Category Archives: Music

The Entertainment Forecast

Dec. 2 – 8

Top picks for TV, books, music, home entertainment & more

A steamy new take on a romance classic, all hail country music’s king and queen, & celebs play bar games

FRIDAY, Dec. 2
Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Steamy new adaptation of the classic D.H. Lawrence novel stars Emma Corwin (above) as the wealthy Englishwoman who finds that love—and marriage—ain’t what it was cracked up to be (Netflix).

Firefly Lane
Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke return to their roles for season two of the drama about lifelong best friends facing the ultimate test of their bond and wanting to nurture the other relationships in their lives (Netflix).

Pentatonix: Around the World for the Holidays
The superstar a cappella group goes on a magical musical whirlwind trip around globe in this streaming special, gathering holiday cheer and inspiration (Disney+).

The Great Holiday Bake War
Can a yummy recipe have all the ingredients for romance? Find out in this original network movie starring LeToya Luckett and Finesse Mitchell as contestants who meet on a holiday baking competition (9 p.m., Own).

SUNDAY, Dec. 4
Fit for Christmas
Amanda Kloots (of TV’s The Talk) executive-produced and stars in this new holiday flick as a Montana fitness instructor who falls for a mysterious businessman, complicating both of their plans (8:30 p.m., CBS).

George & Tammy
Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain star in this six-episode saga about the turbulent, often torrid relationship of superstar country music couple George Jones and Tammy Wynette (9 p.m., Showtime).

Home Town
Renovation experts Erin and Ben Napier (left) return for a new season of bringing new life to outdated homes in their own small town of Laurel, Miss. (8 p.m., HGTV).

MONDAY, Dec. 5
Country star Blake Sheldon and buddy Carson Daily are the rowdy ringleaders of this wild new game show, hosted by WWE wrestling superstar Nikki Bella, pitting their celebrity friends against each other in “bar games” at Sheldon’s Old Red nightspot in Nashville. With appearances by

His Dark Materials
Season three of the series, based on the final novel in author Philip Pullman’s award-winning epic fantasy series, finds the prophesized child (Dafne Keen) venturing to a dark place as her father’s war against the Authority edges closer. With Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy (9 p.m., HBO).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
It wouldn’t feel like the holidays without a viewing of this classic 1966 TV special, featuring the voice of Boris Karloff as the green-goblin Christmas thief transformed by the sweetness of the season (7:30 p.m., TNT).

Tiny Toony’s Christmas Carol
Get in the ha-ha holiday spirit with this Dickens-themed roundup of classic ‘toons from Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Porky the Pig and others, plus vintage holiday shorts rarely seen on broadcast TV (8 p.m., MeTV).

Liam Gallagher: Knebworth 22
Let’s rock! Documentary and full concert chronicles the Oasis frontman’s return to the stage at England’s iconic music venue (Paramount+).

The Goldbergs
In this holiday episode, Erica buys a festive baby toy and Beverly goes full Grinch in an attempt to steal Christmas (8:30 p.m., ABC).

The Great Holiday Baking Special
Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith are the judges, and Ellie Kemper and Zach Cherry host this celebrity-filled holiday special, in which you’re invited “into the tent” for a star-studded competition of whisking, baking and faking (Roku Channel).

CMA Country Christmas
Carly Pierce hosts this 13th annual holiday TV musical special, with performances by Steven Curtis Chapman, Scotty McCreery, Marin Morris, Old Dominion, The War and Treaty, and more, all filmed on colorful Christmas-themed sets in Nashville, Tenn. (9 p.m., CBS).

The Real Housewives of Miami
New season six of the feisty franchise drama turns up new heat in the Sunshine State with its returning high-drama housewives and some new acquaintances (Peacock).

Doom Patrol
Brendon Fraser, Matt Bomer, April Bowlby and Michelle Gomez star in season four of the action-packed series based on characters in DC Comics, about a group of people who all suffered horrible accidents that left them with superhuman abilities (HBO and HBO Max).


Relive the smooth, spiritually-inclined grooves of the 1972 Cat Stevens’ No. 1 platinum album Catch Bull at Four—the best-selling album of his entire career—with this newly remastered vinyl 50th anniversary re-release (AME/Ume). 

The seminal sounds of the Beach Boys can be rediscovered in the new box set Sail On Sailor-1972 (Capitol/Ume). The multi-disc collection, available as both CDs and LPs, includes rarities, remastered versions of original albums from the group’s post-pop period, and a live Carnegie Hall concert.

