Thursday, July 30, 2020

Silent Films on TCM This August.

Hello my fellow silent film fans and TCM fans. So you don't miss anything here is a list of silent films that will be on TCM this August. Because of Summer Under the Stars there will be no Silent Sunday Night, but the good news is that the 8th will be Charlie Chaplin day. 

Saturday, August 8th

The Rounders (1914) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. 3:00am Pacific. 6am Eastern

The Knockout (1914) Director: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Starring Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and Charlie Chaplin. 3:15am Pacific. 6:15am Eastern.

The Pilgrim (1923) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Enda Purviance. 4am Pacific. 7am Eastern.

A Dog's Life (1918) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Sydney Chaplin. 4:45am Pacific. 7:45am Eastern. 

The Kid (1921) Director: Charlie Chaplin., Starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan. 5:30 am Pacific. 8:30am Eastern. 

The Gold Rush (1925) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Mack Swain. 6:30am Pacific. 9:30 am Eastern.

The Circus (1928) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy. 8:15am Pacific. 11:15am Eastern.

City Lights (1931) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Virginia Cherrill. 5pm Pacific. 8pm Eastern. 

Modern Times (1936) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Godard. 6:45pm Pacific. 9:45pm Eastern. 

Pay Day (1922) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance. 11:15pm Pacific. 2:15am Eastern.

Sunnyside (1919) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Edna Purviance. 11:45pm Pacific. 2:45am Eastern. 

Sunday August 9th 

The Idle Class (1921) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Enda Purviance. 12:30am Pacific. 3:30 am Eastern. 

Shoulder Arms (1918)  Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Sydney Chaplin. 1:15am Pacific. 4:15am Eastern.

A Day's Pleasure (1919) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Enda Purviance. 2am Pacific. 5am Eastern. 

Mabel's Married Life (1914) Director: Mack Sennett. Starring Mabel Normand and Charlie Chaplin. 2:30am Pacific. 5:30am Eastern. 

Monday August 10th 

The Student Prince in Old Heidelburg (1927) Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Starring Roman Novarro and Norma Shearer. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern

Thursday, August 13th

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920) Director: John S. Robertson. Starring John Barrymore and Martha Mansfield. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern. 

Don Juan (1926) Director: Alan Crosland. Starring John Barrymore and Mary Astor. 4:15am Pacific. 7:15am Eastern. 

When a Man Loves  (1927) Director: Alan Crosland. Starring John Barrymore and Dolores Costello. 6:15am Pacific. 9:15am Eastern. 

Wednesday August 19th

The Trail of '98
(1928) Director: Clarence Brown. Starring Dolores Del Rio and Ralph Forbes. 3am Pacific. 6am Eastern. 

Romana (1928) Director: Edwin Carewe. Starring Dolores Del Rio and Warner Baxter. 5pm Pacific. 8pm Eastern. 

-Michael J. Ruhland   


Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Gimme Shelter (1970)

This landmark documentary is still incredibly powerful and shocking today. This isn't just a movie about a rock band, but about a tragedy and the change in culture that created it. 

As many know the 1960's is often considered a time of idealism but thoughts of peace and love sadly couldn't last forever. This falling out of ideals is brutally and honestly shown at a rock concert in 1969 that took place at Altamont Speedway that erupted in a hideous display of violence. Though this film is technically about the Rolling Stones, the footage of this concert takes center stage and is what people remember and take away from this film. Anyone who wants a feel good fun rock and roll concert film, had better watch a different movie. The footage of this concert is unpleasant and will leave some with a feeling of discomfort and disillusionment. Yet this movie leaves such a powerful impression that anyone who has seen it can never forget it. Even as one of the most popular rock and roll bands in the world performs their most famous hits, they are unfortunately upstaged and overshadowed by the horror playing out in front of them. Of course the music is excellent but how musically talented the Stones are is not going to be your parting thought. There is little of the peace and love associated with 60's rock and roll, instead their is the violence and unruliness of a painful part of human nature that the hippie dream could not overcome no matter how hard it tried. What hurts all the more is that this is a documentary and what you see in the same is what actually happened as it happened. 

This is not an upbeat movie by any means but it is a thought provoking one that will stay with you long after the film is over. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Decline of Western Civilization Part 2: The Metal Years (1988)

Penelope Spheeris' 2nd entry into her incredible rock and roll documentary trilogy, turns the focus to heavy metal.

Like how the first movie was the ultimate punk rock film, this is the ultimate heavy metal movie. Like the first entry this sequel covers not only the music but the lifestyle. Once again the lifestyle is neither condoned or condemned. It is simply shown in full and complete honesty. To get the full feeling of the lifestyle, both huge name artists (Aerosmith, Ozzy Ozzborne, Alice Cooper, Poison) to smaller time artists that have bands you probably have never heard of are interviewed. Tales of drugs, rock and roll and especially sex fill this movie to the brim. The way many of the artists talk about sex is revealing and at times uncomfortable. The people interviewed often go into detail about the sexual experiences and talk about them with complete pride. While this can feel strange and off-putting to those of us who don't think about sex 24/7, I appreciate this movie's honesty when it comes to the subject. The gender politics of the genre are also discussed and can be rather sad to hear even if they are well known at times. Sadly there is a heavy metal image and unfortunately often women don't fit into it, despite that they have again and again proven they can rock as hard as the women. As well as musicians talking about how much they love heavy metal, there are also interviews with a woman who supports and practices what she calls "de-meatal-azation," a process of getting young people away from heavy metal music and the lifestyle it is believed to represent. Again what is great about this movie is that it does not take sides, it simply shows what it sees in full honesty.

The music is an excellent look at late 80's metal, showing everything that made the music so popular. There is such a pure level of energy and excitement to the music that is performed here. As much time as is spent interviewing huge names, the performances are often by lesser known artists like London, Seduce and Odin (though Megadeath does perform here as well). While this may disappoint those who want to hear Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Kiss or Poison, there is nothing wrong with the music that is heard here.

This is in many ways this is the definitive heavy metal movie and a must watch for both those who are into the music and those who aren't

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, July 27, 2020

Happy 80th Birthday Bugs Bunny

Motion Picture Daily, 1941
Today is the day we celebrate Bugs Bunny's 80th birthday. While this point can be argued as it is based around the cartoon, A Wild Hare (1940), while others argue that Porky's Hare Hunt (1938) was actually his first appearance. Regardless of what you consider the first Bugs cartoon, he first appeared fully formed in A Wild Hare, so it seems appropriate that we celebrate his birthday today.

Though July 27th has become official considered Bugs' birthday, for years Bugs had his birthday hop around (pun intended) from day and to and questionable from year to year as his age would sometime not correspond with what his age was said to be a few years earlier. As I have discussed in a previous blog post, you can read by clicking here.

Bugs Bunny cartoons were often just as cherished a part of the movie going experience as the feature film. As such it should come as no surprise that entire movie programs were created around the Wascally Wabbit's films. An issue of The Showman's Trade Review dated April 4, 1942 informs how you can put on your own.

"Bugs Bunny has come into his own. He's a full fledged cartoon star now, thanks to the public. In fact so popular has the rabbit become that exhibitors throughout the country are cashing in by staging Bugs Bunny Kartoon Karnivals.

"Easter would be an ideal time for this activity, but Easter has come and gone, so that angle is out. Let not your showmanship spirit be dampened, however, for you can put on a Bugs Bunny Kartoon Karnival anytime during the year.

"Four or five cartoons should be booked for the occasion. Devote more than average space for the show in your ad. We've seen several ads from theatres that have already put on the special programs, and nearly all featured line-cut illustrations of the famous hare.   

"Display a large cut out in you lobby. Conduct a drawing contest via the newspaper, with guest tickets for the Karnival going to children who submit the best drawings of Bugs Bunny. Arrangements might be made for a certain number of live rabbits to be given away. (The latter suggestion holds only if you stage the Karnival at a special matinee.)

"Tie-ups of course, depend on the cartoons to be exhibited. For example if one of them is 'The Wabbit Who Came to Supper' (coming right up, we understand), you should be able to promote a window display and imprinted napkins and menus from a neighborhood restaurant. Further tie-ups of a different nature might be suggested by the subject matter of other recent Bugs Bunny releases. 

"I case 'The Heckling Hare' is part of your program you might try a newspaper contest wherein prizes are offered for the best short letters on the subject, 'Why I hate a heckler.'

"Whether you put on the Karnival or whether you play the Bugs Bunny cartoons singly, be sure to feature them prominently in all your advertisements. You'll be surprised by the number of people who'll come to your theatre when they know Bugs is on your program." 

Sponsor, 1957

Sponsor, 1961

-Michael J. Ruhland

Summer Concert Series: Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

Before directing Wayne's World (1992) or The Little Rascals (1994), Penelope Spheeris made her mark upon the film world with this incredible documentary on the punk rock scene in L.A.

What makes this movie so great is that it neither condones nor condemns any of the people shown in it. It instead gives you an honest and unflinching portrait of these individuals, who live so far out of societal norms. We are left to decide for ourselves whether the punk rock scene is a powerful form of protest against society, an advocation of anarchy, or just a bunch of crazy people being crazy. The rowdy and craziness of the clubs is also shown in all its glory or horror (depending on your persuasion) with unflinching honesty. Again Penelope Spheeris shows us this simply as it is and neither endorses or condemns what goes on here, leaving us to decide for ourselves. The footage of the individuals interviewed is raw and unpolished, but emotional powerful, just like the music being presented here. It should be noted that what is shown here is not the later more mainstream punk rock but a much rawer and rough edged style of punk rock. The filmmaking here purposely keeps much of that rough edged style of the music.

In my personal subjective-ness I enjoyed some of the music, while some of it I can't get into. The appeal of bands like Germs or Catholic Discipline is completely lost on me. Yet at the same time I really enjoyed the music of X and Alice Bag Band that I heard here. Of course some of you may like the music I didn't and dislike the music I liked and that is okay. This is not mainstream music and it is not meant to appeal to everyone.

This is a fascinating film to watch today, decades after it was made. We get to see how in some ways things have changed but the basic angst and attitude of so many shown here, show how in reality a lot is still the same today.

Whether you are a punk rock fan or not, this is such a well made and impactful film, that it is still a must see for all movie buffs.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Cowboy Church #68

Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans performing a medley of western classics (including The Place Where I WorshipHe Walks With The Wild and LonelyTexas Plains and Happy Trails) on Hee Haw. This is followed by The Cox Family performing I am Weary Let Me Rest. Next is Eddy Arnold's 1962 recording of Love Lifted Me. This song was written by James Rowe and Howard E. Smith in 1912. This hymn was inspired by the biblical story of Peter being able to walk on water when looking upon Jesus, but starting to sink as soon as he looks away. While few if any of us will find our selves in this literal situation the story still has an important meaning to us today about how import it is to keep our eyes on God and how far we can fall if we take our eyes off him. This is followed by The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1946 recording of Cowboy Camp Meeting. This song was written by Tim Spencer who was one of the founding members of The Sons of the Pioneers and who helped pioneer (pun intended) the group's sound, that changed cowboy music forever and still inspires many cowboy singers today whether they realize it or not. Camp Meetings were very important to Christians who actually lived in the old west. These were traveling services that came to town and spread the gospel through hymn singing and preaching. These were lively services full of singing and excitement that were filled with the joy of the Lord. This song captures the pure joy and energy of the music there. Johnny Cash continues today's musical selection with his version of God Has My Fortune Laid Away. This recording comes from his 1962 gospel album, Hymns From the Heart. This song again has an important message for us Christians. We should not get to caught up in the things of this world as our true treasure is in Heaven and that treasure will last for all eternity, and not fade away like the things of this world. Following is Little Jimmy Dickens with his 1952 recording of I Shall Not Be Moved. Today's musical selection ends with Hank Snow's 1952 recording of Jesus Wept.


For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

But if the wicked turn from his wickedness, and do that which is lawful and right, he shall live thereby. Ezekiel 33:19

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:16

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. Proverbs 20:1

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. Isiah 12:3

 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 1 Peter 4:13

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:16

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Summer Concert Series: We Will Rock You (1984)

Note: This film was originally released as We Will Rock You, but later reissues have renamed it Queen Rock Montreal.

An incredible concert film featuring one of the most popular rock bands of all time.

In this movie Queen is more than just a very talented rock and roll band. They are sheer force unlike anything else in the world. There are many bands that are great musicians but few that can command a stage and make their presence felt (even in a movie) than Queen. From Freddie's fantastic interactions with the audience to the way all four of them move around the stage to Roger's theatrical drum solo to just the sheer charisma of these four individuals they keep your eyes and ears fixated on the film the whole time. The music is just as incredible. They run through a selection of their greatest hits such as We Will Rock You (duh), We Are The ChampionsBohemian Rhapsody, Another One Bites the Dust and Crazy Little Thing Called Love as well as some fan favorites like Keep Yourself Alive, Get Down Make Love, Sheer Heart Attack, Love of My LifeI'm in Love With My Car and Now I'm Here, plus some album track from their most recent studio effort (The Game) like Dragon Attack and Save Me and even a cover of Jailhouse Rock. All of these songs are performed to complete perfection, and some of them even sound better here than on the studio albums.

This is the kind of movie that I can imagine a kid seeing and immediately deciding to become a rock and roll star. Anyone who likes rock and roll music (even just a little) needs to see this film.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #81

Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for more classic cartoons.

