Movie Preview: Coming of age during the Streisand/Jon Peters era — Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Licorice Pizza”

I am reading that right,. Child actor studying to be a director falls in love, crosses paths with Bradley Cooper who appears to be then-Streisand squueze, hairdresser/producer Jon Peters?

Quite the cast. Nov 26.

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Documentary Review — “Karen Dalton: In My Own Time” remembers a beloved folkie who never made it

The voice is fractured, fragile and intimate — “plaintive, earthy and insinuating” an early Village Voice critic called it.

Bob Dylan got even closer to the mark by stating the obvious about Karen Dalton and who she was plainly imitating with her pitch, her halting, emotive delivery. “She sings like Billie Holiday and plays (guitar, among other instruments) like Jimmy Reed.”

“Karen Dalton: In My Own Time” is a documentary remembrance of a folk star who never quite was. Texas born, Oklahoma-raised, Greenwich Village-adored Karen Dalton showed up in New York at almost the same time as Dylan, already married twice and just 21, eventually towing her toddler Abbe around to the folk clubs where she played — Cafe Wha? was the most famous — letting her audience be her babysitter.

She didn’t write much of her own music, which held her back, and didn’t get a record deal until Woodstock producer Michael Lang was offered his own record label by Paramount and he signed her, years too late for a folk singer to break out, even if the records — one of which was titled “In My Own Time” — had captured her magic.

Listen to this Tim Hardin song that Rod Stewart, among others, made famous. No, this version didn’t come out on LP during her lifetime. Like many, Dalton was only truly “discovered” posthumously.

Friends, colleagues and others remember her as the “only authentic” working class/dirt farm folkie to haunt the Greenwich Village of that era. She grew up poor, married at 15, never finished high school and rarely prettied herself up for her shows.

She had two missing teeth from getting into the middle of a fight between two boyfriends (one of them interviewed here), shunned makeup, “a Bohemian” who put her daughter through a childhood of no-real-home hardship sleeping on the floors of friend’s apartments as she covered songs by Woody Guthrie, George Jones, Tim Hardin and others and made a name for herself during the glory days of New York folk.

She couldn’t get along with John Phillips long enough for them to build a folk act with two other friends. He rounded up others and started The Mamas and the Papas.

Her career was marked by almosts and “If she’d only shown up” for shows whose rehearsals so exhausted her she almost never did, or for tour dates (Lang had her opening for Santana).

Nick Cave was among those who discovered her, long after Dalton had flamed out. But some of those interviewed in this Richard Peete and Robert Yapkowitz hasten to say that we shouldn’t judge what “she might have been” because her career is so incomplete.

A couple of records, a little performance and rehearsal footage, and a public radio interview from the era are almost all this “somewhat depressive individual” managed to produce that survives.

But the filmmakers tease us with the diary entries, with the poetry she rarely set to music, using animation to tell her story when testimonials or that long radio chat won’t do.

“Wait’ll I get my gold tooth,” she boasts to Bob Fass, her Pacifica radio interviewer (who recently died). But she never did. Poverty and impulsiveness and a roaming, impatient personality probably cast her fate before drugs ever entered the picture.

But of course they did.

Still, “In My Own Time” gives us a taste of what might have been much more than a soulful novelty act, an American Original who might have been too “authentic” for her time, if not for ours.

Rating: unrated, discussions of drug abuse

Cast: Karen Dalton (radio interviews), Nick Cave, Lacy J. Dalton, Abbe Baird, Richard Tucker, Becky Baird, Vanessa Carlton, Peter Walker, Hunt Middleton, Peter Stamfel, Rick Moody and Michael Lang

Credits: Directed by Richard Peete and Robert Yapkowitz. A Greenwich Entertainment release.

Running time: 1:26

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Movie Preview: Is Norway really home to “The Worst Person in the World?”

Joachin Trier’s dramedy is about a young woman’s confused, indecision love life and how she mismanages it and her planned over four years. Will she get it together, or will she be shamed by the label that is this Norwegian film’s cutesie title?

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Horror movie preview: “The Secret of Sinchanee”

A murderous cult, demons, Massachusetts snow?

This Vertical release comes our way Oct. 8.

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Netflixable? “Firedrake the Silver Dragon” isn’t “How to Train Your Dragon,” but…

A Cornelia Funke (“Inkheart”) novel allowed a German/Dutch animation operation and Netflix to elbow their way into “lads who ride dragons” stories with “Firedrake the Silver Dragon,” a movie that goofs on “How to Train Your Dragon” and makes itself “How to Train Your Dragon” adjacent at all times, and in many ways.

