Thursday, July 12, 2018

The King and Sorry to Bother You

          "I said, ‘Hey, is this my problem? Is this my fault?
          If that’s the way it’s going to be I’m going to call the 
             whole thing to a halt’"  (from Paul Simon’s "Gumboots" [Graceland, 1986])

                                     Reviews by Ken Burke
 I keep intending to finally get back to offering you reviews on something that’s playing in more than a few hundred theaters (at best) in the domestic (U.S.-Canada) market—which I easily could have done this week with Ant-Man and the Wasp (Peyton Reed), given its hefty $76 million-debut in 4,206 domestic venues (while I doubt you could pay me enough to watch the viciously-violent The First Purge [Gerald McMurray] or the adolescent-minded-but-adult-set-comedy [yet, with a most-appealing-cast, I must admit] Tag [Jeff Tomsic], even as I agree my tastes are far from universal so some of you might prefer any of these [I also rejected some other options at the head of my previous posting])—but something more-esoteric-yet-ultimately-more-intriguing for my own interests keeps coming along to grab my attention.  Consequently, below you’ll find comments on The King, a documentary that moved all the way up from 2 theaters in its debut 3 weeks ago to a whopping 8 at present, along with Sorry to Bother You, a wacky bit of social commentary that I thought made too good a coupling with The King to pass up even though it hasn’t yet opened in the city (Oakland, CA) where it was shot (which now will be happening this upcoming weekend, but more on that below).  I may not even get to Ant-Man … until later this month, so you’ll just have to search for other reviews of it yourself if you care to (there are at least 193 of them at IMDb's External Reviews site [or, if you just want a quick summary, Rotten Tomatoes tallies 86% positive responses, Metacritic offers a 70% score], plus, if you need more distraction on that topic, here’s Ant-Man ...'s trailer); however, our focus this week becomes considerably more substantial.
                                   The King (Eugene Jarecki)

“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): This is a documentary that for all practical purposes uses the life, rise to success, overindulgence as a result of that fame, then sad decline of Elvis Presley as a metaphor for the (at least in the filmmakers’ perspectives—along with a good many of us in the audience) perceived rise and now-heading-for-a-fall of our American empire, post-WW II.  The structure of this film involves the director acquiring Presley’s Rolls-Royce then taking a trip across the country from Tupelo, MS to Memphis, Nashville, NYC, LA, and Las Vegas (along with film clips of Elvis’ late-1950s Army service) tracing the meteoric rise, international glory, then ignominious death of the man many have called (some still do) the King of Rock and Roll, comparing this biography (with lots of testimony on a range of related topics from various folks, along with musical performances in the back seat of the Rolls as it rolls along in its various locations) to the powerful-worldwide-presence-yet-domestic-decline-of-so-many-in-the-U.S.A. during Presley’s lifetime and further into today.  Given how this is all based on historical—along with contemporary news (nothing fake here)—accounts there’s not much I could note that would truly constitute a spoiler but I’ll try to be tactful where certain elements of this doc require such warnings.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
 My usual review structure of What Happens, So What?, and Bottom Line Final Comments doesn’t usually work too well with documentaries so I’ll save that for the dramatic narrative film reviewed below and just ramble around the backbone-concept of this intriguing doc (in the same multi-perspective-manner it organizes itself) which I heartily encourage you to see, although its extremely-limited-access at present (noted above) will likely require putting it on some video queue because, depending on locations, it may not emerge anytime soon (if at all) on a big screen near you which is a terrible shame because it uses the situation of Elvis Presley’s success, impact, and decline as a viable metaphor for a parallel experience of the U.S.A. in the decades following WW II, a statement resonating well with my view of where our troubled country’s currently headed, although as one commentator in The King notes (I paraphrase): “We’re not in decline, we’re stagnant,” which I would imagine most of the ongoing-Trump-backers would agree with (except for the super-rich, both of private-wealth and corporate-leadership status, who’re benefiting nicely from the rabid GOP program of tax cuts and regulatory retrenchment [I never promised to be objective in my comments, now did I?]), still expecting some glorious salvation to come forward even though the recent round of trade-war-tariffs are adding further fuel to the misery depicted on screen when this film was completed in 2017 (shown at the Cannes Film Festival then, introduced again at Sundance this year) so the social unrest it addressed earlier (with an ironic comment from actor Alec Baldwin that Donald Trump would never be elected U.S. President, even though Baldwin’s now benefitted from an Elvis-like-career-revival parodying Trump on NBC TV’s Saturday Night Live) is still in progress.  The King’s foundational biography of Elvis is accomplished by director/co-screenwriter (with Christopher St. John) Jarecki acquiring Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce, outfitting it with cameras to shoot into the back seat, then touring the country from Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, MS to his early recordings with Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in Memphis to more-breakthrough-hits for RCA Victor in Nashville to nationwide TV fame via exposure on the Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan variety shows, ultimately—after some intervening material on Presley’s time in the Army and his slew of mediocre Hollywood movies after his discharge—to the final phase of his life as a showstopper in Las Vegas.

