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|Index||20 reviews in total|
35 out of 40 people found the following review useful:
Very Good Indeed, 13 December 2009
Author: Ali Catterall from London, England
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like an uncommonly honest MP, this reviewer must declare a particular
interest: Ian Dury was born on 12 May, a Tuesday. Me too: Tuesday, 12
May. (Albeit 28 years later.) Andy Serkis, who plays him here, is
half-Iraqi, like me. And while Dury studied under Peter Blake at the
Royal College Of Art, I, er, once worked in the Royal College Of Art
shop. Polio helped make Dury the man he was, but cancer ultimately made
him bigger than life. There's an allotment set aside in every heart for
one of England's national treasures.
And not just England's: strange as it is to picture a generation of nascent Brooklyn and West Coast rappers wigging out to Black Sabbath or German art minimalists during the 1970s, how stranger still that A Tribe Called Quest should sample Dury for 'Can I Kick It'? Or is it? The Blockheads sound is a steaming gumbo of (hugely influential) influences: a dollop of pub rock, a sprinkling of free jazz, a dash of lover's rock, a generous infusion of English music hall, all topped off with Chas Jankel and Co's boiling blue funk. What's not to like about that lot?
It shouldn't really work, but it does - just like the frontman himself, as complicated as any artist worth their sodium chloride. Kitted-out like he'd ram-raided a jumble sale run by a collective of art students, Psychobillies and NHS outpatients, Dury's arty 'Do It Yourself' attitude anticipated British Punk Rock (which studied, literally, at his feet) by several years. Not that he aligned himself with any such movement. There's a lovely clip on YouTube from 1979, in which he invites "Mickey Jones from The Clash" up on stage to play 'Sweet Gene Vincent with him.' "Now listen," he warns the Clash man, "we've got *four* chords in this song, Michael..." Jones' gloriously chagrined grin is worth the admission alone.
So, are we to mourn this real mensch's decline with some Thunderbird wine and a black handkerchief then? Or instead, party like it's 1977? Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is a truly life-affirming and brilliantly unsentimental celebration of the Mockney and his music. Serkis was born to play this role, allowing him to make the most of his celebrated physicality and vocal dexterity. (So convincing, in fact, the real Blockheads have suggested Serkis subsequently go on the road with them.)
Whether barrelling, quip-me-quick, through a set - a defiant Long John Silver with a singing range that starts out like a caress from a brillo pad soaked in brandy - and ends up like a charging Cockney Elephant; making a literal breakfast of a recording studio by pouring milk and eggs into the mixing desk; or bellowing the song that gives the film its title - and really, what other title could there possibly be? - he's the spit, snot and fag ash of the unofficial Poet Laureate who gave us the likes of 'Billericay Dickie', 'Plaistow Patricia', and of course, 'Spasticus Autisticus': it's one of the ironies of his career that the showman's terrifically self-assertive contribution to 1982's United Nations Year of The Disabled was subsequently banned. "I'm not Tiny Tim, I'm Ian Dury!" he roars at "Graham from the Spastics Society". "People like me don't want sympathy - we want respect!"
Respect is what the filmmakers bring, by the bucket-and-spade, closely aided by Dury's daughter Jemima and son Baxter - now a musician in his own right, who appeared with his dad on the cover of 'New Boots And Panties', looking for all the world like Dodger to Ian's Bill Sikes. And this is really a film about fathers and sons. Bill Milner plays Baxter, a rock star's son going predictably, if spectacularly, off the rails, and Ray Winstone is Ian's adored dad Bill. Between these generational polarities, Ian struggles to reconcile familial responsibilities (and two lovers) with his growing fame, while trying to do right by his father's memory.
"Being an underdog with nothing to lose is a good place to start in life," Bill tells him, teaching him to stand on his own two feet, if only with the aid of callipers. Years later, when too busy to watch over Baxter's swimming session, Ian's glibly departing words are "Keep your head up, keep kicking, try not to drown." It was in a swimming pool, of course, where Ian contracted polio. As we say, complicated. Dury puts it more bluntly: "To be a geezer like me, you've got to be a bit of a selfish loony; occasionally one's behaviour makes one ashamed of oneself."
