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Rockin' out at the movies

There have been many movies about music and the incredible musicians behind it. The latest movie to embrace this trend is "The Runaways," which tells the story of the all-girl, teenage rock band of the ‘70s and features Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning as Joan Jett and Cherie Currie. While the critical and commerical success of "The Runaways" can only be determined after its March 19 release, these other films have achieved this and are recommended for music and film lovers alike.

"Almost Famous" (2000)

"Almost Famous" is a semi-autobiographical film that tells the story of a 15-year-old "Rolling Stone" writer touring across the country with the fictional band Stillwater. Along the way he gains many important life experiences such as falling in love, meeting his heroes and living in the moment. The movie is based on writer and director Cameron Crowe and his teenage experiences while touring with the Allman Brothers Band as a reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine.

In 1973, the year the movie is set in, many legendary bands were in their prime, including Led Zeppelin, The Who, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Rolling Stones. Needless to say, all of them and more make appearances on the movie's soundtrack. This in part helps create the backdrop of the times and lifestyle that the main character is thrown into.

The reason this is such a great movie is it shows the unifying power of music. The main character, William, played by Patrick Fugit, is a straight laced 15-year-old touring with the hard-partying band. William and the band members are from two opposite ends of the spectrum, yet they connect in the presence of rock and roll. This is a great example of how people from all walks of life can have something in common. For those who haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching "Almost Famous."

Christopher Spall can be reached at

"Walk the Line" (2005)

The 2005 hit film "Walk the Line" is a great and rather accurate portrayal of Johnny Cash's life, a country singer whose music touched all genres. The film reveals how Cash was inspired to create some of the most memorable songs in American history.

This is possibly Joaquin Phoenix's (Johnny Cash) best role to date. It is clear that he played this part to the best of his ability and fully immerses himself in the role. A pivotal point in the movie is when Cash is suffering from withdrawals, due to his drug addiction, and finally realizes what he really needs in life. Phoenix performs amazingly, showing the effects of the withdrawals and what it did to artists of that time.

The other great aspect of "Walk the Line" is the accuracy of Johnny Cash's life and what inspired him to write his songs. From his brother's death to the concert in Folsom State Prison, the whole movie stayed fairly true to Cash's life and the things we know of him.

Nicolaos Diakos can be reached at

"Once" (2007)

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"Once" takes place in Dublin where a man and a woman meet and fall in love while writing and recording music together.

The film feels like a documentary, yet it's made to seem more like mundane life. The characters speak as if there is no script and their interactions are like a natural conversation. The audience feels as if they're living in the characters' world and are walking the streets with them or observing them from a distance.

The main characters, Glen Hansard, singer and guitarist of The Frames, and Marketa Irglova, a Czech girl, are never referred to by name, thus the audience can picture themselves aas the characters or everyday people.

Even the way the characters meet is ordinary because they are doing something they do every day; playing music on the street and selling flowers.

Hansard and Irglova produced all the original songs for the movie, which are about the characters' past loves and the hurt they felt from the separations.

Their love story is unique; as the two get closer, it is revealed that Irglova's character has an estranged husband in Czech, but still develops feeling for the new guy she meets. The musicians become close while discovering love and achieving their dreams through music.

Patrice Kubik can be reached at

"Dreamgirls" (2006)

Although the box office hit, "Dreamgirls," reportedly is not based on the popular female group, The Supremes, much speculation has occurred since its release in 2006.

Similarities include the three person female group singing the same Motown-type music The Supremes were popular for. The similar lead singer conflict within The Supremes was one of the main focuses in "Dreamgirls."

Critics say that the movie is completely fiction, but any musical buff can see that it is definitely loosely based on the ‘60s group with Beyonce's character almost identical to that of Diana Ross.

The film has many different musical aspects to it. The music was not modern and had an old Hollywood feel to it. The acting was also phenomenal; Jennifer Hudson even took home an Oscar for her memorable performance.

