Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Rock of Ages (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ (2/5)
Film Rating: ★ ½ (1.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Yeah, def (Leppard).

Let me tell you a little story: When I was a freshman in college, I began writing my first musical, called I Wanna Rock. It was set in the 80’s in a run-down NYC night club that was on the brink of foreclosure and the soundtrack consisted of all 80’s classics such as Here I Go Again, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Don’t Stop Believing, We Built This City, Shadows of the Night, etc. Having such a hardcore infatuation with all things 80’s, this quickly became my passion project so when the script was near completion, I began showing it to a few of my privileged classmates – hoping that one of them was actually the granddaughter of Hal Prince or something. None of them were, so I shelved the script figuring I’d just wait until I met the right person. Cut to 2 years later, when I am living in London, and I get a letter from one of those classmates. The letter is enclosed with a press release for a new musical opening on Broadway, called Rock of Ages, which is set in the 80’s in a run-down Hollywood night club that is on the brink of foreclosure and the soundtrack consists of all 80’s classics such as Here I Go Again, Hit Me With Your Best Shot, Don’t Stop Believing, We Built This City, Shadows of the Night, etc. I may have been across the pond, but I’m pretty sure my scream that night rocked all of Broadway like a hurricane.

A year later, after conducting hours of stealthy sleuthing to make sure none of the people that read my script were in any way affiliated with this production and finally concluding that it was just a bizarre coincidence, I went to see Rock of Ages on Broadway. And I had a ton of fun. In fact, I was actually relieved because I liked it so much. Of course, mine would have been better – (How could they forget about Jessie’s Girl?!) – but it was high energy, really funny, and they gave out free lighters to wave in the air with every program. I left the theater with a healed heart and an idea for a completely new musical (whose premise I will not reveal to a single soul). Unfortunately, the Rock of Ages movie adaptation was missing the energy, the funny, and the free lighters, and my wounded heart ached all over again while watching it.

It probably comes as no surprise that I am a huge musical goer. There is perhaps nothing in the world that I enjoy more. However, I have never been a huge fan of musicals on screen. With the exception of Grease and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Once More With Feeling” episode, on-screen musicals generally feel very detached and just out of place. I mean, I don’t even really like Glee. But then, a few years ago, Adam Shankman came out with Hairspray – which totally blew away my expectations – and I thought, “Yes! There is a director who finally gets it.” So when I heard he was directing Rock of Ages, I was fairly confident that my baby was in good hands. Wrong. In fairness to him, I think the film was in trouble before it even got to his desk – mainly due to a script that took out some of the best scenes in the musical to make room for weaker characters, flatter jokes, and a bunch of big names that give small performances.

In the stage version, Drew – an aspiring rockstar by day, Bourbon Room busboy by night – is the lead character, but whoever it is that plays him in the movie isn’t strong enough or interesting enough and the focus quickly shifts to his love interest, Sherrie (Julianne Hough): a small-town girl living in a lonely world who took the midnight train bus from Oklahoma to seek some Hollywood fame. Hough is made for musicals, but her Sherrie was a little too sugary for me. Although the Broadway version is light-hearted and fun, the characters are gritty and real, and Sherrie makes some selfish choices to further her career (i.e. having groupie bathroom sex with rock god Stacee Jaxx). In the movie, any mistakes Sherrie makes are simply written off as a big misunderstanding. Catherine Zeta-Jones, who generally does no wrong in my eyes, actually disappointed me as the Mayor’s determined wife who wants to clean up Sunset Strip. Her acting was fine, but her rendition of Hit Me With Your Best Shot was not all that jazz, if you catch my drift. To be honest, I’ve performed karoake versions of that song better while drunk off my ass. I never like Alec Baldwin, so I won’t even bore you with that tirade. But most upsetting was that my favorite character in the musical, Regina (pronounced like vagina but with a ‘R’), a birkenstock-wearing Berkely grad devoted to saving the Bourbon Room, was cut out of the movie completely to make room for Russell Brand and Malin Akerman. Brand, whose sole purpose in life must be prancing around like an unbathed unicorn that shouts British expletives whenever he gets the urge, made me laugh exactly once. Akerman, on the other hand, was pretty adorbs as a Rolling Stone reporter in tortoise-rimmed glasses, and even though I was convinced her rendition of Foreigner’s I Want To Know What Love Is was totally autotuned, I may be wrong because I have since found out that she is the lead singer of a Swedish band, The Petalstones. Hmpf. In my opinion, they should have cut Brand out and had Akerman play the Regina character and a whole lotta better would’ve come from it.

