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There’s Something About Yesterday…

For a writer the most important element in any story is, what I call, the What if moment.

Without a great what if, it doesn’t matter how well you write, how compelling your characters are or how snappy your dialogue is – your story’s potential is handicapped.

For example:

What if an astronaut became stranded on Mars?

What if a post-civil war cavalry officer learns that all of the stereotypes about native Americans he had assumed were true were, in fact, patently false?

What if a great white shark staked a claim off the coast of a small New England island and terrorized swimmers during the Fourth-of-July weekend?

Obviously, these stories all did fairly well as books and as major motion pictures – largely in part to their incredible what ifs.

In fact, a truly captivating what if can transform a standard boy-meets-girl-boy-gets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl-back love story into a story that will completely distract you from a plot you’ve seen a million times.

Such is the case with the movie Yesterday.

As a writer I will tell you, this movie has a huge what if…but as a music lover I say it’s got the mother of all what ifs!

What if The Beatles had never existed?

Think about it for a minute…

What if John had never met Paul?

What if those countless gigs at The Cavern had never happened?

What if Brian Epstein had never found them?

What if the greatest rock band EVER – never were.

The longer you think about it, the more difficult it is to fathom, but that’s the premise of this movie.

Jack Malik is a struggling musician who wakes, after a near death experience, to a world that has never known The Beatles.

No spoilers here – but it isn’t a bad dream.

The planet goes through some unexplained phenomenon at the precise moment Jack is struck by a bus – and as a result of said phenomenon…the Fabs never existed.

But Jack remembers them, and all of their songs.

When he plays Yesterday for his friends, they are rightly impressed with his song writing ability. His efforts to explain that the song was written by Paul McCartney are met with blank stares which get even more blank when he mentions The Beatles.

Immediately the viewer, at least this viewer, begins to contemplate the possibilities of a Beatle-less world.

It’s almost inconceivable, but in the movie, it is the new reality.

Needless to say, the world is duly impressed (again) with the catalog of material Jack comes up with, seemingly overnight, which leads to fame, potential fortune, etc., etc.

So how does Jack deal with his new found, albeit unearned, superstar status.

Well…he gets some very sage advice from a most unlikely source.

Naturally, the movie is not without its faults, but let’s face it…the concept of a “no Beatles” world could be turned into a NetFlix series and go on for twelve seasons…so it would be impossible to address every single after-effect.

For example – in one scene Jack plays a Beatles’ song for some friends…one of them remarks “Well, it’s not Coldplay…”

This is the first potentially major flaw with the story, because had The Beatles never existed the entire musical landscape we now know (including Coldplay) simply would not exist.

This may be my opinion, but I’m pretty sure there are people, much smarter than I, who would support the theory.

But the suspension of disbelief is powerful stuff – and the story manages to clear this seemingly impossible hurdle nicely.

Once again…no spoilers, but I will lay these truths on you:

You do not – repeat DO NOT – have to be a Beatles’ fan to enjoy this movie, but if you’re one of those misguided souls who believe the Fabs were over-rated (and the moon landing was staged) you probably won’t enjoy it very much.

The story is not as predictable as you might think.

There are a few moments when you’ll have to fight back the tears.

Finally – when you leave the cinema you will have yet another reminder of how four kids from Liverpool literally changed the world.

There you have it…my review of Yesterday.

It might not be the movie that changes your life…

…but what if it is?

 

As always – thank you for reading

 

 

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Bohemian Rhapsody…Just See It

The band Queen never appealed to me to the extent where I would say I loved them…or even really liked them.

They had several songs I liked quite a bit, a few that I didn’t mind and some that I would tolerate because I was too lazy to change the station or switch to another song.

On my radio program (Friday nights from 7pm-10pm on 97.3 FM – FlaglerBeachRadio.com) I throw in a Queen song every now and then because I know that there are listeners out there who really enjoy them.

With all that being said, I will now tell you that the movie Bohemian Rhapsody is a must see not only for those who have a Queen tattoo, but for the casual fan as well.

The hard-core Queen fans will love it no matter what I say about it, so I’m really directing this review at those who think “That’s the band with the gay guy who sang that song from Wayne’s World, right?”

Right. That’s who they are, but there’s a lot more to their story and Bohemian Rhapsody shows it by going far beyond another “rockumentary”.

It’s not done in the style of an A&E “tell-all”. There’s no grainy backstage footage overdubbed by a monochromatic voice describing the highs and lows of the band, and there are no interviews with groupies, roadies or record company execs revealing the band’s best-kept secrets.

What you get, instead, is a movie.

If you had never heard of Queen before, you would think it was a movie about a fictitious band from England who struggled to make it and eventually did. Naturally, they have setbacks and stumbling blocks, but the picture is so well made that you find yourself getting lost in the story regardless of your opinion and knowledge of the band and its history.

Naturally, the story revolves around charismatic front man Freddie Mercury and the way he took the band from total obscurity to superstardom nearly overnight.

I assume (although I could be wrong) that some of this was exaggerated to make things more interesting, either way…it’s a gripping rags-to-riches story.

The acting is near flawless, led by a brilliant performance by Rami Malek as Mercury. At times you are convinced you’re actually watching Mercury.

The casting for the other band members is also well done to the point where actor Gwilym Lee could actually pass for Brian May.

I have read other reviews which panned Bohemian Rhapsody on the grounds that the writers tip-toed around Freddie Mercury’s sexuality and his contraction of AIDs.

