Greed (** ½)

Steve Coogan in Greed

The latest collaboration between director Michael Winterbottom and actor Steve Coogan, Greed, feels as if its missing something. If I were pressed I wouldn’t be able to say exactly what that something is as it’s relatively hard to define. Perhaps it’s because the duo proved themselves capable of such better work together in days gone by. The Trip series of films are but one example that they’ve simply set the bar too high. Greed clearly wants to take satiric aim at those who flaunt their wealth and are famous just for simply being famous. These targets are definitely ripe for the plucking but Greed just never manages to punch hard or deep enough in spite of the occasionally inspired moment.

Coogan stars as Sir Phillip Green, best known as a tax evader and all around scam artist. He just happened to be adept enough at concocting scams where he was able to create a fabulous life for himself that lasted for a while at least. The film relates Green’s story as he’s being interviewed for a biography which provides ample opportunity to serve as an introduction to the various players in his life.

One more thing worth noting is that, in a weird twist, British TV host Caroline Flack can be spotted at the beginning of the film introducing Green. Flack killed herself short before the film’s release. To label that event ironic would be more than an understatement. Sadly, it sends a stronger message than anything in the film.

Once Were Brothers: Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson & Robbie Robertson

Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band (***)

Music documentaries seem to come through faster than gas through a funnel or eggs through a hen these days. So much so that it’s hard to discern which are actually worth one’s time. Once Were Brothers is one of those that definitely falls into the worth seeing camp and maybe it’s because I happened to see it in a theater with a superb presentation. Had I opted to see this one at home I’m not sure I’d have had the same experience, which speaks volumes in terms of the importance of seeing films in a theatrical setting.

Most serious film fans by now have seen Martin Scorsese’s landmark concert film, The Last Waltz, which captured The Band performing their final concert on Thanksgiving Night 1976. Once Were Brothers basically is a recap of the events leading up to that moment as told from the perspective of The Band’s founding member, Robbie Robertson.

Robertson is now 78 and one of only two surviving members, the other being multi instrumentalist Garth Hudson. Since Hudson is reclusive, that only leaves one person to tell the story. Robertson does so in a compelling way, relating the tale of the group’s early stints backing both Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan before eventually forging their own path to almost universal critical acclaim. Along the way there are fair amounts of drama involving substance abuse, personal relationships, child birth and even the occasional vehicular accident. It’s interesting enough but I wanted more info on what became of the members after that final performance. You won’t find that here but it’s compelling enough as it stands.

Once Were Brothers is playing at the AMC Carolina Pavilion in Charlotte.

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