Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Mission-Impossible-3

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Mission: Impossible Difficult.

I don’t know why I do this sometimes, but I watch series in reverse now and then. I did it once before with the Harry Potter series, and now I’m doing it with Mission: Impossible. It’s okay though…I’ve seen them all before. Mission: Impossible 3 was an interesting film when it came out because it had been a few years since the second installment, and it was more or less starting a new, revamped version of the series starring the same cast. Specifically speaking, this was picked up by the increasingly impressive director – J.J. Abrams. Here’s the thing about Abrams – before this movie, we hadn’t seen a lot of films from him, period…just TV shows, so this was his first real impossible mission – to make a movie. After watching this one, you’ll notice incredible inspiration from one of his most popular TV shows – Alias. This movie is basically just another episode of that…but is that a good thing…or bad thing?

Mission: Impossible 3 is more or less about Ethan’s life outside of the agency and his brooding romance with his current girlfriend, soon-to-be wife. When a black market dealer goes around blowing people’s heads off, Ethan is pulled once more into the action – but the very fact that he has a relationship outside of the agency makes his life even that more difficult…or impossible – when her life is threatened.

Okay, so this movie is much more…romantically geared than any of the others. It’s mostly about Ethan’s vulnerability as a human male in love with a woman – which is something we’ve seen too many times before. Beyond that, the mission itself wasn’t impossible…just difficult…as I’ve mentioned above. There are definitely some interesting aspects, and the individual missions kept within the bigger picture are certainly unique…but that’s mostly as far as it gets. That being said, those unique and interesting elements are super smart. The entire explanation of the ridiculous masks and voice changers finally made perfect sense that was at least founded a little in realistic science. That’s how you make text-to-speech. Who’s to say a little futuristic spy gear couldn’t make it sound like the real deal?

Back to J.J. Abrams, this movie fit into his whole concept of Alias. It really did, but not so much what you have come to expect from Mission: Impossible. This film was full of little sections, or as I now like to call them – episodes. All of these episodes put together makes a season. Really though, there were scenes in this movie that borrowed directly from that TV show. The composer? Same guy. Beyond that, I personally don’t think it feels like a M:I movie. That doesn’t mean it’s bad…it’s still really good and very entertaining.

I think in the end, the only real requisite one of these movies needs is to have a mission that seems impossible for probably multiple reasons. The mission(s) in this film…it was simply okay and way too focused on emotional things rather than spy..y stuff. The Ghost Protocol sequel to this film was pretty much perfect, while this one was more or less the training-wheels version. All you really watch it for, though, is Tom Cruise and for a series that you thought was over…it was awesome to see him in the role again, revitalizing something you thought was dead and over.

The Good:

From purely a nostalgic stance, this movie is pretty awesome. J.J. Abrams stepping in to give it a whirl gave new direction to the series, which was more or less a welcome one, since Abrams is known for taking a pre-existing concept and expanding on it in really imaginative ways – and the same applies here.

The Bad:

Okay, so a couple of things I need to point out – it felt way too much like a collection of episodes straight from J.J. Abrams TV Show – Alias. Both are about spies, but one is focused more on relationships and emotions than the other – which Mission: Impossible 3 got a little more caught up on than it probably should. That made the movie feel less impossible and more like a “love complicates thing” movie. Just my thought – still a good movie in general.

Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

Superman-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Loses cinematic appeal.

When I was going through the entire Superman anthology a while back, I reviewed them based on what the general masses have seen, which was more or less the theatrical versions. Those have the most copies sold, and henceforth, millions of people base their knowledge of Christopher Reeve in blue tights off of those films, so I skipped the Donner Cut of Superman II. I did mention it though, saying from my recollection – it was better than the theatrical version. Giving it a second viewing however…has me really questioning where I got that. It’s definitely interesting and awesome to watch in comparison, but is it really worth watching as a movie movie? I think that’s a really good question.

Plotwise, it’s very similar to the theatrical…just done in an…alternate way if you will. Superman must defeat the three Kryptonian foes including General Zod and his buddies as well as touch base with Lois Lane in a very intimate way – because she discovers his secret, you see. So basically, it is a very character oriented film that asks the question…who is superman really? What does it mean to be him, what power struggles does he face within himself? Then, of course, there is Zod.

I was shocked at how much this film really just resembles the theatrical film. Yeah, there are new, never-before seen stuff (especially with Jor-El), but for the most part it’s the same story…just the way Richard Donner would have preferred it seen. To give you a little background, Richard Donner filmed a lot of Superman II, but the project was handed over to another director for dramatic reasons. They reshot a lot of footage, and the original footage was tossed away in some lost-and-found film factory (I’m assuming), and was then discovered when they were making Superman Returns, so here we are.

