Archives for posts with tag: Tom Cruise

American Made

Barry Seal’s life has become the stuff of legend. And much of that legend owes itself to the manner in which his life ended. Seal was killed on the evening of Feb. 19, 1986, machine-gunned in his automobile by agents of the Medellin Cartel, his former employers. There were photos taken of his bullet-riddled body in his car.

His violent and bloody death created headlines and nightly news stories throughout America. In fact, one can say that his murder gave him a higher profile in death than he had in life. And because of the unusual circumstances of his murder — more properly called an assassination — his life now has become the fodder of legend.

Because of all the legerdemain that has sprouted up about Seal, it is not easy to separate fact from fiction. The current film about Seal, American Made, does not even try. In fact, it attempts to expand legend into myth. It then plays that myth for fast-action scenes, tongue-in-cheek comedy, and a plot line that moves as quickly as bowling pins falling during a ten-strike. Whatever the failings of director Doug Liman’s movie, it is hard to imagine someone being bored by it.

Read the rest:The Charmed, Doomed Life of Barry Seal

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In the not-too-distant future aliens invade and attempt to conquer the earth.  Humanity won this war, we are told, but only at the cost of our planet’s devastation.  Now a mere cleanup crew of sorts remains to maintenance the drones and machines that harvest water energy in order for the rest of the world’s population to make its new home in space.  Tom Cruise plays Jack, who, along with partner and lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough), is due to leave the earth in a matter of weeks after servicing some equipment and picking off a few “scavs”, alien remnants that pilfer supplies and sabotage the energy works.  To his surprise, however, he learns that he and Victoria are not alone, and, still more shocking, that his mission and perhaps even he himself may conceal a sinister purpose.

A superlative science fiction adventure, Oblivion also works as an encapsulation of Tom Cruise’s career thus far, his character here alluding to previous roles with his enthusiasm for sports (as in All the Right Moves and Jerry Maguire), daredevil flying skills (think Top Gun), and brave stand against extraterrestrial invaders (cf. War of the Worlds). Cruise is particularly handsome and rugged as Jack, and has not one but two sexy international love interests in Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko.  The visual design of Oblivion is an appealing combination of futuristic sterility and earthy grime and decay; and the soundtrack is also strong, with the drones, which resemble flying, spherical R2D2s, actually contributing a quasi-musical element with their intimidating electronic blares.  Surprising given its title and the bleakness of the scenario is that Oblivion manages to deliver a satisfyingly happy ending, so that the film is highly recommended and particularly in the big screen experience, where its special effects and scope can be properly appreciated.

4.5 stars.  Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Oblivion is:

6. Multiculturalist/anti-clone.  Morgan Freeman leads the resistance and gets to play the sacrificial Negro.  As in Life of Pi, audiences are warned of the potential horror of a completely homogenous Caucasian population.

5. Green-ambivalent.  While Jack enjoys the rustic zero-technology life, the film acknowledges that alternative energies are a scheme of the New World Order.

4. Mildly pro-miscegenation.  Cruise’s involvement with Eurasian-looking Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko is a borderline case.

3. Luddite and specifically anti-drone.  Though drones are convenient and efficient and one even comes to Jack’s aid against the scavs, the things are only as trustworthy as their programmers.

2. Pro-liberty/pro-gun.  Sykes (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), after defending himself against a drone, poses picturesquely with his gun in front of the Liberty Bell.

1. NWO-alarmist/antiwar.  Jack’s employers, the centralized bureaucracy controlling everything, reside in an ominous spacecraft in the shape of an inverted pyramid.  The Statue of Liberty is a ruin, freedom having been destroyed along with the earth in the natural course of war.

Jack Reacher

A forgettably generic, silly, implausibly contrived mystery-thriller, Jack Reacher is nonetheless watchable and even enjoyable for starring the still remarkably gorgeous Tom Cruise, who retains a fascination that shines even through the most lackluster sorts of material.  He is at no point entirely convincing as the secretive, laconic drifter of the title, a man who moves from town to town with only one set of nondescript clothes and who, like Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad, will “be there” when trouble necessitates.

This adventure has Jack coming to the unlikely aid of psychotic Iraq war veteran James Barr (Joseph Sikora) who, in an apparent open-and-shut case, is the prime suspect in a seemingly random shooting spree.  Teaming with easy-on-the-eyes public defender Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike), he has little difficulty getting himself into pickles that involve exciting car action and entertainingly cartoonish hand-to-hand combat.  He unearths an ornate conspiracy involving enigmatic one-eyed villain “the Zec” (Werner Herzog) and soon finds himself the subject of unfriendly attention from the police and various inept criminal minions.

Whether or not the film is a worthwhile waste of time will ultimately be determined by each viewer’s taste or distaste for Tom Cruise, who makes or breaks the innocuous Jack Reacher accordingly.  3.5 of 5 possible stars.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Jack Reacher is:

8. Anti-Christian.  A murderous thug (Vladimir Sizov) wears a gaudy crucifix.

7. Anti-slut.  Jack has standards.  A woman loose in her associations meets an unenviable end.

6. Anti-military/antiwar.  Four types of people enter the military: those following in a family tradition; patriots; people who need work; and those looking for a legal venue in which to commit murder.  Private security contractors in Iraq engage in something dubbed a “rape rally”.  Just as disillusionment with American activity in Vietnam trickled into the cinema with a proliferation of films about mentally unhinged veterans bringing the war home in Motor Psycho, The Ravager, Taxi Driver, Cannibal Apocalypse, First Blood, and others, the failed wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are giving rise to a cinema of the Iraq psycho as evidenced by Savages, Jack Reacher, and probably more to come.