I disagree with those reviews.

I think the matter was handled well. As you watch the movie you are well aware of what’s going on in Mercury’s life without being subjected to gratuitous sex scenes.

Finally, there is the music.

As I stated earlier, I have never been a huge fan of the band’s music, but after watching the movie and getting a better feel for the band as four guys from England, as opposed to the members of one of the biggest rock bands of the 70s, I am going to re-examine their music with a more open ear.

I’m pretty sure I won’t regret it.

One final thought…don’t wait for Rhapsody to be released on DVD or NetFlix…see it on the big screen.

It’s well worth it.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Hollywood Wastes Another Five Million Dollars

I’ve never written a movie review before, but as they say, there’s a first time for everything.

Movie spoilers are one of my biggest pet peeves so there’ll be none of that here. My only goal is to help you in your movie-watching decisions.

I happened to be home alone on Halloween this year and I had just finished a good book (The Last Detective by Robert Crais) so I decided I’d do something I’d never done on Halloween…watch a scary movie.

Perhaps a bit cliché, but it seemed like the thing to do.

I scrolled through NetFlix for a few minutes, avoiding the typical scary movie selections and settled on one that sounded promising, since it featured several things that I enjoy – SCUBA diving, sharks, vacations and good looking women.

The name of the movie was 47 Meters Down.

Synopsis:

Two sisters on vacation in Mexico decide to go shark spotting and end up trapped in a shark cage at the bottom of the ocean with very little air and several Great White sharks patrolling the water.

I didn’t want to waste the entire evening blindly scrolling through the entire NetFlix library, and the premise was intriguing enough, so I fixed myself a cocktail and hit play.

Where do I even begin?

I think we should start with something positive…the trailer was very captivating.

Okay – so much for positive…

Soon after American tourists Kate and Lisa meet a couple of guys in a Mexican nightclub, they decide to join these two strangers the following day SCUBA diving with sharks.

This is where the first red flag went up in my mind…you see, these guys aren’t associated with any reputable tourist operation…they just “know a guy.”

So the girls show up at the dock in the morning, and we meet the captain who will take them on their adventure (I didn’t even recognize Matthew Modine in the role of the captain). They take a skiff from the dock to the captain’s boat – second red flag – it looks like it’s staying afloat by luck. Then we see the shark cage! Red Flag number 3!! At least when Hooper showed up at Quint’s boat with his shark cage, it was shiny, aluminum and had flotation pontoons at the top. Our two heroines are about to climb into a rusty, steel cage that is probably older than both of them combined, but younger than the worn and frayed steel cable attached to it.

I suppose these things could be written off as foreshadowing – so let’s move on…

Javier and Louis (the two guys who talked the sisters into this party) go down in the cage first.

Now – maybe it’s just me, but since there is a suggestion of romantic interest between the four main characters, wouldn’t you think they’d go down boy-girl, rather than boys first, then girls?

Anyway…the girls finally get their turn (despite repeated objections from Lisa, who has never been diving before).

The cage is lowered to the pre-determined depth of five meters and all is good. Kate and Lisa are laughing, taking selfies and telling each other how awesome the experience is.

Meanwhile, I’m asking myself, how can they communicate with each other, and the boat, when their ears are not enclosed within the full face masks they’re wearing?

Oh well, movie magic, I suppose.

So after a couple of minutes, SURPRISE!, the tattered cable from which the cage is suspended snaps and sends the girls plummeting to the ocean floor, 47 meters down (such a clever title).

So here they are, after a panic-filled drop that seemed to last twenty minutes, (it was only about twenty seconds, but the director decided to show it in the style of an NFL replay booth) on the bottom of the ocean with one tank of air each, and they have to figure out how to survive and make their way back to the surface…

Being a certified SCUBA diver, I can say that this is where the real problems with the movie begin to rear their ugly heads.

The factual inaccuracies regarding diving are so numerous I don’t have time to list them all. All writers, myself included, rely on suspension of disbelief, but whoever was at the keyboard for this script didn’t even try to make it semi-plausible.

Every story needs a bad guy, so let’s look at the villains of the movie.

The sharks.

The (mostly CGI) sharks are portrayed as ruthless, predators lying in wait for a free meal. Apparently, if you’re a shark, you’d much rather wait for the two humans to come out of the cage than go after the countless smaller and slower fish within fins reach.

Chalk up another one for one of Hollywood’s biggest (and most inaccurate) stereotypes.

Our heroines have two options, stay in the cage until they run out of air and suffocate, or leave the cage and swim to the surface hoping not to become snacks for the sharks.

Like I said – no spoilers here, instead let’s look at the technical aspects of the film; the directing, lighting, camera work, acting, etc. were good, but not good enough to save a poorly written screenplay.

When you boil the whole thing down, my opinion of this movie is as follows;

There are many more worthwhile ways to spend an hour and a half than watching this movie. Cleaning the cat box, baking a nice roadkill-pot-pie, volunteering for clinical trials at the local STD clinic…the list is nearly endless.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a one, only because Claire Holt (Kate) looks good in a bikini.

Perhaps the thing that bothers me the most is that Hollywood continually puts out this kind of crap as if they can’t find any good stories when there are thousands of independent authors out there with stories that would blow this garbage out of the water (pun intended).

47 Meters Down is about half as deep as this movie should be buried.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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