At the start of this special effects ego festival, Cruise as Hunt is crowing about his new ladylove. Sort of like his real-life couch-jumping fiesta with Oprah. Of course, Hunts affianced is dumber than a box of hair because she believes him when he tells her he works for the Virginia Department Of Transportation. Meanwhile, a villain, played to the hilt by Philip Seymour Hoffman (when he gets to be on camera, which isnt often), is after something called The Rabbits Foot. Its not important that the audience knows what THAT is because, well its really not explained, which is, of course, an insult to the audience. My guess is that its some kind of vial of nuclear liquid.
The villain gets angry with Ethan and kidnaps one of his IM Force trainees. This sends Ethan and his IM Force (including wasted talents like actors Ving Rhames and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) around the world to rescue the lass. But, during the films dreary two hour and six-minute running time, its all Cruise, most of the time. Frankly, watching this vanity production gets tiresome. Its not completely boring because movie pyrotechnics have a certain cinematic poetry. But, overall, it is tedious. Director J. J. Abrams (famous for creating TVs Lost, Alias, and Felicity) directs with an eye on his paycheck. Original camerawork is rarely part of the ensemble; its mostly: Set-up. Talk. Boom. Set-up. Talk. Boom.
And, of course, the talk is all about Ethan (Tom). Yes, Mr. Cruise, we get it. Youre huge. The star of the world. Youre fit as a fiddle and ready for love. But do people have to pay good money to see it?
Meanwhile, if summer blockbusters arent your thing and its not written in stone that they have to be; although I am anticipating The Da Vinci Code and Superman Returns, Art School Confidential and Kinky Boots are two interesting independent features you might want to check out. Neither is perfect, but both have some wit within the frame. Art School Confidential is from director Terry Zwigoff (Ghost and Crumb), who again works with screenwriter Daniel Clowes. The movie is half delicious satire and half failed murder mystery based on Clowes comic book story. Unfortunately, neither gentleman has Woody Allens talent or wed have another Crimes And Misdemeanors.
Max Minghella (son of director Anthony The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley) ably, if lightly, plays a college art student who, in order to succeed, steals some paintings from a failed and miserable drunken hulk of an artist (a wonderful Jim Broadbent). Maxs primary art teacher is a sarcastic and ennui-ridden man who spends years perfecting his own art myriad ways to paint a triangle. As gloriously played by John Malkovich, the guy is the center of the picture. He mocks and cajoles his students with rapier wit. The art school satire is spot-on. The competitiveness among these amateur artists is smartly stung. Max falls for a classroom nude model, Sophia Myles, but she seems to not even realize he exists. Meanwhile, a serial killer is skulking around the campus dispatching folks, but not with a paint brush.
Sadly, Zwigoff and Clowes have decided to have the parallel stories cross and its a messy intersection. Maxs hang-dog quality and virginal romantic aura clash with the murder subplot. If theres humor to be found in a killing spree, it isnt evident.
The British have a knack for working-class hero pictures like The Full Monty or Brasses Off. These are sweet, slight, but satisfying comedies. Now weve got Kinky Boots. In a quiet English village, a shoe factory faces closing. The founding father has died and his son sees the writing on the wall. Outsourcing is a bad thing. One night while in London, he rescues a drag queen from a bashing and admires her boots. Before you can say Milan Fashion Week, the drag queen is the outsider in the village and hes designing fabulous boots in order to keep the workforce cobbling. Will the startled townspeople accept Her Ladyship? Will the son marry his long-time, albeit annoying, girlfriend or will he fall in love with one of the employees? Will the shoe critics in Milan love those kinky boots? Its all light and airy and genuinely fetching. Tom Cruise: the eternal teenager; plus two indie sparks
By Michael Calleri ALT Online Movie Editor
I think Ive finally figured out Tom Cruise. Peter Pan is alive and well, and hes using Cruises name. Theres really no other explanation for what Tom is delivering: the manic personality, the gee-whiz hand-in-the-cookie-jar persona, the unlimited energy, and the boundless enthusiasm for his new gal pal Ms. Katie Holmes. Even if she and Cruise never marry, Holmes will walk away with a reported (by MSNBC) $15-million in cold hard cash should the relationship end. And if neither has a major motion picture coming out, theres probably no need to let the romance continue.
Cynical? You bet.