CBGB follows the story of Hilly Kristal's New York club from its conceit as a venue for Country, Bluegrass and Blues (CBGB) to what it ultimately became: the birthplace of underground rock 'n roll and punk. When Kristal had difficulty booking country bands in his club on the Bowery he opened his doors to other kinds of rock music. Kristal had one demand of the acts he booked; they could only play original music. No top 40's, no covers. It was the credo he lived by, support the artist at whatever the cost. Hilly Kristal ironically became known as the godfather of punk giving a chance to such bands as Blondie, Television, Ramones, Talking Heads, Dead Boys and The Police. Written by
A Historic Account of One Man's Dream That Helped Change The World & Told With A Comedic Edge
It is difficult to find a good comedy these days but CBGB is the exception. There are lots of laughs from start to finish but what makes it even more enjoyable is that it is based on true life experiences. It tells the story of Hilly Kristal, an already two time failed night club owner who still wanted to fulfill his dreams. He found a run down bar on the Bowery in NYC which at that time was filled with drunks sleeping on the street and heavy heroin trafficking. He thought he would open a Country Blues Bar which makes the story that much funnier in this part of town. Eventually bands, who had no where else to go, came to him to fulfill their own fantasies of playing original music to a live crowd. In those days, only copy bands could find places to perform live. The movie depicts the early days which broke ground for the new pioneers of Rock & Roll like the Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith and Talking Heads.
The movie concentrates on each and every mishap and obstacle that Hilly had to confront to live his dream. It also tells an additional story about an extremely talented band, the Dead Boys, which became the second obsession of Hilly Kristal as he thought they could become the next Rolling Stones! He hired record producer Genya Ravan to produce them and spent what little money he had to make that dream happen also. Now many decades later, one of the most talented bands to have ever played CBGBs finally gets their just due deserves because this movie exposes them to the masses whereas legal and personal disputes kept their records out of the stores for years.
CBGB is one laugh after another that everyone can relate to because we all have some crazy dream at one time or another and few rarely actually try to fulfill them, and even more so, ever do with any degree of success. There is a little Hilly Kristal in all of us. In many ways, Hilly Kristal did succeed because he helped change the world. He helped change a stale and boring corporate controlled music industry and it has never been the same since. You do not need to be a fan of punk rock or any music genre to enjoy this movie. It is fun for people from all walks of life and you will want to watch it over and over again for years to come.
The only criticism I would have to this movie, for music lovers, is that the Ramones were not completely depicted accurately and I am told because Johnny Ramone's widow would not sign off on their material since she did not agree to the casting of her late husband. I can not confirm this, but if it is true, I would think she had every right to decide how her husband, a legend of Rock & Roll, is depicted in a movie. That being said, I do not think his casting was terrible and their presence in the movie made the point intended to be made. On the brighter side for music lovers, we get a peek into the mind of young John Holmstrom in the movie and his view of kids turning "punk" in those early days. John Holmstrom was the founding editor of "Punk Magazine" and illustrator to much of the infamous comic book style artwork of the Ramones . His role to the origin's of the NYC punk scene is duly noted in the movie along with his perspectives at the time. It is a theme which the movie is based around and ties it all together to make it work just perfectly and to give it that comedic edge. Right from the early days, punk rock had a comic book mindset attached to it and this can be attributed to John's work as founding editor of Punk magazine and later with the Ramones.
While not all the castings are perfect, Alan Rickman, who portrays Hilly Kristal, is spot on in his performance. He is much deserving of a nomination for his role. Go see CBGB and then go see it again and do not believe any baloney the critics or disgruntled musicians may say.
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