DID YOU READ

Review: “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” but the same old biopic story.

Review: “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” but the same old biopic story. (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival.

Looking more like Uncle Fester from “The Addams Family” on a steady diet of NutriSystem and Rogaine than the man he’s actually playing, Andy Serkis seems to be having a blast as ’70s British music icon Ian Dury in the biopic “sex & drugs & rock & roll.” If only the words I want to use to describe his performance — charismatic, compelling — also applied to the movie around him. Though Dury was an atypical rock star in a lot of ways — including a complicated relationship with his estranged wife (Olivia Williams) and troubled son (“Son of Rambow”‘s Bill Milner) and a lifelong physical disability caused by a childhood bout of polio — “sex & drugs & rock & roll” is a pretty typical music biopic, from Serkis’s impressive-but-showy lead performance to a flashback structure that lets its hero guide us back through their rise to stardom, struggles with drugs and/or alcohol, poor treatment by and of women, and the rocker’s inevitable reemergence as a more centered and complete person. There’s even time for a few complete musical numbers, with Serkis singing impressive vocals to backing tracks provided by Dury’s old band, The Blockheads.

A few segments dare to think big — one particularly memorable one transforms Dury’s drunken collapse in a pool into a full-on underwater concert from Dury and The Blockheads — but most of the film settles into a increasingly predictable rhythm of Dury getting fucked up, pissing off his loved ones and performing one of his hits. The big dilemma of a film like this is deciding what to include and what to leave out from a story that lasted decades in a film that lasts less than two hours. In this case, director Mat Whitecross decided to focus mostly on the soap opera of Dury’s private life, particularly his refusal to divorce Williams’ Betty for his girlfriend Denise (Naomie Harris), instead of providing more details about Dury’s musical career or the scope of his cultural importance. Whitecross was Michael Winterbottom’s collaborator on his recent documentaries like “The Road to Guantanamo” and “The Shock Doctrine,” but if Winterbottom, director of the musical biopic classic “24 Hour Party People,” gave Whitecross any advice about balancing the macro and micro viewpoints of an artist’s life, it didn’t help the finished product.

04232010_Serkissexdrugsrocknroll1.jpgAt one point in the film, Dury gives his son an action figure of the Incredible Hulk, and there are some similarities to be drawn between the rampaging comic book monster and the irrepressible, wild man rocker. But “sex & drugs & rock & roll” is more like the Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner: timid and academic. Serkis is good in the role, and I imagine Dury die-hards will enjoy the movie more than I did, getting a bigger kick out of seeing him bring their idol and his music back to life. Everyone else will leave the theater scratching their heads, wondering what made this emotional mess with the eccentric fashion sense so unique when his life on screen bears such a striking resemblance to others we’ve seen before.

“sex & drugs & rock & roll” is now available on VOD and will open in New York at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York on May 5th.

[Photos: “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” Tribeca Film, 2010]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.