Why did I choose The Shadow for this week’s TCT? It just popped into my head when I went to YouTube today to look for candidates. These Kenner figures were released in conjunction with the 1994 film of the same name starring Alec Baldwin. I miss the days when action films were based on pulp heroes no one remembers, while also inspiring full-on action figure pushes with vehicles!
Over the years, the Mission: Impossible movies have translated into a variety of highly entertaining films from a diverse group of directors who put their own stamp on things. The first, second, third and fourth movies — directed by Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird receptively — have all offered crazy, wild and wonderful scenes that often feature Tom Cruise doing something incredibly dangerous that looks far more real than they should and Christopher McQuarrie’s Rogue Nation is no exception.
This one follows Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) as he goes rogue on a mission to shut down an international terrorist group called The Syndicate that wants to destabilize the world. This become all the more difficult when Alec Baldwin’s head of the CIA lead to the dissolution of the Impossible Mission Force. So, he recruits Benji (Simon Pegg) to come help him track down the Syndicate’s leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and also find out who the mysterious Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is really working for. Of course, Luther (Ving Rhames) and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) also get in on the fun to help save the world.
I won’t get into all the twists and turns because I can’t remember them all and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to ruin them, but this was a fun, super-taut thriller that kept my undivided attention for hits just over two hour run time. We caught it at the drive-in last weekend after watching Minions (you can read my review of that film over on my dad blog Pop Poppa). Even our 4 year old daughter seemed to enjoy the first part before she fell asleep.
Now that this film has racked up five films, I’ve come to really enjoy these characters and how they interact with one another. I’ve been a big fan of Rhames since I saw him in the first film and appreciate that he’s stuck around. And, how can you not like Pegg and Renner? In a way, them all being together is kind of like the ensemble cast in the Fast & Furious movies which is a big reason they’re so popular. The downside to that is that, even though I really enjoyed Ferguson in the movie, I missed seeing Paula Patton in this movie, but maybe she’ll be back in the future!
Also like the F&F movies, these are just packed with crazy action scenes. I was glad that this one wasn’t bogged down with a love story (we’ve seen enough of that in these movies) which meant that Ethan and company could focus on the main villain. This also meant that threatening a woman wasn’t a major part of the bad guy’s plan. It’s so easy to go down that route, so I appreciated Lane’s somewhat more inspired choice in kidnapee. Also, that whole thing with the underwater lockbox was super intense and it was quickly followed up by one of the franchise’s best chase scenes so kudos all around!
It’s no secret that I love 30 Rock. Damn, that’s a good show and tonight it was finally back! I read a few reviews that said the season premiere was kind of lame, but I had a great time with this episode. Yes, it stuck with a lot of the same things we’ve seen before: Jack being a right wing tough guy, Tracey being, well, crazy, Kenneth being naive and innocent, and Jenna being a dunce. But isn’t that what we love about the show? In addition to the wicked sharp writing.
But even considering the familiar territory of the characters, I still laughed like crazy at Tracey outside of 30 Rock trying to make friends with people. My buddy Zach works there and I was really hoping to see him in the background, alas it wasn’t meant to be. I also really liked Jenna’s song about off season tennis, the video at the very end and how it kicked into Jay Leno’s show. I wonder how many people got the joke? And even though Kenneth played the sweet innocent mountain boy (did anyone understand his crazy mountain person speak?), I liked how he played hard ball, did the Alec Baldwin voice and stuck it to Jack at the very end, even though it didn’t get very good results. I’m hoping that Jack promotes Kenneth to some high level position at some point.
I was hoping that we’d get to see some of Liz and Pete’s search for new performers mining some of Tina Fey’s SNL experience, but maybe next episode. It was funny to see the long-missing Josh quit, fail to do the table flip (a long running inside joke amongst those of us who used to work at Wizard) and get the kind of meta commentary on how he had been missing last season (did anyone else notice when he showed up in a commercial during 30 Rock? That was pretty funny).
