Posts tagged: Phil

Movie review: Wagonmasters

By , August 4, 2015


This is a super enjoyable 40 minute PBS documentary (not including the voluminous and very worthwhile bonus features) celebrating the rise and fall and ongoing club-like passion for the American station wagon.

So well made and absorbing, this documentary features glimpses of restored vintage wagons, woodies, surfer culture, award shows (one in a bowling ally parking lot, of course) and much more.

Cool graphics, vintage ads “The family car” and good interviews are interspersed with quality material from historians and the likes of the president of the American Station Wagon Owner’s Association to really bring the love alive for these cars. Whether it be a ’53 Mercury Colony Park, a ’56 Chevy Bel Aire,  a ’61 Chrysler New Yorker or a venerable ’73 Chevy Impala all the bases and more are covered.

“Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, the wagon” says one enthusiast, emphasizing this cars’ link back to more innocent times (the last production run was ’96, apparently).  Maybe they’ll be a comeback, but for many – they never left!

A truly outstanding, delightful documentary film – highly recommended.



Movie review: Crafting a Nation One Craft Beer at a Time

By , March 30, 2015

bookcoverIE2652RI Crafting a Nation One Craft Beer at a Time

I really enjoyed this well shot documentary featuring several craft beer operations in cities like Denver,  Asheville and Saint Louis (in the shadow of Anheuser Busch, no less) as well as other locations in California, Texas, Minnesota and Delaware. It’s a visually appealing film, informative and sometimes down right inspirational – the entrepreneurial/American Dream in action!

The Asheville breweries (and there are many!) emphasize relying on using home grown ingredients and sources like the French Broad River, resulting in some wonderful, unique and seasonal brews. Of course, microbreweries have really proliferated over the last decade or so but it was noted that American consumers still go for the major brands and the little guys cut and scrape for about 5% of the market share.  But what an interesting and unique segment that is!

Also well depicted is the spirit, hard work and commitment shown by these brewers, often expanded family run operations.  The nervous run up to the opening of the Black Shirt Brewery  in Denver was particularly memorable after so much work (getting  codes approval, piping issues, construction work). It was also interesting to hear occasional commentary from the owner of one of the pioneering microbreweries – Anchor Steam in San Francisco as well as insights from Moonlight’s Brian Hunt.  The film does jump around a bit but it’s all good and worth watching for sure.

So next time you mix up a pack of unique beers at Kroger or down your favorite ale at Blackstone’s,  give a cheer to the dedicated, passionate folks who worked so hard to make it happen for us lucky consumers!



Sound City

By , January 18, 2015

SoundCityThis gem can be found on Hoopla and is certainly worth watching. If you read the recent Rolling Stone cover story  (December 4, 2014 – available via Zinio!) on Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters (and of course, former Nirvana member) you know he’s an intensely busy guy and that he loves the history and uniqueness of American recording studios.

Grohl produced and directed this full length documentary on the Van Nuys, California landmark, Sound City in 2013. It will have to hold me over until I can view, somehow, Sonic Highways, the eight part HBO music studio/city travelogue series he recently completed.

Sound City Studios and its legendary Neve sound mixing console saw numerous excellent bands and recordings throughout the seventies and into the nineties (a modern highpoint being Nirvana’s Nevermind) and beyond until the digital age/Pro Tools and other changes affected it’s ultimate demise in 2011. From Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedos, Hard Promises (and others) to  recordings by Rick Springfield (you’ll learn more about his famous dog too), War, Cheap Trick, Johnny Cash and many others this place reveled in a no frills / do it live ethos that resulted in some truly solid recordings. Was it the room dynamics that lead to the terrific and much sought after drum sound? Or a combination of magic and luck…

The film is a flowing trip of first hand recollections, great footage, interviews with musicians and those that worked there or helped make the recordings – Butch Vig, Ric Reuben among them along with Grohl’s own animated appearances. Find out what eventually happened to the legendary sound board, see Stevie Nicks laying down vocals with the Foo Fighters and Paul McCartney jamming on what appears to be an electric cigar box guitar! Great stuff.


Sound City

Movie review: Enough Said

By , September 30, 2014

Enough Said_ Enough Said

This is a smart, funny and very enjoyable movie featuring the late, great James Gandolfini in a role you may not be accustomed to given his preeminence as Tony Soprano.  He plays Albert, a sweet divorced man whose ex-wife, Marianne, befriends Eva, played by Julia Louise-Dreyfus (of course, well known from Seinfeld, New Adventures of Old Christine and recently star of HBO’s Veep).

Eva, a travelling masseusse, begins a relationship with Albert and their woman in common leads to all sorts of plot twists where shared information creates uncomfortably real and thought provoking situations.  What to reveal; When?  Who knows what?  Can we go on like this and become an honest couple based on our true feelings for each other?

