Category Archives: Don’t Quit Your Day Job

A look at musicals – underrated, overrated and everything in between.

Hooray for Bollywood

I have recently discovered all the joys Bollywood films have to bring. For instance, it’s not a real musical number unless there are at least two costume changes. Okay, that’s not really a very significant thing, but it sure makes for a great spectacle. Let me back up a little.

A (Very) Brief History of Bollywood

Believe it or not, Hollywood isn’t really as big everywhere else as it is here. Indian cinema is actually the largest film industry in the world  – in terms of production, that is. Cinema was first introduced in India in 1896, with the first feature film produced in 1913. When the advent of sound hit the film industry, India was one of the first to take full advantage of this new technology, using musical spectacle to dominate the industry come the 1930s… in India.

Even though these spectacular films are made in what is now known as Mumbai, the name Bollywood stuck (for anyone out there who didn’t know about Bombay, shame on you), continuing the song and dance throughout the ages.  Somehow, in some magical way, Indian cinema stood clear from Hollywood influence, adapting their own genres and styles. Basically, all you need to know about modern Bollywood is that there are three basic genres: socials (contemporary romances), mythologicals (stories of history and legend), and adventure (cheesy action flicks); furthermore, Indian censorship is so heavy, that song and dance numbers are often used for characters to express their feelings, being that kissing and other cheeky things are not allowed. Oh, and Bollywood stars are gods.

Literally.

Literally.

You think American celebriculture is weird? In India, Bollywood stars are essentially royalty – these guys are everywhere, endorsing all sorts of things.  Additionally, Bollywood has become so engrained into Indian culture that songs from the films have become standards; it’s no secret that the actors lip-sync, but the playback singers are just as famous as the actors. Just try to get this out of your head –

If this was an American film, I would probably hate it.

Honestly, if this was an American film I would probably hate it.

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (Aditya Chopra, 2008)

This brings me to my film highlight, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. This little gem can be found on Netflix for all your eyeball pleasures. Though RNBDJ isn’t really a groundbreaking Bollywood feature, this was the one that really opened the door for me personally.

The plot is as convoluted as humanly possible: shy Surinder (Suri) is visiting his old professor when he is met by the professor’s alluring engaged daughter, Taani. During Suri’s visit, Taani receives word that her fiancé and his wedding party are instantly killed in a car wreck – her father gets a heart attack at the news. On his deathbed, fearing the idea of Taani being alone, he makes Suri and Taani marry, to which both oblige out of respect. Crazy, right? It gets kookier.

Suri finds that he is smitten by Taani’s beauty and rambunctiousness, whereas Taani is too traumatized to believe she could ever love again. While spending time with Taani, he notices her love of romance and dance, eventually permitting her to join a dance group, which she is more than delighted to be a part of. Curious and interested in spending more time with her, Suri adopts an alter ego called Raj Kapoor, a stylish, fast-talking ladies’ man – who she totally doesn’t recognize as Suri. Forced into dance-partner-hood, Suri leads a double-life. Will Taani ever find out the truth about Raj? Will Suri ever confess his love? Can you believe this movie’s nearly three hours long?

rab-ne-bana-di-jodi-ss-2132012138391

A rare time when a movie can make you believe in love and chances and all that crap.

As I mention above, I’d probably hate this movie so much if it was presented as an American romance, but Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi just charmed my pants off. As crazy as this sounds, this a romance with some heart for a change – and it’s incredibly fun to watch. The performances themselves deserve your full attention – Shah Rukh Khan’s almost seems to channel Peter Sellers as he switches between these personalities.

The other key source of enjoyment for this film is its incredibly meta nature: we’re watching a Bollywood romance that pulls every Bollywood romance cliche while making fun of itself – there are even great references to older adventure films. Also, this happens –

Every Bollywood dance scene ever.

So if you’re in the mood for some colorful noise, or just a feel good movie, give Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi a try. I really don’t think you’ll regret it. Expand your mind a little – it can be fun.

