Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

“Oblivion” (2013) – Review


Director: Joseph Kosinski

Writers: Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt

Stars: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Melissa Leo, and Morgan Freeman

It is the year 2077. Through voiceover we discover humans have fought and won a war against an alien race. But the victory came with a price, the earth itself. Mankind has resettled on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon. The only two remaining humans on earth are Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) and Jack (Tom Cruise). Together they serve as technicians that maintain the drones left behind to protect the hydrogen fusion plants from the scavengers–the last of the alien invaders that still roam the planet. In two weeks, when their mission is complete they will depart to the Tent, a large space station orbiting the planet where the remainder of humanity resides before heading to Titan.

Jack and Victoria function as a working married couple. Together they live in a home base in the sky. Victoria mans the base while Jack flies around the planet to repair damaged drones. Both report to Sally (Melissa Leo), their control officer stationed in the Tent. But Jack is haunted by dreams of a different time and place. It has been sixty years since the war and Jack was not born before it. Yet he has dreams of New York before the fall and meeting a woman at The Empire State Building. He is drawn to the earth and its ruins. Unbeknownst to Victoria he has created a home in ruins of a cabin by a lake where he has collected different items throughout his tour: books, records, paintings, and pictures.

But one day something different has happened. After stopping a transmission from the scavengers aimed out to space, an old capsule drops from the sky and lands at predetermined coordinates. Once Jack arrives there he discovers humans in stasis, but is only able to save one after the drones arrive to destroy the scene. The one he saves is occupied by the mystery woman of his dreams, Julia (Olga Kurylenko).

Oblivion is a beautiful film with fully realized visuals. Joseph Kosinski, the director, has a definite aesthetic for his art direction. Unfortunately, much like Tron: Legacy, his films are all style and no substance. You leave the theatre not really caring for the characters. At 126 minutes, the film feels the entire length of its running time. Editing the film down fifteen to twenty minutes may not have aided with adding substance to the characters, but it at least would have improved the overall pacing of the film.

As for the acting, it is solid across the board. Tom Cruise carries the film well, and his relationship with Andrea Riseborough as Victoria is believable. You understand how the both of them can be together, and understand the differences they have as people and ultimately what they are looking for. Cruise and Kurylenko also develop a good chemistry together for the short amount of screen time they have together.

Oblivion is more an homage to previous Sci-Fi films than an original effort on its own. Here is a little bit of Hal from 2001, and a bit of the Mother Ship from Independence Day, and lets throw in a few visual cues from Planet of the Apes and Omega Man, and a twist from Moon.

Overall this is a solid–and expensive–“B”-movie.

Grade = B-

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.

“Jack Reacher” (2013) – Review


Writer / Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Stars: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Jai Courtney, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, and Werner Herzog

We follow a Ford Transit as it travels through Pittsburgh into a parking garage across the river from the baseball stadium. The driver (Jai Courtney), in rubber gloves, parks, steps out, puts a quarter in the meter, sets up his sniper’s rifle, and then trains his scope on the river walk. Through the scope we watch as he indiscriminately moves from target to target: a business man sitting on a bench, a woman walking alone, a young lady and child. Then one shot, another, another, another, until five people are dead. The shooter then calmly returns to his vehicle and drives away.

Later that day the police are collecting evidence: the shell casings, video footage of the Transit, the quarter in the meter. At the station all evidence points to an ex-Army sniper by the name of Barr (Joseph Sikora). The police mobilize a SWAT team that storms his house and brings him into custody. In the interrogation room Dt. Emerson (David Oyelowo) and Prosecutor Rodin (Richard Jenkins) offer Barr two choices: life in prison or the death penalty. When given the confession to sign he scrawls in large letters, “Get Jack Reacher”.

Reacher (Tom Cruise) is an off-the-grid former Army detective. After hearing about Barr’s involvement in the shootings through a news cast, He takes a bus to Pittsburgh. By the time he arrives Barr has been hospitalized and in a coma after being assaulted by prisoners while under police custody. We also discover Barr is being defended by Helen Rodin (Rosamund Pike)–the prosecutors daughter.

Being a Tom Cruise movie based on a successful multi-book character that should normally open in summer, my expectations for the film were not high since it was unceremoniously dumped for a wide release in January with almost no publicity. Happily, said low expectations were exceeded–if minimally.

