From left to right, D. Boon, Mike Watt and George Hurley.
Back in the early '70s, the seaport town of San Pedro, California, wasn't exactly a haven for youthful rebellion. There were tide pools, to be sure. There was one tiny record shop. (It's since been razed to make room for a Petco.) Expensive, eye-straining arena rock was in ample supply an hour north in Los Angeles. But otherwise, you really had to get creative if you wanted some relief from the boredom. Especially for hyperactive childhood friends Mike Watt and Daniel Boon.
As the story goes, the founding Minutemen (then, just boys) were introduced one afternoon at the park, when chubby, unbalanced Boon fell out of a tree and into Watt's life. The chance meeting seems fated now—their paths literally collided and an odd, nearly psychic musical alliance was born. They immediately took to each other. They went back to Boon's mom's place and listened to records. When the local music shop began selling electric guitars, they each bought one and taught themselves how to play.
This was years before punk rock came about, but there was a recognizable kernel of true punk aesthetic in their San Pedro childhood: Do it yourself. It's a theme that's echoed countless times throughout We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, even in the title of the movie itself. If we do it ourselves, we can make our own fun. If we follow our own rules, we can fulfill our own destinies.
Watt, Boon and drummer George Hurley spent five incredibly prolific years creating their own rules in the trembling dawn of the Southern California punk scene. Their music was, to say the least, unlike anything else at the time. Minutemen songs are quirky, angular compositions that stitch together the raw energy of punk, the bouncy baselines of funk and bebop, folk's politically-fueled song-speak and jazz's rolling scales and syncopation. Most songs are under a minute long.
Don't be fooled, though. The "Minutemen" part didn't come from the length (or shortness) of their tracks, as I learned from We Jam Econo. The name comes from hours spent practicing Deep Purple riffs in their mother's basement. At the time, corporate radio anthems were the only type of music that seemed possible in San Pedro. The boys, already deviating into their own homegrown style, were minute in comparison.
I learned quite a few things from this documentary, actually. I didn't realize that the Minutemen had such an enormous impact on music in general. The documentary is overflowing with interviews from close to 60 die-hard fans, nearly all of them comprising a kind of who's who of alternative musicians, including Jello Biafra, John Doe, Thurston Moore and Flea. It's amazing to hear some of these guys talk about the Minutemen with such wide-eyed admiration. I mean, these are arguably among the most provocative artists in the world, and they describe this odd, relatively obscure trio as "the best band of all time."
Boon died in a car accident in 1985, ending two creative lives—his and the band's—that were really only getting started. Watt still smarts from the loss of his best friend and musical partner, and it shows with ringing clarity even after these 20-some years. The pain is still there, but so is the music. So are the legions of fans from every style of music that's relevant today. And let's not forget the countless millions who've been exposed to the Minutemen without even knowing it through skate videos and the guitar-slinging theme song from MTV's Jackass. (Yeah, that's them, too.) Buried beneath all of them is the backbone of youthful rebellion, and it's as true today as it was in 1971: Follow your own rules. Short and simple.
We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen runs Friday, June 17, through Thursday, June 23, at the Guild Cinema. Director Tim Irwin and Producer Keith Schieron will appear in person at the weekend screenings. Call 255-1848 for more information.
