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Movie Breakdown: Guardians Of The Galaxy

July 31, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Marvel momentarily tosses the Avengers aside to focus on a team made up of Chris Pratt, a Vin Diesel-voiced tree, a Bradley Cooper-voiced raccoon and a green Zoe Saldana.  James Gunn (PG-Porn) directs.

The Reality:

I really enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy.  It’s director James Gunn’s best work, the “a-holes turned reluctantly heroic a-holes” storyline is a lot of fun, pretty much all of the characters are immensely likeable, and its less than overt ties to the rest of Marvel’s universe means it feels (refreshingly, I might add) more like a standalone entry than a setup film.  If you’ve been looking forward to it, then you will not be disappointed.

And what about those of you who haven’t been anxiously awaiting its arrival?  Well, that depends.  If you’re open to a quirky space adventure (imagine a more over the top Fifth Element), then the answer is a definite yes.  If you’re hoping for a superhero-centric time at the theater, then I feel as though I should warn you that Guardians of the Galaxy is not that kind of movie.  It is very much its own colorful load of sci fi that’s complete with a full-on bizarro deep space vibe, and you won’t find a costumed hero anywhere in it.  Hopefully that doesn’t sound too bad to you though, as the super fun time that is Guardians of the Galaxy shouldn’t be missed.

The Lesson:

And the Marvel machine rolls on.

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Movie Breakdown: Get On Up

July 30, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Tate Taylor (The Help) directs the James Brown story.  Chadwick Boseman (42) stars.

The Reality:

When I saw that Get On Up had a runtime of 138 minutes, I figured I was in for a thorough look at the life of the man known as The Godfather of Funk, Mr. Dynamite and The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.  This, as it turns out, was a rather silly expectation.  Get On Up is nothing more than a bunch of incoherent glimpses into the story of James Brown.  And to make matters worse, director Tate Taylor’s only consistent thread in the film is the one that showcases the famed musician as a colossal asshole.  Now, I actually do think this approach could have worked (because let’s face it, biopics often sugarcoat a lot about their subjects), but Taylor doesn’t take the time to dive into anything.  The movie largely plays like a montage of terrible things that James Brown did, and that’s just sort of unfortunate.  No one who sees Get On Up will learn anything about the songs that Brown wrote or why he sang or danced the way that he did, and when it comes to who he was as a person, they’ll walk out of the theater ready to label him as nothing but an egotistical dick.  What a bummer.  He very well may have been an intolerable person, but that still isn’t stopping me from feeling as though the musician part of him deserved a lot better than what is offered in Get On Up.

The Lesson:

Where’s the music?

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Movie Breakdown: Lucy

July 24, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Luc Besson gives Scarlett Johansson the ability to use 100% of her brain.  Morgan Freeman watches what happens.

The Reality:

Unfortunately, Lucy and I didn’t see eye to eye.  I figured the combo of director Luc Besson (The Fifth Element, The Transporter, District B13) and Scarlett Johansson (the Black Widow-portraying badass) would provide me a wonderfully explosive time, but Lucy is actually short on the action and heavy on the philosophizing.  No thanks.  Maybe it’s because I only use the minimum amount of my brain capacity, but I just didn’t have any interest in watching Johansson slightly tilt her head to side, stare off into space and then ramble on about what it means to exist.  I just wanted to watch her walk into a room and kick ass.  Then after that I wanted to watch her walk into a bigger room and kick more ass.  Sure, there’s some of this in Lucy, but Besson doesn’t let it build into anything.  Every time there’s a cool moment he immediately kills any momentum it generated with a closeup of Johansson thinking or making some elaborate heady statement.  Again, no thanks.

I won’t say I hated Lucy, but it certainly was disappointing.  Instead of showing me something worth remembering, the film focuses on delivering the sort of conversations that drunk philosophy majors have at parties.

The Lesson:

Never go full brain.

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Movie Breakdown: Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

July 10, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The genetically evolved/enhanced ape Caesar tries to keep the peace between his own kind and a ragtag group of human survivors.  Gary Oldman refuses to help.

