Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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The agent designation: 007. You already know the name. The Bond franchise has been in existence for half a century, with Skyfall marking its twenty-third official entry. Not even the likes of Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger can boast sequels of that quantity. Why do we love James Bond so much? Is it his jet setting, womanizing lifestyle? Is it his ability to thwart even the most elaborate and well-crafted world domination schemes from a colorful rouges gallery of madmen? Whatever the case, with the next two films already in development, Bond shows no signs of slowing down.
The James Bond series has cast an overwhelming shadow over the landscape of film, particularly that of spy cinema. More particular still, American spy films have struggled to capture the same degree of phenomenal success as has been enjoyed by the Bond movies since the 1960s. While it is true that the various 007 films do not comprise the entirety of British spy cinema, it is without question the titan of the genre and therefore the paradigm by which the American counterparts must be judged. So how has America tried, and failed, to acquire this elusive cinematic target?
One of the earliest attempts for American films to capitalize on the James Bond trend, and indeed one of the first to yield any sort of franchise, were Bond parodies. In the late sixties, two separate American film series sprang up poking fun at England’s deadliest agent. The first starred James Coburn as Derek Flint, an agent of ZOWIE fighting the forces of evil in Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. At almost the same time, crooner Dean Martin starred as Matt Helm, a photographer/spy in a total of four film adventures including 1966’s The Silencers and Murder’s Row. Both of these series were takeoffs on the swinging, mod lifestyle that Bond was so often afforded by his occupation.
America has been monumentally prolific in the area of spy spoofs; rivaling and even possibly exceeding our output of more straight-laced fare. Movies like Hop Scotch and the movies based on the Get Smart television series eventually gave way to Spies Like Us, Top Secret, and the notably dreadful Leonard Part 6. The most interesting aspect of this is that the Austin Powers franchise, which netted three installments, riffs as much on the parodies of Bond as on Bond himself. It would seem we have long been of the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, mock ‘em.”
James Bond is a loyal agent of Her Majesty’s government. This should be all rights limit his appeal to American audiences. But the writers, including Ian Fleming in the novels, were smart enough to design stories that placed the whole of the world in peril and not just England. However, Bond’s reverence toward his own country is one primary difference between Bond films and American spy movies. Where James is a willing instrument of his government, a vast majority of the spy films on this side of the pond illustrate a profound mistrust of our own government.
With Bond films, we are privy to the inner workings of MI-6, or at least the fictional version of MI-6 they had constructed. Our debonair lead, and therefore the audience, is hardly ever in the dark about even the most top-secret parameters of his missions. In the states, the heroes are often used and betrayed by shadowy factions of U.S. intelligence. This frightening cloak and dagger betrayal can be seen in the likes of Sidney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor and more recent films like Spy Game, The Recruit, and even the Denzel Washington/Ryan Reynolds 2012 film Safe House.
While we could dissect the myriad historical headlines that may have influenced this movement in American spy films, the fact is that these movies don’t lend themselves well to sequels. Once the curtain is pulled back and either the villains are laid to waste or their ultimate scheme has gotten the better of our hero, there are few other places the story can go. Either result would not logically allow for that character to return to spy work so the overarching continuity would be completely absent. These films, by their very nature, can’t really latch on in the same way as did Bond.
The Impossible Task and The Bourne Exemplar
The two films that have managed their way around this problem are the two that have been the most successful, and in fact some of the only, non-comedy American spy franchises. In 1998, Brian De Palma adapted the television series Mission: Impossible into a film. Again, here we had a villain that was revealed to be an inside man, a former ally. However, the team dynamic added a new dimension to the proceedings and the action set pieces provided a nice counterbalance to the complex intrigue. That team dynamic would be somewhat lost in the next Mission: Impossible movie, but from then on it became more and more a staple of the series.
