Oasis: Supersonic (2016)

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“You can sail with me in my yellow submarine.” —from “Supersonic”
     “So I’ll start a revolution from my bed.” —from “Don’t Look Back in Anger”
     “And all the roads we have to walk are winding.” —from “Wonderwall”
     “Love is a litany.  A magical mystery.” —from “The Shock of the Lightning”
     “The fool on the hill and I feel fine.” —from “D’You Know What I Mean?”
     There are two types of people in this world: those who love Oasis (disambiguation: an English rock band, 1991-2009) and those who vehemently dismiss them as Beatles wannabes (not that the band ever claimed otherwise). Then there are two other types of people: those who love a band’s music—and only their music—and those who are obsessed with everything that band is or does, on stage and off—what brand of cigarettes and alcohol they prefer, who started the barney on that overnight ferry to Amsterdam, what the boys ate for dinner, who’s shagging whom, et cetera.
     Mat Whitecross’ bracing documentary Oasis: Supersonic caters to both sets of fans with equal relish, although it never really gets into the breakup that ended it all (and that’s probably just as well; the band seemed to be splitting up all the time anyway, or hobbling its way back together). Romantic relationships don’t get much of a look-in.  The only influential woman in the story seems to be their lovable mum Peggy, who raised her three sons singlehandedly after finally shedding the boys’ abusive dad. But the epic sibling rivalry, between guitarist and primary songwriter Noel Gallagher and his younger brother Liam, the band’s sneering lead vocalist, is there in all its unabashed, unprintable glory.
     “Noel has a lot of buttons, Liam has a lot of fingers. It’s that simple,” observes a member of the band’s management team. Noel’s dog and cat analogy works pretty well too.
     There’s a powerful connection there, though. Noel could crank out a song, give it to Liam for the first—and only—time, and Liam would go into the recording studio and nail the vocal in one. As such, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?,” their record-breaking follow-up to 1994’s “Definitely Maybe,” was recorded in mere days rather than months. Noel found he could also sing, but only after his volatile sib began wandering off stage in the middle of gigs, the crystal meth kicking in again. Various drugs are in plentiful supply in the film, as are the rock-hard egos and the tantrums and the bust-ups, but so is the marvelous musicianship and the songs that made them huge. From their debut single,  the titular “Supersonic,” written in the time it takes half a dozen blokes to eat a Chinese meal (about ten minutes), to the sublime “Wonderwall,” to “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Some Might Say,” “Cigarettes & Alcohol,” “Slide Away,” “Live Forever,” “Morning Glory,” “Talk Tonight,” and the masterful “The Masterplan”—favorite tunes that’ll stop the clocks dead in their tracks.
     In Oasis: Supersonic, “the biggest band in the world” according to Noel—whose members also included Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs (rhythm guitar), bass player Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan, and Tony McCarroll on drums—get to tell their story in their own words. The film opens and closes at England’s Knebworth Festival, a colossal outdoor venue in the English countryside which drew 250,000 fans for two back-to-back concerts in 1996 with tickets selling out in minutes. Two and a half years earlier its young headliners, ambitious, outspoken toughs from Manchester, had gone from signing on (the dole) to signing with (Creation Records). Supersonic is a pretty fair description of their subsequent rise to fame.
     Oasis: Supersonic tells a remarkable story, and it’s a blast. Expressed through a creative barrage of artful framing techniques, fruity language, and stellar concert footage awash with seething seas of reverent fans, Whitecross’ tribute is visually arresting, phenomenal sounding, funny and informative.

It does exactly what it says on the tin.


