July 6, 2010 10 Comments
June 29, 2010 3 Comments
To its credit, Knight and Day does not pretend to be something it is not. It never makes the mistake of taking itself too seriously nor does it try to outsmart its audience. Rather, James Mangold’s action-comedy-romance-spy flick aims to simply entertain and please its audience without worrying all that much about thorough characterization, realistic dialogue or sensical plot lines. In what has so far been a severely disappointing summer blockbuster season filled with uninspired, derivative titles that I have no desire in wasting my time with, I chose to see one that isn’t a sequel or in 3-D (the flavor of the month) or based on a silly TV show. And you know what? It kinda did the trick.
Sure, the movie is clearly a vehicle designed for two of Hollywood’s bigger stars in Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. And their chemistry on-screen here is quite strong (although I thought they were terrific opposite one another in the oft-maligned Vanilla Sky as well). As for its supporting characters, the film doesn’t bother developing them at all which is a shame when you have the talents of Peter Sarsgaard, Viola Davis and Paul Dano at your disposal. Unfortunately, they are used mainly as background to our two stars here, as the script gives them all very little to offer its viewers.
Cameron Diaz plays simple gal (who knows her cars) June Havens, whose life is turned completely upside down when she meets the mysterious Roy Miller (Cruise) on an airplane to Boston on her way to her sister’s wedding. They strike up some friendly, flirtatious banter and she goes off to the restroom to try and figure out the best protocol in luring in this handsome fish. What she doesn’t know is that Miller is a secret spy and she is not supposed to be on this particular flight. From here on out, Miller spends the entire film protecting the innocent girl’s life across the globe while June spends most of the film trying to figure out if Miller is truly her ally/protector or if he’s some crazed, paranoid agent-gone rogue as others would have her believe. Cruise’s special agent is always smiling and is ever so kind and complimentary towards June as he goes about protecting a specialized battery that never loses power. Created by young genius Simon Feck (Dano), the battery is in high demand and everyone is killing to get their greedy hands on it.
There are some very funny scenes here between Cruise and Diaz and the action scenes are filmed especially well, including the many chase scenes involved (one featuring bulls in Spain that is quite impressive to watch). Cruise is very tongue-in-cheek throughout, and for this film, it certainly works. He has done comedy and he has done a lot of action, but has never really had the opportunity to do both of them at once and he gets to do that here in the same way that Cary Grant used to do. He is charming throughout and delivers all of the absurdity with such sincerity that it is hard not to laugh. Diaz is also up to the task; very sweet and funny. After taking a truth serum, she is clearly upset and tells Miller that he doesn’t look so happy to see her again — this, while being shot at from all angles. Of course Miller walks through a hail of misfired bullets to show her just how happy he is to see her again. And if you can go with that, then you will certainly enjoy this movie. My problem here is that, as good as Diaz is, I felt she was all wrong for the part – too able to take on the task. I think the film would have been better served if they had cast someone not as strong as her – an actress who is much softer and who would be more believable as being the complete opposite of Cruise’s super spy. I mean, she’s a Charlie’s Angel, for Christ’s sake. Since they didn’t go that route, they should have then done a much better job at making her seem more out of her league — more helpless and feeble.
Overall though, the film does what it sets out to do and that is simply to entertain a summer audience. It doesn’t bore and never lets up, going from one action sequence into another. Many times, the writers never even have to worry about showing how the duo manages to get out of a life-threatening situation as Miller keeps drugging June and the screen simply goes to black and we see June awaken in an entirely new setting. I’d say if you are looking to take your brain out for a little while, kick back with some buttery popcorn and just have fun, then I would surely recommend Knight and Day. Cruise looks to be having a lot of fun here and it is nice to see him back in the action genre after a few years — and with so much slim pickings out in multiplexes right now, this may be your best bet.
To view the trailer for Knight and Day, please click here.
