Friday, December 23, 2011

Unoccupied forest

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol stars Tom Cruise as a megastar whose last couple of films have been disappointments at the box office in the United States, where it matters -- AMERICANS! YEEEAH WOOOO! -- so off he goes, back into another IMF adventure in an effort to ensure that he doesn't become the Soccer of movie stars. (Besides, Rowan Atkinson wouldn't appreciate someone else muscling in on his position.)

From what I can recall from my increasingly hazy memory of an awesome childhood, back when I watched some of the old series on KDOC back in the day, the Impossible Mission Force was kind of its own thing, kinda like a world government A-Team. But in the movies, they're more or less a United States-only deal; and yet, the films still managed to feel asexual in the patriotism/jingoism department. I guess because the IMF isn't about that, they're just about making sure the goddamn world isn't gonna fall apart (and by world, I mean United States primarily, followed by the other countries). They (and by They, I mean Cruise) accomplish an Impossible Mission and rather than America Fuck Yeah, the overall feeling is Great, the world will survive another week. It's the same thing with James Bond, but Skyfall doesn't come out until next year, so I'm not writing about that shit.

So Mr. Cruise plays Ethan Hunt, who I thought was gonna retire in the last joint, but he's back in action for reasons that are more fun to find out when you watch the movie, rather than having some piece-of-shit spoil it for you in a blog. Eventually, Hunt goes on the job with his team (played by guy from Spaced and the hot teacher from Precious) over in the Kremlin, and of course, because this is a Mission: Impossible joint, something fucked up happens and next thing you know, this mission, it just got a hell of a lot more impossible-r. In fact, it actually becomes an impossible mission, one that cannot be completed successfully -- which Hunt and company prove by failing to complete it, you know, successfully.

Ghost Protocol is not just a cool name created by the screenwriters or a movie about Goldie Hawn's spirit haunting Capitol Hill, it's the save-ass move pulled by the government that disavows the entire IMF after the Kremlin operation went tits-up; so now Hunt is faced with the shadowy under-the-table task of clearing the IMF's name in this royal screw-job, and it involves doing crazy shit like dodging bullets, zip-lining across former Communist streets, running through sandstorms, climbing up impossibly tall buildings with electro-sticky gloves, and getting the shit beat out of him. But, you see, Hunt realizes that all this is better than his other option -- finding a new job. Shit, in this economy? Talk about mission impossible!

Let me talk about that building-climbing madness, by way of typing it on my keyboard; Hunt straps on these gloves that allow him to stick to the windows of skyscrapers located in a desert city devoted to excess and Fuck You America, You Need Us And This Is What Your Money Buys Us -- and me, I don't do heights very well, so this was quite possibly the most exciting/terrifying shit I've seen in a movie this year.

What totally added to my sweat-soaked palms was watching all of this in IMAX -- the real IMAX, not that digital slightly-bigger-than-a-regular-screen shit -- and I'm telling you, man, super-crisp images shot from nearly 3,000 feet off the ground, looking straight down in some shots, well I hate to admit that I was fearing that sadistic asshole God would suddenly decide right then and there to grant my Purple Rose of Cairo/Last Action Hero wishes and throw me right into the movie at that exact moment. Of all the fuckin' scenes in the film, He chooses that one for me to go into.

He couldn't have tossed me into a Paula Patton scene? That would've been awesome. I don't really get the I Want A Hot Chick To Kick My Ass thing that some guys are into (and Vincent Vega mentioned in a deleted scene from the Pulp Fiction screenplay), but having said that, I kinda understand it in the case of the lovely Ms. Patton. There's a moment in the movie where her character kicks off her shoes and immediately bolts out of the room, having transformed into a freight train that is shipping nothing but Absolute Ownage -- and if I was that particular train's destination, the sight of her headed towards me with daggers in her eyes, hate in her heart, and Revenge in her mind, well that would render me incapable of running. I would be too enamored with the sight of this beautiful woman getting closer and closer towards me -- enamored? no, hypnotized! -- to realize that I'm about one second away from having my orbital bone shattered.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that she's awesome, this chick. This lady, she's the kind of gal who can inspire fat monsters to learn to read and make ATF agents travel through time to prevent her death by explosion. She's a keeper and it's too bad my father (or your father) isn't Alan Thicke, otherwise you can be part of that equation -- the equation of looooove.

