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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Tom Cruise

Box Office: 'Madagascar 3' beats Cruise, Sandler films [Video]

June 18, 2012 |  4:00 am

Madagascar 3 was the No 1 film at the box office this weekend
Two of Hollywood's biggest stars couldn't pull in as many ticket sales as "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" did at the box office this weekend, because the cartoon was the No. 1 pick yet again.

For the second consecutive weekend, the 3-D animated flick featuring a band of zoo animals topped the box office. The DreamWorks Animation movie raked in an additional $35.5 million, bringing its domestic total to $120.5 million.

Meanwhile, a new musical featuring Tom Cruise and a raunchy comedy starring Adam Sandler flopped. "Rock of Ages," which stars a high-profile cast including Cruise, Russell Brand and Alec Baldwin, only debuted with a lackluster $15.1 million. Sandler's R-rated "That's My Boy" fared even worse, starting with a weak $13 million.

So why didn't audiences turn up to see two of the country's biggest movie stars? Check out this week's box office video report for more details.

--Amy Kaufman


Photo: A scene from 'Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted." Credit: DreamWorks Animation.

'Rock of Ages': '80s-inspired musical is off-key, critics say

June 15, 2012 |  3:58 pm

Rock of Ages

"Rock of Ages," adapted from the stage musical of the same name, is set amid the 1980s rock scene on the Sunset Strip — but it's also, to put it in contemporary terms, something of a mash-up, sampling songs from the era (by Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Foreigner), Broadway flourishes and Hollywood tropes (including a "Footloose"-style killjoy). Tom Cruise is the headliner, playing an aggrandized rock god named Stacee Jaxx, and Adam Shankman ("Hairspray") directs.

Although Cruise's outsize performance is earning praise from critics, many reviewers are saying that "Rock of Ages" fails to hit the right notes.

The Times' Kenneth Turan is among the critics giving "Rock of Ages" a positive review, declaring it  "a triumph of genial impudence over good sense and better taste" and "the guiltiest of guilty pleasures." The film succeeds, Turan writes, "because of its unlikely combination of a guileless, thunderously cliched boy-meets-girl plot structure conveyed in a sophisticated, showbiz-savvy style." The acting helps too, with "a sterling group of supporting actors to keep us entertained" and especially "fearless work" by Cruise.

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CinemaCon: Tom Cruise bares 'fantastic' backside in 'Rock of Ages'

April 25, 2012 | 11:13 am

With "Rock of Ages," Tom Cruise is aiming to show audiences a different side of himself. Literally.

In the first scene of the upcoming musical, the actor will reveal his backside, says director Adam Shankman. Cruise's buttocks have made on-screen appearances before, in "Far and Away," "Jerry Maguire" and "Eyes Wide Shut." But at 49, he's still not ashamed of showing off a little skin, said Shankman.

"We were filming a scene and I told him, ''You do know when I come around, I'm gonna see your [butt]?'" the filmmaker recalled this week in Las Vegas, where he was on hand at the CinemaCon theater owners convention to promote the June release. "And he's like, 'Is there any way to shoot around it?' And I said, 'No.' And he said, 'How is it?' And I said, 'It's fantastic.' And he said, 'OK, well then let's shoot it.'"

In "Rock of Ages," an Cruise plays Stacie Jaxx, an aging, out-of-control rocker whom Shankman describes as a mix of Axl Rose, Bret Michaels and Keith Richards. To prepare for the role, Cruise had lunch with Jon Bon Jovi, though the director says the actor wasn't able to garner much about bad-boy behavior from the "humble, down-to-earthy" singer of "Dead or Alive."

"It wasn't so much that there was a rock star I wanted him to emulate," said Shankman. "It was the fact that these guys lived in a world where no one said no to them, during a period where they were not conscious of things like AIDS. They were literally children run amok."

Shankman admitted he was initially hesitant to direct a jukebox musical, which is based on a popular 2006 Broadway musical. But after the filmmaker attended a performance of the show in New York City and saw how "every straight guy in the house knew the words to every song," he changed his tune.

He'd discussed working on a musical with Cruise before, and after the actor expressed how much he loved Shankman's 2007 take on "Hairspray" -- saying it was his daughter Suri's favorite movie -- the two decided to team up for "Rock of Ages." 

