I’ve Got Your Number

Poppy Wyatt has just lost her fiancé’s family heirloom emerald engagement ring and then her phone gets nicked. Luckily, she finds a discarded phone in the trash bin and gives that number to everyone in the hotel in case they find the lost ring. Clinging to that phone as her last hope, she becomes involved in the life of businessman Sam Roxton—the phone previously belonged to his incompetent PA and has important emails and messages in it. With a week before the wedding, Poppy is doing everything in her power to find the lost ring without having to tell fiancé Magnus Tavish or his parents.

This hilarious romantic comedy by Sophie Kinsella will have you giggling from page one all the way to the thrilling climax. Told in the first person by Poppy—who has included her asides in the form of footnotes—you quickly learn the trials and tribulations involved with sharing a phone with a complete stranger. As she snoops into Sam’s life, she becomes so embroiled in his office drama that she fails to notice the drama enfolding in her own.

Kinsella has written an addictive chick lit novel that sucks you in before you even realize it. Drawing inspiration from classic Jane Austen characters—whether purposefully or not—you’ll find it impossible not to fall in love with these characters. Add this to your summer reading list before the season ends!

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Rock of Ages

 

In this big screen adaptation of the rock jukebox Broadway show Rock of Ages, not even a team of seasoned actors can bring any originality to this film. Fortunately, they seem to embrace the derivative nature of this material, including allusions—intended or otherwise—to other musicals and films. Rock of Ages try to camp up rock & roll as much as possible, but their efforts fall flat.

Sherrie (Julianne Hough) walks off the bus and belts a “Good Morning, Baltimore” anthem to commemorate finally making it to the flashy world of Hollywood—shortly before being mugged. Fortunately, she falls right into the beautiful arms of Drew (Diego Boneta) who is a barback at the struggling legendary rock & roll bar The Bourbon Room. The Bourbon is run by washed-up Dennis (Alec Baldwin—the only actor in the film with the ability to say the cheesy dialogue with a straight face) and Lonny (Russell Brand, who plays the comedic British sidekick perfectly). Drew dreams of being a rock god like Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) who is coincidentally performing there that weekend. Sherrie convinces Dennis to let Drew be the opening act, and that evening many dreams are made but also broken.

After believing he saw Sherrie hook up with the drunken Stacee, Drew gives the ultimate performance, which mostly consists of him screaming the word “Rock!” over and over again. Sleazeball manager Paul Gill (Paul Giamatti), the only true villain in this romp, quickly signs Drew as a client; but he merely proceeds to ruin Drew’s hopes of a career by pursuing the boy band craze—the 90s are right around the corner, after all. Sherrie’s fate is no less tragic. She stumbles into the burlesque club Venus Room run by Justice Charlier (Mary J. Blige) and gives her best Ali-in-Burlesque speech about how she’s a singer not a dancer. Yet after a few weeks of working as a waitress in a Xanadu outfit, Sherrie puts on a scandalous outfit and joins the other girls on the pole.

The plot never fails to be basic and predictable, but some fast editing makes even the dullest of moments flash by with the strum of an electric guitar. None of the musical numbers provide any nuance to these overplayed songs, and some of them are even offensive (I’m referring to the homosexual number). And despite being choreographed by Mia Michaels, the choreography in the film is equally uninteresting.

Catherine Zeta-Jones is thrown into the mix as the uptight religious conservative who has a trumped-up vendetta against Stacee. She knows how to overplay her character and provide a few laughs (and an homage to Evita’s V arm gesture). Bryan Cranston plays her seedy political husband, but makes no effort to make him interesting. Malin Akerman, too, fails to bring any life to her Rolling Stones journalist who falls for the infamous Stacee Jaxx on whom she is writing a story.

Tom Cruise provides the only nuanced performance in the film by underplaying his rock god character and making him two-dimensional. He puts as much soul as he can into this caricature of a rock star; but when the script requires campier moments, Cruise feels out of place.

If there is a theme here then it is the same one that lurks beneath Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love and it involves the price of fame. Both films explore the ups and downs involved with becoming famous, but both fail to teach any form of lesson. Rock of Ages is good for a mindless afternoon vacation into the glitzed-up world of rock & roll but that’s about all.

 

Uncle Vanya

 

The Sydney Theater Company’s production of Uncle Vanya (now playing for the Lincoln Center Festival) strikes a riveting balance between comedy and drama. Director Tamas Ascher emphasizes the physical comedy in this production; and with a new translation by Andrew Upton (husband of Cate Blanchett—both of whom are co-artistic directors at the Sydney Theater Company), this creative team brings the words of playwright Chekhov to life in a new and engaging way for audiences.

Professor Serebryakov (John Bell) is recovering from a debilitating case of gout in a remote country estate, which is being taken care of by his daughter Sonya (Hayley McElhinney)—who inherited it from her deceased mother—and his brother-in-law Vanya (Richard Roxburgh). The professor’s younger second wife Yelena (Cate Blanchett) is suffering from a debilitating case of ennui, with only an increasing flirtation with her husband’s doctor—Astrov (Hugo Weaving)—to keep her going. The love geometry becomes more tangled as we learn that Sonya, too, has a crush on the doctor; and Vanya is nursing his own crush on Yelena.

The performances are, of course, what truly make this show fantastic. Blanchett naturally commands the audience’s attention—as well as the attention of her leading men—through her effortlessly comedic blocking and dramatically-delivered dialogue. Although Yelena is tempted by the doctor, she plays the good wife and refuses to give in to infidelity. Vanya, conversely, yearns to be with Yelena. Roxburgh captures the character’s desire for her along with his general desire to do something with his life (this country estate has the uncanny ability to stagnate people’s lives).

Weaving’s alcoholic Astrov and McElhinny’s naïve Sonya give such superb performances that you forget the story is named after her Uncle Vanya. Sandy Gore’s Maria and Jacki Weaver’s Marina easily elicit laughs from the audience in their smaller roles, as well. All of the cast give solid and engaging performances that you almost forget these Russian people have Australian accents.

The entirety of this production is superb (even the set designed by Zsolt Khell is outstanding). Come explore Chekhov’s themes of unhappiness and frustration of the wasted life (Yelena even declares, “You only live once!”); and you will leave the show wanting to go out and do something.