A jukebox musical is the epitome of reverse-engineered entertainment. Take a set of songs linked together by a common thread arrange them for Broadway belters and fill in the gaps with enough narrative to convince the audience they're not sitting through a large-scale cover band concert. Silly satisfying and familiar — the perfect combination for a crowd-pleaser. Rock of Ages the big screen adaptation of the hit stage musical manages to make the simplistic formula feel even lazier. Starting off like a full-on '80s movie spoof Rock of Ages quickly loses footing with a bombardment of overproduced tunes lip-synced by its celebrity cast. Simply put: it doesn't rock. At all.
The film opens with small town Kansas gal Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough) hopping on a bus to make it big in Hollywood. There's a glimmer of hope as she duets Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" with a bus driver — maybe Rock of Ages really will be this fun and absurd. But when Sherrie arrives at The Bourbon Room the city's premiere rock club and only second to Disneyland as the least threatening place in L.A. the movie spins out of control. Sherrie quickly strikes up a relationship with bartender/aspiring musician Drew (Diego Boneta) is hired by club owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) and his second-in-command Lonny (Russell Brand) and becomes entangled in the joint's big attempt to stay afloat: the legendary Stacee Jaxx's (Tom Cruise) last concert before going solo.
Sticking with Sherrie as she explores the crazy hair metal scene is fun but director Adam Shankman (Hairspray Bedtime Stories) and his team of writers insist on piling more and more stuff on to Rock of Ages shoulders. There's politician wife Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and her campaign against The Bourbon Room. There's Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack (Malin Åkerman) who hopes to land one more interview with Jaxx. There's Jaxx's manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) who responds to the fading rock scene with ambitions of starting a boy band with Drew. Anything that can open the door for more songs — pointless as the plot points may be — Shankman throws into the shuffle. Unfortunately the ears can only take so much autotune.
The upside of the clunky script is some genuinely funny moments souped up by the comedic prowess of the supporting cast (a baboon named HeyMan throwing bottles at Giamatti Cruise singing "I Want to Know What Love Is" into Ackerman's butt). Hough and Boneta have nothing to contribute to Rock of Ages hammy leads with no material who pale in comparison to their '80s romantic predecessors. But the rest of the crew throw up sign of the horns and try their best to crank up the craziness Baldwin and Brand making a case for a spin-off with their wacky rapport. A musical number in which the duo finally realizes their passion for one another would have made a great Funny or Die video but padded with the filler of Rock of Ages it has no room to shine. Even Cruise who kills whenever he's musing full rock star mode struggles to make the paper thin Stacee Jaxx work in his musical moments. The recordings are flat and lifeless automatically putting a strain on the performers.
The music and the movies of the '80s share a similar aesthetic. They're over-the-top they're hot and sweaty and they're about not giving a damn. Raw fun. Rock of Ages fails to capture that feel in both visuals and song blowing out the flame of every lighter-waving moment with its stale recreation. For an energetic entertaining two hours of classic rock tunes stick to karaoke.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
I expected Your Highness David Gordon Green's R-rated sword-and-sorcery farce to be a medieval stoner comedy something in the vein of Monty Python-meets-Cheech and Chong. This was not an unreasonable assumption given a) the film’s clearly suggestive title and b) the fact that its stars (Danny McBride and James Franco) and director previously collaborated on the THC-laced epic Pineapple Express. But I was waaaaaay off. Sure drug references abound in Your Highness but they are relatively benign in comparison to the film’s exhausting barrage of adolescent sexual humor and often shockingly crude language. Less bongs more schlongs is Your Highness' overriding ethos.
Taking care not to stray too far from the winning comic persona established in Eastbound & Down and The Foot Fist Way McBride plays Prince Thadeous a royal ne’er-do-well who lives in the shadow of his handsome older brother Prince Fabious (Franco) gallant knight and heir apparent to the throne of the kingdom of Mourne. While Fabious is out defending his father’s realm against various supernatural threats and earning acclaim for his illustrious deeds cowardly and entitled Thadeous parties with loose maidens and smokes hallucinogenic herbs with his twink-ish toadie Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker). But he finds he can no longer shirk his heroic duties when an evil sorcerer named Leezar (Justin Theroux) crashes Fabious’ wedding and absconds with the crown prince’s fiancée Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel). Urged to aid in his brother’s quest to rescue her Thadeous resists — that is until his father threatens to cut him off from the royal teat.
Very soon into his journey we discover why Thadeous was heretofore so reluctant to join in his brother’s adventures: Quests in the Your Highness universe entail an awful lot of encounters with homoeroticism – both latent and blatant. Knights dress in tights and codpieces and seem unusually affectionate toward one another. The price for advice from the Great Wize Wizard a bedridden seal-like creature wearing what looks to be a jellyfish as a skullcap is an open-mouthed kiss and a handjob. A sassy manservant is stripped of his clothing and revealed to be a eunuch. A tribe of feral women is ruled by a half-naked highly effete cherub-like figure named Marteetee. And so on.
