(In an essay exclusive to JPMS Online, Will Clemens lays out a select, annotated filmography of “movies that rock,” in other words, movies that include some engagement/discussion with “rock music.” As Clemens himself makes clear, this is not meant to be either all-encompassing nor definitive but rather, an opening set of remarks. –The Editors)
250 Movies That Rock, 1982–2014: An Annotated Filmography
Will Clemens, Clark State Community College
In their book Risky Business: Rock in Film, R. Serge Denisoff and William D. Romanowski credit David Ehrenstein and Bill Reed’s Rock on Film as a “particularly helpful” book on the subject of rock music and film (749). Interspersed with black-and-white reprints of rock movie photography and posters, the 296-page Rock on Film is comprised of a table of contents and foreword by Ehrenstein and Reed, an introduction by Michael Sragow, and ten chapters, an appendix, annotated filmography, and index by Ehrenstein and Reed. The filmography is of particular interest here because “250 Movies That Rock, 1982–2014” picks up where Ehrenstein and Reed left off, 1982, as the Rock on Film manuscript went into print.
Ehrenstein and Reed’s filmography is one of a kind, spanning 169 pages, covering 483 films, listed alphabetically by film title (from ABBA: The Movie to Zachariah). The medium of the book, versus print encyclopedia or journal, allowed for the inclusion of practically all motion pictures that have something important to say about the subject of rock music and film—1955–81. The oldest movie represented in Rock on Film is Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle, released March 19, 1955. Ehrenstein and Reed’s annotation provides a snapshot of the film’s plot, music, and significance:
[Glenn] Ford portrays school teacher “Dadier” who’s unprepared for the caged animals he meets up with at his new assignment at a blighted New York City school. The high school toughs taunt him (they call him “Daddy-O”), and rape and pillage left and right in this grim portrait of the failure of the American educational system. If it weren’t for this film, you might not be reading this book right now. The bold (for 1955) and successful use of Bill Haley’s recording of “Rock Around the Clock” on the soundtrack made Blackboard Jungle the official first-ever rock and roll movie. (119)
In his The Rock & Roll Film Encyclopedia, John Kenneth Muir acknowledges that Blackboard Jungle has “long carried the distinction of being the world’s first so-called rock ’n’ roll movie” (37). “However,” Muir adds, “this description is somewhat of a misnomer since there is no rock band, no rock music, and no mention at all, in fact, of that ‘devil’s music’ sweeping the land in the body proper of the movie.” “Rock Around the Clock” plays, as if a theme song, over the opening credits (with a chalkboard in the background) on into the opening scene as Richard Dadier arrives at North Manual School to interview for a position as an English teacher. The purpose of such nondiegetic music (i.e., inaudible to the characters in the film but audible to the movie viewing audience) is to increase the psychological drama for the audience. (Jazz songs from Bix Beiderbecke and Stan Kenton play diegetically in the film, i.e., audibly to the characters and audience.) “Rock Around the Clock” plays nondiegetically again over the closing scene, as Dadier finishes a day of work at the school. Accordingly, a precedent is set for Ehrenstein and Reed’s filmography to include not just Blackboard Jungle but any other feature that isn’t directly about rock yet that uses rock music in landmark ways on its soundtrack.
The foreword to Rock on Film recounts how Reed initially wanted to include short promotional films. When research suggested a legion of them (150 in a Warner/Reprise record catalog alone), he agreed with Ehrenstein that these “required a book all to themselves” (9). The foreword also tells why “certain foreign films—French ‘ye ye’ musicals with only tenuous connections to rock, obscure ‘shoestring’ German productions,” too, were excluded:
We decided not to rack our brains too much over this area, realizing it would take a massive research team years to ferret out all these very marginal celluloid goods. Likewise we found it impractical to make note of each and every time so much as one bar of rock and roll music was used as a dramatic background. If rock was used in any way that was important to the action you’re sure to find mention of it here.
Other criteria for inclusion are left unstated; perhaps Ehrenstein and Reed decided that the inclusive title of the book (Rock on Film), the near comprehensiveness of the filmography, and the attentive content of the annotations were the best arbiters. Still, many readers will question why American Gigolo, Apocalypse Now, and Flash Gordon—among other movies that aren’t quite directly about rock but use rock diegetically and/or nondiegetically on their soundtracks—are included.
Offering a continuation of sorts of Ehrenstein and Reed’s filmography via the medium of a scholarly journal—where space is limited compared with a book’s—isn’t altogether a disadvantage. Even an online journal presents space constraints. For instance, without a bookmark to place between pages to mark the reader’s place, with each annotated entry greater than 250, such a filmography becomes more cumbersome to reference and scroll. It is with hope that each of the 250 annotations that compose “250 Movies That Rock, 1982–2014” (“MTR”) develops a strong case (as strong as can be made in approximately fifty words) that the associated film is rather directly about rock.
Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette (2006), Nicholas Stoller’s Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2007), and Scott Cooper’s Crazy Heart (2009) are among the many movies that weren’t enough about rock to be included in “MTR.” The new wave and other 1980s rock music that plays nondiegetically on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack may be important to the action, but it doesn’t make the film as much about rock as about Marie-Antoinette and Versailles. Many critics were unimpressed with Coppola’s didacticism for using eighties’ music to connect the 1780s in France and the 1980s in the United Kingdom and the US as decades of greed; a review in The Observer called it “oh-so-ironic” (O’Hagan). With Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the alternative/indie rock that appears on the soundtrack is apropos to the film’s setting, Los Angeles, 2007; but rock plays second if not third fiddle to the romantic-comedy plot. Rock star Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) isn’t a central character until Stoller’s spinoff sequel Get Him to the Greek (2010). Whereas neither Marie Antoinette nor Forgetting Sarah Marshall received Oscar nominations in music categories, Crazy Heart won the Academy Award for Best Original Song: Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett’s “The Weary Kind” gets finger picked on an acoustic guitar by a Southwestern dude singing about a truck stop, whiskey skids, and a faraway kiss. That “MTR” excludes Crazy Heart will likely not upset rock music fans as much as it will please country music fans. By the same token, Christopher Guest’s A Mighty Wind (2003), John Carney’s Once (2007), and Joel Coen and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) are more about folk music than rock.
Perhaps readers will find that this or that film on “MTR” (the three animated films about Alvin and the Chipmunks, for instance) should have been cut to make room for a film such as Albert Pyun’s Dangerously Close (1986), Alan Metter’s Back to School (1986), or Jack Bond’s It Couldn’t Happen Here (1998)? Dangerously Close offers a soundtrack full of 1980s rock, including The Smithereens’ “Blood and Roses” (1986), which serves as a theme song for the film. In her review in The New York Times, Nina Darnton mentions the rock video-inspired cinematography or style: “Shooting parts of the film like an MTV video, with flash forwards, odd camera angles and long shots and using a driving loud score, the director creates a completely adolescent world where adults either don’t matter or exert malevolent influences.” But, in another sentence, Darnton sums up the film set in and around “Vista Verde High School—your typical [mid-1980s] southern California suburban public school”: “The farfetched suspense thriller about a vigilante organization that runs amok doesn’t deal with any specific themes—although it does establish a link between cleanliness and fascism.” Back to School features a performance by Oingo Boingo, whose leader Danny Elfman would go on to gain fame for his film scores: Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989), and Edward Scissorhands (1990), to name but a few. Yet how is the comedy film about adult learner, self-made millionaire Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield) enrolling in college about rock music? Londoners Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe compose Pet Shop Boys, and It Couldn’t Happen Here incorporates the ambiguously gay duo’s hits, including its Dusty Springfield collaboration and its Elvis Presley tribute. Bicycling/driving through English dreamscapes, PSB is haunted by a schoolmaster/priest (played by Joss Ackland). Like NBC’s Miami Vice (1984−89), the film is influenced by “MTV Generation” new wave/synthpop videos but to such an extent that it seems more image than story. Relatedly, Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992), and Mike Clattenburg’s Trailer Park Boys: Countdown to Liquor Day (2009) have little in common outside a categorical precariousness as movies about rock—so precarious that neither Muir’s Rock ’n’ Roll Film Encyclopedia nor Garry Mulholland’s Popcorn: Fifty Years of Rock’n’Roll Movies includes them.
With “MTR,” space concerns also dictated excluding documentary films. Muir’s encyclopedia includes them because, as Muir submits, “Many of the finest films in rock history are chronicles of live events” (xvii). Denisoff and Romanowski don’t necessarily agree with Muir on this point (x). “A vast majority of ‘rockumentaries,’” they contend, “are little more than filmed concerts, adding another sensory dimension to ‘live’ or concert recordings.” “Some—Woodstock, Gimme Shelter, Don’t Look Back, The Last Waltz, and Stop Making Sense—have merit. In a majority of cases, including U2: Rattle and Hum, the album far outdistanced the film’s earning power.” Rockumentaries tend to possess historical but also promotional factors that other movies about rock—including biographical films (or biopics) like La Bamba (1987), Ray (2004), and The Runaways (2010)—do not. The obvious self-promotional quality in the rockumentaries of the late-1970s and early-1980s led to the quintessential rock mockumentary, This Is Spinal Tap (to date, one of only four films released in 1984 to be selected for preservation in the Library of Congress). Since Rock on Film’s publication, there have been years in which rockumentaries were slouching toward ubiquity. Popcorn: Fifty Years of Rock’n’Roll Movies comprises what Mulholland believes to be “the 100 most important rock movies in existence” (3)—rockumentaries included. He concedes, though, that the “advent of ever cheaper ways of shooting real life, and the increasing proliferation of DVDs packaged free with new albums, means that there are now far too many documentaries about rock music, most of which just follow some incredibly dull musicians around while they tour” (7). Still, when a rockumentary shows, as Muir says, “the world not as we might like it to be . . . but as it truly is,” it is with regret that “MTR” must exclude cream-of-the-crop, post-1981 rockumentaries like Bring on the Night, I’m Trying to Break You: A Film about Wilco, and Marley.
Following Ehrenstein and Reed’s lead, “MTR” offers foreign films here and there, especially when the film was a box-office success overseas, but doesn’t pretend to be an international excavation. Abhimanyu Mishra’s “Bollywood Rocks on!” in The Times of India is a good start, yet “MTR” may underscore the need for a scholarly article or book in English that takes on “the realm of Hindi films” about rock (Mishra) and other “world lit” rock films. Also withheld are direct-to-video films or TV movies such as John and Yoko: A Love Story (1985), Mother Goose Rock ’n’ Rhyme (1990), Scooby-Doo! and the Witch’s Ghost (1999), Two of Us (2000), Carmen: A Hip Hopera (2001), House Party 4: Down to the Last Minute (2001), Scooby-Doo! and the Legend of the Vampire (2003), The Cheetah Girls (2003), The Bros. (2007), Camp Rock (2008), Let It Shine (2012), and Radio Rebel (2012). Consequently, slashed from “MTR” are horror flicks such as Rocktober Blood (1984), Hard Rock Zombies (1985), Rock ’n’ Roll Nightmare (1987), Zombie Nightmare (1987), Lone Wolf (1988), Ghoul School (1990), Pledge Night (1990), Shock ’Em Dead (1991), Rock & Roll Frankenstein (1999), Leprechaun: In the Hood (2000), and Da Hip Hop Witch (2000). Similarly, some films that feature electronic dance music (aka EDM) or rave culture—Groove (2000), Hey, Happy (2001), Hey DJ (2003), Spin (2007), Rolling (2007), Berlin Calling (2008)—are among other films about rock that may have earned film festival screenings yet little to no theatrical release: Suburbia (1983); Desperate Teenage Lovedolls (1984); Border Radio (1987); Hearts of Fire (1987); Miami Connection (1988); Black Roses (1988); The Hours and Times (1991); Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses (1994); Out-of-Sync (1995); Drop Dead Rock (1996); I’m Bout It (1997); Girl (1998); Sugar Town (1999); The Suburbans (1999); Baller Blockin’ (2000); Death of a Dynasty (2003); Anne B. Real (2003); Camp (2003); Masked and Anonymous (2003); Pauly Shore Is Dead (2003); Loren Cass (2006); Adventures of Power (2008); The Perfect Age of Rock (2009); The Marc Pease Experience (2009); The Janky Promoters (2009); Fubar II (2010); Trigger (2010); You Instead (2011); I Am Not a Hipster (2012); Jimi: All Is by My Side (2013); The Identical (2014); Lucky Them (2014).
Rock on Film provided “both the casual movie and music lover and the more committed fan with solid perspective on both the historical and the esthetic evolution of rock, its performers, and the films that featured them” (9). “MTR” attempts to carry that provisional torch while stressing that historical evolution, 1982–2014. To aid students and educators with research projects in American studies, film studies, history, etc., “MTR” follows Modern Language Association style for a film entry, except that, with classroom showings in mind, each entry provides the respective film’s rating and length. Other than that, the entries don’t rock the MLA boat.
Such perspicacious annotations available on the Journal of Popular Music Studies’ website promise a more accessible source than Mulholland’s Popcorn (which lists just thirty-five post-1981 non-documentary feature films, all of which appear on “MTR”), or Muir’s Rock & Roll Film Encyclopedia (which offers lengthier entries for film titles, among film and rock terminology, A–Z). “MTR” covers 160 films 1982−2014 that Muir’s good book—with the obvious disadvantage of having been published eight years ago (in 2007)—does not. Of those 160, fifty were released after 2007; and approximately fifty may be characterized hip-hop/rap films.
Muir doesn’t find hip hop and rap to be subgenres of rock. “After much soul-searching,” he acknowledges in his introduction, “I’ve concluded that the expansive body of hip hop films (from Beat Street, 1984, to Get Rich or Die Tryin’, 2005) and hip-hop performers in the cinema (L.L. Cool J, Ice Cube, Ice-T, Vanilla Ice, etc.) precludes the possibility of adequately covering it in what is primarily intended to be a text concerning rock” (xiv). Joe Stuessy and Scott Lipscomb’s Rock and Roll: Its History and Stylistic Development—one of the leading textbooks for the history of rock—includes a hip hop and rap chapter, which addresses pioneering rap trio Run-D.M.C. and its 1985 album, King of Rock (335), boasting rock-conscious rap tracks such as “Rock the House,” “Roots, Rap, Reggae,” and “Can You Rock It Like This.” Stuessy and Lipscomb’s book notwithstanding, De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising (1989), Fugees’ The Score (1996), and M.I.A.’s Kala (2007) are among hip hop/rap albums ranked on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” (7–115). Of course, many regard Rolling Stone as the quintessential rock magazine. Taking a cue from Run-D.M.C., Stuessy and Lipscomb, and Rolling Stone, “MTR” includes films with hip hop/rap music as subject matter. On the other hand, some will agree with Mulholland when he blasts, “Hip hop is, without a doubt, the most ill-served musical genre in film, in stark contrast to its influence on popular culture” (5). Mulholland opines that Get Rich or Die Tryin’, Idlewild, CB4, and Fear of a Black Hat are “just plain lousy, and not in a fun way” (5). He does include Bulworth on his list of “The 20 Best Rock Movies Ever Made.” While Wikipedia.org’s “List of hip hop films” and its links to Imdb.com (Imdb stands for Internet Movie Database) prove helpful when researching such movies (“Hip Hop Film”), Wikipedia’s list does not at present include Bulworth nor several other hip-hop/rap films that “MTR” includes.
Toward the beginning of a term, an undergraduate or graduate class in communications, journalism, musicology, etc. may use the Rock on Film and/or “MTR” to choose which film or films will be viewed to complement readings from books like Lester Bangs’ Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung: The Work of a Legendary Critic: Rock ’n’ Roll as Literature and Literature as Rock ’n’ Roll, Simon Reynolds’ Rip It Up and Start Again: Postpunk 1978–1984, and Stuessy and Lipscomb’s Rock and Roll. Even as early as 1955, Dadier shows a film in class (a cartoon version of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” folktale) as a trailhead for students to go deeper into the subject at hand. Not just blackboard-jungle dwellers but Hollywood types—screenwriters, editors, producers—may find “250 Movies That Rock, 1982–2014” useful in determining what has been done before, what warrants remaking, or what inspires a rocking new idea for a movie.
- Darnton, Nina. Rev. of Dangerously Close, dir. by Albert Pyun. The New York Times, 9 May 1986. Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 2014. Web. 1 Sept. 2014.
- Denisoff, R. Serge, and William D. Romanowski. Risky Business: Rock in Film. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1991. Print.
- Ehrenstein, David, and Bill Reed. Rock on Film. NY: Delilah, 1982. Print.
- “Hip Hop Film.” Wikipedia.org. Wikimedia, 2013. Web. 6 July 2013.
- Mishra, Abhimanyu. “Bollywood Rocks on!” Indiatimes.com. Bennet, 27 July 2001. Web. 3 Feb. 2013.
- Muir, John Kenneth. The Rock ’n’ Roll Film Encyclopedia. NY: Applause, 2007. Print.
—. Introduction. xi–xv.
