<p>Tom Cruise in &quot;Rock of Ages.&quot;</p>

Tom Cruise in "Rock of Ages."

Credit: New Line Cinema

Why 'Rock of Ages' reveals Tom Cruise as one of the last real movie stars

The actor wickedly plays himself by way of Frank T.J. Mackey

This isn't going to be a review of "Rock of Ages." That's partly because I already wrote one in short form for Time Out and the film doesn't much benefit from extended analysis, and partly because I'd only end up repeating much of Andrew O'Hehir's bang-on piece for Salon, which rightly celebrates Adam Shankman's gleefully (with emphasis on the 'glee') silly hair-metal musical for the very ersatz quality for which many other critics are punishing it. As if hair metal was ever about authenticity in the first place. Suffice to say the film aims no higher than it can hit, and as two hours of quippy, gaudily decorated Hollywood karaoke, it hits pretty squarely. I more or less loved it.

More interesting than the film, however, and more worthy of considered conversation, is Tom Cruise's fascinating central performance in it -- a turn that earns the "central" tag despite its essentially supporting status, and not just because it reduces kewpie-doll leads Julianne Hough and Diego Boneta to sparkly wallpaper whenever he deigns to show up. (You can practically feel the film cowering as he makes his dimly lit entrance. We're trembling ourselves.) 

Read Full Post
<p>Cover art for &quot;The Dark Knight Rises&quot;&nbsp;soundtrack</p>

Cover art for "The Dark Knight Rises" soundtrack

Credit: WaterTower Music

Listen to samples of Hans Zimmer's score for 'The Dark Knight Rises'

The music of the third film seems to call back to 'Batman Begins' a lot

Can you feel that? It's the swelling of anticipation for "The Dark Knight Rises" reaching a fever pitch. Pretty soon, the thing is gonna pop and all 165 minutes of the film will be unleashed and some may just faint with that "it's finally here!" ecstasy.

Tickets for IMAX screenings went on sale Monday, and most of the midnight screenings were pretty much zapped instantly. This after select theaters put theirs on sale back in January and, yep, sold out. Insanity. Here's hoping there's something really special underneath all that hype. (I'm sure there is.)

Christopher Nolan's Batman series has largely been defined, I think, by the work James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer have done with the music. Unfortunately, neither "Batman Begins" nor "The Dark Knight" were nominated by the Academy (the latter stirring quite the controversy in 2008, with Zimmer even going before the Academy to state his case when eligibility came into question). But that's to be expected with that branch.

Read Full Post
<p>The first reveal of the Dolby Theatre marquee at a special event Monday</p>

The first reveal of the Dolby Theatre marquee at a special event Monday

Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision for Dolby

Tech Support: Dolby Atmos ready for its close-up with the premiere of Pixar's 'Brave'

The heavily touted surround-sound tech marks an industry forever anxious to lure audiences to theaters

Next week Walt Disney Pictures will be premiering Pixar's "Brave" in conjunction with the Los Angeles Film Festival at the newly named Dolby Theatre (formerly the Kodak) in Hollywood. But while it promises to be a fun time for the event at hand, the fact that it's the grand re-opening of the space is what has me a little bit more excited.

See, I've never actually been in that room. No concerts, no Cirque du Soleil, no Academy Awards (I've never sought Oscar night credentials). So I'm happy to finally case the joint, as it were. But Dolby taking over the naming rights of the facility has also brought in the added attraction of its aural upgrades, namely the company's new Dolby Atmos technology, which was first revealed at CinemaCon in April.

Touted by Dolby as "the most significant development in audio since the arrival of surround sound," the promise of Atmos is an important one: keeping the theatrical experience unique and superior to what can be accomplished at home.

Read Full Post
<p>Culinary doc &quot;Jiro Dreams of Sushi&quot; has been a surprise specialty hit.</p>

Culinary doc "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" has been a surprise specialty hit.

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

Monitoring the documentary standouts of 2012 so far

Revised Oscar rules for the doc race should make it easier to track contenders

One of the categories we did not touch in yesterday's inaugural 2012 Oscar prediction was Best Documentary Feature, a race that routinely requires a greater magnifying glass than its narrative counterparts -- and even then, tend to defy prediction. This year, however, I have less of an excuse than usual for not building up a documentary contenders list -- because for the first time, the category's eligibility schedule is more or less in sync with the US release calendar.

You may recall the recent rule adjustments the Academy, assisted by Oscar-winning firebrand Michael Moore, recently made to a beleaguered category that, on an near-annual basis, finds a way to exclude some of the year's most significant documentaries from consideration. Last year, the critical wails were as loud as ever, as acclaimed favorites like "The Interrupters," "Senna," "Page One" and "Into the Abyss" failed to make the Academy's longlist, while a number of scarcely-seen mediocrities took their place.

Read Full Post
<p>Sean&nbsp;Connery and Alec Baldwin in&nbsp;&quot;The&nbsp;Hunt&nbsp;for&nbsp;Red October&quot;</p>

Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin in "The Hunt for Red October"

Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Lists: Top 10 movies I watched with Dad

With Father's Day around the corner, a personal look my father's favorites

This article first appeared in part at InContention.com in 2009. It seemed like a good time to re-purpose it for new readers here at HitFix and to give the usual list-making shenanigans a rest for a week.

In case you’re like me and you happen to forget these things throughout the year, let today’s edition of The Lists serve as a reminder: Father’s Day is this weekend!

