Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

Mission Accomplished

Top Gun: Maverick

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Sentimental, button-pushing and formulaic, as predictable as it is visceral, Top Gun: Maverick stays laser-focused on its objective.

Attract crowd. Thrill crowd. Please crowd.

Expect bullseyes on all three fronts, as star Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski take a couple cues from the Star Wars franchise in reconnecting with friends and re-packaging feelings.

After all these years in the Navy, Pete Mitchell’s “Maverick” tendencies have kept him from advancing past the rank of Captain. And when Pete blatantly shows up Admiral Cain (Ed Harris), he’s in danger of being grounded until Admiral “Iceman” (Val Kilmer) rescues him with orders to return to Top Gun and whip some new flyboys and girls into shape for a secret mission.

One of those young guns is “Rooster” (Miles Teller), son of “Goose,” who resents Maverick for more than just coming home alive when his father did not.

Against the wishes of Admiral “Cyclone” (Jon Hamm), it is Maverick who will train the 12 Top Gun pilots, and then pick 6 to take out a newly discovered uranium plant that poses a clear and present threat to the U.S.

Who’s doing the threatening? We never know. Does it matter?

Not in Maverick‘s world.

The screenplay-by-commitee doesn’t stretch anybody’s imagination or talent, with early hotshot dialog so phony it feels like a spoof. But nobody came for banter. We came for nostalgia, flight action, and – god help us – Tom Cruise.

He delivers, in his inimitable movie star way. He cries on cue, runs like his hair’s on fire, and burns charisma. What more do you want?

Romance? Here’s old flame Penny (Jennifer Connelly), who now runs that famous San Diego beachfront bar and just happens to be a single mother who might be looking for someone as ridiculously good-looking as she is. As both characters and actors, they click.

Cruise’s chemistry with a mainly underused Teller – who really looks like a chip off the old Goose – finally gets to show itself late in the film, exposing both tenderness and humor in its wake.

And once we’re in the air, get in front of the biggest screen you can and hang on. Kosinski’s airborne action sequences are often downright breathtaking, every moment in the danger zone moving us closer to that Goose/Rooster/Maverick moment that has no business working as well as it does.

It’s emotional manipulation, but not nearly as garish an act as Val Kilmer’s thankless role. Still, Cruise and Kosinski know it’s nostalgia that flies this plane, and Iceman is part of the plan that starts right from that original Kenny Loggins tune heard in the opening minutes.

From manufactured rivalries to shirtless team building to the entrance of a surprise Top Gun instructor from last night at the bar, Maverick sells us back what we first bought back in 1986.

And dammit, it feels even better this time.

The Screening Room: Action Packed!

Welcome to the Big Action Broadcast, where we do our own stunts and talk Mission Impossible: Fallout, Teen Titans Go! to the Movies, Blindspotting and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. We also cover what’s new in home entertainment and take a quick peek at what’s in store for next week.

Listen to the full podcast HERE.





Action Figure

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

by George Wolf

Tom Cruise’s next mission – and he’ll most likely accept it – is to try and outdo the stunts he pulls in this latest Mission: Impossible entry. Good luck with that, because Fallout delivers the GD mail.

It’s an action film that hits on nearly every cylinder, thrilling enough to elevate the value of the other five films in the franchise.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (a frequent Cruise collaborator) returns from 2015’s MI: Rogue Nation, leaning on that solid foundation while he ups every ante, delivering not only his most impressive work as a director, but his most complete screenplay since The Usual Suspects.

Cruise’s Ethan Hunt draws the ire of his IMF boss (Alec Baldwin) and his boss’s boss (Angela Bassett) by choosing the lives of his team (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg) over a stash of rogue plutonium. To keep that payload from the highest bidder, they have no choice but to accept help from agent August Walker (Henry Cavill and the ‘stache that ate DC), a “kill now-ask questions later” bruiser.

It can’t go unnoticed that Fallout marks the third blockbuster this year to feature a villain whose goals are more societal than financial.

Coincidence? Clearly no, but McQuarrie’s script keeps the social commentary smart, subtle and out of the way.

Familiar allies (Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa), old foes (Sean Harris as Solomon Lane) and new femme fatale “White Widow” (Vanessa Kirby) dot the landscape of double and triple crosses, with McQuarrie being careful not to overplay the genre elements.

