- The Lunch with L.A. Weekly Chief Film Critic Amy Nicholson: Tom Cruise, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ and ‘Snowpiercer’
- The Lunch with Director William Eubank of ‘The Signal’
- The Lunch with Gillian Robespierre, director, ‘Obvious Child’
- The Lunch with Alex Pappademas of Grantland.com on ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past …’
- The Lunch with AJ Bowen of ‘The Sacrament’
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Tag Archives: Tom Cruise
The Lunch with L.A. Weekly Chief Film Critic Amy Nicholson: Tom Cruise, ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ and ‘Snowpiercer’
This week, The Lunch is joined by Chief Film Critic for the L.A. Weekly Amy Nicholson, also the author of the upcoming Tom Cruise: Anatomy of an Actor from Phaidon/Cahiers du Cinema. After dining at Pepy’s Galley — a The Lunch Podcast favorite that’s regrettably closing at the end of June — Amy and I discussed Tom Cruise’s career, the specifics of Edge of Tomorrow — from its philosophy of time travel to its dark sense of humor — and talk about Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer as well.
Remember, The Lunch Podcast is available on iTunes; The Lunch Podcast is proudly sponsored by Snoot Films, makers of Cheap Thrills and the upcoming The Guest.
With its trailer blaring Eminem and hyper-cutting explosions, falls, car crashes and punches, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (hereafter M:I IV, because, come on) felt like an implicit promise to the viewer: Come out to the theater, we’ll spend a little time, have a few laughs. What’s interesting about Brad Bird’s live-action debut — coming as it does in the 4th installment of a 15-year-old franchise that’s cherry-picked great, or at the very least intriguing, directing talent from the past 5 decades — is the seeming modesty of it all. At no point do our heroes (Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner) wind up assaulting a hollowed-out volcano full of jumpsuit-clad minions; the final battle between Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and under-written bad guy Hendricks (Michael Nykvist) occurs not in a gleaming white room with shark tanks and lasers but instead a parking garage.
It’s hard to say what part of that is from the post-Bond spy action school of thought; historically, 9/11 is a real tragedy, but on a cultural level, it’s not untrue or unkind to suggest that Osama Bin Laden killed Blofeld more thoroughly than James Bond ever could. At the same time, so much of M:I IV is taken from that Bond-era playbook — like, for example, the “Let me provoke a war between the superpowers” plot, which creates an air of Cold War-era menace that has a bracing nip of nostalgic joy to it.
After a nigh-legendary career in Animation — and directing two instant classics in “The Iron Giant” and “The Incredibles” — director Brad Bird makes his live action debut with ‘Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” A huge star who’s also a producer, a globe-trotting fourth film in an action franchise, shooting 30 minutes in IMAX — what could possibly go wrong? Speaking via phone, Bird talked about putting his stamp on big-money moviemaking, what’s next for him and why you shouldn’t hold your breath waiting for an “Incredibles” sequel.
I keep reading about the music in the first sequence, and how it was your pick of Dean Martin’s ‘Ain’t that a Kick in the Head’ as a prison-break music cue. I’m wondering about that as a metaphor for the whole process of making ‘Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol’ You’ve got this big franchise; you’ve got this big thrust of direction. Do you just put the weirdness in where you can, or did you get to shape the story a lot more than that?
Bird: No, I mean I think right fromthe outset, J.J. Abrams, who’s one of the producers with Tom Cruise and Bryan Burk and Jeffrey Chernov, and Tom wanted me to bring my own stuff to this, and have fun with it. They’re guys who both enjoy movies tremendously and can embrace a popcorn idea like this, so I was really encouraged to do whatever I could, and we had a blast. All bets were off, and we just wanted to enjoy the process of it, because we thought that would transfer to the screen.
That opening, with the Dean Martin, number was that a deliberate homage to ‘Hudson Hawk,’ or just accidental?
Bird: No, I first heard it was in ‘Hudson Hawk’ last week when someone else mentioned that. I saw ‘Hudson Hawk’ a million years ago, but I didn’t remember that was in the film — I just like Dean Martin.
I do want to talk about this film’s sense of humor, because that’s one of the best things in it. Not just big gags, but little things, and the idea that spy work is just another day at the office. Was that slightly weary tone important to you?
