Monday, July 29, 2019

MOVIE REVIEW: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Once Upon a
Time in Hollywood
2019 / 2hrs 41min
(Columbia Pictures)

This is the film I have been
waiting months to see. And
while I realize that Tarantino
could probably have knocked
an hour or so off the running
time without compromising
any of the story's cred, I'm
certainly glad that he didn't.

As a feeble little old man who grew up during the groovy, shag-carpeted era of late 1960s and early '70s, I find myself now navigating desperately through a super-sophisticated iWorld. Hence, I was intrigued instantly by the premise and nostalgia-factor of director Quentin Tarantino’s latest big-screen epic. Sexy-looking, action-packed pre-release trailers promised a fast-paced film based on semi-factual accounts of shocking historical events of the time — pinned to a glitzy fictional backdrop— starring today's hottest and hunkiest A-list talent. Squeezing into my favorite faded bell bottoms and heading out to my local cineplex to see this one on opening weekend was a bona fide no-brainer. The only question was whether or not it would live up to the hype. One senior's matinee ticket to Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, please!

Pitt and DiCaprio - the new "Redford and Newman."
Hollywood — 1969. TV / movie star, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and his longtime compadre / stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), are struggling to salvage their careers. The fictional Dalton character soon finds himself cast in the actual 1960s Western TV drama, Lancer. It's a bit of a stretch, but it works. At the same time, Dalton and Booth's fictional personal stories are woven into semi factual real-life accounts of the notorious Manson Family and their 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and several others. This too is a bit of a stretch. But doggonit, it works, really well.

The film's all-star cast is incredible. DiCaprio and Pitt both deliver in fashions reflective of their distinguished reputations — a modern-day Redford / Newman-caliber combo with legs. Margot Robbie becomes Sharon Tate. Although Robbie's talent demands co-pilot status, maintaining the authenticity of her character requires a seat in first-class. Emile Hirsch drops an impressive performance as Tate's ex-boyfriend, Jay Sebring, while Margaret Qualley is simply irresistible as spirited Manson Family member, Pussycat. Dakota Fanning is a legit Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme and ten-year-old Julia Butters is a scene-stealer as precocious child "actor," Trudi Fraser.

Margot Robbie is superb as Sharon Tate.
Although Tarantino’s choice of ending has been criticized, it's important to realize that despite leaning on certain historical events, this film is a "fantasy." Plus, it's a Tarantino "fantasy." So, to expect anything other than a disturbing, blood-spewing ending would be as ridiculous as the film's actual disturbing, blood-spewing ending.

In sum, believe the hype. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood delivers maximum bang for the movie buck — an absurd, yet thrilling tale — an authentic-looking period piece bursting with heart-stopping tension, excessive violence, offensive language and oodles of hard bodies and pretty faces. (3.5/4.0)

-Christopher Long
(July 2019)



C'MON! -

Monday, July 22, 2019

MOVIE REVIEW: Stuber (2019)

R | 1 hr 33 min | 7.12.19
20th Century Fox  | Gold Day Productions

It promised so much.
It delivered so little.

Directed by Michael Dowse, this 2019 action / comedy should have and could have been a slam dunk winner — a rollicking, modern-day "odd couple" at the wheel of an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride.

Straight out of the gate, the premise certainly seemed promising — an unsuspecting Uber driver and his car are commandeered by a crazed L.A. cop who's in a desperate pursuit of the drug lord who killed his partner in the film's heart-stopping opening scene. But while on paper, the story appears intriguing, in execution, the situations are ridiculous, the dialogue is awkward and it all falls flat —  almost.

An impressive cast in a less-than-impressive film.
The cast is impressive. The characters — reasonably interesting. Kumail Nanjiani is likable enough as Uber driver, Stu. (Stu + Uber = Stuber — get it?) But the side story relationship between Stu and Richie (his boss from another job) is completely creepy, while the dynamic between Stu and want-to-be love interest Becca (Betty Gilpin) is kinda clunky. Famed former pro wrestling champ, Dave Bautista, delivers a "rock"-solid performance as veteran cop, Vic Manning and Steve Howey's  glistening pecks are incredibly impressive. Unfortunately, Oscar-winning actress, Mira Sorvino's  immense talent is barely tapped in her all-too brief performance as Vic's boss, L.A. police captain, Angie McHenry. Additionally, Natalie Morales is a delight as Vic's art sculptor daughter, Nicole.

On the upside, the film's soundtrack is super-fun, as classic rock treasures from The Hollies, The Marshall Tucker Band and 10cc are sure to keep old timer's toes tapping — even if the story itself lacks any infectious rhythm.

