Friday, December 23, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in IMAX

Tom Cruise and the IMF team are back for the fourth adventure of the series. As everyone should know it's based on the popular TV show from the 60's. My personal favorites are the first and the third films. The first one was directed by Brian de Palma and was probably one of his best movies to date. The new one follows the formula well it's an pulse-pounding non-stop adventure with twists and turns some gadgets and masks but the thing that makes Mission Impossible an exciting franchise is the death defying stunts, the ones that have you on the edge of your seat even if you feel confident that the guy is going to make it out unscathed. In the first one it was the CIA break-in. The third one it was probably the break-in to the Vatican, the second one was OK with the Pharmaceutical facility but the John Woo helmed flick suffered mightily with a somewhat silly script and those damn birds he has a fetish for. For this fourth one the greatest thrill comes when Hunt is tasked with scaling the tallest building in the world the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai. This thing is 160 floors, 828 meters. Yeah, I got a little dizzy watching him wall crawl up that thing, and honestly I think you would too, especially in IMAX.
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back with a new mission. Get back the Nuclear launch codes from a terrorist before he can launch the missiles.  Sounds easy enough but he's got an extra wrinkle. His agency has disavowed him and his team after an explosion at the Kremlin. His team is accused of terrorism and they have to go underground. With him is loyal hacker and friend from the last film Benji (Simon Pegg) who now has field status. He's got two new additions to the team, the vary capable and beautiful Jane (Paula Patton) and the mysterious and troubled analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner). This one sort of resembles the first film in some respects due to Hunts being disavowed again but that's where the similarities end. This film has some of the best action sequences I've seen this year, perhaps in the last few years. It's true that the characters are lacking in true depth or development but that's pretty much always the case in these films. Director Brad Bird has pumped some new life into this series and given us a film was some pretty entertaining twists and turns and he put together a great group to enjoy this new mission with. I really love the addition of Jeremy Renner here and I think his Brandt character is far more interesting then Ethan Hunt and I wouldn't mind if he did take the reigns of the series going into the future. This was truly a team effort this time, not just a Cruise fest of witty punchlines and daring do. I also kind of liked the fact that their attempts to stop the bad guys was also kind of sloppy. The special gadgets would break at inopportune times, they'd almost always have to rely on plans B or C. You hardly see a flick now a days with spy gadgets that just suddenly don't work. Surely it doesn't happen to James Bond. But I kind of liked the added challenge.
So if you want to get the best viewing experience from this movie then you gotta see it in IMAX it will blow your mind at least a little bit. Especially the tower sequence. Also if you see it in IMAX you'll get a chance to see that pretty awesome 6 minute trailer for the Dark Knight Rises. Nolan doesn't give you too much information but the film looks like it may be the best yet.  I know there are a lot of flicks out there this Holiday season but if you want to stick with the solid then Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a good start.
Grade: 4 Buckets

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Descendants

It's nice to finally be able to get back into a groove of seeing movies regularly. If you've noticed I've been MIA from the reviews for a few weeks. This is my second week in a row of seeing something at the theatre and I'm going to try my best to keep the streak alive. This week I decided that I've been neglecting the Indie films lately so I skipped New Year's Eve and the Sitter to go and check out the Descendants. I had my doubts going in to be honest. Director Alexander Payne is a bit of a mixed bag for me. I loved Election from 1999 with Reese Witherspoon but I disliked About Schmidt. Sideways was entertaining but overall it felt pretty forgettable. I didn't understand all of the accolades people were throwing at it at the time and it feels like that's what people are doing with the Descendants. But I have to say it's justified in this case. It's a really excellent film. Probably one of Payne's best.
Matt King (George Clooney), a local Land Baron and lawyer, has a lot on his plate. His wife has slipped into a coma after a boating accident and he has discovered that she was having an affair. He struggles to raise his two daughters, Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) after the accident as they each struggle to cope with the situation. And just to make his life a little more frustrating he is tasked to oversee a land deal for his entire family. His family consists of what seem to be lazy folk who have squandered their inheritance and are now looking for the responsible Matt to make them all filthy rich by selling off their Family land that spans back to King Kamehameha.
The film is gorgeous and it's great to see the beautiful islands on the big screen. Especially when they go to Kauai, I remembered instantly why I loved the place. The film is well paced and the script is solid from beginning to end. Clooney is certainly deserving of an Oscar nod and I think he should have a good chance to win the big one this time. It's definitely one of his best performances to date. I also really enjoyed the two girls playing his daughters they were authentic and funny and the cast melded great together. It's also a great travelogue for Hawaii, they show some really great spots. It'll keep you warm through the winter months, a little mind fuck always does the trick. But I highly recommend this little film, so after the kids drag you to see crap like Alvin and the Chipmunks and New Year's Eve, treat yourself to one of the better films of the year and take a trip to Hawaii with the Descendants, you won't be disappointed.
Grade: 4 Buckets