Sweet indeed! The cast recording of the Broadway smash A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical (UMe) is a tune-filled journey through the iconic singer-songwriter’s catalog of hits, including “Sweet Caroline,” “I’m a Believer,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Solitary Man.”

Legendary former Beatle Paul McCartney sounds as great as ever on The 7” Singles Box, a new-release collection of 80 career-spanning single releases, newly remastered on CD, including “My Love,” “Live and Let Die,” “Band on the Run,” “Silly Love Songs,” plus rare mono recordings of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” and “Too Many People.”


Long before the #MeToo movement, Joyce Chopra was breaking down barriers in Hollywood. Find about how in Lady Director: Adventures in Hollywood, Television and Beyond (City Lights). As this new bio details, among her many other achievements, Chopra produced the first TV-movie adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel Blonde—beating the controversial Netflix adaptation (starring Ana de Armas as Marilyn Monroe) to the screen by 20 years.

Learn about the rockin’ roots of the music that changed the world in The Birth of Rock & Roll: The Illustrated Story of Sun Records (Wheldon Owen) by noted music journalists Peter Guralnick and Colin Escott. This lavishly illustrated coffee-table showcase details the start of a musical revolution in Memphis, Tenn., where Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, B.B. King and others churned out an explosive mix of hillbilly boogie, Beale Street blues, Southern soul and juke-joint jump at visionary producer Sam Philliips’ now-legendary studio.

The coolest cat in all of pop culture is the Bat. Batman: The Definitive History of the Dark Knight, by Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre (Insight Editions), spreads its wings with a lavishly illustrated tour of Batman across the spectrum of entertainment, from comic books and TV to animation and live action, video games and ultimately a franchise of blockbuster movies.


One of TV’s hottest series is now available on Blu-ray. The sixth and final season of Better Call Saul (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) follows star Bob Odenkirk as he dramatizes the last leg of his character’s transformational journey from a former con artist into criminal lawyer Saul Goodman.

The Entertainment Forecast

Nov. 18 – 24

Top picks for TV, streaming, music, home entertainment & more!

An Allison Janney wedding, a Mickey Mouse tale & Elton John’s Dodger Stadium reunion

FRIDAY, Nov. 18
The People We Hate at the Wedding
Skeletons some tumbling out of the comedy closet (above) when two American siblings (Kristen Bell and Ben Platt) agree to accompany their mother (Allison Janney) to attend the wedding of their estranged, wealthy half-sister (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) in the English countryside (Prime).

Jason (Aquaman) Momoa, Kyle Chandler and Chris O’Dowd star in this surreal new network movie, about a little girl (Marlow Barkley) who follows a secret map into a world of dreams…and nightmares (Netflix).

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse
The entertainment world’s most famous rodent is having a birthday (his 100th!) and this new documentary examine the creation and ongoing cultural relevance of Walt Disney’s most iconic and enduring creation (Disney+).

Santa Bootcamp
The legendary Rita Moreno (West Side Story) stars in this fanciful tale as the drill sergeant in charge of a young event planner’s search for the perfect Santa. With Emily Kinney and Ed Mancini (8 p.m., Lifetime).

SUNDAY, Nov. 20
2022 American Music Awards
The world’s biggest fan-voted awards event returns to honor the top achievements in rap, rock, R&B, country music and more in this live, star-studded event from Los Angeles and hosted by comedian Wayne Brady (8 p.m., ABC).

Elton John: Farewell From Dodger Stadium
Get your crocodile rockin’ for this hit-packed concert film, about the British rock superstar’s triumphant return to the venue that launched his career almost half a century ago (Disney+).

MONDAY, Nov. 21
Celebration of Angela Lansbury
Programming tribute to the late, great, beloved actress includes a full day and night of her films, including National Velvet, The Three Musketeers, The Manchurian Candidate, Sweeney Todd and Gaslight (TCM).

TUESDAY, Nov. 22
Welcome to Chippendale’s
Kamal Nanjinai stars in this new true-tale series as an Indian immigrant who becomes the unlikely founder of the world’s most famous male-stripping empire—and who let nothing stand in his way of success (Hulu).

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On
Documentary chronicles the remarkable story of indigenous singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who rose to prominence in the folk scene of New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1960s, blazing her path to becoming an Oscar-winning performer, social activist and artist (9 p.m., PBS).

Good Night Oppy
Watch this and look to the skies: This inspirational true story follows Opportunity, a rover nicknamed “Oppy” that was sent to Mars for a 90-day mission but ended up surviving for 15 years, forging a remarkable bond with its human “team” millions of miles away (Prime Video).