 Along the way we get a wealth of interviews (most briefly presented, although actor Ethan Hawke and Public Enemy rapper Chuck D are among those who get a good bit of screentime) from some who knew Elvis as well as many others who simply have opinions to share about him.  (Positive and negative, although the categorizations of his long-time-manager “Colonel” Tom Parker are obscenely-dismissive, indicating “the King’s” career might have taken some even more successful directions had it not been for Parker’s obsession with control of Elvis’ income [often a 50-50 split, highly unusual] leading to huge movie contracts giving the singer/star virtually no input on how he’s presented or the lack of a Presley-desired-European tour because Parker was an undocumented immigrant from the Netherlands [not American as claimed, with an additional history of legal problems] so he had no passport, preventing his presence during such an event which this “king of control” couldn’t conceive of.)  Some of the interviews take place within the Rolls as do several musical performances, with the one likely capturing the most attention by EmiSunshine and the Rain, given this young girl’s (inherent? calculated?) stage presence, even when her “stage” is the cramped back seat of a luxury car (the choice of which leads to some cracks about why Elvis even wanted this British vehicle but more pointed criticism is directed toward Jarecki for choosing this car instead of one of Elvis’ Cadillacs, which would emphasize more appropriately the American culture this singer’s become so fiercely identified with, especially emerging from his impoverished background to such international stardom).  The most biting criticism of Elvis, though, comes from those like Chuck D (photo above) who castigate Presley for taking the music (and sexuality [my comment, not theirs, but quite relevant given that "horrified" pelvis-action reaction by the White "moral guardians" of the time]) of rock and roll from the Black community, making millions for himself in the process, yet never giving back by showing support for such social disruption as the 1960s Civil Rights movement.  (However, no mention’s made of Presley’s 1969 hit “In the Ghetto” [on that year’s From Elvis in Memphis album] which does overtly address the frequent-dead-end-lives of those shunned by society’s powerful; I admit one record doesn’t change the entire life-trajectory complained about by Chuck D [whose comments are countered by another speaker noting all of American history is a constant flow of cultural appropriation, so what’s the big deal with Elvis?], but I'd have welcomed some response to this small bit of later social awareness by Presley.)

 But many still championed Elvis despite his mid-‘60s career sagging in relation to the next wave of global stardom personified by The Beatles, then were reassured he’d regained his prominence even during the years of anti-Establishment-upheaval in society/psychedelic-influences in pop music because of his tremendously-successful 1968 TV special in which this black-leather-clad ‘50s phenom seemed to ooze confidence, charisma, and energy which then propelled him out of those mindless movies into his late-career-persona as a Las Vegas showman, the equivalent of an earlier generation’s pop icons, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack.  However, this rejuvenation is followed by the King’s demise as those sequined jumpsuits don’t successfully hide his added bulk, his sweaty stage presence can’t fully compensate for the inability to remember the lyrics to his own hits (he pulverizes “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” at one point here), his inability to channel the impact of his potential power leads to a miserable death at the sadly-young-age of 42, just as this film implies the U.S. rode military success in WW II (still seen as patriotic grandeur with the 1950s Eisenhower Presidency, just as Elvis was portrayed as a respected, model soldier during his time stationed in Germany) into a position of international economic/political power through the mid-60s until the ongoing social unrest that came with the violence spawned in response to the Civil Rights movement, protests against the Vietnam War (as well as the uselessness of the war’s carnage itself), growing strains in the economic fabric of our society, more tensions over our ongoing involvement in those later endless wars in the Middle East, and a pervasive sense of a culture stretched to the breaking point fueling the resurgence of an entrenched nationalism carried by the rhetoric of Donald Trump into mainstream politics which all combined to leave us with conflicting memories of more-triumphant-times from our previous century while the present descends into chaos (which I think Trump has no clue how to repair; further, his "great again" goal implies the economic prosperity of post-WW II through 1960s, ignoring the inherent social prejudices/financial inequities of the time, so be clear what Jarecki's advocating here: not a Trump vision of "salvation").

