In a way “Jailhouse Rock” also works as something of a pseudo-biography that would prophesize a lot of Presley’s endeavors. Whether or not intentional, “Jailhouse Rock” serves as a fascinating and often entertaining peek in to what the man would become, except with some slightly sweeter end results. Richard Thorpe’s “Jailhouse Rock” is a solid Elvis Presley vehicle that presents the definitive Presley on film. If you’ve never seen a single Elvis film, this is the great place to begin tracking his film career.
In a year where the inferior “Bohemian Rhapsody” promises to storm awards shows in 2019, “Heavy Trip” is a movie that’s far more deserving of audience attention. Like most of the best music oriented drama comedies, it’s an engaging, and very funny tale of a band with grand aspirations and have to literally fight to break out of their small home town in hopes of making it in the larger world they want to be a part of. “Heavy Trip” is centered on a group of aspiring death metal musicians from Finland, and you’d think a movie with a focus on that music genre would be more niche than anything, but Jukka Vidgren, and Juuso Laatio’s drama comedy is basically for everyone and anyone who has had a dream at one time or another.
Even for a nineties kid like me, I can fully acknowledge that “Empire Records” is a clumsy, tonally uneven, and terrible coming of age dramedy. It works hard to be as relevant and generation defining as “Dazed and Confused” or “Clerks,” but it comes up short as artificial and hollow, despite its great soundtrack. “Empire Records” even for 1995 is a pretty insufferable film that never quite finds humanity in its archetypes and cast of nineties youngsters. It’s hard to enjoy a film that features a fun sing along to AC/DC one moment, and a tear soaked nervous breakdown by one of the characters who pops pills forty five minutes later.
You can almost look at “Hearts Beat Loud” as something of an urban “Once,” in where music is something of the soul behind a very human story of two lost individuals in a somewhat turbulent world. This time around we meet father and daughter Sam and Frank, both of whom never really healed from a horrendous loss that they experienced many years before the narrative starts. In one instance, Frank literally sits at the scene of his wife’s death, which is still a memorial standing in the middle of a busy street, and tries to figure out where to go next.
I was never really sure what Robert Zemeckis intended with “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” Was he showing us the sheer mania that erupted with the arrival of the Beatles, or is he purposely exaggerating the mania of the arrival of the Beatles? That sense of confused tone tends to keep “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” from turning in to a great nostalgia time capsule comedy (Ironically the great nostalgia time capsule comedy would eventually become Zemeckis’ film “Back to the Future”). Instead it’s merely an okay nostalgia time capsule comedy that reaches for the heights of “American Graffiti,” but never quite touches that high bar.
“Bad Reputation” is less the life of Joan Jett, and more a publicity movie for Joan Jett fans. If you want to come to this documentary looking to learn about Joan Jett, warts and all, and how she turned music on its ass, then you’re going to walk away from this disappointed. If you want to celebrate everything about Joan Jett, and ignore all the nasty stuff, you’ll love “Bad Reputation” which very clearly has Joan Jett looming over it and calling the shots. “Bad Reputation” isn’t a disaster like “Bohemian Rhapsody” when all is said and done.
Chubby Checker managed to get a lot of mileage out of his dance hit “Twist.” Not only did he get three movies, but he presents variations of the dance with a variety of the songs where he beckons us to twist. There’s “Don’t Knock the Twist,” “Slow Twistin’,” “Salome Twist,” “Bucket Twist,” “La Paloma Twist,” and “I Love to Twist”! “Don’t Knock the Twist” is a sequel to the 1961 movie headlined by Chubby Checker. Though he’s the headliner he’s not the star per se, but he does show up every so often to present another performer or twist for us.
In the long arena of musicals, “Rock Rock Rock!” is easily one of the most lackluster of them all. It’s pacing is weird, the acting leaves so much to be desired, and there’s a lot of filler, but if you’re willing to invest time in to it for the kitschy performances from folks like Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon, and Connie Francis, you might just enjoy the inherent camp value. You also might get a giggle at a movie with probably the least effective “conflict” ever put to film.