NEW THIS WEEK:
-- THIS ADAPTATION OF THE HIT BROADWAY "JUKEBOX" MUSICAL IS FUN AT FIRST, BUT THEN STUMBLES -- TOO HEAVILY STAR-AND-PLOT-DRIVEN TO WORK:
"ROCK OF AGES" PG-13 -- High-schoolers who love their parents' 1980s rock music or who just love Broadway musicals will find much fun in the flawed "Rock of Ages." Fans of hard rock will feel cheated. It's too R-ish for middle-schoolers. Adapted from the hit 2009 Broadway "jukebox musical" and brimming with familiar songs by the likes of Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, REO Speedwagon and other groups, "Rock of Ages" is part big-hair spoof and part tribute. It gets the balance wrong in its second act and goes south. Director Adam Shankman relies too heavily on stars and new layers of plot that weigh it down. Oklahoma girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a wannabe singer, arrives in Los Angeles and meets wannabe rocker Drew (Diego Boneta), who works loading in beer at the Bourbon Room on the Sunset Strip, hoping for his band's big break. He gets Sherrie a job waiting tables. The owner Dennis (droll Alec Baldwin) and his eccentric right-hand man (Russell Brand) have the tax man breathing down their necks. Their only hope is a promised appearance by Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise), a tattooed, drug-and-booze-addled rock god. Jaxx's sleazy manager (Paul Giamatti) nearly ruins everything for everyone. Meanwhile, the mayor's (Bryan Cranston) prissy wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) campaigns to close down the club, and Jaxx's interview with a female journalist (Malin Akerman) rocks his world. All that plus "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," "Waiting For A Girl Like You," and much more, make "Rock of Ages" tuneful, but ponderous.
THE BOTTOM LINE: "Rock of Ages" includes strongly and steamily implied sexual situations in suggestive undress and subtly implied drug use, so it isn't great fare for middle-schoolers, despite the problematic PG-13 rating. Stacee Jaxx and his scantily clad groupies, for example, seem perpetually high in ways that chugging mere scotch doesn't explain. Characters all drink and engage in occasional midrange profanity, crude sexual slang and toilet humor. Sherrie sees hookers on the street and later dances in a strip club.
-- A GOOD-HEARTED BUT SELF-ABSORBED YOUNG WOMAN GETS DUMPED BY HER FIANCE AND GOES OFF THE RAILS IN THIS DELICIOUS CHARACTER COMEDY:
"LOLA VERSUS" R, Limited Release -- Aspects of Woody Allen's earlier comedies waft through this charming film -- the Manhattan setting, the flawed characters, the romantic misadventures -- but director Daryl Wein et al. give the movie its own fresh and unique stamp. Ideal for film buffs of college age and too adult for under-17s, "Lola Versus" follows the ups and downs of Lola (excellent Greta Gerwig), an artsy, intellectual yet likable Manhattanite of 29 who can afford somehow to go for her Ph.D. in French poetry, live in a cute apartment, and work only occasionally in her parents' (Debra Winger and Bill Pullman) restaurant. Lola's world flips upside down, however, when her fiance Luke (Joel Kinnaman) backs out just weeks before their wedding. Despite loyal support from her best pals Alice (co-screenwriter Zoe Lister Jones) and Henry (Hamish Linklater), Lola goes on a tear of depressive drinking, promiscuity and hurtful behavior that takes advantage of her friends and shows how self-focused she truly is. Lola eventually learns her lesson and mends her friendships, which may be different from what usually happens in reality, but is awfully satisfying.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes a couple of explicit sexual situations, though without nudity, as well as strong sexual slang and profanity. Characters drink a lot and in one instance smoke pot and recall using other drugs. Infidelity and betrayal are central themes.
-- A SMART, FUNNY, SOPHISTICATED ADULT ROMANTIC DRAMEDY OF THE SORT HOLLYWOOD DOESN'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE ANY MORE:
"YOUR SISTER'S SISTER" R, Limited Release -- Too adult in its themes and content for under-17s without parental permission, "Your Sister's Sister" would be an ideal indie film for college-age moviegoers. They can savor its smart dialogue and likably flawed characters and feel sophisticated for doing so. The fine cast improvised much of the dialogue, working from writer/director Lynn Shelton's outline. They give this romantic/familial comedy-drama great depth of feeling. We meet Jack (Mark Duplass) and Iris (Emily Blunt) at a get-together to remember Jack's late brother, who has been dead for a year. Jack makes an angry speech, revealing his still unresolved grief. Iris, who was romantically involved with Jack's brother, urges Jack to go to her father's cabin to rest and clear his "head space." But when he arrives, Jack discover's Iris' half sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) staying there, grieving for the end of a long lesbian relationship. They get drunk and have an awkward sexual encounter. The next day, Iris, who secretly loves Jack (as he secretly loves her) shows up to visit. The question is whether to tell Iris what happened, and then, whether she can forgive them and they all can move on. The journey may be predictable, but it's so worthwhile.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film includes one awkward and explicit sex scene, though there's no nudity and everything takes place under the covers. The characters drink a lot of alcohol, and use a lot of profanity and sexually explicit slang. A central theme involves possible single parenthood and nontraditional family structures.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.