Give Me the Banjo, an endearing and warm documentary about a quaint and misunderstood instrument, explores that pot-holed past with inspired though tiresome passion. It takes a basic route through the history of the banjo from its beginnings with African-American musicians through to its introduction to the limelight with famous folk singers and country-fried songsters, peppering in clips of performances and interviews with famous bluegrass musicians throughout.
Purveyors of the five-stringed banjo are acutely aware of and somewhat annoyed by the instrument's public image as a dingy and provincial doo-hickey upon which only tobacco-chewing cowboys play. But Give Me the Banjo reveals that the instrument is more expressive and playful than its more famous brother, the guitar (self-serious and overrated in the eyes of a good deal of "banjoists").
Someone sure knows how to have a good time. If you want to have a good time, avoid Don’t Go in the Woods.
Say hello to Nick, despotic band douche, who dragged his friends and emo-hipster bandmates out to BFE to record new songs for a demo in the quest for a record deal. Nick’s all about the concentration. No drugs. No drama. No distractions. No discussion about his decision to smash everyone’s cell phones with the axe he borrowed from the creepy hunting shack. It’s always a good idea to ditch all comms gear after ignoring an ominous sign telling you not to go in the woods, right?
So, of course, Nick is thrilled when his ex-girlfriend shows up with a load of groupies, drugs and booze — cell phones too. He tried to ward off temptation but temptation came to the band. You’d think Nick would be thrilled; not getting what he wants should be the perfect inspiration for the brooding, angsty whining music he makes.
This was not the case for me, however. Is anything in Hollywood truly original anymore? Most everything has been done before, so is it so wrong to find enjoyment in a clichéd movie that's well executed?
The casting of Washington and Ryan Reynolds in the lead roles certainly makes the forgiveness easier.
Movie narratives are larger than life and then some. They often start out as simple jigsaw puzzles before twisting into variegated Rubik's cubes, winding through troves of characters and maze-like subplots. But the same can and should be said of the stories behind these movies, since the tortuous production histories of big budget blockbusters are just as revealing (nay, more revealing!) than any pre-show trailer or Entertainment Tonight insider special.
John Carter, is a fantastic new addition to the Hollywood compendium of behind-the-scenes chaos. In fact, this tale of Martian civil war that went through a great number of iterations and cycles in production Hell, is the epitome of movie-making mayhem.
Milo boards the spacecraft headed to Mars, where he learns that his mother's memory will soon be wiped clean and she will be put to work. Mars needs moms, you see, because its inhabitants aren’t capable of raising children. Instead of flesh-and-blood parents, the Martian children are reared by programmed drones which "learn" their parenting skills from human mothers. It's a clever idea, but one that MNM renders foggy and underdeveloped. Animated films aren't always the best at maintaining coherent plots or ideas, but the lapse here is glaring. This is a Disney product, after all, and the house that Mickey built usually aims higher.
I don’t remember when I first saw Billy Madison, but I do recall watching it numerous times while growing up. Seeing it today, the movie is still hilarious. Adam Sandler may have already been a star from Saturday Night Live, but Billy Madison was the first in a series of movies that showed us the brilliance of endearing immaturity.
Sandler plays the title role, a 20-something loser who still lives off his father’s (the late Darren McGavin) business fortunes. He lounges at the pool with his friends Frank (Norm MacDonald) and Jack (Mark Beltzman), speaks gibberish at the dinner table in front of his father’s clients and has a few encounters with a human-sized penguin who may or may not be important to the storyline (he isn’t, but Billy is convinced otherwise).
Scantum sacrifices good storytelling for melodrama and special effects. I found myself thinking about the similar 2005 horror film The Descent, which was decidedly mediocre, and thinking, “Wow, I’d legitimately rather watch that again than even finish watching this.”
Now in stores, the Sanctum DVD does offer some behind-the-scenes extras that will intrigue those who are particularly interested in the technical aspect of film production. The technical mumbo jumbo is, after all, how Cameron and his crew save their films from being contrived duds (though, in this case, that might be generous to say). But if you’re not so interested in green screens and motion capture, these extras just might put you to sleep.
USA's hit show about the charismatic, fake psychic-detective Shawn Spencer (James Roday) and his slightly more practical best friend/partner Burton 'Gus' Guster (Dule Hill) began it's fifth season last summer, opening with a reminder of the previous season's dramatic finale. Victimized by the cunning and ruthless serial killer Yin in that final episode, detective Juliet O'Hara (Maggie Lawson) has taken a break from the field. Both Shawn and her partner Carlton Lassiter (Timothy Omundson) attempt to draw Juliet away from desk duty by enticing her with tidbits of evidence from the current case they are working on, a kidnapping that could potentially spark a full on gang war in Chinatown. This season features the romantic peak in the relationship between Juliet and Shawn, which has experienced a series of lulls and near-misses throughout the previous seasons. Additionally, Shawn's gruff, former-detective father (Corbin Bernson) gets even more involved this season by taking a job with the police as a consultant liaison. That of course means just one thing: He makes life a lot harder on Shawn.
Baseball in the United States has long served as a primary instrument in promoting cultural diversity. When open racism was extremely prevalent, especially during the 1920s and 1930s, baseball was one of the few outlets that caused people to have a more open mind. Fans were often hateful toward Jewish players, but when they performed well on the field and helped lead their team to victory, the anti-Semitism would usually die down.
Narrated by Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story is an interesting and insightful documentary that leaves the viewer with a better understanding of the origins of America’s pastime. In addition to looking back at the greatest Jewish players that ever lived, the documentary touches on the formation of the first players’ union, Jewish players who left baseball to enlist the armed service, and players’ observance of religious holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
While we all know about the harsh struggles that African-Americans went through when they integrated into the all-white leagues, it seems less is known about the adversity that Jewish players overcame when participating in professional sports in the U.S. during the early 20th century. Jews too dealt with harsh racism from fans and members of the media in their earlier days in the league, and many players later related to the struggles of black players trying to break into the major leagues.