All of which probably suggests scenes of anarchic mayhem followed by periods of reflection and redemption. Well, bollo to that, 'cos this ain't your average rock star biopic either: no insultingly reductive peaks and troughs. As Dury states towards the end of the film, "The only thing I've missed is a few buses." Instead, scenes are introduced, non-linear-fashion, via the appropriate conceit of a stage performance: backdrops spring to life, as real-life morphs into pop videos. There's sterling support too from Naomie Harris as Ian's girlfriend Denise Roudette, and Olivia Williams as his extremely understanding first wife Betty. Actually, being 'extremely understanding' would appear to be the default setting for anybody within this force of nature's sphere.
Ian, you feel, would have really enjoyed this film, as playful and rough around the gills as he was, with a gleefully inventive aesthetic. He would have also liked the fact its producer set up a disability training scheme for young, disabled, aspiring actors and filmmakers during the production; there's a scene toward the end in which Ian visits a group of disabled kids, and addresses them with exactly the same beautiful frankness he'd reserve for anybody. The final 10 minutes treats us to a superbly recreated Blockheads gig, for which they should clear the cinemas of seats and let the people mosh till they drop. Oi Oi!
15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Serkis is no Blockhead!!!, 12 January 2010
Author: madandbad from Scotland
The magnetic performance of Andy Serkis is reason alone to watch this
film! Masterly performance! The film itself held my interest
throughout... but having bought Dury's stuff on 7" vinyl when it came
out, I had a vested interest!!! People unfamiliar with the man and his
music might struggle to last the pace.
I would have liked the movie to have paid more attention to the great chart success the man had... rather than just fast forwarding to the ensuing self-destruct mode of fame!!! Missed opportunity... one could indeed say What a Waste!!! Interested in British music history... success over adversity... controversy... go and see it. A fan of Dury and the Blockheads... go and pay homage.
Might have been better... but still a great tribute to a great artiste, and well worth a view!
12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Andy Serkis makes for a pretty good experience overall, 10 January 2010
Author: markgorman from United Kingdom
I was a regular Ian Dury record buyer in my late teens but wouldn't say
I was in his thrall. Nevertheless, I was intrigued enough to go and see
this biopic featuring Andy Serkis (Golum in Lord of The Rings) as the
great man himself.
His performance is top drawer and does make you feel you are in the room with the chief Blockhead himself. But this is more than a music homage. This is a reasonably complex life story told with more than a smattering of real film skills. It opens a bit frenetically with a hotch-potch of animation, flashbacks, montage and "stuff" that the director's (Mat Whitecross - not one I know) using to try to tell the back story quick as a flash. Whilst it works in story-telling terms it feels like it's trying too hard and it takes 20 minutes for the film to find its feet as Dury metamorphosises from Kilburn and The High Roads into Ian Dury and The Blockheads.
Thereafter, the film is far more assured, but strangely unmoving on the whole, despite the fact that there are a lot of episodes that could have jerked a tear or two. Little is made of his chart success. other than the typical excesses that stardom inevitably brings in its wake; rather, the film is much more interested in his complicated love life and (abysmal) family life which lays true the aphorism that what goes around comes around. Actually, it's better for that.
In particular the relationship with Dury and his son, Baxter (played brilliantly by Son of Rambow star Bill Milner) is the main thread of the movie. Initially reticent, Baxter becomes increasingly influenced by his rebellious father and follows suit. Again, like Dad, in response to the bullying and humiliation he faced at school.
The finale is really good and pulls together a lot of strands including the Spartacus references that cropped up earlier in the action. I won't spoil it by telling you how though.
actually,the movie tries a little too hard; it's a touch too stylised for my liking, but it zips along quickly despite its fairly lengthy 115 minute running time.
Overall, I'd recommend it; if for no other reason than to wonder at Andy Serkis.
7 out of 10.
12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Plenty of "Reasons to be Cheerful" ..., 6 January 2010
Author: colin_coyne from London
I thought that "Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll" was an excellent biopic of the late, great Ian Dury … who, stricken by Polio at an early age went on against all odds to be a leading player / singer in the emerging punk scene of the 70's and onwards ... The cast was very strong, especially the lead role played fantastically well by Andy Serkis (aka Gollum – Lord of the Rings, King Kong – King Kong), Naomie Harris (After the Sunset, Pirates of the Caribbean – At World's End) as Ian's girlfriend Denise and Bill Milner (Son of Rambow, Is there Anybody there?) as Ian's son Baxter. The film takes you through Ian Dury's funny / sad / dynamic / and often chaotic life with a collation of live performances, flashbacks and monologues – often driven by the great lyrics of the songs themselves … this is very well done … The director (Mat Whitecross)moves the film along at a good pace and gets the very best performances out of the actors – and the casting of Andy Serkis as Ian Dury was a masterstroke – I would not be at all surprised if he was nominated for best actor in the Oscars for this amazing performance. I would believe that even Ian Drury would have been impressed by Serkis's performance! I found this to be a very poignant, entertaining film – that (I believe) fairly accurately depicts the life and times of the late, great Ian Dury … and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this film. For those that previously enjoyed the music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads – you will love this film … for those that haven't heard the music before … "What a Waste!" … get ready to be converted … for you'll have "Reasons to be cheerful" when Ian Dury "Hit's you with his Rhythm Stick!"