The song, "Listen," from the film was popular, even being played on the radio. The movie did an excellent job at taking something historical and making it modern, which was what made it such a successful film.

Amanda Monteleone can be reached at

"Great Balls of Fire" (1989)

Few words can describe one of the most remarkable artists of the mid 20th century whose controversial and unconventional styles of music brought iconic rock ‘n' roll bravado. The life of Jerry Lee Lewis was one of daring impulse in the face of scrutiny and scorn from the public.

Different in his own right, Lewis had just as much of an impact on popular culture as Elvis Presley. An entertaining, humorous and dramatic take on the 1950s singer and pianist is depicted in the 1989 film "Great Balls of Fire," named after one of his first hit songs.

Directed by Jim McBride, actors Dennis Quaid and Wynona Rider play the eccentric singer and his 13-year-old wife and cousin. With musical numbers such as the famous "High School Confidential" track in which Lewis picks up his beloved Myra Gale Brown from school, the director's purpose is to give life and fun to a scandalous story.

Quaid exemplifies the boisterous and outlandish personality that followed Jerry Lee Lewis throughout his career. Unfortunately, after falling in love with his cousin, the public had had enough of Lewis' daring acts. Yet, his legacy as a pianist and bold singer lives on. His talent in making a musical instrument such as a piano as a theatrical, almost daredevil performance reflects the artist's passion in his music.

As demonstrated in the film, Jerry Lee Lewis saw life as an adventure and a way to show others his worth in the music industry, whether he arrogantly set ablaze a piano or admits to his outrageous love for an adolescent. His own spirited and uncanny personage was his real connection in leaving behind a legacy.

"Great Balls of Fire" captured Lewis' image in a positive light after years of ridicule, redeeming the artist from condemnation and finally regaining his former glory. Recommended for any music lover, the film extenuates drama without all the tears and keeps rock and roll fans laughing in their seats. Take a shot at a marvelous depiction of rock ‘n' roll as it should be: unpredictable and fun.

Katia Diaz can be reached at

"Spice World" (1998)

"They perform for royalty and entertain millions the world over. But now, they're making a movie."

As the tagline implies, "Spice World" is meant to be a humorous and light-hearted depiction of the 90s all-girl music group, the Spice Girls.

The closest depiction to the reality of the Spice Girls' lives in the film is the stress that fame has on their lives. The movie is not a completely accurate depiction of what their day to day life was like, but it does make fun of the image that has been created about them. In one scene Posh Spice is debating whether to wear the little Gucci dress or the little Gucci dress, a clear reference to her similar wardrobe that seemed to only consist of micro mini-dresses.

"Spice World" is not a movie that is should be taken too seriously, but it does allow viewers to laugh and reminiscence with friends. It's worth watching simply for its nostalgic feel, which has the power to bring you back to the ‘90s where girl power dominated the radio.

Elizabeth Molina can be reached at

"Selena" (1997)

Gregory Nava's 1997 film, "Selena," is the true story of Selena Quintanilla-Perez, a Texas-born Tejano singer who rose to stardom in Spanish-speaking countries and America with her chart topping music.

Selena's real father, Abraham, acts as executive producer of the movie, adding the family's personal perspective. The film gives viewers a chance to go back to when Selena was a little girl growing up in a family willing to do anything for their children.

Jennifer Lopez is outstanding as Selena, breathing life and energy into the character. She bears a remarkable resemblance to the real Selena, in both looks and personality. While the movie portrays a young girl whose aspirations are to perform at the Astrodome, Nava does not glamorize her life and focuses only on her singing and fame. In doing so, he keeps the character down to earth and real.

Had it not been for Nava's special attention to Selena's family life, the film would never have been what it aspired to be. Her family's closeness began with her father's (Edward James Olmos) passion for music and his drive to see his children succeed. The love within Selena's family was the backbone of her career.

With the brilliant acting and musical performances from everyone involved, "Selena" is not only a movie, but an inspiration for anyone who has ever had a dream and the courage to act on it.

Laura Masino can be reached at


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