Previous Joints

Friday, 30 August 2013

Tom Cruise: The Great

While watching Oblivion, I found out some very interesting information from my other half. “Do you know that Tom Cruise made Katie Holmes have a baby in silence?” Truth is, I didn’t know that. I accepted my lady’s premise that, if true, this was cruel. Even if that was the case I failed, and still fail, to see why I should care and why that should influence my feelings on Oblivion.

For the record, Oblivion is a good film – not spectacular, just good. It’s a comfort blanket of a film. Nothing about the film is remotely surprising, whether it be negative or positive. Most importantly, Tom Cruise is his usual competent and reliable Hollywood superstar self. But the way my missus made it sound, that just isn’t enough anymore.

In fact, it isn’t just the missus who has beef with Tom, have a look the public discussions about Mr Cruise for the past decade, I wager the majority of it has little to do with his on screen exploits and more to do with what religion he follows.

I get that people want to read about Tom’s big bad thugs spying on Katie or a woman who says she was auditioned to be his wife – all of this is sexy tabloid stuff and is to be expected when you have reached the status Cruise has. It no longer holds people’s attention to just be good at your job, they want something more interesting and Tom Cruise’s personal life is just that… apparently.

The press are doing to Tom Cruise exactly the same as what they did to Michael Jackson. They are trying to find the Wacko in Cruise and as soon as he got on top of that famous black lady’s sofa, they had their fodder.

It also doesn’t help that Cruise hasn’t had the greatest of film runs after that PDA moment – Lions for Lamb, Valkyrie, Knight and Day and Rock of Ages are beneath his talents. But putting these films to one side, Tom Cruise still has a stellar filmography post his jumping the Oprah shaped shark. World at War, Mission Impossible 3 and 4, Tropic Thunder, Jack Reacher and the aforementioned Oblivion are not slouch movies, but they don’t stretch Cruise’s acting muscles either. But, again, what is wrong with that? Hasn’t Tom Cruise earned his right to just be good instead of being great?

It is actually shocking when you list the great films and performances Tom Cruise has under his belt. You almost have to double check to see whether you have it right or whether you are thinking about another actor.

This guy has Risky Business, Top Gun, Rain Man and Born on the Fourth of July on his CV. After this he goes on to make his equivalent to Michael’s Thriller, Beat it and Billie Jean moment with the films A Few Good Men, The Firm and Interview with a Vampire. He doesn’t stop there, after that hot streak he goes on to make Mission Impossible, Jerry Maguire, Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia. Admittedly after Magnolia his luck ends – if there is anyone on this earth that likes Vanilla Sky, please contact me and let me know why. He does get back on track with the fantastic Minority Report ( a truly wonderful film), the underrated The Last Samurai and a film which keeps getting better with every watch, Collateral.

Collateral is one of the most interesting films in Cruise’s catalogue. It once again shatters the perception that Cruise has one gear as an actor and never takes risks. Like Interview with a Vampire and Magnolia and to a certain extent Rock of Ages, Collateral sees Tom Cruise play against type and to frightening effect.

I am genuinely scared of Cruise’s Vincent and that is a great compliment to an actor who I know is shorter than me and isn’t that physically imposing. You watch that film expecting Mr Cruise to be as charming and charismatic as always, which he is but it is soured by a neck chilling menace which never escapes you from the moment he’s on screen to the moment he takes his last train ride.

I think there is a deep intelligence to his role in Collateral. It is one thing to play a villainous vampire with a cake load of make up on your face and fake teeth, but to convince a world that knows you as the all-conquering hero and Mr Action Man that you are a bad motherf**ker takes a very talented actor indeed. Not many high status leading men in Hollywood can do it – Will Smith, for example, hasn’t showed nearly as much versatility as Cruise.

Do I think Tom Cruise is nuts? Maybe, 
but he’s religious, being nuts comes with the territory? I can’t prove any of the crazy ass stories about his personal life and truth be told, I don’t care. All I know is that Tom Cruise is one of the greatest actors of my life time. I know that to be fact.

Tom Cruise has shown breath taking consistency as an actor, consistency that only few working actors share. A Few Good Men, Collateral and especially Minority Report are some of my favourite films of all time and Cruise was a big reason why I enjoyed those films.

It took the death of Michael Jackson for people to look at his work and ignore his personal life. What people found was, despite his quirkiness (mildly putting it), Jackson was a genius. I hope it doesn't take such an extreme event for people to see the same in Tom Cruise.

                     Mission Bear

Friday, 23 August 2013

Headhunters is the Sh*t

I remember when the Norwegian film Headhunters (Hodejegerne) was playing at the cinema and everyone was raving about it. Everything Scandinavian was the rage at that time and for one specific reason I ignored Headhunters – it looked boring.

I have never seen a more boring trailer than the one for Headhunters. It looked generic and in my opinion, lifeless. Even when I read reviews about Headhunters it sounded boring (which bodes well for this one) and I damn near struggled to stay awake when people talked about the film. Well I made a pretty big mistake.

Simply put, Headhunters is a chase-thriller film in the same vein as your Terminator films. Instead of Arnie, you get the ex-military business man Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of Game of Thrones fame) going after a weasel of a man and the star of the show Aksel Hennie’s Roger Brown.