King Tut: Allies and Enemies
Timed with the 100th anniversary of the opening of King Tut’s tomb, this new doc explores the many mysteries that swirled in its wake of the discovery mania about Egypt’s “Boy King” (8 p.m., PBS).

Baking All the Way
An accomplished Chicago pastry chef (Cory Lee) heads to a small town’s famous bakery to complete her Christmas cookbook. But the bakery’s charming owner (Yannick Bisson) isn’t so welcoming when it comes to sharing his recipe secrets (8 p.m., Lifetime).

Justin Hartley stars in ‘The Noel Diary.’

The Noel Diary
Justin Hartley (of This is Us fame) stars in this heart-tugging holiday film as an author who takes a Christmas trip home to settle his deceased mother’s estate, discovering in the process a diary that may hold secrets to his past (Netflix).

Criminal Minds: Evolution
An elite team of profilers is back on the case tracking twisted psychopaths in this new spinoff of the popular procedural, starring franchise all-stars Joe Mantagna, Kirsten Vangsness, Aisha Tyler and Paget Brewster (Paramount+).


Everybody loves Betty White…even kids! But White’s grownup fans especially will dig Betty White: Collector’s Edition, the new Little Golden Book bio memorializing the late Mary Tyler Moore and Golden Girls actress, animal-advocacy crusader and TV pioneer, who passed away Dec. 31, 2021.


The enduring pop career of the late, great Olivia Newton-John is celebrated in a deluxe remastered re-release of her double-platinum album Olivia Newton John’s Greatest Hits. The new two-color vinyl collectors’ edition, available exclusively at Target, features 20 tracks, including her smashes “Let Me Be There,” “I Honestly Love You,” “Please Mister Please” and “Come On Over.”

The career-spanning, 23-track Dolly Parton—Diamonds and Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection draws from the decades, as well as various record labels for which Parton recorded. Songs include performances with Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, soundtrack tunes from her films 9 to 5, Rhinestone and Dumplin’, and “When Life is Good Again,” her 2020 musical message of hope during the dark days of COVID.

Get your “Purple Haze” on with Jimi Hendrix Experience: Los Angeles Forum April 26, 1969, a recently released album featuring live remastered recordings that capture the guitar legend and his band at the height of their fame (and their flame) during a tour stop in Los Angeles. The release is timed just ahead of what would have been Hendrix’s 80th birthday on Nov. 27.

The Entertainment Forecast

Nov. 4 – Nov. 10

Top picks for TV, new books & just-released music & more!

Harry Styles is cop, George Lopez returns & Say Hey, It’s Willie Mays!

Harry Styles and Emma Corman star in a tale of forbidden love.

FRIDAY, Nov. 4
My Policeman
Singer-actor Harry Styles stars as a cop who undertakes an emotional journey in this story of forbidden love and changing social norms set in 1950s Britain. With Emma Corrin and David Dawson (Prime Video).

Lopez Vs. Lopez
George Lopez returns to TV in this new working-class inter-generational comedy costarring his daughter, Mayan Lopez (NBC).

Merry Swissmas
Jodi Sweetin (from TV’s Fuller House and its sequel) stars in this romance about romance at an inn in Switzerland, which kicks off the Lifetime’s network of Christmas-themed flicks (8 p.m., Lifetime).

SUNDAY, Nov. 6
Dangerous Liasons
New “prelude” to the 18th century literary classic focuses on the origins of the iconic characters, the Marquise de Merteuil (Nicholas Denton) and the Vicomte de Valmont (Alice Englert) meeting as passionate lovers in Paris on the eve of the French Revolution (Starz streaming service).

MONDAY, Nov. 7
One Delicious Christmas
Real-life celebrity chef Bobby Flay stars in this streaming holiday movie about a stressed Vermont restaurant and inn owner (Vanessa Marano) preparing for a big Christmas Eve dinner (Discover+).

Hey, Willie Mays!
Sports doc examines the career and the legacy of the Baseball Hall of Famer, whose achievements on the diamond during the era of Civil Rights helped break through the game’s longstanding color barriers (9 p.m., HBO).

CMA Awards
Country hitmaker Luke Bryan—a two-time CMA Entertainer of the Year—and football superstar Peyton Manning host this 59th annual awarding of the year’s top tunes, performers and collaborations (8 p.m., ABC).

The English
Emily Blunt stars in this new drama series as an aristocratic British woman on the American frontier, whose life intertwines with a Pawnee ex-U.S. Calvary scout (Chaske Spencer) on a violent landscape built of dreams, destiny and blood (Prime Video).


