The Beatles: 8 Days A Week

Director: Ron Howard (2016) BBFC cert: 12A

This rock and roll documentary examines how the touring years of the Fab Four affected their musical output and consequently the cultural landscape of the world.

It’s a triumph of research and editing. Though hugely enjoyable even for a casual fan such as myself, there isn’t much new and the genius you can hear has been around for over fifty years.

Clearly a passion project for director Ron Howard, he mines exhaustively from a wealth of archive material. This allows the band to speak for themselves with their trademark goofy charm and sharp wit.

Journalists from the time contribute their memories and various famous people pop up to declare how much the band meant to their youth, such as an entertaining Sigourney Weaver.

We follow their meteoric rise from the cramped belly of Liverpool’s Cavern Club to become the first ever band to conduct a stadium tour of the US.

Despite unparalleled period of chart success, an exploitative recording contract encourages the ambitious band to hit the road to make some real money.

Due to the boys unprecedented popularity, US authorities were worried about fans’ safety and insisted the group play giant stadiums, leading to their selling out the 56,000 seater Shea Stadium in Chicago.

The bands innate decency and fearless naivety results in their successfully challenging the segregation of audiences in the US south. They also deal with bomb threats, riots and hordes of screaming teenage fans wherever they go.

Decisions are made democratically, albeit it’s a democracy where John Lennon is the first among equals. Though we’re spared the creative differences which were to tear the group apart, the on-stage placing of George Harrison between Lennon and Paul McCartney suggests a temporary buffer to the schism to come. The much maligned Ringo demonstrates his almost violent musical contribution to their success.

We see how crucifying schedule of recording and performing contributes to their collective decision to quit touring in August 1966 to focus on recording. A superb montage to A Day In The Life shows how they develop physically, emotionally and artistically.

After a three year hiatus their last ever gig was performed unannounced from the roof of their Savile Row Apple office. This places it firmly in context and it becomes an act of spiritual and creative catharsis.


In The Heart Of The Sea

Director: Ron Howard (2015)

It’s all hands on deck for an epic old fashioned adventure on the high seas.

Based on the events which inspired Herman Melville‘s classic novel Moby Dick, it’s a shipshape and manly yarn full of arrogance, greed and danger.

The story is anchored by the reliable talents of Ben Whishaw and Brendan Gleeson as novelist Melville and drunken old sea-dog Thomas Nickerson.

One dark night in 1850, Melville pays Nickerson to tell the truth behind the voyage of the whaling ship The Essex, on which he served on as a cabin boy thirty years earlier.

Whaling is a dangerous and potentially lucrative industry, harvesting the seas for oil to serve America’s fast growing population.

Back then Nickerson was in the charge of Owen Chase, an experienced first mate, played with manly gusto by Chris Hemsworth.

The star of Marvel’s Thor always gives good smoulder and here he glowers with resentment.

Impoverished and eager to provide for his pregnant wife, Chase’s ambitions to captain his own ship are thwarted by the shipping company directors.

They make him serve under Benjamin Walker’s novice Captain Pollard, the privileged son of an important investor.

Lashed together in mutual antipathy and greed, they sail from Nantucket round Cape Horn to the Pacific ocean.

The scenes where the crew row out in tiny boats to manually harpoon their enormous prey are terrific.

But the increasingly desperate hunt for whales goes awry with the crew facing fires, storms, mutiny and of course a very angry white whale.

The heart of the sea becomes a very dark place indeed as despair and madness grip the sailors.

Following Rush (2013) the biopic of motor racing star James Hunt, this is the second film Ron Howard has made with Hemsworth.

Exciting, intelligent and respectful to it’s source In The Heart Of The Sea is the sort of film Hollywood is now accused of not making any more.

Well now they have so you really should go and see it.