-Christopher Long
(July 2019)



C'MON! -

Friday, July 19, 2019

RECORD REVIEW: John Leach "Back to Old Dixie"

John Leach
Back to Old Dixie

It was late last winter, somewhere
around Valentine's Day, when I
had the pleasure of engaging in
an depth sit-down with singer /
songwriter, John Leach. At that
time, he mentioned how he had
been "playing around" with a
few new tunes. I had no idea he
was planning on heading off to
Knoxville and cut a solo record.

Who is John Leach? Well, according to the lyrics of one of his latest tracks, a sizzlin' slice of rockabilly boogie called, "American Ride," he's "a big ol' boy with a big ol' car and a head full of nasty" that he "kinda enjoys."

More to the point, Leach began his musical journey back in the '80s as the frontman / guitarist for the New Jersey-based band, Slap in the Face. By the early '90s, he was residing in England, as his band had become a popular draw on the UK rock scene. The mid '90s found Leach relocated to, of all places, a barnyard-style compound in Grant, Florida. He soon took on the wild persona of Moe Cooter, the fast-living guitarist in the outrageous hillbilly glam combo, Glitterhick — an artistic vehicle he drove until the wheels fell off in the early 2000s. Since then, Leach has been performing his one-man musical act all along Florida's sunny Space Coast. And in 2019, he's released his first-ever official solo record on some crazy audio format called a compact disc.

Produced by celebrated Black Eyed Soul singer / songwriter / guitarist, Andrew Marcus at his Phase Two Studios in Knoxville, Tennessee, Back to Old Dixie is a crisp and concise five-song set that captures urgent musical performances while showcasing Leach's honest and pure songwriting. "Writing these songs was like an out of body experience," Leach revealed in a recent interview. He added, "It all was playing out just when my world was falling apart."

John Leach working on his 2019 solo record,
Back to Old Dixie at Phase Two Studios in Knoxville.
"Callin' Your Name" kicks off the record with Mellencamp-meets-Fogerty-style rock authenticity —  fueled further by a "Do Ya"-flavored guitar riff. The song just feels personal — like the celebration of a guy who's walked through a dark tragedy and now is stepping back into the light triumphantly. Andrew Marcus' signature lead guitar work along with Misty Marcus' Bemont-inspired keyboards make this one crackle with the appeal of the final tune in the ending scene of an epic film.

Delicate and transparent, "Love You This Morning" smacks of modern-day alt / country, while also offering an aural glimpse of a Mexican bullfight. Conversely, "50" is a delightfully raucous love song in which Leach confesses passionately, "Today's the day I say 'I love you' — 50 times, 50 times more." Solid stuff, indeed.

Stripped bare, the charming solo vocal / acoustic guitar title track finds Leach seemingly on his front porch, reflecting on the stress-free simple life he continues to enjoy (outside the city) at his longtime country home on Old Dixie Highway.

Track Listing
1. Callin' Your Name (3:39)
2. American Ride (1:58)
3. Love You This Morning (3:45)
4. 50 (2:24) 
5. Back to Old Dixie (3:00)

Running Time 15:06
Release Date July 2019
Label: Indie

-Christopher Long
July (2019)



C'MON! -

Saturday, July 13, 2019

RECORD REVIEW FLASHBACK: Donna Summer - "Bad Girls" (Guest Feature by Bryan Dumas)

Donna Summer
Bad Girls
(Guest Feature by Bryan Dumas)

My writing partner, Bryan Dumas,
has been feeling a bit nostalgic
recently. And today, he returns to
my "Show Biz Guru" site to offer
up his latest retro "Guest Feature."

1979 — my first summer as a teenager and I was in "Musical Heaven." So much great music. More than just singles, 1979 was filled with albums that would impact my musical journey for a lifetime. Choosing a "best" album of that year is impossible. But I'll submit that Bad Girls from Donna Summer could well fill that spot.

A double disco album? Released among a slew of rock albums? Yes! But in a year when so many rockers were trying to capitalize on the disco craze, the "Queen of Disco" actually was bringing rock to her dance floor kingdom. Truth be told, Bad Girls covered diverse ground, from the country-tinged ballad, "On My Honor" to the proto EDM-style, "Sunset People."

There's no disco orchestra to be found on Bad Girls. Instead, Ms. Summer, along with producers Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte and collaborator Harold Faltermeyer, broke new ground by laying a framework for '80s pop, dance and new wave, using keyboards and sequencers in bold ways not heard previously in pop music, with the exception of Summer's own 1977 hit, "I Feel Love."

