By now I expect you’ve seen Prometheus. I know. I know. I’m sorry. Me too. I don’t know what they were thinking either… I’ve had more discussions about that film than any other this year, including Avengers Assemble. The difference being, I actually liked Avengers Assemble. Loved it, even. Not only did it look good, but through and through, it actually was good. Prometheus, on the other hand, like virtually every other Ridley Scott movie, was terribly pretty and diverting, but shallow as a puddle and the more you think about it, the less you come to like it. Damn thinking. If it wasn’t for my brain, I would enjoy so many more movies. Take this next one…
Rock of Ages (12A)
Loosely based on ten thousand earlier movies with the same plot, together with a sprinkle of inspiration from Journey’s cheesy audience-pleaser Don’t Stop Believin’, Rock of Ages is the cinematic equivalent of a Best of the Eighties rock music mix tape with the sparkle of a studded leather jacket and the class of a drunken hen night.
I blame ABBA. It was Mamma Mia! that revealed to struggling producers the world over that a stage and subsequent movie musical could be quickly and lucratively strung together using pre-existing chart favourites. Why write a musical from scratch when you can slap a nonsense plot over The Best of Queen and create something akin to tourist flypaper?
Rock of Ages is a guilty pleasure. That’s the phrase with the most positive spin. Yes, it’s nonsense, but it knows it. Even revels in it. So there’s fun to be had, if you’re willing and able to switch off the old brainbox for a spell. Think Glee: The Next Generation with a slightly older cast, looser morals and a larger budget, broader humour and rose-coloured Eighties stylings that both mock and pay tribute to that terrible decade.
The year is 1987. There’s a small town girl (Julianne Hough) with big dreams, waiting for her break while working as a waitress in a struggling LA rock club, falling for a local, long-haired warbler (Diego Boneta) with comparable ambitions. Around this romantic core orbits a galaxy of sterotypes, among them partying club owner Dennis (Alec Baldwin), his sidekick Lonny (Russell Brand), rock legend Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), his sleazy agent Paul (Paul Giamatti), horny journalist Constance (Malin Akerman) and anti-everything moraliser Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
Everyone sings. Some even dance. Most of the numbers are musical mash-ups of songs that sounded better before being run through the Glee machine. But it’s vibrant, high energy stuff that might well win you over, particularly if you’re of a mind to be simply entertaintained, and a little bit drunk besides, which certainly wouldn’t hurt. With a running length that breaks the two-hour mark, however, the movie outstays its welcome by a good half hour, and wouldn’t have suffered from a half-dozen fewer ear-splitting production numbers.
Cast-wise, it’s a mixed bag. Hough and Boneta I had a lot of time for. Baldwin amuses me no matter what he does, though if I never see him dance again, it’ll still be too soon. Giamatti I would likewise watch opening a can of beans, so he worked for me. As did Cruise, I must admit, as an off-his-rocker sex god superstar. Total gimmick casting that, but he doesn’t do half bad, though his voice has no edge to it. Jeers to Brand, the worst thing in the movie, a self-conscious, jarring presence it could have done without. Fingers crossed America will soon tire of him too. And I remain on the fence about Zeta-Jones, who played it a bit too panto for me, but really, who could blame her? The whole thing’s so ridiculous and over-the-top, so willfully out of control that expecting sense, stability or consistancy from it is like asking dynamite to explode less messily.
Broader than the proverbial bean and utterly unrestrained, deeply flawed and unoriginal but undeniably fun and occasionally fabulous, Rock of Ages delivers an epic wall of sound and vision, of tuneful anthems, silly jokes and the biggest hair since Dynasty. Though not a patch on director Adam Shankman’s Hairspray, I didn’t hate it.
Also at the Cinema…
The films of director David Cronenberg are, as a rule, complex, challenging, talky, strange and slow. Notice I didn’t say fun. Well, Cosmopolis (15) is no exception, the near-plotless tale of a day in the life of a detached billionaire. Maybe I’d have enjoyed it more if it didn’t star Robert Pattinson, who’s in virtually every shot, but is not an actor I have ever enjoyed on screen. Even if it had starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, though, I’d have still probably dozed off. Maybe I’ll watch it again, one day, when I’m in a more thinky mood. I probably won’t though.
A smart but only semi-successful psychological thriller with a Seventies vibe, Red Lights (15) comes from the Spanish director of Buried, Rodrigo Cortes, and tells the twisty-turny tale of paranormal investigators (Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy) who set their minds on exposing a celebrity psychic (Robert DeNiro) as a fraud. Great cast and interesting stylings but for me, it just didn’t come together or hold my interest over its increasingly drawn out two hour length.
Besides, wouldn’t you really rather go to see Jaws (12A) again? Re-released or rather unleashed and still, all things considered, the greatest monster movie ever made. I’m gonna need a bigger blog.