Listen to this masterpiece: Any Way You Want It
Yeah – now that’s what I’m talking about. It’s like that Journey hit, but not, you know? Perhaps it reminds you of rock greatness, or perhaps it makes you sick to your stomach.
So the theme of today’s blog is … adaptation (well, sort of, until I can’t make that theme work and then I’ll just forget about it). I saw two films today that were both, in their own way, adapted from previous work: The Hunger Games and Rock of Ages. The former is the first of 3 more book-to-film translations from Suzanne Collins’s best-selling Hunger Games Trilogy (as with Harry Potter and Twilight, the studio has decided to turn the final book into 2 movies in order to maximize the return on their investment). The latter is a one-off (especially since it bombed at the box office) rock musical, based on … 1980s rock songs (and the 2005 stage musical that was based on those rock songs). It features a few Journey songs, which explains my brilliant song mix, above.
Neither film won me over, but I enjoyed the silly rock musical much more than the self-serious and dull book adaptation. Go figure.
But before you go and “figure,” I want to add something to my critique of the Tyler Perry movie I saw yesterday. In addition to the pedestrian camera work, I remembered that what really bothered me in the film was the almost non-existent sound design. Every scene sounds empty. Sure, they put a few car horns when there’s a street nearby, but otherwise the soundscape is just bare. It almost makes it seem as if every scene had been ADR-ed (which means that the sound had been dubbed over in post), with little to no attention paid to filling out the design later (much as in Italian cinema of the 1950s and 1960s – but we forgive them because that was just what they did). Very odd (and very distracting to me).
OK – back to today’s movies, neither of which count as summer blockbusters (Hunger Games was released in March, and Rock of Ages flopped), but both of which I felt like seeing for general movie context. Thank you, Beltway 6 Cinemas, for keeping movies past their prime (and for cheap tickets), so that people like me can see them in an actual theatre!
The Hunger Games (Gary Ross, Director) Grade = D
Why Gary Ross? Why Jennifer Lawrence? Why Josh Hutcherson? And the list goes on.
The film, while remaining faithful enough to the general outline of the book (which I just finished yesterday and liked a lot), is flat and dull where the book is robust and taut. In spite of the gruesome subject matter, no one acts as if they’re in any real danger.
I wanted a sinewy and muscled Katniss who looked like she could actually run me down, instead of the soft Pillsbury dough-girl look of Ms. Lawrence. I wanted a stocky broad-shouldered Peeta who looked like he’d worked in a bakery his whole life instead of the whiny and pouty Mr. Hutcherson (although I liked him a lot in The Kids Are All Right).
Not to quote the two Davids again (Edelstein and Denby), but they agree with me (which is why they’re awesome). Manohla Dargis is a bit more favorable towards the film, and I agree with some her points, as well. But she is brilliant in her dissection of why Jennifer Lawrence (whom I loved in The Burning Plain, X-Men:First Class, and Winter’s Bone) is wrong for the part.
Finally, what is the man who directed Pleasantville doing at the helm of this rough-and-tumble post-apocalyptic tale? Help! THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING! Every camera angle is wrong. They’re wide when we should be close, and close when we should be wide. The only thing that saves this movie from a total wash is that the story on which it was based is a good one. I wish I could say I was looking forward to the sequel, but only if they change directors (and cast). Maybe they can reboot it right away, with different actors.
Rock of Ages (Adam Shankman, Director) Grade = C+
Answer me this – when did Don’t Stop Believin’ become the reigning rock anthem of the 1980s, or at least the one that people love to cover, beating it to death until every last vestige of affection for the song bleeds out of me? Is it the fault of Glee? Did it start earlier?
I remember, as a kid, hearing the song on the radio but missing who it was by or what album it was on, and running around singing it for people to figure out how I could get a copy. That song used to give me goosebumps. But now …
But a larger question is – when did we start, as a culture, loving to cover great rock songs of yore in sappy versions drained of life? I’d like to blame Glee, but maybe it’s the fault of the Japanese and their infernal karaoke machines … just kidding (and I love karaoke). Hmmm, I wonder if we’re just evolving into a society where rock and pop (in all their varieties) are our common musical currency, and so, instead of passing around the sheet music for Strauss waltzes, Brahms arias, or Joplin rags, as we may have done in days past, we now do this.
But I digress wildly. This will be brief:
Rock of Ages is silly, grotesque, offensive in so many ways (why is the only African-American character the owner of a strip club), yet somehow not the disaster I thought it would be. I really do hate the current taste for covers of 1980s rock songs. HATE HATE HATE IT (and that’s me at my most eloquent). Yet I didn’t hate this movie.
The plot actually kind of works, and everyone looks like they’re having such a good time that I started to have a good time, as well. It didn’t hurt that I saw this right after seeing The Hunger Games, but still, there is something appealing in all of this mess.
You don’t need to know the plot.
And yes, there is a lot of Journey. And you can’t really have it any way you want it, because the film’s versions of the songs are just not that good, and they get stuck in your head and clash with the originals.
Tomorrow, I will see nothing. But at 3:45am on Friday morning, I will watch The Dark Knight Rises (in IMAX! in 3D!). If I can, I will post my thoughts before my appearance on Midday with Dan Rodricks at 1pm that same day.