Combustible Celluloid
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With: Alan Rickman, Freddy Rodriguez, Donal Logue, Ashley Greene, Malin Akerman, Ahna O'Reilly, Joel David Moore, Justin Bartha, Rupert Grint, Bradley Whitford
Written by: Jody Savin, Randall Miller
Directed by: Randall Miller
MPAA Rating: R for language throughout, some sexual content, drug use, and a scene of violence
Running Time: 101
Date: 10/11/2013

CBGB (2013)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

This Ain't No Disco

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

By no stretch of the imagination is CBGB a well-made movie. It falls prey to the moldiest aspects of the biopic genre, such as the "miraculous, sudden realization that this thing is going to be big," which takes place in just about every scene. And while Alan Rickman's lead performance is amusing, not a single other character has enough screen time or development to become anyone interesting or relevant.

In 1973, a washed up businessman named Hilly Kristal (Rickman), who has filed for bankruptcy twice, decides to open a new club. Named CBGB, for "Country, Bluegrass, Blues," he hopes to bring that music to the Bowery. Instead, his club begins to draw a new kind of music, raw, subversive, fast, loud, and "punk."

Before long, bands like Television, Talking Heads, Blondie, and the Ramones draw big crowds, and against his cynical nature, Hilly turns to his estranged daughter, Lisa (Ashley Greene) for help. When record labels swoop in, he decides to become a band manager and starts with the Dead Boys, led by the outrageous Stiv Bators (Justin Bartha) and Cheetah Chrome (Rupert Grint). But more trouble is on the horizon.

Director Randall Miller tries to present the movie with an outrageous, or at least silly, quality, employing things like comic book frames and embellishments (like Iggy Pop jumping on stage) to liven up the story. The famous bands are sometimes portrayed by recognizable stars (Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry, Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone, Bartha and Grint as the Dead Boys, etc.), but they lip-sync the real music. And since the lightweight plot and great music make this a musical that's less annoying than something like Rock of Ages, and fans of the era may find something to enjoy.

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