Mission: Impossible — Fallout (Paramount, 7.27) is loads of fun — a big mechanical whambammer with all kinds of plot turnarounds and shifting loyalties and eye-rolls into the forehead. It made me feel like I was ten. I honestly gasped four or five times and laughed out loud six or seven…something like that. And one of the laughs involves Wolf Blitzer.
Try and catch it on a big fat IMAX screen, which I did earlier this evening.
I’m being completely complimentary when I call Fallout grade-A, bucks-up dope, and by that I mean the kind of high-octane, expertly performed, adrenalized nonsense that gives the term “jizz-whizz” a good name (and that’s saying something). It’s the kind of crazy-silly wank that makes you feel good about life — the kind that lifts you up and smells like expensive bar soap, high-grade leather and canvas money bags.
The thing that I really loved was how many of the non-action scenes are flecked with an attitude of dry, underplayed comedy. The kind of humor that says “ya gotta get a little fun out of life, right? Are we full of shit or just lucky-ass boys spending loads of dough or…well, you tell us. We’re half-giggling and half-grimming up and obviously having fun with the priciest toyset in the world, wearing masks and buzzing around Paris on motorcycles and flying helicopters in Kashmir and yadda yadda, and well paid all the while.”
Fallout doesn’t quite tip over into hah-hah comedy but the attitude is definitely jaunty if not jovial. If director-writer Chris McQuarrie had gone a little bolder and embraced a tiny bit more of a “fuck it” attitude and turned up the deadpan Three Stooges dial a bit more, this could have been an amazing piece of action comedy, and I mean like something the world has never experienced before. But Fallout holds itself in check and so it’s just a whole lot of high-grade, Daffy Duck-on-ritalin, state-of-the-art excitement with more than a few bone-dry guffaws.
Tom Cruise fills the bill, of course, but he’s looking older. I’m sorry but he is. A wee bit puffy and fuller of face. Some of the humor is about how Ethan Hunt is still the energizer bunny (always!) but now he’s getting winded a bit sooner, and even limps a bit after an especially traumatic bodyslam. I honestly liked Henry Cavill a bit more. He’s a good, disciplined, straight-dealing actor, and he handles the dry under-playing in just the right way. Some of his reaction shots are quite funny. Hollywood Elsewhere says “Cruise is cool but Cavill is better.”
I don’t what that precisely means, given that Scruggs is a six-episode Netflix miniseries composed of six separate stories. I’m presuming that the same-titled opening episode, which stars Tim Blake Nelson as the title character, will screen for sure — no telling how many other episodes, if any.
Bradley Cooper‘s A Star Is Born (8.29 thru 9.8) will screen non-competitively on the festival’s second night, or Friday, 8.31. Why not screen in competition? It’s supposed to be Best Picture bait, right?
Also showing will be Brady Corbet‘s Vox Lux, an “American musical drama” as well as a chilly take on the life of a pop star Celeste (Natalie Portman) over a period of several years. (I read the script a year or two ago.) Pic costars Jude Law, Stacy Martin, Raffey Cassidy, Stanford Warshawsky, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Candace M. Smith and Jennifer Ehle.
Julian Schnabel‘s At Eternity’s Gate, a Vincent Van Gogh biopic with Willem Dafoe in the title role, will also screen. Rupert Friend (Theo Van Gogh), Oscar Isaac (Paul Gauguin),
This evening, or roughly six hours hence, Hollywood Elsewhere will finally see Mission: Impossible — Fallout (Paramount, 7.27). Which led me this morning to read David Edelstein’s 7.23 Vulture review, and his somewhat dismissive description of Tom Cruise (i.e., Ethan Hunt) as “cocky” and “generally unlovable.” Which is true, I suppose, and yet Cruise remains on a short list of bona fide Hollywood movie stars who deliver heft and consequence.
Who are the real-deal movie stars of the present, Cruise aside? Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Dwayne Johnson (dented), Robert Downey, Jr., Jennifer Lawrence (dented), Will Smith (seriously dented), Tom Hanks (although his last gasp of star-power oxygen happened over 15 years ago, with the release of Sam Mendes‘ Road to Perdition), Samuel L. Jackson and who else?
