Rock of Ages (2012)

This Place is About to Become a Sea of Sweat, Ear-Shattering Music and Puke.

Rock of Ages (2012)My interest was piqued in today’s movie while listening to the Nerdist podcast. Chris Hardwick was talking about this movie because he was in the original LA cast of the musical that this movie was based on. Another thing that drove me to want to see the movie was the ridiculous hotness of some of the actresses in the movie. That’s always a driving factor for me. But it didn’t drive me hard enough to bother to go and see the movie when it was still in theaters. When I was perusing a RedBox, I saw this movie along with the movie I was looking for and decided that I might as well watch it. If nothing else, I would enjoy the hotness and tune out the movie. Did I have to do that? Find out as I review Rock of Ages, based on the musical by Chris D’Arienzo, written for the screen by Justin Theroux and Allan Loeb, directed by Adam Shankman, and starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Bryan Cranston, Malin Ákerman, Kevin Nash, Jeff Chase, and Will Forte.

A girl named Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) moves to Los Angeles to become a singer, but realizes pretty quickly that most of LA is a cesspool when her prized record collection gets stolen from her. A barback named Drew Boley (Diego Boneta) rushes to help her and the two later start dating even though this pansy didn’t even try to run the guy with her records down. Maybe it was because he gets her a job as a waitress at The Bourbon Room, a famous rock club that’s fallen on hard financial times. To help their situation, bar owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his right-hand man Lonny Barnett (Russell Brand) book the famous band Arsenal – and their temperamental lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) – to perform their final gig at the club before Jaxx embarks on a solo career. Also going on, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), wife of Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston), is trying to shut down rock and roll, Constance Sack (Malin Ákerman) has sex with Jaxx and writes a scathing review about him in Rolling Stone, and Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) tries to make a star out of Boley, knowing that Jaxx is unreliable.

I’m admittedly torn about Rock of Ages. I’m about dead center in my feelings for it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. I think it was mainly the story that didn’t work for me. It just didn’t strike me as all that funny. And, without the comedy, it’s basically just a run of the mill love story/musical. There’s also a little bit of Empire Records in the people trying to keep their dream of rock and roll alive in the Bourbon Room, and perhaps a little bit of Footloose in the religious crazies trying to shut down something for whatever stupid reason. But I’ve already seen those movies, and I didn’t really like them either. And I think I wanted it to be funny, but it never managed to pull that off. Stacee Jaxx got a few laughs with his wackiness, but he also frequently bordered on depressing. I also always appreciate a good shot at boy bands, but then I get depressed because – let’s face it, rock fans – they’ve kind of won. Sure, they don’t have staying power, but that genre has made far more unworthy millionaires than rock has, at least recently. I think the only thing in the movie that got a good, solid laugh out of me was when Sherrie applied for a job by saying, “I can wait tables! I’m good!” Fer real? That’s what you’re gonna put on your list of special skills. Not writing, sketching, speaks limited French. You’re gonna post up with, “Excellent waitress.” I think there’s about one job that qualifies you for…

One of the things that definitely worked for me in this movie was the music. Gangnamed that’s a good soundtrack! Check out some of these songs: Paradise City, Sister Christian, Juke Box Hero, Wanted Dead or Alive, I Wanna Rock, Pour Some Sugar on Me, Here I Go Again, Any Way You Want It, Rock You Like a Hurricane, We Built This City, Don’t Stop Believin’, and the list goes on. Add some Metallica to that and I could survive on just that soundtrack for the rest of my life. I know everyone’s taste in music is not the same as mine, but if you don’t agree then your opinions are wrong. The reason this movie was so easy to get through even with the mediocrity of the story was because of the kick ass music throughout.

The performances in this movie were fine enough, but I was focused mostly on a different kind of “fine.” Namely Julianne Hough and Malin Ákerman. SO hot! Want to touch the heiney! Amongst other things. I guess the same could be said for Catherine Zeta-Jones, but she never really did it for me. Certainly not when I have Hough and Ákerman to distract me. They did fine jobs in the movie, but you also get to see them in underwear and other such skimpies! The only thing that bothered me about that is that there were times in the movie when Hough wore less clothes then when she was acting as a stripper at one point. When she was a stripper, she rocked something that looked like an old-timey one-piece bathing suit that was low cut in the front. She wears much hotter stuff when she’s not supposed to be getting naked for money! Tom Cruise also made me take note fairly frequently. I thought at first that I would be watching him do this part and be mostly thinking about how Chris Hardwick would have done it, even though I’ve never really seen Hardwick do it. But Cruise does an interesting enough performance of his own that I never really got to thinking about that part. But, y’know what? To hell with complimenting Tom Cruise! He got to make out with Malin Ákerman AND touch Julianne Hough and Catherine Zeta-Jones boobs! ALL IN THE SAME MOVIE!

Rock of Ages was an underwhelming but totally watchable movie. Its mediocre story was elevated drastically by the awesome songs in the musical numbers. The actors also did a very good job, especially Julianne Hough and Malin Ákerman who did an exceptional job being hot and Tom Cruise who did very well at being interesting to watch. But altogether, this is probably a skippable movie. You can buy the soundtrack without sitting through the movie, and you can see Julianne Hough and Malin Ákerman being hot with a Google image search. Rock of Ages gets “It’s not an improvement” out of “I just threw up. In my pants … out of my ass.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people. Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense. Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated. You can also add me on FaceBook and Twitter. Don’t forget to leave me some comments. Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.