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Muppets

I knew I was forgetting something - I completely and utterly dropped the ball on posting my Muppets post.  The teaser trailers and spoofs were really fun and it truly re-ignited my joy of the Muppets. Which is why I was a little taken aback that some of the former puppeteers, like Frank Oz, came out against the film. Supposedly Frank saw the script and bolted saying that he thought it was disrespectful to the characters. He didn't seem to go much further than that, he then said he didn't want to take anything away from the film. Call me crazy, but he didn't really have to say much more to damage the film in my mind. Especially when you say that the filmmakers were disrespectful to the characters. I admit that when I read that quote I started to have some second thoughts about going to see it and especially taking my son Nathan. I wouldn't want his first Muppet Movie experience to suck just cause Disney whored out a great franchise for the greenbacks. Thankfully I saw another interview with Jason Segal, the writer and actor in the new movie. He truly loves the Muppets and this was his love letter to them. So I decided to see for myself, and I discovered that it was silly a little schmaltzy but most of all it was the Muppets and it was damn fun.
The movie begins with two brothers Gary (Jason Segal); a human and Walter (voice: Peter Linz); a muppet. Walter eats, drinks breathes everything Muppets and apparently he doesn't realize he is one. Gary decides to take a romantic vacation with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams); also a human, to L.A. Gary decides to bring Walter along so he can accomplish his childhood dream of going to the Muppet's studio. When they get there they find that the place is a mess and that the Muppets have all been dislocated. Kermit is moping in his haunted mansion, Fonzie is telling bad jokes in Reno,  Ms. Piggy is the editor of Vogue in Paris,  Gonzo is a plumbing magnate. So once they get the gang back together they have to win the studio back from the evil clutches of Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) who wants to own the Muppets Studio in order to drill for oil. So apparently Fox Business channel had some kind of issue with the Muppets and this oil plot line. Apparently some idiot host on that show made some kind of implication that the Muppets were Communists and they are subverting our children with one would call hate speech towards, apparently, defenseless Oil Execs. Really, Fox Business, the Muppets are Communists? Did you watch the movie? Apparently you missed the plotline where like any good Socialist the Muppets put on a show to raise capital to buy back the studio. They also do it through a corporate TV studio. Sounds like Commie swine to me.
This was truly the Muppets I remembered as a kid, obviously modernized to some degree but the characters all seemed the same. So I guess I'm not sure what Frank Oz was talking about. This is truly a fun kids flick there are plenty of sight gags and silliness for the children and there are some subtle jokes in there for the eldest of us. Wasn't too fond of any of the new songs and Amy Adams needs to learn to turn down the cheeze factor a few notches. But otherwise if you have to choose between the massive glut of kids flicks, be it Arthur Christmas (lame), Hugo (boring and possibly depressing), Happy Feet 2 (Annoying) and Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Obnoxious, stupid and mind numbingly bad) then the answer is clear. Have a Muppets Christmas, or Muppet Hanukkah, and take the little ones to see something non-3D, barely any CGI, just good old fashioned puppets.
Grade: 3 Buckets