Your Highness reaches its homoerotic apex during a pivotal scene in which Thadeous in his first real act of bravery intervenes to prevent Courtney from being raped by a minotaur which minotaur happens to be sporting a massive erection. Wanting a trophy to commemorate the deed he severs the slain beast’s still-engorged member and hangs it around his neck giving us for the remainder of the film a vivid monument to the filmmakers' most reliable comic device. (It’s an impressive sight – I fully expect “hung like a minotaur” to gain much greater prevalence in the lexicon should Your Highness be a hit.)
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And Your Highness does throw in a few hetero bits to help balance the sexual ledger especially when the cast is joined by Natalie Portman playing a feisty fellow-quester and McBride’s unlikely romantic foil. Portman should at the very least be commended for being able to utter lines about a "burning in her beaver" with unvarnished sincerity.
Your Highness is often wickedly funny – a filthy spot-on send-up of The Beastmaster Krull and other campy '80s fantasy flicks. But there’s precious little beyond the filth and eventually the bawdy language and infantile shenanigans grow repetitive especially when the plot starts to meander in the second act. Green's primary comic instinct is to aim for shock value — as in Pineapple Express the action in Your Highness is punctuated by cartoonish violence — which grows tedious toward the end credits. His efforts would have been better devoted to expanding Theroux's and Deschanel's roles — they are woefully underutilized — or giving McBride something funnier to say than "motherf*cker."
Beyonce, Kings of Leon and Taylor Swift were the toast of the music world on Sunday night after taking home the 52nd annual Grammy Awards' biggest prizes.
Beyonce was the Los Angeles event's biggest winner, claiming six of the 10 honors for which she was nominated.
These included Song of the Year, Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance awards for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)."
Swift took home her first four Grammys, including the coveted Album of the Year award, and Kings of Leon's anthem "Use Somebody" earned the rockers prizes for Record of the Year, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
The Black Eyed Peas and Jay-Z were also triple winners at the Grammys, as was the San Francisco Symphony, thanks to its album Mahler: Symphony No. 8; Adagio from Symphony No. 10.
The event's winners were overshadowed by a clutch of terrific performances from acts like Green Day, Pink, Dave Matthews Band, Beyonce and the Black Eyed Peas.
Elton John and Lady Gaga collaborated to open the show, and there were further mash-ups for Jamie Foxx, T-Pain and Slash, Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli, Eminem, Drake and Lil Wayne, and Taylor Swift and Fleetwood Mac star Stevie Nicks.
But the event's highlight was a star-studded tribute to Michael Jackson; Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Usher, Smokey Robinson and Carrie Underwood teamed up to perform the King of Pop's "Earth Song."
The stunning collaboration was accompanied by a 3-D version of the "Earth Song" video Jackson planned to use as a backdrop during his This Is It concerts last summer.
Stars like Beyonce, Rihanna and will.i.am were among the audience members who donned special 3-D glasses to fully appreciate the spectacular musical moment.
They ended the song with their backs to the crowd, staring at images of Jackson, which were flashed onto the big screen behind them, as the audience rose to its feet to applaud the performance, which presenter Lionel Richie called "unbelievable."
Following the showstopper, Jackson's children Prince and Paris took the Staples Center stage to honor their father, a recipient of one of the night's Lifetime Achievement Awards.
In his first public speaking appearance, Prince thanked God for "watching over us these past seven months" and "our grandma and grandpa for their love and support."
Both Jackson children ended their brief acceptance speeches with the words "We love you daddy".
The big winners of the 2010 Grammys are:
Record Of The Year: Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Song Of The Year: Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) - Beyonce
Best New Artist: Zak Brown Band
Album Of The Year: Fearless - Taylor Swift
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: Halo - Beyonce
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance: Make It Mine - Jason Mraz
Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: I Gotta Feeling - The Black Eyed Peas
Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals: Lucky - Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat
Best Pop Instrumental Performance: Throw Down Your Heart - Bela Fleck
Best Pop Instrumental Album: Potato Hole - Booker T. Jones
Best Pop Vocal Album: The E.N.D. - The Black Eyed Peas
Best Dance Recording: Poker Face - Lady Gaga
Best Electronic/Dance Album: The Fame - Lady Gaga
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Michael Buble Meets Madison Square Garden - Michael Buble
Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Working On A Dream - Bruce Springsteen
Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Best Hard Rock Performance: War Machine - AC/DC
Best Metal Performance: Dissident Aggressor - Judas Priest
Best Rock Instrumental Performance: A Day In The Life - Jeff Beck
Best Rock Song: Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
Best Rock Album: 21st Century Breakdown - Green Day
Best Alternative Music Album: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix - Phoenix
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) - Beyonce
Best Male R&B Vocal Performance: Pretty Wings - Maxwell
Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: Blame It - Jamie Foxx & T-Pain
Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: At Last - Beyonce
Best Urban/Alternative Performance: Pearls - India.Arie & Dobet Gnahore
Best R&B Song: Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) - Beyonce
Best R&B Album: Blacksummers' Night - Maxwell
Best Contemporary R&B Album: I Am... Sasha Fierce - Beyonce