June 28, 2010 31 Comments
Well, Knight & Day didn’t have a very impressive opening weekend at the box-office (opening at #3 and taking in a modest $20.5 million) — but Tom Cruise still remains one of our bigger movie stars and has a very impressive resume since breaking into movies in 1981. I thought with his new film out, in addition to the new listing on the LAMB website yesterday featuring a number of great articles/reviews on the actor (LAMB Acting School 101: Tom Cruise), that now would be a nice time to ask you, the movie fan:
What is your favorite Tom Cruise movie? Take a second and cast your vote now!!!
This should be pretty interesting because in previous polls, there seemed to be a clear odds-on-favorite. Here, I really have no idea which movie is going to pull it out.
To check out the LAMB Acting School 101: Tom Cruise feature, just click on this link for some terrific articles and reviews on the actor from other film bloggers! I will post the results in a few days…
June 23, 2010 15 Comments
It has been widely reported that Tom Cruise is in talks with Paramount Pictures and MTV Films to reprise his role as the foul-mouthed, hip-hop loving Les Grossman (from Ben Stiller’s hilarious 2008 film, Tropic Thunder). However, it won’t be in another scene-stealing supporting role but rather, a movie revolving around the Grossman character — Les Grossman’s own movie. I absolutely loved Tropic Thunder (voting it the #1 comedy of the decade in a recent list published on this website) and feel that Cruise’s performance in it helped make it the great success that it was. When I read about this possibility, I became worried. I’m not usually one for writing letters to actors at all, but I feel it my professional duty as a writer of film and tremendous fan of the fictional role to write one now. The reputation of Grossman is at stake! So here is my letter to Tom Cruise:
Dear Mr. Cruise:
First, I would like to start by telling you that I have enjoyed so much of your work over the years and think you have created some of the most memorable film roles in the past 20+ years. Growing up, I remember loving your work in Risky Business, opposite the legendary Paul Newman in The Color of Money, and yes, I even enjoyed Cocktail immensely (still proudly ranking high in my favorite “guilty pleasure” films of all-time). I thought you were quite brilliant in Rain Man and gave a moving and unforgettable performance in Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July. I thought your superb work as Frank Mackey in P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia was daring and courageous, helping to make it the masterpiece that it is. And of course, as you know by now, you stole the show in Tropic Thunder, showing us your funny side by playing the now famously vile, money-hungry, vulgar movie executive Les Grossman. Your resume is certainly an impressive one and still, you remain one of America’s most bankable stars. What I have always found so impressive is how you’ve always managed to balance your enormous celebrity, while at the same time, apply yourself to your craft as an actor in such demanding roles and working for some of our most talented filmmakers (Kubrick, Spielberg, Redford, Levinson, et al). Though you are one of Hollywood’s biggest “movie stars” you still manage to push yourself as an actor and I certainly admire that. With that said, I feel that, in the wake of your recent appearance on the MTV Movie Awards and your ongoing discussions concerning the “Untitled Les Grossman Project,” I need to voice my tremendous concern to you at this time.
I understand all of the reasons you might have for wanting to actually go through with starring in such a vehicle — well, money for starters. It’s almost always about the money (didn’t you have to scream that loudly into a phone once to Cuba Gooding, Jr.?). I understand that if you are planning on gunning for that Oscar which has eluded you thus far, that starring in such a raucous comedy gives you the ability to show everyone your range. Also, playing the Les Grossman character helps to continue to build massive goodwill with the movie-going public who may remember you jumping on Oprah’s couch like a sophomoric wild man and knocking Brooke Shields down a couple of pegs because you don’t believe that people should be taking prescription medication as it goes against what you personally may believe in. I also understand that many simply like seeing you having fun at your own expense. I get all of that. And yet, I still think it’s a terrible idea.
Spin-offs, for the most part, usually suck. There are too many examples of the failures (U.S. Marshals, The Scorpion King, Beauty Shop, etc.) and very few, if any, that can be called good movies. Les Grossman had, what? Ten minutes of screen time in Tropic Thunder? Maybe 15 minutes at most. That was the perfect amount. It left us wanting more. It still keeps us wanting more, which is why it’s so damn good. The old comedian’s adage is to “Leave them wanting more.” Starring in a full-length film revolving around Grossman will only kill it. It will turn into a “Saturday Night Live” sketch which is funny for 4 minutes and turn into a terrible 100 minutes of disappointment (see just about any SNL skit-turned-movie). What also made Les Grossman such a great screen character was the element of surprise. When it was playing in theatres, very few even knew that you were even in it, let alone heard of such a character. I know when I saw it, I was completely taken by surprise and I loved every minute of it. Now, that surprise factor is completely gone only to be replaced by high expectations that most likely cannot be met.
