Animadversion: Rock me
Rock of Ages is the new hard-core vintage designed musical starring a stack load of ‘good’ actors in wasted makeup. If anything, it leads me to one of two possible conclusions: the ’80s music was fantastic.
With his mascara scarred and deep gnashes under his eyes, Tom Cruise plays a bedraggled mash-up of Axel Rose. Drooping and whispering a heavy-handed performance as Stacee Jaxx, he’s the film’s lonesome thread connecting its arching stories — and its sole marketing anchor. Malin Akerman, a visiting journalist, lays it on him — hard: “You’re a man-child stuck in a rut. You used to be great. Now you’re a rocker, asleep at the wheels singing the same songs you made 10 years ago.” Yes, Jaxx is wasted — and in a sense, so is the film’s cast.
It’s 1987. A starry-eyed innocent from Flyover, USA, with a bit of country in her voice (Julianne Hough) meets cute would-be rocker (Diego Boneta) who has dreams of divinity. Her baggage is nabbed. He offers to get her a job as a waitress at the ill-famed club called Bourbon, where he works a small-time gig. The Bourbon, owned by a near-sober Alec Baldwin and his man-friend Russell Brandt, is dipping financially and they need Jaxx’s star-draw to make a comeback.
Then there’s the not-so-crafty villainess (Catherine Zeta-Jones) as an anti-rock campaigner who (spoiler alert) has the hots for Jaxx. In an early scene, where Zeta-Jones and fellow protestors (in baggy suits) stages Pat Benatar’s Hit Me with your Best Shot in an alter housing a mean, bigger than life-size, poster of Jaxx (anyone not picking up their connection is half-snoozing). The bigger meanie is Jaxx’s “slick as oil” agent played by Paul Giamatti, in a part destined to not get him anywhere near an Oscar consideration this year.
As the theme goes, the younglings get together then break up. She turns to stripping (there’s no nudity), he gets a chance to break into the music biz by forming a boy band (I kid you not).
When Giamatti’s character influences Boneta with the draw of the music industry, you could mime the word “fame” before he says it. The only thing keeping me from lulling away is a succession of music and the brief and effective bits by Giamatti and Alec Baldwin.
Rock of Ages is often a lumbering dinosaur that confirms that director Adam Shankman’s seat is out in the next season of the television show So You Think You Can Dance. The director, once a choreographer and now the director with Bedtime Stories and Hairspray to his credit, pushes the film with the ferociousness of a rampaging turtle. His actors — all singing their parts — make this bearable. Cruise, though half-lackluster with unanticipated vocal skills, makes it work.
Released by Newline Cinema/Warner Bros and rated R, Rock of Ages is based on the Broadway musical by Chris D’Arienzo, featuring 24 songs — including hits from Bon Jovi, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Poison — and with little actual story (written by Justin Theroux, D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb). It’s a messy marriage stuck in a nasty pothole.
Red-haired and feisty
Brave, Pixar’s 13th animated feature, gets them in contact with one of their parent company’s staples — the princess brand. And she is beautiful.
With a lush (a word that applies to more than the film’s forest landscapes) traditional treatment of story that compares to the best gems from Disney, Brave has a wonderful spirit and message — and it’s safer than what its title suggests.
Brave has a lot of first things going apart from the Disney Princess bit. It is the first Pixar movie to use the feudal theme, and it is the studio’s first film to be co-directed by a woman, Brenda Chapman (Prince of Egypt). Her co-directors are the debuting Mark Andrews and Steve Purcell.
Merida (Kelly Macdonald) is a princess in the pre-medieval Scottish moors. She is daughter to the big, burly, King Fergus (Billy Connolly) — a jolly, classic Disney-type father who has an aversion to bears. Her mother is Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson), whose sole ambition is to make Merida into the ideal princess and marry her off to the best candidate. Contrary to what she sounds like, Elinor actually loves her daughter.
Elinor announces her betrothal with one of the three Scottish clan’s chieftain’s most eligible sons — a wild barbarian lot that they are.
Merida, with her strong willed spirit — like her red-orange colored, full-fuzzy, semi-tangled hair — wants to live free and wild with no restraints. She’s the type that rides horses (Angus is her steed’s name by the way), free-climbs mountains and drinks from rushing waterfalls. Unlike yearning princesses from fables, she has no dreams of princes or knights to sweep her off her feet.With a story inked by Chapman and the screenplay by Andrews, Purcell and Irene Mecchi, the problems Merida faces are easily taken care of, and the film shifts focus to the mother-daughter relationship, which gets muddled in the second-half when an ill-executed sub-plot concerning a witch and spell gone wrong comes along. When this happens, Brave turns into a generic animated movie for kids.
Pixar has turned into a touchstone for judging quality animated features after producing Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles, Toy Story and Finding Nemo. By now they have spoiled us into expecting the best from them.
Rated PG, Brave is a genuine girl-power princess movie after Disney’s Tangled, that gives girls things to ponder over. There’s more to a fairy-tale adventure than finding a prince and a predestined happily ever after. — FarheenJawaid