Review: Amy Berg’s “Janis: Little Girl Blue” Is a Well-Honed Tribute to Rock Legend Janis Joplin

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This year has been an incredibly interesting year for documentaries about women in music. First came Asif Kapadia‘s electric doc Amy about Amy Winehouse now we have Amy Berg‘s equally incredible doc Janis: Little Girl Blue. There is more in common between these two women than might meet the eye and they are really good companion pieces. Berg‘s cinematic territory for most of her career has focused on some pretty heavy shit – child molesting priests, innocent kids accused of horrific murder, mind-controlling polygamist church leaders and sex crimes perpetuated on children in Hollywood. While Janis Joplin‘s story has a fair amount of tough details, this film is something that many of her others are not, and frankly they couldn’t be because of the subject matter – celebratory. This is a film that, despite the shitty elements of her life, celebrates the legacy left behind by an incredibly dynamic woman and performer, one the represented the time in which she lived as well as any.

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What Berg gives us is a fairly conventional documentary, flush with testimonials from the people that knew Joplin from her early days in Texas spanning to her time in San Francisco to her eventual blossoming into the female powerhouse voice of a generation. Her trials and tribulations as a young girl looking for that one thing that could make her stand out and get her out of small-town Texas on to something bigger occupy a great deal of this film, although Berg doesn’t skimp on the details when she began to hit it big, first with Big Brother and Holding Company and then when she went solo. And what we see is the incredibly vulnerable young woman who even at the height of her fame doubted whether she was worthy of it all. She sought refuge with different men, but also with illicit drugs and especially booze. The film builds to the inevitable end of Joplin‘s death at 27 (like so many incredible musicians of her own time, but incidentally the same as Winehouse).

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Berg draws so perfectly from home video and archival interview footage to help Joplin speak for herself throughout the film. What may well be the truest stroke of genius in the film, though, is that Berg slowly but surely removes the talking head interviews throughout the film until we are left with just people speaking in voiceover, if any at all, with footage of Janis. Ultimately, Berg lets the footage act as Janis’ voice and this really captures the essence of what I expect she was all about. While I’ve stated that this is fairly conventional documentary with a linear telling of Joplin‘s tale, that doesn’t make it any less impactful. Another deft move was having Chan Marshall aka Cat Power narrate the film. Her voice is strikingly similar to Joplin‘s, and at times in the film, I couldn’t tell whether it was Marshall or Joplin speaking.

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My mother idolized Joplin and growing up, I learned what a powerhouse she was through her voice and her music. I honestly didn’t know much about her outside of that. Perhaps that’s how Janis would have wanted it, to let her music speak for her. Berg has put together a touching portrait that fills in the void that I, and many others, likely had in Joplin‘s story. This film in quite engaging and I think that it does Joplin justice. It stresses her importance to the music scene of the 60s and her lasting influence well beyond. I would be wholeheartedly surprised if this film doesn’t at least make the shortlist for the Oscars and I could certainly see it end up with a nomination. It’s that damn good.

This film hits theaters in New York today and premieres in LA on December 4. If you love music and the legacy left by one of the greats, you’ll run and see this one.

Get there, people.

‘Pitch Perfect 2’ Screenings Available in Select Cities!

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Regal Crown Club has just released passes for an upcoming screening of the highly anticipated sequel Pitch Perfect 2! Membership is required to attend the screening so go to https://www.regmovies.com/Crown-Club and sign up for a free account

The screenings are on Wednesday May 6th

The select cities are:

Fresno, CA

Oceanside, CA

Sacramento, CA

Jacksonville, FL

Miami, FL

Royal Palm Beach, FL

Tampa, FL

Winter Park, FL

Honolulu, HI

Avon, IN

Walled Lake, MI

Hazelwood, MO

Cary, NC

Charlotte, NC

Las Vegas, NV

Columbus, OH

Mason, OH

Westlake, OH

Norman, OK

Tigard, OR

Nashville, TN

Austin, TX

San Antonio, TX

Norfolk, VA

Wanna go?! Click the link below and grab passes while supplies last!

http://www.gofobo.com/index.php/main/national_campaign/UkNDcGl0Y2hwZXJmZWN0Mg

Stay tuned for more cities!

Liz’s Review: ‘BAD TURN WORSE’ is a love letter to Jim Thompson.

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When I was little, I was a fan a Nancy Drew books. My brother had a bookshelf filled with The Hardy Boys collection. I was jealous of that collection. As an adult, I am obsessed with Investigation Discover channel. I’ll straight up have that on in the background all day when I have a day off. I want to know who did it, why, and how. As of late I am a huge fan of NPR‘s new podcast “Serial” (Go do yourself a favor and subscribe now), so when this film came my way, I was more than intrigued.

Bad Turn Worse, a directed by Simon and Zeke Hawkins, grabbed me from the opening scene. Quippy, Tarantino-esque dialogue from the mouths of Texas teens (also reminiscent of Dawson’s Creek… wow, I’m really dating myself now…) made me sit up a little straighter at attention. The plot is not too far fetched. Three friends; two leaving for college in a few weeks, while the third we all know is destined to become a townie in this arid cotton mill town. BJ is a bitter, big fish in a little pond, whose aggressive charm and good looks have gotten him the smart girl next door Sue. Bobby is the best friend to both but his sheep demeanor gets him into some trouble when BJ steals $20K from his sociopath boss. When the shit hits the fan and the three are roped into a heist that is doomed from the start, everything gets turned in it’s head in this noir thriller.

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Writer, Dutch Southern, deserves praise with his love letter to crime novelist Jim Thompson.

Jim Thompson — ‘There are thirty-two ways to write a story, and I’ve used every one, but there is only one plot – things are not as they seem.’

Sue makes mention of this in more than a few ways throughout the script. Little does the audience know that they are being led down a twisted plot line that is secretly spoon fed to them from the get go. But, seriously, you sort of miss it until the very end. When is the last time a movie played out in a surprising fashion? In true noir style, just when you think you’ve figured out what going on, nope, left turn.

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The acting is fantastic. Mackenzie Davis, who I had previously been introduced to in Breathe In, is so wonderful. Fully fleshed out girl who is smart as a whip but vulnerable enough to fall for the town “badboy” but still have affection for the shy best friend. She gives the perfect balance of naive and cunning. Logan Huffman, who has one of those, ‘Why do I know him? Yeah, he is hot,” kind of demeanors, nails the role of BJ. That jockish, underachiever bitterness is rife for the taking. Jeremy Allen White is entrancing as Bobby. His endearing fragility draws you in. You genuinely feel sorry that he has such a crap best friend. And then, there is our ultimate baddie; Mark Pelligrino, my mysterious Jacob from LOST. His startling crazy is borderline comical but totally works. Money makes people do bad things, and the character of Giff is no exception.

The music is awesome and the cinematography is beautiful. I say catch this film this weekend. It will keep you on the edge of your nerve from beginning to end. Bad Turn Worse comes out today, November 14th in theaters and on VOD.