Surprisingly, I really liked Tom Cruise as the Axl Rose-esque rock legend, Stacee Jaxx. I didn’t think I would buy him as a badass all tatted up with guyliner and assless chaps, but he did Def Leppard proud singing Pour Some Sugar On Me. I was also happy that they made his character somewhat redeeming towards the end, cause Jaxx is just a total villain in the stage production. Paul Giamatti, who played Jaxx’s skeevy manager, is always a delight and my only regret is that they didn’t have him sing because I think that could have added some much needed comedy.

Due to my personal attachment to the story and the fact that I’ve seen the musical, my film review might be a little harsher than others. But, I still don’t think I’d recommend the movie even if that weren’t the case. However, if you do get the opportunity to catch the stage show, whether on Broadway or a local production, definitely do that! It’s a really fun premise (if I do say so myself) that just wasn’t conveyed through the film adaptation. Now I just have to start mentally preparing myself for the emotional anguish that is bound to occur when my favorite musical ever, Les Miserables, self combusts in front of my eyes this Christmas. I lost all faith in this movie when I heard they were considering Taylor Swift for Eponine. Then they released the trailer and holy Lord, I know the world disagrees with me, but Anne Hathaway’s I Dreamed A Dream has got to be the weakest performance I have ever heard of that song ever. (And I’ve seen it staged over 15 times, from Broadway, to the West End, to my local middle school). I generally love Anne, but “toned down” my ass. You only tone things down when someone can’t hit the real notes. Hopefully I’m wrong, but I’m convinced the only thing that will save this film is if NPH and Jason Segel have a surprise cameo performance during The Confrontation:

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First Impressions: Think Like A Man vs. The 5 Year Engagement

Since I saw Think Like A Man and The Five Year Engagement back to back – and since both have Kevin Hart in the cast, underlying motifs about baked goods, and aspiring chefs who open up a food truck in the midst of heartbreak – I decided that smushing the two into one review would be appropriate.

First up…

Think Like A Man (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (4/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ½ (2.5/5)
Boyfriend friendly: The title and predominantly male cast will make it hard for him to realize you tricked him into seeing a chick flick.

In a world where women are cursed with longer bathrooms lines, our “monthly friend”, and the joy of pushing babies out of our vaginas (seriously?), female intuition is the one thing we’ve always had going for us. So why would any woman want to “think like a man”? That was my first thought when I saw the trailer a few months back, and I walked into the theater ready to sit through a misogynistic movie that encouraged girls to modify their values in order to get a guy. Instead, I was pleased to find that, like dating, first impressions can be deceiving…

Based on the actual dating advice book by Steve Harvey (seriously?), Think Like A Man is an ensemble comedy about four different types of men boys whose girlfriends begin taking the advice from Harvey’s book to heart and turn the tables on the relationship. When the guys catch on, and realize that Harvey has betrayed the sacred bro code by revealing their secrets to women worldwide, they decide to use the book to their advantage by planning a counterattack. Of course, this backfires and the women end up with exactly what they wanted. Like I said, female intuition is a force you just can’t mess with. Zeke (Romany Malco) is a player, who is determined to get into the pants of Mya (Meagan Good)… little does he know she’s just as determined to wait 90 days before giving him “her cookie” (seriously?). Michael (Terrence J. Corwley) doesn’t skip a Sunday dinner with his Momma and still has her do his laundry – much to the dismay of his single-mother girlfriend Candace (Regina Hall), who is sick of being number two in his life. Dominic (Michael Ealy) is a waiter/valet parker/aspiring chef whose relationship with Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a COO of a Fortune 500 company, is based on the illusion that he drives a Lamborghini. Turtle – I mean Jerry Ferrara – plays Jeremy, a frat boy who graduated years ago and still won’t propose to his breadwinning college girlfriend, Kristen (Gabrielle Union). However, it is Gary Owen and Kevin Hart who steal the show in supporting roles as their friends. Owen plays Bennett, the token white guy of the bunch who is actually happily married and damn proud of it. Hart plays new and bitter divorcée Cedric, who is determined to get over his ex-wife (Wendy Williams), either by hitting the strip club… or Michael’s mom. And even though I hate to say it, because I despise him with every fiber of my being, Chris Brown also has a hysterical cameo role as a former one night stand of Mya’s, who she runs into everywhere. Guess playing an asshole wasn’t that far of a stretch for him, huh?

