Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission-Impossible-4Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Spy liked it.

I was going to go back and watch the entire series, but according to some critics, Mission:Impossible – Ghost Protocol is the best film out of the entire set. Not only that, but for the most part, it is also a standalone film – meaning…you don’t need absolute knowledge into everything else – though that does significantly help matters. Personally, I’ve seen them all and like them all – but there are truly some remarkable things that happen in this film. That being said, I still have to see the rest one more time before I come up with an opinion. Other than that, yeah – Ghost Protocol is amazing.

Why is it amazing? Good question – let’s first talk about this impossible mission. For the most part, IMF is targeted and framed for a terrorist attack – which forces them to be shut down in what is called Ghost Protocol. While they are shut down, Ethan and friends have to complete a task under the radar before a nuclear attack happens. The only problem is – they only have each other and not an entire team to back them. Can they do it – well only time will tell.

I don’t know how they do it, but these movies do a remarkable job at creating missions that are, for a lack of a better word, nearly impossible. They shouldn’t be able to complete the missions, but by sheer luck and intelligence, the team always figures something out – and the stuff they come up with in this movie was insane. I know it’s a spy movie and there’s always some creativity involved – but I was honestly floored with how impressive this movie was at creating new ideas – in both a fantastical design approach as well as the practical effects.

If you weren’t already aware, Tom Cruise did his own stunts here, including the scaling of the Burj Khalifa building – that was real. All of it. In fact, Tom Cruise fired the film’s original insurance company just so he could do it. Call him the craziest man on the planet if you want, but I’ll call him a hard-working and devoted actor that wants his movies to have that sweet, sweet perfection that they so richly need. Not only that, but the day of practical effects has virtually been long gone from the cinema realm. Back in the day, James Bond would actually twirl his car in the air, and legitimately jumped on live alligators to make the movie incredible. Can you imagine if we side-stepped technology for a second and went back to the dangers of practical effects? What else could they come up with? I’d think after several years of exclusive and limitless CGI – you’d come up with some stunning sequences – like the scene in this movie.

That scene doesn’t last too long, though. I want to make sure to point out that the whole movie was stitched together remarkably well. The stunts were obviously great, the “spy gadgets” were original, the introduction of the new characters was refreshing, and the fight choreography was memorable. There’s very little to actually complain about this film – other than maybe some people just don’t like Tom Cruise anymore.

The Good:

This movie wasn’t only just a lot of fun, but in my opinion it was really smart too – and quite possibly the best Mission: Impossible movie that’s ever been.

The Bad:

I can’t really think of anything – maybe the amount of excess stuff that happens. At the same time, though – every film in this franchise has the same problem, it’s just part of the formula.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

Sherlock-2

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Similar, but boring.

Once again, let’s talk about the international man of mysteries – Sherlock Holmes. Wait…that’s not right. Anyway, I’ve seen the first film several times, but the second one is probably one I’ve only seen the one time in theater over three years ago…and can’t really remember much about it other than it having Sherlock’s main nemesis as part of the plot – other than that…I drew blanks. So it’s called Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows…but it’s hardly a game I’d care to play too many times.

Alright, so this time around, Mr. Sherlock Holmes is after the nefarious James Moriarty – whose intent seems to be nothing more than to blow things up and be generally evil – while a genius at the same time. That’s basically the entire plot – don’t try to trudge up anything else – it’s a general good guy vs bad guy movie – which is great – if it weren’t for the filler scenes.

This entire film is filled to the brim with unnecessary action scenes and sequences that are there, apparently, just ‘because’. I really enjoy the action in these films, but when they don’t seem to matter in the end… it starts to get difficult to understand. I’m serious, there were more times than not where I was struggling to follow the story. The only things that truly mattered were the moments with James Moriarty – and there weren’t as many of those as you’d probably expect. Instead, there were random fights with random people and random sidelines with gypsies and…it just didn’t add up. Therefore – it just felt long and boring…I was falling asleep amongst the action – which should never happen!

That being said, even the scenes with Moriarty are just…okay. I’m once again drawn back to the issue of trying to compare the movies with the BBC show…and nothing compares to BBC’s Moriarty. Nothing. He was basically Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight – this guy in A Game of Shadows was basically just a typical, disposable evil genius with basic and unspecific plans to be evil in general. His intellect matched Sherlock’s though – which was a plus. I just wished they wrote his character a little more evil than they did.

Were there good scenes? Yes, they were even memorable in parts – like the train sequence and running through the forest in slow motion sequence will particularly be difficult to forget. The casting, again, comes to question though. Just as you start to get used to Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler, you get Noomi Rapace as Madam Simza Heron. I do like Rapace, but I know nothing about her character, and it didn’t really bring a ton of importance to the story either. I didn’t really understand her role…which happens to be the problem with almost everyone else in the film as well…it just didn’t work out very well at all. I mean, Robert Downey Jr. still did his funny thing – and it still worked pretty well…but not so much amongst all of the rest of the garbage in the film.

