Film Review: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Also known as: Aries (fake working title), Mission: Impossible IV (working title), MI4, MiGP (informal titles)
Release Date: December 7th, 2011 (Dubai International Film Festival)
Directed by: Brad Bird
Written by: Josh Applebaum, Andre Nemec
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Josh Holloway, Anil Kapoor, Lea Seydoux, Tom Wilkinson (uncredited), Ving Rhames (uncredited cameo), Michelle Monaghan (uncredited cameo)

TC Productions, Bad Robot Productions, Skydance Media, Paramount Pictures, 132 Minutes

Review:

“The Secretary is dead. The President has invoked Ghost Protocol. We’re shut down. No satellite, safe house, support, or extraction. The four of us and the contents of this car are all that remains of the IMF.” – Ethan Hunt

Well, out of the four Mission: Impossible films that I’ve seen, this one is hands down the best. Now I still have to see the two after this but following the third movie and this one, the franchise seems to be on a great trajectory following the second film, which killed the series for me way back in 2000.

I loved this movie from top-to-bottom and it had a superb cast that had solid chemistry, allowing them, as a unit, to carry the picture and alleviate the big burden from just being on Tom Cruise’s shoulders. As great as Cruise is, this made for a better film where he was still the star but a part of a great ensemble that made this movie seem bigger, cooler and more important than any of the previous ones.

As far as the cast goes, I wish that Ving Rhames was more involved and didn’t just appear in a cameo at the end.

The story here was also the best of the series. Although, it is hard to top Philip Seymour Hoffman as the villain in the previous chapter. Still, the villains in this one are good and I was enthralled by their plot and how it effected the bigger picture of this franchise not just in this movie but moving forward beyond it.

The action sequences were stellar and the stunts were damn impressive. Each of these sequences sucked you right in, keeping your eyes glued to the screen. I loved the tower climb sequence, as well as the sandstorm chase.

All of the techie stuff was also very clever and while this dips its toe into the James Bond high-tech spy thriller pool, these films feel very much like their own thing and the tech is unique and fits the film’s style. It’s similar to Bond but our heroes here aren’t just using tiny gadgets with one function or suped up, weapon-loaded cars. The tech here is bigger and more interesting than just being one-off gags or easy solutions to an immediate problem.

I also loved the cinematography and the way the film was shot, as it had massive scope and just looked pristine and perfect. The locations contributed a lot to this but everything was masterfully crafted and captured on film.

Michael Giacchino’s score was really good and the more of I hear of his work, the more I like it. I think he has the ability to become one of the top composers in the game, which is refreshing as so much of the music made for films these days is forgettable and almost generic, paint-by-numbers compositions. Giacchino’s scores harken back to a time when film scores were iconic, memorable and would go on to stand the test of time by living on in people’s minds for decades. While I can’t call him a John Williams or an Ennio Morricone, I’ve greatly enjoyed his work and it exceeds what has become the norm.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is an incredibly solid blockbuster picture. Everything in it just feels right and I was smiling ear-to-ear from start-to-finish. And honestly, that’s all I want from these sort of movies. 

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: the other Mission: Impossible films.

Film Review: Casino Royale (2006)

Also known as: 007: Casino Royale (alternative international title), Bond 21, Bond XXI, Bond Begins, James Bond 21 (working titles)
Release Date: November 14th, 2006 (London premiere)
Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis
Based on: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
Music by: David Arnold
Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Ivana Milicevic, Jesper Christensen, Richard Branson (cameo)

Columbia Pictures, Eon Productions, Casino Royale Productions, 144 Minutes

Review:

“[tied to a wooden chair as he is being tortured] I’ve got a little itch, down there. Would you mind?” – James Bond

As much as I loved this movie in 2006, I think I forgot just how damn good it was. It’s also aged exceptionally well while possibly being the greatest movie in the Daniel Craig James Bond era. I really like Skyfall a lot but this is in the same ballpark and my brain will probably debate which one is actually superior until the day I die. But I’m allowed to love them both, equally.

The film starts off with a bang and this really is a Year One type of story for the James Bond character, as it starts with him becoming a Double-O agent and then follows him on his first big mission.

The story is well crafted and one of the best in the entire franchise. This movie also sort of reboots the series and the character in a more serious tone after the Pierce Brosnan era films became cheesy, goofy, hokey and mostly terrible following his initial outing in 1995’s GoldenEye.

Speaking of which, Martin Campbell, the director of GoldenEye, returned to direct Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, as well. He also showed that he could do a much more serious and realistic Bond film in the wake of other directors ruining what he started with the first Brosnan era picture.

Getting back to the tone, this character and these films desperately needed a change, if they were going to survive for future generations. While I know that some James Bond traditionalists didn’t like the gritty realism, most people did and that’s why this was such a hit after the deplorable Die Another Day.

While I’m still not sure if Daniel Craig was the best casting choice at the time, I do like him as Bond. My only real issue with him is that he lacks that suaveness that other had before him. Sure, he’s tough, he’s badass and he looks great in a suit but he does lack a certain charm. That’s also not to say that he’s charmless, it’s just really damn hard to follow Pierce Brosnan, who was stupendous in that department and maybe the best Bond in that regard.