"I think it's a risk that we're both really excited about how it turned out," said Shankman. "When this opportunity came up, I thought, 'If he can pull this off, people will go crazy.' It's a real performance. It's an incredible show of talents no one ever thought he had."


CinemaCon: Footage of 'The Hobbit' draws mixed reaction

CinemaCon: 'The Dictator' rips Jeffrey Katzenberg, Rich Ross

CinemaCon: Chris Pine, talking 'Guardians,' nods to J.J. Abrams

--Amy Kaufman in Las Vegas


Photo: Tom Cruise stars in "Rock of Ages." Credit: Warner Bros.

The week in film: Tom Cruise, Woody and 'Bridesmaids'

January 6, 2012 |  4:48 pm


We're not even a week into 2012, but already some interesting story lines are developing. Tom Cruise has re-emerged as a major movie star with the ongoing success of "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"--but will the momentum carry over to his next roles?

Meanwhile, both Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" and the Kristen Wiig-anchored comedy "Bridesmaids" show some awards chops. We break down the stories from the past week in Hollywood.


Are Tom Cruise and Woody Allen starting to switch places?

Woody Allen nominated for a WGA award for Midnight in Paris

Bridesmaids: Judd Apatow wants an Oscar comedy category

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: The cast of "Bridesmaids." Credit: Universal Pictures




Are Tom Cruise and Matt Damon starting to switch places?

December 28, 2011 |  7:00 am

Matt Damon in "We Bought a Zoo."
Four years ago, you would had to have been as crazy as, well, Tom Cruise on Oprah's couch to bet against Matt Damon. The Massachusetts-born actor was coming off one of the biggest movies of the year in "The Bourne Ultimatum" and was part of the reason for the blockbuster success of "Ocean's 13."

Damon pretty much had his pick of directors, and in the years that followed, he made good on that capital. He reunited with Steven Soderbergh and Paul Greengrass, this time in less commercial films, and also did turns with Clint Eastwood, the Coen Bros. and Cameron Crowe.

After all those prestige bids, it's not a stretch to say that Damon has solidified his place as one of the best actors in his peer group. But even his most ardent supporters would have trouble saying he's a commercial draw. A-listers take nondescript movies and elevate them into hits. Damon seems to forever be stuck in a middling midrange. If that.

Many of his movies over the past four years have been disappointments — "Invictus," "Hereafter," "The Informant!" and "Green Zone." And now "We Bought a Zoo" has struggled in its early days of release. We won't even get into "Margaret."

Of this recent burst, Damon had only three movies that could be reasonably called successes — and two of those ( ("The Adjustment Bureau" and "Contagion") only modest ones. A third film, "True Grit," was a mega-hit, but for all the appeal of his dandyish LaBoeuf character, Damon seemed to be riding the coattails of Jeff Bridges and the Coens.

Contrast that with Cruise. Four years ago, he couldn't have been colder. He had acrimoniously split with Paramount, then got himself involved in some Nazi-eyepatch mockery while shooting "Valkyrie." He tried going his own way when he starred as a snaky politician in  "Lions for Lambs" (a domestic debacle), and was generally seen as taking himself way too seriously, even for a messiah-esque action star. 

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'Mission: Impossible': A Dubai landmark aims for film history

December 21, 2011 |  3:47 pm

In “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” Tom Cruise's super spy Ethan Hunt scampers up the facade of the Burj Khalifa, the needle-like structure that punctures the clouds high above Dubai.

Audiences have been delighted by Cruise's stunts, which he performed himself — the A-lister swings from a high point on the 240-story structure, the tallest building in the world, and even kicks in a few windows.

But as cinematic symbols go, the Burj is an oddity. Most action sequences set astride modern skyscrapers happen considerably west of here. Superman flew up the Eiffel Tower. Godzilla palmed the Empire State Building. And in “Independence Day,” aliens blew up the U.S. Bank Tower.

The Burj is trying to, well, top them all.

Opened only last year, the 2,717-foot-tall building was designed by the American architect behind Chicago's Trump Tower and is named after Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a ruler of neighboring Abu Dhabi who supported the project. The leaders of this glitzy and monied Emirate and the real-estate giant Emaar Properties built the Burj (which means “tower”)  to attract attention and tourism--and, as this is Dubai, because they could.

Their idea was to give this city a signature structure, as well as a large-scale home for hotels, offices and residences (though the little secret is that the 2008 financial crisis has resulted in a high vacancy rate, leading some wags to proclaim that the Burj Khalifa is not only the world's tallest building but also its emptiest).

Viewed from the outside, the Burj is impressive, a collection of overlapping cylinders that resembles a cross between a rocket ship and a collection of ultra-modern smokestacks. Its slender sleekness has the effect of making it seem even taller. But can it take its place among cinema's enduring icons?

Some of this city's residents think so. On a recent Thursday, a man who identified himself as Moaz was standing at its base marveling at the “M:I” connection. “The movie is good for Dubai. It helps a lot of people know about the city, and the building.” (Filmmakers decided to shoot at the Burj because of the conduciveness to big stunts, the novelty factor and, less officially, the marketing appeal it gives the movie in this part of the word.)

The people who operate the Burj Khalifa are not shy about the Cruise connection. In the building's lobby entrance, a corner has been cordoned off as a sort of “M:I” shrine. Behind a velvet rope sits Brad Bird's director's chair and a photo of Cruise at the building. The actor inscribed the photo to Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai whose face is omnipresent in this coastal city.

“Thank you for making the impossible possible,” Cruise wrote. No matter how much money you have or how many people you rule, there's no credibility like movie-star credibility.

One local, however, was less inclined to see things that way. “The building is good for Tom Cruise,” said the man, who was dressed in a traditional kandura and gave his name as Abdullah. “Not the other way around.”

Though striking to look at, the experience of entering the Burj is more prosaic. Visitors access the building through the Dubai Mall in a non-descript storefront entrance across from a Subway sandwich shop and a Mrs. Fields cookie outlet. It costs about $28 — nearly the same price as three “M:I” tickets — and requires advance booking of several days for a ticket to the observation deck.

After passing through security, it takes some time to reach the elevator that will whisk you high above the city. You're led, to a soundtrack of New Age music, through winding corridors adorned with grand proclamations of the Burj's greatness. “It is an unparalleled accomplishment in the history of mankind,” reads one sign.

Still, the view from the observation deck of the 124th floor lives up to some of the hype. Looking down (sans stunt harness), it's hard not be struck by how high up you are, not only above the ground — people look like action figures, cars like Hess trucks — but above the other buildings, as though you're standing on the wing of an airborne plane.

Much like the experience of watching a Tom Cruise movie, to peer down from the top of the Burj Khalifa is to find yourself asking life's big questions. What is our place in this vast world? What are the limits of man's ability to conquer his physical domain? And is wearing a keffiyeh on a skyscraper's windy observation deck really a good idea?

Riding down after witnessing the world from such a vantage point, it's easy to continue to ponder the rich mysteries of the universe. And, maybe, more Dubai-centric matters too — video ads in the elevator promote apartment rentals in the tower.


Movie Review: 'Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol'

Rock of Ages: Tom Cruise tries something scary — singing

'Mission: Impossible': Stars get spousal support at premiere

--Steven Zeitchik in Dubai, United Arab Emirates


Photo: The Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Credit: Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

'Rock of Ages': Tom Cruise tries something really scary: singing

November 7, 2011 |  5:00 am

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise risked life and limb filming action sequences at the top of the world's tallest building for "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," but he said that wasn't any scarier than the singing required for his first musical, the just-wrapped "Rock of Ages."

"They all have their risks," Cruise said with a laugh of playing rocker Stacee Jaxx in Adam Shankman's adaptation of the Tony-winning 2006 musical, which featured songs by jukebox heroes such as Bon Jovi, Styx, Journey and Pat Benatar. Among the tunes Cruise belts out in the film: "Pour Some Sugar on Me."

Shankman is coming off the foot-tapping success of "Hairspray," while Cruise, inspired by his dance-loving wife, Katie Holmes, is taking a true genre gamble even as he celebrates the 30th anniversary of his first screen appearances ("Endless Love" and "Taps" both came out in 1981). The action star said Holmes' influence is also why he added some memorable dance-floor moves to his Hollywood agent performance in "Tropic Thunder."  

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Brad Bird: Tom Cruise has ruined me for other actors

September 28, 2011 |  2:05 pm

Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

Fans might run hot and cold on Tom Cruise these days, but on the set, every filmmaker seems to adore him. Brad Bird, director of Paramount's upcoming "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol," is no different.

"He's ruined me for everyone else," says Bird, who makes his live-action directorial debut in December after minting a major Hollywood profile with animation powerhouse Pixar. "I'm not going to understand after this point why any actor doesn't want to do all of their own stunts and hang off of a mile-high building. He truly loves the movies and the movie-making process, and he knows a ton about it but is incredibly polite and shows up on time and has done all of his homework."

Bird and Paramount Pictures are taking an unprecedented approach with "Ghost Protocol" by releasing it five days earlier than its Dec. 21 opening date at more than 200 Imax theaters, as reported over at our sister blog Hero Complex. But it's not clear if a franchise that has been away for nearly six years is up to the assignment it has chosen to accept.

A major centerpiece of the film, which stars Cruise as Ethan Hunt and features an ensemble cast that includes Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton and Simon Pegg, is the tense action sequence filmed at the top of the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai skyscraper that stands as the world's tallest building.

Cruise risked life and limb doing the stunt work, and Bird said the veteran actor was both a resource and raconteur on the set, which was valuable considering the tight shooting schedule for the film.

"He's made for movies the way Michael Phelps is built for swimming," two-time Oscar winner Bird said. "You look at the directors he's worked with too, it's a who's who. Scorsese and Kubrick and Spielberg and Oliver Stone — when Oliver Stone was making better movies — and Michael Mann and Sydney Pollack and on and on and on. It's kind of stunning. Not every one of them was a great movie, but he's worked with great directors over and over again, and you can engage him in those conversations."


Brad Bird: 'Mission: Impossible' opening early at IMAX

Why can't Tom Cruise escape himself?

'Ghost Protocol' looks for acceptance

-- Geoff Boucher

Photo: Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, left, Paula Patton plays Jane, Simon Pegg plays Benji and Jeremy Renner plays Brandt, right, in a scene from "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol." Credit: Paramount.

'Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol' begins to look for acceptance [Trailer]

June 29, 2011 |  2:18 pm

The new trailer for Tom Cruise's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" opens with some highly specific plot setup: An attempt to blow up the Kremlin has resulted in the U.S. government disassociating from all members of the Impossible Mission Forces espionage agency. The team will get framed for it, but then be given a chance to escape.

It's an intriguing premise, and almost makes up for the moments that follow, a quick succession of fade-outs that seem cut to both maximize style points and headaches. There are some cool shots, particularly one involving Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper, and a welcome first  glimpse of Jeremy Renner (as a possible rival, not successor, to Cruise's Ethan Hunt). The trailer also gets an extra dose of street cred, courtesy of the Eminem-Pink collaboration "Won't Back Down." But it's mostly a cursory collection of explosions and chases.

Animation guru Brad Bird ("The Incredibles") makes his live-action debut with the latest "MI" film, which opens over Christmas after a nearly six-year hiatus for the franchise.


Why can't Tom Cruise escape himself?

--Steven Zeitchik


A Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson reunion?

October 5, 2010 | 12:54 pm

EXCLUSIVE — Here's a truth we could handle: Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson sharing the big screen again.

The two A-listers, who famously squared off in a courtroom in the 1992 blockbuster "A Few Good Men," could be teaming and going on the run in  "El Presidente," late-night writer Dan Goor's action comedy about a dedicated Secret Service agent assigned to protect a bumbling and degenerate ex-president.

Warner Bros. has made an offer to Nicholson for the presidential part, while Cruise has attached himself to the project as the agent, according to several people familiar with the film. The studio could not immediately be reached for comment.

The potential pairing of these top stars, which has piqued Hollywood in recent days, is also likely to tantalize fans. In Rob Reiner's "Men," Cruise, as lieutenant judge's advocate Daniel Kaffee, defends two court-martialed Marines and famously questions Nicholson's Col. Nathan Jessep, who volleys back with the classic line, "You can't handle the truth."

The Reiner movie became a cultural phenomenon and drew $243 million worldwide as well as a best picture Oscar nomination.

Attachments and offers of course are not legally binding, and there's no guarantee that the movie will move forward with these stars. News that Warner Bros. had bought and is developing the script was first reported Monday in The Wrap.

In "El Presidente," the Cruise and Nicholson characters, while opposites in temperament, wouldn't be antagonists — they'd actually be on the run together when a threat is made on the life of the ex-president. But Nicholson would get to play a colorful, flawed older man against Cruise's devoted idealist. Now that's a truth we've handled before.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men.'"Credit: Columbia Pictures.


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