Tom Cruise Jam

Jack Reacher is a drifter, a man of no driving licence or last known address. He’s also a highly decorated former military policeman rank of major. He’s a man with a past.

A beautiful young woman lies dead on the hotel room floor, the victim of a brutal gunshot wound. Misogynist self-help guru Frank Mackey is the only suspect. He’s on trial for his life. The prosecutor is Mitch McDeere, the latest wunderkind of the firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke; a young man with a very promising legal career ahead of him. The prosecution’s star witness John Anderton heads up Precrime, an infallible precognition unit that points the finger at Mackey.

The case is cut and dried. The only thing is – Frank Mackey didn’t do it.

There’s a conspiracy afoot, but even Mackey’s own brief doesn’t seem to believe him. The defendant’s counsel, a hotshot navy lawyer name of Danny Kaffee, is looking for the path of least resistance. Could it be that someone hopes it never sees the inside of a courtroom?

Ethan Hunt of government agency IMF seems to think so. Something about the woman’s murder doesn’t ring true. It puts him in mind of a series of murders carried out via taxi. It puts him in mind of a hit.

More to the point, a hit carried out by someone with a military background.

But there’s a problem – IMF won’t authorise an investigation, in fact stonewalls it. Hunt is concerned – this goes high up. To get to the truth he needs to go off the grid. He needs a man with savant-like investigative skills, a man who can handle himself in a fight, an unstoppable force. A man with a past. A man who doesn’t want to be found.

Trouble is Jack Reacher doesn’t want to be found.

But they don’t call it the Impossible Mission Force for nothing. As the body count mounts to include car dealer narcissist Charlie Babbit and ex-army bartender Brian Flanagan, it becomes clear that someone out there has a grudge. And his next victim: celebrity sports agent and potential future presidential candidate Jerry Maguire.

Together Hunt and Reacher must race against the clock, must face their respective pasts; must face a truth they perhaps can’t handle:

They know the killer.

Could he be the hotshot pilot, Maverick, or superspy Roy Miller, who both trained with Hunt? What of Captain Nathan Algren, alcoholic and samurai, investigated by Reacher? Or the troubled Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, likewise the former subject of Reacher’s attentions?

And just how is studio honcho (and Precrime investor) Les Grossman involved?

Luckily, they’re assisted by former special ops turned private sector hitman Vincent, a superlatively skilled assassin with a specialism in identity theft.

Produced by Tom Cruise, with a soundtrack by Stacee Jaxx and a twist you won’t see coming… Nominated for no Academy Awards: this is one shot you won’t want to miss!

In 3D!!!

Why I Love Homeland

SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER

Previously on Homeland:

CIA Procurement Dept:  Guys we’ve got the new vehicles in for your stealthy ops.  You get a choice of enormous black SUVs with tinted windows, or massive vans.

CIA Operatives:  Won’t they be a little bit obvious?

CIA Procurement:  EXACTLY. It’s a double bluff – no one would think we’d be stupid enough to use vehicles that might as well come with “CIA Super-Secret Missions” written on the side.

CIA Ops:  That doesn’t make much sense.

Carrie:  Look, I know we’re in a race against time to stop a(nother) terrorist attack on our soil, but I don’t know this Quinn guy even though the CIA is a pretty secretive organisation so that’s not that unusual.  Check him out for me: I think he played Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.  So I don’t trust him.  And he’s British, so, y’know, BAD GUY ALERT.

Virgil:  He’s British? Jeez why didn’t you say?

Carrie:  Back the fuck away, Sergeant Mike.

Sgt Mike:  Uh, I’m actually like a captain.  Or am I a major now? I forget.

Carrie:  Jeez you’re wet.  Yeah the show’s writers have been doing that too.  Who’s the mole from series 1, for example?

Sgt Mike:  They’ll pick that up again, maybe next series now that we’ve got to stretch this thing a bit more.

Carrie:  We got picked up for series 3?  Go us! Anyway, fuck off, Mike, Brody’s mine.  I mean ours. The CIA’s.

_____

Virgil:  Quinn’s apartment is well secured – he’s got coins on his windows and everything.  Also, it’s kind of empty except for this convenient photo and a copy of Great Expectations.  Is that some kind of clue?

Saul:  Gosh, I wonder who he really is.  Get your gimp to follow him.

Virgil’s Gimp:  ZOUNDS!! He got off a bus and crossed the street to get on another bus; I am confounded with shock at how slippery this guy is.

(does a massively obvious U-turn)

Virgil’s Gimp:  I will pull up by the side of the bus and photograph him in my black super-not-obvious van.  That he would undoubtedly recognise if he just looked out the window.

Saul:  Well I shook the trees by sort of cack-handedly talking to his ex. Totes deliberate, by the by, not a screw-up.  Trust the beard.  So he’s probably suspicious, but I doubt he’ll go so far as to look out the window.  Who’s he talking to?

Virgil:  I have some photographs.

