Paula Wagner

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Jack Reacher Review


Very Good

Tom Cruise may be oddly miscast in this big action movie, but he certainly knows how to make one of these preposterous films connect with an audience. And writer-director McQuarrie adds a driving sense of internal logic that keeps it consistently enjoyable. So even if the hero in Lee Child's series of novels is a 6-foot-5 blond-haired, blue-eyed muscle-man, the cast and crew get away withThe story takes place in Pittsburgh, where a multiple shooting leads Detective Emerson (Oyelowo) and DA Rodin (Jenkins) to a withdrawn gun nut (Sikora). It seems like an open-and-shut case until man of mystery Jack Reache (Cruise) turns up. An off-the-grid ex-Army agent, Jack offers to help defence attorney Helen (Pike) prove her client's innocence. Of course, he instantly solves the case, uncovering a conspiracy and putting himself and Helen in danger from a ruthless Russian (Herzog) and his henchman (Courtenay). Meanwhile, Jack befriends a gun-range owner (Duvall) who has a connection to the case.

There's clearly an attempt here to echo Bourne-style questioning of identity and morality through Jack's hazy history and super-spy methodology. And the plot is also packed with far-fetched details and silly connections (Helen is Rodin's daughter), although McQuarrie does his best to keep things plausible and intelligent enough to hold our attention. There's also a sense of the bigger issue in Jack's life, that he can't cope with the grey-scale relativity in society and prefers right-or-wrong battlefield morality. He also hates modern-day connectivity, refusing to carry a mobile phone. But then he doesn't travel with a vehicle, weapon or change of clothing either; he prefers to "borrow" everything as needed.

Despite being nearly a foot shorter than the literary Jack, Cruise inhabits the role nicely, offering a slightly scrapper, more shadowy version of his Mission: Impossible character. But he's just as sexless, never putting much oomph into his flirtation with the always terrific Pike. On the other hand, he generously lets his costars steal every scene. Duvall is hilariously offhanded, while Herzog adds his own mad genius into his role as a, well, mad genius. And Oyelowo more than holds his own opposite these veteran hams. So even if the film never tries to be anything more than a ripping, mindless thriller, the stylish filmmaking and cool characters make it an enjoyable waste of time.

Continue reading: Jack Reacher Review

Vanilla Sky Review


Good
The single best scene in Vanilla Sky, and maybe in the entire year of cinema, takes place right at the beginning of this film. On the surface it's not anything that special, just a scene of Tom Cruise, running panicked through Times Square in New York City. Only Times Square is completely devoid of traffic or pedestrians. As is every street we can see down. New York, effectively, is empty. Whether this was done legitimately or with digital effects (or a combination of both), I don't know. And I couldn't tell, either. It's a powerful shot to launch what should have been a powerful movie.

Sadly, it's a bit downhill from there. While Vanilla Sky is a solid effort, it's unfortunately short of genius. The very project is a bit curious. Is Cameron Crowe, the permanent teenager responsible for perfectly good yet light-as-a-feather comedies like Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, up to the challenge of remaking a Spanish psychodrama? Crowe goes through the motions, and from time to time he proves that he can handle heavier material, but Vanilla Sky is too murky to be much more than a holiday distraction -- far from the cult classic that the original Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) has become.

Continue reading: Vanilla Sky Review

Elizabethtown Review


OK
Soundtracks to Cameron Crowe's movies are often as memorable as the films themselves. Crowe's most famous marriage of cinema and song has to be John Cusack's radio hoist to the beat of Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Three years later, the 1992 relationship comedy Singles tapped into Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains before Seattle's music scene flamed out. And Almost Famous reminded us of the unifying power of Elton John's "Tiny Dancer."

Crowe's uncanny knack for turning up the volume has allowed countless scenes to soar to their potential. One problem nagging Elizabethtown, Crowe's most awkward project to date, is that the director is obligated to crank the knob again and again to overcome bland performances and missed emotional connections. He has assembled another astonishing collection of inspirational rock tracks, but for the first time the soundtrack outshines the accompanying movie by a long shot.

Continue reading: Elizabethtown Review

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Paula Wagner Movies

Jack Reacher Movie Review

Jack Reacher Movie Review

Tom Cruise may be oddly miscast in this big action movie, but he certainly knows...

Vanilla Sky Movie Review

Vanilla Sky Movie Review

The single best scene in Vanilla Sky, and maybe in the entire year of cinema,...

Elizabethtown Movie Review

Elizabethtown Movie Review

Soundtracks to Cameron Crowe's movies are often as memorable as the films themselves. Crowe's most...

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