06th Feb2016

Janis: Little Girl Blue (Film)

by timbaros
5th April 1969:  Rock singer Janis Joplin (1943 - 1970).  (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

5th April 1969: Rock singer Janis Joplin (1943 – 1970). (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Using interviews with childhood friends, former band members, celebrities and her brother and sister, Oscar nominated filmmaker Amy J. Berg has written and directed a documentary that puts together the pieces of Joplin’s life, and how she became who she was and why she did the drugs that would eventually kill her.

On September 30, 1970, Joplin gave an interview to journalist Howard Smith, an interview that took place just a few days before her death, who asked her why she sings. Her response was: “I get to experience a lot of feelings. You get to feel things in your imagination that aren’t even true. That’s why I like music. It’s creative and creates feelings.” Other snippets of this interview are interspersed in the documentary, where she discusses her life. “Little Girl Blue” also uses Joplins’ actual letters to her family where she expresses lots of hope, and doubts, about her life, even when she was at the pinnacle of her career.

I’m not old enough to remember Joplin. My memories of her involve watching Bette Midler’s astonishing performance in ‘The Rose’ as a Janis Joplin-like character who goes through a series of men and drugs. And ‘The Rose’ was loosely based on Joplin’s life.

Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1943. While growing up, she admits to never actually fitting in at school. A childhood friend says that it was a really good town to grow up in, but Joplin never thought so. She was always a rebel, always looked different to the other kids, sort of like a beatnick. And she was voted ‘ugliest man’ in college. She got kicked out of the school choir for not following directions. And while she was younger she never actually thought that she would get older.


But Janis knew she loved to sing, and while in college she knew her voice was special. It was in 1962 in a club in Austin, Texas where she first got up on stage and sang. The following year would see her go to California and her life would never be the same. “A lot freer and you can do what you want to do,” Joplin says of California. But she was in conflict with herself all the time, and started shooting up with fellow musicians. Her drug habit got so bad that all of her friends chipped in to send her back home. But she made a return to San Francisco and hooked up with the Big Brother Holding Company (BBHC) and never looked back. And Joplin was becoming a star – with her Otis Redding-like voice, hanging out with other celebrities including Andy Warhol. Members of BBHC speak of the time they shared with Joplin, the highs and the lows.

A turning point in BBHC was their appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Joplin wore gold bell bottom pants, and received a standing ovation, including from Momma Cass who was in the audience. Footage of this performance is in the documentary, and it is riveting. Joplin would find herself on the cover of Newsday shortly thereafter.

Now newly signed to a high profile record deal with Colombia, BBHC’s album Cheap Thrillswent gold in three days. Footage of Joplin and the band in the studio shows Joplin in great form and taking charge during the recordings. The band during this time lived both in San Francisco and in the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York City. Joplin would also often appear on the Dick Cavett television show, with Cavett reminiscing about the interviews and how he can’t remember if they had sex or not.

But Joplin was becoming a bigger star than her band, and soon enough she left them to form her own band. She was still living the rock-n-roll lifestyle – planes, fur coats, and drugs, lots of drugs. The pressure for her to succeed was huge and she was carrying around all this weight. Ultimately, she didn’t know how to manage her new band. But their world tour was a triumph, but it was not enough for Joplin. She was always jealous of the band members who always had women waiting for them after the show to go back home with, but she never had anyone. She made love on stage, and off stage she said that “all you’re left with yourself.” It was her performance at the groundbreaking Woodstock festival in 1969 where there were further signs of drug trouble. She clearly looked out of it, and band members say that she was in the toilet shooting up heroin before her performance.

She tried to kick her drug and alcohol habit by going to Brazil in early 1970. There she met a man who she fell in love with, and they went back to San Francisco together, but he eventually left her after witnessing her shooting drugs. Joplin also attended her 10th high school reunion where actual interviews show her dazed and confused. It’s a wonder no one at that time seemed to do anything about her drug problem, not even the people closest to her.

Joplin died in a Hollywood Hotel on Oct. 4, 1970. She had just finished recording her album Pearl, which would go on to sell 4 million copies and produce her biggest hit “Me and Bobby McGee.”After the funeral, her mother is seen reading letters from fans extolling how Joplin was “the mother of the blues;” it’s poignant and touching. Testimonials from Juliette Lewis, Melissa Etheridge and others discuss their feelings towards Joplin. ‘Little Girl Blue’ tells the story of a singer all of us have heard about but have never actually seen her sing. Janis: Little Girl Bluelets you witness this firsthand. It’s an excellent documentary with amazing footage of interviews and of the woman herself, in good times, and bad times.

Janis: Little Girl Blue is now playing in select UK cinemas

06th Feb2016

Everest (DVD)

by timbaros

EverestIn 1996, dozens of people tried to get to the top of Mount Everest. Some succeeded, and some died trying. The gripping and realistic ‘Everest’ recounts, in dramatic fashion, this event.

There were quite a few expeditions on Mount Everest in May 1996, and they all had one goal, to get themselves, and their clients (who paid $65,000 eacg), to the top of Mount Everest, and it was up to the expedition leaders to make this happen. Rob Hall was the leader for Adventure Consultants, and he happened to have Jon Krakauer on his team (journalist Krakauer, who was on an assignment for Outside magazine, would go on to write ‘Into Thin Air’ – a book about the disastrous events that took place on the mountain during this climb ). Hall was also responsible for 7 other clients. The Mountain Madness expedition was led by Scott Fischer, who also had 8 clients, including Sandy Hill Pittman, a very wealthy New York Socialite who was, at the time, the wife of Robert Pittman, the founder of MTV. In addition to the clients, several sherpas (local people who are hired by the expedition companies to carry supplies and food up the mountain, and to fix the ropes and ladders to make it easier and quicker for the clients to get up – practically getting everything in place for the climb) were part of the teams as well. Of course most of Hall’s and Fischer’s clients were not professional mountain climbers, they climbed mountains as more of a hobby, and expected to reach the top of Mount Everest because of the huge amount of money they paid. One of Hall’s clients was a postman (Doug Hansen). Another was a doctor from Texas (Beck Weathers). Also on Hall’s team was Yasuko Namba, a Japanese woman who had climbed six of the Seven Summits. And Hall and Fischer knew that it was good for their businesses to have their clients actually make it to the top. So along with these two expeditions groups, other groups of people trying to climb the mountain at the same time were from South Africa, France, Tibet, and 13 members of a Taiwanese team.


