Jett Tales

DVD: The Runaways — As rock bio movies go, this one about the all-girl Los Angeles band of the 1970s is pretty good. I measure it well in one way as I at least have met and had some dealings with people who are portrayed in it. I wrote the PR bio for Joan Jett, the band’s guitarist, when she released her first solo album, and for a few weeks I filled in as her tour publicist while staff writer at her publicity firm. And I must say that Kristen Stewart plays her with an uncanny accuracy, truly getting Jett’s look, vibe, manner of speaking and attitude. I’ve also had my social and even some professional run-ins with Kim Fowley, the band’s producer, manager and svengali. He is a mildly amusing character even if he makes my skin crawl a wee bit, and actor Michael Shannon captures that well. Plus Dakota Fanning proves herself capable of a rather adult role as singer Cherie Currie. So this film does have some real life resonance even if it does slant the story towards Currie (whose book about The Runaways it is based on) and Jett (who served as an executive producer along with her longtime manager and producer Kenny Laguna) and downplays other band members like Lita Ford (who I’ve interviewed and is far more assertive and fetching than she is presented here). But it does get the tenor of its times and place quite well along with the ins, outs, ups and downs of being in a rock band, and the music is pretty fun and cool as well. Worth a viewing if you’re a rock fan, and maybe even if not.

DVD: Up In The Air — I’m a fan of director Jason Reitman’s films. His debut, Thank You For Smoking, was a slyly witty comedy that was character and situation driven as opposed to the overblown, farcical and dumb comedies that Hollywood incessantly cranks out. And I liked what seemed to me a fitting touch that it was filmed with a sepia patina that made it feel like the whole affair was stained by cigarette smoke. His next movie, Juno, was a charming affair that avoided the trendy and tacky vibe of too many teen-based films today. And his latest, Up In The Air, is like the others rather offbeat, subtly funny rather than going for big obvious jokes, and always underplayed. George Clooney plays a hired gun who specializes in firing corporate employees, and enjoys his traveling loner existence. Emotional and business circumstances threaten his way of life. Even if the denouement doesn’t show much growth or change, there’s still a satisfaction in how it ends. And George Clooney has such a huge Q score that his likable vibe carries the whole affair nicely. It all moves along with an affability and subtle humor and drama that recalls films of an earlier times while still capturing essences of how we live today. Proof positive that films don’t have to go for big moves in order to be engaging and successful.

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2010


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