But this decently-animated, exposition-heavy, laugh-starved adventure farce never comes close to even the weakest “Train Your Dragon” film and TV moments. There’s little heart and little else to recommend it, even if your wee ones never quite got their fill of dragons, flying on them and the like.

There’s barely even any Scots accents in this story of dragons, humans, pixies, a basilisk, dwarves and their ilk.

A shadow cutout animation opening tells us another version of the myth that there was a day when “humans and dragons lived in perfect harmony.” But that was long ago. In the present, dragons live in a secluded colony, hiding from humans, listening to tales of long ago from the grizzled, toothless Slatebeard (voiced by Peter Marinker).

But human encroachment — strip mining, environmental degradation, basically Kentucky without the horses — is closing in. The dragons have to do something.

Young Firedrake (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and his brownie (pixie) pal Sorrel (Felicity Jones) sneak out to seek help, to find this mythic place called “The Rim of Heaven.” But first, they stop off in the city.

That’s where they crash a “How to Train Your Dragon” premiere, and fetch a gap-toothed teen fan (Freddie Highmore). Firedrake takes the caped cosplayer at his word when he, shocked at meeting a real dragon, describes himself as a “dragon rider.”

The liar/hustler joins them on their quest, which has them meet an Australian scientist (David Brooks) who “saves” rare mythic creatures and keeps them on a preserve, a “mighty djinn (Nonso Anozie) who is more trouble than he’s worth and an Indian researcher (Meera Syal) who knows all about dragons and dragon lore.

Along the way, we learn the dragon rider’s “secret” and Firedrake’s hidden shame. Let’s just say they call him “Lame Flame” back home.

And then there’s the steampunk “draconoid” Nettlebrand (Patrick Stewart) created long ago for the express purpose of killing off dragons, now on their trail because he’d love to refresh his taste for fiery, flying flesh.

The jokes are of the cell-phone “How will I communicate with you?” “SKYPE me!” and consulting “the all know oracle…the Internet” variety.

The “How to Train Your Dragon” riff is cute, but just reminds you of the earlier, better film and its inferior sequels and TV series. The German writer Ms. Funke published her “Dragon Writer” book 13 years before “How to Train Your Dragon” hit theaters, so the time to litigate who was stealing whose ideas is long past.

The only times I laughed were at the Indian scenes which had a playful quality the rest of the film lacked.

“Dragon Rider” as was this film’s working title (perhaps until Universal’s lawyers showed up) starts out dizzy, stumbles into boring as the exposition — all these new lands and new creatures are introduced — keeps going on and on, with little character development, no laughs and generic action beats.

Unless your kids need a digital babysitting session, I’d skip this.

Rating: TV-Y7

Cast: The voices of Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Felicity Jones, Freddie Highmore, Nonso Anozie, Meera Syal and Patrick Stewart

Credits: Directed by Tomer Eshed, scripted by Johnny Smith, based on the novel by Cornelia Funke. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:33

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Series Preview: Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” comes to Netflix

Fantasy with a Gaiman edge, delivered in an 11 episode series.

Looks glossy and smart, worth a peek

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Documentary Review: “The Jesus Music” explores the history of CCM — “Contemporary Christian Music”

The early sequences of “The Jesus Music,” a history of CCM — “contemporary Christian music” — depict the social ferment that “the movement” was born in — the late 1960s. And the interview subjects popping up on screen and the film’s co-directors narrow their focus to overdose death icons Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and lean on the “end of the flower child movement/end of the ’60s” concert at Altamonte while brushing past Woodstock.

A critical viewer might wonder, just for a moment, if Newt Gingrich is a producer in this new skirmish in the Culture Wars.

There’s a lot of edges-rubbed-off, artists-avoiding “difficult” questions, ever so politely, that follows as we’re taken from the music’s California birth, to it’s Nashville-takeover and the Christian pop breakthrough of Amy Grant in the ’80s on towards the faith-based pop of today.

But stick with it and the warts are acknowledged — some of them, anyway. Substance abuse issues, broken marriages, that stuff made headlines so there was no avoiding it in the film even if you can’t call how “The Jesus Music” addresses such issues “confronting” them.

And watch assorted figures in and around the music talk about how “segregated” it’s become, the grudging acceptance of Gospel music legend Andre Crouch, the racism artists like Kirk Franklin and Michael Tait faced and continue to face and the blowback they get for even suggesting “Black lives matter” in the most contrite way imaginable, from a stage.

So this film charting the rise of a “movement” that morphed into an “industry” is a mixed bag — upbeat and celebratory, contorting itself into a pretzel to avoid dealing with anything that might ruffle the potential audience.

