Hollywood Playbook: Friday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Friday's Top 5 News Items

America Owes Tom Cruise a Big Fat Apology

Longtime readers know that I have always been a Tom Cruise fan, and one of his fiercest defenders. Cruise is a legitimate movie star, has been for over 30 years, makes great choices and therefore movies, and is an exceptional actor to boot.

My knee can jerk against conventional/trendy/establishment/go-along-to-get-along cowardly thinking in a way that’s every bit as thoughtless as The Mob’s knee jerk the other way. But In the mid-aughts, after the Oprah incident, that wasn’t the case with me. I was legitimately baffled by the backlash against Cruise.

 So what if Cruise acted a little weird, jumped on a couch, got testy with Matt Lauer, and is into a New Age religion — so g***amn what!?  After two decades (at the time) of making great films, of being a class act, and never telling me how to vote, you’re going to take the guy and his career apart over what exactly…?

Over at the LA Weekly (one of the best newspapers in the country), Amy Nicholson has written an outstanding piece on the fall of Tom Cruise; why it was horrifically unfair (he never really jumped on the couch) and why movie fans lost as much as Cruise did. It’s a must-read but here’s the moral of the story:

Building up to 2005, Cruise had tackled some of the most challenging dramas of any actor of his generation: Eyes Wide Shut, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky. Even his popcorn flicks — Minority Report, Collateral, War of the Worlds — were intriguingly dark. He’d never played it safe or shot a cash-grab. He trusted that if he chose movies he believed in, the audience would follow. And he was right.

Post-2005, we’ve lost out on the audacious films that only Hollywood’s most powerful and consistent star could have convinced studios to greenlight. Cruise was in his mid-40s prime — the same years when Newman made Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Sting — and here he was lying low, like the kid who’d run away to London. Imagine the daring roles that he hasn’t dared to pursue. Cruise’s talent and clout were responsible for an unparalleled string of critical and commercial hits. We gave that up for a gif. …

Cruise closed ranks, retreating not just from the press but also from his own personal career ambitions. He made fewer films, tried fewer challenges. He wanted us to love him again.

When Cruise’s cameo as Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder was a hit, instead of daring to think we might embrace him in another comedy, he cautiously considered only a Les Grossman sequel. And when Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol was deemed his comeback (not that he’d ever made a flop — even Knight & Day earned its money back), he decided that audiences wanted only one version of Tom Cruise: the action hero he’d never wanted to become. He’s even said yes to Top Gun 2.

What happened to Cruise reminds me of what happened to Muhammad Ali, who lost his prime fighting years sidelined by a ridiculous boxing ban over his opposition to the Vietnam War. Just imagine the epic battles and pure athleticism we might have seen had things been different.

Nicholson (who has also written a book on Cruise due in July) is exactly right that it is our fault and our loss that at 50-something, when Cruise should be in the zone creatively with the power to make his own choices, he’s going to make “Top Gun 2,” a film he turned down a pile of cash for three decades ago because he wanted to work with Scorsese and Paul Newman in “The Color of Money.”

This country owes Tom Cruise an apology.


‘Blended’ Review: Adam Sandler Becomes John Candy (That’s a Good Thing)

On top of “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” last night I also caught the new Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore romantic comedy “Blended.”

Over the last couple of decades it has been interesting to watch Sandler mellow with age. The lovable but angry man-child goofball is now the lovable, grown-up and slightly clueless dad. In “Blended,” Sandler plays Jim, a widower with three daughters. Jim is responsible, likable, warm… a real adult. Sandler’s persona and the easy-going nature of the film reminded me of the late John Candy’s underrated family comedy, “Summer Rental” (1985).

“Blended” isn’t nearly as good as “Summer Rental,” at least at first. The first 40-minutes or so, up to and including the contrivance that sends Lauren (Barrymore), Jim, and their total of five kids (she has two sons) on an African vacation together, are a little disjointed with a lot of jokes that don’t work.  At some point in the second act, though, the story thankfully comes together: the scenes flow, the jokes pop, and you get emotionally invested in seeing Jim and Lauren get together.

“Blended” has a lot of heart and I especially appreciated the film’s message: If you’re a parent, life needs to be all about loving those kids — supporting them, raising them right, discipline… It’s okay to take 1% for yourself, but the rest of the 99% is only about them. The movie also dares to believe that girls need moms and boys need dads.

As is always the case in Happy Madison films, there’s a touch of the zany (this time supplied by a game Terry Crews and an amusing cameo by Executive Producer Allen Covert)) and the American flag is presented as an everyday part of life. There’s even a nice shout-out to Boston, the Boy Scouts and blended families with same-sex parents.

Kids will love the movie — the humor, the animals, the slapstick —  and the naughtier bits are played that way, which makes them fun not corrupting.


X-Men: Days of Future Past” Opens Huge

Hollywood’s summer season officially began late Thursday night with 10 p.m. “X-Men: Days of Future Past” screenings, which hauled in $8.1 million. The well-reviewed sequel (I certainly enjoyed it —here’s my review) is expected to top $100 to $120 million by the time we are all back to work on Tuesday.


“Godzilla” opened to a higher $9.3 million last Thursday, and opened to $93 million, but had the added advantage of 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. showings.

“X-Men” feels like it could over-perform in a major way.

It deserves too, as well. The superhero, CGI extravaganza is a legitimate crowd-pleaser that lives up to the 20th Century-Fox hype machine.


Twenty-Years Later, Box Office Disappointment ‘Shawshank Redemption” Is Still a Cash Cow

The Wall Street Journal looks at the enduring popularity of Frank Darabont’s “Shawshank Redemption,” a film that failed at the box office but has since become (according to IMDB’s ranking) the most beloved movie ever made. For years it has ranked #1, just ahead of the first two “Godfather” films. “Shawshank” is still one of the top moneymakers for Warner Bros.  out of the 6,000 titles in the studio’s catalogue.


The reason for this, I think, is how perfectly comforting “Shawshank” is. The film works almost exactly like an opiate. You get completely lost in the story, and in that way it’s like a two-hour vacation from real-life, your troubles, and your iPhone. It is also a “good” drug. After the credits roll, you’re uplifted and feel better about the world. Of course, like any drug, there’s an addiction. Again and again, you want to return to it, especially when the horseshit of everyday everydaying starts to pile up.

“Shawshank” isn’t the greatest film ever made, but when you’re watching, it sure feels like it is.


Kino to Release John Huston’s ‘The Unforgiven’ on Blu-ray

Another terrific film that I would love to own on Bluray … but it’s yet another specialty title through a specialty label (Kino) that will be too expensive to justify.


Where’s my white privilege when I need it?

Where are the champions of income inequality now?

Where’s Occupy Bluray?

If I ever came into real money, one of the first things I’d do is buy out the Bluray catalogues of Kino, Criterion, Film Score and others.

Man, look at this one: Thirty freakin’ bucks.

I might pull the trigger on this one. But on top of everything else, Amazon is now charging me sales tax. So with the added thrill of sticking it to The Man gone, that’s one less incentive.

Here’s a great deal if you don’t already own them.

Whoa, here is an amazing deal.


MEMORIAL DAY NOTE: No Friday double feature to report today. The sun is shining and I have a house to paint. Also, I am off Monday, so enjoy your long weekend; and while you’re barbecuing, watching movies, taking advantage of all the sales, and enjoying all the other everyday joys that simply come with being an American — take a moment to thump on your knees to thank our Veterans — past and present.


Without them we would have absolutely nothing, none of this…

We owe them everything.


Quick Hits

Gareth Edwards to Direct ‘Godzilla 2′ After ‘Star Wars’ Spinoff

Quentin Tarantino Wants a ‘Django Unchained’ Miniseries on Television

6 Types of Pirates Hollywood Combats

California’s Corporate Welfare for Hollywood Must Exceed New York’s By $10 Million

Ranking Joss Whedon’s Most Heartbreaking Character Deaths


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Follow  John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC              


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