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Tear Down The Wall!

pink-floyd-the-wall-posterPink Floyd’s conceptual album The Wall may have received mixed reviews from critics – one even saying, “I’m not sure whether it’s brilliant or terrible, but I find it utterly compelling” – but it has remained a favorite for many fans, at least those who happily accepted Roger Waters over Sid Barret, but I digress – it’s a neat album.  Then when the movie was released three years later…it also received mixed reviews, only this time, many hardcore Floyd fans weren’t digging it, especially due to preconceived notions about the album – which is understandable, like when a favorite book is adapted.  The odd thing is, the album was originally written with the intent of being a film.  Personally, I find The Wall to be a fairly under appreciated work.

I realize that I’m a little biased because I really dig the album, or maybe because I adore all kinds of weird animation, so I’ll really try to ignore these things…or at least for a little while.

We don't talk about what happened between Live Aid and Live 8

We don’t talk about what happened between Live Aid and Live 8.

For now let’s focus on the story, which is about a young man named Pink and his complete psychological break.  Normally this sort of thing would be fairly uneventful, but when you throw in the fact that Pink’s a rock star who realizes the potential of his power over his followers.  And of course there’s some Oedipal things going on with the early death of his father in the war and then his overbearing mother and cheating wife – it’s all very dynamic.

I say there’s no better fodder for a rock epic.

Pink’s story is told completely through Pink Floyd melodies, accompanied by strong audible and visual metaphors.  Granted some of the imagery is fairly repetitive, practically beating you over the head with some things (yes, I get it, your daddy’s dead Roger!), but overall I think the repetition is fairly effective in driving the point home on Pink’s isolation and desire for control.

Okay, here comes the fun part – animation!  You have to admit, the most memorable parts of this film are the animated sequences.  This one, without a doubt is my favorite, in which Pink’s lavish lifestyle collides with a damaged psyche, building his isolation higher and higher:

I was kind of upset that “What Shall We Do Now?” wasn’t on the album after I saw this (I owned the album before seeing the film, by the way).  Anywhoo, the animation is incredible, combining the beautiful with the grotesque with hardly any effort.  I kind of wish the whole thing was animated to be honest – someone contact Gerald Scarfe and get him and Roger on this.

In retrospect, it seems for me The Wall is a complete guilty pleasure: good music, gorgeous animation, and strong metaphors.  Even if it is a complete guilty pleasure, I think it’s still worth a gander in one way or another if you haven’t already taken a peek.

Les Misérables

It looks just like a Christmas card.

It looks just like a Christmas card.

Ah, the award-winning musical Les Misérables – that is pronounced, as Pee-wee Herman would say “LAY MIZERABLAH” – but for the average lazy type such as myself, let’s just call it “Les Mis,” as it is so often called.  Anyway, to those unfamiliar, Les Mis takes place at the cusp of the French Revolution, a trying time of political oppression but also of hope and resilience against the odds.  Our tale focuses on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), an ex-con who spends his life running from a ruthless officer called Javert (Russel Crowe), and finally finds redemption when he takes in the ailing daughter of a victim of circumstance named Fantine (Anne Hathaway).

You just want to hold her and tell her everything's going to be okay.

You just want to hold her and tell her everything’s going to be okay.

As mentioned, Les Mis is an ambitious and timeless piece, so really it was about time that the musical in all its entirely was presented on the big screen.  Frankly, I don’t think performance-wise it couldn’t have been casted better.  Jackman and Hathaway give powerhouse performances – honestly if Hathaway doesn’t get an Oscar nod for her performance I’ll be shocked.  Do you know how hard it is to cry and sing at the same time – and well at that?  It’s just a shame she didn’t get more screen-time than she did, but what she gave was truly unforgettable.

Also did anyone else forget Russel Crowe could sing?  I knew he could but it’s just been so long.  Watching him size up Jackman was really impressive as well.  Additionally, I feel that the pairing of Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen as the Thénardiers was a breath of fresh air in this dark and dreary setting.

Classy.

