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Thursday 14 December 2017

Crock of Ages

THE idea of Tom Cruise playing against type as a depraved, decadent rock star from the grim days of LA's Hair Metal scene is certainly one way of tempting curious punters into the cinema but, unfortunately, it comes in this awful addition to the 'jukebox musical' genre.

Set on Sunset Strip in 1987, the basic idea is that rock songs of the period provide the soundtrack to a storyline so basic that it could almost be a parody of corny old Hollywood musicals. At least those old movies had the occasional semblance of a plot, whereas here there are times when the lyrics to the songs are the plot.

Bright-eyed Julianne Hough plays Sherrie, a smalltown girl (hmmh, can you possibly guess what the finale number might be?) who arrives in LA harbouring dreams of becoming a singer, meets cute barman Drew (Diego Boneta) and falls in love, but they split following a misunderstanding. Meanwhile, top rock'n'roll joint the Bourbon Room is threatened with closure by a rock'n'roll-hating politician's wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones in the Tipper Gore role), but might just be able to save the day if its owners (Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand) can persuade the notoriously volatile Stacee Jaxx (Cruise) and his band Arsenal (Boring! Boring!) to play a concert to rescue the joint. Gosh, I wonder how all that will pan out.

In fairness, Cruise seems to be having a laugh, portraying his character as a take on Axl Rose with a hint of Bono, while Baldwin and Brand make for a bearable double act.

However, this is a particular time and style aimed not at lovers of poodle perms, flashy guitar solos and ridiculous rock anthems, but strictly at the Glee market.

The whole thing is about as un-rock'n'roll as it's possible to imagine, with characters suddenly duetting in completely different locations and whole streets, buses, clubs and record stores spontaneously joining in on songs.

Also, I'd love to know how this managed to slide under the radar with a 12A rating, given that there are several scenes -- not least a duet between Cruise and Malin Akerman as a Rolling Stone journalist and the espousal of pole- dancing as a viable career choice for young women -- that are dubious in the extreme. Crock of Ages might have been a better title. HHIII

RED LIGHTS Supernatural thriller. Starring Cillian Murphy, Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro. Directed by Rodrigo Cortes. Cert 15A

With his English-language debut Buried, Rodrigo Cortes showed that he could build and maintain suspense like a master, especially given that much of the action took place in a coffin. For his follow-up he has been afforded a bigger budget and a broader palette, and makes a great impression for the first half of the film, only for things to unravel in the final third.

Dr Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Dr Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) operate a sideline from their work as psychology professors debunking the claims of psychics, mediums and other pseudo-supernatural charlatans. This makes for an intriguing set-up, especially when blind retired 'psychic' Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) emerges from retirement determined to prove that he possesses powers that are supernatural.

The determination Buckley shows in chasing down Silver makes for an intriguing plot, but despite the best efforts of a fine cast, Cortes doesn't really know where to run with the story and in the final 20 minutes or so resorts to bluster and bombast to resolve the issues raised.

A pity then, but one senses that Cortes will deliver a killer movie in the not-too-distant future. An angel told me that. HHHII

COSMOPOLIS Drama. Starring Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Gadon, Mathieu Amalric, Samantha Morton. Directed by David Cronenberg. Cert 15A

The presence of Twilight heart-throb Robert Pattinson will undoubtedly give the latest film from David Cronenberg a commercial lift it wouldn't otherwise get and certainly doesn't deserve. If you thought A Dangerous Method was ponderous, it feels like Avengers Assemble compared to this adaptation of the Don DeLillo novel, in which a billionaire currency trader (Pattinson) travels across a gridlocked Manhattan in his stretch limo in order to get a haircut.

Along the way, various characters drop in to discuss the nature of greed, money and humanity, have sex with him and generally waffle on about nothing much in particular.

It's a turgid, pretentious irritant of a movie. While one admires Pattinson's nerve in making such a bold career move, he really could have chosen a project which wasn't so up itself. HIIII

ALSO RELEASED THIS WEEK...

Steven Spielberg's 1975 classic Jaws gets a limited re-release in a sparkling new digital print and provides audiences with the opportunity to see this masterpiece of movie-making on a large screen the way it should be seen.

John Ford -- Dreaming the Quiet Man (IFI) recalls how the great director spent more than 20 years trying to bring The Quiet Man to the screen. Maureen O'Hara oozes class in her interview and there are a couple of hilarious encounters with a shopkeeper in the Mayo village of Cong. Even if you can't stand the Paddywhackey of the movie, this is still well worth a look.

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