Saul:  OM effin’ G he’s that guy from Amadeus.  He got all twisted ‘cause he couldn’t write music as well as some 5 year old, joined the CIA and now he black ops kills people.  Quinn must be black ops too.  I thought there was something off about him STABBING BRODY IN THE HAND that time, which isn’t in the training manual.

Meanwhile…

Sergeant Mike:  Carrie called me, you know, the crazy lady from the CIA who everyone inexplicably still trusts to go out in the field despite being the very definition of loose cannon.  Nice lady.  Anyway, I’ve got to take you somewhere real safe.

Jessica Brody:  Carrie’s a straight shooter; I don’t believe that she’s got you of all people to take me away in a stressful situation as a ruse to get us to bump uglies.

Sgt Mike:  The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.  Great ass, by the way, you been working out?  I’ll get the kids.

Dana Brody:  Fuck you I won’t go.

Sgt Mike:  You don’t get to talk to me that way.  Now I’ve given you the smackdown, people might start to like me more.

Dana Brody:  Wow, you’re right, suddenly you seem less like a weak plot device turned unintentional comic relief.  Can we explore my hit and run subplot a bit more?

Everyone:  No, Dallas rang; it wants its plotlines back.  They threatened to sue.

Brody:  Roya, I’ve got the Veep to agree to do this thing with the returning soldiers and everything because that would be a really good way to announce me as his running mate even though I’ve only been a Congressman for 5 minutes and before then I spent 8 years in captivity and am probably all kinds of batshit crazy.

Roya:  Wow, it is quite fantastically unbelievable that you’ve managed to do exactly what we want even though we know you’re in bed with the CIA and your reliability and loyalty are suspect.  We’re not even going to question that.  By the by, this is an unsecure line BUT WHEN THE BOMB GOES OFF YOU NEED TO BE WITH ME.

Brody:  Ok.

CIA:  She’s just given a hint about the bomb; they definitely think Brody’s loyal and reliable.  It could be a ruse to distract us, but it might not be.

Later…

Chris Brody:  Wow this is a CIA safe house?

CIA Lady:  Yes it is, check that view. Do you know what that represents?

Chris Brody:  No?

CIA Lady:  Defence Budget, LOL.  You should’ve seen our Christmas party last year.

Sgt Mike:  Dana, because you were rude to me earlier, I’m gonna bang your mum.

Jessica Brody:  The kids will sleep in my room, you get the guest room. Don’t worry, I spiked their dinner so they won’t wake up; let’s get it on with some gratuitous nudity, Sgt Mike.

Sgt Mike:  Ok, but I’m leaving my PJs on.  Leave the light off.  And don’t you dare LOOK AT ME!

CIA Ops Assigned To Look After Brody’s Family:  I can’t believe they didn’t think we’d have the place completely wired up for picture and sound.  Who wants to see Morena Baccarin’s breasts?

Next day…

Carrie:  I can’t believe I’ve not been given much opportunity to show off my crazy face this episode.  It’s got its own Tumblr account.

Saul:  About that, we’ve got a really sensitive mission; I think you might want to be there?

David Estes:  Everyone, I’m sending Quinn out.

Saul:  Is that a good idea to send a CIA analyst on an FBI mission because the CIA can’t legally operate within the USA or at least it’s a grey area?  It’s not like he did a good job at the tailor’s in Gettysburg.  How is your stomach in which you were recently shot?

Quinn:  I’m fit as a fiddle.  It’s like it never even happened.

Estes:  Quinn’s wearing two hats which should make him extra super-secret and spyish, because they’re both fedoras.

Saul:  Ok fine, but my beard is bristling with indignation.  Anyway, let’s watch the screens peeps.  At no point will I or anyone else register the fact that Quinn is nowhere to be seen.

Shady-looking probable terrorists very obviously swap camera batteries between vans…

Carrie:  That battery weighs at least 200 pounds.  It must be a bomb or something.

Saul:  What’s that in metric?

Carrie:  OMG Nazir’s not there.  I can’t believe that he’s not there.  He should be there like he is for all his terrorist attacks, even though he never has before.  Sort of relieved though, there are a few more episodes to go this series, and if we wrap this up we might have to get back into that bullshit hit and run subplot.

Estes:  Quinn, best not shoot Brody in that limo you’re driving because it might ruin the upholstery.

Quinn:  Oh but I wanna’… fine.

Brody:  Quinn, what are you doing here driving this limo that I am just getting into on a day I know there might be a terrorist attack and might need watching and/or protecting?

Quinn:  We got EVERY SINGLE TERRORIST.  Except Nazir.  So just for right now I’m your best friend in the whole world.

Brody:  In no way do I feel threatened by that statement, even though you stabbed me in the hand.

____

I also love the lack of any actual security at Langley – the phone calls, loud conversations in corridors, the open plan CIA offices in which Carrie can walk right into some sort of ops hub wearing only a visitor’s pass.  THAT’s the mole, or rather, everyone who works there is – place is leakier than the Mary Rose.

Oh and: Brody: Jessica, I’m working for the CIA, you can’t tell anyone.