Classy.

 

I think my only real complaint on the performances was in regards to Cosette and Marius – Amanda Seyfried’s too shrill and Eddie Redmayne’s too…odd.  I don’t know, his voice was strangely guttural and he just looks like his face got stretched or something.  Quite honestly, the young couple bothered me the most in this whole production.  I know that them meeting across the street and doing the love-at-first-sight thing is how it’s always been, but it’s just so painfully cliche it’s infuriating.  I was really hoping they would’ve added more detail into their relationship to make it more realistic, but they just kept it going like they knew each other for years.  I call shenanigans.

On the note of various irks and the like, I seriously wanted to slap the camera folk in the face once or twice.  The idea of doing absurdly close close-ups is interesting at first, because it does a great job of capturing the intensity of the moment.  However, when you have a static shot of every vein in Hugh Jackman’s forehead for three minutes, it gets a little draining.  Then when the camera wasn’t static it was sloppily moving about and seemed to be struggling to focus on the right parts of people’s faces.  Then sometimes it would do random things, such as one scene where Valjean’s having a conversation with Marius: before they begin speaking, the camera’s tilted slightly for a good few seconds – sure it’s a minute detail, but it was so sudden it was very confusing, especially because there wasn’t any reference to anything like this before – did the camera operator just get bored?  I really wouldn’t blame them, with the amount of static takes.  I suppose sloppy is the ideal phrase when describing the camera work in this movie, which is terribly unfortunate because the production design is so incredibly gorgeous.  That and I adored the framing in The King’s Speech, so I really wonder what went so awry for Tom Hooper on this production.

Oh man, why can't they just be married?

Oh man, why can’t they just be married?

Les Mis is a two and a half hours of pure entertainment – filled with gorgeous design and heart-wrenching performances, like any decent Broadway show.  Now if it wasn’t for the cliches and the frustrating camera work, Les Misérables would be A-worthy.  Regardless, this film is a great way to start off the new year.

Final Grade: B

Science Fiction Double-Feature

Alrighty folks, it’s October!  A time for cider, candy and spooky scary skeletons – but most of all, awesome movies.  Whether we’re dealing with slashers, psychos or downright crazies, the horror genre encompasses all – in this case, cult movie musicals!  That’s right, I’m using my Don’t Quit Your Day Job feature to segue into my new category, Drinking the Kool-aid, where I delve into awesome examples of cult cinema.  Without further a due, let’s have some old and new with The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Oh my.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

When it comes to sci-fi cult classic musicals, there really is nothing that compares to The Rocky Horror Picture Show – I mean, there’s nothing like it.  Granted it is a parody of B-Movies of the 1940s-1970s, but this film reigns strong on its own as one of the more popular cult film of pretty much all time.  Just what makes it so darn awesome?

Well to start off, the music’s fantastic.  I seriously cannot find anything to harp on about it: it’s well-written, well-performed, and catchy as all hell.  As of now “The Time Warp” stands as a staple on most Halloween party albums and plays at the occasional Hard Rock Café – that’s not half bad.

Let’s take into consideration Dr. Frank N. Furter’s big intro number, “Sweet Transvestite”:

This song serves as a pivotal moment in the movie.  Once our young protagonists Brand (ASSHOLE) and Janet (SLUT) meet this man, this turns from a musical misadventure to a most bizarre sex romp.  It’s like when From Dusk Til Dawn went from a crime thriller to a Mexican vampire gore fest.

I think the addition of the sex element to the B-Movie formula that makes it so unforgettable.  Rather than a Dr. Frankenstein, we’re given an omnisexual Frank N. Furter, whose life’s work is creating the ultimate sex toy, a living muscle-man known as Rocky Horror.  Brad and Janet are thrust into this perplexing world and forced to become part of Frank’s self-absorbed floor show.  And if that wasn’t enough, it’s revealed that Dr. Frank and his (SLAVES) servants (SAME THING) are aliens! Dun-dun-duuuun!