Best Rap Solo Performance: D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-Tune) - Jay-Z
Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group: Crack A Bottle - Eminem, Dr. Dre & 50 Cent
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Run This Town - Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West
Best Rap Song: Run This Town - Jay-Z, Rihanna & Kanye West
Best Rap Album: Relapse - Eminem
Best Female Country Vocal Performance: White Horse - Taylor Swift
Best Male Country Vocal Performance: Sweet Thing - Keith Urban
Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: I Run To You - Lady Antebellum
Best Country Collaboration With Vocals: I Told You So - Carrie Underwood & Randy Travis
Best Country Instrumental Performance: Producer's Medley - Steve Wariner
Best Country Song: White Horse - Taylor Swift
Best Country Album: Fearless - Taylor Swift
Best Spoken Word Album: Always Looking Up - Michael J. Fox
Best Comedy Album: A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift Of All! - Stephen Colbert
Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media: Slumdog Millionaire - Various Artists
Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media: Up - Michael Giacchino
Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media: Jai Ho (From Slumdog Millionaire) - Gulzar, A.R. Rahman & Tanvi Shah, songwriters
Lifetime Achievement Award: Leonard Cohen
Lifetime Achievement Award: Michael Jackson
Lifetime Achievement Award: Loretta Lynn
Lifetime Achievement Award: Bobby Darin
Lifetime Achievement Award: Clark Terry
Lifetime Achievement Award: David 'Honeyboy' Edwards
Lifetime Achievement Award: Andre Previn
Trustees Award: Walter C. Miller
Trustees Award: Florence Greenberg
Trustees Award: Harold Bradley
Presidents Merit Award: Doug Morris
Presidents Merit Award: Placido Domingo
Presidents Merit Award: Ken Ehrlich
MusiCares Person of the Year: Neil Young
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
As the fifth year at Hogwarts begins most of the wizardry world is having a hard time believing Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned further propagated by the Ministry of Magic who refuses to recognize anything evil is brewing and blames all the hullabaloo on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The Ministry even interferes with Hogwarts business by making Ministry employee Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor whose outwardly sweet demeanor hides a sadistic streak a mile wide. She thinks the children should only learn about the Dark Arts “theoretically” and tortures all those who disagree. But the Voldemort threat is a reality and Dumbledore has re-formed the Order of the Phoenix a group of witches and wizards that prepares to battle the Dark Lord. Harry is unfortunately being kept in the dark for his protection of course even as his connection to Voldemort grows stronger and he’s royally peeved at being ignored. Urged on by Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) he forms his own order of Hogwarts students called Dumbledore’s Army to teach them what defenses against the Dark Arts he has already learned. Oh yeah Harry also shares his first kiss but make no bones about it—love is the furthest thing on Harry’s mind when the crap hits the fan. War is imminent. Everyone steps up their game in Order of the Phoenix. Radcliffe Watson and Grint have shed their adolescent whininess and aw-shucks goofiness to give their characters the greatest depth so far. They are forced to grow up pretty quickly in Order with little time for any playfulness and the three actors handle the seriousness with aplomb. Of course both Radcliffe and Grint have already ventured out of the Potter world—Radcliffe shed more than just adolescence on stage in a production of Equus while Grint lost his virginity in the indie Driving Lessons--and their extra experience shows in Order. Also good are Matthew Lewis as the usually clumsy Neville Longbottom who shows his mettle in more ways than one and newcomer Evanna Lynch as the slightly off-kilter Luna Lovegood who proves to be a loyal member of Dumbledore’s Army. But the kids have to keep up with the talented adult cast especially Oscar-nominated Staunton (Vera Drake) as Umbridge. The veteran actress’ interpretation of one of J.K. Rowling’s nastiest characters so far in the Potter lore is spot-on down to the pink wool suits and irritating twitter “ahem” she uses when she wants your undivided attention. Helena Bonham Carter also makes an impression however over the top it is as the evil Voldemort follower Bellatrix Lestrange. Does she ever want to look pretty onscreen? Then there’s the laundry list of Brits whose time onscreen may be short but is nonetheless memorable including Alan Rickman as the sneering Prof. Snape; Gambon as the wise but flawed Dumbledore; Gary Oldman as the kindly Sirius Black Harry’s only real family; and of course Fiennes as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. His late-in-the-game appearance once again throws you for a loop. It stands to reason that at five movies in moviegoers would have a favorite Harry Potter flick by now. Those who love those Triwizard Tournament special effects might feel The Goblet of Fire was the best; or Prisoner of Azkaban for its time-bending action. Yet The Order of the Phoenix may be the one movie that speaks directly to the fans of the books. Without as much wide-eyed wonderment or wizardry flash the story is still chockfull of compelling details that are absolutely pivotal to the continuing Harry Potter saga. Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (Peter Pan) and director David Yates (HBO’s The Girl in the Café) manage to wade through this volume of information and cut successfully to the chase with great effect. Yates who has signed on to do the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even shows an affinity for action in the final dramatic confrontation between good witches and wizards and bad ones. But overall Order of the Phoenix may leave audiences not as well-versed in the novels a little itchy for some good old-fashioned wand-waving and Disney special effects. Thing is it’s just going to keep getting darker and darker for Harry and his crew. The days of happy fun playtime are over.