Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

The best Mission Impossible yet. How often does that happen with the fourth in a series?

What made this so entertaining, at least to me, was the combination of Brad Bird's visual skills being brought to bear onto the action sequences, all of which were inventive, beautifully choreographed, and  more importantly, unique. There was stuff in this movie that I had simply not seen in an action flick. The chase sequence through a sandstorm, a prison break-out staged like a three stooges set-piece.

The other thing that made this the best MI film yet was that the writers finally decided to make a film that was truly about the team aspect of the IMF, and not just about Ethan Hunt who, as played by Tom Cruise, is the least interesting part of any MI film. There was true teamwork in this film, and the supporting cast -- Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner -- get story arcs and almost as much screen time as Tom.

One last thing, and this is a little spoilerish, I guess, but one of the things I really enjoyed about this installment was how un-twisty it was. It was a straight-up good guys versus bad guys spy flick, and there were no double crosses, and no ripped-off masks, etcetera.

I'd go back to see this one again on an IMAX screen but, truth be told, I'm not sure I could stomach the Burj Khalifa tower sequence, when Ethan Hunt (and, apparently, a heavily-strapped-in Tom Cruise) dances around the outside of the sickeningly tall Dubai building. As it was it gave me vertigo on the relatively small screen I saw it on.

Below are some more images from the well-filmed movie:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Despite the fact that the world is coming to an end, this is a fairly simple tale of clinical depression, the inability to get any joy from life. Kirsten Dunst embodies this condition and she is excellent, at times seeming almost frozen in her depression. I'll admit that while I was watching this film I was aware of the seams, aware of the manipulations that Lars Von Trier was hurling toward his audience. And there were some moments that felt forced to me, none more so than Stellan Skarsgard's dictatorial capitalist, but then I woke up at four am this morning and couldn't get back to sleep, and images from the film kept flashing through my mind. This is why Lars Von Trier matters, I think: He gets under your skin.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Poetry Monday

A Christmas Poem

by Wendy Cope

At Christmas little children sing and merry bells jingle,
The cold winter air makes our hands and faces tingle
And happy families go to church and cheerily they mingle
And the whole business is unbelievably dreadful, if you're single.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


In 200 years, when readers are still enjoying, and analyzing, Stephen King's novels, this one might not be in the classics category, but it will be pretty damn close. For one thing, it's an intricate chronicle of fifty years of American history, both on the political stage, and on the streets. And for another it's an absolute page-turner, a gotta-find-out-what-happens-next thriller. A school teacher (I greatly prefer the schoolteacher protagonist to the more frequent novelist protagonist that has been showing up in King's books) finds a portal that takes him back to 1958. Rules are established (very important in time-travel thrillers) then our humble teacher decides to stop  Harvey Oswald from killing JFK in 1963. Complications ensue. A great read.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Film Frames Friday

A special Film Frames Friday today for someone who is having a birthday week this week. A few of her favorite films ...

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Movie Posters of the Year

A weak year for movie posters, I think. These are the ones that stood out for me. I'm not sure that The Rum Diary poster was even used for the film but I do like it. Also, while I love the look of the Midnight in Paris poster it is a baffling image, as I have no idea what Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night has to do with the movie. Still, it's purty.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

If you've read the book and seen the Swedish version there is nothing explicitly new here, but I would say it's still very worth seeing. This is slick, well-made Fincherized adult entertainment. Rooney Mara really delivers as Salander and Daniel Craig brings his rumpled sexiness to Blomkvist. There are some beautiful shots in the film, mostly colored in icy blues and sallow browns. I'd see it again just to watch some stunningly composed shots of Salander chasing down one of the film's many sadistic creeps on a motorcycles through the woods. As my friend Kevin says, Fincher's got the chops.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Poetry Monday

  by Wendy Cope

The day he moved out was terrible –
That evening she went through hell.
His absence wasn’t a problem
But the corkscrew had gone as well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Captain America

There was a nice retro, old-fashioned feel to a lot of this film and director Joe Johnston is an underrated B-Movie director but overall this was pretty uneven. Chris Evans was a dull Captain America, I never really understood what was going on with the villain, and the final third throws away the 1940s feel for blue laser beams and so-so cgi. Hayley Atwell, as a love interest/English agent helped with her, um, impressive acting abilities, but not quite enough.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Written on the Wind

Re-watched Written on the Wind last night, partly in preparation for my upstairs neighbor's 1960s party tonight. Anyway, brilliant as always, and check out this observation by Glenn Kenny on his excellent blog, Some Came Running.

He demonstrates just how thought-out Sirk's films are in terms of their visual construction. I'm not suggesting every movie needs to be so steeped in costume symbolism but it sure works in this movie.

Film Frames Friday