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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Tom Cruise

American Made (2017)

The American Dream.

It’s the late 70’s and Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) is enjoying the hell out of his life. He’s got a nice job, working as a pilot for commercial airline TWA, married to a beautiful woman (Sarah Wright), and is relatively happy with how simple things are in his life. Sure, he could always have a little more money in his pocket, but hey, what’s he to complain about? Well, things change for Barry when he’s contacted by CIA agent, Monty Schafer (Doomnhall Gleeson), who asks Seal to fly clandestine reconnaissance missions for the CIA over South America using a small plane with cameras installed. But why? Well, it seems like Schafer has a little mission of his own, to not just get his name known, but use Barry as the reason for it. Eventually though, times begin to change and Barry begins to get ideas; rather than just doing these missions for Schafer and making a small amount of extra-cash, why not just help out the drug cartel in transporting such things as drugs, guns, and all sorts of other goodies?

“Guys. Come on. Do I have to call L. Ron?”

Most of the negative-press towards American Made has been mostly about the fact that the movie plays fast-and-loose with its facts and takes what is, essentially, a dark, gritty, and sad tale about a dude transporting drugs and weapons across country-borders, and not really having the CIA crack down on him for it. And while this is no doubt a valuable criticism, it should also be noted that the movie doesn’t really care about how serious you, or anyone else, takes it story – it doesn’t, so who cares? All that matters, in the end, is whether or not this story deserves the big-screen treatment and is told in the most efficient, entertaining, and knowledgeable way possible.

And yes, that’s exactly what happens.

As per usual, director Dough Liman knows how to make this material crack and sizzle at just about every second. While it takes some time to get off-the-ground, once we are sprung into this world of drugs, guns, sex, heat, and conspiracies, it never lets up. American Made very much feels like Blow, in that it’s about, basically, a low-level dude trying to achieve the American Dream, while also not settling down to preach or cry about its sadness, but this movie’s a whole lot more exciting and fun to watch – this movie takes its premise seriously enough to know of the very real-dangers, but also doesn’t get too bogged down by them much, either. Much like Barry Seal himself, the movie knows what it’s dealing with, but is willing and able to turn a blind-eye in hopes that it will make things a lot more enjoyable to watch.

And that’s exactly what happens with American Made, the kind of movie that feels like it should be a lot more serious, but gets by entirely on its charm and quick pace. You can focus on the fact that it’s about the government turning a blind-eye and using another middle-class American for their own game, but that’s already to be expected. American Made has very much the same rather jokey, wink-wink true-story aspect that Narcos gets away with, but in this case, isn’t a little afraid to play around with certain facts and anecdotes.

“All of this, Tom, could be yours. Just leave that freakin’ cult, bro.”

It’s still a true story as is, but how many liberties were taken, honestly, we don’t fully know.

What we know about American Made is that it gives us, in what seems like a millennium, an actual performance from Tom Cruise, that doesn’t include much running or fancy stunts, but instead, a character, a personality, and oh yeah, plenty of opportunities to have some fun. And yes, Cruise reminds us all that he is, no matter how many silly blockbusters he does, a movie-star through and through; he can hang with the best of them, take over every scene he’s in, and most importantly, sometimes make you forget you’re watching Tom Cruise, movie-star. Cruise hasn’t been able to do that in quite some time, but here, as Barry Seal, he does actually grow into this character and over time, we start to see less of Cruise, and more of Seal. Both are still charming as hell, but there’s some subtle differences here that makes the performance all the more lovely to watch and marvel at.

Cause honestly, who knows the next time we’re going to get a great performance from Cruise where he, believe it or not, actually acts? Let’s just take our wins when we get them and be happy. And oh yeah, forget about the Mummy.

Everybody else already has.

Consensus: As entertatining and as fun, as it is informative, American Made doesn’t pass itself off as a history-lesson, but feels like it’s pulling double duty, while also reminding us that Tom Cruise is a freakin’ movie-star.

7.5 / 10

“Can’t run from all of your problems, Tom.”

Photos Courtesy of: Aceshowbiz

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The Mummy (2017)

Damn. Where was Brendan Fraser when we needed him?

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) is a soldier in the United States Army who, when he’s not taking down terrorists and saving the country, is going around foreign countries, stealing ancient artifacts, and selling them on the black market for way more than is ever predicted. However, he discovers something that maybe even he may not be able to get away from: A tomb containing, get this, a mummy. Turns out, the mummy (Sofia Boutella) is an old princess who was supposed to be Queen, only to then have been sabotoged, killed and, of course, mummified. Now, she’s out of her tomb and needs something to latch onto, regardless of what it is. So, of course, she latches onto Nick and desires every part of him, hoping that she can, sooner than later, become an evil, but much more powerful spirit than ever before. Nick doesn’t like this, so, with the help of a world-renowned archaeologist Jenny (Annabelle Wallis), who Nick has had relations with in the past, he hopes to not only be rid of this evil, but stop it once and for all, so that no one else in the world can be attacked by such an evil.

Wow. Scientology can do all sorts of tricks to 54-year-old-men’s bodies.

The Mummy is an odd movie in that it’s clearly and most obviously setting-up a franchise, with future, money-grabbing movies to come down the line, but by the same token, also doesn’t feel like it’s leaving a whole lot of room for places this story can go. For instance, we get a glimpse of Russell Crowe’s Dr. Jekyll, who turns crazy and nuts, only to then not moments later, so what’s there to be of him in the future? Is he getting his own movie where he can do what he already did for us? Not to mention the mummy, too, who clearly has her story all laid-out for us, so as to not give us any grey-areas on the matter whatsoever.

So you’d think her story would be done, right?

Well, oddly enough, no. The movie still sets her story up as if there’s something monumental that we just have to wait around for and see. Then, of course, there’s this issue of Tom Cruise who, even at this stage in his career, seems like he may be slumming it a bit for something like the Mummy, where even his charm and wit can’t be the center of attention, but a non-stop punchline just in case for when things get too serious and scary. But yeah, even his story is set-up to continue on and on, but again, his story seems done and, yeah, it’s Tom Cruise, so is he really going to sign on to another one of these when he could just stay at home and collect Mission Impossible money for the rest of his days?

Probably not, but hey, the Mummy is still having fun setting itself up for further adventures down the road. And this is obviously a problem, because it takes away from what could have already been a pretty fun, light and silly romp. Granted, we didn’t really need a reboot of the Mummy, but hey, we got it and if this is the best that they could do, then yeah, it feels like maybe, just maybe, Brendan Fraser’s franchise shouldn’t have even be messed with in the first place.

Literally pre-gaming for Ozzfest already.

Cause it’s not like the Mummy is as awful as everyone is making it out to be; it’s occasionally fun, charming and yes, a little goofy, but it can occasionally come together and be worth watching. It’s honestly all of the CGI, story-strands, set-ups, and mythological elements that don’t quite work and yeah, even get in the way of the spirit of this movie, that can be found if you look deep and hard enough. Granted, it’s not easy to like a movie like the Mummy, especially when it does seem as if it’s trying too hard to please everyone who watches it, but it can be a bit enjoyable, if you can get past all of these other issues that seem to constantly be getting in the way.

But yeah, that can be a pretty difficult task, so it’s understandable if it doesn’t quite work out for you, like it did for me.

I’m just a weird guy who takes it easy on these over-budgeted, glossy, and expensive summer blockbusters that don’t know how to settle themselves down and can, occasionally, become total messes. But sometimes, messes can be fun. They can also be dull, too, which the Mummy can be, when it forgets to let itself be some bit of fun.

Some bit, unfortunately. But there is a bit.

Consensus: Way too much story and set-up for very little reason, the Mummy can be occasionally fun and entertaining, but also feels like it’s a step-down for everyone involved, especially a randomly cast Cruise.

5 / 10

Uh oh. Chris Martin may have an issue here.

Photos Courtesy of: IndieWire

The Color of Money (1986)

The Color of Money

“Fast” Eddie Felson (Paul Newman) has been out of the hustlin’ game for quite some time. Nowadays, he spends most of his time, jumping from town-to-town, checking out all of the local pool-halls and seeing what new, exciting and unknown talent lurks in the sometimes seedy underworld. One day, he ends up catching Vincent Lauria (Tom Cruise) playing and realizes that the kid’s not just cocky and brash, but he can also play a pretty mean game of pool, too. However, Eddie feels like it can still be worked on in ways, so he decides to take Vincent under his wing, where the two will go from town-to-town, playing all sorts of talented and colorful characters, sometimes for money and other times, just for plain and simple respect. Vincent wants to learn from Eddie, but he’s also got a chip on his shoulder, making Eddie feel like he has to try harder to teach the kid a thing or two. And of course, the relationship only gets more complicated once Vincent’s girlfriend, Carmen (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), comes along for the trip, catching the eye of Eddie.

Old school....

Old school….

The Color of Money, as a movie all by itself, is okay. In a way, it’s a perfectly serviceable sports movie, in which we get to see a certain side of society that we don’t often get to see, with a story that’s conventional, and some pretty good performances. But when you also take into consideration that the Color of Money isn’t just a 25-year-late sequel to the Hustler and directed by none other than Martin Scorsese, well then, it takes on a whole new life.

If anything, it feels like a total disappointment.

Which isn’t to state that the Color of Money is a bad movie in the slightest, but it doesn’t feel like anything particularly fun, exciting or ground-breaking as it probably should have been. Did we really need a sequel to the Hustler? Probably not, but the idea here is promising and the fact that the movie was able to get Newman back in the iconic role of Eddie Felson, makes matters all the better. That’s why, while watching the Color of Money, it’s not hard to sit and imagine, “How could something with so much working for it and with so many damn talented people involved, turn out to be so ‘meh’?”

Honestly, I don’t have the answer. The only person who probably does is Scorsese himself as, as much as it pains me to say, seems like he was doing this for nothing more than just a paycheck. Sure, there’s brief, fleeting moments of the same kind of energetic inspiration we’re so used to seeing from him and his movies, but for the most part, the movie’s slow, the momentum barely ever picks up, and the times where it seems like there’s going to be some real stakes and/or emotional tension in the air, the movie suddenly backs off and continues on some path that we aren’t totally interested in.

It’s odd, too, because like I’ve stated before, the performances are quite good here, it’s just that they’re not playing with all that much.

It’s nice that Newman won the Oscar for this, but it’s also a shame, too. The reason being is because out of all the other 8 times that he was nominated, the one time that he won had to be for his least-compelling role to-date, not to mention an inferior take on a character he already played to perfection over two decades before. That’s not taking anything away from Newman, because he’s one of the absolute greats of cinema in general, but it goes without saying that it’s a little bit disheartening when someone who is so talented, so amazing and so compelling to watch, wins the highest prize an actor could win, for a role that shows him not doing much but just coasting along like we’ve seen him do before.

...meet new school!

…meet new school!

Because most of the movie is actually spent on Cruise and his character, who also seems like doesn’t have enough to really work with. Cruise does a nice job with the super-hyper, super-cocky Vincent, but also gets to be a tad annoying, mostly due to his character just being boring. We’ve seen this kind of character before a hundred million times, we know he’s got talent, we know he’s going to put it to good use, and we know he’s going to be successful, but we also know that he’s got a huge ego and will most likely make a terrible decision that not just hurts him, but all of those around him.

Sound familiar yet?

Surprisingly, the one who actually leaves the biggest mark is Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Carmen, who not only feels like the voice of reason here, but in a totally different movie altogether. Mastrantonio’s best skills as an actress has always been that she was the cool girl in the corner, who always had something to say, but didn’t mind keeping it to herself – here, she plays that role and is perfect with it. The chemistry she has with Newman is actually pretty electric, making it all the more clear that the movie should have probably been more about them, and less about the mentor-student relationship that’s overdone with Cruise and Newman.

Oh well, at least Newman got that Oscar. We can all walk away happy from this knowing that fun fact.

Consensus: Even with the talented cast, Scorsese being the camera, and promising material leftover from the original, the Color of Money unfortunately still feels conventional and tired, like the sports genre itself.

5.5 / 10

Wow. They sure do learn quick.

Wow. They sure do learn quick.

Photos Courtesy of: Moon in Gemini 

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Once he was out, they pulled him back in. “They”, meaning international-audiences.

Investigator Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is known for being a bit of a wild card who has always played by his own rules, but always made sure that whatever needed to get done, got done. Now, after promising himself that he’d step away from the crime game for good, somehow, he gets pulled back into it all after the arrest of Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), an Army major accused of treason. The reason why Reacher cares about Turner’s case in the first place, is because he created some sort of a friendship with her over the past year or so, and felt like she was his next best chance at love, or something resembling it. So, he decides that it’s up to him, to prove that she’s guilty once and for all, but in order to do that, he’s going to have step on a lot of toes, kick a lot of assess, break a lot of bones, and most importantly, run into powerful baddies. It’s a job that Reacher is more than capable of handling, however, the idea is brought up that he may have a daughter out there in the world and, well, it makes Reacher think a lot longer and harder about his life.

Uh oh. Those cops are about to get a serious wake-up call. No literally.

Uh oh. Those cops are about to get a serious wake-up call. No literally.

Though it definitely has its haters, the first Jack Reacher did a lot for me. It was entertaining, quick, and wholly reminiscent of the old-school action-thrillers of the 70’s, that were less about the pizzazz and special-effects, and more about telling a good story and trying to figure out how action comes out of said story. It wasn’t necessarily a huge hit for Cruise stateside, but for some reason, international-audiences still loved it and the movie made a crap-ton of money.

