January 30, 2008

Psychotic Review: Tom Cruise, an Unauthorized Biography

Andrew Morton's newest expose touts itself as "uncovering the true story of the biggest celebrity of our age". I myself found the book, in general, to be somewhat disappointing.

Maybe it was the over year-long buildup. Maybe it was being overinformed, to a degree, about Tom before reading this. Maybe it was a general feeling that the pen dipped in venom that I expected and hoped for was nothing more than a pencil with a fairly sharp tip.

Morton's tome does provide more information about Tom's childhood and background than any previous literary efforts but it still feels as though a great deal of essentials are missing or were left uncovered. And some particulars seem a bit hard to swallow. Would a fifth-grade teacher watching young Tommy Mapother playing "The Sun" in a school pageant really be blown away by his performance? Would she really still be remembering this performance, some 35+ years later, if Tommy Mapother hadn't grown up to become Tom Cruise?

And did Tommy Mapother really grow up to become Tom Cruise or did he simply walk into a role that he's been unable and unwilling to shed for more than 25 years?

Morton does shed a small amount of light on Tom's relationship with his father, also known as the "merchant of chaos" as Tom referred to him in one interview, but spills more ink on Tom's relationship with his ever-present mother, Mary Lee, who apparently did the majority of the childrearing.

Surprisingly, while Morton does address the gay rumors (how can you write a tell-all about Tom Cruise and not?) he concludes that Tom was quite the ladies man in high school and beyond and is actually a roaring womanizer versus a closet-hiding homosexual. The statements supporting this seem rather thin (a typical statement from an ex-girlfriend being "my back was black and blue from the gearshift, I'll tell you that") as does the section detailing Cruise's first marriage, to actress (and Scientology introducer) Mimi Rogers.

Personally I was expecting a bit more as far as revelations go, but either Morton is stingy with detail or encountered a serious lack thereof. As a reader you never get the feeling that love had much to do with Cruise and Rogers' legal unity and while the Church of Scientology may have had a hand in bringing Cruise and Rogers together, they most certainly played a major part in their dissolution.

And this brings me to the most interesting part of Morton's book. The role of Scientology in Cruise's career, his marriages and his life. While Morton skims over some of Cruise's movie roles, and neglects to mention others, he doesn't shy away from the Scientology question. The hierarchy, the questionable practices and belief system, the close friendship between Scientology head David Miscavige and Cruise, all are exposed, even the ridiculous on its face rumor that Cruise spawn Suri was conceived via Rosemary's Baby with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's frozen sperm. Crazy, yes, but somehow when the subject is Tom Cruise no form of crazy is off limits.

Many pages are devoted to Cruise's decade-long marriage to actress Nicole Kidman. Surprisingly, Kidman emerges worse for the wear, being shown as a needy, manipulative, ambitious and vain woman who drove Cruise to his limits. Their adoption of children Bella and Conor are explained not as a cover for their respectively homosexual private lives (alleged, of course) but due to Kidman's ectopic pregnancy early in the marriage which made carrying another pregnancy to term unlikely. The confusion of the end of the Cruise-Kidman marriage is not cleared up in these pages. Kidman is portrayed as shocked, surprised and hurt, while Cruise comes across much like an adolescent who doesn't know how to maturely break off a relationship.

Most disturbing of his relationships was his brief month-long pursuant of Sofia Vergara in 2005, where the actress was "love bombed" with text messages, telephone calls, flowers, candy and gifts. The gifts including, of course, trips to the Scientology Celebrity Center and the written word of L. Ron Hubbard. Just as quick as Cruise can apparently turn on the charm and high pursuit, he can also quickly transfer his attentions and presumably his affections, as Vergara found out after getting cold feet over the rush. Less than a month after his intense pursuit of Vergara, Cruise had moved on to Katie Holmes and the rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps most disappointing, Morton writes precious little about the TomKat media beast and the many questions and rumors surrounding the arguably most public of Cruise's relationships. From Morton's viewpoint, Holmes truly fell in love with the bombastic Cruise and the only contract worth mentioning was the prenuptial that Holmes' attorney father helped to negotiate. No talk of a contract marriage, although Morton does mention that the Church of Scientology helped to put together a short list of prospective brides for Cruise (Holmes was number five on the list).

In short (no pun intended), I found Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography not quite the explosive biography I had hoped for. For the average layperson (i.e., someone that doesn't consume Tom Cruise gossip like a junkie on a three-day binge), TC: AUB will be an interesting mix of controlling, yet embarrassingly romantic, superstar wholly consumed by his dependence and dominance in a questionable "Church". For me, I found the book a bit dry, a bit anticlimactic. While I didn't dislike (or like) Tom Cruise any more or less than I had before picking up the book, I also didn't feel like I had gotten any further insight on him or his life.

Tom Cruise: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton.

Thoughts on Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger: 1979-2008

I'm slow getting on this story, but Heath Ledger's death was almost as shocking and certainly as sad as Princess Diana's and JFK, Jr's. Seriously, did anyone truly see this coming? We are treated to almost daily reports and media feeds about Britney Spears' long, painful and very public meltdown, but did anyone expect to hear news of Heath Ledger's death before Britney's? Or Lohan's?

