' ' Cinema Romantico

Friday, December 08, 2023

In Memoriam: Wynnsong 16

Growing up in central Iowa, there was a house just outside my (then) small hometown of Waukee that we colloquially called the spaceship house. That was because that was how it looked, like a spaceship had landed amid corn and soybean fields, exhausted its supply of dilithium crystals, and stayed put. Its construction in 1993 coincided with me turning 16 and getting my license, and so my friends and I would occasionally drive out there, just to gawk. It was the lone residence in the mostly rural, undeveloped land between Waukee and West Des Moines, and perched atop a small hill, a lower level connected by elevator and spiral staircase to an upper level with a circular design echoing a flying saucer, it really did resemble some beacon from the future. My dad and stepmom recently moved into one of the many new subdivisions that have sprung up in the area around the spaceship house, and driving past it all these years later, it was jarring just how much that futuristic sensation had been dimmed by urban sprawl. 

née Wynnsong 16

The last AMC movie theatre in the Des Moines metro area closed Sunday November 26th with nothing more than a note taped to the door, as sure a sign as any that the people making the big decisions aren’t doing so with their hearts or their minds. Axios reported that the final showing at the AMC CLASSIC Johnston 16 was Taylor Swift’s “The Eras Tour,” doubly appropriate as both an emblem of movie theaters hoping America’s Pop Cultural Conqueror might bail them out and because that AMC CLASSIC’s shuttering really was the end of an era.

That AMC CLASSIC was not always one. It opened under the umbrella of Carmike Cinemas in May 1998 as the Wynnsong 16, a moniker said to be derived from the name of one-time Carmike President and CEO Michael Patrick’s son. If the name was peculiar, hey, it was trying, like a college football bowl game that does not simply borrow the title of its corporate sponsor. Sprawled on the southern edge of Johnston, Iowa, right near where I-35 exits on to 86th Street, something of a West Des Moines thoroughfare, there wasn’t much else out there when it opened, just one massive 16-auditorium monument to the movies. If you build it, yada yada, and people did, drawn to the first theater with stadium seating in the city. The Wynnsong boomed, and gradually the area filled in around it with hotels and restaurants and homes and schools, to such a degree that the few times I got back out there in the last 20 years, much like the outskirts of my own hometown and the spaceship house, I no longer recognized it.

via cinematreasures.org

When the Wynnsong 16 opened, I was still down the literal road at Cobblestone 9, which was rendered a relic of the cineplex scene practically overnight. It wasn’t just the lack of stadium seating but how our hallways came to feel like a dank maze and our lobby cramped compared to the expansive Wynnsong corridors and a lobby that was more like an atrium. Eventually, I wound my way to the new place, first as projectionist and then a manger. I learned a lot, about the divisions between labor and management, and about how to put film reels together. Once, when screening “The Mummy” after hours to ensure I had built the film reels properly, right around the time Rachel Weisz and Brendan Fraser arrive at Hamunaptra, they were suddenly backwards, necessitating emergency reel to reel surgery. I learned how to dance, in a manner of speaking, from my friend and fellow manager who one night busted out some gangly, too funny for words, really, choreography to whatever song was popular on the radio (“If You Had My Love” by Jennifer Lopez?) and then told me “It’s all in legs, Nick.” And I learned about the fragility of life when that same friend and fellow manager fell unconscious one Saturday afternoon in the lobby and died of sudden cardiac arrest. I went to the stairwell leading up to projector 16, shut the door, sat down, and cried. 

Though I left the Wynnsong just before the new millennium, I still went there regularly because they still regularly got all the best movies, both before and after I briefly lit out for Arizona. Before I left Des Moines for good, though, in 2005, the Jordan Creek 20 opened in a massive new shopping district to the west, effectively doing to the Wynnsong what the Wynnsong had done to the Cobblestone. After merging with Carmike in 2017, AMC not only rebranded the Wynnsong as the unimaginative Johnston 16 but as a so-called AMC CLASSIC, a little marketing 101 sleight of hand equating it with an archetype of the genre but really giving them license to eschew any necessary updates by freezing it in its ostensible “classic” form and essentially leaving it to rot, much like the one-time Arclight cum AMC in Chicago has been left to rot, the powers-that-be biding their time until they can stick another note on the door. That’s the state of the industry in 2023, which may well not be dying, but has undoubtedly shifted to a minor key. And if once the Wynnsong 16 seemed to emblemize what was to come, I can’t stop thinking about how it’s become just another rickety testament to what was. 

