Book Review – NOT DEAD YET: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2016) by Phil Collins

Image result for phil collins not dead yetNOT DEAD YET: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY (2016) by PHIL COLLINS (2016, Century, 448pp) ∗∗∗∗∗

Phil Collins tells his life story as he would put it, “warts and all”. It is a fascintating, touching, funny and sad read showing how his dedication to his career resulted in domestic disharmony and ultimately psychological issues, alcoholism and failing health. A man who could do no wrong in the 1980s became pilloried in the 1990s, following what he terms as “Faxgate” – for which he puts the record straight here, and ultimately retreated into a form of semi-seclusion following his so-called “retirement”.

Collins has always been honest and forthright in his interviews and he is brutally honest here about his descent into depression and alcoholism over an 8-year period from 2005-2013. He is frank about how this affected those around him and he is big enough to lay the blame with no-one else but himself. He is riddled with guilt over how he put his career before his family and this is a constant theme throughout the book. It is sometimes hard to read as Collins lays bare his soul and his increased self-loathing, which obviously fuelled his near self-destruction. Fortunately he had people around him who cared enough, but it was a long hard and ugly road that has left many scars on himself and those close to him.

But the book is also balanced and is often very witty and funny.  Collins tells of his adolescent years as a child actor and his early musical influences visiting clubs like the Marquee to watch his favourite bands; a strange tale of how, as a 19-year old star-struck percussionist, he was left off George Harrison’s first post-Beatles album All Things Must Pass; his audition and early touring years with Genesis then his ascension to group singer following Peter Gabriel’s departure in 1975. He describes 1987s four-night stint at Wembley Stadium (touring Invisible Touch) as the point where Genesis hit their peak and demonstrates great affection for all his former band mates.

His divorce from his first wife, Andy, set the tone for his song-writing inspiration and led to solo success and his elevation to the pop stratoshpere. He becomes in demand from the musical good and the great (John Martyn, Eric Clapton, Robert Plant, Bob Geldof, et al) and flattered he finds it hard to refuse his friends. The result is a constant workload throughout the eighties that bred contempt from non-fans and music journalists. When his second marriage broke down in the early nineties – this time through his own infidelity – the press had a field day and this was the catalyst for Collins’ gradual withdrawal from the limelight.

Fans of Collins will likely be shocked as to how self-destructive he became in the 8-year period from 2005-2013, when he was lout of the public limelight for long periods, excepting a brief Genesis reunion, work on a Broadway production of Tarzan and his Motown covers album Going Back. It’s incredible none of his issues became public at the time – although the press had probably moved on to other targets. Non-fans may find Collins’ humility refreshing and be prepared to re-assess their views of a likeable man who undoubtedly likes to be liked and is hurt by “unwarranted” criticism. But, he is ultimately harder on himself than any of his critics.

That Collins has retained his sense of humour is encouraging and this book will undoubtedly have acted as a release for him. It is a sobering parable of how a single-minded dedication to your career will ultimately lead to unhappiness and loneliness. But there is always the hope of redemption if you are willing to see past the psychological wall and admit your failings. Collins is loved by all his children and is on good terms with two of his three ex-wives. An unwritten postscript to the book is that Collins is now reunited with Orianne, his third wife, and living a family life again,. He has also come out of retirement to tour again – on his own terms – with his son, Nic, on drums.

When I finished the book there was a sense of a story incomplete. Maybe there will be a happy ending for Collins after all – his music is being re-appraised and many modern artists have come out to say he was an influence. His fans have not deserted him and the tour sold out instantly. So, there may be a few more twists to the tale. Collins says at the outset the book is his story as he remembers it and no-one can deny it is a compelling and cautionary tale.

Film Review – CHISUM (1970)

Image result for chisum blu-rayChisum (1970; USA; Technicolor; 111m) ∗∗∗½  d. Andrew V. McLaglen; w. Andrew J. Fenady; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dominic Frontiere.  Cast: John Wayne, Forrest Tucker, Christopher George, Ben Johnson, Glenn Corbett, Bruce Cabot, Andrew Prine, Patric Knowles, Richard Jaeckel, John Agar, Lynda Day George, Pamela McMyler, Lloyd Battista, Robert Donner, Geoffrey Deuel. Cattle baron John Chisum joins forces with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett to fight the Lincoln County land war. One of the best of Wayne’s latter-day Westerns may not be historically accurate, but makes for a rousing entertainment. McLaglen directs with style and a great sense of landscape. Johnson scores as Wayne’s mumbling sidekick. [PG]

Film Review – BANANAS (1971)