There's also a hot assassin chick in this flick, as they tend to be in these movies, and it made me think of how cruel and unforgiving the movie world is. I mean, you have Paula Patton and this French blonde gal, both of them as easy on the eyes as a large print book -- and you figure their characters could make a lot more money for a lot less work, had they chosen a different field, like modeling or acting. Whatever, at least I'll justify French Blonde Chick's choice in life because she gets paid for her services in diamonds. Think about that; somewhere along the way in this poor deluded girl's life, she realized two things: One, she loves diamonds, and Two, she's pretty good with the killing. And it was at that moment, whenever it was, that she put 2 and 2 together and it equaled Kill People For Diamonds.

That makes a lot of sense actually, because in one way or another, women are vicious bloodthirsty people when it comes to those former lumps of coal; fuckin' Blood Diamond starred Leonardo DiCaprio at his arguably hottest, but the shit bombed anyway because ladies don't want to watch a movie that tells them that there's a very good chance that a fuck-ton of innocent people were maimed and/or murdered (and let's throw some good ol' Rape while were at it) during the process of creating those lovely rocks on their fingers. Even the nicest women in the world seem OK with this; I've noticed some get chillingly rational about it, after being told. Worst of all, I'm sure even The Adorable Amy Adams is probably OK with it.

I suppose Simon Pegg is like the Amy Adams for geeks, and while I appreciate the dude and his contributions, I just can't get a nerd boner for him like the rest of the internet does. His films are pretty cool and he's good in the film, and funny when he needs to be, what else can I say.

The Hurt Locker shows up in this joint too, playing an analyst (the secret agent kind, not the Tell Me Your Problems kind) who eventually gets involved in Cruise and company's shenaniganeries; I remember for a while there were rumors that the Bourne series would continue Damon-free, and that Hurt Locker would take his place. After seeing him handle his business in Ghost Protocol, I can see that; he's got that mix of suave and don't-fuck-with-him, and in some instances, he's even more impressive than Cruise in the badass department.

Perhaps Cruise noticed that Hurt Locker was stealing his thunder and was all like Hell No and declared he would actually perform his own stunts during the skyscraper sequence, because if you're the kind of guy who's willing to believe in aliens being thrown into volcanoes, you're probably gonna believe that a 3,000 foot drop is just not gonna happen to you because you're Untouchable. Sure, you can try to convince him otherwise, but home-cruise is just gonna flash his pearly whites and call you glib. Motherfucker doesn't even know what that word means. Or maybe he did know what he was getting himself into, but sometimes you just gotta say What The Fuck and just fuckin' do that shit.

You know, I look at Hurt Locker and Tom Cruise together, and my first thought is man, it's too bad Cruise is already married. I mean, he and Hurt Locker look so good together, it would make perfect sense if they were to pair off and go out for a night on the town and pick up some hot chicks. They would be unstoppable, creating a black hole of pussy-getting from which no vagina can escape, once it crosses the event horizon -- their hotel room. These dudes can go years as a bachelor couple, but alas, Cruise is already married and true to his other half.

The first two Missions were directed by seasoned pros picking up a paycheck while giving us a sampler platter on why they're so awesome; the last two Missions were directed by first-time feature directors who had something to prove. Together, they all proved that the Mission: Impossible series is like the Alien series, in that they all reflect the motherfucker running shit behind the camera, for better or worse. Whoever they pick for the 5th one, I hope he or she has the good sense to cast Tig Notaro as Ethan Hunt's sister or something, because that would amuse me (and only me, I'm sure).

But for the 4th flick they got Brad Bird, who had already made some pretty top-notch joints like Ratatouille and The Incredibles; but you know how it is, there are assholes out there who won't acknowledge those flicks as real films, on account of being animated. So maybe Bird had enough of that shit and was willing to put his untarnished reputation on the line by venturing into flesh & blood characters in front of the camera. The result of that move is that Bird has fuckin' thrown the goddamn gauntlet on the expensive designer table, and then just stood back with his arms out, like What, muthafucka, what!