Like I said, I think if it wasn’t for its originality in combination of how the film’s presented, we would not have the pop culture iconism that we have today.  There is a sequel, Shock Treatment, but it’s not nearly as memorable…or good.  Personally I just wonder about how these shout-outs and other Rockyisms came to be.  Were they planted during the Broadway run or was someone at the midnight show just that bored?  The world will never know.

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Oh Repo, where do I begin?  Repo was a graphic novel turned stage play (not unlike Rocky Horror) – eventually gaining interest from Lionsgate.  Then things kinda went south and it really didn’t get much promotion – it was pretty much known as that goth musical with Paris Hilton.  For shame, I say.  I think it’s fair to say that Repo is this generation’s Rocky Horror – complete with midnight showings and shadow casts and the whole bit.  I honestly don’t know if there are shout-outs or cues or anything but it really wouldn’t surprise me.

More angst I say!

Repo! The Genetic Opera is dystopian tale where in the near future mankind will fall due to a horrible onslaught of genetic disease.  Fortunately, a company called GeneCo has discovered how to farm healthy organs.  However, if you do not make your payments on time, your organs will be repossessed by GeneCo’s Repo-Man.  So far it sounds a little like a failed movie, huh?  (*cough*rip-off*cough*)  The story of Repo focuses on a young girl named Shiloh (Spy Kids‘ Alexa Vega), whose father is a Repo-Man.  Not only does she not know her father’s terrible secret, but she also doesn’t know that her family holds the secret to the future of GeneCo.

To be honest the music in this movie is fairly hit-and-miss.  You get the greatness of Buffy‘s Anthony Stewart Head belting his heart out, and you learn that Frank Sorvino can actually sing really well.  Also  Phantom of the Opera‘s Christine herself, Sarah Brightman, makes a memorable appearance as an opera singer known as Blind Mag.  On the other hand, well, other than Paris Hilton, some of the songs can be annoying, such as “Seventeen.”  Yes!  I get that you’re seventeen Shiloh!  I totally don’t care about your typical rebellious nature!  Overall I think that the good outweighs the awful on this one.

Now what really raised the bar for me was the GeneCo heirs, namely Pavi Largo, played by Skinny Puppy’s Ogre.

You’ve got a little something on your…oh.

This is a man who sleeps with women and cuts off their faces.  I’ll be honest here, he fascinates me.  He’s just a strange little character who ought to get more screen time, but whatever the movie’s not about him.  He’s just a sweet little perk to this strange and wonderful world.

Watch for the performances, stay for the Pavi.

You Are What You Eat

Musicals and cannibalism.  You wouldn’t have imaged it but nothing seems to go together better – like barbeque chips and white cheddar popcorn or garlic bread and vanilla ice cream.  Hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.  Segue: just like movies such as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street or the lesser-known Cannibal! The Musical – a medium that seems only for the happiest of stories can be just as easily applied to the twisted and macabre.  Let’s start out with the more familiar title.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

He seldom laughed but he often smiled. Okay not really – that’s just how the “Ballad” goes. No wonder they dropped it.

Brief history: After years of penny dreadfuls and silent film adaptations, Sweeney Todd as a musical was written by Broadway great Stephen Sondheim back in 1979 and originally starred Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou in the title role.  It has since been adapted on and off Broadway numerous times until finally becoming a feature film in 2007.

This popular tale surrounds a humble barber named Benjamin Barker.  Barker ran a successful business atop Mrs. Lovett’s meat pie shop for years until the insidious Judge Turpin arrested him and had him locked away for 15 years, simply so he could get at Barker’s wife, Lucy.  Now Barker has returned under the name Sweeney Todd and seeks revenge for the man who wrecked his life – a rage which has only exacerbated now that he learns from Mrs. Lovett that not only did the judge rape his wife but in her misery poisoned herself, and now Turpin is the sole guardian of Todd’s daughter, Johanna.  His plot of revenge soon turns to obsession as he begins to pick off innocent men who pop into his shop – it’s a good thing there’s Mrs. Lovett downstairs, or else all those bodies would be hard to hide.