A few other quick notes. Tracey’s name for Nobody’s wife “Susan Walters-hyphen-nobody” is one word away from my mom’s last name. That’s just weird. Maybe it’s because we took a picture in front of the big Christmas tree outside 30 Rock last Christmas Eve. Next quick thought, Steve Buscemi looks really, REALLY creepy with a blonde lady-wig on. Seriously. They used a lot of what’s not in this episode for the promos and I can’t wait to see Liz’s encounter with the dude in the bookstore window, the return of Will Arnett and him talking to Obama’s daughters. Needless to say I’m jazzed for the rest of the season.
For whatever it’s worth, I also really enjoyed the rest of the Thursday NBC comedy line-up. Good stuff all around, especially how funny Chevy Chase was on Community. Also, did anyone else think that The Office was testing the waters in case Jim and Pam got their own show? Just saying.
Hey gang, sorry again about my complete lack of posts lately, things have been crazy. I have been keeping myself busy with movies though, so here are 13 short reviews about some flicks I’ve seen lately, plus one movie I didn’t watch.
SIX STRING SAMURAI (1998)
I really liked this post apocalyptic-like road trip movie with a samurai Buddy Holly. The howler-monkey kid got annoying fast, but the action and snappy dialogue kept things moving along at quite a clip. Much better than I thought it would be.
OUR MAN FLINT (1966)
Flint’s a swinging secret agent int he 60s more worried about having a good time than stopping an international incident (at first at least). Great, campy 60s spy fun, that both pokes fun at but also sets itself up in the same universe as James Bond. A lot of fun, can’t wait to check out the sequel.
THE MAJORETTES (1986)
I don’t actually remember too much about this movie other than it involved some maniac hunting down and killing high school cheerleaders. It’s a way lower budget movie and apparently very little of the money went to snag actors who can, you know, act. Skip this one unless you’re a horror completist or you’re looking to cross another movie off in your copy of Creature Feature (like me).
DAY OF THE DEAD (2008)
I was actually pretty impressed with this remake-in-name-mostly of Romero’s Day of the Dead. I’m not a huge fan of the original or anything, but I wasn’t expecting much out of this flick and was surprised. The story moves along the same speeds as the fast Zack Snyder/28 Days Later-like zombies, but my favorite part is seeing actual people I recognize like Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon and Ving Rhames killing and becoming zombies. When was the last time you saw a non genre actor semi-famous person in a horror movie after they became famous? Hopefully it’s a trend that will continue. I’m actually kind of surprised that they didn’t release this movie in theaters. Oh well, a pretty good zombie movie all said and done, though not a classic.
THE SHADOW (1994)
In my opinion, it’s hard to go wrong when you populate a movie about a pulp hero with actors like Alec Baldwin, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, Ian McKellen, James Hong and Jonathan Winters and luckily The Shadow held up my opinions. I’m not all that familiar with pulp heroes, especially the Shadow, but I like the idea of him having a network of people all over the city (usually people he has saved) who help him out. There’s all kinds of cool stuff like secret labs and ancient forces of good and evil. Oh and for 30 Rock fans, I highly encourage you to think of these as the early days of Jack Donaghy.
LAST MAN STANDING (1996)
A pretty cool story about a gangster-era hitman (Willis) holing up in a ghost town populated by two rival gangs, gets slowed down with a little too much back and forth back stabbing. I definitely don’t remember all the details about this one, but I’m a Willis fan. Michael Imperioli plays pretty much the same role he always does and Walken stars as Willis’ main competition and they fight which is cool. Can you imagine Walken fighting now? Aside from a dance fight I mean. Oh, also Walter Hill of Warriors fame directed LMS, so it’s gotta be pretty good, right?
FOXY BROWN (1974)
So far my experience with blaxploitation films as been hit or miss, but luckily Foxy is enough of a hit. In the plus column, Pam Grier cuts quite the figure, plus she kicks ass. I also like the idea of a group of inner city dwellers taking the law into their own hands and creating their own kind of police force. I’m not a big fan of the sexual assault stuff, but I guess that’s all part of the exploitation riff. Too bad Foxy and Shaft never got together. That would have been a great flick.