Today’s selection begins with another classic pairing of Mickey, Donald and Goofy with Tugboat Mickey (1940). This cartoon very closely follows the structure built from previous films from the series. The trio are placed in a setting and have a similar goal, but have their own separate adventures on the way to “achieving” that goal. This movie has a great twist ending that always provides a good laugh. This was not the first time the trio had teamed up aboard a ship as they had previously done so in Boat Builders (1938) and The Whalers (1938). There is not a weak link in this “trilogy.” The following is an exhibitors' review from the Motion Picture Herald, "TUGBOAT MICKEY: Walt Disney Cartoons—We stayed away from the Disneys for over a year but think we made a mistake. People bring their kids to see "Mickey."—Harland Rankin, Plaza Theatre, Til- bury, and Alexander Theatre, Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada. General Patronage." The following is another, "TUGBOAT MICKEY: Walt Disney Cartoons—Al- though not quite up to other Disneys in cleverness, this one certainly has fast action. It is certainly a good cartoon, but other Disneys are better. Running time eight minutes. - W. Varick Nevins, III, Alfred Co-op Theatre, Alfred, N.Y. Small college town and rural patronage."

The Talking Magpies (1946) is often cited as one the first Heckle and Jeckle cartoon. However the characters in this film are similar to Heckle and Jeckle but are not them. Instead of a pair of identical male friends, we have a bickering husband and wife. Still this are magpies pulling the same kind of tricks Heckle and Jeckle would later pull on their adversaries on the already long time Terry Toons character, Farmer Alfalfa. What I love about this cartoon and the Heckle and Jeckle films to follow is that the main goal of the characters is simply to create slapstick anarchy. This in many ways makes these movies the Terry Toons equivalent to the early Daffy Duck or Woody Woodpecker cartoons.

In the 1960's The Three Stooges received their own TV cartoon series called The New Three Stooges (1965). These were not just cartoons featuring the characters of the Stooges. Moe, Larry and Curley Joe voiced themselves and introduced the cartoons in live action segments. Curley Joe felt that the show was hurt by the fact that the live action segments would be repeated, even when the cartoon was knew. He felt this would lead people to see an opening they recognized and change the channel thinking it was a repeat.


There were many themes that were repeated through the run of the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons (probably the most famous being one character chasing another). One of these themes that was used quite a bit in the 1930's and 40's was the idea of books coming to life. A top notch example of this theme is in the Frank Tashlin directed short, Have You Got Any Castles? (1938). This film featured one book related pun after another, creating the sense of pure energy that was so prevalent in all the best Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. This short features quite a few delights for movie fans as most of these books had been turned into films by this time and so the literary characters are often caricatures of the stars in those movie versions. The title song in this cartoon was a hit just a year earlier when performed by Tom Dorsey. The song was written by Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting (the team that wrote Too Marvelous For Words). The following is an exhibitors review from The Motion Picture Herald, " HAVE YOU GOT ANY CASTLES: Merrie Melodies —A swell little cartoon in color. Another smash hit, very clever and it impressed me as it did the older people. Kiddish enough for the kiddies. Yet to under- stand it. it would get a real laugh from the older folks. Running time, seven minutes.—Pearce Park- hurst, State Theatre, Torrington, Conn. General pat- ronage." The following is another, "HAVE YOU GOT ANY CASTLES: Merrie Melodies - To sit down and watch these cartoons is like watching something in line of a miracle. You can't beat them. This is a knockout. Running Time: eight minutes. - George Khattar, Casino Theatre, Whitney Pier, Sydney, Nova Scottia, Canada, General Patronage." This cartoon was reissued to theatres in 1947.


Today's selection ends as the Terry Bears catch Duck Fever (1955)

Join me next week for another selection of animated treasures. Until then may all your Tunes be Looney and your Melodies Merrie.

Motion Picture Herald, 1941

-Michael J. Ruhland

Summer Concert Series: Down from the Mountain (2000)

 The movie, O Brother Where Art Thou (2000) brought a renewed interest in folk and bluegrass music. In fact the music was so important to that movie that a concert film was created based around the performers who did the songs heard there. As strange of an idea as this is, Down From the Mountain works wonderfully.

Despite the presence of D.A. Pennebaker (Don't Look Back (1967), Monterey Pop (1968)) as one of the directors there is little cinematic about this movie. You can close your eyes and simply listen to the music and get pretty much the same out of it. That may sound like a major insult, but when the music is this good one hardly needs anymore. Those who know my taste in music (or anyone who reads my Cowboy Church posts) will hardly be surprised to hear me praise this movie, it is a perfect example of what I listen to when I am not watching movies. Such incredible artists as Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss and Union Station, The Cox Family, Ralph Stanley, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, John Hartford and The Whites perform here and all of them are at the top of their game. From the perfect voices of Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss, to the incredible lyrics of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, to the incredible musicianship of Ralph Stanley and Union Station, this film gives country, folk and bluegrass fans all they could want from a concert movie and much more.

A pure auditorily treat, even if cinematically it leaves some to be desired. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, July 24, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Foreigner: All Access Tonight (2003)

In 2002 VH1 was doing a behind the music segment on British/American rock band Foreigner. When they were asked for archival footage of the band performing, they began to realize that they had none. Guitarist and founding member Mick Jones, decided that this was a fact that needed to be rectified. So he asked his friend Justin Bougerie (the director of this movie) to film the 2002-2003 tour of the band. In the end they had enough footage to make a feature length film.

This movie is hardly as polished as something like The Last Waltz (1978). It was filmed on one camera and therefore many of the cinematic touches seen in other concert films are completely missing here. The footage itself is about the same picture quality as a fan recording one of their favorite bands and concert and posting it to YouTube. However the sound quality is much better. There are some scenes where you see the band when they are not performing. While there is hardly the intimacy of say Don't Look Back (1967), these scenes are a lot of fun (with the exception of them checking into a hotel in a scene where nothing else happens).

While this movie may be lacking cinematically at times, it makes up for this with Foreigner's performances. They put on quite a show and are a joy to watch as they perform their hits. Many of these songs sound just as good if not better live. Despite this being 25 years after the band formed they had lost none of their talent by this time. Adding to this is that hit songs like Double Vision, Hot Blooded, Feels Like the First Time and Juke Hero are just as fun as they were when they came out.

This may not be anything groundbreaking but it is a fun concert film.

Michael J. Ruhland  

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Summer Concert Series: How James Brown Saved Boston (2008)

James Brown did an incredible concert on April 5, 1968 in Boston, the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. This was of course a very tense and emotional time for America and many feared that this concert would enact rioting and violence that might leave Boston in shambles or that someone might attempt to kill James Brown (who had vocally given respect to Dr. King). Mayor Kevin White saw this as a lose lose situation politicly. He felt could cancel the concert and be accused of discriminating against the black community, or he could do nothing and others would accuse him of allowing a riot. His solution was to televise the concert. This made James very angry as he would be losing a whole lot of money. This lead to a very tense experience for all involved, yet an incredible concert that was a landmark in musical history.

