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December 19, 2015

Movie Review: CBGB (2013)

Hilly Kristal(Alan Rickman) isn't known as a great business man but he is known as someone with vision.  Vision to see past bleak walls and empty floor space in a bar located in the Bowery in New York City.  Hilly decides to open up the "CBGB" as he intends to bring in the next big thing in music; Country, Blue Grass, and Blues.  What happens is something a bit different, but does bring in Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers.  The movie plays out much like a comic magazine.  scenes would change by showing what looked like a comic book page with panels and word blurbs.  I liked how it played out and it kept the movie fun and engaging.

"CBGB" does not claim to be one hundred percent historically accurate but it does serve for excellent entertainment and absolutely incredible music.  The film starts out with the founders of "Punk" magazine, John Holmstrom(Josh Zuckerman) and Legs McNeil(Peter Vack), drawing and discussing their vision of their upcoming issues.  This is the one part of the film that I wish would have been explored more.  I would have found it fascinating to see how a magazine in the 1970s would get off the ground from someone's basement.  The two founders do show up throughout the film however to interview different punk music artists.  It was cool to hear quotes from the artists and also see the cartoon artwork from the magazine.

Now back to the club where Hilly is needing to book some musical talent.  This is where Terry Ork(Johnny Galecki) comes in.  He is the agent of a band called "Television" and they are looking for a place to play.  Despite what the initials "CBGB" stand for, "Television" auditions anyway.  Hilly, being the visionary he is, agrees to let the punk band play shows at the "CBGB."  This is where things change.  "Televison" receives a great review and now the "CBGB" is the place to be.  Other bands/singers go on to play the CBGB like; Blondie, The Dead Boys, Talking Heads, The Ramones, Patti Smith and many others.

While I loved the music in "CBGB," I was not a fan of the quality of sound.  These were supposed to be live events inside of a dive bar but every song played was the studio version.  There was a level of rawness that went missing and may have been a large part of why this film did not do well theatrically or with many critics.  There wasn't much of a timeline for this film either.  The news was on at the bar, but unless you really know when those events took place, you may not know what year you're in(unless it all happened within a couple months).

I did enjoy "CBGB" as it is a comical look at a life with ups and many downs.  I was entertained by the rise of a small club that was a beacon for amazing music and it was thanks to Hilly Kristal.  The movie didn't claim to be more than what it was, an entertaining and partially true look at Hilly Kristal's life.  In the credits, at the end there is even a call out of how the filmmakers know Iggy Pop never played the "CBGB" and for the viewers to, "get over it."

There were some interesting casting choices which, for the most part I liked.  Malin Ackerman as Debbie Harry, Taylor Hawkins as Iggy Pop, Justin Bartha as Stiv Bators, Rupert Grint as Cheetah Chrome and Mickey Sumner looked great as Patti Smith.  The casting of Joel David Moore as Joey Ramone was not my favorite.  It was a bit distracting but at least there weren't many lines.

On the scale of up to five Pile Drivers, I am giving "CBGB" four.  A fun movie about an era of music I really enjoy.  The soundtrack alone makes it worth checking out for me.

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