Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Instant Gratification Theater: Documentaries Return

It's been a while, but let me return to some quick takes on documentaries I watched on various streaming video platforms:

Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years: The Beatles are the best everything everywhere in all of history, so if you put a movie about them up on Hulu, I'm going to watch it. Add the pedigree of acclaimed director Ron Howard and a promise to focus on the live concert experience of the band, and, actually I didn't expect all that much. I expected to enjoy it, but I kind of feared a safe, middle-of-the-road approach that would be designed for a more general audience as opposed to the hardcores.

That's what the movie is. Despite the subtitle  and the announced emphasis on the Beatles as a touring act--I remember the early calls for fans to share any footage they had--Eight Days a Week veers off a bit into more general territory and becomes almost a watered-down version of the epic Beatles Anthology. Personally I would have rather seen more vintage footage. What is in here looks and sounds great, and really if you want to provide a sense of the group as live performers, here's a novel concept: Show us more of the group as live performers. No disrespect to the likes of Elvis Costello, but the real thing is much more effective than talking heads telling us about it.

That said, the documentary is professionally put together, though I could have done without pointless "modern" touches like colorization of archival footage (I was marveling at how good one of the clips looked, and then I thought, hey, wait a minute...) and bizarre cigarette smoke effects added to old stills. It's nice to hear from Paul and Ringo in new interviews. most importantly, it's the Beatles.

I imagine this would be a great experience in a theater surrounded by Beatlemaniacs. At home on Hulu, it's worth seeing but not at all revelatory. I still think I would be more excited by an official release of the Let It Be film, but I will (and did) gladly take something like this and enjoy it.

Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy: A low-budget documentary focusing on JFK assassination theories from the point of view of famed conspiracy theorist Jim Marrs. Back in the heady days of Oliver Stone-induced conspiracy fever, I devoured Marrs' book of the same name. I caught this documentary version during a trial of Amazon Prime many moons ago, but it's still available.

The movie isn't sophisticated, and it throws a lot of stuff at you without being as absorbing as the book, but it is entertaining. Marrs is a real character, and his guided tour of sorts through conspiracy facets of the assassination is a fun watch.

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