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IN SHORT: Finally a film that's worth every penny!. [Rated R for language, sexuality and some drug content. 102 minutes]
There have been a number of movies set in the rock 'n' roll world. Most of 'em are no better than that pile of Number Two you don't see until you've stepped in it. Now comes Rock Star, set in the arena rock world of the 1980s. A time when AC/DC ran rampant; Kiss was resurgent; Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi were taking their first steps. It was also a time when yours truly was in that biz, and worked with all the aforementioned names. We talked with these guys face to face. We wore the backstage passes and flaunted the free tickets and invites to the private parties. If there was a single misstep or sour note to be found in Rock Star, we had our eagle eyes peeled to spot it.
And though we never saw the kind of raunchy parties seen early on in this film -- we weren't tight enough with that level of band -- to use the terminology of the time, Rock Star kicks almighty ass. Royally.
So... here's a story of a man named Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg). By day, Chris wears a tie and fixes Xerox copiers. When the sun goes down, if the night is the right night, he loses the underwear, puts on leather and mascara and "becomes" Bobby Beers, frontman for the arena rockers Steel Dragon. Chris leads Blood Pollution, a tribute band which duplicates the Dragon's licks, note for note. The real Steel Dragon, we'll note, squeals a bit like AC/DC and suffers from the same type of arrogance that doomed the Who after Keith Moon snuffed it. It's called "living in the past".
Chris' girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston) manages Blood Pollution and though Chris is firmly attached to the lovely Emily, groupies in training Nina and Samantha are always more than willing to lend a hand . . . or two . . . putting promotional flyers for the band under windshield wipers of cars when the real band comes to town. When the real band heads for the next town, Nina and Samantha travel with them.
Life would be great if the rest of the band took it as seriously as Chris does. Sure, they'll go head to head and fist to fist up against other Dragon cover bands. But the rest of the band thinks Chris takes this double life a bit too seriously. They think he should get a life, which leads to a royal smackdown with the lead guitarist (Timothy Olyphant). Chris takes his mic and cables with him when he is unceremoniously dumped from the band. Emily leaves with him.
Faster than you can say "Look Auntie 'Em! It's a twister!" a call comes from Kirk Cuddy (Dominic West), lead guitarist for the real Dragon. Bobby Beers has been fired and, one audition later, Chris is rechristened "Izzy" and has a new job and a new, fake, English accent. No, it's not a dream or an imaginary story. It's just the way the business works when you've got groupies in the right places.
"Izzy's" debut is not without its problems but he wins the crowd over. Celebrating afterward both Chris and Emily learn the facts of rock and roll life. Mats the road manager (Timothy Spall) can get you anything you need. Sexy, sultry and hot-for-Izzy PR rep Tania (Dagmara Dominczyk) leads the charge of all the women that want to get into Izzy's pants. If it means that he's got to be especially nice to Emily, well, Tania isn't afraid to accommodate.
The band explains the requirements of the "image" to Chris/Izzy. The wives and girlfriends explain their end of the deal to Emily. Both stories are, basically, the same thing, or as Paul Stanley put it: "It ain't a crime to be good to yourself." As Chris becomes a fully formed Izzy; as the sex, drugs (though the use of the most insidious drug of the time is carefully buried way at the back of one scene) and rock 'n' roll lifestyle kicks into overdrive, something's got to give. Everything's got to give.
The onstage bands are fleshed out by professional musicians including Jason Bonham, Jeff Pilson (Dokken), Zakk Wylde and Nick Catanese (Black Label Society), Stephan Jenkins (Third Eye Blind), Brian Vander Ark (The Verve Pipe) and Blas Elias (Slaughter). More than anything else, this almost fairybook story of an average guy elevated to the heights could be applied to almost any successful musician of the period. True, most of the time it didn't happen this way but the initial eagerness followed by disillusionment -- for whatever reason -- isn't off the mark of what Jon Bonjovi went through on his first two record attempts.
More important, there is a strong chemistry between Wahlberg and Aniston which drives the core of the story. Once Chris gets his head together, things move on into a more interesting, though unknown, future. It doesn't stop (ex-rapper) Marky Mark from rearing his ugly face, rapping through outtakes that play during the end credits. It's a very funny bit.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Rock Star, he would have paid . . .
Loved it. Loved the music. Loved the story. Loved the Wahlberg/Aniston relationship. We don't know if they'll make it onto the soundtrack but besides Steel Dragon songs (written by Sammy Hagar among others) there are tracks by Bon Jovi, Kiss and other prominent stadium rockers buried in the mix. All this and the Batmobile, too.
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