So yeah, obviously, a sequel is to follow and that’s where we are here, with Never Go Back – a dull, unoriginal title that doesn’t do much except to tell you that it’s not the first movie, without having to put something as typical as the number “2”.

Anyway, all of that is besides the point and away from the fact that there probably didn’t need to be a sequel made in the first place, but it’s here and you know what? It’s not so bad. As far as directors of action go, Christopher McQuarrie is better than Edward Zwick, but the later does an okay job here of maintaining himself, even what with everything going on. While it’s hard to say if Never Go Back follows the same formula of most sequels – in that everything that worked in the first movie, is overdone to the extreme – it is quite easy to see that it’s definitely a much more messier movie, perhaps taking on a whole lot more than it feasibly could have.

For one, the mystery case at the center is fine, if only because it’s clear and conventional to a fault – person is wrongly accused, Reacher sets out to right the wrongs, bad stuff happen, bad people show up, etc. That’s all fine, but it’s when the movie tries to toss down a heartfelt testament to Reacher and his possible daughter that the movie really stumbles and doesn’t know what it wants to do with itself. The conversations are incredibly awkward and actress who plays the daughter, Danika Yarosh, is, unfortunately, not given the best material to work with. She’s trying to be that typical, smart-ass teen who always think she knows what’s best for her life, even when she clearly doesn’t, but it’s just a tired role that, quite frankly, grinds the movie to a halt, when it should be constantly moving and not stopping for a single thing.

Yeah, he doesn't like being followed.

Yeah, he doesn’t like being followed.

But thankfully, Never Go Back does feature some good action and of course, the always dependable Tom Cruise doing what he does best, but doesn’t too often actually do in movies: Play someone who isn’t begging for us to love and adore him.

Lately, we’ve seen Cruise change-up his career of sorts, in that, sure, he’s still doing action movies and whatnot, but he’s also playing characters in them that are still human beings, and fully-formed characters in and of themselves. They aren’t perfect, they aren’t always the nicest people, and yeah, they don’t always make the best decisions, but Cruise is such a movie star that he always makes these characters work and his second-outing as Reacher, still works. There’s a lot more to him this time than just kicking ass, taking names, and saying a witty thing here and there, which helps with Reacher himself, because it actually gives Cruise himself more of an opportunity to, well, act.

It also helps that he’s got Colbie Smulders to work off of who, as usual, is quite fun to watch. She’s smart, sassy and more than capable of keeping it with the best of them. It’s a known thing that Cruise doesn’t often have good chemistry with his female leads, but here, he and Smulders work well together, giving you the idea that their characters, in different circumstances, truly could make something resembling a relationship work. But then again, there’s just too much ass-kicking and crime-solving needed to be done, so yeah, they’ll have to wait on that.

Or, at least until the next movie comes out.

Consensus: Even if it doesn’t reach the same heights as the energetic and classic-styled original flick, Never Go Back is still a fine offering of action, twists, and nice acting from Cruise and Smulders.

6 / 10

Honeymoon spot?

Honeymoon spot?

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire

The Queen (2006)

God save the queen, indeed.

After the death of Princess Diana, all of London was a public mess. People were crying, leaving beds of flowers, and in a downtrodden depression that hadn’t been since the days of the sudden deaths of John Lennon, or Elvis Presley. However, one person who wasn’t quite as tearful or as upset as the rest of the general public was her former mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren). Elizabeth, even though she tried to appreciate Diana for what she was, can’t understand why so many people would be in such a fit over somebody who, to be honest, they didn’t know. Surely, Elizabeth doesn’t get the point of this sadness, which is why she seems to live her life as usual, walking around with her beloved Corgis, appreciating her husband (James Cromwell), and doing what she always does. Except, this is probably not the best thing for Elizabeth to do, what with Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) ascending to the office of Prime Minister, creating more tension and hatred for her in the press and among public opinion. Eventually, Elizabeth starts to look at the situation in a different light and realize a little something new about herself, as well as the rest of London.

More skin is always better, Philip.

More leg is always better, Philip.

The Queen is an interesting drama, in that everything about it screams “Oscar-bait”, however, the way in which the movie actually plays out, shows something somewhat different. For one, director Stephen Frears approaches the material, not with an overabundance of metaphors and moments of sheer importance, but with a delicate, attention-paying hand and eye that’s more concerned about these actual few people or so, rather than trying to make some statement about how the Queen’s ideals represent an older way of life, against what Diana represented. Surely, all of this material was probably here for Frears to work with, but because he doesn’t see the need in making his material more heavy-handed than it has any right to be, it plays out a little bit better than it would have, had the Academy been sneering towards his way.

At the same time, however, the Queen is also a movie that doesn’t really do much with itself.

I don’t mean this as a way to say that the movie is boring, as there’s plenty to look at, pay attention to, and think about, even when it seems like there’s hardly anything to look or think about. But what I do mean to say is that the Queen deals with such a small issue, in such a particularly subtle way, that if you aren’t already in love with the Queen, the royal family, or everything that the British Royal stand for the most, then sadly, you’ll be kind of lost. For me, I found it hard to care whether or not Queen Elizabeth actually came to terms with the death and subsequent public outcry of Princess Diana. Most of this has to do with the fact that, well, nothing’s really at-stake here; nobody’s going to be calling for the decapitation of her, there’s not going to be any impeachment, and there will surely be no moment of spiritual awakening.

Everything, as they say, will remain the same. Some things may change, but overall, it will be the same as it always was.

And even though watching as a bunch of British cabinet members run around, talking with one another, and generally looking as serious as can be, may sound like fun to some, it doesn’t always sound as fun to me, especially when there isn’t much to grab at here. Frears does a smart thing in that he doesn’t try to overdo the movie with a heavily-stylized direction, but because of this, the movie can sometimes feel as if it’s just treading along, at its own, meandering pace, where people talk and do things, but really, what does any of it matter? Once again, I know I may be in the minority of saying bad things about this relatively beloved film, but for me, while watching the Queen, it was hard to really get sucked into what was going on, especially when there didn’t seem to be much of anything at-stake, except for people’s own hearts, feelings and self-respect.

"Oh, poof! These bloody wankers!"

“Oh, poof! These bloody wankers!”

To me, that’s only high-stakes drama if we undoubtedly care for the subjects whose hearts, feelings, and self-respect is on the line, and with the Queen, some characters were sympathetic, others were not. Helen Mirren won the Oscar for this here and it makes total sense; not only does she downplay the whole role, but she really gets inside of Queen Elizabeth II’s mind, body and soul, wherein we see here deal with this tragedy in the only way she can – without saying, or doing much at all. And of course, there’s a lot of what Queen Elizabeth II says about the public that’s not only funny, but honest, too, giving us the impression that she’s a lady who doesn’t hold back when expressing her feelings on a certain issue, regardless of whether it’s in-line with public opinion, or not.

This isn’t the kind of performance that tends to win Oscars, which is perhaps why Mirren’s performance is all the more illuminating.

But once again, what’s at stake? According to the movie, it’s everything and anything, but in reality, it doesn’t feel like much. We hear a lot from Michael Sheen’s Tony Blair who, considering that the public loves just about everything he does and says, generally seems to be the voice of reason amidst all of the pain and turmoil, but even he turns into this sappy mess who, seemingly out of nowhere, is breaking into speeches about the Queen, her pride, her courage, and why everybody should stick right up for. Maybe the actual Tony Blair was like this, but it seems to come out of nowhere in a film that paints him in an odd light. Same goes for James Cromwell’s Prince Philip, who seems more concerned about his stag, and less about anything else that’s going on.

Once again, maybe this is how the real people, but it still doesn’t grab me even more and make me actually give a flyin’ hoot.

Consensus: Though the direction and performances are much smaller than you’d expect from the typical, awards-friendly fare that the Queen exists in, there’s still not enough to make someone who generally doesn’t care about subjects such as these, actually start doing that.

6 / 10

"Kiss it. Kiss it harder."

“Kiss it. Kiss it harder.”

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Identity Theory, Cineplex

War of the Worlds (2005)

“Stop using your technology now!”, he types on his laptop.

Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), an ordinary, blue-collar man doesn’t have the greatest life a man like he should have. His ex-wife (Miranda Otto) doesn’t really trust him and is currently pregnant with her new husband; his kids (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin), he doesn’t really see, so therefore, they don’t really connect with him all that much and usually end conversations with angry shouting; and his house itself, is dirty, unorganized, and a mish-mash of stuff he has no use for anymore. His life can be so miserable at times, that if an alien attack were to randomly occur, he’d probably be better off. Well, wouldn’t you know it? That’s exactly what happens! The aliens do invade Earth and although their motivations aren’t known just yet, they’ve taken extra precautions and have deactivated every piece of technology on the planet, leaving each and every human to be scrambling all over, without any idea of what to do. This leaves Ray, along with his kids, to run around like chickens with their heads cut-off, too, but he’s inspired enough to try and find shelter, as soon as possible. Problem is, he’s still facing problems with his family and it might just linger in to the mission of getting to safety.

Tom Cruise running.

Tom Cruise is scared.

So rarely do we get to see Steven Spielberg lash-out any form of anger that may be within him. However, for the first hour of War of the Worlds, we get to see Spielberg at his angriest and, above all else, most playful. People are zipped to ashes; cars are flipped; buildings are destroyed; and everybody’s running around like chickens with their heads cut-off. On the other side of the camera, though, is Spielberg who, it’s not hard to imagine, may have had a huge, cheek-to-cheek grin while filming all of this.

Not only does he have the dough to play with whatever he wants to play with, but he’s doing so in a style that feels as if it’s also giving a big old “F**k you” to every other director out there who specializes in these kinds of summer, blow-everything-up blockbusters (basically, Roland Emmerich). While the carnage and destruction is fun and exciting to watch, Spielberg also doesn’t forget to show the impact of this, where he understands that people are, yes, dying right in front of our eyes. At the same time, though, he still can’t get past the sense of wonder of just how great everything looks, sounds and feels; while the alien spaceship special-effects feel a little weak, all of the terror that they do cause, doesn’t and helps make it capable of getting past those problems.

And honestly, the main reason why I’m focusing solely so much on the first hour or so of this, is because after it’s over, everything slows down, and we now have to focus on these characters a bit more, the movie gets pretty lame.

It’s almost as if Spielberg signed onto this in the first place, because all he wanted to do was chuck things around and see stuff blow up, but then, remembered that there had to be some form of a human story here, with actual, human-like characters, and instantly got disinterested in what he was doing. This makes the rest of the film, not only feel like a bore, but feel like Spielberg himself is just going through the motions, already too tired and strained from all of the effort he put into the first hour of this movie. Because with Spielberg, you can’t forget that when worse comes to worse, he’s always got to focus on that family-drama.

Which, in some cases, isn’t all that bad. Though it’s a plot-trope he tosses in more than he should, he does get these occasional bursts of smart energy where it seems pertinent to helping flesh the story out a bit more, and therefore, have the movie impact its audience a whole lot harder.

In the case of War of the Worlds and Tom Cruise’s on-screen family, it feels as lazy as Spielberg’s done before.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

Tom Cruise is still scared.

For one, there’s nothing really interesting to this family that makes it easy for us to want to get behind them the whole way through and see if they end up surviving the whole disaster by the end. Cruise’s Ray character is so average, that it doesn’t really matter, because all he’s really doing, once you think about it, is just running around and ducking under and behind certain surfaces; Dakota Fanning’s daughter character yells and screams the whole time and it used as an obvious crutch for Ray to have to make tough decisions; and Justin Chatwin’s son character is such a pain-in-the-ass and annoying, that when it came around for the time to, possibly, leave the movie for good, I could care less. In fact, I wanted him to get the boot earlier!

Because these characters are so poorly-written as is, watching them as they try to survive this disastrous situation, really does not prove to be a fun time. There’s nothing to be compelled by, nor is there any real interesting bits of character-drama to be found; everybody’s just sort of feuding with one another because, well, they’re family and that’s what family’s seem to do. However, due to the fact that Tom Cruise is in the role of the patriarch and it’s his family we’re talking about, then of course you know how it’s all going to go.

I won’t say much more, but I think you get my meaning if you’ve ever seen a movie with Tom Cruise in the past decade.

Hell, even longer!

Then, as the plot progresses, Tim Robbins shows up in the movie as a weird, violent and overly dramatic dude who camps out in the middle of the woods, strapped-to-his-boots with guns and whatnot. Because Robbins’ character is all about having guns protect himself from whatever dangers may be out there, the movie paints him in such a crude-light, that it’s downright distracting. Robbins doesn’t help matters either, as he genuinely seems to be just over-acting as much as he can. And shame on Spielberg for not telling him when to tone it down, take it easy, or call for lunch.

Basically, he stopped giving a hoot and it’s not the kind of Steven Spielberg that I don’t think anybody wants to see.

Consensus: Despite a very strong first-half, War of the Worlds soon runs out of ideas, looses track of itself, and rely too heavily on familiar family-drama that’s shoe-horned in to just have us root and cheer on Tom Cruise, once again.

6 / 10

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Tom Cruise is always scared!

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Minority Report (2002)

“Don’t trust the police; trust Scientology.” – Tom Cruise, probably.

