Movie Reviews 

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

by Alan Rapp on July 31, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
  • IMDb: link

Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationWhile Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol and Mission: Imposible III may have more dramatic weight given the personal motivations that drive each film, director Christopher McQuarrie instead focuses solely on delivering an immensely enjoyable summer popcorn flick that feels like an old Bond film (complete with multiple locations around the globe and a swagger the Daniel Craig films lack) mixed with the sensibilities of Ocean’s Eleven. The result may or may not be the best in the franchise, but it is arguably the most fun film the series has produced.

What makes my enjoyment of Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation all the more surprising is I’m not the biggest fan of the plot-framing device McQuarrie chooses to recycle in planting our heroes on the outside of their agency working essentially as rogue agents to save the day for those not smart enough to listen to them (here played by Alec Baldwin). The series tried it once, with Brian De Palma‘s bastardization of the original series, with mixed results. The plot is so common the Bond franchise has used it multiple times (License to Kill, Quantum of Solace, Diamonds Are Forever to name three – none of which would be considered among the series’ best).

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Grumpy Old Mr. Holmes

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Mr. Holmes
  • IMDb: link

Mr. HolmesAdapted from Mitch Cullen‘s novel A Slight Trick of the Mind, Mr. Holmes is an intriguing, if flawed, idea offering audiences a look at the retired detective fighting senility while struggling to remember the details of his final case decades before. I say flawed because despite a terrific performance from Ian McKellen removing the keen intellect from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes also removes the character’s most definable trait leaving only a hollow shell in its place.

Taking place three decades after his retirement into the country to spend his time with his bees, a senile and grumpy Sherlock Holmes struggles to remember the details of his final case which he is certain Watson wrongly chronicled. His secluded existence is witnessed only by his housekeeper Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney), her son Roger (Milo Parker), and the occasional visit from Sherlock’s doctor (Roger Allam). Returning from a trip to Japan at the opening of the film, which is chronicled in flashbacks inter-cut with those of his final case and his current retirement, Holmes strikes up an unexpected friendship with Roger who helps reignite the detective’s memory.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Ant-Man

by Alan Rapp on July 17, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Ant-Man
  • IMDb: link

Ant-ManAnt-Man marks a departure for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the exception of Guardians of the Galaxy, which takes place deep in outer space and far from the films that feed into The Avengers movies, every Marvel project to this point has centered around a classic Marvel character that fits a rather well-used pre-designed Silver Age mold. Rather than center another film around a genius scientist turned hero, Ant-Man casts Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as the weathered former hero choosing instead to focus the plot of the movie on his less straight-laced successor Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).

The recently paroled thief struggling to put his life in order and spend time with his young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson), Lang is offered a chance by Pym to become the new Ant-Man. With the help of the scientist and his daughter (Evangeline Lilly), and a few of his formerly incarcerated friends (Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, T.I.), Lang stumbles through his training to learn what it means to manipulate both his size and mass along with the insects which he can now command thanks to to the proprietary Pym Particles and the suit’s helmet.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Minions

by Alan Rapp on July 10, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Minions
  • IMDb: link

MinionsWhen I learned of a Despicable Me sequel starring only the Minions I was skeptical. Although hugely popular, how do you give a full-feature film to the oddball supporting characters who speak only a mishmash gibberish language and who had been used mostly for comedy relief (with heart) in both Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2?

Minions is a throwback of sorts to a type of comedy Hollywood has largely gotten away from in favor of character and plot-driven plots. The result is something that has at least as much in common with Airplane!, Austin Powers, or The Cannonball Run as it does either of the previous two films. Although the script has a basic plot involving the Minions search for a new super-villain to serve, its purpose is largely secondary to allow the characters room to thrive while setting up various sequences, gags, and stunts involving everything from the Minions putting on a full Broadway-style performance for yetis to a slew of 60’s pop-culture references.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Terminator: Genisys

by Alan Rapp on July 3, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Terminator: Genisys
  • IMDb: link

Terminator: GenisysHe told you he’d be back. Given the crippling disappointment of Terminator Salvation, which if not for the existence of A Good Day to Die Hard would unquestionably be the worst action sequel ever made, it’s inconceivable that somebody thought making another Terminator movie was a good idea. No less shocking is the fact that Terminator: Genisys, despite several plot points and awful title, is actually fun.

Recognizing after four films and a TV-series how screwed-up the Terminator timeline has become screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier deliver not so much a sequel as a reboot that jumbles the events of the first two Terminator films, heavily condensing them to occurring simultaneously in 1984 while introducing a face to SkyNet and new villain to hunt down Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in 2017.

One of the (many) flaws of Terminator: Salvation was its headstrong determination for John Connor to run from who the previous films had molded the character into. Here John (Jason Clarke) is the once again the prophet general of the human resistance that defeats the machines in the opening scene but not before time travel can be introduced into the equation.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Inside Out

by Alan Rapp on June 19, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Inside Out
  • IMDb: link

Inside OutWhat’s going on in an 11 year-old girl’s head? That’s the question writers/directors Pete Docter and Ronaldo Del Carmen seek to answer in Inside Out where young Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is uprooted from her home in Minnesota to San Fransisco without warning causing chaos both inside her mind and in the real world.