Shot in eye-widening IMAX, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (hereafter Mission: Impossible 4 for sanity’s sake) marks an impressive live-action debut for Brad Bird, who previously directed animated instant classics like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles. Tom Cruise stars as the head of a crew of off-the-map ultra-secret agents (newcomers Paula Patton and Jeremy Renner and a returning Simon Pegg) out to stop a nutbar with nukes and save the name of the Impossible Missions Force. Like a shark slipping by swift, sleek and silver-grey, Mission: Impossible 4 is so well-made and smooth you may need to see it more than once to truly appreciate its brains and nerves and blood. With Cruise’s star power—and a word-of-mouth “Wow!” factor that will make paying the IMAX premium less painful—Mission: Impossible 4 will earn more than enough rock-‘em, sock-em let-me-entertain-you goodwill (and money, of course) to keep the fuse lit on this 15-year running franchise, now under the steady hand of producer J. J. Abrams.
If one thing elevates Mission: Impossible 4‘s script (written by TV veterans and Abrams-collaborators Josh Applebaum and André Nemec) it’s not the action or the set pieces—it’s the character moments and swift sense of humor. The Abrams-directed Mission: Impossible 3 was essentially and entertainingly a series of events that did not go as planned for Cruise’s super-spy Ethan Hunt. Mission: Impossible 4 continues that theme and tone—the Ian Fleming gadgets and John le Carre globe-trotting—and combines them with a weary, workplace sense of humor that wouldn’t be out of place on The Office. That is, if Michael Scott and his co-workers were a) good at their jobs and b) if their jobs involved shooting people.
Continuing the countdown of the bad, the odd and the inexplicable, here’s the rest of the 10 Most Dangerous Films of 2010 — the movies that aren’t merely bad (or, in one case, aren’t bad at all), but which are actually bad for moviemaking and moviegoing.
Never mind the creepy young Jeff Bridges effect, or the huge plot holes (Why does digitized Sam Flynn have blood? Inside a computer?) or the absolute lack of feeling on the screen. “Tron: Legacy” is the epitome of the modern blockbuster: made from parts of other movies, with a liberal helping of absent-father questing we’ve seen before, a movie that took 10 years to conceive and, apparently, a long weekend to write. Is it pretty? Sure. Does it evoke faded memories of the not-great “Tron” from 28 years ago? Yep. But special effects aren’t storytelling, and nostalgia isn’t narrative.
Who, exactly, is it in Hollywood who lies awake and can’t sleep, wondering when they can bring back a cartoon from the Kennedy administration for the benefit of an audience who can barely remember the original, if at all? Add in 3-D — the No. 1 garnish added to bad movies to make them look alive when their scripts and souls are dead — and “Yogi Bear” combines baby boomer nostalgia with modern high-tech emptiness for a chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter mix — if everyone were allergic to both chocolate and peanut butter.
Hey, once-interesting indie directors: Using studio resources to make movies that are as shallowly sentimental (“It’s Kind of a Funny Story”) or as sleepily stupid (“Cop Out”) as bad big-studio films? That is not, in fact, a victory.
I feel bad putting “Scott Pilgrim” — which is, at the very least, beautifully and cleverly made — alongside the odious and toxic “Kick-Ass,” but they both speak to a simple fact that Hollywood needs to recognize: Maybe every comic book doesn’t need to be a movie, and while it’s awesome you’re making nerds happy, mouth-breathing word of mouth only goes so far.
This Tom Cruise-Cameron Diaz caper is not bad at all — in fact, it’s quite good — and yet it flopped at the box office. That’s bad form on both the part of the studio that made it (but seemingly couldn’t sell it) and the audiences that shunned it — because if audiences don’t make it out to see a lively, fun, well-made caper adventure that isn’t based on an earlier film, a comic book, a TV show or a breakfast cereal, it means that we might as well just get ready for a whole lot of Roman numerals, reboots, sexy vampires and superheroes at the theater, because we’re telling Hollywood that’s all we want.
Actor Jeremy Renner has nothing but fond memories of the Toronto International Film Festival — and plenty of them. “I remember in 2005 I had three movies here: ‘North Country,’ it was ‘Twelve and Holding,’ and ‘Lords of Dogtown.’ (In 2009), we came here with ‘Hurt Locker‘ and got acquired here, which was great. That’s what’s great about Toronto Film Festival, what separates it from a lot of film festivals. To me, it’s the biggest one — the only one — to really go get your film acquired. It’s a great platform at the right time of year to springboard your movie, to get people excited about it or not excited about it if it’s not good, to get early reactions or things like that. It’s turned out really well for us with ‘The Town,’ and I love being here. The only drawback for me coming to Toronto with a movie is that I don’t get to see all the great movies that are here.”