To put it simply, making such a movie would be overkill. And as a big fan of your work (despite having to sit through Far and Away and Days of Thunder), I feel that you are better than that and have so much more to offer to your fans. You already make the big money, so it can’t just be about the financial reward here. You can make that money doing just about any other film. Don’t kill the Golden Goose, Mr. Cruise…it was great for the small part it played in Stiller’s wonderful comedy and will always be remembered. A full-length feature will only hurt the legacy of the character that you brought to remarkable life.
Thank you for reading this. I hope you have a very successful opening weekend with your new film. If you need any further career advice, then I’m always here…you know where to find me.
Peter Eramo, Jr.
June 8, 2010 49 Comments
Paul Rudd (to me): You know how I know you’re gay?
Paul Rudd: You create lists of movie scenes that make you cry.
OK, so today I feel like getting more in touch with my sentimental side. What can you do? It happens. Anyway, I managed to catch a scene from a movie a couple of days ago that ALWAYS makes me cry and thought that I’d come up with a list of 10 movie scenes that always make me cry like a little baby. And you know what?! I’m secure in my own masculinity to create such a list, dammit! This is NOT a Top 10 List, as there are surely other scenes out there that bring on the same proverbial waterworks for me. Nor are these scenes you see here in any particular order. They are simply what I think are 10 great, emotional scenes that, for whatever reason, move me to such a point where I have to reach for a tissue. And stop snickering at me…there’s no shame in it!
And hey! Since I’m putting myself out there, I expect you to do as well. Post your comments and share a scene or two that makes you teary-eyed and weepy…unless you have no heart at all!
1. The Final Scene of ‘Running on Empty’
SPOILER ALERT!!! Earlier in Sidney’s Lumet’s wonderful movie, the family clears the dinner table and joyfully starts to sing along to James Taylor’s classic “Fire and Rain.” Arthur and Annie Pope have been running from the FBI since blowing up a bomb to protest the war. Their son Danny (River Phoenix) has had to live with the repercussions of their acts. The final scene always gets me. On the run again, the family is in their truck and Arthur (Judd Hirsch) tells his son to take the bike out of the back — and to get on it. We see the truck drive off, leaving Danny alone to start his own life anew — all played against the backdrop of the very moving “Fire and Rain” song yet again. The combination of the song and this pivotal moment always wrecks me.
2. The Baseball Catch from ‘Field of Dreams’
Maybe it’s because I’m a huge baseball fan. Or maybe it’s because some of the greatest memories I have are when my father managed me in Little League. Perhaps it’s because this marvelous story of Ray Kinsella’s (Kevin Costner) strained relationship with his father, forever seeking his approval just got to me. I think it’s a blend of all three. Near the end of the film, on his utopian baseball field, Ray recognizes his father in the prime of his life. The two shake hands and say goodnight. As his father turns to walk away, Ray asks, with a crack in his voice, “Hey, Dad? You wanna have a catch?” His father simply says, “I’d like that.” What follows is a very simple, moving father-and-son catch. Gets me every friggin’ time…
3. A Connection is Made in ‘Rain Man’
Charlie (Tom Cruise) tries to make a connection, any connection with his autistic brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) throughout the film. Of course, Raymond is mentally unable to do so, much to Charlie’s tremendous frustration. Charlie ‘kidnaps’ his own brother from an institution solely for selfish and greedy purposes. As the two brothers spend time together, Charlie undergoes a miraculous transformation of character and begins to feel absolute love for his brother. When he returns his brother, the two are given a moment alone to say good-bye and Charlie says to him, “What I said about being on the road with you I meant. Connecting. I like having you for my brother.” The two slowly, softly touch heads — and finally, a connection is made…if only for a moment and Charlie repeats with great warmth, “I like having you for my big brother.” It’s a cathartic moment to be sure as the entire film is building to this one emotional moment. Tender, warm, poignant…excuse me, I need a moment….