The Reality:

Unlike its predecessor, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes does not arrive in theaters flying ever so slightly under the radar.  Nope, Rupert Wyatt’s Rise expanded and refreshed the Planet of the Apes brand, and now audiences are excited for more.  So, does Dawn deliver enough ape-centric fun to please the masses?  Oh, it most definitely does.

Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) confidently steps in for Wyatt and directs Dawn like it might be the last film he’ll ever get to make.  He clearly wants it to impress and dazzle at every turn, and there are very few moments where he doesn’t accomplish this.  His Dawn is truly what it had to be – a smart, well made and wildly entertaining effort.  See it immediately, and be sure to note that it will more than likely re-energize any part of you that was on the verge of being done with the summer blockbuster season.

One last note, the FX work on the apes in Dawn is something that has to be considered award-worthy.  Or, if anything, someone should at least give Andy Serkis a plaque.  The man is a damn marvel in the film.

The Lesson:

Ape movies great.

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Movie Breakdown: Tammy

July 1, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Melissa McCarthy is funny.

The Reality:

There are three things about Tammy that are very odd.  The first is that it’s really similar to Identity Thief, the movie that Melissa McCarthy did with Jason Bateman last year.  She is practically the same character (bad hair and all), there’s a wacky road trip involved, and it even ends in essentially the exact same way.

The second oddball item is that the film features a never-ending stream of famous faces, and yet none of them ever really do anything or actually matter.  They just show up, say something to sort of help move Tammy to the next plot point, and then they’re gone.  I honestly couldn’t tell if the movie was heavily edited by director Ben Falcone or if it was McCarthy calling in a lot of favors just for the hell of it.

And speaking of McCarthy, she’s the third and most important part of the oddities trifecta – she just really isn’t all that funny in the film.  She’s definitely the heart of Tammy, but the laughs aren’t delivered consistently enough, and I actually walked out of the theater feeling as though the McCarthy-shtick had officially flatlined.

So will you find Tammy to be a total waste of your time and money if you happen to catch it at the theater?  No, but you won’t be overly impressed with it either.

The Lesson:

Melissa McCarthy is sort of funny.

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Movie Breakdown: Snowpiercer

June 27, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The US finally gets a chance to watch Captain America participate in the train-centric version of The Hunger Games.  Bong Joon Ho (The Host) directs.

The Reality:

The world is frozen and a huge train houses humanity’s last survivors.  The poor reside in terrible conditions in the tail section while the rich live it up in the front cars, and the only person that can end this injustice is CHRIS EVANS.  If that has you jazzed up, then prepare to be disappointed, as Snowpiercer is not the latest summer spectacle.  Sure, it has a variety of slick moments, but the movie never really shifts into some big sci-fi adventure.  Director Bong Joon Ho keeps everything tightly packed inside of the Snowpiercer and instead focuses on letting the actors shine (Evans and Tilda Swinton are particularly great) and slowly unveiling exactly what is going on throughout the train.  I personally loved the way that the action takes a backseat to an actual story, but I can see how it would be a downer for anyone looking for an adrenaline-fueled time at the theater.  See Snowpiercer if you’re open to an experience hat’s a little more cerebral than shiny.

The Lesson:

I’m Team Bong Joon Ho.

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Movie Breakdown: Transformers: Age Of Extinction (Noah)

June 26, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Every time I watch a new Transformers film I tell myself “never going to do that again” and then enough years go by where the portion of my brain irrevocably damaged in the process ceases to exist and a new Transformers film comes out and I’m like, “Can’t be worse than the last one.” That’s where I am now.

