BEWARE OF MR. BAKER
⋆⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Not rated: drug use, language and adult themes.
St. Anthony Main
Here’s a rock documentary as ferociously entertaining as one of its star’s frenzied drum solos. The film traces Ginger Baker’s evolution from a bomb-loving child during the London Blitz and rhythm-mad, LP-shoplifting postwar delinquent through his tradition-shattering percussion work with British blues-rockers Cream and his pioneering collaboration with Nigerian pop superstar Fela Kuti. The trail veers across multiple marriages and musical pilgrimages from England to Africa, Italy and the United States, as Baker leaves a trail of interpersonal wreckage and musical magic in his unsteady wake. Baker became rock’s first superstar drummer both through his inspired, aggressive style and his colorful wastrel excess, with both facets of his personality avidly represented.
The film boasts revealing interviews with Baker — now a rude, raging plantation owner in South Africa with little faith in people but immense love for animals — as well as Charlie Watts, Eric Clapton, Johnny Rotten, Jack Bruce and many of Baker’s cast-off wives and exasperated adult children. Director Jay Bulger employs wildly energetic animation sequences to illustrate much of Baker’s careening journey from obscurity to fame and back again. The film is no love letter to its impatient, ever-cranky subject — in the opening scene, Baker angrily uses his walking stick to bloody Bulger’s nose — but “Beware of Mr. Baker” argues that when an artist consistently delivers amazement, broken beaks and busted relationships are a fair price to pay.
ONLY THE YOUNG
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Not rated: adult themes.
St. Anthony Main
If you think one summer in the lives of three skate punks in a sunny Southern California Podunk wouldn’t make a fresh, engaging documentary, “Only the Young” is here to prove you wrong. As Kevin, Garrison and Skye negotiate their first relationships, idle away hours practicing their kicks and flips, and affectionately rag on one another, the film lulls you into the gentle rhythms of adolescence. Following these sweet, half-smart, bored teens on sort-of dates at an abandoned mini-golf course (“too fancy for Santa Clarita,” Garrison sighs) and through their effort to turn a derelict home into a clubhouse, you get the sense of eavesdropping on unguarded lives as they unfold.
The film wanders, naturally enough. What high-schooler has a life that follows a linear path? Still, it’s an agreeable amble. Filmmakers Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippett have a knack for arrestingly framed, energetic camerawork, and their instantly likable subjects come across as completely candid and unaffected.