- Mulholland, Garry. Introduction. Popcorn: Fifty Years of Rock’n’Roll Movies. London: Orion, 2010. 1-9. Print.
- O’Hagan, Sean. Rev. of Marie Antoinette, dir. by Sofia Coppola. Observer, 7 Oct. 2006. Guardian.co.uk. Guardian, 2012. Web. 8 May 2012.
- “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Rolling Stone 25 July 2012: 7–115. Print.
- Stuessy, Joe, and Scott Lipscomb. Rock & Roll: Its History and Stylistic Development. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2013. Print.
Absolute Beginners. Dir. Julien Temple. Perf. Eddie O’Connell, Patsy Kensit, and David Bowie. Orion, 1986. Young photographer Colin (O’Connell) obsesses over fashion designer Suzette (Kensit) in this musical film adaptation of Colin MacInnes’s Absolute Beginners (1959); set in England in 1958, both novel and film explore the Notting Hill riots and London youth culture that spawned mod subculture (coffee bars, rock music, Italian scooters, etc.). PG-13. 108 min.
Across the Universe. Dir. Julie Taymor. Perf. Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson, and Evan Rachel Wood. Columbia, 2007. This dramatic/romantic musical film incorporates Beatles songs. Liverpudlian sailor Jude (Sturgess) jumps ship in Jersey; meets Princeton student Max (Anderson). They move to Manhattan. Max’s sister, Lucy (Wood), visits. They drink “electric Kool-Aid” at a book function for Dr. Robert (Bono). Drafted, Max deploys to Vietnam. Lucy protests the war. PG-13. 133.
Adventureland. Dir. Greg Mottola. Perf. Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, and Ryan Reynolds. Miramax, 2009. Scrawny James graduates Oberlin in 1987, returns home to Pittsburgh, finds a summer job at an amusement park, and saves for grad school at Columbia. Attractive/cool/troubled coworker Emily, an NYU upperclassman, befriends him. Both smoke marijuana and like Hüsker Dü. Studly park maintenance man Mike reportedly once jammed with Lou Reed. R. 107.
Airheads. Dir. Michael Lehmann. Perf. Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler. Twentieth Century Fox, 1994. In this comedy, Chazz (Fraser), Rex (Buscemi), and Pip (Sandler) compose a rock band in mid-1990s Los Angeles. With a failed demo tape, they haplessly invade KPPX 103.6, water guns blazing, demanding that their song be played on air. Station accountant Doug (Michael Richards) calls 9-1-1. A hostage situation unfolds. PG-13. 92.
Almost Famous. Dir. Cameron Crowe. Perf. Kate Hudson, Frances McDormand, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. DreamWorks, 2000. Almost Famous is almost autobiographical regarding Crowe as a San Diego-based teen writing for rock magazines, including Rolling Stone. It won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar and, with an all-star cast (Billy Crudup, Jason Lee, Zooey Deschanel, et al.), graces lists of the top ten rock films of all time. R. 122.
Alone in the Dark. Dir. Jack Sholder. Per. Jack Palance, Martin Landau, and Dwight Schultz. New Line, 1982. In this New Line debut filmed in New Jersey, mental hospital patients Frank and Byron meet their new doctor, Dan. When Dan accompanies family to a nightclub, where a punk band performs, his patients violently escape. This slasher slithers/winds until final commentary on violent art amid the band’s death-obsessed sounds. R. 92.
Alvin and the Chipmunks. Dir. Tim Hill. Perf. Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney. Twentieth Century Fox, 2007. Armenian-American cousins William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian wrote Rosemary Clooney’s 1951 hit “Come on-a My House.” In 1958, Bagdasarian (aka Dave Seville) created the Chipmunks, launching animated cartoons featuring anthropomorphic, musical “boy” chipmunks Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. Hill’s live-action, computer-generated imagery film stars Jason Lee as Dave, the rock crossover trio’s manager. PG. 92.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. Dir. Betty Thomas. Perf. Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney. Twentieth Century Fox, 2009. The “boy” chipmunk trio and manager Dave (Jason Lee) return from 2007’s film. Ian (David Cross, live-action) manages competitor hip-pop “girl” chipmunks Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor (CGI characters voiced by Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, and Amy Poehler). The Chipettes sing “Put Your Records on,” “Single Ladies,” and “Hot and Cold.” PG. 88.
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. Dir. Mike Mitchell. Perf. Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Jesse McCartney. Twentieth Century Fox, 2011. Long, Gubler, McCartney, Christina Applegate, Anna Faris, Amy Poehler, Jason Lee, and David Cross return in their role from The Squeakquel (2009). On vacation, the animated teenage rodents go hang gliding and crash land on a tropical island. Their repertoire includes songs made famous by Rihanna, Lady Gaga, LMFAO, et al. G. 88.
American Dreamz. Dir. Paul Weitz. Perf. Dennis Quaid, Hugh Grant, and Mandy Moore. Universal, 2006. Satirizing America’s forty-third president and Fox’s American Idol, President Staton (Quaid) is nudged into public relations as a guest on “American Dreamz.” Martin (Grant) parallels Idol judge Simon Cowell; Sally (Moore) Idol winner Kelly Clarkson. Sally battles Iraqi-American contestant Omer (Sam Golzari). (Pop-crossover singer Moore married rocker Ryan Adams in 2009.) PG-13. 107.
August Rush. Dir. Kirsten Sheridan. Perf. Freddie Highmore, Robin Williams, and Keri Russell. Warner Brothers, 2007. Orphan runaway Evan meets a vagrant New Yorker who teaches homeless children music, using them as buskers, giving Evan the stage name August Rush. August is discovered to be a music prodigy; enrolls at Juilliard, through which he meets his cellist mother, who serendipitously reconnects with his rocker father. PG. 114.
Austin Powers in Goldmember. Dir. Jay Roach. Perf. Mike Myers, Michael Caine, and Beyoncé Knowles. New Line, 2002. Powers (Myers), mojo intact in early-2000s Hollywood, travels via time machine to a 1975 disco owned by scabby Dutch physicist Goldmember (Myers), who has abducted Austin’s British spy father, Nigel (Caine). Powers meets soul singer Foxxy (Knowles), an undercover FBI agent, at the disco. Ming Tea performs. Ozzy Osbourne cameos. PG-13. 94.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery. Dir. Jay Roach. Perf. Mike Myers, Elizabeth Hurley, and Michael York. New Line, 1997. Austin Powers spoofs early Bond films and other 1960s spy movies. Like a British, groovy, transatlantic Inspector Clouseau, Powers (Myers) interacts with rock more than Bond or Clouseau. The film begins with Powers’ Beatles homage, includes soft rocker Burt Bacharach performing, and ends with Powers fronting rock band Ming Tea. PG-13. 90.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. Dir. Jay Roach. Perf. Mike Myers, Heather Graham, and Robert Wagner. New Line, 1999. Myers returns as goofy, transatlantic spy Powers and Powers’ oddball New-World-Order nemesis Dr. Evil, parodying James Bond adversary Dr. No (1962). Examples of rock embedment in this spoof of mostly 1970s Bond films include a performance by Elvis Costello and references to The Alan Parsons Project and Moon Unit Zappa. PG-13. 95.
Back to the Beach. Dir. Lyndall Hobbs. Perf. Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, and Lori Loughlin. Paramount, 1987. In this good-natured parody of 1960s beach party films, Frankie and Annette, a married couple in their mid-forties living in mid-1980s Ohio, travel to California to visit their daughter, Sandi (Loughlin). Sandi’s parents disapprove of her surfer friends. As the film’s tagline says, sixties surf music goes “totally new wave.” PG. 92.
Back to the Future. Dir. Robert Zemeckis. Perf. Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and Lea Thompson. Universal, 1985. In 2007, this movie about seventeen-year-old Marty (Fox)—a struggling rock musician living with his low-achieving family in mid-1980s California—was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. Using a DeLorean (automobile), Marty’s scientist friend, “Doc” (Lloyd), invents a time machine. Marty travels to 1955, encountering his teenage parents. PG. 116.
Backbeat. Dir. Iain Softley. Perf. Stephen Dorff, Ian Hart, and Sheryl Lee. Gramercy, 1994. Focusing on Stuart Sutcliffe (Dorff) and John Lennon (Hart), Backbeat is historical fiction about The Beatles’ early days in Hamburg. Bassist Sutcliffe left the band for German photographer Astrid Kircherr (Lee) and art school there. Members of Nirvana, REM, Sonic Youth, and other edgy bands of the early-1990s contribute music. R. 100.
Bamboozled. Dir. Spike Lee. Perf. Michael Rapaport, Damon Wayans, and Jada Pinkett Smith. New Line, 2000. In hopes of being fired thus freed from his insufferable boss to pursue work at another network, television writer Pierre (Wayans) pitches a bigoted idea: a minstrel show, with house band The Alabama Porch Monkeys (played by The Roots). Ironically, the show is a success. Rapper Julius (Mos Def) militantly opposes it. R. 135.
Bandits. Dir. Katja von Garnier. Perf. Katja Riemann, Jasmin Tabatabai, and Nicolette Krebitz. Buena Vista International, 1997. This German film begins with a rock quartet of German women prisoners performing Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”; features a version of Saint Etienne’s “Hobart Paving.” For social reintegration, they shall play an outside-prison event. En route, they escape from custody, perform at a club, and take a tourist hostage. R. 110.
Bandslam. Dir. Todd Graff. Perf. Gaelan Connell, Lisa Kudrow, and Vanessa Hudgens. Summit, 2009. David Bowie fan Will moves with his mother to Lodi, New Jersey, for her new job. At his new school, geeky Will asks good-looking Sam about Bandslam competition, which awards a recording contract. Another good-looking teen, Charlotte (Aly Michalka), in a rock/ska band entering Bandslam, also befriends Will. Bowie cameos. PG. 111.
BAPs. Dir. Robert Townsend. Perf. Halle Berry, Natalie Desselle, and Martin Landau. New Line, 1997. The BAP Handbook: The Official Guide to the Black American Princess (2001) boasts a cover blurb from Berry. Young Decatur, Georgia, women Nisi and Mickey audition in Los Angeles for a music video. Will Beverly Hills multimillionaire William become their sugar daddy? Heavy D and L.L. Cool J cameo. PG-13. 91.
Beat Street. Dir. Stan Lathan. Perf. Guy Davis, Rae Dawn Chong, and Jon Chardiet. Orion, 1984. The Bronx, circa 1984: budding hip-hop DJ/MC Kenny (Davis) dreams of performing at Chelsea’s Roxy nightclub. Supported by college music student Tracy (Chong), an audition goes well, but Kenny’s friend Ramon (Chardiet) dies in a fight with a rival graffiti artist. Kenny struggles with whether the show must go on. PG. 105.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America. Dir. Mike Judge and Yvette Kaplan. Perf. Judge, Demi Moore, and Bruce Willis. Paramount, 1996. MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head aired 1993–97, animation interspersed with music videos (e.g., Dead Milkmen’s “Smokin’ Banana Peels,” Alien Sex Fiend’s “Now I’m Feeling Zombified,” and Reverend Horton Heat’s “Psychobilly Freakout”). The titular dolts go on a nationwide quest for a television. President Bill Clinton is among the voice actors. PG-13. 81.
Be Cool. Dir. F. Gary Gray. Perf. John Travolta, Uma Thurman, and Cedric the Entertainer. MGM, 2005. Elmore Leonard graduated Detroit Jesuit High, served in the Navy, graduated the University of Detroit, and wrote the story which became Western 3:10 to Yuma and novels that became crime-comedy films Get Shorty and Be Cool. Chili helps Edie resurrect a record company in debt to gangster Sin. Aerosmith is involved. PG-13. 118.
Begin Again. Dir. John Carney. Perf. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, and Adam Levine. The Weinstein Company, 2014. For Carney’s Once (2007), Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s folkie “Falling Slowly” won an Oscar. Begin Again observes rock biz/buzz amid online social networking. In Manhattan, singer-songwriter Gretta (Knightley) meets record exec Dan (Ruffalo), musician Dave (Maroon 5’s Levine) her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend, Mos Def and CeeLo Green among the supporting cast. R. 104.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. Dir. Peter Hewitt. Perf. Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin. Orion, 1991. Winter and Reeves return as those electric guitar gods from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989), members of Wyld Stallyns—rebelliously misspelled like Led Zeppelin/Def Leppard. While the sequel’s working title, “Bill & Ted Go to Hell,” didn’t stick, Megadeth’s “Go to Hell” appears on Bogus Journey’s heavy metal soundtrack. PG. 93.
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Dir. Stephen Herek. Perf. Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin. Orion, 1989. The titular duo (Winter and Reeves) are metalhead slackers in high school in 1988 in San Dimas, California. Bearded futurist, electric guitarist Rufus (Carlin) helps them time travel to learn lessons to pass History class. Foreshadowing Neo (Reeves) telephoning in The Matrix, Bill and Ted’s time machine resembles a phone booth. PG. 90.
Black and White. Dir. James Toback. Perf. Power, Brooke Shields, and Robert Downey, Jr. Sony, 2000. Power (Oliver Grant) executive-produced three platinum albums from Staten Island rap nonet Wu-Tang Clan. Rich (Grant) is a VIP on NYC’s hip hop scene, which attracts white kids, documented by filmmakers Sam (Shields) and Terry (Downey, Jr.). Will Rich’s friend, college basketball player Dean (Allan Houston), throw a game for $50,000? R. 98.
Black Nativity. Dir. Kasi Lemmons. Perf. Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker, and Angela Bassett. Fox Searchlight, 2013. Baltimore millennial and teenager Langston journeys to Harlem to stay with his grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. Cobbs. Lemmons’ screenplay contemporizes a 1961 Langston Hughes’ “gospel-song-play” that African-Americanized Christmas. R&B artists with singing parts include Mary J. Blige and Jennifer Hudson. Raphael Saadiq’s score offers Taura Stinson’s arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “As.” PG. 93.
Blame It on the Night. Dir. Gene Taft. Perf. Byron Thames, Nick Mancuso, and Leslie Ackerman. Tri-Star, 1984. Job, a thirteen-year-old American boy excelling at military school, receives word that his unmarried mother has died. Custody of Job goes to Chris, an American rock star whom Job has never met. Chris takes Job on tour, trying to bond with him. The screenplay is by Taft and Mick Jagger. PG-13. 85.
Blues Brothers 2000. Dir. John Landis. Perf. Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, and Joe Morton. Universal, 1998. In 1978, SNL cast members John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd emerged as The Blues Brothers, vocalist and harpist, respectively, fronting an electric blues band. In 1982, Belushi died of a cocaine/heroin overdose. In this millennial sequel to The Blues Brothers (1980), Chicagoan Elwood (Aykroyd) reunites the band, minus brother Jake. PG-13. 123.
The Boat That Rocked. Dir. Richard Curtis. Perf. Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tom Sturridge, Kenneth Branagh. Universal Pictures International, 2009. This British comedy (retitled Pirate Radio and shortened to 116 minutes for US release) tells of pirate radio station Radio Rock (fictional) and its crew 1966–67, broadcasting rock unheard on BBC Radio from a ship in the North Sea whilst British officials try to shut it down. R. 135.
The Bodyguard. Dir. Mick Jackson. Perf. Whitney Houston, Kevin Costner, and Bill Cobbs. Warner Brothers, 1992. American pop superstar Rachel (Houston), a single parent, receives death threats. Frank (Costner) is hired as her bodyguard. He is a former Secret Service agent who protected Presidents Carter and Reagan. Rachel and Frank become romantically involved. The soundtrack album, featuring five hit singles for Houston, has been certified diamond. R. 129.
Boogie Nights. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. Perf. Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, and Burt Reynolds. New Line, 1997. Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood contributed the score to Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007), about California oilmen 1902–27. Much more a film about music, Boogie Nights concerns porn film stars in 1970s/early-1980s California and captures the zeitgeist vibe through period rock. Dirk (Wahlberg, aka Marky Mark) attempts a transition from porn to rock. R. 155.
Breakin’. Dir. Joel Silberg. Perf. Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo Quiñones, and Michael Chambers. MGM, 1984. Struggling jazz dancer Kelly (Dickey) joins breakdancers Ozone (Quiñones) and Turbo (Chambers). Kelly’s dance instructor, Franco (Ben Lokey), disapproves. Filmed on location in Los Angeles, Breakin’ features a landmark Ice-T performance. Turbo’s boombox plays Kraftwerk’s “Tour de France” as he moonwalks and dances in the street with his broom. PG. 90.
Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Dir. Sam Firstenberg. Perf. Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo Quiñones, Michael Chambers. Tri-Star, 1984. In a storyline inspired by events surrounding Los Angeles’s Radio-Tron youth center, Dickey, Quiñones, and Chambers return as Kelly, Ozone, and Turbo from Breakin’. Despite some positive reviews, many considered 2 so ridiculous that its subtitle has found its way into subtitles of tongue-in-cheek sequels (e.g., “Titanic 2: Electric Boogaloo”). PG. 94.
