Movie Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

More like Mission Impossible: Waste Protocol. The fourth instalment of the Mission Impossible series is probably the swansong for Tom Cruise as  IMF Agent Ethan Hunt and an attempt at laying down the groundwork for a new protagonist (remember Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ?). It continues in the same vein as a spy caper would and ignoring several plot holes and plain stupid scenes, it still is more-or-less an exciting & watchable movie.

But is it a blockbuster and blow-your-minds-away type of a movie? Not for me.

Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

MI4 or MI:GP begins with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) being helped to pull off a Prison Break from a Moscow jail by the IMF team of Benji (Simon Pegg) & Jane (Paula Patton) and then they all join in another should-they-choose-to-accept mission of stealing some files on a global overlord named Cobalt from…hold on…The Kremlin (yeah, how to top Langley & The Vatican? Kremlin, of course). Some supraawsome tech jiggery-pokery later, all hell breaks loose when the Kremlin is bombed, IMF suspected and subsequently disavowed. Joined by IMF’s analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner), the team then head out to Dubai & hang out at the Burj Khalifa (see what I did there?) before tackling the final dénouement at Mumbai (pah!)

When the first Mission: Impossible movie was watched way back in 1998, it was an action packed and enthralling adventure rollercoaster of a movie where the viewer is compelled not to take their eyes or minds off the movie throughout. John Woo kinda put in unnecessary pigeons and slow motions in MI2 but it still was watchable, more so for the Thandie Newton – Tom Cruise chemistry than the whole Chimera/Bellerophon gobbledygook. JJ Abrams brought in added style & suaveness to MI3, which also saw Hunt lose a protégé and get marries. Plus, it had a really devilish antagonist in Philip Seymour Hoffman as Owen Davian.

Where MI4 lacks a punch is the clear absence of a really rascally villain and a weak attempt at creating a compelling crisis-y situation for the IMF team to tackle. The villain Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) is a nuclear strategist out to kick-start a new cycle of evolution by destroying the existing civilization. And how? a global nuclear war incited between the USA & Russia? Yawn. Should have just signed up for Terra Nova, maybe! Plot holes and unexplained jumps are abound, though the pace of the movie is such that you don’t think “hang on! how’d they do that” immediately but the question keeps nagging at you nevertheless. Some of the gadgets depicted are also meh, in a way. And I’ll not even start on the sandstorm or the entire Mumbai sequence…

What the movie does accomplish is that it ticks the checkboxes for a racy opening scene, the mandatory choice of mission acceptance, exotic locations, usage of latex masks (only one though) and the one pièce de résistance stunt. Additionally, the movie has added emphasis on teamwork between the four primary characters – something which MI3 had but was better IMO in MI1. A lot of effort also goes behind their character development and how they work for each other not because they have to but because they want to.

Tom Cruise appeared to me as going through the motions and a tad disinterested sometimes. Paula Patton does ok as a revenge-seeking lady but reined in. Jeremy Renner’s William Brandt might yet be the next Ethan Hunt and he does his chances a world of good but he doesn’t look like doing the stunts on his own. Simon Pegg plays his role as the geek-in-the-field with aplomb.

Director Brad Bird has only directed animated movies before & does well in lending the movie the desired scale and flamboyance. He also brings in some funniness into the goings-on in a cheeky self-deprecatory way, poking fun at the spy genre itself. The background score and title theme were not upto scratch, though. The screenwriters also write in cameo appearances for Ving Rhames and Michele Monaghan at the end. And it is no big secret that there *is* a room for sequel.

Most of the people I know who’re raving about the movie had seen the IMAX version and it should lift up the visual experience of the movie a notch but wouldn’t have made it a better movie than it is, right? One-time watch in IMAX and rent the DVD of the first Mission Impossible and re-watch it, I’d say.

Rating:  2/5

Movie Review – The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Having had shunned movies for a while, I was waiting for a good one to break the self-imposed exile – and The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn was definitely a good choice to do that. Director Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Georges Remi a.k.a Herge’s characters – the intrepid boy reporter Tintin, his dog Snowy and the foul-mouthed but likeable Captain Haddock – comes to life in an animated rollercoaster of an adventure.