Set in a future where technology reigns supreme and decides just about each and every person’s decisions, the police force known as “the Pre-Crime Division” arrest people before they can commit murders based on the psychic intuition of three Precognatives. Or, for short, “Pre-cogs”. And lead cop, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), has been working alongside them for quite some time, wherein they trust them, he trusts them, and everything goes as smoothly as possible; murders are stopped, people are put in jail, lives are saved, and everybody goes home a lot happier! However, when looking through the pre-cogs’ memory-bases, Anderton sees a murder committed by none other than himself. Though Anderton doesn’t believe that he’d ever kill someone, no matter for what reason, it’s company policy to take any person in for questioning, no matter who the person is, or what the stipulations may be. But Anderton feels as if he’s being set up, and rather than letting himself get taken in, questioned, and possibly incarcerated for something he hasn’t done yet, let alone, doesn’t think he’ll ever commit, he decides to go on a run from the law. Along the way, he hopes to find out the truth behind the murder and whether or not he’s being set-up to begin with, but a personal disaster from his personal life comes back to bite him and it may not only cost him his innocence, but possibly his life.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

Somehow, this seems to be left-over set-material from A.I.

There’s always two Steven Spielberg’s working in this world that, on occasion, seem to battle against one another. There’s the serious, dramatic director who makes emotional, sometimes stories that breathe-off huge levels of importance and show that there’s a true artist within the work (see Saving Private Ryan and/or Schindler’s List). Then, on the other hand, there’s the fun, free-wheeling dude who appreciates his blockbusters and succumbs more to the mainstream, without really caring who is happy with that decision, or who isn’t (see Jurassic Park and/or Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). And while I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing that he plays both hands, it also calls into question just how hit-or-miss he can be; while the blockbusters he creates can be exciting and better than most others out there, they also sometimes make it seem like he’s sleeping on those fine talents of his we so rarely see put on full-display.

And then, there’s Minority Report, which seems more like a psychological battle inside of Spielberg’s head, rather than an actual, great movie.

If there’s credit that has to be given to Spielberg, it’s in the way that he allows for this dark, brooding future shine through in some neat, fancy ways. Because this is a Philip K. Dick adaptation, obviously there’s going to be a whole bunch of social-commentary about the government, the way in which they spy, as well as technology, and how it controls our each and every lives. But Spielberg doesn’t seem all that incredibly interested with focusing on that, and instead, seems incredibly taken away with all the sorts of strange, but original pieces of technology he can give us.

For a few examples, there’s weird-looking, electronic spiders that crawl around and search for people; there’s the high-velocity mag-lev cars, that are actually a lot easier to jump out of, despite the speed they appear to be going in; there’s the eye-scanners stationed nearly everywhere that not only keep track of where each and every person is at, but bother you with advertisements; and, as small as it may be, there’s cereal-boxes with electronic-screens that move and make noises. It’s such a small, little detail, but it’s the one that keeps on giving and assures me that Spielberg was just amped-up to make this movie, as some may be to watch it. That’s the Spielberg we all know, love, and wish we saw a whole lot more of.

And that’s the same kind of Spielberg we get for the longest time in Minority Report.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you're in some deep trouble.

If Colin Farrell takes over your command, you know you’re in some deep trouble.

Considering that half of this movie is literally just Tom Cruise running away from the police in a futuristic-world, it makes sense that the movie moves at a quick-as-nails pace and continue to do until there’s time needed for smaller, more character-based moments. And this part of Minority Report is enjoyable; everything moves in such a swift pace that even though there a few plot-holes to be found (like, how does someone get back into their job’s headquarters, when they’re literally on-the-run from those said people in the headquarters?), it’s easy to forget about and forgive them because everything’s so energetic as is. It’s almost like Spielberg cared so much about the look of the movie, that he didn’t get too bogged-down in certain plot-details; as long as everything’s moving nicely, all is well.

For awhile, too, everything is well. Until it isn’t.

The next-half of Minority Report is where it seems like Spielberg starts to fall back into his own trends of diving too hard into all of the family drama, twists and turns that don’t make much sense, and a sugar-coated, happy-ending that seem to come out of nowhere. And the reason why most of this stuff seems to come out of nowhere, is because a good majority of the movie is as bleak and as scary as you’d expect a Philip K. Dick adaptation to be – which isn’t something we expect from Spielberg himself. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing to see the final-act of the movie, not just grind to a screeching halt, but also seem to forget about what makes this world so damn interesting to begin with: It’s sadness and just how far Spielberg is willing and/or able to go through with developing that more and more.

Because through the likes of Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Neal McDonough, Peter Stormare, and, well, many more, we’re able to see how such human beings get by in a world that’s so upsetting and miserable, and still be somewhat happy. Once all of that begins to wear thin, it becomes clear that we’re out of a Philip K. Dick story, and more of in one that’s Spielberg’s own creation; where everybody hugs, cries, goes on about their daddy-issues, and all sorts of other sappiness ensues. Sometimes this is fine, but it feels misplaced here.

If only this had been directed by Ridley Scott, straight after he finished up with Blade Runner.

Consensus: For a good portion, Minority Report is as fun, ambitious, exciting, and artistically-driven as Spielberg can get, but later on, it goes back to his ham-handed old ways and feels like a bit of a retreat.

7.5 / 10

It's okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

It’s okay to trust Tom, Samantha. A lot of women have.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Scientology be damned when Ethan Hunt is on the case!

Now that the IMF has been disbanded for the fact that they are considered unreliable and dangerous, superstar agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is forced to go rogue. However, Ethan believes that he has got another mission left in him that will take him to ultra shady group that is “the Syndicate”. Ethan has an idea that the Syndicate is apparently up to no good and is planning on wiping out the entire globe, but in order to stop this from happening, he needs to get to the head of the group (Sean Harris) – which, considering how top-notch and professional this group is, is a lot easier said then done. But Ethan is inspired enough to take matters into his own hands, even if that means bringing some of his old friends and colleagues around one more time, even if that means that their jobs will be at-stake in doing so. However, another problem standing in Ethan’s way is a fellow agent by the name of Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who he isn’t quite sure of which side she’s actually on. Which not only spells problems for Ethan’s mission, but also his heart that seems to be taken a bit with this mysterious lady.

Unlike most movie franchises out there, each installment of Mission: Impossible feels as if they are their own kind of movie, rather than just a carbon-copy of the one that came before it. With the first, we got Brian De Palma’s version of Hitchockian Bond movie, filled with all sorts of gadgets, twists and turns; in the second, we got John Woo’s wild and crazy action-thriller, chock full of explosions, fire, and yes, even doves; with the third movie, we got another one of J.J. Abrams’ frenetic kind of thrillers that seemed so intense, that they were about to blow-up from all the intensity; and then, with the fourth movie, we got Brad Bird’s version that hearkened back to the glory days of old school blockbusters, where times were a lot simpler then. Now, with the fourth movie, as being directed by Christopher McQuarrie, we get a slightly gritty-take on the Mission: Impossible story, which is what most people know McQuarrie to do well with.

Look out, Bourne!

Look out, Bourne!

However, at the same time, it’s still a solid action-thriller in its own right, regardless of if it follows some sort of style-pattern. Sometimes, all you need is a whole heck of a lot of action and fun thrown into your sometimes confusing story, just to make sure that everything works out as fine as can be. The Mission: Impossible movies, from what it seems, will continue to last on for another couple of years (so long as Cruise continues to sign-up for them), and honestly, I’m fine with that; it’s constantly finding new and interesting ways to re-invent itself, pick up some neat tricks along the way, and continue to set the bar for action-thrillers in its same vein.

Sort of like the Fast and Furious franchise, except for the kind of crowd who prefers wine, as opposed to Colt 45.

And in no way is that an insult to either groups of these movies; not only are those franchise’s movies fun, but they can be enjoyed by practically anyone who decides to check them out and see what they’re working with. You don’t need to see all of the Fast and Furious movies to enjoy just one, just like you don’t need to do the same for these Mission: Impossible movies – they sort of just work on their own. That’s how most action movies should be, and while it sounds incredibly easy, it’s a whole different story when watching a bad thriller and realizing that the action stinks, the story stinks, and basically, just everything else about it stinks.

If you can’t do an action movie right, then what can you do?!?

Because even though these movies have something of a plot to work with, it’s really just about the set-pieces and how far they can keep the audiences invested, regardless of how far-fetched they can get. This happens many of times in Rogue Nation, where we see scenes of Hunt holding his breath underwater for nearly three minutes straight, dangle above a French opera without a single person taking notice, or, as famously-known, hang on quite loosely to an airplane as its taking air. There’s plenty more where these examples come from, and while they may all sound ridiculous, they’re still a whole bunch of fun to sit through, watch, and think of what’s going to happen next; even if, you know, it’s already fully well-known what’s going to happen to some of these characters by the end of the tale.

There's definitely more than a little Captain in her.

There’s definitely more than a little Captain in her.

And even though Rogue Nation may be a bit of a step-back for the franchise (especially after the fantastic and very surprising Ghost Protocol), it still is, once again, a very solid action-thriller. It gets just about all of the beats right in terms of the action-department, is just long enough to not overstay its welcome, and seems like it’s still staying true to its heart by giving us the character moments in between all of the running around and explosions to make things seem a whole lot more human for the meantime. Do we really need them? Not really, but they’re fine to fall back on if you need to take a chill pill and just watch as a bunch of people talk to one another, spouting all sorts of exposition that don’t mean much else other than just, “We need to catch the bad guy and this is how we do it”.

That’s literally what every line of dialogue in Rogue Nation ends up leading towards, but there are a few surprises to be found along the way.

But the surprises don’t necessarily come from the likes of Tom Cruise, or Jeremy Renner, or Simon Pegg, or Ving Rhames, or even Alec Baldwin – they’re all fine, it’s just that who they’re playing (with the exception of newcomer Baldwin), has been done before and doesn’t feel like any sort of variation. They’re are all perfectly serviceable in a movie that’s more or less concerned with how deep of a situation it can throw its hero into, only to allow for him to break out of it in some miraculous way, nearly ten minutes later.

Nope, the real surprise of this cast comes from the likes of Rebecca Ferguson, someone I haven’t seen before, but here’s to hoping that now, that’ll change. Ferguson not only acts the part of a bad-ass, femme fatale that may or may not be playing both sides at the same time, but also looks like it, too. Much has already been said about how the Ferguson’s image is getting sexualized by the advertising for this here movie, but honestly, I think it works in her favor. Not only is Ferguson gorgeous, she’s also in incredible shape to where when you see her riding a motorcycle in tight leather, you don’t just automatically think of how hot she looks, it’s more about how much she could probably kick your ass. Also, the fact that Ferguson is something of an unknown actress to most of the mainstream media, works in her character’s favor as she could literally go anyway; there’s no pre-made clause that states she has to be the hero at the end, or gets the man. She’s not a huge actor just yet, so therefore, the mystery stays in her favor.

Although, let’s hope that she doesn’t continue to stay a mystery for too long.

Consensus: Rogue Nation is another exciting crowd-pleaser to add to the Mission: Impossible name, even if it’s not nearly the best the franchise has had to offer.

8 / 10

Never forget.

Never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

But if Tom Cruise can fly, how can Scientology not be magical?

Scientology has been around for as long as most people can remember and it doesn’t seem like it’ll ever go away. In the early days, when it was advertised as a “religion” by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, people flocked to find out what all of this hype was about. People’s lives were changing in ways they never quite expected and because of this, more and more people joined the church. But to ensure that they’d be let in, members would have to donate loads of money before ever setting one foot in the church, which is where most of the problems within first arose. Now, nearly 50 years after its conception, Scientology is running wild with controversy, even though it apparently has loyal followers in such celebrities as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Even despite the fact that numerous celebrities have left it and that there are reports of abuse that occurs both when you’re apart of it, and when you leave it, Scientology still has many loyal followers and only seems to be growing more and more each year. But will that ever end?

Alex Gibney is the kind of director our world needs nowadays. While he isn’t necessarily changing the world, he’s still shooting out at least two or three documentaries a year, opening our eyes to certain subjects we thought were already set-in stone and never seems to set his sights on one basic story-format that’s of interest to him. Surely, he likes controversy, but who can blame him? Especially when you have the chance to finally, once and for all, unveil what’s behind the curtain of Scientology, who wouldn’t jump at that opportunity?

Yeah, totally not the guy who Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed in the Master?

Yeah, totally not the guy who Philip Seymour Hoffman portrayed in the Master?

And honestly, what else is there to be said about Scientology that hasn’t already been said? Sure, people boast on and on about its weird, cult-ish like tendencies, where people are literally brain-washed into thinking and acting certain ways, possibly all against their control, but do we really know Scientology in all its fullest-form? We can read a whole bunch about it, but does that really make everything said real, or better yet, justified?

This isn’t me trying to stand behind the Church of Scientology, this is me just bringing up a point that Gibney, unlike many directors before him, has finally been given the opportunity to pull back the covers and show us what Scientology is all about. But it isn’t just all skepticism, either – what we have here, on more than a few occasions, is first-hand accounts from people who were, at one time, Scientologists. Through them, we get to see, hear, and understand just what was going through their minds every step of the way. This helps allow for the material to give off a bit of authenticity that something like this so desperately needed to survive and compel the audience.

But while it would be easier to make fun of these people for even bothering to join such a shady religion to begin with, the movie never judges them for what they did. In fact, more often than not, it’s the people speaking who pass the most judgement on themselves, after they realize just what they were involved in and how they’re lives may forever be troubled because of the union they made. Such is the case with Jason Beghe, a solid character actor in his own right, who comes on the screen and seems like he’s not going to hide anything of what he actually feels or has to say about Scientology; he seems legitimately pissed-off and upset, and he has no one else to blame other than himself.

He knows this. He understands this. And he’s ready to move on.

As are most of the people shown here, discussing their time with Scientology and the aftermath of it all. But this is all just one aspect to the movie – an effective one, for sure, but one that doesn’t get one’s blood boiling quite as much as when Gibney starts to unravel some of the dirty, deep and dark secrets that Scientology has lying behind its huge, blue building. For instance, without saying too much, the fact that Scientology is able to get a tax-break for what it deems itself as “a religion”, is all the more despicable once you realize that the religious teachings they give, seem to hardly ever come. The only time somebody eventually figures out what Scientology is all about, is when they’ve literally been involved with the church for nearly a decade, and by then, they’re already a million dollars in-debt because of how many hand-outs the church demands you pay up-front, before any teachings are given.

This man is 25. Look at what Scientology does to you!

This man is 25. Look at what Scientology does to you!

This is especially strange, but nothing new we haven’t quite heard or read about before. Where the film really starts to turn things around is whenever it focuses on those two huge names who have been associated with Scientology since the early days of its fame: Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Travolta and Cruise, for the past few decades or so, have, essentially, become known as the poster boys of Scientology – they stand for everything Scientology has to offer and whenever somebody has something negative to say about it, they are the ones who step right up the front-lines to defend it like a bunch of desperate, but loyal soldiers. Most people are weirded-out by this, and while I’m not one to judge somebody based solely on what they hold near and dear to them as their “beliefs”, seeing what Gibney is able to uncover about their time spent with the church and what that means for those around them, puts a lot of things into perspective.

For instance, when we hear that Cruise’s marriage to Nicole Kidman was apparently broken-up due to the fact that Scientology didn’t like how her father was this huge religious nut overseas, it seems like nothing more than People magazine hearsay. But when we actually see the people who would have actually been involved with a decision like that, saying that it happened, how it happened, and why it needed to happen, it feels all too real to dismiss. Same goes for Travolta – while his situation may be a tad more sketchy concerning that most of what he has to defend about Scientology comes down to his own escapades, there’s still something creepy about seeing him literally as a prisoner with nowhere else to go, except just continue on and on with the rouse that he has so publicly kept-up for the longest time.

Though this comes off more as me just throwing my own two cents about what happens in this movie, rather than saying how I felt about it, there’s actually kind of a point behind that. Everything that’s revealed to us is as shocking as can be, but Gibney never forgets that there are actual people involved with this religion that need to possibly wake up, smell the cauliflower, and get out while they still can. Because if they don’t, not only will they be “disconnected” from the rest of their family, but they may never get any sort of life back.

Now, what kind of legal, law-abiding religion literally makes people feel that way?

Consensus: Shocking, effective, and always compelling, Going Clear reveals certain secrets about Scientology that need to be seen and heard to be believed, and will hopefully create a change. If not now, at least sometime in the future.

8.5 / 10 

Inside those walls, are things I am almost too frightened to think about.

Inside those walls, are things I am almost too frightened to picture.

Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire, Floodmagazine.com, Rolling Stone

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Just as long as I’m not apart of it, Tom Cruise can re-live any point in his existence that he wants.

After a mix-up that leaves him confused and totally out-of-his-element, Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) gets sent to the front-lines in a current war between humans and aliens known as “Mimics”. Cage clearly has no idea what to do with these new battle-suits the government has issued, yet, has no problem in taking out one alien on the battle-field. However, in doing so, he dies as well. But, moments later, finds himself woken-up, back to a moment in which he was getting brought into the war camp. He knows that he’s experienced this moment before and tries to plead his case to everyone around him, yet, no one wants to hear it and continues sending him out into the battlefield. And yet, time and time again, Cage wakes up, same place, same people, same situations, and same memory. Yet, during one of these adventures, a fellow, very respected soldier by the name of Rita Vratasky (Emily Blunt), wonders about Cage and tells him to, “come and see me when you wake up”. Cage does and together, the two cobble-up a master-plan in which, together, they’ll have to find the source to where all of these Mimics are coming from, where, hopefully, they’ll be able to stay safe enough where they can die and do it all over again. However, if they can’t and somehow get a blood-transfusion of any sorts, then the day will stop repeating, therefore meaning, everyone will die and never come back to life. Case closed.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he's over six-foot tall.

Oh, look at Tom Cruise still thinking he’s over six-foot tall.

Pretty sure that I could have summed all of that up by saying it’s “Groundhog Day meets Independence Day“, but there’s more to this movie than just that. See, it’s a gimmick-movie in which it’s a war movie that just so happens to repeat itself, time and time again; but then again, calling it a “gimmick movie”, would give one the impression that this a movie that relies solely on that gimmick, without barely anything else substantial made in the process.

However, that’s not the case with Edge of Tomorrow, because while it’s a premise I’m sure we’ve all seen done before, there’s something special about it being used here. For instance, that movie Source Code had the same Groundhog Day-gimmick going for itself, yet, where that movie seemed to try almost too hard to where it fell on its feet more times than it should have, Edge of Tomorrow really feels like a movie that has everything perfectly planned-out to where they’ll be no confusion from anybody, at anytime whatsoever. Sure, there’s a lot of sci-fi gibbery-goo that gets spouted out on more than a few occasions, but that just acts as simple exposition; it’s only real purpose is to give us a reason to believe what it is we’re seeing in this movie, as well as to move the plot along. That’s it.

If you care about not being able to believe anything that happens in this movie, then don’t watch it, because it is relatively goofy. Then again, the idea that a person could live one day, over and over again, without any real, life-long consequences, is goofy in and of itself. However, this movie knows that and really runs wild with the idea that somebody could experience the same battle, over and over again, while simultaneously, still finding a way to end it all. It sounds like it could be easily convoluted and messy, but director Doug Liman gets through most of it all by just having a great time with this material and realizing that audience-members want fun with premises like this.

Everything you’d expect this Cage guy to go through, emotionally and physically, while “graced” with this talent, he goes through and it’s always believable and interesting. Not to mention, it’s also pretty fun to see a deuche bag, played by Tom Cruise, get his ass handed to him on more than a few occasions. But Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise, he’s a good sport for whatever this material allows him to do and once again, I can hardly find a problem with this guy’s performance, which is mainly due to the fact that he’s playing a character who is well-written as is.

What’s so neat about William Cage is that, early on, we get the idea that he’s a total prick; he’s the kind of guy who will dedicate mostly all of his life to getting that desk-job, just so that he doesn’t have to worry about getting his hands dirty. We find this out early on and it makes us see him as nothing other than an a-hole who deserves to be taken off of his high-horse, by any means necessary. It’s great to see Cruise play somebody that’s a tad unlikable again, as well as somebody that’s allowed to grow over time. Because “grow”, is exactly what Cage does and it’s all pretty believable too. Cage does grow a conscience over time, and though the advertisements may have you think otherwise, it isn’t because he wants to get his bone jumped by Emily Blunt’s fine British rump; it’s more because he actually wants to save humanity and doesn’t want to let his powers go to waste.

She just had a child, mind you.

She just had a child, mind you.

Speaking of Emily Blunt, she does a very great job as this bad-ass soldier Rita Vratasky. Blunt got pretty ripped-up for this role and while we don’t necessarily get too many shots of her in all her lovely, sweaty-form, we do get to see her beat the hell out of these alien-like creatures, and it’s pleasing to watch. Also the more pleasing is that she isn’t a female character included to just be Cruise’s on-screen love-interest; she serves the plot and actually brings a lot of heart to material that can be pretty grim at times. She does that “sad-but-sort-of-angry-face” very well and that’s displayed on more than a few occasions here, yet, builds her character more and more into making her someone we can get behind, even while her decisions may not always be the best for herself or Cage.

I know that sounds all very corny and too “hurrah! hurrah”!, even by my standards, but this is what can happen to a moviegoer like me – a person who has seen more movies in his life than he can probably count. If you give me a premise that’s well thought-out and doesn’t noticeably trip over itself more than a handful of times, then yeah, count me in for the ride baby! That’s not to say there aren’t a few problems here and there with this movie, but honestly, I didn’t let too many of them get in the way of a movie that wanted to treat me to some fine, thrilling, and action-packed summer fun. And heck, if a movie can throw in a nice helping of “smart” in there, then hey, I’m all for that.

In fact, bring more of it. Please.

Consensus: While Edge of Tomorrow has a gimmick we’ve all seen done before, the circumstances are different, therefore, we’re treated to more excitement, fun, wit, and a movie that is at least smart enough to know when to joke around, and when to lay down its cards and be serious as well, without hardly ever losing its audience.

8 / 10 = Matinee!!

"So uh, after all of this war stuff, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a different religion? You know, or whatever you want to do."

“So uh, after all of this war stuff is over, you want to grab a bite to eat or possibly convert to a new religion? You know, or whatever you want to do.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBAceShowbiz

Valkyrie (2008)

But I thought Hitler died in a movie theater explosion? Stupid Hollywood and their tricks for making up history as they go!

After permanently losing his right eye and arm, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) is forced to come back to Nazi Germany, with a newfound respect from those around him, as well as a new mission on that he sets his sights on the most: Assassinating Hitler and making Germany a peaceful country once again. The problem isn’t that Hitler’s the most powerful man in Germany, whom almost nobody can double-cross and succeed at doing, but getting each and every person on the same page, so that the plot goes perfectly according to plan. There are people in high places involved, too, it’s just that they are so nervous, that they second-guess themselves so many times, that they either kill themselves, spill the beans to others, or screw up the plan while it’s going on. However, for those who are inspired to take down Hitler, they don’t back down, not even when the slightest misstep rears its ugly head. Which, during this plan, occurs many times – maybe moreso than anybody involved would have wanted. But such is the case when you’re trying to take down the powerful, almighty Führer.

First thing to mention, that is more than likely going to screw people over while watching this movie (if one decides to do so), is that every actor here, whether they be English, French, American, or, obviously, German, has to play a German character. There’s nothing different about that – heck, if an actor is called upon to do some sort of accent that isn’t of their own native-tongue, then there’s no doubt in their mind that they shouldn’t take it. However, what’s so strange here is that almost nobody in this cast, not even the German actors (as hard as they are to come by), even flirts with doing a German accent.

"So, the one Jew says to other Je-...... Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?"

“So, the one Jew says to other Je-…… Oh, I mean, hey, fuck that Hitler guy, right?”

Perhaps the biggest criminal of this is Tom Cruise who, in the first few minutes, does a bit of German to show that he’s got the chops to be on-par with Liam Neeson in every which way; but a mere seconds later, he’s back to his original, American-dude accent that almost everybody is able to recognize right away and is distracting practically the whole way through. It makes sense if you English lads like Tom Wilkinson, or Kenneth Branagh, or even Bill Nighy in these German roles, cause at least they have an accent as is to work with, but Cruise, he has nothing. It’s just him talking, and acting like he’s Jerry Maguire all over again.

Except this time, instead of, “Show me the monaaaaay!”, it’s, “Heil Hitler!” Which, while we’re talking about it, he only does once, so relax over there ya Scientologists!

And it’s not that Cruise is bad really, it’s just that he’s playing Tom Cruise, which is neither good or bad, it’s just Tom Cruise. Especially so here, considering he doesn’t seem like he’s really trying to go for anything else other than the heroic, determined-type we’ve seen him throw himself into role, after role, after role. Nothing wrong with that, because the dude’s a pro at those types of roles, but it does get old after awhile when it seems like all you’re seeing is the same guy, play the same role, in the same kind of movie, except with different scenery around him. In this case, it’s Nazis, but honestly, throw in a scene of Cruise on the hood of a car, with that iconic track playing somewhere in the background, and you’ve practically got another Mission: Impossible movie.

Except, once again, their being Nazis and all.

The rest of the cast is fine, too, mostly because they’re easier to not be distracted by when they’re trying to sound a lick at all like German-folk, but there’s nobody here in particular that’s spectacular. Everybody’s fine and serviceable with what it is they have to do; which, most of the time, just consists of them clicking their heels, staring into space very intently, and sweating bullets, which was probably because Bryan Singer decided to douse all of them with Aquafina bottles before shooting. So yeah, that last part doesn’t count.

And speaking of Bryan Singer (all “under-aged boys parties”-jokes aside), the guy does what he can here with this material. He clearly wants to make this move, sizzle and spice like a Hitchock thriller, while at the same time, still harp on the fact that an evil man like Hitler actually existed and had immense power over thousands and thousands of people. However, what takes away from most of what Singer does here, is that it’s a story we all know the ending to. Okay, maybe not all of the little, itty, bitty, gritty details, but what we know is that the plan failed, Hitler lived, and all of those who were involved with the conspiracy theory in the first place, we’re all eventually killed anyway. So yeah, it sort of ends on a dim note, but that’s the kind of note we can expect from a movie like this, because that’s exactly what happened.

"Stop hanging out with the pirates!"

“Stop hanging out with pirates!”

It’s not like I’m saying that movies that have an ending we already know about, can’t be fun or exciting anyway possible, because they totally can. However, in order to do so, there needs to be a drive, or a certain feeling of emotion involved with the proceedings that makes us feel, even for a split-second, like this story’s outcome could happen differently than what we already know. It’s highly unlikely, but so are plots to plenty of movies; that’s why we need movies to go for the gold whenever they can, having us believe in the unbelievable, and throw all of our cards out on the table, as if we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The problem is, we know what’s going to happen next, and Singer never gives it that drive. Nor does he do much else to keep the proceedings exciting. Just by-the-numbers, by-the-books, and that’s it.

Yawn.

So in a way, I guess I have to give Singer some credit for at least sticking to history as much as he could for the film’s sake, without ever allowing it to get too boring or preachy, but at the same time, I can’t help but wonder what the point was about this whole movie. We know that it wants to show us that Hitler was a bad man and that nearly everyone close to him wanted to stab him right in the back, but it doesn’t seem like anything new; person gets on top of their throne and now all of a sudden, everybody wants to take the throne away from said person. It’s a traditional story-route we’ve seen done a hundred times before, but I guess the only real aspect of this movie that separates it from the rest is that the person in that throne is, well, Adolf Hitler.