Wednesday, December 06, 2023


In its monochrome deadpan and preference for mood over plot, Babak Jalali’s “Fremont” has frequently drawn comparisons to American indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. That’s not wrong, but I kept thinking of another movie in dreamy black and white, Stephane Lafleur’s similarly Jarmuschian “You’re Sleeping, Nicole” (2014). Suffering from insomnia, the eponymous character spends much of that movie virtually sleepwalking. Nicole’s insomnia, however, stems from nothing more than youthful indolence while the sleeplessness of “Fremont’s” Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) is rooted in displacement. She is an Afghan refugee who has temporarily resettled in an apartment complex in the East San Francisco Bay city of Fremont with a host of other Afghan refugees. Her family is never seen, barely mentioned, though the refugees never emerge as a surrogate family. No, in Jalali’s head-on shots and his minimalist plot, Donya’s isolation remains paramount, so much so that even a late movie passage in which she meets an auto mechanic (Jeremy Allen White) feels less about real love than comfort in a shared loneliness. 

Donya works in a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco and is promoted from stuffing fortunes into cookies to authoring the fortunes themselves when the elderly fortune writer drops dead in front of her computer, which is not merely a plot detail but evocative of “Fremont’s” dry comedy style, like death is just the ultimate clocking out. If a job writing fortunes sounds like an overly precious form of employment typical of a certain sort of indie movie, fear not. Jalali proves shrewder. Donya’s boss (Eddie Tang) speaks like The Sphinx of “Mystery Men” speaking like a fortune cookie. Even more crucially, while we see Donya’s fortunes providing people a bit of levity throughout the day in a handful of intercut scenes, such surface level sagacity functions as juxtaposition to her almost incurable well of grief and trauma.

Though Donya goes to see a therapist (Gregg Turkington), these scenes generally function as droll comedy bits, and Jalali proves less interested in fashioning explanations or solutions for his main character’s PTSD than merely living it out on screen as a sort of waking dream through so many still, almost somnambulant frames. Though there are flashes of expression in Donya, like listening to her therapist read from Jack London’s White Fang, Jalali mostly guides his first-time actor to a performance of supreme restraint, a blankness, a virtual nothingness. One moment in which we see Donya from above, laying in a conspicuous single bed, boxed in, is a God eye’s shot that suggests rather than being looked over, she’s staring into the void. 

When Donya includes her phone number on a fortune along with the humble admission that she is desperate for a dream, that is essentially where she is sending it, into the void. Though Donya does not see where this fortune ends up, we do, and if that might make where it leads seem inevitable, it is not, “Fremont” culminating in a road trip as shaggy dog story with a punchline so cruel and quietly rendered that it takes the life out of you. It does not, however, take the life out of Donya. Indeed, she turns the punchline on its head, and “Fremont” ends without really ending at all, concluding on a sparkling image bringing to mind - what else? - a fortune: relish the transitions in your life - they will happen regardless. 

Monday, December 04, 2023

The Killer

“The Killer” opens with the nameless assassin (Michael Fassbender) of its title holed up in some Parisian apartment while waiting for the arrival of wealthy so & so he’s been contracted to terminate in the luxurious penthouse directly across from him, all while talking to himself as much as us in a detached voiceover that is part running diary and part motivational mantra. If it’s a familiar set-up, director David Fincher deploys that familiarity to great effect. If most movies have conditioned us to expect this prologue to last maybe five minutes before the assassin’s target shows, this one just keeps going. The nameless Killer goes outside and then back inside; he eats fast food; he does yoga; he sleeps; he keeps talking, always in the same low monotone. We are lulled into a rhythm. Like the monitor the assassin wears on his wrist seeking to keep his heartrate low, our heartrate gets lower and lower, too, so that when the target finally shows, we’re virtually as relaxed and low-key confident as the assassin, which is why when the hit goes haywire, it’s not shocking to our intellect, necessarily, but still mentally and physically unexpected. I laughed out loud! It’s a prolonged punchline! It’s a helluva curtain raiser, leading to a similarly detailed interlude of the assassin’s escape, eventually to a safe house in the Dominican Republic where he finds his girlfriend Magdala (Sophie Charlotte) having been tortured to within an inch of her life, the people for whom he’s failed to complete his contract coming to collect.