“These are my friends.”

Now I was/am one of those weird kids who was raised on musicals, so I was fairly familiar with the story and proceeded to fangasm all over the place once I learned that it was not only going to be adapted by Tim Burton, but it was also going to star Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as the leads (no surprise), and the icing on the cake, Alan Rickman as Judge Turpin.  I was mostly stoked to see what these people sounded like, being that none of these people had ever sung in a production before.

As a result, the final product isn’t that bad at all.  In fact, it’s really quite  remarkable on some levels – enough for Depp to be nominated for an Oscar that year.  Though there are some changes between the original story and this movie (some fairly substantial in terms of character development), I don’t believe it’s fair to play Pong with comparisons.  I realize that many people found this movie more annoyingly angst-ridden than expected (or weren’t expecting an actual musical…I do not compute), but I honestly believe that the visual elements (well, it did win the Oscar for set design) as well as the performances are fantastic and well-worth noting.

Burton has mentioned many times that he wanted Sweeney Todd to be a tribute to classic horror, and it is played out as such: the lighting/scenery, the makeup and costume design, down to the very gestures of the characters.  Ironically enough, he thought by using “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” would be far too theatrical for this production – like I said, I don’t want to do comparisons but  I just thought that was odd – I digress.  The set design almost mimics the stage of a one-act play: a little chaotic at times but still sets the mood perfectly.

Stay off the crack honey.

I know many die-hard Sondheim fans were disappointed in Bonham Carter’s performance as Lovett, however, she did not get the part simply because she’s sleeping with the director – she actually auditioned in front of Sondheim himself.  Though her singing voice may be a little too soft at times, I appreciated her performance none the less: Lovett had always been the mastermind behind Sweeney’s madness and I feel that Bonham Carter portrayed this character in a way that allowed her to be wicked and conniving but still had a lingering desperation and sadness in her performance.

Now Johnny Depp on the other hand, I really just wanted to see more.  This version of Sweeney was more somber and brooding.  He expressed himself through his actions and would only on occasion raise his voice.  Don’t get me wrong, I really dig his performance, and the fact that he sounds like an angsty David Bowie when he sings, but I just feel that this sort of reserved performance in combination with such a theatrical setting almost spoke to the wrong audience.  You can take so many liberties with this character and I feel that he missed out on some great opportunities, but whatever – he’s still a joy to watch each time.

And as much as Johnny Depp and Alan Rickman’s duet makes me swoon, the performance that really knocked my socks off was Sasha Baron Cohen as Signor Pirelli:

Who knew that the man known as Borat could sing so well?  This man needs to be in more random dramatic bit parts.

Overall, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a pretty cool flick slasher-flick.  I’m not sure if I could call it “underrated,” but I do think it’s worth checking out – so what it’s a musical?  Big deal!  It’s a sad story that’s artfully told, with plenty of tongue-and-cheek humor (not to mention cheeky puns) to boot.  Moving on…

Cannibal! The Musical

Cannibal! is a start contrast from Sweeney Todd to say the least.  Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, Cannibal! is a dark comedy loosely based off of the true story of Alfred Packer, a man convicted for manslaughter and accused of cannibalism in 1873.

This movie.  I think I enjoyed it far more than I should have.  What makes it so great is that it totally mocks Oklahoma! as well as every other Rogers and Hammerstein film ever made – and they do it well.  Just take a look at this clip of the first song:

Not only does it parody a very popular Broadway staple, but it’s also just as catchy and has a made-up word.  Okay, that’s a dumb reason for claiming something’s better than something else, but it made me laugh – and the whole movie’s just as absurd as it is incredibly entertaining.

Not to mention their run in with the “Nihonjin” tribe.

