Friday night (June 10th) was the premiere of The Lost Weekend: A Love Story at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film is a documentary about the love affair between John Lennon and his (and Yoko Ono’s) 22 year old personal assistant – May Pang. The tickets to the online screening event sold out weeks in advance. If you didn’t get a chance to see it, I would recommend that you follow May Pang on Facebook, since she will be letting her followers know when the movie will be available to the public.
So…I’ve started, stopped, cut, pasted, typed and deleted this review several times over the past 24 hours. I’ve finally realized I need to be honest and just say what I need to say about this film. To whitewash any of the flaws would be dishonest. And let’s be honest here, no one is sitting around waiting for the Beatles Freak Review opinion of this documentary. That being said…
Every Beatle and Lennon fan should see this film. Yeah, it’s that good. If you’ve read May’s 1983 book – Loving John, even better because you’ll already know most of her story, but there will still be some surprises to be found in the film. But…you’re also going to find some things missing. Like Sid Bernstein.
The film opens with a shaky clip of John Lennon from a home video…and I admit that my first thoughts was, “Oh, please don’t let the rest of the film be shaky!” Rest assured…it’s not. It’s filled with so many photos and videos of John, May, Yoko, Julian, Cynthia, Elton, Alice Cooper, etc. and some wonderful animation sequences inspired by John’s drawings.
The next thing you’re going to notice (if you know May or have heard her interviewed in the past), is that her heavy New York accent is toned down. I have to say, I was okay with that. What I didn’t care for was the way her narration some times came off as if she were reading directly from a script or times when her inflection/tone would go higher like a younger version of herself. I don’t think it added anything to the power of her story.
So what did I love? As I said, I loved the animation…I loved the never ending pictures (a lot of which came from her book Instamatic Karma) and videos of her, John and Julian. And of course, I loved seeing Julian talking about his experiences growing up with May and his father.
And the most touching part…the tear that rolled down her cheek at the end. And for that reason…
I decided to delve back into my free Amazon Prime movies to see what’s available in the way of Beatles movies/documentaries that I hadn’t seen or heard of yet. It’s been a busy weekend and I didn’t have much time, so I chose the 48 minute documentary I Killed John Lennon. This movie is also available on DVD.
This movie revolves mostly around the 200 minutes of taped interviews that reporter Jack Jones did with Mark David Chapman over a period of six years starting in 1986. Mixed in with bits of audio from those tapes are interviews with Jack Jones and several psychologists who have read over the transcripts and present their analysis of Lennon’s murderer.
As you can imagine, a 48 minute film that covers 200 hours of tape isn’t going to really go very deep into the killers motivation or life history. This movie just seems to skim the surface of the whole story and end with the psychologist and Jones deeming that Chapman is crazy. If you’re truly interested in the who, what, when where and whys of the tragic death of John Lennon there are much better films and books. In fact, Jack Jones wrote a 300 page book about his interviews called, Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman,the Man Who Killed John Lennon that you can buy used on Amazon for as little as $1.78. And for that reason…
I delved back into my Amazon Prime account to see if there were any new Beatles flicks I could watch for free. That’s where I discovered the 2004 documentary – Brian Epstein: Inside the Fifth Beatle. If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can rent it for $1.99 or buy it on DVD for about $5 or less atAmazon. Or you can skip all of the above and just watch the documentary onlineherefor free!
Okay, now that you know you can buy it, rent it or watch it for free….maybe you’d like to know if it’s at all worth it?
This hour long film actually isn’t bad at all! There are many familiar names and faces of people that provide personal stories and commentary on working with the fifth Beatle – Brian Epstein. Included among theses are promoter – Sid Bernstein; Brian’s personal assistant Alistair Taylor; Brian’s secretary Beryl Adams; Mersey Beat owner Bill Harry; Beatles first manager Allan Williams; historian Richard Porter; and Beatles chauffeur Alf Bicknell. (Interesting note that Alistair, Beryl and Alf all passed away within months of this documentary being released.) There are snippets of conversation with Cilla Black, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Derek Taylor mixed in with the often repeated, but tolerable newsreel and film clips.
One point I couldn’t help but notice is that Alistair Taylor is very prominent in this film and provides most of the narration and maybe that was because he was the closest to Brian before and throughout the Beatles years. And interestingly, Alistair also wrote several books on the topic of the Beatles himself, but I’ll save the topic of Alistair’s books for next week’s review!
Though this film is 13 years old, it proved to me that there is still more for me to learn about Brian Epstein. And since one of my criteria for rating system in my reviews is based on whether or not it provides factual information for anyone that is new to The Beatles, I’d have to say that this easily passes that test. And for that reason…
I should charge every one of my readers $1 to read this blog, but even that won’t compensate me enough for the hell I had to endure watching this film. As if having to go to the gym and having to walk on a treadmill for an hour everyday isn’t bad enough, I decided to raise my anxiety level by adding this piece of crap to the mix two days in a row! I hope you all are happy…because I surely took one for the team to put out this public safety announcement.
Scream And Shoutis an 1.5 hour film about nothing! Yes…this my friends, could be a Seinfeld episode but the joke is on the viewer. What in the world were these people thinking when they made this? And to think that it currently is reviewed at 4 out of 5 stars on Amazon! Just click here to watch the trailer.
Not only is this a mess of bad newsreel footage, clips of interviews that are almost inaudible, they actually have typos in their sub-titles! At one point, while two current day musicians are being interviewed, the date “September 7, 1964” is at the top of the screen. And don’t even get me started on the product placement. I think they put an ad out for any bands with a Beatles sound, to “please donate your songs to this project in exchange for on screen credit.” And I believe their experts/historians were all told they would be given the opportunity to audition for their next big gig in this movie.
For the safety of your own mental health, please do not watch this documentary. And remember, friends don’t let friends watch bad documentaries. If it weren’t for the fact that this was free with my Amazon Prime subscription, I would have never watch it myself. But I owe it to you, my fine readers, to give it to you straight. And for that reason…
I rate the documentary, a very generous 1 out of 4 Beetles!
I thought I would take my time writing my review about Eight Days A Week since I know all the Beatles fans will be scurrying out to see the film themselves and every Beatles media person will be in a hurry to post their own review about it. But just when I thought I could take my time, everyone else’s reviews started popping up on my social media timelines. I won’t read other’s reviews before writing my own. I want mine to be fresh. Even in this case, I’ve asked guest review and friend David Thomas to also write a review for the film (it’ll appear after mine on this same post), and I’m not reading his until after I’m done.
So where to begin…
Was it a great movies? Yes, it was awesome! I know people who are already planning to see it multiple times. My thought was that I can’t wait for it to come out on DVD/Blue Ray. It’s absolutely a film you’re going to want to see again and again. Ron Howard did an excellent job of choosing the right footage and cast of characters. He interviewed both Sigourney Weaver and Whoopi Goldberg to talk about what it was like to be a fan in the early years and about their own experiences of seeing the Beatles live in concert as teenagers, two ladies I would never have guessed would have attended. I think my only complaint might be that we never hear Whoopi’s reaction to the actual concert at Shea Stadium.
Beatles fans need to give Ron Howard a lot of credit for not beating the obvious points and trivia into our heads…like the Jesus vs. The Beatles comment from John Lennon. It’s in there, but he keeps it in the flow of the documentary…same as the riot in the Philippines. Mr. Howard brings up early footage of the wives and families with quick glimpses of Ringo, Maureen and Zack, and John, Cynthia and Julian, (where were George and Patty Boyd though?) and then moves on. No Beatles family members were interviewed on camera for this…and that ain’t so bad! It’s keep as documentary about the Fab Four and not the opinions of their feuding family members.