 Without offering any sort of overt message Elvis Presley directly had anything to do with manipulating the larger social issues this film attempts to address (except being a notable element within that culture, at times trying to be more than just an entertainer as with his attempt to have President Nixon appoint him as some sort of special FBI agent so he could use his influence to combat drug use [but not his own!] within the entertainment industry and its counterculture followers), Jarecki presents a multi-faceted, collage-like-ramble through past and present with a constantly-rapid-menu of imagery taken from newscasts (along with movie clips, as Elvis’ catalogue provides useful commentary on what’s being said about him while excerpts from King Kong [Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack; 1933] both reinforce the White stereotype of Black culture as “savage” [a main reason Sam Phillips used country-boy “rockabilly” singers to sell Black-inspired-music] and allude to the impact Elvis had when brought to NYC, just as that giant ape took control of the city for a short time), landscapes shot from the car’s extensive journey, and extensive vignettes from those already noted along with others like James Carville, Rosanne Cash, Mike Myers, Emmylou Harris, and Dan Rather among the many respondents incorporated into this thesis.

 While I liked many of Elvis’s recordings over the years, I never found him to be as crucial as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, or Roy Orbison to that era, yet I acknowledge how influential he was in fulfilling Phillips’ intention of selling some semblance of Black R&B to the larger White audience, while somewhat regretting passing up my chance to see Presley not long before I moved to Dallas in mid-1977 (he was at the old Austin Civic Auditorium* where tickets would have been easy to come by, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of this iconic rock and roller gone to fat, absurd costumes, and sloppy delivery) just to say I’d seen this legend which I’d done previously with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Chubby Checker before phasing into the next generation by seeing the Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan (but, then, I never saw Sinatra or The Beatles [just Paul and Ringo separately] so I guess I’m still batting .000 where ultimate pop gods' performances are concerned).

*Where I did see Joni Mitchell in early 1976 who brought out Dylan to join her on an encore (to wild response); I also attempted to see Johnny Winter there, but his band was so loud (11 on a 10-maximum-amp’s not just a joke in This Is Spinal Tap [Rob Reiner, 1984], it would seem) I first retreated to the back of the hall, finally gave up and left to protect whatever remained of my hearing.

 If you'd prefer to watch a more detailed exploration of the life of Elvis Presley there are many other options, just like if you don’t buy into the metaphor of this musical icon as representative of the “American empire’s” (a term emphasized within this doc by author/news commentator/social activist Van Jones, who's also on screen quite a bit) rise to supremacy prior to enduring (what our culture seems, for many of us, to be flirting with in) an ongoing fall then The King probably won’t be all that intriguing to you; however, if like me, you’re not so reverential to this “king” anyway (despite my acknowledgement many of his old musical performances—not his movies for the most part—are enjoyable to watch because he’s just bursting with so much energetic charm) as well as being eager to actually “make American great again” by cleansing the kind of dictatorial/borderline (at best) fascist-thinking propelling Trump and his most ardent followers into the kind of despicable actions that revel in undermining all of the social/environmental progress so painstakingly-hard-won over the last 60 years or so, as verified through innumerable news (not “fake” at all) references peppered throughout this film, I think you’d appreciate the complex mosaic Jarecki’s constructed.  But if not, you’ll probably just dismiss me as another loony liberal (at best), glad this socialist trash hasn’t found its way to your neighborhood.⇐  Yet, please know this director’s attitudes are easily in my wheelhouse as he notes in the press materials: “And, at this point, I don’t think I need to tell anyone what a tangled mess America has become.  But how did this happen?  And is there, in the demise of Elvis, a cautionary tale for his country?  For the world? […] After Trump’s inauguration, I guess for a moment I thought that the country had indeed perhaps died on the toilet, choked by our addiction to power, money, and excess.  But in the months since, I’ve seen a significant resurgence in public engagement.  The body politic is, to some degree, rejecting the transplant of an oligarchic, predatory capitalist into the Oval Office. […] While Elvis was ultimately consumed by his [shortcomings], we seem to be very much at work on ours, and there clearly is much work left to wake tomorrow and do.”  If you don't buy Jarecki's argument you may find yourself on the other end of the critics’ spectrum from me with the consensus from the pros falling between us as the Rotten Tomatoes folks provide 70% positive reviews while the ones at Metacritic are almost-identical (rare!) with a 69% average score (more details in the Related Links section of this posting much farther below, but with some unexplained oddities on how you can even find these numbers).

