Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ed Helms Helms New Slightly Amusing VACATION Reboot/Sequel

Now playing at a multiplex near you:

VACATION (Dirs. John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein, 2015)

ve never even heard of the original vacation,” protests James Griswold (Skyler Gisondo), when his father Rusty (Ed Helms) pitches to his family that they should drive cross-country to Walley World just like he did with his parents and sister over 30 years ago.

“It doesn’t matter. The new vacation will stand on its own.” Helm’s Rusty declares, but despite that being a solid meta joke, sadly it’s not true. This new reboot/sequel contains so many call backs to the original VACATION that there’s no way to forget it at any point during this film’s 99 minute running time. Queue Lindsay Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” and we’re off!

For the fifth film in the VACATION franchise (there’s also a TV movie, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION 2, and a 14 minute short film, HOTEL HELL VACATION, but let’s not count those), Helms and Christina Applegate as his wife Debbie take over from Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo as the next generation of Griswolds to make the hellacious trek to the fictional theme park, and I give major kudos for that excellent casting.

Continuing on the meta joke above, Rusty says: “My vacation had a boy and a girl. This one has two boys. And I’m sure there will be plenty of other differences.” Those two boys are Skyler Gisondo as the sensitive, guitar playing James, and Steele Stebbons as the foul mouthed bullying younger brother Kevin. The comic premise that the younger, much smaller brother bullies the older one isn’t as funny as the filmmakers think it is, and it joins many jokes here in that regard.

Remember the Wagon Queen Family Truckster Station Wagon in the first one? Well, this time the Griswolds are driving an Albanian rental minivan called The Tartan Prancer loaded with confusing features (its key device has a bunch of buttons with inexplicable symbols on them, including a swastika). And that’s one of the better running gags.

But just like Chase and D’Angelo who both put in welcome cameo appearances reprising their iconic roles as Clark and Ellen Griswold now as owners of a bed and breakfast in San Fransisco, don’t count the Family Truckster out – it too shows up. Sadly, despite a passing reference to Cousin Eddie, Randy Quaid is nowhere to be seen. That alone would’ve taken this to the next level.

I did chuckle a lot throughout this new VACATION – I lightly laughed at a scene where they visited Applegate’s old college sorority in Memphis and it’s revealed that she used to be a wild party girl (“Debbie Do Anything”), I snickered a bit at Helms trying to get his family into a car sing along of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose,” and I came the closest to actual audible laughter when Charlie Day of It’s Always Sunny in Philadephia popped up as a rafting guide who starts out all super positive but then gets suicidal when his fiancée breaks up with him over the phone.

It’s essentially and predictably a series of farcical road trip sketches, some of which more match the crude cringe comedy tone of recent fare like WE’RE THE MILLERS or IDENTITY THIEF than the more relatable vibe of the VACATION movies I knew as a kid back when they were still under the National Lampoon banner.

And I wasn’t really into the sequence where they stay with Rusty’s sister, now played by Leslie Mann, who’s married to Chris Hemsworth (THOR) as “up and coming anchorman.” Helms being threatened by Applegate’s attraction to Hemsworth is clumsily handled, and Mann is barely given anything to do.

I also disliked the callback to Christie Brinkley's role as 
“The Girl in the Red Ferrari” who flirted with Chase in VACATION '83, in which up and coming supermodel Hannah Davis fills in as “Ferrari Girl” to flirt with Helms, but has an especially crude and unfunny fate. 

But overall writer/directors Daley and Goldstein have largely captured the endearingly lowbrow spirit of the famously hapless Griswold family’s “quest for fun” as Chase famously called it in the first one.

When I was a kid, and a big fan of comedy and Chase (back when those things weren’t mutually exclusive) I saw the original in the summer of ’83 and loved it. I even read John Hughes’ short story, “Vacation ’58,” which Hughes adapted into the screenplay and had the movie poster 
on my bedroom wall (yes, I was that kind of comedy geek, but that poster, painted by Boris Vallejo, is pretty awesome). That said, I really don’t regard it to be a comedy classic (or any of the VACATION movies for that matter). They are in the category of films that I consider just funny enough to get by.