The Reality:

Transformers: The Age of Extinction is a perhaps the very first 700 hour film about a United Nations of robots coming together to stab things with giant swords. Seriously, I think Michael Bay has broken some sort of robot movie record, as his newest entry into the film-series-based-on-a-toyline-based-on-a-cartoon tops out at almost three hours, and oh man, if you could cram another second of robot-fighting-robot-fighting-building-fighting-car I don’t know exactly where. Not that it matters, but Transformers 4 (though I’m counting this as the 5th, 6th, and 7th entry) sees the Autobots, now enemies of the state, once again joining with the humans (bitterly though) to fight off aliens and other bad robots. This time the hulking robots are joined by Mark Wahlberg (playing an inventor who clearly never got the shit kicked out of him in high school), his jailbait daughter, an Irish rally car driver (seriously, who thinks this shit up?), the annoying guy from Silicon Valley, Stanley Tucci (in the budget they have a line that says “talented actor”), Frasier, and a whole host of voice-over talent (not that it matters as the movie is so bombastically loud, any and all voices just sound like the screams of innocence, or my neuron receptors dying). This film is better than the other three films, as the story, for the most part, makes sense, and Stanley Tucci is less annoying than the other famous people they clutter into the other entries. And that’s perhaps the best thing I can say for it. It’s better than three of the worst films ever made. It’s also loud and long and looks and feels like every other Michael Bay film (borderline racism included) and when the last six hours of robot destruction came to an end, I felt like the survivor of some sort of natural disaster. And maybe that’s just what Michael Bay is going for, to pound me in the face with so many explosions, moving parts, and vaguely patriotic one-liners that when you exit the theater you’ve actually experienced both the mental damage and the numbing shock that actually getting stomped on by a 30-foot robot would feel like. Always depend on Michael Bay to take you to the next level of filmmaking.

The Lesson:

I will never see another Transformers film again.

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Movie Breakdown: Transformers: Age Of Extinction

June 26, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impresssion:

MICHAEL BAY.  TRANSFORMERS.  MARK WAHLBERG.  EXPLOSIONS.

The Reality:

Transformers: Age of Extinction is a work of art.  Yep, a chaotic, nonsensical, super flashy and bizarre work of art.  I’m not at all sure what the movie was actually about, as the story, the characters, and even the action scenes all completely transform (sorry for the pun, but it’s somehow the only appropriate word to describe it) into something else whenever Michael Bay gets bored with them.  I assume he did all of this so that at no point is his 165-minute long endeavor not FULL ON ENTERTAINMENT, but he instead achieved the total opposite – Transformers: Age of Extinction is a tedious experience.  I wouldn’t recommend seeing it unless you’re just really in the mood for a needless eternity of sensory overload.

The Lesson:

I do what I want. – MICHAEL BAY

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Movie Breakdown: Jersey Boys

June 18, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons has been a hit on Broadway, so of course it’s time for a big screen version.  Dirty Harry directs.

The Reality:

I’m not at all sure what Clint Eastwood was trying to do with Jersey Boys.  The film is so all over the place that around halfway through it I realized I couldn’t figure out who or what I was supposed to be interested in.  Was it the music?  Maybe.  Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons certainly had a zillion hits, but the film itself isn’t a musical, and the music that is there isn’t really explored much.  But perhaps the music wasn’t the point, right?  After all, the film is called Jersey Boys, so maybe I was actually supposed to latch onto the dynamics of the group and how their Jersey upbringing affected them?  Unlikely, I think, since the majority of the dramatic and interesting character moments throughout the movie are diffused by poorly timed segments that break the fourth wall.  You know what, though?  Now that I think about it, maybe I was just supposed to glance at the act’s music and briefly look at the people behind it all and just enjoy the ride.  Well, I couldn’t exactly do that, because Jersey Boys has one of those particularly drab Clint Eastwood color palettes and there isn’t a single scene in the film that is vibrant or fun.  So, unfortunately, I have no idea what Eastwood wanted me as a viewer to take away from his monotone music biography other than the fact that Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons existed.

I can’t say that Jersey Boys is the worst film to come along in 2014, but it’s definitely the most unfocused.

The Lesson:

Pick a lane, Eastwood!

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Movie Breakdown: 22 Jump Street

June 11, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Judging by every piece of marketing that’s been pushed out, 22 Jump Street seems primed to scoop up this summer’s “most obnoxious and unnecessary sequel” award.

The Reality:

Let’s face it, 22 Jump Street is a film that shouldn’t exist. Not only is it the sequel to an unnecessary adaptation of a 1980s TV show, but the first film was actually good and there’s just no way in hell directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller actually recreate any of the magic it had, right?  RIGHT?

Well, they actually did it.  I know this will sound odd, but 22 Jump Street is the smartest dumb film in years.  Lord and Miller leap over the pitfalls that come with following up a successful film simply by embracing 22 Jump Street as the totally unnecessary sequel that it is.  The damn thing is practically one giant wink into the camera, and you’re going to love it to no end.  Mostly because it’s just rare to see a movie that is so immensely proud to be full of wildly ridiculous and stupid things just for the sake of being full of wildly ridiculous and stupid things.  So grab some popcorn, 22 Jump Street is ready to entertain the hell out of you.

The Lesson:

More Jump Street please.

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Movie Breakdown: Edge Of Tomorrow

June 5, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt star in the sci-fi version of Groundhog Day.

The Reality:

As a big supporter of Tom Cruise, I love it when he puts out a film stellar enough to make even his biggest detractors have a good time watching it.  Edge of Tomorrow is one of these efforts.  Starring alongside the always great Emily Blunt, Cruise turns in one of his most likeable performances ever as a man who inadvertently gains a “reset the day” power from an alien race and then proceeds to try and save the world with it.  Yes, it’s a silly plot and Edge of Tomorrow is a thoroughly goofy title, but the movie is easily the most entertaining time that’s been in any theater at this point in 2014.  You’d be wise to get out there and see it immediately.

PS – Even if you doubt Edge of Tomorrow is good enough to make you rally through your strong dislike of Tom Cruise’s personal life, go see it anyway.  The guy dies somewhere around a million times (in a variety of humorous ways), so at least one part of the film is totally going to please you.

The Lesson:

In Tom Cruise I’ll always trust.

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Movie Breakdown: Borgman (Noah)

June 4, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

The Dutch have been on a bit of a tear lately with their films, so this, a movie that has simultaneously baffled and amazed critics, seems like a pretty good bet for amazing.

The Reality:

Borgman is some kind of brain hump. Director Alex van Warmerdam has created a movie completely in opposition to the modern film’s insistence that each and every moment of a story has to be explained and prefaced. Instead, Borgman just starts with a trio of dudes with axes and spears and guns hunting down another trio of men who, for some reason, are living underneath the ground. I’d say more about the story, but it would it take away from the sheer enjoyment of watching this weird little knot unravel. Also, the film van Warmerdam has put together doesn’t exactly beg for easy explanation. I keep writing and rewriting various explanations for the film, but all of them seem to give away too much. This is a film about a man who goes to live with a family in a big, beautiful modern house somewhere in the country. A whole lot of shit happens. Really, really weird shit. And even if I can’t, or won’t explain the story, this is a particularly great film. It’s got that cold, weird Dutch feeling to it where everything is simple and attractive, but rife with secret meaning. van Warmerdam has no issue taking his time, slowly pulling the layers off, unveiling just enough of the characters to make each batshit crazy moment resonate down deep. I found myself at so many points in this film questioning out loud, “where the hell is this movie going?” – a question that in today’s formulaic cinema has become a rare one. I didn’t walk away from Borgman with any sort of new outlook on the universe, but I came away stunned by the originality at play and the director’s refusal to easily show his hand. Perhaps not a film for everyone, but for those who take the risk, the reward is very well worth it.

The Lesson:

Don’t let people into your house who want to take baths. Even if it’s your family members. You know, especially if it isn’t your family members.

Borgman opens in select cities on June 6.

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Movie Breakdown: Rigor Mortis (Noah)

June 4, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Amongst the blood explosions and flying dead ghost ninja twins in the trailer for this film, there were brief title cards flaunting the fact that it won many many many Hong Kong Film Awards. I don’t know what a Hong Kong Film Award is, but it makes me think this movie is going to be pretty choice.

