Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie Autopsy: Rock Star

I was talking with some friends last night, about the movie Rock Star, starring Mark Wahlberg, and several musicians that I respect as musicians. As actors? Not so much. They are Zakk Wylde, Jeff Pilson, and Jason Bonham. But, here we go. I'm calling this an autopsy because Rock Star is about as dead as it gets, and we need to figure out what caused the movie to die. Basically, the premise is this: A singer of a tribute band replaces the singer of the band that he idolizes. But, a couple of my friends did not understand why I hate that movie so much. I explained, and they understood, but I'm going to go into detail here.

This post contains spoilers. Lots of them.

Judas Priest with Rob Halford
We'll start at the beginning. That movie was originally supposed to be called 'Metal Gods.' And of course, every metalhead knows that 'Metal Gods' is the name of a Judas Priest song. The movie was supposed to be the story of Tim 'Ripper' Owens, who replaced Rob Halford in Judas Priest. Ripper was in a Judas Priest tribute band in Ohio, and he was discovered, and flown to England to audition after the band found out about him. I was excited to see that movie, UNTIL (Dum dum DUMMMM) Hollywood had to fluff the story with a sappy love story, and include things that never happened in the story. Priest told Hollywood that if they wanted to tell Ripper's story then they could do it, but if they wanted to make a sappy chick, then they could stuff it.

Judas Priest with Ripper Owens
Rather than dump an entire script, the producers made changes to it that made it into a movie that was 'loosely based' on Ripper Owens and Judas Priest. It was 'loosely' all right. About the only thing that even resembled Ripper's story was the premise that a tribute band singer becomes the singer for the band he idolizes. However, if you watch the movie, and pay attention, you will see that Rock Star is more than that. Of course, its the general premise, and of course a sappy love story, but the movie is also loaded with subtle jabs at Ripper Owens and Judas Priest. THAT is what we are going to cover in this post. We will also be separating fact from fiction.

Chris Cole in his bedroom, making sure he looks exactly
like his life sized Bobby Beers card board cutout
First of all, the way that Chris Cole (Wahlberg's charater) was portrayed is an obvious jab. He is a grown man who lives with his parents, and is so obsessed with Steel Dragon (the legendary band in the film) that he dresses just like Bobby Beers, (Dragon's singer) and emulates every single thing (well MOST every single thing) that Beers does in his personal life, even down to getting his nipple pierced just because Beers did it. The tribute band is Cole's only band, and he would never dream of playing anything other than Dragon tunes. He also doesn't know how to write original material.

In real life, Ripper Owens was in TWO bands. He had a band that played original songs, that he also helped write. The tribute band was a side project that opened for his other band from time to time, and played parties. Sure, Rob Halford is Ripper's favorite singer, but Ripper did not worship him like a little teenage fangirl.

Steel Dragon with Bobby Beers
Steel Dragon, as I mentioned before was the legendary metal band. The opening scenes show Cole and his friends getting ready to go see them in concert. When they get to the arena where the show is taking place, people are protesting them with signs that say 'Steel Dragon Is Satan' and things like that. Now, that happened to Judas Priest a lot. But, it would never happen with Steel Dragon. Why? Because Priest is a dark heavy metal band that uses dark minor chords, and scary lyrical content. Dragon is a glam band. You never saw people protesting Ratt because they sang about girls and partying. Same as Steel Dragon.  And, using Ratt as a comparison is appropriate because a Dragon member himself compared Dragon to Ratt later in the movie.

I call this scene 'Attack of the Clones'
After the Dragon concert, Cole and his band members encountered ANOTHER Steel Dragon tribute band in the parking lot. They are advertising their show, and taking the flyers off cars that Cole's band had placed there. It then becomes 'ON' as the 2 bands appear to get into a rumble. However, since both bands are dressed just like the Dragon members they are mimicking, they start bickering about the embroidery, and when they start shoving, they are more concerned about tearing their costumes than winning a fight. Sure, this is another jab at Ripper and his tribute band, but TWO tribute bands in one city? Not likely.

