Tuesday, June 26, 2012

rock of ages

It was my thirtieth birthday last Wednesday, and I was determined to take myself and the kidlet out and do A Thing during the day instead of sitting around incessantly shaking a stuffed robot at her and singing songs about Masterchef contestants. Unfortunately, the only option was the terrible-looking Rock of Ages (I’ve already done 1987 once, and that was enough.) But after a scare where we thought the babes in arms movie option was instead Adam Sandler laugh-an-hour fest That’s My Boy, suddenly it seemed like a perfectly serviceable film, and, thanks to a lovely new mother-type friend who also jumped at the chance to go to the flicks during daytime hours, off we went to see it with our best perms and midriff-baring band t-shirts. (Haha I’m kidding, my stomach looks like I was in the last Freddy Kreuger movie.) 

Peachy blonde bubble of enthusiasm Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in Hollywood from the town of Dreamsquasher USA and within minutes is mugged then saved by mop of curly hair Drew (Diego Boneta), an employee of the famed Bourbon Room who also kindly nabs her a job there. Both are musicians, and the Bourbon Room is a haven for rock music lovers after giving Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, channelling Axl Rose et al) his big break. But the Room is in trouble, with owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin, greying) and his cohort Lonny (Russell Brand as the only person who didn’t need a wig) running out of cash and fame. In the meantime, Mayor Whitmore’s wife Patricia (Catherine Zeta-Jones, underused) is on a mission to destroy rock music because sex, Stacee is going through a career crisis, and Drew and Sherrie’s fledging relationship is threatened by Drew’s shot at fame. And all this is conveyed through songs you probably know the words to. 

While the music generally grated on me, it was a pretty entertaining film, relentless in its mashed-up tunes and enthusiastic actors. Tom Cruise is a good choice as Stacee, who is a tool, so you don’t have to force yourself to get behind him. He’s all excess, big-haired groupies and dragon-head codpieces, swanning about in a grotesque manner that will make you squirm and laugh and squirm. The singers are all passable to great, with Sherrie and Drew smiley endearing kids you want to see live happily ever after. The highlight, however, is the surprisingly touching relationship between Dennis and Lonny, two meathead looking dudes harbouring a lot of secret Feelings. The lowlight, though, is the other two hours of the movie. 

Rock of Ages is terrible. They should have just done a live covers concert and be done with it, because the plot is so thin on the ground I’m not sure why they bothered. One or two lines of dialogue are in between each song and are so earnest and ridiculous that you’ll sigh and wish for the next dose of Bon Jovi. There are decade errors like the hipster-style underpants worn by Malin Ackerman’s Rolling Stone journalist Constance Sack, who also suffers from a painful dose of cliché when she turns up in glasses and a hairclip and is only attractive, apparently, after she loses both. Patricia’s plan to demolish rock is never a threat, not even for a moment, and everyone seems to know it, making Zeta-Jones a pointless addition who also has the most redundant song and dance routine in a rendition of Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot that looks like it’s been choreographed by someone who never read the screenplay to see what was going on. (Lucky them.) Sherrie, down and out after leaving the Bourbon Room, stalks angrily out of a job at a diner when someone slaps her on the ass, only to go directly into a waitressing job at a strip club and then be told by boss Justice (Mary J Blige, talented but another unnecessary part) that the only way to get respect is to become a pole dancer. (Obviously pole dancers and everyone in the sex industry deserve respect, but deserving more than a waitress is a bizarre concept and has no relation to the rest of the movie anyway. I was tuning out completely by this point.) I also dislike the way the movie mocks the late-eighties angular-primary-colours pop that was blooming on the radio—anyone who makes fun of another’s musical taste is a jerk. As Stacee Jaxx’s agent, Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) is such a complete idiot that I assumed he deliberately wanted to be broke and despised. You know what, I actually have a lot of rage for this movie, I think I have to stop before I set my keyboard on fire. 

An adequate movie that you’ll enjoy more if you’re a fan of cock rock. If you’re not, watch it with a sarcastic friend for much more fun. I give it 500 out of 1987 years.

Monday, June 11, 2012


One of the cinemas at Hoyts Victoria Gardens has this perfect little oasis called the Crying Room. Maybe nine seats, soundproof walls and glass, tinny sound piped in through speakers, and the opportunity to take any small children you may have to see a film where someone’s helmet is melted onto their face. Yes, I am an amazing mother. 

