Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol

From what I’ve heard, the time of year is approaching when new releases worth seeing in the movie theater are few and far between. Surely all the Golden Globe winners (after Sunday) and soon-to-be Oscar nominated films will be in theaters for the time being, but if you’re lucky enough to have seen all of those and made it to The Muppets, then what? I kind of can’t believe I’m saying this, but check out Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. We were going to see the new Sherlock Holmes but decided on Mission: Impossible instead due to mixed reviews of the Robert Downey Jr. flick.
Mission: Impossible definitely was not my top choice of what is in theaters now, but I actually found the movie entertaining for the full 2.5 hours.
That is really long for a big-budget popcorn movie, but I didn’t even realize that much time had gone by until we left the theater.

For the record, I’ve always been indifferent about Tom Cruise as an actor and he really didn’t make or break the movie for me. However I just might become a crazed fan of the Mission: Impossible franchise if rumors that Jeremy Renner’s Ghost Protocol character, William Brandt, could be the next lead agent are true.
Renner plays an “analyst” in Ghost Protocol who turns out to be secret agent material alongside Cruise.
Cruise reportedly did his own stunts in the movie and whether that’s the case or not I will say they were pretty fantastic if you’re into that sort of thing. My partner in crime at this movie was literally on the edge of his seat during some scenes.
He and other viewers have director Brad Bird, of Pixar fame, and action giant J.J. Abrams as producer to thank for that and I suppose Cruise — again if you’re into that sort of thing.
I imagine for fans of Abrams’ latest work in the action movie realm that a little known fact is he co-created one of the best shows ever to air on TV — in my opinion — Felicity. How he changed from a four-year series based on a college student following her high school crush to New York to projects where things blow up a lot is a mystery to me, but I digress. (To be clear, I am not criticizing Abrams because his IMDB resume does show a lot of street cred and smart choices, but Felicity is still my favorite project of his.)
Anyway, moving back to secret agents and million-dollar BMWs, I feel I don’t even need to describe the plot of Mission: Impossible since I knew nothing about this installment before going to the theater. Basically Ethan Hunt returns to the secret agent game to prevent a nuclear weapon from destroying the world by using every gadget, fast car and fight move possible. Then, Ghost Protocol happens and agents in IMF are pinpointed as the bad guys and need to go undercover to accomplish their mission to save the world.
Again, Cruise was really just an afterthought in the movie for me but Renner and the tech guy for IMF Benji (Simon Pegg) turned out performances that gave Mission: Impossible just a little bit more substance and comic relief at times.
I also enjoyed that Renner’s character was masked as the smart, quiet guy but he really could fight off the bad guys just as much as Ethan Hunt.
I would hope, if there is a No. 5 to Mission: Impossible, Renner stays on board and Bird and Abrams continue to be attached to the project. Bird mastered his first live action film very well with Mission: Impossible and frankly the franchise doesn’t need yet another set of creators to put their spin on it. Abrams produced Mission: Impossible III and I think now that he and Bird found each other in Hollywood they should stick with the partnership.
We missed the trailers before the movie, but should you accept the mission to succumb to watching Cruise and the gang in the theater, I heard there is an extended peak of the new Batman movie at the beginning.

The Descendants

I’ve been a bit behind on my blog, but still have been slowly plugging away at my pre-Oscar season movie list. I made it through The Descendants last week and before that saw Hugo. Luckily the two are completely different films because I would have a hard time deciding which one is more deserving in the best picture category.

But I also think that’s the least important factor when it comes to The Descendants. I’ve had many a conversation about the film in the last week but it’s been difficult to express my thoughts about the layers of this story and its meanings into writing.
On the surface, the story is of Hawaiian native Matt King (George Clooney) and his plight to raise his two daughters while his wife Elizabeth is in a coma after a boating accident. He is also involved in the final days of a decision whether to sell family land to a developer and split the money with his relatives or do nothing.
Those two plot points are very significant and telling in the film, but the lasting impact is director and writer Alexander Payne’s perfect mix of emotion and realism in adapting Kaui Hart Hemmings’ novel to the big screen.
Clooney and the young actresses who play his daughters Scottie (Amara Miller) and Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) come in here and deliver some of the most emotional scenes I’ve seen in a movie lately. Payne directs those scenes to show the power of human nature over emotion rather than to simply have his actors do their best cry on screen and have the audience join in.
Payne slowly builds the dynamic of the characters’ relationships for the viewer as he does the climax of this chapter of their lives.
After Elizabeth’s accident and coma, members of the King family had to start to repair their strained relationships without being able to directly communicate with her. Many of the scenes focus on secrets, loss and blame and in those scenarios Payne and the actors kept the emotion reined in just enough so as to not overshadow reality.
An example, which was one of the most telling and memorable scenes in the movie for me, is when Matt finds out Elizabeth was having an affair with another man before her accident. King’s response is a mixture of sadness and anger and he actually goes to the hospital where Elizabeth is and verbally expresses that to her.
The scene was hard to watch, but didn’t cause an emotional flood of tears for me because Matt’s need to confront his wife as if she were able to respond was simply human nature.
Overall, I would say what I enjoyed most about Payne’s approach to developing the story and characters in The Descendants is I didn’t feel the need to ask: What would I do if I were in that situation?
I do often try to apply films to my own life or involuntarily can relate to them in some way, but I left The Descendants with the humble feeling that I have no idea what the King family could possibly be going through if I did know them.
The Descendants is unique in that regard and most of all carries the lesson that in times of change — good or bad, sad or happy, we’re all human.