That team dynamic was divergent from the solitary hero that is Bond, however there were elements that made their way into the movie from the original TV series that play directly to Bond fans. The idea of the characters requiring their own theme song harkened back to Monty Norman’s fabulous signature Bond music. Again, this was not an invention of the movie, but a reflection of the days when America also used TV as a conduit for capitalizing on the Bond-inspired spy craze. The high-tech, and highly specialized gadgets used by the IMF team are also very reminiscent of the devices 007 uses to escape dire situation after dire situation.
A few years later, Universal produced a big screen version of the Jason Bourne character created by Robert Ludlum. Matt Damon’s amnesic CIA agent trying to reclaim his identity was enough of a twist on the concept of the treacherous government agency to enthrall audiences. The singular hero who was well skilled in the art of kicking ass found comfortable purchase in the hearts of those who idolized Bond. Plus, the Bourne series, like Bond, was drawing from a rich literary tradition. Also, like Mission: Impossible and the best of the 007 series, the Bourne movies often struck that perfect balance between captivating plot points and spectacular action sequences.
That last component may seem part and parcel with contemporary espionage actioners, but one of the most painful attempts to sell an “American Bond” to audiences was XXX starring Vin Diesel. Among its innumerable flaws, XXX was so singularly concerned with action sequences that the story was an appalling mess. This necessary balanced approach may also explain why The Bourne Legacy caused so much of a problem. It wasn’t the changing of the guard in the lead role from Damon to Renner, not playing the same character but certainly passing the torch, that caused the critical whiplash. We had become accustomed to that sort of changeover thanks to the Bond series and its seven different lead actors. But the story was so weak and the action scenes so poorly shot that it couldn’t possibly maintain the series’ energy.
Will we ever concoct the right formula to foster a spy series anywhere near as formidable as Bond? It’s hard to say. We’ve tried countless times to no avail, but the future of both the Bourne and Mission: Impossible franchises remains to be seen.
[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures/Paramount Pictures]
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The world premiere of Hitchcock took place Thursday night at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, serving as the opening film of the AFI Film Festival. Before the screening, director Sacha Gervasi stood in front of a packed house — which quickly became choked up by the director's emotional display — speaking about the support Fox Searchlight gave the debut director. (Gervasi lovingly called Fox Searchlight “filmmakers disguised as a studio.”) It was a heartfelt moment that was followed by a video clip of Hitchcock co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren — who are currently in London working on only their second film together Red 2 — recounting their experience starring as the legendary director and his beloved wife Alma, respectively. The short video clip closed with Mirren thanking the audience for attending the screening and Hopkins, in his best Hitchcock impression, bidding the audience the classic, “Good evening.” The lights went down and the film began.
Hitchcock is a hugely entertaining and riveting account of the making of the classic horror film Psycho and the behind-the-scenes machinations of bringing the controversial film to the big screen in the early late 1950s/early '60s. However, the actual making of the film Psycho serves mostly as a fascinating backdrop for the film to explore the intricate, complex, and challenging relationship between the brilliant yet tortured genius Hitchcock and his adoring, equally brilliant and often neglected wife Alma. Based on the excellent book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho by Stephen Rebello with a taut screenplay by John J. McLaughlin, the film perfectly captures the mood of the early '60s and the challenges of bringing the very controversial book Psycho by Robert Bloch — with its then very taboo themes of transvestitism, incest, and overt sexuality — to the big screen. Ralph Macchio of Karate Kid fame, in an interesting bit of casting, plays the neurotic Psycho screenwriter Joe Stefano.
Beyond the intrigue associated with simply getting the movie made (one example: Paramount studio boss Barney Balaban, played by Richard Portnow, so hated the idea of making the movie that he would not finance the picture), the film also explores the complicated relationship between “Hitch” and his beautiful female stars. Vera Miles (Jessica Biel) is singled out for poor treatment (and given a pretty thankless supporting role in Psycho) because she dared to chose having a child and family instead of allowing the director to “make her a star” when she declined the lead role in Vertigo (a role that went to Kim Novak). However, Janet Leigh, who is portrayed brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson (in a nuanced and striking performance), is presented as a woman who knows exactly how to handle the temperamental director and their relationship is perhaps the most perfectly uncomplicated in the film.
