WEEKEND MOVIE MARATHONS: Tom Cruise

In anticipation of Top Gun: Maverick coming soon to a theater near you it seems appropriate to enjoy a Weekend Movie Marathon featuring one of the biggest box office draws of my youth in the 1980s. To opine that Tom Cruise in “real life” seems a bit enigmatic would be an understatement, but I have become pretty good at separating the person from the entertainer, and one cannot deny that he is the textbook definition of a movie star (whether one considers that positive or negative is a matter of personal preference). Perusing Cruise’s filmography of over fifty movies I can confidently say that there are atleast a dozen that I have enjoyed on some level, and as many that aren’t my cup o’ tea but are generally considered pretty good by the masses. That’s a batting average any baseball player would envy. So, while my taste may not align with yours, I believe what is presented here would be a rather entertaining weekend for most. 

Friday Night 

Risky Business

Imagine the pitch…”high school kid runs a brothel out of his house while his parents are away on vacation”. I feel like that would’ve only been greenlit in the 80s. Cruise had been a supporting player in a few notable films (TapsLosin’ ItThe Outsiders), but this was the movie that made him a star. The iconic scene when he makes us all reminisce about the days of old with Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock n’ Roll is still parodied four decades later, and I’d sacrifice a limb to ride the El train with Rebecca DeMornay (that scene is seared into the memory of many men my age). Risky Business was the eighth highest grossing film of 1983 (behind Return of the Jedi Trading Places but ahead of National Lampoon’s Vacation ET: The Extra-Terrestrial), and it has a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, it appeals on some level to nearly everyone. 

Saturday Matinee 

Rock of Ages

Large ensemble casts are tricky. While most films tend to provide a spotlight for one or occasionally two big stars, every once in awhile a movie will come along with such a stacked lineup of well known performers that we’re immediately intrigued before we even step into the theater, but that doesn’t guarantee quality. Rock of Ages was actually a Broadway play that premiered in 2005 before being adapted for the big screen seven years later. Is it a good movie?? Not really. The cast includes Dancing with the Stars alum Julianne Hough, goofball Russell Brand, highly underrated Paul Giamatti, lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones, 90s hip-hop legend Mary J. Blige, controversial Alec Baldwin, SNL alum Will Forte, Bryan Cranston before he became famous, and of course our guy Tom Cruise, none of whom, despite being an intriguing potpourri of actors, would prompt me to watch. No, for me it’s the music…covers of a plethora of 80s hits from the likes of Journey, Foreigner, Guns N’ Roses, Bon Jovi, REO Speedwagon, and many more. The plot is dumb & the performances are cheesy, but that’s not even important. Aside from the music the best part of Rock of Ages is Cruise’s scene chewing Axl Rose/Jim Morrison cosplay. If you love 80s music you won’t hate this movie.

Saturday Night 

Top Gun

Well, it is the reason we’re here, right?? It remains to be seen if making a sequel more than three decades later was a wise decision, but the original is inarguably legendary. Somewhere on this site I believe I once called Top Gun an 80s time capsule movie, and I stand by that assessment. I recently watched it again for the first time in many years, and was still entertained. 

Sunday Matinee

The Firm

The book is better, as is usually the case. However, an adaptation starring the likes of Cruise, Gene Hackman, Holly Hunter, Ed Harris, & Hal Holbrook stands pretty good on its own merits (plus, where else have we ever seen Wilford Brimley & Gary Busey in the same place??). I seem to recall that there was a bit of controversy because the ending of the film differs from that of the book. I usually get pretty riled up about such things, but in this case I am willing to overlook it. 

Sunday Night 

Cocktail

I feel like Cocktail is vastly underappreciated. The love story is pretty formulaic, but that’s not a deal breaker. There’s a fun supporting performance from Aussie Brian Brown (who is rather amusing in Along Came Polly as well), and Elisabeth Shue as Cruise’s love interest is at peak loveliness. “Flair bartending” is the term for what you see in the film, and I guess it’s a real thing. I don’t know…I don’t get out much. At any rate, Cocktail is a really interesting story for a couple of reasons. It won the 1988 Golden Raspberry for Worst Film, while that same year Rain Man (also starring Cruise) took home the Academy Award for Best Picture (there’s a reason that movie isn’t featured here). Also, while Rotten Tomatoes scores Cocktail at 7% (which, despite being atrocious, doesn’t even land it on the site’s list of 100 lowest rated films), it was the 9th highest grossing film of the year, ahead of great stuff like BeetlejuceScroogedBull Durham, and the aforementioned Oscar winning Rain Man. The dichotomy is fascinating & hard to explain. All I know is the cast is cool & the music (especially Kokomo by The Beach Boys) is delightful. Popcorn cinema doesn’t always need to be great.