5. Gun-ambivalent.  The private gun owners who frequent Robert Duvall’s shooting range are characterized as poor marksmen and “touchy” about their Second Amendment rights.  Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me” plays at the range, reinforcing the brutish hick image for gun rights advocates.  Duvall, though he gives Jack some very useful information and tactical assistance, exhibits poor judgment of his patrons’ character when he says he “always liked” the insane Barr.

4. Leftist.  Cops never vote for Democrats, Jack suggests (though others might disagree).  The corrupt police in Jack Reacher are therefore, one assumes, supposed to be evil Republicans.  Public defenders are idealists working to protect the innocent citizenry.

3. Anti-police.  Police are corrupt and allow a suspect to be beaten brutally while in custody.  When Jack is wrongly suspected of a murder and hotly pursued by squad cars and a police helicopter, a friendly black man (who presumably understands from personal experience that police will frequently hound an innocent man) lends him his cap to help him make himself inconspicuous in a crowd.

2. State-skeptical.  Government pork spending is at the root of the conspiracy.

1. Pro-vigilante.  With police like these, who needs criminals?

You know when a film begins with a busload of strangers joining in a corny rendition of “Sister Christian” that you’re in for a high-camp moviegoing experience, and Rock of Ages certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department.  The tale of an innocent Tulsa bimbo who casts caution to the wind to try to become a singing sensation in picturesquely sleazy L.A., Rock of Ages is definitely true to the 80s at least in its willingness to plunge into the over-the-top outbursts of feeling at any moment, and is never ashamed of being what it is: essentially a feature-length narrative music video version of a Broadway musical and a love letter to the long-gone but not forgotten hard rock and power ballads of the time.

Full of energetic visual orchestration in scenes lit with wonderfully period-faithful pinks and blues, it achieves a greater emotional impact by setting itself in the late 80s, when hard hair rock was still at the top but about to go into eclipse as the 90s loomed, like a snapshot of a great civilization on the verge of collapse.  What sounds on paper like an utter waste of celluloid – and I’ll confess to having gone into this one expecting a shamelessly cutesy mercenary rock wreck – actually ends up being flawless and instantly classic.  The songs, with obvious affection, have been selected and utilized thoughtfully, contributing integrally to the storytelling and character development.  Visually as well as sonically sharp, Rock of Ages is fine-tuned cinema, so that the unsung stars of Rock of Ages are the choreography, art direction, and especially the editing, which weaves the meaningful singing, dancing, and involving melodrama into a beat-perfect winner.

The emotional centerpiece of the film may be Tom Cruise and Malin Akerman’s duet rendition of “I Want to Know What Love Is”, which manages not only to be rousing musical moment, but also a genuinely touching, sexy, and humorous lovemaking scene.  Watch it and you, too, may find yourself wanting to know what love is.  Verging on absolute crudity but simultaneously heart-stabbingly sweet, this is romance as it ought to be filmed: creatively, dangerously, and with a true sense of supernatural abandon and harmonious wonder.

So much is right with Rock of Ages that I’m willing to forgive and even embrace its various eccentricities.  For one thing, the cast down to the last man is made up of people I never would have imagined I wanted to see in a tribute to 80s rock.  A special “What Am I Doing in This Movie?” Award goes to Mary J. Blige, who  nonetheless lends vocal heft and an air of experience in her role as the manager of a strip club where Julianne Hough lands a gig.  Cruise, at least, is an iconic 80s actor, and thus would seem to be only vaguely relevant to the material; but the casting of Cruise turns out to have been the perfect choice as he channels just the right mix of cocky success and sexiness gone to seed with untapped human depth, so that his performance ends up being one of the film’s major endearments.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Paul Giamatti offer high-caliber ham antagonism of the Tipper Gore sanctimoniousness and soulless corporate parasite varieties, respectively, with Breaking Bad‘s Bryan Cranston rounding out the villainy as L.A.’s crooked mayor determined to kill the strip at the bidding of his prudish wife.  Fresh-faced Diego Boneta, meanwhile, is cute and compelling as a bar band  singer longing for rock godhood as “Wolfgang von Colt”.  Julianne Hough’s singing may be slightly too faux-soulful and Britney-bratty to be exactly faithful to the 80s, but she’s touchingly sweet and plays a naive Oklahoma girl convincingly.

Harmless but also anachronistic and not really relevant to 80s rock as its fans would probably prefer to remember it is the wholly superfluous gay romance at the movie’s margin, inserted for nothing but cheap chuckles and propaganda apparently.  If you ever wanted to see an adorably slovenly, in-need-of-a-shave Alec Baldwin kiss a man, though, Rock of Ages is definitely your fix, with adorable Russell Brand being the lucky guy in this case.  (Oddly enough, Rock of Ages isn’t Baldwin’s first man-man mouth action, since he did the same, albeit with different motivation, in 1992’s Prelude to a Kiss.)

More dark and satanic content in this film, along the lines of Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny, would have been nice, but since Rock of Ages is primarily a film about love and rock’s redemptive power, it might have been a distraction. I also would like to have seen even more and bigger big hair on the women, but that is a somewhat minor complaint.  I’ve watched Rock of Ages eight times so far and I always discover something new.  An enthusiastic 5 stars.  See it and remember: don’t stop believing!

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Rock of Ages is:

6. Drug-ambivalent

5. Proudly gay

4. Anti-state

3. Anti-Christian

2. Pro-liberty

1. Pro-rock (though the argument could be made that, by transforming heavy metal into a song-and-dance show, the film has actually neutered rock by (almost) rendering it safe for the family).

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