7 posts categorized "Sports"

February 25, 2019


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.

Screen Shot 2022-03-23 at 8.39.12 PM

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'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.


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


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September 12, 2018


Free_soloTerrifying, invigorating, and heart-pounding describe this unforgettable documentary about free climber Alex Honnold and his efforts to climb Yosemite’s daunting 3,200 foot El Capitan Wall without a rope.

Co-directors Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi (“Meru”) delve into Alex’s guarded personality as he prepares for the treacherous climb that will define his life, whether or not he lives or dies attempting it.

Free solo

We get a sense of the childhood elements that contributed to Alex’s obsession with free climbing even as he enters into a romantic relationship that threatens to derail the strict focus and discipline essential for him to accomplish his goals. Every millimeter of Honnold's mind and body must be diamond-sharp to execute the climb.

Screen Shot 2022-03-23 at 9.37.13 PM

Significant is the filmmakers’ willingness to delve into Alex’s meticulous rehearsal process using ropes and the help of master climber Tommy Caldwell to prepare for the solo climb. As Caldwell puts it, “Imagine an Olympic gold medal-level achievement where if you don’t get that gold medal, you’re going to die.”

Placing cameras along various places on Alex’s path up the behemoth mountain allow him to climb without being distracted by buzzing drones or cameramen.

Alex Honnold

With his large dilated brown eyes and wiry frame, Honnold resembles a young Iggy Pop at the height of his powers circa the Bowie-produced “Lust for Life” era. Honnold’s easy charisma masks onion layers of emotional armor that his doting girlfriend Sanni McCandless pokes and prods at to varying levels of guarded verbal responses from our brave protagonist.

El Capitan

Alex Honnold carries the spirit if a samurai warrior with him. Hearing him describe the grips, holds, and complex maneuvers necessary to climb El Capitan’s sheer face, convince the viewer of his amazing climbing abilities that most of humanity hasn’t the first clue about. Here is a man who knows his limitations and how to push them right to the edge of existence.

To watch “Free Solo” is to take a journey into an incredibly dangerous if joyful world of free physical expression. Go on the adventure of a lifetime. The rewards are enormous.

Not rated. 97 mins.

5 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Every bit helps keep the reviews coming.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

August 01, 2010


Brothers of the Rope
George Mallory's Quest is Brought Full-Circle
By Cole Smithey

WildestdreamJust when you were fed up with the whole idea of people climbing Mount Everest like it was a rollercoaster at Magic Mountain, documentarian Anthony Geffen reclaims a significant aspect of the mountain's storied history.

The 1999 discovery of British explorer George Mallory's frozen body in Everest's famous "Death Zone" by American mountaineer Conrad Anker, lays down the parameters for a biographical essay on Mallory. Mallory's heartfelt letters to his wife Ruth during their time apart provide a condensed spectrum of his poetically expressed romanticism undaunted by the aspiration that consumes him. His promise to leave a photo of Ruth on the mountain peak plays into the mystery of Mallory's famous climb.

The Wildest Dream (2010) - IMDb

Amazing archive film footage from Mallory's 1924 expedition, cherished photo stills, and a roundelay of gifted narrators that includes Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Hugh Dancy, and Natasha Richardson combine to create a time-flipping effect to put the viewer in touch with the momentous breadth of its subject.


For his attempt to climb Everest in 1924, the 38-year-old Mallory chose as his climbing partner 21-year-old Sandy Irvine for the younger man's strong physicality as an Oxford oarsman and for his technical ability with oxygen tanks. Neither men would survive the climb, and the question of whether or not they were the first men to summit Everest is one of the central issues the film addresses in an unvarnished way.

Q&A with Conrad Anker of "The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest""

In 2007, 83-years after Mallory's doomed expedition, Conrad Anker and his co-climber Leo Houlding attempt to climb Everest during the exact same late season May/June time period that Mallory and Irvine did. They take with them gabardine jackets and hobnail boots identical to the ones that Mallory used, to test the clothing's practicality for such a rigorous journey. A particularly spectacular aspect of their mission to recreate Mallory's climb involves removing the aluminum ladder, that a group of Chinese climbers installed in 1975 in the Death Zone, to take a crack at free-climbing Everest's "Second Step," just as Mallory and Irvine would have had to do in 1924.


Never for a second is there any doubt that the prime motivation of the film is to assess the probability that George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were indeed the first men to make it onto the peak of Mount Everest. The photo of Ruth that Mallory promised to deposit at the mountain's top was not with his corpse, while other possessions like letters, an altimeter, and a watch were still with him. George Mallory will likely best be remembered for his response to a New York journalist who asked him, "Why climb Everest?" Mallory's iconic reply, "Because it's there," is an enigmatic concept that the film eloquently embraces, and illuminates on a visceral and intellectual level.


It's a shame that Mount Everest has turned into an amusement park for rich poseurs with barely an idea of who George Mallory was or what he was about as a man. It would be fare if the filmmakers had chosen not to replace the Chinese ladder on the Second Step.

Rated PG. 93 mins.

4 Stars


Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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