Even then, however, when settling into a rhythm of The Killer undertaking a traditional pageant of vengeance, you can sense the mischievous glimmer in Fincher’s eye, the way he narratively makes the movie go one way even as he emotionally, or maybe just sub textually, pulls you in another direction. Like many movies in this minimalist vein, “The Killer” owes a debt to the essential French New Wave text “Le Samouraï” (1967) in which director Jean-Pierre Melville equates the austerity of a hitman’s (Alain Delon) code with that of so many feudal Japan warriors. In the existential cool of Delon and Melville’s deadpan air, that code is rendered as honorable as it is absurd. In “The Killer,” it is just absurd. Rather than Delon’s neutral colors, The Killer dresses like a dweeb in a bucket hat, floral prints, and sandals. Rather than “Le Samouraï’s” virtual wordlessness, The Killer prattles on and on in those voiceovers, coming across like John Doe’s diary entries in “Se7en” melded with a Tony Robbins seminar and basketball coaching clinics (“adapt, don’t improvise”). You can practically hear Fincher snickering just off screen. The script for “Se7en” was written by Andrew Kevin Walker, as is this script (based on a graphic novel by Alexis “Matz” Nolent), which is fascinating, suggesting how one twist of the tonal dial makes all the difference. In “Se7en,” John Doe’s observations are creepily revealing; “The Killer’s” observations are dryly empty.

This is telling. Like Magdala isn’t really a character, nay, a person, just sort of theoretical, The Killer hardly exists either, cribbing his various aliases from pop culture. The one scene designed on the surface to inject a sense of humanity is so overtly philosophical in its intention that it ends up playing more like that scene in “The Matrix” when Joe Pantoliano eats the steak that isn’t real, like this is all merely projection. It causes a weird detachment, not just in the less action-oriented scenes but the action ones too, like infiltrating a Florida man’s semi-fortress, as rote as it is riveting. That, though, seems to be the intention. It is no coincidence that The Killer uses an abandoned WeWork space for the Parisian opening, shops at Amazon, uses a FedEx Delivery driver as a kind of cover when breaking into a building, etc. Indeed, The Killer is less a samurai, a la Alan Delon, than an assassin as a gig worker, as if we are all on our own bosses yet at the mercy of the omnipresent corporate structures that allow it, giving The Killer more than a whiff of “Fight Club’s” Tyler Durden years after the battle. Durden was a cult of personality, but The Killer is without a persona at all, subsumed, IKEA structure manifested as person.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Friday's Mulled Wine: Navigating Christmas

Not long after reading Dorothy Wickendon’s October New Yorker profile of The Last Lighthouse Keeper in America, Sally Snowman, keeper of Boston Light, a lighthouse on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor, I sat down to watch my first Hallmark Christmas movie of the season. That movie turned out to be “Navigating Christmas,” in which divorced, hard-charging something-or-other Melanie (Chelsea Hobbs) books a Christmas excursion to a lighthouse on mystical St. Nicholas Island for her and her bratty teenage son Jason (Everett Andres) when the bratty teenage son’s dad bails on Christmas. Though Wickendon’s profile touches on archetypes and episodes that would not have been out of place in Robert Eggers’s “The Lighthouse,” Snowman isn’t out of her gourd, even if she was excited to batten down the hatches and stay put when a massive blizzard blew through. But the profile makes clear that maintaining a lighthouse isn’t for everyone, that the work is taxing, mentally and physically, and isolating. And though no one goes into a Hallmark Christmas movie, not even myself, snot-nosed critic, expecting veracity, I don’t know, that “Doll & Em” episode where they hole up in a lighthouse on a writing retreat seemed truer to the experience than “Navigating Christmas.” 

Apart from a foghorn joke that weirdly doesn’t become recurring, life in this lighthouse mostly just consists of putting up Christmas decorations, as ordered by the ostensibly jaded current lighthouse keeper in a performance by Stephen Huszar that seems more in the vein of slightly standoffish than jaded. (It isn’t fair, it really isn’t, which is why this is in parentheses, but just as Ryan Gosling should have played the male lead in another subpar seasonal Hallmark offering “Holiday Hotline,” so should Chris Evans have played this part.) Indeed, everything that transpires here is like every other Hallmark Christmas movie with the climactically illuminated lighthouse functioning as the climactically illuminated Christmas tree. In fact, that thinking outside the box is why I give “Navigating Christmas” one thumb up in addition to one thumb down. Opportunity was squandered overall, but you’re also required to paint within rigid lines, and so any flourish is appreciated. Plus, Andres’s performance as Jason really worked for me, not just mildly unlikable but truly spoiled, and when his character idiotically pilots a boat into the middle of nowhere at the end to churn the plot toward its conclusion, I kind of couldn’t believe how much I believed it. Kid needs therapy. And what is Santa if not the ultimate retail therapist?

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

12 Potential Character Actors for Hallmark Christmas Movies

The narrative hegemony of Hallmark Christmas movies in tandem with their generally functional direction means that often what sets the good ones apart is the varying quality of the lead performances. What elevates them even further, however, is the caliber of the supporting cast. Like last year’s “Haul Out the Holly,” in which a superb group of bit players was headlined by one of the most renowned bit players of all, Stephen Tobolowksy. Indeed, consult any fly-by-night listicle of Hollywood’s best character actors and you are likely to find Tobolowsky. “Basic Instinct,” sure, and “Groundhog Day,” of course, but his resume goes so much deeper. When Michael Mann needed someone to play the President of CBS News as a corporate lackey in “The Insider,” who was he gonna call? Stephen Tobolowsky. And the wily old vet’s turn in “Haul Out the Holly” by playing cuckoo for Christmas helped transform it into truly, seriously the best made Hallmark Christmas I have seen. And that got me to thinking. It got me to thinking about other Hollywood character actors we could call to help out Hallmark. A few suggestions to get the holiday party started:

Bruce McGill. You’re telling me Bruce McGill, who should be in everything, can’t play one of those Not-Really-Santa-But-Totally-Santa characters? 

Luis Guzmán. Like how Natasha Lyonne just sort of was the receptionist on Mars in “Ad Astra,” I’m picturing the immortal Guzmán as just kind of being the clerk at a Christmas-themed hotel. 

Judy Greer. The hard-charging protagonist’s even more hard-charging boss back in the big city. A performance exclusively via Bluetooth headset. 

Clancy Brown. Overzealous mall cop hired for the holidays. 

Bill Irwin. Out of control Christmas choir director. 

Keith David. Beleaguered mayor of Santa Claus, IN.

Dale Dickey. Mystical yet practical proprietor of a reindeer farm.

Kevin Dunn. Corporate schmuck who wants to buy the reindeer farm to turn it into condominiums. 

Amy Ryan. Coffee shop owner who totally knows the protagonist better than she knows herself. 

Joan Cusack. Can’t you see her sporting a garish Christmas sweater and effusing holiday cheer to disturbing levels? 

James LeGros. Chairman of Evergreen, AK’s The 12 Days of Christmas who thinks it can be optimized into 3 days. 

John Turturro. People in these movies are always losing a loved one, but they rarely feel – they rarely look – like someone who has lost a loved one. John Turturro would look like he lost a loved one. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

Top 10 2023 Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Synopses

Though I have friends who are regular comic con goers, I have never attended a fan convention myself, not that I’m judging. If Madeleine Stowe, a.k.a. Cora Munro, ever shows up at a Rosemont comic con, I’m there. More than that, though, when I peruse the list of 2023’s That’s 4 Entertainment Christmas Con in Edison, New Jersey, I start contemplating plane tickets to Newark in early December. The “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” luminaries get top billing but I’m more interested in all the Countdown to Christmas queens. Kimberly Sustad! Lacey Chabert! Alicia Witt! Even Melissa Joan Hart, who might be a Teenage Witch to you but will always be a hard charging event planner, in a manner of speaking, to me. If a Christmas Con sounds like an overabundance of the season, however, try a whole Christmas Cruise! “We hear time and time again that people want to immerse themselves in the world of Hallmark Channel Christmas movies,” Hallmark Media’s Vice President of Consumer Products, Natalie Vandergast, said in a statement regarding a five-day cruise aboard the Norwegian Gem from Miami to Nassau in November 2024, “and this venture is sure to bring our brand to life in a new, captivating way.” There will not only be panels and photo-ops with Hallmark Channel stars, but cookie decorating, an ugly sweater contest, and a tree lighting. 

