Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

Barry, Plane and Not Tall: American Made, reviewed.

Film Title: American MadeHere’s my NPR review of American Made, Doug Liman’s heavily fictionalized but ecstatically true crime biopic starring Tom Cruise as C.I.A. gunrunner and dope smuggler Barry Seal. As I discuss in the piece, Liman’s father, Arthur Liman, was heavily involved in the 1987 U.S. Senate hearings into the Iran-Contra affair, of which Seal’s covert flights were an operational element. (Here’s Arthur.)

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Jack Reacher? I Hardly Know ‘Er! Never Go Back, reviewed.

Cobie Smulders and Tom Cruise "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" (Paramount / Skydance)

I am a big, unapologetic fan of 2012’s Jack Reacher, and the shrugging reviews I’ve seen of its new follow-up, Never Go Back, insult the original with their baffling assertion the new one is just as good. It’s not remotely as good. The crispness of the action stuff, the weird jokes, the superb supporting players; the new one has none of that. Cobie Smulders is great, but she’s not exactly underexposed like Reacher‘s deep bench—Richard Jenkins and David Oyelowo and Jai Courtney and Werner goddamn Herzog—was in 2012. We did not know then how ubiquitous Courtney would become in shitty sequels to 80s classics. Or that Rosamund Pike’s stock would rise so fast with Gone Girl. Continue reading

The Spies Have It: Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, reviewed.

Tom Cruise in

The Mission: Impossible film series is 19, long enough in the tooth for its earlier installments to start to acquire the same time capsule effect that makes me love even the worst James Bond movies. I watched Brian De Palma’s 1996 Mission: Impossible the night after I saw the new one, subtitled Rogue Nation, and John Woo’s barely-related 2000 M:I-2 the night after that. Yep, blockbusters are different now.

Trying to articulate just how was part of the chore of writing my NPR review of the fifth impossible mission, from Jack Reacher writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. Short version: I liked it. But I had more thoughts about it than I could shoehorn into the review, so here’re a few outtakes. Continue reading

For The Village Voice, L.A. Weekly, and affiliates, Ten Summer Movies I Hope Don’t Suck

Disney•Pixar's "Inside Out" takes us to the most extraordinary location yet - inside the mind of Riley. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions - Anger (voiced by Lewis Black), Disgust (voiced by Mindy Kaling), Joy (voiced by Amy Poehler), Fear (voiced by Bill Hader) and Sadness (voiced by Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley's mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. Directed by Pete Docter and produced by Jonas Rivera, "Inside Out" is in theaters June 19, 2015.

It’s Memorial Day weekend, which a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away used to signal the start of the summer movie season. Sometime around the turn of the century, the summer movies began arriving the first weekend in May. In recent years the first weekend in April has become a perennial launchpad for Marvel movies and Fast & Furious flicks.

But I’m the sentimental type, so I (and The Village Voice and L.A. Weekly) waited until this week to post my look at ten releases coming up in roughly the next 10 weeks for which I’ve got grand or at least moderate hopes. Plus Magic Mike XXL, which I was asked to add so the list wouldn’t be “too straight.” I am aware that Channing Tatum is what the former John “Cougar” Mellencamp would call “a real good dancer,” but Steven Soderbergh is not un-retiring from theatrical filmmaking to direct this sequel, so I’d probably rather see Jurassic World or Ant-Man, neither of which made the cut.

Have a great summer, movie lovers.

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Edge of Tomorrow and Noble Failures

It’s always a thrill to be invited back on Pop Culture Happy Hour. I joined Linda, Stephen, and Glen to talk about Edge of Tomorrow — the best would-be summer blockbuster yet in a year that’s already seen several strong ones — plus noble failures. We agreed on the B topic before Edge of Tomorrow opened to less-than-stellar business, despite near-universal acclaim from critics. I hope we didn’t jinx it, because this is exactly the kind of shrewd, fresh, self-aware big movie that seems to be perennially in danger of extinction.

I’d been summoned to PCHH this time at least in part because of my enduring affection for the 1991 caper comedy/Bruce Willis vanity project Hudson Hawk. This is, to my mind, a creatively successful film that also just happened to lose something north of $50 million in 1991 dollars.

