Showing posts with label action. Show all posts
Showing posts with label action. Show all posts

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Ranking the Mission: Impossible franchise

Ranking the Mission: Impossible franchise
Tom Cruise was already a breakout star in the 1980s with movies like TapsRisky Business, Top Gun, and Rain Man under his belt. Heading into the '90s, Cruise was on his way to take over the box-office and change the action genre forever with a little movie called Mission: Impossible. Starring as IMF agent Ethan Hunt in 1996, he started a franchise that twenty-two years down the road is still going strong. Honestly, it just doesn't feel like a proper summer at the movies without Cruise headlining this thrilling franchise that just keeps getting better and better. With the release of the sixth movie (read my review here), I'm ranking the Mission: Impossible series.  How would you rank the franchise so far? Feel to let me know in the comments!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018) Is The Best Franchise That Keeps Getting Better

mission impossible fallout movie review On the very rare occasion that Tom Cruise doesn’t deliver on his promise to thrill moviegoers, almost every summer we count on the renown star to bring on the excitement as the daring spy Ethan Hunt. Waiting for another installment has become an event in itself for fans anticipating where Cruise will take his passion for this sage next. Every Mission: Impossible installment seems outdo the last tone. Coming back for the sixth time, Mission: Impossible Fallout again proves to be the best entry in a franchise that just keeps getting better.

After failing to recover three plutonium nuclear cores, IMF Agent Ethan Hunt is forced to team up with the CIA’s top assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill) to prevent the weapons from falling into the hands of a religious anarchist group known as the Apostles. While dealing with the aftermath of capturing one of its dangerous associates Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), Hunt’s past comes back to haunt him, and question how he can save the world just one more time.

Every Mission: Impossible has been naturally different in their own way as the films have changed hands between directors, writers, and supporting casts. Despite definitive stylistic transitions between movies, the series has never lost the core of what it’s always striven to be: an action-packed escape with fun characters. Though the franchise as a whole and individually are far from bad (the earliest ones are certainly dated but not the worst), Fallout is not just a physical rollercoaster ride but an emotional symphony in humanizing its hero.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018) Trailer Reaction

Mission Impossible FallOut Trailer Reaction
After three years since his last action-packed flick, Tom Cruise is set to return for the sixth Mission: Impossible film. Familiar faces and new threats come to light this summer for Mission: Impossible Fallout. Honestly, it's not a proper summer at the movies without Cruise going rogue and performing deadly stunts to entertain his fans. When the trailer dropped for his adventure as Ethan Hunt, let's just say I was excited. It's time for another trailer reaction! SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT


Friday, March 9, 2018

Velcro: Polluted War by Chris Widdop

Velcro The Ninja Kat series by Chris Widdop
One of the great joys of watching a series evolve is the growth of the story, characters, and worldbuilding. Every addition reveals where the journey is going to venture. When author Chris Widdop announced the fourth installment Polluted War for the Velcro series, I was excited to receive a copy to review.

A masked vigilante feline Velcro begins her adventure in Velcro: The Ninja Kat, righting the wrongs in the Country of Widows when villages across the region are attacked and the activities of a military organization The Devil Corps becomes increasingly suspicious. As the series moves along with The Green Lion and The Masquerade, Velcro begins to understand her connection to the land's magic,  and just how deep the corruption with her enemies runs. Her strength helps win allies to join her cause but also the attention of those from the other side who want to stop her. Now, in Polluted War, the stakes are at their highest as Velcro delves deeper into a war that continues to unfold.

Since the beginning Widdop has created an imaginative world filled with anthropomorphize animals who are a vessel in telling his story. Full of charming and complex worldbuilding, I was wondering what Velcro's magical abilities meant and how it was used across the world; what was the history of magic that made the Devil Corps want to remove it from the world and how those who wield magic might use it to defend themselves. Between Velcro and the villages who are ready to stand up for themselves, The Devil Corps willing to do anything to win, and The Masquerade who want to protect magic, there's a lot of conflict brewing at the forefront and Widdop breaks it down in a unique way in a manageable pace. Slowly but surely, the direction Widdop has taken with Velcro comes together from revealing pieces of the story and letting them fall into place.

The previous books showed that war affects everyone, and that the supporting characters have their own personal battles or reasons for justice which makes them want to fight. While Velcro is still the leader of the pack and drives the story, Polluted War feels much more like an ensemble piece. Her brother Charlie, close-by comrades, and leaders vying for the Devil Dogs are on their own arc of self-discovery and are challenged to choose which side they're on. Behind the use of magic and the villages vying to protect each other is a real sense that every piece adds up to the whole of the battle. It's easy to become invested in Widdop's variety of friends and antagonists because they are not one-sided or weakly written. Outside of his spirited, determined, and empathetic heroine are sidekicks and advesaries with their own motivations and create a genuine atmosphere of sacrifice that the war is producing.

