Monday, October 25, 2010

Porky's

So, you're probably wondering why in the name of All That is Tasteful that I'm reviewing the lowbrow 1982 classic PORKY'S. Valid question. Is it because I've run out of worthwhile cinema to review? Nope. It's because of this nagging memory of my experience seeing the movie. A guilt-ridden remembrance that makes me cringe even more than thinking back on the film itself.

As I've stated here many times, 1982 was a banner year for my movie going. Restricted films were now on the list of possibles (with parental accompanyment of course). I was also 13 years old. PORKY's. 13 year old boy. Combustive. I had to see this film. One of my church friends spoke of the naughty details to me before a service one Sunday. I can remember his exact quote, but I'll clean it up. He stated that regarding the female nudity in this movie, everytime you saw a bare chest, you also saw a bare, um, lower half. He was positively beaming. My libidinousness rejoiced, my faith recoiled. He was telling me this in church! Yes, so many lurid memories associated with this picture.

But, the worst thing was how I begged my father to take me. He looked at the ads and commercials and with no hesitation stated that he thought it would be crap. I was relentless. Artistic concerns were not a priority. Against his better judgment, he took me. Here's the guilty part-he told my mother we were going to see GREASE 2. Ugh. BTW, GREASE 2 is another bad film, but at least there was nothing smutty in it (except maybe that stupid song, "Reproduction").

When we returned from the theater, my mother asked how it was, "Well, you know, sequels are never as good as the originals.." he said in his Norwegian stained English. I felt sick to my stomach. Sick that I participated in a lie, sick that my father did it so non-chalantly.

I was also wracked by this guilt during my screening, though PORKY's was so vivid I did forget my discomfort. If you haven't seen it, it's a low budget, Florida-shot teens-on-the-make comedy that is set in the 1950s in small town America. We follow a group of guys who look way too old to be in high school as they engage in various hijinks, the centerpiece of which is spying on the girls as they shower. This is the big scene, the moment every horny pre- and post-pubescent Y chromosome was waiting for. A lengthy scene of totally nude girls (also looking too old to be in hs) giggling. They discover their Peeping Toms and get a little revenge. The worst of it is for one unfortunate guy who places his private in a peephole where the dreaded coach Ms. Balbricker finds it. There's also a character called Lassie (Kim Cattrall, way before her libidinous turn on the Sex and the City television program and films), who has a big "howling" scene.

PORKY's was the talk of my junior high school, as I'm sure it was of many others across the land. Breathless boys at lunchroom tables, re-enacting the exploits of characters named Meat and Pee-Wee. It was a minor phenom, much like ANIMAL HOUSE was a few years earlier. Canadian Bob Clark, a veteran of both exploitation and more mainstream fare, directed this mess. Incredibly, he also directed the beloved A CHRISTMAS STORY. I have to give Clark some points for being able to pull off 2 such dissimiliar pictures. The lasciviousness of PORKY's is, of course, nowhere to be seen in the holiday fave.

I'm not saying PORKY's is any good, mind you, but it is also not the worst of its tasteless lot. Many 80s titles (mostly forgotten) easily outdo it for sheer craptasticism. Clark's film actually tries to be serious at times, addressing racism and self-esteem occasionally. That's admirable, but those scenes don't work. They're heavy handed and preachy, almost as if the filmmakers included such scenes because they felt guilty for the parts that do work-the raunchy gags. As far as vulgar teen films go, the "good parts" are pretty good, but at this late date PORKY's should hold little interest for anyone but curiosity seekers and bad film connoiseurs. There's nostalgia, but that evaporates quickly. There's prurient interest, but (and this is not a recommendation) there are far more comprehsensive things out there if that's what you're looking for.

What am I left with? Nearly 30 years of guilt. Was it worth it? Probably not. I would've seen it on cable a year later, where I would also eventually see the awful sequels. But it makes for a pointed bit of pubescent remembrance. I vowed at that time I would not repeat this regrettable action if I ever had kids. Of course, it's much easier for kids to get their hands on such material now...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Catfish

SPOILERS!

As I was watching CATFISH, the new quasi-documentary that has created quite a buzz with its suspiciously eerie trailer and shrouded-in-secrecy content, I recalled another an Internet forum board drama of a few years back. I was (and still do) listening to this wonderful Net radio station called Radio Paradise. In addition to great playlists, the site features forum boards designated by specialty; some are more general places to spray your grafitti. A real community of people from all over the world congregates there to share their life doings. They even have in-person meetups.