Oh, and also Nazis.

Consensus: Both Tom Cruise’s and Bryan Singer’s intentions are noble and make Valkyrie, for the most part, interesting to watch as the plot unfolds, but the problem is that we get what happens what happens at the end, and we can’t help but not really care for these generic characters more than we need to.

6 / 10 = Rental!!

"What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else."

“Huh? What are you talking about? These are our TPS Reports. Nothing else.”

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBComingSoon.net

Oblivion (2013)

Tom Cruise may not be able to dunk a basketball, but he can save the world, right?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) is a lone soldier who lives in the clouds above a post-apocalyptic Earth after a war made the surface uninhabitable. He lives a steady life where all he does is repair drones, in hopes that they will stop any hostile aliens from taking over and destroying the world that Harper now knows and has come to terms with. But things take a turn for the worse once he encounters a crashed space pod with a mysterious woman survivor (Olga Kurylenko), who makes him question everything he knows.

You can’t help but feel pity for most of the sci-fi movies that come out nowadays. It seems as if they aren’t taking something from a piece of sci-fi literature that they read as a big-glassed, tike, they are taking something from another form of media, whether it be intentional or unintentional. That’s what makes so many sci-fi movies hard to follow along with and get wrapped up into because nine times out of ten: it’s been done before. That was my exact problem with Oblivion: been there, done that, 1,ooo times over.

The fact that this movie isn’t anything to scream about in the writing-department is in no way a hit against director Joseph Kosinski. If anything, it’s Kosinski who saves this movie with his inspired-vision and dedication to making every single scene pop-out at you, as if you’ve never seen anything like it, although you have. That’s where this film gets you, but that’s where Kosinski keeps his feet moving and at a steady-pace too. While the film looks beautiful and never seems to look at all fake (IMAX is pretty glorious), the story’s beginning is what really got me because it wasn’t what I was expecting from seeing the trailers, advertisements, and even the numerous posters.

"Neo...uhm..I...mean: Jack."

“Neo…uhm..I…mean..Jack.”

Rather than making this a movie about Tom Cruise, going around, and shooting the hell out of aliens/unknowns that inhabit his dying-land, it’s more about the pace and the mood. It sets you into this cold, dark world where everything is beginning to die down and sooner than you know it; the Earth will be nothing more but it’s own worst enemy. By that, I mean that it will eventually dissolve into nothing. That’s the sad, but true reality that these two characters, Jack and Victoria, are left with and to see them come to terms with that made me feel as if I was watching a different movie than I was promised. Yes, there is Tom Cruise; there is CGI; there are robots; and yes, there are some weird creatures on Earth, but is this a drama I see? I thought so. That is, until I realized that I spoke a little too soon.

The first instance I knew where this movie had a problem was when it’s first batch of twists and turns came, and I had no idea what to think of them except for, “unoriginal.” That’s all it seemed like and without delving into spoiler-territory, the places this movie goes with it’s plot shenanigans don’t really add to anything, except more and more predictability. Once Jack gets to see these warrior humans, he finds out more about himself, his species, and what he was put on this Earth to really do, but none of it seems to make any sense, yet, have us care in the least bit.

I mean, I could go on and on about how none of this plot really seemed to make a lick of sense, but I don’t care too much about that. The story made fine enough sense to where I wasn’t scratching my head too much and to where I wasn’t looking around to see if anybody else was, neither. It was fine the way it was, but I just didn’t have any feeling with it at all. And that word, “feeling”, is exactly what this flick was building on. It tried to go into spots where we were supposed to feel compelled and hit back in our seats, but those moments never came. The movie just sort of went through the motions, gave us sci-fi movie convention after convention, and went on it’s way, like we expected it to from the trailers, advertisements, and posters.

See, the beginning really screwed the rest of this movie up because it makes you feel like you’re in for a somber-look at a dystopian future. But once it gets going, the movie dives into more action-y elements that are fun to watch, but feature no human-connection involved. When I see an action scene go down, I want to feel raw and terrifying emotion as if I was right there, cheering these characters on for fighting the good fight and hoping that they come out alive. However, that movie didn’t have that. It had alright-looking action scenes, but with nothing underneath it. All flair, but no substance. And that would have been fine, if the flair really kept itself going but after awhile; I stopped caring and just wanted more with my story. Now is that too much to ask?

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

Another beautiful day in a barren wasteland America.

But no matter how shitty the script can be (and definitely is), you got to give some credit to Tom Cruise for at least taking a step by deciding to take this material and make it his. Love him, or hate him, Cruise is a bonafide movie star, and an action one, at that. Cruise is good here as Jack because he gives him a lot of charm and likability that makes us feel like he’s one of those guys that knows it all, what to do, and how to do it, yet, is also just like us in where he doesn’t believe everything around him is really happening, and has the nice-enough soul to realize what’s right and what’s wrong. Of course the guy hits some holes on the way, but Cruise keeps him grounded in reality, where a film doesn’t seem to want that.

Playing the two gal pals of his this time around are Andrea Riseborough and Olga Kurylenko, who are both good with what they are asked on to do, but nothing more than that. Some scenes where they have to be more than the “romantic love-interest” are fine, but they aren’t called on to do many of those scenes, so it’s rather useless, really. What was really useless in a movie like this is not only having Morgan Freeman in a supporting role, but even going so far as to advertise him like he’s a big part of your movie, when in reality: the dude only gets about 15 minutes or so of screen-time. Yes, THAT Morgan Freeman! Don’t let me fool you into thinking Morgan isn’t good with what he’s called on to do here, because he is; but it just feels like a waste of a big name, for a role that serves no real purpose other than to be the bearer of good news (or bad, depending on the type of person you are). The rest of the cast isn’t really all that filled with many people, but that doesn’t matter because this isn’t the type of film that’s too concerned with that. They just want to show you shiny, futuristic thingy-majigs, blow up and blow other shit up in the process. Then again, it is a sci-fi movie so what else could you expect? But seriously, don’t answer that. Or else we’ll have another four paragraphs to go.

Consensus: Kosinski’s direction is beautiful and always a sight to gaze at, but the rest of Oblivion can’t sustain his look, and drops beneath his feet with a weak screenplay, no emotional connection to anything that’s happening, and a bucket-list of cliches and conventions I think I speak for everyone when I say; we are tired of seeing used, over and over again in sci-fi flicks.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"I told you, shit is really fucked-up out there."

“I told you, shit is really fucked up out there.”

Lions for Lambs (2007)

In Tom Cruise, we trust.

Three separate stories somehow find their ways of connecting to one-another the way you wouldn’t expect (or maybe you’re a movie dick, and do expect it). Robert Redford plays a college professor talking to one of his most-promising students (Andrew Garfield) about what he possibly could and could not do for his future; Meryl Streep plays a reporter interviewing a Senator (Tom Cruise) about a new war-plan in the making; and two soldiers (Michael Pena and Derek Luke) get caught behind enemy lines without a hope or prayer in the world.

If a regular, everyday person gets pissed-off about the war and doesn’t agree with the intentions; then most likely, that person goes on throughout their day, keeping their thoughts and ideas to themselves, and occasionally blasting-out all of those thoughts and ideas whenever they get to shot to, either around a group of co-workers, friends, family, or total and complete strangers. Either way, this is the story of the everyday man who has a voice and that’s it. Hollywood stars are like us in the ways that they too have a voice, but they also have money, powerful friends, and in Robert Redford’s case; a camera, a crew, and a script as well. First problem right there.

Regardless as to whether or not you agree with the war, why we are over there, and whether or not it’s a waste of time and lives, you will find something to take out of this movie. There’s plenty of important ideas the movie is willing to spout-out at you that makes you feel like it knows what it’s talking about, and even better, has the best intentions at-hand. However, like with most movies along the same lines of this one, best intentions don’t mean jack-shit if you can’t give me a compelling story, compelling characters, and just an overall, compelling and entertaining piece of cinema for an hour and a half. That’s all I ask, that’s all I want, and that’s all I need to enjoy myself and if I get that, then hell, go to freakin’ town on the idea-spouting! But, if you can’t give me anything that’s the least-bit compelling, nor can you even give me an hour and a half movie time-limit (this runs a cheap-o 88 minutes), then buzz off!

Oh my gosh! It's Brad Pit.....in 30 years.

Oh my gosh! It’s Brad Pit…..in 30 years.

That’s what I felt like saying to Robert Redford by the end of this movie because everything he tells us and lectures us on throughout this whole movie, is nothing more than that: just lectures. If I wanted to be lectured on how the war is bad, how it’s waste of time for our people to be over there, and how politicians continue to make mistakes about it, then I would have either taken a Political Science course, gone to a student-rally, or just went online, and typed in “Why the war is bad”, and thus, there would have been over 6,000,000 results and all for the price of $0. However, when you ask me to go out of my way, drive to the nearest theater-complex, and actually throw out about $9 or $10 for one of these lectures, then you can just forget it. Thank the high heavens I never payed a dime to see this movie, and according to the box-office results for this thing: apparently nobody else did either. Just goes to show you that the typical, American movie-goer wasn’t as dumb as we all thought they were. Then again, they probably went out to see Transformers that weekend so I guess that statement doesn’t hold much truth.

Also, it’s not even like everything this movie is trying to say is anything new, revolutionary, mind-boggling, or original that we haven’t already heard or seen said before. Watching Fahrenheit 9/11 will probably tell you the same exact stuff that this movie is, but instead, with more insight, more humor, more personality, more entertainment, and just more of a “movie-aspect” to the whole product that will actually have you feel like you really made the right decision to see it. This movie, which is not a documentary, just tells you stuff that you have already heard before and doesn’t necessarily break any new-ground. It’s almost like Redford had this movie in his head ever since the war started, and then had to wait an extra 6 years until it was almost too late to where everything he said was relevant.

Though he shows signs of getting older as a director, Robert Redford still has the knack and talent to make himself work as an actor, and I guess that’s worth complimenting when you take the whole movie into place. Redford has a natural charisma to him, that still lies within himself, no matter how old or wrinkly his luscious face gets. The guy’s got charm to him, and it only gets better with age. However, the one who steals the spot-light away from him is Andrew Garfield, in a very early-role of his career as a student that has promise and has the brain to make a difference in this world, but just won’t take the bait on everything that he’s being taught. The kid’s a bit cocky and over-his-head with certain ideas, but Garfield makes it work and shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re up against a veteran actor like Redford, you can still do a helluva job and get your name out there for the whole world to see. I don’t know if that worked with this movie or not, but hey, at least he’s Spider-Man now, so that’s got to account for something.

"Shit. Now I HAVE to be in the movie."

“Shit. Now I HAVE to be in the movie.”

The other story in this movie is with Streep and Cruise, who show that they have good banter between each other, but still feels like some of their weaker-attempts at making a crappy-script work. Cruise is charming as the manipulative, but well-intentioned Senator that has a tough job and knows it, and shows you that he can play slimy, but still make you like him and feel like he’s a good guy, underneath the whole charade of being way too cool for school. On the opposite-end, Streep is okay as the reporter, but it really feels like a role that should have been played by somebody else, like somebody younger, or somebody that isn’t as amazing as an actress as Streep, mainly because we expect more from her. Apparently her character is a little cuckoo for Coco Puff’s, even though it rarely shows when she’s able to keep her cool with the Senator, but that was probably just another attempt at trying to give us character-development from Redford, that just so happened to not work.

The last story is probably the least-interesting out of all of them, and that’s a real shame too because I like Derek Luke and Michael Pena and I feel like they can be really good in certain movies, when they’re given good scripts to assist them. This is not one of those scripts. Basically, all of the scenes we get with them are either they’re talking to a class about their political-beliefs, or they are stranded in a field, injured, and trying to not get killed. We’re supposed to feel bad for them and get a sense that this is like every poor solider that decides to sign-up for the war: but we don’t. It feels manipulative and shallow, as if Redford tried his hardest to take a jab at the military and also humanize it at the same time, but just comes off as forced.

Consensus: Redford’s intentions obviously mean well and aren’t to make everybody out there that he disagree’s with, look like total and complete a-holes, but Lions for Lambs features nothing else other than a bunch of ideas, lectures, and opinions that aren’t new, aren’t special, and don’t really serve any meaning, other than to show you that A-listers really know what’s up with the world. I call bullshit.

3 / 10 = Crapola!! 

Pictured: Propaganda

Pictured: Propaganda

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Ethan Hunt is back once again, and he’s freakin’ cooler than ever.

Tom Cruise stars once again as IMF agent Ethan Hunt who has to go undercover along with his team (Jeremy Renner, Paula Patton, Simon Pegg) to clear his organization’s name after they are implicated in a global terrorist plot.

After a year or so of this movie, coming and going at the theaters, I still feel pretty guilty that I missed out on it. I missed out on it for many reasons, but the main, which one being that I just didn’t really care for the series all that much and didn’t even bother catching up with any of the other movies. As you all have probably been able to see, I’ve reviewed all three and rather enjoyed them all, but none stand anywhere near as close to this one. I’m still pissed I missed out! Damn you my broke ass from last year!

All of the M:I movies seem to have been all about the cool gadgets, the high-tech stuff, the crazy stunts, and the incredible amounts of punishment that Hunt was able to take. All of those factors, are still here, but they are given more class and pizzazz this time around that feels more like James Bond movie, rather than another, useless cash-grab for the audience. In a way, it is gunning for the wallets of moviegoers, but at the same time, it’s still offering us more than what we are used to seeing in action-thrillers of this caliber, and I think that’s all thanks to the one, and the only, Brad Bird.

