Rock of Ages (Warner) is both the apogee and the nadir of jukebox rock musicals, a collection of show business clichés wrapped in iconic heavy metal /eighties power pop anthems and delivered via movie star karaoke. Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are the ostensible leads here, the gorgeous young hopefuls who work on the Sunset Strip in hopes of breaking into the music business, and they play their roles with earnest intent and dull inevitability. The veteran cast understands the material better, playing it both for oversized melodrama and knowing parody, with Tom Cruise pretty much keeping it aloft with his drugged up, oversexed, washed up arena rocker strutting through the ruins of the hair band culture.
It’s as thin a book as a jukebox musical ever had and pumping it up with stars only shows how little substance they have to work with and how poorly the songs work as reflections of the story. And as executed by director Adam Shankman, this paean to the energy of rock and sex against the forces of repression of the moral police (as represented by Catherine Zeta-Jones) makes for a rather restrained R-rated movie trying to appeal to the post-”Glee” musical fan. It’s so timid that it can’t even commit to a gay love story without resorting to a broad lampoon of romantic clichés, meanwhile playing it straight while trying to convince us that the savior of rock and roll is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, and Paul Giamatti co-star.
Continue reading at Videodrone
“You remind me that money won is twice as sweet as money earned.”
The Color of Money (Disney) is not and will never be considered Martin Scorsese’s greatest film. It hasn’t the ragged beauty and personal charge of “Mean Streets,” the ambition or the intensity of “Taxi Driver,” or the cinematic density of “GoodFellas.” Yet it is possibly his most accessible film and his answer to the old Hollywood studio movie. Like the studio contract directors of past decades, he neither developed nor pursued this project, and he still turns into a distinctly Scorsese vision.
It is not simply that Scorsese acquitted himself on the assignment, it is that he used the tools and talent of the production — a richly textured script by Richard Price, a mid-level studio budget bigger than anything he’d had for some time, the gravitas of Paul Newman, and the charge of young Tom Cruise in all his youthful arrogance and big-kid innocence — to make a film about regret and redemption. And he delivers the cinematic charge of the pool room culture of hustle and gamesmanship along with the education of a young protégé lacking self and a mentor who has yet to face his own conflicted feelings about the game.
Twenty-five years after walking away from the game in “The Hustler,” Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson has settled into success as a liquor salesman, a cross between a modern whisky drummer and a suave, slick bootlegger who sells his customers inexpensive alternatives to top-shelf brands. Until he sees Vincent (Cruise), a grinning hotshot who wields a cue like a quarterstaff in a “Robin Hood” movie and outplays the neighborhood poolroom hustler (John Turturro) without breaking a sweat.
Continue reading on Parallax View
“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” (Paramount), the fourth in the big screen series with Tom Cruise as agent Ethan Hunt, finds our globetrotting hero a little older and more vulnerable, especially when he goes rogue with a small team, unreliable equipment, and no tech support. Directed by Brad Bird, the animation auteur making his live-action debut, it’s brisk, spirited, clever, and more fun than it ought to be. MSN film critic Glenn Kennyconcurs: “director Brad Bird (making his live-action film debut after directing groundbreaking and beloved animated features “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles“) paces the story with substantial resourcefulness and stages multiple action scenes that are not only very suspenseful and thrilling, but also kind of newfangled, if not actually innovative.”
The DVD edition features short featurettes on the props and creating the sandstorm plus deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without Brad Bird commentary. The two-disc Blu-ray+DVD Combo adds two longer featurettes on shooting set pieces in Dubai and in Vancouver and an alternate opening. Both feature UltraViolet digital copy for instant streaming or download. The best collection of extras is saved for the Limited Edition Three-Disc Blu-ray+DVD combo pack: Over 90 minutes of smartly-made production featurettes (narrated by the filmmakers in a way that emphasizes their different perspectives on the production) and more deleted, extended and alternate scenes. Also available via On Demand and digital download and available at Redbox kiosks.
More New Releases at Videodrone here
This is the week of The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (Summit), which is such an event that it gets its own release date: Saturday, December 4, with discs going on sale at 12:01am at select retailers. Expect Friday midnight release parties. I’m pretty cool to the cult of Twilight but this entry is an improvement over the insufferable second film. I reviewed it for MSN here. My colleagues at MSN reviewed Going the Distance (Warner) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Disney) so I didn’t have to, and I review Lisandro Alonso’s Liverpool on my blog here.
Just another day in the life of a super spy
Knight and Day (Fox) – Tom Cruise plays to his strengths in this colorful spy fantasy, bouncing through as an unfailingly polite boy scout of a covert agent with a smooth-talking charm and ninja spy skills, and Cameron Diaz is the beautiful civilian who gets tangled up in his latest mission. Cruise’s Miller is a rogue CIA operative on a mission of honor, but his quest to rid the agency of the rot of corruption comes with a pretty high body count and the viewer just has to accept that every guy following orders to take him down is infected by the same rot to roll with the moral imperative that makes his actions all right.
Read more »
Top Gun may have made Tom Cruise a superstar but Risky Business made him Tom Cruise. The 1983 film is an artifact of its era as well as a commentary upon it, a sex comedy as social satire that anticipates the culture soon to be defined in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. I write about the film for the Turner Classic Movies website.
He wears his sunglasses at night
The teen sex comedy was dominant when Risky Business opened in 1983 in the wake of Porky’s (1982) and scores of other lowbrow works where boys lost their virginity to hot girls and teen audiences waded through clumsy slapstick gags and mistaken identity plots for titillating displays of young naked bodies. One could argue that Risky Business is an art movie version of the teen sex comedy. It is, after all, about a good looking, wealthy but naïve high school virgin (Tom Cruise) who is ushered into manhood by a seductive young woman (Rebecca De Mornay) while his parents are out of town. Cruise’s Joel is a Chicago rich kid on the lake and De Mornay’s Lana is a tough, gorgeous young prostitute (“what every white boy off the lake wants,” promises another professional) with a dangerous streak and a crazy idea: “If we ever got our friends together, we’d make a fortune.” It’s sexy, smart and funny, but also stylish and filled with social satire and commentary on the culture of money. “This was the Reagan years, it was all about money,” explained writer/director Paul Brickman in an interview years later. Under the sexual fantasies is an anxiety about sex and success (which are hopelessly intertwined in Joel’s dreams) and a satirical portrait of capitalist enterprise that essentially blurs the line between entrepreneurship and prostitution.
Read the complete feature here. It plays on Thursday, July 15 on Turner Classic Movies. Also available on DVD and Blu-ray.