Bananas (1971; USA; Colour; 82m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Mickey Rose; ph. Andrew M. Costikyan; m. Marvin Hamlisch.  Cast: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales, Miguel Angel Suarez, David Ortiz, Rene Enriquez, Jack Axelrod, Howard Cosell. When a bumbling New Yorker is dumped by his activist girlfriend, he travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion. The gags come fast and furious and as many miss the mark as hit the mark, but this is still a frequently funny satire inspired by the lunacy of the Marx Brothers and silent comedians. The “sports report” bookends of the assassination and the consummation are priceless. Watch for a very young Sylvester Stallone as a hoodlum. [15]

Phil Collins announces mini-tour in 2017

Image result for Phil Collins the singlesPhil Collins has been slowly returning to the limelight over the last year. Firstly there was the staggered re-issuing of his back catalogue with recreations of the original covers and an additional CD with rarities, B-sides and live tracks for each album. Then there was the release this week on The Singles – a collection of all the songs Collins released as 45s or CD singles. Also this week we see the publication of his autobiography, Not Dead Yet – a frank chronicle of the singer/drummer’s life told from his perspective. Finally, today it was announced that Collins would perform a mini-tour in June 2017 covering nine dates in three European cities – London, Koln and Paris.

Image result for phil collins not dead yetCollins has been doing the rounds from his formal announcement this morning, hosted by Jools Holland, to an appearance on BBC’s The One Show this evening. Further press, TV and radio interviews are also planned. Whilst he is obviously still struggling with the effects of the back surgery he had last year and its impact on his neural network, I am hoping he will have gained sufficient strength and fitness to deliver a performance at these shows. He will have a strong band and his army of fans to support him and he may even have built enough strength back in his fingers to deliver the famous drum fill to “In the Air Tonight.”

For now, it’s great to see him back and interested in performing and writing again.

Phil Collins Live

Film Review – McCLOUD (1970)

McCloud (TV) (1970; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗  d. Richard A. Colla; w. Stanford Whitmore, Richard Levinson, William Link; ph. Ben Colman; m. David Shire.  Cast: Dennis Weaver, Craig Stevens, Peter Mark Richman, Diana Muldaur, Terry Carter, Mario Alcalde, Raul Julia, Shelly Novack, Julie Newmar, Michael Bow, Nefti Millet, Kathy Stritch, Albert Popwell. A marshal from New Mexico travels to New York City to deliver a witness who is supposed to testify in a murder trial. The rather mundane plot is secondary to character introduction and the liberal use of New York locations. Weaver has plenty of charisma in the lead and the street shots are authentically captured. Pilot for the McCloud TV series (1970-77), which became part of NBC’s Mystery Movie cycle. Inspired by COOGAN’S BLUFF (1968). Syndicated sub-titles: PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GIRL and WHO KILLED MISS U.S.A.? A reunion movie THE RETURN OF SAM MCCLOUD (1989) also followed. [PG]

Book Review – FLOWER POWER (1968) by Ernest Tidyman

front-cover-scan-jpeg-2FLOWER POWER by ERNEST TIDYMAN (1968, The Paperback Library, 160pp) ∗∗∗

Blurb: Phyllis Greenfield was sweet sixteen – and never been stoned. Life was passing her by. So she ran away from her comfortable home in Cleveland, Ohio, and went to Haight-Ashbury to make the Underground Scene. There she met Furman, a young Black acid-head who wanted to be a FBI agent – or at least a member of the Hell’s Angels. Furman rechristened her “Flower” and brought her to his crash pad where she settled down to making the protest rallies with Me, a mystic love-child who took her to a swinging guru. And Signal, who caught special vibrations by making sex a mixed-media happening. And Tripper, who convinced her that LSD was the only ticket to visiting Inner Space. Flower was grooving in the switched-on life until one day the straight and the hippie worlds clashed in a battle that taught her the true meaning of FLOWER POWER!

Ernest Tidyman’s debut novel was published six months before he signed a contract with Macmillan to write Shaft. At the time, Tidyman was working as a freelance writer and magazine editor. He wanted to write a novel that would connect with the fashion of the time and so he came up with this story of a young girl exploring free-spirited communal living in the hippy culture of San Francisco.

Tidyman invests time in his characters and adds touches of humour throughout, but the story is slight at best. The book was very much of its time and many of the situations and characters will seem stereotypical today – the experimentation with drugs and sex; the Indian karma influences; the garden of home grown marijuana and the open-house approach to living. The first half of the book concentrates on Phyllis and her transformation to Flower whilst living with her small group of new friends. Once this is established the book opens up to bring in a wider group of characters including a motorbike gang, FBI agents and corrupt cops. The whole thing culminates at a party hosted by Flower and her friends where all these elements collide in true crazy sixties fashion.