Although the press saturation hasn't been as bad as it certainly could have been, when Heath's family finds out about his death via media reports, something is wrong. When one website has a live feed online, waiting for his body to be brought out of his home, something is wrong. When everyone and their grandmother is coming out of the woodwork to talk about Heath now, something is wrong. He was going to quit Hollywood. He was going to be the next Marlon Brando. He was cleaning himself up. He was a longtime drug abuser. He was happy in his life. He was depressed. Does it really matter? In the end, is it really that important how Heath appeared and looked, walking down the street in New York in the days prior to his death?

From all reports, Heath was a notoriously private person who shunned the limelight. How would he have felt knowing that the media was camped out, just waiting for a shot of his body leaving his home, for the last time? How would he have felt knowing that his family would hear such tragic news in press reports?

I think the most important facts are that he was a talented actor who certainly died much too soon, and he was a doting father who loved his daughter. My heart bleeds for her; at 2 years old, she won't have any concrete memories of her father. Hopefully her family will remind her how very much her father loved her. And hopefully one day she will grow up to see her father on film, to realize how much talent and potential he had and how very much he was admired and respected in his industry.

Rest in peace, Heath. You'll be missed.

January 21, 2008

Psychotic Review: Cloverfield

So this weekend was movie going weekend and options were somewhat limited. It was either 27 Dresses, which Mr. PS didn't really want to see, Cloverfield or some movie about people who get notified of their death via cell phone. Feeling as though that last movie was a ripoff of Final Destination, The Ring and a portion of my 20s, we went with Cloverfield. Oh yeah, and although the third Mrs. Cruise's "comeback" film opened this weekend, I think I would rather drive a rusty nail through my tongue slowly than suffer through the banality of Mad Money.

So on that note . . .

Cloverfield is an entertaining movie. It's no award winner, nor does it pose to be one. It's not highly original (filmed entirely from a camcorder's point of view and Blair Witch anyone?) and it starts off much too slow, in my opinion, for the War of the Worlds genre it's aiming at. However, once the action starts, the movie is chock full of action, destruction, unexplainable monster(s) and blood, until the crappy end - - but I jump ahead of myself. In case you have missed one of the 5,000 clever ads that have been everywhere, New York is being attacked. By what, it's unclear from the previews but the attacker has the nerve to knock the head off the Statue of Liberty. So we know that this unknown creature means business.

At the time of the first attack, a group of 20-somethings are having a farewell party for Rob, who is heading off to Japan on some job promotion. Rob is having a fine old time until Beth, his "true love", shows up with another guy. Rob and Beth had one night of grand old passion before Rob turned into a typical 20-something guy, got fearful of that scary thing called "feelings" and neglected to call her. So the angst is flying, as Rob pouts in his bedroom, Beth and her token guy leave the party, Rob's friend Hud filming all of this and more as a testiment to the party and suddenly there is a ferocious shaking, the power goes out briefly and New York assumes that they have been victimized by a California-esque earthquake. Naturally, that isn't the case, as skyscrapers begin coming down, eerily reminiscent of 9/11. The remainder of the movie follows Rob, his brother Jason, Jason's girlfriend Lily, Hud the wisecracking cameraman and Hud's crush Marlena as they attempt to get through the city, escape whatever is attacking Manhattan and reach Beth, who has called Rob on his cellphone for help.

Cloverfield isn't particularly intellectual and if you are picky, there are many problems. If your city was under siege, would you really take the time to film your mad dash to safety with your handy camcorder? And would you even think to bring along spare batteries, since not once does this super powerful camcorder give us a low battery sign, much less actually die. Would everyone really go along with Rob to rescue Beth, who sounds half dead in her message and mentions being injured, to a certain death? Could you really climb 52 flights of stairs while filming and keep up with your friends? And could your camcorder really survive being dropped, attacked, having rocks fall on it and, finally, a possible explosion?

But my biggest gripe with Cloverfield is the way the film never explains the attack. It doesn't shy away from showing the creature, the damage it does and the way it attacks people, but there is no real explanation for what it is, where it came from and even if the many tanks and weaponry of our military managed to take it out. I would assume that we did, but again, I also have to assume that Katie Holmes still has a fully functioning brain.

All in all, a good popcorn flick. Some genuinely jumpy moments and Hud the cameraman had the best lines in the film. The ending was a letdown from the previous 70 minutes or so of buildup but worth the price of a matinee.

Cloverfield, currently in theaters. Rated PG-13 for violence, terror and disturbing images.

Kiefer is Sprung from the Pokey!

Photo Source: DListed

After 48 days in the slammer, including Christmas, New Years and his birthday, Kiefer Sutherland has served his time on a DUI conviction and was released shortly after midnight, last night. Kief checked into the Glendale City Jail on December 5 and didn't use the celebrity exception card to get out of his punishment. Got to give credit where credit is due.

While Kief apparently didn't have any visitors during his stay, the Glendale Police stated that he received a ton of fan mail. Probably from 24 viewers who want to know when Season 7 will be on.

I joke. I like Kief and I hope that he learned his lesson. I'd be willing to bet we'll see Lohan back in the slammer before Kief. At least I hope so.