Liam Neeson, I suppose, to a lesser extent. Adam Sandler is done. Julia Roberts is a “name,” obviously, but she hasn’t been a super-power for a full decade if not longer. Bruce Willis is mostly about the paycheck these days, overly willing to make crap.
Consider a 2.6.18 Observer piece by Brandon Katz, titled “Movie Stars Are Dead and They’re Never Coming Back.”
Key passage: “It isn’t about the names these days — it’s about the property.”
Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst for ComScore: “The idea of star power used to be in global audience recognition, a major star in a movie might ensure global success here and in the international marketplace. But with the advent of big-concept movies, franchise ensembles like Fast and Furious and Marvel and big-budget blockbusters, the concept and marketing is now what gets people excited. Merely having a movie star is no longer a guarantee of box office success. Now, big stars need a concept in concert with that star power to create excitement.”
Trump loyalists either don’t care about pernicious Russian influence over Donald Trump or are even half okay with it. That’s because Russia, a repressive, authoritarian, anti-liberal white-guy regime, appears to be in league with Trump’s “make America white again” agenda. Rich white authoritarians of the world unite, or something along those lines.
“Trump may have grudgingly admitted that Russia did the [2016 campaign meddling] deed, but nobody should be surprised if he starts shedding doubt on it all over again. Maybe, just maybe, he can’t admit that Moscow tried to put him in the Oval Office because he’s under strict instructions not to.” — from Blake Hounshell‘s 7.20 Politico piece, “Why I’m No Longer a Russiagate Skeptic.”
Tronc, Inc., owner of the money-losing New York Daily News, announced today that half of the tabloid’s editorial staff is being axed. Out the door are editor-in-chief Jim Rich, managing editor Kristen Lee and 40-something others. “We are fundamentally restructuring the Daily News,” a Tronc email announced. “We are reducing today the size of the editorial team by approximately 50 percent and re-focusing much of our talent on breaking news — especially in areas of crime, civil justice and public responsibility.”
In other words, the Daily News, which I wrote weekly Hollywood articles for in ’94 and ’95, will be hiring younger, cheaper staffers to save dough. The 99-year-old publication has been losing $30 million annually, for God’s sake. The News will continue to publish for an unspecified time period (perhaps another two or three years or longer…who knows?), but the storied editorial character and muscle fibre will be somewhat downgraded if not absent, and the overall future is sure to be less and less kind to any enterprise that uses printing presses and dead-tree pulp to deliver content.
I’m very, very sorry. I’ve loved and worshipped the Daily News my whole life. My son worked as an intern for Daily News columnists George Rush and Joanna Molloy back in ’05. My heart warms every time I disembark at JFK Airport and see those blessed Manhattan dailies stacked inside a Hudson News store. But the end of the print era has been coming for a long, long time.
Gussie: “If you ain’t eatin’ Wham, you ain’t eatin’ ham.” James Blandings (realizing his life has just been saved): “Muriel! Give Gussie a ten-dollar raise!” — from Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (’48).
The robust and magnetic Louise Beavers, a popular supporting actress throughout the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, almost always played servants. I know, I know, but those were the kinds of of Hollywood roles that were open to actresses of color in the old days, and Beavers (along with Lillian Randolph, Hattie McDaniel and a few others) picked that limited fruit from the tree and ran with it.
That was the semi-unfortunate part. The fortunate or beneficial aspect was that Beavers was very, very good at projecting spunk, charisma, kind-heartedness. By today’s rulebook it’s safer to under-praise films that featured non-white domestic help characters (i.e., if you’re too admiring the comintern might conclude that you approve of the old order), but as Jean Anouilh wrote in Becket, “Honor lies in the man, my prince, not in the towel.” Beavers (whose last four films were Tammy and the Bachelor, The Goddess, All the Fine Young Cannibals and The Facts of Life) was a pulsing talent and apparently a great soul.