Actor Luke Evans has appeared in a slate of films, including Clash of the Titans, Dracula Unchained, The Hobbit and Beauty and the Beast. But did you know he was a singer? Check out his impressive debut album, A Song for You, with a slate of classics, easy listening tunes and Christmas chestnuts that features a duet with Nicole Kidman, his costar when they costarred in the hit Hulu series Nine Perfect Strangers.


Attention, Royals fans. Put together a meal fit for a king with Christmas at the Palace (Wheldon Owen), a crown-worthy cookbook for 50 festive recipes, gorgeously posed in charming Christmas settings. Author Carolyn Robb certainly knows her stuff: She spent over a decade in Kensington Palace as a royal chef, where the dining room was peopled by Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Get Back

Lily James & Himesh Patel Imagine There’s No Beatles

Film Title:  YesterdayYesterday
Starring Himesh Patel & Lily James
Directed by Danny Boyle

A struggling musician gets his big break when a freak accident bestows him with a cache of musical gold in this magical mystery tour from the director of Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting and 127 Hours.

In Yesterday, Himesh Patel plays Jack Malik, a young Indian-British singer-songwriter who’s been slogging it out for years, singing his tunes on street corners, in coffeehouses and hotel bars. With his dreams of success quietly fading away, he finally tells his faithful manager, Ellie (Lily James), his schoolmate chum who’s now a schoolteacher, that he’s had enough.

Film Title:  Yesterday

Himesh Patel with Lily James

“It’ll take a miracle” to make his career happen now, Jack says. “We’re at the end of our long and winding road.”

That very night, Jack gets his miracle. He collides with a bus while riding his bicycle home—at the very moment of a mysterious, 12-second worldwide blackout, a glitch in the global power grid. When he wakes up in the hospital, he’s mostly OK, but the world is a bit askew: Nobody except him remembers a group called the Beatles, or any of their songs.

Can you imagine? A world that never knew “I Want to Hold Your Hand”? That never swooned to “Something”? Or grooved to “I Saw Her Standing There”?

The blackout has somehow given the entire planet a very specific, very weird musical amnesia—and Jack apparently dodged the Beatles bullet because he was conked out by the collision. It’s as if all those songs by John, Paul, George and Ringo never existed. (There are a few other quirks, too, which Jack will eventually discover, involving a certain globally popular soft drink, the tobacco industry and at least one character in one blockbuster book-to-movie franchise.)

Jack realizes the Fab Four’s vast catalog of already-hits could be a surefire way to reignite his sputtering career. So he starts performing Beatles’ tunes, passing them off as his own, and becomes a megastar.

And no one’s the wiser…at least for a while.

British director Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Directing) in 2009, was about another young man—from the slums of Mumbai, India—with an improbable, life-changing, rags-to-riches story. In Yesterday, Boyle sets up a fanciful, almost fairytale-like scenario, inventively digs into one of richest musical treasure troves of all time, and shapes it around a crowd-pleasing story fashioned by screenwriter Richard Curtis, the maestro of British rom-coms (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’ Diary, Love Actually, About Time).

Film Title:  Yesterday

Ed Sheeran plays himself.

As Jack’s fame increases to mind-boggling proportions, performing Beatles songs like “Let It Be,” “Yesterday,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “All You Need is Love” and passing them off as his own, so does his guilt as a fraud and an imposter. He gets a major-label recording deal, relocates from Liverpool to L.A., tours with Ed Sheeran (who plays himself) and gets a steely manager (Kate McKinnon) who promises him the “great and glorious poisoned chalice of money and fame.”

Will Jack come clean about the songs that have made him a superstar? Will he change “Hey Jude” to “Hey Dude,” at Ed Sheeran’s suggestion? Will he finally realize that there’s someone back in England who’s loved him all these years—and that he’s loved her, too?

The “rom” in this rom-com is in good hands with Patel (a former star of the long-running BBC soap EastEnders, here making his movie debut) and James, whose numerous credits include TV’s Downton Abbey and the movies Cinderella, Baby Driver and Mama Mia! Here We Go Again. They make a great, believable couple, and you yearn for the “long and winding road” to lead their characters into a happy intersection.

The “com” is in ample supply as well. Joel Fry provides a lot of chuckles as Rocky, Jack’s unkempt but enthusiastic roadie. McKinnon brings her precision, chameleon-like Saturday Night Live satirical chops to her role as an icily efficient music-biz insider whose words both soothe and slice. A mega-marketing meeting finds Jack’s ideas for album titles and designs, based on actual Beatles releases, somewhat lacking—the “White Album” has “diversity issues,” Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is “a lot of words” and Abbey Road is “just a road.”