4. Adrian’s Change of Heart in ‘Rocky II’
I realize this is hokey and very melodramatic, but I don’t care. I love this movie, I love this scene and I love the dynamic that is Rocky and Adrian. Adrian (Talia Shire) has been pleading with her husband not to fight Apollo Creed again because she is worried about his eye. Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) is struggling with himself as to what he should do. He decides to fight, but without Adrian’s stamp of approval, his heart is just not into it. Adrian gives birth to a baby boy and falls into a coma. Now Rocky won’t train at all and spends all of his waking hours at church or at his true love’s bedside, reading to her. After a long while, she finally wakes up. With her new baby in hand, Adrian has a complete change of heart. She looks up at her husband and says, “There’s one thing I want you to do for me.” He leans in. She smiles, and simply says, “Win.” It is at this moment where I lose it. The iconic music starts to play, Rocky finally smiles and we know he’ll go back to training and kick the crap out of the champ. Throughout the Rocky series, his love for his wife never wavers and I think it is one of the stronger aspects of the franchise. I also think that Adrian is what makes Rocky tick. Without this scene, Rocky gets slaughtered and loses in the rematch.
5. Singing for Prison Inmates in ‘Young @ Heart’
One of the Top 10 films of 2007, this inspiring documentary focuses on a chorus of senior citizens in Massachusetts who perform cover songs by The Clash, Sonic Youth, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix and many others. Many of these real-life people stay with you long after the film is over, reminding us of what is truly important in this life. Fred’s solo to a packed theatre near the end of the film will no doubt move you, as will many other emotional scenes. There is a lot to laugh at throughout this life-affirming movie, and yes, a lot of times where you can’t help but cry. The emotional climax for me occurs when the Young @ Heart chorus perform a concert — at a prison! After losing one of their own, they go out and sing Bob Dylan’s classic “Forever Young” to the inmates of the prison and…talk about perspective! The looks on the faces of the prisoners are completely genuine as they listen to the elderly singers and yes, the chorus no doubt has their utmost respect. It remains one of the most moving scenes of any film I have seen in recent memory. If you missed this film, I highly recommend that you go out and rent it as I am sure you will be pleased that you did.
6. Helpless Feeling in ‘She’s Having A Baby’
Go ahead, laugh. Then watch this scene once more and I will await and accept your apology for doing so. After much prodding by their parents, newlywed couple Jake & Kristy Briggs start to try and have a baby. They continue trying. Finally, Kristy (an adorable Elizabeth McGovern) is pregnant. However, there are severe complications with the delivery, leaving Jake (Kevin Bacon) powerless and waiting for a good word. This is such an emotionally draining sequence and John Hughes picks the perfect song (Kate Bush’s moving “This Woman’s Work”) to accompany the montage of watching Jake crippled with fear and anxiety for the well-being of his wife. The song certainly helps, but Bacon is brilliant here. Watch his initial reaction when he is told what is going wrong with the delivery. It is so natural and so genuine, we instantly feel for him. The camera pans out and the beginning of the song begins to play at just the right moment. The beautifully edited montage is so effective as Bacon plays with his wife’s ring, his father’s ‘thumbs up’ to him from afar — giving him his needed space. The symbolic drop of blood to the floor is a nice touch. I get teary-eyed with goose bumps just thinking about it.