For years I monitored and sometimes even participated in the cyber banter. Over time you "meet" these folks who may share your musical persuasions, see the same names repeatedly. About 100 of the same people posted over and over. Some put up pictures of themselves. There was one young woman who became quite popular: a waitress from the Midwest who dealt with crippling depression. She posted a recurring "pissy index" that indicated her current level of bitchiness. She garnered friends and sympathy from the forum posters, even the husband and wife who run the station/site. The woman was mercurial, even deceitful at times. For example, she posted pics of another person she claimed was herself. She came clean later. Then, the woman announced that she was going to commit suicide, albeit in a peaceful, Dr. Kevorkian manner. The board was filled with concern but also understanding.

Some time passed, and one of the site's posters-cum-provaceteurs found evidence (pics and such) that this young lady was actually alive and well and even partying! The "community" cried foul and all but burned this poor lady at the stake. She came on and admitted to spreading lies, and they continued to spew the venom. In some ways, I couldn't blame them. They invested their time and care into a hoax, a cruel one at that. Then I thought about how bizarre the entire online community thing is-it's a perfect arena in which to display one's flair for the theatrical. Perhaps to live vicariously. Real life sucks oftentimes, why not embelish (or invent) your existence a bit? I entered the fray on the forum and told the other posters they took the whole thing too seriously and should get over it. The responses to me were almost as vile as the ones directed at our heroine.

CATFISH tells, in documentary style, the perhaps untrue tale of 2 NYC filmmakers named Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost who decide to document the life of Ariel's photographer brother Nev. Specifically, they track Nev's communication with a family from Ishpeming, a rural town in Michigan. This comes after Nev receives a painting based on one of his photos of ballet dancers in New York. The painting is quite good, especially since it was done by an 8 year-old; her name is Abby. Nev and Abby become Facebook friends and communicate regularly. More amazing paintings are sent to Nev. Angela, Abby's mom, even begins chatting with him on the telephone. She describes how her gifted daughter has sold her works for upwards of 7K and even has openings in a local gallery (that had been converted from a J.C. Penney's). Megan, Angela's other daughter, also begins communicating with Nev. And boy, are her photos hot! Angela also sends a painting that portrays her as a none-too-shabby specimen herself. Soon, other family members become Facebook pals. Something like a total of 15 people.

We watch as Nev has more and more intimate conversations with Angela and Megan. Of the latter, he thinks he may have found his soulmate. He worries that he won't be able to control himself when they finally meet. After a shoot in Colorado, Nev and the filmmakers decide to surprise the family in Michigan. Why the impromptu visit? Because things begin to suggest to Nev that perhaps all is not what is portrayed on Facebook. Things like alleged original songs that Megan posts. And how is it that those paintings fetch so much money in rural Michigan? There's a market there? Then there's a phone call that reveals that that old Penney's is still just that; not a gallery. A wee hour visit to what Megan described as her horse farm reveals...well, the film's posters and taglines tell me I should shut up now. But, don't read further if don't wanna know more.

What follows in CATFISH is a another sad slice of not only Americana, but also of no less than what someone once described as "the dreary architecture of one's soul." We'll meet what is portrayed as a deeply troubled individual, someone who sold their dreams for creature comforts, perhaps. The filmmakers shoot this 94 minute film as a shaky doc, all cinéma vérité and such. At one point, Nev even wears a hidden mic. CATFISH has the conviction of a real life story. It's engaging, involving, funny. There's even some real suspense, but unlike what the trailer suggests, this is not a horror film ala THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT. Mark Mothersbaugh did some of the scoring. As an aside, and to my great amusement, I noticed in the credits that a band called "Holy Shit" did one of the songs. That name is appropriate to this movie, especially from Nev's point of view.

At press conferences, journalists and other documentarians have taken the Schulmans and Joost to task over the authenticity of CATFISH. The filmmakers swear it's 100% true. I have my doubts.

It's not because I think scenarios like this don't occur every day. I know they do. It shouldn't be news to anyone that that sexy chick in Peoria may not be who or what she claims (or look that way). Ask anyone who has been burned on dating sites, for example. I think we all know that social network and other sites don't always tell the truth, but often rather present a "reality" served up by its members. As I said, this does not bother me. The only way it might present as a dilemma to me would be if I was an employer. Even then, caveat emptor, as they say. Deceit is not new, we just have more efficient and creative ways to let it run wild.

The Internet, as stated, is a perfect place to create the illusions that many wish were their very lives. One can fabricate all manner of lifestyles; it isn't difficult, especially with Skype and all the other accessories. Angela, we learn, has gone to many pains to present an image that seduces our protagonist. He buys into it, then finds the truth. It's not pretty, even heartbreaking at times. We'll see things that reminded me of some of the images of Errol Morris' docs like VERNON, FLORIDA and THE THIN BLUE LINE. That is favorable. I won't give specifics as to what we see here, but, CATFISH might well be an appropriate film to screen for undergrad psych majors, whether its events are true or not....

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tourista, Sidebar

Ah, yes. One of my favorite memories of our days in St. Etienne de Baigorry. Pastures of sheep and cows. This shot was captured by my father-in-law straight through his windshield as we were headed back to the Château. I loved also hearing the goats' bells softly clanging even late into the evening. It gave me the same cozy feeling I had experienced hearing the sea lions yelp in Monterey, California years before.

More detailed travelogue to come, as time permits. Ha! Next time we'll discuss the dizzying joys of the Pyrénées and the aquatic and culinary delights of Biarritz.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Retribution

Another Fall, another Coen bros. film to anticipate!




http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uco41pOKeJg





As a Facebook friend stated:

"I think the Portis novel is getting better treatment from the Coens. And it looks like Oklahoma now, not the freakin' Rockies."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Social Network

I believe there is a certain type of mental wiring that makes a successful programmer. The ability to logic out sequences, patterns, follow algorithms, create algorithms. We have all likely encountered individuals who can spend days at a monitor, engrossed in code, forgetting even to use the restroom. Often, these same individuals do not carry such brilliance and focus into personal relationships. Call it lack of "emotional IQ" or whatever, but many protoypical geniuses in music, mathematics, and computer programming tend to be, politely stated, socially inept. In THE SOCIAL NETWORK, a film of fiction, we observe a portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg, a real person who is also the world's youngest billionaire and founder of Facebook. He more than fits the above description.

At least that's what screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher allege in their new film. I'm apt to believe them, even if there are many (depending on what source you read) out there laundry listing all of the things this film has gotten wrong. For all of the details, the fictional embellishments for dramatic effect, etc. etc., THE SOCIAL NETWORK does one thing (actually, several things) perfectly: capturing the hollow core of genius. Whether within that genius is a conscience or some desire to have a true emotional connection is up to your perception.

The opening scene immediately makes the point. It's the fall of 2003. Undergrad Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is downing beers with Erica (Mooney Albright), who is about to break up with him. Before she makes that declaration, we witness a verbal marathon between the two that is dizzying. More accurately, Mark is delivering a monologue that is designed to make lesser mortals feel inadaquate. He reasons the non-sequiturs to the point of exasperation. You've probably heard psuedo-intellectuals on college campuses and at Starbucks speaking this way. It's clear that Mark is unable to pick up on turn taking and social cuing, so essential for a healthy conversation. The more we listen to and watch him, it seems as if he is perhaps a case of undiagnosed Asperger's. His mind is just too fast for everything else to which to catch up.

The break-up proves to be an historic catalyst. Zuckerberg will return to his Harvard dorm and create a wildly popular website with the help of his friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield): a version of the "hot or not" rating game where pictures of campus coeds are placed side by side. Zuckerberg will also enlist fellow students who are also programmers to hack into university servers to the point where the traffic will shut it down. This action puts Zuckerberg on academic probation, but history continues to gestate.

Identical twins and collegiate rowing champs Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both amusingly and well played by Armie Hammer) are impressed by Zuckerberg's escapades and expertise and, with business minded classmmate Divya Narenda (Max Minghella), attempt to enlist him to help with their own site, one that will allow students to view non-invasive profiles of their friends. Zuckerberg agrees, but the spinning wheels greased by this proposition will not prove beneficial for the Brothers Winklevoss and co. Within a month, Mark and Eduardo (as business manager) will launch "The Facebook". You know the outcome. It would spread to other college campuses, even internationally. Then beyond the dorms. It's still happening. And growing. 500,000,000 users to date. Pretty much every advertiser in the world throwing money at them. Crazy algorithms that allow seemingly personalized ads to appear based on what you typed on someone's "wall."