WEEKEND MOVIE MARATHONS: Jim Carrey

“I’m retiring…probably. I have enough. I’ve done enough. I am enough.” That is what Jim Carrey said in a recent interview. Do I believe him?? Of course not. Much like boxers, pro wrestlers, & aging rock stars I don’t think actors ever really retire. They can always be coaxed into a “comeback” to enjoy the spotlight “one last time”. Carrey hasn’t been a hot commodity in Hollywood in several years, so I’m not sure anyone would notice if he really did quit altogether, but I feel quite confident in predicting that he’ll continue to make movies here & there. However, his “retirement” proclamation seems like a great excuse to enjoy a Weekend Movie Marathon, much like we’ve already done with Tom Hanks, Morgan Freeman, and Ivan Reitman.

Friday Night 

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

This stupid film is what made Jim Carrey a superstar. I say “stupid” with all due respect, because I have no problem with goofy, mindless, foolish entertainment that exists for no significant reason other than to make people laugh. No life lessons, no deep philosophies, no connection to real life whatsoever…just belly laughs, because laughter really is the best medicine. Since he never won a Super Bowl his supporting role in Ace Ventura may be Dan Marino’s greatest contribution to pop culture, and I’d love to shake the hand of the casting director who listened to Wild Thing Funky Cold Medina and decided Tone Loc would make a good cop.   Ace Ventura has a 49% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is expected. Actually, I’m surprised it’s that high given the austere disposition of most critics. Conversely, it was the 16th highest grossing film of 1994, making more money at the box office than Pulp Fiction & Tombstone amongst others. A sequel was released a year later, but the lightning had escaped the bottle. 

Saturday Matinee 

Man on the Moon

I’m all about biopics. I vaguely recall comedian Andy Kaufman from his supporting role on Taxi & his infamous altercation with pro wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler on Late Night with David Letterman in 1982, and at first I thought Carrey was an odd choice to portray him in a movie. The strange thing is that Carrey’s casting turned out to be the best decision amongst a host of poor choices made by the filmmakers, including having the actual cast of Taxi appear as themselves in scenes set nearly two decades earlier. Carrey should’ve been nominated for an Oscar, but had to settle for a Golden Globe. 

Saturday Night 

The Truman Show

Reality TV was barely a thing in 1998, making The Truman Show seem quite prescient in hindsight. Carrey stars as a man whose entire life has been a reality show, only he has no idea. It’s a dramedy, which is my wheelhouse, and the performances are terrific. This was the first time that Carrey was robbed of an Academy Award nomination, although Ed Harris was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (he lost). There is a scene near the end of the film when the whole world seems to be glued to their televisions to see what will happen with Truman. When the show suddenly goes dark (if you’ve seen the movie you know why) crowds of people are shown in a brief moment of confusion before simply changing the channel, quickly moving on & resuming their lives. It’s a fleeting yet powerful moment that serves as accurately cynical commentary on our society. 

Sunday Matinee 

A Christmas Carol

I’ve written extensively about A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella that has been adapted into a decidedly mixed bag of films in the past century. In 2009 director Robert Zemeckis gifted us with a motion capture digital animated version of the story, with Carrey portraying multiple characters (Ebenezer Scrooge, The Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, & Yet to Come). Motion capture seems to be an oddly polarizing technology…some people love it, a lot of folks hate it. Personally, I’m a fan. I also respect movies that remain faithful to the book they’re  based on, and this film is a remarkably authentic translation of Dickens’ tale, especially given the fact that it is animated. Critics & moviegoers had a tepid response, but it has become part of my annual Yuletide tradition.

