Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

Rocks In The Attic #899: Hans Zimmer – ‘Mission: Impossible 2 (O.S.T.)’ (2000)

Despite being released in 2000, this film couldn’t be any more ‘90s if it tried. It’s John Woo in the director’s chair and suddenly the first film, in the comparatively safe hands of Brian De Palma, starts to feel like a long time ago.

Falling somewhere between a faux-sequel to Face/Off and a rip-off of the style of The Matrix, Mission: Impossible 2 is really the only duffer of the series. The Matrix might have been influenced greatly by the Hong Kong cinema of John Woo, but here he shows his hand in Hollywood, and he’s only got a pair of twos.

Even the great Robert Towne (again) can’t save the screenplay, which feels like it’s been defecated out of a Hollywood script-meeting. It’s all style over substance. The cinematography is tacky, Tom Cruise’s hair is tacky, the dialogue is tacky, the plot is tacky, the editing is tacky, the action sequences are tacky, and those gratuitous slow-mo shots? Tacky!

What should also be tacky is Hans Zimmer’s flamenco stuff on the score, but I quite like it. It’s almost as good as Michael Kamen’s work on the­ Lethal Weapons, Die Hards and License To Kill, and in general Zimmer’s score belongs in a better film. My only gripe is that he leans a little too heavily into the fabled Mission: Impossible Theme. Danny Elfman’s score for the first film held this back and dropped it at just the right moment.

Speaking of Tom Cruise’s cringe-worthy haircut, I wonder if there’s any correlation between the floppiness of his hair and the critical flops in his career around the turn of the century? This film might have done okay financially, but it was a critical disaster, and you have that other floppy-haired turkey, Cameron Crowe’s Vanilla Sky, around this time too. The only role that bucks the trend is in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, but it seems a bit of a stretch to call that a Tom Cruise film.

The opening credit sequence follows on from those of the first film, and start to look a little like what the Marvel and DC film idents have become. We’re introduced to Mad Russian Doctor, who’s being chaperoned by the Cruiser. Only it’s not the Cruiser, it’s bad guy Dougray Scott in a Thomas Cruise Mapother IV mask (available at all good Scientologist souvenir shops). Woo leans a bit too heavily on these masked ruses, and you have to wonder whether that’s what attracted him to the film inn the first place, having stretching the concept beyond all elasticity in 1997’s Face/Off.

We’re introduced to diamond-thief Thandie Newton, who looks about 8-years old, and you have to wonder if any child-labour laws are being violated. The short scene in the bathtub, and the whole start of Newton and Cruise’s relationship feel a little too close to the Clooney / Lopez dynamic in Out Of Sight. At this point, you have to wonder whether Woo and Towne actually brought anything original to this project, or just took beats from Hollywood’s Greatest Hits of the prior five years.

It’s nice to see William Mapother in the cast as one of the henchman. Forever linked to the role of Ethan in TV’s Lost, this marks the third collaboration with his cousin Tom, and it wouldn’t be the last. For some reason (nepotism?) he’s even credited as a ‘special consultant’ on the film. I was just happy to see the famous Mapother nose on screen again, on such a weirdly striking face.

The motorbike stuff at the end of the film is just as ludicrous as the helicopter sequence in the first film, and it’s arrived at tenuously: a couple of henchman appear out of nowhere, on a small island, on motorbikes, and it makes no fucking sense. These are then requisitioned by Cruise and Scott for their final battle. It’s bonkers.

In summary, as sequels go this really is a stinky number two. John Woo personifies the directing style of ‘more is less’, making Michael Bay look subtle in comparison. He nearly ruins the film by turning Ethan Hunt into an acrobatic superhero. Tom Cruise should be commended for rescuing the franchise from such a blunder (with a little help from J. J. Abrams and Brad Bird).

Hit: Mission: Impossible Theme

Hidden Gem: Nyah (Film Version) – Hans Zimmer featuring Heitor Pereira

Rocks In The Attic #895: Danny Elfman – ‘Mission: Impossible (O.S.T.)’ (1996)

I love everything about this film. The cast, the music, the story, the TV-show credit sequence, the whacky Hitchcock close-ups in the aquarium bar, ALL OF IT! It nicely manages to sidestep a lot of the cheap visual effects that burden a lot of mid-‘90s blockbusters (as long as you ignore that preposterous helicopter sequence). It also helps when you can build your 20-minute action centrepiece around a man hanging from a rope in a room.

The European setting of the film’s first and third acts feel like the start of what would become a trope in Hollywood. After this, it seemed like everything in the spy genre was set in Europe – and this is still ongoing with films like Atomic Blonde and The Old Guard. Ronin – also brilliant – and The Bourne Identity were the first ones that felt clearly influenced in this respect.

And whatever happened to Emmanuelle Béart? She’s great in this, but seems to have avoided Hollywood ever since. My wife astutely pointed out that her part could have been played by Elizabeth Olsen, they look so similar, if it was cast today.