The real genius of this film is Hennie – how on earth I end up feeling sorry and rooting for Brown at the end of this film I will never know. Witch-craft is the only explanation.

Roger Brown is… where do I start. Roger Brown is a corporate headhunter by trade who appears to be very well off thanks to a supposed inheritance from his grandmother (or some relative). Roger Brown is married to the ridiculously beautiful Diana (Synnøve Macody Lund), a woman who is desperate to have his babies – something Roger is against from some stupid reason. Roger Brown also moonlights as an art thief, a pretty good and sophisticated one at that – so good he has the nation’s best detective after him. Finally, and most importantly, Roger Brown is a liar and Headhunters is about all of his lies coming back to haunt him.

What I find most fascinating about this film is not the action scenes or the shit (you know what I’m talking about when you’ve seen it) but the psychological make up of Roger Brown. As a vertically challenged man myself (although, a bloody handsome one at that) with a stunning woman by my side, you can’t help but feel insecure when a chiseled SOB like Clas comes along. Headhunters, at its heart, is about Brown’s insecurities as a man – he doesn’t feel like he is man enough to have a wife like Diana so he creates a false reality for himself. When Clas comes along, it isn’t the opportunity he represents financially that most affects Roger, it’s what he represents as a man. Clas is genuinely successful , taller than Roger and good looking – It’s fascinating to watch Roger dealing with his inner demons.

Headhunters is a brilliant film – a truly great thriller. I spent a lot of my time “oohh”-ing and “ahh” –ing and “no ways”-ing throughout the film. That is a big deal for me, for too long I have felt numb to the thriller-genre in films and it takes quite a bit to impress me - Headhunters did that.

Headhunters is also the first foreign film which I would love to be adapted. For some reason I think Headhunters could translate very well to an English/American audience. I think it’s message of masculinity is an important one that should be heard. 

Oh. And I dare you to watch THAT scene without gagging.

                          Chocolate Teddy Bear

Friday, 16 August 2013

500 Days (of brutal Summer)

When the film finished, my missus couldn’t wait to tell me how much she hated it. “It was sad. Why did you make me watch that for?”

That was the second time I watched Marc Webb’s film in a 24 hour period. I was so excited about what I had just experienced that I forced the film on my uber-romantic woman. I felt, and I still feel, that 500 Days of Summer is special. Not since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have I seen a film that portrays heartbreak in a way that I can relate to. 500 Days doesn’t tell the story of the sanitised, Hollywood heartbreak where there is a silver lining – it tells the tale of a woman who rips a man’s heart out and gangster leans her way out of his life. This is that real life, kick you in the nuts heartbreak – the sort of heartbreak that stays with you and will probably linger in your soul until your last breathe escapes you.


500 Days tells two stories – one about the relationship of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom and Zooey Deschanel’s Summer – and the second one about how Tom handles their break up.

I’ll be honest, this dynamic, the man in pieces over a relationship falling apart interested me the most because you rarely see it in mainstream cinema. There is nothing stereotypically masculine about Tom, he’s a mess from the start and my every being wanted to mock him, I wanted to tell him to man up. I wanted to recite a number of offensive Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre lyrics (“You can’t make a hoe a housewife” seemed appropriate) but the problem is I saw a lot of real world examples in his character. I’ve had to nurse my best friend out of a heartbreak and that wasn’t pretty – we laugh about it now but at that time it was bleak. Shit, I’ve had to recover from such a situation myself.

You come out of those situations hardened and unwilling to open up and admit that you're weak and fallible  You see that in Tom near the end of the film. This fucked me up because it not only reminded me of how dangerous women are (you’re all lethal ladies) but it also reminded me of how vulnerable men can be – it reminded me of a time when I was at my weakest.


Importantly, there is a strong 
willed, beautiful and intelligent woman at the heart of this film. Annoyingly, Deschanel’s Summer does nothing wrong in this movie. I spent the majority of my first viewing trying to find the hoe in Summer but there was none to be found.  Summer tells Tom exactly what she wants from a relationship and Tom ignores her.

The park bench scene near the end of the film is one of the most brutal things I have ever seen on screen in my life - as violent and as merciless as a gory thriller. After getting his life back in order, Tom sees the person that bombed it pieces in the first place and when he tells her that she was right not to believe in true love, what does Summer say? To paraphrase: “When I first saw my husband I knew (he was the one) what I wasn’t sure of with you”. Brutal. It hurt me deep.


So the question I kept asking after watching 500 Days was: do I consider Tom to be a man? Not biologically speaking, of course, but do I consider him to be representative of how a man should behave in such a situation? This may sound like a stupid, offensive and un-PC question, but you have to remember I am a product of a Christian African background with a dollop of Dr Dre’s Hip-Hop splashing somewhere in the melting pot.

I think Tom is a man. We expect women to carry the majority of the emotional baggage in depictions of relationship turmoil but what this film has reminded me is that times have changed. I could say that this film is important for how it presents women, but I think it is equally as important for how it portrays men. It is stunning in the way it shows our kind as completely weak and emotionally crippled beings - it's actually refreshing to see. Tom is what he is – a shattered man – and that’s ok.

                    Down and Out Chocolate