After making animated-flicks like The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, Bird took his chances with live-action filmmaking and even though taking a popular-series like this seems awfully risky for a guy who’s never directed humans, up until now, he still over-comes the task of not only allowing us to have a bunch of fun with the material, but do it in a more sophisticated, smarter way that’s easier to believe and understand than most action movies. I know, it’s crazy to actually think a M:I movie would actually have us believe in some of it’s crazy stunts and action, but that’s what Bird does, and he does it oh, so freakin’ well here. But, what’s even crazier is how much fun Bird seems to be having, despite giving this flick a new look and feel that we haven’t ever seen before. Sorry J.J. Abrams, you tried, but the Bird will always fly higher.

Yeah, we all know what you're looking at in this photo. Can't blame you.

Yeah, we all know what you’re looking at in this photo. Can’t blame you.

There’s a couple of stunts and set-pieces that really mess with you and make you realize exactly why you love action movies so much in the first-place, that is, when they are done well and done the right way. The one scene that always sticks through my mind is when Hunt is climbing the walls of that Skyscraper, as if he was Spider-Man himself, and what’s so breath-taking about that sequence is not only how breathtaking it is to see on-screen in such a way that makes you wonder how somebody didn’t slip-off and plummet to their death, but more or less why you are so on the edge of your seat. I mean, think about it: we all know Hunt is going to survive this stunt, we all know he’s going to live, and yes, we all know that he’s going to end-up saving the day and doing all that cool, action-y stuff that we are used to seeing him do, but yet, we are still on-edge as in wondering if this guy is going to end up becoming a splat on the ground below. Seriously, the palms get sweaty, the hairs on your neck come-up, and the tensions get higher and higher, and it just continues on throughout each and almost every scene/sequence that Bird plays around with, and that’s what I missed so much with action movies, let alone, M:I movies.

The amount of effort that Bird puts into this movie and the material is outstanding and I can’t believe that this guy hasn’t done more live-action movies in his career. Hopefully, just hopefully, this will be the one flick that gets his name out-there for all of the major studios to finally take notice of and give a shot, because who knows what other animated directors are out there, just looking to get their notice for being able to direct actual people. Well, I guess we can all forget about Andrew Stanton for now, but hey! That was one time and one time only! Just choose wisely next time.

No matter how much people may hate or criticize his wild and crazy personal-life, when you get right down to it, Tom Cruise is still, and forever always will be a movie star and his fourth-outing here as Ethan Hunt, shows us once again why we all love him to begin with. Make no means about it, Cruise was born to play Ethan Hunt and no matter how lame or strange the past 3 movies have been in terms of plot, characterization, or action, Cruise has always prevailed in being the best of all and always being able to keep us happy and pleasant enough to watch him go around, kick-ass, and always bring out the best one-liners we can imagine in certain situations. Even the fact that Cruise does his own stunts is something to revel at, especially here, where it seems like it would be so much harder for a man who’s pushing 50 to do. However, like always, Cruise proves all of us nay-sayers wrong again and it just makes me hope and wish to see more of him in this role.

Probably the best remake of Vertigo, ever.

Probably the best remake of Vertigo, ever.

The rest of the crew that Hunt works with, all do great jobs as well, especially Jeremy Renner who, with this role and The Bourne Legacy, seems like the perfect guy to take over an action role, when the reigns need to be passed-down. Renner adds a lot of sensibility to this role and not only gets to flex some of his action-muscles every once and awhile, but his comedic-ones as well, and you know what? The guy’s pretty damn funny when you allow him to be. Just another reason why this guy is a total diamond in the rough when it comes to casting. Paula Patton’s role as Jane Carter may be a tad unbelievable  mainly because she’s so young and brass that handing over a top-secret, professional-operation would seem almost too volatile to whoever assigned her, but yet, Patton prevails. Not only is the gal unbelievable sexy beyond belief, but she also gets a chance to kick some ass as well and show the boys a thing or two. Simon Pegg is always fun and nimble to watch as Benji, aka the comic-relief of the movie, but he’s not over-bearing and at least allows a lot of the tense scenes to just calm you down with his jokes. Overall, solid cast that actually gets to take-over the movie, more than Hunt ever does and that’s not so bad considering all of the characters are fun and interesting to watch.

My main gripe with this movie was that despite there actually being a villain, played by Michael Nyqvist, there’s no real-threat that ever seems to stand in the way of our lovable crew. After Philip Seymour Hoffman’s superb job in the last movie, it seems like it would be damn near *ahem* impossible to do anything as good as that, but at least give us the chance to have a villain that at least poses a threat to Hunt and everybody else. Instead, the guy is barely around and even when he does show-up, he doesn’t do shit and most of the time, just gets his ass-kicked. Where’s the real threat in that? It’s also even lamer that the show-down between the two never really occurs and even when it somehow does, it feels almost anti-climactic. Real, real bummer, especially since I can now say that Dougray Scott was probably a better villain than this chump. Does Jon Voight even count? Or Jean Reno for that matter?

Consensus: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the best in the series for many reasons, the main one being that it always keeps you excited, always allows you to have a good time, and never loses your interest for a second, and just goes to show you that Tom Cruise can still make any movie he wants, and have it be as successful or as entertaining as his last one. Long live, Tom. Fuck you, Katie!

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Seriously, who the hell is this guy?!?

Seriously, who the hell is this guy?!?

Jack Reacher (2012)

Somebody had to go and piss Tom off. Katie, I’m looking at you.

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is a former Army officer who investigates the killing of five people, murdered by a mysterious sniper for seemingly no reason. But when the suspect is finally nabbed, he remains silent and only says “Get Jack Reacher for me.” Nothing is what it seems and Reacher soon finds himself in the middle of a complex cover-up conspiracy.

After what just occurred in our world on last Friday, I have to say that the first 30 minutes or so of this movie were pretty cringe-worthy. Without giving too much away, there’s a couple of grisly/disturbing killings that happen and reactions to them, that feel like they may hit a bit too close to home. When the Aurora shootings happened back in the Summer, I never really felt like any of the material in the Dark Knight Rises was too hard to watch, but here, I really found myself disturbed and saddened. That’s a terrible thing to feel whenever you go to the movies and try to escape whatever else is happening out there in the real world, but it’s even more terrible to even have to think that still, in the year 2012, something like a shooting would still happen and effect us in our everyday lives. I didn’t really talk much about the shootings and the whole controversy surrounding it, mainly because I knew it was going to be made more about gun-control than the actual killings themselves, but regardless, I still feel for all of those victims and that’s why for the first 30 minutes, this movie was skating on some pretty thin-ice for me, and probably for the rest of the audience. However, once I was able to get out of real-life, and transported into the life of this movie, it all went away and I was finally able to have a damn ball with this freakin’ movie.

"Step out of the car, and strike a pose". That's the way you look sexy, Tom Cruise-style. 50 years and running, baby.

“Step out of the car, and strike a pose”. That’s the way you look sexy, Tom Cruise-style. 50 years and running, baby.

How amazing is it that we are allowed to have two awesome, old-school thrillers come out in less than a month away from one another. Although this flick isn’t spouting the cool, retro-vibe of the 70’s thrillers like Killing Them Softly was, there is still an old look and feel to this movie that had me feeling like I was watching a thriller where people beat the piss out of each other with the usual stuff like weapons, guns, and their own bodies. That’s what I want to see more from thrillers in today’s day and age and it’s so cool that Cruise got director Christopher McQuarrie to hop-on top of this material, because as strange of a choice as he may be (the guy hasn’t directed a flick in over 12 years), he still brings the fun and enjoyment-level to a thriller that could have been plain, simple, and boring.

I will admit, this movie can be pretty stupid and for every moment where you are absolutely “wow’d” by what happens, there’s always a moment of pure-silliness just waiting to sneak right up and catch you off-guard. This definitely isn’t one of those flicks that you watch, keep your brain in, and put your thinking cap on top and look at the logical explanations of what could really happen in the real-world, had this story actually taken place in it, and instead, it’s more like one of those films where you just come to have a good time, see a lot of cool action, and feel on-the-edge-of-your-seat for a good duration of the run-time (with the subtraction of those shaky, first 30 minutes…or so). I know I may bag on a lot of flicks for being just a mindless exercises in fun and action, but this is one of those mindless exercises that’s done the right way. There’s no style that gets in the way of everything that’s happening on-screen, there’s no lame dialogue or characters that are just there to keep the action/plot moving along, and there sure as hell is no sign, whatsoever, of a “Michael Bay explosion”. Yes, thank the High Heavens of Cinema for that.

McQuarrie may not have too much to show, in terms of style or distinct look and feel, but there are still plenty of pleasures to be had in terms of where this story goes, and how original it can be, at times. There’s a car-chase that kept me on-edge the whole time and even though it was obvious that it would never, ever occur in real-life, real-time, or even in the streets of Pittsburgh, it still was a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and one of the better car chases I have seen in quite some time. If there’s been a better one this year, please do let me know because the only one I can recall that was as fun and thrilling as the one here, was the one in the Dark Knight. Anywho, McQuarrie doesn’t bring anything new or original to the table that we haven’t already seen done a hundred times before, but it’s still fun because of how simple it is, yet still, offering us little twists and turns here to really spice the whole story up. Some twists work better than others, but for the most-part, they were fun as hell to have thrown at me. And yes, I am still talking about the twists and turns of the story, not Tom Cruise’s rockin’ six-pack that he probably donned for 5 minutes in his one, shirtless scene.

Oh yeah, and I think "they" deserve a nomination for "Best Distraction in Every Scene She Shows Up".

Oh yeah, and I think “they” deserve a nomination for “Best Distraction in Every Scene She Shows Up”.

Speaking of Cruise, a lot of people were pissing off their hats because they felt like Cruise wasn’t the right pick for a character that was about 6″5, whereas Cruise is roughly around 5″7. Seems like a pretty big difference in terms of keeping with the characters look, feel, and style, but it actually works in making Reacher more of a bad-ass and more unpredictable with what the hell he will do next. Cruise fits this role like a glove because he has all of the charm, all of the wit, all of the smarts, and all of the bad-assery to make a tough-as-nails character like this to work, and never have him come off as annoying or plainly unbelievable. Some scenes seem like Reacher really *ahem* reaches for the sky and defeats the purpose of gravity, but it was okay because Cruise seemed like he was having so much fun with the role, that you just can’t hate on him for it. Maybe the power of Scientology was on Cruise’s side this time again, because he seemed perfect for this role and I don’t think there was anybody else I could have thought of replacing him. Actually, maybe there is but as of right now, I don’t really care about it too much to think that hard and in-depth about it. Fact is, Cruise is great and be happy to see him kicking-ass once again.

Rosamund Pike plays the sassy, but smart defense lawyer that helps him out with the info and details of what’s really going on and has a cool, but believable piece of chemistry with him, almost to where I could really see them working together on cases in real-life. Pike is fun to watch and even though she may be a tad goofy when she tries for the whole comedy-routine, she still does a nice-job of not being lame and thankfully, not being another damsel-in-distress that needs help from Reacher, every step of the way. Even though her goofiness is saved by a strong-arch her character features, I can’t say the same about Werner Herzog in a very unusual, but inspired role as the main villain behind this whole case, known as “The Zec”. Herzog seems like he’s a perfect fit for this role and this character, had it been in an extremely campy, B-movie where he was allowed to be weird, strange, and terribly stupid in the ways he acted. But here, he just seems out-of-place and way too cartoonish for a movie that seems so set in reality, despite having a couple of scenes that defy it. Thankfully, one of his henchmen that’s played by Jai Courtney, takes over things and proves to be more of an intimidating force behind-the-scenes and in-front-of-the-scenes as well. Suddenly, I’m not all that worried about a new Die Hard movie and having this kid play John McClane’s son.

He's just pissed because he wasn't the one asking the questions for this movie.

He’s just pissed because he wasn’t the one asking the questions for this movie.

Adding some class to this strange bit of a characters, is non other than the likes of Robert Duvall playing a goofy, old man that has a knack for a sniper and made me realize how much I miss this damn guy showing-up in movies, Richard Jenkins as Pike’s daddy that may be on either side-of-the-fence, and David Oyelowo, as a cop that always seems to be at the right-place, at the right-time. Overall, a fine cast that definitely milks this script for all it’s worth, but it’s the action and Cruise who steal the show on this outing.

Consensus: Jack Reacher may be too goofy, too silly, and too stupid for some of the more “demanding” viewers to get through their into their heads and accept, but as for the rest of the of us who like silly, goofy, and stupid movies, then it will definitely entertain, but in a more old-school, 70’s-classic thriller-way that seems to be very reoccurring with most of our thrillers nowadays. Thank the High Heavens of Cinema for that!

8/10=Matinee!!

Yeah, they're pretty shocked too that I didn't make another Katie Holmes-reference. But Tom, on the other hand, well, he knows better. Ain't that right you sly son of a bitch?

Yeah, they’re pretty shocked too that I didn’t make another Katie Holmes-reference. But Tom, on the other hand, well, he knows better. Ain’t that right you sly son of a bitch?

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Come on Ethan, I thought you didn’t need women.

Super-spy Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has retired from active duty to train new IMF agents and start a life as a married man with his new squeeze (Michelle Monaghan). But he is called back into action to confront the toughest villain he’s ever faced, named Owen Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman), an international weapons and information provider with no remorse and no conscience.

