Rock of Ages comes to DVD

Monday, 08 October 2012 17:22
Posted in Cult Movies on DVD
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Rock of Ages - available on DVD and Blu-rayA little admission to make – the AOR music featured in “Rock of Ages” was not my soundtrack to the 1980s. It was too American in aspect, over-produced and lacking innovation, to my ears anyhow.  However, travel on to the 21st Century and the songs of Def Leppard, Joan Jett, Journey, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Poison and Whitesnake evoke a trans-Atlantic downtown dream-world – literally thousands of miles away from uptown Wolverhampton! Just as with the Broadway and West End musical it derives from, you can forget being inspired by the love story at the centre of it – this is all about style and sensory overload.

Directed by Adam Shankman, who turned a similar trick on 2007’s “Hairspray”, we focus from the get-go on small town girl meeting city boy, who collide by accident on the Sunset Strip, both with dreams of stardom.  The girl wants to be a singer, the boy wants to blossom as a songwriter. It’s 1987, and the centre of their universe becomes ‘The Bourbon Room’, a live rock venue. In a world of cynicism, exploitation, theft of innocence and sharks of all persuasions, what could possibly go wrong? The girl has hardly stepped off the bus before her suitcase of vinyl records are stolen straight out of her hands.

Julianne Hough stars as the girl, Sherrie Christian – when a name says it all!  Julianne was last seen starring as Ariel in the 2011 remake of “Footloose”, and was previously Georgia in “Burlesque” alongside Christine Aguilera and Cher. For four years she was a regular on Dancing with the Stars, the retooling of our UK Strictly Come Dancing. Amazing to think her first screen appearance was back in 2001 as a Hogwarts Schoolgirl in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”!

Diego Boneta, himself a singer/songwriter, makes his feature film debut as the boy, Drew Boley.  He’d previously had a five episode story arc on TV’s 90210 as Javier Luna, and five episodes on Pretty Little Liars as Alex Santiago. Prior to this, he’d had a few parts in his homeland, starring in some Mexican television productions. Considering the pivotal nature of this role, one has to say he is perhaps the weakest link in this adaption.  Playing a lovelorn chump who goes through a metamorphosis to ‘rock god’ requires a considerable thespian range.

In his defence the supporting cast he has to play against is nothing short of interstellar. Tom Cruise steals the picture as the rock idol Stacee Jaxx of the band Arsenal (no, really!) – a performance which is totally unhinged, and believable enough for you to understand why the groupies are plentiful. Bryan Cranston (Walter White in Breaking Bad) is Mike Whitmore, the hen-pecked Mayor of Los Angeles. Our very own Catherine Zeta-Jones plays his wife, the campaigning anti-filth campaigner Patricia Whitmore, who has her own little dark secret.

Alec Baldwin, as down-on-his-luck club owner Dennis Dupree, is clearly enjoying having a different role to get his teeth into. Russell Brand takes on a dire Brummie accent to play Dupree’s right-hand man Lonny. Paul Giamatti (Oscar-nominated for “Cinderella Man”) is the slimy agent Paul Gill. The gorgeous Malin Akerman, who starred as Juna Milken opposite Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback, is absolutely terrific as Rolling Stone journalist Constance Sack, trying to get the scoop on Jaxx. In amongst all these acting heavyweights, singer Mary J Blige is the sassy Justice Charlier, the owner of a dancing club of some low regard.

Sherrie and Drew weave their way from both tending bar at ‘The Bourbon Room’, through the phases of courtship - of getting together, getting jealous, splitting apart and eventually getting back together again.  Their story plays out as the anchor to the other madcap characters which have their own paths to travel, as we speed towards happy resolutions for everyone.  It’s a feel-good story, no doubt about it, but it’s not for kids.  It knows that its audience is primarily going to be twenty-somethings upwards – anyone younger than this will probably be watching from a curio point of view.  That said, “Grease” did make teenies yearn for the 1950s in the 1970s, so why not have the 2010s doing the same for the 1980s?

Having seen the West End version of the show recently, the trade-offs between the two forms are considerable. Even if you have a neat 5.1 Surround Sound in your home, albeit something this DVD milks to great effect, nothing comes close to the atmosphere you get from seeing a genuine live performance.  That said, the film makes obvious the sleights of hand you have to do with just one stage to tell your story on, and the celluloid set pieces are lavish, colourful and loud, using as much of the anywhere and everywhere as it can.

Strangely, the focus of the film seems to be more on the anti-filth campaign rather than the nasty demolition for development of ‘The Bourbon Room’, which was more to the fore in the West End. It was almost like there was an intention on the big screen to play on some resonances with “The Rocky Horror (Picture) Show” – the erotica is certainly ramped up compared to the stage version.

Special features on the DVD include the following:

  • “Defining a Decade - If you Build it, they Will Rock It” -  Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Russell Brand, Tom Cruise, Mary J Blidge, Catherine Zeta-Jones, director Adam Shankman and others to show us inside the world of the late ‘80s (sounds good, but has a running time of less than 3 minutes on the DVD);
  • “Any Way You Want It” – Music video, movie clips compiled to this song;
  • “Def Leppard: Live at the Premiere” - Music and interviews;
  • “Visit Florida” – Trailer.

In addition on the Blu-ray (unfortunately unavailable for review) are the following:

  • Extended cut (an extra 13 minutes of footage);
  • “Legends of The Sunset Strip” – Rockstars Def  Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, Foreigner, Twisted Sister, Bon Jovi and many more relive the music and vibe of the extraordinary Sunset Strip;
  • “The ‘80s Look” - the flawlessly researched and spellbinding look of Rock and Roll in the ‘80s;
  • “It’s all about the Moves” - Adam Shankman and Mia Michaels show us the choreography and the moves;
  • “The Sunset Strip” - Recreate the Hollywood sign and the Sunset Strip of the ‘80s;
  • “The Tease” - How to Hair, ‘80s style;
  • “Raising the Bar” - A look at the historical significance of the real ‘Sunset Strip’;
  • “Clubs in the ‘80s” - how they shaped the design of ‘The Bourbon Room’ in the movie;
  • “Connection to the Music” - the cast talk about their personal connection with the music of “Rock of Ages”;
  • “So It Started in a Bar” - the story behind the creation of the five-time Tony nominated, Broadway phenomenon "Rock of Ages".

If you’re looking for a movie with huge meaning, then “Rock of Ages” isn’t for you.  If you’re expecting it to be in the same ball park as “Mamma Mia”, then it’s far too sexed-up for those of a nervous disposition on such matters! What it does deliver is a confection that can be both a viewing experience and a neat video soundtrack to your next 1980s-themed party.

Only those inheriting the mantle of Mary Whitehouse will not have a smile on their faces by the end of the film.  And you’ll be humming one tune or another from it for days afterwards.

 “Rock of Ages” is out now from Warner Home Video. It has a ‘12’ certificate, a running time of 123 minutes approx, and a RRP of £19.99 (DVD + UV Copy) and £24.99 (Blu-ray + DVD + UV Copy), or get either for less at

Last modified on Tuesday, 09 October 2012 13:34

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