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Posts Tagged ‘Simon Pegg’

Tom Cruise

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT” My rating: B-

147 minutes| MPAA rating: PG-13

The latest “Mission: Impossible” is being hyped as possibly the greatest action film of all time.

Well, there’s no arguing that “Fallout” has some of the best conceived and executed action sequences ever, with star Tom Cruise appearing to risk life and limb to deliver the thrills audiences expect. (Of course, in this age of seamless CGI moviegoers can’t even be sure that a simple sunset is the real deal. Probably best to take the Cruise heroics with a grain of salt.)

Here’s the downside.  In his effort to deliver bigger, better stunts (he’d already set the bar impossibly high with 2015’s “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”) writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has jettisoned just about every other dramatic element.

Character development?  Hah.

Coherent plotting? You need a flow chart and a PowerPoint demonstration to make sense of it all.

Emotional content?  Gimme a break.

No, this latest “M:I” is essentially a perpetual motion machine careening from one splashy sequence to the next.  The connective material — the moments when the film slows down enough to explain what’s going on or to establish who’s who —  is actually kind of irritating.  It’s like being told to eat your peas before you can have some ice cream.

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“READY PLAYER ONE” My rating: B
140 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

That most films based on video games suck mightily should come as no surprise…video games are all about dishing visceral thrills, not building dramatic momentum or developing characters.

This is why Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is such a remarkable achievement. Instead of attempting to wrestle the video gaming experience into a standard dramatic format, this surprisingly entertaining entry is really just one long video game, albeit a game with so much pop-culture name dropping that geeks will spend countless hours documenting all the visual and aural references.

Think “Tron” to the nth degree.

Don’t go looking for the usual plot developments or relatable characters. The strength of  “Ready Player One” lies in its ability to create an totally plausible fantasy world that operates by its own rules.  At times the audience’s immersion in this universe is total and totally transporting.

The screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (based on Cline’s novel) unfolds in the year 2045.  Economic and environmental disasters have left the working class chronically unemployed.  They live in “stacks,”  mini-high rises made of mobile homes resting on metal frameworks. In this world video games are the opiate of the masses — when they’re not eating, sleeping or taking bathroom breaks, the citizenry are experiencing virtual realities through 3-D goggles.

This is the world of Wade (Ty Sheridan of “Mud,” “Joe” and the X-Men franchise), a shy teen whose on-line avatar is the game-savvy Parzival.  Wade/Parzival is a devotee of The Oasis, a massive video game developed by the late programming guru Halliday (played by Mark Rylance in flashbacks) and so complex and challenging that in the years since its inception no player has come close to beating it. But millions log in daily in an attempt to find three hidden keys that will unlock Halliday’s fantasy world and grant the winner ownership of the unimaginably wealthy Oasis empire.

The challenge attracts not just individual gamers like Parzifal and on-line buddies like the hulking giant Aech or the samurai warrior Daito.  The IOI corporation and its Machiavellian director Sorrento (Ben Mendelssohn) has its own army of players who compete for the prize.   The person — or business — that solves the game’s many puzzles will in effect become one of Earth’s dominant forces.

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Simon Pegg, Lake Bell

Simon Pegg, Lake Bell

“MAN UP” My rating: C+

88 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There should be a special place in paradise for beautiful women willing to make themselves look like utter dorks.

Lake Bell is by just about any reckoning a beautiful woman. But in “Man Up” the model-actress-director plays Nancy, a thirtysomething Londoner with low self esteem, bad hair (those bangs!!!) and a miserable track record with the opposite sex.

I kind of love this character, who despite her romantic hiccups is smart and funny with a marvelously cynical world view and no tolerance for other people’s b.s.

Just wish the rest of the film were as watchable as Bell is.

This comedy from director Ben Palmer and writer Tess Morris finds Nancy being mistaken for another woman by that woman’s blind date. I’ll spare you the details of this improbable plot twist.

The main thing is that Nancy’s so desperate for a bit of guy attention that she doesn’t tell the fellow — he’s named Jack and is played by Simon Pegg — that he’s got the wrong girl.

So the two have a night on the town — drinking, eating, drinking, bowling,  drinking, dancing, drinking — and actually start to fall for one another.

Along the way they encounter a creep (Rory Kinnear) who has been obsessed with Nancy since high school, and Jack’s ex-wife (Olivia Williams) who broke his heart by running off with a pretentious yuppie twit.

“Man Up” takes a long, long time to find its voice — it’s only in the final moments that all the pieces come together in screwball fashion — and it often seems the film is trying so hard to be hip and clever that irritation sets in.

Happily Pegg and Bell (an American who comes up with a more than acceptable Brit accent) provide a core of sympathy and humor that gets us through the slow spots.

| Robert W. Butler

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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.)

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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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