Music Madness No. 1

Movie Information

The Story: A collection of four music-oriented films: music documentaries, concert films and even a mockumentary. The Lowdown: The first week of a two week mini festival of music movies. The first week features excellent films on Anvil and Green Day, an unseen Metallica concert movie and the ever-popular This Is Spinal Tap. It's a fresh idea for local movie booking that could pay dividends in terms of what we get here.
Genre: Music
Director: Various
Starring: Metallica, Green Day, Anvil, Spinal Tap
Rated: R

Here we have something different. It’s two weeks of music-centric films — mostly documentaries — booked as four films a day. In other words, it’s kind of a mini-film festival that’s set up so that viewers can catch all four titles over the course of the day. (Tickets are sold individually or as a four-movie pass.) The movies are a mix of premiere titles (Broadway Idiot and Metallica Through the Never) and returning films (Anvil! The Story of Anvil and This Is Spinal Tap). (Four new titles will appear next week.) Since it’s not possible (in terms of space) to afford full reviews, I’m providing short reviews grouped together here.

Anvil! The Story of Anvil. Director: Sacha Gervasi. Players: Steve “Lips” Kudlow, Robb Reiner, Chris Tsangrides, Glenn Gyorffy. This 2009 documentary about a Canadian metal band that never quite made it is a pleasant surprise — in large part because it’s less the story of a failing band than the story of one that has never given up. Its focus is on front man Steve “Lips” Kudlow and drummer Robb Reiner (no relation), two guys who have been close friends since they were 14 years old — and two guys who have never given up their dream of being big time rock ‘n’ rollers. This despite the fact that they’re in the their 50s with major success still eluding them. Are they a little foolish, maybe even ridiculous? Probably, but it’s refreshing just to see these unregenerate rockers refusing to pack it in — even enthusing over a disastrous tour where everything goes wrong by remarking, “At least there was a tour for them to go wrong on.” That is tenacity. (Plays at 11:30 a.m.)

Broadway Idiot. Director: Doug Hamilton. Players: Billie Joe Armstong, Michael Mayer, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Esper. This premiere title is a straightforward and very entertaining account of turning Green Day’s 2004 concept album, American Idiot, into a Broadway musical. On its simplest level, it’s a high-priced and high-energy backstage story, but one that offers a large dose of the show itself. Turns out, that show is pretty remarkable in concept, execution and content. (I’d love to see an actual film of the show.) Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, it must be noted, is not the most articulate human being (which is a little odd considering that his lyrics are articulate), and that can be a little off-putting at first. But it’s also a double-edged sword, since it provides the film with one of its best moments when Armstrong hears the radically different show version of his song “Last Night on Earth” and he unguarededly blurts out his praise, “That was fucking sick!” If you catch only one of the films, make it Broadway Idiot. (Plays at 4 and 6 p.m.)

Metallica Through the Never. Director: Nimrod Antal. Players: Dane DeHaan, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, Robert Trujillo. This is the one film in the set that I was not able to screen — and damned if I know what to make of it by reading about it. The film is clearly built around a Metallica concert — and from what I can tell, it’s Metallica at their most Metallica with all the somewhat … er … silly overkill that implies. But there’s also some kind of plot involving Dane DeHaan as a roadie being sent to retrieve a missing satchel and finding himself in streets that are aflame in some kind of apocalyptic … something or other. Whether any of this actually has much of anything to do with the concert, I haven’t got a clue. I do know that director Nimrod Antal has a somewhat spotty filmography (his 2007 horror film Vacancy was pretty awful) and his presence doesn’t enthuse. All the same, I’m intrigued. (Plays at 1:30 and 8 p.m.)

This Is Spinal Tap. Director: Rob Reiner. Players: Rob Reiner, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer. What is there left to say about 1985’s This Is Spinal Tap? It’s enshrined as a classic and the first film by Rob Reiner. It spawned Christopher Guest’s mockumentary career, which was really an expansion of his National Lampoon work anyway. (Lampoon alumnus Tony Hendra, best known for his John Lennon parody “Magical Misery Tour,” which skewered Lennon in his words, plays the band’s manager.) Spinal Tap is, in fact, usually cited as the first “mockumentary” (giving it much to answer for), though it’s definitely preceded by Eric Idle’s TV film The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. Regardless, here’s a rare chance to see the film on the big screen. (Plays at 10:15 p.m.)

Starts Friday at Carolina Cinemas

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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