In a summer loaded with sequels, franchises, and reboots, Inside Out stands out as refreshingly original. Inside Riley’s mind we meet the aptly named Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) who work in concert to manage Riley’s reaction to any possible situation. When Joy and Sadness get lost in the outer region of Riley’s mind during the most tumultuous time of the young girl’s life Riley’s happiness is put at risk leaving the other three emotions to try their best to keep her on track.

The filmmakers allow the emotions to humorously interact, playing to the younger audience, while using the concept to delve into deeper themes about how a person’s mind works and what happens when something goes wrong.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Jurassic World

by Alan Rapp on June 10, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Jurassic World
  • IMDb: link

Jurassic WorldFor the first time in 14 years we get a new entry into the Jurassic Park franchise with Jurassic World. Far from a reboot, Jurassic World takes place in the same world as the previous films (and even has a few homages to the original), although no human characters return. Jurassic World doesn’t stray far from the template of the previous three films (and not nearly as much as I’d like recycling the same themes already well-mined by the franchise), but it does offer a new twist or two to give the latest sequel a fresh feel.

The set-up is roughly the same as something inevitably goes wrong and people run for their lives from dinosaurs for two-hours or more. What Jurassic World adds to the mix is to fully fill the operating theme park this time around with thousands of innocent bystanders (something the script sadly doesn’t use to its full advantage). The new film also offers up a new beastie in Indominus Rex which is more movie monster than true dinosaur cooked up in a lab to be the ultimate attraction. If the movie fails to use the vast crowd to up the carnage (most of the action takes place off in the wilderness with a small group of characters running for their lives) the film certainly trumpets the big bad selling it as the most dangerous creature the park has ever produced.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

San Andreas

by Alan Rapp on May 29, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: San Andreas
  • IMDb: link

San AndreasIt’s hard to make either a great or truly awful disaster movie. Even setting out to craft memorable disaster porn (unless it’s centered around a completely ridiculous premise like sending oil riggers into space) is a challenge. Bucking the trend of world-ending disaster films where characters are fighting asteroids, a new Ice Age, or the core of the Earth disrupting all life on the planet, San Andreas is a bit of a throwback focusing just on California, and, for the most part, San Fransisco. A more localized disaster doesn’t have the doomsday cache of something like 2012 but San Andreas turns out to be a far better film.

Our main characters are fire and rescue expert Ray (Dwayne “It’s Okay to Call Me The Rock Again” Johnson), his estranged wife Emma (Carla Gugino), and their college-age daughter Blake (Alexandra Daddario) who are separated when California begins experiencing a series of increasingly harsh earthquakes and spend the film working back to each other as, once again, a huge disaster seems to magically fix all relationship issues over two hours. Disaster couples counseling has been used so often in movies it has become its own cliche.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Tomorrowland

by Alan Rapp on May 22, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Tomorrowland
  • IMDb: link

TomorrowlandIn tone, message, and design Tomorrowland feels very much like an old school Disney live-action film albeit with far better special effects. With a hopeful message, and heart penned to its sleeve, the screenplay by Damon Lindelof and director Brad Bird offers a look at the wonders and dangerous of technology which will bring two strangers together to a place where imagination is the only limitation of what is possible.

Presented with dueling narration by Frank Walker (George Clooney, played as a child by Thomas Robinson) and Casey Newton (Britt Robertson), Tomorrowland informs the audience of how each first learned of a scientific wonderland just outside our dimension before throwing the pair together to save the city and all of Earth from a mistake that continues to haunt the older scientist.

Clooney’s charm helps soften Frank’ rougher edges and Robertson plays well off of him. The real star, however, is Raffey Cassidy as the android who brings the pair together in an effort to put right what went wrong more than two decades before which got Frank expelled from Tomorrowland forever.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Mad Max: Fury Road

by Alan Rapp on May 15, 2015

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
  • IMDb: link

Mad Max: Fury RoadReturning to his creation for the first time since 1985, director George Miller‘s Mad Max: Fury Road is highly-stylized insanity that is easily one of the most visually-stunning movies of 2015 so far. More engaging than fun, Miller delivers something akin to an action art film rather than summer popcorn movie. And, despite Tom Hardy getting top billing, it’s one hell of a star vehicle for Charlize Theron who proves to any doubters out there that a woman can indeed be the lead character in a big-budget action adventure.

Taking place an indeterminate amount of time following the events of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Max (Hardy) is captured by a cult known as the War Boys, led by the bizarre Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), who decide to put the wanderer to use as a universal blood donor. A series of events involving Imperator Furiosa (Theron) stealing Joe’s most precious cargo loaded up in one of the warlord’s war rigs provide the opportunity for Max’s escape and an uneasy partnership with Furiosa and Joes concubines (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoë Kravitz, Riley Keough, Abbey Lee, Courtney Eaton) as the small group attempts to stay alive in harsh desert with enemies in every direction and a mad man’s army chomping at their heels.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }