Rock ’n’ roll and the movies have always had an uneasy relationship. For every film that hits all the right notes, like Quadrophenia or A Hard Day’s Night, there’s a host of tone-deaf films like Light of Day, featuring Michael J. Fox and Joan Jett as musical siblings, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, a glam-rock-and-disco re-imagining of the Beatles classic.
Rock ’n’ roll biographies are equally hit-and-miss. In The Buddy Holly Story, the toothy Gary Busey earned an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of the rock legend, but Roger Ebert sneered that Dennis Quaid played Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire “as a grinning simpleton with a crazy streak.”
This weekend, Jersey Boys — directed by Clint Eastwood, and based on the Tony Award-winning musical — tells the story of ’60s hitmakers The Four Seasons. Songs like Big Girls Don’t Cry, Walk Like A Man and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You made them one of the biggest-selling rock acts of all time.
Lesser known than the Four Seasons but louder, faster and dirtier were The Runaways, the subject of a rambunctious 2010 movie. Set back when you could still drink a bottle of stolen booze in the shade of the Hollywood sign, The Runaways focuses on two glue-sniffing, tough girls named Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) who formed the underage all-girl band. The music of The Runaways was described as the “sound of hormones raging,” and this film captures that.
I’m Not There is a hard movie to describe. It’s a metaphoric retelling of Bob Dylan’s life, but none of the characters in it are called Bob Dylan. Most of them don’t look like Dylan, and the one who most looks like Dylan is a woman. Unlike Walk the Line or Ray, which were both standard-issue Hollywood biopics, there is nothing linear here, but then there is nothing straightforward about the man, so there should be nothing straightforward about the movie.
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is the title of eccentric English singer Ian Dury’s biggest hit and the 2010 biopic about his eventful life. Starring Andy Serkis, the film is as high voltage as one of Dury’s legendary live performances.
Finally, the film Control details the short life of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis (Sam Riley). After seeing the film at Cannes, Curtis’s bass player Peter Hook said he knew the movie “would be very well received because, even though it’s two hours long, only two people went to the toilet the whole time. In fact, one of them was (Joy Division founding member) Bernard (Sumner). The other one was a 70-year-old woman.”
Synopsis: After enjoying big Easter and Passover meals, the Reel Guys like to treat the family to a good movie. Because there are as many different kinds of family movies as there are colours on the most psychedelic Ukrainian Easter egg, this week the guys have a look at their favourites. From the big screen to rentals for the small screen they choose movies that will put an extra hop in your step this weekend.
Richard: Mark, if you’re planning to take the kids out to the movies this weekend, there are two recent family flicks that deserve to be seen on the big screen. The Lego Movie is possibly the weirdest, most psychedelic kid’s entertainment since H.R. Pufnstuf, but it is also one of the best films of the year so far, kid’s movie or not. Then there is Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a big animated film inspired by a time travelling segment from the TV show Rocky and His Friends. It’s the only kid’s movie with an Oedipal joke and the kind of children’s movie that I think parents and kids will enjoy, but probably for completely different reasons.
Mark: Richard, so far The Lego Movie is the most exciting movie of the year, family or otherwise, but it should be noted that it, too, has a strong Oedipal theme in it. As a father of a three-year-old, I’m never quite sure what family entertainment means; what’s appropriate for my little boy is different than what might entertain an eight-year-old. Pretty much anything animated works for all ages, but then it gets complicated. And gender plays a role in choosing the right flick, too. Young girls love The Wizard of Oz, but young boys, not so much. But you never know. My little one loves Frozen, just out on DVD, even though it might seem “girly” to some.
RC: People love Frozen. I’m not one of them, but there is no arguing with the success of that movie. I’m more on side with Despicable Me II, which I thought was great fun despite its predictable plot. The story of chrome-domed former bad guy Gru’s (Steve Carell) working with the Anti-Villain League could have written itself, but the inventive gags contained within are the reason the whole family will enjoy the movie. There are lots of fun characters, but it’s really all about the Minions — Gru’s yellow, jelly-bean-shaped helpers — who spice things up with their own special kind of anarchy. Speaking in gibberish, they’re fun and more than worth the rental.
MB: Despicable Me II is a treat but my little guy deemed it “too scawy”. But I look forward to a family viewing of E.T. — the greatest family movie ever. Young or old, boys or girls, who doesn’t love the tale of that lovable little alien? Also on my eventual DVD queue would be Gremlins and even Home Alone. Kids love movies with kid heroes.
RC: Speaking of kid heroes, the adaptation of the classic Maurice Sendak children’s book Where the Wild Things Are isn’t a movie for kids as much as it is a movie about being a kid. Max is the hero, a lonely kid who goes to where the wild things are. It’s a slow moving, simple film about deep feelings. It’s not a slick, brightly coloured kid’s film with a connect-the-dots plot and an easily digested moral, but it is a magical movie.
MB: I never got the appeal of the movie or the book, but maybe I’ve been missing something. But here’s an idea: Sit down with the family and watch A Hard Day’s Night. Everyone loves The Beatles, and this is the pop group in full cheeky-cute mode. Their rock songs from 1964 sound a lot like kids music today, with their melodic hooks and innocent lyrics.
Richard compares the modern music documentary–think “One Direction: This is Us”–to old school fictionalized stories of the lives of musicians on and off the road. Which is more realistic? “A Hard Day’s Night” or “Katy Perry: Part of Me”? Click HERE to find out!Click HERE to read about some of Richard’s favourite–and most realistic–music movies.