 As for the general audience, The King’s a virtual nonentity even after 3 weeks in release because it’s playing in so very few theaters so far, therefore its gross is only about $66 thousand with possibly little further potential given the unconventional structure plus the pairing of Elvis with the concept of the decline of “American Exceptionalism” (if there ever was such a thing) which could conceivably alienate either Elvis fans or social critiquers (or both), along with the general downbeat tone of the film (accurate as it may be in its insinuations, which may prove to be even more prescient if these Trump-trade-wars backfire or another ultraconservative-Supreme Court-appointment further intensifies our current cultural divide).  For that matter, even the film’s content may be seen as lacking to some who’d insist a logical extension of what’s already been presented should include more of a look at contemporary Graceland to see what becomes of a legendary site turned into a sort of amusement park just as some analysts of American society say we’ve allowed our whole nation to evolve into a semblance of Disneyland, all surface with no depth, no reality behind the glamorous façade, another criticism I might offer of The King, hoping for a useful, appropriate, brief addition to the present structure, still with the running time at about 2 hrs.; however, in the spirit of trying to evaluate what’s on screen rather than how it might have been under my direction (a common critical flaw, based on what I read in reviews) I’ll say The King well accomplishes what it seems to set out to do without having to meet any additional special interests from anyone else (on Jarecki’s behalf, as Paul Simon says in "Graceland" [from the aforementioned album of the same name]: “And I may be obliged to defend Every love, every ending Or maybe there’s no obligations now Maybe I’ve a reason to believe We all will be received in Graceland”).

 But, speaking now of official Musical Metaphors to “call the whole thing to a halt” (as I do with all my reviews), I’m immediately drawn to Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” (originally written and recorded by Mark James in 1968, released by Elvis as his last U.S. #1 hit single in 1969, later included on the 2009 Legacy 2-disc-reissue of his 1969 From Elvis in Memphis album) at com/watch?v=Wb0Jmy-JYbA&frags=pl%2Cwn, a lengthy Las Vegas performance capturing the excellence-yet-excess* of Elvis’ career as a whole, while following in the spirit of The King in speaking not only of the need for current lovers to not be derailed by jealousies about past relationships but also the need for the warring factions (including me, with my rabid anti-Trump attitudes) in our divided country (and others around the world) to realize ”Why can’t you see What you’re doing to me When you don’t believe a word I say […] Don’t you know We’re caught in a trap.”  Still, if The King’s about how the trap was set, our next review explores what might become of such societal breakdown, even if not fully in the exaggerated form seen in that film’s cinematics.

*Compare this almost-7-minute version of the song to an near-triple-length rendition of Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand” (at almost the very end of every Two Guys posting, much farther below) to see what (in my opinion) is a more successful process of taking a song into lengths that would never survive on commercial radio (even Young’s original recording is only about 12 min. but still had a life at its time-span on adult-rock FM stations if for no other reason than DJ restroom breaks).
                                              Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley)
Executive Summary (no spoilers): Oakland, CA serves as the location for this most-unique-film which pulls no punches in pillorying many aspects of contemporary American society including racism, corporate malfeasance, and the cult of success over human decency.  The protagonist is a decent-but-near-destitute Black guy named (appropriately) Cash who needs a job so he tries telemarketing but almost bombs out before given the advice to use his “White voice” when calling his potential clients.  That strategy works out so well for him he’s promoted to the upper-echelon in his company (the group who use the gold-plated-elevator with a pep-talk-voice [provided by Rosario Dawson]) but such material success puts him at odds with the more street-wise attitudes of his girlfriend, close friend, and co-workers forcing him to face a dilemma as to whether to continue enjoying his substantial financial success or find some way to remain true to his hardscrabble roots.  This is another independent film playing in a small number of venues at present so you might really have to hunt to find it, but if you do (or watch it later on video) I think you’ll be pleasantly satisfied with how innovative, direct, and—at times—surprising it is, unless you’re a pillar of corporate America in which case you probably don’t attend films with the common folk anyway so just disregard what’s going on here until the revolution overruns your big front gate.