Brown Sugar. Dir. Rick Famuyiwa. Perf. Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs, and Nicole Ari Parker. Twentieth Century Fox, 2002. Sidney (Lathan) is editor-in-chief of New York-based hip hop magazine XXL. Her lifelong friendship with Andre (Diggs), an A&R executive with Millennium Records, is threatened when she learns that he plans to marry successful lawyer Reese (Parker). A subplot involves cabdriver/rapper Christopher (Mos Def), who fancies Sidney’s cousin, Francine (Queen Latifah). PG-13. 109.
Bubba Ho-Tep. Dir. Don Coscarelli. Perf. Bruce Campbell, Ossie Davis, and Ella Joyce. Vitagraph, 2002. Coscarelli’s screenplay is from Joe Lansdale’s short story “Bubba Ho-Tep” from The King Is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post-Mortem (1994). At a Texas retirement home, an elderly white man claims to be Elvis; black friend Jack claims to be President Kennedy. Meanwhile, a reanimated Ancient Egyptian mummy is terrorizing residents. R. 95.
Bulworth. Dir. Warren Beatty. Perf. Beatty, Halle Berry, Oliver Platt. Twentieth Century Fox, 1998. In this edgy comedy/political satire, Californian, Democrat Senator Jay Bulworth (Beatty) contemplates suicide. Yuppie staff members don’t realize the extent of his depression. Campaigning in South Central LA, Bulworth finds himself renewed by hip hop culture and by young African American Nina (Berry). The aging white man even starts rapping. R. 108.
Cadillac Records. Dir. Darnell Martin. Perf. Adrien Brody, Jeffrey Wright, and Beyoncé Knowles. TriStar, 2008. Polish immigrant Leonard Chess cofounded Chess Records in 1950 in Chicago, selling records from his Cadillac. This biopic tracks Chess (Brody), initially focusing on blues, i.e. Muddy Waters’ “Rollin’ Stone” (1950) (The Rolling Stones’ namesake), branching into Chuck Berry (Mos Def). Knowles’ portrayal of Etta James led to a Grammy. R. 109.
CB4. Dir. Tamra Davis. Perf. Chris Rock, Allen Payne, and Deezer D. Universal, 1993. Albert (Rock), Euripides (Payne), and Otis (D) form a rap group, CB4 (aka Cell Block 4). The abbreviation parodies California gangsta rap group N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). Like a hip hop Spinal Tap, CB4 tracks further into mockumentary territory when filmmaker A. White (Chris Elliot) documents CB4’s wild try at fame. R. 89.
Chapter 27. Dir. Jarrett Schaefer. Perf. Jared Leto, Judah Friedlander, and Lindsay Lohan. Vitagraph, 2008. This biopic is based on Jack Jones’ book Let Me Take You Down: Inside the Mind of Mark David Chapman, the Man Who Killed John Lennon (1992). Jones’ title employs Beatles’ lyrics. Schaefer’s title draws attention to the J.D. Salinger novel which obsessed Chapman. To play Chapman, rocker Leto gained 67 lbs. R. 84.
Class Act. Dir. Randall Miller. Perf. Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin, and Karyn Parsons. Warner Brothers, 1992. Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper underlies this early-1990s, coming-of-age, hip hop story filmed at Los Angeles’s Van Nuys High, concerning an administrative mix-up, giving straight-A student Duncan and gangsta schoolmate Blade new identities to try. The soundtrack includes Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk about Sex” and MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This.” PG-13. 98.
Coffee and Cigarettes. Dir. Jim Jarmusch. Perf. Cate Blanchett, Bill Murray, and Roberto Benigni. United Artists, 2004. During film studies at New York University in the late-1970s, Ohio expatriate Jarmusch frequented CBGB music club. Neil Young scored Jarmusch’s Dead Man (1995), starring Johnny Depp as an Ohioan in Idaho Territory. Coffee and Cigarettes’ eleven vignettes capture Iggy Pop, GZA, Meg White, and other rockers/artists imbibing, inhaling, and conversing. R. 95.
The Commitments. Dir. Alan Parker. Perf. Robert Arkins, Colm Meaney, and Andrew Strong. Twentieth Century Fox, 1991. This adaptation of Roddy Doyle’s 1987 novel The Commitments follows working-class youths in Dublin, Ireland, who, inspired by Motown music, form a soul band in the 1980s. At the forty-fifth awards ceremony of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, The Commitments won the BAFTA Award for Best Film. R. 118.
Control. Dir. Anton Corbijn. Perf. Sam Riley, Samantha Morton, and Alexandra Maria Lara. Momentum, 2007. In 1975, nineteen-year-old civil servant Ian Curtis married eighteen-year-old Macclesfield schoolmate Deborah Woodruff. In 1976, he joined a Manchester band. In 1979, the Curtises’ daughter was born, and Joy Division’s debut album released. In 1980, Curtis committed suicide. Corbijn’s biopic explores the legendary postpunk vocalist juggling epilepsy, family, and touring. R. 122.
Cool as Ice. Dir. David Kellogg. Perf. Vanilla Ice, Kristin Minter, and John Haymes Newton. Universal, 1991. Filmed in Glendale, California, this Bizarro-World Wild One received six Golden Raspberry nominations. Rapper Johnny rides into town on a bright yellow 1991 Suzuki motorcycle. In clothing as loud, he is drawn to Kathy, an honor student with a boyfriend, Nick. Johnny is persistent. Naomi Campbell plays a nightclub singer. PG. 91.
The Country Bears. Dir. Peter Hastings. Perf. John Hiatt, Bonnie Raitt, and Don Henley. Buena Vista, 2002. Disney World’s Country Bear Jamboree stage show with audio-animatronic figures dates to 1971. Hastings imparts the Country Bears, filmed in Tennessee and California, as an all-bear, country/hard/roots rock quintet via animatronics provided by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Runaway “boy” bear Beary (voiced by Haley Joel Osment) inspires the band’s comeback. G. 88.
Critters. Dir. Steve Herek. Perf. Dee Wallace-Stone, M. Emmet Walsh, and Billy Green Bush. New Line, 1986. A spaceship of unfriendly “critters” lands near the Brown family home in mid-1980s Kansas. (Each critter resembles Animal, drummer for The Muppet Show’s Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.) Ug (Terrence Mann), a shape-shifting bounty hunter alien, adopts the form of a glam metal rocker and pursues the rampaging critters. PG-13. 82.
Crossroads. Dir. Walter Hill. Perf. Ralph Macchio, Joe Seneca, and Jami Gertz. Columbia, 1986. Macchio plays Eugene, a guitar student at Juilliard. Research takes him to a nursing facility to see Willie (Seneca), who apparently knew legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. Willie convinces Eugene to take him to the Mississippi Delta. Eugene’s journey involves seductive hitchhiker Frances (Gertz) and devilish guitarist Jack (Steve Vai) R. 99.
Cry-Baby. Dir. John Waters. Perf. Johnny Depp, Amy Locane, and Stephen Mailer. Universal, 1990. In this musical parody of Grease and the like, Wade (Depp) leads a greaser gang in 1950s Maryland. Opposites attract: square, Venus-like Allison (Locane) is drawn to Wade’s motley, near-carny crew. Baldwin (Mailer), Allison’s jealous, square boyfriend, starts a riot. Wade is blamed and incarcerated. Allison campaigns for Wade’s release. PG-13. 85.
Dancer in the Dark. Dir. Lars von Trier. Perf. Björk, Catherine Deneuve, and David Morse. Angel, 2000. Singer/composer Björk Guðmundsdóttir gained international recognition in the late-1980s with Icelandic new-wave band The Sugarcubes. This avant-garde, low-tech musical film set in mid-1960s Washington state garnered Cannes’ Best Actress and Golden Palm awards. Single mother Selma is a Czech immigrant factory worker going blind. Björk’s soundtrack album Selmasongs was Oscar-nominated. R. 140.
A Day in the Life. Dir. Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones. Perf. Jones, Mekhi Piper, and Omar Epps. Lionsgate, 2009. Imagine if a crime-drama film starring hip-hop/rap artists (i.e. Boyz N the Hood, New Jack City, or Juice) were a musical wherein actors rapped all their lines, and, voila, you have, in a manner of speaking, Jones’ film. Over one violent day, Stick (Jones) attempts to escape gangsta life. R. 90.
Dazed and Confused. Dir. Richard Linklater. Perf. Jason London, Rory Cochrane, and Wiley Wiggins. Gramercy, 1993. Linklater’s Slacker (1991) has rock elements (Butthole Surfers’ Teresa Taylor plays a woman in Austin, Texas, trying to sell Madonna’s Pap smear). About coming-of-age Austinites in 1976, Dazed is more about rock, its title imaging a Led Zeppelin song. Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Milla Jovovich, and Renée Zellweger have roles. R. 102.
Detroit Rock City. Dir. Adam Rifkin. Perf. Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, and Edward Furlong. New Line, 1999. New York rock quartet Kiss followed Detroit’s Alice Cooper, “The Godfather of Shock Rock,” into the genre, combining rock with horror via costumes, makeup, masks, etc. “Detroit Rock City” appears on Kiss’s Destroyer (1976). In this comedy, four teenage Kiss fans try to attend a Kiss concert in late-1970s Detroit. R. 95.
Disco Dancer. Dir. Babbar Subhash. Perf. Mithun Chakraborty, Kim Yashpal, and Om Shivpuri. Subhash, 1982. This Hindi, Indian film champions street performer and wedding singer Anil (Chakraborty). Anil falls for Rita (Yashpal), daughter of wealthy Oberoi (Shivpuri). Oberoi has an ugly past with Anil’s family and hires a goon squad to sabotage Anil’s electric guitar and break his legs. Still, Anil enters an international disco competition. 135.
Disorderlies. Dir. Michael Schultz. Perf. The Fat Boys, Ralph Bellamy, and Helen Reddy. Warner Brothers, 1987. Prince Markie Dee (Mark Morales), Kool Rock-Ski (Damon Wimbley), and Buff Love (Darren Robinson) compose Fat Boys. Released the same day as Disorderlies, the Brooklyn trio’s fourth studio album, Crushin’, went platinum. The hip-hop comedy film follows Three Stooges-like medical orderlies caring for elderly, infirm Palm Beach multimillionaire Albert (Bellamy). PG. 86.
Do the Right Thing. Dir. Spike Lee. Perf. Lee, Bill Nunn, and Danny Aiello. Universal, 1989. In 1999, Lee’s film was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress. Young father Mookie (Lee) delivers pizza in Brooklyn. On a very hot day, African-American Raheem (Nunn) blasts Public Enemy’s hip hop/rap song “Fight the Power” on his boombox in a pizzeria owned by Italian-American Sal (Aiello). R. 120.
Dogs in Space. Dir. Richard Lowenstein. Perf. Michael Hutchence, Saskia Post, and Nique Needles. Skouras, 1987. This film evokes the Little Band scene, a punk/postpunk movement in Melbourne 1978–81, when pieces of the disintegrating Skylab space station were crashing in Australia. Hutchence (lead singer for INXS) plays Sam, frontman for Dogs in Space, sharing a house with his girlfriend Anna (Post) and other drug-addled scenesters. R. 103.
The Doors. Dir. Oliver Stone. Perf. Val Kilmer, Meg Ryan, and Kyle MacLachlan. TriStar, 1991. The Doors formed in Los Angeles in 1965. Pamela Courson found singer/songwriter Jim Morrison dead in the couple’s Paris apartment July 3, 1971. Those years yielded six Doors’ albums worthy of the quartet’s 1993 Rock Hall induction. Stone’s biopic positions Morrison within the mantra “Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll.” R. 141.
Dreamgirls. Dir. Bill Condon. Perf. Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, and Jennifer Hudson. DreamWorks, 2006. Celebrating 1960s/1970s Chicago singing trio The Dreams (fictional), Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger’s Dreamgirls opened on Broadway in 1981 and closed—six Tonys and 1,521 performances later—in 1985. Condon’s rendition has a Motown setting, stronger allusions to The Supremes, and movie star cast. Hudson won the Supporting Actress Oscar. PG-13. 130.
Dudes. Dir. Penelope Spheeris. Perf. Jon Cryer, Daniel Roebuck, and Flea. Cineplex Odeon, 1988. The comedy Dudes is from a Randall Jahnson screenplay. With Oliver Stone, Jahnson co-wrote Stone’s The Doors (1991). New York punks Grant (Cryer), Biscuit (Roebuck), and Milo (Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist/cofounder) drive to California in a Volkswagen. Biscuit sports a mohawk. Rocker Ving Lee plays bad guy Missoula. R. 90.
Duets. Dir. Bruce Paltrow. Perf. Gwyneth Paltrow, Huey Lewis, and Paul Giamatti. Buena Vista, 2000. Bruce Paltrow (Gwyneth’s father) also coproduced Duets, which fictionalizes North American karaoke competitions circa late-1990s. Karaoke champion Ricky (Lewis) travels to Omaha, Nebraska, to compete for $5,000. Daughter Liv (Paltrow) accompanies him. Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” and Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” are among rock anthems sung to the karaoke machine. R. 112.
Eddie and the Cruisers. Dir. Martin Davidson. Perf. Michael Paré, Ellen Barkin, and Tom Berenger. Embassy, 1983. Based on P.F. Kluge’s 1980 novel Eddie and the Cruisers, the film tells of a 1960s New Jersey rock band fronted by Eddie (Paré). After a successful debut album, tensions build among the band’s members and its record company. Eddie’s mysterious death follows. Reporter Maggie (Barkin) goes searching for answers. PG. 95.
Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives! Dir. Jean-Claude Lord. Perf. Michael Paré, Bernie Coulson, and Marina Orsini. Scotti Brothers, 1989. Paré returns as Eddie Wilson, a 1960s New Jersey rocker reportedly killed in a car crash on Route 52. Having retreated to Canada, where he has become construction worker Joe West, he and Montreal guitarist Rick Diesel (Coulson) form a new band, Rock Solid. Rick suspects that Joe is Eddie. PG-13. 104.
8 Mile. Dir. Curtis Hanson. Perf. Eminem, Kim Basinger, and Brittany Murphy. Universal, 2002. In 1995, a young white rapper lives with his mother in a trailer near 8 Mile Road, a short drive from his workplace, Detroit Stamping. He falls for a coworker’s sister. His best friend (played by Mekhi Phifer) is black and hosts rap battles. Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” won an Oscar. R. 110.
Empire Records. Dir. Allan Moyle. Perf. Liv Tyler, Renée Zellweger, and Anthony LaPaglia. Warner Brothers, 1995. Empire Records stars Tyler (daughter of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler) at age eighteen. Before Corey (Tyler) heads off to college, she and Gina (Zellweger) work at an independently owned record store, Empire Records, in 1990s Delaware. A chain may buy Empire. What will come of Joe (LaPaglia), the fatherly store manager? PG-13. 90.
Ex Drummer. Dir. Koen Mortier. Perf. Dries Vanhegen, Norman Baert, and Sam Louwyck. A-Film, 2007. ED is based on a 1994 Herman Brusselmans novel. Handicapped Belgian men seek a drummer for their all-disability punk band, The Feminists. For a competition, they shall master one song, Devo’s “Mongoloid.” The trailer credits film critic Hannah McGill’s take: “Trainspotting meets Man Bites Dog and beats up Spinal Tap.” 100.
Fear of a Black Hat. Dir. Rusty Cundieff. Perf. Cundieff, Kasi Lemmons, and Larry B. Scott. Samuel Goldwyn, 1994. The title spoofs Public Enemy’s 1990 album Fear of a Black Planet. Sociologist Nina (Lemmons) commits a year to filming the crass, irresponsible N.W.H. (Niggaz with Hats), a parody of Compton, California, gangsta rap group N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). Like the mockumentary CB4, Black Hat is a rap Spinal Tap. R. 88.
Feel the Noise. Dir. Alejandro Chomski. Perf. Omarion, Victor Rasuk, and Zulay Henao. TriStar, 2007. As Omarion, Californian R&B singer-songwriter Omari Grandberry has two studio albums with boy band B2K and three solo albums. This J.Lo coproduction follows aspiring rapper Rob from New York to Puerto Rico, where he encounters Reggaeton. Rob, Javi, and C.C. prepare a Reggaeton-inspired performance for NYC’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. PG-13. 86.
54. Dir. Mark Christopher. Perf. Mike Myers, Ryan Phillippe, and Salma Hayek. Miramax, 1998. The heyday of Studio 54, on Manhattan’s West 54th Street, was 1977–81. Shifting from the lead in 1960s spy spoof Austin Powers (1997), Myers portrays Steve Rubell, gay cofounder of the glittery disco/nightclub, where Jersey kid Shane (Phillippe) naïvely befriends singer Anita (Hayek) and her drug-dealing husband, Greg (Brekin Meyer). R. 93.
Finding Graceland. Dir. David Winkler. Perf. Johnathon Schaech, Harvey Keitel, and Bridget Fonda. Largo, 1998. Young man Byron (Schaech) mourns his wife’s death by driving his 1959 Cadillac convertible (which is missing the driver’s-side door) from New Mexico to Tennessee. He picks up a hitchhiker (Keitel), who insists that he is Elvis, going to Graceland. En route, they encounter a Marilyn Monroe impersonator, Ashley (Fonda). PG-13. 97.
