Frank Zappa needs no mouthpiece, no PR flak, no spinner. He was a man of words, his own, and this documentary presents the man in his own words. Usually documentary biographies offer up talking heads on silver platters, but Eat That Question needs no other heads but Zappa's big, hairy one.

That means that members of his band, the Mothers of Invention, are not even introduced. Zappa's wife Gail is alluded to, but unseen. Their four children are not even in the background, let alone photo-bombing in the spotlight of the foreground. His producers and supporters and fan clubs are mostly silent. Eat That Question is all Zappa, all the time.

Sometimes, it's Zappa playing his music with his merry music makers, in on the mystery and methods and madness. Sometimes, it's home movies of the Mothers, and sometimes, it's Zappa's being interviewed. Here he is with Steverino, the Great Steve Allen, playing music on a bike. And here he is with his Norse fans or his French following. And here he is on "What's My Line?," the old Sunday night quiz show. And here he is, often, half-naked.

Director Thorsten Schütte follows a strictly chronological order, with Zappa's referring to his first paid gig at age 15 back when he thought music looked nice on paper. Schütte follows him from a concert cancelled to protect the reputation of the concert hall, runs news reels of Zappa counterpointing those, like Tipper Gore, who would grade music's lyrics, dirty word by dirty word, and through interviews. In typical philippic, Zappa defines his fans as "just snotty little people who stopped listening in 1967." "Plastic people," he implores, "you've got to go!" 

The hardest part of this good documentary is watching Zappa, who defined music like no one else, facing the prostate cancer that ultimately took his in life 1993.

 

 

The Jason Bourne character and series have captured film audiences' imaginations and for good reason. Spectacular action sequences, superb editing, dazzling international locations, plus topical issues support a vulnerable, complex operative. Hunted by his own people, unsure of the complex threads of his identity, with a firm moral compass, Bourne struggles with his unique existential crisis. 

The perfect casting of Matt Damon, soft hearted but hard bodied, brings the conflicted, confused Bourne to life. Beginning on the Greek/Albanian border in bare knuckle fighting, moving to Iceland, Athens, Syria, London, Berlin, and Silicon Valley, Jason is still hunted, resourceful, and aided by Nicky Parsons. The first words Bourne speaks in voiceover are, "I remember. I remember everything," as flashbacks from The Bourne Ultimatum remind us. But Bourne doesn't know his whole story. Details emerge as he confronts a ruthless CIA asset determined to "put him down" as Bourne navigates a violent Greek protest march, hacks black-op files, and of course, flees for his life throughout the film. 

The good news is that the new chapter, simply called Jason Bourne, hits the right notes, employing the same basic formula and exactly the same music at key moments, notably the conclusion. Director and co-writer Paul Greengrass, who directed The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, knows his way around the franchise and its appeal. In a New York Times article, Greengrass accurately observes that he and co-writer Christopher Rouse had to offer the familiar but with new, relevant issues.

They found them through Deep Dream, a high-tech company with a new platform solving the threat to on-line privacy for its 1.5 billion users. However, covertly involved, the government wants a back door for surveillance of everyone's postings, and Snowden's name comes up as well. Dramatic irony--our knowing more than Bourne--intensifies the suspense but we race to keep up as well thanks to Rouse's breathtaking editing. Barry Ackroyd's cinematography is gorgeous, and the stunts phenomenal.

Tommy Lee Jones gives a strong, chilly performance as CIA Director Robert Dewey. Alicia Vikander is his duplicitous, clever assistant, Heather Lee. Vincent Cassel as the Asset conveys a terrifyingly monomaniacal viciousness. And Matt Damon is perfection. Jason Bourne is a most welcome addition and a summer treat. At area cinemas.

 

Woody Allen long ago gave up making movies with heart and soul. His latest titles have not even had the plink-plink-plink of "Heart and Soul," played in duet on the piano. Café Society does not even exploit the vintage appeal of costumes or history. There's only Vitalis underneath that top hat.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Bobby, the Allen character, right down to the stutter of the sentence and flutter of the hands. Does Allen train actors to play him, or do they come to the audition with their best Allen impersonation? Either way, it's disconcerting. Bobby hails from the Bronx, but he wants to make it big in Hollywood. Luckily, his uncle Phil, played by Steve Carell, is a big-wig agent in Hollywood, so Bobby finally finds work with him. He also finds love with Phil's secretary. Vonnie, played by barely-there Kristen Stewart, is more than that to Phil -- we know this, but Bobby doesn't.

Bereft Bobby returns to New York, where he goes to work for his Mafia-connected big brother to run a night club. These cafe society scenes should flashlight the way back to Manhattan in the Thirties, when life was more glamorous for the rich. This sort of return to vintage New York is what Allen has become known for, what that signature jazz sound that introduces the credits on his signature black screen is all about. Here is where the production under the direction of Santo Loquasto should elicit sighs for a time gone by. It does not. Neither does Vittorio Storaro's cinematography. The pros are just phoning it in on this one, and that includes the supporting actors, such as Parker Posey and Blake Lively, who fill Allen's stages.

Without a center, Café Society becomes a photo album with no device to pull these magnetic filings toward the middle. Once more with feeling, please. At various locations.

 

 

Jon Lucas and Scott Moore wrote and directed the Hangover franchise -- all three of those films about irresponsible, doofus Peter Pans, refusing to grow up. Now, they've written and directed Bad Moms, the Omega to Hangover's Alpha, but the moms here are not so much bad as human, ordinary, and exhausted.

The three main moms are Amy, Carla, and Kiki. Amy tries to be perfect: kale in the sandwiches, hot breakfast on the table, attendance at each kid's game. But she also works part-time, which mans full-time, and her husband's a selfish lout, and the children are ungrateful. She's late everywhere she goes. Kiki has four little children; she's frazzled, and her husband's a chauvinist. Carla's a single mother with a fiercesomeness that pushes people away. These three find each other at a bar, but they have their greatest concert at a supermarket, where they dance and guzzle, and toss goodies into their open maws.

Standing against these three ordinary women are three others, mean girls in arrested development with the power that comes with offices in the PTA.

Like most films of this genre, no matter the genders, "Bad Moms" has its funny, funny highlights and then long stretches of blah-de-blah-ness, but when it works, it works good. Like in the grocery store, or in the moms' fantasies of having a quiet breakfast alone, or when the women stand up for themselves. Or when scenes pile rapidly atop one another to show cinematically how frenetic the moms' lives are.

Mila Kunis and Kristen Bell are dandy dames, but, as always, Kathryn Hahn, as Carla, stands out. Christina Applegate and Annie Mumolo are good antagonists with the sharply silent Jada Pinkett Smith. 

The best part of Bad Moms, though, comes with the credits. Don't leave early. Just enjoy.

Life, Animated peers into a life graduatedRarely has a title been more symbolic. Owen Susskind's life was opened by the animation films of Walt Disney. Susskind is now 23, but at three, his world was closing in, snuffed by autism. Then, he started connecting with Snow White and Iago and Pinocchio as animated by the Walt Disney Studios.

His father, Ron Susskind is a story-teller. More precisely, he is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter. Susskind pére wrote the story of Susskind fils upon which this excellent documentary is based. But the film goes beyond an examination of Owen's struggle to join his family. The documentary follows Owen to graduation and then to settling into his own assisted-living apartment.

Director Roger Ross Williams gives color to the documentary by incorporating the very Disney films that made Owen's life animated. Williams added Susskind family films to show the contrast between Owen's first three years as a charming toddler, baby brother to Walter, both beloved children to Ron and Cornelia. The family films show Owen's withdrawal as well as his emergence. 

But the documentary also shows Owen's use of his imagination in stories he wrote and illustrated. The film shows his manly efforts to make friends in his Disney film club. It reports on the day that John Freeman, who voiced Jafar in Aladdin, and Gilbert Gottfried, who voiced Iago, joined Owen and his friends, all repeating the words of the script in chorus. It also shows Owen's triumphant speech--in English and French--before a French body of therapists learning about autistics' passions.

Williams adds interviews with the Susskinds, mother and father and brothers as well as with Owen's therapist. The interviews reveal the tears and sadness, the joy and hopes of this family. The documentary packs a wallop of compassion and intelligence. Playing at Landmark Theatre's Plaza Frontenac location.

 

Stay Involved on Social Media