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Rock of Ages: Legendary Musical Goes Hollywood
Sherrie (Hough) and Drew (Boneta) work at the Bourbon - the biggest club on the Sunset Strip which is unfortunately in dire straits - while entertaining visions of rock and roll fame in their heads. Stacie Jaxx (Cruise), the biggest rock star in the business, is scheduled to give a show at the club which could solve all of its financial woes and save it from the Mayor’s wife (Zeta Jones) desire to shut it down. Due to a last minute cancellation, Drew gets the chance to open for Jaxx and his sudden brush with fame drives a wedge between him and Sherrie. They both quit work and find themselves going against everything they believe in and Jaxx battles with his soulless manager (Giamatti) and struggles with his fame, while Dennis (Baldwin), the club’s owner, tries to keep it afloat.
When we heard Adam Shankman was behind bringing the hit Broadway musical to the big screen, we were pretty optimistic. He's the guy behind the most recent adaptation of Hairspray and knows his way around cheesy, feel good musicals. Unfortunately however, Rock of Ages isn't nearly as good as Hairspray and we're inclined to pin the blame on the director, choreographers and screenwriters.
The cast, with the exception of Mary J Blige, definitely weren't chosen for their rock chops - the vast majority of them have thin, reedy voices - and for God's sake, Julianne Hough is a dancer; let her dance. All in all, there isn’t nearly enough dancing and the choreography is woefully weak.
As for the music, if you're the kind that believes that rock and cheesy musicals shouldn't mix, don't come within ten feet of this film. If, however, you’re ok with hair metal i.e. the cheesiest era ever known to rock, hearing the songs is going to be fun – even if the covers aren't that great. The songs are best sung in a concert setting with the few scenes in which people spontaneously burst into song and dance are hit or miss; a pretty egregious example come in the form of Zeta Jones and a posse of conservative women thrusting to Pat Benatar’s ‘Hit Me With Your Best Shot’. Again, this isn’t Zeta Jones’ fault; she was incredible in Chicago and can both sing and dance with the best of them.
Cruise is the film’s highlight. He has the whole jaded, egotistical rock star thing down to a tee, and makes the rather awful script, which includes some gems such as “Doing taxes is so-un rock and roll”, sound a lot less bad. Baldwin and Brand make a great team and are pretty hilarious together, though Baldwin can’t sing to save his life. Hough and Boneta are nothing special but they have good chemistry and are fun to watch. And while they’re both adequate singers, Hough is a better actress than her co-star.
The film looks exactly the way you’d expect a Hollywood musical set in the 80s to look; shiny, colourful and over the top. Despite being a star studded affair, Rock of Ages probably won’t be much fun for viewers who don’t already have a love affair with either cheesy musicals or hair metal - preferably both.
Marking the fifth instalment in the Underworld franchise, Blood Wars rests in the hands of a first-time feature director, Anna Foerster who, although managing to create a few notable moments of action, fails to bring any ingenuity or freshness to its now exhausted vampires-versus-werewolves narrative.
The story begins with a brief recap of events from the last four films where we learn that everyone’s favourite vampire death dealer, Selena (once again fully embraced by the leather-clad, forever sulking Kate Beckinsale) has been betrayed and banished by her kind.
Still trying to cope with the pain of having given up her vampire-werewolf hybrid daughter Eve for everyone’s safety, Selena is surprised to be summoned back into the vampire community - now led by the scheming Semira (Pulver) - who wish to make use of her skills in order to train the new generation of fighters, while still escaping her own chasers and searching for her daughter.
Taking quite a bit of time to get going, Blood Wars – written by Cory Goodman – is filled with lots of politics and nonsensical dialogue between characters who seemingly have a hard time in conveying any emotion, thus, making it all that difficult for the viewer to get invested in what they have to say. Drenched in a seemingly cold, metallic-blue tint, Blood Wars – although certainly not heavy on the action front – does manage to offer a couple relatively exciting action set-pieces. However, considering that this is a vampires-verses-werewolves kind of a movie, there just isn’t enough of that that specific mythology to set it apart from any other action movies – no wooden stakes or silver bullets to see here folks, just plenty of swirling swords and guns that can’t hurt anyone.
Another problem here is that the mythology behind the franchise in general – something the keeps spinning around aimlessly with no real focus or ending in sight – is a little hard to take seriously.
All of the characters, including the PVC-wearing Kate Beckinsale, who thinks that scowling her way through the scenes will get her anywhere, are all without an ounce of charm or personality – which sadly, brings us to a conclusion that there is no fun to be had in this rather forgettable cinematic offering and generic continuation of a franchise which, perhaps, might be ready now to close its doors and call it a day.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.