My Summer of Discontent
'Summer of Soul' and 'The Tomorrow War': At least one is more than tolerable.
Current Cinema: My point of comparison while watching Summer of Soul was not Woodstock, even though both music festivals took place during the same season in New York State during 1969. Instead, my seminal concert-movie experience came when I saw The Last Waltz theatrically in 1978.
None of those three films feature music that is particularly entrancing to me personally, then or now, but the difference for me lies in the filmmaking. Martin Scorsese had already made quality movie after quality movie, and he also had experience as a cinematographer on Woodstock, so he had a much greater cinematic sense of wonder that allowed him to exercise his superior creative juice on a epic project that transcends the concert-movie sub-genre.
For all his sheer enthusiasm and excellent experience as a musician, Questlove (Ahmir Thompson) is not able to conjure true magic from the dozens of hours of concert footage that was made available to him. Also challenging: the vast difference between Woodstock, a single event in upstate New York that was attracted attendees from across the country and incurred myriad logistical challenges, and the Harlem Cultural Festival, a well-run series of weekly concerts with somewhat limited attendance that mainly attracted attendees who could walk to the events in Manhattan.
That being said, Questlove makes the footage fresh with his choice to interview a number of surviving attendees who offer their perspective as fans, which is striking and different from most other music-concert docs that I've seen, and then interviewing surviving musicians who comment upon the event, often while they're watching the footage, evidently for the first time!
Those two elements make the film essential, even for viewers who are not Black and/or otherwise ignorant of the musical acts and the existence of the Harlem Cultural Festival itself. [Hulu]
By the 15-minute mark, I was checking out of The Tomorrow War mentally, though I made an effort to pay attention to the loosely-knit events that transpire throughout a film that seems to have been made without any compelling reason to do so.
Chris Pratt stars as a married man with a military past who is called upon, forcibly and unwillingly, to serve in a war that has broken out 25 years in the future. Time traveling soldiers have returned to the present to declare that Earth has been invaded by insects from space and mankind is under threat of complete annihilation unless present-day humans can come travel into the future and die for the sake of the world.
Directed by Chris McKay, this is a very busy movie with no narrative reason to exist, except to employ artists to conjure up visuals that have little to no connection to the living world as we know it. The invading insects have no characteristics that personalize them in any way, shape or for, and so for the entire movie, I felt like I was being pummeled by pixels, with occasional breaks so Chris Pratt could flex his muscles, run and jump, or make witless jokes. A complete waste of time. [Amazon Prime Video]
Upcoming: I'm afraid Space Jam: A New Legacy may crash and burn quickly, but I am keeping an open mind ahead of its release this Thursday in theaters and on HBO Max, a service that I currently enjoy for free as part of my cable package, at least for the next three weeks. So bring it on, LeBron and animated friends! Not much else out this weekend strikes me as particularly family friendly. [HBO Max}