Posted in Entertainment

Why 40 Years Later Elvis is Still The King

Forty years ago today Elvis Presley passed away. Yes, The King may be dead but in so many ways he still lives on.

His music is timeless. The songs Elvis sang changed the music industry forever. He could and did sing everything: country, rock, pop, gospel. If he were still alive today he’d probably be giving Jay-Z a run for his money. And he’d probably be wondering what possessed UB40 to do a cover version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love”.

His movies still entertain us. Sure most of them may be hokey, but along with the cheesiness of an Elvis movie, you get to hear some great tunes. I’ve heard more than one person say that if they had taken a lot of the music out of those films and gave them an actual storyline, Elvis would have had great acting potential. I note that Elvis’ last film was made in 1969. I wonder if he’d made some in the 70’s if he would’ve been wearing the sideburns and the sequined jumpsuit…

Graceland is still a tourist attraction. Elvis’ home is visited by more people every year than the White House. The huge estate is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark. It’s also the very home where Elvis died, where he and several family members are buried, and the same one that thousands flock to on the dates of his birth and his death.

His legend lives on. In his daughter, Lisa Marie, also a singer, and his grandchildren. In Vegas impersonators. In his fans and their love for him. In his memorabilia, which is endless and can be found around the world. Everything from autographs to Zippo lighters. If it exists, it probably has an image of Elvis on it.

As far as icons are concerned, the music industry will always have “the next big star” male performer: the Justins, the Brunos, the Ushers. But there will never be another Elvis. He may be physically gone but he lives on for an eternity in the hearts of many.

Posted in 80's, Entertainment, music

It Was Our “Woodstock”

A #ThrowbackThursday moment on the 32nd anniversary of LiveAid

 

July 13, 1985.  Thirty years and many musical memories ago.  I’m so glad I was alive to be a part of that event.

No, I wasn’t there in Philly.  Nor in England.  I didn’t get to ride the Concorde with Phil Collins.  But I had dragged my 14-year-old ass out of bed at 5:30 a.m. on a summer weekend so I could tune into the concert of the decade.

It started around noon UK time, which put us at 6-ish.  They were broadcasting the entire thing on the radio so I had my cassettes and tape recorder ready to go.

Then there was JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.  To be there must’ve been something else.  I longed to see Powerstation and Madonna.  Waiting to see Duran Duran perform was like torture.  I remember getting to see the last few hours of the show broadcast on TV.  Another thing to thank Dick Clark for.

Thirty years later I still have some of the cassettes that I recorded.  I have the “Live Aid” book.  I’ll have to scan through that later and continue with my walk down memory lane.

Such nostalgia for such an innocent time in my life…

 

Posted in Entertainment, Reviews

Book Review: “Born To Run” – Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography “Born To Run” clearly identifies the man behind the music.

Noteworthy for being a rather private person, Springsteen opens up to his readers in this 500-plus page tale of barely surviving to living large with everything in between.

Although he has prevailed a lot in his nearly seventy years, Bruce has also been able to do the only thing he ever set out to do:  create music.

The reader starts off being exposed to Springsteen’s early New Jersey life, growing up in an Irish-Italian household with a life-loving mother and a moody, bi-polar, hard-working alcoholic father.  The oldest of three, Bruce writes about life with his parents, siblings and grandparents during his early years. Once his immediate family moved out of his grandmother’s house, Bruce often returned to stay with his grandparents, particularly his grandmother, whom he talks about as being his sanctuary from his parental household.

Springsteen talks of his love-hate relationship with his father Doug and how he gained his love of music from his mother, Adele.  The love and attention Bruce lacked from his father he received from his mother.  He talks of his mother always “having his back”.  She was there for Bruce, whether it was attending one of his baseball games or renting his first electric guitar, after Bruce’s witnessing Elvis Presley on “Ed Sullivan”.

Following the American breakthrough of the Beatles and his decision to teach himself Keith Richards’s guitar solo to “It’s All Over Now”, because he was determined to play lead guitar, Bruce became a member of his first band, the Castiles.  He followed that band up with Steel Mill.  In between bands and traveling the Jersey shore or cross country performing gigs, Springsteen would gradually cross paths with the other musicians who would eventually form the E Street Band.

Throughout the book Springsteen touches on certain events that affected him one way or another:  his legal disputes with former manager Mike Appel; his introduction to Jon Landau, the man who would eventually turn his career around; his parents’ move from New Jersey to California; his depression and subsequent treatment of; his first marriage to actress Julianne Phillips and his second marriage to E Street singer Patti Scialfa, with whom he has three children.

