THERE’S a reliable litmus test for any movie these days. It’s not foolproof but it’s a good starting point and it goes like this: Is Russell Brand in it? If so, steer well clear.
Since he first made an impression on the big screen in St Trinian’s he has served up a succession of stinkers, with Arthur a standout sack full of smells, and he seems to have a rare ability to attach himself to projects that ought to have been drowned at birth.
Sadly that doesn’t seem to affect how they perform at the box office, so he keeps on getting work.
And that’s very much the case with Rock Of Ages, a Hollywood version of the hit jukebox musical brought to the screen by Adam ‘Hairspray and a few episodes of Glee’ Shankman and starring – I kid you not – tiny Tom Cruise as a fading rock god with Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti and Mary J. Blige all along for the ride.
Here’s an indicator of how much this overblown nonsense will stick in the throat of anyone who prizes both movies and the music of the 1980s – Tom’s character is called Stacee Jaxx. Really.
Centre stage there’s a disposable love story, further cliches in the form of an evil bigshot who wants to close the venue down, and the soundtrack is stuffed with overblown rock anthems.
It’s just as much of an instant migraine as it sounds, and that headache won’t go away if you fret that, with lots of these jukebox musicals cluttering up theatre districts around the world, if this scores at the box office there are plenty more where that came from.
> Talking about cliches, Fast Girls is a shameless cash-in on Olympics fever that probably hopes to make as big an impact as Chariots of Fire but is nowhere near a medal prospect.
Think of it as Bend It Like Baton – mismatched girls have to learn to respect each other and grow as they form a hot relay team.
One is posh and has a pushy dad, one comes from a rougher part of town and has to stand up for herself. Insert predictable plot turns here, and turn your brain off. The team behind the movie pride themselves on the time they took to cast actresses who actually look as if they could be top-class runners when seen in track action – it’s just a shame they didn’t devote as much attention to the story or the script.
> Jaws has been dusted down for a big screen return, and despite clunky 1975 special effects is still worth catching on the big screen if it turns up at a multiplex near you.
> If Russell Brand is a reliable indicator of films to avoid, Robert de Niro is not far behind based on his output in recent years. Red Lights is better than that, a spooky psychological thriller with Sigourney Weaver, Cillian Murphy and Toby Jones all in tow and writer/director Rodrigo Cortes, the man behind the recent Buried, calling the shots.
> Also out this week is Cosmopolis, David Cronenberg’s latest and another attempt by Robert Pattinson to build a career beyond Twilight. It’s as dark as you would expect, and RPatz plays a Wall Street golden boy whose world falls apart Bonfire Of The Vanities style. A strong supporting cast helps lift it above the norm.