I think my readers get the point without me continuing to ramble on. It’s a great film, wonderful footage and of course, Ron Howard is already talking about doing a second Beatles documentary! Go see the movie or pre-order the DVD.
I rate this movie, 4 out of 4 Beetles!
Now…what does David Thomas think? Here is his review:
Ron Howard’s “Eight Days a Week” – A fan’s perspective
I titled this review “a fan’s perspective” as somewhat of a disclaimer. It is often difficult to know what would be of interest to anyone who has not been as steeped in the history of The Beatles as I have been over the last 50 years. Not that I claim to have seen it all, or that I know it all (far from it); but I also cannot assume that everyone has read all the books and heard all the music that I have over that period of time.
I will say at the start, I think that Ron Howard and the others involved in this film have put together a solid documentary telling the story of The Beatles “touring years”. What many forget (because their music is ubiquitous, and we are still writing, talking, and making movies about them 50 years later) is that they were together in the “John, Paul, George and Ringo” incarnation for only eight years, and performed “live” for only 4 of those. Although the focus of the film is on “touring”, it does give you a good sense of how busy the boys were during those first four years, besides playing live. The stills and film footage have been collected from a multitude of sources around the world, and they vary widely in quality. There are only a couple of “complete” live performances in the movie (i.e., continuous, complete songs), and producer Nigel Sinclair has said that this was because they found it interrupted the flow of the movie. I happen to agree with him, but it doesn’t matter; this is not intended to be a Beatles concert movie. *
What the film does best, is give the viewer a clear picture of the mania that surrounded The Beatles during their career. This movie brings it home in a way that no fan has experienced before.Although I have been a Beatle fan since their first performance on Ed Sullivan’s show in 1964 (the quality of which was strangely poor on the big screen – I thought that would have been one of the better examples), I was too young to have actually attended one of their live concerts in person: I was only 7 when they played their final show in Candlestick Park in 1966.Even if you had the rare privilege of actually attending a Beatles concert in person, that was just one mad night that you will likely remember forever.The Beatles experienced that madness every day of their career, and most intensely during their touring years.I left the theatre wondering how it is that they were not all afflicted with some sort of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
A few pieces of footage have been colorized. Some of the concert colorization is nicely done, but the famous NY Pan Am press conference has a rather unnatural look to it. None of this lasts long enough to be a major distraction, however. In some cases audio had to be “synced” to the film from a separate source; i.e., the film may have been a silent film, but the audio was recorded separately, and then combined, or simply brought in from a better source than the one accompanying the actual film. This can get dicey, especially if done poorly. Music producer for the film was Giles Martin, son of The Beatles original producer, George Martin. Giles has worked magic with many previous Beatles projects, including the re-mixing and re-mastering of 1977’s “The Beatles at The Hollywood Bowl”, which was released in conjunction with the film. Giles was quoted in a recent interview as saying “Imagine going to a concert today, recording something on your phone, and then intending to play it in a movie theater,” Martin says. “That would be better than what I was given.” The talented Mr. Martin did a tremendous job of making the music performances not only watchable and listenable, but for the most part, truly enjoyable as well.
The theatre where I saw the film had people queuing up more than an hour before show time in order to get a good seat, and there were 3 showings scheduled that night, 2 of them sold out. I got there an hour before show time, and there were 20 people ahead of me. 20 minutes later, there was a line behind me that went on for as long as I could see. The anticipation in the theatre was visible, although one person I talked to in line had not read or seen anything about the movie prior. He said he “just saw it was The Beatles, and bought a ticket.” The power of the name “Beatles” more than 45 years after they broke up is still truly remarkable. Fans all have their own Beatle experiences, memories, and reasons for seeing a film such as this. And fans will find something to criticize, be it the fact that they have seen some of the footage before, the colorization was not to their liking, the audio was not perfect. In this digital age we take for granted near perfect sound reproduction and 4K resolution. But considering what they had to start with, none of the obvious shortcomings should be enough to keep you from enjoying this movie. To paraphrase Paul McCartney, “it’s the bloody Beatles…shut-up”.
For the non-fan (is there such a thing as a non-Beatles fan?) or even the casual fan, it should serve as a concise historical document, which informs as well as entertains; what more can one ask from a documentary?
If you are fortunate enough to see this in a theatre, it IS being followed with a full 30 minutes of footage from the famous Shea Stadium concert. We have been told that that footage will NOT be on the DVD or blu-ray release. It looks great, is a lot of fun, and even though Giles Martin toned down the screaming considerably in the mix (no small feat), I could see why they said “enough” in August of 1966.
Interesting article about a new documentary about Sam Leach, a promoter in Liverpool in the early 60’s that helped the Beatles get their start. It would seem that author/historian Mark Lewisohn has taken exception to some of the content and has new been cut from the film. Read the article here:
Here’s another shameless plug for the 30 day free Amazon Prime trial subscription. When I went to cancel before my month was up, then informed me that I could continue to use the free benefits until my 30 days was over! So…I watch another free movie.
Brian Wilson – Songwriter: 1969-1982 was a hell of a lot better than I had expected. This documentary was a great way to fill in the blanks that were left from watching “Love & Mercy“. As I said in my review, Love & Mercy was an excellent film, but you really had to know exactly what was going on with Brian in the 1960’s thru 1980’s to understand the movie completely. This film is going to give you those missing links.
And for that reason…
I rate this movie, 4 out of 4 Beetles!
Note: And keep an eye out for May Pang’s book, Loving John, on Peter Ames Carlin’s bookshelf!
I thought I’d throw one more movie review out here before ending my Prime subscription, but it’s not as much a review of this movie, as a warning not to bother wasting even a free membership to Prime on this one.
The Beatles: Parting Ways – is a 52 minute documentary about the life of the Beatles after their split in 1970. Going in the order of John, Paul, George and Ringo, each of the Beatles is given a little over 10 minutes of air time in this film that seems to take a lot of liberties and uses a lot of stock film footage that was also used in Strange Fruit.
One of the first things that caught my attention was that the makers of this film chose other bands’ music to play as a backdrop to their commentary. Really…The Animals “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” as background music in a Beatles documentary? Warning…there is no Beatles music in this film.
The other glaring (disturbing) error was when the narrator says Ringo and Maureen had 3 sons together – Zak, Jason and LEE! Wrong…just so, so wrong. And for that reason…
I decided to watch another movie from my free trial Prime membership before I have to cancel it within the next week.
George Harrison: The Quiet One is a one hour documentary on…George Harrison! It really didn’t offer up anything new on ‘the quiet Beatle’ that any real Beatles or Harrison fan wouldn’t have already known or read about before now. Though it was nice to see and hear the thoughts of George Martin and one of George Harrison’s childhood friends.
Add this movie to your freebie list, as I don’t feel that it would be worth the money to rent or buy it unless you’re one of those fans that has to own everything. And for that reason….
For the second week in a row, I’m reviewing a movie I found on Amazon Prime. I had signed up for a free 30 day trial subscription and decided that watching free Beatles movies would be a good way to enjoy it. Plus, I’ve been trying to read the same book for the past two weeks and I’m struggling to finish it. I hope to finish it up this week for my review next week.
The Beatles – Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records is actually a very well made documentary about the birth and death of Apple records. From Mary Hopkins to Badfinger to James Taylor, this film tells of the talent that passed through the door at 3 Saville. With commentary from Beatles experts and Apple musicians Jackie Lomax and Joey Mullond, and longtime Beatle friend Tony Bramwell, the viewer feels like they are being brought into the inner sanctum.
If you’re feeling lucky, buy or rent this movie on Amazon. If you’re feeling thrifty, sign up for a thirty day free Amazon Prime subscription and be sure to include this film in your list of must-see movies. And for that reason….