This sequel to Richard Linklater's walk-and-talk romances Before Sunrise and Before Sunset finds would-be lovers Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) finally, definitively together. As usual the film is really just a collection of conversations. Back in their 20s, Celine and Jesse discussed youthful dreams and future wishes. Now, in their 40s, the topics are about childcare and job security. Though weightier and more cynical than previous outings, this one still brings the passion. 109 minutes R. (Opens Friday 6/14)
Director/star Orson Welles labored for years to bring his low-budget, black and white Shakespeare tribute to the big screen. Welles' script mashes together several Shakespeare plays to relate the ongoing story of legendary drunkard/sidekick Sir John Falstaff. The film follows Falstaff's "career"--from beloved drinking companion to Prince Hal through his martial career and on into his sad denouement. Though somewhat penny-pinching, this pet project from 1965 mixes boisterous humor with emotional drama. 118 minutes (Saturday 6/15)
Steven Spielberg's sci-fi smash gets all spiffed up for a digital re-release. The tinkering (a few FX tweaks and a couple of added sequences) is quite minor, and the film itself holds up surprisingly well. The story seems like an awfully simple little parable in this day and age, but little kids who weren't even born when this thing came out are sure to feel Spielberg's gift for magic. (Opens Sunday 6/16)
Warner Bros. tries again to reboot the DC Comics super-icon. This time around Henry Cavill ("The Tudors") stars as Superman. Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen) directs it, David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) writes it. The film does its best to mimic the dark, moody atmosphere of the Dark Knight films, with Supes battling Kryptonian villain General Zod (Michael Shannon from "Boardwalk Empire"). Diane Lane and Kevin Costner do the Ma and Pa Kent thing. 143 minutes PG-13. (Opens Friday 6/14)
Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep, Demonlover) writes and directs this semi-autobiographical drama about the turbulent state of affairs in late-'60s Paris when Assayas was just a teenager obsessed with art, girls and the growing counter culture (not necessarily in that order). The film is evocative without being overly romanticized. In English, Italian and French with English subtitles. 122 minutes Unrated. (Opens Saturday 6/15)
The subject of this mesmerizing, oddball documentary is the titular clan, a radical '70s experiment in utopian living. Members of the Source Family were a regular sight on L.A.'s Sunset Strip in the early '70s. Beautiful, sunkissed and decked out in white robes, these New Age flower children were the disciples of spiritual guru Father Yod. They were also a popular singing group (whose music is featured prominently here). The film follows the rise and fall of Yod's communal living cult, checking in with surprisingly well-adjusted former members today. 98 minutes Unrated. (Opens Saturday 6/15)
Christopher Guest kicked off his mockumentary career with this classic 1984 comedy about the loudest heavy metal band in the world. Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer, director Rob Reiner, Bruno Kirby, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard and Fran Drescher are among the guest stars who drop by for a little improv-style tomfoolery. Feel free to sing along. 82 minutes R. (Opens Friday 6/14)
Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, James Franco and Danny McBride (plus a host of other stars) play more or less themselves in this raunchy, ridiculous and quite entertaining horror parody. Seth has dragged his longtime pal Jay to a party in the Hollywood Hills in an attempt to rekindle their dwindling childhood friendship. But that's all put on hold when The Rapture happens, turning L.A. into a burning hellpit. Naturally none of the selfish movie stars depicted here get sucked up into Heaven. Now they're stuck dealing with ravenous demons, dwindling supplies and (worst of all) one another. Thankfully the film isn't afraid to go outrageously over the top. The foul-mouthed, dope-addled jokes are to be expected, but the story is actually nicely redemptive and the special effects are surprisingly good. 107 minutes R. (Opens Wednesday 6/12)
A thousand years after mankind has abandoned Earth, space general Cypher Raige (so wish I were kidding) and his estranged son (Will and Jaden Smith) crash-land on the planet. There they are obliged to fight the deadly creatures that have evolved in humanity's absence. This exercise in space-age silliness is written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs, The Happening). 100 minutes PG-13.
A teenager wanders into the forest, gets shrunk down to tiny size and finds herself caught in a battle between good and evil in this eco-friendly 3D toon. The eclectic voice cast includes Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz, Beyoncé, Pitbull, Steven Tyler and Aziz Ansari. From the makers of Robots, Rio and Ice Age. Meh. 102 minutes PG.
Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Paul Walker all wear tank tops and drive really fast in his preposterous sixth outing in the F&F series. There's something about a British bad guy trying to steal something, but you don't go into these movies for the plot. The action often defies both physics (gravity doesn't work that way) and logic (when did the streets of central London get so deserted?). But it is fast, loud and frantic--giving fans plenty of what they're expecting. 130 minutes PG-13.
