Podhoretz on Movies: Edge of Oblivion

 

Editor’s note: This week, we’re introducing a new feature. Our favorite movie critic/podcast host/raconteur, John Podhoretz will pick a movie he has recently reviewed for The Weekly Standard and discuss his review and the movie. This week, John reviews and discusses the new Tom Cruise movie, The Edge of Tomorrow. 

Movie stars go cold. It’s part of the way popular culture works. For a long time, people just love watching them. People can’t get enough of them. And then, after they go to the well once too often with a formula that has gone flat, or after their messy personal lives get all mixed up in the characters they’re playing, stars become even slightly distasteful.

Tom Cruise

TOM CRUISE

Just in the past year, it’s become clear that Will Smith, for a decade the biggest star in the world, has lost it. And after two enormous flops, Johnny Depp—who single-handedly earned Disney nearly $3 billion in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies—can’t get anyone to see him in anything else. Adam Sandler, an incredibly reliable money-maker in his self-produced fare for the better part of two decades, can’t get audiences to the theaters. And this past week has shown that Tom Cruise has now indisputably fallen into the also-ran category as well. His latest vehicle, a $175 million futuristic war epic calledEdge of Tomorrow, was a major box-office disappointment in its opening days.

The Cruise case is especially interesting because, of all the A-list Hollywood actors over the 30 years he’s been a star, he has distinguished himself in his effort to make the best movies he can—not good little movies or indie-film character studies, but high-quality fare intended to reach large audiences. That is particularly true of Edge of Tomorrow, which—until a dull climactic sequence and a stupid coda—is a genuinely inventive and thrillingly clever picture.

Read the rest of The Weekly Standard review here, then come back to Ricochet and discuss it.

 

There are 43 comments.

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  1. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    So much for my brief, not-so-glorious movie reviews here. I can’t compete.

    My wife and I saw and really liked this movie, and the Groundhog Day comparisons were readily available (she referred to it as Groundhog Day on Steroids). However we both agreed that though the situation was similar, the story and characters were strong enough for the movie to stand on its own.

    I suppose Cruise has lost his star power for the reasons the article lists. Oddly, I haven’t seen any of those incidents because I just avoid that kind of television. It’s kept me free from Cruise meltdowns and Kardashians which works great for me. Still, this is not the first time I’ve seen Cruise’s troubles mentioned.

    An interesting note: I hate the shaky cam, but it’s used to perfect effect here. Early in the film when Cruise has no idea what’s going on, it reflects his confusion. Later in the film, the camera steadies out more, making deliberate movements to reflect his growing confidence. There’s something to be said for taking such a tool and using it exactly as it’s needed.

    • #1
  2. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Haven’t seen this film but just caught his prior one, Oblivion, on cable.  I avoided it in the theater because I’m not a big Cruise fan and it looked like another special effects sci-fi movie but I found it, and him, surprisingly good though the first half of the movie was stronger than the second.

    • #2
  3. John Podhoretz Contributor
    John Podhoretz
    @JohnPodhoretz

    Hey, C.U.: Don’t quit writing movie reviews! No one should have a monopoly on such a thing. Just as you would feel free to express your political or ideological views, you should feel no compunction about talking culture.

    Mark: Oblivion isn’t terrible–it’s very pretty, among other things–but it builds up almost no tension and once the “big reveal” is revealed, it all unfolds in an utterly predictable fashion.

    • #3
  4. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    I enjoyed the leisurely pace of the first part of the film precisely because it was different from the usual incoherent and noisy mess films like this tend to be.  You’re right that once it became clearer what the film was about it got weaker.

    By the way, I’m a long time subscriber to Commentary.  Just reading the new issue right now.

    • #4
  5. user_339092 Member
    user_339092
    @PaulDougherty

    Have you seen Goon? How did the Academy miss Liev Schreiber for a supporting role.

    As for Tom Cruise, I think the public is less impressed by the Actor than the content of movie.  Mr. Cruise has been solid (e.g. Tropic Thunder).

    • #5
  6. Big John Member
    Big John
    @AllanRutter

    I liked the movie and have liked the last few things he’s done (even as Jack Reacher, despite the mismatch with the source material).  I think one problem with the box office for EOT was the decision to tie the release to D-Day rather than understand that the untold legions of John Green fans were going to swamp the theaters regardless of the merits of their movie.

    And yes, Mr. P, many celebrities would do their careers and society at large a world of good if they could keep quiet.

    (I was also intending to say something nice about Doug Limon’s work, until IMDB reminded me that he also directed Jumper and Fair Game–the Valerie Plame movie).

