YESTERDAY – WHAT IF YOU WERE THE ONLY ONE WHO REMEMBERED IT?

 

AUDIO OPTION OF YESTERDAY REVIEW

SHORT TAKE:

A humorous Twilight Zone-like examination of a desperate musician who discovers he’s the only person who remembers either the Beatles or any of their songs.

WHO SHOULD WATCH:

Were it not for the profanity and casual blasphemy, this could have been a family friendly film. As it is, parental discretion should be advised for the language.

LONG TAKE

Quick, how many Beatles songs can you name off the top of your head? And can you recite all the lyrics with no Google information, no sheet music, no records..not even a little help from your friends (see what I did there….?) This is the challenge facing Jack, (Himesh Patel) a desperately frustrated musician whose only fan is his childhood friend and manager-by-default, Ellie (Lily James – Branagh’s Cinderella, Mamma Mia!, Darkest Hour).

Having decided to quit music and return to teaching, Jack is hit by a bus during a freak, unexplained, 12-second, global electrical outage. After recovering from relatively minor injuries, he discovers he’s the only person on earth who remembers either the Beatles or any of their songs. At first he thinks his friends are “having him on”. But after an internet search confirms the truth, he proceeds to embark upon a plan to pass the Beatles’ entire repertoire off as his own.

Yesterday‘s script is both warm and cleverly insightful. This is not a surprise given the writer is Richard Curtis, author of the immensely charming About Time and one of my favorite Dr. Who episodes: “Vincent and the Doctor”. Curtis has a gift for combining pathos, romance and humor to create a view into fundamental tenets of human nature.

Although dealing with some fairly mature philosophical concepts, including the ethics of his plans and what constitutes success and happiness, Yesterday is, for the most part, a light-hearted vehicle. The screenplay writer plays this straight. There are no “backsies” and this isn’t a dream. Jack must deal with the pros and cons of the permanently changed world as he wakes up to it. What would you give up to have everything you ever thought you wanted? What are the moral implications of taking something as your own when the people who created it never existed? Would you confide this secret even to the people with whom you are closest, knowing they probably wouldn’t believe you? Interesting conundrums.

Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), it’s also funny, often in the kind of familiar human moments where you either laugh or cry. Some of the most fun bits are following Jack as he racks his brain trying to remember all of the Beatles songs and lyrics with absolutely no help.

Kate McKinnon plays the shark-like LA manager who swoops down to Jack’s small coastal British home town to put him under contract. She is callously and bluntly honest. There is no cruelty in it, because her character simply doesn’t care one way or the other about the impact what she says has on others. She just has no filter. I would not have been terribly surprised had she asked Jack to sign his contract with a drop of his own blood plucked from a demonic looking fountain pen, except she doesn’t  lie. But I genuinely liked this character. There was something very refreshing about her extremely candid approach.

Joel Fry (Game of Thrones) is Rocky, Jack’s mostly unemployable, but devoted friend.

The music is, of course, wonderful. Not quite “covers” of these universally known classics, as Jack tries to imitate the songs exactly as he remembers them, but not quite Beatles either as he…well, ISN’T one of the Beatles.

And no spoilers, but I suggest you watch out for a few delicious cameos.

So if you want an upbeat, adorable rom-com, which also manages to address some thought provoking points, watch this quirky movie, Yesterday…today…or at least soon.

VIDEO VARIATIONS TO VIEW WITH YOUR VALENTINE

 

AUDIO OPTION FOR MY ARTICLE ON VALENTINE’S DAY 2020 MOVIES: VIDEO VARIATIONS TO VIEW WITH YOUR VALENTINE

SHORT TAKE:

Four delightful “off the beaten track” love stories for adults.

WHO SHOULD WATCH:

More for the adult crowd because of scenes, in the various movies, of: unmarried intimacy, open discussions of alternative lifestyles, drug abuse, cartoon violence, and some profanity.

