From the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Hendrix, the Who, the Troggs, the Turtles, the Beach Boys, the Yardbirds, the Seekers, the list goes on ... nearly 60 cuts in what may be the coolest music video masquerading as a movie ever.
Filmmaker Richard Curtis, the hopeless romantic behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill" and "Love Actually," has written and directed yet another love letter, this one signed, sealed, delivered to the early rock era just as a tidal wave of groundbreaking British bands began hitting.
And it's hard not to feel the love as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bill Nighy, Rhys Ifans, "Shaun of the Dead's" Nick Frost and others in the groovy ensemble spin this somewhat true but mostly tall tale of Parliament's fight to crush rock radio and the rogue broadcasters who went to sea to keep it afloat.
The story is set in the mid-'60s, when U.K. politicians, with Kenneth Branagh's Sir Alistair Dormandy as chief twit, decided to take down the nascent music trend, because, really your lordship, two hours a week of that blasted drivel on the BBC is more than enough.
But those radio rebels quickly figured out that all they had to do was refit an oceangoing trawler with a towering antenna or two, drop anchor in international waters and par-tay. Parliament was not pleased, and a most curious clash of politics and culture ensued, even by British standards.
Not one to let too many facts gum up the works, Curtis spends most of the movie at sea having a grand time with his disc jockeys and his mix tapes.
A legendary American DJ called The Count (Hoffman) is the scruffy top dog in this animal house until the return of Gavin, with a velvet throat and a velvet coat (Ifans, probably best remembered for being naked in "Notting Hill," is just as amusing clothed).
There are times, more than a few, when Curtis seems to run out of plot before he runs out of song rights. To keep the music pumping, he cuts in slices of rock fans having their own "rock moments" -- with transistors hidden under pillows, dancing across the commons, jiving in the kitchen, just about any place anyone could move and groove turns up in musical shorts tossed in everywhere. Depending on your personal appetite for all things '60s, you may tire of the hit parade before Curtis, though I didn't.
Given the current thriving state of rock 'n' roll, you can guess at the ending, but the story's not really the point. This is a message movie, and the message of "Pirate Radio" is pretty simple: All you need is love, and you can get by with a little help from your friends -- even if you can't use anything from the Beatles catalog.