In the final analysis, it is the relationship between Alma and "Hitch” that holds the movie together; Hopkins is as brilliant as he’s ever been and creates an indelible portrait of the legendary director — he will certainly add this to his impressive list of iconic chracterizations. His mannerisms, voice and larger-than-life physical presence are manifested brilliantly in the transformation of the actor who perfectly channels the spirit, the essence and the well-known persona of Alfred Hitchcock, one of cinema’s most famous directors. Mirren’s performance is an absolute showstopper, with her quiet resolve and unwavering admiration for her husband’s talent simultaneously comingled with her feelings of disdain for his ill treatment of her and his lustful yearnings toward his beautiful young female stars. The essential beauty of Hitchcock is fully realized when the pair emotionally, romantically, and touchingly reconnect by putting their differences aside and work in earnest on the fledgling production together. Ultimately, Hitchcock presents a portrait of the truly deep love between Alma and Hitch tempered, tested and strengthened throughout the years and ultimately reinvigorated through their collaboration in making Psycho the massive financial, critical and cultural success it would become.
The highly anticipated biopic Hitchcock directed by Sacha Gervasi, features an all-star cast including Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock, Mirren as his wife Alma Reville, Johansson as actress Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as actor Anthony Perkins, Biel as actress Vera Miles, Portnow as Paramount Studio boss Barney Balaban, Kurtwood Smith as the Director of The Production Code Administration, Michael Wincott as serial killer Ed Gein, Macchio as Psycho screenwriter Joe Stefano, and Michael Stuhlbarg as Lew Wasserman. The director of photography is the brilliant cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth (son of legendary “Blade Runner” DP Jordan Cronenweth) and the music score is courtesy of Danny Elfman. Producers include Ivan Reitman and Tom Pollack. A Fox Searchlight release.
[Image Credit: Suzanne Tenner/Fox Searchlight]
Hitchcock: The Horrors of Making Psycho — TRAILER
Alfred Hitchcock Movie Is a Love Story, Naturally — POSTER
Anthony Hopkins is Nearly Unrecognizable as Alfred Hitchcock — PHOTO
It seems as though Matthew Perry is television's little engine that could. He, along with fellow actors Tyler James Williams, Julie White, John Cho, Laura Benanti, Suzy Nakamura, Brett Gelman, and producers Todd Holland, Karey Nixon, Scott Silveri, and Jon Pollack took to the Television Critics Association stage to discuss their NBC fall comedy, Go On, at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday. Perry, who recently completed work on the failed ABC sitcom Mr. Sunshine, was quick to self-depricatingly sing the praises of his new employer.
"First of all, this is the room where people like Mr. Sunshine?" Perry joked, when a reporter praised the departed show. "I wish I had just stayed in this room that whole year! The bad news for me, creatively, is that Scott created a TV show for me better than the one that I created for myself. This show is just better. Scott is a better writer that I am." Silveri modestly joked back, saying "I also happen to be a better actor than he is." Perry went on to explain his desire to work on the show, saying that he "gravitate[s] towards broken characters who try to be better people. The set-up is better here. This guy has had some very dramatic things happen to him, and he's in denial when you meet him. It's a built-in excuse to be really funny." On the show, Perry plays a popular sportscaster who attends group therapy as a way to cope with a devastating personal loss. A reporter noted that group therapy is typically very fluid, but Silveri insists that this is a good thing. "It will become a natural thing for him to be attending," Silveri said. "In the research that I've done, there's a fair bit of continuity for years in these groups. People don't heal all that quickly. There's also an easy way to cycle new people in, and cycle people out as people misbehave." The show will also feature characters from Perry's workplace, which Silveri insists is another positive asset for the show. "There is going to be some cross-pollination, because these are all characters that are important to Matthew's character," Silveri said. "We love the