Film

Five for Five: 'Rock of Ages'

Five reasons for and against seeing the new musical starring a shirtless Tom Cruise (reason #1 either way).

Is it an eagerly anticipated glam-fest of popular celebrities singing popular rock and roll anthems, or is Rock of Ages a desperate, lazy attempt to capitalize on a lack of musicals in the summer season by throwing money at good actors to perform a less than stellar story? I don’t know. No one does yet. But these are the factors, for and against, that will make or break the film in quality and at the box office.

FOR

#1: Tom Cruise

He’s the fastest man alive. He’s fearless in the face of danger. He has the need for speed, and now, the need to sing. I honestly haven’t met someone who isn’t out-of-their-mind excited to see Maverick strip down to his leather pants and belt out some good ol’ Guns N' Roses. Much like his Oscar-worthy appearance in Tropic Thunder as the irritable Len Grossman, hard rocker Stacee Jaxx has numerous possibilities for absolute hilarity. And Tom doesn’t miss when aiming for a laugh.

#2: That Soundtrack...

In an age where the movie soundtrack has gone the route of eight-track tapes, here is a legitimate reason to walk to your local record store and pick up a hard copy, preferably on vinyl, of your favorite A-list celebs doing million-dollar karaoke cuts of your favorite A-list '80s rockers.

Tom Cruise singing Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me”.

Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand belting out “Can’t Fight This Feeling”.

Catherine Zeta-Jones giving it her best in “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”.

What could you possibly spend your $10 on that would give you more lasting memories than these and 17 other new classics?

#3: Justin Theroux

No, he’s not another crooner. Theroux, more famous for his acting (and dating Jennifer Aniston) than his writing, co-wrote the script for Rock of Ages with Chris D’Arienzo and Allan Loeb. Why does this make a difference? Well, Mr. Theroux also co-wrote a little movie called Tropic Thunder. This has to put his name in the plus column considering Rock of Ages lives and dies with Tom Cruise’s performance. If Theroux made Stacee Jaxx as fun and juicy a role as he did Len Grossman, then we’re in for a special treat this summer.

#4: That Cast...

OK, we’ve all seen Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand drunkenly singing “I Love Rock & Roll” at the end of the Rock of Ages trailer a thousand times. A few sharp-eyed viewers may have even spotted Paul Giamatti, always a good choice, and Julianne Hough, ditto but for different reasons (#Footloose20114EVA!). What surprised me, though, was who DOESN’T pop up in any of the trailers or TV spots.

For instance, who knew Bryan Cranston was playing Mayor Mike Whitmore? And why aren’t they pointing out McGruber himself, Will Forte, also has a significant part? Throw in Malin Akerman, Diego Boneta, and Mary J. Blige and holy crap! This is one helluva cast!

#5: Tom FREAKING CRUISE!

I really can’t stress how important Tom is to this film, but you probably already know that.

 
AGAINST

#1: Tom Cruise

So, a former friend actually told me he didn’t like Tom Cruise. I laughed and then he said he was serious. A few minutes later, after he regained consciousness, he told me it was because he went on some crazy rant about Scientology and aliens and gay zappers (or something, I wasn’t really listening). Apparently, his distaste for a man who believes aliens exist and deserve to be worshiped overcame his love for great movies. Even more shocking is that he’s not the only person in the world who feels this way.

Sometime in 2005, people turned on Tom. His box office suffered. His pride had to be hurt. It was a dark time for America. Now, though, it appears the man is back on the A-list thanks to the megahit Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and a savvy, below-the-radar turn in the aforementioned Tropic Thunder. While I would like to think everyone has forgiven and forgotten, I know many haven’t. So if you’re still drinking the haterade, there’s nothing I can do or say to make you enjoy Rock of Ages. He’s the movie, like it or not.

#2: Those Trailers...

I don’t know why it’s so hard to cut a decent trailer for this film – with that cast and that music it should be a simple process. Show a celeb singing, cut to another one, cut to one dancing, cut to one drinking, cut to one shirtless, overlay with music. Done.

Yet the brainiacs at Warner Bros. (a company I usually find to be quite great at their job) have succeeded in doing only one thing -- amping up the anticipation for Stacee Jaxx’s assuredly stellar set. The drums beat. The lights dim. Then we get a quick peak at the man, the myth, the legend: The Jaxx.

Everything else is crap. They managed to make Alec Baldwin not funny, and have relegated the renegade Russell Brand to silent sidekick duties. Their young stars aren’t given any time to look sexy and cool -- seriously, what is with the shot of Hough spraying her hair into a There’s Something About Mary-esque mega curl? If it weren’t for Maverick coming to the rescue, Rock of Ages would be a hookless entry in a packed summer lineup.

#3: The Plot...

Anyone who sees the trailers for Rock of Ages will think it’s a Muppets save-the-dying-theater-with-one-last-rock-show kind of movie. Stacee Jaxx is coming! Protesters are lining up against him! It’s rock n’ roll vs. Christianity!

Well, it may be all that, but here’s the official synopsis courtesy of IMDB.com:

“A small town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.”

Other than being a rather brilliant allusion to Journey’s best song, that doesn’t sound like anything I saw in the TV spots. It also doesn’t sound like a movie I want to see, especially when the city boy is Diego Boneta. Here’s hoping that’s the lameduck plot pushed aside by some sterling supporting performances. That, or Hough is Footloose-level sexy.

#4: That Cast...

This is not one helluva cast. Alec Baldwin? Great actor on television, but lately he’s done nothing but stinkers on the big screen (It’s Complicated, My Best Friend’s Girl, Fun With Dick and Jane). Russell Brand has an even worse track record. I’ll give you Paul Giamatti, but his look in this movie reminds me more of Duplicity than Sideways.

The rest are barely worthy of being said. Who the hell is Julianne Hough other than a hottie wasting her body on Ryan Seacrest (oh, it hurts to say this)? Malin Akerman? Diego Boneta? Will “MacGruber” Forte? They’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel now. Good thing they paid Bryan Cranston enough to up the cast’s merit. Let’s face it, Tom Cruise makes this a blockbuster. The rest are filler for the posters.

#5: This Photo...

Your immediate reaction to this photo, good or bad, yes or no, “ROCK OUT!” or “Gross,” should tell you all you need to know about Rock of Ages. Let your conscience be your guide. But hopefully I’ll see you there. Tom Cruise!

Music

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