  The Night James Brown Saved Boston is an incredible look into this concert and the climate that created such a tension around it. This film has various very intelligent people intelligently discussing this period of time giving us a fresh and moving look into this tense and emotionally challenging time following a great tragedy in American history. It also gives insight into how James Brown felt about everything going on, as well how he was able to give an incredible performance with all that was going around this concert. Whether or not you are a fan of his music, there is no doubt James Brown had an incredible gift for entertaining an audience and to watch him on stage is like watching no one else. Watching the clips of him performing here are an incredible testament to how this man could control a stage and an audience like no other performer. This makes these clips a joy to watch for anyone regardless of musical taste.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Movie Review: Scoob!

Michael's Movie Grade: B

This film is not perfect but it is tons of fun and isn't that just what you want from a Scooby-Doo! movie.

There is a lot to enjoy about this movie. The opening scenes with Shaggy and Scooby meeting and becoming friends are especially good. This film really lets you feel the bond between the two of them and this bond remains for the whole movie. I am not saying you will cry at a Scooby-Doo! movie (you probably won't), but there are moments that are actually pretty touching. While there are quite a few characters here, the focus is always on the relationship between Scooby and Shaggy and every moment of this relationship is completely believable. Also on the surprisingly effective emotion side of this movie, there are some fully relatable moments here that make the characters all the more real. We have all felt left out and like we are not important, or that there is a standard we should be living up to that we can not reach and that is conveyed very well here. However any good Scooby-Doo! movie needs to be fun and this one definitely is. Rather than your typical Scooby-Doo mystery, this is a full blown adventure story and a pretty good one. There is a feeling of bigness about this film that is perfectly captured in a fun lighthearted way. While you may know where the story is going at times, you still have a lot of fun getting there. While not every joke works, there are still some very funny moments here and I will admit I laughed out loud a few times.

If you are a Hanna-Barbera like I am, then Scoob! will be a treat. There are so many little things hidden throughout this movie, that I am going to have to watch this again soon because I am sure I didn't catch all of them. From a bowling alley named Takamoto Bowl to an appearance by Peebles Pet Shop and an Impossibles poster in Shaggy's room the film is a sheer delight for Hanna-Barbera fans. There are also appearances by many Hanna-Barbera characters from the 1960's and 70's both as many characters and as blink and you miss them cameos. It is said this movie is set to launch a Hanna-Barbera cinematic universe and I hope it does. 

Unfortunately this film certainly has its faults. From inappropriate pop songs on the soundtrack to too many references to current technological fads this movie tries too hard to be hip and relevant as if Scooby-Doo! could ever not be cool. Similarly I don't like how they made Fred into a real idiot at times. Sure there have been previous movies where Fred was dumbed down but never to this extant. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if the jokes revolving around Fred's dumbness weren't the weakest jokes in the film. The Simon Cowell cameo also feels extremely forced.

Despite any faults though this is definitly a fun movie and that is just what a Scooby-Doo! movie should be.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Summer Concert Series: Johnny Cash! The Man, His World, His Music (1969)

In many ways this movie is director Robert Elfstrom's response to Don't Look Back. Like that film, this documentary follows its subject with a camera and simply shows what he does on and offstage. The biggest difference the difference between Johnny Cash at this time and Bob Dylan at the time of Don't Look Back. Bob was tired of constantly being asked questions about the deep meaning of his songs and being viewed as a voice of a generation. He simply wanted to play music and be left alone when he wasn't. Because of this he developed a snarky persona that is present through the whole film. Johnny Cash on the other hand was at one of the happiest moments of life. After years of drug abuse and erratic behavior tearing away everyone who loved him, he had turned back to God and found peace and comfort there. The Johnny Cash we see here is very different from the one we would have seen a couple years earlier. We see him at peace and enjoying his soundings and what he is doing. As such this is a far more tranquil movie with a completely different appeal than Don't Look Back despite very similar filmmaking styles. We see Johnny help out a new coming singer, enjoy the company of his fans, hike in nature, stand up for social causes and play music.

Of course the music here is fantastic. Unlike Don't Look Back, we get to see the whole songs being performed here, which is a delight. This was John at the peak of his career and he has never sounded better. As well as Johnny we get to see him perform a duet with (appropriately) Bob Dylan as well as a brief performance by rock and roll great Carl Perkins (who by this time had become a regular part of John's live performances) with his biggest hit, Blue Suede Shoes.

John got along well with director Robert Elfstorm and when he produced the movie Gospel Road (1973), he picked Robert as the director.

This may not quite measure up to Don't Look Back, but is a very enjoyable movie in its own right.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Thelonious Monk Straight No Chaser (1988)

This movie is a very touching and human account of the great jazz pianist. Those who know much about Thelonious Monk will no that he had some mental problems that affected his life greatly. This is always a touchy subject for movies (documentaries included) because they have a tendency to let the disabilities become the person. This film does an incredible job about talking rather in depth about his disabilities while still showing that while they affected him they did not define him. Much of the heart of this film comes from interviews with the musician's friends and family. They speak about him with so much love that it is hard for us not to love him as well. Fellow musicians who spoke in this movie were so in awe of the man's musical talent that this film can give even jazz fans a new perspective on this great artist.

This film is also a sheer joy for jazz fans with so many rare clips of the great artist both on and off stage. These clips are an important part of jazz history that might have been lost to time if it wasn't for this movie. We also get to hear a lot of his music and all of it is excellent. This will make fans of newcomers and will delight long time fans.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, July 20, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Jazz on a Summer's Day (1959)

Jazz on A Summer's Day is one of the earliest concert films and one of the best. This movie provides all one could wish for from a film like this, provided a great look at the 1958 Newport Jazz festival. Of course most important to this type of movie is the music and that is fantastic here. The line up of artists is fantastic. Included are Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Big Maybelle, Chico Hamilton and Mahalia Jackson. All of them are at the top of their game here. Watching Louis Armstrong continue showing that he was one of the world's great entertainers (as he did in many movies) is a pure delight. He and trombonist Jack Teagarden have incredible chemistry and it is a joy to watch them together. Though Monk is in the film only briefly his music leaves quite an impression. Chico Hamilton and Gerry Mulligan show that this type of jazz is just as great today as it was then. Chuck Berry gives his all and shows all the energy and fun that defined early rock and roll. There was no better way to end this movie than gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. If her singing doesn't move you nothing will. Her performance of The Lord's Prayer not only stops the show but glues your ears and eyes to the movie in a way free performers can. Time stands still and all there is are the words, music and her voice creating an incredible experience found in few concert films. 