The Five Heartbeats. Dir. Robert Townsend. Perf. Townsend, Leon, and Michael Wright. Twentieth Century Fox, 1991. Townsend and Keenan Ivory Wayans co-wrote the script to this musical drama starring Townsend as Donald, one of the Five Heartbeats (fictional)—modeled on African-American, R&B vocal groups of the 1960s, namely The Dells and The Temptations (both Rock Hall inductees). Donald’s storytelling flashes from 1990 to the mid-1960s forward. R. 121.
Footloose. Dir. Herbert Ross. Perf. Frances Lee McCain, Kevin Bacon, and John Lithgow. Paramount, 1984. Filmed in Utah, Footloose is loosely based on events from 1980 in Oklahoma. Ethel (McCain) and teenage son Ren (Bacon) move from Chicago to “Bomont.” Backed by Reverend Moore (Lithgow), the town council banned dancing and rock. Prom approaches. Moore’s daughter Ariel (Lori Singer) joins Ren to challenge the ban. PG. 107.
Footloose. Dir. Craig Brewer. Perf. Kenny Wormald, Dennis Quaid, and Julianne Hough. Paramount, 2011. In this Footloose (1984) remake, Ren’s divorced mother dies of leukemia; the Bostonian, coming-of-age teen moves to a Southern town to live with relatives. Quaid plays hip-hop/rock enforcer Reverend Moore. The soundtrack includes rock songs from the original, namely Quiet Riot’s “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” and Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose.” PG-13. 113.
Frank. Dir. Lenny Abrahamson. Perf. Michael Fassbender, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Domhnall Gleeson. Magnolia, 2014. Welshman Jon Ronson and Englishman Peter Straughan wrote the screenplay. (Ronson’s book The Men Who Stare at Goats inspired Grant Heslov’s eponymous film, screenplay by Straughan.) A British-Irish band aims to play SXSW in Texas, singer Frank’s head in a fiberglass/papier-mâché head à la English comedian/musician Chris Sievey’s comic-persona Frank Sidebottom. R. 95.
From Justin to Kelly. Dir. Robert Iscove. Perf. Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, and Katherine Bailess. Twentieth Century Fox, 2003. The season one finale of Fox’s American Idol: The Search for a Superstar, September 4, 2002, named nineteen-year-old pop/rock singer Clarkson winner, twenty-three-year-old Guarini runner-up. Their subsequent appearance in Las Vegas motivated this banal musical film set during spring break in Florida: waitress Kelly Taylor meets college student Justin Bell. PG. 81.
FUBAR. Dir. Michael Dowse. Perf. David Lawrence, Paul Spence, and Gordon Skilling. Alliance, 2002. Originating within US military ranks in 1944, FUBAR is acronym slang that means fucked up beyond all recognition. Albertans Terry (Lawrence) and Dean (Spence) are hard-rocker/head-banger versions of Ontarians Bob and Doug McKenzie, whose beery comedy album The Great White North (1981) went triple platinum. Dean, though, faces testicular cancer. R. 76.
Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life. Dir. Joann Sfar. Perf. Eric Elmosnino, Laetitia Casta, and Lucy Gordon. Universal, 2010. Lucien Ginsburg was born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Paris, his childhood plagued by Nazi tyranny. In his twenties, he adopted the name Serge Gainsbourg, playing piano in cabarets/casinos. Gainsbourg married twice before his late-1960s affairs with Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. His 1970s/1980s albums wax rock. Elmosnino portrays Gainsbourg. 130.
Garage Days. Dir. Alex Proyas. Perf. Kick Gurry, Martin Czokas, and Maya Stange. Australian Film Finance, 2002. From his dark/goth The Crow (1994), Proyas lightens up. A cantaloupe with a face drawn on parodies Wilson the volleyball from Cast Away (2000). Freddy (Gurry) fronts a wannabe rock band in Sydney, Australia, AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ’n’ Roll)” fitting on the soundtrack. R. 105.
The Gate. Dir. Tibor Takács. Perf. Stephen Dorff, Louis Tripp, and Christa Denton. New Century Vista, 1987. When a backyard tree is removed, mid-1980s American boys Glenn (Dorff) and Terry (Tripp) find a geode in the hole. With Glenn’s parents away, his teenaged sister is in charge. Geode-associated occult occurrences prompt Terry to chant liner notes to one of his heavy metal records to close the demon gate. PG-13. 85.
Get Crazy. Dir. Allan Arkush. Perf. Allen Garfield, Ed Begley, Jr., and Malcolm McDowell. Embassy, 1983. Inspired by Arkush’s days as an usher at New York’s Fillmore East, this musical comedy lionizes theater owner Max (Garfield). Preparing for a 1982 New Year’s Eve concert, Max is antagonized by concert promoter Colin (Begley, Jr.). Reggie Wanker (McDowell) and Auden (Lou Reed) resemble Mick Jagger and (Bob) Dylan, respectively. R. 92.
Get Him to the Greek. Dir. Nicholas Stoller. Perf. Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, and Elisabeth Moss. Universal, 2010. Stoller’s romcom Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2007) tends toward prequel because minor character Aldous (Brand) becomes major in this raunchy comedy about newlywed Aaron Green (Hill), a budding talent scout at a Los Angeles record company, tasked with escorting wild rock star Aldous from London to LA’s Greek Theatre to perform. R. 109.
Get on Up: The Story of James Brown. Dir. Tate Taylor. Perf. Chadwick Boseman, Nelsan Ellis, and Dan Aykroyd. Universal, 2014. Brown (1933−2006) grew up in Georgia, picking cotton, shining shoes. In reform school, he tried gospel; upon release, R&B. By the late-1960s, Rockhall.com’s bio reads, “Brown had attained the status of a musical and cultural revolutionary.” Incarcerated 1988−91, he persevered, receiving Kennedy Center Honors in 2006. This biopic casts Boseman as Brown. R. 138.
Get Rich or Die Trying’. Dir. Jim Sheridan. Perf. Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Terrence Howard, and Joy Bryant. Paramount, 2005. This semiautobiographical film tracks 50 Cent, who never knew his father, whose mother was killed when he was young, who sold drugs in Queens, survived gunshot wounds, and released his first studio album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003), which debuted atop Billboard’s 200, remaining number one for six weeks. R. 117.
Give My Regards to Broad Street. Dir. Peter Webb. Perf. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Brian Brown. Twentieth Century Fox, 1984. The title puns on George Cohan’s song “Give My Regards to Broadway” (1904) and London’s Broad Street railway station (1865–1986). From McCartney’s screenplay, this musical film encompasses a day in Paul’s life and offers an intriguing cast, including Linda McCartney, Tracey Ullman, and Ralph Richardson. The songs outshine the story. PG. 108.
Glitter. Dir. Vondie Curtis-Hall. Perf. Mariah Carey, Max Beesley, and Terrence Howard. Twentieth Century Fox, 2001. Curtis-Hall’s directorial debut, Gridlock’d (1997), starring Tupac Shakur as a heroin addict in a Detroit jazz group, was released four months after Tupac’s death from a drive-by shooting in Vegas. Curtis-Hall’s follow-up tracks singer Billie (Carey) from an orphanage in the 1970s to New York clubs and pop stardom in the 1980s. PG-13. 104.
Go. Dir. Doug Liman. Perf. William Fichtner, Katie Holmes, and Jay Mohr. Columbia, 1999. With Sarah Polley, Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, Melissa McCarthy, Jane Krakowski, too, Go fictionalizes the drug-drenched, late-1990s SoCal rave scene. On Christmas Eve, Y2K is impending amid plots/subplots as cobbled together as the soundtrack: Starlite Pop Orchestra’s “Silver Bells,” Dean Martin’s “Cha Cha Cha D’Amour,” Fatboy Slim’s “Gangster Trippin,’” etc. R. 103.
Going the Distance. Dir. Nanette Burstein. Perf. Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, and Christina Applegate. Warner Brothers, 2010. Barrymore’s five-year relationship with Strokes’ drummer, New Yorker Fabrizio Moretti, ended in 2007. She and Long began an on-again, off-again romance. Grad student Erin summer interns in NYC; meets A&R rep Garret; returns to San Francisco. They begin a long-distance relationship; see Boxer Rebellion perform Thanksgiving weekend; spend Christmas apart. R. 102.
Graffiti Bridge. Dir. Prince. Perf. Prince, Morris Day, and Ingrid Chavez. Warner Brothers, 1990. In this rock musical, sequel to Purple Rain (1984), The Kid (Prince) and rival Morris (Day) music battle for Glam Slam nightclub ownership. Aura (Chavez) inspires The Kid under Graffiti Bridge, imaging a now razed bridge—once, a canvas for activists, artists, and lovers for decades—near Minneapolis. PG-13. 95.
Grease 2. Dir. Patricia Birch. Perf. Maxwell Caulfield, Michelle Pfieffer, and Adrian Zmed. Paramount, 1982. This sequel to Randall Kleiser’s musical film Grease (1978) stars Caulfield as Michael, a clean-cut, good-looking exchange student at Los Angeles’s “Rydell High” in 1961. Michael falls for Stephanie (Pfeiffer), a popular classmate who prefers the rebel motorcyclist/rocker type. A graduation celebration features the number “Rock-a-Hula Luau (Summer Is Coming).” PG. 115.
Great Balls of Fire! Dir. Jim McBride. Perf. Dennis Quaid, Winona Ryder, and Alec Baldwin. Orion, 1989. Born in Louisiana in 1935, Jerry Lee Lewis became a rockabilly legend largely for his recording of “Great Balls of Fire”; in 1957, it sold millions and was featured in the film Jamboree. Lewis was married to his cousin 1957–70. Her book Great Balls of Fire! Sparked McBride’s biopic. PG-13. 108.
Guardians of the Galaxy. Dir. James Gunn. Perf. Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper, and Zoe Saldana. Walt Disney, 2014. Inspired by a Beatles’ song, Rocket Raccoon first appeared in Marvel Comics in 1976 but didn’t associate with Marvel’s Star-Lord and other Guardians until 2007. In Gunn’s live-action space odyssey, the CGI Rocket is voiced by Cooper. Star-Lord (Pratt) holds a Walkman and cassettes of 1960s/70s rock close to his heart. PG-13. 122.
Hairspray. Dir. John Waters. Perf. Ricki Lake, Colleen Fitzpatrick, and Debbie Harry. New Line, 1988. “Pleasantly plump” teen Tracy (Lake) becomes a dancing sensation on a Baltimore TV show, aggravating beautiful, hoity-toity classmate Amber (Fitzpatrick, aka Vitamin C). Amber’s mother (Harry) has something in her bouffant hairdo (big as a B-52) threatening Tracy’s plans to promote racial integration while competing for Miss Auto Show 1963. PG. 92.
Hairspray. Dir. Adam Shankman. Perf. Nikki Blonsky, John Travolta, and Christopher Walken. New Line, 2007. This adaptation/remake of Hairspray (1988) stars Blonsky as Tracy, Travolta (in drag) as Tracy’s mother, and Walken as Tracy’s father. Brittany Snow is cast as Amber; Michelle Pfeiffer Amber’s mother; Zac Efron Amber’s boyfriend. Hip hop singer-songwriter Queen Latifah plays character “Motormouth” Maybelle, an R&B DJ/record store proprietor in early-1960s Baltimore. PG. 117.
Hannah Montana: The Movie. Dir. Peter Chelsom. Perf. Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Emily Osment. Disney, 2009. Following Disney Channel’s Hannah Montana series, Miley Stewart is living a double life: SoCal schoolgirl by day, famous recording artist, Hannah Montana, by night; her father, Robby, and her best friend, Lilly, are among few who know. Montana’s song “Rock Star” figures in the movie set in late-2000s California and Tennessee. G. 102.
Hard to Hold. Dir. Larry Peerce. Perf. Rick Springfield, Patti Hansen, and Janet Eilber. Universal, 1984. Rock and soap opera star Springfield plays American rocker and womanizer James. Ex-girlfriend Nicky (Hansen) is in James’ band. In California, he runs into psychologist Diana (Eilber) and must reconcile her apparent disinterest and Nicky’s role in his life and work. The soundtrack album launched Springfield’s hit single “Love Somebody.” PG. 93.
Hard Core Logo. Dir. Bruce McDonald. Perf. McDonald, Hugh Dillon, and John Pyper-Ferguson. Cineplex Odeon, 1996. This mockumentary is based on Mike Turner’s same-titled, 1993 novel. A filmmaker documents 1978–91 punk quartet Hard Core Logo (fictional) reuniting for an anti-gun benefit tour in Western Canada. Joey Ramone cameos. A sequel starring Care Failure opened at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival but not nationwide. R. 92.
Heartbreak Hotel. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Tuesday Weld, Charlie Schlatter, and David Keith. Buena Vista, 1988. In this schmaltzy comedy, single mom Marie (Weld) runs a boarding house in early-1970s Ohio. Johnny (Schlatter) is her rocker, seventeen-year-old son; Pam (Angela Goethals) her nine-year-old daughter. Marie is injured in a car crash. Johnny’s idea of boosting her spirits involves matchmaking her with her idol. Consequently, Johnny kidnaps Elvis (Keith). PG-13. 97.
Heartbreak Ridge. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. Eastwood, Mario Van Peebles, and Marsha Mason. Warner Brothers, 1986. In 1983: Sergeant Highway (Eastwood) is a divorced, gritty, hard-drinking albeit fit, hardcore US Marine close to retirement. He won the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at Heartbreak Ridge during the Korean War. His last-ditch task: to shape up an unruly reconnaissance platoon, including Prince-like rocker Jones (Peebles). R. 130.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Dir. John Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell, Miriam Shor, and Stephen Trask. New Line, 2001. Mitchell’s theatric film (references to Ancient Greek art/philosophy abound) won audience and directing awards at Sundance and makes John Kenneth Muir’s “Top Five Rock Operas/Rock Musicals” in his rock film encyclopedia. East German expatriate, transgender singer Hansel Schmidt/Hedwig Robinson (Mitchell) fronts a rock band of Korean-born Army wives in Kansas. R. 95.
High Fidelity. Dir. Stephen Frears. Perf. John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, and Jack Black. Buena Vista, 2000. Born in 1957 in Redhill, England, Nick Hornby was educated at Maidenhead Grammar and Cambridge. Set in contemporary London, High Fidelity (1995) is Hornby’s first of seven novels. Frears’ romcom version is set in Chicago. Rob (Cusack) owns a record store, makes rock mixtapes, and loves (loves not?) Laura (Hjejle). R. 113.
High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Dir. Kenny Ortega. Perf. Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale. Disney, 2008. The first two are Disney Channel Original Movies; 3 leapfrogged Mama Mia! for the biggest weekend opening for a movie musical. Filming locations included two Salt Lake City high schools and Stanford University. Efron won MTV Movie Awards’ Best Male Performance. References to Saturday Night Fever and The Last Waltz emerge. G. 112.
Honey. Dir. Bille Woodruff. Perf. Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, and Lil’ Romeo. Universal, 2003. Saturday Night Fever, Flashdance, and Dirty Dancing are movies with rock soundtracks more than movies about rock music. Honey might likewise be a dance movie with a rock soundtrack but for its plotline involving charitable, driven, early-2000s young dancer/choreographer Honey (Alba) going from gritty Bronx streets to a Missy Elliott video. PG-13. 94.
Hop. Dir. Tim Hill. Perf. Russell Brand, Hugh Laurie, and Kaley Cuoco. Universal, 2011. This CGI animation, live-action blend stars Brand as the voice of E.B., a young rabbit expected to succeed his father as Easter Bunny; but—“candy, chicks, and rock ’n’ roll” a tagline—E.B. dreams of becoming a drummer in a rock band. Blind Boys of Alabama and David Hasselhoff cameo. PG. 95.
House Party. Dir. Reginald Hudlin. Perf. Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin, and Robin Harris. New Line, 1990. With his parents on vacation, SoCal high school student Play (Martin) throws a house party. Play’s friend Kid (Reid) has near-slapstick trials getting there. They dance with Sydney (Tisha Campbell) and Sharane (A.J. Johnson) and freestyle rap battle. Kid’s father, “Pop” (Harris), unexpectedly arrives. Funk musician George Clinton cameos. R. 100.
House Party 2. Dir. Doug McHenry and George Jackson. Perf. Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin, and Martin Lawrence. New Line, 1991. See House Party (1990). Play has moved on up, managing a record store, driving a sports car. With Kid at college, navigating mean and zany obstacles, Kid ’n Play’s rap recording aspirations stall. They and Bilal (Lawrence) plan a pajama party fundraiser, Sheila (Iman) and Zora (Queen Latifah) among attendees. R. 94.
House Party 3. Dir. Eric Meza. Perf. Christopher “Kid” Reid, Christopher “Play” Martin, and Bernie Mac. New Line, 1994. See House Party 2 (1991). Play juggles managing Sex as a Weapon—a harum-scarum female rap act (played by new jack swing trio TLC)—with planning the “rockin’est bachelor party ever.” Kid’s ex-girlfriend, Sydney (Tisha Campbell), gives Kid cold feet regarding marrying fiancée Veda (Angela Means). Mac plays Kid’s uncle. R. 100.
Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf. Dir. Philippe Mora. Perf. Reb Brown, Annie McEnroe, and Sybil Danning. Hemdale, 1985. In this kitschy sequel to The Howling (1981), Ben (Brown) accompanies his sister’s colleague Jenny (McEnroe) from California to Transylvania to battle blonde, busty LGBTQ werewolf Stirba (Danning). Babel performing its song “The Howling” is among imagery figuring in the film’s tagline, “The rocking, shocking new wave of horror.” R. 91.
Human Traffic. Dir. Justin Kerrigan. Perf. John Simm, Shaun Parkes, and Nicola Reynolds. Renaissance, 1999. Five young adults rage and come down from a weekend in Cardiff, Wales, in the 1990s. They share experiences with inter-generation alienation regarding their elders and with harassment in dead-end jobs and go clubbing and house partying—“one big Ecstasy-drenched, debauched rave” reads Leonard Maltin’s 2002 Movie & Video Guide. R. 99.
The Hunger. Dir. Tony Scott. Perf. Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon. MGM, 1983. Adapted from Whitley Streiber’s 1981 novel The Hunger, this bizarre love triangle follows Miriam (Deneuve) and John (Bowie), vampires posing as a wealthy couple and music teachers in New York. John seeks help from a specialist on aging (Sarandon). Classical music and rock are featured: Bach, Iggy Pop—Bauhaus performs live. R. 97.
Hustle & Flow. Dir. Craig Brewer. Perf. Terrence Howard, Anthony Anderson, Taraji P. Henson. Paramount, 2005. Memphis pimp and drug dealer Djay (Howard), somewhat a philosopher, yearns to improve himself. He enlists churchgoing family man Key (Anderson) and friends, including prostitute Shug (Henson) as backup singer, to record a hip hop demo. “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won the Best Original Song Oscar. R. 116.
If I Stay. Dir. R.J. Cutler. Perf. Chloë Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley, and Stacy Keach. New Line, 2014. Based on Gayle Forman’s If I Stay (2009) (a young adult novel set in contemporaneous Oregon), Cutler’s version was shot in Metro Vancouver. Juilliard-bound, teenaged cellist Mia (Moretz) survives a car crash but is comatose. Her boyfriend, Adam (Blackley), is in a rock band. Different rock aspects distinguish other characters. PG-13. 106.
I Love You, Man. Dir. John Hamburg. Perf. Paul Rudd, Rashida Jones, and Jason Segel. DreamWorks, 2009. Late-2000s Los Angeles: obsessing over his fiancée’s observation that he lacks a male best friend, real estate agent Peter meets Sydney at an open house at actor/bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno’s. Peter and Sydney become friends, hanging at Sydney’s bachelor pad, playing Rush songs on guitars. Peter gravitates to bachelordom. Rush cameos. R. 105.
Idlewild. Dir. Bryan Barber. Perf. “André 3000,” Big Boi, and Paula Patton. Universal, 2006. Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! (2001) injects La Belle Époque with rock. Set in 1935 in the fictional town of Idlewild, Georgia, Barber’s musical film is intentionally anachronistic with soul, funk, and hip hop. Movie stars star in Moulin Rouge! Rappers star in Idlewild. Undertaker Percival and gambler Rooster are juke joint performers. R. 121.
Identity Crisis. Dir. Melvin Van Peebles. Perf. Mario Van Peebles, Richard Fancy, Ilan Mitchell-Smith. Block & Chip, 1989. In this comedy, rapper Chilly (Mario Van Peebles) steals dresses from Yves (Fancy), a world-famous French fashion designer, and redesigns them to give to girlfriends. Flamboyantly gay Yves has a son, Sebastian (Mitchell-Smith). On the night of a big fashion show, Yves is poisoned. His soul migrates to Chilly’s body. R. 90.
I’m Not There. Dir. Todd Haynes. Perf. Richard Gere, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger. The Weinstein Company, 2007. In six storylines imaging Bob Dylan’s “I’m Not There” (1967), five actors, including Ben Whishaw and Marcus Carl Franklin, and one actress—Cate Blanchett— respectively depict Dylan and aspects of his life. Haynes directed rock films Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story (1988) (an avant-garde short) and Velvet Goldmine (1998). R. 135.
The Informers. Dir. Gregor Jordan. Perf. Billy Bob Thornton, Winona Ryder, and Kim Basinger. Senator, 2008. The other film adaptations of Bret Easton Ellis’s fiction—Less Than Zero, American Psycho, and The Rules of Attraction—have rock elements (e.g., the title Less Than Zero honors Elvis Costello’s eponymous song). Yet one of Informers’ intersecting, 1980s LA stories—awash in period music—highlights an out-of-control goth-rock star. R. 98.
In the Mix. Dir. Ron Underwood. Perf. Usher, Chazz Palminteri, and Emmanuelle Chriqui. Lionsgate, 2005. (Gen-X Southerner, R&B-crossover singer-songwriter Usher had three multiplatinum albums 1997–2004.) New York club DJ Darrell spins at a party for mob boss Frank. Shades of Do the Right Thing’s ethnic tensions and Pulp Fiction’s Marsellus, Vincent, and Mia: Darrell is asked to chaperone Frank’s daughter—beautiful young woman Dolly. PG-13. 95.
Irvine Welsh’s Ecstasy. Dir. Rob Heydon. Perf. Kristin Kreuk, Adam Sinclair, and Billy Boyd. Intandem, 2012. Jersey alt-rock quintet My Chemical Romance released bestselling albums 2002–10, its name derived from Ecstasy: Three Tales of Chemical Romance (1996) by Scots novelist Welsh. Heydon’s dark comedy adapts one such tale involving ecstasy and EDM. A Canadian woman in Edinburgh falls for a drug addict/smuggler with Amsterdam connections. 99.
It’s All Gone Pete Tong. Dir. Michael Dowse. Perf. Paul Kaye, Beatriz Batarda, and Kate Magowan. Matson, 2005. In 1987, reputedly, English house DJ/record producer Paul Oakenfold, referencing English mobile/club DJ Pete Tong, coined the phrase “It’s all gone Pete Tong,” wherewith Pete Tong is rhyming slang for “a bit wrong.” This Canadian indie set in Ibiza has comedic currents yet concerns EDM DJ Frankie (Kaye) going deaf. R. 90.
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Dir. Kevin Smith. Perf. Jason Mewes, Jason Lee, and Shannon Elizabeth. Dimension, 2001. Like Winesburg, Ohio, View Askewniverse, New Jersey, is a recognizable landscape in fiction, thanks to comics/marijuana fans Jay (Mewes) and Bob (Smith). The antiheroes travel to Hollywood to right a wrong. The Time’s funk-pop “Jungle Love” (1984) emerges as a theme. Ben Afleck and Matt Damon are among the ensemble cast. R. 104.
Jennifer’s Body. Dir. Karyn Kusama. Perf. Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, and Johnny Simmons. 20th Century Fox, 2009. Buzz about Diablo Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper opened doors for her screenwriting successes, e.g., the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for teen comedy/drama Juno. Her follow-up is black comedy, teen horror (also filmed in 2000s British Columbia). A rock band transforms cheerleader Jennifer into a succubus. R. 102.
Jersey Boys. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, and Michael Lomenda. Warner Bros., 2014. New Jersey, 1960: four men (including Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio) adopted the name The Four Seasons. Gaudio’s “Sherry” became its first of five chart-toppers. In 1990, the group was inducted into the Rock Hall in Cleveland. Eastwood’s biopic, inspired by the Tony-winning musical, encapsulates this thirty-year period and more. R. 134.
Joe’s Apartment. Dir. John Payson. Perf. Jerry O’Connell, Megan Ward, and Don Ho. Geffen, 1996. Joe (O’Connell) graduates the University of Iowa, moves to New York, and discovers singing, dancing cockroaches in his apartment. Rottentomatoes.com gave this first feature film produced by MTV—its tagline “Sex, Bugs, Rock ’n’ Roll”—a rotten rating. The soundtrack offers performances by Soul Coughing, Moby, and Green Day, among others. PG-13. 80.
Johnny Suede. Dir. Tom DiCillo. Perf. Brad Pitt, Catherine Keener, and Calvin Levels. Pan Européenne, 1991. Rocknroller Johnny (Pitt) sports a notable pompadour, idolizes Ricky Nelson, and longs for suede shoes. One Brooklyn night, a pair falls on a telephone booth, interrupting Johnny’s call therein. The shoes fit him perfectly. Betwixt Red Shoes-meets-Blue Velvet shtick, Samuel L. Jackson plays B-Bop; brooding rocker Nick Cave plays Freak Storm. R. 97.
Josie and the Pussycats. Dir. Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan. Perf. Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid, and Rosario Dawson. Universal, 2001. Archie Comics’ first “Josie and the Pussycats” comic book appeared in 1969. Therein, level-headed, sweet-natured redhead Josie and her ditzy blonde bombshell friend, Melody, start a band. Based on the comic series set in “Riverdale,” bubblegum rockers Josie (Cook), Melody (Reid), and Valerie (Dawson) travel to New York, where troubles begin. PG-13. 98.
Kevin & Perry Go Large. Dir. Ed Bye. Perf. Henry Enfield, Kathy Burke, and Steve McFadden. Icon, 2000. In their mid-thirties, comedian Enfield and comedienne Burke played Ibiza-bound teenage boys Kevin and Perry. Perry resembles Julia Sweeney’s androgynous Pat in It’s Pat (1994), wherein Pat has a brief rock career and plays with Ween. Otherwise, Kevin and Perry seem English EDM fan versions of Californian metalheads Bill and Ted. R. 82.
The Killing of John Lennon. Dir. Andrew Piddington. Perf. Jonas Ball, Richard Sherman, and Sofia Dubrawsky. The Works, 2007. After Let It Be (1970) (The Beatles’ last studio album), Lennon released seven albums (solo or with Yoko Ono) before his death, December 8, 1980. Jarrett Schaefer’s Chapter 27 portrays Mark Chapman in the few days before he shot Lennon; Piddington’s film profiles Chapman as a youth and in the fall of 1980. 114.
Knights of the City. Dir. Dominic Orlando. Perf. Leon Isaac Kennedy, Michael Ansara, and Janine Turner. New World, 1986. Miami gang member Troy (Kennedy) sees hip hop as a pathway out of mean streets. Jailed for fighting, his gang encounters drunken inmate Delamo (Ansara), owner of Twilight Records. Delamo and daughter Brooke (Turner) debate signing Troy’s group. Brooke organizes a competition whereat Troy’s group performs. Smokey Robinson cameos. R. 87.
Krush Groove. Dir. Michael Schultz. Perf. Run-D.M.C., Blair Underwood, and Sheila E. Warner Brothers, 1985. Russell Simmons cofounded Def Jam Recordings in New York in 1983. Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell (aka Run-D.M.C.) play themselves in this rags-to-riches yarn fictionalizing Def Jam as Krush Groove, Simmons as Russell Walker (Underwood). Walker and Run compete for Sheila E.’s affections. R. 97.
La Bamba. Dir. Luis Valdez. Perf. Lou Diamond Phillips, Esai Morales, and Rosanna DeSoto. Columbia, 1987. Ritchie Valens was born Mexican American in Los Angeles in 1941. In this biopic, Phillips plays Valens, arguably the forefather of Chicano rock. On February 3, 1959, rock-and-roll pioneers Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper died in a small-plane crash in Iowa. (Don McLean’s 1971 song “American Pie” elegizes them.) PG-13. 108.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. Dir. Lou Adler. Perf. Diane Lane, Marin Kanter, and Laura Dern. Paramount, 1982. Reminiscent of The Sleaze Sisters in Alan Moyle’s Times Square (1980), teenage sisters Corinne (Lane) and Tracy (Kanter) form a punk band. Adler (the A in A & M Records) shot the film in British Columbia. The Stains influenced riot grrrl (an estrogen-infused, 1990s punk movement) in the Pacific Northwest. R. 87.
Last Days. Dir Gus Van Sant. Perf. Michael Pitt, Lukas Haas, and Asia Argento. Fine Line, 2005. Among Van Sant’s directing credits: Drugstore Cowboy; My Own Private Idaho (title inspired by B-52’s 1980 song “Private Idaho”); Good Will Hunting; Finding Forrester; and Elephant (2003’s Palm d’Or). Will Blake (Pitt), a Kurt Cobain-like Seattle sound star, find nirvana or self-destruct? Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon plays a record executive. R. 97.
The Last Days of Disco. Dir. Whit Stillman. Perf. Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, and Chris Eigeman. Gramercy, 1998. Stillman attended Harvard as a legacy, graduating in 1973, working briefly in editing at Doubleday in New York. This sardonic comedy/drama concerns Hampshire College grads Alice (Sevigny), introverted, and Charlotte (Beckinsale), extroverted, who work with Harvard grad Dan (Matt Ross) at a publishing house and frequent discotheques in early-1980s Manhattan. R. 113.
The Last Dragon. Dir. Michael Schultz. Perf. Taimak, Julius J. Carry III, and Faith Prince. Tri-Star, 1985. Teenage martial arts student Leroy confronts the “Shogun of Harlem” Sho’nuff, who’s threatening MTV-like hostess Laura. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown records, coproduced this cheesy-eighties movie which, however, features Debarge’s “Rhythm of the Night” (1985) and captures William H. Macy, Chazz Palminteri, and Keshia Knight in fledgling film roles. PG-13. 109.
Laurel Canyon. Dir. Lisa Cholodenko. Perf. Christian Bale, Kate Beckinsale, and Frances McDormand. Sony, 2003. A Harvard-educated psychiatrist and his blueblood fiancée, ABD in genomics, move to LA (where he plans to practice), thinking they’ll stay at his mother’s vacant home in Laurel Canyon. Surprise—his free-spirited, producer mother is there, recording an album with her boyfriend and his band (like Folk Implosion meets Sparklehorse). R. 103.
Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Dir. Aki Kaurismäki. Perf. Matti Pellonpää, Kari Väänänen, and Nicky Tesco. Pyramide, 1990. Finnish director punks Spinal Tap, sort of. Baltic region punk rockers Leningrad Cowboys sport quiffs and Winklepickers and try their luck in America. From CBGB, they head southwest in a used Cadillac limousine. Tesco (of The Members) plays a cousin who covers Steppenwolf in a biker bar. Jim Jarmusch cameos. PG-13. 78.
Light of Day. Dir. Paul Schrader. Perf. Joan Jett, Michael J. Fox, and Gena Rowlands. Tri-Star, 1987. Single mother Patti (Jett) is in a band with her brother Joe (Fox) in mid-1980s Cleveland. Patti has a strained relationship with their Christian, conservative mother Jeanette (Rowlands). Joe is caught between their disparate views on child rearing and rock stardom. Bruce Springsteen wrote “Light of Day” for the film. PG-13. 107.
Little Shop of Horrors. Dir. Frank Oz. Perf. Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene, and Steve Martin. Warner Brothers, 1986. Roger Corman’s comedy film The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) inspired Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s comedy/horror/rock, off-Broadway musical Little Shop of Horrors (1982), which seeded the idea for Oz’s musical film. Seymour (Moranis) is a nerdy, New York florist who encounters a raunchy plant that feeds on human blood. PG-13. 94.
The Love Guru. Dir. Marco Schnabel. Perf. Mike Myers, Justin Timberlake, and Jessica Alba. Paramount, 2008. In 1967, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi became The Beatles’ guru. The protagonist in Schnabel’s cosmic (some say bigoted) comedy images (some say lampoons) the Maharishi and his meditation program. Sitar-playing Guru Maurice Pitka (Myers) advises Toronto Maple Leafs’ Darren Roanoke (Romany Malco). Funkadelic’s George Clinton scores the film. Kanye West cameos. PG-13. 87.
Magnolia. Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson. Perf. Tom Cruise, Philip Baker Hall, Philip Seymour Hoffman. New Line, 1999. In millennial Los Angeles, as doomsday/Y2K predictions loom, interlocking vignettes, reminiscent of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts’ (1993), stress emotional rescue. Among Magnolia’s notable cast are Jason Robards, William H. Macy, and Julianne Moore. Magnolia blossoms (or perhaps wilts) into a folk rock opera, Aimee Mann accompanying characters singing “Wise Up.” R. 188.
Malibu’s Most Wanted. Dir. John Whitesell. Perf. Jamie Kennedy, Ryan O’Neal, and Taye Diggs. Warner Brothers, 2003. Brad, aka “B-Rad,” is a white rapper and son of a wealthy candidate for California governor. B-Rad’s outlandishness/subversiveness jeopardizes the campaign. Two actors are hired to pose as gang members, to kidnap and transport B-Rad to Compton, where gangsta reality shall surely scare him straitlaced, from wannabe Eminem into Malibu Brad. PG-13. 86.