LONG TAKE:

Despite my friend’s assertion that every movie can be described as a “love story with a twist” there really ARE some love stories…with twists. And I’m going to recommend four of my favorites: a cult sci fi classic, a pinnacle of political incorrectness, a bizarre rock opera, and a more traditional rom com.

Starman (1984)

There are two Jeff Bridges. Most people know him now for his roles as the rough tough cowboy in movies like Hell or High Water, R.I.P.D., and Kingsman: The Golden Circle. But long before Bridges was old enough to step into John Wayne’s shoes as the eye-patched Rooster Cogburn in the Cohen’s Brothers truly and brilliantly inspirational remake of True Grit, Bridges was more male model than macho with a mustache. One of these gentler outings, in particular, rose above the rest as a sci fi cult favorite – Starman.

Karen Allen (Raiders of the Lost Ark) is Jenny, a young, deeply grieving, widow living alone out in the country. An alien space ship crashes near her home. The surviving alien force (Bridges) grows a living breathing body from the DNA of her deceased husband, then persuades her to drive him to an unknown destination with SETI hot on their heels. Part sci fi, part buddy movie, part romance, Starman is both darkly witty and schmatzy, but with enough sci fi to keep the nerd in your relationship engaged in the story.

A Different Story (1978)

Now here’s a movie to truly infuriate the politically correct. And if that is not enough incentive for you…well it should be. A Different Story IS just that. Unique. You’re not likely, especially in this quick-to-be-offended liberal mentality culture, to find another one like it.

Meg Foster is Stella, a successful real estate agent who takes in Albert (Perry King), an acquaintance, when he loses his job. They begin to become fond of each other as Albert becomes her house cleaner and live-in chef. The “different” part is that Albert is gay and Stella a lesbian. But when Albert, who is from Belgium, is threatened with deportation, Stella marries him and they manage to fall in love. This is where the real story begins as they learn to tread the waters of a normal marital relationship with all of its acmes of joy and pitfalls of mistakes.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

And now for something REALLY different. For those of you under 50 who are probably not aware that a diminutive musician/actor/singer/writer named Paul Williams penned most of the award winning and Top 40 pop tunes of the 1970’s and 1980’s, this is a one-of-a-kind.

You’ll either love or hate this comic rock-horror-musical, loosely based on Faust and Phantom of the Opera. As Hail, Caesar! took a broad affectionate jab at many established film genres, Phantom pokes a sharp stick at many of the cliched musical trends of that day: country, hard Goth rock, pop, folk, Beach Boys ‘50’s retro, and rock opera. And keep in mind Phantom PRE-DATED Rocky Horror Picture Show by a YEAR!

Phantom is populated with a number of actors who MIGHT be vaguely familiar, INCLUDING the voice of Rod “Twilight Zone” Serling, who does a brief narrative intro over Swan’s company logo.

Paul Williams is Swan, a music guru and tycoon, former child music genius and star, who oversees his music empire, Death Records, with “almost” supernatural power, both anticipating and controlling the emerging popular trends. William Finlay is Winslow Leach, the frustrated composer of a cutting edge rock opera who is unjustly thrown into prison by Swan. Jessica Harper is Phoenix, a beautiful talented songstress. Gerrit Graham is Beef, the hilarious scene stealing heavy metal rock star whose tough on-stage persona is the complete opposite of his off-stage proclivities.

The music, all by Williams, is a series of diverse genre, very catchy songs which fit into the venue of this rock-scene story as rehearsals for, and stage event performances of, Swan’s new hit musical. Everything was written by Paul Williams. The story is, at turns: tragic, funny, creepy, romantic, grotesque, and philosophical, occasionally all at once – walking a VERY thin tightrope between slapstick comedy and Gothic drama.

The Beautician and the Beast (1997)

Combine The Odd Couple, Beauty and the Beast, The King and I, and The Sound of Music (without – uh – music), make it a comedy and you have this delightful, funny, charming and (mostly) family friendly movie. Fran Drescher is Joy Miller, a hair dresser who, mistaken for a science teacher, is hired to be the nanny and tutor to the children of President Boris Pochenko, an Eastern European dictator (Timothy Dalton). The yin and yang of the New York comedienne Drescher with the classically trained Shakespearean Dalton blend with adorable chemistry in a perfect example of that old saw about opposites attracting.

