Rock of Ages Turns 80’s Glam Metal Into Bubblegum Music

MOVIE REVIEW

Title: Rock of Ages
Genre: Dramatic Musical
Director: Adam Shankman
Screenplay: Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, Allan Loeb
Principle Cast: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Ackerman, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mary J. Blige and Tom Cruise
Length: 123 minutes
Released: June 15, 2012
Stars: 2.0

I was 23 years old in 1987 so I do realize that I am not exactly the target demographic audience for Rock of Ages, but after having seen the trailer I thought that, hey, this could be fun!  I’m a huge music fan and I love rock music…how bad can it be?  Well the answer to that is REALLY BLEEPING BAD!!  It was a terrible disappointment!

Rock of Ages, directed by Hairspray’s Adam Shankman, is a “dramatic” musical set in 1987 Los Angeles, but I doubt anyone who’d actually been there at that time would recognize it as such.  Supposedly at the height of the “hair-metal craze”, the film celebrates some of the lamest rock songs ever (I do, however, actually like Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian”, Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll”, and Guns ‘n’ Roses’ “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”) and regurgitates them into bubblegum pop versions.  There is not one death metal song on the soundtrack.  Most of the singing actors sound like they just took a big hit of helium before opening their mouths, particularly Julianne Hough, who plays Sherrie Christian, a Tulsa, Oklahoma girl who boards a bus to Hollywood to pursue her dreams as a singer but ends up working as a waitress and then a stripper.

There is not a real rock voice among the cast, but I must admit that Tom Cruise, who did his best to channel his inner Axl Rose as rock legend douchebag Stacee Jaxx, did a decent job and gave the finest performance in the movie, followed by newcomer Diego Boneta in his first film role as Drew Boley, an LA bar boy working at The Bourbon Room – a sleazy LA nightclub in danger of foreclosure due to its inept manager Dennis & his sidekick Lonny – while dreaming of making it as a rock star.  Tom and Diego might be the only actors in this debacle who didn’t totally embarrass themselves (Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand in bad wigs as gay lovers?  Come on!!) with their stupid, over the top performances.  Okay, Mary J. Blige was pretty good too.  However, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the LA Mayor’s puritan, anti-rock’n’roll wife, Patricia Whitmore, positively made me cringe, and Paul Giamatti’s turn as Stacee Jaxx’s slimy manager just made me shake my head.  Why Paul, why?!

This tale of two young lovers whose romance faces the obligatory challenge before the final denouement, tried hard to be sexy, but it wasn’t.  And if it was supposed to be funny, (Stacee Jaxx’s baboon, Hey Man, being the main shtick) I think the writers totally missed their marks.  Even Russell Brand, who I have often thought hilarious in his stand-up, and one of the main reasons I wanted to see the movie, was absolutely torturous!

A film adaptation of the Tony-nominated Broadway musical, Rock of Ages the movie, fails to leave you feeling euphoric about the music or pursuing your dreams.  I was just annoyed by the split scene montages of characters singing two different songs at the same time as was the case in several instances including Julianne Hough singing “More Than Words” and Diego Boneta crooning “Heaven” or Catherine Zeta-Jones’ rock music terminators shouting “We’re Not Going To Take It” while Russell Brand and his “metal” advocates belt out “We Built This City On Rock’n’Roll.”  Uggh…it’s not just me either.  The Calgary Herald wrote, “Rock of Ages sugarcoats debauchery of 1980’s heavy metal” and The Toronto Star’s Peter Howell warned: “For those about to rock, prepare to shudder instead.”  I even agree with The Daily Mail’s verdict: “Tacky and not terribly original.”

Written for an audience of 12-year-olds, Rock of Ages was sickeningly ridiculous and painful to sit through, so if you’re over 25, don’t bother going!  I want my money back.

My Booky Wook by Russell Brand

Book Review
Title: My Booky Wook: A Memoir of Sex, Drugs, and Stand-up
Author: Russell Brand
Publisher: It Books
Released: 2009
Pages: 368
ISBN-10: 0061730416
ISBN-13: 978-0061730412
Stars: 3.5

I only just discovered the English rock star of comedians, Russell Brand, a few weeks ago when a friend of mine told me about his Live From New York City stand-up special which aired on The Comedy Network on Saturday, March 14, 2009. I caught a portion of the show near its end and was immediately transfixed by this Byronesque rapscallion! I immediately started watching his stand-up routines on YouTube as well as every interview with him that I could find and couldn’t help but fall for the sexy and hilariously naughty man-child who has made me laugh out loud with his razor-sharp wit almost every day since. He is, however, such a controversial celebrity that when I posted a link to a YouTube video about him on my Facebook page, one of my “friends” who is a children’s author, left an insulting comment on my wall that went like this:

Him: You just discovered the guy that was spewing disrespect towards America and has no values? Kudos to you. Hope you don’t have children.