(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth
butterworthdavidn@gmail.com

Keeping Up with the Joneses (2016)

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Jeff and Karen Gaffney live a simple domestic life. He’s in HR and she’s an interior designer, they drive a Chevy, and their idea of hot sex is doing it really fast in case the kids come running into their room. Tim and Natalie Jones jet-set in exotic ports of call. He’s in travel and she writes a cooking blog, they drive a gull-wing Mercedes, and their idea of hot sex is… well, just look at them. When the latter move into the former’s Atlanta cul-de-sac, the Gaffney’s comfortable world turns upside down—it seems that their seemingly perfect new neighbors are (spoiler alert) international spies in disguise! Keeping Up with the Joneses is a fun, silly comedy with few pretensions and an extremely likeable cast. Zack Galifianakis and Isla Fisher play the suburban, buttoned-down  Gaffneys; Jon Hamm and Gal Gadot are the sexy, sophisticated Joneses across the street. In fact, this winning foursome is easily the film’s major strength, with each contributing charming, surprisingly committed performances in service of a lightweight and undemanding screenplay, penned by Michael LeSieur (You, Me and Dupree). The laughs are there though. Except, oddly, the one from the trailer in which Jeff screams “Help!” into his completely undetectable miniature surveillance tie mic—not sure why they jettisoned that one. Patton Oswalt, usually so reliable (see: Young Adult, Big Fan), shows up late as a dressed-down kingpin called Scorpion and spoils the party, acting wise. He’s just off for some reason; fortunately he’s not in the film long enough to do it any serious damage. Certainly, Keeping Up with the Joneses is not end-to-end comedy gold—it’s a little run of the mill and fairly broad in stature. But it’s got two of my favorite things in a movie: coherence and good tone (thanks, director Greg Mottola!). And, at a mere $12.57 a piece, it also makes for an extremely economical date night cum twentieth wedding anniversary gift (thanks honey; here’s to twenty more!). In that respect, let’s call Keeping Up with the Joneses comedy platinum, shall we?


(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth
butterworthdavidn@gmail.com

Day of Reckoning (2016)

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The jolly if undernourished apocalyptic actioner Day of Reckoning (presented by the SyFy Channel) takes as its inspiration that catchy quote from Isaiah 2:12, “For the lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty, and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased.”
     That prophetic passage bodes particularly poorly for the likes of proud Tyler (Jay Jay “I heard you the first time” Warren), his lofty mom Laura (Heather McComb), and his estranged, lifted-up dad David (Jackson Hurst), all of whom wind up facing some kind of significant abasement as the good book foretold.
     Fifteen years ago some military installation somewhere drilled some place it shouldn’t have and unleashed a legion of winged demons from the earth’s bowels. These creatures then feasted on feckless humans for 24 hours straight.
     That’s right: an entire Day.  Of Reckoning.
     A lunar eclipse now heralds a repeat performance of the nasty event, yet mankind is somehow as ill-prepared second time around despite having 1) formed a new Department of Homeland Security (the cleverly titled DHS); 2) circled the globe with military facilities at all deep-core fissures known as “gates”; and 3) learned that these terrestrial, subterranean creatures can be killed with either salt or cold (no explanation given).
     Running and hiding, then running some more, still appears to be man’s best defense.
     Day of Reckoning is an energetic, low-budget creature feature featuring minor stars easily confused for slightly bigger ones—the Paul Rudd type (a considerably less amusing Hurst), the Rutger Hauer type (Raymond J. Barry as a bunkered uncle), the Saoirse Ronan type (Hana Hayes plays Tyler’s girlfriend, Maddy). The creature effects, despite the film’s five-and-dime store budget, offer a creative array of harpies, angry crows, horned quadrupeds, skeletal families, plus one massive, uncouth centipede. A little attention to detail in the close-up work would have worked wonders.
     They could have paid closer attention to screenwriter Greg Gieras’ first draft also.  “It’s too quiet.” Really? And during Laura’s somber explanation of the first Day of Reckoning (during which, apparently, hubby David came up short in the hero department, hence the friction), we learn “We’re not sure where these things come from. Nobody knows why they’re here or what they want. We call them demons but that’s just one of many theories.” Joel Novoa directs.


(c) 2016 David N. Butterworth
butterworthdavidn@gmail.com