'Rock of Ages' an unexpectedly good time

When I accepted the invitation from Best Buy to review the Warner Bros. movie Rock of Ages in anticipation of its release on DVD October 9, I expected the movie to be raunchy. After all, it is about rock and roll. I also expected to know many of the songs featured in the movie. After all, I am a fan of rock and roll.

What I didn't expect, though, was for Rock of Ages to be so much fun. And I definitely didn't expect to like it so darn much. After all, I had avoided seeing it in theaters when first released because it just seemed rather far fetched and silly.

Turns out Rock of Ages is silly—but it's that blatant, unabashed silliness that ended up most endearing me to it.

Rock of Ages, set in 1987, tells the story of Sherrie and Drew, two young adults who want nothing more than to make their rock-and-roll dreams come true. Sherrie (Julianne Hough) arrives in Los Angeles by bus from Oklahoma to pursue stardom. She meets Drew (Diego Boneta), a barback with rock-and-roll visions of his own, and the two fall in love, setting the stage for a bounty of rock-and-roll ballads to be sung.

It's the singing of so many ballads and other songs that most surprised me. Somehow I missed in early trailers and subsequent reviews that Rock of Ages is a musical. Not a movie with a strong soundtrack, a la Almost Famous, but a real musical, the kind in which nearly every character sings. Opening with Sherrie and her fellow bus passengers waxing melancholic to "Sister Christian" and ending with Sherrie, Drew and everyone viewers meet along the way rocking out to "Don't Stop Believing," Rock of Ages is an over-the-top musical treat with lots of dancing, lots of singing. Alec Baldwin sings. Russell Brand, of course, sings. Catherine Zeta-Jones sings. Tom Cruise, who plays an Axl Rose-type rock star, sings. Even Paul Giamatti sings. Everyone sings. (Everyone except Bryan Cranston, that is, though it was treat enough just to see the best of the bad boys getting spanked in one scene.)

I love musicals. I especially love campy musicals, which is why I so enjoyed Rock of Ages. It's camp at its best, right in line with Cry Baby, Grease and other over-the-top musicals in which all the characters are fun-loving—or dastardly—caricatures of folks we all know or wish we did.

What I loved most about Rock of Ages:  Anyone who follows Grandma's Briefs knows I'm a fan of mashups, and Rock of Ages had some pretty good ones: "Jukebox Hero" mashed with "I Love Rock and Roll;" "We're Not Gonna Take It" mashed with "We Built This City;" "Shadows of the Night" mashed with "Harden My Heart." And so many more. As expected, I knew nearly every song in the movie...by heart.

I also loved the performances by Mary J. Blige—whose part may have been small but her voice was the largest and most goose bump producing—and Malin Ackerman, who spared no goofiness in her role as a Rolling Stones reporter. The highlight for me, though, was the montage and duet featuring Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand. I'll give nothing away except that it was absolutely hilarious.

What I didn't love so much: I'm not a Tom Cruise fan, and his participation in the movie was part of the reason I didn't see it in theaters. On the plus side, he's not the lead in Rock of Ages, despite the trailers making it seem as if might be. Also, I found Julianne Hough's voice rather grating at times. Personal preference on both counts, as I know many folks adore both Tom and Julianne.

Bottom line: As the movie tagline says, Rock of Ages is "nothing but a good time." Once I realized that's really all it's meant to be, Rock of Ages proved to be an unexpectedly good time—one I'll surely enjoy again.

Rock of Ages (PG-13, 123-minutes) is available on DVD October 9 at Best Buy.

Disclosure: The reviewer has been compensated in the form of a Best Buy Gift Card and/or received the product/service at a reduced price or for free.

Review: CLARO Acne Clearing Device

When I was first approached to test and review the CLARO IPL Acne Clearing Device from Solta Medical, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew the CLARO is designed to clear up acne, but I hoped the small device meant to remove blemishes from the face might also be able to remove my confounding and steadily multiplying age spots.

