Saturday, September 19, 2015

Quick Reviews: Spies of the Summer

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol movie review
Photo Credit: Mission Impossible Rogue Nation / Paramount Pictures
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are in a bit of pickle. Head of the C.I.A. Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is gung-ho about shutting down Impossible Missions Force for its unorthodox approach of taking down the U.S. biggest enemies. Except Hunt has more than a hunch about a bigger, more volatile spy organization named the Syndicate - a system the C.I.A. does not believe exists. After the IMF is disbanded and absorbed by Hunley, Hunt is branded a fugitive out to incite MI6 agents who have gone rogue.

Coming back from the fourth installment, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation launches a new director this fifth edition into new heights. Favorite players like Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames return as smoothly as ever, and Cruise just keeps getting better with age. Stealing the show and rightfully so is Rebecca Ferguson, as Ilsa Faust who is a MI6 agent and Syndicate operative keeping Hunt on his toes. Captivating and capable, she is simply an awesome, refreshing counterpart. Her and Cruise's chemistry was the best of the summer because their relationship played well to the story.

Entertaining, as well as giving a layered plot, the franchise continues to grow and not disappoint. The film is far beyond just providing memorable action sequences but giving them a supporting context with the story. I'm not sure the Mission Impossible films have ever suffered from a true dud; there's something to enjoy in all of them. When so many series struggle to make a successful sequel, let alone fourth or fifth sequel, this one goes all out, not losing its excitement and interest.

Spy movie review
Photo Credit: Spy / 20th Century Fox
Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is a desk-bound analysis behind the suave Agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law), guiding him on his missions. When Fine is murdered on the job, a dictator's daughter Rayna (Rose Byrne) threatens to unveil of all of the CIA's agents' identities while securing a nuclear deal. Stepping out into the field for the first time, Cooper goes undercover to "track and report" Rayna's whereabouts, which does not go as planned.

But, on the other end of the spectrum, McCarthy's characters are becoming redundant. Several of her films have repeated the formula: dress her up as a meek, unassuming character only to metamorphoses into a no-holds-barred trash-talking powerhouse. It can be funny but it's the same transformation over and over again. A character who has a lot of personal insecurities, or in some other films McCarthy has done, hasn't healed from past trauma, inevitably starts putting down everyone else just because she can. Unleashing every nasty insult and going on five minutes rants is not really what I would consider funny, an evolution of a character, a sign of feminism or of power. It becomes just loud, obnoxious, and excessive.

Director and writer Paul Feig's work is just so overrated. His praised humor centers around nonsensical ramblings by his lead players that do not drive the plot or even laughter but merely wastes running time. He thrives on raunchiness, and I don't have a problem with foul-mouthed comedies, but there comes a point where it's so over-the-top, it's not funny. Feig's work does this, and in turn, he wastes McCarthy's established talent, as well as other actors like Rose Bryne. However, a surprising hit here is Jason Statham, whose every moment is straight-up hilarious and could have been the center of his own spy-comedy.

Overall, the film does well for delivering a new take within the spy genre, and I can appreciate the feminist leaps and bounds our leading lady makes in terms of character development...but the popular humor is just too painful and redundant for me.

The Man from UNCLE movie review
Photo Credit: The Man From U.N.C.L.E  / Warner Bros Pictures
Set during the Cold War Handsome suave CIA spy Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) unites with KGB operative Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer) to hunt down an alleged scientist on the verge of building a nuclear weapon for Nazi sympathizers.

Guy Ritchie's films like Snatchers, Rock N Rolla, and the recent Sherlock Holmes franchise starring Robert Downey Jr's rests on the cusp of mildly pleasing or disappointing movie goers and critics. Only donning a dozen credits to his name, his style is somewhat easily recognizable - convoluted plots mixing up a gang of characters all out for the same enemy or prized treasure. His work can easily be labeled as style over the substance, and for the most part, I can agree to that. While not an official member of his cult following, by far his best film to date may be this one: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

 While I've enjoyed Ritchie's movies in the past, he can overwork the plot a little too much, making character's goals, alliance and enemies confusing. He has a tendency to take a linear plot and go all over the map with it. Two opposing characters going after the same enemy, and manage to be funny, interesting, and entertaining without feeling bored with details or excessive action. There is plenty of chemistry between the trio - Cavill, Hammer, as well as Alicia Vikander, with enough camaraderie that they make for a spunky trio. It certainly helps that Cavill and Hammer make for some very amazing, charming handsome eye candy.

The movie may not have picked up a lot of cool points by critics or movie goers, but it is one that I'd certainly love to see a sequel - if the studios warrant it one. Even though this latest flick is of the spy genre, it can't necessarily be considered a straight-up action flick nor drama nor thriller. Don't get me wrong - it's not boring far from it - but it's hard to categorize the movie as anything but entertaining.

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