Category: action

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Before I headed off to Europe, I wanted to be sure to catch Mission Impossible in the theater. It seemed like a “better in the theater” sort of experience, and I’d read good things about it, so why not?

The good things were confirmed.

The Mission Impossible series of films seem like they’re almost defying the typical sequel structure. It seemed like they were heading for sequelville for the first while. Mission Impossible II was pretty weak, John Woo or no John Woo. But somehow they bucked the trend, and after watching this movie, it reminded me of an early James Bond franchise. As if the series might manage to get to a level where it breaks free of petty things like numbering the films and just is this continuous platform for action espionage movies.

You’ve got all the basic elements: death-defying stunts, great action sequences, stable characters who never really change, awesome gadgets. The film felt like James Bond: Team Edition, and that’s a very good thing in my book.

Plus, Tom Cruise seems set to prove to the world that he just doesn’t care when it comes to his personal safety. The opening sequence where they literally have him hang onto a plane while it takes off? Insanity.

The movie might have been a tad too long. I think they could have tightened things up a bit more and shaved off 5-10 minutes and ended up with an even better end result, but that’s about all I had to complain about. The plot made sense, it wasn’t predictable, and it was just a fantastic escape movie. (Though I have a hard time watching any movie with Alec Baldwin in it these days and not pretending he’s playing his character from 30 Rock, which sometimes tends to break the tension.)

This is a good one, people. Check it out. 9 out of 10 from me. Seen it already? What did you think?

Ant-Man Review

Headed out to the theater with TRC and friends last night to check out Ant-Man. It’s a Marvel movie, so I definitely wanted to check it out in the theater, and I wasn’t let down. An easy 9/10 for me. Not quite the best Marvel movie, but definitely worth your money.

I think the thing I liked most about it was how “on theme” it was. It’s a movie about a guy who can grow and shrink at will and command ants to do his bidding, so . . . it sounds like it could be pretty lame. A far cry from the over-the-top powers of other superheroes. But it’s those exact limitations that make it succeed where some other superhero movies have failed.

I’m reminded of Man of Steel, where I just ended up getting bored in the middle. (It was a fine movie, but the action sequences in particular dragged on after a while.) When all Superman does is go around punching things and punching them some more, it gets old. When his powers are so enormous as to make any real tension contrived at best, it’s not the greatest.

With Ant-Man, the writers had to come up with ways for the hero to use those limited powers to get things done that he shouldn’t be able to do at first glance. In that respect, it felt much more like a Brandon Sanderson magic system than a typical superhero movie. They devote a good chunk of time to defining exactly what Ant-Man can and can’t do, as opposed to Iron Man or Captain America or Thor, where the powers are much more loosey goosey. (They’re strong. They’ve got technology. But what exactly are the limits? Who knows?)

That’s not the case here, and I loved it for that. It also helped that those powers played such a big part in the plot. Ants everywhere! Shrinking things! Things getting bigger! It was a blast from beginning to end.

Not a perfect movie, but a great time for sure. I’d love to see more like it. It was even better that it was remarkably clean–just a few light swears now and then. TRC appreciated that there was hardly any real romance, as well. 🙂

Check this one out, even if most Marvel movies leave you wanting more. I think this is one of the better ones.

Action Movies Ain’t What They Used to Be: They’re Better

I’ve been hearing about how great John Woo’s The Killer is for a long time. It appears on a lot of “best of action” lists, and so when I saw it was on Netflix, how could I pass it up?

It turns out, the question should have been, “Would I actually be able to finish it?”

I was, but mainly because I just hung in there and refused to give up, spreading the movie over several lunch breaks. I’d watch until I got bored, then I’d set it aside and come back to it the next day. I got bored a lot.

The plot is fairly straightforward: an assassin wants to get paid and save the vision of a girl he accidentally blinded during a hit gone bad. Some cops are after him, as well as the guy who owes him money and doesn’t want to pay up. Action ensues.

But it’s the action where things really fall apart for me. The film makes some stabs at characterization, but they go mostly nowhere, so it’s the action that has to hold the story together and keep the audience interested. Perhaps this movie worked better when it was released almost 30 years ago, but these days? I just don’t see it. There’s no real suspense. No question of whether or not the hero will die before the ending. Guns are always loaded with plenty of bullets, except for a scene or two where they conveniently aren’t. The good guys never miss (how could they, with the amount of lead they’re shooting?) and the bad guys always do.

Except when they don’t, and then it’s always conveniently in a spot that apparently the hero didn’t really need to function anyway.

Of course, since this is John Woo, we have random birds in all of the action scenes. Because birds.

The movie just doesn’t work. Even the editing of the action scenes leaves much to be desired. They shoot and continue to shoot until they stop shooting, which is the only way to tell if all the bad guys are dead or not. Really, each shootout could continue for an arbitrary amount of time. Just keep on having bloody explosions until you get tired and feel like taking a break.

Maybe it’s not the movie’s fault. Maybe it’s another example of me changing. But I still love action movies. (At least, I thought I did.) It’s just that I ask a bit more of them these days. I want to know what the hero is facing. When he gets out of scrape, I want to believe it was possible. It has to make sense logistically.