In terms of the writing and world-building, the attention to detail is as strong compared to the previous books. While in my last review of the first three books I nitpicked about the geography, that slight issue still arises here and there but not as much as it used to. His attention to his characters isn't missing in his worldbuilding, but in terms how the characters travel from place to place rather frequently, it's a little confounding to figure just the wide scope of where going or leaving. But again, that's nitpicking. Widdop has a great sense of who his characters are and the conflicts that they are imbued in, which reflects in his engaging style as the story goes deeper with familiar and new characters.

So far, the Velcro series continues to be charming and action-packed. Polluted War maintains that same sense of adventure as it did in the beginning, just fuller and rounder as the books continue to grow. This series is a wonderful start for fans of action mixed with fantasy who enjoy an engaging quick read filled with complex animal characters. I'm excited to see where Velcro and the revolution heads to next!

Rating: ★★½☆
Have you checked out the Velcro series? What are your thoughts? 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017) manages to break free from Reboot Island

Kong: Skull Island 2017 Movie Review
Warner Bros. Pictures
We all know a cat supposedly has nine lives, but how many does an oversized ape have? It's a question Hollywood keeps asking whether movie goers want the answer (as much money as the studios can pummel out...) or not. So far there's been nineteen versions of the behemoth known as King Kong, and the latest edition Kong: Skull Island lands right in the middle as an amusing, but not entirely original flick.

This version is set in the 1970s with a government organization called Monarch investigating ancient myths and entities. Its leader William Randa (John Goodman) recruits a team of scientists and military men on a expedition to an exotic island where he believes evidence of prehistoric animals exist. The group abruptly encounters Kong among other beings that are not too happy about mankind disturbing the peace.

Among the otherKong movies, the action is where this one really stands out. Kong makes his introduction as massive silhouette enveloping a fiery sunset playing tennis with the crew's helicopters. The first several minutes he's on-screen is a completely wild ride, and his presence never wanes from there on. He doesn't dominate the movie by himself as an unpredictable mix of giant spiders and lizard-beings hint that there's much bigger forces at play in how this island operates. Even though the creatures might be CGI, the epic choreography and cinematography in subsequent fight scenes are visually awesome and offer some gorgeous set-ups, something that is often missing in similar movies.

While Skull Island's monsters are more than flat effects, its actual humans lack depth. The ensemble has a typical variety of tough guys, wanna-be feminists, nerds, and "red shirts" who are at least a little engaging, but they also fall a little too easy into tropes. The leads with Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, and Samuel L. Jackson occupies most of the screentime, but nothing really comes out of them except their sympathetic or vengeful attachment to Kong. Hiddleston and Larson are subtle heroes/adventurers, but don't have a lot of oomph compared to other stars in this genre. The guns-a-blazing schtick is mostly left to Jackson, whose arc drags on a little too much. They aren't entirely lovable or hateable, but just there to watch.

For any type of performance one might expect to stand out, John C. Reilly as a long-lost World War II pilot living among the island's native tribes easily wins all of the attention. He's so out of the loop on the changing times and desperately trying to get back to the real world, managing to be funny and endearing. Even smaller characters like Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) and San Lin (Jing Tian) as geologist/biologist hang out in the background for the most part, but I still really enjoyed them. If a sequel were ever to be made, it'd be interesting if they can be and do more than what they're offered here.

Outside of the action, Skull Island also remodels itself by not focusing on a big, not-so-bad ape running wild on New York City streets, and letting him reign supreme on an isolated paradise. Kong is a mere protector for other exotic creatures from underground monsters called Skullcrawlers - there's a hierarchy in this environment, one that our scouting crew ultimately disrupts. The allegory of humans overestimating that we own everything we set our sights on, or think that things out of our realm are naturally dangerous, is very subtle. There's even vacant nods and connections to the highly criticized U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war that offer a little depth that some characters lack. The use of beasties are special-effects driven, but it's fun to see what's churned out, and watch Kong acting more than a circus animal or destructive monster on display in his "previous roles".

Hollywood is made up of so many remakes these days, it's hard to keep them straight. Kong alone has twenty movies under his massive belt, but Skull Island isn't the worst of its kind or the worst that this ongoing franchise has come up with. Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts manages to make an adventure that's not in your face nor entirely forgettable. The cast and script could've been a little bit more polished, but there's some entertaining elements at bay that helps it escape from Reboot Island.

