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.
By the time Fred Sears’ “Rock around the Clock” arrived, the Bill Haley and the Comets song “Rock around the Clock” was already a massive hit thanks to “Blackboard Jungle.” It’d been accepted already as the quintessential youth anthem about rocking out and partying to rock and roll until the broad daylight. Banking on the beloved anthem was a stroke of genius, with a film that puts Bill Haley and the Comets front and center and zeroes in on the appeal of rock and roll. Well—the Caucasian version of rock and roll, anyway.
For the most part, “Popstar” is a funny and often raucous satire of the pop star life and modern music business. A mix of “This is Spinal Tap” and “Zoolander,” Andy Samberg creates an engaging enough character to where we want to see where he ends up in the finale. The problem with the film is it completely loses steam in the final half hour, leading up to the big performance. The writers spend a good portion of time anxiously trying to keep the momentum from the first hour.
I vividly remember watching “Rockin’ with the Chipmunks”back in the very early nineties where I recall loving the scenes of Alvin dancing along with Michael Jackson to “Beat It” and “Smooth Criminal.” Mostly a cash grab for the fans, “Rockin with the Chipmunks” is a brief history of the novelty group, spliced in with comedy skits and the members singing vintage rock and roll in their modern animation. The animation for the most part is dicey and fuzzy at best, allowing for a hazy series of music videos, but back then if you were a Chipmunks fanatic, you didn’t care.
The only reason to watch “Go, Johnny, Go!” is if you want to see some of the best rock and roll artists of all time do their thing on the big screen. Other than that, “Go, Johnny, Go!” is the story of the boring, milquetoast Johnny Melody, a bright eyed, blond white boy who rose from the slums as an orphan to become a rock and roll singer. It’s surprising that a movie featuring Ritchie Valens, and Chuck Berry would only focus on the most uninteresting individual, as when the movie stops to spread its paper thin premise with performances, it ironically becomes worth sitting through.