Here’s a starter for ten. Is Tom Cruise purposefully invoking other action stars in this film, possibly in an effort to become one himself? He starts off in a dinner-jacket (James Bond), then a white singlet (John McClane), then a black leather jacket (Mad Max?). I may be overreaching here…

Ving Rhames and Jean Reno are both brilliant, and the ambiguity of their motives is handled well. De Palma shoots their first scene superbly, an incredible introduction. It’s nice that Rhames has been a constant throughout the series, while it’s a shame that Reno turned out to be a bad egg – he lights up any film, and he would have been a great addition to the rest of the films. I find Ethan’s relationship with Luther much easier to get on board with than his later partnership with Simon Pegg’s Benji, which has always felt a little too contrived for me (although it more than has its moments). You do get the impression at the end of Mission: Impossible, when Ethan and Luther are celebrating with a pint, that this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.

De Palma’s split-diopters are all really good, and perhaps not as jarring as they are in some of his earlier films. This is his twenty-second film of (at the time of writing) twenty-nine, and probably his most successful alongside The Untouchables. Danny Elfman’s choice as composer feels possibly studio-led, and it’s difficult to imagine what the score would have been like by De Palma regulars Donnagio or Morricone. I’m not too much of a fan of Elfman – his bonkers composing can feel a little out of place when he’s not scoring Tim Burton – but his contribution here feels quite restrained. I especially like his smattering of bongos from time to time, which immediately conjures up Lalo Schifrin’s work on the original TV series. Elfman doesn’t lean on that well-established Mission: Impossible Theme, but when he does drop it into the helicopter sequence, it’s magical.

I’m playing a beautiful reissue by Mondo Records, on ‘Red Light-Green Light’ split-coloured double vinyl, and featuring spot-on ‘60s style artwork.

Hit: Mission: Impossible Theme

Hidden Gem: Mole Hunt

Rocks In The Attic #809: Eric Clapton – ‘August’ (1986)

RITA#809After a lacklustre start to the decade, Eric Clapton really picked up the pace on this and its follow-up, Journeyman. Both covers feature photography by the recently departed Terry O’Neill, depicting a stylish, more mature Clapton. This maturity can also be heard in the songwriting, which finds a plaintive Clapton in a new spot, looking back at his life. The instrumentation is also similar across the two records, utilising the same band of Michael Jackson sideman Greg Phillinganes on keyboards, Nathan East on bass and Phil Collins on drums.

The album kicks off with It’s In The Way That You Use It, featured in The Color Of Money, the 1986 sequel to The Hustler, starring Tom Cruise and Paul Newman. But as commercial as that song is, there’s far stronger material to be found throughout the album.

RITA#809aTearing Us Apart features a vocal duet with Tina Turner, who returns to provide backing vocals on Hold On. The real highpoint though is Behind The Mask, the album’s closer and its only Top 20 single. Starting life as a song by Yellow Magic Orchestra, Quincy Jones heard the song and had Michael Jackson write new lyrics for it, eventually recording it during the Thriller sessions. Unreleased on the eventual album, Greg Phillinganes then recorded a version of it for his 1984 solo album, Pulse, before Clapton covered it on August.

My favourite track though is Miss You – a slow burning electric blues, with a soaring lead guitar from Clapton. It’s a fantastic taster of the kind of material and production that makes Journeyman such a joy to listen to. August is a great start, but Journeyman is clearly the better album.

Hit: Behind The Mask

Hidden Gem: Miss You


Rocks In The Attic #773: Lorne Balfe – ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout (O.S.T.)’ (2018)

RITA#773Mission: Impossible films shouldn’t be this good.

The series felt like it started off as a ‘90s vanity project for Tom Cruise, unforgivably doing away with the IMF team of the TV series in the film’s first act. But it was directed by a very-much-still-in-the-game Brian De Palma, and the supporting cast – Jon Voight, Emanuelle Béart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas and Vanessa Redgrave – elevated the film to being far more than just another Tom Cruise flick.

Then the second one came along in 2000 – arguably the only duffer of the series. Again, it was a superstar director – John Woo – behind the camera. Despite the misstep in tone, it’s RITA#773aa good thing they pushed on. The third film in 2006 – directed by J.J. Abrams – put the series back on course, before the peak of the franchise came with Brad Bird’s Ghost Protocol in 2011. Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation arrived in 2015, before the same director helmed Fallout last year. 

Six films, five directors – De Palma, Woo, Abrams, Bird, McQuarrie (only McQuarrie has directed two). Six films, five composers – Elfman, Zimmer, Giacchino, Joe Kraemer and Lorne Balfe (only Giacchino scored two). It would be easy to put the strength of the sequels down to the ever-changing writers and directors, working together to keep the franchise fresh and ever-changing, but lots of long-running film series have a revolving door of writers and directors.

The answer has to be in the Cruiser’s role as producer – the only constant throughout the whole run. It’s a testament to Cruise and his production team that they’ve managed to maintain such a high standard, given the usual decline in quality of Hollywood sequels.

Fallout was probably my favourite action film of 2018. The bathroom brawl sequence was undoubtedly my favourite action scene of the year – just an unbelievably brutal scene, and all credit must go the stuntmen and choreographers who brought it to life.