It sounds like a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie come to life, in other words, in the way a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie might have a character’s Christmas village set come to life, mingling holiday and horror a little too much for my taste. No, I don’t need a Hallmark Christmas cruise, just a Hallmark Christmas movie synopsis. The synopses are plenty for me. Speaking of which, as tradition dictates, here are the ten best Hallmark Christmas movie synopses for 2023.

Top 10 2023 Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Synopses

10. Christmas by Design. “A fashion designer gets accepted into a Christmas challenge to create a new holiday-themed collection and not only finds the inspiration for her next line but decides to redesign her approach to what’s most important in life.” LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

9. Under the Christmas Sky. “Sparks fly between astronaut Kat and by-the-book David when they work on a planetarium exhibit that's opening right before Christmas.” What do you think, will the stars align?  

8. Checkin’ It Twice. “A journeyman hockey player falls for a real estate agent in a career crisis when he’s traded to her hometown and moves into the cottage in her hockey-loving family’s backyard.” I mean, if that backyard doesn’t get transformed into a hockey rink that saves Christmas, what are we even doing here, Hallmark?

7. An Ice Palace Romance. “A journalist faces old fears when she returns to her hometown ice rink to cover a story. With the help of the owner and his young daughter, she begins to reevaluate her life’s purpose.” It’s just nice to know that in the world of Hallmark, the prominence of local journalism continues unabated. 

6. A Biltmore Christmas. “It follows Lucy as she’s hired to write the script for a remake of a holiday movie. She joins a tour of the grounds and when she knocks an hourglass over, she finds herself transported back in time to 1946.” 1946? Shouldn’t this be transported back in time to 1991? So that Madeleine Stowe can appear as herself in a Cora Munro costume? (Can Hallmark drop a Madeleine Stowe / Daniel Day-Lewis Christmas movie in the middle of next December without telling anyone, like a Taylor Swift surprise album? A Boar’s Head Christmas?)

5. Catch Me if You Claus. “Avery Quinn’s shot at anchoring news clashes with a Santa-suited intruder, Chris, who insists hes Santas son on a first Christmas mission. They unravel a career-making story together.” Career and Christmas can co-exist! 

4. Where Are You, Christmas? “Addy wishes for a year without Christmas and she wakes up in a world of black and white. She must work together with the town mechanic to restore Christmas.” Like “Last Christmas” took Wham! literally, so does “Where Are You, Christmas?” take Faith Hill to the letter, it would seem, combining “It’s a Wonderful Life” with “Pleasantville” and leaving me to dream of next year when Great American Family produces a word for word translation of De La Soul’s “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa.”

3. Holiday Hotline. “After leaving London, Abby works for a cooking hotline and connects with an anonymous caller, a single father who Abby is unknowingly smitten with in real life.” Written by the unknown fifth Ephron sister, Vidalia. 

2. The Santa Summit. “Jordin returns home to regroup after setbacks and attends the town’s annual holiday celebration with friends. She bonds with Liam but doesn’t get his name before they’re separated in a sea of Santas.” Sort of the clean version of Santacon.

1. Everything Christmas. “Christmas enthusiast Lori-Jo embarks on an epic three-day road trip with her workaholic best friend, Victoria, to a town where it’s Christmas all year round.” This is #1 because, honestly, while I know Hallmark will churn out another 20 or 30 of these movies next year, I also can’t quite grasp where else there is to go, as if the expansion of the Hallmark Christmas universe has finally stopped and in the space of this movie, finally collapse in on itself.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

I'm Only Listening to The Rolling Stones

Growing up, we had a family friend named Joe who only listened to The Rolling Stones. That sounds like an exaggeration, akin to my proclaiming in fits of passion that I only listen to Lady Gaga, even though I’m always listening to all kinds of stuff even if I’m listening to one artist a lot. But with Joe, it wasn’t just a figure of speech. My dad and I took a canoeing trip with him on the Upper Iowa River in the summer of 1991, meaning a couple years after “Steel Wheels,” and the whole three-hour drive up I-35 and across various northeast Iowa highways, that album is what we listened to, the cassette deck in his van automatically switching when one side ended, over and over. It got to where every time “Mixed Emotions” came around again, I felt a little twinge of excitement. Joe was a regular at shindigs my parents threw, and I remember occasionally trying to instill my own musical predilections upon him, opining on Bobby Brown, or Neneh Cherry, but it never took. Joe only listened to The Rolling Stones.

