Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Sound City" Review

Dave Grohl, leader of the Foo Fighters and former drummer for a band few people have heard of (i.e. Scream) makes the leap to directing with Sound City, a documentary about the legendary recording studio. While sporadically interesting with some fascinating info nuggets, it's ultimately a muddle.

Sound City was a nondescript studio located in Van Nuys, CA that became a magnet for bands to record because of two things: A great-sounding live room that made drums sound excellent and one of only four Neve 8028 mixing consoles to funnel the sounds down to tape. A veritable who's who of rock royalty from Tom Petty to Fleetwood Mac to Rick Springfield mined gold and platinum records in the seedy place, proving like Muscle Shoals did that the music is in the hands, hearts and gear, not the decoration and glitz.

One of the early revelations is that if Mick Fleetwood hadn't been checking out the studio, he may never have heard the Buckingham-Nicks album which had been recorded there which led to their joining Fleetwood Mac and enough stardom to make the cocaine super-abundant. As the Eighties brought digital technology, the studio started to fall on hard times until a three-piece band from Seattle (name escapes me) recorded there, setting off a rush of bands wanting to record where Nevermind had been tracked. (There's a quick clip of Rage Against The Machine recording half of their debut album in one night live in the studio with a bunch of friends serving as an audience.)

Eventually, the cheap power of ProTools and laptop recording along with the shrinking label budgets put the studio out of business in 2011. Not wanting to let that magic Neve, which was instrumental in launching Grohl's career, slip away, he bought the board to install in his home studio and then christened it with an all-star marathon jam session with the likes of Paul McCartney, Trent Reznor, Josh Homme, Springfield, Lee Ving, Stevie Nicks and others to write and record tunes on the spot. This segment makes up the back third of the film.

While the anecdotes are cool, the fundamental problem of Sound City is that it's too scattered in its approach. Is it about a mixing board and a studio? Is it about the changes technology have forced? Is it about the need for musicians to learn their craft? Is it about pretending Stevie Nicks doesn't sound like that screaming goat that was editing into that Taylor Swift video for viral lulz? Yes to all. While it's well photographed, it's not a well focused film.

Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable if you're a recording nerd and musician trivia junkie; otherwise skip it.

"Inside Llewyn Davis" Review

Remember when bluegrass/Americana music had that big resurgence among Volvo-driving NPR listeners in the wake of the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Are Though? in 2001? Did you happen to notice a similar boom in folk music in the past few months? No? Well that's because the Coens new movie, Inside Llewyn Davis simply isn't as good for reasons far beyond its porno-sounding title.

It's 1961 in New York's Greenwich Village folk scene and Davis (Oscar Issac) is a virtually homeless mess, couch-surfing from one friend and family member to another, rapidly wearing out his welcome with his prickly personality. When crashing his friends Jim and Jean's (Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan) place, the latter informs him she's pregnant and she blames him as if she had no participation in the matter. His manager doesn't seem to be doing anything for his career and he embarks on a surreal road trip to Chicago with a blustering jazz musician (John Goodman) and his monosyllabic driver/valet Johnny Five (Garrett Hedlund), who isn't the robot from Short Circuit. There's also a cat.

While writing the previous paragraph, I realized I was both leaving out some stuff to not spill the entire plot, but also that there isn't really that much more to it. If it wasn't for the numerous full performances of the tunes eating up about 45 minutes of the 105-minute run time, the "story" as it is would only take an hour and it's not exactly a jam-packed hour. It plays out more as a serious of vignettes and misadventures as Llewyn stumbles from self-inflicted disaster to self-inflicted disaster, but while he's a prickly jerk, it's poorly motivated and explained. He can sing and the soundtracks pre-Dylan tunes are sweet, but no explanation as to his lack of success is provided. Most damning, Llewyn not only doesn't really have a character arc but literally ends up exactly where he began the movie, confusing the timeline badly.

The performances are good, especially Mulligan who I've never thought of as anything by wanly cute, but she's one note as are pretty much all the other characters who just serve as totems for Llewyn to pass by. There are several amusing chuckles and the running gag with the cat is amusing, but the Coens manage to make that a bummer. Mostly nothing pays off. One amusing scene has Llewyn recording a novelty song with Timberlake and Adam Driver (from the Lena Dunham horror anthology series Girls) and is clearly intended to show him making a terrible business decision for short-term gain, but it never resolves due to the short timeline of the movie. If we're going to make our hero suffer, let's seem him suffer; let's get some conflict between him and the universe.