work characters, we love the support group characters. Each being strong helps the other." White, who plays a support-group member, was the first to be cast. Her character was pitched as a widow grieving the death of her husband, but she soon received a phone call from Silveri asking if she minded playing the role gay. "The idea of losing your spouse, or your partner, is the same kind of grief for everyone," White said. "In that way, Matthew and I, our characters are on the same kind of journey." "It was important for us to represent all kinds of people in the show," Silveri added. Benanti plays the sexy leader of the support group, and though her character has great chemistry with Perry's, she noted that viewers shouldn't necessarily expect a romance (at least not right away). "I think that my character probably has relatively straight ethics," she said. "You can tell from the pilot that [she and Perry] have a nice chemistry, and him telling me about his loss is something that I'm very empathic towards... maybe more so than a traditional therapist might be." But that doesn't mean that they'll get together. "I flirt with him just off-screen," Benanti joked. Gelman's wacky character, who is seen in the pilot going to lamaze classes, only goes to group because he wants to fit in... somewhere. Anywhere. "He's not a sociopath," Gelman insisted. "But he's not someone who is used to being around people very often. He wants friends, but he doesn't know the proper way to go about acquiring them. It gets pretty awkward. He meets the number one cool friend, which is Matthew. ... he has strange intentions at times. But he's harmless." Silveri — who was also a producer on Friends — says he still enjoys working with Perry, whose talents have only improved over the years. "Having worked with him for 8 years, I was well aware of the full spectrum of his talents," he said. "But I still get surprised." What's not surprising, however, is that Perry has maintained his Chandler Bing brand of self-deprecating sarcasm. When asked about his favorite role, the actor replied: "It's either this, or The Whole Ten Yards." Yikes. Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna [PHOTO CREDIT: NBC] MORE: TCA 2012: NBC Boss Defends 'Community' Move, Insists Firing Wasn't Persona Matthew Perry's Sitcom Goes to Series, But Will It Break the Curse? Fall 2012 Pilot Preview Catch-Up — VIDEOS
The actor passed away at his home in Everdingen in the Netherlands on 3 January (12). Details of his death have only just emerged.
Martinez left Mexico for Los Angeles after making his breakthrough in the 1967 movie Pedro Paramo, and went on to work in film, TV and onstage for more than 30 years.
He starred in a number of Western TV shows, including Gunsmoke and Bonanza, and also appeared on Dynasty, L.A. Law and Ironside.
Martinez also appeared onstage with Christopher Reeve in Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke in 1988, as well as in the James Bond thriller Die Another Day in 2002.
The star is best remembered for his part in Sydney Pollack's Jeremiah Johnson and for playing the title role in Ulzana's Raid.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
Wizan died of natural causes after a long illness on Monday (21Mar11) in Westlake Village, California.
He began his career at top talent agency William Morris and helped to guide the careers of actor/director Sydney Pollack and moviemaker Robert Altman, before moving into film production.
His movie credits include 1970s pictures Junior Bonner with Steve McQueen, Jeremiah Johnson with Robert Redford, and Robert Wise thriller Audrey Rose.
Wizan also worked on 1984's Romancing the Stone and 1992 action comedy Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot!, as well as the film adaptations of James Patterson's Alex Cross book Kiss the Girls (1997) and its 2001 sequel Along Came a Spider - the producer's final shoot.
He is survived by his wife Melanie, a son and a daughter, and two step-sons.
There are few people in showbiz with as much experience and respect as Dino de Laurentiis. He started in the business humbly as a prop master and actor in Italy and rose to become one of the most successful and celebrated producers in Hollywood history. Today, the world mourns the loss of one of the progenitors of the modern movie mogul as de Laurentiis heads to the great studio in the sky, but I thought it'd be nice to honor his career by highlighting a few of his most notable films.