Mama Mia! Dir. Phyllida Lloyd. Perf. Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, and Pierce Bronson. Universal, 2008. In the 1970s, a wholesome image and buoyant tunes, including chart-topper “Mama Mia,” made Swedish “boy-girl” quartet ABBA an international pop/rock sensation. In 1999, Catherine Johnson’s ABBA-song-filled musical, Mamma Mia!, opened in London’s West End. Lloyd’s adaptation likewise concerns a mother’s secret past unknotting at her daughter’s Greek Isle wedding. PG-13. 108.
Marci X. Dir. Richard Benjamin. Perf. Christine Baranski, Damon Wayans, and Lisa Kudrow. Paramount, 2003. When successful Jewish businessman Ben (Benjamin) hears Congresswoman Spinkle (Baranski) ranting about a record label that he owns having released controversial gangsta rap by Dr. S (Wayans), he has a heart attack. His socialite daughter, Marci (Kudrow), takes control of the label. Lauren (Jane Krakowski) is Marci’s high society Manhattan friend. R. 84.
The Million Dollar Hotel. Dir. Wim Wenders. Perf. Jeremy Davies, Milla Jovovich, and Mel Gibson. Lions Gate, 2000. In Wenders’ filmography, this release concerning Salman Rushdie and U2’s song “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” (2000) and Beatlemania follows Buena Vista Social Club (1999) (documenting rock-crossover guitarist Ry Cooder collaborating with Cuban musicians). Rear Window meets One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Forrest Gump in a seedy LA hotel. R. 122.
Mister Lonely. Dir. Harmony Korine. Perf. Diego Luna, Samantha Morton, and Werner Herzog. Dreamachine, 2008. A Paris-dwelling Michael Jackson impersonator follows a Marilyn Monroe impersonator to a Scotland commune of impersonators. Regarding the subplot reminiscent of Herzog’s 1969 documentary film The Flying Doctors of East Africa, Korine consulted skydiving nuns from Spain. Herzog plays Father Umbrillo. The soundtrack features Sun City Girls and Jason Spaceman. 112.
Monster Dog. Dir. Claudio Fragasso. Perf. Alice Cooper, Victoria Vera, and Pepita James. Trans World, 1984. A rock star and crew drive to his rural childhood home to shoot a music video. Local authorities warn of recent killings attributed to wild dogs. The first night at the house, crewwoman Angela has a nightmare about a werewolf. Filmed in Spain, Monster Dog (aka Leviatán) is in English. 84.
Moonwalker (aka Michael Jackson: Moonwalker). Dir. Jerry Kramer, Will Vinton, Jim Blashfield, and Colin Chilvers. Perf. Michael Jackson, Joe Pesci, and Bubbles. Warner Brothers, 1988. Artfully comprised of three distinct stories, Gene Kelly’s Golden Bear-winning Invitation to the Dance (1956) is an exemplary anthology film. Featuring Jackson moonwalk dancing, discombobulated anthology film Moonwalker is Golden Raspberry material. After two rockumentary shorts and three music videos (Claymation involved), Michael encounters ruthless drug dealer Mr. Big (Pesci). PG. 93.
Music and Lyrics. Dir. Marc Lawrence. Perf. Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, and Haley Bennett. Warner Brothers, 2007. In this romcom released on Valentine’s Day, Alex, formerly of new wave band “Pop!” (fictional) (reminiscent of Duran Duran/Wham!) and Manhattan housekeeper/creative writer Sophie partner to write a song for reigning, young pop star Cora. Sophie’s ex-lover Sloan (Brad Garrett) and Cora’s raunchy arrangement of Alex and Sophie’s song complicate matters. PG-13. 96.
Mystery Train. Dir. Jim Jarmusch. Perf. Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Masatoshi Nagase, and Youki Kudoh. Orion, 1989. The title of this Artistic Achievement-winner at Cannes evokes a Junior Parker song, recorded by Elvis in Memphis. Bluesman Hawkins plays a hotel clerk in interlinked narratives one night in Memphis. Japanese lovers Jun and Mitsuko (who idolizes Elvis) are tourists. Down-on-his-luck, drunken Johnny (Joe Strummer) has a gun. R. 110.
Neon Maniacs. Dir. Joseph Mangine. Perf. Leilani Sarelle, Alan Hayes, and Andrew Divoff. Cimarron, 1986. Monsters awaken from their nest in San Francisco and massacre a group of teenagers. Natalie (Sarelle) survives. Steve (Hayes), leader of a rock band, befriends her. They discover the monsters’ weakness. At a high school dance and band competition, teens arm themselves with water guns should the “neon maniacs” attack. R. 91.
Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist. Dir. Peter Sollett. Perf. Michael Cera, Alexis Dziena, Kat Dennings. Columbia, 2008. Based on Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s same-titled, young-adult novel, Yugo-driving teen bassist Nick (Cera), sole straight in all-gay The Jerk-Offs, makes mixed-CDs for Tris (Dziena), though their relationship ended months earlier. Tris throws the CDs away. Schoolmate Nora (Dennings) secretly retrieves them. Nora meets Nick at Manhattan’s Arlene’s Grocery. PG-13. 90.
No One Knows about Persian Cats. Dir. Bahman Ghobadi. Perf. Negar Shaghaghi, Ashkan Koshanejad, and Hamed Behdad. Mars, 2009. “Lightly fictionalized,” notes Mark Jenkins in his review on Npr.org (April 15, 2010), “this near documentary explores Tehran’s underground music scene, which harbors indie rock, hip-hop, heavy metal.” At Cannes, it won Prix un Certain Regard, recognizing young talent, encouraging innovative/daring filmmaking, and granting aid for distribution in France. 106.
Not Fade Away. Dir. David Chase. Perf. John Magaro, Jack Huston, and Will Brill. Paramount, 2012. Chase created HBO’s The Sopranos, winning the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy in 2004 and 2007. His directorial debut is also set in suburban New Jersey, but in the 1960s. Vietnam draft looming, coming-of-age friends start a rock band, its core Douglas, Gene, and Wells. Douglas’s father (James Gandolfini) has lymphoma. R. 112.
Notorious. Dir. George Tillman, Jr. Perf. Jamal Woolard, Antonique Smith, and Angela Bassett. Fox Searchlight, 2009. In 1991, Brooklynite high school dropout Christopher Wallace was incarcerated for dealing crack. Time served, he dove into rap, becoming, at 6’3”, 340, The Notorious B.I.G., releasing Ready to Die (1994) (platinum) and marrying R&B singer Faith Evans. This B.I.G. biopic flashes back from his 1997 murder in Los Angeles. R. 122.
Nowhere Boy. Dir. Sam Taylor-Wood. Perf. Aaron Johnson, Anne-Marie Duff, and David Threlfall. Icon, 2009. Poeticizing Beatles song “Nowhere Man,” Nowhere Boy depicts teenaged John Lennon living with his aunt and uncle in Woolton; coping with his uncle’s death from liver failure; attending Quarry Bank High; starting a skiffle band; learning that his mother (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) has been hit by a car. R. 98.
Party Monster. Dir. Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato. Perf. Macaulay Culkin, Seth Green, and Dylan McDermott. Strand, 2003. Wilmer Valderrama, Chloë Sevigny, and Marilyn Manson also have roles in Party Monster, based on James St. James’ memoir Disco Bloodbath (1999). Warhol fan James studied performance art at NYU for two years before becoming a celebutante in Manhattan’s club scene. In 1996, Angel Melendez was killed by two fellow clubbers/druggies. R. 98.
The Perks of Being a Wallfower. Dir. Stephen Chbosky. Perf. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Paul Rudd. Summit Entertainment, 2012. Chbosky published rock-referencing epistolary novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower—a bestseller for months—with MTV Books in 1999. Early-1990s Pittsburgh: English teacher Mr. Anderson (Rudd) and high school senior Sam (Watson) befriend introverted/insecure freshman Charlie (Lerman). Charlie tries Rocky Horror. Can rock alone help Charlie defeat his demons? PG-13. 102.
Phil the Alien. Dir. Rob Stefaniuk. Perf. Stefaniuk, Nicole de Boer, and Graham Greene. Lions Gate, 2005. Stefaniuk voiced recurring character Buzz on Teletoon’s 2003–04 animated series My Dad the Rock Star, produced by Gene Simmons, foreshadowing A&E’s Gene Simmons Family Jewels 2006–12. Humanoid “Phil” (Stefaniuk) crash-lands in Northern Ontario, befriends a beaver, adopts the persona of a “hoser,” and joins a Christian rock band. R. 85.
Pink Floyd—The Wall. Dir. Alan Parker and Gerald Scarfe. Perf. Bob Geldof, Christine Hargreaves, and Eleanor David. MGM, 1982. In this live-action rock opera with animation sequences based on Floyd’s 1979 album The Wall, English boy Pink loses his father during World War II, weathers the storms of schoolteachers and an overprotective mother, comes of age, and finds love, retreating into isolation behind a wall as his marriage collapses. R. 99.
The Players Club. Dir. Ice Cube. Perf. LisaRaye, Bernie Mac, and Monica Calhoun. New Line Cinema, 1998. Shoe saleswoman and single mother Diana (LisaRaye) discovers she can rake in college funds and more by dancing at a club owned by gangster-plagued lowlife Dollar Bill (Mac). Diana’s sister, Ebony (Calhoun), begins dancing at the club. DJ Blue (Jamie Foxx) gigs. Famous rapper Luke (2 Live Crew’s Luther Campbell) visits. R. 104.
Poetic Justice. Dir. John Singleton. Perf. Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, and Regina King. Columbia, 1993. The crime drama Boyz N the Hood (1991) was the first film that Singleton wrote and directed. Poetic Justice is the second. Perhaps more about spoken word than rock, it does star pop/R&B singer Jackson as Justice, a Los Angeles beautician and poet; rapper Tupac as Lucky, a postal clerk/musician. R. 109.
Pootie Tang. Dir. Louis C.K. Perf. Lance Crouther, Chris Rock, and Wanda Sykes. Paramount, 2001. American vigilante/hip hop singer Pootie (Crouther) satires blaxploitation protagonists such as in Shaft (1971) and Super Fly (1972)—both full of funk and soul. Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft” won the Best Original Song Oscar. Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly ranks 72nd on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” PG-13. 81.
Premaloka. Dir. Veeraswamy Ravichandran. Perf. Ravichandran, Juhi Chawla, Vishnuvardhan. Sri Eswari, 1987. The title to this Kanarese film transporting the plot of Grease 2 (1982) to India means “World of Love.” Chawla, Miss India 1984, began her film career—100 to date—in a supporting role in Sultanat (1986). She and Ravichandran star in Premaloka, his directorial debut, featuring Hamsalekha’s music direction. 154.
Pretty in Pink. Dir. John Hughes. Perf. Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, and Andrew McCarthy. Paramount, 1986. This Brat Pack film takes its title from a postpunk song by The Psychedelic Furs and studies coming of age in the US in the 1980s. New wave heroine Andie (Ringwald) works after school at a record store. Will good friend Duckie (Cryer) or rich kid Blane (McCarthy) take her to prom? PG-13. 96.
Prey for Rock & Roll. Dir. Alex Steyermark. Perf. Gina Gershon, Drea de Matteo, and Lori Petty. Mac, 2003. Jacki (Gershon), pushing forty, fronts a late-1980s, Los Angeles punk rock quartet, Clam Dandy—all-lesbian, except Tracy (de Matteo), whose boyfriend, Nick (Ivan Martin), is abusive, and Jacki, when she begins questioning her lesbianism. Petty, who had the title role in the punk-flavored Tank Girl (1995), plays guitarist Faith. R. 104.
Pump Up the Volume. Dir. Allan Moyle. Perf. Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis, and Mimi Kennedy. New Line, 1990. Mark (Slater) starts an alt-rock pirate radio station in his parents’ basement in suburban Phoenix. On air, he is Harry, hard on late-1980s America. Schoolmate Nora (Mathis), Lois Lane-like, suspects Mark is Harry. The FCC investigates Mark and ironically brings attention to school administration corruption involving SAT scores and government funding. R. 105.
Purple Rain. Dir. Albert Magnoli. Perf. Prince, Apollonia Kotero, and Morris Day. Warner Brothers, 1984. The Kid (Prince) is an aspiring, young funk/new wave musician in Minneapolis. He meets talented, young singer Apollonia. His rival, Day, believes that the First Avenue nightclub isn’t big enough for The Kid and him and threatens to steal Apollonia away. Purple Rain won the Best Original Song Score Oscar. R. 111.
Queen of the Damned. Dir. Michael Rymer. Perf. Aaliyah, Stuart Townsend, and Marguerite Moreau. Warner Brothers, 2002. R&B singer Aaliyah released three studio albums—each certified platinum. She died in an airplane crash in the Bahamas August 25, 2001. In this loose adaptation of an Anne Rice novel, Vampire Queen Akasha (Aaliyah) follows a metal band led by Vampire Lestat (Townsend) to a concert in Death Valley. R. 101.
Rappin’. Dir. Joel Silberg. Perf. Mario Van Peebles, Rutanya Alda, and Eriq La Salle. Cannon, 1985. Van Peebles plays ex-convict John, aka Rappin’ Hood (rhymes with Robin Hood), newly released, determined to raise consciousness about gentrification and lawlessness. To settle disputes, Hood and his band of righteous rhyme busters advocate breakdancing not violence. A hawkish gang antagonizes them. Rappin’ was filmed in Pittsburgh. Ice-T cameos. PG. 92.
Ray. Dir. Taylor Hackford. Perf. Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Clifton Powell. Universal, 2004. Floridian Ray Charles studied Braille/music at St. Augustine’s school for the blind 1935–45. At fifteen, he began playing piano in bands. He sang/played on his own crossover R&B hits 1953–65, when his heroin addiction went public. Foxx portrays Ray in this biopic and received the Best Actor Oscar. PG-13. 152.
Reality Bites. Dir. Ben Stiller. Perf. Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, and Janeane Garofalo. Universal, 1994. Early-1990s Houston: recent college graduate and budding filmmaker Lelaina (Ryder) finds struggling guitarist Troy (Hawke) attractive yet begins dating Michael (Stiller), an executive with an MTV-like network. Her friend Vicki (Garafolo) may have contracted AIDS. Troy attends his father’s funeral. Lighter moments prevail. Artists/bands associated with Generation X fill the soundtrack. PG-13. 99.
Rent. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, and Rosario Dawson. Columbia, 2005. In January 1996, thirty-five-year-old Jonathan Larson died unexpectedly of aortic complications. Months later, Rent, Larson’s rock opera Americanizing and contemporizing Puccini’s Le Bohème, opened on Broadway, subsequently winning the Best Musical Tony and Pulitzer for Drama. Columbus’s adaptation likewise champions East Village bohemians 1989–90, struggling with rent, mindful of AIDS. PG-13. 135.
Repo! The Genetic Opera. Dir. Darren Lynn Bousman. Perf. Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, and Joan Jett. Lionsgate, 2008. This horror-rock opera was promoted as “From the Producers of Saw,” that sick/twisted flick. In 2056, organ failures are epidemic. Mega-corporation GeneCo provides transplants on payment plans. Defaulters are hunted by Repo Men. Classical-crossover soprano Sarah Brightman, Skinny Puppy vocalist Nivek Ogre, and Hilton Hotels heiress Paris Hilton have roles. R. 98.
Repo Man. Dir. Alex Cox. Perf. Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, and Olivia Barash. Universal, 1984. Los Angeles circa 1983: repossession agent Bud (Stanton) hooks punk rocker Otto (Estevez) into repo jobs. Otto meets Leila (Barash), who says dead extraterrestrials are in the trunk of a 1964 Malibu, for which a $20,000 bounty posts. Agent Rogersz (Susan Barnes) resembles Michael Jackson. Deus ex machina goes Grease. R. 92.
The Return of the Living Dead. Dir. Dan O’Bannon. Perf. James Karen, Clu Gulager, and Don Calfa. Orion, 1985. A medical warehouse, Louisville, 1984: foreman Frank (Karen) accidentally unleashes a gas that reanimates a cadaver. Coworkers help burn the zombie but contaminate the air. Punk rockers in a convertible are infected. The soundtrack to this Night of the Living Dead parody features punk bands (e.g., The Cramps and The Damned). R. 91.
Ride. Dir. Millicent Shelton. Perf. Melissa De Sousa, Julie Brown, and Malik Yoba. Dimension, 1998. Film school graduate Leta (De Sousa) is hired to assist music video director Bleau (Brown, aka MTV VJ Downtown Julie Brown). Leta’s task: escort rappers via a jalopy bus from Harlem to Miami for a video shoot. Cedric the Entertainer, Fredro Starr, Sticky Fingaz, and Snoop Doog have roles. R. 90.
Rock & Rule. Dir. Clive A. Smith. Perf. Paul Le Mat, Susan Roman, and Don Francks. MGM, 1983. This is the first Canadian animated feature produced in English. After 1983’s nuclear war between the US and USSR, young rockers Omar (Le Mat) and Angel (Roman) battle rogue rocker Mok (Francks) in mutant, post-apocalyptic “Nuke York.” Lou Reed and Iggy Pop provide Mok’s singing voice. Deborah Harry provides Angel’s. PG. 77.