The author delves into each of his albums, speaking about the particular songs on each that broke the musical barrier for him.  One such album Springsteen writes about is “The Ghost of Tom Joad”.  In writing about this album, he resonates with the present times as he states:  “ ‘The Ghost of Tom Joad’ chronicled the effects of the increasing economic division of the eighties and nineties, the hard times and consequences that befell many of the people whose work and sacrifice created America and whose labor is essential to our everyday lives.  We are a nation of immigrants and no one knows who’s coming across our borders today, whose story might add a significant page to our American story.  Here in the early years of our new century, as at the turn of the last, we are once again at war with our “new Americans”.  As in the last, people will come, will suffer hardship and prejudice, will do battle with the most reactionary forces and hardest hearts of their adopted home and will prove resilient and victorious”.

“Born To Run” is a lengthy but worthy read.  Considering the twenty Grammy Awards, the Academy Award and many other accolades he’s achieved over the years, Bruce Springsteen has lived and still lives a full life and has a lot to say about it.

Posted in Entertainment, movies, Reviews, writing

REVIEW: “The Circle”

Emma Watson plays Mae Holland, a savvy, young customer-service oriented employee who is seeking a better paying and more rewarding job.  With the help of her friend Annie, she lands a gig at The Circle, the world’s most powerful technology and social media company.

To understand what working at The Circle is like:  combine the work environments of Google and Microsoft with Facebook and Twitter, add steroids and you have The Circle.  People who work at The Circle never leave The Circle.  They live there.

When we’re first introduced to The Circle founder Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), he’s discussing in one of the weekly company-wide meetings how they have placed tiny hidden cameras all over the world to see everything that’s going on all the time. With everyone.

It soon becomes quite clear that one of the main goals of The Circle is to invade everyone’s privacy.  Eventually Bailey and his sidekick/CEO Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) take Mae under their wing and in a move where the viewer cannot help to wonder if Mae has been brainwashed, she decides to go transparent, allowing people all over the world to monitor and comment on her every move.  Think of it like a Periscope or Facebook Live feed that never stops.  By this time in the movie Mae is fully enjoying her time at The Circle, including the healthcare coverage she receives for her parents.  This comes in very handy especially for her father Vinnie (played by Bill Paxton in his final role), as he is inflicted with Multiple Sclerosis.

Although things on the surface seem great, Mae has lost touch with her good friend Mercer, has alienated her friend Annie and has embarrassed herself and her parents when she accidentally streams in on a private moment between them, letting the world have a sneak peek at her parent’s sex life.

Then, along with Bailey and Tom, Mae introduces The Circle world to “soul searching”, a feature which allows anyone to find anyone in twenty minutes or less.  In the initial test they search for a wanted killer who has been on the lam for years.  Within ten minutes they find her and she is apprehended.  Suddenly it looks like this could be a helpful tool.  Then Mae suggests they try finding a regular citizen, a non-criminal.  The crowd suggests she try to find Mercer.  Though hesitant, Mae agrees.  The next thing we see two individuals merging on Mercer’s property, knocking on his door, their cellphones in hand, recording the entire event for the world to see.  We watch as Mercer runs from his residence, hops in his truck and drives away, only to be pursued by several cars and a drone.  The drone crashes into Mercer’s truck, causing him to crash off a bridge and die.

The death of her friend Mercer is a turning point for Mae.  She knows what she needs to do and upon her return to work at The Circle, she does it, causing Bailey to mutter to Tom “we are so fucked”.

Though entertaining enough “The Circle” does lack in providing background on many of the characters.  Watson is a fine actress, who has certainly come into her own but I feel what “The Circle” really needed was more Hanks.

 

 

Posted in Entertainment, Movie Icons, movies, Reviews

Review: “Going In Style”

Take three elderly friends, rip their pensions out from underneath them, add in a plan to rob a bank to, in essence, get their pensions back, and what do you get?  “Going In Style”.

The Zach Braff-directed film stars iconic actors Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and Alan Arkin as best buddies/co-workers Willie, Joe and Albert, respectively.

After being told the company they work for is moving operations to Vietnam and is taking their pensions with them, the three friends decide to fight back.  Having witnessed a bank heist at the very bank that holds their pensions, Joe approaches Willie and Albert with the idea of doing the very same thing.  All they will take is what their pensions would be for the next several years.  Anything extra they will donate.  Justice will be served.

With some guidance from a shady acquaintance of Joe’s ex-son-in-law, the three pals are able to pull it off.  Their cover is almost blown when Willie, a dialysis patient, semi-collapses during the robbery after he approaches a little girl who tells him he can take her doll.

When Lieutenant Hamer (played by Matt Dillon) has the little girl look at a line-up of potential suspects, including Willie, Joe and Albert, the viewer feels this is it for the guys.  The beauty of the moment is how the little girl ends up sticking it to Hamer and the guys are saved.

This film was far from disappointing.  It had it all:  a plausible storyline, comedy and suspense.  A pleasant comedic addition was several scenes featuring a scatter-brained Milton (played by Christopher Lloyd) and a nice love interest was added for Albert with Ann-Margret’s character of Annie

If you’re not into the current Disney remakes or kiddie cartoons and are longing for classic acting from Hollywood icons, “Going In Style” may suit your style.