I always over-prepare when I’m invited on a podcast. I came in ready to talk about a few other movies big genre films whose reach exceeded their grasp: Kathryn Bigelow’s ambitious social sci-fi Strange Days, Bryan Singer’s way-emo Superman Returns (to which Man of Steel‘s shrugging, genocidal violence was, I’m convinced, a direct, and stupid, reaction), and Alien 3, the fascinating, troubled sequel that marked David Fincher’s feature debut and that he refuses to talk about to this day. Of those three, only Strange Days was a big money-loser like Hudson Hawk was; the other two did okay but fell short of their aesthetic objectives. Notes on "Strange Days" for Pop Culture Happy Hour.

I’d even jotted down a quote from Roger Ebert’s four-star review of Strange Days to read on the air. Having come from a screening of Steve James’ wonderful documentary Life Itself — about Ebert’s life, career, illness, and death — just hours ago as I’m typing this, I’m doubly sorry I didn’t get to. We didn’t even get to everything I meant to say about Hudson Hawk. Hey, it’s a discussion, not a lecture.

I’ll correct one of those omissions right here: One of Hudson Hawk’s villains, Caesar Mario, is a guy who had a chip on his shoulder because he’s the lesser-known brother of a more famous gangster. This character is played by Frank Stallone. That’s a good casting joke, there.

Recorded but cut for time was an acknowledgment — initiated, would you believe, not by me but by my Pal-for-Life Glen — about Edge of Tomorrow‘s homages to ALIENS both large and small, from the armored power suits to the gender-neutral division of action-hero labors between stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, to the presence of Bill Paxton, doing a hilarious 180-degree inversion of Private Hudson, his panicked, “Game over, Man!” Marine from ALIENS.

Anyway, listen here or find the podcast on iTunes.

FURTHER READING: I wrote about Edge of Tomorrow and blockbuster fatigue, and about PG-13 vs. R-rated cine-violence and about how seeing ALIENS on VHS 400 times as a kid set up expectations that the 2012 ALIEN prequel Prometheus could not possibly satisfy.

Click on any photo to see a beautiful, high-res version.

Cruise Controller: On Edge of Tomorrow and Blockbuster Déjà Vu

"Edge of Tomorrow" boats Tom Cruise's most varied & enjoyable performance in years.

The Happy Meal-shifting blockbusters of Summer 2014 continue to deliver the goods. Godzilla was dire and painterly and majestic, X-Men was fizzy and fun, and Edge of Tomorrow — the latest Tom Cruise action vehicle to suffer from Awful Title Syndrome — might be better than either. I liked it a whole bunch, even if it ends on a more conventional note than it might’ve if, say, Christopher Nolan had been holding the reigns.

Anyway, here is my official statement.

— TRANSMISSION BEGINS —

Blockbuster audiences have seen it all, and so has Tom Cruise. He is the most resilient and longest-lived movie star of modern times, a guy whose name has opened movies, and whose overcaffeinated performances have powered them, for 30 years. (“Actor. Producer. Running in movies since 1981,” reads his Twitter bio, perfectly.)

Edge of Tomorrow, his new science fiction adventure directed by the guy who made Swingers, cleverly harnesses both our abundant affection for the fearless, freakishly energetic young actor Cruise was, and our more fickle approbation for the risk-averse, still freakishly energetic 51-year-old action star he’s become. He plays a craven Army public affairs officer ordered unexpectedly into combat against space invaders who’ve occupied, er, France and Germany. Whereupon he is slain almost immediately. Continue reading

Air-Conditioned Fun in the Summertime: 10 Movies I Want to See in the Next Three Months

Time was, the summer movie season — when blocks got busted and Oscar contenders got out of the way — began Memorial Day weekend and had shot its wad by mid-July. Once in a while you’d get a great late-summer picture, like The Fugitive, released Aug. 6, 1993 (and nominated for Best Picture, come to that.) But generally the big action pictures, which gradually gave way to the superhero flicks, needed six or seven weeks before kids got marched back into school so studios could benefit from repeat business.

In the 21st century, the summer movie season advanced to the first weekend in May, a date that in recent years has belonged to Marvel Comics adaptations, whether they’re made by Marvel Studios, like The Avengers, or by other studios, like the Spider-Man pictures (both the Raimis and the Webbs) from Sony, or the X-Men series, from Fox.

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