- The Washington Times - Friday, June 15, 2012

“Rock of Ages,” a musical comedy drama starring Tom Cruise, opens June 15. The film tells the story of small-town girl and city boy who meet on the Sunset Strip while pursuing their Hollywood dreams. Their rock ‘n’ roll romance is told through the hits of bands including Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Night Ranger, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison and Whitesnake. The List this week looks at some of the best rock ‘n’ roll films over the years.

  • 10. “The Doors” (1991) — Oliver Stone’s production boasts an uncannily accurate impersonation of Jim Morrison — both his looks and vocals — by Val Kilmer and captures the anarchic hedonism of the West Coast counterculture in the 1960s.
  • 9. “Beyond the Sea” (2004) — This biopic about Bobby Darin was a labor of love for award-winning actor Kevin Spacey, who was obsessed with impersonating the singer for several years. Mr. Spacey is impressive and sings every note in the film that closely resembles that of the late singer.
  • 8. “Eddie and the Cruisers” (1983) — This intriguing B-movie drama starring Michael Pare, about a fictional New Jersey rock band, owes its existence to a “Springsteen-esque” music score by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band. Critics panned the movie, but a song from the soundtrack, “On the Dark Side,” reached No. 7 on the Billboard Top 40 nine months later.
  • 7. “All You Need Is Cash (The Rutles)” (1978) — First there were John, Paul, George and Ringo, then came Dirk, Stig, Nasty and Barry as the faux Beatles band the Rutles, in this hilarious NBC “rockumentary” spoofing the Fab Four’s story. The film was dreamed up by “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” member Eric Idle and cast Mick Jagger and Paul Simon as themselves.
  • 6. “La Bamba” (1987) — Lou Diamond Phillips stars as the doomed Ritchie Valens in this biopic about the Mexican-American singer who had a No. 2 hit with “Donna” in 1958 and reached No. 22 on the charts in 1959 with “La Bamba.” Marshall Crenshaw is excellent in the film portraying his idol Buddy Holly. All of the songs in the movie were performed by Los Lobos, who scored a No. 1 hit with the title song.
  • 5. “The Buddy Holly Story” (1978) — The film covers the life of the legendary, bespectacled rock ‘n’ roll star Buddy Holly from his early days to the fatal plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, that also ended the life of Ritchie Valens and J.P. “the Big Bopper” Richardson Jr. on Feb. 3, 1959. It may have played a little fast and loose with history, but Gary Busey proves an able performer by singing and playing guitar in this musically perfect account of one of rock’s first singer-songwriters.
  • 4. “Elvis on Tour” (1972) — It is his first nondramatic film since the beginning of his movie career in 1956. It follows Elvis as he performs in 15 cities in 15 nights and has won a Golden Globe Award for best documentary, making it the only Elvis film to win an award of any kind. The film includes Elvis’ appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” backstage footage and his first performance of “Burning Love.”
  • 3. “This Is Spinal Tap” (1984) — This hilarious film, which gave rise to the term “mockumentary,” follows the nostalgia tour of the fictitious band Spinal Tap in a mocking swipe at such real bands as Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Poison. The Rob Reiner hit, starring comedians Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer, ridicules the hair-metal bands that preach the mantra of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.”
  • 2. “Don’t Look Back” (1967) — Cinema verite specialist D.A. Pennebaker follows Bob Dylan’s concert tour of England in 1965. The film is an amazing time capsule of increasing historical fascination, catching the folk singer at the peak his initial lionized period. Mr. Dylan may appear smug and haughty at times during interviews, but it’s fascinating to watch as he banters with reporters and fans. In one memorable scene, English folk singer Donovan performs his tune “To Sing for You” for Mr. Dylan in a hotel room. Mr. Dylan responds with “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” singing in an emphatic fashion, almost spitting out the words. The film has become one of the most enduring music video documentaries in pop history.
  • 1. “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) — This cheeky and zany comedy starring the Beatles and directed by Richard Lester has not lost any of its freshness and novelty since it was a smash hit in 1964. The film captures a portrait of the four easygoing, quick-witted young musicians, essentially unspoiled by runaway success and celebrity. Between 12 great songs, the Beatles cheerfully outrun fans, outquip the press and tease their managers.

Special mentions: “Stop Making Sense,” “8 Mile,” “Gimme Shelter” and “The Last Waltz”

Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: The Washington Times, the Associated Press and Wikipedia