Rating: ★★½
Have you seen Kong: Skull Island? What did you think?

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.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Twister (1996) is the supreme disaster flick

Twister movie review
Photo Credit: Twister / Warner Bros
Tucked into the disaster genre under classics like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) or flash-in-the-pan epics like 2012 (2009), Twister remains popular twenty years after its original theatrical release. Instead of focusing on an end-of-the-world or survival against nature plot, this flick is all about facing one of nature's awe-inspiring sights in order to understand its mechanics.

Jo (Helen Hunt) and Bill (Bill Paxton) are estranged storm chasers trailing several twisters across Oklahoma before their rival (Cary Elwes) beats them to the punch. Wrangled together by a contentious divorce, they lead a crew trying to release a data-gathering instrument to transmit tornadic behavior.

The film is as much of a love story as it is an action movie. Jo's passion for how tornadoes work was brought on by a tragedy during her childhood. Her near-obsession, now as an adult, affects her marriage and drives her daredevil ambition. Awesomely played by Hunt, she doesn't pull punches, knows how to get under Bill's skin, knows what she wants and gets it done. Like the cyclones, she takes command of every scene and everyone around her.

On the other hand, Bill is not diluted to a white-knight trope. Having accepted becoming a weatherman and planning to remarry, his stubborn, ambitious, and hot-headed nature pits him against her on always having the final word or being right. This also the biggest attraction they have towards each other. Though Paxton's acting may be a bit over the top at times, he and Hunt share good chemistry. Both characters have strong personalities and neither one softens who they are but try to make it work. It's refreshing.

Though Bill and Helen are as big of stars as the twisters, the supporting characters aren't flat or one-dimensional. With the exception of Melissa (Bill's fiance), she is the only real fish-out-of-water character who gets sucked into chasing tornadoes. Played by Jami Gertz, even she gives a sympathetic performance of being forced into the field for the first time and truly understanding what Bill did for a living.

Though their crew doesn't have deep arcs or development, they have a genuine presence in supporting Bill and Jo as revered leaders. There is a sense of camaraderie between all of them. Perhaps the biggest stand-out is a young Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty, the eccentric adrenaline seeker. He has some of the best lines. Even the showy villainous role of Dr. Jonas Miller (Cary Elwes), whose greatest crime is going the corporate route and adapting their design of Dorothy to his own, doesn't feel like an empty role.

As much the film offers in terms of over-the-top '90s gold, it also harbors awesome special effects. Rather than being overwhelmed with CGI, which provides technical aspects that couldn't have been achieved in real time, the added force of on-set effects takes the green screen components to another level. Director Jan de Bont was adamant that the actors had on-set obstacles to play off until the tornadoes were digitally added in. He employed seven giant wind machines and two specially rigged jet engines to blow 200 mph winds as well as water (for rain effects). During the biggest chase, a two-story home and 18-wheeler were dropped by cranes into the actor's path. More impressively, Hunt and Paxton performed a myriad of their own stunts and suffered a laundry list of injuries.

With six major action scenes evenly paced, the movie does not feel overwhelmingly violent. The chases not only play to will they or won't they be able to disperse their data-transmitting equipment successfully but will Bill and Jo end up together. Every chase is spotlighted in its own way growing bigger in scale, more intense, and raising the stakes for the characters. Mark Mancina's score combines original score and heavy metal bands, adding a hardcore element to the adventure.

Twister has been one of my favorite summer movies, if not, one of my favorite movies of all time. One of the greatest wonders for this movie is just how many fans accept the fallacies of its science. It's not accurate, but blockbusters are meant to be a fun ride. Too many try to pack in a thin story that is burdened with a green screen everywhere and a variety of characters without any real objectives or chemistry. Twister isn't too ambitious that the effort doesn't pay off or fall to be too goofy that it's Sci-Fi channel unwatchable. The movie may not be perfect and doesn't depict twisters as correctly as many would like, but damn, it's fun and surprisingly doesn't suck. If you watch, hold on for your life!

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Twister? What do you think?