Sly, self-aware references ground the film when it’s in danger of reveling in any Bond-ish excess, with plenty of well-placed surprises that, even when they’re not that surprising,  help ease the bloat of a 2 and 1/2 hour running time.

But let’s not kid ourselves, that’s all just spy game gravy.

These stunts – from rooftop to mountaintop, crowded streets to midair and beyond – are showstoppers, with Cruise so electric a t-shirt proclaiming “movie star” would not be out of place under Hunt’s endless supply of tight black jackets.

Cruise’s insistence on doing these stunts himself got him a broken ankle, but there is plenty of gain for his pain. You cannot deny the added authenticity his stuntwork brings to these set pieces, with McQuarrie’s nimble camerawork and some luscious landscapes sealing the deal.

Say what you what about the summer movie season so far, Fallout is here to make you remember how breathlessly fun it can be.





Plane Crazy

American Made

by George Wolf

In the late 1970s, Barry Seal traded in his gig as a TWA pilot for something more colorful. What began as missions taking aerial photographs of “enemies of democracy” in Central America turned into money laundering, arming the Contras, and cocaine smuggling for Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel. Among other things.

Seal’s is a resume that stands out, and American Made tells his story with just enough charm and swagger to keep it from being totally bogged down in the swamp of exposition necessary to sort it all out.

Much of that charm belongs to Tom Cruise, digging into a role perfectly suited to that roguish charisma he can deliver on autopilot. Whether keeping his CIA boss (an excellent Domhnall Gleeson) in the dark about his side hustles, spoiling his family with cash or buddying up to murderous drug lords, Cruise effortlessly carries the film.

Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, Go, Swingers) brings the swagger, surrounding his star with enough lively pacing and entertaining presentation to avoid the usual trappings of Cruise vanity projects.

Landing somewhere between Wolf of War Street and War Dogs, American Made is a film that certainly could have dug for a deeper message, but delivers plenty of fun while it romps in the shallow end.

 





I Don’t Want to Go Out: Week of September 11

The biggest turd of the summer is finally stinking up homes this week, but there are two truly outstanding indies releasing this week that you should watch instead. Because The Mummy‘s not even “this is so bad I’ll just watch it at home and enjoy it ironically” bad. It’s the bad kind of bad.

Click the film title for the full review.

It Comes at Night

Beatriz at Dinner

The Mummy





Bad Wrap

The Mummy

by Hope Madden

Remember the first time you saw the trailer for the new Tom Cruise flick The Mummy, and you thought, “My God, that looks awful”?

Dude, you were so right.

Part Tomb Raider, part Suicide Squad – with huge bits stolen whole cloth from the immeasurably superior An American Werewolf in LondonThe Mummy lacks even a solid thirty seconds of fresh thought. It is as dusty and lifeless as its namesake.

But, because it’s some sort of artistic imperative that every movie we see for the next decade is planned out in huge corporate clusters – I mean cinematic universes – the Universal monsters are being revived. Aging leading men will be tapped for butts-in-seats duties as Dark Universe tries to create a series of nostalgic family(ish) fare neutered beyond recognition with CGI.

First up, Cruise.

A prologue riddled with plot holes leads to one wildly offensive piece of cultural flippancy, as Cruise Indiana Joneses his way into Iraqi insurgent territory in search of unnamed treasure.

He finds an Egyptian sarcophagus. In Iraq. It’s just one geographic discrepancy mentioned but never clearly explained. Part and parcel of a script-by-committee that hopes you’ll overlook its incessant nonsense.

Cruise, as Nick Morton, is Cruise – all superficial charm and charisma. He’s joined by one-note Annabelle Wallis as the archeologist in a white shirt that’s bound to get really wet at some point, and Sofia Boutella as a mummy with strategically placed wrappings.

And Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll.

Will he turn into Hyde? Will it be among the film’s weakest, saddest, most pathetic scenes? No spoilers here.

Director Alex Kurtzman bandages together secondhand ideas, weak writing and an absence of onscreen chemistry with CGI aplenty. Sandstorms! Birds! More sand! And mummy/zombies that look like they should be gettin’ down with Michael Jackson.

If only!

