Streaming. Marvell’s first sitcom? Close enough! Bruce Banner’s cousin Jennifer Walters (a wonderful Tatiana Maslany) is back breaking fourth walls and busting out Ally McBeal-like zingers in a legal comedy that’s more hammy than hulky.
When she too is cursed/blessed with an inner green giant, the legal eagle looks to her cousin (Mark Ruffalo, the MCU’s Hulk) to help her control her incredible new powers.
When she’s hired by a big-time law firm to head up her own division, is surprised to discover the workplace wants She-Hulk not Jessica – so has to get about court in her green state.
Tim Roth, reprising his role from The Incredible Hulk, returns as the Abomination in an early episode. He’s only the first of the surprise appearances, too.
After the super-seriousness of those Avengers movies, She-Hulk is both a breath of fresh air and an adorable treat. – CC
The Day The Music Died : The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie
Streaming. It’s one of the most popular and recognized songs in the world. An 8-minute epic about the end of rock of roll, chronicling February 3, 1959. The day the music died. That song? Don McLean’s masterpiece, “American Pie.” I’ve been in bars all over the world, from the good old USA to Europe, and I’ve never heard this song played without everyone in the place singing along. The chorus is infective and the verses memorable. But what was the impetus for the song? And why is it even more popular today then the day it was released over 50 years ago?
The Day the Music Died gives an amazing insight into the mind of a songwriter so gifted that he was the inspiration for Roberta Flack’s Grammy Award winning song “Killing Me Softly with His Song.” As a sidenote, I should mention that the tale of how that song came to be is worthy of a documentary film of its own. Like many singer/songwriters of the late 1960s, McLean would spend hours putting pen to paper, trying to put his thoughts to music. A chance remembering of his time as a paperboy kindled a spark that has yet to be extinguished. As the verses poured out of his mind, it only took McLean an hour to write the heart of the song, going back – as many songwriters do – to fine tune the verses until they sounded perfect.
Not only does the film take an inside look at the composition of the song, but also gives a glance back, and a nod to, a simpler time in rock and roll. The three young musicians whose death registered so strongly with McLean – J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper), Ritchie Valens and McLean’s musical idol, the great Buddy Holly – get their due here, climaxed by McLean’s meeting with Valens’ sister, Connie, whose heartfelt thanks to McLean for helping to immortalize her brother is genuine and moving.
I was 11-years old when “American Pie” was released, and I can still remember the local Chicago radio station playing it over and over. I also remember one Sunday edition of the Chicago “Tribune” that included an in-depth look at the song, line by line, in an attempt to decipher the meaning behind the words. Who was the Jester? Was he talking about Vladmir Lenin or John Lennon? And what exactly was a dirge? Who knew, but they were being sung in the dark.
As I mentioned above, the song was over 8-minutes long (8:42 to be exact) and it was originally released as a two-sided single. Though radio stations initially played just one side of the 45 rpm disc, listener requests caused them to play the entire song. If you don’t count streaming sales (sorry Taylor Swift – anyone can download a song from a computer – in my day you had to leave the house and buy the record), “American Pie” remains the longest running song to hit #1 on the Billboard charts.
As an added bonus, McLean explains the song’s title. In the past 50-years I’ve heard all kinds of stories, among them that the plane that crashed, killing Holly and the others, was called “American Pie.” Incorrect. To my knowledge, the plane had no name. In early 1995, famed disc jockey Wolfman Jack was promoting an upcoming appearance in Baltimore and taking listener’s calls. I got in and asked him if he knew where the song got its title. He said he did and would reveal the truth at his appearance. Sadly he passed away before he could – if I’d had my way – whisper it in my ear. Now I know. I’d tell you, but then you’d be missing out on one hell of a story!
We Are Gathered Here
Digital. Danny Huston, Lin Shaye, Bill Smitrovich and Rae Dawn Chong are among the instantly recognizable thesps playing members of a clan who get together via electronic means to talk about a relatives’ deadly bout with Covid-19.