That being said, Craig was great for what this picture needed but I don’t know if his seriousness was best for the franchise over multiple films, as he never really seems to be too comfortable or natural in being a real charmer. Although, his chemistry with Eva Green in this film is really good but I also think that’s because both of them are damn good actors.

Not known at the time, this film’s story sets up the return of SPECTRE, the massive, worldwide terrorist organization that was front and center as the antagonists of the Sean Connery era. There had been legal issues surrounding the use of SPECTRE and I’m not sure that they were resolved when this film was made but this did lay the foundation for their return and the return of top Bond villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.

The only thing that hurts this film a bit is the long, drawn out poker sequences. While those probably worked for most people and they exist in the novel, they took away from more energetic storytelling. But on the flip side of that, the action sequences in this film certainly make up for the duller moments.

While there really isn’t a perfect James Bond film, this is one of the few to get pretty damn close to it. Plus, it’s one of the best looking movies in the long film series.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Bond films of the Daniel Craig era.

Film Review: Solomon Kane (2009)

Release Date: September 16th, 2009 (TIFF)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: James Purefoy, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Mackenzie Crook, Alice Krige

Davis Films, Czech Anglo Productions , Wandering Star Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, Optimum Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay.” – Solomon Kane

At times, this felt like two different films. I liked a lot of the stuff in this movie but it had issues with pacing and tonal shifts.

Still, this had some real badass moments and I loved the character design between Solomon Kane and the two big villains, Malachi and the Masked Rider.

The opening ten minutes or so of this film were great and got me excited for what was to come. However, after the intense and fantastic opening, things slowed to a crawl for quite awhile. The energy didn’t really pick back up until the Masked Rider appeared and started doing some evil shit. Man, he just looked sinister and cool as hell, almost like a powerful Sith thrown into a Robert E. Howard story.

Malachi also added a lot to the picture and was a nice antagonist for Solomon Kane, a hero that walks the line with one foot in Hell and the other on the side of God.

The ghouls were also pretty cool and provided a lot of intense moments, as did the ghosts in the mirrors and the big demon beast in the big finale.

I thought that the cinematography was good and the film is very well shot. It looks great, even in the moments were CGI is very prevalent.

I just wish that the film wasn’t bogged down by some of its inconsistencies.

Every part in the picture was well acted, though and that certainly boosted the overall quality of the film. James Purefoy was perfection as Solomon Kane and even if he’s not a widely known star, I can’t think of a bigger one that would’ve pulled off the character as well as he did. Frankly, I wish this had done better because I would’ve liked to have seen him return to the role for other movies. And maybe it’s not too late but it’s been almost a decade since this came out and I haven’t heard anything about a follow up. It’ll probably be rebooted sometime in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching this. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised and on the other, I was bored for half the film. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Robert E. Howard heroes: all the Conan movies, Kull the ConquerorRed Sonja and other sword and sorcery films.

Film Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Also known as: Dark Sky: First Strike (fake working title), G.I. Joe (Czech Republic, Japan, Spain)
Release Date: July 27th, 2009 (Tokyo premiere)
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Written by: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett, Michael B. Gordon, Stephen Sommers
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Cast: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Byung-hun, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Karolína Kurková, Brendan Fraser, Kevin J. O’Connor, Gerald Okamura, Grégory Fitoussi

Spyglass Entertainment, Di Bonaventura Pictures, Hasbro Studios, Sommers Company, Paramount Pictures, 118 Minutes

Review:

“Technically, G.I. Joe does not exist, but if it did, it’d be comprised of the top men and women from the top military units in the world, the alpha dogs. When all else fails, we don’t.” – General Hawk

*Let me preface this by saying this review will have a massive amount of profanity. You have been motherfucking warned.

Directed by Stephen Sommers, a man that shouldn’t be allowed to touch a camera after The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing, this movie is a massive piece of shit and a huge disappointment to any fans of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, whether in cartoon or comic book form.

I don’t know where to start, as everything about this is bad but I have to point out the biggest issue with it and that’s the fact that it has no idea what G.I. Joe is, who these characters are or why any of this is awesome and really hard to fuck up. That is, unless you’re just someone that doesn’t give a flying fuck about the property your adapting and just see it as nothing more than a cash cow with a massive amount of built-in merchandise already attached to it.

Frankly, Hasbro needs to respect their own properties more and stop whoring them out to anyone willing to write stories and make movies and shows based on them. They’ve forgotten what their core brands represent and why they resonate with people. Between this film and the live action Transformers movies and that awful Jem film, Hasbro needs to get their shit together.

Anyway, they couldn’t have chosen a worse director than Stephen Sommers. Okay, they could’ve gotten Uwe Boll, but his film probably would’ve at least been fun and ridiculous for the right reasons.

What I hate the most about this is that none of the characters apart from the ninjas, are even close to who they are in the cartoon series or the comics. For fuck’s sake, Larry Hama wrote amazing comic stories that all could have translated well to screen. The cartoons even had some great epics mixed in that could have been adapted. Stephen Sommers and his staff of a half dozen writers couldn’t come up with a single scene in a two hour film’s script that represented anything close to what was great about the source material.

