Horror Film Review: Interview With The Vampire (dir by Neil Jordan)


Oh, poor Claudia.

There are a lot of vampires and other cursed beings wandering through the 1994 film adaptation of Interview With A Vampire but Claudia (Kisten Dunst) is the only one for whom I have any sympathy.

Louis (Brad Pitt) may be the main character and the vampire giving the interview but it’s hard to have much sympathy for him.  He’s just such a whiny little bitch.  The Louisiana aristocrat is transformed into a vampire in 1791 and basically spends the next 200 years complaining about it.  You want to have sympathy for him but sometimes, you just have to accept stuff and move on.  It doesn’t help that Brad Pitt, who has always given his best performances when cast as men of action, is somewhat miscast as the effete and self-loathing Louis.

Lestat (Tom Cruise) may be the most charismatic of the vampires but he’s never exactly sympathetic.  He turns Louis into a vampire and then spends years following him across Louisiana and Europe.  Lestat is decadence personified and he never whines and, as a result, he’s far more enjoyable to spend time with than Louis.  Cruise is as perfectly cast as Lestat as Pitt was miscat as Louis.  Lestat is a star and Tom Cruise has always been one of the few true movie stars around.  That said, Lestat is still far too self-indulgent and thoughtlessly self-destructive to really be a sympathetic character.  Instead, he’s like Lord Byron, destroying happy families but at least writing a poem about it afterwards.

Armand (Antonio Banderas) runs the Théâtre des Vampires in Paris and he becomes Louis’s companion for a time.  Louis is charismatic because he’s played by Antonio Banderas but, ultimately, he proves to be a rather ineffectual leader.  Armand puts on a good show but, in the end, that’s all he has to offer.  He’s a bit shallow, despite all of the theatrics.

Santiago (Stephen Rea) isn’t sympathetic at all but at least he really seems to get into being evil.  Good for him!

And then there’s Daniel Malloy (Christian Slater), the journalist who conducts the interview with Louis.  In the film, Malloy starts out as a cynic, the type of writer who theatrically pours himself a glass of whiskey before dramatically turning to his typewriter.  All he needs is a fedora with a press pass tucked into the headband.  It’s difficult to take him seriously.

But then there’s Claudia.  Poor Claudia.  In the book, Claudia was only five years old when she was turned into a vampire.  In the movie, she’s played by 12 year-old Kirsten Dunst and it’s left ambiguous as to how young Claudia actually was when Lestat turned her into a vampire, though it’s still made clear that was too young to be cursed without her consent.  Claudia becomes Lestat and Louis’s companion.  Louis treats her like the daughter that he will never have.  Lestart treats her like an apprentice, teaching her how to kill.  Claudia grows up but is forever trapped in the body of a child.  It’s impossible not to feel sorry for Claudia, who never asked to become a vampire, who indeed was just turned so that Lestat could use her as a pawn to keep control of Louis.  Claudia spends a good deal of the movie in a rage and who can blame her?

Interview With A Vampire is a messy and uneven film.  Brad Pitt is miscast and the whole film is oddly paced, with the New Orleans scenes taking too long and the Paris scenes going by almost too quickly.  At the same time, Tom Cruise brings the proper joie de mort to the role of Lestat and Claudia and her fate will simply break your heart.  Interview With The Vampire is not the best vampire movie that I’ve ever seen but it definitely has its pleasures.

Trailer – Top Gun: Maverick


Maverick is back in the skies in Top Gun: Maverick. In the newly released trailer, it looks like Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) is still flying after all these years, which explains why he isn’t an Admiral by now. He still has that old motorcycle, though it looks like he rides a newer one and we’re seeing F-18 Hornets in combat, which should be cool. Tomcats are also still in flight, bless the angels.

Not much is known about Top Gun: Maverick save that Christopher McQuarrie (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Mission Impossible: Fallout) has the writing duties here along with a few others. The directing duties are tied to Joseph Kosinski (Tron: Legacy). Kosinski and Cruise also worked together on Oblivion.

Top Gun: Maverick also stars Academy Award Winner Jennifer Connelly, Jon Hamm, Lewis Pullman, Ed Harris and Val Kilmer.

The movie will be released in theatres next Summer.

Enjoy.

Here’s The Trailer for Mission: Impossible — Fallout!


We’re a few days later in sharing this but, as always, it’s better to be late than never!

Say what you will about Tom Cruise.  He’s definitely an actor who I have mixed feelings about.  On the one hand, he’s got undeniable talent and, whenever I watch him in a good movie (like Edge of Tomorrow), I’m surprised to be reminded of just how compelling he can be onscreen.  (Hell, I’d even defend his performance in The Mummy.)  On the other hand, I have some friends who flat-out refuse to watch anything that feature Cruise, specifically because they find the whole Scientology thing to just be too creepy.

But, with all that in mind, the Mission: Impossible films have consistently been exciting and entertaining.  While Daniel Craig’s James Bond spends all of his time drowning in self-pity, Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt reminds us of why we love spy films in the first place.

Here’s the trailer for Mission Impossible — Fallout!  This film will be in theaters on July 17th.

 

Catching Up With The Films of 2017: American Made (dir by Doug Liman)


Oh, Tom Cruise.

You magnificent and problematic bastard.

Tom Cruise has become so associated with Scientology and all of its creepy excesses that it’s sometimes easy to forget that he’s always been a pretty good actor and he’s actually getting better with age.  In the Mission Impossible films, he’s proven that he can be a better James Bond than Daniel Craig.  In Edge of Tomorrow, he and Emily Blunt brought real depth to what could have just been another generic action film.  Even as bad as The Mummy may have been, the film failed because of a bad script and bad direction.  Tom Cruise’s performance was actually one of the few things in that movie that did work.

And then there’s American Made.

Directed by Edge of Tomorrow‘s Doug Liman, American Made is supposedly based on a true story.  At least as portrayed in this film, Barry Seal was an airline pilot who, in the late 70s, was recruited by the CIA to fly over Central America and take pictures of communist rebels.  An adrenaline junkie who had grown bored with his day job, Barry quickly agreed and even got a thrill out of the rebels shooting at him as he flew over.  Barry was then recruited by the Medellin Cartel and soon, he was flying drugs into the United States while still working for the CIA.  While the President was declaring war on drugs, Barry was attending secret meetings at the White House.  The CIA set Barry up with his own airport in Mena, Arkansas, where he both trained anti-communist guerillas and arranged for the importation of cocaine into the United States.  This went on until both the CIA and the Colombians decided that Barry knew too much and was expendable.

It’s a pretty wild story and, at the very least, some of it is true.  It is generally acknowledged that Barry Seal worked for both the CIA and the Medellin Cartel and that the little town of Mena, Arkansas was, briefly, the very unlikely center of America’s drug trade.  The film places most of the blame on Ronald Reagan and the Bushes.  Of course, if you ask any of the older folks in Arkansas, they’ll tell you that Bill Clinton not only knew about the cocaine coming in to Mena but that he also snorted at least half of it up his nose.  Director Doug Liman, himsef, has said that American Made was inspired by the life of Barry Seal but that its shouldn’t necessarily be considered a biopic.

Despite a few scenes where the film tries a bit too hard to duplicate the style of American Hustle, American Made is an entertaining film.  That’s largely due to Tom Cruise’s performance as Barry.  Cruise plays Barry Seal as man who, no matter what the situation, always managed to have a good time and, watching American Made, you can’t help but suspect that Tom Cruise was having an equally good time playing him.  Cruise is at his most relaxed and charismatic in American Made, even managing to deliver his lines in a passable Southern accent.  (The rest of the cast is less successful, too often sounding quasi-Texan even though they’re playing Arkansans.)  Even after his whole operation has fallen apart and Barry knows that his days are numbered, you get the feeling that he wouldn’t change a thing.  He just seems like he’s happy to have had the experience.

(For me, Cruise’s best moment comes after Barry crashes his airplane in a suburban neighborhood.  Stepping out the wreckage, covered in cocaine, Barry steals a kid’s bike and says, “You didn’t see me!” before triumphantly riding off.  It’s potentially cartoonish but Cruise sells the scene and makes it work.  I was sad to discover, while researching this review, that this apparently didn’t actually happen.)

I liked American Made.  It never quite becomes the savage critique of American foreign policy that it appears to want to be but it’s still an entertaining film and a reminder that, weird religious beliefs aside, Tom Cruise is actually a pretty good actor.

Horror Film Review: The Mummy (dir by Alex Kurtzman)


Oh, where to start?

