The long out of print “Rock-a-Doodle” from animation master Don Bluth has finally stormed its way on to HD thanks to Olive Films, and it’s a blast to the past for me. I fondly remember seeing a lot of the ads for “Rock-a-Doodle” as well as coming across TV spots and ads in comic books. Sadly, the actual cinematic experience was a bust, even for an eight year old moi. It was a dull, awful movie then, and it’s a pretty dull and awful movie, now. I doubt even the best of nineties nostalgia geeks can find a gem in this mess of a movie. I spent a good number of years putting “Rock-a-Doodle” in the back burner of my memory, and I realize it was for good reason.
Joe Massot and Peter Clifton’s excellent “The Song Remains the Same” is one of the best and most dynamic looks at Led Zeppelin performing for a massive audience. The directors able to grab a lot of their synergy by filming many of their solos and brilliant iterations of their classic songs with dynamic camera angles and strobing colors of red and stark blue. Though I’m not a fan of “No Quarter,” their rendition of it here is incredible, especially considering the way the performance as a whole is lit, allowing for a unique fever dream kind of visual that feels like Ken Russell dipped his fingers in the direction here and there.
It was the end of an era, the literal end of a movement, and the end of what many would know as “Woodstock.” We never did see the Woodstock here in further decades, did we? We instead saw much more corporate interference, much more MTV generation, and in the last festival, ultimate destruction. At least we have what is one of the most riveting and unique concert movies ever filmed. It’s a chronicle of a generation thought of ancient now, and looked back on mostly with fondness, as a decade where there was hope for peace, and hope for a better tomorrow. It was before America gave in to the seventies, where it became all bout decadence and hedonism.
“Josie and the Pussycats” is kind of a “They Live” of its sub-genre, taking a cute premise and turning it on its head to show a decent rock trio and how they become consumed by corporations, merchandising, and the all consuming hunger of the fans that follow. Sadly in 2001, the world was inundated with endless boy bands and pop princesses, all of whom were Caucasian, very blond, and very young, and were always on MTV grinning and getting their fans to spend, spend, spend. So, “Josie and the Pussycats” sadly got lost in the shuffle considered something of a celebration of consumerism, when really it kind of mocked the whole idea.
“Rock & Rule” is a wonky, surreal, and entertaining animated musical that feels like Ralph Bakshi, Don Bluth, and “Heavy Metal” magazine were combined in to such a frantic cult gem. The 1983 movie has gone through years of being an underground classic, and has finally been embraced for such an ahead of its time science fiction tale. The animation for “Rock & Rule” is completely out of the box, resembling rotoscoping in many aspects, and opting for character models you don’t often find anywhere else. “Rock & Rule” is a science fiction, punk rock, steam punk tale set many years in the future after world war III wiped man off the face of the Earth. The only surviving species are cats, dogs, and rats. They have evolved in to anthropomorphic mutants, all capable of thought and speech.
I admittedly have a lot of sentimental value and nostalgia attached to Luis Valdez’s “La Bamba” as it’s a film that not only was continuously played in my family, but the soundtrack on record was also constantly replayed. “La Bamba” itself is a solid bio pic of Ritchie Valens, an LA teenager and Chicano rock and roll star who skyrocketed to fame, and died in one of the most infamous plane crashes in world history. Valens’ life was cut short way before he could even reach his twenties, but director and writer Luis Valdez does his best to explore the life of Valens before he stepped on to the ill fated “American Pie” with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.
Ken Russell’s adaptation of The Who’s rock opera “Tommy” is surreal, vivid, out of this world, and incredibly phantasmagorical. It’s everything you’d expect from Russell, and “Tommy” is every bit as unusual and mind blowing as the original rock opera is. What can you expect from a story about a young boy stricken deaf, dumb, and blind by his uncle Frank and mother Nora. With an irreversible disability, Tommy is left without the sensation to feel, or understand, or comprehend most things, so he’s a victim to everyone in his life, most of who are predators and sadistic monsters. Eventually Tommy becomes something of a deity when he gains the ability to sense certain elements of his environment, including the game of pinball.
If anything, at least, “Times Square” is a remarkable time capsule of the titular New York block. In 1980 before Giuliani sold the city to the highest bidder to turn it in to Disney World, Times Square was a rough area with porn theaters and dark corners every which way. Director Moyle is able to film New York brilliantly, with a lot of great wide shots and dolly shots of the corners of New York and the setting for the film. In the film we meet Pamela, the mentally ill daughter of a local politician who is hell bent on cleaning up Times Square for the mayor. When she’s locked up in the hospital for mental evaluation, she meets street girl and musician Nicky, a rebellious and raucous punk rocker who is carried away by police after trashing a vehicle.