Lurid Australian director Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge!) yanks the curtain back on his Jazz Age Disneyland version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novella. Tobey Maguire is the World War I vet who gets lured into the fabulous lifestyle of his nouveau riche Long Island neighbor, Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Carey Mulligan (An Education, Drive) is the contentious object of affection, Daisy Buchanan. Throw in some fantabulous fashions and an explosive soundtrack (Beyoncé, Jay Z, Lana Del Rey, Florence and the Machine, Jack White, will.i.am) and you've got one hell of a party. The pure over-the-topness of it all makes it hard to take the characters seriously, but Luhrmann's manic razzle dazzle ultimately fits the narrative quite snugly. 142 minutes PG-13.
The Wolfpack (Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis) is back. No wedding or bachelor party this time, though. Seems a nasty gangster (John Goodman) is looking for criminal weirdo Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong). Naturally he kidnaps Doug (Justin Bartha, the invisible member of the Wolfpack) and blackmails the other guys into finding Chow. In Vegas. More of the same, but you expected that. 100 minutes R.
After a couple of decades on the job, two fortysomething salesmen (Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson) find themselves out of work in the tech age. Unable to find suitable employment, they apply to be interns at Google, competing against a group of young, tech-savvy geniuses. A low-key, product-placement-heavy attempt to recapture some to the magic from Wedding Crashers. 119 minutes PG-13.
Industrialist/superhero Tony Stark's personal world is torn apart when he's attacked by an international terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). Filmmaker Shane Black (writer of Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout and director of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) keeps everything breezy, funny and, most of all, fast as a jet plane. 130 minutes PG-13.
A Danish hairdresser (the wonderful Trine Dyrholm) fights off breast cancer only to find her husband has been cheating on her. She decides to start over, heading off to Italy to attend her daughter's lavish wedding. There she meets the father of the groom, a handsome, widowed businessman played by Pierce Brosnan. You can probably guess where things go from there, but director Susanne Bier (Things We Lost in the Fire, Brothers, In a Better World) keeps things organic, emotional and quite real. In English, Danish and Italian with English subtitles. 116 minutes R.
In this Tom Sawyer-ish magical-realist melodrama, two teenage boys discover a fugitive (Matthew McConaughey) hiding out on a tiny river island in Arkansas. Turns out this fugitive (nicknamed "Mud") is on the run from bounty hunters. But he's just an innocent (mostly) fellow trying to reunite with his ladylove (Reese Witherspoon), who's stuck living at a rundown local motel. A lovely, if overly allegorical anti-fable from Jeff Nichols (writer-director of 2011's equally metaphor-heavy Take Shelter). 130 minutes PG-13.
Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) leads a flashy cast (including Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine) in this action-packed story about a gang of magicians that uses illusions to pull off a string of bank robberies. Frenchman Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Clash of the Titans, The Incredible Hulk) directs. 105 minutes PG-13.
In this film's far-fetched, near-future setting, all crime in society is allowed and instantly forgiven during a single 12-hour period once a year. In the midst of the annual anarchy, a wealthy family (led by Ethan Hawke) is held hostage inside their locked-down, gated community when they give shelter to an about-to-be-murdered homeless man. This bloody home invasion thriller actually tries to be some allegorical, The Strangers-meets-Panic Room critique of the tea party. Needless to say, it doesn't really click. 85 minutes R.
Director J.J. Abrams amps up the action even more than he did in the last frantic Trek reboot. Here, Captain Kirk (super-angry Chris Pine) leads a manhunt through a war zone to capture a space age terrorist bent on revenge (Benedict Cumberbatch, trying his best to add nuance to an underwritten role). The film is littered with in-jokes, but longtime fans might find themselves wishing Abrams had spread his wings a bit--rather than just rooting through "Star Trek" reruns looking for characters and catchphrases to recycle. 132 minutes PG-13.
