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Barney's Version (2010)
7 or 8
*no spoilers* Giamatti riffs on his charming slob character in an uncomfortably funny and oddly moving sprawling drama. It has an invigorating undercurrent of almost misanthropic quality that appealed to me but isn't for everyone. I was sort of hovering between appreciating it and really liking it, i.e. a seven out of ten or an eight or nine out of ten, when two scenes really got me. One made me cry, the other made me laugh out loud. Coupled with a framing device that eventually yields an ending that fit nicely for me, I give this an eight.
Minnie Driver prevents it getting a nine.
Put that bin back where it came from or so help me
Sort of a mix between The Queen of Versailles and The Art of the Steal, as a couple buy a massive house and plan to turn it into a hotel only to get battered by the recession. The sheer hopelessness of their financial situation would be perhaps too depressing if not offset by the part amusing, part infuriating battle with their National Trust neighbours. This is becoming a go-to area for docs these days (see also You've Been Trumped) but usually works because it is easy to relate to, even if the property in question is not. I would have rated this fairly middling if not for the final third, which was really quite affecting and bumped up my score a bit.
Pearl Jam Twenty (2011)
Complete but not too Deep
Long time band confidante Cameron Crowe chooses a subject close to his heart to redeem for his iffy recent output and documents the history of Pearl Jam. As a summary of their career it covers all bases: Formation from Green River/Mother Love Bone, finding Vedder and their sound via Temple Of The Dog; massive instant success and the overexposure of both themselves and grunge as a whole and dealing with the fallout; battling Ticketmaster and falling record sales, and the tragedy of Rokslide and coming out of it as one of the most fan-revered stadium acts around. It's so busy scrambling to pack everything of note from twenty years into two hours it never really dwells on anything for a significant amount of time, and the band interviews are candid but never truly revealing. The early footage of a raging, furious live act are riveting and watching them work through all their troubles (interspersed with an amusing ironic nod to Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes simply wondering what the hell they're so miserable about) to come out the other side a euphoric success is pleasing, even if as a songwriting outfit they're a pale shadow of what they were on their first three albums. In summation, pleasing to the hardcore fan, but not really telling you anything you didn't already know; To the uninitiated you may appreciate the journey, but wonder what the hell all the fuss was about. 7.5/10
Shihad: Beautiful Machine (2012)
I'm not a hardcore fan of Shihad, though I was aware of them pretty early on as they got a bit of press in Kerrang! in the early 90's and they were featured on a few different magazine's cover CDs I picked up. 'Home Again' was on one of these, and a few others stood out (Earthtone 9 did a great cover of 'You Again' too) - but I never picked up an album I don't think. I did sort of remember them changing their name around 9/11 but I'd moved on by then.
I watched this documentary hoping it would serve as a gateway into liking more of their stuff (as have done numerous excellent band docs - Mastodon, Cannibal Corpse, um, Anvil). It fails on one hand because there's lots of music but few tracks are heard fully or long enough to latch onto - that said most of what's here sounds good, maybe aside from the industrial stuff but that whole scene was always a mixed bag for me.
Nice to see a bunch of down to earth and personable dudes who've grown up and can look back on their flirtation with fame with a wry smile - although you can tell some people still remember that joke at the showcase (the undoubted highlight of the film) with a little bitterness. The depth with which it goes into the family relationships does have both rewards - the drummer's (grand?)father still hitting every gig fearlessly in his 80's is great - and also feels almost slightly intrusive sometimes, like a professionally filmed home movie for family only. But it's honesty does make it stand proudly aside from the prolific "documentaries" that some "bands" release in theatres these days.
So, I would've dug more tunes, but I heard the ones I knew and liked, and I'll probably download an album or two finally from itunes and give em a spin. Job accomplished.
The ending was a bit abrupt. Are they still active or what? Wikipedia will tell me but whatever. Also - John Cusack called, he wants his head back.