Valkyrie. I… don’t remember much about. It was fine?
Collateral. I keep trying to re-rank Mann movies and running out of #1 slots.
Mission: Impossible 3. Better than I remembered. Hoffman is casually one of the most terrifying villains of the past couple decades. It’s a shame that Keri Russell didn’t have a larger role. Current Mission: Impossible rankings:
- Mission: Impossible
- Mission: Impossible 3
- Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
- Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
- Mission: Impossible 2
It seems the rule of thumb here is that the quality of the MI films is inversely proportional to the length of Tom Cruise’s hair.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It’s fun! I wish it were as stylish as some of its predecessors. I wasn’t picking up on a McQuarrie directorial stamp like we saw in the De Palma, Woo, and Abrams movies. Also a little bit disappointed with Hunt this time around. Seems like he was a bit overmatched at times – more like something you saw in the early stages of Edge of Tomorrow, or something out of Indiana Jones. I’m use to a Hunt that’s more ruthlessly (absurdly) competent. But still, really solid, and I love the pace. That Ferguson is Cruise’s equal (superior?), the opera scene is top-notch, the villain is perfect, and it’s nice to see an action movie that doesn’t feel like it needs a built-in romance. Filed under: Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible.
Top Gun. Exhilarating for the first 80 minutes or so. Intoxicating. Is there any other movie where people are this cool? So many blinding, aggressive smiles. I remember when I was a kid I thought Iceman was a punk. Now he seems so chill and reasonable. “It’s not your flying, it’s your attitude.”
Jack Reacher. I liked it the first time, but I appreciate it so much more now. More subtlety than I remembered, like starting with a solid 8-10 minutes without dialogue. More great humor than I remembered, like Reacher sometimes acknowledging that he’s a bit ridiculous. And the mouthing off before the fight outside the bar. Love the dynamism in the car chase, great filming there. Also LOVE how he takes control of the hostage negotiation on the phone. There’s nothing else like it. This, then Oblivion then Edge of Tomorrow is a solid three-year run.
This movie is seriously in love with LA, too. You almost never get this much richness in setting. The surfaces, the light, daytime and night. Passing scenes and shots of a Hispanic gas station, a Korean (?) newspaper, murals, traffic, strip malls, modest neighborhoods, airport boulevards. Crucial scenes in Latino and (mostly Asian) nightclubs.
This sense of place fits with one of the movie’s themes – presence. Our protagonists are Vincent (Cruise’s cool, decisive, efficient professional) and Max (Foxx’s daydreaming perfectionist). Max is dreaming miles into the future, but too hesitant or cautious (“It’s gotta be perfect.”) to do anything to get there. Vincent is skimming along the moment, zipping through assignments. (“We gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.”)
Two early soundtrack moments underscore the contrast, too. Early on, Max enjoys the nostalgic, old-school vibes of Groove Armada’s Hands of Time as he cruises through the city. Soon after, we see some of Vincent’s subway/disconnection speech (foreshadowing!) backgrounded with a cool blues-y rendition of Bach’s Air on the G String. Pure sophistication. It’s not until (after the missed-opportunity soliloquy in the jazz club scene) Max is forced into impersonating Vincent that he starts to show some real agency.
On this viewing the humor came through much more for me, thanks to Cruise. Lines like “Promise not to tell anybody, right?” and “Don’t let me cornered. You don’t have the trunk space.” and “What? I should only kill people after I get to know them?”. I could go on. What a damn great movie.
War of the Worlds (2005). I love the opening hour or so. I think the big weakness is that the aliens are kinda boring. I like their throwback design and effects, but something is missing there. The basement scene also drags on waaaaaayyy too long. Spielberg is still a genius, though.
Edge of Tomorrow. THIS. This is the kind of genre action film we need. Superheroes can suck it. The best Cruise performance in a good while, and his character has a great arc from coward to competence (always likeable, though). I love the film’s learning curve, too. Just enough to string you along, while not weighing you down with unnecessary repetition. For 2014 releases, I have to put this up there with The Lego Movie and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Jack Reacher. Pulpy, ridiculous, and just barely passable thriller. Tom Cruise, though. I love how pretty much every female in the movie starts drooling whenever he passes by. He’s a pretty remorseless “hero”, but interesting to see him enact a very personal brand/blend of justice and opportunism.
Oblivion. If you have seen and enjoyed a science fiction movie, you will probably find something to like here, where they’re all mixed and mashed into a movie that’s far from perfect, but more than good enough. Easy to find plotlines and moods from movies like Moon, Solaris, the new Solaris, 2001, The Matrix, WALL·E, Star Wars, Star Trek. (I particularly like the space-captain-retiring-to-California parallels with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Generations). I would have been okay with more time exploring the love/memory/identity stuff and less generic action, but no biggie. Outside of the plot, a few areas I was impressed by: camerawork with a smart sense of space and geography; world/technology design and general gorgeousness; and a good soundtrack by M83, et al.
Eyes Wide Shut. I didn’t love it, but I’ll put it in the plus column for Stanley Kubrick. The cult scene had some wonderful tension. I also respect his willingness to let scenes slow down to a near stand-still, like during Kidman’s monologues. And he’s got a great way with music and musical commentary (the Shostakovich waltz; “When I Fall In Love”; “Stranger in the Night”). My Kubrick rankings (there’s considerable distance between #3 and #4):
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Forget the skyscraper scene, that dust storm chase was dope. Pretty stock otherwise, but with smartphones! I’m glad I saw it (it’s the second-best of the modern MI series, after the first one), despite all the times it made me groan. Oh, and Patton’s Jane Carter has nothing, nothing on Carano’s Mallory Kane.
Collateral. Totally forgot Mark Ruffalo was in this. Fun, but moreso in memory than the second time around. I should have left this one alone.