I'm not saying he reinvented the wheel, but he did something almost as good (and increasingly rare, nowadays) -- he made a very well crafted action-thriller, some downright old-school style Hollywood entertainment garnished with a twist of Modern. I'm talking action scenes that make sense, edits that serve the purpose of telling the story in the most exciting yet audience-friendly way (as opposed to showing off what can be done with an AVID), and scenes that are cool/exciting to watch because the situations are cool/exciting, not because the music and flashy filmmaking are insisting that you should be gripping to the edge of your seat and all that other bullshit. There's also a pretty cool end scuffle/scramble that is damn-near Spielbergian in its combination of clever, frustrating, and overall Good Times -- it's the kind of fight that you usually see Harrison Ford and Pat Roach take part in, in any of the first 3 Indiana Jones flicks.

There's a chase sequence in a sandstorm (no Deep Hurting with this one), and I swear Bird did it that way to destroy any possible argument that the situation would dictate the style. What I mean is that the screen is covered with all of this sand, and you can barely see the characters, and yet, the shit is easy to follow. Lesser filmmakers would use it as an excuse to continue with the Cloverfield-cam and then defend it with "Well, hey -- it was a sandstorm, sandstorms should be as confusing to the audience as they are to the characters!" Good for you, Bird; keep shoving this sequence in anyone's face that says otherwise.

What I also really liked about this entry in the series is that this actually feels like a caper where the entire team is involved; the first two joints were pretty much All Cruise, All The Time and the third one flirted with the idea of playing with others, but in this one, the IMF guys all get their moment to shine. I mean, shit, there are actual gaps in the film that don't involve The Cruise. Supposedly, Martin Landau and a couple of the other OG IMF-ers were pissed off with the first flick, but I wouldn't be surprised to find out if they dug on this one because, you know, there's actual teamwork involved this time, as opposed to Everyone Stand Back And Watch Me Rock This Joint action from Mr. Mapother.

In fact, the one scene that actually involves Hunt doing his thing while everyone stands back and watches him rock this joint happens because everyone else is busy doing another important part of the task at hand. Better yet, it's obvious Hunt does not want to do this; if I recall correctly, I think it's Hunt who brings up a couple of alternatives in hope of not having to do what he eventually does.

The bad guy makes the least sense out of everything in this entire movie (not to mention the entire series); I think he just wants to end the world because, I don't know, it's time that the world ended or something. Sad part is, while it makes very little sense in the film, it does make sense to me personally -- that is, if home-bad feels the same way about the world that I do: We've fucked up so badly, perhaps it's best to reboot that shit and hope the new tenants are classier people. (For the record, these are just passing thoughts that are overcome by my main thought which is It's Better To Be Alive, Period. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care how much damage we're doing to the room, if you want us out, you're gonna have to drag us out. I don't want some fuckin' Russian Swede facilitating that long process.)

That "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" asshole from Slumdog Millionaire shows up, and for some reason, I was reminded of Wayne Newton's character from Licence to Kill; all the blood in his brain rushed down to his darkened appendage, after having spotted the hotness that is Paula Patton, and he's therefore unable to make a single intelligent choice. Maybe I have to watch Slumdog again to confirm, but this actor looks damn near elfin in Ghost Protocol, in comparison to his host character in the Danny Boyle flick; maybe Boyle's better at making dudes look harder than they really are. That's probably what it is: how you film someone. I bet if Tom Cruise showed up in a Salman Khan movie, he'd probably look just as underwhelming.

It's a good flick, a fun flick. I'd recommend the extra cash for IMAX, that is, if it's a real IMAX; if you can't see it that way, just watch it on the biggest screen you can find. It's good times, made better with decent popcorn and maybe, just maybe, an audience that came to enjoy a film and not show off their cell phones and other displayed acts of douchebag jackasseries. Me, I went to an early AM show, so it worked out well with the audience. All the assholes sleep in, I guess. That's why I had to wake up early for a change to catch this one.

Well, that's it, folks. As I mentioned in the last post, I'm done with the whole posting ramblings on a regular basis thing (well, a relatively regular basis, anyway). I'll post every once in a while, to maintain LAMB status and if I feel like I just absolutely cannot keep my thoughts to myself about a particular movie. Also, I'll be happy to take any requests, so hit me up if for whatever weird reason you like to read my embarrassing thoughts on a flick. Having said that, I'll most likely cave in a month or so and act like I never typed this paragraph (or the last post) and come back with some bullshit on a regular-style tip.

Once again, thanks to those who read my shit and shared it with others. It's not bullshit when I tell you how much I appreciated that. Now's as good a time as any to have written that. Take care and gut yontif, you crazy kids.