I’m not sure if I’ve professed my heterosexual man love for George Clooney on the blog before, but I’m a big fan. I think we’d get along smashingly. I do know that I’ve talked about how much I like the American Office, so you probably know I’m a John Krasinski fan. So, Leatherheads was a good flick in my book. It doesn’t make my top 10 sports movies of all time (well, maybe, I’d have to come up with that list actually), but it’s fun and it offered up a look at a period in professional football that I am completely unfamiliar with, so that was cool. Of course, it’s a comedy, so I’m not sure how accurate it was, but who cares? Like I said it was fun. Has similar story elements to League of the their Own (which probably would make my top 10 because I’m a huge softy). Not groundbreaking by any means, but worth a watch.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2008)
I liked Leatherheads more than Journey, but it’s not a terrible movie (even if it is very predictable). The special effects bounce back and forth between boderline okay, pretty good and not so great, but the effort is there. I really wish I would have been able to see this bad boy in 3D. I missed out on the phenomenon in the 80s and have gotten a taste for it by watching Superman Returns (ugh) and Nightmare Before Christmas in lame separate the background from the foreground 3D. I can’t freaking wait to see My Bloody Valentine 3D!!!
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)
Holy crap I loved this movie. Rickey got me a subscription to a horror movie mag called Horror Hound that’s not expertly edited, but still offers up tons and tons of horror goodness. One such bit of goodness was a whole feature on Klowns. The movie is just so much freaking over the bigtop fun. I really can’t believe that a studio made this movie. Please, do yourself a favor and check it out. Also of interest on the DVD is the Chiodo brothers’ home movies from when they were making monster movies as kids. Pretty impressive stuff for pre-teens with a 16mm camera.
VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003)
The combination of Hong Kong action and vampires drew me to this flick pretty quickly on Netflix. Heck, it’s even got Jackie Chan in a roll that’s more than him just walking on and being called Jackie (which he is). As with a lot of movies like this that I’ve seen, the special effects and fight scenes are sick, but the story itself is nothing new. I did really like the cool retractable whip/sword weapons they used. I think I designed something very similar what I was younger.
LICENSE TO DRIVE (1988)
If you thought Corey Haim could have been a little bit smoother, though still pretty spazzy in Lost Boys and Corey Fledman from the Burbs could use a little mellowing out, then License to Drive is the perfect 2 Coreys vehicle for you (puns!). Haim fails his driving test, but still tells a young (though still 18 by my math) Heather Graham that he can pick her up. It’s basically like an episode of a sitcom, but stretched to 90 minutes and definitely edgier than your average Saved By The Bell. Good stuff. Next up from the Coreys? Dream a Little Dream (which I have absolutely no knowledge of).
Legend is one of those movies that I don’t remember at all, but have since come to find that it’s kind of a big deal (to some people). I knew that Tim Curry was in it, but had no idea Tom Cruise was. I thought it might be kind of a funny movie, but when I saw Tom prancing around the forest or whatever I clicked this badboy off and deleted it from my queue. I am no fan of fantasy movies.
JOHNNY BE GOOD (1988)
I’m becoming a pretty big fan of Netflix’s recommendations. I started watching Johnny after digging License and wasn’t disappointed. It’s got an older and more confident Anthony Michael Hall and a completely goofy Robert Downey Jr.. There’s a good deal of goofiness to this movie, which focuses on Hall as a football star getting courted by and visiting different colleges that want him. Downey plays his wacky best friend, but what struck me about the movie is how real it can be at times. Hall and Downey sell their characters like they’re up for an award. Oh, it’s also got Uma Thurman as Hall’s girlfriend and Jennifer Tilly has a quick role. If you’re an 80s movie fan, or just curious to see what Downey might have been like back in the late 80s give Johnny a look.
AUGUST RUSH (2007)
Sometimes you’ve got to add a movie for your lady to the ol’ queue. I was pleasantly surprised with August Rush, not because the story is all the unique (you’ve seen the broad strokes before plenty of times), but because of it’s view of music. The way they show the young boy experiencing music in everyday life, what it means to him and how he’s eventually able to play it in his own unorthodox way really struck me. If you’ve got to watch a chick flick with your girl and you’re a music fan, this is a good choice. Also, Keri Russell is in it and looking good.