The first two sides contain non-stop, four on the floor dance tunes (and enormous hits)  "Bad Girls," "Hot Stuff" and "Dim All The Lights." The other tracks on sides one and two could have and should have been hits as well  "Walk Away" and "Journey To The Center Of Your Heart" standing out as particular gems.

The Bad Girls inner gatefold sleeve
Side Three brings the ballads with the aforementioned "On My Honor" leading it off. Why this wasn't her third #1 from this album or covered by Kenny Rogers is beyond my comprehension. Side Four is groundbreaking. Gone are the guitars and horns — and the electronic dance party begins. "Our Love" starts out as a simple pop song but has elements of electronic drum breaks and drops among the layers of keyboards — years ahead of its time. "Lucky" has an "I Feel Love" groove with more layers of sounds and a Berlin / Eurythmics vocal styling  showcasing Summer's amazing range and talent.

If Bad Girls wasn't the best album of 1979 I would argue that Ms. Summer was the hottest artist. With three #1s, a #2 and five singles, and TWO double albums reaching #1 (On The Radio being the other), a duet with the legendary Barbra Streisand and a song on the Foxes movie soundtrack, she was EVERYWHERE. The visuals of the cover and inner gatefold sleeve had the type of affect on a certain 13-year-old that I probably don't need to elaborate on.

Summer's continued success in the '80s after most disco artists had vanished is a further testament to her immense talent  a talent that is missed greatly.

-Bryan Dumas
(August 2019)

Bryan Dumas is the
co-author of the books...



Wednesday, July 10, 2019



In today's convenient iWorld,
we often strive to achieve and
maintain uncluttered lives. 

Ugh, there they were  endless stacks of DVDs piling up recently at my GF's place — my quasi photo albums, preserving "snapshots" of old friends, good times and memorable locales. Simply put, my GF "encouraged" me to clear some space — pronto. So, I faced the near impossible dilemma of deciding which movies I would keep and which ones I would surrender reluctantly to eBay. And the "keepers" had to be limited to a very few — 10 at most.

After a recent discussion with my 25-year-old, bi-coastal, jet-setting, movie aficionado son, I realized that many of my once-fave films haven't really withstood the test of time all that well. Gigli? Yikes! What was I thinking? However, others have remained timeless treasures.  

Before anybody gets their celluloid knickers in a twist over my "crappy" personal picks, be sure this is NOT some type of definitive, ultimate "Top 10" movie list. It merely reflects a few films from my private DVD collection that I will NEVER part with — ever. Think of this as a cyber op to stop over, have a soda and take a peek through a box of my stuff. The order of this list is interchangeable  except for the coveted #1 spot.

SPOILER ALERT: I'm not really into epic fantasies, sci-fi, war flicks, westerns, witches or wizards. I'm merely drawn to light, engaging, entertaining stories I can relate to. Dystopian blockbusters need not apply.


A timeless, well-crafted tale of
people and their often conflicted
relationships. Debra Winger is a
delight. John Travolta is superb.
And the soundtrack is magical.


A campy rock and roll "Who's Who"
cult classic starring Meat Loaf, Alice
Cooper, Blondie and Hank Williams Jr.
Silly situations woven into a goofy
story. A glorious guilty pleasure that
got overlooked by many at the time.
Bands make it rock. Roadies make it roll.


P.J. Soles sizzles and the Ramones
dominate in this ridiculous, good-
time rock and roll romp. Another
eclectic, must-have soundtrack.
Ga-ba, ga-ba hey  Ms. Togar!


An all-star cast, portraying lively
characters in a crisp and compelling
comedy. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
sparkle like true superstars. Truth be
told, NYM served as my introduction
to Red Bull  the "gateway" to my
current energy drink addiction. It also
introduced me to the band, Steadman.
Look out, Roxy! Here comes Lomax!


A cozy holiday comedy starring
Christina Applegate? A guaranteed
slam dunk, right? Well, it tanked at
the box office. Which really is tragic,
as it's THE greatest Christmas flick
— ever. The late James Gandolfini
is brilliant. Catherine O'Hara is just
amazing. Even Ben Affleck nails it
convincingly. Fiji — first-class!


The life story of "The First Lady of
Country Music," Miss Loretta Lynn.
Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones,
Beverly D'Angelo and Levon Helm
deliver Oscar-worthy performances.
As authentic as it gets.


Why does this film succeed so famously in
depicting the teen pop culture of the late '70?
'Cuz that's when it was made. No silly wigs,
paste-on mustaches or fake-looking scenery.
Simply put, Foxes screams authenticity
from start to finish. One-time Runaways
frontchick, Cherie Currie, sizzles as troubled
teen, Annie, while Jodie Foster delivers one
of the most compelling performances of her
acclaimed career as the responsible, Jeanie.
The concert footage alone of the band, Angel,
makes the film worth the price of admission.