Here’s the trailer:

Please note this is a Red Band trailer including the film's R-rated language; if you’d like a slightly-more-sanitized version (despite the implications of the steamy photo below) you  might try this one:

       Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
What Happens: In this marvelous mix of satire, surrealism, and sci-fi (but not as much of the latter as some brief taglines about this film would indicate) we find ourselves in an increasingly-fictional (I dearly hope) version of current-day Oakland, CA where Cassius “Cash” Green (Lakeith Stanfield) has some things going right for him with his loving girlfriend, socially-active-but-not-yet-famous-artist Detroit (Tessa Thompson), and a place to live, the garage under his Uncle Sergio’s (Terry Crews) house, but he feels a need to achieve some sort of success for posterity which begins with finding a job to rise above his near-zero-economic-level where his windshield wipers are on a rope the driver and passenger must pull back and forth in the rain because he can’t afford any car repairs (he also needs to get the garage door fixed so it doesn’t accidently open to the street while he’s making love with Detroit, but Sergio hasn't fixed it yet because he's a bit preoccupied with his own financial troubles which may soon result in foreclosure).  With a pumped-up résumé and a couple of phony trophies Cash heads for Regalview, a telemarketing firm, where his interviewer quickly sees through his work-history-lies but hires him anyway because he admires Cash’s willingness to bend whatever reality is necessary in order to accomplish his goals (as long as his overall approach follows the company’s dictum of “Stick To The Script”).  We get some great visuals of Cash’s attempted cold-calls landing his desk right in the living environments of his (uninterested) customers, but he’s getting nowhere until co-worker Langston (Danny Glover) tells him to use his “White voice” (provided by David Cross) to more easily seduce his intended clients, a tactic that works well enough to get him heaps of praise (and a decent amount of commission-cash) from his extremely-weird-employers, but his success is put in jeopardy when co-worker Squeeze (Steven Yeun) organizes a work stoppage of all the callers, including Detroit and Cash’s best friend, Salvador (Jermaine Fowler)—who now also work at Regalview—to get basic salaries, benefits, etc.

 As the strikers protest in the street, Cash is hit on the head by can of soda tossed at him (part of a satirical ad campaign permeating this film where an antagonistic-thrower hurls a beverage at a target, accompanied by the slogan of “Have a Cola and Smile Bitch”—just one of the many intentionally-off-kilter-aspects of this narrative, including the popular TV show where contestants get prizes after being assaulted, I Got the Shit Kicked Out of Me[Inclusion of this direct language from the film will further prevent me from being able to place my own ads on this blog site, as per Google’s dictates, but as an ongoing “enemy of the people” I must adhere to the integrity of full-quote-journalistic-standards—Oh, I could have blanked-out the offensive words?  Well, shit, so much for integrity; OK, back to the review.]) so he’s wearing a bloody bandage for a good part of the rest of this story, but, urban-warrior-appearance aside, he’s not going to be fired for the walk-out as he’d assumed but instead is promoted to Power Caller status where he gets to ride in a gold-plated-elevator (with a pass code maybe 100 digits long) to an upper floor where he’s shown around by Mr. Blank (Omari Hardwick, with his own White voice provided by Patton Oswalt).  Despite Cash's initial reservation at being part of the Power Callers’ task of convincing various manufacturers to have their goods made by the workers at Steven Lift’s (Armie Hammer) WorryFree Corp. (where exuberant workers on TV ads praise their situation of working, eating, and living in the same factories although critics of this dubious business [including Detroit, Salvador, and Squeeze] equate it to slavery), Cash is seduced by the enormous salary of his position which allows him to pay off Uncle Sergio’s debts, then buy a luxurious apartment for himself and Detroit, along with a fancy car and an upscale wardrobe.  Detroit begins to lose faith in him, though, when he’s willing to follow the daily brutal police escort into Regalview through the now-constant-strikers, then he loses her entirely when he’s willing to meet with Steve Lift.  At Lift’s extravagant party, he’d further alienate Detroit if she were there when he’s put on the spot to do a rap (he initially claims no talent at such) but as the mostly-White-guests begin to get a bit hostile he resorts to just chanting the empty phrase of “Nigger shit,” which gets them all into an embracing, "ghetto," sing-along-mood.

