A Dark Night Rises: <em>Star Trek Into Darkness</em> mixes inside jokes, politics, story and acting into one great ride.
Snore Gore Bore: Unnecessarily remake of <em>Evil Dead</em> lacks the charm, interest and Bruce Campbell of the original.
Uncomfortable Reality: <em>Zero Dark Thirty</em> has the potential to be great, but rips off the Bin Laden bandage too soon.
Darkly Delicious: <em>Gangster Squad</em> embraces noir of ’40s L.A. cops and cons with reckless, fun abandon.
Reacher Feature: Tom Cruise swings hard at this action-detective flick, but it’s better suited for basic cable.
Look Out Below: Delicious villainy, Daniel Craig sexuality make for a thrilling Bond adventure in <em>Skyfall. </em>
High in the Sky: Time flies in more ways than one in soaring, enthralling <em>Cloud Atlas</em>
Tale of the Pup: In <em>Frankenweenie</em>, Tim Burton resurrects a child’s pet – and his own ethos – with his most Burtonesque film in years.
Turn Off This Light: Henry Cavill’s pretty face isn’t enough to save lackluster <em>The Cold Light of Day.</em>
In High Spirits: Prohibition-era <em>Lawless </em>soars with powerful storytelling, masterful acting.
The Art of Bore: The worst thing about <em>The Expendables 2</em> is the chance for <em>The Expendables 3</em>
Darkest Knight: With the most anticipated release of the summer, Christopher Nolan reveals there are no heroes in Gotham.
Frozen in Time: <em>Ice Age </em>drips blandly and inoffensively with old shtick.
Eight-Legged Freak: A reboot of the epic franchise offers no reason for the retelling.
It’s Got No Clothes: <em>Magic Mike</em> is short on magic character development and nudity.
Bloody Brilliant: <em>Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter </em>draws blood in surprisingly effective ways.
Bang Yer Head: <em>Rock of Ages</em> amazes – by hitting capitalist chords you might not expect.
If there’s one thing that rock ‘n’ roll has understood from the beginning – to the consternation of pearl-clutching panty-sniffers everywhere – it’s that selling sex to horny girls and women is a license to print money. It’s honestly astonishing that Hollywood hasn’t figured this out and appropriated some of rock’s hormonal mojo, what with its religious devotion to making a buck, or a billion. Which is what makes it so amazing to see how female-gazey Rock of Ages is. More than any other movie about rock has ever been, maybe. And this is just a madly silly, deeply goofy movie that’s meant to pander to GenX ’80s nostalgia. It’s not trying to be radical or revolutionary or anything other than money-grubbing. I’m not even sure director Adam Shankman realizes how extraordinary his film is on this level. Because, this: I am not an especial fangirl of Tom Cruise. I’ve never found him particularly intriguing or attractive, and I have found a few reasons to be turned off. But… day-um. The man is 50 years old and he’s half-naked throughout Rock of Ages as ’80s rock god Stacee Jaxx, singer for the band Arsenal. Cruise owns this movie in a way that would have been hard for me to fathom before I saw it. It’s not just about his gyrating and howling and sweaty half-naked bod, but he sings! Tom Cruise sings! And he’s good! Or at least good enough to make you realize that this guy could have gone in a slightly different direction and been Bon Jovi instead of Tom Cruise. Which makes you realize that it’s all – Hollywood and rock and roll and the whole big pop-culture shebang – the same thing, and so why does rock get it so right in embracing women audiences while movies mostly get it so wrong? ROCK OF AGES IS NOT TRYING TO BE RADICAL OR REVOLUTIONARY OR ANYTHING OTHER THAN MONEY-GRUBBING. The story is almost beside the point, because Tom Cruise’s nude torso and because the young kittenish leads in this story cobbled together around awesome ’80s hair-band stadium anthems are the weakest part of it. Sweet blond Sherrie rides the bus from Oklahoma to Los Angeles in 1987 where she meets cute Drew, who works in a rock club on the Sunset Strip and they both wanna be rock stars or something and so they fall in love and stuff and the youthful earnestness will make you want to smack them. Oh, OK, that’s an exaggeration: Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta are adorable, mostly in how they’re far too young to actually remember hair bands or stadium anthems. But their puppyish romance is by far the least interesting and the least fun thing here. True fun: Alec Baldwin as the club owner, and Russell Brand as his lieutenant, and their cynicism about sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll, and how it still can’t quite defeat their love of same. Paul Giamatti as the talent agent, who’s hilariously sleazy and opportunistic. Bryan Cranston as the hypocritical mayor of L.A., and Catherine Zeta-Jones as his pearl-clutching, panty-sniffing wife who wants to shut down the club. Malin Akerman as the rock journalist who is the only one not afraid to call rock god Stacee Jaxx on his bullshit. And Cruise as Jaxx, who almost feels like a revelation here, like we never knew he could be so relaxed onscreen, even while he portrays a character stressed out and and pressured to maintain a facade. And his story is the most compelling: We’re told he’s about to go solo, abandon Arsenal, and so, like… what does that mean? Is he gonna invent grunge? Rock of Ages is having a lot of fun with its nostalgia and its gentle prodding of recent history, and that’s the sort of direction it might take. Mostly, though, I didn’t think Cruise had such a sense of humor about himself… and that’s way more appealing than any amount of sexy rock sweating. I know plenty of folks don’t like seeing the music of their adolescence appropriated by high school drama clubs, and I can see how some might feel that has happened here – Rock of Ages isn’t just cheesy, it’s a nuclear explosion of cheese. But you know what? A lot of those ’80s hair-band anthems were romantic and ridiculous already, and not even in a “Lick My Love Pump” way. Rock of Ages just reminded me how much I love the music of the ’80s. Yeah, maybe it’s sorta sad that what was once seen as angry and rebellious and even satanic – the Zeta-Jones character isn’t an exaggeration – now can play so amiably. But that’s always how it is with rock ‘n’ roll, isn’t it? What thrilled one generation and shocked their parents is now a golden, mellow oldie. This is no bad thing. Rock of Ages (3½) • Directed by Adam Shankman. • Starring Tom Cruise, Alec Balwin and Catherine Zeta-Jones. • Rated PG-13; 123 min. • At Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge, Lighthouse Cinemas.
