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Randall Miller
Alan Rickman, Malin Akerman, Justin Bartha, Stiv Bators, Richard de Klerk, Johnny Galecki, Kyle Gallner, Ashley Greene, Rupert Grint, Taylor Hawkins
Writing Credits:
Jody Savin, Randall Miller

50,000 bands and 1 disgusting bathroom.

Alan Rickman stars as legendary NYC club owner Hilly Kristal, who during the 1970s, wanted to create a venue for country, bluegrass and blues music (thus the name CBGB). When those acts became difficult to book, he shifted the club's focus to local bands playing original music, launching the careers of Patti Smith, Blondie, the Talking Heads and the Ramones and helping to define New York's punk scene and changing the face of music.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$4.000 thousand on -unknown- screens.
Domestic Gross
$40.040 thousand.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Latin Spanish
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $24.99
Release Date: 12/31/2013

• Audio Commentary with Director/Co-Writer Randall Miller, Co-Writer Jody Savin and Producer/Music Supervisor Brad Rosenberger
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

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CBGB [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 30, 2013)

For a look at history of the seminal New York punk club, we go to 2013’s CBGB. After a prologue to meet him as a toddler, we encounter Hilly Kristal (Alan Rickman) in 1972, where he struggles to start his own successful nightclub. This lands him with a divorce and two bankruptcies, but Hilly perseveres and decides to try, try again.

This leads him to New York’s Bowery, where he finds a dreadful location that he decides would be perfect for a new club. Hilly wants this to be a country/bluegrass/blues place, but after a rock band called Television plays there, CBGB turns into a destination for punk and New Wave acts. We follow the club’s growth and related issues.

In theory, CBGB aspires to document the rise of punk music. This means that although it focuses on Hilly and the club, it also spends time with John Holmstrom and Punk Magazine. That side doesn’t receive much emphasis, though, and often feels like an afterthought. I understand that the filmmakers don’t want viewers to believe that Hilly/CBGB were the sole forces behind the punk movement, but the flick delves into Holmstrom’s story in such an infrequent and superficial manner that they might as well not have bothered.

That becomes particularly true because even the CBGB side feels so incomplete. Essentially, the film offers a near-literal “greatest hits reel”. While it vaguely digs into Hilly’s struggles to keep the club afloat, after a while it feels like a running collection of band shots. Hey – it’s Blondie! Look – Talking Heads! Yay – Ramones!

And so on. We get many cameos along the way, and those can be a distraction, as we occasionally get too involved in a game of “Spot the Actor” and don’t concentrate on the tale itself. There’s very little real narrative at work, and it gets looser as it goes and the cameos/bands add up.

While these concerns make CBGB a rather superficial look at rock history, it still manages to deliver a pretty entertaining ride. Actually, in that domain, its flaws become a strength; it may lack depth, but at least it doesn’t drag. Instead, the tale flies past and throws a lot of fun “rock moments” our way. We may not feel like we’ve been to CBGB, but at least we enjoy our glimpse of the place.

Rickman is far too old for the role – he’s a good 20 years older than Hilly was during the film’s time frame – and it seems weird to hear the very British actor try to play Jersey, but he’s still talented enough to pull off the part. Others don’t do quite as well, but I can’t think of any true weak links – and we even get a Harry Potter reunion when Rickman works with Rupert Grint!

In the end, CBGB doesn’t deliver very meaningful history, and it tends to be too superficial. Nonetheless, it becomes an entertaining ride, and perhaps it’ll spark viewers to dig out books on the subject and learn more.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

CBGB appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While not the most dynamic Blu-ray I’ve seen, the image satisfied.

For the most part, sharpness appeared positive. However, fine detail was lacking in some wide shots. Although these were minor instances, they meant that the delineation wasn’t quite as consistent as I’d like. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and edge haloes weren’t a factor. Source flaws remained absent.

As one might expect from a period flick like this, CBGB provided a subdued palette. Colors veered toward a desaturated bent with a tendency toward a sickly yellow/green to match the ugliness of the Bowery, but they seemed clear and well-developed within those constraints. Blacks showed good depth and darkness, while shadows were solid. This was a “B”-level presentation.

Given the film’s character scope, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of CBGB didn’t boast a great deal of dynamic material. Nonetheless, it had its moments. Of course, we got a lot of music, and those elements spread to the various speakers in a satisfying manner. Otherwise, we stayed with environmental elements; street scenes and various gigs opened things up in a satisfying way.

Audio quality was quite good. Speech was natural and concise, as the lines lacked noticeable concerns. Music was a strong aspect of the mix. The movie featured lots of different musical performances, and these demonstrated solid heft and clarity. Effects didn’t have a ton to do, but they were full and clear; the occasional louder elements showed positive punch as well. While nothing here impressed, the track was good enough for a “B-“.

A few extras flesh out the disc, and these start with an audio commentary from director/co-writer Randall Miller, co-writer Jody Savin and producer Brad Rosenberger. All three sit together for a running, screen-specific look at cast and performances, sets and locations, production design and period details, music, the source material and its adaptation, and general anecdotes about the shoot.

With such a large cast, the commentary occasionally threatens to turn into a game of “Name the Actor”. However, we get a fair amount of additional information, so that tendency doesn’t dominate. The participants give us a pretty peppy and enjoyable chat as they delve into various aspects of the production.

Two Deleted Scenes fill a total of two minutes, 36 seconds. We see “Hilly Is Pissed At Dead Boys, Has It Out with Merv“ (2:03) and “Cheetah Flips the Bird!” (0:33). In the first, Hilly reacts to the band’s shenanigans and negotiates with an employee, while in the second, the Dead Boy helps Idaho and gives the finger to some nuns. Both are pretty forgettable.

A collection of Outtakes goes for two minutes, 59 seconds. It shows oddities like the fake dog poop used in the film as well as before/after shots of a character’s “grungified” teeth and a few alternate takes from Estelle Harris. It’s nothing amazing but it’s more fun than the usual bloopers.

The disc opens with ads for Banshee Chapter, Holy Ghost People, and The Conspiracy. No trailer for CBGB appears here.

As a bio-pic, CBGB lacks great merit, mostly because it’s thin and superficial. As entertainment, though, it fares better and delivers a frothy, fun take on the early days of punk. The Blu-ray brings us decent picture and audio along with a useful commentary. I wish CBGB provided a bit more substance, but it still gives us an enjoyable ride.

Viewer Film Ratings: -- Stars Number of Votes: 0
0 3:
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