Daley and Goldstein’s homage to the vacation house that Hughes, Harold Ramis, and Chevy built has a fair amount going for it mostly in Helms’ and Applegates’ go for broke performances, a smattering of one-liners and gags that land, and a few surprise guest appearances, but it really suffers from way too much gross-out humor. There’s vomit aplenty in the aforementioned college sorority event skit, and in the movie’s most disgusting moment, the family goes bathing in a raw sewage treatment area that they mistakenly thought was their own private hot springs.

To be fair, that’s exactly the level of crassness that the other VACATIONs often reveled in. But then they had bigger, more genuine laughs, and an actual heart beating behind it. As it stands, VACATION ’15 may elicit some laughter from audiences, but it sure won’t make them whistle “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” out of their assholes.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

PIXELS Is Lame, But Doesn’t Suck As Much As You’ve Heard

Opening today at a multiplex near all of us:

PIXELS (Dir. Chris Columbus, 2015)

So, PIXELS, the latest in a long line of crass comedies from Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, is a typically lame offering, but it really doesn't suck as much as the majority of critics are saying.

I mean, it currently holds an awful 12% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. C’mon! It deserves at least 30-something percent. *

PIXELS scores a few points by trying a little harder than Sandler’s largely crappy output of late (the GROWN UP series, THAT’S MY BOY, BLENDED, etc.) and it has a pretty promising premise – aliens attack earth in the form of ‘80s video games – which does at times add up into some genuinely enjoyable dumb fun.

There may be dragging stretches between those instances of amusement, and tons of lame jokes litter the landscape along with the pixilated carnage, but as a throwaway summer popcorn picture it’s actually almost passable.

Sandler, Josh Gad, and Peter Dinklage play former ‘80s arcade champions, who we meet as kids played by the well cast Anthony Ippolito, Jacob Shinder and Andrew Bambridge, in an opening flashback set in 1982. We also meet Jared Riley as the kid version of Kevin James’ character, who’s not a great gamer but is able to score a Chewbacca mask from the Claw Game.

In the intervening years, Sandler’s Sam Brenner grows up to be a schlubby Geek Squad-style media center installation guy, while his best friend, James’ Will Cooper (or “Chewie” to his friends) has gone on to be elected President of the United States.

When Austrialia gets invaded by an alien force resembling the game Galaga™, James recruits Sandler to use his gaming skills, which involve recognizing patterns, to help the army defeat the 8-bit menace. Gad, now a conspiracy theory buff, and a mulleted Dinklage, in prison for criminal hacking, are also called upon and before long they’re all wearing uniforms identified as “Arcaders.”

Michelle Monaghan as Lt. Colonel Violet van Patten, Sandler’s obvious love interest from the get go, is skeptical of the crew until they take down Centipede® in a battle in London’s Hyde Park.

The big showpiece is the showdown with Pac-Man™ in New York City. The Arcaders take on the role of the ghosts via brightly colored cars with their names (Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde) on their license plates. Pac-Man is his old yellow, recognizable self, albeit ginormous, who shocks Sandler and his creator, Denis Akiyama as Toru Iwatani (the real Iwatani has a cameo as a repairman), by being “a bad guy.”

PIXELS takes the aliens recreating our old pop culture premise from GALAXY QUEST mixes it with the satirical yet nostalgic take on arcade classics from the Reagan era of WRECK-IT RALPH, and then wraps it all up in GHOST BUSTERS packing of having lovable, schlubby underdogs overcoming supernatural odds to save the world from a dangerously silly threat. Oh, and there’s an added splash of THE KING OF KONG in there too – the posturing of Dinklage’s Donkey Kong champion more than a little resembles the arrogant Billy Mitchell in that compelling gaming doc.

It should also be mentioned that there’s an episode of Futurama, “Raiders of the Lost Arcade,” that shares the same premise, but the real inspiration, which is credited, is the French animated short “Pixels.” Nearly every visual gag in the short is redone in the movie – watch it here.

Scripted by longtime Sandler screenwriting pal Tim Herlihy, PIXELS has a decently dopey tone to it. It doesn’t care whether its jokes land, or its plot mechanics are transparent, it just wants to fuck around on its huge playset with all the props and memories of the overgrown man-children in its audience.

Unfortunately there are so many missed opportunities with this material that it’s a shame that like somebody like the retro-meta-mastermind team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (the 21 JUMP STREET movies, THE LEGO MOVIE) wasn’t hired to touch up the screenplay.