 After partaking of an offered snort of (what’s claimed to be) cocaine by Lift, Cash finds Lift’s also offering him an extremely-high-level-job which our protagonist needs a break to consider, but in the process of stumbling into the wrong restroom he finds himself with a group of desperate, chained Equisapiens—horse/human-hybrids with muscular Homo sapiens bodies, equine heads (one of them voiced by Forest Whitaker).  Horrified, he makes his way back to Lift who explains his latest profit-maximization-scheme which is to use a coke-like-substance to turn WorryFree workers into these powerful humanoids but to plant Cash among them to encourage their cooperation with the corporation (none of those messy actions like at Regalview demanding upgrades in the workplace); if he’s willing to be the “Equisapien Martin Luther King, Jr.” for 5 years Lift will pay him $100 million, then administer an antidote restoring his full human biology.  Cash manages to escape this horror show the next day, then finds his phone butt-videoed Lift with the horse/men, threatening them unless they cooperate with him.  After submitting himself to the humiliation of … Knocked Out of Me (where he’s not only beat up but also completely covered with crap) he gets to show the video to a national audience but somehow it all backfires as the audacity of it—with no governmental interference—pushes the WorryFree stock (and the rest of the market) into undreamed-off-heights.  Cash then joins his friends at the 24/7 Regalview protests where he’s arrested but soon freed by an attack from the horse/men (who’ve somehow broken free).  Back at Uncle Sergio’s garage, Cash’s ready to get back to normal (whatever that is anymore) with Detroit when he suddenly undergoes his own equine transformation, now realizing Lift didn’t offer him pure cocaine after all.  He seems to end in agony but a final pre-credits-scene pops up where Equisapien Cash and his horse/men mates break into Lift’s mansion, eager to take revenge that we don’t need to graphically witness.⇐

So What? By chance, this film also got its American premiere at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival (another reason to include it with The King but less that than their usefully-reflective-contents) before going into recent-not-so-wide-release; yet, the former film’s focused on (what some might call) an (over-) extended-metaphor, making its point through journeys of (questionable, for dissenters) biographical and cultural history while Boots Riley’s film is about as blatant in its condemnations as it could be, although presented in such a delightfully-extravagant-manner as to constantly keep you surprised at where this plot’s going next (although, in retrospect, as my keen-eyed-wife, Nina, pointed out, there’s resonance here with the lauded-impact of Get Out [Jordan Peele, 2017; review in our  May 11, 2017 posting], despite notable differences in the horrors being depicted).  Yet, the biggest surprise for me is even though this overall-critically-embraced-directorial-debut (RT 95% positive reviews, MC a very-healthy [for them] 79% average score)with lots of press coverage here in my local San Francisco Bay areawas shot in Oakland (a city with its increasing shift to upscale-urbanization and image-revival [aided nicely by the Golden State Warriors basketballers winning 3 of the last 4 NBA titles, then upgrading themselves to a 5 All-Star starting lineup for next season], helping to overcome the persistent [and misinterpreted] quote from poet, novelist, etc. Gertrude Stein about Oakland: “There is no there there” [sorrowfully, this rapid-civic-improvement’s come with accompanying-rising-housing-costs pushing the kind of folks supportably-depicted in Sorry … farther out into the suburbs or even the Central Valley]), for me to see it on its local debut weekend I had to travel to Union City (3 sets of city-limits-changes from Oakland) but with my knowledge it’ll finally be coming home this coming weekend, building on a carefully-plotted-limited-opening of only 16 domestic theaters (soon to be 600) with a very-limited-yield so far of $727.3 thousand, as Riley joins my hopes word-of-mouth will dramatically increase that yield over coming weeks, just as I’d love to see better audience interest also build for The King.

 Despite the cruelty of many of the scenes in Sorry … (intentional, with critiques offered on capitalism, racism, classism, and associated social ills), the overall mood is quite comic due to all of the exaggerated circumstances, absurd responses to actions by some of the characters, toss-off-oddities such as Steve Lift at his party being dressed in his top half with coat and dress shirt, bottom half with a skirt and knee-high-boots even as no one gives any notice to his clothing choices.  As director Riley (an Oakland hip-hop-musician/social-activist) and some of his key cast members note in the long interview which is at the second of the Related Links attached to this film in that section of this posting, located just a little farther below, the extreme-humor-structures of Sorry to Bother You are a conscious ploy (as effective satire usually is) to slip past possible audience resistance to social critique by masking it with comedy so the challenges can be lodged before the potentially-offended even fully realize what’s being depicted, thereby inadvertently allowing them to witness rather than immediately reject sociopolitical content intended to challenge rather than ritualize the status quo.  This strategy-of-deception is carried into the frequent summary statements (in my opinion) defining this film as “science fiction” in addition to being a comedy, which is accurate concerning roughly the last third when we’re introduced (in a shocking manner) to the Equisapiens, but you can easily go through everything up to that point wondering why that descriptor has anything to do with what’s going on in (appropriately-named) Cash's financial-seduction vs. moral-choices conflicts (with the racist-reality-subtext clearly in evidence as well, all of which does have some connection to Get Out, although they’re completely separate experiences, both of which deserve to be lauded for their bold, unflinching attacks on issues far too often left unexplored in mainstream cinema except movies mocking the seriousness of these topics as, instead, being “resolved” in our supposed post-racial, post-economically-oppressive society).  

