Friday, June 15, 2012

Worth Mentioning - Burn it up, let's go for broke

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Sean Connery schemes for money and Tom Cruise steals the show.


Millionaire Charles Richmond is a rude, racist, demanding, altogether unpleasant man. He's ailing in his old age, confined to a wheelchair and diagnosed with a condition that he could live with for a long time or could kill him at any moment. He's waited on hand and foot by his servants and is regularly visited by his nephew Tony, his only remaining family member. Tony has personally chosen Charles's new nurse, a lovely Italian woman named Maria Marcello.

Maria is appalled by Charles's words and behavior and is resolved to quit within 24 hours of her arrival, but in private Tony convinces her to stick around. Tony hates his uncle, blaming him for driving his father to commit suicide so he could marry Tony's mother. Charles is worth £50 million, but has willed almost everything to charity According to Tony, he did this purely out of spite. When Charles dies, his nephew will get just £20,000. So Tony presents a plan to Maria - she is to stay on as his uncle's nurse, get the old man to fall for her, marry her, change his will in her favor. When Charles dies, Tony and Maria will split the money, and all Tony asks for is £1 million.

Maria agrees to go along with the plan, but twists, turns, emotions and death ensure that things do not go smoothly at all.

Sean Connery stars as Tony, a character who has some similarities to James Bond on the surface - he's suave and sylish, The Suits of James Bond has even pointed out that Connery wears some clothes in this film that are nearly identical to outfits he wears in Goldfinger - but differs in that this guy is a sleazy rich kid with criminal aspirations. Connery fit the filming of this movie in between the filming of From Russia with Love and Goldfinger, his second and third Bond films. That was a busy Bond break for him, he went from FRWL to Woman of Straw, then directly from WOS to Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie, and the filming schedule of Marnie overlapped with the beginning of production on Goldfinger, which started filming without him. TCM says that filming Woman of Straw, Marnie, and Goldfinger back-to-back-to-back meant that Connery worked for fourteen months without a break. But From Russia with Love still had a good bit of filming left fourteen months before Goldfinger, so it might have been even longer than that.

Another notable Bond connection on this film is production designer Ken Adam. Even if you didn't know Adam worked on this movie, you'd strongly suspect it as soon as you see the inside of the Richmond mansion.

Ralph Richardson gives a strong performance as Charles, and Gina Lollobrigida is quite good as Maria. Apparently Lollobrigida was very opinionated about her character, which didn't sit well with Connery, and the tabloids of the day got some mileage out of writing about their inharmonious working relationship. Tony slaps Maria in one scene, and gossip is that Connery disliked Lollobrigida so much that the slap is real.


Rock of Ages first came on my radar in October of 2010, when the rumor hit that Tom Cruise had been offered a part in the musical that would have him belting out '80s rock songs. Cruise is one of my favorite actors, I'm infatuated with the '80s, this was a perfect match for my tastes. In February of '11, when Cruise officially signed up to play aging rock god Stacee Jaxx, it was all wrapped up: I would be seeing Rock of Ages theatrically. The trailer confirmed that this was something that would appeal to me. 11am showing on opening day, I was there. And I liked what I saw.

The main plotline follows a young girl from Oklahoma who moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dreams and ends up employed at the world-famous rock club The Bourbon Room. She falls for a co-worker who wants to be a rock star, and while their complicated story of love and career opportunities plays out, there are threats to The Bourbon Room's existence by the new mayor's wife (who's head of LOSERS: Ladies Organization to Stop Evil Rock Singers), dirty dealings by a slimy manager, and a subplot with rock star Stacee Jaxx, who's so burnt out by his lifestyle that he's become reclusive and may be bordering on legally insane.

The consensus so far seems to be that Cruise steals the movie, and I agree, he is awesome in this, and very funny.

The rest of the cast holds the film up well when Cruise isn't running away with it. Julianne Hough is likeable and cute as the lead, Diego Boneta is good as her love interest, there's some great moments between Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand, as there is between Cruise and Malin Akerman, Paul Giamatti is super sleazy, Hostel director Eli Roth makes an unexpected cameo, there's the best baboon actor since Boon in the Duncan Jax movies, and Catherine Zeta-Jones appears to be having a lot of fun.

That's appropriate, as the film overall is a lot of fun, featuring entertaining performances of many cool songs. Watching Tom Cruise greatness while songs that originated from Night Ranger, Pat Benatar, Foreigner, Joan Jett, Extreme, Warrant, Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, Quarterflash, Journey, Def Leppard, Poison, Whitesnake, REO Speedwagon, Starship, and David Lee Roth were blasting through the speakers, that made for two enjoyable hours in the theatre.

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