7. Final Sequence of ‘Umberto D.’
Vittorio de Sica’s 1952 masterpiece which Time magazine wisely included in their “All-Time 100 Movie” list. I don’t know how any human being alive can watch this film and not shed a tear. Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti) is an old man in Rome who is poor and trying desperately to keep his modest, shoddy apartment which is becoming quite difficult to do since his landlady wants to throw him out if he doesn’t come up with 15,000 lire. His best friend in the world seems to be his little dog, Flick (called ‘Flag’ in some subtitled versions). Umberto is admitted to a hospital and when he returns home, finds that he is no longer welcome. He also discovers that his dog is gone. After finding him, he looks for a place where Flick can live a carefree life, away from all of his hardships. I will not include the video of this movie, because that would completely spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that the last scenes of this film always manage to break my heart in more pieces than any psychotic ex ever has. If you are interested in seeing this glorious piece of filmmaking, do yourself a favor — read nothing about it beforehand — and get a box of Kleenex…you’ll need it.
8. A Fitting Farewell to Professor Keating in ‘Dead Poets Society’
I am not sure why, but most film bloggers seem to have a great aversion towards this film. I absolutely love it – always have. Is it melodramatic at times? Perhaps. Is this particular scene a bit over-the-top and cheesy? I say, “Not at all” if you understand where it is coming from and it all starts with the character of Todd Anderson (a very young Ethan Hawke). Todd has been the quiet, insecure one throughout the film…always wanting to do, but never actually doing. Professor Keating (Robin Williams) has been unfairly dismissed of his duties at the prep school and the impact he has made on his students will be remembered throughout their lifetimes. In this deeply affecting scene, he enters the classroom to pick up a few of his belongings. There are actually a handful of scenes where I can’t help but start crying, but this one has become a classic scene (hey – it beats the hell out of hearing “I’ll have what she’s having” for the umpteenth time). The tension in the room is palpable as they leaf through the poetry book. The desk of Neil Perry’s, noticeably vacant; the exchange between Keating and Todd made just with their eyes….very moving. The core of this film is the relationship between these two characters and here, it reaches its climax. Ethan Hawke says so much here without saying anything at all…we see him struggling with himself, wanting to speak out. He knows this will be his last opportunity to do something, anything…and he takes his first step, literally and figuratively. Robin Williams doesn’t overdo it at all, but merely reacts to what is happening before him – and his subtlety is very touching. The students who stand…This is their “Thank You” to their wonderful teacher — and by the look on Keating’s face, it is perhaps the greatest goodbye gift he could have asked for as he says, “Thank you, boys. Thank you.” I have seen this film many times and it never ceases to move me. I can watch this film twenty more times and I know for certain that I will surely cry another twenty times.
9. Reading Shakespeare in ‘The Elephant Man’
John Merrick (John Hurt) is first abused and used for profit being showcased as a freak. He is then taken into the safe confines of a hospital by Dr. Treves (Anthony Hopkins) only to be showcased as a freak of nature once more — and again, for the personal gain of the man he is entrusted to. No one bothers to try and make a human connection with him, even though in many ways, Merrick possesses more humane qualities than those around him. Here, the famous stage actress Mrs. Kendal (Anne Bancroft) makes that connection by presenting her new friend with a gift. Merrick begins reading the lines from Shakespeare’s classic love story, Romeo and Juliet and soon, the two are reading the lines of the star-crossed lovers to each other. It is a hypnotic exchange. Watch the way Bancroft looks at him throughout – not like every other person does, but with gentle eyes. She sees not a deformed elephant man, but a real-life Romeo. This entire film makes me teary-eyed, but the human connection made right here is the highpoint for me. Mel Brooks was right in hiring the masterful David Lynch to direct this film. Released now 30 years ago, it never ceases to have a profound emotional impact on me.
To watch this great scene, just click here.
10. Making Breakfast in ‘Big Night’
One long shot, one short word…sheer brilliance. Watching this final scene on its own of course does no justice to the emotional weight it surely carries. However, when you watch the entire film that leads up to this, the love between the two immigrant brothers hits you hard, and needs no words. We know that everything that has happened before is water under the bridge…nothing at all compared with the great bond that exists between Primo and Secondo (Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci). One of my all-time favorite last scenes of any film I have ever seen. The relationship between the brothers throughout the movie is complex and extraordinary, as it builds to what we see here. Directors Campbell Scott and Tucci have a delicate touch throughout and make the perfect choice here by having everything done in silence. I always need a moment when the credits start to roll. A moving film, a stirring scene.