The one character I obviously recognized was Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft. The representation of his character by Stephen Fry was just plain weird. Walking around his house naked talking to guests – making jokes just like Sherlock would…he was just like a fatter and slightly dumber version of Sherlock himself…which isn’t how I’m used to seeing his character…so I felt a little weird watching that unfold.

The Good:

It’s kind of cool to see RDJ get back into the role of the sarcastic, fighting Sherlock Holmes – and it’s even cooler to see his arch nemesis make a main appearance in the sequel.

The Bad:

It’s really just a boring movie. There is a lot of action sequences and funny moments, but other than that…it feels really, really pointless. The main aspects of the story are there – they just aren’t the main focus – and so by the end you might be asleep.

Take Shelter (2011)

Take-Shelter

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Michael Shannon’s crazy.

Who doesn’t like a good ol’ fashioned film where they make you wonder if you’re completely bonkers and losing your mind? Otherwise known as psychological thrillers, these movies fascinate and inspire the brain – and work it all night making you think about things you wouldn’t normally think about. Take Shelter is a film that does a remarkable job at keeping things fresh and imaginative – and it never once sinks into the unfortunate demise of predictability…it is quite simply – fascinating.

Alrighty, so Take Shelter is about a chap named Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, who keeps having these premonitions of sorts that seem to hint towards a horrible storm that’ll change everything. These dreams and hallucinations drive him mad and give him night terrors that he cannot handle, so he begins seeing a therapist while he takes comfort in the storm cellar he keeps in the backyard. As the delusions continue, the more he expands on the storm cellar – using money he didn’t have and risking everything because even though he thinks he might be crazy – there’s still that slight probability that all this could be true.

So I’m going to address the elephant in the room. The plot and concept of this film is very reminiscent to another very popular story that we’ve all heard before – Noah’s Ark. In fact, a lot of what they were trying to do in Noah was the same things they were attempting to do in this film as well. Basically – this could all be a sign from God, but instead of literally hearing his voice – what are you more likely to get? Visions that would make you look crazy. Now, there is no mention of God in this film whatsoever – but anyone watching it could probably make the distinction between the two stories. So I wouldn’t necessarily call it a completely original movie, but the direction it took did take a lot of creative thought…so there’s that.

I also want to point out that I haven’t previously heard of this film, but I am familiar with its cast. Michael Shannon really shines in the film as the man who does a phenomenal job at confusing his audience. Is he crazy or is he some kind of prophet that just appears crazy? The transformation his character takes is done really well, and the reactions given by his wife (Jessica Chastain) and daughter (Tova Stewart) are both equally as impressive. But the reason why I never heard of it before probably had to do more with promotion.

This wasn’t a highly-promoted flick. It had a relatively low budget and it gives off an independent vibe – and independent movies don’t get a lot of focus. However, most of that vibe just had to do with visuals – which weren’t always impressive. The special effects themselves weren’t so bad, but I felt as if the basic post-processing things like color correction were basically ignored. For those of you that know things about photography, the white balance more or less seemed like auto-white balance. Seems like nothing, but movies normally don’t do that for a reason…it’s just one of the unspoken rules in a movie that make it feel like a movie – generally speaking. I wasn’t pulled into the film as much as I probably would have been if they did everything right…take that as you will.

The Good:

Take Shelter is a really good psychological thriller that does a great job at showing man’s inner struggles with self – and how hard it is to tell your loved ones something you consider important, because it’s embarrassing or sounds crazy and unlike yourself.

The Bad:

This really isn’t a bad movie and there isn’t a lot of bad to report other than technical problems with how the movie looked and felt after post-processing was finished. I didn’t think it felt as much like a movie as it should have…and that’s a shame.

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible-Bosses

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Genuinely pretty funny.

As much as I love comedies, they are really hard to laugh at sometimes because jokes nowadays are almost never truly good. Most comedies really just have the audience chuckling here and there, but most of the jokes turn out dry. I did watch Horrible Bosses when it first came out, but for whatever reason I never reviewed it. Now that there’s a sequel in our midst, I decided to at least get around to reviewing where it all started.

Horrible Bosses is about three employees who really hate their respective bosses. One boss is just a flat out jerk, another is an immature crack-head, and the third one is a female boss that sexually harasses her employee, which apparently is the worst thing in the world. Each situation is making their jobs and personal lives worse, so they each plot to kill each other’s bosses. Things get a little complicated though when one of the bosses kills the other and the police immediately look at the employees.

I found this film even funnier the second viewing, which for so many comedies is a rarity. It’s actually got a similar plot to the classic comedy Office Space but with more ridiculousness. Did it really need three bosses and three employees? Not at all, but in doing so, it created a good sense of comedic chemistry between our leading actors. When you deal with comedy, sometimes it’s just a good idea to have the actors bounce jokes off each other – if they have good chemistry, you have winning comedic material…and it was kind of a jackpot here. Also, by splitting the film into three separate but similar storylines, it created a break in one really long and potentially boring story. Honestly, it just felt really balanced in terms of what it was ultimately going for.

