music

Ricki and the Flash: buyer beware

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Please note, this article is my own and was first published on Re:Views Magazine; view original publication here.

I have incredibly mixed views about this film. Is there anything special about the storyline? Not at all. In fact, it’s made up almost entirely of tired clichés: predictable to its very core. Basically, it’s the story of an estranged mother who tries to reconnect with her children after abandoning them to become a rock star. Insert eye roll here.

The only thing that makes this film interesting is the fact that the aging rock star is played by none other than three-time Academy Award winner  Meryl Streep. Ricki Rendazzo (formerly Linda Brummel) is broke, disconnected, and dresses almost exclusively in black—complete with heavy eyeliner, numerous ear piercings and edgy braids. But when her ex-husband Pete contacts her about their daughter Julie’s crumbling marriage, Ricki is forced to confront her family, her present, and her numerous past mistakes. It’s worth nothing that Streep’s actual daughter, Mamie Gummer, plays Streep’s fictional daughter in the film. To be perfectly honest, Mamie Gummer is the best thing about this film. She’s sassy, a smartass, an emotional wreck and says it like it is regardless of the consequences; it’s like looking in a mirror.

Slowly Ricki and Julie begin to bond (predictable). The rest of the family? Not so easy to tame (also predictable). Ricki has two sons, Josh and Adam. One reveals himself to be a homosexual to his long-lost mother, and the other is set to get married. But here’s the kicker: no one wants Ricki there at the wedding, least of all Ricki’s daughter-in-law-to-be. Ah, family drama. Eventually, of course, Ricki attends the wedding and makes things better through the thing she left her family for in the first place: music. Not that playing a few heartfelt songs at one’s wedding could make up for years of neglect, but okay. It’s a nice first attempt.

On the bright side, they do make some pretty good music—and Meryl Streep is actually singing and actually playing the guitar. Kudos.  Not that we’d expect any less, especially considering Ricki’s new love interest, guitarist Greg, is actually played renowned Australian musician Rick Springfield. From classic rock, to a pretty badass rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”, it works—though at times I did feel like the film was more music than movie. It is pretty sweet, though when Greg sells his very expensive guitar so Ricki can afford to go to her son’s wedding.

I was pleased to see issues like mental health and homosexuality explored, though I felt the film trivialised these topics frequently.  For instance, Julie—after discovering her husband had been  cheating on her— attempts to commit suicide. Subsequently, she is put onto medication and into therapy. Now here’s the part that makes my blood boil. Julie’s father Pete—Ricki’s ex-husband—actually cracks jokes about this. He cracks jokes about suicide. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out for you: DO NOT CRACK JOKES ABOUT SUICIDE! YOU DO NOT TREAT PEOPLE LIKE THAT! MAKING LIGHT OF THE SITUATION DOES NOT HELP, YOU IGNORANT ASSHOLE!

This same character also proves himself to be a misogynist; he tells Ricki “you can’t have two dreams”. Basically, he’s saying if you want to be a mother, you can’t have a career. But it’s all well and good for him to go out and play businessman. Did we suddenly revert back to the stone ages with this awful character?  

To say I’m disappointed in Ricki and the Flash is an understatement. My grandmother did thoroughly enjoy the film—though she probably doesn’t analyse the film from a philosophy student’s point of view. This film has so far only grossed $35.9 million at the box office, with a budget of $18 million. Meryl Streep, the music, and her daughter are the only redeeming factors of this film. I almost want to ask for my money back. Damn you, irresistible Meryl Streep!

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Get Unhinged

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10930865_753727384740994_8226110819177030516_nLife is too serious—sometimes you just need to have a laugh; a philosophy Wollongong’s own heavy punk band The Unhinged live by.

“That’s our aim,” said James Flint, the band’s lead vocalist. “We just want everyone to have as much fun as we are.”

Think heavy. Think energy. Think fun. Think booze—your ideal party scene. That’s The Unhinged.

“We really just take the piss out of everything,” said James.

“Anything we can have a laugh about.”

It all began with a simple ad on Gumtree by James about 12 months ago, and has now become a band with a growing following—along with an upcoming East Coast tour.

“We’re pretty happy to see where it leads,” said lead guitarist Paul Appleton.

“None of us have big ambitions to be rock stars and make millions.  In reality that won’t happen.”

