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pirate radio
Click for full sized poster

Pirate Radio

Starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Kenneth Branagh
Written and Directed by Richard Curtis
website: http://pirateradiomovie.com/

IN SHORT: Buy the soundtrack instead. [Rated R for Language, and Some Sexual Content including Brief Nudity. 135 minutes]

I really  hate to endorse the practice -- guess that means I got old -- but those who love what is now called "classic rock" should get good and toasted before watching Pirate Radio. Getting through the tedious portions of the story may be a wee bit difficult but the almost nonstop soundtrack of killer cuts from the 1960s will have you tapping your feet or bouncing in your seat or singing along. Or something like that. Or any combination of the above.

Prior to 1968, American radio listeners were confined to the AM band; tinny, monophonic sound and, if you were lucky, half a dozen or so stations in each major city battling it out playing all the current hit songs of the day. We wuz lucky dogs compared to the Invasion homeland (aka Britain) where government regulation of the airwaves pretty much eliminated any airplay of bands like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones or The Who or The Kinks. You know, minor bands that had to go to Germany to get live gigs . . .

It wasn't just "regulation" of the stations that determined that rock and roll was dead. No, the government just didn't care. There was, at the time, no competition for whatever the British Broadcasting Company felt was appropriate for the public airwaves. In the mid 1960s that meant no trash music like that "rock and roll" clatter.

In the best American revolutionary spirit, though, several over the hill cargo ships were outfitted with broadcast transmitters and, once in international waters, said ships beamed rock and roll to the starving masses in Her Majesty's kingdom. Thus, Pirate Radio and here, the fictionalized story of one of those wacky boats filled with misfits and their record collections.

Young lad Carl (Tom Sturridge) is the guide to the story. Godson of the ship's captain Quentin (Bill Nighy), he hopes that being onboard will somehow help unlock the mystery of who his father is. At least he thinks so and perhaps his mother planted the idea. It isn't much to go on in a story which utilizes the sole American DJ, (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in its advertising to try to to hook you.

As for the Brits, Kenneth Branagh stars as the BBC suit determined to stamp out the pirates. January Jones plays the yummy -- and seen far less than you would think -- love interest. Emma Thompson makes a brief cameo as Carl's mom and OTT, it's the soundtrack that rocks this film, not the story or performances.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Pirate Radio, he would have paid . . .


It's all too British for us lucky, rock 'n' roll satiated Americans.

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