Kurtzman’s impressive lack of instinct for pacing, tone and atmosphere match perfectly with the script’s hodgepodge of stolen ideas. And now we can wait for Hollywood execs to bring other moldering horror corpses back to life. Sigh.

Verdict-1-5-Stars





Time to Stop Reaching

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

by Hope Madden

Who is Jack Reacher?

“The guy you didn’t count on.”

Or, the guy spewing some tired, tired lines.

Four years ago Tom Cruise pissed off Lee Child fans when he put on the rumpled jeans and tee of the 6’5” drifter with mad military skills. In the serviceable thriller Jack Reacher, Cruise’s character puzzled through a homicide set up with the help of an inappropriately dressed defense lawyer.

Nowadays, though, maybe Jack is subconsciously looking to settle down. He meanders back to DC to talk with the Major who is now in command of his old post – the overtly fierce Samantha Turner (Cobie Smulders). Sparks?

Well, there might have been except Major Turner’s been incarcerated, there’s a highly trained sociopath with an alpha complex and a fancy pair of leather gloves, and an at-risk teen is in need of guidance.

The action’s far less interestingly choreographed, the humor is nonexistent, the villain is far blander (it was Werner Herzog last go-round, for lord’s sake!).

With the right combination of vulnerability, brattiness and savvy, Danika Yarosh provides the rare bright spot as the wayward teen. Smulder’s indignant badass is all but intolerable. Meanwhile, Cruise seems paralyzed as he tries to relay confused and conflicted paternal tendencies.

Edward Zwick’s stale direction isn’t helping. The closest thing to panache comes by way of the now de rigueur chase across urban rooftops. Yawn.

Still, Zwick’s greater crime may be the screenplay he co-wrote with Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz, adapted from the Child novel. There is a difference between streamlining text and discarding character development, plot movement and sense. You spend 30% of the film thinking, “Well, that was certainly convenient.”

Incompetent plotting, weak catch phrases and a shocking lack of chemistry among any and all actors will keep a project from succeeding. Hopefully everyone involved – including the audience – can leave the film and never go back.

Verdict-2-0-Stars





Cruising Altitude

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

by Hope Madden

Tom Cruise may have finally found a marriage that will work. His partnership with writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has produced four of the actor’s most recent films.

McQuarrie wrote Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow (arguably Cruise’s finest film this century), and he wrote and directed both Jack Reacher and Cruise’s latest action extravaganza, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.

McQuarrie inherited the series at its peak, Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol having brought the franchise back to relevance with talented new teammates, extravagant set pieces, and much-needed humor.

Rogue Nation picks up that same beat. The band’s back together: Cruise’s super-agent Ethan Hunt, skeptical wise cracker Brandt (Jeremy Renner), systems wizard Luther (Ving Rhames), and delightful hacker Benji (Simon Pegg).

Blessedly, the talentless Paula Patton sits this one out.

In her place as the beautiful woman who will appear in only one episode is Rebecca Ferguson as the mysterious double (or triple?) agent Ilsa Faust.

Now disgraced and disavowed by their own government, what’s left of IMF must expose their underworld counterpart The Syndicate to reclaim their status and save the world.

McQuarrie keeps the pace moving with a gliding camera that not only captures the enormity of each sequence, but develops a graceful, controlled urgency about each event.

Truth be told, though, the movie succeeds or fails depending on Cruise, and Ethan Hunt is a great character for the beleaguered movie star. Cruise can show off his still quite impressive physical presence, the script’s use of humor capitalizes on the actor’s underused strengths, and let’s be honest – Cruise has a bit of the crazy-eye, which makes him more believable in the part.

The action sequences are not quite as breathtaking as they were in Ghost Protocol, but they are impressive nonetheless.

What McQuarrie does better than any previous director in the series is to imbue every scene with a bit of humor – enough to exploit the ridiculousness of the situation without actually mocking it. He finds the fun in the familiar old gimmicks and draws on the strengths of his cast to create a blast of entertainment.

Verdict-3-5-Stars





Deja Cruise

 

Edge of Tomorrow

by George Wolf

Remember how badass Sigourney Weaver’s Aliens battle suit was back in ’86?

Edge of Tomorrow remembers it, along with a few other things about that movie and others, weaving all its inspirations into an entertaining slice of summer escapism.

