Tuesday, May 21, 2019
The WWE is one of the most dominating entertainment companies in the world today. What began as a small territorial wrestling promotion has developed into the largest wrestling promotion in the world. Not only do they handle championship wrestling on a near nightly basis they’ve moved into movies as well. If you don’t believe that look at the career of Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock. But movies that tell the life stories of wrestlers aren’t that common. That changes with FIGHTING WITH MY FAMILY.
In 2002 young Zak and Saraya Knight argue over what to watch, a WWF pay per view or CHARMED. While wrestling in the living room to decide their parents, Ricky (Nick Frost) and Julia (Lena Headey), come in and rather than stop the fight correct their holds. Ricky is a wrestler and promoter of his own promotion. As the children grow they work in the ring alongside their parents with Zak (Jack Lowden) dreaming of the day he can join the WWE. Sister Saraya (Florence Pugh) dreams of being their alongside her older sibling.
An opportunity presents itself when the WWE is set for a show in the UK. Zak and Saraya show up to try out under the watchful eye of Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughan). Since they already have a Britani in the WWE Saraya must change her name and choose Paige after one of the characters from CHARMED. Things run smooth and the pair think they stand a good chance of getting in. But it is only Saraya that is chosen. When she refuses to go without Zak he convinces her that this is the dream the family has had for years and she agrees.
Saraya now Paige shows up in Florida for the WWE’s NXT promotion, a lower level wrestling promotion that grooms wrestlers for the main event in the WWE. She’s not like the other female wrestlers, nearly all leggy blonde models. But at 18 she’s young and ready to go and has more in the ring experience than any of them combined.
Being different, being the odd one out, Paige doesn’t make friends and it isn’t long before her disdain for their abilities shows causing more conflict within the group. Hutch pushes her, seeing something there that many would not.
Back home Zak has hit rock bottom. A new father and husband, his dreams crushed, watching his sister’s star rise he’s torn between family loyalty and jealousy over her chance at success. Ricky and Julia aren’t much better seeing Paige’s rise not as something that she herself wanted but more what they wanted for themselves when they were younger as well as her being able to help promote their own business now.
As the grind gets to her Paige begins to wonder if this is what she’s meant for. Are the dreams of being a WWE champion really hers or are they the dreams her family wanted? Can she handle not just the physical aspects of being a professional wrestler but the emotional ones as well?
The movie is one of the most entertaining flicks I’ve seen this year. I was truly surprised by it. Not only did it tell the real life story of a WWE star (well as real as any biopic can be) but it did it with heart as well. You don’t have to be a wrestling fan to enjoy this movie (though it probably helps). More than anything though I found myself laughing out loud (yes really!) more than once while watching the film. It delivers on so many levels. Superficial, probably but always entertaining.
All actors here do a fantastic job of bringing what could have been cardboard cutout figures to life. Their hopes and dream can be felt, their goals achieved and crushed bring joy and pain and each one of them ties into the other to make this a movie not just about the star but the entire family. Not an easy task to achieve and yet they do.
WWE stars like Dwayne Johnson, The Miz, Sheamus and Big Show also make appearances in the film and Johnson was also one of the producers for the film. WWE movies have been all over the place from good to bad. This is a good one and worth watching.
Sadly as all of us grow older our heroes grow old as well. Some pass away suddenly, some slowly and others carry on for us to enjoy. Fortunately for us rock fans Randy Bachman carries on and continues to not only play live but create new music for us to enjoy. Now the film BACHMAN gives us a behind the scenes look at Bachman as well as biographical information and interviews with family and friends.
From humble beginnings in Canada Bachman found himself in a band called Chad Allen and the Reflections that eventually morphed into the Guess Who, one of the most popular bands from Canada in history. With bandmates Burton Cummings, Jim Kale and Garry Peterson the quartet racked up huge sales and hit singles like “These Eyes”, “Laughing”, “Undun” and “American Woman”. Bachman’s Mormon beliefs conflicted with the rock lifestyle of his fellow bandmates. They eventually ran the same course most bands do and broke up with Bachman going off on his own.
This led to his forming a new band with ex-mate Chad Allen, Fred Turner and Robbie Bachman called Brave Belt. With two albums released and wanting to change direction from a softer more country band to a hard rocking one, Allen left and was replaced with Tim Bachman and later Blair Thornton. This new sound also came with a new name, Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Again lighting in a bottle was captured and the band was one of the biggest around in the seventies. With hits like “Takin’ Care of Business”, “Let It Ride” and “Hey You” they were mega-stars. That meant they were making big bucks and touring non-stop as well. But success has its ups and downs. And bands no matter how popular often tend to fade out fast.
But Bachman continued to make his living from music. He continued to write for and to produce other bands. Later in life he began to play jazz guitar and released several successful albums in that genre. He was inducted with Burton Cummings into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. He’s won awards, played with in various incarnations of past bands as well as with other performers. And he still makes music.
So what does the movie BACHMAN offer us? All of this information using photos from his family as well as interviews with those who know/knew him best. His brother, daughter and son Tal Bachman (who’s had success in music too with the hit single “She’s So High”) are here in interviews. Friends like Neil Young, Peter Frampton, Chris Jericho, Alex Lifeson and Paul Shaffer all offer their takes on the guitar player extraordinaire.
Through it all we get a glimpse behind the scenes of what Bachman is like, as much as anyone can with a documentary film. His genuine love of the guitar is seen in several incidents. Watching him play and the love he has to do so is on hand. A visit to his archives where he keeps all of his old guitars, and trust me there are plenty, is also revealing. Each guitar has its own story to tell. Later he visits a museum with a studio in it that has the guitar he wrote/performed “American Woman” on and his reverence for the guitar as he plays it again for the first time in years is a sentimental moment.
The portrait we are presented with here is a man who loves music, who lives music and for whom daily playing of the guitar provides him life. He says this is what he wants to do, not retire and play golf. That’s obvious in the man presented her in this film. At 75 years old he is still able to get on stage and let his fingers do the talking. And talk they do.
For me watching the film I got the chance to hear the stories of what his life was like, where he’s been and where he’s going. And while the film played the music of not just his life but mine played in the background. Memories of where I was when I first heard songs ran through my head. A tiny transistor radio with a plastic strap playing in a neighbor’s treehouse when “American Woman” came on and I heard it for the first time. Seeing BTO live in Ft. Wayne with opening act Kansas in high school. And listening to the still when I want to have something playing in the background or car. Randy Bachman has left his mark not just on music but on us fans as well. Here’s to more music coming.
I was never a fan of the spaghetti western. With the exception of the few Sergio Leone films I had a chance to see when younger I’d never really explored the genre. That all changed with Arrow Video. Arrow has made a point of going back and taking some of the most influential films of the genre that rarely played the normal theater circuit back when they were released and issued them in pristine fashion with tons of extras. Now I find myself drawn to them with major thanks to Arrow. Which brings me to THE GRAND DUEL their latest release.
As with KEOMA (also just out from Arrow) this is a movie that’s made the rounds from various companies. For a while it seemed like anyone who had a company was putting out this movie. It’s even been released as a double feature with the afore mentioned KEOMA. So I wasn’t sure what to expect in spite of the fact that it starred one of my favorite western actors Lee Van Cleef. I needn’t have worried.
Van Cleef stars as Clayton, an ex-sheriff traveling in a stagecoach that shows up at a stop where a group of bounty hunters is determined to capture Phillip Wermeer (Alberto Dentice). Wermeer is wanted in Saxon by the family the town is named after. He’s been accused of killing Ebenezer Saxon, the patriarch of the family. Wanted dead or alive with a $3000 price on his head, it’s fortunate for him that Clayton has arrived. With no recourse he allows the bounty hunters to take Wermeer. Elisabeth, a female passenger who’s taken a shine to Wermeer, talks to Clayton who tells her that Wermeer is innocent.
Clayton catches up to the bounty hunters and finds them questioning Wermeer. It turns out they’re more interested in finding out where Wermeer’s father hid some silver than the reward. Clayton frees Wermeer and the pair head for Saxon with Wermeer still a free man.
Arriving in Saxon the pair discover that the sons of Ebenezer, David, Eli and Adam, are waiting with the hope of hanging Wermeer. Eli is now the town’s sheriff and he and Clayton don’t see things eye to eye. Wermeer demands to know who killed his father as he remains accused of killing Ebenezer. But things aren’t all what they appear and the only one who seems to know what has really taken place is Clayton. Just who will come out in the end is up for grabs until the final moments of the film.
Unlike many of the spaghetti westerns released during their heyday this one offers a deeper plot than most. I don’t recall any having as much as this one does with perhaps the exception of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. It keeps you guessing and trying to decipher just who was responsible for the death of not only Ebenezer but Wermeer’s father as well.
There isn’t a bad acting job to be seen here. Van Cleef remains one of the coolest of characters here just as he did in so many westerns. Dentice is a match for him as a naïve and strong headed young man trying to seek justice and stay alive at the same time. Klaus Grunberg as the slightly effeminate brother Adam is something different to see decked in white and ready to kill those who oppose the family.
This was only one of three films directed by Giancarlo Santi which is a disappointment. He does a great job here. His time spent as an assistant director on movies like THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY, DEATH RIDES A HORSE, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and DUCK YOU SUCKER paid off when it came to directing this film. Why he stopped with three films I couldn’t find out.
Arrow has done a fantastic job with this release starting off with a hi def 1080p presentation. But let’s face it, when it comes to Arrow you know that the extras are going to equal the film itself and this time around is no exception to that rule. The extras on this release include a new audio commentary track with film critic/historian Stephen Prince, AN UNCONVENTIONAL WESTERN a new interview with director Santi, THE LAST OF THE GREAT WESTERNS a new interview with screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, COWBOY BY CHANCE an interview with actor Dentice aka Peter O’Brien, OUT OF THE BOX a new interview with producer Ettore Rosboch, THE DAY OF THE BIG SHOWDOWN a new interview with assistant director Harald Buggenig, SAXON CITY SHOWDOWN a new filmed video appreciation with academic Austin Fisher, the original Italian and international theatrical trailers, an extensive image gallery, a reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin, TWO DIFFERENT DUELS a comparison between the original cut and the longer German cut of the film, GAME OVER an obscure sci-fi short directed by Bernard Villiot starring Marc Mazza who plays Eli Saxon and MARC MAZZA: WHO WAS THE RIDER ON THE RAIN? a video essay about the elusive actor by tough-guy film expert Mike Malloy.
This is a movie that everyone can enjoy and a western that fans should make a part of their collection. Not just fans of spaghetti westerns but westerns in general. It was a movie that can be watched and enjoyed with repeated viewing and I know it is a welcome addition to my shelf here, one to be revisited time and time again.