One of my favorite characters, the Baroness, wasn’t even close to what her character is. She is an incredible character with a great backstory and is really, the most vicious member of Cobra. Here, she is just a brainwashed American girl that can’t be the badass she should be because she’s got a hard on for Channing Tatum the whole picture and turns back into a good guy and helps defeat Cobra. What in the holy fuck?! This is the goddamned Baroness we’re talking about!

It’s not just her though, Cobra Commander was a joke, Destro was boring, Duke was lame, Ripcord was annoying and Scarlett was so terribly uncharacteristic that she should have just been named Ginger Brainy Girl.

In one of the biggest action sequences in the film, we get Duke and Ripcord running around Paris in generic Iron Man suits. Why? Those suits never existed once in any G.I. Joe continuity that I’ve ever seen and I’ve read and seen everything. This was a poor attempt at trying to piggy back off of the success of Iron Man a year earlier. But, Sommers, this isn’t a Marvel film, it’s G.I.-fucking-Joe!

Also, in the big finale, Cobra Commander tries to destroy the Joes by blowing up the ice shelf above them. What does ice do in water people? It fucking floats! So how in the hell does the ice come crashing down like boulders in the goddamned ocean? How?!

But there’s still so much more wrong with this motion picture.

Why does Snake Eyes have fucking lips?! He’s a ninja in a ninja mask. He doesn’t need rubber lips. His head looks like it was ripped from a full size sex doll.

Why does Duke have to be restrained from punching a hologram? It’s a fucking hologram!

How does Ripcord’s jet plane go from Moscow to Washington in just a few minutes? How?!

I mean, there are a lot of other stupid things in this film too but you probably get the point by now.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was an expensive movie, given to a four year-old, mentally challenged kid, that just wants to play with his G.I. Joe toys in the bathtub. I’m talking about Stephen Sommers, for the record. And while that may sound harsh, it’s not as harsh as Sommers was to this beloved franchise. Fuck this guy, he’s one of the worst directors of the last two decades.

I never wanted to see this film again but I suffered through it just to review it. The sequel to this was actually better but still far from great. Hasbro needs to stop whoring out their properties unless they can learn how to vet these filmmakers better. Seriously, Hasbro, G.I. Joe is a franchise deserving of a great motion picture. Hell, I’ll make it. I can certainly do better than this film and I know these characters because I’ve spent over 35 years with them.

Seriously, Hasbro. Call me.

Rating: 2.75/10
Pairs well with: It’s sequel, as well as the crappy live action Transformers movies.

Film Review: AVP: Alien Vs. Predator (2004)

Also known as: AVP (promotional abbreviation), Alien Vs. Predator (short title)
Release Date: August 12th, 2004 (Puerto Rico & Thailand)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson, Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Based on: characters by Dan O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett and Jim Thomas & John Thomas
Music by: Harald Kloser
Cast: Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova, Lance Henriksen, Ewen Bremner, Tommy Flanagan

Davis Entertainment, Brandywine Productions, 20th Century Fox, 101 Minutes, 103 Minutes (extended cut), 109 Minutes (Unrated Version)

Review:

“I think this is a manhood ritual. The humaniod ones, they’ve been sent here to prove that they’re worthy to become adults.” – Sebastian de Rosa

I haven’t seen AVP: Alien Vs. Predator since it was in theaters. From what I remember of it, it was a massive disappointment and didn’t live up to the best either franchise had to offer.

Well, it was at least better than Alien: Resurrection but it didn’t come close to being as awesome as Alien 1 & 2 or the original Predator. Hell, Alien 3 and Predator 2 both kick this in the balls too.

But now having some distance, fourteen years to be exact, this wasn’t as bad as my memory of it and I at least found the experience of revisiting it, a bit amusing.

At the end of the day, this gives you exactly what the title implies. It gives you alien xenomorphs fighting against the Predators. Strip away everything else and a grudge match between these two alien species is still a main event worth having. I just wish that the story around it was better and fit the already established mythologies better.

Yes, there is a team of humans in this and frankly, you should already know that they are just meat to be ripped through, trapped in a war between two vicious species that don’t give a crap about collateral damage.

I didn’t care about any of the people in this film but it was neat seeing Lance Henriksen return to the franchise to play Weyland of the Weyland Corporation from the Alien films. Obviously, his appearance as that character was to show you that the android Bishop was modeled after his visage. Plus, I’ve always enjoyed Henriksen, so seeing him bring his level of gravitas to another action sci-fi film was cool. His demise in this was even cooler.

The problem with the film is that the action was lackluster, so it didn’t really make up for the bland story or bland characters. It was nice seeing Ewen Bremner and Tommy Flanagan pop up in this but they were just there to be eaten, really.

AVP is just a film that had so much potential. The comics were typically pretty good and so were the games that they did before (and after) this. This could have taken the best bits of those stories and turned them into a worthwhile movie. But we got this instead.

But hey, at least it’s better than its sequel.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The other films from the Alien and Predator franchises.