Film Title:  Yesterday

But Himesh can really sing, putting his capable voice to some 15 Beatles classics, and the movie versions of these familiar tunes—and the way the film shows modern-day audiences going gaga over them—are testaments to the timelessness of the iconic music. The words of “In My Life,” from 1965, reach deep into Ellie’s heart, no matter that they’re more than half a century old. Kids in Russia rock out to “Back in the U.S.S.R.” like it was written just for them. When Jack belts out a punk-rock version of “Help!” from a rooftop stage, the pulsating audience below doesn’t know he’s miserable and singing it as a plea for help—just like John Lennon was when he wrote it.

It’s hard to imagine a world that didn’t grow up with the Beatles, but Yesterday lovingly, respectfully resets the stage of pop culture and does just that, giving us something sweet and charming and fun in exchange—this adorable Brit-centric romantic fantasy romp set in a rock ’n’ roll alt-reality where their music lives anew, life goes on—ob-la-di, ob-la-da—and maybe all you need is love, after all.

In theaters June 28, 2019

Rock Show

Rami Malek Rules Royally Rockin’ Queen Biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’


Bohemian Rhapsody
Starring Rami Malek, Gwilyn Lee, Ben Hardy, Lucy Boynton & Allen Leach
Directed by Bryan Singer

“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together, playing for the other misfits hanging together in the back of the room,” explains Freddie Mercury to a record company exec in an early scene of this royally rockin’ biopic about the British band Queen.

As we see, the “rooms” Queen played got bigger and bigger, as the band became one of the most successful, acclaimed arena acts in the world—and Mercury became the most flamboyant, theatrical, front-man “misfit” in all of rock music.

Rami Malek, the Emmy-winning star of TV’s Mr. Robot, pops in a set of prosthetic teeth to play Freddie, who is clearly the star of this show as well. To cop a line from one of Queen’s hit songs, he…will, he…will…rock you!


Malek with Gwilyn Lee as Queen bandmate Brian May.

Bohemian Rhapsody, titled after the group’s epic, progressive, majestic, multi-layered sonic soufflé from their 1975 album A Night at the Opera, traces Mercury’s timeline from the early 1970s, when he first met the other musicians who would become his band mates.

In an alley outside a London club where he’s just watched them perform, Freddie convinces guitarist Brian May (Gwilyn Lee) and drummer Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy) to let him replace the recently booted lead singer in their band, Smile, dazzling them with a quick vocal audition. “I was born with four additional incisors in my mouth,” he explains. “More space means more range.”

Mercury’s impressive range becomes a movie metaphor for the expansive effect he has on the group—he changes their name to the universally regal-sounding Queen and widens their horizons to a recording contract, international touring and worldwide hit records. He transforms them into a band that doesn’t sound like any other band anywhere, at any time, a unique performing and recording ensemble that doesn’t fit into anyone’s idea of a rock group, a pop act or anything else.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODYHe tells the head of a record company that Queen wants to make “a musical experience rather than just another record.”

Mercury loved entertaining, experimenting in the studio, and living with his cats—and he loved other men, a fact that he discretely kept secret from the public. The movie is delicate—although direct—about how it addresses this part of his life (and lifestyle), even as it becomes the thing that leads to his eventual death from complications due to AIDS, in 1991.

The film is dramatically bookended by the band’s triumphant reunion appearance at the Live Aid charity event in 1985, culminating in a monumental, masterful, moving recreation of the concert at London’s Wembley Stadium, where Queen performed their greatest hits in front of a rapturous crowd of more than 70,000 people. It was watched worldwide on television by an audience estimated to be nearly 2 billion, the biggest ever for a TV event, much less a rock show.


You likely know some, or perhaps even a good deal, of Queen’s music. You may even be a super-fan who knows a lot about the band itself. But you’ve probably never been where this movie takes you, particularly as it depicts the home life of teenage Freddie as he was “becoming” Mercury. Before that, he was Farrokh Belsara, the son of Parsee Indian parents who had immigrated to London after a revolution. One of the film’s most emotional parts is Freddie’s relationship with his father, who disapproves of his musical career—and his homosexuality—and who tells his son his mantra should be “good thoughts, good words, good deeds.”

And you may not know about Mercury’s romantic relationship with his early girlfriend, Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton). Their enduring bond, even beyond heartache and heartbreak, stirs one of the movie’s most tender undercurrents.