Upon receiving the CLARO, provided for free from Best Buy, I immediately scoured the instructions and safety precautions—and got scared by the five pages of warnings. So I decided to have my daughter be the sole tester of the product, not me.

No, I’m not a horrible mother who would place my daughter in harm’s way instead of myself. I chose not to test the device myself, you see, because the manufacturer’s safety precautions warned against using the CLARO on anything but mild to inflammatory acne. I don’t have acne; I have age spots. My 29-year-old daughter, Brianna, though, does have adult acne. Clearly, the CLARO was meant for her situation, not mine.

Brianna agreed without hesitation to be the CLARO tester. My role would be to direct the testing—so I’d feel useful, not because my adult daughter needed assistance—then write the review.

First, we photographed the spot subject to testing. 

Next, per the directions, Brianna tested her skin for light sensitivity. Why check for sensitivity to light? Because that’s what the CLARO uses to banish blemishes—strong pulses of light emitted directly onto the offending pimple.Once we knew her skin could handle the procedure, we proceeded.

We had read the directions in advance but to ensure we were doing it correctly when actually trying out the unit, I read the directions aloud as Brianna followed each step. (Which is what all daughters, regardless of age, are supposed to do, right? Follow directions from their mother?)

They’re pretty simple directions. Basically, the treatment of two 6-second applications goes like this:
1. Turn on the device.
2. Place CLARO over pimple to be treated.
3. Press control button to release 10 flashes of light on pimple
4. Lift CLARO from skin.
5. Place CLARO back over same pimple.
6. Press control button to again release 10 flashes of light on pimple.

Users are to close their eyes or wear protective goggles during the treatment. Because the CLARO comes with only one set of protective goggles, when Brianna zapped the light, I had to look away from her (and couldn’t take any photos, of course). Which set me to giggling. Which set her to giggling. I couldn’t help but liken the process to the pioneers of hair permanents connecting to electrical devices of scary proportions to provide curly coifs.

All giggling aside, though, the CLARO proved less hair-curling and impressively effective. The next day, Brianna administered, as suggested if pimple is not gone, one more round—at her house, with no help from her mother. Within 24 hours the blemishes were gone. 

Sure, those blemishes could have disappeared on their own, so how to prove it was the CLARO that did it? Well, just so happens Brianna had two more unhappy spots on her face that she zapped with two treatments, and they, too, cleared up within 24 hours. That is not the way breakouts typically go for my daughter.

Brianna was thrilled with the effectiveness of the CLARO. I, on the other hand, was jealous. I was delighted for my daughter, of course, but I wanted to be just as delighted at the disappearance of the age spots on my own face. Oh, well, I tell myself. Maybe the CLARO will indeed be proven one day to work in such a way. For now, though, I’ll leave the proving of that up to the professionals.

What we loved about the CLARO: It’s so simple. More importantly, it’s effective. What else could one ask for from a gadget of any sort? The CLARO does exactly what it’s supposed to.

What we didn’t love so much: You might expect this to be the point where I say something negative regarding the price of the CLARO device. It retails for $195. Neither Brianna nor I saw that as a problem, though, when considering that ineffective creams and other more invasive treatments can cost far more for far fewer applications. The CLARO can treat, per the User’s Guide, 200 to 400 blemishes, depending on the severity of the blemish. That’s a mere $1 to $2 per zit. And it works.

No, the one thing we didn’t love so much was that the device can be used by only one person as there’s no way to clean the CLARO Treatment Window that touches the user’s face. With the ability to clear up to 400 blemishes per unit, it would be nice—especially for those in households that have more than one teen—if the device could be cleaned and shared. That would make the cost even more reasonable, we thought.

Bottom line: Brianna loved the CLARO and will surely appreciate its zit-zapping ability several hundred more times as needed for future breakouts.

CLARO comes in Onyx Black, Cobalt Blue, or Hot Pink and is available at Best Buy, www.bestbuy.com. Visit www.myclaro.com to find out more about the CLARO IPL Acne Clearing Device and view instructional videos.

Disclosure: I have received the reviewed product from Best Buy for free.