How Chris Cole became Dragon's singer
Next, we have Cole's tribute band concert. There is a crowd of at least 1500 (all of which were probably at the real band's concert just a few days before) people at a steel plant. Not a club. Its cool, but it would never happen. The band's guitarist starts adding his own touch to a Dragon song, and Cole flips out, and they fight on stage in front of everyone. He is in turn, kicked out of the band. He is bummed and depressed, but all of a sudden, the phone rings. Guess what?? Its none other than Curt Cuddy, Dragon's guitarist. At first, Cole doesn't believe its really him, so he screens him, asking what he called his third wife. After Cuddy passes Cole's test, Cole goes into fangirl mode, saying how sorry he was to hear about the death of his dog, and how he sent flowers and a card. Another jab at Ripper. Cuddy asks him to come out to LA because he heard a tape of him singing the Dragon tunes perfectly. He agrees, and he and his girlfriend, Emily fly out to LA. Once they arrive in LA, we find out that Cuddy got the tape from 2 groupies who had filmed Cole's concert, and then came on the road with Dragon.

In real life, Ripper's tribute band was playing a show, and Judas Priest drummer, Scott Travis was there. He was so impressed with Ripper that he spoke to the band about him, and had a member of management contact him. He was invited to London to audition for Priest. After the phone conversation, Ripper looked for the management person's name on his copy of Painkiller. Ripper went, and the audition scene in the movie is pretty much spot on accurate. They both started singing a song, and the song was stopped after a few lines. They had heard enough on the tape, (or concert in Ripper's case) and just needed to verify that it was really his voice. They were both offered the job on the spot. That's about the only accurate part of the movie, and it only lasts a matter of seconds.

Next, we find out that Bobby Beers is being kicked out of the band because he is gay, among other reasons. Cole is devastated. In reality, everybody knew about Rob Halford's sexuality, and nobody cared when he came out of the closet. Looking back, I'm not sure how anybody could have missed the fact, but regardless, Priest did not lose one fan because of it. Not to mention the fact that Halford left on his own because he wanted to release solo albums, and was already gone long before Scott Travis saw Ripper in concert. But, Hollywood wanted Halford kicked out because he was gay.

Steel Dragon with Chris Cole
The next portion of the movie is Steel Dragon touring, partying, getting laid, etc. Cole is trying to be good and faithful to his girlfriend, Emily, but when she decides to go to Seattle to start a business, and Cole is by himself on the road, he becomes a party animal. Dragon plays a show in Seattle, and his girlfriend goes to see him, but catches him wasted, and zipping up his pants. She leaves him. He gets bummed for a few minutes, but the final straw comes after the break when the band gets back together to record the next album. Cole has written a few songs, and Cuddy tells him to forget it. He doesn't even want to hear Cole's songs. So, they record the album, and Cole is demoralized. At a concert, he just walks off stage, and hands the mic to a Chris Cole clone who knows all of Cole's moves to finish the concert. Then, we see interviews with the band, and they are angry, but not worried about the future.

Next, we see Cole in Seattle. Grunge has arrived, and Cole has cut his hair, and is wearing gray sweaters. His old guitarist has moved to Seattle, and the 2 meet up again, and decide to start a grunge band, playing all original songs. They are playing a show at a small coffee house, and Emily shows up. The 2 reunite with a passionate kiss as the band plays on. <gag>

Next, as the credits roll, they take a shot at Rob Halford. They show Bobby Beers being interviewed, and he has cut his hair, and is downing heavy metal. He has now joined Riverdance, and will never go back to Steel Dragon. What did this Hollywood producer have against Rob Halford? 

In real life, Tim 'Ripper' Owens recorded TWO albums with Priest, and even co wrote one song on the second album. He did not quit and storm off the stage. The band and Halford decided to reunite, and Ripper and Priest parted ways on good terms, and are still good friends. Ripper did NOT start an emo grunge band. He became the singer of Iced Earth, and recorded two amazing albums with them, then sang with Yngwie Malmsteen, and did a tour with Dio's Disciples. He did this all while still recording with his ORIGINAL band in Ohio, and opening a club that national touring bands frequent.

Rock Star? It sucked.
So, now that you know all this, what do you think of that stupid movie now? Surely, the producer could have made a movie without all the childish jabs right? You would think so, but there are some real childish people out there. Be sure to let me know what you think in the comments.

When Rob Halford was on That Metal Show, he gave his own movie review. It was a nice 2 word review, reminiscent of the review of the Shark Sandwich album by Spinal Tap. They did a 'Q&A With the Metal God' segment, where the audience members were able to ask questions of him. One guy asked him what he thought of Rock Star. Rob's reply: "It sucked."

Now, there you have it. Rock Star sucked. Why?
Nevermind all the reasons I listed. It sucked because The Metal God himself said so.

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