Allen Leach (he was Tom Branson on Downton Abbey) plays Paul Prenter, Mercury’s duplicitous manager. A truly delicious treat is the inside joke of casting Mike Myers as a flummoxed record exec who can’t see why his label should release “a six-minute quasi-operatic dirge” when the band brings him their latest project, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” One of Myers’ best known comedic bits, of course, is the scene in his movie Wayne’s World where his character rocks out to that very song.

Director Bryan Singer layers on the musical detail, and a parade of characters. (Queen’s bass player, John Deacon, capably played by Joseph Mazzello, unfortunately seems to disappear into the much more colorful swirl all around him.) Aaron McCusker, who played astronaut Wally Schirra in the 2015 TV series The Astronaut Wives Club, portrays Jim Hutton, Mercury’s life-mate and partner during the final seven years of Freddie’s life.

It’s a kick watching recreations of the band’s classic hits germinate and blossom, in the studio or on a piano bench, from the stomp-stomp-clap of “We Will Rock You” to the experimental rehearsal noodlings that eventually coalesce into the funky “Another One Bites the Dust.” An everything-but-the-kitchen-sink studio session—an amp swinging through the air on a rope, loose coins buzzing on a timpani head, a tambourine inside a piano—hints at how far the band wanted to push the norms of conventional pop music.

And Mercury’s rousing “Day-Oh!” chant, which could captivate massive arena crowds, also becomes shorthand for a much more private, poignant personal moment.

BH-1-72Malek struts like a peacock through Mercury’s constantly churning fashion evolution, from skintight catsuits to leather military jackets, glittery glam-rock capes and finally the iconic white tank top he wore at Live Aid. His immersive acting—and the grand, sweeping arc of the story—is the kind of thing that makes Oscar voters perk up, take notice and dole out little golden men.

He doesn’t do his own singing—what you hear coming out of Malek’s toothy mouth is a combination of Marc Martel, a professional Queen tribute singer, and actual Mercury tracks isolated from Queen master recordings. But the illusion, and the performance, are perfect, Hollywood movie-music magic at its finest. Close your eyes for a moment—but just a moment, because there’s so much to see—and it’s almost impossible to detect the difference, to convince yourself that what you’re hearing, and seeing, is really a quasi-Queen with a faux Freddie.

And at the center of it all, at the apex of this magnificent, music-packed movie tribute, is Malek. His remarkable, spellbinding performance reminds us of what we had, what was lost, and of the band, the songs and the singer who once made the whole world sing and clap and stomp along.

“We are the champions,” Mercury and Queen sang. And yes, day-oh, they were.

In theaters Nov. 2, 2018

The Gangsta Life

‘Straight Outta Compton’ tells the ‘real’ N.W.A. story

Straight Outta Compton

Aldis Hodge (MC Ren), Neil Brown Jr. (DJ Yella), Corey Hawkins (Dr. Dre), Jason MItchell (Eazy-E) and O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube) star in ‘Straight Outta Compton.’


Straight Outta Compton

Starring O’Shea Jackson, Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins & Paul Giamatti

Directed by F. Gary Grey


Spawned from the mean streets of Compton, Calif., in the late 1980s, the controversial original “gangsta rap” act N.W.A. sent shock waves across America and spawned a commercial empire.

Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren created tough, provocative, dangerous-sounding music that modeled and mirrored the harsh realities of their time and place: drugs, crime, violence, racial discrimination, police brutality. How dangerous-sounding? Well, even their name had to be muzzled (the letters stood for Niggaz With Attitude), and one of their most “popular” songs, “F— the Police,” caught the attention of the FBI.

Straight Outta Compton

Hassled by police outside a recording studio.

N.W.A.’s rags-to-riches rise from the “ghetto” of southern Los Angeles County to the top of the music world is a classic tale of ambition, vindication and escape. Their crash-and-burn breakup—into angry bits of bruised egos, bad decisions and broken, betrayed friendships—was the fractured flip side to a decade of high living, heavy partying and the huge sprawl of the musical juggernaut they’d built from scratch.

Straight Outta Compton captures that—much of it, anyway. The beats are fly, the story is nitty-gritty and the timing is spot-on, with the movie’s release coming at a moment in time when a growing movement in America pushes back, once again, against police violence against unarmed blacks.

A young cast of newcomers does a fine job portraying the group. O’Shea Jackson Jr., the son of real-life rapper Ice Cube, plays his own father, and he certainly looks the part—he’s almost a perfect clone. Jason Mitchell is electrifying as Eazy-E, the diminutive, street-hustling, dope-peddling “investor” who became the frontman of N.W.A. after hooking up with Cube and production wizard Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins).

