64 posts categorized "Action/Adventure"

February 25, 2019

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2

Mission_impossible_twoDirector John Woo's (Broken ArrowFace/Off) hyper-boiled rendering of screenwriter Robert Towne's (Chinatown) razor-sharp script in Mission: Impossible 2 makes the Mission Impossible logo a potentially worthy rival to the James Bond cinema franchise.

Woo keeps similarities to director Brian De Palma's 1996 Mission Impossible to a minimum in this very dissimilar sequel by incorporating his signature slow motion, ballet-of-bullets action sequences against the taut resolve of Tom Cruise's most ambitious action performance to date.

Cruise's current performance as undercover agent Ethan Hunt is virtually unrecognizable from the excessively smiling American emissary in De Palma's film. Where Cruise's former character resembled more of a clean-cut action stick figure going through a series of disconnected motions, the chiseled-faced actor emerges here as a hot-blooded, libido-fueled street fighter with a mind like a steel trap.

Hunt's bristling physicality is articulated in every scene of the film as daredevil rock climber, bedroom seducer and hand-to-hand combat master. Much has been written about Cruise's insistence on performing many of his own stunts to the chagrin of Paramount studio execs and their insurance officers for good reason. The film's realism of danger allows it to operate on a higher level of believability and determination. There's no question that Cruise was born to have his unavoidably handsome aspect blown up to fantastic proportions on giant movie screens, but here Adonis meets Bruce Lee meets Steve McQueen. Like McQueen in The Great Escape, Cruise enjoys a thrilling chase sequence on a black Triumph motorcycle which Woo captures to exquisite effect.

Mission-Impossible-2

Mission: Impossible 2's plot purposefully aligns itself closer to a James Bond film than to an extended version of the '60s television show as De Palma's film did. Rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougray Scott) steals an extremely volatile German-made virus (called Chimera) to sell, along with its antidote, to a bio corporation for a huge sum of money and stock options so he can release the virus on the world and make even more money selling the antidote. Ambrose's big weakness is an uncontrollable lust for his comely ex-girlfriend and professional thief Nyah (Thandie Newton, Beloved). Ethan, too, falls for Nyah's charms before sending her back into the belly of the beast to live with Ambrose and help recover the Chimera virus.

Mission: Impossible 2 is a movie that revels in the seductiveness of masculine super action with all the bells and whistles of techno-gadgets, fast cars and explosions attached. It's more romantic than anything in a James Bond movie and boasts better Kung Fu scenes than The Matrix. As a sequel, M:I-2 links itself to the original with Ving Rhames (Out of Sight) returning as IMF agent Luther Strickell. Although Luther is stuck behind a laptop computer for most of the movie, Rhames graces the film with touches of humor underlying every line of his dialogue.

Mission2

But the strongest aspect of the movie is Woo's love of the duel. Ethan and Nyah fall in love while racing on a winding mountain road in an Audi convertible for the lady and a Porsche for Cruise. The two soon-to-be-lovers smash into one another and spin around in a slow motion pas de deux that exposes their mutual need for extreme danger as the only prerequisite for love. Likewise, when Hunt and Ambrose collide in a mano a mano motorcycle collision that gives way to an all-out fist fight, flesh and bones are the final solution to global threat and personal freedom. John Woo's summer blockbuster is surely the most elegant and graceful example of cinema's technology advanced comeuppance so far.

Rated PG-13. 123 mins. Five Stars Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

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July 25, 2018

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — FALLOUT

Mission_impossible__falloutMI6 fulfills everything the Mission: Impossible franchise has to offer if not much more. Tom Cruise’s frequent directorial collaborator and “Fallout” co-screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (“Jack Reacher,” “Edge of Tomorrow,” and “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation”) orchestrates the film’s overblown action with meticulous attention to detail, perhaps a little too much.

The car chase sequences, while impressive, don’t come near the unpredictable nature of the one William Friedkin filmed for “To Live and Die in L.A.” Still, there is plenty of splashy gravity defying spectacle to wash over you as you watch a movie that was clearly made with an IMAX screen in mind. The stunts are gut wrenching, and the helicopter stunts are out of this world.

You need every inch of that 80’ by 100’ IMAX screen to experience what the filmmakers have in mind, which is to blow yours. Another trip through the editing process would have helped tighten the pace but no one is coming out of this film not feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth.