Jack Reacher is a movie that screams Popcorn Flick, but due to a poor story and/or editing it misses the mark. The film is an erratic effort of hits and misses. A clichéd scenario where one character states something to the effect of you don’t find Reacher, Reacher finds you is immediately followed by a cop entering the room announcing there Jack Reacher is outside looking for you. But then this same movie gives you a well scripted scene of Reacher being setup as a fall-guy at a bar he is eating dinner at that is both humorous and suspenseful. Key character motivations are revealed with cryptic dialogue that is never explained–almost as if they were left on the cutting-room floor.

Where the movie does excel at is in the action sequences. The car chase near the end of the film is well shot, believable, and action packed. The final showdown never crosses the line into complete fantasy about how much damage one man can do. In the end Reacher knows he needs help and he asks for it.

The acting is also very good. Cruise channels Vincent from Collateral and is very believable as the hardened Army investigator. Jai Courtney as the principal heavy is Cruise’s match; both conveying the characters menace & skill, but also showing his youth. The weakest link is Rosamund Pike as Helen Pike. A stronger actress may have brought more life to the underwritten character, but she was not that actress.

In the end Jack Reacher is a rental, but probably one you’ll forget to rent.

Grade = C


Click on image to view trailer

“Rock of Ages” (Broadway Show) vs “Rock of Ages” (Movie)

This past weekend I watched the first Broadway Across America show in Miami, Rock of Ages.  Having watched and reviewed the film version, I found myself constantly comparing the two.  Here is my comparison:


The overall story is the same.  The Bourbon is owned by Dennis Dupree with help from his assistant manager Lonny.  Sherrie is a young aspiring actress fresh off the bus.  With the help of Drew, a young bar-back with talent and rock-star dreams, she gets a job at the Bourbon.  There they develop feelings for each other, but their growing affection gets thrown off  track once rock-god Stacee Jaxx arrives.  Soon after Sherrie is out of a job and working at the local strip joint; Drew gets a contract with a sleazy manager who changes him from rock-n-roll to boy band; and the Bourbon is heading for ruin.  Will Drew become a rock-star?  Will Drew and Sherrie get back together?  Will the Bourbon be saved?  Being these were both a Hollywood film and Broadway Musical, the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes.

There are a number of key differences between the Show and the Movie.  First is the character of Stacee Jaxx.  In the Show Stacee is an overindulgent rock-star who gets knocked-out by his guitarist in his final show at the Bourbon, knocked-out by Sherrie after a lap-dance at the strip joint, runs off to Mexico after he discovers he had a one-night stand with underage Constance, and ends up performing in small tequila bars South of the border.  In the Movie Stacee Jaxx is Tom Cruise.  His character has a redemptive arc, and you understand why women want to be with him and men what to be him.

Another key difference is the threat to the Bourbon.  In the Show the entire neighborhood is threatened by a German developer who wants to build a large retail mall.  In the movie the threat is from a conservative family values group lead by the mayor’s wife.  Whereas in the Show the developer succeeds in gaining control of the Bourbon and only saves it after a ridiculous epiphany, in the movie the Bourbon is able to maintain its independence under more believable circumstance.

The last major difference is the talent manager.  In the Show he is a minor comical character; in the movie he is Paul Giamatti at his smarmy best.

The amazing thing about the movie and film is the similarity in what worked best and least.  The weakest part of both were the young leads, Drew and Sherrie.  The best part of both were Dennis & Lonny.  Both actors who played Drew gave weak performances and were easily overpowered by other cast members.  As for Dennis & Lonny, the team of Baldwin & Brand had a slight edge over the actors in the Show.

The Movie is a solid B-Film with some great performances; the Show is at best average and with performance that will not stay in your memory.

Edge=The Movie

You can read my movie review here.

“Rock of Ages” (2012) – Movie Review

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Director:  Adam Shankman

Writers:  Justin Theroux, Chris D’Arienzo, and Allan Loeb

Stars:  Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough, Mary J. Blige, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Bryan Cranston, and Paul Giamatti

Rock of Ages is a popcorn movie that will be most appreciated by people who grew-up in the 80s.  The main stories revolve around the Bourbon, a legendary rock bar/stage under financial strain.  The Bourbon is owned & managed by Dennis Dupree (Alec Baldwin) with the aid of his assistant Lonny (Russell Brand).  As conservative mothers under the leadership of Patricia Whitmore (Catherine Zeta-Jones) protest outside, Dennis & Lonny are pinning their financial hopes on the final performance of mega-group Arsenal with the unreliable and out-of-control lead singer Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise).  Into  this world enters Sherrie Christian (Julianne Hough)–fresh off the bus from Oklahoma, recently robbed of all her possessions, having aspirations of becoming a singer, and being aided by Drew Boley (Diego Boneta).  Diego is a bartender at The Bourbon, lead singer of his band of other Bourbon employees, and dreams to make it big.

