Monday, 18 June 2012

REVIEW: Rock of Ages

Dir.: Adam Shankman
With: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta and Tom Cruise

I have always been a bit of a snob when it came to musicals, an attitude shared by many I think. Musicals are often seen as a low art form, loud, kitschy, sequined and in no way comparable to the “real art” of theatre and ballet. Yet every now and again I find myself being dragged to a show or watching a musical on DVD at someone’s house. Most of the time, I feel like falling asleep (and I would rather go blind than see ‘Mamma Mia!’ again) but every so often I am rather enchanted by musicals – I thought that the film version of ‘Chicago’ was fabulous for example. So when I heard about ‘Rock of Ages’, instead of immediately wrinkling my nose in self-aggrandising contempt, I was a little bit intrigued.

I heard good things about the original Broadway production and was looking forward to the film, especially to Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise’s performances. What I realise now is that it is dangerous to be excited about anything these days, it’s healthier for the soul to be surprised by good films instead of anticipating anything. ‘Rock of Ages’ was light and entertaining but the story line was so stupid and clich├ęd that it almost cancelled out all the good things about the film. It was also unbelievably long. The pseudo-80s set-up was fun and cringe worthy and the rock ballads familiar and safe. However, the film’s protagonists, an out-of-town boy and girl, who wish to become rock’n’roll legends were so empty-eyed and boring, I seriously wonder who on earth decided that the two would be able to carry off a film. I can hardly recall their faces now.

I also found that there was not enough humour in the film, which is surprising considering that the Broadway show is famous for its laughs. The Alec Baldwin-Russell Brand duo were cute but not laugh-out-loud funny. Similarly, the Christian protesters headed by Catherine Zeta-Jones were a little on the dull side, despite Catherine’s efforts to shake things up a-la Velma from ‘Chicago’.

The film’s highlight was, of course, Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, a rock god and the object of desire of many rock chicks in the film. Make fun of him as much as you will, but after his turn as Les Grossman in ‘Tropic Thunder’, MI:4 and now this, his street-cred should be soaring high. The man not only looks amazing at 50, he also sings beautifully and carries off tight leather pants, tattooed torso and eyeliner with aplomb. To be honest, I’d rather watch 90 mins of him screaming and thrusting his pelvis on stage instead of seeing ‘Rock of Ages’ again.

Instead of the trailer, here is Tom channelling his inner Bon Jovi.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

REVIEW: Prometheus

Dir.: Ridley Scott
With: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron

It took me several days after having watched the movie to make my mind up about it. At first, I was tempted to dismiss it completely as merely a paler and more expensive version of ‘Alien’. Then I had a nightmare involving an alabaster superhuman alien from the film and thought that, maybe, ‘Prometheus’ required a little more contemplation.

It was hard not to get excited about the film with all the promotional videos, TV spots and numerous ads that promised a brilliant cast and a return to form for Ridley Scott. So, I did have high expectations and was bitterly disappointed as a result. ‘Prometheus’ was marketed as a prequel to ‘Alien’, a variation on the same themes of survival, human nature and discovery. Thus, it was surprising to see that ‘Prometheus’ relied too much on certain plot developments and character aspects from its predecessor.  Like in ‘Alien’, the central character is a strong, intelligent woman, who ends up fighting extraterrestrials on her own while wearing white undies. Maybe if I saw Noomi Rapace without being aware of Sigourney Weaver’s performance, I would have been more thrilled, but come on – Noomi is no Sigourney.

My main criticism is that the film is literally all over the place – it starts off intriguingly but sags in the middle and trails off into unknown territories in the end. There is no sense of closure, too many plot holes and indistinct character development. The starship’s crew members are hardly given any definition and some of the characters are caricature-like, which is strange considering that the film seems to take itself rather seriously. The questions it asks about the origins of life and the point of it all are given vague, unsatisfying answers and it is hard to feel any sympathy for the scientists who mop about the ship half-heartedly.

Having said this, the film looks great, instead of the claustrophobic corridors from ‘Alien’ we have majestic otherworldly vistas which set the stage for a grand denouement (which never takes place really). Still, I can imagine that being an art director for ‘Prometheus’ must have been rather fun. As for the horror side of it - there were a couple of moments in the film that did make me jump or go ‘ew’, but, again, these thrills seemed unoriginal and contrived.

The highlight of the film was Michael Fassbender’s performance as David, an android, whose immaculate manners and Queen’s English lent both an icy impenetrableness and certain comic element to him. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with him going about his daily routine – doing his roots, learning languages and watching old movies – Peter O’Toole in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ is his style icon (how funny is that).

I think the film does deserve to be watched in the cinema, if not for its visual effects, then for David the android, just do not expect a so-called ‘mindfuck’.