Film

So You Wanna Be a (Fake) Rock & Roll Star...

Ten examples of pretend musicmakers who personify the Tinseltown notion of rock and roll as reality check.

For flame game rocker Aldous Snow, it's been a bad few weeks. First, he crafts his musical "masterpiece", a multicultural mess called "African Child" only to see it lambasted as the worst musical idea of all time. Then his equally famous gal pal, Jackie Q, leaves him, taking their child and running off to Italy to be with her new beau - Lars Ulrich from Metallic. Then, to make matters worse, the same old cravings for booze and pills come back, leading Aldous down yet another path toward public personal destruction. Enter industry intern Aaron Green. Hungry for his big break, he convinced his bosses that the broken down star deserves a comeback - perhaps at the fabled Greek Theater where he found his first big success.

Thus is the life of the fake rock and roll star, the man or woman who turns the world on with their whipsmart smile - and their symbolic sturm and drang soundscapes. As part of the winning, witty comedy Get Him to the Greek (new on DVD an d Blu-ray from Universal), the character created by British comedy bad boy Russell Brand is beyond redemption...and belief...and funny. Oddly enough, though, he is indicative of how most amplified music makers are viewed by the medium's manipulators. In fact, looking over the ten celluloid examples listed below, you can see that Aldous is just one of many megalomaniacal characters who've taken an existence in service of their muse to ridiculous heights. Apparently, if you want to be a fake rock and roll star, these are the examples you have to live up to, beginning with:

Dewey Cox in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

If there is one fictional musician who truly encompasses the entire history of early rock and roll in one dopey persona, it's this farcical combination of various sonic stereotypes. From the earliest Elvis moves to a basic brain dead Brian Wilson, this one man of melody manages to deconstruct (and in some cases, destroy) everything about pretend popular culture from the last forty years. Of course, none of it would work without the brilliant acting job of lead John C. Reilly. He truly is a retrofitted rube for all aural seasons.

Robert 'Fish' Fishman in The Rocker

Nothing is worse than being in a band going nowhere - except, perhaps, being kicked out of one that eventually becomes unbridled superstars. This is what happens to our wayward drummer who, after his flaccid fall from grace, finds a second 'crack' at fame via YouTube and his nephew's high school pop combo, all the while trying to teach the amiable adolescents about what life is like on the fringes of the limelight. While Rainn Wilson's hound dog dynamic can be a bit much at times, he certainly captures the world of a washed-up musician quite well.

Dewey Finn in The School of Rock

Jack Black has always been Mick Jagger in Allan Sherman's body. Put another way, he's a true cockrocking God given the unlucky likability of a fat funny man. Still, he manages to transcend both types to play a frontman desperate to teach his mandated students the potential in power chords. In Richard Linklater's love letter to the glories of playing music, we get a wonderful combination of humor and heart, the art of performing transforming a ragtag group of kids into a viable band - and at the center is the funny, fascinating Finn.

Pink in Pink Floyd The Wall

Now this is what most people think is real rock and roll. The dark brooding intensity of a celebrated superstar. Depression draining the life out of the otherwise vital personality. Drugs and debauchery used to deaden the pain. The groupies, the fans, and the memories that make the 'job' both rewarding and repugnant. With Roger Waters' veiled attempt at dealing with his own unhappy childhood at the center and Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof completely lost in the sex and sedative haze, the music biz doesn't get more menacing than this.

Nick Rivers in Top Secret

He's got the boy from Tupelo's swagger, the Fab Four's fevered fan base, and a crooner's catalog covering everything from early Beach Boys to brooding ballads. But most importantly, Val Kilmer manages to make his tentative teen idol the very epitome of a clueless accidental hero. As the unstuck in time narrative mangles elements of WWII and the Cold War together, Nick navigates all aspects of his cracked career - film shoots, impromptu performances, saving the day - with a swivel hipped hilarity that's infectious.

Buckaroo Banzai in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

He's the very definition of a multitasking megastar - as inventor, spy, superhero, people's (and politician's) champion, and mass media Mt. Everest. And then, in his spare time, he cranks out a mean concert or two. Indeed, Peter Weller forever defined his slightly askew persona with this brilliant breakdown of everything associated with comic book creativity, jumping on a bandwagon that was barely even begun. Sure, things are surreal, strange, and often plain silly, but the unique universe created here begs for a sequel - and more sunny Buckaroo tunes!

Max Frost in Wild in the Streets

He's the Establishment's worst nightmare - a real life revolutionary whose winning over the disenfranchised with his rock politic posing. After successfully spearheading a Constitutional Amendment lowering the voting age to 14 ("Fourteen or Fight" becomes the new radical slogan), Frost is elected President and takes the adage "don't trust anyone over 30" to diseased, despotic extremes. As a national pariah personified, this harbinger of hedonism couldn't been more calculated...or cold...or concerning. Oh, and his music is no great shakes, either.

The Cheap Girls/Benny in The Money Pit

When Tom Hanks' lawyer character isn't busy buying broken down mansions in need of Mike Holmes and some massive repairs, he's guiding various musicians through the myriad of issues facing their hectic careers. On the one hand, there's the underage MJ like child prodigy who loans him the money to buy the title monstrosity. On the other are a bunch of bumbling crossdressers who are convinced that changing their name to "Meryl Streep" will forever alter their commercial fortunes. Talk about a tough tightrope act to maneuver.

Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy

Wait - we said "fictional" rock and rollers, right? So why bring in the grandiose Gary Oldman's take on the real life punk pariah and ex-Sex Pistol? Well, if you listen to best friend and bandmate John "Rotten" Lydon, everything about the Alex Cox version of his late lamented buddy is bullshit. It doesn't make Oldman's encapsulation of the 'character' any less acute. As a matter of fact, this is the Sid everyone remembers - flamboyant, flaming out, and fatalistic in his approach to life and love.

Beverly Switzler in Howard the Duck

Life is hard in the big city, especially when you're a proto New Wave diva massacring songs by Thomas Dolby and trying to hide your affections for a wisecracking intergalactic foul. But that's exactly the unusual situation this wannabe Kim Wilde finds herself in when the title character literally drops in her lap. While dismal in its ability to capture the charm and sarcastic wit of the original comic book, Lea Thompson's turn as Beverly - all bad '80s fashion aside - is charming.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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