The way this movie is filmed is fascinating. Unlike many concert movies where the camera is always on the performers this film spends just as much if not more time looking at the audience. It is often times just as much fun watching the audience as it is the performers. When you think of jazz in movies, you often think of a dark film noir type setting as well as dark and shady characters. Instead what we get here is a bright summer's day in a nice upscale looking place and a crowd of people who look like they are at a church service. They are mostly a restrained crowd but one that is heavily enjoying the music. Watching the crowd when Chuck Berry is performing is watching musical and cultural history happening. The younger audience members, who are restrained through much of the film are dancing and having tons of fun with the still new rock and roll. Meanwhile the older attendees (who probably came to hear jazz music) are cold and unemotional to this new fangled genre. As well as the scenes with the audience watching the performances, there also scenes simply showing the attendees having wholesome fun, when there are no artists on stage. This makes the movie more appealing today as it becomes a nostalgic time capsule of a time that is very different from how we live today. 

If you are a film fan, if you are a music fan or if you are both, this movie is a must watch.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Cowboy Church #67

Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of cowboy church.

Today's musical selection begins with Gene Autry singing Dear Hearts and Gentle People in a clip from the movie, Beyond The Purple Hills (1950), While this isn't exactly a gospel song it does include the line "They read the good book from Fri. 'till Monday." Next comes Hank Williams singing Gathering Flowers for the Master Bouquet from a 1951 episode of the Mother's Best radio show. The song was originally written by Marvin Baumgardner for the 1940 hymnal, Golden Key. At this time the song was already familiar to country music fans as The Maddox Brothers & Rose recorded it in 1948 and Kitty Wells recorded it the same year. In 1949 The Stanley Brothers recorded the song. It is hard to no which one of these (if any of these) recordings inspired Hank to record this song. This is followed by Kitty Wells singing Mathew 24. Next is The Louvin Brothers with Weapon of Prayer. Don't let this world fool you, we are constantly engaged in spiritual warfare. However God has given us many ways to fight the temptation that Satan heaps upon us. One of these is prayer. Prayer keeps on mind on God and gives us the strength to fight and press on. Remember this as you listen to Louvin Brothers perform this wonderful song. On the theme of prayer, Roy Rogers will keep today's music going on with A Cowboy's Sunday Prayer. This comes from his (and his wife Dale's) 1959 album, Jesus Loves Me. This is followed by The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1948 recording of Lead Me Gently Home Father. The band had recorded this song before in 1937 and I personally love both versions. Afterwards is The Charlie Daniels Band with Tribulation from their 1996 Christian album, Steel Witness. Today's musical selection ends with The Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis singing the gospel classic, The Lilly of the Valley

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7
Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”  Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him,  “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. John 14:21-24

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, Titus 3:5

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time. 2 Timothy 1:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

A man who is kind benefits himself, but a cruel man hurts himself. Proverbs 11:17

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. Proverbs 4:26-27

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Summer Concert Series: Festival Express (2003)

In Canada in 1970, a brand new type of music festival was created. It was one that would not be tried again and remains a unique and exciting idea. This idea was to have many great music artists travel a country by train, performing at the places where the train stopped. This great documentary tells the story of that tour.

The music in this movie is in many ways not surprisingly the highlight. Janis Joplin in particular is an artist that is just as fun to watch perform as she is to listen to. Her performance of Tell Mama is incredible. Her voice not only sounds amazing but she knows how to perfectly command the stage. What she gives us here is pure and utter rock and roll at its finest. After reviewing The Last Waltz (1978) earlier in this summer concert series, it is great to get a bit of a different view of The Band here. There was a polish and perfection to The Last Waltz that is not here, but what is in its place is a rougher edge more rootsy sound that is just as great in its own way. The Grateful Dead seem to be the main stars of this movie and they are at the top of their game here. The Flying Burrito Brothers appear much to briefly but are excellent. Buddy Guy was so good, he left me wanting more of him in this movie. The one part of the music that didn't work for me was Sha-Na-Na. I am not a fan and they still didn't impress me here

The story is extremely interesting and tells a great story about the history of rock music that is often overlooked. We get to hear the people who organized the concert as well as the performers talk about the tour and it is a joy to listen to. The scenes of the artists on the train jamming out are a sheer delight for fans of rock and roll.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #80

Hello my friends and welcome back for another selection of classic cartoons.

Today's selection begins with one of the great Mickey, Donald and Goofy cartoons, Mickey's Trailer (1938). Like many of these shorts the storyline is simplistic, but the execution is very elaborate and funny. The result is thrill comedy at its best. Motion Picture Daily proved that their Disney knowledge was not perfect when they stated in a review, "Mickey, Donald Duck and Horace Horsecollar embark on a trailer." To many Disney fans it may seem shocking to see Goofy referred to as Horace Horsecollar, but until fairly recently Horace had been a much more prominent Disney character than Goofy. Horace wasn't the only character Goofy was confused for at this time, as you can tell by the following exhibitor's review from The Motion Picture Daily, "MICKEY'S TRAILER: Walt Disney Cartoons—The usual antics of the famous trio, but Donald Duck and Pluto, the dog, steal the whole show. Running time 9 minutes. - R.W. Crickmore, Rainbow Theatre, Newpost, Wash. General Patronage." Interestingly the following exhibitors review comes from a 1939 issue of The Motion Picture Herald, just one year after the cartoon originally premiered, "MICKEY'S TRAILER: Walt Disney Cartoons— Quite old but it is still a dandy. If you haven't used it pick it up for they'll like it fine. Running time, eight minutes.—Den Bloxham, Palace Theatre, Exira, Iowa. General and Rural Patronage." 

Next comes one of Columbia's delightful Fox and the Crow cartoons, Woodman Spare That Tree (1942). The title comes from a poem written by George Pope Morris in 1830. That poem would later become a song when in 1837 Henry Russell (who also set A Life on the Ocean Wave by Epes Sargent to music). A excerpt is performed by the Fox and the Crow in this movie. The film was reissued to movie theatres in 1956.

Next is the last cartoon for your friend and mine Scrappy. The film is The Little Theatre (1941), and Scrappy makes sure he puts on quite a performance before leaving the movies. While not as weird as Scrappy's best movies (though there are two delightfully weird gags), this cartoon ends his career on a rather enjoyable note. Appropriately Scrappy ends the film by taking a bow.

I have really been enjoying the Anthony's Animation Talk YouTube channel. This channel is made up of audio commentaries on various Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. Here is a sample.