Rock of Ages. Dir. Adam Shankman. Perf. Julianne Hough, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Tom Cruise. Warner Brothers, 2012. The title to Shankman’s musical comedy featuring an all-star cast and glam-metal songs evokes the popular Christian hymn but also the same-titled Def Leppard song, from Pyromania (1983)—certified diamond. Hollywood, 1987: rocker girl Sherrie works at a hard-rock venue. Church lady Patricia protests a rock star’s upcoming performance there. PG-13. 120.
Rock On!! Dir. Abhishek Kapoor. Perf. Arjun Rampal, Farhan Akhtar, and Luke Kenny. Reliance Big Pictures, 2008. This Hindi-language, musical film traces a late-1990s, Mumbai-based grunge/rock quartet, Magik (fictional). The four young men struggle to package a debut album and video for public consumption and, girlfriends involved, dissolve. Ten years later, through a series of coincidences, romantic partners involved, they reunite. However, one member has brain cancer. 145.
Rock Star. Dir. Stephen Herek. Perf. Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, and Dominic West. Warner Brothers, 2001. In 1996, Herek’s Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995), about an Oregon high school music teacher, engendered The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which donates musical instruments to kids. Where rock is concerned, Rock Star more resembles Herek’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. American metalhead Chris fills a vacancy in Judas Priest-like Steel Dragon. R. 106.
The Rocker. Dir. Peter Cattaneo. Perf. Rainn Wilson, Christina Applegate, and Emma Stone. Twentieth Century Fox, 2008. Cattaneo’s The Full Monty (1987), a comedy/drama about unemployed Englishmen who form a striptease act, garnered an Oscar for its score by Anne Dudley (of Art of Noise). In The Rocker, Fish, ex-drummer for a Cleveland glam-metal band, tries to acclimate to the late-2000s rock biz: iChat, YouTube, poseurs, etc. PG-13. 102.
Rockers. Dir. Takanori Jinnai. Perf. Yumi Asô, Moto Fuyuki, and Hakuryu. Gaga, 2003. Unlike Jamaican, reggae movie Rockers (1978), this same-titled comedy/drama (aka Rokkāzu) is based on Japanese punk rock quintet Rockers, formed in 1977 in Hakata, Kyushu, dissolving in 1982. In the late-eighties, frontman Jinnai became an award-winning actor in Japan. Western rock fans will recognize Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards references. 105.
Rockstar. Dir. Imtiaz Ali. Perf. Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, and Moufid Aziz. Eros International, 2011. In this Hindi, Indian musical film, Jim Morrison fan Janardhan is at college in Delhi, dreaming of becoming a rock star. He befriends beautiful, young college student Heer. Yet she marries Jai in Kashmir and moves to Prague. Janardhan’s career materializing, he performs/records in Prague, where Heer’s health is failing. 159.
Role Models. Dir. David Wain. Perf. Paul Rudd, Seann William Scott, and Elizabeth Banks. Universal, 2008. Energy drink salesmen Danny and Wheeler break the law. Attorney Beth negotiates community service in lieu of jail time. The thirtysomething bachelors mentor troubled boys (the Boys and Girls Club of Venice, Los Angeles, among filming locations). Anachronistic play of Kiss at a live action role-playing game is the main rock element. R. 99.
Roll Bounce. Dir. Malcolm D. Lee. Perf. Bow Wow, Chi McBride, and Meagan Good. Fox Searchlight, 2005. Born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1987, Shad Moss became Lil’ Bow Wow, whose debut album, Beware of the Dog (2000), went multiplatinum. As older, taller rapper Bow Wow, he has had gold/platinum success. In late-1970s Chicago, Xavier (Bow Wow) and friends are roller disco contestants. The soundtrack pumps period disco. PG-13. 112.
The Runaways. Dir. Floria Sigismondi. Perf. Dakota Fanning, Kristen Stewart, and Michael Shannon. Apparition, 2010. The Runaways is based on Cherie Currie’s memoir Neon Angel (1989), imparting uphill battles of The Runaways, the all-female, hard rock quintet from Los Angeles 1975–79. Its debut album features Joan Jett and Kim Fowley’s “Cherry Bomb” and Lou Reed’s “Rock & Roll” with Lita Ford on lead guitar. R. 106.
Saigon Electric. Dir. Stephane Gauger. Perf. Van Trang, Quynh Hoa, and Khuong Ngoc. Annam 2011. Gauger was born in Saigon, raised in California, where he graduated college. Winner of Best Film at the Golden Kite Awards in Hanoi, Saigon Electric is primarily a Vietnamese hip-hop dance film, though EDM figures. Mai, a ribbon dancer from the countryside, arrives in Saigon. Street dancer Kim befriends her. 106.
Satisfaction. Dir. Joan Freeman. Perf. Justine Bateman, Liam Neeson, and Julia Roberts. Twentieth Century Fox, 1988. Satisfaction was filmed in Baltimore City, Maryland, and Charleston County, South Carolina. High school valedictorian Jennie (Bateman) fronts an all-girl, Gen-X rock band trying for a summer gig at the beach. Club owner Martin (Neeson), a Baby Boomer living alone with his Doberman, prompts Jennie to reconsider plans for college. PG-13. 92.
School of Rock. Dir. Richard Linklater. Perf. Jack Black, Mike White, and Joan Cusack. Paramount, 2003. In early-2000s New York, slacker rock singer/guitarist Dewey (Black) must find a decent job to pay his growing rent debt. To fill an urgent faculty opening at a prep school, he steals a friend’s identity. Uncredentialed, he teaches what he knows, rock history/music. Will Principal Mullins (Cusack) spot the impostor? PG-13. 108.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Dir. Edgar White. Perf. Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kieran Culkin. Universal, 2010. Wright’s film is based on 2005 graphic novel Scott Pilgrim vs. the World by Canadian cartoonist/rocker Bryan Lee O’Malley. Pilgrim (Cera) is a twenty-two-year-old Torontonian slacker and bassist in band Sex Bob-omb. Dragons, love, martial arts, rock, skateboarding, and superpowers unite. Alt-rocker Beck composed the music played by Sex Bob-omb. PG-13. 112.
Selena. Dir. Gregeory Nava. Perf. Jennifer Lopez, Edward James Olmos, and Constance Marie. Warner Brothers, 1997. Selena Quintanilla-Perez was born in Texas in 1971. Selena Live! (1993) won the Best Mexican-American Album Grammy. In 1995, the Tejano singer-songwriter confronted fan club president Yolanda Saldívar about embezzling club funds; Saldívar took a pistol from her purse and shot Selena. In this biopic, Latin pop star Lopez portrays Selena. PG. 127.
Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. Dir. Mat Whitecross. Perf. Andy Serkis, Olivia Williams, and Naomie Harris. Entertainment Film, 2010. In 1949, seven-year-old Ian Dury contracted polio in England. After nineteen months hospitalized, he began rigorous schooling, leading to art college. In 1977, art teacher/husband/father/singer-songwriter Dury (Serkis, in this biopic) gained a following with sextet Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ funky, new wave “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.” R. 115.
Shag. Dir. Zelda Barron. Perf. Phoebe Cates, Bridget Fonda, and Annabeth Gish. Hemdale, 1989. Shag follows four Southern, teenage girls, driving a convertible Cadillac to a big spring festival—boasting a dance contest—in Myrtle Beach in 1963. While the Carolina Shag dance is associated with Carolina beach music and beach pop, perhaps Shag is more of a dance film than a rock film? PG. 98.
Shout!. Dir. Jeffrey Hornaday. Perf. John Travolta, Jamie Walters, and Heather Graham. Universal, 1991. West Texas, 1955: music teacher Jack (Travolta) introduces rock to wayward boys. Cinephiles will appreciate Graham at twenty-one and Gwyneth Paltrow at eighteen—Paltrow in her debut movie role. Nevertheless, the title to Michael Wilmington’s Los Angeles Times review sums it up: “So Bad It Makes You Want to Shout.” PG-13. 89.
Sid & Nancy. Dir. Alex Cox. Perf. Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, and David Hayman. Artédis, 1986. Sex Pistols’ Sid Vicious met groupie Nancy Spungen in London March 1977. After the punk band’s breakup in January 1978, the couple—Sid twenty-one, Nancy twenty—lived in Manhattan’s Hotel Chelsea until October 12, when Spungen was found dead therein with a knife wound. Cox’s biopic depicts their relationship and drug use. R. 112.
The Singing Detective. Dir. Keith Gordon. Perf. Robert Downey, Jr., Robin Wright Penn, and Katie Holmes. Paramount, 2003. Mel Gibson and Adrien Brody also have parts in this musical comedy/crime film based on BBC’s acclaimed serial drama The Singing Detective (1986). Suffering from psoriatic arthritis, hospitalized detective novelist Dan (Downey, Jr.) reflects on his life and pulp fiction. Film noir and 1950s pop/R&B/rockabilly/rock are honored and razzed. R. 109.
Singles. Dir. Cameron Crowe. Perf. Bridget Fonda, Matt Dillon, and Kyra Sedgwick. Warner Brothers, 1992. Crowe wrote the screenplay and has a part as a rock journo in this “romcom” about twentysomethings in early-1990s Seattle. Janet (Fonda), a coffeehouse employee, has eyes for Cliff (Dillon), a grunge rocker amid the Seattle sound scene. Members of Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam have roles. PG-13. 99.
Slaves to the Underground. Dir. Kristine Peterson. Perf. Molly Gross, Jason Bortz, and Marisa Ryan. First Look, 1997. Riot grrrl/Seattle sound band No Exit is approaching a record deal. Guitarist Shelly (Gross) is caught between ex-boyfriend Jimmy (Bortz), whose friend raped her, and lover Suzy (Ryan), No Exit’s singer. Among the soundtrack’s fitting songs are Joan Jett’s “Activity Grrrl,” Butt Trumpet’s “Love/Hate,” and Ani DiFranco’s “Buildings and Bridges.” R. 93.
SLC Punk! Dir. James Merendino. Perf. Matthew Lillard, Michael Goorjian, and Jason Segel. Sony, 1999. Merendino wrote this semiautobiographical comedy/drama. In early-1980s SLC (Salt Lake City), recent college graduate Stevo (Lillard) is accepted to Harvard Law yet prefers his punk-rock lifestyle. At a party, Spandau Ballet’s contra-punk “She Loved Like Diamond” playing on the stereo gives Stevo’s friend/roommate Bob (Goorjian) a headache. Will “vitamins” help? R. 97.
Slumber Party Massacre II. Dir. Deborah Brock. Perf. Crystal Bernard, Patrick Lowe, and Kimberly McArthur. Concorde, 1987. In slasher film The Slumber Party Massacre (1982), Courtney (Jennifer Meyers) is a survivor. In II, Courtney (Bernard) is older and in an all-girl rock band. A rockabilly psycho wielding a heavy metal guitar/power drill and uttering hard rock lyrics threatens to ruin Courtney’s band’s fun at a California retreat. R. 75.
Smithereens. Dir. Susan Seidelman. Perf. Susan Berman, Brad Rijn, and Richard Hell. New Line, 1982. Garden State runaway Wren (Berman) arrives in New York too late. The punk scene has gravitated to Los Angeles. Odd job by day, punk lounge by night, she stoops to stealing; to forging relationships that could deliver her into LA’s scene. When Wren faces eviction, Paul (Rijn) tries to help. R. 89.
Something in the Air. Dir. Olivier Assayas. Perf. Clement Metayer, Lola Créton, and Felix Armand. MK2 Diffusion, 2012. This French film (aka Après Mai, meaning after the student/worker uprising in May 1968 in Paris) won Best Original Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. Assayas’ screenplay and film champion seventeen-year-old Gilles, talented painter, aspiring filmmaker, in 1971, traveling into Italy with girlfriend Christine. Period rock advances the idealistic spirit. 122.
Sorted. Dir. Alexander Jovy. Perf. Matthew Rhys, Sienna Guillory, and Tim Curry. Prism, 2000. Young professional Carl (Rhys) travels from Yorkshire to London to investigate his brother’s suspicious death amid the EDM club scene. Contrast Drew Daywalt and David Schneider’s comparable Stark Raving Mad (2002), wherewith grand theft coincides with a rave’s chaos/loudness: Sorted’s cinematography, direction, mise-en-scène, performances, music, and writing are considerably better. R. 102.
Soul Men. Dir. Malcolm D. Lee. Perf. Bernie Mac, Samuel L. Jackson, and John Legend. MGM, 2008. This comedy/musical tells of former soul singers Floyd and Louis, who last performed decades ago. They agree to drive from California to New York for a concert honoring recently deceased singer Marcus. Floyd’s daughter, Cleo (Sharon Leal), is in a troubled relationship with rapper Lester (Affion Crockett). Isaac Hayes cameos. R. 100.
Soul Plane. Dir. Jessy Terrero. Perf. Kevin Hart, Snoop Dogg, and Tom Arnold. MGM, 2004. Punning on black music-oriented Soul Train, syndicated from WGN-TV in 1975, Soul Plane twists absurd, fast-paced Airplane! (1980) (which parodies 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!) into a party plane complete with beer, casino, strippers, etc., arguably bastardizing soul’s gospel and blues roots. Snoop plays Captain Mack; contributes to the soundtrack. R. 86.
Soundtrack. Dir. Neerav Ghosh. Perf. Rajeev Khandelwal, Soha Ali Khan, and Mrinalini Sharma. Saregama, 2011. Based on the 2004 film It’s All Gone Pete Tong, this Hindi, Indian film paints a portrait of talented young guitarist and Mumbai club DJ Raunak, striving toward a recording and composing career. If drugs and alcohol don’t hold him back, hearing loss may. Gauri (Khan), hearing impaired, buoys him. 132.
Sparkle. Dir. Salim Akil. Perf. Jordan Sparks, Carmen Ejogo, and Tika Sumpter. TriStar, 2012. Sam O’Steen’s Sparkle (1976), music by Rock Hall inductee Curtis Mayfield, is set in late-1950s/early-1960s Harlem. Furthering The Supremes homage, Akil’s remake, featuring some Mayfield songs and new compositions by R. Kelly, is set in Detroit. Sparks (American Idol’s sixth season winner) stars as Sparkle. Whitney Houston plays Sparkle’s mother. PG-13. 116.
Spice World. Dir. Bob Spiers. Perf. Spice Girls, Roger Moore, and Meat Loaf. Columbia, 1998. Young Englishwomen Geri Halliwell (Ginger Spice), Melanie Chisholm (Sporty), Victoria Adams (Posh), Melanie Brown (Scary), and Emma Bunton (Baby) composed Spice Girls. Featuring dance pop, number-one single “Wannabe,” debut album Spice sold millions. A bubblegum comedy with British rocker cameos, Spice World fictionalizes events preluding a Royal Albert Hall concert. PG. 93.
Spring Breakers. Dir. Harmony Korine. Perf. James Franco, Gucci Main, and Selena Gomez. Mars, 2013. In Filter Magazine, Patrick James describes Spring Breakers as “a tale of wayward youth, hedonism, and bikini-clad robbery, with a Skrillex-infused score.” (EDM singer-songwriter Skrillex has won six Grammys to date.) Gangster rapper Alien, warring with Archie, bails four coeds gone wild in Florida out of jail. Costuming alludes to feminist/Russian punk. R. 94.
Still Crazy. Dir. Brian Gibson. Perf. Stephen Rea, Billy Connolly, and Bill Nigh. Columbia, 1998. In this comedy, British rock band Strange Fruit (fictional), which split up in 1977, reforms in 1997 for a reunion concert in Wisbech, England. One member has been working as a roofer, another at a nursery, two others are in debt, and the remaining member (the lead guitarist) is missing. R. 95.
Stoned. Dir. Stephen Woolley. Perf. Leo Gregory, Luke de Woolfson, and Paddy Considine. Vertigo, 2005. Brian Jones excelled at Cheltenham Grammar but didn’t finish, moving to London, where, in 1962, he met the other founding members of The Rolling Stones, recording eleven studio Stones albums, departing, drug-addled, in June 1969. In July 1969, Jones was found dead in his swimming pool—murdered, according to this biopic. R. 102.
The Stöned Age. Dir. James Melkonian. Perf. Michael Kopelow, Bradford Tatum, and Clifton Collins, Jr. Lionsgate, 1994. Late-1970s Los Angeles County: two young stoners navigate a Volkswagen to house parties/liquor stores. In the house party film genre with Superbad (2007), Stöned doubles as a rock film—umlaut inserted as tribute to Blue Öyster Cult. The stoners dig BÖC—members of which have roles as concert T-shirt scalpers. R. 90.
Strange Days. Dir. Kathryn Bigelow. Perf. Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Lewis, and Angela Bassett. Twentieth Century Fox, 1995. Bigelow has directed ten films, including The Hurt Locker (2009), which received Best Picture and Director Oscars. In the futuristic, millennial Strange Days, lovesick Caucasian ex-cop/techie Lenny (Fiennes) investigates the murder of an outspoken African-American rapper in Los Angeles in 1999. Lenny’s ex, Faith (Lewis), is a sexy, up-and-coming rocker. R. 145.
