Saturday, June 16, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: "Rock of Ages"

 
MOVIE REVIEW
Rock of Ages
 
Being something of an arena
rock aficionado, I ventured
out with my tweenage movie
compadre to attend the open-
ing day matinee showing this
much-talked-about epic.
My expectations were fur-
ther heightened as the ticket
taker encouraged me to en-
joy the show and to have
"nothing but a good time."

_______________________________________________________________________
 

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx, a "fictitious"
rock star who just happens to wear a
fur coat, cowboy hat and bandanna.
Directed by Adam Shankman, the film ver- sion  of the wildly popular  '80s-theme  Broadway musical,  Rock of Ages,  finally has made it to the big screen. 

Despite the hype, stellar all-star cast, mega budget and fist-pumping soundtrack, Rock of Ages is (at best) just plain silly. In fact, it's now official — The Curly Shuffle no longer is the  all-time most ridiculous '80s-related offering. And if haters, nay-sayers, pundits and poo-pooers ever needed  additional evidence to make a case against the music and style of our beloved decade, well, they've got plenty now.

Teetering somewhere between a Selena Gomez-type sitcom and a (really) bad soft core porno flick, this 'PG-13' rated saga of boy-meets-girl and  passion-filled teenage dreams set against  a backdrop of the '80s rock scene, should have been rated 'R.' The graphic one-liners,  double  entendre  refer- ences and gratuitous fetish scenes just aren't appropriate for little Johnnies and Sallies — especially my young friend — a rather astute  girl  who summed up the entire movie by announcing afterward that, "Most parts were a lot of music and fun. But other parts were a lot of gay." Hmm, insightful.
 
This is not a still from the latest
chart-busting country music video.
It's Hough as Sherrie Christian.
Like straight out of Poison's 1988 "Fallen Angel" video, Rock of Ages opens with female lead, Sherrie Christian, played by Julianne Hough  traveling from middle-America in pursuit of fame and fortune on LA's legendary Sunset Strip. As she sits on the bus thumbing through her  cherished  record collection contained in her carry-on bag, we get a glimpse at her goods — vinyl LPs by Def Leppard, Poison and Aerosmith. But then the vibe quickly spirals downward as bus passengers of all ages join in for a Glee-style group sing-a-long of Night Ranger's "Sister Christian." A classic now has forever been tarnished.

Upon arriving in LA, Sherrie soon meets her love interest, Drew Boley played by Diego Boneta, whose '80s swagger is about as authentic as Justin Bieber's. Even less be- lievable is Drew's band, Wolfgang Von Colt. Donned with fro-like mullets and wearing dirty, torn denim (onstage), WVC wouldn't have gotten an audition on The Strip in '87, let alone an opening act break at a top-name venue like the film's fictitious Bourbon Room. But Drew isn't the only character who looks out of place in Rock of Ages. In fact, with all of the bad wigs and non-era-specific wardrobe, I never felt as if I was watching a story based in the '80s.

No, this isn't a member of N'Sync.
This is Drew, the Rock of Ages ver-
sion of an aspiring '80s rock dude.
And of course like any modern-day Hollywood blockbuster that's worth it's weight in celluloid, Rock of Ages goes the distance to portray ALL conservative-types as bad guys — mean-spirited religious wackos  with secret fetishes and chequered pasts (i.e. LA mayor Mike Whitmore, played by Bryan Cranston and his anti-rock crusading Tipper Gore-like wife Patricia, played by the steamy Catherine Zeta-Jones). And the open-mouthed onscreen kiss between  bar manager Lonny Barnett, played by Russell Brand and bar owner Dennis Dupree, played by Alec Baldwin  was just awkward and creepy — regardless of one's sexual comfort zone. In fact, I believe that it was at that point when my young friend commented to me, "This isn't garbage, it's gay-bage." Out of the mouths of babes.

I had become slightly less enthusiastic about seeing Rock of Ages upon hearing that Tom Cruise had been cast in the primary role of Stacee Jaxx, a delusional, egomaniacal, lunatic frontman rock star. While I realize that Cruise is a true Hollywood icon and that his talent is immeasurable, I had my doubts regarding how effective he'd be in portraying  Bret Michaels, uh, I mean Stacee Jaxx. But surprisingly, he was quite convincing. Actually, I found Cruise's performance to be BRILLIANT — cer- tainly one of the film's three acting highlights.

Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx "explaining"
a few things to his unscrupulous man-
ager Paul Gill, played by Paul Giamatti.
I also must offer kudos to Paul Giamatti for his spot-on performance as Stacee's  seedy manager, Paul Gill. The  toaster-size  cell phone and  Rubik's Cube truly brought his character into the era.  Oddly, I had a manager during my '80s rock days who looked and acted exactly like Gill. Hence, I totally could relate to the backstage dialogue  be- tween Gill and Drew regarding fame.

But the definitive award for "Best  Performance" goes to  the  baboon  that played the role of Stacee's personal assistant, Hey Man. As someone who has worked as an assistant  to rock stars, I must  confess that frequently I've been  referred to as a "baboon." However, this baboon is exactly the type required to pull off such a gig adequately.

R&B siren Mary J. Blige also does a fabulous job as "showgirl" club owner  Justice Charlier and Malin Åkerman is quite believable in the role of Rolling Stone magazine reporter Constance Sack. Props also to REO Speedwagon's Kevin Cronin and Skid Row's Sebastian Bach for delivering passionate cameos as angry rockers on The Strip, defending their right to rock!

Even in the context of an '80s revival musical,
these two characters were simply ridiculous. 
Despite  some weak links and  its general dopiness,  Rock of Ages  does  get it right in several areas and even offers a few profound messages. One of which is that no matter how washed up, self-absorbed and addicted the rock star,  or how vehemently the subjects (chicks)  deny  their interest, the guy onstage ALWAYS will prevail (i.e. He'll nail the chick every time). I've personally observed numerous real life scenarios depicted in Rock of Ages. Simply put, in the backstage world of  rock and roll, ALL moral boundaries  become erased. It's sad, but SO true. 

It was fun to see such mighty and  iconic LA landmarks as the recreated Tower Records, the re- vamped Whisky a Go Go (Bourbon Room) and the legendary rock star hangout, The Chateau Marmont projecting from the glorious silver screen throughout the film.

FYI — This is what an authentically awesome
'80s rock band is supposed to look like!
Be sure that the true star of Rock of Ages is the timeless music. And al- though many of the arena anthems and power ballads featured in the movie are castrated, soulless, watered down American Idol-like recreations, it was still fun to hear David Lee RothGuns N' Roses, Twisted Sister  and Quiet Riot, classics pumping through a massive in-theater sound system.

In sum, Rock of Ages is a colorful and high-energy  romp in which  true love prevailed and all of the pretty people danced, sang, rocked  — and lived, happily ever after. And I guess it was an okay flick, if you possess the sense of humor necessary to watch as your cherished past is poked at for two (long) hours — just leave the kids at home. But would I pay to see it again? Possibly, if for no other reason than I just LOVED that baboon!

-Christopher Long
(June 2012)

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is available NOW on Amazon.
 
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MARCO RUBIO: Romney's Best Bet

Ann and I enjoy an active social life.

My fiancé
Ann Coulter and
I don’t disagree
on much. However,
we are somewhat
at odds over
Mitt Romney’s
soon-to-be announced VP choice.

________________________________


In short, Ann is gaga over New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whereas I’m passionately pulling for Florida Senator Marco Rubio. I like Christie, I just don’t believe that he’s the best choice right now.

A great VP choice may not guarantee a nominee’s victory (Joe Lieberman 2000), however, a misguided choice effectively can derail a promising candidate’s campaign (Sarah Palin 2008).

Rubio has maintained his disinterest in the #2 slot, but that’s what they all say — it’s just part of the political game.

Vice President-elect Marco Rubio.
One of the greatest criticisms thrown at Rubio is that the forty-one-year old lacks the on-the-job experience necessary to handle the gig. Really? C’mon, clearly qualifications and experience no longer are significant factors in American politics. Can you say, “President Obama?” But Rubio IS qualified.

So, what do we know about the Miami law school graduate? Well, before this married father of four joined the U.S. Senate in 2011, Rubio served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2000 to 2009 — he was Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2009. Simply put, Rubio is a rock-solid “God, Guns and Guts” Republican —  three words that scare the pants off the libs, but he’s my kinda guy! He’s a “Right to Lifer” who opposes same-sex marriage, supports mandatory life sentences for repeat sex offenders, opposes passage of Cap-and-Trade energy legislation and encourages options for student and parent choice in education.

