THAT'S MY BOY (*)
An early contender for one of the worst movies of the year. Adam Sandler has been steadily losing his comedy credibility with audiences for the last decade now, and this is a new low. What should have been a welcome return to the R-rated raunch of his earlier comedy albums is instead an overly long, unfunny and unpleasant mess. Some of the jokes are risque (statutory rape and incest, anyone?), but there really aren't that many of them. Individual scenes are stretched to their breaking point and the editing is almost non-existent, just an artless cut 'n paste job. Watching this made me long for the days of Jack and Jill, and had me weeping for the Happy Gilmore/Wedding Singer Sandler of yore.
ROCK OF AGES (**)
Rock of Ages confirms what most people knew all along: jukebox musicals suck. I hated the last one, 2008's Mamma Mia, and this one's not much better. The script is the flimsiest of things, barely even trying to connect the dots between the '80s rock and pop songs that dominate the soundtrack. Director Adam Shankman showed great promise with Hairspray, but the flop sweat shows here. This is more of a star-studded karaoke session than it is a movie. Some of those stars fare better than others. Tom Cruise gives an intense, commanding performance as rock god Stacee Jaxx. He stretches and surprises in the role, and has a pretty decent voice to boot. He's really the only reason to see the movie. I also liked Malin Akerman and Russell Brand. As for the rest, Catherine Zeta-Jones over-acts up a storm, Alec Baldwin is sorely miscast, and Julianne Hough's tinny singing voice grates. What should have been "nothin' but a good time" barely qualifies as tolerable.
MOONRISE KINGDOM (****)
It's always nice to see a movie where the director is the star, and that is certainly the case here. This is a Wes Anderson movie through and through, and though it didn't quite reach the heights of greatness of Rushmore, Tenenbaums, and Fantastic Mr. Fox, it's a strong piece of work. As with all Anderson movies, this one is art directed within an inch of its life. The '60s music, fashion, and detailed production design make it consistently entertaining. The typical Anderson cast members (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman) shine, but newbies like Edward Norton (as a scout master) masterfully fit right in. The two kid actors at the heart of the movie do a fine job, but they can barely handle the intricacies of Anderson's dialogue. Sweet and funny, but still a bit emotionally distant - par for the course for Anderson at this point.