Review – John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Jack? (“Yesterday”)

I am a Beatlemaniac. There, I said it. I have been since I was eight, playing their records and tapes all the time. So imagine my shock and delight when I saw this movie trailer come out! A nobody pop singer somehow wakes up to a world where only HE knows any Beatles songs? What a wild premise!

You’ve seen them everywhere; on the corner, in the local bars, and in railway stations playing a tune. They’re street musicians and Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), from a tiny little sea town in England, is one of them. A part-time warehouse worker, he’s also a singer/songwriter that struggles to be noticed. . .even at a prestigious concert event in town. The only ones that care, apart from his parents, are his small circle of friends and his devoted manager of 20 years, Ellie Appleton (Lily James). Ready to quit, Jack gets hit by a bus one night after a very peculiar global blackout.

Recovering after the accident, he plays an old song (Yesterday) for his friends and they are taken aback at this “new” song he wrote! After trying to tell them about the Beatles without any luck, Jack is shocked to learn through multiple Google searches that, not only are there no Beatles, but no John, Paul, George, or Ringo either! And NO Coca-cola, cigarettes, or a certain famous book as well! WTH??!! Using his knowledge and love for the Fab Four, he decides (albeit reluctantly) to start writing “brand new [Beatle] songs”. After a shaky start, he’s noticed by local record producer Gavin (Alexander Arnold) who makes Jack his first CD.

Jack’s music gets the attention of singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran, who takes him on tour with him. But it’s Debra Hammer (Kate McKinnon), Ed’s shark of a music producer & manager, than really makes Jack the sensation that he is in Los Angeles. Fame, fortune, and appearances on The Late Late Show with James Corden are just the start as Jack rolls out hit song after hit song. But what good is all this when A) he knows he’s living a lie stealing someone else’s songs and B) he can’t tell Ellie, the love of his life, how he really feels about her. Even Rocky (Joel Fry), his wacky, dim-bulb of a roadie, isn’t helping matters much.

Will his bubble burst at a roof-top concert? Will Ellie find love in someone else’s arms? Does Ed Sheeran really play to THAT big a crowd? And who are those two mysterious people who know Jack’s secret? If this movie reminds you alot of Notting Hill, it should, it’s basically Notting Hill in reverse. And why not? It was written by the same guy, Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually), who has a patent on writing damn good rom-com’s, and this one is no exception. Done with a slight sci-fi/fantasy spin, the premise is just the foundation for a smart, funny, and Beatle-lovers romantic film.

This comedy has very dry British humor, not the wacky Monty Python style, so the laughs generate mostly from the lunacy of the situation and from McKinnon’s outrageously restrained performance. Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later) uses his unique camera style here to the advantage of the film’s fantasy theme. Many scenes don’t play out completely, skipping to the next in choppy edits, which is Boyle’s trademark, along with his ‘floating titles’ that run amok. But he also knows how to use the camera to glean emotion and by golly, he got me twice!

Mostly known for his British soap operas, Himesh Patel is a great singer and does the Beatles catalog justice (and this coming from a hard core Beatles fan, mind you!) and drop-dead gorgeous Lily James is perfect as the desperately confused love interest. But stealing the movie, hands down, is Kate McKinnon as the unfiltered laser-focused manager who gets laughs just with a look. Generally, I’m not a fan of rom-com’s, but this movie surprised me in many ways. There were left turns, twists, revelations, a shocking appearance, and an ending that made this film so very enjoyable. And hey, all those Beatles songs? Yeah, yeah, yeah!

The Once And Future King (The new Twilight Zone, 1985, S2, Ep. 25)

1985’s The New Twilight Zone (and I gag when I think of it) was just plain bad, however they did manage to slip in a few decent episodes here and there, and THIS one was pretty darn good. Starring Jeff Yagher, whose specialty is SPFX make-up, he gave a crazy-good performance in this very strange Zone episode.

Gary Pitkin is your A-typical Elvis impersonator singing his heart out in a dingy, dirty, smoke-filled nowhere lounge. His manager tries to book him in Vegas but, being an encyclopedia about all-things Elvis, he rants about how “Vegas killed Elvis”. Driving home on night, Gary is driven off the road and smashes his car. Waking up, he’s now in 1954 Nashville, Tennessee and hitches a ride from (you guessed it) the REAL Elvis Presley (Yagher again). On their way to Sun Records where Elvis is going to record his first record, Gary tells Elvis that he’s really Jesse, the deceased brother he never had. Convinced that “Jesse” is real (after all, they LOOK the same), Elvis believes Gary’s story.

Problems arise when Elvis goes to record a song, but it’s NOT the one Gary would like. Gary (Jesse) insists that Elvis play his famous song, That All Right, and even shows Elvis his signature hip movements and dance gyrations. Elvis flips out and accuses Jesse (Gary) of witchcraft, which leads to a terrible brawl and (*gulp!*) Elvis being impaled on a broken guitar neck! Oh %$#@!! Gary, realizing that he just killed the ‘King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’, panics and does the unthinkable. He secretly buries Elvis, dresses up like him, and goes to Sun Records to record the song Elvis was supposed to record.

As the song is playing, we fast-forward to a Vegas hotel room in the 1970’s where an older, mutton-chopped Gary (Elvis) is staring out a window and recounting his whole fantastic story to an innocent fan, saying that he had to do everything Elvis did in his life because he owed him. His songs, his movies, his army duty, marriage, everything. The adoring fan, ignoring his wild, impossible tale, tells him to get some sleep and leaves him staring out the window. With a haunting script by Bryce Maritano and George R.R. Martin (yes, THAT George R.R. Martin!), this episode really should have been longer than 30 minutes.

Jeff Yagher as Gary/Elvis is excellent, able to look and sound like a young Presley and not come off as cheesy or cartoony. And check Elvis’ boss at the Crown Electric Company, he’s played by Red West, Elvis Presley’s real-life BFF and schoolmate. FYI: this entire episode is available for free on YouTube.

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