June 13, 2012

‘Rock of Ages’ will rock you

Posted in Between Us column, Entertainment, Movies at 10:59 pm by dinaheng

Small town girl goes to Hollywood, looking for fame and fortune. Girl meets boy. Their famous rock star idol is about to lose his soul. Honest reporter holds up a mirror that reflects the truth of his sad life. But not to worry — a happy ending is ensured. This is, after all, a Hollywood fairy tale.

The story of the two couples intertwine against the backdrop of a political campaign to clean up the sexy and sinful atmosphere of L.A.‘s Sunset Strip in a rollicking homage to the music of the ‘80s in New Line Cinema’s “Rock of Ages,” opening in theaters Friday, June 15.

The film adaptation of the Broadway musical features the same heart-pounding classics of Foreigner, Journey, Poison, Twisted Sister and more that made the stage version a hit. Happily, the actors in this film do a respectable job of belting out the songs, as well as portraying characters who are campy and humorous.

Director and executive producer Adam Shankman, whose directing credits include the feature adaptation of the musical “Hairspray,” “The Wedding Planner,” “The Pacifier” and  “Cheaper by the Dozen 2,” says he wanted to make “Rock of Ages” a film that guys would drag their girlfriends to see.

“It’s got unbelievably beautiful girls, classic rock, and shameless debauchery,” Shankman says. “It’s a film that begins and ends with the word joy. The music was like the soundtrack of my life. My father managed bands from Barry White to Sister Sledge. I was in the recording studios a a lot, and saw careers soar and tumble. My first concert was at the Roxy on the Sunset Strip.”

A native of Los Angeles, the director attended The Juilliard School in New York, and worked as an actor, singer and dancer before becoming a choreographer and director.

“I’m not afraid to try things,” he says. “I breathe, and I do. In my head, the world feels like a musical. The joy of directing a musical is you get more time to rehearse, but then you get bursts shooting the music and dancing. It couldn’t be more uplifting.”

As the characters in the film strive to make their Hollywood dreams come true, they learn how difficult it is to stay on the path to success, and like many things in life, the definition of success changes.

“A lot of people think they’ll find adoration in fame and fortune, and they don’t,” Shankman says. “I don’t think anyone starts out to be superficial. The characters in the film are all fighting for something different, and at the end, they all find it doesn’t mean anything without love.”

The character who teaches this lesson to the famous rock star Stacee Jaxx (played by Tom Cruise) is Rolling Stone reporter Constance Sack, portrayed by Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Akerman.

“Malin is like a perfect storm,” Shankman says. “She’s incredibly talented, hilariously funny, a brilliant actor, and stunning. I needed someone in the reporter role who was fearless because the stuff I asked her to do were to be incredibly funny and vulnerable. She has to have sex with Tom Cruise on an air hockey table singing, “I want to know what love is,” and ends up giving him reason and light.”

Ackerman, who’s appeared in films such as “The Proposal,” “27 Dresses,” and “Wanderlust,” says the most challenging part of the reporter role for her was the singing.

“We had an amazing vocal coach for three weeks, and learned some great techniques,” Ackerman says. “We recorded the music before we filmed the scene. It was my first time doing a musical.”

Doing a film about the Sunset Strip was like coming home for her, however, as she met her drummer husband, Roberto, while performing as the lead singer of an alternative rock band, The Petalstones, that performed in the Viper Room and other venues on the Strip in Los Angeles.

“My character in the movie is a journalist, and I wanted her to be a real person, a woman who wants honesty in life,” Ackerman says. “Being a good journalist, she got a lot more than the story.”

She notes that it wasn’t hard to get in the mood for the raunchy sex scenes with Cruise.

“Tom transformed himself into a rock star, and I just had to react,” she says. “He’s there in the moment, and made me look good. We worked to make the scene funny, sexy, and fun, yet grounded. Adam asked me to go to places that are a little risqué, but you just have to trust your director. All of the choreography made me laugh, and I loved it.”

Raised as a Buddhist, Ackerman says she was taught that your life is what you make it, and actions create karma along the way.

“In the movie, you give life your best shot, and hope karma will take care of things, as well,” she says. “If I’m positive, I’ll reflect that to other people, and it’ll come back to me. Stacee Jaxx and Constance Sack were two people on two different sides of the coin, but both were looking for truth and honesty, and that’s hard to find in Tinseltown.”

She jokes that her favorite song in the movie is the one she and Cruise performed together (“I Want to Know What Love Is”), but adds, “For me, ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ is the epitome of ‘Rock of Ages.’ “

For a raunchy good time, go see “Rock of Ages.” It’ll make you believe in happy endings.

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