Sunday, October 30, 2011

From The Sky Down

Today I saw From the Sky Down, a documentary about U2.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim, who previously worked with The Edge on the spectacular It Might Get Loud, the film centers around the band's time at Hansa Studios in Berlin during the making of their album, Achtung Baby.

I can see why diehards are disappointed in this and the masses are impressed.

Folks like me, in the diehard category, will see a lot of footage they've seen in the past. Some is from The Unforgettable Fire documentary; more is from Classic Albums: The Joshua Tree. Granted, it's weaved well within the context of the exploration Guggenheim needs to setup the 'drama' that was the Berlin sessions, but for those of us who have followed the band for three decades, it's old news.

There are also no 'big reveals' here that tell us anything we didn't already know.

The hats vs. the haircuts; the dance rythms vs. their signature sound; the drum machine vs. Larry. Old news.

That said, the production is beautiful.

Having the band go back (literally) to their old haunt and re-visit the songs and history that were created there is the perfect landscape for good documentary storytelling. You can tell from the present-day interviews that the memories still bring up a dose of pain for the group (for those not in-the-know, the band came close to breaking up during that time), but also a source of pride in the sense that they got through it and emerged stronger.

It will always be a pleasure to hear how "One" (arguably the song that sounds the most like their former selves) cracked the code of despair and allowed them to move forward with writing the rest of the album. And it will always be fun to look back to the time when the band was reinventing themselves (whether or not you think Achtung Baby was their career masterpiece).

But for an honest, raw look at that period of strained, tense creativity, I prefer to re-read the hilarious book, U2 At the End of the World, by Bill Flannigan. It reveals so much more.


Interview: Mary McGuckian, Director, The Man on the Train

I recently interviewed director Mary McGuckian of The Man on the Train.

Read it on

Saturday, October 29, 2011


On Thursday night I saw Ghostbusters, starring Bill Murray and Dan Akroyd.

It was one of my favorite films as a kid and it remains so today—I'm so glad I got to experience it on the big screen after all of these years.

When three parapsychology professors lose their funding, they go into business battling ghosts around New York City.

Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) is the serious scientist; Dr. Ray Stantz (Akroyd) is the bumbling idiot and Dr. Peter Venkman (Murray) leads the bunch with his sarcastic wit. It's a match made in heaven (or in Sumer), as the chemistry between the three provides consistent sparks throughout the film.

The damsel in distress is a young, alluring Sigourney Weaver as musician Dana Barrett. Her kitchen is taken over by Gozer, an ancient God worshiped by Sumerians. She reports this disturbance to the Ghostbusters, but when Dr. Venkman investigates, her kitchen doesn't deliver.

Soon she is possessed by the spirit and becomes the "Gate Keeper"; her nerdy neighbor across the hall (Rick Moranis) is her "Key Master." Just as they begin to prepare for the return of Gozer, the EPA shuts down the Ghostbusters' business, which releases countless specters back into New York City.

When the mayor realizes this was done in error, he invites the Ghostbusters to battle this paranormal apocalypse and save the city from certain destruction.

Even after seeing the film at least a dozen times over the years, seeing it again last night in the theater felt like the first time.

The ghost that opens the show in the New York Public Library still startled me, though I knew she would shush the scientists when they approached; the dog jumping out of the closet at the party still made me jump.

Though the film is clearly set in the 80s (as evidenced by the Coke cans that don't yet say 'classic' and Larry King's dark hair), the story and it's wonderfully developed characters remain timeless.

I could probably see this film once a week and never tire of it.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Man on the Train

Last night I screened The Man on the Train, starring Donald Sutherland and Larry Mullen, Jr.

Read my review on

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Ides of March

Last night I saw The Ides of March, starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney.

It will be the topic of Cinebanter #108, so tune in later this month for our review.