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Movies and Books of the month|

MOVIE FOR APRIL 2015: “Danny Collins” . . .
Directed by Dan Fogelman, Starring Al Pacino as Danny Collins; Melissa Benoist as Jamie; Jennifer Garner as Samantha Leigh Donnelly;  Bobby Cannavale as.Tom Donnelly; Christopher Plummer as Frank Grubman, and Josh Peck.

Featuring songs by John Lennon

Inspired by a true story, Al Pacino stars as aging 1970s rocker Danny Collins, who can’t give up his hard-living ways. But when his manager (Christopher Plummer) uncovers a 40 year-old undelivered letter written to him by John Lennon, he decides to change course and embarks on a heartfelt journey to rediscover his family, find true love and begin a second act.

* * * * *

BOOK FOR APRIL 2015: “My Kid Brother’s Band . . . a.k.a. The Beatles!” by Louise Harrison

Louise Harrison has recently published her book entitled, “My Kid Brother’s Band…a.k.a the Beatles!” (2014, Acclaim Press.) The 359-page book includes many interesting facets of the Harrison family history and Louise’s life, as well as her brother, George Harrison’s rise to fame with the Beatles. While the book’s title is meant to lure in Beatles’ fans, only part of it includes George and the Beatles.That being said, the book will earn a valuable spot in Beatles history, as it offers the unique perspective of a Beatle sister that can be offered by no one else.

The book, even with its great stories, reads like a draft that needs editing. The text is unorganized in places, making it a really confusing read. Louise also complicates matters more by inserting political opinions throughout the book that distract from the story. On top of all this, her bitterness for the “Harrison Family Estate” is pronounced and obvious. Whew.

It begins with a short and puzzling “Disclaimer”, followed by an Introduction that begins with labeling most other books about the Beatles “fantastic imagineering.” She states her desire to set the record straight on a number of things. Next there is an oddly titled “Chapter Zero”, (ground zero?) describing George’s visit to her home in 1963, a pivotal moment that goes down in history as the first time a Beatle visited the U.S. and also performed there.

Now it seems to be rolling somewhere. Chapters 1-9 are fairly cohesive and chronological. A fascinating journey through the “pre-history” of the Beatles is included, beginning with the Harrison family roots. Louise illustrates what Liverpool was like in the 1930s when she was a child growing up there, and the horrors of the bombing in WWII are described through her own eyes. And the nuns at her Catholic School sure take a beating from Louise! Chapter 9 jumps to the onslaught of Beatlemania (having already read “Chapter Zero”) and how George’s life was changing dramatically. Many interesting stories are included that fans may not have known before.

After this point, however, the chapters lose momentum as the story becomes fragmented with divorces, moves, financial troubles, and George’s “pension” that saved her from ruin. There are some faux-pas here and there, one being her assertion that she is the only “biological” sister to a Beatle, something that Julia Baird (half-sister to John Lennon) will beg to differ at, as well as her sister Jackie. The only Beatle wives mentioned are Pattie Boyd and seemingly her favorite, Cynthia Lennon. George’s widow Olivia Harrison is not mentioned once, however Dhani is. Many times she refers to the (portrayed as quite evil) “Harrison Family Estate” as having no biological Harrisons. The appearance by George and Paul Simon on “Saturday Night Live” was mistakenly dated as “in the 80s” but it was actually in 1976.

The Beatles’ break-up is skipped entirely, not even mentioned, as she moves straight to her visit to George’s home at Friar Park in 1971. In fact many big moments in her life are grazed over with minimal comment, making me wonder several times if I had missed a page. For example, she alludes to the abuse in her first marriage only in past tense, once the divorce is under way. Her parents’ deaths are mentioned but not elaborated on much, and it’s only in the final chapter that she mentions her son’s death back in 2010. John Lennon’s death is barely referred to.

Louise’s political and cultural rants are littered throughout the book in almost every chapter, diverting attention from the story repeatedly, something most readers will not tolerate. She takes aim at the culture of the United States, especially Republicans, with condescension. Nothing is spared—the rich, gun ownership, the educational system, and even Santa Claus. Despite her beginnings as a staunch conservative, she doesn’t explain how she came to adore Presidents Bill Clinton and Obama, and other mega-liberal figures like filmmaker Michael Moore. The book reduces itself to political babble that will enrage readers—especially Conservatives of course–who really just wanted to read some new stories about her brother.

The final two chapters feel as though she realized she had more word count left and decided to add some extra stuff. In one chapter she tries to set the record straight on a few things that were said about her over the years in the press. Another chapter is about her brushes with celebrities over the years, including once again, Bill Clinton. These last two chapters are in many ways repetitive, out of context, and out of order. I still can’t decide whether her former husband shot two dogs or just one, because the story came up in two different places. She could have taken these chapters and simply inserted the details where they belonged chronologically.

I rated the book a “3” overall. I would give Louise a “5” for making the effort to get her very special memoirs out to the public, and to George’s fans. This fact alone makes it worthwhile historically. The perspective from her experience is valuable, and the photos are wonderful. But it gets a “1” for distracting and off-topic comments as well as a somewhat disorganized layout.

http://www.examiner.com/review/review-louise-harrison-s-book-my-kid-brother-s-band-a-k-a-the-beatles

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