Capsule reviews of `Rock of Ages,' other new films
"Rock of Ages" — Just when you thought you'd never hear Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" again outside of a strip club comes this big, splashy homage to the decadence of 1980s rock `n' roll. Specifically, we're talking about 1987 on the Sunset Strip, the birthplace of bands like Guns N' Roses and Poison, and all the big-haired, eye-linered debauchery that defined that scene. Your enjoyment of this musical, based on the Tony-nominated Broadway show, will depend greatly on your enjoyment of this music — because director Adam Shankman crams in a lot of it. Did you make out in a car with your high school honey past curfew to Skid Row's "I Remember You"? If your answer is yes, you'll probably have a good time, even though the movie lasts an awfully long time. Sure, the characters are all broad types, from fresh-faced newcomers with dreams of stardom to grizzled, cynical veterans who've seen it all. And sure, their antics are glossed-up and watered-down compared with reality to ensure a PG-13 accessibility. But the movie has enough energy to keep you suitably entertained, as well as a knowing, cheeky streak that prevents it from turning too reverent and self-serious. Julianne Hough stars as Sherrie, a wholesome blonde fresh off the bus from Oklahoma who hopes to make it as a singer in Los Angeles. Instead, she ends up working as a waitress at the venerable (and fictional) Bourbon Room, where she quickly falls for aspiring rocker Drew (Diego Boneta). But the club has lost some of its cache, to the distress of its owner (Alec Baldwin in long hair and a leather vest) and his right-hand man (Russell Brand, being Russell Brand), so they're hoping a performance from rock god Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise, easily the best part of the film) will keep the place alive. PG-13 for sexual content, suggestive dancing, some heavy drinking and language. 123 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Your Sister's Sister" — An almost hypnotic sense of naturalism draws you into this intimate comic-drama about three people who find their lives intertwined in sudden and unexpected ways. Writer-director Lynn Shelton, who made the possibility of gay porn between straight best friends seem logical if not downright inevitable in 2009's "Humpday," once again employs her preferred tactic of having her actors collaborate on developing their characters and improvising their dialogue. (The stars get a "creative consultant" credit.) The result is appealingly, believably imperfect, and although the end feels a bit too tidy by comparison, it also has an emotional impact that will sneak up on you. That's thanks to Mark Duplass, who also co-starred in "Humpday," making an understated, final plea that's sweetly heartbreaking. It's probably his best work yet, his most mature and deeply felt, and he's been everywhere in the past year or so between this, "Safety Not Guaranteed," the FX series "The League" and his own directing efforts like "Jeff, Who Lives at Home." Here, Duplass stars as Jack, who's still feeling shattered a year after the death of his brother. Jack's best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt), suggests that he get away for a while on his own by visiting her family's remote cabin on an island off the Washington coast. When he arrives, though, he finds that Iris' sister, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), is already there trying to find her own peace. The two share a painfully honest, awkward, drunken night that leads to an even weirder morning when Iris shows up unannounced. Through the highs and lows, confrontations and revelations, all three performers play off each other beautifully. R for language and some sexual content. 90 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
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