The Runaways (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
July 14, 2010 by Dennis Amith
A film that truly is all about ‘Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll’! “The Runaways” definitely rocks on Blu!
Images courtesy of © 2010 Runaways Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: The Runaways
DURATION: 144 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:35:1), English, 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Narration, Subtitles: English, English SDH
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: R (For Language, Drug Use and Sexual Content)
RELEASE DATE: July 20, 2010
Based on the book “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” by Cherie Currie
Screenplay written and Directed by Floria Sigismondi
Executive Producer: Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, Brian Young
Producer: Art Linson, John Linson, Bill Pholad
Co-Producer: David Grace
Associate Producer: Jonathan Sanford, Sabrina Sipantzi
Cinematography by Benoit Debie
Film Editing by Richard Chew
Casting by Wendy O’Brien
Production Design by Eugenio Caballero
Set Decoration by Fontaine Beauchamp Hebb
Costume Design by Carol Beadle
Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett
Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie
Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley
Stella Maeve as Sandy West
Scout Taylor-Compton as Lita Ford
Alia Shawkat as Robin
Riley Keough as Marie Currie
Johnny Lewis as Scottie
Tatum O’Neal as Cherie’s Mom
Brett Cullen as Cherie’s Dad
Hannah Marks as Tammy
Jill Andre as Aunt Evie
Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning star as Joan Jett and Cherie Currie in the music-fueled coming of age story of the groundbreaking, all-girl rock band, THE RUNAWAYS. They fall under the Svengali-like influence of rock impresario Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon, Pearl Harbor), who turns the rebellious Southern California kids into a rock group with outrageous success. With its tough-chick image and raw talent, the band quickly earns a name for itself and so do its two leads: Joan is the band’s pure rock n’ roll heart, while Cherie, with her Bowie-Bardot looks, is the sex kitten.
Years before Joan Jett was rocking on MTV with her mega hit “I Love Rock n’ Roll” and Lita Ford with “Kiss Me Deadly”, there was The Runaways, the all-female rock band that took Japan by storm (and also achieved recognition in the US) during the the mid-to-late ’70s and would eventually open up doors for female rockers and showing that young ladies can rock on stage and also can make great music!
The Runaways continues to have a strong following even though the group had broke up in the 1978 and interest in the band continues to grow stronger after the theatrical release of “The Runaways”.
The band was born with the help of producer-turned-manager Kim Fowley with the idea to form an all-girl band. A concept that was unheard of at the time and would feature teenagers vocalist/guitarist Joan Jett; drummer Sandy West; bassist Micki Steele (who would leave the band and would later be in the band “The Bangles”) who was later replaced by Peggy Fox and later with Jackie Fox and then with Vicki Blue; guitarist Lita Ford and lead vocalist Cherie Currie.
And in rock history, The Runaways were a major hit as they performed at sold out concerts, headlining for Cheap Trick, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Van Halen. These young teens at the time embodied sex, drugs and rock n’ roll and now their story of how they became a band and focus on the lives of Cherie Currie and Joan Jett has been made into a biopic adapted from vocalist Cherie Currie’s book “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” and made to film courtesy of writer and director Floria Sigismondi (known for directing music videos for Sheryl Crow and David Bowie).
In the film, we learn of how Cherie Currie (played by Dakota Fanning) grew up in a home with her twin sister and lived away from her father and lived with a mother who is planning to get married to Indonesia. While Cherie’s sister Marie (played by Riley Keough) is the girl who is known to have fun, Cherie was a teen who was entranced with glam-rock ala David Bowie. Joan Jett (played by Kristen Stewart) was seen as a young teen who always loved music and playing a guitar and no matter how many people told her that girls don’t play electric guitar, she wanted to prove them wrong. So, eventually she took the opportunity to meet with vibrant producer Kim Fowley about being part of an all-female rock band.
The concept of an all-female rock band interested Fowley and knew that he had to find teenage girls who can rock on stage but also be marketed as a group who can attract the young guys by their performance visually and musically. So, with the musicians all selected for the band, it was time to find a visual vocalist and sure enough, Cherie Currie had the look of a Bridgit Bardot and can embody the sexiness that the band needed.
And thus “The Runaways” are born and we see the band go through struggles, especially when vocalist Cherie Currie starts to become used for her sexiness to promote the band and easily causing jealousy with her fellow bandmates, while Joan Jett tries to keep the band together and continue to play music. And like most biopics on ’70s rock stars, the fall from grace due to the heavy drugs. The film literally embodies the phrase “Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll” during the mid-70s.
This is the story of “The Runaways” based on Cherie Currie’s account and also with Joan Jett (as Executive Producer) and giving fans an account of what led to Currie leaving the popular band during its peak and what happened to Currie and Jett right after.
“The Runaways” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1) and sports a vibrant and colorful pallet. It’s a very colorful film with scenes that tend to experiment on various cuts especially during the band member’s drugged out euphoria. There is a good amount of grain present in the film which was very cool and the blacks were nice and deep. From Kristen Stewart’s black hair ala Joan Jett to the black leather jacket or the hot pink jacket, to Dakota Fanning ala Cherie Currie in her red outfit or her black lingerie, colors really come together in this film and is presented very well in HD.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“The Runaways” is presented in English 5.1 DTS HD-MA. For the most part, the film contains a lot of dialogue which is center and front channel driven, I wasn’t expecting too much in terms ambient sounds in the background but I did expect more from the concert sequences during the film.
The concert portions definitely utilize the surrounds especially scenes with crowds but I didn’t really notice any significant use of the low frequency or rear surrounds. But overall, dialogue and music is clear but it would have been great to have more of an immersive lossless soundtrack for the concert portions.