 As with The King, I think there are many potential moviegoers who would actively stay away from Sorry to Bother You once they fully find out what it’s all about, but—I would hope, even in a Judge Brett Kavanaugh-world (no matter how much genuine good he does with coaching girls’ basketball teams or helping in D.C. soup kitchens) where the Trumpeters continue to play tunes sounding horribly-off-key to me—there are probably many others who can relate to what’s being explored here, ready to embrace it as a rejection of the sordid mess we’ve been left in as shown in The King, ready to recapture hope and change, ideally more with triumphant humor than with vengeful anger.

Bottom Line Final Comments: Purely by accident my comments this time are a bit of an experiment because I accidently saw The King without the aid of my trusty penlight flashlight (without which I cannot take notes, as any larger light is just too much of a distraction while scribbling in the dark results in a language even an ancient Mesopotamian scribe couldn’t translate) so I had to rely on memory (I know some professional critics—not better than me in knowledge [I say without a hint of condescension {!}, waving my Ph.D. diploma in Communication, focus on Radio-TV-Film at them in case they don’t immediately recognize my inherent brilliance as evidenced in these ongoing blogs]—can sit through a preview screening without taking notes, then zip back to the office to pound out next-Friday’s-anticipated-critique, but they also always have the advantage of a press kit providing immense amounts of useful backup information should they need it) to produce anything for you here, although in that infrequent-instance I also had access to the official press kit which helped with some specific names and quotes, but I was impressed (maybe, more so, surprised) at how much came back to me when I started putting that review together a couple of days after the screening of The King.  For balance, when I saw Sorry … I brought the penlight but consciously didn’t use it very much (just to cite a few specific names and events because I already knew—as with The King—I’d get no help from summaries in Wikipedia where a cast list and brief production notes are all that’s to be found [in addition to the RT, MC numbers, plus grosses and theater counts from Box Office Mojo]) in a self-challenge to see how much I could recall without extensive notes nor Internet summaries to help jog my memory when I finally got time to set down these thoughts a few days after viewing.  I don’t think I’ve missed anything of significance (although some might say I should have brought in Detroit’s Africa-themed/performance-art show in Sorry … or who knows what else), so if any of you should happen to see either of these unique films please use the Comments section at the very end of this posting to contribute what’s eluded me this time.

 There’s a lot going on in Sorry to Bother You (a phrase I had to use a couple of times myself just getting to my seat at that Union City multiplex because it had only one aisle in the theater where Nina and I saw the film, so to get to the far side of the row where my penlight’s least obnoxious—especially when using her as an additional shield—after driving that notable distance to push further into suburbia to even find this feature in order to link it up with The King [more available, though still not all that close, in Berkeley] we had to squeeze past all those chubby people, stepping over them to get to those desired-end-seats) so if you can find it now if it expands into your area (or maybe more likely on video at a later time, as with The King) I encourage to come when you’re not distracted by having just eaten a large meal or been in a terse encounter with a loved one/close friend (neither situation valid for me, fortunately, although we did have a pleasant brunch) because you don’t want to miss all the little clever things I can’t note to you (because of my lack of notes), but this is a very creative cinematic concept, filled with both laughs and reasons to stay socially active, that will likely later be known as one of the most insightful, unique filmic experiences of 2018.  To bring its awareness to you with a Musical Metaphor, though, I’ve not only going for the obvious commentary (because I can illustrate it with some memorable live performances) but also I’m reusing songs I’ve found reason to put into previous reviews a good number of times, yet when they’re the right choices you have to admit they are what you should be listening to in this context.

