Drama 101 October 4, 2013
By Brian McManus
CBGB begins with a bit of misdirection. You think punk started at 315 Bowery. You're wrong. It began in a basement in Connecticut with two ne'er-do-wells, John Holmstrom and Legs McNeil. There, according to the film-- a mostly turgid, boring-as-hell, campy slog that gets more wrong than right—the two created Punk magazine, and thusly punk began. Never mind that you can't have a zine that covers punk if punk doesn't already exist. From there, we're off to the wrongheaded races. Cut to: Alan Rickman in front of a judge who sternly (and conveniently) runs down his character's bio for the audience. Hilly Kristal is a lazy, unimpressive, once-divorced, twice-bankrupt club owner. He sleeps on a dirty mattress with his dog, whose overactive bowels the film reminds you of every 15 minutes. He strolls through the hellscape that is lower Manhattan in the '70s, until happening upon the Palace Bar at 315 Bowery, where he imagines what the joint could be. Hilly's original vision, of course, was to bring country music to the Bowery (CBGB famously stands for "country bluegrass blues"), but that's in geographical short supply. He books Television instead, and the first jittery notes of "Marquee Moon" stand as one of the film's few highlights. There's a lot to nitpick—the way the movie is shot like a comic book for a tenuous tie-in to Punk magazine; the many punk icons reduced to laughable caricature (Richard Hell, Cheetah Chrome, Stiv Bators ,and all of The Ramones, in particular); the egregious Fresca product placement. But CBGB's biggest problem is that it's taken such electrifying source material and done absolutely zilch with it.
Randall Miller Alan Rickman, Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha, Richard de Klerk, Johnny Galecki, Ashley Greene, Rupert Grint, Taylor Hawkins, Stana Katic, Donal Logue Jody Savin, Randall Miller XLrator Media

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