Like I said before, it’s pretty close to crappy (which could be said also of its cluttered cinematography), but not as interminable, soul crushing, or as painful as many critics are saying. It’s a mediocre attempt at a crowd pleaser that actually has some amusing moments. It just fits better into the “Sandler is so over” narrative that so many pop culture pundits have been selling lately to paint it as a big, stinky dud.

I can’t say I’d recommend it to anyone who’s not a big Sandler fan, or somebody who doesn’t say upfront that they like big, stupid movies, but if I were using a star rating system I’d give it two stars out of five for “doesn’t completely suck” (the other stars for the record: 1 star = “sucks,” 3 stars = “good,” 4 stars = “almost awesome,” and 5 stars = of course, “awesome”).

Oh, and I enjoyed the Q-Bert, and Max Headroom cameos too.

* The Rotten Tomatoes rating of 12% was what it was at when I originally wrote this review. It's now at 20%, so it's slowly inching it's way up as more reviews are posted. Maybe it'll make 30-something % yet.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

ANT-MAN Proves That Paul Rudd Can Be A Marvel Superhero Too

Opening today at a multiplex near you:

ANT-MAN (Dir. Payton Reed, 2015)

The first time I was introduced to Ant-Man it was in an old Saturday Night Live sketch from the late '70s. Margot Kidder was hosting at the height of the success of the first SUPERMAN movie so they did a sketch with her reprising Lois Lane in the premise of hosting a party with the man of steel (Bill Murray) as her new husband. Dan Aykroyd showed up as The Flash, John Belushi made quite an applause-filled entrance as The Hulk, and extras came in dressed as Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, The Thing, etc.

Then there was Garrett Morris (SNL cast member from '75-'80) as Ant-Man, who was mocked mercilessly by The Flash and The Hulk. “He has the strength of a human!” Aykroyd’s Flash joked. I honestly thought at the time that they had made up the character for the sketch - it was a while later that I found out that he'd been around since the early '60s.

The gag that Ant-Man is one of the lesser superheroes is one that still endures. Paul Rudd, who takes on the role as the tiny crime-fighter in the new comic book blockbuster wannabe opening today, said on LIVE with Kelly and Michael this week that compared to the rest of the Marvel family he felt like “cousin Oliver to the rest of the Brady bunch.”

It’s just that sort of self-deprecating comic charm that Rudd has in spades that helps elevate ANT-MAN from the all-too familiar formula makes it one of the most fun films of the summer.

The movie opens in the late ‘80s with Michael Douglas, who with the help of make-up and CGI looks like he did when he won the Oscar for WALL STREET, as Dr. Hank Pym storming in on a S.H.IE.L.D. meeting angry because they've been trying to reproduce his shrinking technology without his knowledge. Pym, who was the original Ant-Man in the comics, resigns from the agency and takes his formula with him.

Cut to 25 years later where we meet Paul Rudd as master thief Scott Lang as he's being released from prison. Rudd's Lang doesn't want to return to a life of crime, but a stint at Baskin Robbins gets cut short because they learn about his record. Lang is desperate to see his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), but his ex-wife (Judy Greer), who is now married to a cop (Bobby Cannavale), forbids it until he can pay child support so he takes on “one last job with his old cohorts (Michael Peña, Tip “T.I.” Harris, and David Dastmalchian).

This involves breaking into a vault made out of the same metal as the Titanic, but all that's in there is Pym's old Ant-Man suit. Lang tries it on when he gets home, presses a button on it and is shrunken to, yep, the size of an ant. The amped-up experience, which results in a scene that comes off like HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS on acid, scares Lang into returning the suit, but this gets him arrested.

In jail, he's visited by Pym posing as his lawyer. Pym had set him up because he's chosen Lang to be the new Ant-Man, and with the help of the suit Lang breaks out. Pym's daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) isn't happy with this, but goes along with geting Lang in shape to help them pull off a major heist. 

Pym wants Lang to steal the dangerous garb duplicating his shrinking technology dubbed Yellowjacket, which was developed by his former protégé Darren Cross (Corey Stohl from House of Cards). 

From there it becomes the expected mix of fight scenes, surreally-tinged chases, and comic asides, which all breeze by without an instance of clunk.