Sunday Night 

Liar Liar

This is Jim Carrey at his comedic plateau. Sure, he made Me, Myself, & Irene (not terrible by any means) & Bruce Almighty (you probably like it better than I do, although I don’t hate it) afterward, but certainly his roles started to lean toward the dramatic and/or the completely forgettable as a new century dawned. The premise…an attorney who is unable to lie for 24 hours…is inspired. How we get there is reminiscent of the 80’s Tom Hanks classic Big, but I’m willing to overlook the mystical contrivance since it leads to a comic showcase for Carrey’s unique skills, a more polished rendition of his Ace Ventura persona. Critics & audiences both gave Liar Liar two thumbs up, and it was the third highest grossing film of the year (Titanic was released right before Christmas 1997, so it was the box office champ of 1998…but with just a couple of weeks in theaters it was still the 7th highest grossing film of ‘97).

POINTS OF PONDERATION…..EPISODE 2.22 

A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..

What is it with admins of Facebook groups?!?!?? 90% of the groups I follow are perfectly fine. They hum along smoothly, allowing fans of a particular subject/person/show/entity to enjoy content related to the topic that page was created to promote. However, every once in awhile you’ll run across some whiny lil dictator wannabe who probably lives in their parents’ basement & has toiled in a series of low paying, dead end jobs for the duration of their adult life, but now they perceive themselves as having some level of power & control simply because they help run a relatively meaningless page on a social media platform. It’s equal parts hilarious, aggravating, & pathetic. Get over yourselves. Your life is even more empty & miserable than mine, and that’s difficult to pull off. Just stop. 

While The Sickness & related madness seems to be subsiding a bit (here in America anyway…Canada, China, & Australia are evil personified that I won’t tackle right now), it’s still a thing to a degree. I saw a post from a local establishment looking to hire part time help, and it was mentioned that employees must be vaccinated. I scoffed. Now, this place has tasty vittles, and I’ve tried to support them occasionally despite the fact that I really should be consuming veggies & fish rather than donuts, but I am against requiring vaccines for no logical reason. Not to beat a dead horse, but when the powers-that-be create a vaccine that actually prevents the malady it is purported to avert, then I will happily roll up my sleeve & take it. When fully vaxxed people stop dying, then perhaps I’ll hop onboard. In the meantime, why should some small town schlub like myself or any of my friends & neighbors have to get jabbed to prepare & sell delicious pastries or work at any other low paying service job?? It’s asinine. 

Look, I’m not a woman (in case you didn’t know), but I reject the notion that only women should have or express opinions about abortion. Both sides of the debate tend to present extreme scenarios to validate their viewpoints. If you believe all of my conservative friends then every case involves a lascivious 16 year old flippantly looking to escape the consequences of her poor decisions, or a selfish woman who is too busy with her career or carefree lifestyle to be bothered with a baby. If you believe my liberal friends then every case is a sob story situation involving a 13 year old rape victim, a mother who will die if they carry the baby to term, or a fetus that has so many deformities it’s basically a vegetable in utero with no hope for any quality of life. While I have no doubt that all of these things do happen, I’m not sure they are the majority of abortion cases. We tend to look for easy solutions to simple problems, but few things in life are that straightforward. I don’t have any answers, but I do think it’s a topic worthy of intelligent, thoughtful, gracious contemplation. Can we manage that?? Are we capable of such civility anymore??

The older I get the more I appreciate total silence. I have multiple people in my life who talk & talk & talk & talk and freakin’ talk some more, all the while saying absolutely nothing of value in any way, shape, or form. It’s maddening, and quite frankly I’m completely sick to death of it. I find these interactions legitimately depressing, as they are indications of how terribly awry my life has gone. I almost wish I could move to the woods like Walden or find a deserted island like Tom Hanks in Cast Away (sans the horrific plane crash), except for the fact that I enjoy modern conveniences like internet access, streaming TV channels, & two day shipping way too much. Y’all have no idea how many times a week I fake falling asleep or lie about having another call coming in simply to get rid of someone who is completely wasting my time & testing my patience. 

Speaking of social media…

I recently unfollowed a local bar/restaurant’s pages on Facebook & Instagram because the family that owns the place almost exclusively  posts pics & stories about their kids & their vacations. Look, I don’t give a damn about your child’s birthday party or how much fun y’all had at the beach. Put that stuff on your personal page(s). I follow a business page to get their hours of operation, view the menu, check for deals, & find out who the entertainment might be next weekend. If you want to be perceived as professional then act professional.