12 Rock-themed Films that don’t suck
Rock’n’Roll Movies That Don’t Suck!
* Hard Core Logo (1996) This poignant Canadian adaptation of Michael Turner’s novel follows a legendary (fictitious) Vancouver band on a reunion tour that involves, among other things: faking a benefit concert for someone who’s not dead, the schizophrenic bassists involuntary mid-tour lithium holiday and, uh, I think Joey Ramone is in there, too somewhere.
* Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey: Filmmaker/academic Sam Nunn combines his two loves in life (metal music and anthropology) in this documentary which views the evolution of heavy music from a cultural standpoint, featuring deluded groupies, appalling album art and Nordic black metal fans who might possibly be taking themselves a bit too seriously.
*Pink Floyd’s The Wall (1982) Yeah, sure; The Wall is more overwrought than any other film listed here. Is it melodramatic? Ohhh, yes! Pretentious? You bet your sweet ass! Still, in what other film could you see a scene like this:
* Dudes (1987) Director Penelope Spheeris, when not trying to insult heavy metal fans (Wayne’s World, The Decline of Western Civilization Pt. II), has it within her capability to make a decent flick. In this Spheeris film, Jon Cryer, Daniel Roebuck and Flea play squatting-class punks who travel west to escape a sweltering NYC summer, battling a murderous biker gang along the way. Dudes was likely the first (and, probably, only) “punk-western” movie film for an English-speaking audience. (C’mon, you know the Japanese have already made a punk western, a punk romantic comedy, a punk musical, etc.)
Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1979) While it’s true that The Ramones are to acting, well, what The Ramones are to music, RnRHS is worth a watch for a few reasons. First, it has the “funny-‘cuz-it’s-not” vibe of every Roger Corman film. Then, there’s the primo pieces of teenage tail displayed throughout including the lovely P. J. Soles and the even lovelier Dey Young. (I’ve always been a sucker for girls wearing glasses.) Lastly, there’s the charming Cro Magnon rock that The Ramones wrung from their instruments to keep this clunker of a drive-in flick together.
* Velvet Goldmine (1998) So, you have a character who’s a thinly-veiled copy of an early ’70s David Bowie who meets a thinly-veiled copy of an early ’70s Iggy Pop and destruction ensues? Clearly, Velvet Goldmine gets ‘0’ points for originality, though it gets several for being the closest film to capturing the flamboyant, excessive spirit of 70s glam rock. Ironically, cross-dressing comic actor Eddie Izzard plays a fairly straight-laced entertainment manager in this one.
* SLC Punk (1998) There’s something about living in an uptight, repressive environment that tends to make some youngsters rebel a little harder–and it doesn’t get more uptight and repressive than it does in Salt Lake City, where Donnie and Marie are considered “rock music” and it’s hard to find a caffeinated soda, let alone a bottle of Jaegermeister. Matthew Lillard (Without a Paddle, Scooby Doo) plays a restless, blue-haired anarchist trying to resist his hometown’s pull to the center.
* Heavy Metal in Baghdad (2007) In a city filled with determined insurgents, perilous checkpoints and deadly IEDs, 4 determined young men meet to conspire and sharpen their deadly skills. However, these are no suicide bombers-in-training–they’re a heavy metal band, much like the ones we have here in the west–except for the incident where mortar fire destroyed their practice space and the whole being -forced-to-write-and-perform-an-anthem-about-a-ruthless-dictator deal. Heavy Metal in Baghdad chronicles the trials of this metal band in their unlikely location.
* Working Class Rock Star (2008) These days, unless you’re a current member of Metallica or a former member of Nirvana, you ain’t gunna make no money in the music industry. You still wanna be a rock star, though–right? Well, how are your typing skills? Sure, if you live in a nanny state like Sweden or Canada, you can suck straight from the tax teet to make ends meet, but the rest of us are going to have to punch the ol’ clock. Working Class Rock Star Follows young artists you might have heard of in bands like Lamb of God, Unearth, Arch Enemy and GWAR to see how they make a living when they’re not getting sucked-off during drum solos. Opens this summer.)
* Purple Rain (1985) Sure, nobody is going to accuse Prince of being a good actor. (Is it still “Prince”, or has he gone back to “Slave” or that symbol again? I enjoyed that.) That being said, Purple Rain captures His Royal Badness at the height of his rock star ego trip, replete with striking visuals, a fairly well-developed storyline and some intense performances. As an unexpected bonus, there’s Morris Day’s performance of one of the great villains in modern cinema
* Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986) Back in the mid-’80s, two punk/new wave fans borrowed some video equipment and drove over to an arena near Washington, DC. Their mission: to interview the tailgating headbangers waiting to see a Judas Priest/Dokken concert. The results, quite frankly, would make any respectable metalhead cringe. Ugly truths about rock music fans were revealed, with little manipulation on the part of the filmmakers. Warning: mullets, animal prints and seriously jacked-up Camaros are on full display.
* The Filth and the Fury (2000) There have been many Sex Pistols documentaries, but The Filth and the Fury is the definitive one. Free from the influence of the group’s svengali manager, Malcolm McLaren, Filmmaker Julien Temple mixes completely random stock footage, hilarious “Saturday Morning”-style animation and outrageous interviews with the surviving members of the group to put the ‘Pistols in their proper historical context. As you’d expect, John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon steals the film, though more with his genuine honesty and humanity than his trademark antics.