If you have seen the first two Mission: Impossible movies, liked them, had a good time with them, and didn’t get bored watching Cruise play cool, then chances are, you are going to like this one, have a good time with it, and not bother one-bit that Cruise is playing cool, once again. Actually, I could just use that one-sentence to sum-up my whole review and be done with it, but since I am a critic and I just spent 2 hours of my life watching this thing, I’m going to take away 5-7 minutes away from your life, just so you can read what I have to say. It’s a sort of domino effect, but trust me, you don’t really have to read this. I’m probably just going to go on and on about Katie Holmes and how right she was. Seriously, take a drink every time I mention her name. The review will be a lot better.

Anywhoo, after highly-stylish directors like Brian De Palma and John Woo took over the last two installments, J.J. Abrams comes up on-board and gives his first-shot at directing a full-length, feature movie. Before this, Abrams was known for creating Alias, Lost, Felicity, and other popular TV-shows that people loved and fan-boys went oogle over, which makes this movie all the more interesting to watch now, considering this is also the same guy that went on and brought Trekkies back to life almost three years ago. It’s great to see a director that obviously loves these old-school action movies, but yet, doesn’t forget to throw some of the newer-stuff in as well to fully get us going and have us feel like we’ve gotten the best of both worlds.

"Felicity's graduated, bitch."

“Felicity’s graduated, bitch.”

Thankfully, that is exactly what Abrams brings to the table here and right from the first-sequence where Hunt and his gal get tied-up and interrogated, you know you are in for a real, real action-treat. Actually, after that scene, the movie doesn’t really ever seem to slow down. We get a bunch of non-stop, tense action-sequences that seem to pull out something new each and every time, and a couple of twists and turns that are sure to have you wondering what’s going to happen next, but in the good way that actually makes sense and not confusing like the first-one. Basically, it was a great choice to bring Abrams along for the ride on this one and it’s obvious that the guy knows how to stage a tense, suspenseful action-scene that will have you gripping your seat, even if you do know how it’s going to end. That’s the sign of a good action director, actually, let alone, director none the less.

However, if you do not like these movies chances are, you’re not going to like this even more. It’s not as stupid as the others, that’s for damn sure, but it definitely feels like a plot-line that wasn’t really thought-out well enough for an action movie of this caliber. For instance, it’s never really brought to my attention what was so bad about this Davian guy in the first-place. Yeah, he’s got weapons and materials of mass-destruction, but I never really saw any of that put to test nor did I really see him actually go to work on any of that whatsoever. I just heard that the guy was bad, realized he was a bit of a dick, and I guess, just assumed that he wasn’t a guy that plays on the good-side. There’s a whole bunch of other problems with this plot that didn’t seem to really make all that much sense to me but in the end, I soon realized that it didn’t matter a lick and all that did matter was watching Ethan Hunt be as cool, as he might as well can be.

Faster than a speeding bullet coming from an Chopper, he's Ethan Hunt dammit.

When you have Scientology on your-side, you can out-run anything. Even speeding bullets.

Once again, Tom Cruise plays Ethan Hunt like he always does: cool, swift, witty, sneaky, and most of all, smart. Cruise plays this role like no other, has no intentions on leaving, and you know what? I don’t really mind it all that much, either. Yeah, the dude’s getting old and a bit funny-looking in terms of botox but the guy still can play this role in his sleep and have us love him, no matter what crazy shit he does or says in his personal life. At the time of the release of this movie, I know that was a bit hard to get by but to me, it doesn’t make much of a difference now and never really did.

The rest of the cast is pretty solid too, but the one I was really impressed by most of all was Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian, the main-villain that Hunt is forced to mess with. What makes Davian so different from the others, is the fact that the guy holds no remorse for the things he’s done or is about to do, and plain and simply looks at you in the face, tells you he’s going to put a bullet through it, and says so with no emotion or expressions whatsoever. You really feel like this guy will hold you up on his promise when he’s going to get right down to business and kill you, and that’s why this guy was so freaky to watch and most of all, actually seemed like a legitimate threat to Hunt after all. I will say that his character doesn’t meet the smartest demise of all, but before all of that, Hoffman is electric, fun, and very sinister to watch, in a way that makes me wish he played more villainous-type roles. In a way, I guess he does but oh well, doesn’t matter because the guy can act.

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

I thought I said no girls, Ethan!

The only one in this cast who really stuck-out like a sore-thumb and seemed to bring everything down was Michelle Monaghan as Hunt’s new lady-friend, Julia. I don’t know if it was Monaghan’s acting, her writing, or just the shoddy-development for her character, but I didn’t give a crap that she was there, why she was there, or what really even was going to happen to her in the end. Abrams tries very hard to throw at us that Hunt is not only doing this mission for the safety of country, but the safety of his heart as well and as appealing and relateable as that may be for some audience-members watching, I for one, didn’t really buy it and give a single-crap whatsoever. If you want to know why, just go on back to my M:I-2 review and you’ll see why I don’t think Hunt should play around with gals. That is it.

Consensus: Mission: Impossible III is probably the best of the whole series because of it’s electric-direction from Abrams, tense action-sequences that never seem to end, and fun-loving spirit for both old, and new action-movies of the world and makes you feel like this is a series that will never run out of a steam, just as long as they stay fresh with new-directors coming on-board and keep Cruise in-line. Oh yeah, by the way, Katie Holmes. Drink up, people!

8/10=Matinee!!

"Employ me again, Tom. Please?

“Employ me again, Tom. Please?

Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)

Apparently Cruise can do it all. Yes, even kung-fu.

American and British IMF teams join forces on the hunt to find a stolen virus. However, one by one the members on the teams start ending up dead. Can Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) find out who this assassin is and stop their deadly plans? From the crowded streets of Madrid to the busy harbour of Sydney, the chase is on.

With the first Mission: Impossible movie, I liked it because it was fun but felt like it was a huge disappointment considering that it seemed like the director, Brian De Palma, wasn’t really able to go full-throttle with his direction, and had to ease-in to what Hollywood wanted. Well, if Hollywood has it’s ways, they usually get rid of those types of people and bring in others. John Woo, you’re up next, buddy. Good luck!

Actually, if I was to compare both De Palma and Woo to one another, which is stupid but for the sake of a juicy-review, I would probably have to say De Palma is the better director by-far. However, if I had to compare the two to who is a better-suit for this type of material, I’d have to go with Woo. The guy is known as the go-to-guy when it comes to directing action movies and even if that honor has sort of been passed-down to others over the years, you still can’t deny or forget when this guy was always the person you’d want to direct a loud, stupid, but fun action-movie. That’s why Woo actually makes this film a bit better, however, it doesn’t start-off like that at-first, no sireee.

Where I was really losing my interest with this movie was the first 45 minutes or so, when nothing seemed to be happening. Yeah, the plot was moving-along and setting the grounds for what we would have to know, in order to understand everything more clearly, but it was all so damn boring. People were talking, melodrama was thrown at us, and worst of all, Ethan Hunt was sort of acting like a total-pussy. Like I get it, the guy has fallen for this chick and wants to be with her but can’t because of this high-profile mission, but there is no need to spend literally, 15 minutes on that whole idea. Ethan Hunt is way too cool for that, and doesn’t need his D getting bogged down by some, little sweet who’s off boning another guy. Now, it’s not really her choice but still, stop crying, do your job, and maybe, just maybe in the end, you can have some sweet-old celebration sex for the good of it all. Hey, that’s how I look at things, baby.

I will say, that after those excruciatingly boring, first 45 minutes, the movie does pick-up a little and that’s where I think Woo’s fun-direction really starts to kick-in. What makes this movie so much fun is the fact that Woo knows the type of material he’s working with, and makes no excuses for making it as idiotic and dumb as you can get with an action movie. A lot of stunts and sequences will have you scoffing your asses off at the implausibility of all that’s going on, but to be honest, that’s whats to be expected of these movies by now and it’s just so much fun to watch because Woo adds in his own, little trinkets of style in there every once and awhile. You get a lot of slo-mo, you get a lot of explosions, you get a lot of kung-fu, and most of all, you get a lot of random pigeons flying around certain scenes for more of a dramatic-effect. It’s pretty neat how Woo is able to make a Mission: Impossible movie, but still, not without putting his own stamp on the movie and showing everybody that it’s his own work, and if you don’t like it, then don’t go and give him or Cruise your money. Trust me, everybody did anyway.

And speaking of Tom Cruise, the guy still owns it as Ethan Hunt, which is something that probably comes to nobody’s surprise whatsoever. Hunt is cool, swift, and smart here, and even though I didn’t like the fact of how much time they spent on him and his heart going through a lot of pain, I still couldn’t help but think that the guy was going to pull-it-all together in the end, and come out on-top at the end of the day. Still, Ethan Hunt doesn’t need women, so stay the hell away, gals.

The gal who I keep on ranting and raving about is played by Thandie Newton, and even though she isn’t anything all that special to watch and fall in love with on-screen, she’s still okay and whatnot. I wish that the film made her more of a sly bad-ass in her own right and focused on that element of her character, but too much of that time was just spent-on her being all sad and acting like the damsel in distress that Hunt didn’t need around to get in the way of his shit. Once again, Ethan Hunt doesn’t need women.

What Ethan Hunt does need, however, is a pretty kick-ass villain and that is what he does not get here with Dougray Scott. To be honest, I’ve never seen this guy in anything else before, but I don’t really look forward to seeing that stuff either because the guy’s pretty lame here. I don’t know if it was the crappy-writing, the evil-plan he had in his head (basically, it’s just a bad-guy that has a deadly-virus he’s going to unleash on the rest of humanity, because you know, bad-guys hate everything), or his acting plain and simple, but something was not gelling well with this character at all and I just wanted Hunt to kill him as soon as possible. Actually, maybe that’s a good thing to feel for a villain, but then again, I still feel like some of that hate should be directed towards the actor and what he’s able to do with that role and that is something that Scott didn’t seem like he was all that capable of. Oh well, Ethan Hunt still kicked his ass.

Consensus: Even though it’s just a tad better than it’s predecessor, Mission: Impossible 2 is still stupid, loud, and occasionally boring,  but still features some slick style-points from Woo, and the always welcome, return-to-form for Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, once again proving that this guy can kick anybody’s ass. Katie Holmes’ next hubby, you best look-out mofo.

6.5/10=Rental!! 

Red Dawn (2012)

Next time, just get actual wolverines to save your asses.

Chris Hemsworth stars Jed Eckert, the leader of a group known as The Wolverines. The Wolverines are a group of young adults/children who run off to the hills after the initial attack from an invasion by North Korea, and then fight off the opposition by using the knowledge of their hometown to their advantage. Same shit as the original, just a whole different decade.

As you all probably saw around last week, I reviewed the original, 1984 cult-classic of this movie and I have to say, it didn’t do anything for me. Yeah, I had a bit of fun going back to the golden-days of when we hated Russia and seeing all of these young teenie-boppers, running around and killing off Ruskies, but overall, was pretty lame and terribly corny. This remake/reboot/whatever the fuck you want to call it, is exactly like that movie, but instead, placed in a time where anybody, I do repeat, ANYBODY could call mommy, daddy, 911, secret service, president, or anybody, just with a click of a button. In case you can’t tell by now, this movie freakin’ blows.

I guess when you have material like this, you’re supposed to leave all rhyme, reason, or all sense of belief at the door and just go into have a fun time watching a bunch of teenagers go gung ho against the North Koreans. In a way, it works, but in other ways, it just doesn’t. Mainly where most of the problem for this film lies in the fact that it does change-up some of the happenings in the original a bit, but it still feels dull and unoriginal. It’s as if every scene in this movie, was meant to just be shown on there, without any real energy or zeal whatsoever and just have people wait-up for the next, big action-sequence that apparently was going to hold you over until the next burst of energy.

The problem is, the burst of energy comes from the hand of this first-time director, Dan Bradley, who just doesn’t seem like he’s fit to hold onto a whole movie, where action doesn’t take place non-stop. With most of the action-scenes, Bradley does an alright job and obviously has a bit of fun playing around with the bigger-budget and present-day setting of this premise, but everything else that doesn’t concern action, things blowing up, people getting killed, or bullets flying, he absolutely, positively chokes on, and chokes on hard. The characters all talk in this macho, deuchy language that does nothing to make us laugh and each and every one, didn’t even seem to have a personality that was worth recognizing or holding onto. I mean, I know it’s a bit of an obvious convention in of these movies to have a joker in the group that lightens everything-up with his comedy, but they didn’t even have that here. It was just straight-up seriousness all-around, and rarely did these kids ever live-it-up because any second, they could have just vanished. Actually, come to think of it now, there’s not even that much character-development here and worse, even though all of these characters are people you’re supposed to be rooting for, care for, and be upset for when something bad happens to them, by the end, you sort of don’t care and it’s surprisingly weird how the other characters sort of seem to feel the same-way.

For instance, a couple members of the group get killed-off during a raid and as sad as it may be, the sadness/melodrama only lasts for about a minute, and then we soon see Hemsworth and Palicki flirting their asses-off by a lake as if nothing ever happened to anybody, let alone to one of their friends that they became close with, just as soon as this terrible event occurred. If my freakin’ good-buddy died in warfare, most likely, no matter how hot the babe was, I would probably not be thinking about getting my “D” wet, especially if we were in a local-war with another country that just so happened to invade my little city. Not only is that bad, but the villains that actually take-over this little city, seem to be more focused on pissing off this group, rather than taking over the U.S., taking over the world, or even, taking over the universe. Nope, they don’t care about world-domination, they just care about getting in the hair of some kids that have AK’s, good looks, and some really, really lame dialogue. Go get em, North Korea!

