June 15th, 2009


Well folks, I know I usually do these things on Wednesdays but since I’m going to have a lot on my plate this week, I thought I’d break tradition and give you this week’s flick a few days early.  Besides, a movie this flippin’ awesome just couldn’t wait.  Of course, we’re talking about yet another of The Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race.  This week’s flick is none other than…


DAYS OF THUNDER  (1990)  ****


You know before Tom Cruise went bugnuts crazy jumping on sofas and pledging his allegiance to Xenu, he was pretty much the biggest movie star of all time.  Sure, his Scientology antics of late have severely strained his credibility (and some would say sanity), but I still think he’s pretty awesome.  No matter what you think of the man, you have to admit that he’s made some of the greatest films in the Known Universe.


His first blockbuster Top Gun made him an international movie star, a household name, and a living legend.  Say whatever you will about Cruise, the man is not stupid.  After that, he was smart enough to make his next film a veritable remake of Top Gun.  Since they couldn’t call it Top Gun in a Pool Hall, they called it The Color of Money.  Cruise next made Top Gun in a Bar (which the studio foolishly changed to simply, Cocktail) and then went off and tried to win a bunch of Oscars with Rain Man and Born on the 4th of July.  Needless to say, he didn’t win, so Tom Boy went back to the drawing board and came out with Top Gun on a Race Track, AKA:  Days of Thunder. 


You’ve got to hand it to the man, he kept on making the same movie over and over again, and we kept on seeing them.  Mad respect Tom.


To insure the highest quality of cinema, Cruise got Top Gun director Tony Scott to helm Days of Thunder.  Scott is smart enough to know that he’s making essentially the same damn movie with the same damn star, just with a different setting, so he rolls up his sleeves and really delivers the cinematic goods.  It’s for this reason that I think I like Days of Thunder MORE than Top Gun.  It’s basically the same damn movie as Top Gun and it’s still pretty fucking awesome the second time around.


Now personally, I hate Nascar but since Cruise is in the driver’s seat, I say gentlemen start your engines!


I don’t even think I got to tell you the plot.  If you’ve seen Top Gun, you’ve pretty much seen Days of Thunder.  If you don’t believe me:


  • Cruise’s character (who has the awesomely masculine name, Cole Trickle) is new to flying planes/driving cars but his hot shot ways send him to the top of the pack.


  • Cruise has a mentor (in this case it’s Robert Duvall and not Tom Skerritt) who sees potential in him.


  • Cruise has a father who died under mysterious circumstances.  We never actually get to see any of it but old wrinkly-faced actors spew a lot of long-winded exposition about it.  In Days of Thunder though, the exposition is not directed toward Cruise’s father but to a driver that had previously raced for Duvall.  (Hey, they had to change SOME things up or else they’d get sued.)


  • Cruise falls in love with an older woman (in this case it’s Nicole Kidman and not Kelly McGillis) who works in a ”manly” profession (in this case she’s a doctor not a flight instructor) and ends up having soft-focus love scenes with him.


  • Cruise has a rival (in this case it’s Michael Rooker and not Val Kilmer) who starts off hating his guts but then becomes his friend by the end of the movie.


  • When Cruise isn’t flying/driving, he rides a motorcycle while wearing sunglasses and looks like a total badass.


  • Cruise gets into a near-fatal accident in his jet/car and subsequently starts acting flaky while driving/flying.


  • Cruise overcomes his flakiness at the last second to shoot down enemy fighters/win the race.


In addition to the patented Cruise-ccentric plot themes, we also get a great scene that shows off what a badass Cruise is behind the wheel.  While taking a test ride around the track, he tells Duvall that he’s “Dropping the hammer”.  (Which is racer code for going REALLY fast.)  This scene also is great if you need to test your 5.1 surround sound system.  There’s also a great chemistry between Cruise and Rooker that really makes the movie.  They’re really dynamite together and it’s a shame they haven’t made another movie together.  The part where they race each other in wheelchairs is awesome (it’s even better than the wheelchair race between Cruise and Willem Dafoe in the previous year’s Born on the 4th of July) but the scene where they take two rental cars out of the beach and race each other is even more fucking nuts.


I really like Cruise’s performance in this flick because he more or less acts just like Tom Cruise.  That’s what you want from a movie star.  I mean you don’t watch Commando to see Arnold Schwarzenegger emote, you watch it to see him be… well… Arnold.  Same goes for Cruise.  Tom doesn’t get all “actory” on us in Days of Thunder.  He just says his lines clearly and pretends to drive around in circles.  That’s all we want from the man.  And he gives that to us in spades.  Cruise also gets a lot of great dialogue like “Rubbing is racing!” that helps bump Days of Thunder into the sheer awesomeness that you’ve come to expect from the man.  In short this is Cruise at his Cruisey-est.