But the weather gods were not smiling on Hall and Fischer and their clients during this climb. And this is the story that ‘Everest’ the film successfully and gloomily brings to life. We are introduced to the teams six weeks prior to the start of their expedition. Hall (played by Jason Clarke) is from New Zealand who leaves his pregnant wife (Keira Knightley) behind to go to work. Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the adventurer with a laid back attitude. Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) says goodbye to his wife (Robin Wright) in Texas to try to accomplish the almost impossible task of getting to the top of Mount Everest. Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) meets up with the gang in Nepal, as does Sandy Hill Pittman (Vanessa Kirby), which is the starting point for all expeditions. It is in Nepal where the teams get to know each other and bond, but it’s when they get to base camp that the adventure, and danger, begins. Base Camp is already at such a high altitude (17,600 feet), that climbers need to be acclimatized so their bodies can get used to the high altitude. It’s also where the operations for the expeditions take place, led by Helen Wilton (Emily Watson). ‘Everest’ takes us with them on the journey of these teams climbing the mountain. But first they need to navigate the Khumbu ice fall, soaring ice towers and crevasses so deep that there really is no bottom. Camp I and Camp II are where the teams stop to rest, perhaps spending a few days here. But it’s the Lhotse Face that is one of the most challenging bits on the mountain. It’s a 3,600 foot wall of ice that they have to climb to reach Camp III, an altitude where most climbers need to use bottled oxygen just to breath. But it’s above 26,000 feet, right below Camp IV, which is called “The Death Zone” because it’s where humans cannot survive for long. If climbers have survived as high up as Camp IV, then it’s full throttle ahead to reach the summit, usually at midnight so that the teams can reach it before noon, that if they survive the heavy gusts of wind, and the Hillary Step, a 40-foot tower of ice and rock on an exposed part of the mountain that becomes a human traffic jam for people getting to the top, as well as coming back down. But it’s the climb back down that is hardest. The climbers are exhausted, some suffering from high altitude conditions, but it’s the lucky ones who can make it down on their own, and it’s these people who have to decide whether to save the almost dead or leave them behind to save their own lives. As recounted in ‘Everest’, Hall and Fischer’s teams encountered a major storm on their way down, but it was not the only mistake that took place on that climb. Besides too many people on the mountain, Hall took Hansen up to top way past the agreed time. And the search for them cost another climber his life. Fischer was not in the best of shape as he was climbing to the top, and had a much harder time going down. And a storm overtook the climbers, which turned out to be unexpected and deathly. And it’s reenacted in ‘Everest’ to extreme detail; high winds, blowing snow, climbers struggling just to survive, dead bodies littered here and there, and almost blacked-outconditions. ‘Everest’ also recounts Weather’s struggle for survival, Hall’s loyalty to his client, and the operations team realizing that there is nothing they can do for the people trapped on the mountain.

‘Everest’ successfully, and grippingly, tells the story of the people who survived the mountain that fateful year. And while there have been a few books and one television movie made about this event, ‘Everest’ is based on the book by Weathers ( Left for Dead: My Journey Home from Everest (2000)), recollections from some of the survivors, as well as satellite phone conversations between the climbers, their families, and base camp. And the actors who portray the real life characters are superb. Josh Brolin has his best role in years as Weathers, a man who amazingly was left for dead on the mountain but somehow survived. Jason Clarke as Rob Hall is excellent – he’s determined to get his clients to the top and at the same time determined to get back home to see the birth of his first baby. Emily Watson as Wilton, the base camp operations coordinator, is concerned, and then doomed, after she realizes that a few lives have been lost on the mountain. And John Hawkes as postman Hansen gives us a portrait of a man who wants to be there but is not experienced in any way to climb the mountain. Luckily Knightley’s role is not on the mountain (can you actually see her playing someone who is climbing Mount Everest?), she plays Hall’s wife back at home, and there’s nothing she can do to help him. Gyllenhaal’s role as Fischer is relegated to a few scenes, mostly up on the mountain – he’s far from being the star of the movie. Director Baltasar Kormakur (2 Guns, Contraband), working from a script by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, takes us with the teams on their journey, and it looks all too realistic. While there are lots of characters to keep track of (the all important Sherpas are virtually ignored), especially when they are all wrapped up – it’s a bit hard to tell who is how, ‘Everest’ brings to the big screen the real life 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Eight people eventually died during this expedition. ‘Everest’ was shot at a high elevation on the trek to Everest in Nepal, in the Italian Alps and at Cinecitta Studios in Rome, and Pinewood Studios in the UK. It can be experienced in IMAX 3D as well as standard 3D and 2D. ‘Everest’ is a true epic adventure that will take your breathe away.

‘Everest’ is now available to buy on DVD.

Everest [DVD] (DVD)

Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright
Rating: Suitable for 12 years and over

Like new condition. Comes with original artwork. Shipped direct from the UK. All discs 100% QA checked for read errors before dispatch. DVD case may show some signs of previous use. Disc may have some minor light surface scratches which will not affect pl
New From: £2.03 GBP In Stock
Used from: £0.01 GBP In Stock