Though a little long (2 hours!) and very predictable, there are more than enough laughs that make up for all of the film’s faults. (Generally it’s a good sign for me when parts that made me laugh in the trailer still make me laugh in the theater.) I was also relieved that I never felt like the women were actually “thinking like a man” – to me, they were actually thinking in a very calculated way that only a woman could think, and I was pleased that they never had to change who they were/settle for anything less than what they deserved in order to be happy in love. However, I would highly NOT recommend seeing this if you expect to come out of it with any sort of new insight into the male brain. Something tells me that asking a guy what his short-term and long-term goals are on the first date, or inviting him up for a “night cap” and only giving him a cup of coffee, won’t go as well in real life as it did in this movie. Nice try Steve-o, but I’ll stick to Cosmo.

Sidenote: Can someone please start giving Michael Ealy’s sexy blue eyes their own line in the credits?

Moving on to…

The Five Year Engagement (2012)
Chick Flick Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ (3/5)
Film Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3/5)
Boyfriend friendly: Humor you can both enjoy. Unless you’ve been (im)patiently waiting for him to pop that question… then do everything in your power to make sure he doesn’t ever see this movie. Ever.

It was love at first one-sheet sight for me and The Five Year Engagement. Emily Blunt’s cake-filled mouth and Jason Segel’s tux-under-bathrobe attire still manages to squeeze a smile outta me every single time I see it. However, an itty bitty voice inside my head kept telling me to be skeptical and not fall too hard. Sure, it was written by and stars Jason Segel – the man behind one of my absolute favorite movies (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) and the man who makes up 50% of my all-time favorite fictional couple (Marshmallow and Lilypad!). But there was something about the premise that always irked me. Why would moving to Michigan mean you’d have to delay your wedding by five years? One or two years while you get settled – sure. But five?! I’ve known people who’ve had super long engagements, but it’s usually for logistical reasons, like the reception hall the bride-to-be’s been dreaming of since she was a little girl is booked for the next 3 years or that her sister got engaged at the same time and she wants her own separate year to be a “Princess Bride”. Having to postpone tying the knot because you move to Michigan and the relationship gets a little rocky? Well, that has me wondering if the couple should even get married in the first place…

The Five Year Engagement starts off where most romcoms end. Tom (Segel) proposes to his girlfriend of exactly one year, Violet (Blunt), on the rooftop of the San Fran restaurant where he works as a sous chef, while fireworks go off ringing in the new year. She accepts and engagement parties and pre-wedding bliss ensue… until Violet receives an acceptance letter inviting her to participate in a two-year post-doctoral psychology program at the University of Michigan. Tom is supportive, saying he can cook anywhere, so the two say goodbye to the Bay Area and head to the snowy North. Only the adjustment isn’t as easy for Tom as he thought it’d be. While Violet’s career blossoms, attracting special attention from the Professor she works under, Tom gets a job making deli sandwiches on College Row. Wedding plans continue to loom farther and farther on the horizon, particularly as Violet’s program gets extended a few years and as Tom becomes complacent hunting in the wilderness, wearing dopey hand-knit sweaters, and sporting an uneven beard. The major blow to the relationship comes when Tom eats part of Violet’s psychology experiment – a stale doughnut.

It was interesting to see this movie with my younger sister, who is my polar opposite, because we both picked different sides. I have always been very driven with a “career first, love after” mindset and eloping sounds more appealing to me than dealing with the madness of a wedding, whereas my sister came out of the womb wearing a tiara and is positive that Kate Middleton’s special day won’t hold a candle to hers. So it makes sense that I was very sympathetic towards Violet, who was trying to follow her dream, and that my sister was sympathetic towards Tom, who was trying to follow his heart. In fact, my sister and I got into a very heated debate after the movie over this. I felt that Tom never even tried to make himself happy there for her, and that he was a sulky cry baby about everything. Take the deli job and then keep looking! There’s gotta be a fancier restaurant somewhere in the state of Michigan! It also bothered me that he was never honest with her about his feelings – she asked him a countless number of times if he was unhappy and he always lied, which caused him to lash out in passive-aggressive ways via repulsive beards and deerskin mugs instead of trying to fix the problem like an adult. Sissy on the other hand was very aggravated by Violet’s selfish and insensitive attitude, believing that she knew Tom was unhappy there but never wanted to admit it to herself because then she would have to make compromises. Instead of trying to help her fiancée adapt, she complained about him to her Professor – who interpreted it as a call for help. In the end, we both agreed that the characters really were not compatible for one another and that the only reason we were rooting for them to end up together was because of the adorable charm each actor brought to them.

