What to watch when you’ve already watched everything Part Five! Binge worthy, not cringe worthy recommendations from Isolation Studios in the eerily quiet downtown Toronto. Three movies to stream, rent or buy from the comfort of home isolation. Today, Ozark drug dealers, driving lessons and teenage rock n’ roll! #Winter’s Bone #TheRunaways #LearningToDrive
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.”
Set back when you could still drink a bottle of stolen booze in the shade of the Hollywood sign without being arrested for trespassing, The Runaways focuses on two glue sniffing, glam rock obsessed tough girls named Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). Disaffected SoCal teens, they see an exit from their mundane suburban lives through rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately their ticket out comes in the form of impresario Kim Fowley, a record producer and self proclaimed “King Hysteria” played here by Michael Shannon.
Although twenty years older than the girls, he cobbles together the band, trains them to be rock stars, convinced that these “bitches are going to be bigger than the Beatles.” Before they can play Shea Stadium, however, the band breaks up—knee deep in ego, drug abuse and bad management.
It’s a gritty, down-and-dirty rock ‘n’ roll movie; a ninety minute ear blistering blast of feedback. Looking for depth? Won’t find it here; for that wait for the biopic of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. What you will find is a carefully crafted coming-of-age story anchored by remarkable performances and memorable dialogue.
The film’s showiest role belongs to Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, one of the most colorful characters to ever slink off the Sunset Strip. He is the very personification of glam rock—campy, dangerous and slightly unhinged.
Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning have the lion’s share of screen time, but it is Shannon who handles most of the movie’s flamboyant dialogue. He’s over-the-top, describing their music as “the sound of hormones raging,” and rock and roll as being for “the people in the dark. Sex, violence, and revolt: that’s our product.” It’s a bravura performance that could have gone very wrong in the hands of a less committed actor, but Shannon pulls it off with wild aplomb.
In one pivotal scene, Fowley, confident to the point of being arrogance, introduces himself to the fifteen year old Cherie Currie in a dingy Sunset club with a line that completely sums up his character, “I’m Kim Fowley, record producer. You’ve heard of me.”
When asked about the line Shannon didn’t think it came from arrogance, however. “It seems like something someone would say,” the actor said. “I think the thing that is easy to forget is for an older man to talk to teenagers can be very intimidating. Teenagers are not always mindful or respectful of their elders—particularly teenagers going to hang out in a rock and roll club on Sunset Boulevard.
“So, I think Kim, to do what he did, needed to have a lot of confidence and exude a lot of confidence in order to get people to do what he wanted them to do. I think part of the reason he talks that way is because he’s nervous, because anytime anybody acts like they’re in control of the situation they always run the risk of actually not being in control of the situation; being revealed as screw up. I think a lot of his hubris is to cover up that nervousness.”
“I was a little bit nervous when I wrote [the script] because [Fowley] talks in such a mouthful but Michael Shannon really owned it,” said director Floria Sigismondi, “and he owned the darkness and the humor at the same time.”
Few tales of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll contain as much sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as the tawdry tale of The Runaways. An underage all girl rock band—they billed themselves as “Genuine Jailbait”—spawned from the Sunset Strip’s late 1970s seedy underbelly, they imploded in 1979 after four tumultuous years. “The Runaways,” a new film written and directed by former video helmer Floria Sigismondi, sees two “Twilight” co-stars leave behind repressed romance for life on the road.
Set back when you could still drink a bottle of stolen booze in the shade of the Hollywood sign without being arrested for trespassing, the movie focuses on two glue sniffing, glam rock obsessed tough girls named Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) and Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning). Disaffected SoCal teens, they see an exit from their mundane suburban lives through rock ‘n’ roll. Unfortunately their ticket out comes in the form of impresario Kim Fowley, a record producer and self proclaimed “King Hysteria.” He cobbles together the band, trains them to be rock stars, convinced that these “bitches are going to be bigger than the Beatles.” Before they can play Shea Stadium, however, the band breaks up—knee deep in ego, drug abuse and bad management.
