‘Pirate Radio’ And ‘2012’

‘Pirate Radio’

Sometimes there’s a movie that comes along that shivers your tim- bres. “Pirate Radio” is one such delight. It’s a treasure trove of rock ‘n’ roll memories, energy and infectious spirit. It’s as groovy as the 1960s.

Set in 1966 and 1967, based on actuality, “Pirate Radio” is the story of a rogue station on a ship that broadcasts rock ‘n’ roll to an England deprived of the new, rambunctious music.

Because of BBC contracts and government hostility, rock music was absent on the airways in Britain. To foil those restrictions, ships anchored just beyond British jurisdiction played the forbid- den music.

“Pirate Radio” is the story of one such ship. It’s a tale of disc jock- eys on an old tanker who are folk heroes to the public. They’re as merry a group as existed in Sherwood Forest. They are visited on occasion by swashbuckling women who worship the boards they walk on. (The only female who lives on the boat is the lesbian cook.)

Also coming to the ship is Carl (Tom Sturridge), a young father- less man whose mother (Emma Thompson) was a livewire groupie in the past.

The DJs are free-spirited, sometimes coarse, self-absorbed addicts of music. They don’t live by a lot of rules. As Quintin (Bill Nighy) — the owner of the station and captain of the ship — unabashedly says of one of his crew, “All he did was have sex with somebody’s wife.”

Two of the DJs have a risky contest for dominance. One is an American called the Count (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and the other is the cooler-than-cool Gavin (Rhys Ifans) who returns for another stint on the ship. It’s a battle between denim and silk. On shore, Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh) plots to bring the ship and station to ruin.

Amidst all the machinations, rock ‘n’ roll rules. The film pays spirited homage to the music: The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, Leonard Cohen, The Beach Boys, et al.

The cast is stellar. Nighy loves rock ‘n’ roll; as a young man Nighy fronted his own band. Nighy is as inimitable as always as the impla- cable Quentin.

Hoffman, Ifans and all the actors who play the DJs on board create a reckless but intriguing ambiance. Some of the dialogue was improvised, and it has an immediacy.

January Jones (television’s “Mad Men”) gets a nice break from Madison Avenue as a smitten woman who comes to the ship.

“Pirate Radio” captures the spirit of a time. It’s not like the callow “Taking Woodstock,” which inef- fectively used a time and place as background for a tacky movie about a man and his shrewish mother.

“Pirate Radio” is the real deal. Writer/director Richard Curtis has an encyclopedic knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll. He’s a humanist who uses it to great advantage.

Curtis creates both offbeat and stirring moments (the flotilla) using the immortal music. “Pirate Radio” soars on the white caps of rock ‘n’ roll. I’ll surely take that rocking cruise again.


If “Pirate Radio” is sparkling white caps, “2012” is dirty bilge.

After seeing “2012” I had to take a shower, I felt so unclean. I guess I’m not a fan of apocalypse movies, and I really dislike crappy apocalypse. “2012” is crappy apocalypse.

After 50 minutes, “2012” has its first cataclysm — I should have left then with a little of my humanity intact. But, no, I stayed until the world and its abysmal population had been destroyed several times over ad nauseum, and my wit, rea- son and soul had been drowned in wretched excess.

“2012” is shameless exploitation. The script’s attempt to squeeze in some trite relationships amidst the endless destruction is absurd. At one point a character gives the finger — I think to the audience.

I don’t root for many fails to do poorly at the box office, but I’m rooting hard against this one. (I met Ava Gardner on the set of “Earthquake,” so I don’t hate all disaster films.) If “2012” succeeds, we’ll have a deluge of crap. It won’t be the Rapture; it will be the Evacuation.

Categories: Entertainment