The “Rock of Ages” movie: All Swagger, No Soul

rock of ages julianneROCK OF AGES 

D: Adam Shankman  
S: Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti, Brian Cranston  

To adapt a stage musical into a movie is a Herculean undertaking. It’s not easy to expand what’s originally envisioned for a limited space (that being the stage) into an infinitely broader landscape. Yes, there are successful transitions, like West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965), but apart from those aforementioned classics, many musicals flunked in their foray to film. Jesus Christ Superstar (1973) was campy, Yentl (1983) was a drag, and Rent (2006) was a forgettable mixed bag. Behold the latest addition to the latter category.

Written by Chris D’Arienzo, Rock of Ages has been captivating Broadway audiences since 2005 for its stage re-working of hits from the hair-metal era. For this film adaptation, D’Arienzo collaborated with writers Justin Theroux and Allan Loeb in retelling the story of small town girl Sherrie falling in love with big city boy Drew, who shares her dreams of stardom. Playing that pivotal star-crossed pair in this version are newcomers Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta. To complete the formula, director Adam Shankman (Hairspray) had to conjure up a star-studded cast to portray the rest. And conjure them he did.

Alec Baldwin plays Dennis Dupree, owner of the struggling Bourbon Room where both Drew and Sherrie work. To save his joint, Dennis booked legendary rocker Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) for one last gig with his band Arsenal before embarking on a solo career. However, Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta Jones), the wife of the city’s philandering mayor (Bryan Cranston), has publicly waged a holy war against rock music and wants the club closed. Subplots ensue. Stacee’s scumbag of a manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti) plans to swindle the ticket sales from Dennis and his right hand Lonny (Russell Brand).  Along the way, Sherrie falls under the wing of strip club owner Justice (Mary J. Blige), and Stacee starts cavorting with Rolling Stone correspondent Constance Sack (Malin Akerman). All this set to music incessantly mangled in karaoke and Glee.

On paper, it all seems like irresistible sing-along fare. But an enthusiastic cast can only do so much with wafer-thin, stereotypical characters. While such characterization flaws didn’t deduct from Rock of Ages’ charm on stage, they are all magnified in this bloated, 123-minute film version. Cruise is all swagger, but almost soulless as Jaxx, while Boneta and Hough (fresh out of her stint in Dancing With the Stars) are more sticky-sweet than sincere.

There’s still entertainment value to spare from the nostalgic 80s soundtrack; Zeta Jones’ take on Pat Benatar’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot is the particular humdinger. Then again, you can probably get the same amount of enjoyment from whipping up your own playlist. With not much else at its core, this cinematic rendering of Rock of Ages staggers – unbecoming for a tribute to music’s most exuberant genre.

RATING: 2.0 out of 5

It’s a wrap.

And so it ends. For now, at least. Today marks the conclusion of the two-week whirlwind of events celebrating TV5‘s U.S. launch. Some of the Kapatids already started flying back home, while some will be on extended vacation (including myself).

To say that I’m grateful to be part of it would be a glaring understatement. But honestly, that’s the only adjective I can think of that will encapsulate the onslaught of positive emotions I’m feeling right now. I’m especially to come to know  the folks at TV5 International, who chose to take me with them in this adventure and for putting their trust in me through out the trip. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them again back in Manila.

But for now, I shall enjoy my 4-day extension, which I will be spending in Tita Miday‘s house.

This moment.

Andrea‘s friend Anna (who’s originally from Laos) giving a crash course on Laoatian phrases to these two attentive hunks. Little did she know that a lot of Filipina women would actually kill to be in her position.

Highlights from the WTBT San-Fo Show

As expected, the venue’s wi-fi connection conked out as the evening progressed. So I focused mainly on updating the TV5 International Facebook page.

Here are some of the highlights from the show earlier:

Astroboy may be covered in silver paint, but his opening number was golden!

The main man makes his entrance. 

Everybody Baile! Lovely of the Big Time Girls donning a colorful costume during the opening number. 

No Other Woman, Part 2? Derek Ramsay is joined by, not just one, but two lucky fans during his song number.

The ever-exuberant Aga Muhlach hits the stage. 

A few inspiring words from MVP himself. 

Joe Estevez, the proudly-Filipino mayor of Milpitas, California is joined by Manny and Cynthia Villar in presenting the key to the city to Willie

And check out who just hit the jackpot! Congratulations, Aling Luna!

Ms. Reena and the Dish Team 

And in case you’re all wondering, yes, it was freezing outside.

ADDITIONAL TIDBIT: The Wallflowers were having a gig at the adjacent venue. I could hear them playing “One Headlight” and “The Difference” from where I was standing. I would’ve wanted to see that if I wasn’t on coverage assignment!

Another Round of Dish

And the deal is sealed. Executives from TV5 International and Dish Network met up once again to formalize their partnership through a press conference and contract signing held at the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco. Present, this time, was our Big Boss Manny V. Pangilinan who arrived in the city just this morning.

Filipino Dish subscribers can now see their favorite TV5 programs on Kapatid TV5 and Aksyon TV International. Subscribers of other cable providers need not worry. TV5 International is exploring partnership with them as well. So keep posted! 😉