Tidyman prefers an observational approach to his writing here, without getting too deeply engrossed in the politics of what these youngsters are about. indeed they all seem lost in one way or another and none of them really find their answers – they merely move on to the next adventure. Whilst this may be an accurate portrayal of the hippy movement in its free-spirited mentality of living for the now – it leaves the book’s character stories incomplete. Like the characters, the reader is left to feel they have spent time in a strange new world but then simply moved on feeling unfulfilled.

Film Review – RIO BRAVO (1959)

Image result for rio bravo blu-rayRio Bravo (1959; USA; Technicolor; 141m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Howard Hawks; w. Jules Furthman, Leigh Brackett; ph. Russell Harlan; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Ward Bond, Dean Martin, Angie Dickinson, John Russell, Ricky Nelson, Claude Akins, Bob Steele, Myron Healey, Estelita Rodriguez, Malcolm Atterbury, Yakima Canutt, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez, Bing Russell. A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy. Superb entertainment with characters you can route for and a near perfect cast. The interplay and contrast between the characters is what makes this so enjoyable. Wayne is at his stoic best as the sheriff; Martin delivers his finest performance as the recovering drunk; Brennan cackles and grumbles his way through his most memorable role as Stumpy and Dickinson oozes appeal as the girl with a past who falls for Wayne. Even Nelson gets through a slightly stiff portrayal fo a young gunslinger and has time to share a tune with Martin. Escapist cinema at its best. Based on a short story by B.H. McCampbell. More or less remade as EL DORADO (1966) and elements were also adopted in RIO LOBO (1970). Inspiration for John Carpenter’s ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976). [PG]

Film Review – DUEL (1971)

Image result for duel blu-rayDuel (TV) (1971; USA; Technicolor; 89m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Steven Spielberg; w. Richard Matheson; ph. Jack A. Marta; m. Billy Goldenberg.  Cast: Dennis Weaver, Eddie Firestone, Gene Dynarski, Tim Herbert, Jacqueline Scott, Lou Frizzell, Lucille Benson, Dale Van Sickel, Dick Whittington, Charles Seel, Alexander Lockwood, Amy Douglass, Carey Loftin, Shirley O’Hara, Shawn Steinman. A business commuter is pursued and terrorized by a malevolent driver of a massive tractor-trailer. Spielberg’s first movie sees him stretch a simple premise into a tense, nail-biting hour-and-a-half. Weaver splendidly conveys the everyman in peril. The film is edited and shot with efficiency and style. Goldenberg’s score adds to the tension as do the gutteral sounds of the truck. Matheson adapted his own short story. After airing on U.S. TV at 74m, Spielberg expanded it into a feature for release in Europe. [PG]

Film Review – THE NICE GUYS (2016)

Image result for the nice guys blu-rayNice Guys, The (2015; USA; Colour; 116m) ∗∗∗  d. Shane Black; w. Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi; ph. Philippe Rousselot; m. David Buckley, John Ottman.  Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Ty Simpkins, Jack Kilmer, Hannibal Buress. In Los Angeles in 1977, a private investigator and an unlicensed enforcer uncover a conspiracy when they team up to trace a missing young woman. Gosling and Crowe have a great chemistry and do their best with a lame script that struggles to find the balance between thrills and comedy. The result is a diverting entertainment that leaves you with the feeling it could have been so much better. [15]

TV Review – CRISIS IN SIX SCENES (2016)

Crisis in Six Scenes (TVS) (2016; USA; Colour, 6 episodes; 140m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; pr. Helen Robin; exec pr. Erika Aronson; ph. Eigil Bryld.  Cast: Woody Allen, Elaine May, Miley Cyrus, John Magaro, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Rappaport.  A comedy that takes place in the 1960’s during turbulent times in the United States and a middle class suburban family is visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down. It is basically a movie into six episodes, which admittedly each progress the plot. Whilst not amongst Allen’s strongest work, it does raise some laughs and has moments that suggest he still has much to offer – notably the scenes with May’s marriage counsellor and her clients. It’s great to see Allen in front of the camera again too and he still has his comic timing. He and May spark well, if a little tentatively at times given their age. Cyrus is okay as militant revolutionary who takes over their household, but Magaro struggles to convey the academic won over by the activist. It’s all light, frothy fun – if a little forced – with the odd telling thing to say about passive and aggressive objectors. However, it only rarely captures the spirit of the times and often seems divorced from the world it describes – which may have been deliberate on Allen’s part to suggest how distanced the characters were from world’s events – merely catching up via TV. Edited down it would make a fairly decent movie.