Fallout

The politics of the MacGuffin-laden plot are sufficiently bland so that no audience member feels left out or put upon regardless of their political leanings. Even anarchists should feel right at home with this film’s cartoonish narrative design since the villain here is a Ted Kaczynski knock off. Bad guy number one has a crew of “Apostles” helping him destroy world order. Don’t worry, there’s only one bloody scene in the whole movie, and the rest of the violence is strictly of the cartoon variety. Our height-challenged action man Ethan Hunt (Cruise) still receives his mission assignments in the same old-school method of a self-destructing reel-to-reel tape.

MI6

Considering the franchise landscape at hand, what surprises most are the casting choices that fail. Alec Baldwin’s IMF character Alan Hunley (Ethan’s boss) seems like he walked onto the wrong set on the day he needed to shoot the handful of scenes he’s in. However, Baldwin does deliver one primo piece of acting while performing one of dramaturgy’s most traditional tropes. No plot spoiler here; you’ll know it when you see it. Angela Bassett also falls flat, regardless of her ageless beauty, as CIA director Erica Sloan. Bassett’s tempo and tone don’t match with the movie as a whole.

Mission-impossible-fallout

What does work in the character department is the reliable chemistry between Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, and Tom Cruise. Here is an onscreen friendship that feels like an old pair of slip-on house shoes. Michelle Monaghan is as perfect as it gets for onscreen romance. No shortage of mask disguises provides a series of nods to the original “Mission: Impossible” television show, while providing the movie with some nifty plot twists that register with an added amount of humor. And yes the super-action men's room fistfight is a hoot.

“Mission: Impossible” is the closest thing Hollywood has going next to a James Bond franchise, and going it is. Tom Cruise will soon be too old to play the part of a stunt-happy super spy. Get it while you can on the biggest IMAX screen you can find.  

Not rated. 147 mins. (A-) (Four stars — out of five / no halves)

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March 11, 2017

KONG: SKULL ISLAND

Kong-skull-island-posterWho is Kong this time? That’s the burning question any movie audience should be asking themselves when going into this woefully disappointing military adventure flick. In 2017, you might suppose that the biggest monkey on the planet would be anatomically correct; however, that is not the case. We are left to conclude that Kong might represent a transgendered ape co-opted by a foreign and domestic patriarchy to fit their narrative agenda. One thing is for certain; our gigantic ape protagonist isn’t sporting a package.

The by-committee (and focus grouped) script loses ground early on by not identifying the human protagonist that we should put our faith in for this two-hour endurance test. At first blush it seems that John Goodman’s super-invested scientist Bill Randa is the man for the job, but the screenwriters quickly shuffle Bill off to the side in favor of Tom Hiddleston’s oh-so-metrosexual James Conrad, a British ex-military mercenary tracker who probably counts calories. Conrad comes across as the kind of guy who wouldn’t know what to do with a boner if he ever got one. Equally absent of a libidinous center is Brie Larson’s “antiwar photographer” Mason Weaver. Even Kong can’t manage to muster any romantic interest in Mason when he holds her tiny body in his giant maw. Forget about Fey Wray or Jessica Lange (two O.G. actresses whose characters Kong took amorous interest in); the days of cross-species attraction are over. You can’t have a King Kong movie without a love story.

Kong Skull Island

The storyline goes half in the bag as a “Heart of Darkness” knock-off that might whet your appetite to check out Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now Redux” just to remind you what a great film is like. There are so many rock music montages in “Kong: Skull Island” that they feel like commercial breaks in the action. It’s fine to give Iggy and the Stooges props by playing “Down On The Street,” but it reeks of filmmakers trying way too hard to be hip.

This movie devolves into a slasher picture where you keep guessing about who will be knocked off next. We already know most of the U.S. soldiers sent along on the (circa 1973) mission are doomed. The filmmakers could have at least pulled out some real surprises in this area of character deletions. Instead, every plot point seems so rote you could script the story as you’re watching it. Sure, there’s some cool spectacle to be had, as when Kong battles a giant lizard creature, but there’s isn’t any meaningful social commentary for subtext.

“Kong: Skull Island” is a neutered adventure movie without any soul, or balls.   

Kongskullisland

Rated PG-13. 120 mins (C-) (One Star — out of five / no halves) 


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