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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

We’re past the halfway point of the hot season. Maybe. Hopefully. Whatever … at least there are some equally hot events to take in this August.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a full list of August events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 3, the son of the late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, Jason Bonham, will be performing his show Led Zeppelin Evening. I’ve read stories about Jason Bonham’s upbringing that are quite fascinating; apparently, when he was a child, his dad used to wake him in the middle of the night to play in late-night jam sessions. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, the frontman of The Who, Roger Daltrey, will be stopping by. Daltrey has done well as a solo artist. I checked out some of the set lists from his solo appearances over the past year, and he’s been playing the entirety of The Who’s rock opera, Tommy. Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 25, the legendary family of Motown R&B, The Jacksons, will be performing. I saw The Jacksons a while back at Fantasy Springs when they toured with The Commodores, and The Jacksons put on a pretty good show—although the Jackson 5 songs were relegated to a five-minute medley. Tickets are $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

August is a great month for The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 2, country-music superstar Brad Paisley will be performing. Paisley has sold millions of albums, won three Grammy Awards, and charted 24 No. 1 singles. Tickets are $160 to $200. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 4, enjoy stoner-comedy duo Cheech and Chong. I remember when I was about 13 years old, and Cinemax played a marathon of Cheech and Chong movies. That scene in the car at the beginning of Up and Smoke made me laugh until my sides hurt. Tickets are $40 to $60. If the names performing at The Show couldn’t get any bigger, prepare yourself: At 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 24, Steve Martin and Martin Short will offer up An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life. Also performing: Steve Martin’s band, Steel Canyon Rangers, and keyboardist Jeff Babko. Tickets are $130 to $160. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29’s August brings some great Latin music—and another hot event. Need some pecs and abs in your life? Well, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11, the world-famous Chippendales will be performing. The Chippendales nd became part of the pop culture of the 1980s. A friend of mine recently mentioned that she dated a Chippendale during the ’80s who put himself through medical school thanks to his bare-chested performances. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 19, Argentinian sibling duo Pimpinela (below) ill be performing. Lucia and Joaquin Galan have become international superstars with their romantic musical pieces and are touring behind their musical show, Brothers, The True Story; expect a giant screen, dancers, choirs and a lot of other surprises. Tickets are $45 to $90. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

There is a lot going on at Pappy and Harriet’s during the month of August (per usual). Be sure to check out the full schedule online (per usual). Here are but a few noteworthy events: At 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11 indie-punk band Swearin’ will be stopping by. There’s been a lot of talk about this band since it released its first EP in 2012; since then, Swearin’ has dropped albums that have received critical acclaim, and has embarked on some popular tours. Tickets are $15. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, psychedelic folk band Timber Timbre will take the stage. Timber Timbre has an interesting sound that sounds at times like some of the mellower Marc Bolan songs. I was pretty amused when I heard their song “Run From Me” in the recent Netflix documentary series Wild Wild Country, which is about Indian guru Osho and his Rajneeshpuram community in Oregon. Tickets are $16. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 30, the 14th Annual Campout will get under way. The Campout is an annual weekend event curated by Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker frontman David Lowery. As of our deadline, the entire list of performers had not yet been released, but you can expect to see Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven and the usual characters associated with both bands. Weekend passes for the three-day event are $125. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed will be open for an event in August. At 9 p.m., Friday, Aug. 31, reggae and R&B artist J Boog will be performing. Some of his best-known songs are “Let's Do It Again,” “Sunshine Girl,” and “Good Cry.” Servant is also on the bill. Tickets are $20 to $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

Published in Previews

Two comic legends come together for Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life, a variety special that has its shining moments … but gets by on the general good feeling of seeing the two sharing a stage.

It’s not remarkably funny. Actually, it really isn’t that funny at all; a lot of the attempts at humor fall flat. It does have a couple of gigglers, including Short’s nasty talk-show-host Jiminy Glick transformed into a puppet that Martin works; the two also enjoy making fun of each other. But a musical number by Short that winds up with him in a very low-grade naked suit is lame.

The show really shines when Martin simply sits down and plays his banjo. Honestly, I could’ve watched an hour of Martin playing his banjo by himself on the stage. I didn’t even need the moment when his backing band, The Steep Canyon Rangers, showed up to finish the song. Martin playing a banjo, by himself, is one of my favorite things the entertainment industry has to offer.

While Short keeps chugging as an actor, Martin has put that part of his life aside to tour as a musician, sometimes with Edie Brickell. So if anything, this special is nice in that we get to see Martin doing some comedy again. Still, I’m one of those folks who is perfectly content to watch him pick those strings.

Steve Martin and Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Life is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

I abstain from weed because some people really shouldn’t do drugs. If you are like me, you might need two or three viewings to completely get the vibe and plot of Inherent Vice.

However, if you watch the movie while mildly high, you might follow everything in one shot.

I’ve watched director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film twice now, and it was almost like watching a different movie the second time through. I enjoyed it both times, but the language and proceedings made more sense to me on the second go-round. I must have some sort of latent stoner sensibility stored in my brain from bong hits in years past.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Doc, a sloppy private investigator in 1970 Los Angeles who operates, inexplicably, out of a doctor’s office. When an ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) goes missing, he conducts a haphazard investigation into her disappearance that involves dead people who aren’t dead, drug-dealers and kidnapped real estate moguls. All of these things are being investigated by a guy who is seriously high most of the time, and who pieces things together at his own mellow, clumsy pace.

Along the way, Doc comes across a parade of colorful characters—with each one played by a brilliant actor or actress. Josh Brolin is perfection as an unstable, macho cop with a penchant for kicking down Doc’s door. Phoenix and Brolin have a lot of fun making the characters bitter enemies, even though they’re almost chummy at times. Brolin’s final scene is, shall we say, surreal and bizarre on joyous levels.

Owen Wilson does some of his best work in years as a musician, believed dead, who has gone into hiding. He has scenes with Phoenix that are borderline brilliant, as does Martin Short as a lascivious dentist with a taste for young girls and pharmaceutical-grade cocaine. Anderson may have given Short his best role since his SCTV days, even though Short is only in a few scenes.

Benicio del Toro shows up as Doc’s attorney; his character reminded me of his similar role in Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Reese Witherspoon caps off a great year by playing Doc’s uptight current girlfriend, and Jena Malone has a terrific scene as a wife who pleasantly and happily discusses her drug addiction and missing husband.

The mystery, if you want to call it that, ties up fairly cleanly. The film, despite what some folks are saying, has a beginning, a middle and an end that makes sense. You just have to work at it a bit.

The locations, clothing and hairstyles are very 1970s. The film plays like a stoner mood piece, swinging from relaxed to paranoid, unintelligible to highly coherent—as if you are going through the various phases of some high-grade kush.

You might be thinking, “Hey, this sounds a little bit like The Big Lebowski.” Lebowski was a lot cuter, and far funnier. Both stories do, however, feature a stoner dude investigating a missing person. (It should be noted that the Coens wrote and produced Lebowski 11 years before Thomas Pynchon put out the novel on which Inherent Vice is based.)

If you’ve never smoked weed, but have a friend that does smoke, go see the movie with them. You may not get it, while your friend’s mind will be blown. He or she will explain some things to you, and you’ll be all set for a second, more-informed viewing.

Also: Do not smoke weed for the first time before seeing Inherent Vice. The stuff out there now is pretty damn powerful, and the site of Phoenix’s Wolverine chops will surely freak out a first-timer.

Inherent Vice opens Thursday, Jan. 8, at theaters including the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

In director Hayao Miyazaki’s enchanting and somber The Wind Rises, Jiro (a character based on one of the designers of World War II Japanese bombers) shares his dreams with Caproni, an Italian airplane-builder who intends to retire.

Caproni has something in common with Miyzaki: The Wind Rises is allegedly the last animated feature from Miyazaki, the legendary director of such films as Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo. If this is, indeed, his final film, Miyazaki, 73, is going out on a high note: The film is nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and it’s my pick for the award.

The Wind Rises stands as my favorite Miyazaki film. There’s a hand-drawn beauty to every frame; the sounds are astonishing; and, most importantly, it tells a compelling and heartbreaking story in a graceful and touching way.

We first meet Jiro as a young boy, as he dreams about airplanes. (This is also where we meet Caproni, who sometimes “shares” Jiro’s dreams.) Jiro’s early dreams contain the beauty and wonderment of flying—but they also include his plane disintegrating, and his body falling helplessly toward the ground. Jiro is a complicated sort.

The film then jumps to Jiro as a young man, heading to work in Tokyo on a train, when a frightening earthquake hits. This earthquake is the film’s most-stunning sequence, bolstered by exaggerated drawings of the earth rolling. It’s also here that we see Miyazaki’s extraordinary attention to detail. (The earthquake’s end is shown via a pile of small rocks, with the natural disaster coming to a pause after a couple of final, tiny stones tumble.)

Jiro helps a young woman and her younger sister, Nahoko, in the accident’s aftermath. They lose touch as Jiro goes to work under the tutelage of the cantankerous Kurokawa; he designs wing struts for a Japanese corporation that’s building warplanes. Jiro notices details in the bones from his mackerel lunch, and incorporates their sleekness into his designs. Through a series of dreams, paper airplanes and hard work, we eventually see the culmination of Jiro’s work: the bombers that will attack Pearl Harbor and turn Japan into one of the world’s most-sinister war machines.

Miyazaki doesn’t explore the politics of such an invention all that much. There are some rough dealings with German engineers, and brief mentions of Nazis and how Japan will eventually “blow itself up.” That particular statement is very eerie in a film that is so beautiful. We see the creation of the bombers from the designer’s standpoint; Jiro is the Walter Mitty of airplane daydreamers, in a sense. He simply wants to build majestic flying machines, with no political leanings toward their wartime significance.

A love story kicks into gear when Nahoko is reintroduced. She and Jiro come together and are married as Nahoko is in the throes of tuberculosis. As with his airplane dreams, his dreams of eternal love are hindered by the distinct hint of death.

The dream sequences with Caproni are full of wonderment. He and Jiro can walk on plane wings and observe huge passenger-plane prototypes that look like the Howard Hughes Spruce Goose. These beguiling sequences distinguish Miyazaki’s work from all other animated-film directors.

Miyazaki integrates human voices in a lot of his sound effects. You can hear them a bit when plane engines start up; it lends to the film’s organic feel. Those human voices work best when Tokyo catches fire during the earthquake sequences. The earth belches and moans as the fire starts, almost as if to say, “What’s about to happen here is really quite bad.” It’s a subtle, distinctive touch from Miyazaki.

We see those subtle touches in the visuals as well. Watch the way cigarette smoke billows from a smoker’s mouth, or the way vegetation reacts to hard raindrops. Everything is treated with an amazing amount of focus and detail. As amazing as Pixar’s computer-animated movies are, they miss the humanistic quality of a Miyazaki film.

I watched The Wind Rises with its original Japanese language track (with a little bit of German, Italian and French mixed in). The film is being released nationally with an English-dubbed track featuring the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Jiro), Emily Blunt (Nahoko), Martin Short (Kurokawa) and Stanley Tucci (Caproni). English translations usually go OK with Miyazaki movies, but if you want to see it in the original Japanese, it’ll probably be included on future home-video releases.

I could see why, thematically, Miyazaki would want this to be his last animated feature; The Wind Rises feels like a proper culmination of his work. The selfish movie fan in me wants him to keep making movies as long as he breathes, but there’s something quite befitting and satisfying in the way this movie, and possibly Miyazaki’s film journey, comes to an end.

The Wind Rises opens Friday, Feb. 28, at theaters including the Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 (72777 Dinah Shore Drive, Rancho Mirage; 760-770-1615) and the Cinemas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

Published in Reviews

In Badlands, you get one of the greatest American feature-directorial debuts in history. That’s a grandiose statement, for sure, but we are talking about Terrence Malick here, and the man is a magician behind the camera.

Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of heat for liking all of Malick’s movies. I picked The Tree of Life as the year’s best film a couple of years ago, inspiring many to watch it—and in turn inspiring a lot of hate mail. Malick’s movies are as unorthodox as they come, and are basically poetry in motion. If you hate poetry, and you hate a movie that takes its time, then be careful popping his movies into your player.

I would call this movie one of his more commercial offerings. Martin Sheen stars as Kit, a character based on real-life serial-killer Charles Starkweather. Starkweather and his young girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, went on a killing spree in the late ’50s. Sissy Spacek plays Holly, who is essentially a representation of Fugate.

The film came out in ’73, and immediately established Malick as one-of-a-kind. There’s nothing sensationalistic about his approach. He doesn’t try to explain Kit’s motives, and Holly never really explains why she goes along for the ride. Yet it is entirely clear why Kit is sick, and why Holly doesn’t resist. Malick and the performers leave it to the viewer to figure things out.

This might be the best script Malick has ever written. He’s the rare filmmaker who can use a voiceover and not make it feel like a storytelling copout. (Blade Runner, anyone?) Holly’s VO enhances and beautifies the story, rather than explaining things just because the narrative got confusing.

I had never seen Badlands on anything but crappy TV transfers and sloppy DVDs—and seeing it on Blu-ray in this Criterion Collection release is an absolute revelation. The imagery is as breathtaking as anything ever put to film.

Do I sound like I am over-praising? Just know that this man is one of my favorite directors, and this will always be one of my favorite movies.

Special Features: A nice new documentary features recently conducted interviews with Sheen and Spacek. You also get an older doc on Starkweather, interviews with the editor and producer, and one of those sweet Criterion booklets.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing