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Filtering by Tag: Tom Cruise

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Mission: Impossible — Fallout, and What's Making Us Happy

Chris Klimek

Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise, and Ving Rhames.

Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Tom Cruise, and Ving Rhames.

Sure, he's a weird guy. But Tom Cruise is the greatest onscreen runner since that horse that Eadweard Muybridge photographed in 1872 to prove that all four hooves of a galloping stallion leave the ground. 

Here's our Pop Culture Happy Hour on the triumph that is Mission: Impossible — Fallout.  Any Cruiselike zealotry in my voice is purely intentional. To watch a two-star action movie with Linda Holmes is a five-star experience. To watch a five-star action movie with her is an M:I-6 star experience.

Choose to Accept It: Mission: Impossible — Fallout, reviewed.

Chris Klimek

Henry Cavill is new; Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson are back.

Henry Cavill is new; Tom Cruise and Rebecca Ferguson are back.

Mission: Impossible — Fallout is the smart spy spectacle SPECTRE shoulda been, and Tom Cruise is the best movie runner since that horse Eadweard Muybridge photographed in 1872. A little too much Cruiseplaining, but whaddayagonnado? Reader, I married it.

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

Chris Klimek

Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Cruise as two con men. (Universal)

Domhnall Gleeson and Tom Cruise as two con men. (Universal)

Here'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. And here's Arthur.

FURTHER READING: I loved Cruise and Liman's prior collaboration, 2014's Edge of Tomorrow, and I wrote about it and discussed it on Pop Culture Happy Hour, as part of an episode about good movies that kinda tanked.

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

Chris Klimek

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 Herzogwas 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.

Anyway, here's my NPR review of the disappointing Jack Reacher: Never Go Back. Read it, and then cheer yourself up by watching Jack Reacher's A+ bar fight for the hundredth time.

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

Chris Klimek

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.

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Cruise Controller: On Edge of Tomorrow and Blockbuster Déjà Vu

Chris Klimek

Edge of Tomorrow boasts Tom Cruise's most varied and appealing 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. 


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.

And then he wakes up, Groundhog Day-style, forced to relive that terrifying day over and over again. Through trial and error, he survives a little longer each time — except, of course, for the iterations where he dares something unrehearsed, which sometimes results in him getting punctured, pulped, shot, or crushed sooner or more gruesomely than before. It’s like a video game is something I’ve said in derision about a lot of CGI-driven action spectacles. Edge of Tomorrow is the first case in which I’ve ever meant it as a compliment. The rules are explained to us with risible, game-like clarity: There are these aliens which we’ll call “Alphas” and we’re pretty sure there must be these other aliens which we we shall call “Omegas,” and therefore what we should do is…

The movie is derived from a Japanese novel and was probably not designed as a metaphor for Cruise’s career, where action films – really good ones, usually — have gradually displaced riskier business like Born on the Fourth of July, Interview with the Vampire, Eyes Wide Shut, and Magnolia. But the parallel will be tough for true-blue fans to overlook.

Edge of Tomorrow’s shameless celebration of the mulligan is an ingenious premise for a presumptive summer blockbuster now that we’ve arrived, not quite 40 years after Jaws, at the form’s decadent phase. There are now more CGI-drenched $200 million-plus movies per year than there are Federal holidays, which is too many. By mining our collective blockbuster fatigue, Edge of Tomorrow feels, ironically, fresh and unpredictable enough for long enough that you can’t help but it feel a little bummed when it reverts, late in the game, to form.

(Those inclined to correlate the rise of the blockbuster with the death of high culture will be delighted to learn that Edge of Tomorrow’s big finale involves, SPOILER, blowing up The Louvre — just like those disaffected students in Jean-Luc Godard’s La Chinoise wanted to do! Your mileage may vary, but I say it’s at least as funny and self-aware a joke as anything in 21 Jump Street.)

That’s because every other movie has to be a blockbuster now. Spike Lee, one of the most distinct and important American filmmakers of the last 30 years, can’t even get his movies greenlit anymore, because he doesn’t want to make blockbusters. In a 2012 interview with Will Leitch, he talked about how no studio would touch a film like Malcolm X or Oliver Stone's JFK today. As recently as a generation ago, studios were willing to fund prestige pictures like this one with the understanding they might be only modestly profitable. They would make up the difference on their broad crowd pleasers — that’s why they’re called “tentpoles,” after all. They would make up the difference in the summer.

But the primacy of the foreign market now means that every big movie has to open big around the world. And the summer blockbuster season, which used to confine itself to the sweaty 10 weeks between Memorial Day Weekend and early August, is now year-round. Liam Neeson clocks in to start kicking ass in January. Captain America straps on his shield first week of April. James Bond pictures and Hunger Games adaptations come out at Thanksgiving. It’s an endless summer.

And for me, a movie lover for whom the blockbuster ritual was ingrained indelibly from night Batman opened in 1989 (it only kind of holds up), that makes summer blockbusters feel less special. When every holiday is Christmas, Christmas can’t be that big a deal.

Edge of Tomorrow wants to have it both ways, and it does, mostly. We start with the cocky, callow Top Gun / Rain Man / A Few Good Men / Act One of Jerry Maguire Cruise and watch him mold himself into the supercompetent know-it-all action figure of the Mission: Impossible series and the criminally underrated, horribly-titled Jack Reacher.

We also get a thrilling airborne invasion sequence, one we witness several times through the bleary eyes of Cruise’s character, Private Cage — ha, see what they did there? (Maybe it’s just a coincidence that a movie wherein Allied U.S. & European forces based in the United Kingdom cross the English Channel to retake France and drive into Germany is being released in the U.S. on June 6, 2014, the 70th anniversary of D-Day, but  it seems like an awfully big coincidence.) It’s the sort of CGI-heavy, watch-for-falling-aircraft scene audiences keep saying they’re weary of.

But now it’s the movie’s inciting incident, not its climax, and it feels chaotic because it’s supposed to. It’s channeling the nauseating first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, not the eye-rolling last 20 minutes of The Avengers. In this climate, that feels like progress. 


I did not find room to praise the performances of Emily Blunt, who plays the mentor figure to the 20-years-older, maler Cruise, in a nice inversion of "traditional" casting or whatever, or of Bill Paxton, who instead of reprising Pvt. Hudson from ALIENS is doing more of a parody of R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket and every other frightening drill sergeant from every other military movie. But they both elevate the film. Paxton's character's disapproval of gambling, and his method of punishing it when he uncovers it in the barracks, are the sort of pleasing little details that reassure highly paid screenwriters they still have souls, I bet.


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

Chris Klimek

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.

Nowadays, of course, the cinema calendar is a lawless Thunderdome: Liam Neeson starts kicking ass in January, and Bond flicks and Hunger Games adaptations come out in November.

Anyway. I filed my rundown of the 10 summer movies I was most anticipating to my editor at The Village Voice before I'd seen any of them. I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past last night, and I've no regrets about including it on the list. I left Life Itself, Steve James's documentary about Roger Ebert, off just because it's a documentary. I'm very curious about Ari Folman's The Congress and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or whatever that one's called, too.

The Career of Tom Cruise, X-Men, Han Solo, and the Wrath of Cannes. I'm on the Voice Film Club podcast this week.

Chris Klimek

I had a great time sitting in on this week's Voice Film Club podcast with my Village Voice editor Alan Scherstuhl and L.A. Weekly film critic Amy Nicholson. Alan invited me on to talk about my essay demanding the death of Han Solo, but before we get to that we have a long chat about the perplexing career of Tom Cruise (working off of Amy's marvelous cover story about him) and Amy's review of X-Men: Days of Future Past, which I won't get to see until tonight. You can hear the podcast above or here.