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Posted on July 5, 2015 by James Shults

Release Date: September 5, 2013

Director: Randall Miller

Overall Rating: Ugly

The story of Hilly Kristal, the owner of CBGB, a New York city club that was the kick off spot for many punk and rock & roll bands and musicians throughout the 1980s and beyond.

The Good

There’s a moment where a young, awkward man is on stage at CBGB. He says into the microphone, perhaps a little nervously, “We’re the ‘Talking Heads’. We live across the street.” That young man is, of course, David Byrne of the Talking Heads. The band then goes into their “Psycho Killer”.

That’s a taste of the famous musicians that come through CBGB. There are many others, including Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, the Ramones and Blondie. It’s quite interesting to see the cavalcade of stars that get their start at this dumpy New York bar, CBGB.

The Bad

There’s a side story in CBGB that circles around the founder of the magazine “Punk”, created by John Holmstrom. It’s a side story that adds some flavor to the movie but doesn’t have any pay off of its own. Was the magazine a success? Was the magazine part of CBGB’s success? These are questions that I had about this side story that were never answered.

The Ugly

The owner of CBGB, Hilly Kristal, is often painted as a terrible business person and, worse, a terrible father. On the other hand, he’s also painted as a caring, generous character. In the end, I’m not sure if he’s someone to be respected or reviled. Maybe neither. Maybe he was just very lucky to be in the right spot at the right time.

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