Bitter Rice (1949)
A gripping drama and exemplary case of the majesty of Italian neo-realist cinema, Bitter Rice centered on a love "rectangle" between a pair of criminals and another set of individuals with whom they become involved with both romantically and criminally. Anchored by terrific performances, the film was nominated for an Academy Award for its writing, the first of many de Laurentiis films to garner international acclaim.
La Strada (1954) -
A beautiful but heartbreaking tale of love in the unlikeliest of places and devastating loss, La Strada starred the great Anthony Quinn as Zampano, a traveling strong man who mistreats his female companion Gelsomina who was sold to him by the girls mother. He really loves the girl but is unable to express his emotion and eventually this, along with a morbid string of events, leads him to abandon her. The universal themes within this classic Federico Fellini film carried La Strada all the way to the 1957 Academy Awards, where it won the Foreign Language Oscar. It remains one of the most treasured pieces of art in the world.
Battle of the Bulge (1965)
De Laurentiis went uncredited as a producer on this WWII epic that starred Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, James MacArthur and Charles Bronson. The story focused on the bloody conflict between Allied and Nazi forces for the major port city of Antwerp in the winter of 1944. Its narrative gave the point of view of an American intelligence officer and a German Panzer Commander. The film was nominated for a handful of Golden Globes and is one of the most beloved war movies of all time.
Danger: Diabolik (1968) -
Displaying incredible foresight, Dino was one of the (if not the) first filmmaker to acknowledge the potential of comic books as source material for feature films. He produced this adaptation, about a skilled thief who steals from the Italian government and lives a lavish lifestyle. Filled with suspense, sex appeal, action and adventure, Danger: Diabolik was a commercial success and a classic film that has influenced many modern heist films such as Entrapment and the Oceans films.
The second and more recognizable comic book adaptation from de Laurentiis, Barbarella was a super sexy science fiction flick featuring the seductive title character (played by the beautiful Jane Fonda) who thwarts the evil plans of the villainous Durand-Durand. Campy by today's standards, Barbarella is a landmark film that deserves kudos for its tremendous scope and its visionary storytelling. I don't think there would be an Avatar if Barbarella didn't exist.
One of the greatest films of the 1970s and an incredibly controversial true story, Serpico tells of real life NYPD Officer Frank Serpico, who refused to be corrupted by the system and saw his colleagues turn against him as a result of his honest actions. Al Pacino gives a tour de force performance as the tragic titular character and much kudos must go to de Laurentiis (and director Sidney Lumet), who took on a risky subject at a time when New York crime was at its peak.
Death Wish (1974)
Many revenge tales have been told since this classic 70s thriller, but few can compare to its brutality and stone cold protagonist. Charles Bronson stars as Paul Kersey, a Manhattan architect who goes on a killing spree after thugs murder his wife. This flick laid out the formula for the standard revenge story and remains one of the very best. De Laurentiis didn't stick around for the lesser sequels for good reason; none of them hold up quite as well as Michael Winner's original.
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
Going against the proven Bond formula, de Laurentiis produced this paranoia-era spy thriller at a time when shady government deadlings were commonplace. directed by the great Sydney Pollack. Together, they assembled an all-star cast including Robert Redford, Faye Dunaway, Cliff Robertson and Max Von Sydow. The film says worlds about the espionage community and its practices and has influenced the work of Doug Liman and Steven Soderbergh, to name a few.
Dino deserves a posthumous pat on the back for taking on a tale like E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime. It is such a specific story, era-appropriate costumes and sets needed to be built to recreate 1900s New York City so that the actors could get the feel for the period. Under the masterful direction of Milos Forman, Ragtime was nominated for a whopping eight Academy Awards and though it didn't take any home on Oscar night, the film is undeniably a legendary accomplishment.
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
High brow cinema, this is not, but Conan was an ambitious effort nonetheless. Like Barbarella, Conan opened up a whole new world of adventure for fans of fantasy and science fiction. It is, for lack of a better word, awesome, and gave global audiences the Arnold Schwarzenegger we know and love.
