I’m not sure what started me down this crazy path, but about a month ago, I decided to watch and, in many cases, rewatch all of Tom Cruise’s films. Because his filmography is so extensive – IMDB lists 37 films – I’m doing this in three parts. I really do prefer his most recent efforts, so I’ve begun with the movies he’s made in the last eight years. You also get an “update” on what he’s working on through 2013. Look for Part II very soon. I think I only have about four movies from that phase – 1992-2003 – to rewatch. And then it’s on to my most dreaded period – his early films. FYI: I don’t recommend doing this kind of project, and yet, I’m already working on my next one – the selected films of Clint Eastwood. I’m learning!
Collateral (2004) – Directed by Michael Mann from a script by Stuart Beattie, this crime/drama/thriller is about a cab driver, Max (Jamie Foxx), who lets a mysterious man, Vincent (Tom Cruise), talk him into being his driver for the night. The money will be good – $600 – but unfortunately, the outcome will not. Vincent is a hitman who has five jobs to do before boarding his plane. And Max gets caught in the middle. This is a great story with plenty of tension, and both actors are excellent in their roles. I don’t usually like Foxx or Mann, for that matter, but this film had made me rethink those prejudices. The cameos by Javier Bardem and Mark Ruffalo were also nice surprises. The soundtrack, especially songs by Audioslave and Paul Oakenfold, is particularly noteworthy. The first time I watched this, I gave it three stars. After watching it again, I’ve bumped it 1.5 stars. It’s a film that I could watch again. Another one of Cruise’s best. My only complaint is that I didn’t like the ending. 4.5 out of 5 stars
War of the Worlds (2005) – When I saw this in the cinema, I didn’t like it. Dakota Fanning seemed too hysterical, and the character that Tim Robbins plays … he just seemed out of place and super annoyingly crazy. I recently bought this Steven Spielberg remake on Blu-ray, and watched it again. I liked it a lot. There is a lot of action and the special effects are exceptional. Cruise plays Ray Ferrier, a working class, divorced dad of two. At the beginning of the film, he arrives at his house – late – in his vintage Mustang. His pregnant ex-wife (Miranda Otto) and her affluent new beau are waiting for him in their minivan; they are going on a trip and he gets to watch their children, Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and Robbie (Justin Chatwin), for the weekend. Already, he establishes himself as unreliable, flippant, selfish … not a good father. And then a freak lightning storm occurs, which animates alien machines buried beneath the streets, and Ray is suddenly on the run with his children. Over time, he transforms from a playboy driving his muscle car to a devoted father driving a mini-van. Oh, Spielberg, you and your issues with broken families. It’s true that once I realized that this film was really about making men fit into a mold (about domesticating them) I became annoyed with it, but I will still watch it again. As I said, it has lots of action, great CGI … it’s fast-paced and has plenty of peril. All makings of a highly watchable flick. 4 out of 5 stars.
Mission: Impossible III (2006) – Written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams, who also directs, this installment begins with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his three person team – Luther (Ving Rhames), Declan (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and Zhen (Maggie Q) – being sent on a rescue mission. Agent Lindsey Farris (Keri Russell) has been captured by a sadistic arms dealer, Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and her agency wants her back. The mission is a failure. Matters get even worse, when Davian makes things personal with Ethan, by kidnapping his wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan). When trailers surfaced for this action adventure, I remember thinking “the bad guy is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman? Really.” I couldn’t get my head around it. But honestly, he’s tremendous in this role; he relishes being bad, but not in an over-the-top John Travolta kind of way. So far, this is my favorite film in the franchise, despite the fact that a romance is front and center. I don’t mind it too much as the object of desire is the eternally sweet Monaghan. The rest of Ethan’s team couldn’t have been better. Very eclectic casting choices. And it is always fun to see Simon Pegg even if his role isn’t very large. I enjoyed this a lot the first time, and my joy didn’t diminish on the second viewing. 4 stars out of 5
Lions for Lambs (2007) – Directed by Robert Redford, this film feels more like a play, because it’s very “talky.” Three main characters, each from different social/occupational spheres, deal with various issues, but the most pressing concern has to do with our involvement in Afghanistan/Iraq. Meryl Streep plays Janine Roth, a 57-year-old journalist who has been given a one-on-one interview with hotshot, up-and-coming Republican Senator Jasper Irving (Cruise). He promises her an exclusive story about a new military plan that will “win the war on terror.” Redford plays a California university professor who summons a class-skipping Todd Hayes (Andrew Garfield) to his office to discuss the political science student’s future in academia. Also, in the background, are two of the professor’s former students – Arian (Derek Luke) and Ernest (Michael Pena) – who are now soldiers executing the government’s new military plan. I wasn’t particularly thrilled about this film, but at 92 minutes, it makes its point and moves on. I appreciate that. Streep is great, as always; and Cruise if pretty effective as a Republican slickster. I could see him as a politician. My favorite character was Redford, maybe because several of the things that he said to his “student” could have come out of my mouth. I had no idea that Garfield was in this, so that was a pleasant surprise. 3 stars out of 5.
