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Movies that Rock

and can teach you how to dance

Big T.N.T. Show, The (1966)

Go-go-GO-GO!

I finally got to see this when it was on cable this month, and it was worth the wait! I admit, I was looking forward the most to the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and the Ronettes, but we watched the entire thing and we were not disappointed.
There were some acts that were slower-moving, such as Donovan, but I guess they figured the audience needed a breather. Bo Diddley is another of the highlights, especially with a trio of beautiful back-up singers/dancers...they are dressed in formal Supremes-style evening gowns and big beehives, but manage to look completely bad-ass, and one of them even plays a bass while doing her little dance routine. The Ronettes are wonderful, doing "Be My Baby" as the crowd of mods and teeny-boppers goes nuts. Ronnie Spector's voice will give anyone with a soul chills, and she really looked like she was having fun, though she did write later in her autobiography that Phil Spector yelled at her afterwards for improvising and not doing the song exactly the way he had instructed her to in rehearsal, proving that Phil Spector is brilliant as far music goes, but not that wonderful of a person. Her dancing was great, by the way. Speaking of which, Phil Spector may not exactly be the poster child for sanity, but he sure knew what he was doing when he put this concert together. I can honestly say that the go-go dancers (who are shown in footage at the beginning, and grand finale of the film) are the most talented I've ever seen, and trust me, I've seen a lot of footage from that era.
The highlight of the movie has to be the Ike and Tina Turner segment, and that is saying a lot, considering some of the mind-blowing performances that come before it. They do a great medley starting out with a rip-roaring version of "Shake" and include full-length versions of "I Think It's Gonna Work Out Fine" among others. Even Ike appears to be having the time of his life--I don't think I've ever seen him actually smile on-stage before, but he can't keep the grin off of his face when he happily and smoothly duets with Tina. He might not be a stellar human being, but he definitely deserves credit for his musical talent and ability to entertain. Other than the very minor complaint of Tina's usually perfect fashion sense deserting her for maybe the only time in her life (she has a cute outfit but a bizarre leather 'hat' that looks like a long, deflated Jiffy-Pop Bag), the performance is flawless, and they completely blow the roof off of the place. Watch for the moment when she goes into the audience to involve them in the show during a slower number-she picks out a young mod guy to sing to, and his eyes are as big as saucers. When she sings, "tell me...do you wanna be my man?" he can't even answer coherently when she hold the mike up to him. The choreography and dance moves are so show-stopping and high energy (even for them) that no-one could follow them-- Spector was smart in saving them for last. The Ikettes and Tina are obviously having so much fun that their feet barely seem to touch the ground, and during the big finish "Tell the Truth", Tina moves so fast that she is literally a blur! You can see why Mick Jagger asked her to teach him how to dance. I keep meaning to re-watch the entire movie, but when I rewind, I can't make it past Ike and Tina's segment-never get tired of seeing them shake a tailfeather! I defy anyone to sit still while watching the last 15 minutes of this film.

Since this is almost impossible to find, don't miss it the next time they decide to run it on television! I only give it nine out of ten stars because it isn't in color. I hadn't been born at the time this was filmed, but watching it, I felt like I was in the audience. Except for the last 15 minutes, where I just can't sit down.

Grade: grade A -A-go- go

Live a Little, Love a Little (1968)

A little less conversation, a little more action baby...

I've been an Elvis fan for 10 years now, and I've seen most of his 60's movies. For some reason I didn't rent this one till recently- I think it's because I had it confused with "The Trouble With Girls", which I have no desire to see. Anyway, we rented this because we saw it had "A Little Less Conversation"--a really, REALLY kick-ass song that was recorded for but but out of the final version of the '68 Comeback Special-- in it and liked it so much we ended up buying it.

Elvis plays Greg Nolan, a photographer who..ok, there's not much of a plot to describe here. The storyline consists of a girl he meets who keeps changing her name (Bernice/Betty/Suzie/Alice) and personality, spending most of the movie alternately screwing with Elvis' mind and coming on to him. Meanwhile, Elvis gets two jobs for girlie-type magazines in the same building- one of them is called "Classic Cat Magazine" (or maybe it's Classy Cat) being a photographer and pretends at both that he only works for that magazine, while he literally runs back and forth between the two jobs, changing clothes and trying not to have one boss find out about the other. Red West makes his usual cameo as a guy in a fight scene whose ass Elvis ends up kicking (always fun to watch).
This is a pretty fun Elvis movie, and since it was filmed in '68, right around the time Elvis did the comeback special, the King was in great shape, looking pretty sharp with his sideburns and tan. He also looks like he's having fun, and doesn't feel too stupid. "Spinout" is entertaining, but half the time Elvis looks pretty unhappy. One of my Elvis trivia-type books said this movie has the distinction of being the only one he ever has sex in (offscreen, of course) but I think the only way you could tell this is by him waking up in a girl's bed. His co-star, who looks like a cross between Sharon Tate and how Liz Taylor looked in the 60's, was kind of annoying (though not as bad as some of the actresses he's worked with, and at least she has a great wardrobe. It was mainly the fact that she had this kind of whispery voice like Taylor. The clothes and hair are all really cool. There are only 4 songs in the movie, but two of them are especially good. I loved "The Edge of Reality"-Elvis has this trippy dream because Bernice/Betty/Suzie/Alice has been messing with his mind so much. The song is great, and Elvis wears this tailored set of pajamas that look more like a blue sharkskin suit. I think whoever designed and choreographed the dream sequence might have paid a little visit to