This is more or less a senseless screwball comedy. It’s not completely random for no good reason – it’s got a good direction, but the entire plot when you think about it – is over-the-top. People may think about killing their bosses as a joke to one another, but the way these three reacted to the actual idea of murder would be considered pathologically psychotic in real life – and that’s when the viewer has to remember that it’s just a movie – and it’s not attempting to mimic life. It’s just aiming for laughs. There’s no real emotional scenes, so there’s not really a good balance between comedy and drama…which is potentially hurtful for many comedies…but not this one. It draws a lot of its strength purely on these guys comedic chemistry with one another.

Before I watched it a second time, I was confused and surprised at the very existence of the sequel. I haven’t seen it yet, but I had no idea as to why it was a thing in the first place. Sure, the first movie was really funny, but the story was done with…there was no need to further it. That’s when I realized that a sequel would be pretty good if the characters were in it. The audience really loves these guys, and we could watch them discuss fast food and politics for three hours and it would probably be a riot. That’s the main reason why I’m looking forward to actually seeing the sequel.

To be fair, there’s not a lot you can say about the movie past “it’s funny”, because it doesn’t really have too much else going for it. The plot was solid for what it’s worth, but there’s not actually any heart to the thing. I believe whole-heartedly that good comedic movies need more than a funny exterior…they need heart so you can care about the characters long after the movie ends. And that’s why I’m a little apprehensive about watching the sequel. When you don’t have heart, you just have more of the same comedy…which removes an actual reason to watch it…so we’ll see.

The Good:

What can I say? Horrible Bosses has some of the funniest and most memorable lines I’ve seen from a comedy in a long time. “THEY FOUND THE POOP BRUSH!”

The Bad:

There’s just no real heart or soul to the movie. The comedy is absolutely hilarious, but what good is that if there’s no glue for the rest of it? Especially for sequels – if you don’t have any real character development, the sequel will have no other choice than to just make some more of the same jokes – which is where many comedies fail – so we’ll see.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Transformers3

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Back on track.

Back in the day, my brother and I took a train ride to Chicago – bright and early. We don’t live too far away, but far enough for it to be a 2-3 hour ride by rail. Why? Well I’ll tell you. We were headed to audition to be extras in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. If we made it, we’d likely get paid for our time, and we’d get to have an experience like no other. So we waited in line for roughly six hours. They had us sign disclaimer and information paperwork in case we actually got the roles of extras. Get this, they actually had a section of the paperwork dedicated if you want to volunteer your car to be in the movie to like, blow up or something. Anyways, we get our pictures taken and we’re sent on our way. We didn’t get the parts.

The third and original final part of the franchise introduces us to the dark side of the moon, where long ago, Transformers landed – hence why there was a race to the moon. The United States had to get there first to document what alien nature landed there so long ago. Turns out it was Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy). The Decepticons want what was on his ship on the moon – which are beacons that will allow Cybertron to co-exist with Earth, which also means destruction and enslavement of humans – but they can’t activate the beacons without Sentinel, so the Autobots must protect the humans and make sure those Beacons never go off, which also means waking Sentinel Prime.

I may not be the best at explaining the plot of this movie, but it is good and it’s something you just have to see for yourself. It is clearly a lot more solid in its pacing and structure. There are subplots, but thankfully they aren’t focused on as heavily as they were the last time. Instead, everything was dependent and revolved around the story about Sentinel and the beacons. It’s amazing how when you clear things up plotwise, how memorable and ultimately better a movie can be. This and the first movie are a lot of fun, but the first is still the best. They had to make sacrifices in order for this movie to be any good, and those sacrifices are noticed.

Obviously, the soundtrack isn’t nearly as good as the first. Lincoln Park’s song just didn’t fit in as epicly as the previous two movies – but it’s not just the music. The film just feels so ridiculously long, because it still heavily relied on action. There was story, but without the heart and humor of character development and interaction, there was just something that ultimately felt off about this movie. It’s definitely better than the second, but my god it feels long. The character development and interaction in Dark of the Moon wasn’t horrible, but it fell short of both the first and second movie in that regard. This could be because of Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who took the place of Megan Fox. They both aren’t the best actresses, but Megan Fox looked the part while Rosie didn’t. She and Shia just didn’t have the same chemistry and it felt a bit rushed and forced…so I didn’t believe it.

Obviously the look is nice, the new Transformers are fun, but at this point the action does feel repetitive, as fun as it is. Not just the action, but pretty much everything feels slightly stale like we’ve seen this crap before. If you haven’t seen any of the previous movies, that’s a different story, but because you have…it just doesn’t affect you like it should. Plus, I was annoyed with Megatron’s involvement in the second movie…you can bet I was sighing when he showed up in the third too.

The Good:

Transformers: Dark of the Moon is miles better than the second film. It’s clearer, it follows a set path, and it has a more solid plot that they follow throughout.

The Bad:

The heart and humor of Shia’s initial personality in the series was pretty much gone at this point. Instead, they focus on the fact that he’s just…there – and they figure that’s all that matters. His presence is great, but it’s only great based off of how he played the role to begin with, which was nervous and awkward – and it was hilarious and welcome.