Under the oily management of Paul Gil (Paul Giamatti), Jaxx makes it to The Bourbon.  Before Arsenal‘s final performance Jaxx gives an interview and has a fling with Rolling Stone reporter Constance Stack (Malin Akerman); is believed by Drew to have had a fling with Sherrie; and gets completely obliterated with whiskey all night long.  After the performance The Bourbon’s finances are worse for wear, Sherri’s and Drew’s relationship is torn apart, and everyone’s lives spin out of control.

Rock of Ages definitely shows its Broadway roots.  Whereas it is common for large plot developments to occur between scenes and musical numbers in Broadway shows, the same effect in a movie is a little more jarring.  Also, the movie falls into a two act structure and you can tell where the intermission would be at a live show–everyone at their lowest and all alone in their story.

As for the story(ies), there is a lot going on and many characters to keep track of.  If the overall theme had been trimmed to only deal with those stories directly involving The Bourbon, what is a good popcorn movie could have been a great one.  Bryan Cranston is wasted as Mayor Whitmore–Patricia’s husband–and could have been removed from the film all together.  The same could be said for Mary J. Blige as Justice Charlier, the owner of the local strip joint.

Where the movie succeeds are with all the performances, and all the actors enthusiasm for their roles.  Alec Baldwin & Russell Brand work well together as an 80s rock version of Laurel & Hardy; their duets together are hilarious.  Catherine Zeta-Jones is fierce as the conservative wife with a not-so-wholesome past.  Paul Giamatti makes Machiavelli look like an altar boy in comparison to his artist manager.  In this company both Diego Boneta and Julianne Hough come across as only competent.  But this show belongs to Tom Cruise.  Cruise is both a genuine movie star and a great actor; the camera loves him and he delivers.  From the first time you meet him as Stacee Jaxx and in all other subsequent scenes Cruise commands the screen, and all the other performers around him.  You believe he is a rock-god.  And wherever Stacee Jaxx goes Hey-Man (Mickey the Monkey) follows.  Put simply, the Academy should create an Oscar for best performance by an animal because he deserves it.

Though it won’t change your life and you will probably forget what happened throughout the movie, Rock of Ages will leave you with a smile on its face.  With its powerhouse big-hair rock songs, great acting, and scene stealing simians, you will sing, laugh, and have a good time.

Grade = B

PS  The majority of the movie was filmed in Miami.  The exterior shots of The Bourbon and surrounding streets were filmed just outside downtown Miami.  The scenes in the stripper-joint were at the old Playboy Club on Miami Beach.  Mt. Trashmore–a local municipal dump covered with grass–was dressed as the backside of the Hollywood sign.

PPS  At the advanced screening I went to there were two showings at the same time.  One with a red carpet and Adam Shankman & Julianne Hough, and the other with me.  The second screening was a great time though.  Shankman did stop by for a few words, and most of the audience was made-up of extras that appeared in the movie and where dressed-up for the 80s.

December – Yes, No, Maybe

A new month, a new “Yes, No, Maybe”–December is looking good.

YES – 12/09/11 – Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy

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I’ve been waiting for this one for a while.

YES – 12/21/11 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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They moved the release date up from 12-25-11; and I obviously grabbed this poster image from  a foreign website.

YES – 12/30/11 – The Iron Lady

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They’re sneaking this one in just in time for the Oscar races.

NO – 12/16/11 – Mission Impossible:  Ghost Protocal

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Shouldn’t this series die already.

MAYBE – 12/02/11 – Shame

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Will this be our times Last Tango in Paris?

MAYBE – 12/21/11 – The Adventures of Tintin

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I’m not entirely sold on Tintin.  I’m not a fan of the comics, and the trailer is not exactly selling me.

MAYBE – 12-25-11 – War Horse

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Another film I’m not entirely sold on.  Interestingly enough, also directed by Steven Spielberg.