Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.
“Rock of Ages”
There are exceptions but let’s just say it - most musicals released after the ‘80s make most of their audiences cringe. The shame is these audiences know all the words to every song in “The Wizard of Oz” and a good deal of “The Music Man.” They’ve probably watched “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Grease” multiple times. But times have changed and as they say, “They just don’t make them like that anymore.” We don’t know who, “They” are, but “They” are right. As evidence, we offer “Mama Mia” and “Burlesque” – theaters are still filled with stale air where these films went to die. The best you can hope for these days are anomalies such as “Chicago” or “Across the Universe” or “The Muppets” or the animated movies where musicals have been adopted. All of this leads us to “Rock of Ages” and its loaded cast of superstars singing karaoke versions of ‘80s Top 40. Yes, once upon a time, an actor’s career was rounded out with a song and a dance. But now, we’re given the spectacle of respected actors awkwardly screeching the songs of hair-bands that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” killed with mercy...Please pass.
It’s been 15 years since Oliver Stone directed “U Turn” – 15 years since Stone made a film without a political statement or social commentary. But here he goes, Stone’s return to the modern-day film noir. The story, like “U Turn,” deals with the fringe elements of society – three young marijuana millionaires in California dealing with a Mexican drug cartel making a move for their business. It’s a love story of sorts, only the love consists of two guys and one girl in a happy relationship. The trio of actors won’t blow away the audience – Taylor Kitsch is barely the highlight with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Blake Lively providing passable but mostly lackluster performances. The real stand-outs are the duo of Benicio Del Toro and John Travolta. Stone seems to let himself go on material like this, his direction is fast and fun, capturing the story and throwing it at the viewer without apologizing – worth a watch.
There’s a suitcase full of movies smuggled down from Canada each year and out of this suitcase you’ll get a handful of pretty decent films. Oddly enough, this Samuel L. Jackson vehicle is one of them. The story is a bit confused – does it want to be a movie about grifting? Or is it aiming for Canadian Noir? Or is it a convict-with-a-heart-of-gold story? Who cares? It’s straight-to-video and Jackson owns it, pulling the confused story and minor actors with him. And there are some nice twists along the way. It’s not for everyone but for the fans of crime and noir films, take some time out and see how the Canucks roll when they get Nick Fury/Mace Windu/Jules/Afro Samurai/Shaft/one bad mutha…shut your mother…What? We’re just talking about Sam – worth a watch, when you’ve seen it all.
Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge