Cruise Still Bankable, Phoenix Still Talented – The Week in Movies
Every so often Tom Cruise returns to the summer screen to remind us that, while we may not care for him offscreen, he is a Movie Star. An Action Star. A built-in summer blockbuster waiting to happen. This is the weekend for that.
Also, Joaquin Phoenix continues in his quietly indie approach to dominating awards season, a goofy Cartoon Network TV show proves how late we are in the season, and Joan of Arc gets a musical. Huh.
Mission Impossible: Fallout
by George Wolf
Tom Cruise’s next mission — and he’ll most likely accept it — is to try and outdo the stunts he pulls in this latest Mission: Impossible entry. Good luck with that, because Fallout delivers the GD mail.
It’s an action film that hits on nearly every cylinder, thrilling enough to elevate the value of the other five films in the franchise.
Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (a frequent Cruise collaborator) returns from 2015’s MI: Rogue Nation, leaning on that solid foundation while he ups every ante, delivering not only his most impressive work as a director, but his most complete screenplay since The Usual Suspects.
Cruise’s Ethan Hunt draws the ire of his IMF boss (Alec Baldwin) and his boss’s boss (Angela Bassett) by choosing the lives of his team (Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg) over a stash of rogue plutonium. To keep that payload from the highest bidder, they have no choice but to accept help from agent August Walker (Henry Cavill and the ‘stache that ate DC), a “kill now-ask questions later” bruiser.
Sly, self-aware references ground the film any time it’s in danger of reveling in some Bond-ish excess, with plenty of well-placed surprises that—even when they’re not that surprising—help ease the bloat of a 2 1/2 hour running time.
These stunts— from rooftop to mountaintop, crowded streets to midair and beyond— are showstoppers, with Cruise so electric, a t-shirt proclaiming “movie star” would not be out of place under Hunt’s endless supply of tight black jackets.
Say what you what about the summer movie season so far, Fallout is here to make you remember how breathlessly fun it can be.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
by Hope Madden
In case you are missing it, Joaquin Phoenix is having one hell of a year. The inarguable talent is fresh off the relentlessly wonderful You Were Never Really Here (watch it right now!). Later this year we’ll get the chance to see him in Mary Magdalene as well as Jacques Audiard’s Western, The Sisters Brothers—both films boasting extraordinary casts.
Sandwiched in between his turns as gun-for-hire (YWNRH) and Jesus (MM), the clearly versatile actor portrays quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan in Gus Van Sant’s biopic Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.
Phoenix charms and breaks hearts in equal measure as Callahan. What the actor conveys in breathtaking fashion is discovery. After Callahan’s accident, and through his fleeting moments of clear-headedness, the character affords Phoenix many opportunities to recognize, accomplish or notice things for the first time. His interaction with an adorably saucy sex therapist, for instance, is pure joy.
His is not the only wonderful performance in the film. Jonah Hill effortlessly conveys a wearied tenderness that reminds you how truly talented an actor he is. Jack Black has a small but gloriously Jack Black role, and the AA group (Udo Kier, Beth Ditto, Mark Webber, Kim Gordon and Ronnie Adrian) offer rich and interesting characters regardless of their minimal screen time.
And, while the 12-step structure feels both too stifling and too familiar for such an irreverent central figure, Van Sant bursts through that frame with a non-chronological series of vignettes and wild antics. As interesting and entertaining as these flashes are, the chaotic lack of chronology fits so poorly with the rigid timeline of the film around it that the whole feels a little like an experiment gone wrong.
But so much of the film goes very, very right, thanks in large part to another award-worthy performance by Phoenix.
Teen Titans Go! to the Movies
by Hope Madden
Directors Aaron Horvath and Peer Rida Michail (both from the Cartoon Network TV series) bring the same zany, juvenile, self-aware sensibilities to the big screen that burst for years from the small one.
Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Beast Boy and Starfire aren’t being taken seriously by the superhero community. What they need is their own superhero movie! Everybody else has one! That’s how you know you’re really a hero, and not just a sidekick with a bunch of costumed goofball buddies.
What follows is a comment on the over-saturation of the superhero film punctuated by a lot of poop jokes.
The voice talent from the TV show (Scott Menville, Hynden Walch, Khary Payton, Greg Cipes and Tara Strong) is joined by big names (Kristen Bell, Nicolas Cage, Will Arnett, Patton Oswalt, Jimmy Kimmell) in fun cameos.
There are laughs—some of them tossed with a surprisingly flippant sense of the morbid—and energy galore, but it’s all a kind of sugar rush. It’s fun for about 22 minutes, but by minute 23, you’ll be checking your watch.
By minute 50, you will be squirming restlessly in your seat.
By minute 93 you may have that fidgety kid next to you in a headlock, but who’s to blame him for kicking and wriggling and causing a ruckus? He’s as bored as you are!
Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc
by Cat McAlpine
Screening this week only at Wexner Center for the Arts
Jeannette is beautiful, absurd, and a true test of endurance. I’ve read that Bruno Dumont does not cast experienced actors. That much is painfully obvious from a litany of bizarre deliveries, missed high notes, and the ultimate theatre sin: I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-hands thigh slaps.
In harsh contrast to the period, pastoral landscape, and costuming is the original soundtrack from avant-garde band Igorrr, full of electric guitar riffs that all sounded the same even 20 minutes in. The accompanying choreography, always including stomping and head banging, is as bizarre as it is uncomfortable.
After the third pitchy prayer to god by doe-eyed Lise Leplat Prudhomme, I stopped asking Jeanette to be a musical. I waited for Jeanette to simply be… whatever it wanted to be.
Hark! Deliverance! Director Dumont hits his bizarre and delightful stride when identical twins Elise and Aline Charles play Madame Gervaise simultaneously. They speak quickly and flatly, alternating between speaking in turn and in unison. “I” they chorus. They chastise Prudhomme’s Jeannette for questioning God. They are the Tweedledee and Tweedledum of eternal suffering.
Later, the Charles sisters appear as floating visions of saints. I realize that Jeanette is unfolding like a Medieval epic poem. Characters call to God, visions appear from nowhere, and the choreography mimics the exaggerated gestures of much older theatrical performances. The longer scenes drag on the more they make insane sense.
There’s a glimpse into the true absurdity of Dumont’s vision when we finally see into an older Jeanne’s home (played now by a righteous Jeanne Voisin, much better than her young counterpart). Jeanne’s brothers, with no lines, undulate as her father sings their work order for the day. Her uncle (a green but intriguing Nicolas Leclaire, who raps instead of singing) writhes in the corner, throwing in a few dabs for good measure.
The height of lunacy is where Dumont is most brilliant. If anything, his greatest hindrance was not going big enough. Dream on, my dear Dumont. Surely you’re doing something important for the rest of the film world. It’s just not my jam. And that’s okay.
Also opening in Columbus:
After Auschwitz (NR)
Dark Money (NR)
Dead Night (NR)
Under the Tree (NR)