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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Hell or High Water & The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-The Touring Years

Dearest Blog: The long holiday weekend provided a welcome opportunity to catch up with a pair of gems that passed by my local cinemas, Hell or High Water and The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-The Touring Years. 
Spoiler level here will be mild for Hell or High Water, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers. Not sure what constitutes a "spoiler" for a music documentary, but there will be some detail about the content of both the feature film and DVD extras for Eight Days a Week. First up: Hell or High Water. Two brothers attempt a string of bank robberies in order to save their mortgaged family homestead. 
Hell or High Water is a real grown-up movie, without gimmicks. It doesn't waste its time setting a stage, but rather lets the story tell itself as events play out. The tale is a dark one, with the characters' senses of humor providing levity that doesn't feel forced or misplaced. Chris Pine and Ben Foster make a solid pair; Pine proving yet again that he's more than just a (really) pretty face, and Foster forever knocking at the gates of my Acting Holy Trinity, ready to break in the next time Russell Crowe turns up in something like Winter's Tale. (Seriously, Russ, READ the script before you say yes!) 
Jeff Bridges is almost-likeably gruff as the US Marshal hot on their tails. These folks are so compelling you'll sympathize with all of them, even when they are entirely at cross-purposes, and their story is as fascinating as it is heartbreaking. Hell or High Water clocks in at 102 minutes and is rated R for "some strong violence, language throughout, and brief sensuality." Hell or High Water is a layered, mesmerizing film that, in a perfect world, would be a Best Picture frontrunner. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Hell or High Water gets eight and a half. 
Next on my agenda, at long last, The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-The Touring Years. An inside look at the road life of the biggest, best, most influential band of all time. Dear reader(s), I really, honestly, truly could be excused for thinking the Fates were against my ever seeing Eight Days a Week. 
The movie received a pretty wide release nationwide, but neither of my local cinemas screened it. I picked up the DVD from the shelves of my local Target two days after the on-sale date, and they said they couldn't sell it to me. 
A lesser Beatlemaniac might have become discouraged, but not Yours Truly. I came home, hit up my trusty friend the Internet, and a few short days later I was in Mop-Top Heaven. And ohhhhhhhhhhh...if there's a Heaven, it probably looks and sounds a lot like Eight Days a Week. The documentary features plenty of clips from performances around the globe, many of them never or not-often seen before. 
Behind-the-scenes footage revisits early days, when the now-legendary musicians were just four young guys having a great time in the middle of some extraordinary circumstances. It's a delightful reminder that, despite later disagreements, John, Paul, George, and Ringo are more than great talents; they are great friends. Musical selections are mostly earlier material, though, as the film winds to a close, it does stray from "the touring years" into the Beatles' later, more complicated studio sessions.
One of the most-featured numbers is Tomorrow Never Knows, the never-played-outside-the-studio gem that closes their 1966 masterpiece, Revolver. It would be physically impossible for any film to give each amazing song as much attention as it deserves, but Eight Days a Week will make you eager to run out and buy the companion "Live at the Hollywood Bowl" album to revisit them all. 
In addition to live clips and interviews with the band, the documentary also includes a treasure trove of old photos, and commentary from people who knew, worked with, and followed the Beatles (including famous fans Whoopie Goldberg and Sigourney Weaver, both of whom were lucky enough see the band live). The Deluxe Edition DVD extras include five full songs performed live at various venues, and a beautiful companion booklet with notes from director Ron Howard. 
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-The Touring Years is unrated. The feature documentary runs 106 minutes, while the extras clock in at about 100 minutes. Over the past 50 years, Beatles songs have become so ubiquitous that sometimes we may hear them without really listening. 
Eight Days a Week commands undivided attention, and reminds us that each and every Beatles song is magic. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Eight Days a Week gets nine, and I'll throw in a Potter and a Granger, too. Fangirl points: Seriously, it's the Beatles!! 
Until next time... 

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