As Cross, Stohl isn't the strongest villain, and the plot mechanics can feel pretty standard at times, but thanks to the wit, charm, and likability of Rudd, a well executed origin story, and a strong supporting cast (funnily enough, it's Peña who gets the most laughs), ANT-MAN is a welcome, and far from lesser, addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Back when Edgar Wright (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD) who was originally slated to direct dropped out of the project and was replaced by Peyton Reed (director of the definitely un-super rom coms  DOWN WITH LOVE, YES MAN, and THE BREAK UP), it looked like it could end up a bomb, but the result is a summer superhero movie that satisfyingly pops.

Wright is credited for co-writing the screenplay, along with Joe Cornish, Adam McKay, and Rudd, so a lot of his vision is happily intact, and with a running time of under 2 hours, it's the least bloated Marvel movies in ages. 

Rudd plays well off his fellow cast members, especially Lilly, who appears to be primed to have her own superhero character soon, The Wasp, and Douglas, who, like Robert Redford in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER, has one of his juiciest parts in recent memory. There's also a cameo by one of the Avengers, but I won't tell you which one. There's maybe more than that if you stay to the stinger at the end of the credits, but, again, that's all I'm gonna say.

Rudd also plays well off his CGI-ed insect pals, which Ant-Man can communicate with, and his affection for a winged carpenter ant he names Antony is cute in a way that only Rudd can pull off.

ANT-MAN is a delightful ride through yet another franchise starter, and a fine finish to Phase Two of the MCU. All that, and it's got a cameo by Garrett Morris in it too. Coincidence?

More later...

Judd Apatow Makes Amy Schumer A Movie Star In TRAINWRECK

Opening today at a multiplex near you:

TRAINWRECK (Dir. Judd Apatow, 2015)

n his fifth feature, TRAINWRECK, Judd Apatow gives comedienne and Comedy Central star Amy Schumer her first starring role, and he let her write the movie too.

This is a first for Apatow as he wrote or co-wrote his previous films (THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, KNOCKED UP, FUNNY PEOPLE, and THIS IS 40) but his confidence in Schumer’s filthy, feminist brand of comedy shines through, maybe a little too much, as like with all of his other movies, it could’ve been edited down considerably.

Schumer plays New Yorker Amy (no last name given), a writer for S'Nuff, a snotty men’s magazine run by an eccentrically unhinged editor-in-chief hilariously portrayed by an almost unrecognizable Tilda Swinton.

In a cold opening/flashback, we learn that Amy was taught by her father (longtime comic Colin Quinn in his best screen role) that “monogamy doesn’t work,” so we learn up front why her life consists of a series of one night stands. In her voice-over narration she tells us that she is actually seeing somebody – a lughead body builder played by WWE superstar John Cena – but, of course, not exclusively.

After getting dumped by Cena when he finds out, Amy surprises herself by developing actual feelings for a sports doctor (ex-Saturday Night Live cast member Bill Hader) she’s assigned to do a story on. However, initially she treats it like just another one night stand.

Hader, in one of his most grounded in reality roles, winningly keeps up with Schumer’s wisecracks. Their courtship is convincing, even when we can see the conflicts that will have them breaking up from a mile away.

The New York setting is another first for Apatow, but as expected he fills it with a bunch of recognizable faces like Dave Attell as a homeless guy that lives outside Amy’s apartment building, SNL’s Vanessa Bayer as one of her co-workers, current indie “it” girl Brie Larson as her settled down sister , Mike Birbiglia as Larson’s husband (Schumer was in comic Birbiglia’s SLEEPWALK WITH ME), and Ezra Miller (PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER) as an eager young intern at the magazine.

But most notably there’s LeBron James as a version of himself, one of Hader’s patients, who does his amusingly droll spin on the advice giving best friend.

Schumer and Apatow embrace many rom com tropes here, mostly taken from the ANNIE HALL rulebook. The twist is that usually it’s the male who’s the commitment-phobe who has to make the climatic mad dash to win back their love when they finally realize what they want.

We know Schumer’s boozy, pot-smoking, slutty character will be redeemed by the end, but the question is are there enough laughs along the way to make it worthwhile?