As I mentioned, this film does an impeccable job at mocking your standard Rogers and Hammerstein musical, and I feel this is most evident with the characters.  Told retrospectively by Packer after his arrest, the tale follows a group of miners on their way to Colorado Territory.  Each of them as happy and optimistic as can be (except for the brooding butcher, of course) with dreams of what they plan to spend all of their gold on.  If you couldn’t guess, they begin to lose hope as their leader, Packer, gets them hopelessly lost and they begrudgingly turn to cannibalism as their only hope of survival.

I don’t want to corner Parker and Stone and say you won’t like this if you don’t like South Park, because I honestly don’t think that’s the case.  This movie is legitimately funny with humor ranging from the silly and absurd to actually really dark and twisted (which I also appreciated).  And though I have less to say about Cannibal! than Sweeney Todd, well it’s not only apples and oranges, but this movie is really so much simpler (and there wasn’t an actual theatrical release or anything).  It’s fairly well-written and these guys look like they just had a great time filming it.  Do yourselves a favor and find this movie on Netflix or something and check it out.

Wowee that was a long Don’t Quit Your Day Job.  Next time I think I’ll touch on a famous little cult film (which briefly touches on cannibalism oddly enough) and extend my horizons and focus on what makes cult films so cultastic.  I’m stoked, guys.

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed

Like yeah, man.

Let’s move up a decade, shall we?  Last time on Don’t Quit Your Day Job, we looked at a retrospective portrayal of the 1950s…sort of.  So I thought it would be appropriate to move on up to the 1960s with Julie Taymor’s musical mystery tour, Across the Universe.

For anyone under a rock who has yet to see this movie, Across the Universe is a loose web-of-life love story set during the 1960s, narrated by means of Beatles songs.  I shouldn’t say narrated, I need a stronger word of great influence – everything is Beatles – even all of the characters have names based on songs.  So if you’re one of those few terrible people who hate The Beatles and still manage to exist, this is not the movie for you.

A circus lead by Eddie Izzard of course.

Now looking at this movie from an objective standpoint, it’s not very special: guy looking for himself finds girl, they fall in love, they fight, they lose each other, they reunite.  Also the lax hippie learns about life’s cruelties and the lesbian joins the circus.  Oh, and there’s confused Janis Joplin (really, Jack instead of SoCo?) in the mix who has a fling with Jimi Hendrix.  I think I covered everything.  It’s a good thing that I ignore objectivity, because this movie would probably kinda suck.

As cheesy as it is, I love this movie.  Because it doesn’t suck.  Then again, I also love The Beatles.  Though some may think that Across the Universe butchered some classic songs, I beg to differ.  All Julie Taymor did was put familiar songs in a different context – and in my opinion, it worked.  These songs have been transformed to create a different meaning, which doesn’t mean that the original feels have gone anywhere.  Just look at “Let it Be”:

True, they kept a heavy song heavy and making it a gospel only made it 1,000 times more heavy.  Now if you just heard it, one would probably think, “Woah, what the hell?  What did they do to ‘Let it Be’?”  But when you add the context of the film (especially with the Detroit riots, oh man) we get a much more powerful, tear-jerking moment.  And this is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Now here’s my personal favorite, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”:

This is a great example of transforming the song.  Totally different context, same words – it’s just different and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Additionally, in that great way that only musicals can do, through the song the character Max expresses his internal conflict and journey.

I like this look on Bono.

It also doesn’t hurt that this movie is just so darn good-looking.  Say what you want about Julie Taymor (okay, except anything about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, we don’t talk about that), but this lady knows what she’s doing visually (I know I’m gonna have to cover Titus sometime later on What You Should Have Watched).  Taymor made this film trippy, gritty and beautiful, providing an almost synesthetic experience.  Really, come for the music and stay for the substance.

There’s just so much going on in this movie, and the characters encompass nearly every element of the decade – it wasn’t all free love and rainbows, there was also wars and riots.  So though, like most period-based pieces, there were many romanticized aspects, the bad stuff wasn’t left out either – there was still some reality to this acid daydream.  Just tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch off, switch on, and explode.

