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Friday, November 8, 2013

Cindy Prascik’s Review of CBGB

Dearest Blog, it is customary for a number of good little (and not so little) films to pass my 'burb right on by. Evidence: Neither of my local cinemas is showing 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, The Fifth Estate, or About Time...but by golly we could see Grown Ups 2 on the big screen right up through the Thursday before it was released on DVD. *sigh*

It was disappointing, but not surprising, when one of my most-anticipated movies of 2013, CBGB, never played locally. Thankfully, XFinity On Demand was around to save the day!

Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from a trailer if you happened to see one.

Rebounding from two failed attempts to run a club, Hilly Kristal rents a dump in the Bowery section of New York City and becomes the man who launched a thousand careers.

Dear Blog, it would be dishonest in the extreme if I didn't admit that I was bound to love this movie. The subject matter is so near to my heart that, handled with anything but absolute malice, CBGB had to rank among my favorite films of the year. That being said, the movie has its pros and cons.

The filmmakers elected to go with a very light tone that, while it makes for a quick and engaging movie, I daresay it barely touches what living in that environment every day must have been like.

Even when you know you're a part of something monumental, slogging through the day-to-day in filth and poverty is no fun, but CBGB mostly plays the negatives for laughs. Smashing roaches and stepping in dog poo are running gags...and if you've got a weak stomach, you're going to want to turn away from the kitchen scenes entirely!

Introductions and transitions are handled via comic-book panels. The movie gets away with it because it's consistent, and because, all these years later, all's well that ends well, eh?

Performances range from terrific to so-so to poor. Alan Rickman is, of course, fantastic as the good hearted but sometimes unrealistic Kristal. Ashley Greene is great as his loyal but frustrated daughter, and Donal Logue and Freddie Rodriguez are both entertaining as Kristal's partners/employees/co-horts at the club. Of the folks tackling the difficult task of mimicking the familiar, Joel David Moore and Julian Acosta are especially good as the ever-battling Joey and Johnny Ramone, and Mickey Sumner does a great job as Patti Smith. I don't think folks will have a hard time forgetting Ron Weasley once they've seen Rupert Grint's turn as Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome! Justin Bartha and Malin Akerman are merely okay as Stiv Bators (my favorite of the lot) and Debbie Harry, and Taylor Hawkins (who, in fairness, isn't really an actor) and Kyle Gallner are sadly underwhelming as Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, respectively. The real Cheetah Chrome has an amusing cameo that you won't want to miss!

It's fair to say a person's enjoyment of CBGB probably will be commensurate with his or her nostalgia for the club and the bands. I don't imagine it's a great enough piece of filmmaking to win over folks to whom this music means nothing, but if the movie barely scratches the surface of real events, it's an entertaining enough couple hours.

Thanks in no small part to my own affection for the subject matter, I loved it.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, CBGB gets eight.

Until next time...

Thanks for the memories!

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