Tag Archives: obscure films

movies: Rock Star (part II)

The main character in Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys describes his lover’s attraction to him in this way: “She’s addicted to reading. And as a writer, I create her drug of choice*.”

As a music enthusiast, I feel the same way about musicians. Since, I hold a particular affinity for those of the rock variety, I’ve seen the film Almost Famous so many times that I now ration its viewings. Naturally, I really wanted … no yearned for Rock Star (2001) to be good. Maybe my expectations were set too high, because I found Rock Star to be mediocre to boring.

But why? The plot concept is great and the actors are perfectly cast. So what went wrong? The answer lies in the DVD extras, where one of its creators say that the movie is supposed to be a parody of 80s arena rock. Spinal Tap is a parody of arena rock. Rock Star is an earnest drama about the path to self-hood that tries to be a parody when it’s not too busy soul-searching. This mix doesn’t work. And the flick misses the mark on both parody and drama. (It doesn’t quite fail, it just hits the widest ring on the target.) Furthermore, the Steel Dragons are not a real band and nobody is interested in watching extended scenes of their performance. During one such sequence I minimized the screen and checked my e-mail without missing a beat (get it? A beat!).

But every thorn has its rose, and this movie has a few pretty buds. The plot revolves around the rise and fall of loser wannabe rockstar and his girlfriend. As I mentioned earlier, the lead casting is perfect. Mark Wahlberg is the quintessential everyman. If somebody were to revive Death of a Salesman, Wahlberg should be cast as Willy Loman. He’s ambitious and attractive in a way more evocative of successful car mechanic than of a leading man. Wahlberg’s qualities are so striking that three years previous another director spotted his dynamic and used it in a much better film, Boogie Nights. Similarly, Jenifer Aniston is the everywoman — beautiful in a bland way. She was a believable waitress in Office Space, a believable sales clerk in The Good Wife, and a believable maid in Friends with Money for the same reason that Bradd Pitt dumped her for another woman. (Angelina Jolie is not a believable waitress; she is a believable assassin.) And similarly, those are all better films. Who can forget Anistan’s argument about flair?

And everybody’s a sucker for a “true story” or a least something with a little verisimilitude. Seems that this movie is inspired by Ripper Owen’s rise from fan to member of the band Judas Priest. (Check out this 1997 NYTimes article for backstory.) Oh and what about the guy (John Corabi) who temporarily replaced Vince Neil? He must have had an experience similar to this one. (Except that Corabi got fired from Motley Crue.) I wonder what these guys have to say about the film. What do you think?

All in all, Rock Star is a good flick to catch on a rainy Sunday afternoon if it happens to air on VH1’s Movies That Rock … or, if you’re like me, desperate for a rock ‘n’ roll film fix.

But don’t take my word for it; check out these cool reviews:

Steve Rhodes on CelebrityWonder.com disagrees with me and thinks casting ruined the movie.

MoviesForGuys.com calls it a “formula movie that works.”

A.O. Scott of the NY Times calls Almost Famous “more complex and better written.”

TheCelebrityCafe.com says “If you’ve ever dreamed of being a Rock Star, then don’t miss this!”

*Quote to the best of my memory

movies: Rockstar (part 1)

When I set out to watch a movie I don’t look for something to entertain me. I look for something that will make me feel like the 2-hours spent in front of a screen have improved me as a person … or at least increased my pop culture knowledge in some vital way. I’d like to imagine that this desire is due to my superior quality as a journalist, but I really think it’s a psychosis dating back to junior high when everybody else was allowed to watch Rated R movies except me.

In an effort to make up for years of lost time, I go to the movie store in search of the great, formerly forbidden pop culture classic known as Requiem for a Dream. (Disclaimer: This search may have as much to do with my junior high-era crush on Jordan Catalano of My So-Called Life as a need for good cinema.)

So I find my way to the “R” shelf of the drama section and I’m all excited cause I’ve waited years for this very moment and then … the movie isn’t there. I just stand there and stare at the shelf utterly disappointed until a movie clerk comes up to me. He says, “Can I help you find a movie?”

“No, the movie I’m looking for isn’t there.”

“Well, I can help you find it.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Yes, I can.”

“OK, fine,” I give up. The path of least resistance.

Except that now I am stranded in the “R” shelf of the drama section of the movie store waiting for this dude to come back. I really want to see if they have the new season of Entourage, but if I go to the “television” section the dude–who promised to be gone only a second–won’t be able to find me. And while I am waiting several strings of seconds I pick up the movie Rockstar with Mark Wahlberg and Jennifer Aniston. Now if you know me at all, you are probably aware that I have a certain penchant for musicians of the rock variety. This affinity carries over to cinema (Almost Famous is my fave movie of all time). However, my intuition warns me that this movie must be awful. There is no way that an obscure-yet-not-arthouse movie with two big stars in leading roles can be good. It defies the laws of economics. I put the movie down.

The movie dude returns and says, “You were looking in the right place, Requiem for a Dream just isn’t there.”

“Uhh, thanks?” What was I supposed to say: thank you very much for making me wait for a movie i knew wasn’t there? I should’ve asked for a discount. Instead, I picked up the movie Rock Star and shuffled to the check out.

So what happened? Was the movie as bad as I expected? Was Mark Wahlberg hotter in Boogie Nights? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Check out the next exciting installment for: the actual movie review!

movies: Orlando

Kicking off my maiden voyage as a movies blogger, I give you the 1992 flick Orlando. I have to admit that I first picked up the box at the video store because it had a suggestive photo on the cover. The cover photo is of a woman (Tilda Swinton, aka the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia) I first took to be Cate Blanchett giving a deadpan stare at the camera while in bed with one Billy Zane. And when I read the tagline (“film based on the gender-bending novel by Virginia Wolf”), I knew that I just had to have it.

The story is about a 1600-era English lord (the eponymous character) inexplicably given the gift of immortality by an English queen. Then about 200 years later, he wakes up–again inexplicably–as a she. The second half of the film is about Orlando dealing with the legal and social difficulties of being a 200-year-old she-male. Never in the film does the character question how this is possible or even what it all means. If this film can be characterized by anything it would be the lack of self-awareness and the lack of explanation. Really, you’d think if you had 400 years to leave, the majority of which occurred before the invention of television, you’d have some time to question your magical powers.

If anything, the theme of this book is the battle of the sexes over time. And the lesson dear Ms. Woolf– through the lens of writer and director Sally Potter–seems to be imparting is best shown in the scene when Orlando wakes up to find his male parts mysteriously traded in for boobies. He looks in the mirror (full-frontal nudity!) and says to him/herself, “It’s exactly the same. I’m still me, just a different sex.” (Quote to the best of my memory.) It’s funny because I’ve always felt that way about gender differences–that men and women are fundamentally the same. So I feel it’s kinda a waste to put so much effort out just to prove something I’ve always known. However, considering that Ms. Woolf lived from 1882-1941 (well well before the feminist movement), I see that she was making an important statement for her time. And I thank all the women who came before me, giving me the freedom to not burn my bras.

All in all, Orlando was an enjoyable film to watch. It does come to some sort of satisfying conclusion. And, though I was left with a strange empty feeling when the credits rolled, I did have the gratifying sensation of having just watched something that could be categorized as vaguely intellectual.

I give this film 3 of 5 stars. But don’t take my word for it. Check out these cool reviews: Rotten Tomatoes, NY Times, Entertainment Weekly, Mountain Xpress by Ken Hanke,