As Lt. Col. Bill Cage, Tom Cruise is also battling aliens, albeit from a safe distance. Earth has been invaded by “mimics,” and Cage never met a TV talk show he didn’t see as a perfect chance to flash a handsome smile and sell the merits of a war that someone else will fight.

Until, that is, he’s suddenly fitted with his own super suit and made part of a doomed mission. After dying, he wakes up back at boot camp, reliving the same events over and over, death after death, until he can figure out how to break the time loop.

Cage’s first step toward an answer is meeting Rita (Emily Blunt), a celebrated war hero who admits she not only knows his story, she’s lived it.

Cruise’s latest is the smart sci-fi adventure that his last so badly wanted to be. Though Oblivion did boast more truly eye popping visuals, Edge of Tomorrow scores with sharp writing, crisp direction, vivid imagination and one damn good co-star.

Truly, Blunt classes up any project, from awful (The Wolfman) to awesome (Looper) to in-between (The Five Year Engagement). Here, she not only gives Cruise the strong female counterpart his movies often lack, she makes Rita the strongest personality, and the film is better for it.

For his part, Cruise shows some welcome range early on as a cowardly chickenhawk, slowly falling back into autopilot mode the more Cage becomes battle-hardened and heroic. Either way, his charm never wavers.

The team of screenwriters gives a sleek adaptation to Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel “All You Need is Kill.” Yes, we’ve seen these elements before, but the film carries a wise self-awareness about the familiarity, and is even able to toe the line between questioning the folly of war and respecting the sacrifice of soldiers in battle.

Director Doug Liman (Go/The Bourne Identity/Fair Game/Mr. and Mrs. Smith) again proves he knows his way around an action scene. Moreover, he handles the “Groundhog Day” transitions skillfully, injecting some humor and varying scene structure so that the repetitive events don’t feel repetitive.

Look past the isn’t-that-the-name-of-an-SNL-soap-opera-parody title, and Edge of Tomorrow delivers.

 Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

 

 





Weekend Countdown: Best Cameos Ever

The cameo-tastic This Is the End releases to DVD on Tuesday, which got us talking about our favorite cameos ever. Peruse, see if you agree, and let us know if we missed anyone.

20. Nicolas Cage: Werewolf Women of the SS (Grindhouse)

Thank you Quentin Tarantino for liking really bad exploitation movies when you were a kid. Thank you Rob Zombie for creating this outstanding fake trailer. Thank you Nic Cage for your ability to channel your own weirdness so beautifully.

 

19.Tim Robbins: Anchorman

No commercials – no mercy!

 

18. Paul Shaffer: This Is Spinal Tap

Artie Fufkin, Polymer Records
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT3D3Xc68oQ

 

17. Steve Martin: The The Muppet Movie

Oh, waiter!

 

16. Johnny Depp: 21 Jump Street

Not just Johnny – that’s Peter DeLuise (Officer Doug Penhall), too. Surprised he had the time to devote to the project.

 

15. Bruce Willis & Julia Roberts: The Player

Robert Altman was a genius.

 

14. Patrick Ewing: Exorcist 3

And Fabio!

cameo20

13. Gene Hackman: Young Frankenstein

I’ll make espresso!

 

12. David Bowie: Zoolander

Walk off!

 

11. Neil Patrick Harris: Harold & Kumar go to White Castle

Almost as brilliant as Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog.

 

10. Will Farrell: Wedding Crashers

Mom! The meatloaf!

 

9. James Brolin & Morgan Fairchild: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Paging Mr. Herman.

 

8. Bill Murray: Little Shop of Horrors

It’s your professionalism I admire.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7euWlQBKnw

 

7. Matt Damon: Eurotrip

Nice tats, Matt!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFCOa4tjHeo

 

6. Tom Cruise: Tropic Thunder

It’s far too big a role to be considered a cameo, and yet, the list felt weirdly free of gold chains and knuckle hair without it.

5. Christopher Walken: True Romance

Back to back Walken!

 

4. Christopher Walken: Pulp Fiction

Up his ass…

 

3. Bruce Springsteen: High Fidelity

Taking advice from the boss man.

 

2. Bill Murray: Zombieland
I just saw Eddie Van Halen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDzHsQapOKQ

 

1. Alec Baldwin: Glengarry Glen Ross

Put that coffee down.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kZg_ALxEz0