It has occurred to me that I discuss my personal goings-on a bit less than my fellow News-Sentinel columnists do, but in the interest of partial disclosure, I must confess that life has gotten significantly more difficult for me in the past few months. I’ve started a new job that requires many long, grueling, thankless hours in an undesirable environment. The possibility of complete physical and mental collapse is now very real.
I’ve always been a “buy the ticket, take the ride” kind of guy, but the fact of the matter is that these past few months have given me a renewed appreciation for the most precious of commodities: time. It is truly far more valuable than money, and I’ve concluded that to waste it in any fashion is an unpardonable sin. I don’t want to grow to be an old man, filled with regret over the countless hours I’ve squandered fruitlessly. Every moment must be seized. Every minute must count for something.
It is in this spirit that I am swearing off bad movies. I’ve often said that the purpose of this column is not to inform readers of the relative quality of various Hollywood films (I no longer keep up with new releases enough to even make a dent in the release schedule), but rather to spread the word about the good ones. It doesn’t benefit you to read about a movie you shouldn’t see (particularly because there is often so little to say about them in the first place), and it’s certainly a detriment to me to have to sit through nonsense that nobody cares about in order to warn others away. I’m not a canary in a coalmine — I’m just a guy who likes good movies and would like others to enjoy them as well.
So I’m afraid that “Rock of Ages,” which I knew would be a waste of time going in, is the last straw. I will no longer be seeing obviously terrible films unless they are major releases that are too popular to avoid (a recent example would be “Men in Black 3”), and in the event that a film slated for review becomes the victim of immediate and ceaseless public and critical scorn, it will be switched out for an alternate choice — perhaps a slightly older wide release or a notable limited release, or a new movie available On Demand, or even a random reader request. Something. Anything. Because for your sake and mine, this has to stop.
I suppose there’s an audience out there for “Rock of Ages,” somewhere. Most viewers, myself included, prefer their films to follow some kind of plot structure and actually emerge with a point by the end. We like story and characters and effective dialogue, assembled by someone who makes movies on a professional basis. But I guess some people are looking for something different, and in that case “Rock of Ages” may be right up their alley. If you’re willing to sacrifice the traditional components of competent filmmaking in exchange for an unending barrage of highly questionable musical numbers helmed by a veteran of “Glee,” then by all means knock yourself out.
“Rock of Ages,” based on the allegedly successful stage show, offers very little substance and even less style. Set amid the glitz and glamour of the Sunset Strip’s Bourbon Room, the film tells the all-too-familiar story of a young starlet from Oklahoma who comes to California with naïve dreams of making it big as a singer. She meets a boy. They fall in love. There is a misunderstanding. They split up, only to reconcile by the end. Surrounding this central “story” is an assortment of equally uninteresting side characters and plot threads, including Bourbon Room owner Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin, who looks like he would rather be doing anything else), who is trying to save his club from closure due to unpaid taxes; Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, who at least looks to be having a bit of fun), a famous rocker Dupree books in a last-ditch effort to save his club; and Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the wife of the conservative “family values” mayor who wants to see the club closed.
It’s all just so depressingly pointless, and director Adam Shankman does nothing to alleviate the boredom. The songs — a mishmash of ’80s tunes, most of which I had frankly never heard of — are plentiful but unremarkable, leaving the whole thing feeling like the hypothetical bastard child of “54” and “Mama Mia!” And if that’s “your thing,” then again, by all means, enjoy yourself. Others, beware.
As I implied in the intro, this review schedule is subject to revision if it becomes clear that any of the films will be hazardous to my health. But we should stay more or less on track, with “Brave” and “Magic Mike” locked in for reviews in the coming weeks, followed by this somewhat promising lineup:
• “The Amazing Spider-man” (July 3) — I was initially in denial, but over time I have come to recognize the sheer awfulness of “Spider-man 3,” which effectively ruined what had been one of the best and most successful superhero franchises. Will it be reborn with this more low-key, character-oriented reboot? I have high hopes, primarily because future Oscar winner Andrew Garfield is finally getting the exposure he deserves.
• “Savages” (July 6) — Oliver Stone has gone a bit batty this past decade or so, but this crime drama (featuring Blake Lively, Benicio del Toro and John Travolta) could mark a return to his roots. I’ve had my share of issues with him over the years, but it would be good to have the old Ollie back.
• “The Dark Knight Rises” (July 20) — I’m positively giddy. If scheduling allows, I’m going to try to see this one early and report back as soon as humanly possible.
• “The Watch” (July 27) — Not giddy about this one, but slightly intrigued. Admittedly, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, now may not be the most opportune time to release a neighborhood watch comedy starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn. But if it’s actually funny, I’m sure it won’t get too much flack.
• “The Bourne Legacy” (Aug. 3) — I’ve found the Bourne series to be kind of over-rated, but am nonetheless game for this spin-off starring superstar Jeremy Renner (it’s been about 10 years since I predicted he would “make it,” but the wait has been worth it).
• “The Campaign” (Aug. 10) — Will Farrell is one of the few comedic actors who is just innately hilarious regardless of what he’s doing, and Zach Galifianakis has been on a roll lately. They team up for this comedy about a contest for the U.S. presidency, and I can’t help but think that in a real-world scenario they’d be far better choices than either Obama or Romney. But if I can’t have President Farrell in real life, I guess I’ll settle for the movie.
• “The Expendables 2” (Aug. 17) — “The Expendables” was awesome, and you know it. However, it was probably awesome because it was an R-rated action flick directed by Sylvester Stallone, who has always been a better filmmaker than actor. This sequel boasts neither of those attributes, but when it comes to action spectacle, I’m an eternal optimist.
• “Premium Rush” (Aug. 24) — Dirty cop Michael Shannon pursues bike messenger Joseph Gordon-Levitt over a mysterious envelope. With different actors involved, I wouldn’t even consider seeing it. But these guys are pretty discriminating, and thus far have never failed us. Could be cool.
• “Lawless” (Aug. 31) — I’m not sure what to make of the trailer, and Shia LaBeouf appears to have been wildly miscast as a turn-of-the-century outlaw/folk hero. Yet the presence of Gary Oldman and Tom Hardy lends some credibility to the project, and it may be worth seeing just for Guy Pearce, completely unrecognizable as an obsessed lawman with weird teeth and no eyebrows. Again, could be cool.
Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.