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    Saturday, September 24, 2022

    Tipping Point: Our picks and pans ('Every Five Seconds,' 'Downton Abbey: A New Era,' 'Ambulance')

    CD TIP

    Every Five Seconds

    The Fixx

    When I'd sorta given up on such things, suddenly 2022 has turned out to be an excellent year for excellent albums by bands I love. (Note: "albums" are recordings comprising several songs meant to be enjoyed as a complete statement. Similarly, "bands" are collectives of musicians who play real instruments and sing the songs they've actualy written on those recordings. These are unfamiliar concepts for many.) So far this year, Marillion, Midlake, Tears for Fears, the Von Hertzen Brothers and now The Fixx have all released superb albums. To me, The Fixx is one of those "new wave" British bands that are easily as good — often better than — their more successful contemporiaries like The Cars or U2, Duran Duran, INXS or the Police, Depeche Mode or Talking Heads ... "Every Five Seconds" had me laughing out loud on first listen because, really, these old bastards have made a truly fantastic album.

    — Rick Koster

    MOVIE TIP

    Downton Abbey: A New Era

    Well, isn’t this genteel and mild? Which, I guess, is what “Downton Abbey” traffics in, but, even by “Downton’s” reserved standards, this “New Era” feels oddly inert. Two strands of story don’t add up to much. A Hollywood crew films inside Downton Abbey, but all the complications, including a silent-film leading lady with a nails-on-chalkboard voice who frets about the specter of talkies, seem very familiar and done better elsewhere. The supposed simmering attraction between Lady Mary (played by Michelle Dockery) and the movie director (Hugh Dancy) seems more like mutual indifference. (It's not that a reserved Brit romantic pull can't be potent; see Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson in “The Remains of the Day.”) In the other “Downton” plotline, the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith) inherits a French villa from an old flame, which leads to the reveal of a intriguigni secret that the script then backtracks on. Oh, and worst of all: not nearly enough Maggie Smith.

    — Kristina Dorsey 

    MOVIE TIP

    Ambulance

    I had my personal IT crew do one of those computery searches and they determined that the word most frequently used in descriptions of Michael Bay films is "swooping." This is an allusion to the impression viewers get that Bay's cameraman achieves most of his tracking shots by riding a giant bird of prey. Bay, meanwhile, tapes hunks of trout to the tops of the heads of his stars — in "Ambulance," that would be chiefly Jake Gyllenhaall, Eiza Gonzalez and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II — and the cameraman starts filming as the hawk starts swooping from several thousand feet in the sky towards one of the fish-headed stars. Exhilarating action! Swoops a-plenty! Meanwhile, a bank heist has gone wrong and the Abdul-Mateen II "good brother doing a bad thing" has been forced by familial desperation into participating in the robbery with Gyllenhaal's "bad brother doing what he does." Desperate, the pair hijack the titular ambulance containing Gonzalez, a former meth addict thrown out of med school only to become the dad-gum best EMT in all of Los Angeles. Yes, Gonzales and Abdul-Mateen II manage to perform a spleenectomy on a seriously-wounded cop while Gyllenhaal drives the ambulance at 120 mile-per-hour, followed closely by helicopters and countless police cars. This chase — which is essentially the whole movie — was described on Bay's original storyboard as "OJ/White Bronco + Steve McQueen/'Bullitt' + outta nowhere brothers singing ludicrous a cappella version of Christopher Cross's 'Sailing' + we'll figure it out." Move over, "Roadhouse" and "Point Break." There's a new kid in town.

    — Rick Koster

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