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Sing Like an American Idol, Women's Edition
Everything You Need to Sing the Hits!

(Discounted Paperback (with CD) from Amazon)
. "Pirate Radio" AKA, "The Boat That Rocked"

Now, here's a story about a group of radicals defying their government that we can all get behind. All that's needed is a love of Rock and Roll and belief in the inevitability of music defeating its censors. Long live what these boys achieved in the 1960s.

While the flower child movement was alive and well in the U.S. of A., when The Beatles were expanding the musical horizons of America and while Cameron Crowe was doing the American version of the rise of Rock and Roll in "Almost Famous" (about a boy coming of age in the midst of his musical gods), writer-director Richard Curtis ("Love, Actually") shows us the second hotbed of rock.

This is the land of dukes, duchesses and prime ministers where progressive movements are banned, establishment officials thinking such alien sounds and free-spirited impulses corrupt their soil and where originality is to be suspected. So they enacted laws. Only, as we know, laws are only as good as the people's willingness to accept them. When a law goes against nature, it is, as this satiric voyage suggests, doomed.

Since broadcasting R&R from the mainland was now a crime, a group of rock-crazed DJs anchor themselves on a ship in the Northern Atlantic and send out the beat around the clock. Their following is immense, growing and fiercely devoted, from tykes to taxpayers. If the heavy libraries of LPs aboard didn't sink this ship, the government was going to have a tough time scuttling it.

The motley band of rock rebel disc jockeys is more or less led by "The Count" (his grizzled overweightness Philip Seymour Hoffman), the only American in the bunch; Quentin, the boss of Radio Rock who was more or less the master of the ship (splendid Bill Nighy); Gavin, considered the icon of British DJs (Rhys Ifans); the laconic Midnight Mark (Tom Wisdom); sexual magnet Dave (Nick Frost); Angus (Rhys Darby); the hermetic Bob (Ralph Brown); "Thick" Kevin (sometimes labelled "Thikc"); the ship's lesbian cook Felicity (Katherine Parkinson) and Young Carl (Tom Sturridge) in the Patrick Fugit part from "Almost Famous" who comes of age despite a bizarre incident of sexual betrayal. A queerer log of mates would be hard to find in any boat steerage with Carl as the spot of normality through whose eyes we experience the random and randy range of personalities and their curious romantic behaviors on this boat. In a mystifying, almost sociopathic marital trick, January Jones as Elenore comes aboard to marry one DJ on the boat because she's in love with another. Don't ask. It's a horrid and off-putting part of the narrative.

Carl takes his turns at the center of the drama by pursuing two things: his personal deflowering in the arms of pretty Marianne (Talulah Riley) and the identity of a father whom he never knew and who is purported to be among the DJs aboard. His mother Charlotte, played by a ditsy but classy Emma Thompson, reluctantly helps him out on this latter quest during a cameo visit.

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The DVD
The Blu-ray Edition DVD
The movie Soundtrack
"The Boat that Rocked" Soundtrack (2-CD Set)
"101 Pirate Radio Hits"

Back in the halls of justice, minister Sir Alistair Dormandy (Kenneth Branagh), with the assistance of eager-to-please staffer Twatt (Jack Davenport), keeps plotting a way to sink the HMS "Radio Rock" with some kind of new law that will make the operation illegal and protect the established standards and the morality of the impressionable.

The music that cuts through that sorry obstructionism assures these guerilla warriors of the microphone their own audience adulation, and they live to bring the sound to the airwaves with The Beatles, The Stones, the Beach Boys, Dusty Springfield, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Smokey Robinson, David Bowie, Otis Redding, Cat Stevens and others of their dynamic aural ilk.

Though it gets a bit stuffy belowdecks at times, the soundtrack, and the comedic package of oddball humanity that keeps its vibe going, remains buoyant.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Rhys Ifans as DJ god Gavin putting a spell on his fans.
Tom Sturridge watches.

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