So there’s my list for this year: a sci-fi, a twist, a rock opera, and a rom-com. But no matter the movie you pick, remember to watch it with someone you love.

 

TOM CRUISE – ONLY THE MOST RECENT BATON HOLDER IN A LONG LINE OF DEATH DEFYING STARS

I was watching  Cinema Sins on Mission Impossible: Fallout the other day and a thought hit me. (No injury was sustained from said impact though, despite the lack of a stunt double for me. Thanks for asking.)

There is much deserved notoriety in Tom Cruise’s penchant for doing his own stunts in many of his movies –                 his spinning helicopter ride, careening his ubiquitous motorcycle against traffic around the Arc de Triomphe, his snapped ankle acquired – on camera – jumping from one high rise to the next – all JUST in his most recent M.I. outing. These events, while generating a LOT of publicity, are not the first in his career. Cruise is notable for doing his own stunt work as much as he can get away with.  And while he does – and it IS noteworthy – it is neither unique nor new. He follows in the illustrious and dangerous footsteps of others who stood in equally brilliant limelight in previous generations doing, arguably, even more foolish tricks.

I am immediately brought to mind of Steve McQueen who, like Cruise, LOVED his motorcycles and performed almost all of his own riding stunts in The Great Escape. He tried to perform his own driving in the famous chase scene from Bullitt, but one spin-out, which almost took a cameraman with it, convinced Mr. McQueen to let the professional driver do the yeoman’s part of the work.

Gene Hackman did some of his own driving in the famous chase scene from The French Connection, which was so dangerous that the director Friedkin, himself, manned the camera stationed in the backseat because the other cameramen were married with children and he was not. (Though for the MOST dangerous shots, pro-stunt man Bill Hickman did the driving.)

And not all actor-stunt events end so happily. Vic Morrow and two children died when an effects explosion caused the tail-rotor on a low-hovering helicopter to crash on top of them.

And the insanity did not begin there.

Going back a bit further, Errol Flynn did most of HIS own stunts and sword fighting, most famously in Against All Flags, Captain Blood and Robin Hood. Basil Rathbone, playing the evil Guy of Gisbourne in that 1938 version of the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest was, purportedly, terrified of Flynn, because he was SURE Flynn was  REALLY going to skewer him, so into the role the master swashbuckler would get.

1923’s silent comedy Safety Last starring Harold Lloyd features an iconic shot of Lloyd hanging precariously from a bending clock arm high above street level. Though precautions were taken, obviously, for the star’s safety, as proven in the tragic case of Mr. Morrow, bad things can happen.

1922’s Robin Hood was the biggest hit in the career of Douglas Fairbanks. He too, was famous for insisting on doing his own stunts and Robin Hood was no exception.

Of those I have mentioned, only Morrow perished attempting a stunt. Steve McQueen died during surgery for cancer, and both Flynn and Fairbanks died of heart attacks; all tragically in their 50’s. Harold Lloyd lived to be 78, but eventually succumbed to cancer. Hackman, thankfully, has made it to the ripe old age of 89 and is still chugging along. Cruise is, to date,  only 56.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE the fact Cruise jumps – literally – into the fray. Though, honestly, if he were my son or brother I would NOT be nearly as amused. I’m not critiquing, just observing he is not the first. Cruise is but the most recent in a long line of men who have put their bodies where their money was; movie stars refusing the assist of stunt doubles and graying the hair of many a director who, I’m quite certain, found God, even if only for a moment, while watching their star defy death for the sake of a movie’s authenticity.

Cruise has been quite fortunate that he has, so far, walked – or limped – away from all of his grandstanding. And I pray for his sake, the sake of his family and the movie going public in general, who have enjoyed his movies for decades, that his luck continues to hold out.