The magnolia is a perennial flower: its recurring bloom signals spring’s arrival and the bark of the tree it grows from can be used to treat anxiety and cancer. Magnolia Boulevard is a street that runs through Burbank, California—the media capital of the world, just miles from Hollywood and downtown Los Angeles. Neither of these things is explained outright in Magnolia, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1999 opus, but even without awareness of them, the viewer begins to form an intuitive understanding of how the beauty, complexity, and fragility of a flower may relate to the tapestry of lives on display in the movie.

Magnolia is a young man’s movie. It’s a crinkled, wet valentine to the Valley (San Fernando, where Burbank is located and where the film is set). Anderson was still in his twenties when he made it, and juxtaposed with the mature back half of his filmography to date, it pulses like a drop-kicked dog without a leash. Sometimes it barks off into the unknown with elliptical subplots. Sometimes it chases its own tail, looping back on itself with crescendoing crosscuts. Though it all, hangs a persistent storm cloud of emotion, the kind that enslaves hurt people until they’re liberated by a rain of frogs.

After the success of Boogie Nights, Anderson’s exuberant porn-family film, New Line Cinema gave the young filmmaker carte blanche to make an achingly personal, 3-hour drama with an ensemble cast and the biggest budget of his career. Blame the audience, blame the Internet, blame risk-averse studio executives, but Hollywood’s gatekeepers don’t allow many movies like that to enter the multiplex anymore. In Collateral, Tom Cruise’s steely hitman pegged L.A. as a place that was “too sprawled out, disconnected.” In Magnolia, he plays Frank T.J. Mackey, a misogynistic seduction seminar leader whose story intertwines with that of other characters to form the obverse narrative, whereby everything is interconnected despite the ungainly sprawl.

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Mission: Impossible Sequels Cast Adds Shea Whigham

Paramount Pictures surprised the hell out of us earlier this year by announcing back-to-back sequels for the Mission: Impossible franchise being released one year apart in the summers of 2021 and 2022. And they’ve been surpring us even more by adding a few impressive names to the cast.

The upcoming Mission: Impossible sequels cast has officially added Joker co-star and Boardwalk Empire cast member Shea Whigham to the growing ensemble cast. And yes, he’ll be in both of the sequels. Read More »

Cooking Scenes in Movies - Ratatouille

The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.

In this edition, listen as a professional chef reviews cooking scenes in movies like Chef, Ratatouille, Julie & Julia, and many more. Plus, see how Stanley Kubrick‘s family friendly holiday drama Eyes Wide Shut compares to the original 1926 novella on which the movie is based, and hear Richard Jewell co-star Kathy Bates look back at the most memorable characters from her career. Read More »

Top Gun Maverick featurette

It’s not just a fun line from the franchise: Tom Cruise really does feel the need for speed in Top Gun: Maverick. He’s learned that if you’re going to impress audiences with a stunt, it needs to feel as real as possible – so that means actually going up and pulling multiple Gs in a real fighter jet.

Check out this new featurette which shows off some of the actors’ training, and gives us a look at a new camera system that manages to fit six IMAX-quality cameras inside the cockpit. Read More »

Top Gun Maverick trailer

There are still nineteen months until we see Tom Cruise risk his life for our entertainment in the next Mission: Impossible movie, but next summer, we get to see him take flight in the long-awaited Top Gun: Maverick.

Cruise, who has thus far been very selective when it comes to making sequels to his movies, is finally returning to the franchise after more than thirty years, and if you feel the need, you can check out the movie’s new star-studded trailer below.
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Tom Cruise as Iron Man DeepFake

The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.

In this edition, thanks to the magic of DeekFake technology, see what it would have been like if Tom Cruise ended up playing Iron Man. Plus, watch one second of every single Looney Tunes short released between 1929 and 1969, and listen as Free Solo documentary subject Alex Honnold answers questions about rock climbing from Twitter. Read More »

tom cruise in once upon a time in hollywood

One of the selling points for Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the big movie-star team-up of Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. But things could’ve turned out much differently. According to Tarantino, if Brad Pitt hadn’t been available, he would’ve offered another big movie star his role: Tom Cruise. But that doesn’t mean DiCaprio would still be in the movie too. As Tarantino tells it, it was important to get the pairing of his leading men just right.

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Top Gun 2 trailer

Paramount surprised the crowd at San Diego Comic-Con crowd by bringing superstar Tom Cruise out onto the Hall H stage and dropping a surprise trailer for Top Gun: Maverick, the highly-anticipated sequel to Tony Scott’s 1980s classic. Thankfully, that trailer has also been officially released online for the rest of us to see, so check it out below and read some of Cruise’s comments from the stage. Read More »

Tom Cruise has always been a risk-taker on the big screen, for good and ill. Lately, the risks he takes center around the physical — the ever-expanding Mission: Impossible franchise is now focused on the question of how far Cruise can push his body for the sake of entertaining the masses. Those risks feel all the more remarkable as Cruise approaches his 60th birthday. (He just turned 57 two weeks ago, a fact that seems…well, impossible.) 

But the more Tom Cruise pushes his body, the further he moves away from the time when his risks were ballsier in spite of not being remotely physical. Just as it’s hard to imagine that Tom Cruise is pushing 60, it’s hard to believe that we’re now 20 years removed from a time when he worked on two massively risky projects that required his mental and emotional chops more than the physical: Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia.

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Eyes Wide Shut - Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

Twenty years ago, on the eve of the new millennium, Stanley Kubrick invited moviegoers into a mansion where the rich and powerful donned Venetian masks and black hoods to engage in ritualistic orgies. It was the summer of 1999 and Kubrick had passed away months earlier, leaving behind the last entry in his filmography, Eyes Wide Shut, as a posthumous release. The film hit theaters on July 16 and like The Shining — which earned the auteur a laughably shortsighted Worst Director nomination at the first-ever Razzie Awards — it received mixed reviews early on.

Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the leading Hollywood power couple of the day, Eyes Wide Shut wasn’t quite the erotic thriller that its marketing made it out to be. The sole sex scene involving one of the main characters was a fantasy sequence, glimpsed only in flashes of monochrome thought. Instead, audiences settled in for a 160-minute night odyssey that confronted the egocentrism in human nature through the lens of desire. In short: not your typical summer movie fare, unless maybe you were expecting a dark, twisted Christmas in July.

Forget the Illuminati; what really matters in Eyes Wide Shut is sins of the heart and how those affect couples caught up in a world that is beyond their understanding or control. In its own feel-bad, pre-Gone Girl way, this is a movie that might actually qualify as required viewing for anyone in a long-term relationship. The password is fidelio.

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