And while Renner enjoyed playing a Boston bank robber for Affleck, he also explained how it was a strange new world. “It’s so foreign to me, right? I’m from California; I’ve never been to Boston. I knew nothing about Charlestown. The accent intimidated me so much. To realize that bank robbery is an occupation and someone’s job is kind of strange, but that’s what so alluring to me about it. I learned a lot about the ins and outs of robbing a bank. But more importantly, I was focused more on the character. It wasn’t like ‘The Hurt Locker,’ where I got pretty good at dismantling bombs — which I still would never do anyway — but I wouldn’t go rob a bank and think I know what I was doing. I know way less than I probably should, but I had so much to tackle in preparing for the role.”
Renner’s slated to star in the upcoming “Mission: Impossible 4” alongside Tom Cruise as a spy and in Joss Whedon‘s Marvel comic-book film “The Avengers” as the super-skilled archer Hawkeye. I asked Renner if, as exciting as those kinds of big movies are in terms of adrenaline and profile, he’s cautious about making sure he still has time for the smaller films and more complex performances that built his career to the point where he could wind up in popcorn fare. “Absolutely,” he said. “I would be remiss if I didn’t stick true to what I feel like I’m good at: human condition and human behavior. Whatever story that lies in, I will never abandon that idea. I’ll work on any movies the same. It’s just that (‘Mission: Impossible 4’and ‘The Avengers’) would be a little more geared towards … something else. The movie’s sort of the star, you kind of fill in, do your thing. There’s a handful of movies I’m looking at with tremendous talent and directors that I can’t wait to learn from, and now I have to think about making space, as you say, for those things. They’re the most important to me.”
The Rundown June 22, 2010: The Rundown: Knight and Day with Cruise and Diaz, plus the Secrets of the Summer’s Funniest Film, Winnebago Man
“Sitting down in Austria, the stars of the romantic-comedy-action-summertime film “Knight and Day,” Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz are relaxed and affable on a balcony overlooking Salzburg’s old world charm. Meeting Cruise and Diaz in the flesh is briefly dislocating — they are exactly as you would expect them to be, but moreso — and both of them are glad about the chance to take questions about their comedy-caper film and director James Mangold’s approach.
I ask if globe-trotting from location to location — “Knight and Day” unfolds in Salzburg, the Carribean, Boston, Kansas and Seville, Spain, among other far-flung spots — is even vaguely fun for them, or if it’s just part of the job. Cruise makes his enthusiasm clear. “For me as a kid, it was always a dream to travel, be part of a new culture and learn about different cultures. I mean, look at this; it’s like a Hollywood movie set; it’s so beautiful.” When I point out to Cruise that, for him, Salzburg was, in fact, a Hollywood Movie set, he laughs: “Yes, exactly!”
Even better than the travel, for Cruise was who he got to do it with. Diaz’s warm-hearted mechanic June Havens is the perfect foil to Cruise’s super-spy Roy Miller — a seemingly flighty civilian who comes into her own throughout the film as she gets caught in Miller’s tangled web. Cruise acknowledged that Diaz’s comedy skills were a huge part why he wanted to work on “Knight and Day.” “She’s brilliant at it; I had to say, I couldn’t wait. When I read the script, I thought ‘This is going to be so much fun.’ Just to see her do that stuff. And as we were going along, the script obviously evolved, and there were sequences and stuff where, obviously, I couldn’t wait, just as a fan of her movies and her as an actor, to see her play them out.”
Diaz enjoyed herself, too: “It’s fun; I love my job. I have the best job in the world — I’m grateful every day that I get to do this. And I knew that ['Knight and Day'] was one of those movies that people got to have a great time on. Tom and I, when we first started talking about it and said ‘Let’s do it,’ we said ‘If we don’t have fun every single day of this movie, we don’t deserve …” Cruise jumps in: “… to be alive. To be alive. We had so much fun, and we just wanted to translate that for an audience. To make that summer movie where people just feel joyous at the end, to have a good time.””