Although his positions on the issues are pretty standard for us bigoted, right-wing, phobic wackos, Rubio stands out from the rest of the Republican pack. He’s young, wildly popular, gaining experience, impressive on the stump, and given his connection to the Cuban community, he likely will continue to endear Hispanic voters and help clinch Florida for Romney next November — which is the whole point here. The upcoming presidential election is one that my team simply MUST win.

President Romney's 2016 re-election bid will be a snap!
Recent opinion polls of various conservative groups found overwhelming growing support for Romney to tap Rubio for the VP slot. And not only will Rubio likely energize the right, he is also the “golden child” who can best inspire independents — a key faction needed to ensure victory in November.

Weary of the “Palin factor,” many longtime conservatives are urging Romney to choose a more seasoned candidate. However, I’m more concerned about the “pasty old white dude factor.” Barack Obama is an iconic rock star. And we Americans just love our rock stars! So, as I’ve mentioned in previous features, if the Republicans are to triumph in 2012, we’ve got to “out-rock star” our incumbent president.

Ann and I thoroughly enjoy our Saturday's in the park.
But there is a (very) long list of other qualified contenders from which Romney can choose, including Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, Ohio senator Rob Portman, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, Senator John Thune of South Dakota, Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty — to name just a few. In fact, just about the only qualified right-wingers who haven’t been mentioned on any recent potential candidate lists have been me and my fiancé, Ann Coulter.

Even political novices realize that this is a race that Romney can win if he doesn’t blow it. C’mon dude — DON’T BLOW IT!

-Christopher Long 
(June 2012)

Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon.
 

Friday, June 8, 2012

RECORD REVIEW: Adele "Live at The Royal Albert Hall"


ADELE
Live at The Royal Albert Hall
(Columbia Records)

Hey, do you hear
that? That's the
sound of human
voicessinging
But what's that
other sound? That's
the sound of
humansplaying instruments.
_________________________
 
The meteoric rise and current mega success of Britain's Adele Adkins certainly comes as no surprise to me. She's merely reaping well-deserved rewards for doing what music artists are supposed to do — create quality music. (Build it and they will come.) But therein lies the very reason that so many others appear baffled by her success. Unlike most, if not all of today's acknowledged pop culture-types, Adele doesn't  produce inane  computer-enhanced tracks featuring yodels, "uh-huhs" and "awe yeahs" over top of mind-numbing electronic-generated beats merely as a means of providing a soundtrack to this week's teen-targeted YouTube viral porn clip. Adele is a bona fide artist — a shtick-free singer, songwriter and performer of the highest caliber — with class and style to boot.

Hey Adele — nice package!
(CD/DVD combo)
Recorded live in concert on September 22, 2011 at London's Royal Albert Hall, this amazing double CD / DVD combo perfectly showcases  the Grammy-winning artist as she fronts a mighty band in a legendary venue before a huge and adoring crowd.

From her Debbie Gibson-like (circa '89)silhouette entrance, Adele immediately commands the stage and captivates  the audience with her personable  charm and  confidence. "I've seen The Spice Girls and Enrique Iglesias here (Albert Hall)," she confessed to her flock in  an (extremely) thick Cockney accent.

Seeming to  follow the traditional wedding mantra of offering  something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue(s), Adele serves up a musical smorgasbord through the record's seventeen-song, ninety-plus-minute running time.

After kicking off the show with "Hometown Glory" from her multi-platinum selling 2008 debut, 19, the twenty-four-year old phenom quickly focuses on her current record, leading her band through a string of numbers from her multi-platinum selling 2011 sophomore release, 21, including "I'll Be Waiting," "Don't You Remember," "Turning Tables," and "Set Fire to the Rain."

Adele
In the "something borrowed" category, Adele delivers compelling remakes of The SteelDriver's "If It Hadn't Been for Love" and Bonnie Raitt's (Reid and Shamblin penned) Top 20 hit "I Can't Make You Love Me."  And her  versions of The Cure classic "Love Song" and Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" sound so fresh and unique that you just might forget about the original recordings. The set also includes the must-play fan faves, "Chasing Pavements," "Rumour Has It," "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You."

The connection here between artist and audience is honest and pure. And although countless live records and videos  have failed over the years properly to capture the ambiance or recreate the magic of a personal concert experience, this one delivers in spades!