THE SOCIAL NETWORK goes back and forth in time quite deftly and creatively. We are often at the table of counsel for all of the above players at some point after Facebook becomes a runaway success. After much deliberation and a lack of making the case to the President of Harvard, the Winklevosses and Narenda decide to sue Mark for stealing their idea. Eduardo also sues Mark for allowing the former to be be shut out of company ownership. This will be a far more personal battle, as the movie repeatedly states that Eduardo was Mark's only friend. How ironic for the creator of a social network like Facebook.

But is it really ironic? Facebook continues to intrigue me after nearly 2 years of my succumbing to its time sucking charms. The "friends" I've/we've collected there are often people never met. Friends of friends, people who know people we know. You hear many users talk about how they prune their lists periodically, shedding those people who were friended in efforts to pump up the list, perhaps. I've done this. How many peeps on our lists are actually "friends"? Close, true-blue friends? Facebook certainly doesn't promote Dunbar's Rule of 150!

Mark Zuckerberg, perhaps the iconoclast the film says he is, has rather created the ultimate contact list, yet curiously remains detached himself. The site's users' mileages vary, of course. There are stories of reunited friends and family because of Facebook. I have a few of those. There are also severances: lost friends, divorces, lawsuits, perhaps even murders. Zuckerberg is just the creator, the facilitator. Kind of like Sean Parker once was...

Remember him? The creator of another controversial and game changing site: Napster. As played in THE SOCIAL NETWORK by Justin Timberlake, Parker is the exception to my opening paragraph statements: a social magnet AND a genius. For both reasons this is perhaps why Mark Zuckerberg is fascinated with and allies himself with him. There is relatability and envy on Mark's end. Parker will play an integral role in the Facebook saga (something I wasn't aware of). The movie states that Parker was instrumental in Eduardo's eventual ousting as well. Zuckerberg will learn, perhaps too late, why (at least in part) Sean lost control of his earlier enterprises.

Sorkin's expertly written script, as I mentioned, flies across time dazzlingly. We hear the principals' attorneys bark accusations on both sides of the table, the answers sometimes coming in real time from Mark's mouth or other times through a flashback. The story is so compelling, so immediate that it is easy to miss how well-directed this film is. That is saying quite a bit considering that Fincher (SE7EN, FIGHT CLUB, ZODIAC) is a modern day master, often compared to everyone from Ophuls to Kubrick. His visual sense is again striking, instantly putting us at Harvard or in Palo Alto, CA, where Facebook headquarters would be built. He and cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (son of the late Jordan) create a colorful canvas of harshly lit corporate offices (perfect to compliment interrogation scenes or office confrontations) and the muted hominess of a dorm. The mood shifts accordingly to the location. The pace is just right. Trent Reznor's score also adds the right amount of dissonance at opportune times.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is an exemplary collaboration of great writing, direction, and acting. Eisenberg just hits all the right notes as Zuckerberg. One thing that struck me was the way he reacted to various characters. Note how, when someone "speaks his (Mark's) language", the sort of verbal code to which he best comprehends, Mark nods, understands with a specific recognition. It's very subtle, just there. I recalled the same acknowledgments seen on the faces of the Zuckerberg-types I've known. Talk to them about relational dynamics, they may glaze over. Start talking about game theory or anything that can be diagrammed, the eyes widen. Yet, Eisenberg allows the character this ability to perhaps understand, at least in binary form, how social politics work, even if he can't seem to immerse himself in it. THERE's a possible irony.

The rest of the film's ensemble each nail their roles similiarly, never lapsing into caricature. Hammer avoids making the preppy Winkervosses seem like a thousand other Aryan fraternity stereotypes, for example. Whether or not it is accurate to the real Winkervosses, at least to me, is not that important. This is a work of fiction, and should be viewed as such. The theses are put across with great urgency, and I believe that was the intention behind this project.

Critical reception has mostly been favorable to this film. One forum poster on imdb.com even hailed it as "a modern day CITIZEN KANE"! That's very generous, and puzzling for multiple reasons. If a cinematic comparison is to be made, I would choose director Alan J. Pakula's ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, the 1976 drama about the Watergate scandal. Even though this film is very different fom THE SOCIAL NETWORK, the narrative drive through intense and dense dialogue is similiar. The suspense, or better, the riveting nature of the drama, is almost entirely through scenes of attorneys and their clients recounting the sad tale. It is enough. There are fireworks in their words. Sorkin has achieved this effect before. The climax of A FEW GOOD MEN is a good example. Fincher also sometimes evokes Pakula's clinical, yet still frightening, plain style. Even the voices are disturbing at times.

