Author

Kirven Blount

Remembering Bo Diddley

A founding father of rock & roll, Bo Diddley, who died on June 2 of heart failure, will best be remembered for the herky-jerky lick from his breakout hit, ”Bo Diddley.” That visceral sound went on to influence countless artists such as the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton — and can be heard in everything from Elvis Presley’s ”(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame” to George Michael’s ”Faith” to U2’s ”Desire.” Said Rolling Stones guitarist Ron Wood in a statement, ”From childhood, we all wanted to play like him.”

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The title, the club-mix score, the scenery-masticating moments — too much about this true story of a 15-year-old killed in an upper-middle-class drug war feels sensationalized. Writer-director Nick Cassavetes is good with actors (Justin Timberlake is actually pretty effective…if you can forget that he’s Justin Timberlake), but action-movie fight sequences and three-ways in pools obscure any sense of tragedy in Alpha Dog.

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In The History Boys — adapted from the Tony-winning play about bionically precocious British lads — Richard Griffiths is the blinkered shambles who sees the boy behind the test score but sneaks an occasional grope. Boys’ boys are urbane and poetic — but not exactly relatable — in tearing through Alan Bennett’s erudite script, while the instructors (especially Griffiths) feel like real, mistake-prone people. B+

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In Freedom Writers, Hilary Swank plays real-life teacher Erin Gruwell — who inspired L.A. kids in the face of racial turmoil — as an innovative idealist whose only fault is unstinting dedication. As for the young charges: Writers’ ”dumb class” stands out amid the one-dimensional adults deciding their fates; the kids’ quiet performances (notably Jason Finn’s) provide the surprises the script lacks. B-

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The Untouchables: Season 1, Volume 1

The same mystique that made an icon of a fat New Jersey mobster informs the stylish first 14 episodes of The Untouchables, based on Eliot Ness’ book. Robert Stack’s Ness is dogged, incorruptible, and square in his attempts to lasso the high-living gangsters with the rat-a-tat-tat patois (Capone, Ma Barker, etc.). He even shows a grudging admiration for a few, like the dashing ex-con played by Hawaii Five-O’s Jack Lord, who says (after Ness bids him ”Say hello to the boy for me”), ”You’re nobody he ever heard of.” EXTRAS None.

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Claude Chabrol (Merci Pour Le Chocolat) doesn’t like to settle. In fact, he likes to unsettle. In The Bridesmaid, his adaptation of Ruth Rendell’s crime novel — about a sheltered young builder’s assistant (Benoit Magimel) bewitched by his sister’s mysterious bridesmaid (Laura Smet) — he foments an ominously creepy atmosphere by delicately insinuating infatuation-driven choices into a mundane world.

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''Made in America'' and ''No Reservations''

”Made in America” and ”No Reservations”

Which uncle would you rather travel with, the pleated-pants guy who digs deep to find his stalest jokes and waxes rhapsodic about ”good old-fashioned American know-how,” or the renegade who drinks and swears and says Mount Etna’s ”vent-clearing phreatic explosion” sounds like ”a proctological complaint”? These Travel Channel series helpfully offer both options.

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How did Ed Wood come to be called ”the worst director of all time” when there are so many in the running? Probably because his brand of bad is so non-threatening — kind of like watching an elementary school play. Wood remains approachably inept in the six movies (including Glen or Glenda, Bride of the Monster, and Plan 9 From Outer Space) included in The Ed Wood Collection: A Salute to Incompetence (Unrated, 450 mins., 1953-59).

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