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Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Renner’

Amy Adams

Amy Adams

“ARRIVAL” My rating: B+

116 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Arrival,” space aliens — as they have so often in our cinematic past — come to Earth with questionable intentions.

Only this time their reception is less Ridley Scott than Stanley Kubrick.

“Arrival” may be the most thought-provoking science fiction film since “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Like Kubrick’s cryptic classic, it will leave some viewers puzzled and perhaps dissatisfied. In lieu of ray guns and souped-up space jalopies, director Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies,” “Prisoners,” “Sicario”) depicts massive societal and personal dislocation and ruminates about the very nature of time.

Happily, “Arrival” does all this with a final emotional jolt that will linger in the viewer’s mind for … well, maybe forever. Great movies can do that.

The adventure begins with a dreamy, time-leaping sequence of a mother (Amy Adams) interacting with her daughter from infancy to adolescence. On the soundtrack this woman, Louise, talks about beginnings.

Then we’re taken to the present day where Louise, a world famous linguist, arrives in her college lecture hall to find that practically nobody has come to hear her talk about the Portuguese language. The absences are soon explained — 12 magnificent spaceships (they resemble gigantic elongated eggs, or maybe black mango seeds) are now hovering at various points around the globe.

In just a couple of brilliantly conceived and edited minutes Villeneuve evokes the shock and widespread disruption caused by the realization that we are not alone.

Populations panic. Stock markets tumble. There are runs on bottled water and batteries. Looting and rioting.

Yes. This is exactly what would happen.

For Louise it gets personal when a military bigwig (Forest Whitaker) arrives at her doorstep to announce that her country needs her. Mankind must figure out how to converse with the newcomers. (more…)

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Tom Cruise...just another day at work

Tom Cruise…just another day at work

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — ROGUE NATION”  My rating: B-

 131 minutes  | MPAA rating:  PG-13.

The latest “Mission: Impossible” film doesn’t offer much for the brain. The rest of your nervous system, though, will get a thorough workout.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie — helming only his third feature after a long career as a screenwriter (“The Usual Suspects,” “Valkyrie,” “Edge of Tomorrow” and the lamentable “The Tourist”) — builds on the spectacular/visceral approach Brad Bird employed to such solid effect four years ago in “M:I — Ghost Protocol.”

There’s not much talk in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” and what there is is confusing and forgettable.

The big action set pieces, though, just keep on comin’.

McQuarrie announces his intentions with the opening sequence — already heavily publicized through the film’s marketing campaign — that finds Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging on for dear life to the exterior of a huge military-type transport plane as it takes off. (There’s something important inside that Ethan doesn’t want the bad guys to have, dontcha know.)

Unable to stop the takeoff by hacking into the plane’s electronics, Ethan has no choice but to ride the big bird like that gremlin in the old “Twilight Zone” episode.  Much has been made of the fact that Cruise actually did that stunt…he was strapped to the fuselage of an airplane.

Well, that’s only the beginning. Ethan must foil an elaborate political assassination attempt during opening night at the Vienna Opera House (clearly inspired by a similar setup in Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). I especially like the firearms disguised as woodwind instruments.

He must hold his breath underwater for, like, four minutes to break into a computer data storage facility deep below the Moroccan desert. (Not to be a killjoy, but where did all that water come from? It’s a DESERT.)

(more…)

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Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb

Jeremy Renner as journalist Gary Webb

“KILL THE MESSENGER” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Oct. 10)

112 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Apart from featuring Jeremy Renner’s best screen performance since “The Hurt Locker,” the new film “Kill the Messenger” is noteworthy as a throwback to the good old days before around-the-clock cable news.

We’re talking about a time when the ink-stained wretches of the newspapers were widely viewed as, well, as kind of heroic.

Badly paid, sure, and probably morally reprehensible in matters of alcohol and other forms of hedonism. But these journalists happily clung to the idealistic notion that their job was to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, and in films like “All the Presidents Men” newspaper reporters shined a light on corruption and criminality.

“Kill the Messenger” is based on the  career of Gary Webb, a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News who in the mid-1990’s, while covering the crack cocaine epidemic, stumbled upon a seemingly incredible story: To fund a rebel army battling the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua, the Contras had been smuggling countless tons of cocaine into the US.  The ensuing scandal became known as “drugs for guns.”

Webb never alleged that the CIA was behind the program, only that the CIA must have known about the drugs and tolerated it.

In other words, during the same years that Nancy Reagan was telling America’s kids to “just say no,” our government was allowing a flood of dangerous drugs to inundate the country’s inner cities. Most of the victims of this scourge were black.

Written by Peter Landesman and directed by Michael Cuesta (a veteran of Showtime’s “Homeland”), “Kill the Messenger” starts out as a sort of journalistic procedural.  Renner’s Webb stumbles across a secret government document that suggests a partnership between the government and a major drug trafficker.  Then, through dogged research, interviews, and travel to Central America and Washington D.C., Webb puts together a story that will rock the country and win him major journalism awards.

(more…)

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Christian Bale...fat, bald, and out of control

Christian Bale…fat, bald, and out of control

“AMERICAN HUSTLE” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on Dec. 18)

138 minutes | MPAA rating: R

David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” is crammed with near-brilliant moments and performances.

Yet the film itself left me cold. More than cold. Alienated.

Granted, mine seems to be a minority opinion. Other scribes are tossing words like “masterpiece” and “great American comedy”  at “Hustle.” Maybe they’re seeing something I missed.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams

Inspired (loosely) by the ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s (when the FBI lured — entrapped? — politicians into taking bribes through an elaborate ruse that involved a phony oil sheik), it’s the story of a couple of con artists who get swept up by the feds and, to avoid prosecution, agree to help the government set up an even bigger con.

The film begins with a superb wordless introduction in which con man/dry cleaning magnate Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) emerges from the shower and gets to work on the face he presents to the world. The normally cut Bale (he’s Batman, fer chrissakes) put on maybe 40 pounds to play the tubby, middle-aged Irving.  Now he stands in front of a mirror creating, strand by strand, spray by spray, the world’s most atrocious comb-over ‘do. It’s awesomely funny, in an I-don’t-believe-what-I’m-seeing way.

Irving is smoking a stogie at a pool party when he gets a glimpse of Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a young woman on the make both professionally and romantically. He’s ugly, she’s beautiful (unlike every other director in America, Russell looks at Amy Adams and sees rampant sexuality, God love him) and they bond over jazz. Soon he’s teaching her the ropes of financial scamming, and together they’re enjoying an erotic field day.

The catch is that Irving is married to the gold-digging Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a quintessential Jersey princess. She won’t divorce him and, anyway, Irving is absolutely crazy about her young son, whom he has adopted.

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“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL” My rating: B

133 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

If “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”  feels like a live-action version of a cartoon, it only stands to reason.

The man behind the camera is animator Brad Bird, who gave us “The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles,” three of the smartest and most ambitious animated features of recent years. And he brings to the “M:I” franchise the same breathless pacing, eye for action and sly humor that has marked his animated work. (more…)

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