Another year, another Tom Cruise movie.
Not even my wife knows this, but for most of my adult life, warm weather has signaled one thing: a new blockbuster to look forward to starring you-know-who. On the occasional off years, when Mr. Box Office was inexplicably absent from the summer schedule, that merely meant postponing my secret pleasure for a few months, when the year-end holiday movie crunch would almost inevitably satisfy my jones for Tom, a lifelong addiction that began, for me, with “Risky Business” (1983).
I’m not proud of it. In fact, I feel a little dirty. How else to explain my enthusiastic review of “Knight and Day” (2010), except by admitting that I may, in part, have been overcompensating for the fact that there was no Cruise movie the previous year. You think going cold turkey is easy for a junkie?
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to “Edge of Tomorrow” (which opens Friday) with butterflies in my stomach. Not only does it co-star Emily Blunt, but the supporting cast — especially Brendan Gleeson, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Bill Paxton and Noah Taylor — looks terrific. Even better, it’s directed by Doug Liman, an award-winning switch-hitter who can handle both action (“The Bourne Identity”) and drama (“Fair Game”).
As for the story, what’s not to love? Based on the Japanese book and graphic novel “All You Need Is Kill,” the futuristic adventure centers on a cowardly military recruit (Cruise) who finds himself stuck in a time loop wherein he keeps reliving — and re-dying — the same day, over and over, until he learns how to defeat the invading alien enemy. The trailer makes it looks like a cross between “Groundhog Day” and the video game “Halo,” which, in horse-racing terms, is like being the foal of two Kentucky Derby winners.
Can you blame a guy for hoping?
Every year, it gets as little bit harder to hold my head up. The couch-jumping, the psychotherapy-bashing, the infamous Scientology video. Cruise’s almost evangelical embrace of his faith — a belief system developed by a sci-fi novelist around the postulation of a soullike “thetan” that can neither be seen nor measured — is kind of embarrassing.
Sort of like my own.
What would you get if you combined elements of “Godzilla” with “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Power Rangers” and “Sailor Moon,” and then stirred them all into a part-live-action, part-CGI Pokemon movie dressed up as a parable about the Fukushima nuclear disaster? The resulting stew of a story would probably look a lot like “Jellyfish Eyes,” the feature film debut of Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami. The pop painter and sculptor is credited with inventing Japan’s influential “Superflat” movement, a cartoonish art style indebted to such low-brow genres as manga and anime.
Don’t look for this title at the neighborhood multiplex. Murakami’s nutty film, which just had a screening at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, is wrapping up a national tour of one-night stands. (It will play at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on Sunday, and at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum on Thursday. According to the distributor, Kaikai Kiki, it will probably also find its way to DVD and on-demand services at some point, although plans have not been finalized.)
Why does Murakami matter? He’s certainly no Julian Schnabel, the blue-chip painter-turned-filmmaker nominated for a best-director for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Nor is he Matthew Barney, the hipster auteur of the largely inscrutable “Cremaster” cycle of five films. As he has done with his art, Murakami the moviemaker indulges in pop culture in all its cheesy goodness: sentiment, cheap thrills, chills and adorable pocket-size aliens. On the spectrum of ironic to enthusiastic, it’s not quite clear where his affinity lies.
But Murakami’s embrace has also scooped up parts of pop culture that are so wrong they’re right. If you watch all the way through “Jellyfish Eyes’s” closing credits, you’ll see a teaser for, yes, “Jellyfish Eyes 2.”