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Reel Critics: 'Rock of Ages' full of energy and fun

June 21, 2012|By John Depko and Susanne Perez
  • Russell Brand, center, as Lonny in New Line Cinema's rock musical "Rock of Ages."
Russell Brand, center, as Lonny in New Line Cinema's… (Courtesy David…)

The pop music of the 1980s was full of Rock 'n' Roll anthems void of any deep meaning or political activism. Bands like Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi and the Scorpions filled arenas with loud but melodic hit songs. Most were about partying too hard, but the bands' softer love songs expanded their fan base.

"Rock of Ages"began off-Broadway as a musical tribute to the pop songs of that decade. It's now a flashy bauble of a movie that is really a series of MTV style videos connected by contrived plot devices.

The story is set in a fictional nightclub on the Sunset Strip. A-list actors play several roles with real zest. They include Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti and Catherine Zeta-Jones. But it's Tom Cruise who steals the show as a legendary decadent rock star of the era, who actually sings his own tunes.

Cruise does a worthy job on Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" and Foreigner's "I Want to Know What Love Is." Zeta-Jones is very snappy singing Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." The whole enterprise is full of high energy and good humor. But the sexy dancing and adult references strain the PG-13 rating.

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'Moonrise Kingdom' an endearing love film

In the quirkiness that is "Moonrise Kingdom," Sam and Suzy meet with an instant knowing they are similar souls. They correspond for a year and arrange to meet for a secret getaway, causing a great uproar over their whereabouts.

It's 1965, and Sam and Suzy are 12 years old.

Wes Anderson has created a lot of idiosyncratic films ("Rushmore," "The Fantastic Mr. Fox") but this may be his most accessible one yet.

Sam, like all good Khaki Scouts, has come prepared to take care of Suzy in the wilderness of peaceful Penzance Island. She brings her books, a record player and her kitten. They create a cozy beachside camp, which they dub "Moonrise Kingdom" and chastely consummate their love — although Sam earnestly warns her, he may wet the bed at night.

Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are wonderful as Sam and Suzy, and indeed all the kids in this movie have a great, deadpan rhythm that makes them both funny and poignant.

Such determined young love turns the grown ups wistful: Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play Suzy's unhappy parents, Bruce Willis the lonely sheriff, and a prim Edward Norton is troop leader.

This "Kingdom" is an endearing fairy tale for anyone who's ever been in love.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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