The Mummy was promoted as being the first entry in Universal’s new Dark Universe, a shared cinematic universe that would supposedly do for the classic monsters what the MCU did for super heroes.  (Of course, horror fans with a good memory remember that Dracula Untold was originally supposed to be the first part of the Dark Universe franchise but, after that film bombed with both critics and audiences, Universal announced, “We were just kidding.  The Dark Universe starts with The Mummy.”)  The Mummy was released in June and it got absolutely decimated by critics.  That wasn’t too surprising.  One could tell from the commercials that, even with 2017 being a good year from horror, The Mummy was not going to be a critical favorite.  But then, audiences rejected it as well, throwing the whole future of the Dark Universe franchise into limbo.

To be honest, I think The Mummy could have been a fun little movie if it had only been 90 minutes long and hadn’t gotten bogged down with all that Dark Universe nonsense.  There are a few moments that actually do work, though they are few and far between.  The film stars Tom Cruise, who is a veteran at handling nonsense and who gives a somewhat lighter version of his standard Mission Impossible performance.  Jake Johnson shows up as a talking corpse and he has a way with a sarcastic line.  Some of the special effects are effective, though The Mummy is often far too dependent upon them.

The plot is damn near incoherent and it didn’t take long for me to give up on trying to follow it.  The film started with a bunch of crusaders moving in slow motion and then it jumped forward to modern-day Iraq, where Sgt. Nick (Cruise) and Cpl. Chris (Johnson) uncovered an ancient tomb.  Apparently, opening the tomb unleashes Princess Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), who is thousands of years old and is still alive because she was cursed to be both immortal and buried alive.  So, now, she’s free and apparently, she wants Nick to merge with Set, the Egyptian god of all things evil.  But Nick doesn’t want to be evil.  He just wants to save the lives of Chris and Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), an archeologist who basically has the same role that Natalie Portman had in the first Thor film.

Meanwhile, Russell Crowe is wandering around as Dr. Jekyll.  This is where the whole Dark Universe things kicks.  Dr. Jekyll is in charge of this secret organization that keeps tabs on all the paranormal stuff that’s happening in the world.  However, if Dr. Jekyll doesn’t regularly get his injection, he turns into evil Mr. Hyde.  In this movie, that means that Crowe suddenly starts talking with a cockney accent.  I’m assuming that, much like Samuel L. Jackson did for the MCU, Russell Crowe is meant to link all of the Dark Universe films together.  Of course, the difference is that the early MCU films usually only had Jackson show up at the end of the movie, often in a post-credits scene.  Crowe, on the other hand, pops up out of nowhere, takes over a huge chunk of the film, and then vanishes.  I was already having enough trouble trying to keep up with the Mummy’s schemes without having to deal with a random Mr. Hyde sighting.

The Mummy is a mess.  When it starts, it’s a likable mess, with Cruise and Johnson exchanging silly lines.  But then the movie gets caught up in trying to launch a franchise and it all goes downhill from there.  There’s even a scene where Ahmanet stands in the middle of a London streets and starts throwing cars around.  It’s such an MCU scene that I was surprised Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t come flying by.  If The Mummy had just been a content to be a silly monster movie, it could have been fun.  But instead, The Mummy tried to launch an entire universe and it just wasn’t up to the task.

Lisa’s Too Early Oscar Predictions for May


Be sure to check out my predictions for April, March, February, and January!

Best Picture

Battles of the Sexes

Blade Runner 2049

Call Me By Your Name

Darkest Hour

The Disaster Artist

Downsizing

Dunkirk

The Glass Castle

Mudbound

Wonderstruck

 

Best Director

Luca Guadagnino for Call Me By Your Name

Alexander Payne for Downsizing

Dee Rees for Mudbound

Denis Villeneuve for Blade Runner 2049

Joe Wright for Darkest Hour

 

Best Actor

Chadwick Boseman in Marshall

Tom Cruise in American Made

Matt Damon in Downsizing

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour

Miles Teller in Thank You For Your Service

 

Best Actress

Judi Dench in Victoria and Abdul

Kirsten Dunst in Woodshock

Brie Larson in The Glass Castle

Carey Mulligan in Mudbound

Emma Stone in Battle of the Sexes

 

Best Supporting Actor

Steve Carell in Battle of the Sexes

James Franco in The Disaster Artist

Armie Hammer in Call Me By Your Name

Woody Harrelson in The Glass Castle

Jason Mitchell in Mudbound

 

Best Supporting Actress

Holly Hunter in The Big Sick

Melissa Leo in Novitiate

Julianne Moore in Wonderstruck

Kristin Scott Thomas in Darkest Hour

Naomi Watts in The Glass Castle