Imaginatively captured completely on google video windows, Paul Boyd’s (ostensibly) pandemic-lensed drama makes brilliant use of a gifted, large cast of familiar faces, obvious contemporary technology, and a sweet if not always gripping script. – ML
The Day After Halloween
Digital. Not to be confused by the 1979 Australian film of the same name (aka Snapshot), this sassier take on Peter Berg’s Very Bad Things sees a couple of pals opening their eyes after a Halloween party to discover a dead body in the bathtub.
If you miss the drive-in theater, that’s one good reason to check out this campy new horror-comedy from Zucker wannabes Chad Ostrom (director) and Danny Schluck (writer). One of the characters in the flick works at the screen under the stars (in this case, the somewhat famous Mahoning Drive-In), and the cream screen looks a treat here.
Unfortunately, the jokes -some are borderline chancy, something only Mel Brooks or the aforesaid David Zucker can usually get away with – don’t always land, and the non-linear structure deters enjoyment but the film admirable tries to mine each laugh and jump scare as much as it possible. For heart alone, it’s worth a look. – KT
Digital. Australians know how to craft a superbly dark psychological thriller, one with the kind of effective, suspenseful beats to induce forehead sweat beads, and first timer David Willing’s Surrogate is cream of the crop.
With an irresistibly commanding by performance by Kestie Morassi (best known for Wolf Creek) as a young mother who falls inexplicably sick, the Downunder Rosemary’s Baby-meets-Gothika really gives Hollywood a run for its money in the spooky paranormal chiller department.
Where the film really excels is in the chill factor, effectively flipping the frights switch on when mom and nurse Natalie (Morassi) finds herself haunted after a rough night at work.
Digital. About as hard to summarise as a multi-car pile-up during a rainstorm, Robert G.Putka’s mish-mash of comedy, adventure, and fantasy revels in its kooky uniqueness and excels in its ability to hook the audience a with far-fetched yarn that plays like a Jim Morrison fever dream retold by Albert Brooks.
Featuring standout performances by Hugo de Sousa and Vic Norris as two men who find themselves in the dead of the desert, questioning whether they’ve partied too hard at a festival or are in some kind of purgatory, this metaphysical dramedy serves as a viral reminder that there’s plenty of good to be mined in the independent film community. – ML
Streaming. More Steel than Hitchcock, this knuckle-bruising superhero drama – a rare profusion indeed – features 76-year-old Sly Stallone as a fallen superhero who vanished without a trace after a bout with a nefarious villain. A local kid spots Sly, is convinced he’s the legendary superhero of yesteryear, and sets out to prove he’s right.
While its unarguably going to appeal largely to Stallone’s loyal fan base, there’s enough biffo, heart, and surprises in here to recommend it to those who haven’t got one sheeters of Over the Top and Oscar on their wall (you know you’re a Sly die-hard fan when…).
Be interesting to see how long the twist stays concealed for online. – CC
Top Gun Maverick
Digital. Packed with wall -to-wall action, the long-gestating Top Gun (1986) sequel finds, well, Maverick (Tom Cruise), back as an instructor at the Fighter Pilot Training School, where he is asked to get 16 of the best pilots ready for a mission. He balks at first at the assignment, stating his preference to be a part of the mission itself, but is told in no uncertain terms by his commander (Jon Hamm) that he’s just there to train and evaluate. However, things get a little more difficult when he learns that one of the students, call sign Rooster (Miles Teller), is the son of Maverick’s late friend Goose, a young man who blames Maverick for many things, including, of course, the death of his father. Can you say tension?
Combining several familiar themes from the first film, with an amazing amount of aerial action, Joseph Kosinski’s sequel delivers the goods. Cruise is his usual cocky self, and that self-assurance is multiplied several times by the assortment of hot shot pilots he is given to mentor. – CC