Welcome back to the latest installment of Ask the Critic, the weekly column where I attempt to answer your most pressing movie queries. In this week’s edition, we’ll wrestle in the thorny briar patch of spoilers, hypothesize about the future of Quentin Tarantino, and ruminate on the up-and-down career travails of one Mr. Bradley Cooper. Let’s get into it…
Why would you put such a huge spoiler (about Jude Law’s character) in your Spy review? I would’ve liked to have been surprised by that, since I wouldn’t have seen it coming. And you weren’t even revealing it to make a point about the film’s quality. If you’re incapable of writing reviews without spoiling the films you’re reviewing, you shouldn’t be writing reviews. And I certainly won’t be reading them any more. —Josh Mills
Spoiler alert: this response about spoilers contains spoilers.
First off, let me apologize for mentioning something that happens in the first third of a movie that may—or may not, in fact—be a spoiler (you’ll know what I mean, if and when you’ve seen the movie). I’m not trying to sound dismissive or flip, but when I was writing the review, I actually did give this one serious thought and decided that this bit of plot information wasn’t that integral to audience’s enjoyment of the film and therefore fair game. After reading your question, though, I’m open to the idea that I may have been wrong. I certainly understand how frustrating and annoying these sorts of reveals can be. I’ll even give you a personal example. Back in 1987, I’m pretty sure that I was the world’s biggest Kevin Costner fan. And this was before Bull Durham and Dances With Wolves turned him into a really huge deal. After watching him take down Al Capone as Eliot Ness in 1987’s The Untouchables I was convinced he was pretty much the cat’s ass. So I couldn’t have been more stoked to see his next movie, a Cold War thriller called No Way Out, which I’d already heard featured a steamy backseat-of-a-limo seduction scene with Sean Young. Sold!
I remember lining up to see the movie and just as I was about to hand my ticket to the usher, some jackass coming out of the previous showing yelled to the entire line, “Kevin Costner’s Yuri!” Having not seen the movie yet, I didn’t know what that meant or how important it was, but I had a sinking suspicion it wasn’t good. An hour later, sitting in the darkened theater as Gene Hackman got all paranoid and violent and twitchy about finding the elusive Russian spy, Yuri, I was like, “What the hell!?”
To spoil or not to spoil is a high-wire us critics have been precariously walking ever since the first of our tribe revealed that the crudely drawn water buffalo in the big cave painting every one was talking about was actually… a female water buffalo! As for the Jude Law spoiler, I’ll admit that I could have been a little cagier about how I dealt with that one without sacrificing anything I wanted to get across in my review. But in my defense, it’s hardly a DEFCON 1-level Sixth Sense spilling of the beans (again, once you see the movie, you’ll know what I mean). We critics take spoilers very seriously. We put a lot of thought into what we include and what we don’t include in our reviews. And any discussion of a movie’s plot presents a whole field of potential land mines. We don’t always get it right. On the one hand, I don’t want to hold back any information that prevents my review from being as thorough and well-reasoned as possible. I honestly don’t think anything in my Spy review will ruin anyone’s enjoyment of the film for a second. But there are spoilers that are necessary and spoilers that aren’t. And maybe this was one that wasn’t. So my bad, Josh. Hope you’ll keep reading.
I am a huge Tarantino fan, so this is a two-part question. What movie genre would you like to see Tarantino tackle next? I know he’s done crime, drugs, Blacksploitation, martial arts, war, westerns, and horror. Myself, I think he would be a perfect fit for an adaptation of the Image comic Ten Grand, or Sandman Slim. Both are fantastical stories of revenge that I think are just dark and dirty enough to pique his interest, but still have the human spark that runs through all his films. Secondly, what modern film composer would you like to see score one of his films? I know he uses a lot of different music in his films but I would like to see him team up with Avicii, or Trent Reznor. —Steven Groves
I love this question. And I’m pretty sure that Mr. Tarantino is eagerly awaiting our suggestions. So, off the top of my head, how about an Italian cannibal movie or a Bollywood musical or a French bedroom farce or a Japanese ghost story or a Porky’s-style teen sex romp or a ‘70s conspiracy thriller or an upstairs-downstairs British costume drama or a Marvel spandexapalooza? I’d kill to see him take the reins of any of those.
There was a juicy rumor flying around after Tarantino completed Kill Bill that he was flirting with adapting and directing Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. Apparently, he’d even talked to then-Bond Pierce Brosnan about the idea. Nothing ever came of it, of course. But I can just picture Samuel L. Jackson as Q giving Christoph Waltz’s 007 a Big Kahuna Burger with a microchip GPS hidden in the tasty sesame seed bun.
I thought long and hard about your question, Steven. And I think the genre I’d be most interested to see Tarantino tackle is the late ‘70s/ early ‘80s slasher film. Tarantino is already on the record as being a drooling fan of the genre. He once even told me on the set of Death Proof that he saw that movie as his take on the slasher movie (but with a stalking muscle car standing in for the masked maniac killer). Still, I’d like to see him come at the genre in a more straight-ahead way. Something along the lines of Halloween or Prom Night, jazzed up with his winking brand of self-reflexive special sauce. I think he could breathe hip new life into a genre that’s become pretty tired and wheezy. If that were the case, the person I’d like to see him tap for the score is Mr. Halloween himself, John Carpenter. Although Trent Reznor would totally work too.
What are we supposed to make of Bradley Cooper? He is an Oscar nominee and he starred in the biggest movie of 2014, American Sniper. Yet even though his last two movies have paired him with two of the most popular young actresses in the world—Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone—they’ve bombed spectacularly. Big-name movie stars can often drag mediocre films into the black at the box-office on the basis of their popularity. So… is Bradley Cooper a legitimate movie star or not? —Limitless?
Bradley Cooper is most definitely a movie star (just look at the box office of the Hangover movies and American Sniper), although maybe not a “legitimate” one yet — by which, I think you mean that his fans will pay to see him even in terrible movies. He still hasn’t cracked that very exclusive echelon of A+-list stars who are draws even when their films aren’t. I’m thinking of Teflon players like Will Smith, whose notorious stinkers—like Seven Pounds and After Earth—still crack $60 million. Or Tom Cruise, who at the height of his box-office powers, got folks to actually pay to see a movie about a Caribbean bartender whose most obvious skill is juggling bottles of Triple Sec. Cooper, I’d argue, is building an eclectic superstar resume, even if the movies you’re referring to (Aloha and Serena) were commercial stiffs. His fans love him, no doubt about it. But they’re not yet willing to hand over 10 bucks to see him in a bad movie.
By the way, the same can be said for George Clooney, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt. Bombs happen. They even happen to “legitimate” movie stars. And to be honest, it’s hard to fault Cooper for wanting to be in Aloha. If you offered any powerful leading man or woman a juicy part in a Cameron Crowe movie, 99 percent of them would jump at the chance (although maybe a little less blindly than a decade ago). I’m sure that Cooper laid in bed with Emma Stone on the set of that movie’s sun-kissed set as they were shooting the bizarre scene where he shows her his two big toes stitched together and thought, “This is great! This is my version of Jerry Maguire’s “You Complete Me” scene!” Just because he turned out to be wrong, doesn’t make him any less of a movie star. It makes him a blind optimist.
This weekend, Jurassic World opens. And though I’m not giving you a homework assignment, it seems like a logical film franchise for us to discuss. Email your questions—about anything movies related—to me at CriticsMailbag@ew.com or tweet me at @ChrisNashawaty, or feel free to just comment below.