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Reviews

Movie reviews: Beatles documentary will float you out of cinema on a cloud of rock ’n’ roll euphoria

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years and Into The Inferno capture different kinds of eruptions

Two documentaries, both very good, deal with eruptions: the ones that have shaken Earth for millions of years, and the explosion that 50 years ago changed pop music.

Besides taking the prize for the longest and most punctuated film title so far this year, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (PG13, 138 minutes, 4/5 stars) is also likely to be the one that will float you out of the cinema on a cloud of rock 'n' roll euphoria.

Now, any dunce can stitch together a perfectly okay 90 minutes by cramming hits into a jukebox video, and this one does have a playlist that would make any fan weep with joy.

But Ron Howard, hired by the band's copyright body Apple Corps to direct, aims higher.

 Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (above) shows where the Fab Four came from and what made them shoot to the top.
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (above) shows where the Fab Four came from and what made them shoot to the top. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

He burrows beneath the myth to show where the Fab Four came from, what made them shoot to the top and why playing live had to stop.

Howard is known for re-enacting historical events (Apollo 13, 1995; Frost/Nixon, 2008) to tease out emotions that other storytelling methods cannot. Here, the story is told as a rags-to-riches myth. An overused style perhaps, but employed so skilfully it is hard not to get swept along with the lads.

It starts in 1963, at Manchester's ABC Cinema.  It is a scene that will become iconic - on stage, the lads perform, smiling and sweet. Below them is mayhem. There is a sea of screaming, sobbing fans on the verge of a full-scale riot.

The outpouring of adoration looks ridiculous from the outside, but then the band launch into She Loves You and the hysteria becomes a little easier to understand. Thanks to the digitally restored sound and video, the song is a caffeinated sugar rush, and it is the same with Twist And Shout, Ticket To Ride and Can't Buy Me Love - their primal power is overwhelming.

New interviews with surviving members Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are woven in, as are archived conversations with George Harrison and John Lennon, explaining what it was like to be at the centre of a global youthquake.

It's a completely one-sided and adulatory portrait, as you would expect from an artist-approved work. Pete Best, the drummer who came before Ringo, is not mentioned. Neither is Astrid Kirchherr, a German photographer. She gave the boys a makeover, changing them from greasers to mop-tops.

But those are minor points. Watching the band play, with showman skills honed to perfection in clubs in Hamburg and Liverpool, is a treat; to see them play in full colour and restored audio is a revelation.


Into The Inferno explores volcanoes around the world. PHOTO: NETFLIX

Not too far from Singapore is the placid tourist draw of Lake Toba. The documentary Into The Inferno(PG13, now on Netflix, 107 minutes, 3.5/5 stars) explains how it was created 75,000 years ago when a supervolcano erupted, an event that changed global weather patterns and, as one theory suggests, almost wiped out the human species in far-off Africa. Think about that the next time you rent a hut there.  

Cambridge University volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer and legendary film-maker Werner Herzog travel to Indonesia, Ethiopia, North Korea, Iceland and the tiny islands of the Pacific, looking at how these cauldrons of fire have shaped human culture.

Oppenheimer brings the enthusiasm and the science; and Herzog, his gravelly baritone bringing to mind the voices of volcano gods seeking vengeance, provides the narration.

 Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (above) shows where the Fab Four came from and what made them shoot to the top.
Masterminds stars Kristen Wiig and Zach Galifianakis (both above). PHOTO: GOLDEN VILLAGE

Masterminds(PG13, 95 minutes, opens tomorrow, 2/5 stars) is one of those projects so caught up with gathering a star team of comics, it forgets to give them a script worthy of their time.

It is based on the true story of David Ghantt (Zach Galifianakis), a security officer who robbed his own armoured cash truck because his crush Kelly (Kristen Wiig) played him for a fool.

This has the look of a Saturday Night Live cast reunion - there are other alumni and current cast members of the sketch show here, besides Wiig. These include Jason Sudeikis, playing hitman Mike; Kate McKinnon as David's fiancee Jandice; and Leslie Jones as FBI agent Scanlon.

Besides the sin of character overcrowding, the movie's hook is the use of broad Southern stereotypes.

With a couple of exceptions, everyone is some lazy, tired version of the village idiot. The only crime committed here is the assault on comedy.


Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity. 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline 'Blazing sensations'. Print Edition | Subscribe