Eat That Question: Frank Zappa In His Own Words
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated R for profanity, sexual references and brief nudity
Reverential Retrospective Examines The Underappreciated Brain Of Brilliant Rock Legend
Frank Zappa (1940-1993) is best remembered as the front man and lead guitarist of the Mothers Of Invention, the avant-garde rock band that started developing a dedicated cult following in 1966 with the release of its debut album, Freak Out! The group’s irreverent, anti-establishment anthems satirizing the status quo resonated with the emerging Hippie Generation’s counter-cultural attitudes.
The long hair and rebel image overshadowed Frank’s roots as a classical virtuoso influenced by such 20th century greats as Edgar Varese and Igor Stravinsky. He began composing chamber music at the age of 14 and didn’t write his first rock song with lyrics until after he turned 21.
Even after finding fame, Frank remained desperate to be taken seriously as an artist. Consequently, he quite obviously became quite frustrated over the course of his career by the constraints imposed by his packaging as a hippie rock idol.
An inveterate iconoclast, he was also very outspoken on subjects ranging from politics to drugs to the music business. And he often confounded journalists with his surprising stances on prevailing social issues. For example, he was extremely anti-drugs in an era when many of his fans and contemporaries were experimenting with marijuana, LSD and other so-called recreational narcotics.
In terms of his record company, he hated the fact that MGM had the nerve to censor his tunes without his permission. He further observed that, in general, “Musicians are regarded as useless adjuncts of society, unless you write a Coca-Cola jingle.”
A free speech advocate, he felt that “Dirty words are a fantasy manufactured by government fanatics and religious organizations to keep people stupid.” Just as suspicious of the Left and the Right, he asserted that “Any sort of political ideology that doesn’t take into account people’s differences is Fascistic.”
Eat That Question is a reverential rockumentary directed by Germany’s Thorsten Schutte. The informative film contains reams of archival footage featuring its loquacious subject expounding his personal philosophy. The intriguing biopic includes some performances, too, but the cerebral production proves far more fascinating when focusing on what made the man tick than on his music.
A riveting retrospective plumbing the depths of the brilliant mind of a Renaissance man underappreciated in his own time.
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 82 minutes
Warner Brothers Pictures
Rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality, nudity, crude humor and brief profanity
Suave CIA Agent Enlists Assistance Of Nerdy Accountant In Odd Couple Comedy
Back in high school, Calvin (Kevin Hart) was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” while his chubby pal Bob (Dwayne Johnson) was being bullied by classmates because of his weight. But that was a couple of decades ago, and a lot has changed since then.
Today, we find Calvin wondering whether he might have peaked during his glory days at Central High when he and his childhood sweetheart Maggie (Danielle Nicolet) were voted Homecoming King and Queen. Yes, the two did marry, but the relationship’s been so rocky she’s currently insisting they enter therapy. Things are even worse for Calvin at his accounting firm, where he’s just been passed over for a promotion to partner.
By comparison, Bob’s fortunes have improved immeasurably over the intervening years. He’s not only shed all that unwanted baby fat but he’s re-sculpted himself into a veritable Adonis by pumping iron a half-dozen hours a day. Furthermore, he’s flourishing in an enviable career as a crack CIA Agent well-versed in the tools of international espionage.
The pair’s paths cross for the first time in years at their 20th high school reunion where Calvin is impressed by both Bob’s new physique and his daring line of work. So, it’s no surprise that the suave spy is able to enlist the jaded pencil pusher’s technical assistance on his latest assignment. He also could use a little help apprehending the assassin who murdered his partner (Aaron Paul).
That’s the point of departure of Central Intelligence, an unlikely-buddies comedy directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (We’re The Millers). Kevin Hart has proven himself quite the master of the genre, given the success of such box-office hits as The Wedding Ringer, Get Hard and Ride Along 1 and 2, to name a few. Unfortunately, Kevin and co-star Dwayne Johnson fail to generate any chemistry, despite sharing the screen in scene after scene of silly slapstick.
The bulk of the picture’s pathetic attempts at humor revolve around contrasting buff Bob’s bravery with weak-kneed Calvin’s cowardice. But sadly, the laughs are few and far between during this decidedly-underwhelming action-adventure.
Too bad whoever directed the promising trailer probably didn’t direct the movie.
Fair (1 star)
Running time: 107 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening June 24, 2016
Free State Of Jones (R for brutal battle scenes and disturbing images) Civil War saga about a white Mississippian (Matthew McConaughey) who leads fellow farmers and former slaves in an uprising against the Confederacy. Supporting cast includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keri Russell and Mahershala Ali.
Independence Day: Resurgence (PG-13 for action, violence, destruction and profanity) Epic sci-fi sequel, set two decades after the events of the original, finds humanity bracing for an invasion by a better-equipped fleet of hostile alien forces. Ensemble cast includes Maika Monroe, Joey King, Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Vivica A. Fox and Bill Pullman.
The Shallows (PG-13 for bloody images, intense scenes of peril and brief profanity) Harrowing tale of survival revolving around a pro surfer’s (Blake Lively) struggle to reach the beach safety after being stalked by a great white shark 200 yards offshore. With Oscar Jaenada, Brett Cullen and Sedona Legge.
Breaking A Monster (Unrated) Rockumentary recounting the rise in 2007 of Unlocking The Truth, a heavy metal trio of 13-year-old, African-American boys from Brooklyn: Malcolm Brickhouse, Jarad Dawkins and Alec Atkins.
The Duel (R for profanity and graphic violence) Classic Western, set in the 1880s, pitting a Texas Ranger (Liam Hemsworth) against the deranged preacher (Woody Harrelson) terrorizing a frontier town. With Alice Braga, Emory Cohen and William Sadler.
Misconception (PG-13 for mature themes and some sexual references) Population Boom documentary questioning the conventional assumptions about humanity’s exponential growth rate.
Nuts! (Unrated) “Snake oil” biopic Dr. John Romulus Brinkley (1885-1942), a charlatan with a phony medical degree who made a fortune by performing goat testicle transplants on men all across the country as a cure for impotence.
Septembers Of Shiraz (PG-13 for mature themes, brutality, torture, disturbing images, partial nudity and brief profanity) Fact-based drama, set in Tehran during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, chronicling the desperate efforts of a Jewish family to flee the country before they might be persecuted by Islamic fundamentalists. Starring Adrien Brody, Salma Hayek and Gabriella Wright.
Vigilante Diaries (R for sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and pervasive profanity) High-octane thriller revolving around a team of black-ops agents-turned crime fighters’ series of revenge-fueled, rescue missions. Cast includes Jason Mewes, Quinton Rampage Jackson, Michael Jai White and Michael Madsen.
Wiener-Dog (R for profanity and disturbing content) Todd Solondz wrote and directed this sequel to Welcome to the Dollhouse about a dachshund taken by its owners on an eventful, episodic road trip. Co-starring Danny DeVito, Greta Gerwig, Julie Delpy, Ellen Burstyn, Kieran Culkin, and Clara and Zosia Mamet.