Review: Jurassic World

Starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jake Johnson

Review: Entourage

Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon

Review: San Andreas

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino

Review: Ex Machina

Starring Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac, and Domhnall Gleeson

Review: Pitch Perfect 2

The Pitch is Back!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

As much as I enjoyed Matt Damon’s “The Bourne Identity,” the one black mark on the film for me is that it ushered in this era of the prolific use of an unsteady camera in action sequences.  And as well as it worked in that film (and in other subsequent films), like any good thing in Hollywood it’s use has gone from moderate to the obscene (see Michael Bay’s Transformers).   So what is most refreshing about Brad Bird’sMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” is that he does a nice job of framing the action in a way that portrays the intense violent speed of the proceedings while allowing the viewer to maintain a coherent sense of visual spacing. 

Beyond the great cinematography, this fourth installment in the Mission Impossible series is by far the best.  Bird and company surround Cruise with a solid cast of pieces that fit well together.  Jeremy Renner – one of Hollywood’s up-and-comers and soon to be the lead in The Bourne Legacy – brings some grit to the film while Paula Patton exudes an authentic physicality not previously achieved by her female predecessors.  As for Simon Pegg, his comedic timing and wry delivery adds levity to the often-tense proceedings.

As for Cruise, who seemed like a fish out of water in the debacle that was “Knight and Day,” he seems right at home in the role of Ethan Hunt – to the point that you can forget a lot of the negative press that was heaped on him during his overly publicized split from Paramount back in 2006.  Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the man is an accomplished action star and in MI4, he is hitting all the right notes.  The fact that he did most of his own stunts in the film (including the scenes at the Burj Khalifa – the world’s highest tower) makes his performance all the more impressive.

One of the nicer aspects of this film is that it remains true to the world established by the other Mission Impossible films.  Too often, a sequel, in the interest of setting up its own plot, tramples on or completely disregards the past – rendering the proceedings of its predecessor inconsequential.   The sense of continuity this creates adds value to the movie and brings a sense of closure to the film. 

I would see this film in IMAX if you really want to enjoy the visual beauty of the cinematography.  For your troubles, you’ll be treated to the first seven minutes of Chris Nolan’s much-anticipated “The Dark Knight Rises.”  This film deserves the big screen treatment.   Here’s hoping it’s not the last we see of Ethan Hunt and the IMF.

Standout Performance: Tom Cruise is back

Review: The Change-Up

The Change-Up is a textbook example of good cast / bad movie.  There are so many places where this film goes wrong that it’s hard to find a good place to begin the critique.  If I had to pin it on one thing I would say that Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman are two very funny actors, but are way too similar in their respective styles to sell the brand of comedy that director David Dobkin is trying to sell for nearly two hours (30 minutes way too long).

The straight man/funny man shtick is a classic and when done correctly can be incredibly entertaining (think Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin or more recently Vaughn and Favreau in “Swingers”).    The reason why this formula fails in “The Change-Up” is because while Bateman is adept at playing the straight man, both he and Reynolds draw their comedy from a wry sarcastic delivery.   One person has to set up the proverbial pins so the other can knock them down but unfortunately there’s not enough of a contrast between the two actors to properly set up the punch lines.

Another major issue with this film is that it is just not funny.  When you think about “switch” movies – Freaky Friday and the Hot Chick – there are significant visual differences between the protagonists (age, gender, appearance) that lend to physical (and often absurd) comedy.   In this film, we have one Caucasian male in his 30’s trading places with another.  Wow - mind-blowing!  And true to form, they figure out how to solve their own lives by walking a mile in each other's shoes – not too bad a gig when you’re walking that mile with Leslie Mann or Olivia Wilde

So then what we’re left with here is a raunchy comedy that is not funny and that wants you to be emotionally invested in the third act to characters that amount to little more than two jumbled masses of tired clich├ęs.  I found more catharsis in watching Judge Reinhold of Beverly Hills Cop fame and Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage of the Wonder Years) do this song and dance back in the 80’s classic Vice Versa

Avoid this movie – in fact, avoid most of what Ryan Reynolds is doing while he is the midst of a “Nick Cage Cash Grab” because he is on an epically bad run not seen since well…since the run that Adam Sandler is currently on.  Do not rent, do not VOD, do not watch even if it is for free.  You have been warned.

Standout Performance: Alan Arkin really sells his role as Reynolds’ dad, but that performance gets lost in the mediocrity.