5 minutes later… Jessica: Sgt Mike, Brody’s working for the CIA, you can’t tell anyone, like I didn’t.

See also Quinn’s evidence board (he really loves The Wire), which is right there in Brody’s face earlier in the season even though no one trusts him.  That really makes no sense, but that’s how Quinn rolls.  Because he fucked with Lizzie Bennett’s emotions and lied about why Darcy hated him.

Shark well and truly jumped.

God Bless Homeland.

What’s In A Name?

A boring title can sink a film – a dull albatross round the neck that reeks of self-consciousness and lack of faith.  A boring title says nothing so much as ‘we have no ideas, but we don’t much care.’

Who is Aaron Cross?  An angry bystander name of Aaron?  A vengeful priest?   What if nominative determinism doesn’t apply?  Did you care to find out?  Universal didn’t risk an estimated $125m on that question and instead called their film The Bourne Legacy.

Who is Alex Cross?  Do you know?  Do you care to find out?  The tagline for the film says “Don’t Ever Cross Alex Cross”.   Do you still care to find out?

Well roughly $35m has been bet on you wanting to find out.  Did you know that the character has appeared in two previous films?  Morgan Freeman played him in 1997’s Kiss The Girls and Along Came A Spider (2001).  This time round it’s Tyler Perry in the now eponymous role.

What about Jack Reacher?  Or Jack Ryan?

Or John Carter (although he deserves a post all of his own).

The Bourne Legacy had a vested interest in maintaining links with the previous trilogy, a byword for quality actioner.  The film poster utilised an eye-catching, if mildly disingenuous, shuttering technique that slightly obscured star Jeremy Renner’s face.  At a casual glance you’d be forgiven for assuming it was Matt Damon again.

Alex Cross and Jack Ryan, however, represent reboots of pre-existing characters, clean slates.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan first appeared onscreen in The Hunt For Red October (1990), in which he was played by Alec Baldwin as a slightly gawky CIA analyst.  Ryan has since been portrayed by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear And Present Danger (1994) as a more straightforward action-oriented character.  Then there was The Sum Of All Fears (2002), in which Ben Affleck did for Jack Ryan what George Clooney did for Batman.

Certainly in Ryan’s case there seems to be some desire on the part of the film-makers to delineate between Chris Pine’s portrayal and previous ones.  The question is whether the name Jack Ryan means enough to people to convince them to hand over their hard-earneds at the mulitplex.  And given the wildly different portrayals of the character, I’m yet to be convinced that the requisite brand recognition exists.

Jack Reacher, on the other hand, is making his debut, based on the book One Shot.  The suspicion here is that the film-makers are making pointed overtures to the existing fanbase – Lee Childs’ creation has starred in 17 books to date.  In theory this should satisfy early box-office requirements, with the crucial word of mouth effect picking up the slack and carrying the film triumphantly into the black.

It’s a fairly high-risk strategy given that the rough and ready, 6”5’ Reacher – a male fantasy figure par excellence – is being played by Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise is a fantastic talent, but Reacher fans have been notable by their dismay at the casting.  Qualms about the relative ages and heights of character and actor have been particularly prevalent.  This seems unfair, given that Reacher’s age is broadly immaterial – it’s enough that he’s experienced, even a little grizzled.  Likewise, his physical size is a device designed to imply his formidable nature – ‘an unstoppable force’ as Childs describes him, which wouldn’t be a bad description of Cruise himself.

The books themselves are reasonably high quality pulpy thrillers, Childs using punchy sentences and dropping otherwise necessary words like ‘the’ to up the pace and instil a sense of immediacy on proceedings.

Height aside, Tom Cruise would seem a good fit for the role – high octane, apparently indestructible with near boundless energy.  Nevertheless, his appears to have been a controversial choice.

The other criticism, however, is possibly insurmountable.  Jack Reacher is hardly Cruise’s first franchise, and from the trailer his Reacher seems indistinguishable from that Mission: Impossible fella, if a little more low-tech.

The risk then is that Tom Cruise may alienate the existing fanbase, while the name Jack Reacher will mean nothing to most people, who’ll assume it’s just another Cruise thriller – he runs around doing his own stunts, things explode, at one point he cracks out his blinding grin, the audience try to stifle their yawns.

Action-thrillers battle it out in a highly competitive market; the one link between all of these characters (John Carter included) is that they have deliberately bland names that give nothing away, especially not their careers or skill set.

And to be fair, when was the last time you met someone called Action McSoldiersson?

Trailers these days tend to give away too much plot and occasionally render actually watching the film in question a redundant exercise.  For these lads, however, an over-sharing cinematic come-on might be their only hope.  Otherwise these films might suffer at the box office, might well be ignored by virtue of ignorance.

James Bond was famously chosen because it was the most unobtrusive and unmemorable name Ian Fleming could dream up.  Today it’s one of the more recognisable monikers out there.  The suspicion lingers that someone somewhere has badly overestimated the affection and notoriety of Jacks Ryan and Reacher and Alex (not Aaron) Cross.