Rock of Ages

Image_square_webby Susan

2012, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, et al. Directed by Adam Shankman.

Wonderfully funny, surprisingly entertaining, and gloriously filled with some of the greatest music of the late 20th century.

Movies based on Broadway musicals are usually not my first choice, and Rock of Ages was no exception. But I had already seen most everything else currently showing and I knew better than to expect my movie companion to go willingly to see Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in, wasn’t familiar with the Broadway production, wasn’t sure who was in the cast, and just needed a relaxing break from a pretty stressful week. Man, am I glad this is the one we saw!

This movie ROCKED!! It’s thin on plot – no surprises there – as it only needs enough story to string together all of the amazing music. Awesome, incredible, stupendous, marvelous music – we were singing along, dancing in our seats, and laughing ourselves silly! People of a certain age or anyone who enjoys fantastic rock music should not miss this wonderfully funny, surprisingly entertaining, and gloriously nostalgic homage to the 1980’s.

Sherrie is a sweet, young innocent who goes to L.A. hoping to make a name for herself. Upon arrival she meets Drew, a closet musician working as a bouncer at the legendary Bourbon Room. They hit it off and immediately launch into song about their mutual desires to become famous music artists. Stacee Jaxx is a bizarre cowboy rocker and enigmatic former lead singer of Arsenal, the biggest (fictional) rock band in the world. The aging Jaxx is trying to ignite a solo career hampered by too much booze and a decadent lifestyle filled with willing groupies and an unforgettable sidekick named Hey Man. Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand operate the Bourbon Room and are depending on the revenue from Jaxx’s one-night performance to save the business. Jaxx’s nefarious manager, played by Paul Giamatti, is out to manipulate anyone and everyone for his own greedy purposes.

Just when Drew gets his once-in-lifetime big break, a terrible misunderstanding ruins his chances for fame, fortune, and love. Giamatti has big plans for him, but not exactly what Drew has always wanted. Brokenhearted, contemplating going back home, Sherrie discovers she has a talent that pays the bills better than waitressing ever did. Now that their paths have diverged so drastically, will the young lovers ever be reunited? Will Stacee Jaxx sober up long enough to perform on stage? Will Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand save the Bourbon Room – and finally realize what they mean to each other in the process? Will fresh-faced, dancing boy bands lip-synching sugary-sweet pop tunes replace real rockers?

There are a few other plot lines interspersed along the way providing more opportunities for even more fabulous big production numbers of the best rock-and-roll music ever. Plot is not important; as noted before, it’s all just a great reason to experience the music. With that said, regardless of the story’s predictability, it was hilarious and over-the-top F-U-N!

Brand and Baldwin were great, Giamatti was the perfect villain, Catherine Zeta-Jones was marvelous as the crusader trying to shut down the Bourbon Room, and Julianne Hough as Sherrie and Diego Boneta as Drew made it all work. Oh yes… Stacee Jaxx was portrayed by Mr. Miniature Man* himself, Tom Cruise. Of course it wasn’t any kind of stretch for Mr. MM; all he had to do was show up and be his everyday weird self. I can think of several better actors for that role…

*See my review of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol for more about Mr. MM.

Three boxes of popcornRating: Triple Serving

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The Ides of March

by CosmicTwin3

2011, Directed by George Clooney

Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood

The tagline on the movie poster reads “Ambition Seduces. Power Corrupts.” It occurs to me that I could leave it at that, as those words pretty much sum up what this movie is all about. But I can’t do that, so…

Ryan Gosling is Stephen Myers, an idealistic and confident young man who is the brilliant media consultant for Mike Morris (George Clooney), a rising political star who, with the right campaign management and carefully executed strategy, will secure his party’s nomination for president of the U.S. Morris is handsome, intelligent, passionate, successful, sincere, and determined. His fiercely loyal campaign manager, Paul Zara (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), is a veteran of hard-fought political campaigns and brings a lifetime of experience to the job of getting his guy elected. Before the race for president can even begin, though, Morris must defeat the party’s other top candidate who has his own capable and experienced campaign manager in Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti).

Winning the Ohio primary is the next crucial step. The young Myers, while certainly not a wide-eyed innocent, is completely convinced that Morris is the answer to all that plagues the country and will successfully bring about a new era of equality, prosperity, and peace when he is elected. A member of the campaign’s inner circle, his faith in Morris is as unshakeable as his confidence in his own talents to craft an irresistible message that will ultimately put him in the White House. Well-liked by everyone working for Morris, Myers has the talent and savvy to be Zara’s protégé.

Ides of March movie poster

When Tom Duffy calls Myers one day out of the blue and requests a private conversation with him, Myers’ instincts tell him not to do it, but circumstances convince him that he should find out what Duffy wants. Myer’s decision to meet with the campaign manager of his own candidate’s nemesis will have tragic consequences that no one could have foreseen. Navigating the treacherous world of back-room deals and compromised principles, Myers soon finds himself in over his head and way beyond disillusioned. What will he do with his new-found knowledge of the seamier side of political campaigns? I left the theater feeling intensely relieved and happy that I don’t have any personal connections with politicians.

The Ides of March is a smart drama that puts its all-star cast to good use. Clooney’s taut direction drives the story forward at a nice pace that never drags or bogs down in exposition. Ryan Gosling depicts the ambitious up-and-comer effortlessly, being at turns a victim and then manipulator of circumstances, whose crash-course in dirty politics all but derails the entire campaign. Ambition Seduces. Power Corrupts. Knowledge is Power. In the end, just what will he do with the knowledge he has gained? What will it take to erase the stench of dirty politics?

A full bucket of popcorn!Cosmic Twins rating: Full Bucket