Here’s what you should know about this version: you have to take it with a grain of salt. You can’t take it seriously as a film on its own, because it’s an alternate version…kind of like the Anchorman alternate movies. They don’t feel like complete film and instead feel like a collection of unfinished footage…and so does Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. I actually didn’t remember it being so obvious, but there were shots here and there that just flat out looked wrong and had major continuity problems – including a scene that was simply just the actors’ screen tests where Clark’s hair and glasses change dramatically several times. No one will miss that.

That being said, there are some scenes that ultimately work better in this version than the theatrical. The most notable scene is towards the end, where [spoiler] Clark sucks Lois’s memories out with some kind of super-kiss. That was in the theatrical version and makes no logical sense…we know he’s super, but he doesn’t do that. In the Richard Donner cut, they take a play out of the first film…but at least it makes more sense. Also, even though it was a little more repetitive in the Richard Donner cut, Lois’s investigation skills feels more natural as she slowly discovers Clark’s secret…instead of it being a little forced. I did like the theatrical reveal scene though. 

It’s so hard to pick a favorite between the two, but if I had to pick, it would be the theatrical version just because that movie feels more like a film than a collection of interesting shots put together. I think it was more nostalgic to release a Christopher Reeve Superman movie in 2006 than anything else. It’s a nice film to check out once in a while, but it shouldn’t take precedence over the other – it’s just put together a little choppily.

The Good:

Seeing Christopher Reeve in newly found footage after so many years is definitely nostalgic, and the preparation of these scenes work a lot better than the theatrical version in many cases.

The Bad:

You can tell it’s just a special movie created to showcase brand new stuff.You can’t just toss in screen tests into an actual movie and expect people to not notice. Filmmakers shoot and reshoot scenes hundreds of times for a reason.

Night at the Museum (2006)

NightatMuseum1

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A magical adventure.

Some people like Ben Stiller, others don’t, but for the most part I think he’s a genuinely funny guy. Just like any other comedian, he’s had his downfalls – but he still picks really good movies to shine his humor in – so there’s that. Night at the Museum is one of those movies that a lot of people are going to remember whether they are young or old because there’s a lot of good to the entire movie for several reasons. I wouldn’t necessarily call it a movie that needed two more sequels…or even one, but that’s life now and it’s something we all have to accept.

This adventurous film stars Ben Stiller as Larry Daley, a down-on-his-luck type of guy with aspirations for his future. However, he moves from apartment to apartment because his plans never follow through – but he decides to get a job for his son’s sake. He needed a more stable position in life, and what he got was something unbelievable. He got the new night shift security gig for the Museum of Natural History in New York – where after the sun sets – everything comes to life.

Like I said in the 3-Word Review – when it comes right down to it, this is a magical adventure through-and-through. I’m sure you’ve seen The Indian in the Cupboard, Toy Soldiers, or even Toy Story – about inanimate objects coming to life. It’s always magical and usually a really funny and an adventurous experience – and Night at the Museum took the elements of these three films and expanded it about a hundred times over – this is an entire museum. There are life-threatening aspects like Attila the Hun and bloodthirsty lions – as well as figures that inspire hope, like the late Robin Williams as Teddy Roosevelt.

What’s also interesting to note is this movie has a few educational and emotional messages that drive the film. Well, the educational aspect is mostly just for fun, but you can learn a thing or two just by watching the film…which is kind of cool. The emotional side of things was the power force behind the film – and that’s ultimately what keeps you watching. You can watch Ben Stiller run away from wax figurines as much as you want, but you want to know how he’s going to be a good father to his kid and if he’ll get romantically acquainted with Rebecca, heck you even want to know what happens between Teddy and Sacajawea.

Here’s my main problem, if you sit and watch the film and ask yourself what the movie is about – you’ll just end up with things that happen in the movie. “It’s about a museum where things come to life!” No, it’s actually about a father trying to do what’s best for his kid coated behind the humor and magic of a museum coming to life. That very coating is probably the reason the film got sequels – people wanted to see the magic, comedy, and characters and forgot about the main story. Movies like that do bug me, because even filmmakers can lose the point of the thing. The reason this movie works is because it has tremendous heart from the entire cast, and when given the choice between the first and second film – this is the one they’ll probably remember the most of.

This movie is definitely geared for a younger audience, as a majority of the humor is actually physical humor laced with Ben Stiller’s own style of comedy – which works for the movie. Kids will definitely love it, and it even has hidden jokes that only adults will capture as well which makes this a film that all audiences can enjoy.

The Good:

This is one of the few films that are relatively recent that anyone can enjoy. There is something for everyone in Night at the Museum – The physical humor and comedic stylings of Ben Stiller really make this film its own thing.

The Bad:

The people who made this movie focused a lot of their energy on making a majority of the movie just, funny, and not meaningful. The main plot of the movie is actually incredibly meaningful, but is drowned out by a museum coming to life – and all the aspects that tag along with that.