"Rock of Ages," Review: 1.5 out of 4
History has not been kind to the 80s and now neither has “Rock of Ages”, based on the Broadway musical, a terrible mess of clichés, lip syncing, lame gags and no characters.
Juliane Hough (of “Dancing with the Stars” fame) plays Sherrie, an Oklahoma farm girl coming to LA for superstardom. There she meets Drew (Diego Boneta), barback for the club “Bourbon” who also has big rock’n roll dreams.
A romance blooms, one that will be tested later when one actually becomes a star, but I digress. He gets her a job working for his boss (Alec Baldwin), who is hitting hard times with the club and hoping one-time rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), in a final concert before going solo, can save it.
That is if Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), conservative wife of the
mayor, doesn’t manage to shut it and the rest of rock n’ roll down first,
because, well, this is the 80’s and politicians, moms, and reverends have
nothing else to worry about.
Directed by Adam Shankman, who had a far more successful time adapting the
“Hairspray” musical, “ROA” claims to like and dedicate itself to the power of
rock n' roll but it leaves the music feeling like some kind of joke. The stars
try way too hard to preen, pose, and look the part of rock star attitude, the
plot only serving to lead them to the next sub-par musical number/cover of
songs from Journey, REO Speedwagon, Def Leppard, and more. But the music might as well be background noise, judging by how much feeling is actually put into them.
Hough and Boneta, bland actors who are given a thin romance to begin with, seem too much like their giving the American Idol-version of these songs, i.e it’s more soulless karaoke than anything Steve Perry managed to bring to a song like “Don’t Stop Believin”.
It's nice that this movie has a sense of humor about itself, how else to explain a sex scene to “I Wanna Know What Love Is” or an Alec Baldwin-Russell Brand duet to "Can't Fight This Feeling", but these performances
strike a chord more for their oddness than for being valid renditions.
Cruise has fun playing the kind of spaced-out, self-absorbed rock star we've come to expect, while Baldwin, Paul Giamatti (as Stacee's sleazy manager), and Russell Brand (the club's co-promoter) are here to try to make the jokes work but even they come off like picking on easy targets, like boy bands (something that was old-hat back in the late 90's when MTV did the same joke with their mock boy band, 2gether), and only Brand really hits a few out of the park. Otherwise “Rock of Ages”, with its director who has a pedigree for choreography and this excellent cast, should have been a slam dunk but the fact that they don’t “hit us with their
best shot” is just a reminder that “every rose has its thorn”.
"That's My Boy," Review: 2.5 out of 4
Adam Sandler and R-rated comedies usually don’t go together. The last one he did was Judd Apatow’s criminally underrated “Funny People” in 2009, a movie I can only assume was too cerebral to be seen as a Sandler movie.
And while “That’s My Boy” is in no way cerebral, it’s nice to see a bit more “dirty” from an actor whose long been playing it safe.
His character, Donny, begins the film as a 13-year-old seduced by his hot math teacher (Eva Amurri Martino, the daughter of Susan Sarandon) and left to raise a son when she’s caught and sent to prison. The scandal turns Donny into a nationally known celebrity, one who’s coasted ever since into being a deadbeat adult who owes a large sum to the IRS.
With no other option, a sleazy tabloid news show offers him $50 grand if he can produce a reunion between him, his son and the incarcerated mother. Only the problem is the estranged son, Han Solo, now a successful number cruncher who re-named himself Todd (Andy Samburg), wants nothing to do with either, and is looking at an upcoming wedding to beautiful woman (Leighton Meester) and big promotion that will hopefully move him beyond his sleazy past once and for all.
Of course Donny shows up just before the wedding (introduced as a friend since Todd has already told everyone both parents are dead) just in time for some wild drunken antics and father-son bonding.
Even when the jokes are at their most gross, you can tell Sandler and co. are having some infectious fun here. Everything from masturbation, urine, vomit, incest, breasts, genitals, sex with geriatrics, and racist Asian jokes make up this mosaic to tastelessness, all of it handled with sloppy direction from Sean Anders.
Yet as bad as all this is, it’s outrageous and as things move along, wildly entertaining.
It also helps that it has some nice, genuine human feeling to it. Sandler and Samburg are good together, the former doing a kind-of Boston-accented Al Pacino who can’t go a couple of sentences without saying something profane, offensive, or crudely sexual, while the later is meant to be the straight-man wuss who needs a lesson in getting a backbone. There’s a nice undercurrent to this relationship of a father trying to make up for the parenting mistakes of his youth, which include letting the kid balloon to 400 pounds and giving him one of the most embarrassing tattoos you could ever anyone.
Along the way, Milo Ventimiglia (Heroes), playing a hard-ass army sergeant who has it out for Todd, Tony Orlando, Todd’s boss, and Vanilla Ice and Todd Bridges, playing themselves, show up for some laughs too. Like I said, nothing cerebral going on here, but as far as Sandler movies go, this one at least has a childish