How We Thought The Fifties Were

Rather than starting out with one movie at a time (which will be the format in the future), I decided I needed to start this Don’t Quit Your Day Job with something more bold – an example of a concept done wrong and done right.  Unfortunately, as usual, the shameful example comes out on top.  So here’s my bold statement ladies and gentlemen: I hate Grease.

Meh.

It is not the songs I hate – they’re kind of catchy, despite some of them being about potential date rape.  And to be honest I liked some of the side characters – though they were total jerks they were at least entertaining.   What irks me so intensely about this film is the “love story” between Danny and Sandy.  If we just look at their first rendezvous, it’s kind of sweet: a pair of strangers fall for each other just to be torn apart by the school year.  But then when they discover they go to the same school – uh oh!  What will my greaser friends think about me having legitimate feelings for a goody two-shoes?

NO, NOT MY STREET CRED!  ANYTHING BUT THAT!

Who needs a positive self-image when you have a hunky illiterate man?

And then Sandy, the new girl, she’s totally fallen for a jerk and then her only friends make fun of her for being so innocent.  So what does she do?  She doesn’t stand up for herself, she totally succumbs to peer pressure and starts dressing like a 1980s hooker and smoking to impress this guy.  It would be one thing if she already had some sort of negative feelings about her self image, but this is a result of ridicule.  After all, if he doesn’t publicly admit he likes you, make him admit it rather than moving on to find someone who happily appreciates you for you.

Also does it bother anyone else that none of these people look like high schoolers, and the majority of the plot revolves around a rumor about the wrong baby-daddy?  Jeebus it’s almost as bad as MTV!

Marry me.

I honestly don’t know why this became such a hit, but who better to ruin it than John Waters?  Twelve years after Grease, he made Cry-Baby-  a musical about teen idols and fanaticism set in the 1950s.  At first glimpse, it almost looks like a Grease knock-off: we see a greaser and his motley crew and then a preppy girl who catches a glance at Cry-Baby Walker, and knows at that moment that she was born to be bad.  Here’s what’s awesome already: Allison, the preppy girl, totally made this decision herself.  Granted, she had a pretty solid social standing, but she decided to go after what she wanted herself  without being forced by her peers.

Let’s see: Johnny Depp, a porn star, a talk show host, and a gal that goes by “Hatchet Face.” Awesome.

The rest of the movie is as outrageous as any other Waters flick, so no need to go into much plot-wise.  The songs are just fun, and even though Johnny Depp is lip-syncing it really doesn’t matter.  The movie just emphasizes how ridiculous  teen fan-culture is (perfect for Depp, being that he was through with 21 Jump Street at the time) – does it do more than that?  Not really.  You just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Rock of Ages

I really didn’t expect much out of this one – I mean, I’m not a huge fan of ’80’s hair bands, and I was feeling fairly hesitant about giving this contrived plot a chance.  Then I released all inhibitions and went for it, and in all honesty the movie was okay.

“Hey man.”

 

Set in 1987, Rock of Ages paints a portrait of a pair of young lovers in the height of a music revolution – one’s a small-town girl (Julianne Hough) and the guy’s a barback (Diego Boneta) working in the Bourbon Room, a legendary hub on the Sunset Strip.  Both of them dream of fame and whatnot, but everything changes with the arrival of the myth, the man, the legend, Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise channeling Axl Rose) who rocks their motherloving world.

Like I said, the plot is your standard feel-good-musical plot so there weren’t any big surprises there.  The performances, on the other hand, were what impressed me.  And I’m not just talking about the incredible pole dancer choreography either.   You could tell that the actors were having a great time, and that’s really what this movie was all about – and these guys can sing.  In addition to that, the mashups of some of the songs were pretty entertaining.

These guys turned the movie around for me.
Also, doesn’t Alec look like Stephen with all that stubble?

 

I think it’s fair to say that Rock of Ages is like a really really long music video for an “80’s Greatest Hits” album.  Was it fluff?  Absolutely.  But it was fun good time fluff with attractive people.  Shallow and fun, just like the era itself.

Final Grade: B