Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including strange and beautiful period drama, “The Favourite,” the critic’s favourite “Roma,” the zombie musical “Anna and the Apocalypse,” the animated “Henchmen” and the documentary “Almost Almost Famous.”
Some people turn their noses up at cover bands. One critic I read called an early Elvis Presley impersonator “heretical.”
I see it differently. I never got to see Elvis shake his hips in person, but through the magic of tribute artists I feel almost like I have. I certainly know that I’ve seen hundreds of happy faces in audiences, enjoying the chance to see a de facto Presley in person and that’s what’s important. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but for me Acts like AC/DCShe—an all female AC/DC cover band, or the ABBA mimics Björn Again or even MacSabbath, a Black Sabbath cover band in which all the members dress up as McDonald’s characters—are more than flattering their inspirations, they’re triggering happy, nostalgic memories and doing what live music is supposed to do, show people a good time.
A new documentary, “Almost Almost Famous,” has a look at The Class of ’59, a cover band featuring rockabilly musician Lance Lipinsky as Jerry Lee Lewis, R & B singer Bobby Brooks as Jackie Wilson and the “Elvis from Orlando”, Ted Torres. Set against the backdrop of the band on tour we learn about the dynamics of being on the road and discover why these artists chose the tribute act route rather than playing originals. For some it’s money, for some it’s for the love of being on stage and for one of them it’s a surprise tribute to a person they never met.
“Almost Almost Famous” doesn’t dig deep. We learn the backstories of the performers but only one of the characters, Bobby Brooks, has a history truly worthy of a feature (NO SPOILERS HERE) but director Barry Lank spends much time focussing on Lipinski, the terminally tired Jerry Lee Lewis impersonator.
He’s framed as the villain of the piece, a tribute artist who dismissively refers to his Class of ’59 gig as a day job. He’s always late, misses cues and is often less than inspired on stage. A talented singer and piano player, he has bigger things on his mind than aping sixty- year-old rock ‘n roll songs for an audience who stopped buying new music sometime around the time Elvis went into the army. Instead he wants to make neo-rockabilly for a younger crowd and it consumes his on and off stage moments. He’s a self-styled provocateur who wears an oversized Trump-Pence button on his lapel in interviews. Trouble is, he comes across as a one note, a brat, not a character you really want to spend time with.
Like the music it presents “Almost Almost Famous” doesn’t feel completely fresh but the peak behind the gold lame suits is interesting enough to keep tribute fans happy.
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.”