Tuesday, September 20, 2016



STARS: The Beatles, Brian Epstein, Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello
DIRECTOR: Ron Howard
GENRE: Documentary

There's not much you can criticize about a Beatles documentary (Eight Days A Week--The Touring Years) that showcases the music above everything else--directed by Ron Howard, no less! Howard and company worked some auditory magic with archival footage of live performances at clubs, concerts, and on television. The result is that you're immersed in the exhilarating feeling of being right there, live, in the front row.

And THERE THEY ARE--John and George--up there big as life...just as if they had never left us. The incongruity, of course, is that they are their forever younger selves, while present day Paul and Ringo drop by to fill us in on some of the intimate details of those touring years--1964 through 1966. 

The real eye-opener--for anyone who wasn't around at the time and has only heard about the craziness second hand--is that we get the full brunt of Beatlemania. Hordes of young girls going bananas, screaming their heads off and passing out and being lugged off like sacks of potatoes by dutiful cops to the recovery station. And everywhere the Fab Four went, the crowds mobbing them as they made a mad dash for the limousine. And then there is the concert in Shea Stadium where 56,000 people were so loud that the lads couldn't hear themselves, and yet they rocked out and delivered those songs without a hitch. They were that good.

Brian Epstein, the architect and engineer of the group's rise to musical immortality, is prominently featured. Whoopi Goldberg and Elvis Costello provide some personal anecdotes. Whoopi, for one, was a huge fan. And who wasn't? 

The documentary only briefly touches on the Beatles' psychedelically induced period that followed, which was beyond the scope of the film. But this was where the real "Revolution"started. Suddenly, music became a medium with a message, not just a beat. And so many of us grew up making personal transformations that paralleled the transformation in the Beatles' music. In a very real sense, they were the soundtrack to our lives.  

 Grade:  A


The night I went to see Eight Days A Week at La Paloma, a funky little theater (built in 1929) in Encinitas, California, it was packed with diehard Beatle fans. Mostly baby boomers, eager to relive their youth. But even if you weren't born back then, this documentary is more than just a musical tribute to the Fab Four. It's about a cultural phenomenon.

I don't usually share personal anecdotes when adding my two cents to these movie reviews. But this story deserves re-telling: I was living in New York City when the Beatles came to town and I had a good friend, a classy lady named Jackie Rutherfurd, whose 12-year-old daughter "Moo" was dying to go see the Beatles perform at Radio City Music Hall. Jackie begged me to accompany Moo, fearing for her daughter's life. I agreed to go, thinking Jackie was being a bit over dramatic. Believe me, she wasn't. The screaming and hysteria in that auditorium was truly terrifying. I couldn't wait to get out of there. (Moo, of course, was crying like all the other little girls, totally in love with Paul.)

Which brings me to my one criticism of the film. The Beatle I had a secret crush on was George Harrison. And I felt his musical talent was not featured enough in Eight Days A Week. Granted, his songs emerged later but still – he was a lot cuter to me than the other Beatles. (Sigh.)

When the film ended, people clapped long and loud; and when they left the theater, I swear they looked a good twenty to forty years younger.

Grade: A -