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New release movie reviews - June 14
ROCK OF AGES **** (123 minutes) M
Set in 1987, this exuberant, hugely entertaining big-screen adaptation of the smash stage musical comedy doesn't put a foot wrong. When wholesome young wannabe singer Cherrie Christian (Julianne Hough from Footloose) lands a job waitressing at a hot Hollywood rock venue she falls in with fellow wannabe singer Drew (Diego Boneta). Together, they learn the hard truth of the AC/DC maxim about it being a long way to the top. The parallel story about rock god Stacee Jaxx (a scene-stealing, age-defying Tom Cruise) fills out the rest of the film with sex and mayhem as he deals with a rock reporter (Malin Akerman) and his money-loving manager (Paul Giamatti). It's wall-to-wall fun with a killer soundtrack of trashy 1980s anthems and a great ensemble cast that includes Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston and Catherine Zeta-Jones, who's in fine form as the conservative politician's wife who wants to shut the venue down. Blessedly, director Adam Shankman (Glee; Hairspray) knows how to cut musical numbers to maximise energy while Cruise again proves he's on a mid-life career peak. The dude might be 50, but he plays with the fiery self-assurance of a 25-year old with more groupies than he can handle - and has the abs to back it up. (See our list of Top 25 Rock films.)
TAKE THIS WALTZ *** (112 minutes) MA
Though she appears to have everything a reasonable wife could want, suburban writer Margot (Michelle Williams) allows her idle thoughts of discontent to stray from her food-writer husband (a thankfully straight Seth Rogen) and across the street where her attractive new neighbour Daniel (Luke Kirby) lives. As she showed with Away From Her (2006), actress-turned-director Sarah Polley knows how to elicit finely etched performances by making the most out of small moments.
LE CHEF *** (84 minutes; subtitled) M
What price perfection? In this highly likeable, souffle-light French comedy, celebrity chef Alexandre Lagarde (Jean Reno) hooks up with short-tempered young gun Jacky Bonnot (Michael Youn) for assorted food-related shenanigans. These include Jacky's wife troubles and Lagarde's quality-control war with the head of his restaurant company. A very pleasant film to digest.
MARGARET **** (144 minutes) MA
After being involved in a road accident, a young New York woman fights through the forest of her troubled conscience to lay blame. In a sterling central performance, Anna Paquin (True Blood; The Piano) is outstanding as she courses through a broad palette of hard-edged emotions in this searing post-9/11 drama about honesty and culpability. Writer/director Kenneth Lonergan (2000's You Can Count on Me) made this back in 2008 but a long-standing argument with the studio about its length kept it on the shelf. As a result it has received only a scant theatrical release. Nova.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS *** (95 minutes) MA
A group of hormonally ripe young people go on holiday in a remote cabin and the blood quickly starts flowing - but there's a lot more going on than the standard slasher fare. Playing on the cliches of the genre, the film avoids being a straight-out spoof by building to a satisfying, over-the-top climax. Director Drew Goddard co-wrote this clever, twisty genre piece with long-time collaborator Joss Whedon, who directed The Avengers. Originally slated to go straight to DVD, fans lobbied hard for this single-screen release. Nova.
FRANKENSTEIN **** (150 minutes)
Mary Shelley's genre-sparking morality tale about science and God gets an adventurous working over by director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire). Filmed live at London's National Theatre, actors Benedict Cumberbatch (TV's Sherlock) and Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting) took turns playing Victor Frankenstein and the love-starved creature he assembles from dead bodies. The version with Miller as Victor is engrossing and confronting. It screens 11.30am Saturday and Sunday at the Nova and is strongly recommended. Tickets are $25/$23 (concession/members). The second version plays Saturday 23 June, Sunday 24 June at 1pm, and Tuesday 26 June, Thursday 28 June 28 at 6.45pm. Watch for the review Monday 25 June.