“Music” does a decent job in the “history” regard, taking us back to Costa Mesa’s Cavalry Chapel, which reached out to West Coast hippies, and with a congregation in long hair and jeans, allowed in musicians who changed worship music forever. Here’s Amy Grant in Nashville’s Belmont Church and Koinonia Coffee remembering the way this “Southern religious town” was shaken by the contemporizing of worship music in ways that went beyond country music’s white Gospel roots. Lauren Daigle speaks of her desire “to see the richness of hope land upon someone’s spirit and (they) embrace the embrace of God,” and her seeing “His presence…via rhythm, rhyme and melody.”

We hear the “pioneers,” Love Song,” Californians with Beach Boys harmonies who recorded on Marantha! Music, the first Christian record label, an outgrowth of that Cavalry Chapel’s ministry.

The film gives Billy Graham center stage as an early “mainstream” acceptor of “youth music,” and Jimmy Swaggart as a dogmatic foe of it, inveighing against specific singers and bands (Stryper) from his TV pulpit.

This gets labeled “so underground” and that’s “the most punk thing I’ve ever seen” (bands performing for the benefit of ministries), when who and what’s being discussed is “edgy” only within this insular world.

As we make our mostly triumphant way past Grant and Michael W. Smith to DC Talk and Stryper, Talk-alumnus Tait’s Newsboys success to “Stomp,” a breakout, crossover club hit for Kirk Franklin on into into Hillsong country, you wonder about not just the elephant in the room, but the elephants.

The “racism” and “segregation” spoken of points to Christian white supremacy’s rise and Christianity’s decline in North America, subjects the film bends over backwards to avoid.

You have to Google “Hillsong scandals” to get any hint of what a pockmarked enterprise that behemoth is.

When an editor of “Contemporary Christian Music” magazine talks of fans being “forgiving” of artists who have personal scandals, great and small, you can’t help but notice he’s leaving out is the phrase “of our own kind.”

I kept thinking back to the many “history of hip hop” documentaries (“Rhyme & Reason” and “Freestyle: The Art of Rhyme” etc.) and wishing the Erwin Brothers had the ambition to burrow into that history and make THAT movie instead of an illusory “this is where we’ve been, and the future’s never been brighter” fluffing. The historical material, with some of those who “were there,” is fascinating, even if the context is short-changed (No mention of “Jesus Christ Superstar?”).

Amy Grant had a lot of things going for her, and never mentioning her gorgeous girl-next-door sex appeal is laughable. She started her career as a college coed and was polished, primed and ready for a breakout crossover hit, if not the silly blowback from Christian conservatives that followed.

That goes for virtually everybody that came after her, especially the younger acts. Ignoring hormones is strictly a Southern Baptist thing, or so one had believed.

And resurrecting decades of accounts of rising dollar amounts in sales is putting an emphasis on that sort of success — a 9/11 tribute where “everybody showed up in their private jet” — and noting a rough figure for listenership of contemporary Christian pop radio — isn’t really addressing why this movie needs to be made to get any attention, outside of again “that insular world,” for this music and the beliefs it’s espousing.

Rating: PG-13, suggestions of drug abuse, addiction

Cast: Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, Kirk Franklin, Lauren Daigle, Michael Tait, Lecrae,
Toby McKeehan, Mandisa, Michael Sweet.

Credits: Directed by Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, scripted by Jon Erwin. A Lionsgate release.

Running time: 1:49

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BOX OFFICE: “Evan Hansen” returned to sender. Maybe if he’d worn tights and had superpowers?

The dire Box Office warnings about “Dear Evan Hansen” came true as it came in UNDER the low end of projections -$7.5 million — on its opening weekend. Worst wide opening musical since “Cats,” weaker even than “In the Heights,” which managed $11.5.

Bad Company of Heroes: Game Of The Year Edition - PC are fatal to a musical. But as Broadway Twitter snarked, don’t worry about young but not young enough star Ben Platt. “He’ll be on social security shortly.

“Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” may have been less consequential, an inclusive but empty headed comic book movie. It still is the biggest hit since the pandemic began, racking up another $13.2 million this weekend.

“Free Guy” added another $4 million.

“Candyman” added another $4.5, but is nowhere near $100 million.

“Cry Macho” collected over $2. A bomb at home and abroad.

“Jungle Cruise” took on another $1.7. That’s been a long cruise.

“The Eyes of Tammy Faye” added a lot of screens and still didn’t crack the top ten. Another $621k, $1.5 million total.

All figures from Box Office Pro and Exhibitor Relations.

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Movie Preview: Trippy inter-dimensional horror, “The Blazing World”

This one looks out there.