I think it should be noted right now that this film wasn’t supposed to be released on Thanksgiving during the year 2012. Apparently, this was supposed to come-out back in 2009 but MGM went bankrupt, and apparently pushed this film’s release-date and it’s existence back to a latter-date. Sadly, the latter-date had to be now in the movie theaters, and not now, something I would have bought for $5 at Walmart during Black Friday. But this whole project being shelved for over three-years, definitely shows in a way that makes you realize that these editors, writers, and producers were just very, very rampant in getting this out there that the film comes off like a blubbering mess. I am no lover of the original movie, but at least that had some fun-spirit in it and felt like it was a movie, rather than just a couple of cool action scenes strung together by a huge-deal of melodrama. This one, doesn’t even have that and the whole-time, I was just bored, uninspired, and feeling less and less patriotic as it went along. Hell, in a way, I started to root for the North Koreans because nobody in this group had my sympathy of my feelings.

Actually, let me scratch that, because there was one guy who did happen to have my feelings and remorse for him and that guy is non-other than Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth, as we have seen time and time again, has a huge-deal of charisma that cannot be overlooked and it’s such a shame that he was given such a shit-role like this as Jed Eckert. And even though the dude does try and in a way, makes us forget about the shitty script-job he’s forced to work with, you still can’t help but remember that this was filmed before he hit it big as Thor and made us all realize that he is one, cool mofo that will have you at hello. Okay, maybe I went a little too overboard with my man-crushness right there, but you get my drift. The guy’s got a heck of a lot of charm to-boot and it’s just sad to see him stoop right on down to this level of crap.

Playing his brother that has little to no resemblance to Hemsworth, is Josh Peck and as terrible as he is here, he isn’t the worst-aspect of this casting. I don’t know if any of you know this out there, but Hemsworth does have a little-brother, that acts, does well in movies, and even looks like Chris. His name is Liam Hemsworth and if you look at that link, you’ll see that the two share an incredible resemblance that would have made a lot more sense, had he been cast instead of skinny and unfunny Josh Peck. But away from the overall casting, Josh Peck still sucks major-ass here and made me laugh every time he opened-up his mouth cause he can’t be serious, he can’t be cool, he can’t be heroic, and he most of all, can’t be the starting-quarterback for his high school football team. Josh, just go back to eating so you can be funny and talented again. Please.

You have to wonder why Josh Peck was given a larger-role over a guy like Josh Hutcherson who has proven us, time and time again that he can actually handle big-roles, despite not having movies all about him. Here, he’s nailed-down to a role that makes him the dope of the group that can’t seem to do anything right and falls for all of the dumbest-pranks set by the group itself. It’s a pretty lame-role for a guy that seems like he’ll be taking over the teen-world very soon once Catching Fire hits the big-screen. And lastly, the only guy who really shows up here and makes us realize that he can take a shit-movie and script, and at least inject some fun into it is Jeffrey Dean Morgan as a U.S. Soldier who sneaks behind enemy lines. The guy’s good, funny, energetic, and also feels like he could and will, kill anyone that stands in his way. Pretty much the guy’s a bad-ass but the question still remains: Who would win in a fight? Thor or The Comedian? Still, waiting on that movie and hopefully they don’t decide to let MGM help finance it either, or it’s another 3 years we’ll be waiting.

Consensus: Red Dawn didn’t really have to do much to make itself better than the original, but it didn’t have to suck this much to make us realize how good that one was either. With choppy-editing, terrible-dialogue, and plot inconsistencies that will have you writing things down for days, you’re most likely just going to want and skip-out on this and see if you can find the original on Netflix and pay The Swayze some love and respect.

2.5/10=Crapola!!

Mission: Impossible (1996)

Oh, now I see where the attraction for Tom came first for Katie, after all.

This plot follows a new, super-cool agent, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as he embarks on his mission to uncover the mole who has framed him for the murders of his entire IMF team. The answers that he comes up with aren’t that easy to find in the first-place, so he’s got to use his acquired set of skills to make all the magic happen.

After screwing myself over and not going out to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, I realized a huge mistake not only because I didn’t see the best-received mainstream movie of 2011, but because I haven’t seen a single-one of these Mission: Impossible movies. I don’t know what it was, the fact that I’m not incredibly huge on action-movies that feature spies that aren’t named James Bond, or I just wasn’t falling for the same crap of watching Cruise be a total bad-ass by kicking ass and punching-out some pretty neat-o one-liners for two hours. Either way, I didn’t see them and I feel like I needed to and I sort of see why I missed them in the first-place: they were exactly what I expected them to be.

A name you don’t usually hear associated with action-movies is Brian De Palma and it’s pretty cool to see such a talented guy, flex his directing-muscles and do something new, cool, and improved with the same old tired genre of action. In ways, De Palma gets to do just that, but in other ways, not really. What I liked about De Palma’s direction here is that most of these shots feel deserved and the way he frames certain scenes are more than you would expect from any other action movie of this multitude. Instead of just blasting us over the head constantly, with a bunch of action-scenes that feel the need to be loud, aggressive  and full of CGI, we get small, calculated scenes that burst with tension, without ever really seeming like it’s trying too hard.

There was even that one memorable scene where Hunt gets lowered into the data bank room and can’t make a peep, or else all of the alarms will go off and his cover will be blown. Before hand, I heard a lot about this scene and heard that it was the most memorable of the whole movie, and that was no lie, because it’s the one scene where I really felt on-the-edge-of-my-seat, throughout the whole 2 hours. That’s not to say that the rest of the movie wasn’t thrilling, because it was, it’s just that this scene in particular stood out the most because it seemed like the most original and refreshing idea out of the whole-product. De Palma takes the idea of “not making a peep, or the cover is blown” so seriously, that the whole sequence is nearly played in silence, where all we hear is the sound of breathing and slight-movements coming from Hunt. It’s a real thrilling sequence that shows you that De Palma wasn’t going to let any big-time, Hollywood production get in the way of his uprising tension. Sadly, though, he does let them get in the way of everything else and that’s what sucked.

It’s obvious that De Palma didn’t have total and complete control over this movie and the way the final-product looked and played-out, because there seems to be a lot of problems that we usually get with the action genre, that I’m just tired of. First of all, the story makes no sense whatsoever and I’m glad that De Palma focuses more on that aspect of this movie, but if you’re going to do it, do it right and not to the point of where I’m scratching my head, wondering “who did what?” and “why it happened?” Too many questions for an action flick and it shows that maybe a twist or two in a movie works for pieces like Blow Out and Dressed to Kill, but not for a story about Ethan Hunt. In reality, he doesn’t need them, all he needs is his really cool, super-agent skills that make you feel as if you are not worthy to be in his presence.

It also gets worse when the last 10 minutes turn into nothing else, but the same old garbage-like action movies that we are so used to seeing, filled with intense CGI that feels dated even 16 years later, and an unbelievable action-sequence that I’m usually fine with from time-to-time, but here, not so much. In all honesty, I feel like all of the confusion that goes on throughout this movie and it’s direction is the fact that De Palma just doesn’t fit-in well with the Hollywood royalty, and it seems as if his script, his final-product, and his ideas for a new, and improved action movie, were all used in filming, but never fully thought-out once it came to the actual final-product itself. You can blame anybody you want for that: Hollywood for being so stingy and closed-minded; De Palma for being so gullible thinking that Hollywood was going to let him tinker around with a movie based off of a beloved TV show; or the bazillion writers, who felt the dire need to include action, comedy, espionage, suspense, human-drama, twists, turns, mystery, and a dash of romance all into a story that didn’t need to be anything other than, “CIA agent gets framed, finds out who it was, and kills him.” But to be honest, I think the real one to blame is non-other than Mr. Ethan Hunt himself, that’s right, ex-Mr. Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise.

See, even though Tom Cruise does a great job as Ethan Hunt and definitely makes us realize just how frickin’ swift and cool this guy really is, we never get a moment where he’s not around and I think that’s all because Cruise was the producer on this and basically was given, whatever he damn well pleased at the time. It’s not a bad thing to have Cruise in the fore-front of your movie because the guy can act, and the guy can do this action-role very well, but every single-shot of the entire movie! I mean I get it, man, you’re a really cool actor that’s a big-name to have attached, but give somebody else something to do, other than smell the back-burns of your flatulence.

Case in point, high-quality stars like Kristin Scott Thomas, Ving Rhames, Jean Reno (Leon), Vanessa Redgrave, and even freakin’ Emilio Estevez are all here, but put on the side-lines because Cruise felt the need to be on his own time, and service his own movie. They are all great stars that can put in some great work, if they are given that shot, but they never are because it seems like Cruise wants it all about him, him, him, and nobody else. Yeah, Jon Voight gets the biggest-role out of the whole supporting-cast, but even his character goes through a weird-ass transformation about half-way through and just adds to the whole confusion of the movie, it’s plot, and just how Voight can move so well when he’s practically dying? Oh well, answers that will probably never be answered and who’s fault is that? You Tommy, you. Katie, I hate to say it, you were right, honey. Good decision on your part.

Consensus: De Palma definitely tries his damn near-hardest to try and make Mission: Impossible different from all of the other action movies out there in “Conventional Land”, but can’t seem to really get his final-product away unscathed from Hollywood without a couple of edits, re-writes that just seem to clutter everything up, and a lead-performance from Cruise that is good, but also feels a bit over-bearing as his face basically pops-up in every shot.

6/10=Rental!!

Halloween Horror Movie Month: Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark (2011)

If a mansion looks freaky, don’t enter it and make yourself at home.

This is the tale about a young girl (Bailee Madison) who moves in with her father (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) and discovers they are sharing the house with devilish creatures, that can only attack you when the pitch-bright lights aren’t shining on them.

It seems like no matter what horror movie he produces, Guillermo del Toro’s name always seems to pop-up more than the actual stars in the movie. I mean it’s obvious that horror-aficionados love the hell out of this guy because of what he can do with any weird, creature design but does it really matter whether or not the guy produced the flick or not? I don’t, and this is flick is a prime example as to why I think that way.

Instead of making the smart decision and handing the directing duties to del Toro, the honors are given to a dude named Troy Nixey and believe it or not, for the first hour-and-a-half, the guy doesn’t do a bad job with what he’s given. Nixey does a nice job of not relying too much on showing his monster/ghost, but instead uses the darkness to keep our suspense up and to have us continue to wonder just what the hell is this thing that were dealing with here. This also sets up a pretty nice mood, where everything’s tense and creepy, and had me going for awhile. That is, until Nixey got the bright idea to show off his monsters about 30-minutes in, and then that’s when things went all downhill from there, folks.

Usually when flicks show us the monster right-away, it doesn’t bother me unless they’re scary and have a distinct look to them that deserves to be feared whenever they show-up. These ones here, are not those type of monsters. Without showing you exactly what they look like, I’m just going to say that they look like tiny, mouse rats that just got it on with a Gremlin, who just so happens to be the brother of Gollum’s more-deformed, little bro. It’s a very lengthy synopsis as to what these creatures look like, I know, but that’s the whole problem with this film is that they look absolutely as ridiculous as I made them out to be and totally takes you out of the film right away.

However, Nixey doesn’t even get that idea from the get-go, so instead, he just continues to pile and pile on more and more of these little creatures, in a way so that he can actually get us scared by them, but it doesn’t work and just made me laugh. Hell, it made me angry that these dumb-asses in this movie couldn’t just find it in their guts to pick up something and smash their fuckin’ bodies or do something. And also, what’s all that shit about them being sensitive to bright-lights, that nobody, absolutely nobody seems to use against them? This movie went from having me pretty creeped-out, to having me just angry with everything that was going on and most of that is because of the characters.

Notice how I ended that last paragraph by saying the “characters” and not the performances, because believe it or not, the performances are actually okay. I’ve never, ever been a big fan of Katie Holmes (one of the few similarities between me and Tom), but she’s actually fine here as the girlfriend that reaches-out to this girl early-on in the movie. Then, there’s Bailee Madison as that said girl and is okay too, but it’s obvious that she’s only there to be a bit weird and scream. And lastly, the one who I was very sad to see show-up in a pile of junk like this was Guy Pearce as the father, who just seems like he’s phoning it in beyond belief and that’s a real shame too, because Pearce is a great actor but just has never really been given the chance for the break-out role here in the U.S. If he thought this was going to do it, he was dead-wrong.

What irked me the most about the characters these three portray is that they are the standard, most obvious, most unoriginal characters to ever show up in a horror movie. It all starts off like nobody believes the little girl, who sees all of this weird shit; then weirder shit starts to happen; then they call up the psychiatrist; then one of the adults finally catch-on to what’s really happening; and then it’s almost too late and just about everybody dies. I’m not going to give away whether or not that last part actually occurs in this movie or not, but you pretty much get the gist of what I’m throwing around here. This is exactly the same type of crap you can expect from a horror movie, and it’s a shame because this is one that starts off with a whole lot of promise and even worse, it’s one that del Toro even signed-off on. I didn’t care a single-lick for any of these characters and I didn’t even care what these little ‘effers did to them either. It was a very blank feeling for me throughout this whole movie and just goes to show you that no matter how creepy or weird-looking your monster may be, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, show it in the first 30-minutes. That my friends, is what we call “jumping the shark”. And oh, does this movie do that all right.

Consensus: Even though it starts off promising with a creepy atmosphere, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark soon piles in to a cliche, predictable horror movie that we have all seen done before, but this time, with weirder-looking creatures/monsters that make you laugh more than squeal.

2.5/10=Crapola!!