I’m not a huge fan of Tintin and his adventures (well, there was the time when I used to diligently cut out the series’ pages from The Week and staple them to make a poor-man’s version of the comic book since the original ones were priced a bit high for my pocket money) but have read most of the works and also used to see the series on TV, even though the Hindi versions didn’t do justice to the characters or their utterances! The movie instalment, however, is an immensely enjoyable spectacle which brings out the comic world onto the screen in amazing vividity and vibrancy.

  Secret of the Unicorn

The movie follows Tintin and Snowy’s adventures as a wooden model of a long lost ship – The Unicorn – and the secret that it hides leads them onto a fascinating journey across the world. They come across Captain Haddock, whose ancestor the ship once belonged to and holds the key to unlocking the mystery behind it all. There are the bumbling cops Thompson and Thomson, the villain Sakharine, the mutinous former ship-mates of Captain Haddock, the singing lady Bianca Castafiore and a whole lot of fun, frolic and edge-of-the-seat thrills and spills.

The story is engaging and fast-paced and though it combines elements from three different Tintin books, the cohesiveness is there. Having the movie animated enables several scenes to be grandiose and large-scaled, something which would probably have been difficult to shoot the normal way, even with CGI. The animation also copies the look and feel of the original comic books and makes one feel that the books itself have come to life.

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Movie Review: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part I

I’ll admit it: I’ve never felt so bored or yawned so much in a Harry Potter movie. Not even while I was seated in the left-most seat on the first row at Prasadz IMAX for HP & TGOF…whilst my neck muscles sure needed some respite after that experience, I still felt excited at the movie & the happenings. Not so much this time around.

Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows or HP7 for short, feels like (to borrow a line from a sitcom) the stand-up comedian you’ve to sit through before Pink Floyd  shows up. Its just the prelude to bigger, and hopefully better, things in store. A tedious, slow and dragging build-up to an ultimate showdown – the finale. The Denouement. I know I said the same things after HBP but back then I didn’t know the finale would be a two-part one 😐

HP7

With Albus Dumbledore now Avada Kedavra-ed, the Dark Lord and his minions train their sights on Harry Potter and the Order (of the Phoenix) try their bloody best to keep him away from the enemy’s clutches. Camouflaged subterfuge or not, the death eaters still find them out and after the death of one and injury to another member of the order, they find that the Ministry of Magic has also fallen foul of Harry and have branded him their Most Undesirable No. 1. Harry, Ron & Hermoine are forced to go on the run and try to find the rest of the Horcruxes, the things that hold the secret to Voldemort’s life/death. Wandering across forests, plains, grasslands, snowy villages, hillsides etc, they come to know of the story of The Deathly Hallows which probably holds the key to unlocking the mystery of the last Horcruxes. The movie ends with Voldemort laying hands on one of them…will Harry find the others in time for the great final showdown?

We’ll know in 2011.

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Movie Review – The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The movie’s trailer doesn’t say it (maybe) but from the producers and director of the hit movie National Treasure, comes this summer’s magical journey into the world of sorcery, ages-old battle between good-versus-evil and one in which the fate of mankind lies in the hands of an unsuspecting 20-year physics nerd. Who doesn’t want to be, but has to become, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

The Sorcerer's Apprenice

Nicholas Cage stars as Balthazar Blake, an ageless sorcerer, who’s been fighting alongside fellow sorcerer Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina) & sorceress Veronica (Monica Bellucci) under the guidance of sage sorcerer Merlin, against the evil Morgana Le Fay. In 740 AD, Horvath turns against them and along with Morgana, kills Merlin but before they could wreak havoc upon mankind, Veronica absorbs Morgana within herself and Balthazar entraps all three into a prison-doll called the grimhold. Merlin suggests Balthazar should search for a sorcerer who’s the Prime Merliner, one who’s destined to defeat these evil powers. Balthazar’s quest cuts across history before he finds David Stutler (Jay Baruchel). Balthazar becomes Dave’s master and as his apprentice, Dave must learn to control the magical powers and use them to save the world!

I’m a big fan of the National Treasure movies which were about treasures, clues in plain-sight and a fun-ride for its hunting. Director Jon Turteltaub and Nicholas Cage turn into the mystical world of sorcery and magic for TSA and it isn’t as fun a ride as a treasure hunt. For one, movies such as Harry Potter, Narnia, LoTR have made it a far lesser novelty of a genre and unless it is typically different or offers something new, its gonna be a yawn-inducing affair. Thankfully, TSA has few interesting happenings which though not novel, do hold the audience’s sway, especially the fun-loving ones. Cynical ones will find this boring (ahem!)