TV actor Chadwick Boseman stars as baseball-playing barrier-smasher Jackie Robinson in this period biopic from writer-director Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, A Knight's Tale). Harrison Ford is color-barrier-ending Baseball Commissioner Branch Rickey. 88 minutes PG-13.
On the surface, this CGI toon is just "The Flintstones" with a sassy grandma and a bit of The Land Before Time tossed in for good measure. Nicolas Cage voices an overprotective caveman whose rebellious daughter (Emma Stone) befriends a primitive inventor (Ryan Reynolds) who brings warnings about the end of the world. Cloris Leachman plays the sassy grandma. Of course she does. Dreamworks Animation tried harder with Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, but the animation is colorful and occasionally amusing. 98 minutes PG.
Wacky Jim Carrey probably isn't the best choice to play Dr. Seuss' timid, persecuted environmentalist Horton, but at least the CGI animation does its utmost to replicate the author/illustrator's wild worlds. Scattered around this tale of a selfless elephant who tries to convince his jungle cohorts that a microscopic world needs his protection are vocal ringers like Steve Carrell, Will Arnett, Carol Burnett, Dane Cook, Isla Fisher, Jonah Hill, Amy Poehler, Jamie Pressly and Seth Rogen. 88 minutes G.
From the makers of Hoodwinked! and a whole bunch of CGI Barbie movies (whoopee) comes a generic family movie in which a pile of movies stars (Brendan Fraser, Ricky Gervais, Jessica Alba, Sofia Vergara, Sarah Jessica Parker, George Lopez, William Shatner) provide voices for some cute cartoon characters. The excuse for Burger King kids' meal toys this time around is that a bunch of friendly space aliens must escape from Area 51. 89 minutes PG.
After nearly a year's delay and a bunch of re-shoots, this live-action sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra finally hits theaters. Channing Tatum is back as Duke, but he's mostly supplanted by newcomers Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock and Bruce Willis as Joe Colton. (As fans in the know are aware, that's the name of the original 12-Inch G.I. Joe figure from 1964.) This time around, the baddies are blowing up the White House (a popular thing to do in movies these days) and framing the Joes for crimes they didn't commit (shades of the A-Team). 110 minutes PG-13.
Jason Bateman is a mild-mannered businessman who decides to hunt down the deceptively harmless-looking woman (Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids) who's been living it up on his stolen identity. The result is a predictably wacky road trip. 112 minutes R.
This Steven Spielberg blockbuster about cloned dinosaurs running wild on an island theme park holds up surprisingly well, delivering thrills, chills and straight-up fun after 20 years. The new 3D effects are a nifty addition. Well worth seeing on the big screen. 127 minutes PG-13.
Tom Cruise is a technician assigned to post-apocalyptic Earth following a devastating war with invading aliens. His job is to repair drones, mining the abandoned planet's last resources. But as he explores the wasteland, he's haunted by visions from the past. Perhaps all is not as it seems. Director Joseph Kosinski (TRON: Legacy) has created a stunningly beautiful sci-fi film, but the script tries too hard to be a Christopher Nolan-style mindbender. Most viewers will figure out what's going on long before the story peters out. 126 minutes PG-13.
Evil Korean terrorists attack the White House. Disgraced former presidential guard Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) just happens to be trapped there. Naturally, he starts working with the NSA as an "inside man" to rescue the president (Aaron Eckhart) from kidnappers. The script is strictly Die Hard in the White House, but at least director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) gives the violence some style. 130 minutes R.
Disney, still glowing from their actionized Alice in Wonderland sequel, launches a prequel to L. Frank Baum's famed Wizard of Oz. Actor/enigma James Franco stars as the smalltime magician who ends up in the fantasy land of Oz and must decide if he's got the stuff to battle a wicked witch. Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams are on witch duty. Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) directs. 130 minutes PG.