Prometheus is a prequel of sorts to the Alien franchise, started by Ridley Scott and continued by numerous directors in varying levels of excellence and shambles detouring into the Predator universe. Seemingly deciding there was no way forward to pursue, Ridley jumped back into his unicorn-leather director’s chair and helmed a movie set before it all. Drs Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Devil’s Logan Marshall-Green) discover the world’s oldest cave drawings—edgy sketches by the skinny-loinclothed hipsters of 40,000 years ago—and one more piece of a puzzle they’d been collecting. Artworks from diverse cultures and times all had one thing in common: a constellation unable to be seen by the naked eye. Shaw believes she will find her maker in this place, and with a rocket full of shipmates (including a robot, a bureaucrat, some comic relief and a stack of dispensable people you won’t miss when they get splattered), funded by the Weyland Corporation they head off on the two-year journey to this planet. Will they find happiness, peace, and a flowery sunny utopia? Seems likely. 

Prometheus hasn’t been receiving the most favourable of reviews, and I can’t say I adored it either. There weren’t any moments of surprise in the film. Spoiler alert: they don’t find happiness, peace, and a flowery sunny utopia. They find dark caverns and goo and aliens so like sexual organs you won’t be able to do any bonking for days. (The penis-worm with the vagina-mouth is a good example noted by my friend Brett.) People have secret agendas on the mission but the agendas of the aliens themselves are never fully explained. Apparently Mr Scott wanted to leave a lot of loose ends to keep people interested in Prometheus 2: The Flubber Returns, but by the end I just assumed he’d done what I do frequently and interrupted his own story with a tangent and interrupted that and so on until he’d forgotten what he was originally talking about. Don’t worry, Ripley, it happens to the best of us. I don’t get paid tens of million dollars to do it though. While I’m on the whiny paragraph, I was thrown by the ship Prometheus itself: it has technology that far surpasses the 8-bit technology on Alien’s mining ship—I mean, my car has more advanced technology than the Nostromo—so even taking into account the fact that the Nostromo isn’t a luxury vessel it seems likely that anything that can make it into space will have a better font. But that’s not a huge problem—it’s not early-80s-Ridley’s fault that technology became amazing, and the audience would hardly believe shitty tech on a ship when our phones alone have Google Earth on them. I was also annoyed by the characters’ lack of emotions—their expressions when discovering alien lands were about as enthusiastic as when you discover a two-dollar coin in your car when you need to pay for parking. You know, pretty pleased, but nothing you’d talk about when you got home to your spouse. Their motivations were confusing at times, with crew member Millburn (a timid Rafe Spall) freaking out at the sight of a long-dead corpse then suddenly not being concerned about reaching out to the aforementioned penis-worm (and calling it “beautiful”, I mean, ew), and the ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba) not at all worried about leaving Millburn and tattooed redhead Fifield (an unfriendly Sean Harris) in a corpse-ridden hellhole overnight even when the storm keeping them apart only lasted long enough for an (excellent) action scene. The only character whose emotions seemed right was Weyland’s representative Vickers (Charlize Theron, stony), though I guessed her role on the ship right from the start. Most frustrating of all, a particular character undergoes some dramatic stomach surgery, limps around for a bit, then is suddenly sprinting about and flinging themselves onto ledges. I don’t care how advanced medical surgery is in eighty years...just no. 

On the upside, though, I was never bored, and the effects of the ship and the aliens and space itself were marvellous (and I saw it in 2D, for the record). There are numerous scenes of dramatic tension that had me clutching at arm rests and people’s hands. The stomach surgery I discussed above was so suspenseful that I was almost climbing the soundproof walls to get to the other end of the scene. All the bad reviews in the world weren’t enough to stop me from seeing this, and the many reviews that list what I’ve discussed above, and probably some smarter or more subtle flaws as well (apparently Holloway yells “Noomi!” instead of “Ellie!” during a particularly sandy part of the movie), shouldn’t be enough to stop you either. It’s not terrible, it’s just that the errors were numerous and obvious. Just about anyone who’s seen this will feel compelled to see the sequel to figure out what the hell’s going on—me included—so it can’t be that bad. Go in with low expectations and you might be pleasantly surprised. 

I give it forty out of a hundred jars of black primordial goo.