With that in mind, and as a personal tribute of sorts to my pops, who turns 59 this weekend in addition to celebrating his 31st Father’s Day on Sunday, I thought I’d offer up a rundown of the films that remind me of those days in front of the big console television growing up back east.

My personal movie awakening came in the mid-1990s, when films like Michael Mann’s “Heat” and Bryan Singer’s “The Usual Suspects” made me realize I wanted to have a hand in this business. But I can’t ignore the impact decades of film product had on my youth in the form of my father’s viewing habits. I didn’t like every film my Dad loved, but somehow, his taste frequently seemed to either correspond with my own or correspond with how it would eventually evolve.

Read Full Post
<p>Jude Law and Keira Knightley in &quot;Anna Karenina&quot;</p>

Jude Law and Keira Knightley in "Anna Karenina"

Credit: Focus Features

Off the Carpet: Setting the table for the 2012-2013 film awards season

First set of predictions (that are as good as the next guy's)

It's that time of year. Well, no, not THAT time. Awards season is still a healthy ways off and anyone giving it overtly serious consideration right now is in for a hurtin'. But with 2012's midway point fast approaching, it's a valid time to take stock of the film year so far, and to take a glance ahead at the season to come.

And yes, I suppose it's as good a time as any (on the early side of things) to update the sidebar predictions with uneducated stabs in the dark so we don't go on looking like we're living in the past.

First, a quick recap. Very quick, actually, as the only Best Picture stories of the year so far have been made on the basis of admittedly impressive box office success. But to me, considerations of "The Hunger Games" and "The Avengers" for serious Oscar contention feel a bit like hot air in the hot months with little else to grease the awards conversation gears.

Read Full Post
<p>Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams in &quot;Take This Waltz.&quot;</p>

Seth Rogen and Michelle Williams in "Take This Waltz."

Credit: Magnolia Pictures

The Long Shot: Searching for sleepers in the Oscar guessing game

What's this year's little engine that could?

After three peaceful months in which the "O" word was among the furthest things from my mind -- even at Cannes, where unusually few films sparked such speculation -- the distant-but-not-invisible threat of the 2012 awards season entered my consciousness in a number of ways this week.

First, before a screening of the emphatically not Oscar-bound "Rock of Ages" (hey, I don't mean that as a slight), my usual no-trailers policy was involuntarily broken as Warners subjected me to gorgeous glimpses of "The Great Gatsby" and "The Dark Knight Rises"... and as much as the moviegoer in me got excited, I'd be lying if I said my mind didn't wander to their intriguingly uncertain awards prospects. The next day, I had only myself to blame to raising the subject. After seeing Sarah Polley's wonderful "Take This Waltz," due for US release later this month, I foolhardily tweeted that it feels like a viable Oscar play for Michelle Williams -- only to wish I hadn't said anything as numerous followers replied with their skepticism.

Read Full Post
<p>Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in &quot;Moonrise Kingdom&quot;</p>

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in "Moonrise Kingdom"

Credit: Focus Features

Tell us what you thought of 'Moonrise Kingdom'

HitFix
B
Readers
B+
The film expanded considerably this weekend

Someone noted recently that we didn't put up a call for reactions to Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." It's been moving steadily through a very limited release for a few weeks (and breaking box office records previously held by "Brokeback Mountain" in the process -- both are Focus Features films), but this weekend it tacked on 80 screens. So maybe more of you will have a chance to check it out now. Personally speaking, as someone not in the Anderson wheelhouse at all, I quite liked it. So head on back here whenever you get around to it and let us know your take. And if you've already seen it, join in! Also, feel free to rank the film above.

Read Full Post
<p>A scene from &quot;Prometheus&quot;</p>

A scene from "Prometheus"

Credit: 20th Century Fox

Tell us what you thought of 'Prometheus'

HitFix
C
Readers
B-
Ridley Scott's 'Alien' prequel hits theaters today

I was out of town for all the LA "Prometheus" press screenings, so I'll be heading out to the theater in a few to catch it myself with the masses. I actually had hoped to hit the midnight screening last night but it sold out. For now, though, I'm sure plenty of you will have something to say on the matter as Ridley Scott's film has been one of the most anticipated of the year. When you get around to it, head on back here with those thoughts and soon enough, I'll dive into the conversation with you. Also, feel free to rank the film via the tool above. (UPDATE: Okay, I'm back. Incredibly disappointing.)

Read Full Post
Riva was tasked with helping re-imagine "The Amazing Spider-Man" with a darker sheen.
Riva was tasked with helping re-imagine "The Amazing Spider-Man" with a darker sheen.
Credit: Columbia Pictures

Tech Support: 'Django,' 'Amazing Spider-Man' production designer J. Michael Riva has passed

Veteran crewman was Oscar-nominated for 'The Color Purple'

Your heart has to melt for Quentin Tarantino. The guy is nothing if not protective and supportive of his crews, many key members loyal to him over the years.

Back in 2010, he was dealt a blow when long-time editor Sally Menke tragically died amid hot summer temperatures while hiking in Runyon Canyon, and today, the production designer of his hotly anticipated western "Django Unchained," J. Michael Riva, has reportedly died at the age of 63, according to Variety.

Tarantino has worked with designer David Wasco for the majority of his career and Riva was a bit of a departure for "Django." But judging by the look of the film in the trailer, which just hit the net yesterday, the collaboration is a fruitful one. Filming has been taking place at the Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio up in Newhall, California, north of Los Angeles, and is currently on-going in New Orleans.

Read Full Post