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Movie Review: Prince. [Should’ve been called Farce!]

I needed a reboot myself after returning from the screening of Prince, where the hero faces from acute bouts of nausea and passes out coz his “brain crashes every time he reboots i.e. sleeps”! And no, I’m not making this up here…its actually the whole bedrock principle of the movie *facepalm*

Prince Movie Poster

The hero, is called only Prince for no apparent reason (its *not* his nickname…they actually show an ID Card with the name as Prince Verma!) and is said to be a master thief – though he only vacuums up some diamonds at the start of the movie and ransacks a telephone booth at the fag end & steals nothing in between! Something lame happens to his memory and he recalls only the past day or so.

Therein starts a whole rigmarole where the hapless audience is subjected to not one, not two but three bimbos calling themselves Maya, an idiotic servant who keeps repeating “woh” every time he opens his mouth, some wierdly named organizations – there’s DCOI & IGRIP, for starters, a ‘look-ma-I’ve-a-Terminator-esque-hand’ villain, umpteen gun-toting phoren extras, some unfathomable computer gadgetry and a whole lot of bunkum. And yeah, there’re several quite daring but nonsensical stunts – most of them involving jumping off rooftops on bikes!

Amidst all this hoopla, there’s nothing resembling a storyline or a screenplay. Yeah, there’s a flashback story that is a load of tripe, some mumbo-jumbo about national security, the usual hundreds of millions of dollars at stake and also the backstabbery but all of them are as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise! Logic, rationale, flow and meaning disappear as the horns did off a donkey’s head!

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Watched: Avatar

Ho hum! After all the brouhaha about you-have-to-see-it-in-3D…I put aside my carefully and laid-with-military-precision plans of spending a lazy wintry Sunday morning in bed and headed out to catch the 10 AM show of Avatar.

Avatar Movie

Agreed that the 3D would enhance the overall visual experience of the movie, but sometimes movies are not all about the experience. In that aspect as well, Avatar does well as the visuals and performances are as good as they get. The mechanical and scientific man-made setup on the planet Pandora are similar to those seen in movies like Resident Evil or Jurassic Park but its the natural world out there that is the highlight in this movie. And not to mention the amazing technical wizardry that went into creating the planet, its people, the animals and even their language.

But only visuals do not make a movie (2012 prolly would stand as a testament to that) but James Cameron supports it with a decent script and storyline as well. Ignoring some questionable sequences where we’re told about why man had invaded Pandora – for the “sells-at-20-million-a-kilo” Unobtainium & the whole corporate bottom-line theory. And BTW, don’t Americans use pound more than the kilo?

Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth instalment in the Harry Potter books/movies series and one which had wrapped up production and post-production back in 2008 itself. But with The Dark Knight having scorched the box office that year, Warner Bros decided to postpone the movie to the summer of 2009. This might just prove to be a masterstroke, considering that the movie may well turn out to be the best one in the series yet (according to some people, not including me!). Those who’ve read the books might feel that this one is better than the predecessors but as a sole movie-franchise-watching person, I feel that this one is a mere stop-gap stuff; something transitional…a gap-filler, call it that if you will! HP & HBP

The sixth year at Hogwarts starts with Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) being whispered about as the chosen one but Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) knows that without being fully prepared, the battle is not to be won. He uses Harry as bait in order to coax Professor Horace Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) into retaking his position as potions teacher at Hogwarts coz he knows something that would be invaluable to defeat Lord Voldemort. Back at school, the teenage hormones are raging and just about everybody seems to be falling in love…either knowingly or unknowingly or even forcibly (er…love potions induced i.e.)! None more so than Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson) who starts feeling jealous of Ron Weasley’s (Rupert Grint) seemingly jovial escapades with other girls. Even Harry is not spared as he finds himself attracted towards Ginny Weasley (Bonnie Wright). Cho…who’s that? Amidst all this love and laughter (and yeah, Quidditch of course) Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) has his own secret agenda, which despite Harry’s protests, is ignored and culminates in the ultimate revenge for Lord Voldemort. Hogwarts is, at last, breached and one of its faithful soldier falls. But not before unlocking a part of the secret of the enemy’s weakness.

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