Flick Picks 6/19/2015: The Newsroom, Wild Tales, Chappie

 

Conflict, conflict and more conflict this week.  Some dark, some light.  Some funny, other instances...not so much.  If you get a little too worked up, we also have a good bit of music to calm the savage breast.  


Foreign Film
 
Revenge is a dish best served cold?  If the film Wild Tales is any indication, the preferred manner of serving in Argentina is piping hot.  Wild Tales was a box office sensation in its home country.  Not so surprising, given the difficult decades that have beset the once great nation.  There's all sorts of instant karma to be had for the outraged in this black comedy, even as the tone of the six vignettes ranges from serious to the outlandishly comic, culminating with a wronged bride running absolutely amok at her own wedding.  If your sensibilities aren't too delicate, this is great, smart fun.   

Series


THE NEWSROOM, COMPLETE THIRD SEASON

Jeff Daniels has become the grouch laureate of American film and television in the past decade or so.  This applies to any number of film roles in which Daniels plays smart, wisecracking types that do not suffer fools gladly, if at all.  Such is also the case in Aaron Sorkin's HBO series, The Newsroom.  Here Daniels is Will McAvoy, controversial anchor for the fictional Atlantis Cable News.  Like any Aaron Sorkin series, the verbiage comes fast and in great abundance as behind-the-scenes intrigues play out for the McAvoy, his colleagues and the fictional network itself. Featuring an excellent ensemble cast, The Newsroom by most accounts was at its best in season three.  



Feature Films



CHAPPIE

With District 9 and the subsequent Elysium, South African Neil Blommkamp became the preeminent purveyor of science fiction at the movies, with big ideas to match all the big action on screen.  His latest, Chappie, is about a population fighting back against a mechanized police force, aided by Chappie, a police droid stolen and reprogrammed to think and feel for itself.  We have Chappie in Blu-ray, with a couple of copies in regular DVD on the way.   

 



Also new:  Johnny Depp adds to his collection of accents, playing an unscrupulous art dealer and swindler working on the right side of the law in the comedy MORTDECAI.

Documentary


THE WRECKING CREW

 
Here, another documentary spotlighting little-known contributors to some of the biggest hits in rock and roll and American popular music.  In this case, the Wrecking Crew was a name given to Los Angeles studio musicians who played on everything from  t.v. theme songs to film scores to advertising jingles.  And of course, almost every genre of music, backing up artists as diverse as The Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra and Bing Crosby.  
 
 
We also have several of those aforementioned documentaries about other not-so-famous contributors to songs we all know so well.  Even music afficiandos will pick up lots of rich nuggets of American musical history by watching these absorbing films.  
 
 

20 FEET FROM STARDOM

 
This Oscar-winning documentary focuses on the backup singers whose importance to countless rock and pop classics can hardly be overestimated.  Darlene Love, Merry Clayton and others are featured, singers who never quite became stars themselves or quite consciously avoided the spotlight.   
 
 
 
 
"Now muscle shoals has got the Swampers/And they've been known to pick a song or two."  So goes the bit of homage in Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" to the ace musicians in a sleepy town on the Tennessee River.  The Swampers were the studio musicians at FAME Studios in the unlikely musical Mecca of Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  FAME and the eventually competing Muscle Shoals Sound Studio (run by those same Swampers) were a font of hits for artists from Aretha Franklin to The Rolling Stones.  Every bit (and usually more) charismatic than any of the musical luminaries in Muscle Shoals, FAME Studios co-founder Rick Hall presides, one of those grand southern characters like Sun Studios founder Sam Phillips.  
 
 
 
There was a little more to the Motown magic than the star power of The Supremes, Smoky Robinson, The Temptations and Marvin Gaye.  Standing in the Shadows of Motown shines a light on the studio musicians hand picked by Motown founder Barry Gordy, affectionately known as The Funk Brothers.  
 
 
 
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