    • #6
  7. Laconicus Member
    Laconicus
    @

    I just don’t get the fuss about Tom Cruise’s Oprah/Brooke Shields appearances. I’m more put off by the small-talk-superficiality of such tru-celeb fare in general though than by anyone’s particular superficiality, so I’m probably the wrong person to judge.

    • #7
  8. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Let me turn the tables and tell the reviewer why I have no intention of seeing this movie.

    War of the Worlds = Tom Cruise in a blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie. Oblivion = Tom Cruise in a blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie. The ads for Edge of Tomorrow? Tom Cruise in a blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie. I’ve already filled my quota for blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movies. 

    Tom Cruise starts the movie off as a shallow, hollow guy … who develops into a sharing caring guy. Top Gun, Jerry Maguire, Rain Man. Quota filled.

    I’ve already seen the movies before. Why pay for the same experience again? Especially if, as I suspect at my local cineplex, all of the popcorn was made at the same time also?

    • #8
  9. Beowulf's accountant Member
    Beowulf's accountant
    @
      1. KC Mulville:

        Let me turn the tables and tell the reviewer why I have no intention of seeing this movie.

        I’ve already seen the movies before. Why pay for the same experience again? Especially if, as I suspect at my local cineplex, all of the popcorn was made at the same time also?

        I know what you mean.  I really liked the  John Wayne movie “Rio Bravo.”  “El Dorado” was good too.   “Rio Lobo” was okay.  But  “Del Boca Vista, Phase III”   No mas. 

      • #9
    1. Perry Palmer Inactive
      Perry Palmer
      @PerryPalmer

      Tom Cruise doesn’t tell me how to vote. I like him!

      • #10
    2. Wintermute Member
      Wintermute
      @Wintermute

      I am a fan of  John Podhoretz after being introduced to him by the GLOP podcast and I like the idea of discussions that use his movie reviews as a jumping off point.  I followed the link to The Weekly  Standard but after several failed attempts to get to the second page of his review, I gave up.  I was trying from the road using my iPad and the usual lousy “free” wireless service at my hotel.  Maybe I’ll try again when I am back home.

      • #11
    3. thebeekeeperkissedme Inactive
      thebeekeeperkissedme
      @thebeekeeperkissedme

      I liked this movie and was suprised by it, expecting it to be a gamer kids film with hyper language beyond my ken. But it held me, entertained me, and as my first 3D experience, it wow-ed me.

      I saw a bit of it being filmed, and was thrilled to see scenes I saw being shot, on the screen. 

      The lack of big name cast also helped as the characters stood on their own merits. Big moments for me were the helicopter landing in Trafalgar Square and the flight in over Whitehall -London comes off good in this movie – and the destruction of the caravan, trailer to you.

      • #12
    4. John Podhoretz Contributor
      John Podhoretz
      @JohnPodhoretz

      Listen, whether you see a movie I review or you don’t doesn’t put a nickel in my pocket, so enjoy or don’t enjoy. Pretty much the sole point of a piece of pop-culture writing is to entertain, just as is the case with a work of pop culture. So if you read it and enjoy the reading of it, good. If you don’t go see the movie, whatever.

      • #13
    5. Songwriter Inactive
      Songwriter
      @user_19450

      JP – Your review of the film should be required reading for all entertainers.  When will they learn to do their work and then be quiet?  And the corollary lesson for the American public is: Just because a person is talented & pretty, and makes popular music or movies doesn’t make them an expert on everything else.

      • #14
    6. Ed G. Member
      Ed G.
      @EdG

      KC Mulville:

      Let me turn the tables and tell the reviewer why I have no intention of seeing this movie.

      War of the Worlds = Tom Cruise in a blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie. Oblivion = Tom Cruise in a blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie. The ads for Edge of Tomorrow? Tom Cruise in a blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie. I’ve already filled my quota for blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movies.

      Tom Cruise starts the movie off as a shallow, hollow guy … who develops into a sharing caring guy. Top Gun, Jerry Maguire, Rain Man. Quota filled.

      I’ve already seen the movies before. Why pay for the same experience again? Especially if, as I suspect at my local cineplex, all of the popcorn was made at the same time also?

       Right on KC. For me, it’s all about the “blue-gray tinted, CGI futuristic action movie”. With shaky-cam action to boot. No more please. I can even take repeating character types and plots (John Wayne is naturally charismatic and the plots are all basically the same, but those settings and backdrops have an almost infinite appeal.