I've been critical of what I call the "pity-f*cking" of Martin Scorsese beginning with his overdue Oscar for The Departed (which wasn't that good) and subsequent mediocrities like Hugo and especially Shutter Island (which I contend would've been torched by crix if it was by Martin Smith), but it's even worse for the Coen Brothers as they are just fawned over despite their output becoming more banal and tiresome. Just look at the quotes in the trailer below; yeesh. Woody Allen used to automatically get nominated for his screenplays (he as 16 nominations, including 13 in a 20-year span; 3 wins) but while critics tend to evaluate his work on a film-by-film basis, the Coens have been getting a pass since they returned from the wilderness with the screamingly overrated No Country For Old Men, a movie which proved you can win a Best Picture Oscar with one good scene with one memorable line in it. (i.e. The coin toss scene at the gas station and the line about how long it took the quarter to get there.) Some critics were horrified that Inside Llewyn Davis wasn't nominated for everything at the Oscars this year. It would've been more unjust that it had been.

Score: 5/10. Skip it unless you're a total Coen fanboy or folk fiend.

"Rush" Review

Ron Howard's Rush was initially touted as a big Oscar contender, but it stalled in the pits, getting few award nominations and only modestly successful at the box office. I was vaguely familiar with the story of Niki Lauda, the Austrian Formula One racer who was horribly burned in an auto accident, but returned to racing only six weeks later, but knew little of his rivalry with British racer Jim Hunt which makes up the story of Rush.

Hunt (Chris Hemsworth, reminding that he's more than just Thor) is a brash hunky playboy with a way with the ladies including Natalie Dormer and Olivia Wilde. (Acting is just breaking rocks, innit?) Lauda (Daniel Brühl) is a rodentish, unfun taskmaster who alienates many with his brusque manner, but he knows his stuff; how to tune cars for maximum performance and then race them to victory. The early stage of the film traces the pair's rivalry as they work their way up from lower classes to the premiere F1 circuit.

Lauda wins the world championship in 1975, but in 1976 Hunt is nipping at his heels despite struggling with car troubles of his own. The fateful race is the German Grand Prix when heavy rain prompted Lauda to lobby for its cancellation since the track is already dangerous under optimal conditions. Hunt rallies the drivers to reject this call because he thinks Lauda is trying to shorten the season and protect his lead. The race goes on and there is a spectacular fiery crash. In case you suspect it's been juiced up for movie, take a look at this comparison with the real event:

Yikes! With 3rd degree burns over his face and severe lung damage due to the heat and toxic smoke, Lauda is lucky to survive, but as Hunt begins to rack up victories in his absence, he is driven (ha, pun) to get back behind the wheel as soon as possible which he does, leading up to the climatic final race, again in a pouring rain, with Lauda's point lead over Hunt not insurmountable. Rush could be suspected of tarting up that final race's results, but it's a historical fact.

Both leads are excellent though the script by Peter Morgan never truly gets us inside the drivers heads. They talk about the need for speed and their dedication/obsession with victory is visible, it's mostly surface. The women in their lives are also mostly surface as Wilde (as supermodel Suzie Miller, who'd go on to leave Hunt for Richard Burton!) and Alexandra Maria Lara as Lauda's wife (who gets a great sequence when they meet and then have to flag down a ride when their car breaks down) are just kind of there. Ron Howard has never seemed right after his Oscar win for the extremely overrated A Beautiful Mind (I actually sold the DVD and I keep almost every crappy movie I've bought) and there's not a lot of spark here, but it manages to stay in its lane efficiently.

Finally, could there be a lamer, more generic title than Rush? It says nothing; means nothing; and there are probably 50 other movies with the word in their title beginning with that Jason Patric/Jennifer Jason Leigh movie that Eric Clapton's "Tears In Heaven" originated. A better title? Race Through The Fire. It has flair and actually relates to the story. You're welcome.

Score: 7/10. Catch it on cable.

DirkFlix. Copyright 2010-2015 Dirk Omnimedia Inc. All rights reserved.
Free WordPress Themes Presented by EZwpthemes.
Bloggerized by Miss Dothy