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Floria Sigismondi
Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning, Michael Shannon, Stella Maeve, Scout Taylor-Compton, Alia Shawkat, Riley Keough
Writing Credits:
Floria Sigismondi, Cherie Currie (book)

It's 1975 And They're About To Explode.

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), 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.

Box Office:
$10 million.
Opening Weekend
$805.115 thousand on 244 screens.
Domestic Gross
$3.571 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 106 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 7/20/2010

• Audio Commentary with Musician Joan Jett and Actors Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart
• “Plugged In: Making the Film” Featurette
• “The Runaways” Featurette
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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The Runaways [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 26, 2010)

In an era better known for seminal acts like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols, the Runaways staked their own claim to fame as arguably the first successful all-female rock band. That’s good enough to earn them their own biopic: 2010’s The Runaways.

The film covers a pretty standard plot for this kind of tale. Set in 1975, Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) wants to rock. When she sees producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) at a club, she pesters him to get her break. He sees some potential, so he matches Joan with drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve) to find out what they can do.

Joan and Sandy connect musically, so Kim builds a band around them. He recruits Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton) on lead guitar and Robin (Alia Shawkat) on bass, but they need a singer. They find Bowie-obsessed blonde jail-bait bombshell Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) and fit her into the group. This starts the band on a path to success – and eventual dissolution.

While I have no doubt there’s a good movie to be made about the band, The Runaways isn’t it. Based on Currie’s autobiography, the film displays a rather Cherie-centric orientation. Jett gets decent play, but she still remains subordinate, and the other three barely manage to feel like cameos. (Apparently the producers couldn’t get participation from the real Lita Ford, though she at least agreed to limited rights; “Robin” is a totally fictional character who replaces real-life bassist Jackie Fox.)

Though I don’t expect the film to treat all five Runaways – and manager Fowley – equally, the imbalance definitely affects the tale in a negative way, especially because Currie remains ill-defined. Even with all that screen time, Cherie never turns into a character we understand – or about whom we care. We see her troubled relationship with her alcoholic father and her social-climbing mother, but we don’t get much of a feel for her life or personality otherwise. Cherie quickly jumps from shy outsider to drug-addled sexpot, with little logic to go along with the changes.

Granted, any film that tries to condense a band’s entire career into 106 minutes will almost automatically seem severely abridged. Nonetheless, I think Runaways could’ve fleshed out its characters and situations better than it does. The band goes from rehearsing in a trailer to playing gigs to stardom in what feels like two weeks of real time, and that just doesn’t make sense.

Of course, if the movie wanted to depict the band’s growth, it might need to sacrifice long, languid shots of stoned musicians, and we can’t have that! Runaways straddles the fence between standard biopic and artsy tone poem, without success in either way. Most of the time, it shows the band’s rise and fall, but it diverges into those spacy “artistic” bits that just don’t fit. At least when the flick attempts a standard narrative, it threatens to become interesting; the less literal parts feel awkward and unconvincing.

To some degree, Runaways feels like a coming out party for Fanning. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – what better way could Fanning declare herself ready for adult roles? To her credit, she does just fine in the part. Yeah, she seems a little over the top at times, but I don’t blame Fanning. The character requires some melodrama, and at least she seems more subdued than Shannon; he swallows whole clumps of scenery at a time.

But not in a bad way, as Fowley was clearly one of those “larger than life” personalities who requires such grandstanding from an actor. At least he offers some much-needed personality to this often anonymous film.

Though the top billed actor, Stewart often feels left on the sidelines. Currie gets most of the on-screen attention, and Fowley’s wildness means that he becomes prominent whenever the camera smells him. Jett comes across without much personality, but Stewart still manages to enliven the role as written. She makes me wish poor Joan had more to do, and since the real Jett acted as executive producer, I’m a bit surprised the movie character plays such a relatively small role.

But she does, and the flick suffers for it. To a large degree, Runaways feels like a cliché. It just takes the elements we expect from this sort of movie, tosses them in a blender, and hopes we swallow it. I didn’t. I can’t say I actively disliked the movie, but it was too bland and ill-defined to make an impact on me.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C+

The Runaways appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. While not stellar, the image usually seemed fine.

Sharpness only occasionally betrayed any concerns. A few shots came across as a little soft, but the majority of the flick seemed well-defined and concise. No jagged edges or shimmering materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws also remained absent.

Colors tended to be a bit oversaturated and heavy, but this was a stylistic choice. The movie wanted a dense Seventies feel and it achieved that goal, though it also threw in some cold blues to reflect scenes that involved mental/physical distress. Overall, the hues appeared somewhat unattractive, but I thought the Blu-ray replicated them as desired. Blacks were decent to good, and shadows remained acceptable. Some low-light shots came across as a bit dark, but those weren’t a big concern. All of this formed a reasonably solid presentation.

As expected, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Runaways favored music. The many rock songs showed good spread across the front and rear speakers, so they added a lot to the presentation. Effects also generated useful material, especially in clubs or during storms. Though the soundfield didn’t dazzle, it opened up the environments well.

I also felt sound quality seemed good. Speech was always concise and crisp, with no edginess or other issues. Effects showed fine clarity and vivacity, and music worked nicely. The songs came across as desired, and they especially sounded good in concert settings. I felt the audio suited the film.

Among the extras, the main attraction comes from an audio commentary with musician Joan Jett and actors Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart. All three sit together to discuss facts and movie fiction, characters and performances, music, period details, and a few other production areas.

I expected the worst from this track, as I feared it’d be little more than happy talk and fluff. Some of that occurs, but we get a reasonable amount of content along the way. The best moments come from Jett; she includes some cool insights and reflections on the truth behind the movie. I wish we got more from Jett; the actors do fine, but Jett delivers the strongest comments. Though the track still sags at times, it has enough info to merit a listen.

Two featurettes ensue. Plugged In: Making the Film goes for 15 minutes, 37 seconds and includes notes from Stewart, Fanning, author/musician Cherie Currie, producers Bill Pohlad and John Linson, director Floria Sigismondi, music supervisor George Drakoulias, production designer Eugenio Caballero and actor Michael Shannon. The show looks at the movie’s roots and development, story and characters, cast and performances, musical elements, production design and period details, and what Sigismondi brought to the project.

“Plugged” has enough going for it to surpass the standards of the usual promotional featurette. It’s nice to hear from the real Currie, and we get a smattering of good details about the production. This never threatens to become a great piece, but it’s worthwhile.

The Runaways lasts a mere two minutes, 19 seconds. It shows Fanning, Stewart, Currie, Sigismondi, and Shannon. We find a few minor thoughts about the story, cast and characters. Unlike “Plugged”, this is nothing more than promotional fluff. Skip it.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Chloe, The Square, The Bounty Hunter, Welcome to the Rileys and Stimp the Yard: Homecoming. Under Previews, we find additional promos for The Pillars of the Earth, Harry Brown, Get Low and Youth in Revolt. No trailer for Runaways pops up here.

At no point does The Runaways threaten to become a bad film, but it also fails to deliver the spirit and verve to suit its subject matter. The movie feels oddly restrained and unfocused, with too many clichés and too little life. The Blu-ray offers good picture and audio along with a respectable roster of supplements. I want to like the flick, but it leaves me cold.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.1428 Stars Number of Votes: 7
5 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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