History of the Eagles (2013) is a 3-hour documentary of the Eagles that played on Showtime. The Eagles were formed in 1971 and peaked in 1976, the year that they released two of the best-selling albums of all-time, Hotel California and Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975). Those years are my college years, so it is not surprising that this group is a musical icon to me. But before watching this movie, I didn’t really know a lot about the group. In fact, I thought one of the band’s two leading founders (and its principal songwriters) – Don Henley or Glenn Frey – was an eccentric loose cannon, but that would be the Beach Boys, not the Eagles. From the documentary, I learned that Henley and Frey are both solid guys. The other two founding members were Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner, but they were eventually replaced by Joe Walsh, Timothy B. Schmit, and Don Felder. Aside from the outstanding music, the documentary was most engrossing when it described the personal politics involved in keeping a rock band in operation from 1971 to now, with a hiatus from 1980 to 1994. Leadon left the band in 1975 because he felt it was straying from country to rock. Meisner left in 1977 because of stress/illness/exhaustion. Felder joined the band in 1974 and was kicked out in 2001. He was clearly the bad guy, according to the documentary. Fascinating film about some interesting guys and the music industry. I give it three and a half stars out of four.
Lovely & Amazing (2001) is a comedy-drama about a neurotic, insecure woman and her three daughters who haven’t fallen far from the tree. The woman is in her 50s and is relatively attractive, yet is having liposuction done to remove about 10 pounds of undesired fat. The oldest daughter is dabbling in art instead of getting a job. The second daughter is an aspiring actress who is not really committed to her art, but prefers it over mundane life. And finally, the youngest daughter is an adopted, precocious, chubby black girl in junior high. The acting is good and the script is fine, so the Rotten Tomato critics score the movie at 86%. But none of the characters are interesting, likeable, or attractive, so the Rotten Tomato audience scores it at only 63%. I think the audience was too generous and give it only one star out of four.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) is a wonderful fantasy-drama about a kid who was born old and grows young. So it is the cinematic answer to George Bernard Shaw’s aphorism that youth is wasted on the young. Brad Pitt stars and his love interest is Cate Blanchett, whose lives start at opposite ages and then meet in the middle (about 40) before growing apart again. The concept of the movie is interesting and the execution of the concept is excellent, but the relationship between Pitt and Blanchett is what closes the deal. They remind me a bit of Forrest Gump and his soulmate Jenny. Although the movie is more than two and a half hours long, it never drags. Although the movie was nominated for an Oscar, only 72% of the critics liked it. The audience was a bit more favorable at 80%. I think that short-changes the movie. I think the audience is about right, and I give it three and a half stars out of four.
The Cake Eaters (2007) is a short drama (86 minutes) about the intersecting lives of two small-town New York families of misfits. Bruce Dern stars as the patriarch of one family, with two slacker boys, while Kristen Steward stars as the handicapped granddaughter (Friedreich’s ataxia) in the other family, with a doting mother and grandmother. Outside of Steward, none of the characters are very sympathetic, but the dénouement salvages them and I left the movie with a good feeling. The Rotten Tomato critics scored the movie at 64% and the audience was at only 48%. That’s about right; I give it two and a half stars out of four. Incidentally, the title of the movie, according to the scriptwriter – “The Cake Eaters is a term I grew up with in Pennsylvania. My mom used to use it to describe those who had it made, had their lives mapped out for them, were the most likely to succeed… ‘The Cake Eaters.’”