8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Creative, imaginative, un-formulaic bio, 29 April 2010
Author: cinematic13 from United States
Blows the typical Hollywood bio-pics (RAY, WALK THE LINE, etc. etc.) right out of the water. A career-defining performance from Andy Serkis...his BAFTA nomination was more than well-deserved. He literally inhabits this physically and emotionally demanding role. The film does not sugar-coat the fact the Dury was a hard man to be around. Superbly edited as well, combining graphics, animation, varying film-stocks and angles, B&W, flashbacks, and fantasy sequences (ever see a band perform UNDER water?). While this might sound like a mish-mash, it certainly reflects those same artistic elements and chaos of the times. Yet the movie never loses it's narrative thru-line. A must-see, even more so for those who remember.
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
An interesting take on the life and times of Ian Dury..., 16 January 2011
Author: ajs-10 from United Kingdom
Back in 1977 while punk was just getting going, a band called Ian Dury
and the Blockheads released an album called 'New Boots and Panties'. A
few years later, feeling a bit nostalgic, I bought said album really
cheap. I still have it today; in fact I'm listening to it as I type
this review. Now, onto the film, it's a biopic all about Ian Dury, his
fight against disability and his rise to fame. Here's a brief summary
before I tell you my thoughts (summary haters please mingle with the
audience while I write the next paragraph).
Ian Dury was an entertainer, or that's what he always said he was interviewed. He had been struck down with polio when he was young and this left him withered down his left side. When we first see him, he is with another band who are rehearsing downstairs while his wife, Betty, gives birth upstairs. Later, after their last gig, he meets Denise Roudette, with whom he has an affair. They move in together and a while later, his son, Baxter, comes to stay with them. As Ian puts a new band together, including musician and songwriter Chaz Jankel, Baxter struggles to come to terms with the chaotic lifestyle he has been thrown into. The film plots his rise to fame and the effect it has on Ian and those around him. It also tells of his early life in flashback, his relationship with his father, Bill, and his unhappy childhood in an institution. I won't say any more as I don't want to give too much away.
Made in a very theatrical style, this film cuts from live action to animation, to live musical performances and back again. It all sounds a bit chaotic, but, for me at least, it works. At the centre is a really great performance from Andy Serkis as Ian Dury, although he doesn't particularly look like him, he has all his mannerisms down to a tee. I also thought Bill Milner played the part of Baxter Dury very well, it can't have been an easy part for a young actor and I thought he coped with it pretty well. Similarly, Wesley Nelson played the part of Young Ian Dury very well. I should also give honourable mentions to Olivia Williams as Ian's wife, Naomie Harris as Denise Roudette, Tom Hughes as Chaz Jankel, and nice cameos from both Ray Winstone as Bill Dury (Ian's dad) and Noel Clarke as Desmond.
Although Ian Dury wasn't the easiest person to get along with (for those that don't know, he passed away in 2000) and consequently not the nicest man in the world, I found this quite an enjoyable film to watch. I can't say I'm a huge fan of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, but I do recognise that Ian was a very talented chap and I always respected him as an artiste. Later in his career he appeared in quite a few films, not a bad actor. Over all, it's quite an interesting film, very touching at times but also quite bold in its approach. I know it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but still recommended.
My score: 7.1/10
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant Andy Serkis. Film Isn't Otherwise Bad, 19 April 2012
Author: crossbow0106 from United States
In the states, Ian Dury is mostly unknown, especially now. He was a UK rocker who came out of the pub circuit. He was the most unlikely of rock stars, stricken with polio and possessed of a less than tuneful voice. Still, the music is well crafted and other than the film title some may remember the clever "Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick". Andy Serkis does an amazing job as Dury, he catches his ugliness, his drive, his indifference and his fury. They don't make musicians like Dury anymore, and thats a pity. He was an original. The film gets a bit confusing jumping from the present to the past, but stay with it. If you've never heard of Dury, read up & listen before you watch this. Otherwise, I think this is a faithful film about a difficult person but one who contributed well to popular culture. R.I.P. Ian.