Days of Thunder features more than half of the items listed below and because of that, not only is it one of the best movies Tom Cruise ever made, it’s also one of The Greatest Movies in the History of the Human Race.




1. THE ENEMY THAT BECOMES A FRIEND AFTER A LIFE ALTERING EXPERIENCE:  AKA:  THE ICEMAN SYNDROME:  Used to show that not all rivals are the true enemy.  Initially used in Top Gun where Iceman (Val Kilmer) and Maverick (Cruise) put their egos aside after the death of Goose (Anthony Edwards).  See also: Old Dog Teaches New Dog New Tricks.  Besides Top Gun, see Born on the 4th of July (Willem Dafoe), Days of Thunder (Michael Rooker), and The Last Samurai (Ken Watanabe).


2. OLD DOG TEACHES NEW DOG NEW TRICKS:  AKA:  HOW TO SHOOT POOL/MIX DRINKS/DRIVE CARS REAL GOOD:  Used to set up an older actor as a teacher/father figure (ties into Paternal Issues).  Initially used in Top Gun where Viper (Tom Skerritt) takes Maverick under his wing after the death of Goose.  Besides Top Gun see The Color of Money (Paul Newman), Cocktail (Bryan Brown), Days of Thunder (Robert Duvall), The Last Samurai (Ken Watanabe).


3. THE OLDER WOMAN WILL BECOME YOUR LOVER IF YOU PROVE YOU’RE A MAN:  Used to show that older (taller) women are no match for Cruise’s wily charms.  The formula demands the Cruise character to grow up before he can be taken seriously as a worthy suitor.  Initially used in Losin’ It where Shelly Long played a hooker who deflowers Cruise.  Considerably polished in Risky Business where Rebecca DeMornay played a hooker who deflowers Cruise.  Besides these, see (in non-hooker roles) Top Gun (Kelly McGillis), Color of Money (Mary Elisabeth Mastrantonio), Days of Thunder (Nicole Kidman), and Far and Away (Nicole Kidman again).  NOTE:  Later replaced with Younger Woman… in Jerry Maguire (Renee Zellweger), and Vanilla Sky (Penelope Cruz).


4. PATERNAL ISSUES:  AKA:  THE SINS OF THE FATHER SYNDROME:  Used to show the difficulty of living up to or playing down the legacy of his father.  Has its roots in Top Gun and appears in Rain Man, A Few Good Men, Magnolia, Vanilla Sky, and Valkyrie.


5.  PSYCHOLOGICAL DILEMMA:  Usually appearing after the Life Altering Experience.  First appeared in Top Gun.  Results in Cruise not being able to fly (Top Gun), drive (Days of Thunder), or show his face (Vanilla Sky).


6. THE MOTORCYCLE RULE:  Movies where Cruise rides a motorcycle = Box Office.  Initially used in Top Gun but shows up in Days of Thunder, Mission:  Impossible 2 and (in a futuristic version) Minority Report.


7. TOM CRUISE IN HIS UNDERWEAR:  Used to make the girls in the audience hoot and holler.  No plot significance whatsoever.  Purely box office related.  Initially drove the girls crazy in Risky Business but had its roots in Losin’ It.  See also All the Right Moves, Top Gun, Color of Money, Cocktail, Days of Thunder, Magnolia and Vanilla Sky.


8.  THE LAWYER RULE:  Purely financial reasons.  Movies where Cruise plays a lawyer = Box Office.  Had its roots in Cocktail, but featured extensively in A Few Good Men and The Firm.


9. MASKS:  Used to show the duality of Cruise’s character.  Initially used in Mission: Impossible.  Also used in Eyes Wide Shut, Mission:  Impossible 2 and 3, and Vanilla Sky.


10.  THE VINCENT RULE:  Anytime Cruise appears in a movie with the character name “Vincent” he is obviously looking for Oscar consideration.  See Color of Money and Collateral.


Overall, Days of Thunder ranks at Number 5 on The Video Vacuum List for the Year 1990 sandwiched right in between Frankenhooker and Goodfellas. 


(PS:  I think I deserve a cookie for not using the pun “Cruise Control” anywhere in this review.  Hey, YOU write a review about a Tom-Cruise-in-a-Car Movie and try NOT to do it.)


That’s all the time we have today Vacuumers, but join me next week for the next film in the series.  What do I have in store for you?  Well, we’re talking about future Oscar winners being shredded in an industrial combine.  We’re talking about the werewolf from Silver Bullet getting eaten alive by Great White sharks.  We’re talking about Anthony Zerbe blowing up in a decompression chamber.  We’re talking about Wayne Newton acting like a complete pimp.  We’re talking about LOTS of cocaine.  We’re talking about the best James Bond movie that isn’t called Goldfinger; Licence to Kill.  It’s a movie so badass that they didn’t even spell it correctly.  See you then…