Paul Williams: Still Alive Review (Kirk Haviland)

Paul Williams: Still Alive (2011)

Starring Paul Williams

Written and Directed by Stephen Kessler

In a year where this critic has personally seen some fantastic music documentaries the likes of Marley, My Father and the Man in Black  and Charles Bradley: Soul of America, I was wary that a documentary about singer/songwriter Paul Williams could measure up. Fortunately director Kessler delivers a very personal, funny and engaging film about not only Paul but himself as well. Paul Williams is indeed alive and very feisty in this film, using shot footage mixed with archival footage as we trace the rise, fall and rebirth of the man that wrote the immortal “Rainbow Connection” amongst other classic songs.

Director Kessler starts musing about how he used to admire the 5’2 Williams as a child. Williams had a very storied career in the 70’s, acting in major television shows and movies like Smokey and the Bandit and the cult classic Phantom of the Paradise. Along with recording his own albums Williams wrote chart toppers for David Bowie, The Carpenters and his greatest hit was in collaboration with Barbara Streisand off the A Star is Born soundtrack, a song that won him a Academy Award. Kessler attempts to purchase one of Williams’ albums online and aaccidentally discovers that the man he thought was dead was very much alive. Travelling to Winnipeg, Manitoba for “Phantompaloza” in 2006, celebrating the aforementioned Phantom of the Paradise, Kessler meets a now 16 year sober Williams as her performs a live concert as part of the event. Convincing Williams to allow him to film him for a documentary, Kessler spends the next couple of years filming the sometimes cantankerous Williams, as the two eventually bond over terrorist threats during a tour of the Philippines, and discussing where it all went wrong while simultaneously tracking his career through the 70’s with intercut archival footage. Williams is affected greatly by a clip of him hosting a talk show completely out of his mind on cocaine in the early 80’s, a clip he does not finish watching. Based on this though, as it is one of very limited footage the director could find at the time, Williams opens up his storage unit full of boxes of mementos and rare footage that fills out the documentary.

Gruff at times and loveable at others, Williams comes off as extremely likeable and you really do root for him. The archival footage is fantastic, Williams a regular on shows like The Tonight Show, The Muppet Show, Match Game and many more is a genuinely funny man. Though despite all the accolades, Williams is at his happiest now. With his 3rd wife, he admits he was not a good husband to his first 2, on tour and invested in his career and being completely sober, Williams is enjoying his connection to his fans and being able to perform for them.

While not as strongly produced as the documentaries I mentioned earlier, Paul Williams: Still Alive is still a hell of a lot of fun. The Archival footage is great and there is so much laughter in here mainly because Paul himself is truly hilarious. For a fun light-hearted time I give Paul Williams: Still Alive a solid recommend.

Paul Williams: Still Alive starts an exclusive run at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Friday August 10th.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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The Movie Junkie’s 2012 Summer Movie Preview Part 1 (Kirk Haviland)

I know, I know. The Avengers has already broke records everywhere, and you’re doing a summer preview now? I must confess that I’m a bit of a traditionalist in that I feel the real summer season starts on Victoria Day in Canada/Memorial Day in the US. And since we recently had Victoria Day in Canada, it seems like as good a time as any for this article (ed – apologies, posting this a bit late). I’ll try to give indie/smaller releases their due along with the blockbusters. Ultimately, everything on here will be stuff that intrigues me…in either a good or bad way.

Ed – Two of the Movie Junkie’s picks already have reviews by him, MIB3 and Chernobyl Diaries.


Piranha 3DD (June 1st)

The first Piranha (from 2010, not the James Cameron version I have yet to see) was a guilty pleasure. Will the next one have the same goofy campiness that made the first one, or will it “jump the piranha”?

Snow White and the Huntsman (June 1st)

The second re-envisioning of the Snow White story this year, Snowy and the Huntsman at least features Chalrize Theron camping it up as the wicked queen. The real question though is will we get the same emotionless performance out of Kristen Stewart as Snow White that she has become famous for in the Twilight series.

HIGH School (June 1st Limited)

This brilliantly overlooked comedy and Sundance sensation that has been sitting on the shelf for over two years will finally get a release, albeit a limited one. I saw this at Toronto After Dark in 2010 and loved it. Search this one out!

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (June 8th)

The gangs all back! *shudder*

Prometheus (June 8th)

Easily the most anticipated of the summer outside of The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus features a stellar cast and Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited return to the Alien universe, although not a direct sequel/prequel. Consider this an opening weekend must see before it’s ruined by the proverbial “water cooler” on the following Monday.

Paul Williams: Still Alive (June 8th Limited)

The Tiff surprise hit comes to regular theaters, as Paul Williams proves he is still very much alive and struggling to keep the fame going.

That’s My Boy (June 15th)

Adam Sandler tries to destroy Andy Samberg’s career in this awful Happy Madison vehicle. *shudders again*

Rock of Ages (June 15th)

Tom Cruise doing Karaoke versions of classic 80’s hair metal tracks with Alec Baldwin running around in a very bad wig? This could be Hairspray “John Travolta in a drag fat suit” bad. The awful sounding soundtrack clips that have landed online aren’t helping.

Brave (June 22nd)

Pixar tries to atone for last year’s disappointing Cars 2 with this tale of a young princess in the highland times of movies like Braveheart. The animation looks crisp and every trailer makes me interested more and more. Merida could be the most adventuresome female Disney character since the underrated Mulan.

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (June 22nd)

Based on the best-selling novel, Abraham Lincoln is revisionist history where his parents have been killed by vampires and Abe seeks revenge Dark Knight style with a big axe. If this embraces the goofiness of its premise it could be the most fun in a movie theater this summer, or it could be this year’s Jonah Hex. Fingers Crossed.

G.I. Joe : Retaliation (Pushed back to 2013)

With Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans out, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis in, G.I.  Joe looks like tons of fun and could be the surprise hit of the summer. The trailer scene with Cobra Banners emerging on the White House is still pretty badass.

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection (June 29th)

Love or hate him Tyler Perry’s films make money, and lots of it, especially the ones with Madea. Expect this to beat out G.I.Joe  for the opening weekend.

The Loved Ones (June ?)

This brilliant TIFF Midnight Madness selection appears to be finally getting a release. Read my thoughts on the film.

In the meantime, keep your eyes locked on Entertainment Maven; the July and August portion of the preview is still to come!

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

Follow me on twitter @moviejunkieto

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