Not as well known as the other films in the Hannibal Lektor series, this Michael Mann directed original is where the terror began. Most agree that it is scarier even than the Oscar winning Silence of the Lambs, but Dino's vision is what propelled the franchise - and Lektor - to its iconic status. He would go on to produce the sequel Hannibal, the remake Red Dragon and the prequel Hannibal Rising before his death.
When it comes to box office Tom Cruise is a true force of nature: 33 films over 30 years, $3.2 billion in domestic box-office, Sixteen films over $100 million, Eight consecutive number one debuts, eight consecutive films to gross over $100 million and ten films that were among the top five films in their year of release. If that’s not enough to convince the cynical of this guy’s incredible impact on the movie industry, in 1996 he proved his value as both and action star and a romantic lead with the one-two punch of the first “Mission: Impossible” film in May followed by “Jerry Maguire” in December; these became respectively the third and fourth highest grossing films of that year, a nearly incomprehensible feat that showed the star to be in complete control of his career and at the height of his powers.
With numerous personal and professional highs and lows, a falling out with his adoring public and a recent reinvention and redemption, one of the biggest stars of all-time has come full circle. From teen idol in “Taps,” “The Outsiders” and of course the career-changing “Risky Business” to full blown movie star in “Top Gun,” Cruise quickly established himself as the biggest box-office draw in the free world with an almost preternatural ability to draw crowds to the multi-plex. Over the years he has aligned himself with a who’s who of the best directors in the business and big box-office followed. Kubrick, Spielberg, Scorsese, Levinson, Stone, Abrams, Howard, DePalma, Crowe, Mann, Scott, Jordan, Woo and Pollack all clamored to work with Cruise who seemingly put everything he had into every role and often played against type to full advantage.
As Ron Kovic in “Born on the Fourth of July,” for which Cruise was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor, Cruise (under Oliver Stone’s direction) transformed himself from pretty boy star to serious actor and made believers out of many of his critics. Films like “Rain Man,” “The Color of Money,” “A Few Good Men,” “Interview with the Vampire, “Magnolia,” “Vanilla Sky,” “Minority Report,” “Eyes Wide Shut” and “Collateral” proved there was almost nothing the star could not do if he committed to it and when aligned with the right creative team.
Perhaps more than any other career move, his decision to play the balding, paunchy, loud and obnoxious Les Grossman in the 2008 hit “Tropic Thunder” was pivotal in redefining his public image and proving that the guy is still one hell of a dancer. Most recently at the MTV Movie awards he busted out in the full Grossman persona and was the hit of the show.
This now leads us to Twentieth Century Fox’s release on Wednesday of the action comedy “Knight and Day” which reunites Cruise with “Vanilla Sky” co-star Cameron Diaz in a film that combines action, comedy and romance into one complete package. After positive sneaks of the film this past weekend it will be interesting to see how the film, directed by James Mangold (“3:10 to Yuma,” “Cop Land”) performs this week and into the upcoming weekend.
Tom Cruise continues his truly extraordinary career while simultaneously creating an indelible impression on the business as a whole, the very definition of celebrity and what it means to be a movie star and controversial public figure.
This period piece takes place amidst the gossip of aristocrats in fascist Italy where the characters search for freedom passion love and self-identity. This is a straightforward tale and much like a good play it has plenty of witty dialogue and a well-paced story. The film opens with a bit of history but we soon enter a world of lust death blackmail and escape. It's an odd love story to be sure but it works. The chemistry between a beautiful English aristocrat (Kristin Scott Thomas) and an American playboy (Sean Penn) lights up the screen.
Scott Thomas and Penn are brilliant together utterly believable as romantic partners. Thomas' elegant demeanor combined with Penn's grittier charms will certainly keep audiences interested. Anne Bancroft's over-the-top princess is full of zest and wit much like her Miss Havisham was in the recent remake of "Great Expectations."
Philip Haas brings together a rich and sensuous blend of settings and characters. He skillfully combines the lushness of a Merchant-Ivory film with bristly more muscular storytelling.