Thank you for joining me. Come back next week for more animated treasures. May all your tunes be looney and your melodies merrie.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Summer Concert Series: Devil at the Crossroads (2019)

Robert Johnson is one of the most fascinating figures in American music. His music itself is mysterious and defies explanations and for a long time his life was just as mysterious. Little facts were known and myths as mysterious as the man's music began to pop up. The most famous of these is that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for incredible musical talent, a myth that seems to be supported by lyrics to songs like Me and the Devil Blues. This fascinating documentary not only addresses these myths, but also talks about how Johnson changed the blues and was a forerunner to rock and roll. Incredible musicians like Keith Richards and Keb Mo' talk about Johnson's music with incredible reverence. However where this movie really succeeds is when it discusses these myths. I will admit before seeing this film I knew Robert's music but not much about his life. What I heard here was completely fascinating and new to me. This movie gives a great insight into this brilliant musicians strange life while still keeping an aura of mystery around it creating a fascinating and one of a kind documentary. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, July 17, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Bob Dylan: No Direction Home (2005)

Anyone who thinks because this film was directed by Martin Scorsese, it will be anything like The Last Waltz (1978) is dead wrong. This is much less of a concert film and a much more traditional music documentary. Yet still Scorsese being the master director he is puts his own directorial flourishes throughout. This is most apparent earlier in the movie when Scorsese juxtaposes scenes of Bob as a traditional folk singer to the harsh reactions he got from going rock and roll just a few years later. This helps us who were born after the sixties and have always known both sides of Bob understand why the folk crowd felt like they were being betrayed. At the same time Scorsese's masterful filmmaking, makes us feel sorry for Bob later in the movie when he is being booed. Few if any music documentaries have ever captured the uncomfortable feeling these scenes bring and that is because not only are these scenes masterfully done but that the whole film seemed to lead up to this emotional climax in the same way you would seeing in a great fictional movie. What is also a brilliant choice in this film is that with no typical documentary narration, interviews with Bob Dylan seem to provide the narration instead. Sure there are other interviewed and talked to, but Bob is always the focus, making this movie essentially Bob's story told by Bob himself.

As should be excepted from a Bob Dylan film, the music here is excellent. Anyone who like me loves Bob's music will adore what they hear. As well as getting to hear some of Bob's biggest hits we also get to here different versions of songs we know as well as rare recordings that even Dylan buffs weren't familiar with before this film came out.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Chasing Trane (2016)

Excellent documentary on Jazz legend John Coltrane.

This movie being only a little over an hour and a half, obviously does not give a full view of the many facets of John's incredible career, yet it does remarkably well with the time it spends on its subject. We get a brief basic overview of his career as well as incredible critical insight of his music by critics, musicians, biographers and more. They all explain what John's music means to them. After listening to them talk we can hear clips of Coltrane's music and we listen to it in a way we never could before. No one is ever going to completely change our musical tastes, but as music (especially jazz) can be heard and interrupted completely different by different people, others can help us see what they hear or feel when they listen to a piece of music and that can completely change the way we hear it. That is what this movie does best and why it is such a great music documentary despite giving us a very simplified historical overview of its subject.

This film will help fans get something new out of Coltrane's music, while striking newcomers interest at the same time.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

John Wayne in the Words of His Wife

The following is a 1950 article from Screenland magazine credited to Mrs. John Wayne (at this time Mexican actress, Esperanza Baur).

"Some women call themselves 'golf widows.' I'm almost a 'movie widow.' I'd really be one if my husband didn't like a quiet evening at home after his seven to seven work days, which occur day after day. Suppose he cared about nightclubs and parties? I'd never see him alone.

"You see Duke - everyone who knows him at all well calls him by that nickname which dates back to college - is so really interested in motion pictures that he works and works and works. Much harder now than before he had his big success. It's not that he's concerned only with acting or the money he can make; he wants to do as many things in movies as possible and know all about them.

"You know he has been producing pictures for the past few years. He has just completed his first production in which he did not also act, 'Torero' which was filmed in Mexico and stars Bob Stack. Soon he will also try his hand at directing one, on which he will also be producer - and star! That will be 'Alamo' and also shot in Mexico. Meanwhile he has starred in 'Rio Grande Command,' directed by his good friend John Ford, and has finished 'Jet Pilot' at RKO. For the next several years, he will make one picture a year for Warners, RKO and Republic, plus whatever ones he has time for with Jack Ford. That is a schedule, no es verdad?

"When Duke used to have time off between pictures he went hunting or fishing with friends in the High Sierra or Idaho for deer, off Baja California for Marlin or swordfish. He's not had a chance in two years. Sometimes I went along for dove hunting in the desert, but he's not had time for that in a while either. We have a very small speed boat, The Apache, moored down at Newport, only about 45 miles from home, but haven't used it since it was overhauled and painted in the late spring!

"People think all movie stars have such an easy life, that although they work hard during a film they can vacation for a long time. Well, some of them can, I know, but not all. My husband cannot. Not since he's taken on the worries and work of producing and directing.

"Fortunately his is muy simpatico. Muy, you may now means very. Simpatico is not just sympathetic. It means agreeable, friendly, easy to get along with, nice to have around. Duke is all that and more. He is honest and outspoken; he never does what you call 'mincing words.' If he makes a decision, he sticks to it. His temper is usually even and under control, but he will lose it if someone tries to make him change a decision. He is causal, informal and likes to laugh but he is not a storyteller. He likes to talk about real things: world affairs, politics and government - and of course picture business in which he's worked 20 years.

"He is definite and not afraid to take sides. Some actor think that anything apart from acting is 'not their business.' But not Duke. He is now serving his second term as president of the Motion Picture Alliance for the preservation of American Ideals, an organization designed to expose and combat communist and their propaganda.   

"His sense of humor is very good. (I don't think that all his work is making Duke a dull boy.) He loves a good practical joke, whether he is the perpetrator or the victim. He thought it was so funny when about a year ago Stephan Ames bought a hundred keys put tags on them saying 'If found please return to John Wayne. Reward.' He added our phone number and address and then scattered them all over Los Angles. For days and days we had inquires. I never learned what Duke did in retaliation; I'm sure it was something equally bothersome.

"I had a horribly embarrassing experience recently as the result of Duke's sense of humor. We have a Brittney Cocker spaniel which he named Brainless because its so smart. Then we have two Cockers that he named for two mascots that he entertained overseas. The boy's dogs were Fearless and Half-As, so that's what Duke named our dogs too, knowing people would misunderstand or misinterpret the name of our poor little second pup that was half as fearless as his brother.

"But it was I who bore the burnt of the joke one day when I was taking Half-As to the veterinarian's office. Part way there I had realized that I had no money and stopped at the bank to cash a check. I took the dog in with me and directed him to sit while I cashed the check. He did, for a second. I had trusted his obeying me and hadn't put on his lead, but he's used to romping in our yard, not seeing so many people and suddenly he was playfully chasing a little boy. I went after him, excitedly calling "Here Half-As, Half-As come here." Maybe it was my accent or people just wanted to misunderstand, but soon everyone in the bank was laughing. When I caught the dog I was so embarrassed I fled without cashing the check. I went home with no stop at the vet's. When I told Duke he howled with laughter.