      • #15
    7. Steve C. Member
      Steve C.
      @user_531302

      The Weekly Standard has a bad habit of adding a page 2 whose only content is the author’so by line. On a related topic, NR irks me because they don’t have the option of “see all”.

      • #16
    8. Blue Yeti Admin
      Blue Yeti
      @BlueYeti

      I saw the movie on opening weekend and liked it much more than I thought I would. I’d argue that the film failed at the box office not because of “Cruise fatigue” but rather because the movie was terribly marketed — almost none of the humor of the film was included in the marketing materials and the title is a generic word jumble that gives no clue to the idea, tone, and wit of the film. 

      In a 500 channel, no spare time, buyer’s market for entertainment time and dollars, this is studio malpractice of the highest order. The team at the Warner’s Bros. marketing department owed Cruise and Doug Liman an apology for failing to do their jobs.

      • #17
    9. user_128948 Member
      user_128948
      @JohnLawton

      I too enjoyed the movie more than I expected, after being initially put-off by a tone-deaf element at the very beginning of the film. As the Tom Cruise character arrives at the London headquarters building, he introduces himself (or is introduced) more than once as a member of “the American military.” No US service member would say such a thing! He would identify (proudly!) as Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine or Coast Guard. I realize this is science fiction, but the willing suspension of disbelief should not be carelessly squandered. This is clearly the near future, with recognizable TV news channels and anchors. Did no one on this production notice this? Did any of my fellow Ricochet members?

      • #18
    10. Manfred Arcane Inactive
      Manfred Arcane
      @ManfredArcane

      It was a great movie.  Cruise continues to make movies that are better than 95% of the others that Hollywood puts out.  If the public doesn’t turn out to see them, it’s their problem, not his.  He has nothing to be ashamed of.

      • #19
    11. John Podhoretz Contributor
      John Podhoretz
      @JohnPodhoretz

      Steve C.:

      The Weekly Standard has a bad habit of adding a page 2 whose only content is the author’so by line. On a related topic, NR irks me because they don’t have the option of “see all”.

       Are you a paying subscriber? If so, then you should write to them and complain. If not, you should subscribe. If you don’t subscribe, you’re getting gold for free and have no right to complain.

      • #20
    12. Albert Arthur Coolidge
      Albert Arthur
      @AlbertArthur

      I like Tom Cruise quite a lot, and I’d even kind of like to watch this movie. But I live in Brooklyn and movie tickets cost $85 or something. For some reason, I went to see Amazing (ie “boring”) Spider-Man and X-Men: Huh? already this year and now I don’t think I have enough money to see anything else.

      AMC’s Turn was an absolutely fantastic show that aired this spring, though. I highly recommend everyone check it out. It’s about colonial spies in the Revolutionary War. jPod might even like it, since there’s no magic in it.

      • #21
    13. Rawls Inactive
      Rawls
      @Rawls

      The phenomenon of celebrities falling out of favor after too much of their awful personal lives are aired out in public is an interesting subject. It bears out music a lot too. It consistently takes down musicians.

      Casting an eye toward the current crop of musicians primarily subscribed to by teenyboppers, Taylor Swift has played the long game beautifully by being a good person. She’s been inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame before turning 30, she does a ton of charity work, she’s a spokesperson for Coke, and she will have a long, long career for as many years as she wants. On the other hand you have Miley Cyrus and the Beibs, who’s “rebel” antics may give them a short term boost in popularity via sensational headlines, but both of them will face a lot harder road trying to maintain a lasting career.

      On the other hand you have celebrities with so much star power nothing they could ever do could stop their careers. Keith Richards, who is  a disgusting individual, comes to mind.

      • #22
    14. genferei Member
      genferei
      @genferei

      John Podhoretz:

      Steve C.:

      The Weekly Standard has a bad habit of adding a page 2 whose only content is the author’s by line. On a related topic, NR irks me because they don’t have the option of “see all”.

      Are you a paying subscriber? If so, then you should write to them and complain. If not, you should subscribe. If you don’t subscribe, you’re getting gold for free and have no right to complain.

      This isn’t right, John, and you know it. When I tried to read page 2 of your review – and thinking there was a page 2 made me read it in such a way that the retro-actively abrupt ending spoiled the effect you were reaching for – I was confronted with the usual bazillion ads competing for my clicks. That makes me the product, not the ‘gold’ content. Steve C isn’t alone in finding this practice obnoxious: a sentiment you would think the folks at WS would want to know about, since they are trying to sell our attention to their advertisers.

