And the blitz continues. We’re heading towards November 2013 and I still haven’t done my best and worst lists of 2012. The heat is on!
Rock of Ages (2012)
Not usually a fan of musicals (The Sound of Music being an exception, of course) but Rock of Ages seemed like it had potential because of the classic ballads and the fact that it featured stars you thought couldn’t sign, such as Tom Cruise and Alec Baldwin.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, Rock of Ages is your typical romantic comedy about a young girl (Julianne Hough) who leaves everything behind to venture to the big city to chase her dream of becoming a star but learns things are a lot messier and more difficult than she imagined.
I enjoyed the film not because of the story it had to tell because of the stars. Tom Cruise really surprised me and stole the show somewhat with his performance as disillusioned rocker Stacee Jaxxx. The Scientologist can sing! It was also good to see the likes of Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Ackerman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and of course Bryan Cranston having fun with their respective roles.
It’s overlong, bland, cliched, cheesy and not especially romantic or funny, but audiences who like the music in it (Hit Me with Your Best Shot, More Than Words, Wanted Dead or Alive, I Wanna Know What Love Is, etc) might be able to overlook some of these flaws. It’s not a memorable musical movie like say Chicago, but Rock of Ages could have been a lot worse (like say Mamma Mia).
3 stars out of 5
The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
I get what they were trying to do with this movie, or at least I think I do. A farcical, satirical, yet semi-serious American martial arts film paying homage to the classic HK kung fu movies — the unintentionally hilarious dubbed ones — Quentin Tarantino loves so much. And yet the movie is directed by and stars rapper RZA, plus a cast including Russell Crowe and just about every Asian actor in and on the outskirts of Hollywood.
The story is set in ancient China and is about a blacksmith (RZA) entangled in warring clans. Needless to say, he ends up turning into titular character and takes on a bunch of kung fu badasses led by MMA fighter David Bautista. Crazy fight scenes, bloody violence and cheesy melodrama ensue.
The result is a mixed bag. But if you’re looking for a parody-type laugh and some half decent kung fu scenes, then The Man with the Iron Fists is OK. Not great, not horrible, but just OK. It’s intentionally silly and means well, but it walks a strange line the feels awkwardly out of place. The problem is that it doesn’t really offer anything original or exciting. The target audience — fans of such films — will enjoy it, but for mainstream audiences the message could be lost in the translation.
2.25 stars out of 5
Here Comes the Boom (2012)
I was really surprised with this one because I don’t exactly equate Kevin James to a leading man in a good comedy. The style of his comedy often feels too obvious to me, which makes him a better sidekick — or so I thought.
Here Comes the Boom is what I would call an effective family-comedy-slash-inspiring-underdog-story. Kevin James is a disillusioned biology teacher who turns to paid MMA fighting to help out a music teacher (played by Henry Winkler) struggling from funding problems. Winkler, doing his best Arrested Development Barry Zuckerkorn impression (making him the by far the best thing about the whole movie), helps James out in his corner with the aid of a trainer trying to gain his American citizenship, while fellow teacher and love interest Salma Hayek tends to his many wounds.
It’s a ridiculous premise that’s pure fantasy, especially if you consider James’s physique, but that’s what underdog movies are all about. The fight scenes are done pretty well and there’s not much to dislike about the film despite how generic it feels at times.
The reason why Here Comes the Boom works is because it doesn’t take itself too seriously but is amusing enough and the characters are likable enough to get the job done. Look, it’s not Warrior, the best MMA movie of all time, but it’s not exactly Never Back Down 2 (one of the worst MMA movies of all time) either. It definitely could have been funnier and the plot could have been stronger, but I think despite its flaws and lack of memorability, its scaled back violence, easy-to-get humour and heart-filled message makes Here Comes the Boom a good DVD choice for kids and families to enjoy.
3.25 stars out of 5
Rites of Passage (2012)
Wow. Christian Slater. Stephen Dorff, Wes Bentley. All guys who had promising careers at one stage. Slater was the man for a while (check out this list: Heathers, The Wizard, Young Guns II, Pump Up the Volume, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Untamed Heart, True Romance, Interview with the Vampire, Broken Arrow, Hard Rain — those are his major hits from 1988 to 1998). Dorff was in one of my favourite horror movies as a kid, The Gate, and hit the big time with The Power of One in 1992, though for some reason the biggest movie he did after that was Blade. As for Bentley, he was supposed to be IT after American Beauty, and your guess on what happened to him is as good as mine.
But I digress. All three guys are in Rites of Passage and it’s a straight-t0-DVD piece of crap. Basically, it’s about an anthropology college student (some random) who wants a right of passage to transition himself to manhood. He takes his college buddies to a ranch along with his buffed professor (Dorff) and runs into his brother (Bentley), who a psycho addicted to psychedelic drugs. And also hanging around is a psycho hillbilly (Slater) who talks to…wait for it…a monkey sock puppet. By the way, this is a slasher movie.
Piles of cliches, plenty of stupidity and hordes of unlikable douchey characters, though I admit there was also some occasional entertainment, mostly from watching Christian Slater talk to a monkey sock puppet. I just don’t know what to think of this film. It was just so silly and trite that I thought I might have been having a wild fantasy nightmare. I mean, just look at the poster. It says it all.
1.5 stars out of 5