By Robin E. Simmons

NOW PLAYING:

CATS

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s beloved musical, based on the 1939n poetry collection Old Possum’s Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot had its world premier in London forty years ago.  It is the fourth longest running Broadway show in history.

The movie adaptation is a bizarre entry in the genre.  To say” it must be seen to be believed” is not in any way a recommendation.

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When I first saw the trailer, my initial thought it was for a reboot of the classic 1932 horror film starring the great Charles Laughton and Bella Lugosi.  Which I thought was a terrific idea.  (I still do.)  But alas, it was not to be.

This Steven Spielberg produced misfire is, as George Bush said after hearing Trump’s speech at his inauguration, “some crazy shit.”

It’s a shared fever dream that is not nearly subversive enough to even be called camp.  In some ways, it reminded me of Laurel and Hardy’s wonderfully crazy 1934 musical Christmas film (now beautifully colorized) “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (aka “Babes in Toyland.” 

Except for one song, “Memories” – sung in a ragged fashion by Jennifer Hudson, the music is mostly forgettable and the story, such as it is, is difficult to follow.

Director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) co-wrote the screenplay adaptation but I think the major blame is on Spielberg.  

This “star-studded weirdness” is more about tech proficiency that anything else.  Beyond that, it is tedious and boring in spite of a cool balletic sequence near the middle of this fiasco.

This is my pick for worst movie of the year so far.

By the way, I loved the musical production.  But sadly, the movie is pure torture, if there is such a thing.  Caveat emptor.

NEW BLU FOR THE HOME THEATER:

ROBBIE BASHO – THE VOICE OF THE EAGLE: THE ENIGMA OF ROBBIE BASHO

This is a feature- length documentary on the little-known but incredible life and visionary music of the American guitarist, singer and mystic.

Before his bizarre death at the hands of a chiropractor, Basho was sure that his compositions would not out last him. 

Orphaned during infancy, diagnosed with synesthesia (a union of the senses that cause him to interpret sound as color) and claiming to be the reincarnation of a 17th century poet – the Baltimore-born, Berkeley-based singers musical output was equally as outlandish as his persona.  In his brief and troubled life, he laid the foundations for radical changes to the musical landscape of America during the 1960s and 70s but reaped little more than a sparse (if fervent) following during his lifetime.

The fascinating, biographical film is a journey into the heart of an artist’s lifelong struggle, designed to illuminate and satiate existing fans while serving as a perfect starting point for the uninitiated.  Featuring interviews of Basho’s former students, contemporaries and a few close friends (including Pete Townsend, William Ackerman, Henry Kaiser and Country Joe McDonald).  The documentary integrates new information and anecdotes on Basho with previously uncovered archive material and photography of the landscape and natural phenomena that informed his singular work.

Extras include deleted and extended interviews.   MVD Visual.

robin@coachellavalleyweekly.com   

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