 Even with the other topics woven masterfully into this narrative, Sorry …’s ultimately about the corruption of the material world (hopefully, no Hindus, Buddhists, or long-lost-hippies were harmed in the production of this film) so I’m wrapping up with a double-play of financially-lustful-songs, “Money (That’s What I Want)” (an early hit for Motown, written by Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford) performed by The Beatles at %2Cwn (from the Cavern Club, 1961, with Pete Best on drums instead of Ringo Starr, but if you prefer Ringo here’s another live performance from Liverpool [1963], an original video complete with time code and a few glitches; Beatles’ recording is on the UK 1963 With the Beatles album, US 1964 The Beatles Second Album) because until Cash fully realized what he had with Detroit he was distracted by “Your loving give me a thrill But your loving don’t pay my bills,” along with “Money” from Pink Floyd at (from their monumental 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon album; video from the July 2005 London Live 8 concert, the first time Roger Waters rejoined David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright in 24 years) just as Cash retrospectively understands after his monetary-based-misery: “Money, so they say Is the root of all evil today But if you ask for a rise it’s no surprise that they’re giving none away.

 I’ve tried to leave you with a lot to consider (or avoid) because I’ll be taking off the next couple of weeks while Nina and I visit a large collection of her relatives (my in-laws) in New England to celebrate various birthdays, retirements, and the like so don’t be offended if you actually do leave a comment (!) but I don’t get back to you very soon as I’m cutting off all Internet communication until we return home.  In the meantime, enjoy Ant-Man and the Wasp, then tell me all about it later, OK?
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about The King: (crazily enough, if you scroll down in this site’s The Press section to the links to Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic they exist but if you go to those sites and search for this title you get no results without a lot of digging [?] so you might want to simply use the links I’ve provided just below) (I can’t find any backup videos for this film except for trailers [curiouser and curiouser, Mr. Trump!] so I’ve just added this IMDb link)

Here’s more information about Sorry to Bother You: (44:19 interview with director and screenwriter Boots Riley and actors Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, 
Terry Crews, Steven Yeun [begins with the R-rated version of the trailer])

Please note that to Post a Comment below about our reviews you need to have either a Google account (which you can easily get at if you need to sign up) or other sign-in identification from the pull-down menu below before you preview or post.

If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 3,445 (as always, we thank all of you for your support with our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers, with last month being especially widespread across countries from 5 continents, missing only Africa and 
my-assumed-never-to-be-heard-from-until-the-penguins-get-WiFi-Antarctica); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. Good try there, but there can NOT be a metaphor between the United States, which WANTED and CONTINUES TO WANT to change, then rule the world and Elvis Presley who never did WANT to do either. It just happened in his case. In fact, probably one of the few people who really understood him was Stephen Barnard. In his book "Popular Music, Volume I: Folk or Popular?", a publication director Jarecky should have read before trying to make any metaphor about Presley, he describes him as follows. And I quote 'He never understood the artistic claims that were made for him, probably thought very little of the nature of his appeal or his music; yet, as author Greil Marcus points out in 'Mystery Train', it is possible to see (all that) as a positive factor; Presley viewed his music as for the body, not the mind, so he recorded and performed accordingly; and, if much of his music sounds superficial, it was thanks to his undoubted vocal talent and extraordinary charisma that, at least, it was all gloriously superficial and celebratory; he knew better than to take it seriously and, in doing so, he become the consummate music figure, one that defines its spirit by delighting in its very limitations. Unquote Too bad the documentary leaves out the non surprising fact that it was not just that Presley never took himself that seriously, but that the new title of the documentary, "The King" (and this is just one example), as witnessed in 1974 by some 17,000 concert goers at the University of Notre Dame Athletic Center, was precisely what he hated the most. So there is simply no metaphor to be found. It takes two to tango...

    1. Hi Guillermo, Sorry I’ve been so long in getting your comment published and replying to it, but there was some kind of glitch so I wasn’t even notified you’d sent it in. In the future, I’ll go into my Blogspot mailbox once a week to make sure I’m aware of any submitted comments. Thanks for your extensive response to The King, although I think it's clear you found the film considerably more problematic than I did, but your argument is solid, providing useful information about Elvis. Ken Burke

  2. the king and sorry to brother is the best
    HD Video

    1. Hi gosipin, Sorry I’ve been so long in getting your comment published and replying to it, but there was some kind of glitch so I wasn’t even notified you’d sent it in. In the future, I’ll go into my Blogspot mailbox once a week to make sure I’m aware of any submitted comments. Thanks for your reply. Ken Burke