Sigismondi has made the movie equivalent of an ear blistering blast of feedback. Like the band’s two-minute-forty-five-second guitar punk tunes, “The Runaways” is loud, fast and dirty. If you want depth wait for the rock ‘n’ roll bio of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Here Sigismondi leaves behind the surreal feel of her videos and visual art, instead opting for a straightforward (although probably mostly fictional) retelling of the rapid rise and equally rapid free fall of the band. Its “Behind the Music” formulaic but Sigismondi layers on so many other rock ‘n’ roll elements that the lack of experimentation in the telling of the tale isn’t a minus.
Kristen Stewart is the name above the title star, and she does bring her brooding Brando best to the role of Joan Jett, but this movie belongs to Dakota Fanning and Michael Shannon, who hands in a flamboyant performance.
As Kim Fowley he has a more than a passing resemblance to Beef from “Phantom of the Paradise,” and like that character he is campy, dangerous and slightly unhinged. An egomaniac, he introduces himself as, “Kim Fowley, record producer. You’ve heard of me.” It’s a bravura performance that could have gone very wrong in the hands of a less committed actor, but Shannon pulls it off with wild aplomb.
Fanning shines, but in a much more low key way. Low key, but not low wattage. Fowley describes her outer layer as part Bardot, part Bowie but she plays Currie as damaged goods; a young girl with a crappy home life and faraway look in her eye. Fanning quietly gives Currie an unspoken inner life as she slowly falls apart, and whether she’s smashing pills with her platform heels and snorting the powder off the floor or rocking it out on stage there is a core of sadness to her that is so real you can almost reach out and touch it. It’s the most demanding role in the film and Fanning aces it.
Kim Fowley described the music of The Runaways as the “sound of hormones raging” and in her film Sigismondi transcends the formulaic aspects of the story by capturing the gritty spirit of in-your-face teenage rebellion.
For most people Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart will always be the undead Romeo and Juliet of the Twilight series. This weekend’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 is their final bow as Bella and Edward, the last time we’ll have to enjoy them complete with fangs and dreams of eternal love in the horror Harlequin series.
While the vampire movies contain their best-known roles, both have worked to establish themselves outside the Twilight universe.
Robert Pattinson struggled before beating out 3,000 others to land the role of ninety-year-old vampire Edward Cullen. Labeled “the next Jude Law,” he had small roles in several films, including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but a movie planned as his big breakout was a disappointment.
Cast as Reese Witherspoon’s son in the 2004 drama Vanity Fair, his part was cut from the film for theatrical release. Not surprisingly it was reinserted on the DVD once he became a household name. What is surprising is seven years later he played Witherspoon’s lover in Water for Elephants.
Movies like the 9/11 drama Remember Me and the period piece Bel Ami haven’t yet erased memories of his “fantastically beautiful, sparkly vampire,” but he has five films lined up, including the thriller Hold on to Me opposite Oscar nominee Carey Muilligan, that he hopes will do the trick.
Best Post-Fang-Banger Role: Eric Packer, a twenty-eight-year old billionaire money manager in Cosmopolis. The claustrophobic feel of the movie places a great deal of emphasis on Pattinson and he takes advantage of the up-close-and-personal cinematography to deliver a tricky performance that uses stillness to mask the boiling rage that exists beneath his stony veneer.
Kristen Stewart came to Twilight with a resume. An actor since age eight, she had appeared in seventeen films before perfecting Bella Swan’s ennui-ridden eye roll. Despite saying, “I never wanted to be the center of attention,” she graduated from playing the “ring toss girl” in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas to substantial parts in Panic Room, opposite Jodie Foster, the Sean Penn-directed Into the Wild and headlining blockbusters like Snow White and the Huntsman.
Best Post Teen Angst Role: She brought her brooding Brando best to the role of Joan Jett in The Runaways, the true, tawdry tale of an underage all girl rock band—they billed themselves as “Genuine Jailbait”—spawned from the Sunset Strip’s late 1970s seedy underbelly.