P.S. And, as for that cow scene:
Real-life storm chaser Vince Miller gives high marks to the special-effects wizards who brought the cyclones to life. "There's a scene in the movie where a cow flies by," says Miller, a one-time consultant at the Weather Channel. "I've never seen anything like that. But there was a tornado in South Dakota in the '60s filled with flying rocks. It turns out the rocks were a herd of cattle. (x)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Matrix (1999) walks the path of complexity and entertainment

The Matrix movie review
Photo Credit: The Matrix/ Warner Bros
Directed and written by The Wachowski Brothers, this 1999 sci-fi flick takes us deep into a new reality called The Matrix. The world as we know has utterly collapsed from mankind's egotrip known as artificial intelligence. Sentient machines we created betrayed us and scorched the Earth. In doing so, they subdued humans into a simulated reality and use our natural bodies' heat and electrical activity as their main energy source.

The Chosen One Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker who is shown the truth. A group of human resistance fighters led by Morpheus (Laurence Fishbourne) guides our hero to realize his potential to save the rest of the human race and end the war.

Before watching The Matrix, expectations from the film's hype since my teenage years weighed on my mind. Mostly, the thoughts stemmed from the film's glory days when it was a huge hit in the late 90s / early 2000s. Fans' love for this movie made me excited but also anxious I might encounter nothing but disappointment; only be reminded of the criticism and parodies that often plagued the first installment when it came out.

Some movies throw all the darts to the wall and let the chips fall where they may. For a percentage of films, the results don't live up to the expectations. The story falls apart, characters are reduced to flat caricatures, and there is simply not enough world-building especially science fiction movies. I was surprised to see that for as ambitious The Matrix was, it all worked.

If noir and cyberpunk got it on, the results would be this movie. The opening defines the "supposed law abiding cops" versus a vixen in black attire with a major chase scene. Leather jackets replace trenchcoats. When characters are threatened, everything from cinematography to an actor's physical movement is choreographed to move fast. When the tension rests, the production moves ultra-slow. Dialogue, action, and script all balance an unique rhythm, avoiding in-authenticity or corniness. All of the components at first almost feel too genre(s) specific to be its own original film.

As layers begin to peel off, it's easy to grasp onto the matrix and let it plunge you into this engaging and intriguing science fiction ride. You begin to question what is the true matrix? what is the truth - in general - reality or what our brains are wired to compartmentalize as reality?

The cast of characters leads us on a wild chase and become the good guys to root for. Neo is the hacker trapped searching for answers to a question he has long held onto. Morpheus as the father-leader we must simply trust is telling the truth about a reality that seems impossible. Trinity (awesomely played by Carrie-Anne Moss) is the mysterious femme fatale carrying a major secret. The main villain Agent Smith - a sentient machine posing as a human - all but jumped off the screen as someone you love to hate, or just love to love. The movie became something I loved and questioned why hadn't I taken a chance on it sooner.

It's almost impossible to dwindle down the worldbuilding or character into one post because there is a list of things I loved: Neo is the hacker trapped searching for answers to a question he has long held onto. Morpheus as the father-leader we must simply trust is telling the truth about a reality that seems impossible. Trinity (awesomely played byCarrie-Anne Moss) is the mysterious femme fatale carrying a major secret. The main villain Agent Smith - a sentient machine posing as a human - all but jumped off the screen as someone you love to hate, or just love to love. The movie became something I loved and questioned why hadn't I taken a chance on it sooner.

The Matrix rekindled what a fun and intellectually stimulating moment in cinema it must have been to see in theaters. For such a big movie, it feels wonderfully intimate. Action sequences combined with special effects, combat fighting, and wire techniques are iconic. And, then there's that damn question again: what is truth? Is what we truly believe or what we are shown to believe? Would you (do you) accept a reality if it's a comfortable lie? The list goes on and on.

Often I feel the poorest films are the ones that have to sell a moment; one that so pushes characters and scenes off the screen to evoke sympathy, anger, or understanding - they become cringe-worthy in their force and efforts. Even though action and science fiction have grown with its use to special effects but the hiccups have grown larger too. Studios judge that audiences aren't smart enough to follow complex worlds, and stories often fall short balancing entertainment and enlightenment. In its huge collage of genres and blockbuster mechanisms, The Matrix maintains being fun and complex.

With all of the components of The Matrix brings together, fifteen years later after the movie's initial release, it succeeds on almost all of its levels. It gels in a way that the movie makes me realize how much I miss when science fiction was cool and could make me think. It's not a perfect film (the Trinity + Neo relationship I could've done without but in a world with no human contact, you're gonna love the ones you're with) but it's an enjoyable one. I was reminded of an exciting time in cinema when movie stars like Keanu Reeves were at the top of their game but weren't detracting from enjoying an engaging blockbuster. Like Neo who chooses to see the truth of reality, as the audience, we're asked to follow the white rabbit into another world that takes a while to come to terms with. It was a good decision to watch this movie.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen The Matrix? What do you think?