"You might not believe it but Duke is a very sentimental man. For example he always calls me 'Chata' which is a Mexican pet name for a little girl, although I am quite tall, or it also means pug nose and mine isn't exactly that. I love the idea because he frankly doesn't know too much Spanish. Oh he gets along in Mexico because English is spoken so widely, but if there is any need I act as an interrupter when we are there, which has been quite often lately.

"Quite in keeping with his informality is our home, which is of the rambling ranch style, furnished in early American antiques. The chairs are big and comfortable with colorful but durable covers that can stand hard ware; the plants are copper and brass with many of them planted. Books and magazines are everywhere for Duke is an inveterate reader.

"He is inclined to drop things and leave them there for me or the housekeeper to pick up. He has a trick of flicking the ashes of his cigarettes by snapping his fingers but has an accurate aim. Duke isn't exactly a hobbyist; his only collection is guns, between thirty and forty of them.

"Duke is always forgetting his keys and when we go on always forgetting to take his cameras and he has several. He is devoted to 'window shopping' in magazines, continually sending off for things he sees advertised, everything from clothes to kitchen gadgets.

"He has a way with children, they are attracted to him like nails to a magnet. His own four children, though they spend most of their time with his mother adore him, visit us often and have spent long vacations with us at Catalina, until this last summer when it was impossible because we were in Mexico. Incidentally the oldest boy Mike had a small role in an MGM picture and his brother Pat performed with his father in 'Rio Grande Command' in a bit role. Duke wants them all -there is also Toni and Melinda - to follow whatever careers they chose; if it is acting he'll encourage them.

"Duke isn't interested in any kind of jewelry for himself and likes me to wear just one piece. He seldom comments on my clothes but I know he prefers me to wear well tailored simple things. He is a wonderful dancer but isn't too fond of dancing. He likes plain American cooking.

"I had been acting in pictures, mostly in my native Mexico but some in Hollywood, for six years before we were married; then I gave up my career. I think one actor in the family is enough. If we both were working we'd see even less of each other. I want to be relaxed and untired when Duke comes home in the evening and be free to go on location trips with him - and most of his pictures have long location schedules. Duke has never said anything about my continuing or discontinuing my career but I feel he's glad I gave it up.

"Perhaps it is prophetic that when we met we where both very fond of the song 'J'Attendrai.' You may have heard the Jean Sablon recording of it; it means I'll be waiting for you. For a wife of a man as busy as Duke is, I think it is very fitting. I now say it is my theme song."

Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, 1950

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Summer Concert Series: Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison (2008)

When the great albums of the 1960's are discussed it is mostly rock and roll albums from artists like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys. However one country music album often finds its way into this list and that is Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison. While I would argue that there are plenty of great country albums of the 60's that could go on these lists, I can not deny that this album is a masterwork. If any album where to get a feature length documentary, this is a darn good choice. This album marked a turning point in John's career and happened at a very important time in his life. After this Johnny had proven to many that he had a coolness and honest that transcended country music. This was to honest and personal to define with a simple genre title. This was something new and exciting, while still being from an artist who had been around for over a decade. This also marked the time that Johnny had started to turn his life around, from the drugs and scandals of earlier the same decade.

This documentary gives great insight into why this album was so great and to all the stories of how it came about as well as the affect it would later have on John's life. Even as a Johnny Cash fan, when I first saw this movie I learned much more about the story of Glen Shirley (the inmate who's composition, Johnny performed at the concert and who Johnny would help get out of prison and start a music career for). These scenes about Glen Shirley show us a side of Johnny that many of us are not as familiar with. How even with his political and social activism, there were times when he tried to help but was misguided. He was sure he had the power to affect Glen Sherley's life in a much greater way than he actually did and how he dealt with good intentions simply not paying off. Listening to Glen's daughter and son talk is heartbreaking but powerful. It was also fascinating to listen to the people who were there with him at the show talk about his performance (from one of the inmates to a photographer to a prison guard to two members of the Tennessee Three (W.S. Holland and Marshall Grant)).

Still this film is far from perfect. At times it can feel more than a little unfocused. There is some time spent discussing John's early music of the 1950's and how the sound came about. This took up too much time for a documentary about one album instead of John's whole career, yet too little time to give any information that fans haven't heard a million times or that newcomers couldn't simply find with a quick Google search. Since there is no actual film footage of the concert, the movie uses a music video format for the songs instead. While it is always a treat listening to the songs, the music videos can feel a little flat and uninspired.

Still overall the good in this film, tops the things that don't work and therefore I still heavily recommend it to Johnny Cash fans or new comers.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Summer Concert Series: Tom Petty: Runnin' Down a Dream (2007)

It is hard to think of a band that defines rock and roll music more than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Their music has everything that rock and roll is and can be and I personally think they are one of the finest rock and roll bands of all time. Just as no band could capture the essence of rock and roll better than Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, no movie could better capture the essence of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers than Runnin' Down a Dream.

Director Peter Bogadonovich, quickly became passionate about the band of the course of making this movie and it shows here. After getting to know the boys, Peter decided that only they could tell their own story. Therefore he left out the typical documentary narration and let the band tell the story themselves. While this is a departure from your typical rock and roll documentary, I have to admit, I did not notice the first time I watched this film. This is because nothing feels missing here and when the band talks, I was so interested in what they were saying I didn't care. The boys are just as passionate talking about their music as Peter was making this film. These are people whose lives have been moved and changed by rock and roll and when this movie was made, they hadn't lost any of the passion they had when they were kids hearing rock music for the first time. Though this movie is near four hours, you are still hanging on every word that they say when the film comes to a close. Not only that but I felt like I'd be willing to listen to them talk for another four hours. In fact this became a problem for Peter Bogadonovich, who had more material than could fit in one movie and all of it was high quality.

You may have noticed in this review, I have referred to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as a band throughout this review. One thing I love about this film is that it treats them as a band instead of like Tom Petty and his backing band. After I watched this movie for the first time, I never listened to their music quite the same. Before I had listened to it as if the Heartbreakers were a backing band, but afterwards I began to appreciate what each member brought to the table, every time I would listen to one of their albums or hear the music on the radio. We get to know and respect the Heartbreakers throughout this movie in the same way we do Tom Petty himself.

Of course in a rock and roll movie, audiences want to hear rock and roll music. This film puts the music at the center stage. To be honest we learn precious little about the lives Tom Petty or the Heartbreakers lead when they are not making music. With the length of this movie and the amount of great material that ended up on the cutting room floor, perhaps that was best. There simply wasn't time and we watch the movie because we love the music. Another great thing about this is that this movie doesn't just show small little clips of the band performing these but we watch them performing the song from beginning to end and who can complain about watching and listening to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers do what they do best.

