiene! The closeups were made especially annoying by me being in the third row of the theater. If you plan on seeing this movie, sit towards the back!

– My guess is the plot of the book fills in a lot of holes. SPOILER ALERT ON *** The love-at- first-sight of Cosette and Marius while the world is falling apart and Marius’ happy return to the bourgeois life surprised me (to say the least). But the movie was long enough as it was. SPOILER ALERT OFF  ***

This gets a marginally positive review due to the performances, but again, if you are a fan of the show, you should go (actually you probably have already).


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Rock of Ages

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

Rock of Ages is the movie adaptation of the semi-successful Broadway musical. Set in 1987, this is the story of the romance between a small town girl and a city boy as they try to achieve their musical dreams in Hollywood. It’s also the story of the fight to save rock and roll from the powerful old farts who try to ban this evil scourge. This is where the film started to lose me, as it takes place a couple of years after the making of Footloose – a movie set in the late 50s or early 60s about the fight to save rock and roll from the powerful old farts in power trying to ban this evil scourge. Weren’t we past that in 1987, especially in L.A.?

I have not seen the stage show but my guess is the dancing and energy are better live (although I assume they did not have the monkey – and he/she was excellent!). I’m not a dance man but I didn’t think the choreography was all that great. Some of the numbers just seemed weird to me – for example the one with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the church. But the music was good and helped to keep the movie moving.

Rock of Ages had a good cast, but most of the big names were in supporting roles and weren’t fully utilized. This included Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston (speaking of which, I need to finish season 3 and 4 of Breaking Bad before season 5 starts!) and Tom Cruise. Cruise had the biggest supporting role as the aging Rock God, but it was a pretty one-dimensional role. I will give him credit for looking like a Rock God in his concert scenes. The two younger leads were OK but nothing great.

I didn’t have high expectations for this movie, but was curious about Cruise and his role. Bottom line – unless you’re really into musicals and or 80s music, you can probably skip this one.


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