The two other members, DJ Yella (Neil Brown Jr.) and MC Ren (Aldis Hodge), are relegated to the sidelines, however. Maybe that’s because executive producers Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the wife of the late Eazy-E were more interested in telling “their” story.


Paul Giamatti

Paul Giamatti’s towering white swoop of a hairpiece competes for attention in his role as Jerry Heller, the manager who steered the group to stardom—and into a crooked contractual labyrinth that eventually split them apart.

The movie credits N.W.A. as the architects of hardcore, “real” street rap. But it doesn’t depict them as saints: They spew profanity, take drugs, sling guns and indulge in the orgiastic excesses that you might expect of cocky young rock gods. There are moments of humor to lighten some of the heavier moods. At two and a half hours, it gets a bit overloaded in the final stretch with plot offshoots and cameo appearances by characters playing rappers Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur and record producer “Suge” Knight, depicted by the film as a bullying, brutish thug.

But in its recreations of live performances or studio sessions, and in other moments when its explosive songs kick it, the movie really comes alive, reminding us of just how shocking, raw and impactive N.W.A.’s music was 25 years ago—and how powerfully it echoes even today.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Good Vibrations

Paul Dano, John Cusack share role of Beach Boy Brian Wilson


Love & Mercy

Starring Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks & Paul Giamatti

Directed by Bill Pohlad


The Beach Boys and their songs about surf, sand, hot rods and girls represented West Coast light, life, fun and frolic in the 1960s. But the story “behind the music” had darker undertones, especially when it came to the group’s leader, Brian Wilson.

This trippy, time-tunnel dramatization of Wilson’s troubled, tortured musical genius bridges two different eras, 20 years apart, with powerful performances and mesmerizing filmmaking that recreates pivotal Beach Boys moments along with other, lesser-known incidents in Wilson’s life long after the group’s heyday.


Paul Dano as ’60s-era Brian Wilson.

The movie’s most striking feature is its use of two different actors to portray its central character. As younger Brain, Paul Dano is nothing short of phenomenal in an Oscar-worthy performance that captures and channels the drive, innocence, obsession and brilliance that coalesced into the 1960s Beach Boys album Pet Sounds.

The movie toggles back and forth between Dano’s Brian and “later” Brian, movingly played by John Cusack as a shattered shell of man in the mid 1980s, imprisoned in a toxic relationship with a greedy, manipulative therapist (Paul Giamatti) who over-medicates him into a stupor and bars him from contact with his family.


Elizabeth Banks and John Cusack

Elizabeth Banks is terrific as titanium blonde Melinda Ledbetter, the Cadillac saleswoman who comes into Wilson’s life in 1985, falls in love with him—and leads the charge for his deliverance.

The movie takes its title from a 1988 solo song by Wilson, and if you want to hear it, you’ll need to stay through the credits. It’s well worth the wait.

Although the relationship between Brian and Melinda puts much of the dramatic spotlight on Cusack, Banks and Giamatti, it’s Dano who steals the show. Composing songs at a piano, singing on stage, tinkering in the studio or simply feeling his head swell with a symphony of swirling music that only he can hear (kudos to Oscar-winning composer Atticus Ross for his mood-perfect soundscapes), he conveys the sophisticated scope of Wilson’s prodigious talents, the heartbreak of his tumultuous relationship with his abusive father (Bill Camp) and the fissures that would later lead to full-blown mental and physical breakdowns.

“Who are you, Mozart?” Mike Love (Jake Abel) of the group asks Wilson as he seethes over Wilson taking more and more creative control—and leaving the rest of the Beach Boys on the sidelines. “It’s like you’re making your own record—we’re barely a part of the Brian Wilson band.”


Beach Boys fans will love director Bill Pohlad’s almost documentary-style recreation of the group’s early promotional videos, album-cover photo shoots and TV performances. Sequences that depict Wilson in the recording studio, working with session players and band mates on what would become the 1966 pop-opus masterpiece Pet Sounds, feel like stolen, behind-the-scenes glimpses of the real thing.

But even more casual viewers will be touched by the romance at the heart of the tale, riveted by the acting, retro-grooved by the tunes, and entranced by the opportunity to learn more about a wounded pop-music Mozart who finally, fatefully found the Love & Mercy that healed him.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Second Verse

Tuneful reprise picks up a cappella tale, reunites cast

Pitch Perfect 2

Pitch Perfect

Starring Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson & Hailee Steinfield

Directed by Elizabeth Banks


A musical comedy that costs under $20 million to make and racks up more than three times that much at the box office will likely get another chance to sing.