THE SOCIAL NETWORK will certainly be of current interest for obvious reasons, but long after Facebook ceases to be the white hot force that it is, this film will remain a clear-eyed study of isolation, of greed, of avarice, timeless things, as old as Cain and Abel. What will continue to distinguish this film is the keen sense it has, the privileged glimpse into the soul of pure genius at the expense of the ability to have even one genuine real life connection. Never mind the friend list...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Public Enemies

Homer Van Meter. Baby Face Nelson. Pretty Boy Floyd. John Dillinger. These are the "public enemies" in director Michael Mann's 2009 film of the same name. All were running wild across the American Midwest in the 1930s, robbing banks and sometimes even killing folks. Breaking out of prisons, too. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, one who never apprehended a criminal himself as we learn early on in this movie, accelerates straight-arrow, laser focused agent Melvin Purvis to chief investigator to bring down Dillinger, and this will be the focus of the story.

The task proves formidable. Even with Purvis' physical and intellectual skills, his men will be hoodwinked and even killed easily by Nelson et al. It becomes apparent that more experienced lawmen are necessary. One of them is expert Texan Charles Winstead. This guy knows how to catch a criminal, alive or dead.

In fact, the devil-may-care John Dillinger is eventually caught in Arizona, but will engineer a jailbreak, armed only with a toy gun. His destination (and the reason for it) will be his undoing: to see his girlfriend, Billie Frechette. Another otherwise unstoppable force, brought down by love. Dillinger will meet his end outside of the Biograph Theater in Chicago after taking in a Clark Gable gangster flick.

PUBLIC ENEMIES is certainly not the first piece of celluoid (er, HD video) to reimagine the exploits of Dillinger. DILLINGER and THE LADY IN RED are but 2 other contemporary stabs at his colorful life. This gangster was stylish, celebrity conscious, seductive. Natural material for dramatization. Johnny Depp's take on him is pretty solid. As with Christian Bale, who portrays Purvis, Depp did some extensive research on the character. He spoke with folks who knew the man, his mannerisms. Many of the events in Mann's film are based on fact, excepting Purvis' jailhouse visit to Dillinger, an interesting tête-à-tête that, while somewhat interesting, doesn't quite achieve a weight like that of DeNiro and Pacino's diner scene in Mann's HEAT.

As with other viewers, I saw many parallels with the director's 1995 drama. I described Dillinger's fatal mistake, returning to see his girlfriend (Marian Cottilard). DeNiro makes a fatal mistake as well towards the climax of HEAT, but with the motive of revenge, a deadly flaw. Can love also be considered a flaw? Perhaps Dillinger should've adopted DeNiro's mantra of being able to abandon anything within 30 seconds. But he can't quite. He's a very different bird, an almost supernatural chap who is keenly aware of his short life span.

And supernatural he seems to be; several scenes in PUBLIC ENEMIES show him walking about in plain view, yet unacknowledged by cops, men on the street. One scene near the end shows him walking right into the office where Purvis and his team have set up their HQ. Dillinger even asks some office staff about a baseball score. Does he want to be caught? Or is it an unchecked ego?

HEAT was a spectacular neo-classic; PUBLIC ENEMIES is a game but ultimately, strangely unsatisfying brew. The trademark Mann stylistics are there: the gunfire ballets and barrages, the close-ups, the interesting sounds, even the way outdoor light spills upon indoor linens. Real minutiae at times. I read that Mann once sent prop masters scrambling to find very specific hangers that made a paticular sound when pushed together (remember when DeNiro pushes Ashley Judd against them?) for HEAT. For MIAMI VICE (the 2006 film) he had crew members meticulously arrange the way rope hung from a flatbed truck in the background of a scene to suit his vision. Sometimes, crews get fed up with such perfectionism and form a mutiny, like they reportedly did during the filming of LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Is all the fuss worth it? Arguably, but for PUBLIC ENEMIES the flash, while arresting as always, does not make up for a lack of dramatic substance.