Definitely a charming, romantic situational comedy worth watching with excellent acting all around and lots to recommend it.





Music review: Bob Mould – Life and Times

By , July 29, 2014

 Bob Mould – Life and times

A tremendous, thoughtful, tuneful, just over 36 minute work by Bob Mould – full of bittersweet, longing and often melodic tunes.  I find myself letting it immediately play over in the car as the music washes over me in a comforting way during a somewhat stressful time.

Of course for those of you who remember or dug the mid ’80s independent force Husker Du provided – along with the Minutemen from San Pedro, Minneapolis’ Replacements and the Meat Puppets in their Heyday will know Bob once fronted (and thankfully didn’t blow out his vocal chords!) that seminal band.  Then went on to form Sugar (Copper Blue a highwater mark) and has since put out several generally very impressive recordings.

This one has great songs from the beginning with the title track followed by “The Breach” - a great opening one-two.  I find myself really enjoying snippets of lyrics and the overall, forward blasting yet melodic feel of this recording throughout.  “Mile Marker 17″ is another  gem as is the memorable “I’m Sorry, Baby, You Can’t Stand in my Light Any More”.  The credits: Bob Mould, vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, keyboards, programming; with Jon Wurster, drums. (and very good drumming I might add).  Mr. Mould’s guitar playing is stellar and instantly recognizable as being “his sound” throughout this recording. Great indeed.

Bob has written an autobiography a couple years after this was released (in 2009) and has dealt with a lot of painful issues including the loss of his father and addresses some personal demons here so it’s an emotionally charged album for sure.   The past and present is refracted  through a prism of reality, reconciliation and the need to move forward again. Many well thought out lyrics abound when you can get them…

Also available through Hoopla so check it out or stream it; you won’t regret it.


Book review: The Secrets of Lost Cats

By , April 29, 2014

The Secrets of Lost Cats – One Woman, Twenty Posters, and a New Understanding of Love by Dr. Nancy Davidson

I found this an intriguing book filled with humor, insight, compassion and direction from cat owner and self styled Nancy Drew sleuth, Dr. Nancy Davidson. Part handwriting analyst, part urban detective and part animal psychologist - she can really put things together pretty quickly!

A practicing couples therapist who works in New York (and LA) and resided in New Haven while writing this, Dr. Davidson had a bit of an obsession with finding out everything possible behind the owners and creators of some 20 odd lost cat posters. She would even carry out her missions while on vacation trips.

There is Broadway Lucy, lost in Manhattan, Maddy, the Blue Sky Leather Shop cat (Montana), Zak (her own big orange tabby) and even a couple out of the U.S. cats -  Amsterdam Sam and Spanish Snoopy who Nancy investigates.  Sometimes a story unfolds and she is able to meet the owner and offer some level of direction or comfort or maybe is just able to satisfy her own relentless investigative drive.

A humorous and rewarding book on many levels which thankfully includes a picture of each poster, this is a collection of short stories woven together by some larger themes and issues pertinent to her own life.  In the end, Dr. Nancy provides a multifaceted look at the deep bonds, interrupted, between cat owners and their beloved feline friends.



Book review: A Supremely Bad Idea

By , February 12, 2014

 A Supremely Bad Idea – Three Mad Birders and their Quest to See it All  by Luke Dempsey

I’ve been reading several books in the birding genre lately and this one stood out as a very thorough and humorous travelogue with some real insights to what can transpire over a “big year”.

The author, a self-depricating but slightly combative Brit joins forces with two veteran birders and they truly cover a lot of ground in search of such rarely seen birds as the elegant trogon.

The book is nicely divided by their itineraries which include home base Central Park and North East environs, Arizona, Florida, Michigan, the Pacific Northwest, Texas and Colorado with a jaunt by Don and Donna to Costa Rica.  Luke also interweaves his personal family memories and situations in the brief  “Now What?” chapters between mad birding adventures.

The three make for quite a team with humorous jousting among them a constant.  Each is certainly a colorful quirky character and I often found myself laughing out loud at some of what they got into.  The author (self dubbed Small Injustice Man) never one to shy away from a minor skirmish at a cheap motel, really brings us into their world.  Many memorable passages and situations have stayed in my mind long after I put this on my read shelf.

Great book – funny, insightful and it includes some terrific photos!


Book review: The Secret Race

By , November 20, 2013

The Secret Race  Inside the Hidden World of Tour de France; Doping , Cover-ups, and Winning at All Costs by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle

This may be the best, most truthful book about bike racing (and trying to maintain that edge) at the highest level I’ve ever read. I was a close follower of the Tour de France and other major cycling races for many years; a fan of Armstrong and admirer of those that showed gritty determination in their roles, like Hamilton. I always enjoyed the frequently over the top coverage provided by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin documenting the annual July madness in France. This book is really a cathartic, detail filled expose full of the  background and situations that puts all of this in a believable perspective while pulling no punches and sparing nobody.  Tyler Hamilton may not have won any friends here but may  have even one-upped Andre Agassi’s Open as the ultimate hero admits all biography, in a sense.