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Not a waste, 16 October 2011
Author: jc-osms from United Kingdom
Ian Dury's span of popular success in the UK only lasted a few years
and I can't say I was over-familiar with either his work (bar the early
hit singles and albums) but this film belied my fear that perhaps there
wasn't much of a story to tell. In fact, it probably over- compensates
by adopting a non-linear narrative approach as well as some arty- farty
jump-cuts and tricksy animation sequences to inject a knockabout feel
This is again a somewhat contrived and forced contrast to the bathetic scenes of Dury's growing up as a young boy, abandoned by his father, bullying at school by his class- mates and one particular teacher, his adult predilection for treating his womenfolk very badly indeed and finally the difficult relationship with his own son Baxter, who has since become a recognised musician in his own right.
I felt the scenes with the two women in his life, his wife and mistress Denise a bit overwrought and overwritten, their dialogue too forced and you're always expecting a pearl of wit or wisdom from Dury when real life just doesn't work that way, even with clever bastard word-smiths like him. It's like expecting Shakespeare to curse and moan in rhyming couplets if he was having an argument - my point is we know that Ian Dury had a way with words but not every minute of the day.
All that said, the film rattled along and certainly did the man's musical legacy proud. I thought a bit more could have been done to play up the importance of Chaz Jankel and his nifty tune-spinning - certainly Dury was a lot less successful when writing to someone else's melodies. Andy Serkus is great in the Dury role, he looks and talks the part very well, acts his disability imperceptibly and keeps up the characterisation right into the songs, of which many are aired.
For some reason the film misses out about the last 15 years of his life and we don't even get to know how he died, although the director may claim that the film was a celebration of his life and won't be the last bio-pic to fast forward past the more mundane parts of an artist's life. For that reason, the first half of the film as he struggles for success is better than the inevitable rock-star excess second half, where Dury's persona becomes a bit blurred.
All told though, I quite enjoyed it but regret somewhat that the director felt the need to jazz up his subject's life in a way that I'm not sure a no-bullshit guy like Dury would altogether appreciate.
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining enough if you know the fuller picture, 27 January 2011
Author: Peter Hayes from United Kingdom
The Ian Dury story was definitely too strange for fiction. A disabled
pop star - in the modern video age - who created a mix of musical hall,
punk and pub rock that topped Euro charts and still gets a whirl now
and then on nostalgia radio.
But is this is the real story? For a start he had one of the great backing bands (and to be frank they were more musical than him!) and, besides that, he was both an art teacher and born and brought up well outside of London. Making him Mockney No.1.
Like most bio-pics, facts that don't fit the overall picture are thrown over the wall. Also chronology is not guaranteed either. Never mind the interesting bits that the micro-budget couldn't touch.
Serkiss is simply great as Dury. Indeed hard to see anyone doing any better with the material. Such as it is. Why did women go for this unconventional man who clearly had a great deal of trouble thinking beyond himself and his own creature comforts?
("Don't know" says the movie very honestly. Although he may have been quite nice on the days he wasn't acting a prick. There was a brain and a conscience up there.)
Like many artists you are glad for their art because it shows they had hidden depths that their appearance and behaviour didn't always indicate. Later he left music ("writers block") to try and be an actor. I don't mean play at being an actor, but become a real one. Work at it. Character roles a speciality. He did OK actually. Another fact that could have been a good 20 minutes rather than ending up over the aforementioned wall.
The whole production team has worked hard to get some energy and oomph in the film and not to make it limp like the man himself, but despite that it is really only a time passer. As I have already said, the film doesn't have the budget to get involved in his era (which made him really) and while it is nice to know he had a country house and a swimming pool the real action is clearly elsewhere most of the time.
5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Somehow Unsatisfying, 16 May 2010
Author: cottrellpj from Victoria, BC
Lots of good performances here, but a lack of cohesion. I'm an Ian Dury fan (as well as Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Wreckless Eric et al) and I was struck by the lack of historical context. Other than a brief reference to The Sex Pistols, there's no sense of time or place here, no evidence of the seminal Stiffs Live tour that cemented Ian's fame and a lack of recognition to the Blockheads, who were (and are) one of the best bands ever - their funkiness and elasticity were unique. A lot of psychological flashbacks and a last 20 minutes that reminded me of a "Movie of the Week". Nowt about the years leading up to his passing. A newcomer might wonder what all the fuss was about.
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