Rock of Ages

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

Rock of Ages is the movie adaptation of the semi-successful Broadway musical. Set in 1987, this is the story of the romance between a small town girl and a city boy as they try to achieve their musical dreams in Hollywood. It’s also the story of the fight to save rock and roll from the powerful old farts who try to ban this evil scourge. This is where the film started to lose me, as it takes place a couple of years after the making of Footloose – a movie set in the late 50s or early 60s about the fight to save rock and roll from the powerful old farts in power trying to ban this evil scourge. Weren’t we past that in 1987, especially in L.A.?

I have not seen the stage show but my guess is the dancing and energy are better live (although I assume they did not have the monkey – and he/she was excellent!). I’m not a dance man but I didn’t think the choreography was all that great. Some of the numbers just seemed weird to me – for example the one with Catherine Zeta-Jones in the church. But the music was good and helped to keep the movie moving.

Rock of Ages had a good cast, but most of the big names were in supporting roles and weren’t fully utilized. This included Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Bryan Cranston (speaking of which, I need to finish season 3 and 4 of Breaking Bad before season 5 starts!) and Tom Cruise. Cruise had the biggest supporting role as the aging Rock God, but it was a pretty one-dimensional role. I will give him credit for looking like a Rock God in his concert scenes. The two younger leads were OK but nothing great.

I didn’t have high expectations for this movie, but was curious about Cruise and his role. Bottom line – unless you’re really into musicals and or 80s music, you can probably skip this one.

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Best Marigold Hotel

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

Very pleasant film, of the (multiple) fish out of water genre, 2012 version of Cocoon where old folks find their second life through exposure and immersion in a different culture. Best English actors of their age infuse this movie with their incredible talents, from Maggie Smith to Judi Dench and Bill Nighy, they make it look effortless and keep your attention regardless of the run-of-the-mill plot. Dev Patel is fun as the young scion of a wealthy family trying to make his vision a reality of a wonderful hotel where old people will want to live until they die. Reality of making a profitable venture get in the way, while his first crop of paying patients/guests find things to turn them on in the surrounding environment of a hectic Jaipur.

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Prometheus

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Prometheus is Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to science fiction. His previous iconic sci fi movies were Aliens and Blade Runner. This film is an indirect prequel to Aliens and focuses on a space mission to find the civilization that planted life on earth and the ensuing struggles to survive.

This is a gorgeous movie to watch. The special effects are excellent and I thought the 3D was extremely effective. While most movies hit you over the head with things coming at you unexpectedly, this 3D usage was much more subtle, especially the great planetary 3D landscape.

I thought the second half of the movie, when the action picked up, became somewhat muddled. The plot could have been simplified and the movie tackled too many themes, including the beginning of life on earth, faith, and eternal life.

Michael Fassbender as the robot David and Charlize Theron as the company representative that financed the expedition were both excellent. Interestingly this was her second evil role in a row (see Bill I’s review of Snow White and the Huntsman). I also really liked Idris Elba as the ship’s captain.

Overall I’d say this was an ok sic-fi movie but it did not quite live up to my expectations.

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Safety Not Guaranteed

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

This is the review I wrote back in March when I saw this at SXSW.  This opened in N.Y. last week and opens in Austin this week. It’s definitely worth seeing.

I really enjoyed this comedy. Excellent performances by Aubrey Plaza (similar to her Parks and Rec persona), Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson.  The plot focuses on 3 reporters following up on an ad looking for a person to join Mark Duplass’ to travel back in time.  But it’s really the characters interactions as they move forward with their lives and overcome some of their problems. The comedy is good and you develop a connection with the characters.  Definitely go see it when it comes out.  This had an excellent Q+A afterwards with the director and stars.

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Moonrise Kingdom

Bill C’s review – 3.5 out of 5

Moonrise Kingdom is the latest from quirky director Wes Anderson.  Some of Anderson’s previous films include Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaum’s and the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Moonrise Kingdom is set in summer 1965 in a small laid back New England town and is about two young teenagers, Suzy (a member of a dysfunctional family) and Sam (an orphan who is spending the summer at boy scout camp).  They run away together and the town and scout troop search for them as a hurricane approaches.

Anderson has his own unique style and as in all of his films this is filled with interesting characters. They include Bruce Willis as the town police officer, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents, Edward Norton as Sam’s troop leader, Tilda Swinton as ‘Social Services’ and Jason Schwartzman as the strange Uncle Ben.   But most of these characters take a back seat to the fine performances of  newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman playing Suzy and Sam.

While this has it’s funny moments (especially involving the scouts) I didn’t think this was as consistently funny as some of Anderson’s other movies.  However I found the young love story of two trouble kids sweet and touching.

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

Besides the forgettable title (I had to look again at my ticket receipt just now to remember it) I loved this film, had a smile on my face throughout. Wes Anderson’s truly unique style makes this a fantasy, children’s story metaphor that combines some realistic characters (mainly the grown-ups: Bill Murray’s burnout, neglectful husband and father, Bruce Willis’ decent, lonely, sheriff, Frances McDormand’s cynical, lazy, housewife/mother who relies on a megaphone to call her kids up the stairs to dinner) with some snappy dialogue spouted from 12 year-olds, including the two amazing leads. This puts Juno to shame in fashioning beyond-their-years youngsters who seem to have their acts together and appreciate life’s adventures better than their elders. I guess you should bring your kids to this, don’t think their’s anything outwardly R rated, and the sexual undertones are fairly discrete (an affair where you don’t even see the adults kissing) or so chaste (first french kiss, skinny dipping with their clothes on…well they dry off in their underwear afterwards). The plot gets a little crazy towards the end but you will like the realistic ending. Keep an eye out for Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman in small but great roles. I don’t think I can describe this very well, you just have to see it.

 

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Snow White and the Huntsman

Bill I’s Review – 4 out of 5

I saw this as an allegory about how much our culture values youth and beauty, to the extent that people will do anything to stop time’s damages. For example, how does Jane Fonda look better now at age 74 than she did 25 years ago? Is she sucking the life force out of young girls like Ravenna the evil Queen does in this movie? Actually, this film is very well done, with excellent acting (Charlize Theron gets an Oscar nomination for sure), cool storyline and wonderful special effects. Check out Ravenna’s special finger-fitted fork.  For me, this beats all of the Lord of the Rings movies. This ain’t no Disney fairy tale, so don’t bring the little kids!

 

Headhunters

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

I really enjoyed this Norewegian thriller.  Roger (Aksel Hennie) is one of the leading corporate headhunters.  Due to his exorbitant lifestyle he needs to moonlight as an art thief.  When he decides to rip off one of his clients after discovering he owns a major piece of art the real action begins. His client, Clas Greve is played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (who plays Jamie Lancaster in Game of Thrones).  Both give good performances, as does Synnøve Macody Lund  who plays Roger’s wife.

This is a taut thriller with a lot of plot twists that will keep you fully engaged right to the end. In retrospect a couple of the plot twists and action were a little bit questionable or over the top and make for a good post movie discussion.

The subtitles seemed pretty quick at the beginning and I was having trouble keeping up but either they slowed them down or I started reading more quickly!

It might be hard to find this film near you (I saw it at the Violet Crown in Austin).  Butt if you get a chance to see it it is worthwhile.

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