The answer is yes – there are a lot of genuinely funny moments throughout TRAINWRECK, but, as I mentioned before, it’s longer than it should be. It clocks in at just over 2 hours, when this material could’ve been shaped into a tidy 90 minutes – the ideal length for a comedy imho.

It’s like they couldn’t bear to cut anything that got a laugh out. In the aforementioned mad dash, they even work in a subway cameo by SNL’s Leslie Jones. It is funny, but it’s got “deleted scene” for a latter Blu ray/DVD release written all over it. So does a lot of shtick here (most of the Cena stuff should've been cut - no offense, Mr. Wrestling Champion).

But the best stuff is comedy gold, and there’s a warm and touching undercurrent to the proceedings. Schumer’s exchanges with Hader, Larson, and especially Quinn as her ailing father help flesh out that feeling.

TRAINWRECK will make Schumer fans happy (I'm one and I left the theater smiling), while turning a lot of newcomers into fans. It’s as flawed as its protagonist, but it brings the funny again and again and that’s way more important.

More later...

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Chillingly Brilliant EX MACHINA Out This Week on Blu Ray/DVD

(Dir. Alex Garland, 2015)

It’s time to take a break from all the summer sequels and highly hyped blockbuster wannabes clogging up the multiplexes, and take note that one of the best films of the year, Alex Garland’s sleek, dark sci-fi thriller EX MACHINA drops this week on Blu ray and DVD. Despite critical acclaim, it quietly came and went in theaters early this year, but I bet it’ll build its deserved audience quickly on home video.

Domhnall Gleeson (HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PARTS I & II, ABOUT TIME, FRANK) plays Caleb Smith, a programmer at the Google-esque internet search engine giant Bluebook, who wins first prize in a companywide lottery. This entitles Caleb to a week’s stay at the home of the company’s reclusive CEO, located on his vast mountain estate (location never specified, but filmed in Norway).

In another solidly intense performance, Oscar Isaac (head shaved, but sporting a bushy beard) portrays the CEO, Nathan Bateman, who tells Caleb in their first meeting that his impressive compound of glass, stone, and shiny surfaces isn’t a house, it’s a research facility. After he gets him to sign a non disclosure form, Nathan reveals to Caleb that he’s built an android with Artificial Intelligence and that he wants Caleb to be the human component in the Turing Test - “when a human interacts with a computer, and if the human doesn’t know they’re interacting with a computer – the test is passed.”

Caleb is introduced to the AI, Ava (Alicia Vikander), who via CGI has parts that are transparent, and their sessions begin. Caleb speaks to Ava through a glass wall of an observation room, and, of course, develops an attraction to her. Nathan monitors their conversations on surveillance cameras, but during a power outage (something that happens often, Nathan explains) Ava warns Caleb that “Nathan is not your friend.”

There are other red flags that Nathan, who’s constantly boozing it up, is a modernized version of the classic mad scientist character –he’s hacked into the cell phones of billions, the contest was a smokescreen for this experiment, there is footage of other AI models desperately (and destructively) trying to escape , and he may have programmed Ava to flirt with Caleb.

There is only one other cast member - Kyoko, a Japanese housemaid (Sonoya Mizuno) who speaks no English but definitely has some dance moves as we see when a yet again drunken Nathan tries to get a party going with she and Caleb.

The directorial debut of screenwriter Alex Garland (28 DAYS LATER, NEVER LET ME GO, and DREDD) EX MACHINA is sharply constructed – there’s not a misplaced line, shot, or story beat and Geoff Barrow and Glenn Salisbury’s eerie electronic score effectively connects it all together.

Gleeson’s role is similar to his part in FRANK – a smart ambitious guy who gets way in over his head trying to be a part of something grand – but his acting is more focused here. His nervous exchanges, playing off of Isaac’s rich genius cockiness, give the film its humanity. However it’s the kind of humanity that may seal our race’s doom. 

It's easy to see why Gleeson's Caleb would fall for Vikander's alluring Ava, even when he's trying to keep in mind that she's a machine, albeit sentient. Vikander tops off the trio of terrific performances, and makes the viewer go through their own personal take on the Turing Test as well.

It builds brilliantly from an intriguing think piece into a thriller, that’s both psychological and technological, with an ending that floored me then stuck around to haunt me for days. This is cerebral film making of the highest order – Stanley Kubrick, who Isaac says in one of the bonus features that he patterned his character after, would’ve loved it.