Joe’s devotion was at partially responsible for my requesting Hot Rocks 1964-71 as a Christmas gift one year, though my first proper Rolling Stones record was not until 1994’s “Voodoo Lounge.” “Love Is Strong” was the big single, but what I loved most was “Sparks Will Fly,” which prompted me to take the headphones off at the bookstore listening station where I was sampling the album to get the CD to take it to the counter to buy it (what a time to have been alive), as generic as the title yet also exceptional in its commitment to assembly line quality. After that is when I really dug into the band’s back catalogue, and if the pizza place where I worked during high school tricked me into thinking I did not like country music by relentlessly playing the country pop of KJJY, it was the country and western-inflected rock of The Stones that opened my eyes and foreshadowed how alt-country, for lack of a better term, would eventually settle as my preferred genre. And even if by the time I became a regular listener they had long since transitioned from innately being the world’s greatest rock 'n' roll band to a business empire branded as The World’s Greatest Rock 'n' Roll Band, The Stones still retained their impeccable craftsmanship. They never stopped knowing how, to quote the (self-proclaimed) Dean of Rock Critics Robert Christgau talking about one of the group’s late period records, “to construct, play, and--sometimes--sing a song.”

Since “Voodoo Lounge,” there have only been three records of original Stones material. “Bridges to Babylon” was in 1997 during my ill-fated run at the University of Iowa, meaning that even if I really did love that album independent of everything else in my life, it became both an indispensable in-the-moment companion and an eventual echo of how I felt back then, that christening Charlie Watts snare drum on “Flip the Switch” opening a whole portal to Hillcrest Hall, Burlington Street Bridge, and Phillips Hall and my waking world language nightmare. “A Bigger Bang” dropped my birthday weekend 2005, the same summer I moved to Chicago, back when I loaded up on physical CDs to celebrate, and I heard it a day before it was released at the Record Emporium on Lincoln and Paulina.  “Is this the new Stones?” I asked the guy behind the counter. He sold me a copy even though it technically wasn’t for sale. That shop had a sign claiming it had been going out of business since I-Can’t-Remember-When and now, of course, it really is out of business. The Stones aren’t, though. Their 26th American studio album “Hackney Diamonds” was released in October. I was not especially anticipating this record, maybe because it’s been so long since the last one, but now that it’s here, like Joe, all I’ve really been listening to is The Rolling Stones. It’s not my favorite record of the year...but it also kind of is? 

“Hackney Diamonds” may “consist mainly of filler,” to repurpose music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine writing about the band’s 17th American studio album “Emotional Rescue,” “but it’s expertly written and performed filler.” That might sound like faint praise, but he didn’t mean it that way, and I don’t mean it that way about “Hackney Diamonds” either. I don’t have anywhere near enough musical knowledge to explain what the record is doing, just how it feels to me and how it makes me feel, production perched between retro and modern, so it feels like The Stones right now, lyrics that mostly function as a vehicle for Mick’s elocution, and a cornucopia of Keith riffs, ageless, distinctly his, more vital than the solos. There’re a few tracks I skip, and though I always like the Keith songs, I don’t much care for the Keith song here, though maybe that’s just because it precedes “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” and by then I’m just itching to jump ahead. That’s the track, after all, with my girl Gaga.

Gaga appeared with The Stones in 2012 for their One More Shot live PPV performance, that I shelled out to see, to sing the Merry Clayton part on “Gimme Shelter.” Clayton, though, effected a primal terror that Gaga can’t reach (no one could). Among the latter’s myriad vocal virtues, however, is an explosive earnestness, and that is what the roadhouse gospel of “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” spotlights. If it’s little too conscious of its own showstopper ambitions at the start, somewhere along the line “Sweet Sounds of Heaven” sheds those pretensions and kicks into a true holy roller register, Sir Mick Jagger and his multi-hyphenate sherpa Stefani Germanotta going to the spiritual mountaintop together, making me think that all these years later, ineffably, cosmically, I have finally imprinted my own musical taste on Joe.