That’s exactly the case with Pitch Perfect 2, a tune-filled reprise of the its 2012 predecessor that picks up the tale of a fictional all-female collegiate a cappella group, the Bellas, and reunites almost of all of the original cast (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Brittany Snow, Skylar Austin, Adam Devine, Anna Camp, Ben Platt and Ester Dean).

Pitch Perfect 2

Das Sound Machine

This time, the Bellas are headed to a world championship sing-off against new rivals, an über-haughy German group called Das Sound Machine. But a major wardrobe oopsy during a performance attended by Present Obama and the First Lady has caused a serious kerfluffle, throwing off the Bellas’ musical mojo. And their senior member, Beca (Kendrick), is ready to move on to life beyond the group.

Forget—and forgive—that most of the actors and actresses (playing college coeds) are pushing 30, or just beyond it. Don’t worry that the plot is a shoestring of jokes and songs stretched 10 to 15 minutes longer than it really needed to be. Let slide the fact that Wilson’s roly-poly character, Fat Amy, would never be called that name by any group of good friends—unless it’s in a movie like this one.

Pitch Perfect 2

Hailee Steinfield

Pooh to all that, because Pitch Perfect 2 just wants to make you laugh—which it certainly does—in between silly cooing about the bonds of sisterhood and the awkwardness of young love. The jokes fly fast and flip, and the humor gets spread throughout the big cast, which includes Hailee Steinfield, who plays a fresh-faced Bella newcomer; Keegan-Michael Key, of the Comedy Central sketch show Key and Peele, as a cocky music producer; and rapper Snoop Dogg, who gets laughs just as himself, singing Christmas carols. (Also watch for Katey Segal; Comedy Bang Bang’s Reggie Watts, bandleader for The Late Late Show with James Cordon; and members of the Green Bay Packers, riffing on Beyoncé’s “Bootylicious.”) Of the returning cast, Wilson, in particular, steals every scene in which she appears, and the writers know it, giving her optimum setups, plum punch lines and plenty of room to improvise.

Pitch Perfect 2

John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks

Some of the funniest bits, however, belong to John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks, who play the commentators covering the various singing competitions at which the Bellas appear. Higgins’ character’s snarky, sexist, racist observations may be politically incorrect, but they strike comedy gold.

The real “star” of the show, however, is its director. Making her feature debut behind the camera, Elizabeth Banks joins a very exclusive club—alongside Angelina Jolie and Jodie Foster—of actresses who’ve moved successfully into an almost wholly male-dominated domain, taken control of a major motion picture and made all the pieces fit—and work—together. Bravo, Ms. Banks!

It’s not quite as fresh as the original, but Pitch Perfect 2 is still a bright, light, fem-centric frolic of music and goofy fun for anyone who likes their laughter with a peppy soundtrack of razzle-dazzle a ca-showmanship.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Moving Pictures

A spectrum of boundary-crossing music photography

 Danny Clinch_Still Moving

Danny Clinch:

Still Moving

By Danny Clinch

Hardcover, 296 pages, $50 (Abrams)


Clinch, a preeminent music photographer and Grammy Award-nominated documentary film director, has used his camera to chronicle a spectrum of popular performers in both explosive performances and during reflective private moments for Rolling Stone, SPIN, Vanity Fair, Esquire, GQ and other publications. This handsome collection of his work—with a title taken from a Willie Nelson song and featuring powerful portraits as well as more photojournalistic, fly-on-the-wall shots of a Who’s Who of boundary-crossing rock, country, blues, hip-hop and soul performers—is a visual feast for music lovers of all kinds.


—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Cool Cat Daddy

Sammy Davis Jr. bio has daughter’s personal touch

SammyCVR1_Layout 1

Sammy Davis Jr.—A Personal Journey With My Father

By Tracey Davis

Hardcover, 208 pages, $30 (Running Press)

Fans of the Rat Pack will enjoy this poignant, personal memoir, accompanied by a wealth of rare photos, from Davis’ only daughter with Swedish actress May Britt, who traces her father’s remarkable life and career at home and in Hollywood across six decades, in more than 20 movies, on more than 40 record albums, in seven Broadway shows—and in millions of American living rooms as a black entertainer on TV who broke the “color barrier” for many others who would follow. It’s often hard to define “cool,” but Sammy Davis Jr., baby, he had it, in every way, from every angle. He was it.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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