-Christopher Long
(June 2012)
 

Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon.
 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

THRIFT STORE ADVENTURES - Pt. VII (On the Road)

Michelle has a knack for spotting the
the coolest T-shirts in the joint every time!

Michelle and I traveled an hour south from our usual comfort zone of Brevard County today seeking the ultimate thrill  the discovery of a fabulous new thrifting destination. And we succeeded in grand fashion!
__________________
 

Finally, the holiday episodes
of The Beverly Hillbillies
on DVD.



Located in the Kmart plaza on Highway U.S. 1 in Vero, Florida, the Gulfstream Goodwill is simply one of the most impressive locations that Michelle and I have had the pleasure of visiting. With approximately 10,000 square feet of shopping space, it's clean (yes, even the  men's room), organized, well-stocked and well-staffed.

Although we had the place pretty much to ourselves upon arriving shortly after the 9AM opening, the joint was quickly jumpin' with wall-to-wall shoppers.
 
 

This pic wasn't taken at my buddy's
beachside condo. It's the furniture
dept. at the Vero Goodwill store. 

Often in the thrifting world, I find that it's the little things  — the fine details that make a store a stand-out location. This certainly holds true for the Gulfstream Goodwill. The in-house music was a wonderful quirky South Florida radio station that played a variety of fun, upbeat oldies. And the combination of the meticulously waxed floors married with properly greased wheels, made pushing one of the store's shopping carts as effortless and enjoyable as guiding an $80,000 Escalade along I-95 at 80mph.
 
 

All in all, this store was a tremendous find and offered a simply fantastic experience. And given that we also discovered a superb restaurant called Joey's Bistro on Indian River Boulevard, we certainly will be returning to Vero soon — and often! Road trip, anyone?

-Chris
 

Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

RECOMMENDED READING (2012)

Despite the title of this post, these amazing and engaging books weren't actually released in 2012 — I just happened to have discovered them finally this year.

In my former pig life I gleefully devoured only books that chronicled salacious backstage-type sex, drugs & rock and roll escapades. However, these days, given my current faith based life-focus, I gravitate now almost exclusively to authors with messages that will enrich my life, encourage my journey and enhance my relationship with Jesus Christ. Here are a few of my recent favorite discoveries...


THE BELIEVER'S AUTHORITY:
What You Didn't Learn in Church
by Andrew Wommack
I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing (and hearing) Andrew Wommack at a Florida speaking engagement as I was about halfway through this book. An incredible treat indeed. Simply put, Wommack doesn't much care for religion. I don't either and neither does Jesus. In fact, it's denominational-type religious stuff that keeps us from fully connecting with Christ. And through these 242 pages, Wommack pulls back  the veils of bad doctrine to reveal spiritual truth. Wommack will inspire some and offend others, but with his downhome, no-nonsense approach, he makes God's Word  crystal clear. For me, Wommack is a master teacher and orator, and this book is an absolute must-read for anyone seeking a better understanding of the scriptures and a maximized relationship with Christ.

THE RICHEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED:
by Steven K. Scott
Although the title might suggest some type of cheesy, easy, get-rich-quick or self-help revelation, this book is actually, on many levels, a complete life-changer. From surrounding ourselves with qualified advisers and partners to carefully examining ALL details before entering into a business opp to managing anger to dealing with criticism and more, the book reminded me of how I could have been more effective and successful in past endeavors as well as how I now can better pursue future ones. Despite being based on scriptures found in the book of Proverbs, multimillionaire/businessman/author Scott doesn't preach (much). He cleverly conveys his message as an experienced "buddy" sharing simple and practical advice. Although I personally have studied Proverbs within the last year or so, Scott puts it all into a fresh Everyman-type perspective.



SERVOLUTION:
Starting a Church Revolution Through Serving
by Dino Rizzo
There is a reason why this book maintains such a stellar rating among readers — it's open and honest, insightful and inspiring. I discovered Servolution during a particularly pivotal point in my own service  experience and I truly connected with Dino Rizzo's well-written, compelling and conversational style. Who knew that such an encouraging and powerful message of Christ's love and the importance of loving and serving others could be conveyed so perfectly through stories of delicious Gumbo, piles of dead rats and a man-size bowl of Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch?
 

-Chris



Author Christopher Long's latest book,
is available NOW on Amazon.