Dr. Nick's, if you know what I mean, but it's pretty cool. The highlight of the movie for me was, big surprise, definitely "A Little Less Conversation", which Elvis sings to a hot babe at a swinging cocktail party as he's getting her to leave with him. Watch for the male red-haired go-go dancer that they pass who dances so furiously and wildly that his gyrations actually make him upstage Elvis for a few seconds, which is no small feat. As he and the chick are leaving, they pass other go-go dancers, saunter out the door of the cool 60's pad, and hop in Elvis' Cadillac that the valets just happened to have pulled up in front at that second, while Elvis smoothly never misses a beat and manages to make the whole thing look like he does it every night. Now THAT'S how you leave a party, man!

One of Elvis' better flicks from the 60's, and definitely my favorite movie of his to watch from the late 60's. By the way, ALLC is on the "Memories" CD that came out a couple of years ago, which is a versin of the '68 Comeback Specal that has unreleased material and alternate takes.

Grade: A and a big TCB

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Filth and the Fury, The (2000)

Reminds me why I spent all my allowance money on "Never Mind the Bollocks" in junior high school.

This movie almost seemed to zip by too fast, but then, so did the Sex Pistols. Come to think of it, the last 20 years (when I first started listening to them in junior high) also zipped by pretty fast...OK, now I'm scaring myself. Anyway, they put all the best songs, the best performances in there, along with some rare footage.

Sex Pistols fans may have already seen the interview with a nodded-out Sid Vicious and sleazy girlfriend Nancy Spungen (who makes Courtney Love at her worst look like Grace Kelly) trying to wake him up for the camera as he snores. But what no fans may not have seen is a short, heartbreaking clip of an interview with Vicious after he is out on bail after being arrested for her murder. When the interviewer thoughtlessly asks him if he's 'having fun right now', Vicious just chuckles bitterly and asks him, "Are you kidding? No, I'm not having any fun, at all." when the interviewer asks him where he wishes he was right now, Vicious' quiet, calm answer to the question is so chilling and heartfelt that it made every hair on my body stand on end. In a scene shortly after, John Lydon talks about Sid getting his wish, and for a minute you think in the voice over he is laughing, because as a rule you don't see him displaying any other emotion other than general crankiness, then you suddenly realize he's actually in tears over his dead boyhood friend. He's human too.

But you can also see the fun the Sex Pistols had while it lasted-especially memorable during a reminisence of how they played a children's party, with footage of them covered in cake later, to one of the Pistol's best songs, "Bodies". The soundtrack, timing, and editing are all perfect. As I said, my one complaint that was it zipped by too fast, but talking with my husband after the movie, so did the Sex Pistols. One of the better rock documentaries I've seen. No, make that one of the best.

Grade: A

Vintage record player

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Elvis: That's the Way It Is (1970)

My husband almost had to throw a bucket of cold water on me

Sorry, but I'm not made of wood, people. I should probably mention right now as some sort of disclaimer that I'm going to do my best to focus on the details of the new Special Edition DVD here, but I was seriously distracted from technical details because Elvis looks so damn gorgeous and sexy in this footage. I'm not exaggerating, nor am I alone here. I've read at least 20 books about Elvis by those who were closest to him, and they all agree that he hit his peak around 69-70. By 68 he lost all the baby fat he had before and then some, was in the best shape of his life, tan, healthy, and confident. Members of the Memphis Mafia said that around this time, they would frequently be looking for Elvis and find him admiring himself in the mirror and saying things like, "Damn, I'm one good-lookin' sumbitch!". Watching this movie, you definitely don't blame him one bit. I better just move on to the actual movie here before I start really embarrassing myself, but I think most people would agree that it's probably impossible for anyone to watch this and not see why Elvis caused women to completely go out of their frigging minds around him.

Uh, OK, anyway, where was I? Since this hasn't gone into wide release as of this writing, we were lucky to find a rental DVD copy a few days ago. I'd heard it was great, but expected maybe 1 or 2 new songs or alternate takes and 5 minutes more of rehearsal footage, plus a better picture/ sound quality. This is just like a second (better, I thought) version of the movie. Most of the footage of the fans that went on too long in the first version is gone. I have to admit that some of the original interviews with babbling fans loaded down with every type of Elvis souvenir (and it if it was wearable, wearing it all at once) probably helped cause the stereotype most people have of Elvis fans as lunatics. I've had people (usually, they were born after Elvis passed away) look at me like they way they would at a member of a cult dancing around in an airport when I mention that I'm a big Elvis fan. This version might make those people change their mind, or at the very least, see why Elvis has so many fans in the first place.
Instead of the insane fan interviews, there's plenty of rehearsal footage. Most of it is new, and amazing. It also reminded me strongly of the section of the 68 comeback special (and also "One Night With You") where Elvis jammed with his old band, just having fun. Again, I'm kind of fuzzy on the exact songs (I was not in my right state of mind, since I was trying to be cool watching it in front of my husband) and the order they're in, ("Little Sister" was probably the best) but most of it is not in the 1970 version, including him talking to the Sweet Inspirations and joking with the band.

The concert footage is amazing. Even though it's spliced together using the best of 6 different shows (not that I would have minded sitting through all of them) the performance is so energetic and intense that I can't believe that Elvis did his act twice a night, 7 days a week. Biographers say that Elvis actually requested not to have a day off because he was having so much fun when he first started playing Vegas, and it's obvious from watching this footage that he was having the time of his life. Most of the patter between songs is different, and so are some of his interactions with the audience. There's an extended version of "Suspicious Minds" that's even more impressive than the other one, using alternate takes (they leave out "I hope this suit don't tear up baby", and put in more of the type of dancing that, how do I put this politely, got him banned from the waist down in the 50's ). Just a complete show-stopper. You have to see it to believe it. And if you already thought Elvis was hot, you might want to have that bucket of cold water handy to pour over your head before you sit down to watch this.

Some of the extras include an extremely entertaining trailer that makes you want to watch the movie again immediately, and a pretty interesting "making of" documentary. Obviously, a lot of care and time was taken to produce this new version; this is not something they just slapped together at the last minute just to cash in on the popularity of special edition DVDs. Elvis fans, you have got to own this-or at least see it ASAP, at which point you'll want to buy a copy. I still haven't picked my jaw up off the floor.

Elvis would have been very proud of this edition ("Damn, I was one good-lookin' sumbitch, wasn't I?"). I was even prouder to call myself an Elvis fan after I watched it. Hail to the King, baby!

Grade A+ and a big TCB

What's Love Got to Do with It (1993)

Last but certainly not least...

How could anyone not like this movie? Well, I can think of one person who wasn't too thrilled with it: Ike Turner, who wrote in his autobiography that after the movie came out, people would literally chase him down the street and try to stab him. When we walked out of seeing the movie during its first run in the theater, my husband commented dryly, "Well, that movie didn't cast Ike in a very flattering light," and we both laughed at the understatement. If you've read the Tina's book, though, you'll know that the movie goes VERY easy on him-while merely a typical abusive bully in the film, Ike treated her much, much worse in real life. I think if they put even half the abuse and torture he put her through in real life, though, the movie would have been too much of a downer-you got the idea For the record, Ike also stated that much of the movie was exaggerated, and swore that he never raped her. I guess only Ike and Tina know what really went down.

Anyway, Fishburne does a good job of making Ike so charming when Tina first meets him that you can see why she falls in love with him, until he turns into a monster. Angela Bassett is just fantastic, she has Tina down perfect, though her upper body is so pumped up in some scenes she looks almost masculine. Tina Turner was (hell, still is at 60) toned and buff, but not a female bodybuilder. Her performance is dynamic and heartbreaking, and I can't watch the scene where she finally gets sick of his abuse and starts fighting back. When she finally hits him back in the scene in the limo, I heard the loudest cheers and applause in the audience that I've heard since I saw Thelma and Louise. I've seen the movie dozens of times and her passion in that scene still gets me emotional ("C'mon, is that all you got for me?" she snarls furiously . "Can't do no better than that?").

But the real reason I watch the movie over and over (especially when I'm trying to get motivated to work out) are the musical numbers. They include among others "A Fool in Love", "Rock me Baby" a great montage to "Make me Over", but the centerpiece of the film has got to be the perfect recreation, right down to the choreography, of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue's "Proud Mary". It is full of so much energy and rocks so hard that your jaw will just hang open in amazement when Tina and the Ikettes start going into their dance moves. I never get tired of watching that scene (almost as good as thereal thing). I'm still trying to figure out how they kept their wigs on when they were whipping their upper bodies back and forth, they danced so hard. Note: if you have a bad back, don't attempt to duplicate the routine after you've had three glasses of wine and are trying to show off during a dance contest. Not that I would know.

Oh, and the costumes (especially on the Ikettes and the "Proud Mary" fringe dress) and period detail are not only accurate but TO DIE FOR. I can't even count the number of times I said, 'Oh man, I would kill for that (very bad word)ing dress!' I can't recommend this movie enough. Bassett should have got the Academy Award, not just the Golden Globe, and the movie should have got the Oscar for best picture of 1993.

Surprise Surprise: Grade A+

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