Me: No, I don’t have children, but I actually think the guy is funny.

Him: ah…small blessings.

He proceeded to delete me as a friend! When I wrote him a private email to tell him that I didn’t think it was very nice of him to insult me publicly and to apologize if I offended him, he replied with: “It’s always a risk one runs when they hold one up to praise and that someone is one that unabashedly demeans and insults others. I will not shrink in my loathing of such a man or anyone that would praise him in my face. Yea…might as well talk up Hitler’s finer qualities next.”

I’m here to tell you that the Essex born Russell Edward Brand – an extremely talented, remarkably intelligent, well-read, narcissistic, bipolar, vegetarian, yoga-practising, single, 33-year-old who has been sober for six years – only wants to make people laugh and exudes an earnest desire to love the world. He is certainly NO Hitler!

This obviously very conservative right-winger was referring to the incident last year when Russell hosted the MTV VMA Awards and referred to President George W. Bush as an “idiot cowboy fella.” The self-admitted drugs and sex addict also made fun of The Jonas Brothers for wearing chastity rings, all in the name of COMEDY, which is his JOB. I, personally, am not offended by his comments as I understand the context in which they were made having just done so much research about him, including reading his autobiography, My Booky Wook, released in North America this March.

Russell Brand is an amusing, charming and brutally honest young man who obviously loves language and can’t help but show off his vast vocabulary (I learned what “impecunious” and “autodidact” meant by reading his book) and penchant for colourful adjectives. He came from a broken home and while his mother battled cancer three times and was often unable to look out for him during his childhood, he spent a great deal of time staying with his Nan or his playboy photographer father. Ron Brand irresponsibly left his pornography collection lying around the house for a very young and impressionable Russell to find when he should have been watching re-runs of H.R. Pufnstuf.

Brand grew up watching Blackadder, Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses, which he correctly credits with comedic brilliance, and he talks about how Vic Reeves Big Night Out, a comedy show on BBC4 in the early ’90s was, “…funny and charming and specific in its language and its references. It taught me that you should never pick the first word people would think of, you have to train your mind to sift through the obvious stuff until you come to something that’s really funny.” Russell has learned this technique inside and out and has turned it into a fine art.

My Booky Wook takes Russell’s readers through his early childhood (born June 4, 1975), school years (he was kicked out of every one he went to including The Drama Centre), influential friendships and intense relationship with drugs, alcohol and sex addiction. He freely admits to some abominable behaviour – some of which is revisited in the book – believes in instant karma, and while he could definitely benefit from years of psychotherapy, he feels remorse for his actions and is still seeking redemption. Russell is a study in ambivalence: equal parts vain egomaniac and introspective, deeply compassionate seeker of Spirit. There is a sweetness and light about this man that is as incredibly intoxicating as a breath of fresh air outside an abattoir.

What it [heroin] mainly does is take you right out of reality, and plant you somewhere more manageable. In short, it contextualizes everything else as meaningless…All of us, I think, have a vague idea that we’re missing something. Some say that thing is God; that all the longing we feel – be it for a lover, or a football team, or a drug – is merely an inappropriate substitute for the longing we’re supposed to feel for God, for oneness, for truth. And what heroin does really successfully is objectify that need.

My Booky Wook is a fascinating read about a beguiling person but it ends in 2005 and since then, Russell Brand has become even more famous as he’s toured in Great Britain, the US and Australia with his stand-up act and started acting in Hollywood movies. Russell, who has described himself as resembling an S&M Willy Wonka, has appeared in the movies St. Trinian’s, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Bedtime Stories and will appear in Julie Taymor’s version of The Tempest and Get Him To The Greek in which he reprises his Forgetting Sarah Marshall role as rock star Aldous Snow. It is very safe to say that we haven’t heard the last of this man and that subsequent volumes of his autobiography will likely be written in future.

However, just so you know for now, Russell writes a weekly sport column for The Guardian newspaper in London and he became famous in the UK for presenting a Big Brother spin-off called Big Brother’s Big Mouth (after years of mad cable television antics while he was whacked out of his mind on heroin), as well as hosting his own radio program on the BBC. He resigned from that job late last year after a certain inappropriate prank call with Jonathan Ross to Andrew Sachs was aired. Depictions of his controversial behaviour can be found all over the Internet.

Russell often seems to forget about editing himself before he speaks (which is what lands him in so much hot water with the media) but, whether you love him or hate him, My Booky Wook confirms that he’s never, ever boring. Whether it be on Russell Brand TV, Twitter, in the tabloids or his next book, I can’t wait to read what he has to say next!

Watch Russell Brand in Live From New York City, click here: