In today's age, it seems a common feeling that most popular music of the 1980s is mockable novelty - a wave of kitsch now beneath us. I, for one, adore human spirit-championing hair metal and arena rock, and hearing that Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand were to star in a musical about that sadly lost era excited me greatly. The joyous "Rock of Ages" pays off on its premise in spades, celebrating the simultaneously unifying and individualizing power of '80s rock by holding it on high to be marveled at and enjoyed by all. "Why can't life be more like this," I think to myself while rocking out in my seat to a bunch of 20-somethings spontaneously seething as one to "Jukebox Hero" (given an awkward medley with "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" sung in part by a Brand who looks more like Joan Jett than Kristen Stewart did in "The Runaways"). Then the climax hits, but the movie never ends; it goes on, and on, and on, and on. You see, until after that early climax, "Rock of Ages" was never about story. Until after that climax "Rock of Ages" was about the music, and I couldn't have cared less that it was framed by the most clichéd clichés possible. A shift occurs, however, where the film wants us to really care about its frail stories, and here does it enter a realm of tedium. Plenty of fun remains to be had, yet it is sullied by rote and fraying yarns about censorship and puppy love. Dwelling on positives, the aforementioned trio indeed walks away with the show with Cruise's Frank Mackey-ish caricature of a headlining rocker being worth every ounce of anticipation and Baldwin getting perhaps the film's highest highlight early on as he croons the bridge to Poison's "Nothing But a Good Time". There are also a handful of surprises tossed in with what is essentially a greatest-of-the-greatest hits checklist chocked full of Foreigner, Twisted Sister and Journey, etcetera. Not that I have anything against Foreigner, Twisted Sister and Journey, mind you. On the contrary! It's just nice when a little Night Ranger and Skid Row can shine amongst the heavier heavies - otherwise it's all too expected.
Rewatches (3): Haywire (Soderbergh, 2012); Prometheus (Scott, 2012); The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)
- I can't believe I didn't latch on to the groovy '70s-esque score of "Haywire" upon my first viewing. It is just one of the aspects that make Soderbergh's ode to Gina Carano one of the best of the director's career and one of the very best of the year thus far. Great, inspiring stuff, with some thrilling set pieces.
- A second viewing of Prometheus makes some of what can be labeled its narrative flaws more apparent, and also invalidates many of my theories, justifications and questions (those who recall the plot's details well would probably wonder what I was smoking when explaining these ideas and ponderings on the podcast). I'd like to think I was overwhelmed enough by the technical achievements on display that I failed to take note of important images or lines of dialogue. Additionally, certain scenes and subplots could have stood to be cut entirely, as well, without any impact to the overall piece. Makes me wonder even more what the impending extended cut has in store. Though my view of the film may be simplified now thanks to the revisit's gift of clarification, I still greatly enjoyed it and feel that dwelling in some of these narrative nitpicks would prevent me from fully marveling at how impressive the film is in so many ways. Really hoping for a sequel.
- Despite my negative opinions of "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight", the marketing campaign for "The Dark Knight Rises" has somehow managed to make me optimistic about this final outing for Nolan's take on the caped crusader. I figured I'd revisit "The Dark Knight" with this newfound optimism. Didn't work; movie's still terrible. It has some ideas that intermittently threaten to make it interesting, but they are accomplished in the most boring and technically dry ways.
Episodic Television (1): Community (Romantic Expressionism - Conspiracy Theories & Interior Design; Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas - Applied Anthropology & Culinary Arts)
- At long last I may finally be colored a "Community" enthusiast. I had seen 5 episodes on NBC before, but clearly I hadn't seen the right ones. Season 1 does take a while to hit its groove, and the characters still work to fill types in various stories rather than become living people we truly care about but this is per the progressively ingenius model of the show. Following the suit of what is far and away S1's best episode, "Modern Warfare" (though there are several other winners to be found in the season's latter half), S2 has been thoroughly brilliant with genre-benders like "Epidemiology" in which survival horror films are energetically honored, and mind-benders like "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" in which we view a meta imagination and are left to imagine the understood-to-be-false reality (trust me, it makes sense). And that's not to leave out other great episodes such as "Accounting for Lawyers", "Basic Rocket Science", "Messianic Myths & Ancient Peoples", "Aerodynamics of Gender" and "Cooperative Calligraphy". So, in short, I'm glad I finally quit resisting based on a handful of mediocre-to-poor episodes displaying a seemingly invalid cleverness that just came off as lazy, and gave "Community" a shot, because it's proving extremely well worth the while as it goes forth.
Episodic Television Rewatches (2): 30 Rock (The Moms - Chain Reaction of Mental Anguish); Community (Mixology Certification)
- It remains highly watchable, but "30 Rock" really feels fatigued in its 5th season, particularly toward the beginning. Nothing against the live episode and the 100th episode, of course. This fatigue seems to carry over in to the little of S6 that I've caught, but I will need to catch up soon to see how things go.
NIFF screening committee films I'm not allowed to talk about: 3