This film is also a treasure trove of information for me and my fellow Tom Petty fans. You learn the stories about how each of their studio albums came about, how they ended up being Johnny Cash's backing band on his masterful album Unchained (maybe one of the finest albums of Johnny's career), as well as the backing band for Bob Dylan on a concert tour, how the Traveling Wilburys came to be, the creative differences in the band at various points and just how a song like Don't Come Around Here No More ends up on  concept album called Southern Accents (I really like the song, but it seems a little out of place on that album).

This is a must watch for fans of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and a movie that will turn newcomers into fans.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, July 13, 2020

Movie Review: The Old Guard

Michael's Movie Grade: B

A highly enjoyable but flawed Netflix action movie.

This film centers around a team that can heal themselves and use their powers for good. The two main characters of the group (Charlize Theron, Kiki Lane) are easily the most interesting. Andy (Charlize Theron) while not the most developed action movie hero is full of that coolness that attracts us to such characters. Much of this is due to the sheer charisma Theron brings to the role. If Andy brings this movie its coolness than Nile (Kiki Lane) is the character that brings the film it humanity. As the new recruit and the one who is learning (along with us) what she is capable of and the responsibility that brings, she is the one we relate and feel the most for. The character is a very real and human person that unlike the rest of the team wears her humanity on her sleeve. This type of character is the type that can fully pull us into a fantasy world like this and make us believe it and she does a wonderful job of this. On the other hand the rest of the team is rather bland and uninteresting. They really only have a few little traits that don't make full and believable personalities or very interesting ones. Whenever the movie focuses on one of these characters, it feels like it comes to a complete halt. The actors do their best with what they are given but there is no way to make the rest of the team interesting. Of course this is something most of us are familiar with when it comes to superhero movies. There is never enough time in a single movie to make a whole team of characters interesting. The filmmakers have to give the stories focus to only a couple or one leaving the others very underdeveloped (Avengers films avoid this fault by having the character already established before teaming up).

This is an action movie and the action is excellent. This is the fast paced, violent (but never offputtingly so) and intense action that fans of these types of films love. The story itself is often fair standard but effective. There is nothing that we haven't seen before story-wise, but that doesn't stop it from being involving, fun and occasionally thought provoking. True you often know where this film is heading but it is still well told despite that.

This is nothing groundbreaking, but it gives its audiences just what they want from a movie like this and if you like action films, chances are you'll enjoy this one.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Summer Concert Series: The Big TNT Show (1966)

This semi-sequel to The T.A.M.I. Show (1964), is a great follow up and an excellent concert film.

The musical selection in this movie is as good as it gets. Artists including Ray Charles, Petula Clark, The Lovin' Spoonful, Bo Diddly, Joan Baez, The Ronettes, Roger Miller, The Byrds, Donovan and Ike and Tina Turner. Any movie that features a live performance of Ray Charles performing Georgia on My Mind (no matter how many singers sing this song, Ray's version will always be the best) is definitely worth recommending. All the artists are at the top of their gang here. After country music being completely left out of The T.A.M.I. Show it is a joy to see Roger Miller here and his unique style of country music as well as his quirky sense of humor. His performance of London Swings features the best use of background dancers in either of these films. The Ronettes give a high energy and fantastically choregraphed performance that is corny as all get out but so much fun. Joan Baez's voice as always is beautiful as ever, especially on her first two song, which are in the folk tradition that she upheld so well. Unfortunately You've Lost That Loving Feeling doesn't seem to fit her all that well. Ike and Tina Turner are so energetic and tons of fun to listen to. Donovan's performances of slower, sad songs don't quite fit in with the film's mostly high energy fast paced acts, but he is still fantastic here. Before this movie I was really only familiar with Donovan for the Bob Dylan movie, Don't Look Back (1967) and I have to say, I am very impressed. Bo Diddly is here much too brief of a time, but gives a fantastic performance. The Byrds are also at the top of their game here and show just why they were so important to folk-rock.

The biggest fault of this movie was simply the fact that the teenage girls in the audience scream a lot, like all 93 minutes. It is very annoying at first but to be honest, you get used to it pretty dang quickly. This film luckily does away with the awful comedy of Jan and Dean and the use of Go-Go dancers is minimized. Though to be fair, the climax of this film is an all Go-Go dancer spectacular. Personally part of me wanted to see Go-Go dancers behind Donovan, just for how little that would fit.

Like The T.A.M.I. Show if you like 1960's music this movie is a must watch.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Cowboy Church #66

Hello my friends and welcome back to another service of Cowboy Church.

Today's musical selection begins with The Louvin Brothers singing Don't Let 'Em Take the Bible Out of the Schoolroom. Listening to this song makes one realize how much the world has changed. The idea of the Bible being taught in a classroom is one that is foreign to multiple generations today (unless they went to a Christian school). This is followed by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing It is No Secret What God Can Do. This recording comes from their 1962 gospel album, The Bible Tells Me So. Next comes Sons of the Pioneers with their 1948 recording of Read the Bible Everyday. The title of this songs seems like obvious advice, yet some many Christians fall out of this important habit. It is so easy to simply say "I'm not going to read my Bible today but I'll read it tomorrow" then not read it tomorrow or the day after. I admit to having done this multiple times and believe me I am not proud of that in the slightest. As Christian reading the Bible should be a priority. After all it is in the one and only true word of God and reading it strengthens us spiritually and to deal with what we see in this world of troubles. Without reading it our minds stop thinking about God completely and with our minds not on the things of God we fall out of fellowship with him and feel less secure in him. If you don't do this then I challenge you to. It will do you a world of good. If you already do this make sure you do not fall out of the habit. Since Charlie Daniels has passed away so recently the rest of today's musical selection is dedicated to him. First is The Charlie Daniels Band original, Whose Side Are You On from the 1996 Christian album, Steel Witness. Second is I've Found a Hiding Place  from the 2005 bluegrass gospel album, I've Found a Hiding Place. Afterwards is Jerusalem's Shame from the 1994 Christian album The Door. Following is Softly and Tenderly from the 2003 gospel album, How Sweet the Sound: 25 Hymns and Gospel Greats. Today's musical selection ends with It's Happening Now from Steel Witness.


The following is a video in which Charlie discusses his faith.

He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety. Job 5:11

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Number 6:26

In all the work you are doing, work the best you can. Work like you are working for the Lord, not for people. Colossians 3:23

Love is patient and is kind; love doesn’t envy. Love doesn’t brag, is not proud. 1 Corinthians 13:4

Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs. Proverbs 10:12

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland