The third installment of the Underworld story is actually the prequel to the first 2 and tells the story of Viktor
Martin Scorsese is one of the reasons I thank God that I’m a filmmaker and that the craft exists. Shine A Light just exemplifies that statement all the more.
This behind-the scenes concert film/documentary gives a look at what goes on behind closed doors leading up to this historic show by the Rolling Stones. You get some candid interviews with the key members: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards (when you can understand what he’s saying, ha!), Ron Wood and even the usually quiet Charlie Watts chimes in a bit. There’s some great moments with Martin Scorsese such as when he’s expressing his frustration about getting a set list in order to figure out how he’s going to shoot. The set list by the way is pain-stakingly crafted by Mick and presented just shortly before the show actually starts, which is a filmmaker’s nightmare.
Some of the insider moments include Mick questioning Martin about the use of the crane camera and how the fans will find that annoying as well as Scorsese’s use of lights to accentuate the film (something that also bothers Mick a bit).
In addition to these private moments, there’s some great vintage footage from “back in the day” with various members of the group discussing different topics as well as current questions and footage such as Keith Richards answering the question: “Who’s a better guitarist? You or Ron Wood?”
Then there’s the performance. Hey, it’s the Rolling Stones, not much to say here other than there’s a good reason why they’re regarded as the greatest rock and roll band. The show is fantastic and looks beautiful thanks to Mr. Scorsese and his crew; that man knows how to make things look amazing.
There’s also some special guests for this intimate show at the Beacon Theater in New York (oh, to have been there in the crowd, damn!). The show was organized by the Clinton Foundation as a fundraiser, so naturally, Bill Clinton and Hillary and their entourage show up and actually appear in the film for a bit. Keep your eye on the crowd for Benicio Del Toro and Bruce Willis (no, I’m not kidding).
The musical guests include Christina Aguilera and Jack White of the White Stripes. The highlight musical guest for me was definitely Buddy Guy who joined the band for an incendiary version of the Stones’ classic “Champagne and Reefer”. They could’ve just kept riffing on that song for another half hour and that would’ve been just fine by me.
If you’re a Rolling Stones fan or even just a music fan, hell, if you don’t even like music but like Martin Scorsese, check out Shine A Light!
reviewed by Sean McKnight
Bill Maher’s Religulous begins and ends in the same spot – Megiddo, Israel; supposedly the location of the birth of Christ and ground zero for the apocalypse (isn’t it ironic that they both share the same location?). This documentary takes a good hard look at religion and asks some very tough questions with Bill Maher acting as host and putting religion on the spot.
This is set up as a religion travelogue of sorts as Maher explores some of the world’s most monumental religious points and interviews people along the way while expounding on his own beliefs (or lack thereof) during some of the car drives between points A and B. While Maher is a bit of a smart ass and no doubt very full of himself, he’s also a smart guy and brings up a lot of interesting points while he’s riffing about the holes in the various mythology that is wrapped around the different religions such as the Adam and Eve story.
Maher ends up in some interesting locations one of which is a Disneyland of religion of sorts in Florida (Bibleland? the name escapes me as I type this). This theme park is set around Christianity and depicts Israel back in the day complete with a crucifixion re-enactment. Everyone there is in character of course with Bill getting to interview Christ himself. While Bill does ask hard questions like (to Christ, or the actor playing Christ more accurately) – “What if you’re wrong?” which makes the actor think hard, he also manages to joke around too (he also asked Christ if Disneyland is too smutty to host Bibleland).
The journey continues around the world, with stops at the Vatican (yes he got kicked out but was able to interview a Vatican priest), the Hague, the Mormon headquarters in Utah (he gets kicked off the property there too) and even a mobile trucker chapel held in the back of a trailer. His stop at the trailer included a roundtable talk with the attendees of the church where he has a spirited discussion over some of the strengths and weaknesses of their religion. Suprisingly, the debates he gets into stay on point and don’t get overly emotional or disrespectful with the exception of the odd person here and there that just walks out because they don’t like their religion brought into question.
The subject matter evolves during the documentary with some light being shed on religion and science working together as evidenced in an interview with a Vatican Priest/Scientist (which seems like an oxymoron but turns out to be one of the more compelling Vatican segments). Science is highlighted in other ways such as the Jewish science center exploring the development of different gadgets being developed with the purpose of getting around doing certain tasks that are punishable by God on the Sabbath.
There are some light moments in here such as the cannabis ministry segment where the minister(?) smoking pot with Maher manages to catch his hair on fire during their conversation. Then there’s another segment where a rabbi actually wears out Maher to the point where he walks out in the middle of the interview since he can’t get a word in edge-wise. Included throughout the documentary are snippets of films such as Blazing Saddles and Scarface which provide some great guffaws.
Maher is respectful for the most part during the interviews (with some smart ass moments like he’s known for), but he still manages to go on the attack too as he exposes some of the hypocrisy behind tele-evangelists highlighting one gentleman in particular who claims to be the second coming of Christ but has a taste for the finer things in life.
The documentary takes a dark turn at the end with Maher amping things up a notch as to what the consequences could be if we get too carried away with religion. And while the imagery he uses and his tone are both intense at this point, ultimately he seems to be on the money. Love him or hate him, Bill Maher makes you think and re-examine your beliefs in Religulous.
reviewed by Sean McKnight
This movie rules, way too much fun.
There seems to be 2 ways a zombie movie goes – either the serious scare-the-hell out of you vibe like Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later or they go campy and funny like Shaun of the Dead. Zombieland definitely falls in the latter category.
The current day zombie situation is explained (virus, blah, blah, blah) quickly and in a very fun way. The rules are established (that will make sense when you see it). The awkward but entertaining members that make up our crack team of zombie killers contain some interesting and fun characters including Woody Harrelson as Tallahassee who’s the bad ass of the group (he’s great in this). Jesse Eisenberg plays the role of Michael Cera, or is it the other way around? It doesn’t really matter, he does a good job as the awkward late teenager on his way to 20something. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin play the angry-mistrustful-and trying to survive sisters well.
Together they go in search of Pacific Playland which is supposedly a zombie free zone, complete with rides! Of course this film is about their journey and experiences along the way. We learn all the back stories as their trek progresses and end up feeling connected to the characters in different ways.
There is plenty of gory zombie fun, not really over the top, but fun in a lot of ways. Ruben Fleischer does a great job directing as the story is presented really well incorporating some fun and interesting backstories as well as some well designed cg graphics and a segment with Bill Murray that’s not to be missed!
I highly recommend checking this out for much good zombie fun!
reviewed by Sean McKnight