As a lifelong Bond fan, I’m always well-attuned to the occasional franchise coming along and overshadowing 007. We had it with the Bourne films, and it’s now happening with the Mission: Impossible films. ‘Bond is finished,’ people will say on social media, completely oblivious to the fact that the Bond films are now as strong as they ever were in terms of appeal and Box Office. It’s a simple solution: the cinemas can accommodate both. The Mission: Impossible films are not better or worse than the Bonds, they’re just different. May they continue for a long time.

Hit: Mission: Accomplished

Hidden Gem: The Exchange


Rocks In The Attic #525: Various Artists – ‘Cocktail (O.S.T.)’ (1988)

rita525God, I miss the shameful optimism of 1980s mainstream American cinema. Yes, it was soulless (at times) and offered little in the way of substance (again, at times), but I really have a deep feeling of nostalgia for helicopter tracking shots of American cities, soundtracked by the likes of Starship’s Wild Again. Throw a bit of neon in there, and a glimpse of bikini, and I’m hooked.

I’m a child of the 1980s so America has always felt like the centre of the universe – it still is – and the main driver of that image was American cinema. Cocktail, albeit directed by a New Zealander (Roger Donaldson), is a typical example. It may not be the greatest film in the world – it’s far from it – but I’d happily watch it again right now.

I would have been very aware of who Tom Cruise was in 1988, but it might have been the first time I saw Elisabeth Shue and Bryan Brown; a couple of actors I’ve always admired. Shue appeared as the love interest in The Karate Kid (1984) and as the lead in Adventures In Babysitting (1987), but Cocktail would definitely be the first time I’d seen her in an adult role.

One of my favourite moments from Brett Easton Ellis’ American Psycho is when our anti-hero Patrick Bateman shares an elevator with Tom Cruise, who lives in the same apartment block:

The film actor, Tom Cruise, has an apartment in my building and steps into the elevator just after me. I press the “PH” button for him and he nods his thanks. He is wearing a sport coat from Ralph Lauren over a tshirt, also Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein Jeans and Ray Bans and is very short.
‘I really liked
Bartender“, I say to him.
‘The movie is called
‘Oh, right, of course.’
We turn away from each other as the elevator hums along. Then, he slowly turns towards me.
‘Your nose is bleeding,’ he tells me.
I hadn’t noticed it, although it is bleeding heavily and I reach for my pocket square by Bill Blass as we arrive at my floor. As I step into the hallway, covering my nose with the handkerchief, I hear Tom Cruise stabbing frantically at the ‘Close Door’ button.

Hit: Don’t Worry, Be Happy – Bobby McFerrin

Hidden Gem: Powerful Stuff – The Fabulous Thunderbirds

Rocks In The Attic #507: Prince – ‘Prince’ (1979)

RITA#5072016 has been a terrible year for celebrity deaths, particularly those from music, films and television. The year started off tainted by the death of Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister just a few days before New Year. Then things started to go crazy with David Bowie dying suddenly on the tenth of January. Following him, we’ve also seen the passing of Eagle Glenn Frey, Beatles producer George Martin, Keith Emerson, Merle Haggard, Elvis’ guitarist Scotty Moore, and many, many more.

Losing Bowie was bad enough, but any year where we lose somebody as iconic as him, plus Prince, plus Muhammad Ali is just plain crazy. It’s like the icons of the late twentieth century are falling off the planet. I’m half expecting a plane carrying Madonna, Tom Cruise and Bruce Springsteen to crash into the Hollywood sign, while Los Angeles succumbs to a devastating earthquake.

Prince’s death seemed to hit a little closer to home, only because he had just played in Auckland a few weeks earlier as part of his Piano And Microphone tour. I would have loved to see Prince, backed by a full band but I didn’t really like the idea of seeing him play unaccompanied. There’s a part of me that regrets not chasing down a ticket, just because it was my last chance to see him perform, but with his passing I’m even more glad that I didn’t go – I like to think that my seat went to a more deserving fan.

I can take or leave Prince. His Batman soundtrack was the first album I ever owned, and I like a good deal of his big hits; I just don’t like all the Sexy Motherf*cker bullshit that he descended to in the early nineties. His contractual dispute with Warner Brothers around that time – leading to him changing his name to the symbol and writing ‘Slave’ on his cheek also turned me off him. All of a sudden, just as I was getting into music in a big way, he didn’t seem to be about the music anymore.

His Greatest Hits album is superb though, and the song off that record I’ve always liked the best is the opening number I Wanna Be Your Lover, taken from this, his self-titled second album. The recent repressing of his back catalogue on vinyl has given me the opportunity to buy the album (I’ve never seen an original pressing in the wild), and it’s a great record.

The album version of I Wanna Be Your Lover sounds even better, being a few minutes longer than the single edit available on his Greatest Hits, and the other singles from the record are all worthy additions to his canon. I can’t remember the last time I liked a record so much from start to finish.

What’s not to like? All the upbeat songs are of a similar quality to I Wanna Be Your Lover, and the slower ballads don’t grate as much as some of the soppier ballads from later in his career. I might put my toe further in the purple water, and try out some of his other records now that they’re widely available again.

Hit: I Wanna Be Your Lover

Hidden Gem: Bambi