What The Five Year Engagement lacked in romance, it made up in laughs. There were some really, really funny parts. Chris Pratt – who, if you remember, got his start on angsty teen dramas like Everwood and The O.C. – has really proven his comedic chops lately: first on Parks and Rec, and now here as Alex, Tom’s obnoxious-in-a-fantastic-way BFF. Alex’s parody of We Didn’t Start The Fire, which was sampled in the trailer, is only one of two amazing song performances he has in the film. The other is a sincere, full-out rendition of Cucurrucucu Paloma, dedicated to his shot-gun bride and Violet’s sister, Suzie (Alison Brie/Mrs. Pete Campbell). In all honesty, it has Grammy potential. If Alex’s singing steals the first half of the movie, then it is Suzie and Violet’s conversation using Elmo and Cookie Monster voices at the request of Suzie’s daughter that steals the second half. Come to think of it, I think that the coupling of Pratt and Brie is what made the entire movie for me, and I kinda think Segel should consider writing a spin-off about them a la Get Him To The Greek.

When The Five Year Engagement was funny – it was funny. But when it wasn’t, it was sad and depressing and dragged. I know Segel wrote it, but I almost wish John Krasinski, Blunt’s real-life husband, had played the part of Tom instead. He could have definitely pulled the role off just as well, and then perhaps there would’ve been more chemistry. I really do adore Emily Blunt but this is the second movie I’ve seen of hers in a row where the on-screen chemistry just was not there (See: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen)! I wonder if that is mere coincidence, or if it is a problem we are going to see more of…

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You probably won’t get this unless you’ve seen both movies but…
                           “When Sesame Street Meets Think Like A Man”

Celebrity Freebie List

For anyone not familiar – the almighty Celebrity Freebie List is a special liberty bestowed upon all couples by the writers of “Friends” giving each partner in a relationship the right to choose a maximum of 5 celebrities that they are allowed to sleep with, without being penalized, should the situation present itself. Since I mentioned in my review of Wanderlust that Paul Rudd made my cut, and since both Rudd and Aniston were major characters on Friends, I decided to make my list official by posting it here.

DISCLAIMER: My list is extremely unconventional, and even more impractical than others because of it. But I have my reasonings and you can’t fake true feelings…

Drumroll please

1) Neil Patrick Harris
2) John Krasinski
3) Paul Rudd
4) Joseph Gordon-Levitt
5) Jimmy Fallon

Yes, I am serious. Yes, I am aware the likelihood of any of the above are zilch because my list includes 1 gay man, 1 rumored-to-be gay man, and 3 married men. But to be honest, I feel like I have just as good a shot as getting NPH to sleep with me as I do Ryan Gosling. So I’d rather give the spot to a really awesome gay man than a really beautifully pretty man. Because pretty men make me feel so… not pretty.

Not too long ago, this list would’ve been completely different (i.e. Derek Jeter, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, Andrew Garfield, Jon Hamm). And sure, it’d be awesome to tell people I slept with the captain of the Yankees or Don Draper or Spiderman, but what would the experience actually be like? Answer: Me not even enjoying it because I’m totally uncomfortable, sucking in my tummy and wishing I had done a few more squats that week to tighten up the ass cellulite. With this current list? I’d be laughing so much at their jokes that I wouldn’t have the chance to stress. I’m also pretty confident that My Five would be just as mind-blowing in the bedroom as the more hunky Hollywood hunks. Even NPH should know how to pleasure a lady… he is Barney Legen-Fucking-Dary Stinson!!

Realistically, I should probably find it in my heart to cross off NPH and put Jason Segel on there somewhere, since he’s both straight and single (because those are definitely the only two things stopping me from NPH). He’s super cute in a doofy way, the Muppet fetish is kinky, and thanks to Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I know he’s got the full package if ya know what I mean. But there is nothing realistic about this list so, for now, NPH stays.

SIDENOTE: My boyfriend apparently doesn’t care about the whole “sleeping with someone prettier than you” thing. His list: Jennifer Aniston, Mila Kunis, Brooklyn Decker, Jessica Alba, Bar Refaeli. WTF is he smoking, right?

What’s your list?! Tell me below!