      • #23
    15. John Podhoretz Contributor
      John Podhoretz
      @JohnPodhoretz

      genferei:

      John Podhoretz:

      Steve C.:

      The Weekly Standard has a bad habit of adding a page 2 whose only content is the author’s by line. On a related topic, NR irks me because they don’t have the option of “see all”.

      Are you a paying subscriber? If so, then you should write to them and complain. If not, you should subscribe. If you don’t subscribe, you’re getting gold for free and have no right to complain.

      This isn’t right, John, and you know it. When I tried to read page 2 of your review – and thinking there was a page 2 made me read it in such a way that the retro-actively abrupt ending spoiled the effect you were reaching for – I was confronted with the usual bazillion ads competing for my clicks. That makes me the product, not the ‘gold’ content. Steve C isn’t alone in finding this practice obnoxious: a sentiment you would think the folks at WS would want to know about, since they are trying to sell our attention to their advertisers.

      I know no such thing. You’re reading content for free. Your click is worth maybe .000000000000000000001 cent. Suck it up.

      • #24
    16. Blue Yeti Admin
      Blue Yeti
      @BlueYeti

      I enjoy a good debate about web publishing business models as much as the next guy, but perhaps we should talk about whether or not Emily Blunt has the chops to be the next Sandra Bullock?

      • #25
    17. genferei Member
      genferei
      @genferei

      John Podhoretz

      When I tried to read page 2 of your review – and thinking there was a page 2 made me read it in such a way that the retro-actively abrupt ending spoiled the effect you were reaching for – I was confronted with the usual bazillion ads competing for my clicks. That makes me the product, not the ‘gold’ content. Steve C isn’t alone in finding this practice obnoxious: a sentiment you would think the folks at WS would want to know about, since they are trying to sell our attention to their advertisers.

      I know no such thing. You’re reading content for free. Your click is worth maybe .000000000000000000001 cent. Suck it up.

      And they wonder why publishing is in permanent crisis.

      Let’s start again:

      Hey, John! Love you on the podcast! Did you know your review is badly formatted on the WS website? I really detracts from what is otherwise a cute take on Cruise. You might want to have someone drop a line to their webmaster to get that fixed so everyone can enjoy the article. I, too found Reacher a nice performance, despite the huge contrast with the character in the books.

      • #26
    18. John Podhoretz Contributor
      John Podhoretz
      @JohnPodhoretz

      Couple of final points: If you’re saying publishing is in crisis because people get stuff for free and then complain about the way it’s delivered, I agree with you entirely. That’s why Commentary is following Ricochet’s lead and asking our most serious readers to join the tens of thousands who already subscribe–so we can keep doing what we do.

      Second, Emily Blunt seems to be losing speed on her fastball as she rises in the ranks of major actresses. She was enchanting in “The Adjustment Bureau” but I found her rather dull in “Edge of Tomorrow.” 

      Third, Cruise was very good as Reacher, though he sure wasn’t the Reacher of the books. That said, the Reacher of the books is kind of a ridiculous character–not only infinitely skilled and smart but 6’4″ and with the looks of a Greek god. Not to mention how preposterous the plots are, including the one used for the movie. Anyway, we’re not going to see Reacher on screen again.

      Fourth, the problem with guys like Tom Cruise is that they’re 52 and no one wants to see movies about 52 year-olds, which makes me sad, as I’m 53 and absolutely fascinating.

      Thanks, you guys. Been fun.

      • #27
    19. genferei Member
      genferei
      @genferei

      Thanks, you guys. Been fun.

      And thus John effortlessly wins his bet with Rob that having him in the comments on Ricochet wouldn’t, in fact, be a great idea.

      Another great Cruise performance, in my opinion, was Collateral.  The talk at the time was ‘Cruise Does Bad’, but he had done plenty of Bad before. (Risky Business is pretty morally ambiguous, after all.) Nice gun work in Collateral, too.

      • #28
    20. John Podhoretz Contributor
      John Podhoretz
      @JohnPodhoretz

      • #29
    21. Blue Yeti Admin
      Blue Yeti
      @BlueYeti

      genferei:

      Thanks, you guys. Been fun.

      And thus John effortlessly wins his bet with Rob that having him in the comments on Ricochet wouldn’t, in fact, be a great idea.

      Another great Cruise performance, in my opinion, was Collateral. The talk at the time was ‘Cruise Does Bad’, but he had done plenty of Bad before. (Risky Business is pretty morally ambiguous, after all.) Nice gun work in Collateral, too.

       My favorite Cruise performance, hands down, is Jerry Maguire.  Love that movie. He was also excellent in the mediocre Magnolia. I also liked what he did in The Color of Money. Held his own against Paul Newman, which is not easy. 

      • #30

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