Black Dynamite (2009)

Because Donuts Don’t Wear Alligator Shoes.

The inspiration for seeing today’s movie came a good while back, and mostly from the Nerdist podcast.  They did an interview with some of the people involved with this movie, and had previously talked about how funny the movie was.  I put it on my Netflix queue pretty quickly, even though all I knew about the movie gave me no reason I could think of to enjoy it.  I don’t know that I’ve seen a Blaxploitation film before, and it’s also a very fine line to walk to make a movie really bad to call it a comedy.  Sometimes it can be done very well, and sometimes I just think it’s using comedy as an excuse because the movie they made was not actually good (Like Leprechaun: In the Hood).  We’ll find out as I review Black Dynamite, written by Michael Jai White and Byron Keith Minns, directed by Scott Sanders, and starring Michael Jai White, Salli Richardson, Tommy Davidson, Kevin Chapman, Byron Minns, Cedric Yarbrough, Mykelti Williamson, Brian McKnight, Arsenio Hall, Obba Babatundé, Bokeem Woodbine, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Mike Starr, John Salley, and Nicole Sullivan.

The brother of Vietnam veteran and former CIA agent Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) is killed in the streets by a shady organization.  Black Dynamite decides to set out on a crusade of revenge, and to clean up the streets as he does it.  On his journey, he meets up with a black power activist that he gives a certain degree of his affections to named Gloria (Salli Richardson).  Speaking of affections, it turns out that his brother was killed to cover up a plan by “the Man” that would fill the popular Anaconda Malt Liquor with a formula that would shrink the size of all the black men’s penises.  Black Dynamite is the only thing standing between them and the destruction of the entire “Blacks on Blondes” porn series!

This was a really good movie.  Well, technically speaking it was a really bad movie, but they intended to make it as bad as they did for comedic effect, and it definitely worked.  The story is pretty typical Blaxploitation stuff that tends to be pretty ridiculous on its own, but it’s sold by all of the other ridiculous stuff.  The performances are usually over the top, the scenes drag on longer than they should, the characters are ridiculous, and it’s just really funny because of it.  The badness of the movie is an asset, using things like the main character trying and failing to hang up a phone for an extra couple of seconds, a character looks like he really got punched in an action scene and breaks character before an obvious cut gets the action back on, and they take the most ridiculous series of tangents to reach a conclusion, starting with M&Ms and how they melt in your mouth, going through Greek mythology, and somehow ending up at the fact that Anaconda Malt Liquor is going to make the black man’s penis small to defeat them.  One of my favorite parts was when a group was going into a battle situation and one of the characters starts randomly talking about his aspirations for when the revolution is over, talking about how he wants to settle down and be a father, showing a picture of his kid, and he gets expectedly hit with a spear.  Black Dynamite then shouts, “Who saw that coming?  I mean, ‘Who saw where that came from?’”  I also liked when Black Dynamite was fighting with nunchucks and “accidentally” threw them off camera, punched a dude in the head, and then someone off camera threw his nunchucks back to him.  The animated Kama Sutra part that was sold like it was supposed to be a really sweet love making scene was also pretty hilarious.

The performances in this movie deserve about as much credit as the writing and filming process.  Much like the movie Airplane!, the performances in this movie acted like they were not trying to be funny, which just makes everything that much funnier.  Unlike Airplane!, they weren’t acting as if they were in a soap opera, they were just acting like over the top characters from a Blaxploitation movie.  It was all excellent.  Michael Jai White was great, able to do the acting just as well as the action.  I was really happy with all of the cameos in the movie as well.  Tommy Davidson was in this movie, Cedric Yarbrough, Brian McKnight, Arsenio Hall, Miguel A. Nunez Jr., Mike Starr, and Nicole Sullivan.  Each one of them had some solid funny parts and made me happy that they even showed their faces in the movie.

Black Dynamite was a lot of fun.  Ridiculous Blaxploitation story that takes full advantage of the generally shoddy filming that was common in those movies, while having the good sense to not have any of the performances act like they were in a comedy.  Let the movie be ridiculous around characters that only seem to be desperately trying to remember their lines and the comedy will be largely amped up.  This is like the Blaxploitation version of the movie Airplane!, and that’s alright by me.  This is definitely a movie that you should check out.  You can’t help but laugh.  I’ll be purchasing this movie as soon as I can find it, but you can find it on Netflix right now.  Black Dynamite gets “I am smiling” out of “Black Dynamite, that was the best loving I ever had.”

Let’s get these reviews more attention, people.  Post reviews on your webpages, tell your friends, do some of them crazy Pinterest nonsense.  Whatever you can do to help my reviews get more attention would be greatly appreciated.  You can also add me on FaceBook (Robert T. Bicket) and Twitter (iSizzle).  Don’t forget to leave me some comments.  Your opinions and constructive criticisms are always appreciated.