Game Over: <em>Prometheus</em> looks great, but fails to deliver on anything approaching the best of Ridley Scott.
Snow What: Latest iteration of fairy tale irritates and bores, just like Kristen Stewart.
Back in Black: <em>Men in Black III</em> offers a funny and fun look at aliens among us, and the cops who love them.<em>
Bored Game: Despite its classic board game inspiration, <em>Battleship </em>founders.
Awesome Assembly: The Avengers’ all-star cast and fantastic plot pushes the superhero genre to the next level.
Midnight Dreary: <em>The Raven</em> comes nowhere close to living up to its Edgar Allen Poe-solving-mysteries potential.
Deep Fear, Deeper Fun: <em>The Cabin in the Woods </em>reinvents the horror genre, with deliciously scary results.
Still Stuffed: <em>The Hunger Games</em> fills up an action adaptation quite well.
War Torn: Superspies vie for Reese Witherspoon’s affections, but lose their humanity, in <em>This Means War</em>
Smoke and Mirrors: An unrealistic plot and shallow dialogue sends <em>Safe House</em> the way of countless failed CIA semi-thrillers.
Birthing a Hero: <em>Chronicle</em> takes a stylized, seductive page from comic book stories of yore.
Secret Agent Meh: MMA star Gina Carano’s brawn meets director Steven Soderbergh’s brains – and it goes kind of <em>Haywire</em>.
Fincher’s <em>Dragon Tattoo</em> glossier than the Swedish version, but not nearly as good.
Elementary School: Banter meets action in the second installment of Guy Ritchie’s <em>Sherlock Holmes</em> franchise.
New Year's Daze: A famed director phoning it in meets celebs lacking personality in <em>New Year’s Eve</em>.
Holiday Magic: Sweet without being fake, <em>Arthur Christmas</em> will charm the bah humbugs away.
Bastille on the Hudson: Murphy and Stiller exceed all expectations in silly and surprisingly funny Tower Heist.
Double Uh-Oh: Rowan Atkinson spies harder, and funnier, in the return of Johnny English.
Unhappy Feet: Carbon-copy <em>Footloose</em> remake doesn’t quite cut the rug.
Throttle Back: <em>Drive</em> revs up a genre by defying its tired Hollywood conventions.
Monster’s Ball: Vampire remake flick <em>Fright Night</em> mixes horror, sexiness and humor.
True Colors: The Help registers a resounding success with powerhouse performances and an uncluttered storyline.
Highly Evolved: Rise of the Planet of the Apes stuns with its effects, its empathy and its ethics.
The Smurf Hits the Fan: <em>The Smurfs</em> is a weird mix of potty fixation, misguided logic, and the urge to violence.
Winnie the Pooh: confessions of a honey addict.
Extra Credit: Bad Teacher aces the rom-com test by pickling the genre with genius technique.
Rise of the Mutant: X-Men: First Class earns a place among the top comic book movies ever made.
The latest <em>Pirates</em> just needs a little more piracy and forced naval servitude.
Oh My God: Priest somehow finds higher power necessary to combine killing vampire monsters and personal faith.
Smash Hit: Kenneth Branagh’s <em>Thor</em> hits the hammer on the head.
Getting Furious Fast Fast and Furious steers franchise off-course.
Get the Flock Out: Rio is a familiar storyline about a nerdy animal who finds his courage.
heir Lowness: 'Your Highness’ quest gets lost in clowny, immature, improvised humor.