Special Features: The 5-Part Featurette “Through the Looking Glass: Creating EX MACHINA,” 8 Behind-the-Scenes vignettes, and SXSW Q & A with cast and crew that's intermittently interesting if you've got an hour to kill.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Amy Winehouse’s Rise And Decline Makes For A Devastating Doc

Opening today at an indie art house near you (and a few multiplexes):

AMY (Dir. Asif Kapadia, 2015)

You will really get to know the face of the late, great jazz singer Amy Winehouse well before the end of this biodoc which details the rise and decline of the “little Jewish kid from North London with a big talent,” as her brother Alex described her.

Apparently from when she was a teenager to her tragic death at age 27 in 2011 from alcohol poisoning, somebody was filming her constantly. There’s so much in-her-face footage that at times it can make you feel like you’re in the chair across from her, hanging out. 

This is ideal in the early stretches of the film, in which the bubbly, funny, and extremely talented performer is just starting out, poised on the verge of becoming a major top-charting, award-winning sensation. Of course, we get less face-time when the story grows dark as her battles with booze, drugs, mental health, and bulimia begin to overtake her musical career.

Director Asif Kapadia, whose previous film was another excellent biopic - 2010’s SENNA, about Brazilian motor-racing champion, Ayrton Senna - constructs Winehouse’s narrative out of tons of archival video, film, and photos (much previously unseen), connected by excerpts from over 100 interviews with family, friends, and fellow musicians. Interviewees include her first manager and mentor Nick Shymansky, childhood friend Lauren Gilbert, The Roots’ bandleader Questlove, producer Mark Ronson, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), and Winehouse’s bodyguard, Andrew Morris.

Throughout AMY there is a healthy, welcome amount of performance material. The songs we witness Winehouse singing live in clubs and working on in the recording studio are treated with great import via individual lyrics in handwritten fonts being superimposed on top of footage, and often nearly complete versions of key tracks.

One of the most endearing moments in the movie comes at the 2008 Grammys. Winehouse wasn’t at the event in L.A. but was going to perform on a live feed from Riverside Studios in London. Winehouse’s monster hit “Rehab” was up for Record of the Year, and we watch her listen to Tony Bennett (one of her idols), and Natalie Cole read the nominees for the category. When Justin Timberlake’s name and song is announced, Winehouse makes a face, and snarkily asks “His song is called ‘What Goes Around…Comes Around?” So great to get that little insight into what she thought about Timberlake, and to see her bug-eyed shock at winning the award seconds later is priceless as well.

Speaking of Bennett, there’s an affecting segment of the jazz legend working with Winehouse on the duet “Body and Soul.” Winehouse, in total hot mess mode, is having trouble getting her vocal right, but Bennett soothes the situation with understanding warmth. You completely believe Bennett when he says that she’s “one of the truest jazz singers I ever heard. Up there with Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday.”

Winehouse’s ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil sure comes off sketchy here – the guy introduced her to crack cocaine for Christ’s sake! Infamous photos of the couple covered all bloodied and bruised that appeared in tabloids in 2007 speak scary volumes.

Mitch Winehouse, Amy’s father, doesn’t come off much better; we see him in footage from 2005 say his daughter didn’t need to go to rehab, and then in 2009 he tried to cash in on her fame with a reality TV show – we see Amy get highly irritated that he invited a camera crew to follow them around when she was on vacation in St. Lucia. It’s no wonder Mitch is threatening to sue. 

It’s devastating to see Winehouse losing the battle with her demons, while she was being ridiculed by the brutal British press and American late night comedians – we get a sampling of the jokes at the time by such luminaries as George Lopez and Jay Leno.

She may have had a look stolen from Ronnie Spector – down to the beehive hairdo and Cleopatra make-up – but Winehouse had an amazing voice that was all her own. That she only left us with a couple of records (2003’s “Frank” and 2006’s “Back To Black”), some random outtakes, guest appearances, and a smattering of live recordings, when there should’ve been decades of stellar work, is still hard to process, even four years after her death.

See this incredibly moving and illuminating biodoc, one of the best of its kind, and you’ll get a really good idea how seriously heartbreaking a loss this really is.

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