The Killer just . . . doesn’t. 6/10. The big discussion board posts on IMDB wondering how in the world this movie isn’t in the top 250 are really off base. It’s not a great movie, and I’m not going to say it is just because it’s got a cult following. Maybe it should be appreciated for the influence it had on later movies in the genre. I can see that argument being made. But if you’re looking for a rollicking good action flick, look elsewhere.

Fury: Just How Realistic Do War Movies Have to Get?

I watched Fury the other day. Just me for this one, as I’d heard it was a pretty brutal tank movie. Guess what? They were right. It was also a very solid movie in its own right. Brad Pitt stars as a tank commander in the last days of WWII as he and his crew carve through the German countryside in an effort to bring a final end to the war. Shia LaBeouf and his mustache costar.

Make no mistake about it: this movie is bloody. That’s part of the point: to depict just how awful and terrible war can be. How bloody? When they start showing pieces of faces scattered around the inside of the tank, then you know you’re getting pretty graphic. That’s about the most extreme as far as actual depictions go, but the film also shows that simple blood isn’t the most disturbing thing about war.

It’s a character piece in many ways, too. A new recruit is plopped into the middle of this crew. He’s idealistic. He wants to do the right thing, and he’s totally unprepared for the terrors that await.

Did I like the movie? Yes, I did. Was it historically accurate? Not completely. From what I’ve read online, it took a variety of stories from throughout the war and had them all happen to a single crew, and some of those stories may or may not have been true. A bigger question I had after watching it was “How accurate was its bloody depiction of war?”

I’ve never been to war, and I’m in no rush to go. That said, this depiction did seem very authentic to me in the same way that Saving Private Ryan seemed authentic. And yet I know that often just because something seems authentic to someone who knows nothing about the subject doesn’t mean it’s actually authentic. (There’s a confusing sentence for you!) One way or another, however, it helped me to understand just what some of those soldiers might have been facing in the war.

Did it have to be that bloody? I’m not sure, honestly. But as I think about it, I think I begin to side with saying “Yes,” even if it wasn’t accurate in its depiction. This was one of the few war movies I’ve watched that helped me understand soldiers better, or at least feel like I understand them better. I’ve seen plenty of great war movies, but they typically begin to paint things in a softer light. They glorify heroes or overlook the actual process of dying and killing that goes on during war. Don’t get me wrong–Fury also glorifies fighting to an extent (the climax of the film is hard to believe, for one thing, even if it’s thrilling to watch).

But it also has its characters be a mixed bag. Germans aren’t the only evil ones, and Americans aren’t the only good ones. At times, the Americans are much scarier than the Germans, without giving away any spoilers.

So it was an action movie that made me think, which doesn’t always happen. Can I recommend it? Not unless you have a strong stomach. But if you do, I believe the film is worth your time. I’m glad I watched it. 9/10

Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review

Denisa and I headed out to the theater Friday to see the latest Marvel installment. I’ve been a fan of Marvel over the years when it comes to their films. Yes, they’ve had a few relative duds (I’m looking at you, first Thor movie), but on the whole, their movies are action packed, funny, eye-popping bundles of joy. Joss Whedon has done some of my favorite television shows ever, and he directed the wonderful first Avengers movie, so my expectations were quite high.

This time, they were met. Not exceeded, but that would be hard in this case. At this point, I really don’t think there’s a need to review the movie for non-Marvel fans. If you haven’t liked the other Avengers-series movies, this one really isn’t going to change your mind. To me, it would be like reviewing a new comic book for non-fans. If you like comics, then the review might matter. If you don’t, then why are you reading a review about comics?


I’ve read some critiques of the movie, complaining that Marvel is essentially spreading too little butter across too much bread. That as they add more and more characters to their cinematic universe, it makes movies like Age of Ultron nothing more than a quick check in with all the different characters. That there’s no chance for individual characters to really shine or do anything significant.

I find this critique baseless.

An Avengers movie isn’t about having in-depth looks at the characters. That’s exactly why movies like Thor 2 or Iron Man 3 exist. An Avengers movie is all about the team work. All about all these different characters coming together to do something epic that they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. And in this respect, Age of Ultron really does a fantastic job. I loved how the Avengers as a team was almost a character in and of itself. The group has an arc that the entire movie is centered around, and I thought it was really well executed.

Other highlights of the film are definitely the action sequences and the special effects. You go to one of these to be sort of blown back in your seat, and the movie succeeds in doing that. The trademark Marvel humor is also well represented. Ultron was a cool character, and excellent voiced by James Spader.

Is the acting outstanding? Meh. It’s pretty solid, but my expectations from a superhero movie aren’t high in the acting department. All of the characters are good and consistent with who they should be, but by this point, I’ve began to notice a sort of Captain Jack Sparrow effect coming through. Iron Man is awesome in the first movie. Robert Downey Jr. did a great job. Same for the second. By this time, when we’ve had 5 different times to see Iron Man . . . what else can you really do with the character? This isn’t a slam on the movie or the acting. It’s just an observation, and it’s a good reason to have these movies continually update themselves.

It’s great that they’re adding in new characters to the team even as older characters move aside. That’s vital for this experiment to be able to continue to succeed.

In the end, it was a lot of fun. Very glad I saw it in the theaters, and I’m still a card carrying Marvel fan. What about you? What did you think?

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