“It’s just something to forget about your day job and get into something you really enjoy doing.”

As the band crack open some beers, a very important step for rehearsal preparations, you can tell these guys are all great mates who love taking the piss out of each other.

Brandt Cattell, who drives a forklift by day, is the band’s bassist, and has been playing for six years. Well, trying to play, according to James. Brandt was the last member to join the band.

“Thought I’d give it a try and have a jam,” he said.

“They said I can come back, so I’ve been here ever since. Haven’t told me to piss off, so I must be doing something right.”

“Not that we haven’t told him to piss off,” James corrected. “It just hasn’t stuck yet.”

Paul Appleton, lead guitarist, is the most experienced member of the band, having been playing for over 20 years. Paul’s day job in clothing manufacturing allows the band to get the know-how of the merchandise business.

Michael Davies is the band’s drummer, and has been playing since high school. Mick works as a bartender, and according to his mates is an amateur comedian and quite frankly, “a top bloke”. Mick also once had a candle chucked at his head during a Sydney gig by a junkie—though the bigger question here is: who on Earth carries around a candle in the city?

Lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist James Flint works as a chef by day and is probably most remembered for his sense of humour.

“James got naked and mooned his ass at me once,” said Mick. “It was only embarrassing for his missus.”

THEUNHINGED

The band has come a long way since their first rough gig at Corrimal Hotel in July last year; Mick’s reaction was the general consensus.

“I was shitting myself,” he recalls. “I’d never played in front of an audience before.”

That particular gig was shaky as a result of an unfortunate pie incident. Said pie nearly cost the band their entire gig; it managed to put Paul in the hospital the night before.

“I bought a pie at lunch time and choked on it. Had a piece of meat stuck 2cm down my throat.” Paul remembers.

“It was nerve-wracking,” Brandt said, remembering the gig that almost didn’t happen.  “Didn’t know If he was going to make it.”

Understandably, Paul was no good for singing at their first gig. The band remember it as “a bit of fun”.

“We got to take his hospital gown off, too,” James insisted.

Like a true blue Aussie, Paul continues to eat pie to this very day.

The band have come a long way since then, with their 1st anniversary show highlighting their success; the audience jumped on stage while they played.

“For a band that’s been playing for 12 months, I think we’re going pretty good, really.” James said.

“People come to our shows and sing our songs. That’s always a good thing—it’s a start.”

The upcoming East Coast tour in May will be exciting and exhausting—seven shows in seven days, with a home show in Wollongong’s Dicey Riley’s on May 9, though the band are probably most excited for their Melbourne show.

“It’s going to be nuts there,” said Paul. “Everyone says the music scene is good there.”

James is also keen for the Gerringong show. “Everywhere else we’ve already played before. Well, except for Canberra. But fuck Canberra,” he joked.

The band are also set to play for the annual festival Creepfest on June 20 at the Corrimal Hotel, along with some other pretty big bands.

“Clowns is a massive band out of Melbourne who is headlining,” said James. “They’re pretty fucking good.”

The Unhinged members are happy to see where the flow takes them.

“If we can make a living off it, we’d be happy.” Said James.

“It’s a pretty hard gig, so we don’t have huge expectations.”

“At the same time, the sky is the limit, really.”

If you asked the band what their sound was, they’d each rattle off 10 different bands, and none would be the same—except for The Ramones and NoFX. They don’t really have a clue about “sub-genres”, and instead call themselves punk—it makes it easier.

Music is their outlet. Their way to communicate what irritates them about daily life—as well as more important issues.

“Drunk Again” is about alcohol abuse, and “Bully” is an anti-bullying song.

“’Deal with the Devil’ is about not selling your soul to a job, and actually enjoying your life, rather than working 60 hours a week and not enjoying it,” said Paul.

Even “Parking Inspector” ties into this theme, James said.

“No one wants to get a ticket off a parking inspector; it pisses you off”.

“We just play stuff people will get into and enjoy.” Brandt said.

“If there’s a bit of a message in there, cool. But we just want people to enjoy themselves and have a laugh.”

“We’re doing a public service,” Paul laughed.

Have fun, kick back, vent, and be able to have a laugh at yourself. That’s The Unhinged. What could be any better than that?

Get their demo here.