Despite a perceived "down home"
country music factor, this one is
a true blue, bona fide tale of
"Sex, Drugs & Rock and Roll."
Willie Nelson is the real deal. His
on-screen chemistry with co-star,
Dyan Cannon is honest and pure.


It's Lonny's death, birthday and we're ALL
invited to the party. But Shaun Brumder
(Colin Hanks) is focused more on his
writing aspirations, while his bubbly GF,
Ashley (Schuyler Fisk) serves as a
further distraction in this smart, fast-
paced, laugh-out-loud hit. The cast 
truly impressive — Jack Black, John
Lithgow, Lily Tomlin, Chevy Chase
and SO many others. But the cherry on
top of this sundae is Catherine O'Hara
as Shaun's mom, Cindy — a selfless
mother who had sex with her current
husband, Bob, four times in order to
keep the fam from clipping coupons.
"Smart choices," indeed!


The greatest film of all-time. My
limited edition, three-hour director's
cut DVD will have to be cremated
with me when I kick the bucket next
week, as no one EVER will be able
to pry it from my cold, dead hands.
Mad props to writer and director,
Cameron CroweYour aura is
purple  I love you!

So, which movies in your "box" do you refuse to part with? Feel free to share in the "Comment" section below. Thanks for stopping by!

-Christopher Long
(July 2019)



C'MON! -

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

MOVIE REVIEW (Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience)

The Terry Kath Experience
(Searching for Terry Productions)

Released officially back in 2017,
this 80-minute documentary is a
beautiful love letter from director
Michelle Kath Sinclair to the
father she never knew. It also
serves as an incredible tribute
to the iconic band, Chicago,
and their legendary guitarist,
Terry Kath. I just wish I had
discovered the film sooner.
Better late never, to be sure.

"I never knew my dad," states director and successful DJ, Michelle Kath Sinclair in the film's opening scene. "I know he was the lead guitarist and co-founding member of the band Chicago. But to me, he's been a relative mystery. And I began to search for clues to who he was."

Sinclair's labor of love film project initiated after discovering boxfuls of letters written decades ago from her father, Terry Kath, to her mother, Camelia, along with photos and compositions, as well as a treasure trove of Kath's 8mm home videos. "It was like getting a glimpse into his mind," Sinclair offers as she begins her pilgrimage from the sunny beaches of California to the windy streets of Chicago, where it all started — in pursuit of Kath's story and his long-lost prized Fender Telecaster.

Director Michelle Kath Sinclair does a superb job,
sharing the amazing story of her legendary father.
Known to many as the guitarist who Jimi Hendrix revered, Kath was a gifted, innovative musician. And his amazing tale comes to life through vintage personal and live concert video footage. It's enhanced further by interview segments with those who knew him best and admired him most — friends, family, industry colleagues and legendary musicians, including Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, founding ELO frontman / songwriter Jeff Lynne, acclaimed Toto guitar ace Steve Lukather, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Stone Temple Pilots guitarist Dean DeLeo.

However, the most compelling commentary comes courtesy of Kath's fellow founding Chicago bandmates, Danny Seraphine, Peter Cetera, Jimmy Pankow, Lee LoughnaneWalt Parazaider and Robert Lamm, as they share their often tearful and heartfelt personal recollections.

Joe Walsh is one of several top musicians
interviewed in The Terry Kath Experience.
Former Chicago manager and longtime producer, James William Guercio, also adds extensive first-hand insights, as he discusses his personal and often explosive experiences with Kath. The intimate on-screen tour of Guercio's famed Colorado Caribou Ranch Studios, where some of Chicago's best-loved records were recorded, is a particular film highlight.

Despite Kath's acknowledged battle with drugs and penchant for guns, his life story and details of his tragic death are told respectfully. Answering to rumors that Kath's fatal gunshot was a suicide, former Chicago roadie and Eagles tour manager, Jerry Vaccarino (who was not present at the time), maintains passionately that if you think Kath's death was anything other than accidental, "You don't  know shit."

As stated in the introduction,"Through this film, Terry Kath's legacy lives on." As for the whereabouts of Kath's trademark Telecaster, you gotta see the film to solve that mystery.

Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience is showing currently on AXS TV, as well as an Amazon Prime stream. It's also available on home DVD. For Kath fans, Chicago buffs, music enthusiasts and guitar aficionados, this film is a must-see — one I recommend highly. 5/5

-Christopher Long
(July 2019)

Dig some of my other
Chicago-related features:

Chicago - II











C'MON! -