Who were these men? We see them wrapped in 21st century sleight of hand, and never clearly at that. The screenplay (based on Bryan Burrough's book "Public Enemeies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34") gives us morsels but not enough meat. Mann matches that with his dazzling direction, always jumping around and for the best angle, the most stylish lens. For his fans (myself among them), there is much to appreciate. But the reasons to care, to have a stake in this umpteenth retelling of a bloody chapter in American history, did not come through strongly. One can only be kept at arm's length for so long before writing the movie off as merely an artistic exercise.

Another earlier Mann film PUBLIC ENEMIES reminded me of was THIEF, from 1980. In it, Frank (James Caan) plays a master safecracker who has one goal in his life: survival. Dillinger has/had much the same agenda. Too bad the films themselves don't. By the time we reach Frank's climax, we are emotionally drained; we've spent 2 hours getting inside his head. With Dillinger, I just felt like I had watched a 2 hour trailer.

Friday, October 1, 2010

This Is It

What would have been Michael Jackson's final tour in the summer of 2009 was titled "This Is It". I read that announcement with some degree of amusement. How many artists have sworn that this was the last time they would grace the stage, performing years' worth of beloved hits? I recall the Who staging an elaborate farewell show in the early 80s. It was not their last appearance. I think KISS may have made similiar claims. Athletes are not guiltless; how many farewells have we bid for Michael Jordan and Brett Favre? Do I need to state why?

It turns out that MJ was telling the truth, if inadvertently. But as the world knows, he would never get to perform those planned sold-out shows in London. On June 25, 2009, the King of Pop passed away. Like many others who heard the news, I thought it was a joke. How does one react to a bombshell like that? When I later learned of how he died, it became much creepier. I had been walking out of a hospital as I read the announcement on my phone. I had just co-monitored a surgery (scroll back). The anaesthesia used for the procedure? Propofol. The same agent (in apparent large doses) that killed Mr. Jackson. He had a 'round the clock physician who administered it for pain and sleep.

I'll bet that if Michael had lived to present the concert tour that THIS IS IT shows in its behind the scenes footage, he would've reconsidered this "final tour" yak and taken his final bow a few more times, as many as his voice would allow and his extremeities would hold up to do what he did best, dance. As this documentary begins, it stunned me to see this 50 year old move as deftly as he always had. It wasn't surprising because of his age, but instead of all the reports of his ill health. The Michael we see in this assemledge of footage (originally intended to go no further than his home library) does not indicate a sickly man, not one bit.

The footage here was also intended for the tour cast and crew to watch later, to observe mistakes and the sorts of things you don't realize you're doing while you're doing them. Sort of like the way coaches show last week's game on film to the players. MJ was very particular about every detail of his mega-elaborate show. The film captures Jackson as he articulates the sort of vocal phrasing he wants, the backbeat, the tempo, etc. Like many other genuises, he was exacting. But, he was also polite and never ugly to his staff. As you watch THIS IS IT, you get a warm feeling that despite all of the bad press: the stories of possible pedophilia, the cosmetic surgeries, the seclusion, the out of control Peter Pan syndrome, this was a decent man.

Director (of MJ's stage show and this film) Kenny Ortega and others are interviewed, all confirming the above. MJ was not only a master of dance and pop, but a great collaborator who was willing to hear others' input. The DVD's extras continue this argument. The cynics among you may wonder if THIS IS IT's collage wasn't carefully edited to only show the sunshine, but my gut feeling is that this film is a good representation, wholly accurate. As one of his managers says in the bonus material: "When the world came down on Michael, he only gave back love." A lesson for everyone.

If you grew up with Jackson's songs and videos, this will have at least passing interest. I still remember hearing "Off the Wall" playing on my friend's sister's turntable when I was 10. I would later be as transfixed by the "Thriller" video as millions of others. For the new stage show, the original John Landis production was rethought and fx'ed up a bit, but the choreography looks much the same. All the familiar songs, "Man in the Mirror", "Black or White", "Beat It," "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" and many others are shown in rehearsal, each with appropriate lighting and background to suit the mood of the tune. Some more spectacular than others. Many re-imagined with nifty twists: back-up singers, a different arrangement, an overall fresh perspective. We are given a prime vantage point of the making of something almost otherworldly. It would've been spectacular.

But, it wasn't to be. That tragedy hangs over every scene as we watch, again, a surprisingly energetic star fire up his crew and himself, pumped that he was going to give another gift to his enormous fanbase. Maybe it wasn't truly intended to be his last, but I guess we can only speculate......