Subtitles are in English and English SDH.
“The Runaways” comes with the following special features (in HD, English Stereo with English subtitles):
- movieIQ(tm)+sync featuring “The Runaways” Playlist – While watching the film, you can have playlists and websites e-mailed to you.
- Commentary with Joan Jett, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning – A very interesting audio commentary. Joan Jett giving us some idea of what she remembers in reality compared to the film, Kristen Stewart absolutely blunt about what she liked about the film and scenes that she didn’t like and Dakota Fanning discussing various scenes that she took part in and the challenges.
- Plugged In: Making the Film – (15:37) Author (and former The Runaways vocalist) Cherie Currie talks about how her book became a film. Interviews with the director, producers and talent in regards to the film and bringing the life of The Runaways to the big screen.
- The Runaways – (2:19) A short featurette about “The Runaways” and interviews with the main talent.
May you be the young at heart, reminiscing of that time when you first heard of The Runaways music or discovering a band that opened the doors for many female rockers, The Runaways represented a time when an all-female band was non-existent.
And The Runaways received recognition for their “screw you; we do what want!” style of attitude. Heavy hitting music, a visual style (each member demonstrated their own style visually and musically) and for any rock n’ roll fan, you can’t help but just be in awe of what these young ladies at the time accomplished.
I personally enjoyed “The Runaways”. I grew up around the time, heard it on the radio as a child and having been a fan of Joan Jett and Lita Ford’s work, I was definitely highly anticipating the film after I saw the preview trailers.
And I wasn’t disappointed at all. Especially showing how these young teenagers at the time wanted to defy what the public thought of rock n’ roll being a man’s world. So, it was good to see how life was for the band in the beginning and unfortunately, through the turmoil that ended the band.
It’s important to note that this film is an adaptation of Cherie Currie’s book “Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway” and it’s not really a biopic in the sense of life for the five members of the band. It focuses on Currie and Joan Jett (who was the Executive Producer of the film) and due to the bad blood that still exists within the band members, Lita Ford made it clear she has nothing to do with this film.
And also because of a legal suit between Joan Jett and Jackie Fox, Fox also had no involvement in the film (it’s important to also note that Jackie Fox’s name was changed to a generic bassist named Robin). Drummer Sandy West passed away in 2006 after a long battle with lung cancer but her rights were given to the making of the film alongside band manager Kim Fowley.
Needless to say, the drama between the band members continue to exist today and thus, the film’s script had to be modified. And although based on the perspective of Cherie Currie, Currie admits that certain parts of the film didn’t happen the same way in real life and Joan Jett has concurred. But emphasized that the film does capture what the band did go through and how female rockers proved to the music world that they can do it and also showcasing the pitfalls of being a rockstar and also exploring one’s own sexuality.
But I really enjoyed the film and its overall look and feel. Granted, there is no way Kristen Stewart can replace Joan Jett but she sure does do a good job trying to emulate the rockstar on stage and onscreen. According to the audio commentary, Stewart watched her videos on YouTube and by listening to her comments, she was very astute in her observations of how various members of the group interacted, walked and performed on stage, especially Fanning’s performance as Cherie Currie.
As for Dakota Fanning, this is where it’s hard for me to comment on the actress’s performance because I’ve watched a lot of Joan Jett interviews and performances in my lifetime to know and see how the attitude and passion for the rock music was emulated by Stewart but I really didn’t know anything about Currie outside of the music. But I will say that I have always admired Fanning’s commitment as an actress even when she was young and now as we watch her as a teenager.
It’s easy to forget that these young women were in their teens when they began The Runaways and while watching the film and seeing them embrace the sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, they seem much mature for their years especially when I see their performance in 1977 in Japan. While watching the actresses take on their real-life counterparts onscreen, while Currie seemed much more mature, Fanning looked as a teenager who got caught up into the rockstar lifestyle and nearly was consumed by it.
As for the music performances by the ladies, as mentioned earlier, there is no way Stewart and Fanning can come close to the originals. Currie had so much fire and sexuality in her voice and while Stewart did a remarkable job, Joan Jett is such a magnificent performer that she’s hard to emulate. In fact, Stewart even takes some jabs at some her scenes that seem out of place in the film during the audio commentary.
It’s a shame that the other women of the band had no part in the film and that some of the members have been estranged from each other for decades, because it would have been good to see how Lita Ford and Jackie Fox would have contributed to the film and perhaps we would have gotten a true biopic of the actual band from all members points of view than just focusing on Currie and parts of Jett.
Also, it would have been nice for the film to at least give acknowledgment to the other two members and showing what they have done with their lives (Lita Ford went on to become a successful solo artist and Jackie Fox went on to become a lawyer) and possibly the most surprising is no dedication to Sandy West (even the talent and Joan Jett were surprised by not seeing a dedication in the credits as discussed in the audio commentary).
But overall, despite not being a true biopic of the band and a film based on Cherie Currie’s book and perspective, I was pleased by “The Runaways” and enjoyed it. Love the vibrant visuals, trippy drugged out scenes and that ’70s rock vibe. And of course, for anyone who grew up listening to The Runaways and music of that time, just hearing it again and seeing it onscreen without it being to schlocky or kitschy.
I was really getting into the music of the film and since watching the film, have been listening and watching old ’70s performances by the band online and even now wanting to buy the original soundtrack for the film. The Blu-ray release doesn’t have too many special features but the audio commentary was definitely entertaining.
If you are a fan of the Runaways, their music or wanting to watch an enjoyable rock n’ roll film, definitely give “The Runaways” a chance!
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