Streets of Fire. Dir. Walter Hill. Perf. Diane Lane, Willem Dafoe, and Michael Paré. Universal, 1984. This movie filmed in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles was advertised as a “Rock & Roll Fable.” Ellen Aim and The Attackers’ lead singer (Lane) is kidnapped by a 1980s/retro-1950s biker gang led by Raven (Dafoe). Ellen’s ex-boyfriend Tom (Paré) and a motley crew become hell-bent on rescuing her. PG. 93.
subUrbia. Dir. Richard Linklater. Perf. Giovanni Ribisi, Nicky Katt, and Steve Zahn. Sony, 1997. The stylization subUrbia differentiates the title from Penelope Spheeris’s Suburbia (1983). College dropout Jeff (Ribisi), Air Force discharge Tim (Katt), and marijuana/sex addict Buff (Zahn) congregate near a convenience store in mid-1990s, suburban Austin, Texas. Pony (Jayce Bartok), a friend from high school, now a rock star, stops by. R. 121.
Suck. Dir. Rob Stefaniuk. Perf. Stefaniuk, Jessica Paré, and Malcolm McDowell. Alliance, 2009. Stefaniuk’s Phil the Alien (2004) parodies The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). Suck parodies rock-and-roll vampire flicks. Touring North America, loser band The Winners meets vampire hunter Eddie (McDowell). Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop, and Henry Rollins have roles. Beef Bellows (Moby) fronts Buffalo metal band “Secretaries of Steak.” R. 91.
Sucker Punch. Dir. Zack Snyder. Perf. Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jon Hamm. Warner Bros., 2011. The film begins in Vermont, Babydoll (Browning) singing Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” Wrongfully institutionalized, Babydoll plans her escape, slips into a fantasy world. Made to dance erotically, she transports herself to feudal Japan; a steampunk World War I; a Tolkien-like universe; a robot future. Among other rock: a Roxy Music song is performed. PG-13. 110.
Surf II. Dir. Randall M. Badat. Perf. Eric Stoltz, Jeffrey Rogers, and Eddie Deezen. International Film, 1984. Airhead surfer dudes Chuck (Stoltz) and Bob (Rogers) battle mad scientist Menlo (Deezen), inventor of a soft drink that turns surfers into zombies. The indie flick cum cult film parodies 1960s beach party films and offers glimpses of Los Angeles County beaches amid surf music, punk, and new wave. No Surf I exists. R. 91.
Taking Woodstock. Dir. Ang Lee. Perf. Demetri Martin, Eugene Levy, and Jonathan Groff. Focus, 2009. Based on Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte’s 2007 memoir Taking Woodstock, this comedy/drama from Oscar-winning director Lee features a flower-power score from Oingo Boingo frontman Danny Elfman. In 1969 in Bethel, New York, young man Elliot (Martin) lends family property to organizers preparing to launch the rock-oriented Woodstock Festival nearby. R. 121.
Telstar: The Joe Meek Story. Dir. Nick Moran. Perf. Con O’Neill, Kevin Spacey, and Pam Ferris. G2, 2008. This biopic encapsulates 1960s independent record producer Meek. The homosexual Londoner’s obsessions included dead rock-and-rollers and outer space, including AT&T’s Telstar satellite. Meek’s biggest hit as a songwriter, “Telstar,” recorded by The Tornados, reached number one in 1962. Accusations of plagiarizing the tune didn’t ease mounting troubles—Meek committed murder-suicide in 1967. R. 119.
Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny. Dir. Liam Lynch. Perf. Jack Black, Kyle Gass, and Tim Robbins. New Line, 2006. Chubby Black and potbellied Gass compose LA rock mock duo Tenacious D. Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl drums on three Tenacious D albums, featuring tracks like “Kielbasa” and “The Government Totally Sucks.” Pick puns on guitar pick. Jables (Black) treks from 1990s Kickapoo, Missouri, to Hollywood to form a rock band. R. 93.
That Thing You Do! Dir. Tom Hanks. Perf. Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, and Tom Everett Scott. Twentieth Century Fox, 1996. This good-natured historical fiction set in 1964 follows a Pennsylvania rock-and-roll band, managed by Mr. White (Hanks), on a US tour. Faye (Tyler) accompanies her boyfriend, singer/songwriter Jimmy (Schaech). Scott plays drummer Guy, whose girlfriend, Tina (Charlize Theron), stayed in Erie. Rockabilly revivalist Chris Isaak is among an ensemble cast. PG. 108.
This Is England. Dir. Shane Meadows. Perf. Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, and Joseph Gilgun. Optimum, 2007. Asserting that skinhead subculture in England in 1983—rooted in ska/soul/reggae—was hijacked by English nationalists and racists, Meadows’ sociopolitical drama won the 2007 BAFTA Award for Best British Film. Ex-con, charismatic radical Combo (Graham) enlists schoolboy Shaun (Turgoose). Soundtrack boasts Toots & the Maytals, The Specials, and Soft Cell. 102.
This Is Spinal Tap. Dir. Rob Reiner. Perf. Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. Embassy, 1984. McKean, Guest, and Shearer star as a British hard rock/heavy metal trio on a US tour to promote its album “Smell the Glove.” In 2002, the National Film Preservation Board deemed this mockumentary satirizing hagiographic rockumentaries “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant,” selecting it for preservation in the Library of Congress. R. 82.
Top Secret!. Dir. Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker. Perf. Val Kilmer, Lucy Gutteridge, and Omar Sharif. Paramount, 1984. This zany parody of Elvis and spy films is Kilmer’s first feature. He plays 1950s, rock-and-roll heartthrob Nick. Traveling from America to East Germany to perform, Nick becomes involved in a French resistance, helping Hillary (Gutteridge) rescue her scientist father (played by Michael Gough) from East German control. PG. 90.
Tougher Than Leather. Dir. Rick Rubin. Perf. Darryl McDaniels, Joseph Simmons, and Jason Mizell. New Line Cinema, 1988. McDaniels is D.M.C., Simmons Run, and Mizell Jam Master Jay in this hip-hop crime drama set in late-1980s NYC—tagline: “This time they’ve been pushed too far. Now someone else is gonna dance to the music.” Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, and Slick Rick perform. Def Jam records cofounder Rubin plays mobster Vic. R. 87.
Trick or Treat. Dir. Charles Martin Smith. Perf. Tony Fields, Marc Price, and Gene Simmons. De Laurentis, 1986. A hotel fire kills heavy metal musician Sammi (Fields). Bullied American teen Eddie (Price) idolized him; seeks consolation from DJ Nuke (Simmons), who knew Sammi. Nuke gives the only copy of Sammi’s last, unreleased recordings to Eddie. Eddie discovers backmasking that spawns supernatural, horrific things. Ozzy Osbourne plays a televangelist. R. 98.
24 Hour Party People. Dir. Michael Winterbottom. Perf. Steve Coogan, Lennie James, and Shirley Henderson. Pathé, 2002. In 1978 in Manchester, England, reporter Tony Wilson cofounded Factory Records, releasing New Order’s first five albums 1981–89. In 1982, Factory and New Order opened Haçienda nightclub for twenty-four-hour party people (many ecstasy-fueled). In the early-1990s, Factory faced bankruptcy. Coogan plays Wilson in this depiction of such Mancunians 1976–92. R. 117.
200 Cigarettes. Dir. Risa Bramon Garcia. Perf. Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck, and Dave Chappelle. Paramount, 1999. This MTV-produced mosaic capturing teens/young adults in New York City on New Year’s Eve 1981 features an ensemble cast: Paul Rudd, Kate Hudson, Christina Ricci, and Courtney Love, among others. Monica (Martha Plimpton) fears her party will fail. A subplot involves Elvis Costello. Two late-1970s Costello songs make the soundtrack. R. 101.
Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All by Myself. Dir. Tyler Perry. Perf. Taraji P. Henson, Brian White, Adam Rodriguez. Lionsgate, 2009. April, a nightclub, R&B singer with a drinking problem, shares her home with her shady boyfriend and his children. Columbian immigrant Sandino comes to live in the basement, repairing the house. Elderly neighbor Madea (Perry, in drag), church lady Wilma (Gladys Knight), and bartender Tanya (Mary J. Blige) advise April. PG-13. 113.
Under the Cherry Moon. Dir. Prince. Perf. Prince, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Steven Berkoff. Warner Brothers, 1986. American expatriate Christopher (Prince) takes advantage of wealthy women living luxuriously in the Riviera. Romancing Mary (Thomas) for her megabucks, Christopher falls for her. Mary’s father Isaac (Berkoff) intervenes. Filmed in and around Nice, the black-and-white musical film won five Golden Raspberries. Parade, Prince’s related album, yielded the hit “Kiss.” PG-13. 98.
Undercover Brother. Dir. Malcolm D. Lee. Perf. Eddie Griffin, Dave Chappelle, and Robert Trumbull. Universal, 2002. Undercover Brother spoofs blaxploitation films and the 007 movie franchise. Undercover Brother (Griffin), Conspiracy Brother (Chapelle), and the BROTHERHOOD combat a racist secret agency headed by The Man (Trumbull), whose henchpersons include Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan) and White She-Devil (Denise Richards). The Man’s target: Soul Brother No. 1 (James Brown). PG-13. 86.
Valley Girl. Dir. Martha Coolidge. Perf. Nicolas Cage, Deborah Foreman, and Michelle Meyrink. Atlantic, 1983. The Reagan Era underway, an ethnicity of materialistic, well-to-do teenyboppers emerged in San Fernando Valley. (The 1982 song “Valley Girl,” by Frank Zappa and teenage daughter Moon Unit, lampoons the associated sociolect, Valleyspeak.) Romeo and Juliet goes romcom. Hollywood punk Randy and valley girl Julie are drawn together. Josie Cotton performs. R. 99.
Velvet Goldmine. Dir. Todd Haynes. Perf. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Christian Bale, and Toni Collette. Miramax, 1998. This literary grab bag (leprechauns, Oscar Wilde, spacecrafts, Citizen Kane, etc.) spotlights glam rock star Brian (Meyers). (His stage persona, Maxwell Demon, rather parallels David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust.) Transatlantic journo Arthur (Bale) reports on Brian’s disappearance. What does Brian’s wife Mandy (Collette) or his collaborator/onetime lover Curt (Ewan McGregor) know? R. 124.
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Dir. Jake Kasdan. Perf. John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, and Kristen Wiig. Columbia, 2007. Lawrence Kasdan directed The Big Chill and The Accidental Tourist. Son Jake directed underrated Orange County, starring Colin Hanks, Jack Black, and John Lithgow. Parodying the rock biopic genre, particularly Walk the Line (2005), Walk Hard was written by Kasdan and Judd Apatow, who directed The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up. R. 96.
Walk the Line. Dir. James Mangold. Perf. Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, and Ginnifer Goodwin. Twentieth Century Fox, 2005. Film critic John Muir ranks this biopic about troubled Southern singer-songwriter Johnny Cash—inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music halls of fame—among “The Top Five Rock Bio-Pics.” Witherspoon received the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as country musician/singer June Carter, Cash’s second wife. PG-13. 136.
Wassup Rockers. Dir. Larry Clark. Perf. Jonathan Velasquez, Francisco Pedrasa, and Milton Velasquez. First Look, 2005. Filmed in quasi-documentary style, Clark’s controversial Kids (1995), rated NC-17, centers on sexually active teens in New York City, namely Jennie (Chloë Sevigny). Quasi-documentary Wassup Rockers centers on Guatemalan- and Salvadoran-American teens from South Los Angeles playing punk rock, skateboarding, “borrowing” a car, and heading to Beverly Hills and back. R. 111.
Wayne’s World. Dir. Penelope Spheeris. Perf. Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, and Rob Lowe. Paramount, 1992. This comedy box office smash evolved from a Saturday Night Live sketch. Hard rock geeks Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Carvey) host a late-night cable access show in Aurora, Illinois. Television executive Benjamin (Lowe) purchases the show. Wayne begins dating rocker “babe” Cassandra (Tia Carrere) which strains his friendship with Garth. PG-13. 94.
Wayne’s World 2. Dir. Stephen Surjik. Perf. Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, and Christopher Walken. Paramount, 1993. AMC Pacer-driving, “Bohemian Rhapsody”-singing Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Carvey) are still televising their show from Aurora, Illinois. They plan a rock concert—“Waynestock.” Sinister promoter Bobby (Walken) steals Wayne’s girlfriend, rocker Cassandra (Tia Carrere). Garth falls for Honey (Kim Basinger). Cameos abound (e.g., Charlton Heston, Heather Locklear, and Drew Barrymore). PG-13. 95.
The Wedding Singer. Dir. Frank Coraci. Perf. Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, and Billy Idol. New Line, 1998. New Jersey, 1985: singer Robbie (Sandler) is in a cover band that plays wedding receptions. Its repertoire includes new wave. Robbie befriends waitress Julia (Barrymore). Later, he discovers that her fiancé is cheating on her. On a plane to Vegas, Robbie meets rocker Idol. “White Wedding” was a hit for Idol in the early-1980s. PG-13. 95.
What’s Love Got to Do with It. Dir. Brian Gibson. Perf. Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, and Khandi Alexander. Buena Vista, 1993. St. Louis, 1958: teenager Anna Mae Bullock began singing with bluesman Ike Turner. They became known as Ike and Tina Turner. For her performance as battered woman albeit Queen of Rock in this biopic based on Turner and Kurt Loder’s book I, Tina, Bassett received the Best Actress Golden Globe. R. 118.
Where the Boys Are ’84. Dir. Hy Averback. Perf. Lisa Hartman, Lorna Luft, and Wendy Schaal. Tri-Star, 1984. This remake of Henry Levin’s coming-of-age comedy Where the Boys Are (1960) was nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards. Hartman, Luft, Schaal, and Lynn-Holly Johnson play coeds on spring break in Fort Lauderdale. Jennie (Hartman) attracts rocker Scott (Russell Todd). (In 1991, Hartman married country music star Clint Black.) R. 94.
Who’s the Man? Dir. Ted Demme. Perf. Ed Lover, Doctor Dré, and Denis Leary. De Passe, 1993. Dré and Lover hosted MTV’s first hip-hop music show, Yo! MTV Raps, which ran 1988–95. Demme’s comedy film, marketed as “The First Hip-Hop Whodunnit” and “a who’s who of hip hop,” stars Lover and Dré as bumbling Harlem barbers who “can’t cut it” thus try joining the NYPD. R. 85.
Why Do Fools Fall in Love. Dir. Gregory Nava. Perf. Halle Berry, Vivica Fox, and Lela Rochon. Warner Brothers, 1998. At thirteen, Frankie Lymon became the youngest member of New York doo-wop group The Teenagers, “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” (1956) its biggest hit. In 1957, Lymon began using heroin. He fatally overdosed in 1968. This biopic stars Berry, Fox, and Rochon as three women laying claim to his estate. R. 116.
Wild at Heart. Dir. David Lynch. Perf. Nicolas Cage, Laura Dern, and Willem Dafoe. Samuel Goldwyn, 1990. Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986) evokes the crooner/lounge mood of Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet.” Wild at Heart exudes rock. Sex-driven Southern lovers Sailor (Cage) and Lula (Dern) attend a speed metal concert and adore Elvis. Based on Barry Gifford’s neo-noir/pulp/road novel Wild at Heart (1989), the film won the Palm d’Or at Cannes. NC-17. 125.
The Wild Life. Dir. Art Linson. Perf. Eric Stoltz, Ilan Mitchell-Smith, and Chris Penn. Universal, 1984. From writing by rock journalist/movie director Cameron Crowe, this comedy/drama set in suburban Los Angeles is a pseudo-sequel to Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) and revolves around recent high school grad Bill (Stoltz), younger brother Jim (Mitchell-Smith), and friends Tom (Penn) and Anita (Lea Thompson). Eddie Van Halen wrote/performed the score. R. 96.
Wild Style. Dir. Charlie Ahearn. Perf. Lee Quiñones, Sandra Fabara, and Fab 5 Freddy. First Run, 1983. This is probably the first hip hop movie. The title pays homage to a graffiti style in 1970s New York. Will graffiti writer Zoro (Quiñones) have success with his revolutionary art and personal relationships? Rose (Fabara) is concerned. DJ Grandmaster Flash cameos, performing pioneering moves on a mixer and turntables. R. 82.
Young Adult. Dir. Jason Reitman. Perf. Charlize Theron, Patrick Wilson, Patton Oswalt. Paramount, 2011. This critically acclaimed film marks the second collaboration between Reitman and Diablo Cody as director and screenwriter (2007’s Juno the first). In her mid-thirties in 2011, beautiful/troubled Mavis—who writes young-adult fiction—receives news prompting her to revisit the Minnesotan town where she attended high school. The plot mixes in Teenage Fanclub’s “Concept” (1991). R. 94.