Udo Kier and Dermot Mulroney are the most recognized faces in the cast of “The Blazing World.”

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Movie Review: “I’m an Electric Lampshade” drowns in delusions, in front of and behind the camera

A 60 year-old accountant from New York (state) wants to be a pop star, some sort of conceptual/multi-media pop performer of the Michael Jackson/Grace Jones/Talking Heads in “Stop Making Sense” mold.

So he blows a wad of cash on a music video “transformation” that he’ll introduce at his retirement party. Backup dancers, professional recording/singing to a track, the works.

And then he gets a tip about a Filipino drag queen academy and leaves behind his mentally troubled wife to pursue his bliss and some sort of fantasy dream concert, with perhaps the fame that could be attendant to that.

An ineffectual, irritating blend of documentary and dully-scripted “trippy,” “I’m an Electric Lampshade” is camp without the fun, music video fever-dream nonsensical and incoherent in ways that limit even its camp entertainment value.

Doug McCorkle is an accountant/comptroller facing retirement with a big dream. He’s going to shave off the rest of his hair, train and take voice and dance lessons and do a “Stop Making Sense” concert extravaganza of semi-ironic of EMD synth-pop of his own creation.

That’s what sends him away from wife Regina and to Sin Andre’s Finishing School for Performers. It’s somewhere in the Philippines. He joins with assorted “real people” who are aspiring actors (ugh), singers or drag queens.

Fandango (Isra-Jeron Ysmae) is a transgender sweat shop worker with dreams of undefined showbiz glory and leaves house and family for the Big City (Manilla? Maybe. Maybe not).

Writer-director John Clayton Doyle keeps the “story” needlessly vague about what people’s actual goals are, even as they address the “fantasy” that has them there in the first place.

Cesar Valentino vamps it up as Sin Andre, their teacher in “Dramatics” and “Professional Realness,” how to move, stage presence, etc. We don’t see a “transformation in progress” as most of the actual “instruction” is left unseen.

Fandango gives Doug a tab of acid, advising him to “find yourself inside, first.” That’s what passes for “profound” here. Doug winds up in fishnets and a bustier, because of course he does.

But that’s just his “break through” before his big finish, his “Stop Making Sense” quasi tribute show (Filmed/staged in Mexico, maybe?).

So what we’ve got here is a reasonably well-off childless retiree blowing through cash for an elaborate rock and roll fantasy camp, with EMD and a multi-media stage show the goal rather than shredding alongside your favorite guitar god or legendary lead singer.

As a concept, that’s thin. And all the dance and cheesy, amateurish videos (a Filipino TV commercial that looks like a short student film with no punchline), stage effects etc. can’t hide that.

The title comes from the song Doug improvises to a track. By the end of the film, he’s at least fumbling for more interesting and coherent lyrics.

Doug has a colorless, back-row of a smalltown church choir baritone. Think Right Said Fred that isn’t “Too sexy for” anything.

Doug has the stage presence to match. His dancing is stiff and mechanical, even after he gets down the choreography and the costume changes. Are we meant to celebrate that he got good enough to not fool anybody?

It’s like the difference between Steve Carell’s delusional dolt in “The Office,” and Ed Helms’ musically-adept flipside of the same clueless coin. Wanting to perform isn’t the same thing as having a talent for it.

Gina back home has taken on some drag queen (Darnell Bernard) presence who could be her conscience as she calls and calls Doug, wondering why he won’t come home.

What do we make of all this, avoiding the easy (“I don’t get it.'”) way out?

The premise may have had promise, but not much. Even the “rich old white guy’s indulgence” factor is left unexplored.

The visuals are all over the place — drably-choreographed bits and pieces, street scenes and streetwalking scenes — all of it looking seriously DIY, and not in a fun way.

Dramatically, the entire enterprise is a non-starter. It’s colorful, but if the lead is this charisma-impaired and the filmmaker fictionalizing all this abandons reality the moment Doug leaves his office, where do we plant our feet as a vantage point? With Doug? With Gina? With Fandango (the more interesting story)?

A movie that leaves you this unmoored (Would it kill a director to tell is where we ARE? Ever?) is that much harder to get something — anything — out of.

I see this got some film festival attention and a few timid endorsement reviews.

Sorry kids. The emperor? He hath no clothes.

Rating: unrated, drug abuse, near nudity, profanity

Cast: Doug McCorkle, Regina McCorkle, Cesar Valentino, Isra-Jeron Ysmae, Darnell Bernard

Credits: Scripted and directed by John Clayton Doyle. A Holy Moly release

Running time:

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