The Reality:

I want to say my total lack of understanding of what was going on in this film is a cultural thing, like not enjoying durian or horse penis soup, but I’m pretty sure the bigger issue at hand is the idea of the film being some sort of mish-mash between a ghost story, a drama, a wuxia, a horror film and buddy comedy. Let me try to explain it from memory: a guy moves into a pretty grim apartment and hates it so much he tries to hang himself on the first day, but he’s saved by a guy who cooks rice balls and does sweet ninja moves. There’s a lot of blood and a guy who smokes cigarettes and two twins who shoot black vines out of their hands and a flashback to the twins killing a guy and then themselves and then sitting in a well lit room all covered in more blood. And there’s a lady and a old guy who isn’t happy with kids or something, but then a ghost kid pushes him down the stairs but his wife saves him by stitching dog tags to his face. And then the guy who tried to hang himself teams up with the guy who cooks rice to fight the dog-tag face guy and the twins and there’s a lot of blood and the rice cooker guy gets his arm torn off and the hung dude (whoa, perv) gets a pole shoved through him and there are a lot of black tentacle things and then the twins and the dog-tag face guy merge into one green faced, dog tag guy and then there’s grey clay and fire and water and some other stuff and then it ended. I think I was supposed to feel happy at the end, but I just felt sort of confused and not in the good way like after I do whip-its or sniff glue.

The Lesson:

The Hong Kong Film Awards are batshit crazy.

Rigor Mortis opens in select cities on June 6.

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Movie Breakdown: I’ll Follow You Down

June 3, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

HALEY JOEL OSMENT IS BACK in what appears to be a film about a fella trying to figure out whether or not his father was a time traveler.

The Reality:

There’s a nice handful of things worth liking in I’ll Follow You Down.  The main cast of Gillian Anderson, Rufus Sewell, Victor Garber, Sarah Manninen and Haley Joel Osment all turn in good work.  Also,  I thought the film’s plot was solid – a brilliant young man works diligently with his grandfather to attempt to eliminate the alternate timeline that he believes he and his family have been stuck in since his father mysteriously disappeared.

Unfortunately though, these two sizable good parts are pulled down by some very mediocre direction from Richie Mehta.  I’ll Follow You Down is a film that almost seems bored with the story it’s telling, which is pretty odd considering it contains a lot of scenes that feature grand realizations and time travel-oriented discoveries.  I never felt any sort of excitement or wonder with anything happening on the screen, and I think it’s largely because Mehta just never does anything with the material.  It’s like he directed the entire movie with a firm “why does this matter” face on.

You could do a lot worse than I’ll Follow You Down, but I don’t know if that’s reason enough to seek it out.

The Lesson:

Good direction is important.

I’ll Follow You Down will be available on VOD on June 6.

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Movie Breakdown: Mondo Fuzz: Twilight Of The Idles

June 2, 2014

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Part of the Austin music scene gets a documentary.

The Reality:

Mondo Fuzz: Twilight Of The Idles is a tough film to review.  On one hand I love that it holds quite a few great Austin acts right up to the spotlight and then makes sure to let them shine for as long as possible.  The doc is absolutely loaded with rad performances, and there isn’t a single one that doesn’t make me want to immediately run out and find a show.  On the flip side of this, the interviews are quick and fragmented to the point where they don’t offer much other than a brief glimpse into the bands and the scene on display.  So, do you cut out the interviews and just let the performances stand on their own?  Or do you clip the music in favor of more talking?  I honestly have no idea which would be better.  The nerd part of me would have liked more stories and information, but then again maybe it’s just the music that matters.

I’m recommending the film as something you should see if you’ve ever loved garage rock or caught a show here in Austin.

The Lesson:

Go Austin!

PS – You can catch the premiere of Mondo Fuzz: Twilight Of The Idles this Friday.  Get all the details here.

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