Tropic Thunder (2008) – Like so many films starring Ben Stiller, this one was funny for about 10 minutes. I liked the trailers at the beginning, and Tom Cruise’s dance over the end credits. Everything in between sort of sucked. If you are familiar with Stiller’s “work,” you won’t really find much new here. His character, Tug Speedman, is only slightly smarter than Zoolander. And, at times, he’s seriously offensive. Robert Downey Jr., who plays Kirk Lazarus, a Method actor who puts on blackface to play a black soldier, is always worth watching. My only problem with his performance in this film was that I couldn’t understand him 90 percent of the time. Jack Black, who plays Jeff Portnoy, was completely wasted. (No pun intended). Instead of giving him something with which to work, he is given a character who is a drug addled actor who has built a career on fart films. Yeah, that’s hilarious, isn’t it? If you are five years old maybe. I’m sorry, but I tend to avoid comedies because they are lazy, getting laughs from flatulence jokes, by taking swipes at homosexuals, by showing people getting high or, the more recent trend, by displaying men’s “naughty bits.” Tropic Thunder goes one step further … it takes potshots at “simpletons.” So mature. The highlight of the film was watching Tom Cruise’s cameo as a belligerent Hollywood producer. 2 stars out of 5
Valkyrie (2008): When I first heard about this film, my first thought was surprise: Tom Cruise was playing a Nazi who is plotting to kill Hitler? What were they thinking? It didn’t appeal to me in the slightest. But then the trailers came out, and I saw a bunch of familiar British faces – Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Bernard Hill, and Eddie Izzard – and I thought maybe I would give it a chance. I’m so glad I did. Director Bryan Singer, working from a script by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, has crafted a suspenseful thriller that has great performances and plenty of tension. Tom Cruise shows determination and courage in his portrayal of Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, and he has really elevated my opinion of him as an actor. (Check out photos of the real von Stauffenberg and compare them to Cruise. The resemblance is uncanny.) The rest of the cast, including Thomas Kretschmann, also did a phenomenal job. I have a thing for these types of historical dramas/thrillers anyway, having enjoyed Enigma, Defiance and Enemy at the Gate, so I might be prejudiced. Overall, highly recommended. 5 stars out of 5
Knight and Day (2010) – Directed by James Mangold from a script by Patrick O’Neill, this action/comedy stars Cruise as Roy Miller, a highly proficient spy, and Cameron Diaz as June Havens, an auto mechanic who has the misfortune of “bumping into” Roy at the airport. Why is this unfortunate? Because the rogue agent turns her life upside down with many gun battles and car chases. I avoided seeing this film in the cinema, and only reluctantly rented it once it came out on DVD. I’m sorry I waited. Cruise delivers a truly manic performance that had me laughing my ass off; and the action is go-go-go-go-go. Very fast-paced with some of the best action sequences I’ve ever seen. A few months ago, I was flipping through the cable channels, and this was on – it was about 10 minutes in – and I found myself watching it all over again. One of my favorites. 5 stars out of 5
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (coming Dec. 16, 2011) – Directed by Brad Bird from a screenplay by Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec and Christopher McQuarrie, this is the fourth film in the action/adventure franchise. The IMF is shut down when it is implicated in the Kremlin bombing. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are “disavowed,” but that doesn’t prevent them from trying to clear their organization’s name. The trailer makes this look like another “high octane,” globe-trotting extravaganza. Lots of amazing talent assembled for it, too, including Tom Wilkinson, Anil Kapoor, Josh Holloway, and Jeremy Renner. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames return! Looks like there should be plenty of running – I love it when Tom runs – fast cars, great stunts, double crossing, and more building climbing, courtesy of Cruise. Even though they’ve given Cruise that dreaded longer hair look from M:I II, I’m still really, really looking forward to this.
Rock of Ages (2012) – A cinematic adaptation of the five-time Tony Award nominated Broadway musical, this project is in the middle of filming. Set in Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip in 1987, Rock of Ages tells the story of Drew (Diego Boneta), a boy from South Detroit, and Sherrie (Julianne Hough), a small town girl … two people who meet in LA and, on their way to “making it big,” fall in love. Features 28 songs by the likes of Bon Jovi, Journey, Foreigner, Styx, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister and Poison. Sporting long hair and leather pants, Tom Cruise will play rock star Stacee Jaxx. In the Broadway production, Jaxx sings “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “I Want to Know What Love Is.” (If I remember correctly, Cruise was getting voice lessons and studying music for the role.) According to one interview, he said that he also sings “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” The cast includes Bryan Cranston, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Mary J. Blige. Adam Shankman directs.
Oblivion (2012) – According to a press release from Radical Publishing, this is a “futuristic science fiction love story that takes place in an apocalyptic future where most of the population lives in clouds above an earth surface that has been rendered, for the most part, uninhabitable. An earthbound soldier – stuck there repairing drones that patrol and blast a savage alien life form – encounters a beautiful woman who crashed in a craft, and they have an experience that forces him to question his world view.” Directed by Joseph Kosinki (Tron: Legacy), who also co-writes with William Monahan, the film has a $100 million budget, which might translate to lots of cool CGI, but so far, Cruise is the only person attached. Also, interestingly I did a search on Amazon and the internet in general to see more about the “novel” on which it is supposedly based. No dice. Amazon lists a128-page paperback, by Radical Publishing, that is currently unavailable. Release date was Aug. 29, 2010. It was created by Kosinski, written by Arvid Nelson and illustrated by Andree Wallin. As of today, you can look through images from the book and they are pretty amazing. I really loved the look of Tron: Legacy, and although the story sounds sort of Avataresque to me, I’m VERY intrigued.
One Shot (2013) – News just broke that Tom Cruise will be playing Jack Reacher, a character that some have called the ultimate cross between Clint Eastwood’s “man with no name” and Sherlock Holmes. Or as another reviewer described him: A “rugged ex-army cop who practically defines the word loner, and who kicks ass with the best of them.” The novel begins with a sniper killing five office workers, and it continues with the investigation. For some bizarre reason, One Shot isn’t the first book in the Reacher series but the ninth. Fans of the series are already complaining that Cruise isn’t 6 feet 5 inches tall. Hello, not a lot of actors are. And have said that they imagined Chris Hemsworth in this role. I haven’t read the series, so I can’t put in my two cents. I do have faith in Christopher McQuarrie, who writes and directs.
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