Many top cyclists, including Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and  others were popped for various doping violations and banned substance use in the ’90′s and beyond, and their situations are all detailed here.  Bjarne Riis, the great Dane with the (now revealed) frighteningly high hemocrit level of 64 in ’96 is lucky to be have lived through that (I remember his crazed surge up one mountaintop finish to seal his win, wearing a truly wild look of determination). And later, who can forget the bike throw?!  Not normal.

Of course, the elephant in the peloton and the major performance enhancing orchestrator throughout his US Postal Service/Discovery Channel years (and before!) is Lance Armstrong. I’ve now lost  all admiration for him; his bullying, lying, coercing and covering up ways undermined his determination and skill he displayed racing. Winning at all costs, for sure. These years are documented quite well here from someone who had a lot to lose at the time and with an inside perspective in riding support for Armstrong’s teams for several years. (And later under the helm of Riis at CSC beginning in 2001 - interesting times.)

More than a sordid tale of cyclists using EPO, timed blood transfusions with bags provided by their “sports doctors” and other unethical practices, this book is one person’s (who lost his Olympic gold medal to a positive test) successful attempt to finally and completely come clean. Well written with some humorous depictions to temper the otherwise matter of fact tone, Hamilton (and well known cycling author Coyne) takes you inside and behind the scenes revealing what many suspected for years. Yes, “Dopers suck” but there is also a more tenuous human side to these decisions counterbalancing the seemingly ingrained doping practices in pro cycling which Hamilton takes pains in revealing.

Docked a “star” (it’s still a solid 4!)  for no pictures – C’mon Tyler – how about one of “the look?”


Movie review: Bicycle Dreams

By , September 5, 2013


Bicycle Dreams  This is an emotionally absorbing and sometimes wrenching documentary film chronicling several “racers” and their support crews trying to finish the insanely difficult 3000 mile Race Across America (RAAM) in 2005.

That year they started in San Diego and attempted to reach Atlantic City, New Jersey in under 12 days.  Think about staying on a bike for upwards of 300 miles a day when sleep deprivation battles sheer willpower, and the ability to lose your ego and yourself in this monumentally challenging  ultra endurance event. Imagine riding up major mountain passes in Colorado, cycling through scorching flatlands and chilly nights to make set time checks or risk disqualification, while your body and mind are screaming “No more!”

You’ll pass through some amazing scenery but will mainly feel the ups and downs of the  personalities involved here.  Some want to quit but their support crew members convince them to pedal on. Others pay the ultimate sacrifice.  Great access to inside personnel and the riders’ motivations.  Winner of several film festivals, this is a very memorable and well shot film.

I dedicate this review to the memory of  Dr. Bob Breedlove.  “Another Day in paradise” was his mantra as he exhibited  true spirit and self effacing accomplishment while supporting and inspiring others along the way.

For more information on RAAM (including records, routes and sign ups) visit (By the way, the record for solo men was set this year – 2962 miles in 7 days, 22 hrs and 11 minutes!)


Movie review: The Last Mountain

By , June 5, 2013

  The Last Mountain

“Eye opening and infuriating” this 2011 Sundance Film Festival selection and NY Times Critic’s Pick is a very absorbing and well done documentary set in the  Coal River Mountain area of WV, where mountain top blast mining is causing a multitude of problems in this once pristine region.

It’s really heartbreaking that the area, so dependent and entrenched in the coal industry and their unions, is being so decimated.  Towns being flooded due to deforestation (the “replacement” of the tops blasted is a sham as is the sidestepping of safety regs by older plants run by Massey), unusually high percentages of cancer deaths in one area (directly related to polluted water care of the mining sludge) and the sometimes thrice daily blasts disturbing the peace are just a few of the problems these residents face.

Robert Kennedy Jr. has lent his time and energy (Who knew he was a NY State Falconry expert?) into rallies and events, legislation and challenges to take this area in another direction and figures in several scenes.  It’s not quite a Michael Moore piece but this film has some moments (a sit down by Kennedy with a Big Coal flunkie  in a diner for instance) that recall his work along with the relentless pursuit of the truth we saw in the excellent  Erin Brockovich, as depicted by Maria Gunnoe and other resident (and non-local) activists.

Full of facts but never boring this environmental expose has great extras and deleted scenes and is a thoroughly memorable 90 minute  trip into the coal areas we sometimes forget about and the changes that must occur, hopefully sooner than later.

I’d highly recommend this – a sleeper that certainly should be seen and one that won’t disappoint.


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