KING OF KONG (2007)
If you haven’t seen this documentary about the surprisingly competitive world of classic arcade high score competitions, please stop reading and watch it right now. This one makes it into my top 10 movies of 2007 (should a list ever actually exist). First off, it shows off a world I’ve never seen, which you know I love. Also, that world is full of deceit, greed, cowardice, heroics, villainy, triumph and defeat. The way the story is put together feels like a really well scripted feature film, though the events and the ups and downs are completely real. If you’ve ever liked anything I’ve written about on here, watch this movie.
Seeing as how The Death and Return of Superman is the story that got me collecting comics in the first place (and how deeply and utterly I bought into the idea that any of the four subsequent people could be the real Superman), I was very excited when I heard a few years ago that DC/WB was going to make an animated movie about that very event, I was psyched. I figured it probably wouldn’t have EVERYthing that made the comic so cool (Superman turning back to save a family instead of finishing Doomsday off, that very 90s JLA facing off against Doomsday, an eyes-swollen-shut Guy Gardner asking his teammate to aim his fist at Doomsday so he could blast it, not to mention the four other “Supermen”), but that it could offer up a cool new look on the idea. And it’s definitely a different look. I would have preferred them either go straight with the established look and continuity of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini-verse or have a drastically different art direction on the project as little things like Superman’s cheek lines become distracting. I was also distracted by the different voices for these characters that I recognize from a specific other incarnation that looked very similar but sound completely different. Even at 77 minutes it felt kind of slow, but the fight scenes are pretty great (though they don’t hold a candle to JLU). I still hold on to my dream of one day seeing an epic, animated incarnation of the Death and Return of Superman though. A boy can dream, right?
I’ve got to apologize again for my lack of posts. Things have been crazy, but I’ve been spending most of my free time watching movies and reading comics, so hopefully that will translate into more posts (if I don’t fall asleep first).
So, one of the first things I did when I started watching Netflix stuff on Xbox Live was add the first season of 30 Rock. When 30 Rock premiered I wasn’t all that into the show, which is strange because most of you know of my love of Saturday Night Live and I also watch The Office and My Name Is Earl which are on the same channel at the same time. I think part of the reason is that I started watching and REALLY liked Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip which is basically SNL on the west coast (as written by Sorkin). So, for whatever reason, it was hardly on my radar and I missed out on most of the first season. But I’ve been watching it since then and am a huge huge fan (I think it makes me laugh more than The Office now).
The one thing that struck me the most is that I had no idea how the series started. I just assumed it was an SNL-like show with a smaller cast and more dancers and that Liz and Jack were always friendly. Well, that’s not the case, as the first episode shows Jack’s first day, coming in and changing the Jenna-starring The Girl Show into TGS Featuring Tracey Morgan. Even though the series has been a lot of fun anyway, this made everything make a lot more sense.
There’s a lot of great episodes, including the one where Tracey goes on Conan Obrien’s show, but my favorite episode of the season has to be the one about Cleveland. As an Ohioan, it’s always great to see one of our cities on TV (especially Cleveland where my mom is from and my Grandma still lives). It’s what hooked me to the Drew Carey Show too. Anyway, I like that they kind of flip the script and make Cleveland out to be this cool, great place to run away to. The funny thing is that, according to Grandma (mine, not a character on the show) Cleveland and its suburbs used to actually be the hot spot for wealthy New Yorkers to summer at because of Lake Erie and it’s relative proximity to NYC. Go figure, huh? It’s kind of like hearing how many people went on their honeymoon to Niagra Falls. But anyway, I laughed for pretty much the whole episode and all the rest. If you’re a fan of smart comedy, you can’t go wrong checking out the first season. Some people say it’s a little slow in the first disc, but I’m not one of them. Definitely give it a disc, though, to see if you’ll like it. I ended up burning through the whole series in about three days.
Oh, also, I love Tina Fey. She’s the cat’s pajams as far as I’m concerned.