We Want Action: John Carter, Edge Of Tomorrow & Jack Ryan

john_carter_ver2 I’ve been pretty tired and/or busy lately. Between work and the kids, the days are pretty full and I get awfully sleepy by the time evenings roll around. This is a bummer for me because I like to stay up and watch movies at night, but that’s been more of a piecemeal process lately. However, I’m still trying to take in new films like this trio of more recent big screen offerings.

Let’s start with Andrew Stanton’s 2012 film John Carter from Disney. This adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ space traveler didn’t do so hot at the box office and I think I know why. First off, the well seemed to be pretty solidly poisoned before the movie even came out. I have no idea why that is, but I was heavily in the movie coverage thing for Spinoff when this film was coming out and there seemed to be a lot of pre-press about how it was going to fail. I don’t know why and this might sound conspiratorial, but it seemed to me like someone didn’t want the movie to do well and then it didn’t.

But, that’s not all. This isn’t an easy film to understand and, for me, that’s not a knock. You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on and do a little thinking yourself to keep up with this tale. It’s not all laid out at your feet, which I appreciate because too many movies spell everything out so there’s absolutely no place for confusion. I don’t mind working for my entertainment and actually think better of the projects that make me get into that headspace.

This isn’t just a thinking person’s sci-fi action film, though. It looks rad. The aliens are fantastic and the action sequences are on point. I’ve read maybe a quarter or a third of ERB’s A Princess of Mars and it seemed like Stanton and company took what’s a fairly dry, clinical narrative and gave it a bit more heart which I appreciated (I actually stopped reading because that old school style of simply listing everything weird that’s happening gets real old for me real fast). All in all, I give this one a big thumb’s up and hope more people discover it at home. It’s too bad we’re not going to get more of this world…at least for a while.

edge of tomorrowAs I move on to talking about Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, I’m realizing that all three of these movies were adaptations. This one is probably the least well known because it’s a manga (which I haven’t read, for what it’s worth). Basically, aliens are invading earth and humanity uses mech suits to fight them off. Tom Cruise plays a self-serving PR guy who gets unceremoniously recruited to the front lines where he kills one of the creatures which gives him a kind of Groundhog Day-like ability to keep living the same day over and over again. He gets in contact with Blunt’s super soldier character who had a similar experience and starts training like crazy, dying constantly along the way.

The story has a pretty high concept and some specific rules about how you get and lose these powers, but again, I don’t mind learning these fairly outlandish details as they’re presented. I was much more interested in Blunt’s character than all that anyway. She’s such a cool, shrewd character who, in a way, knows what’s going on, but in another is completely in the dark because she has no idea how many times Cruise has come back and tried any number of alternative methods. While he’s falling for her over and over again, she’s basically meeting him for the first time every day (and killing him a number of those times).

So, if you can buy into some bonkers rules and like Tom Cruise evolving from brash douche to war hero, then give Edge Of Tomorrow (or as it was retitled upon home video release KILL. DIE. REPEAT.) a shot.

jack ryan shadow recruitFinally, let’s talk a bit about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, based on the character seen in Tom Clancy’s novels. This particular story doesn’t come from one of those books, instead giving the CIA operative an updated origin story for the modern era starring Chris Pine. The idea here was to start a new franchise, but apparently the film didn’t do to well and those plans have been put on hold, but I thought this was a gripping thriller that kept my attention the whole time.

Ryan starts off as a finance wiz who joins the military after the events of 9-11. While serving, his helicopter gets blown up, but he survives to meet and fall for Keira Knightley in a hospital. While getting better Kevin Costner appears and offers him a job as a covert financial analyst for the CIA. He soon comes upon Kenneth Branagh, a Russian whose machinations include a massive terrorist attack that will topple the world economy.

As much as I love James Bond movies where our hero is super experienced in all things espionage, I kind of liked seeing someone like Ryan in his early days. He’s got the training and does okay when he gets attacked early on, but Pine also conveys how overwhelming some of these experiences are. It would have been cool to see his version of this character evolve over a series of films.

Of course, Jack Ryan has been in a series of movies like Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum Of All Fears. I don’t think I’ve seen any of those movies, so I wasn’t spending the whole run time comparing Pine to Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck which was cool, but I am interested in going back and check them out.

 

Go Go Gadget Rave

2008-08-08
3:58:38 am

As you can tell, I’ve been on something of an off and on ’90s kick lately. Mostly I’m just finally getting around to checking out flicks I never got to see when I was younger. I remember seeing the ads for Go (both TV and comic book, remember those?) and was curious (mostly because my fellow Christ the King grade school attendee Katie Holmes was in the flick). Anyway, I realized it was on my Blockbuster queue, bumped it up to the top and here’s what I thought.

Go (1999)

Written by John August (Charlie’s Angels 1 & 2, Big Fish, Corpse Bride)

Directed by Doug Liman (Swingers, Bourne Identity, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Jumper)

Starring (deep breath) Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Timothy Olyphant, William Fitchner (Prison Break), Taye Diggs, Breckin Meyer, James Duval (Donnie Darko) Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) and Desmond Askey as the British guy

First off, it MUST be said that Go owes something to the films of Quentin Tarantino. Now, I’m not saying it’s a rip off or anything like that, but you definitely get a similar feel, especially with how the dialog is delivered by some the actors (especially Polley). There’s also the whole thing where the movie is told in non-linear segments. Again, not a direct lift, but considering Tarantino borrows a lot of elements for his films, I doubt he’d be too upset.

Okay, so onto the story. We start off with this chick Ronna who may or may not be 17, but is also getting evicted from her place and needs some money so she works an extra shift for her British co-worker. She gets caught up with drug dealers and cops and ends up getting hit by a car and left outside a rave to die. But that’s not all we see of her as we then hop back in time and follow a few other folks’ adventures and eventually see how they all tie together.

In general I like these kinds of movies. The kinds in which a few dumb mistakes lead to all kinds of crazy shit happening. Ronna doesn’t have enough money to pay for the ecstasy (or X as the kids call it), so she leaves Katie Holmes there as collateral. But it turns out that the guys who wanted it (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf) are actually cops so she flushes the pills and then puts stolen aspirin in the bottle and trades the fake pills for Katie Holmes. She then goes to a rave with her friends (one of whom took TWO of the real pills, which Olyphant strictly forbade) and sells off the rest of the aspirin and allergy pills she stole from the grocery store at a rave. Olyphant (who’s freakin’ terrifying and funny at the same time) shows up, hears everyone talking about how this girl is selling the best X, chases her down and then she gets hit by the care. Holy crap, right? Right.

And that’s just part one. I gotta say, that, even as convoluted as the story may be, it’s a fun one and I definitely appreciate writer John August’s ability to keep so many characters straight and intertwine their stories so well. There’s characters that show up in this segment that show up in the next and everything ties together nicely. From what I hear, Crash is like this too, but I haven’t seen it yet. Plus, it’s crazy to go from this to Charlie’s Angels to working with Tim Burton multiple times.

The next section features the British guy (who works with Ronna and is her usual drug dealer, which is why she jumped up in the food chain and went to Olyphant himself), Taye Diggs, Brecken Meyer and James Duval going to Vegas, shooting a strip club bouncer and implicating Olyphant in said shooting (the British dude swiped his credit card which they used at the club). They head back to LA, which is apparently where the story takes place.

Holy cats, it turns out that Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf weren’t cops themselves, but working off a drug charge by helping Fichtner catch drug dealers. I think they might even be TV stars, but I kind of missed that part (that’s what happens when I get to the part of the movie I’m blogging about, I miss things). Hey Jay Mohr even invokes the title, nice work Jay. Okay, giving a play-by-play from here on out might get a little crazy, so I’m actually going to watch the movie for a while, Be right back…

Okay, movie’s over and it turns out everyone’s okay for the most part. There’s some weird scenes with Mohr and Wolf in Fichtner’s house, he’s married to Jane Krakowski and both he and his wife hit on the dudes (who turn out to be a couple). Anyway, they find out that they were cheating on each other with the same guy who’s at the rave. They’re the ones that hit Ronna with the car, leave and then head back to see if she’s dead and she’s not so everything ends up being okay. Even the British dude gets amicably shot in the arm by the bouncer whom he shot in Vegas.

So, I know I said I wasn’t going to summarize the movies so much, but Go seemed to fit the old style. Otherwise you’d have even less idea of what I’m talking about than I do and that doesn’t make for a very good blog post.

As you can see by this long summation, there’s a LOT going on with this movie and I love that. They don’t slow things down, you’ve just got to keep up or lose, which I like. I assume that’s what this blog can be like at times, especially after I’ve had a few and am on my third day trying to watch something. I also like the moral ambiguity of the ending. All these people who do relatively bad things end up fine and dandy (though I’m not sure if it’s physically possible to get hit by a car and left in a ditch for part of the night and still go into work the next day, but whatever).

In the end I recommend this movie to anyone who likes Tarantino flicks, X, Katie Holmes, crazy intertwining stories and raves. Side note, I’ve never done X, but if it makes you wear day glow pantaloons and dance around with glowsticks like a d-bag, I’m OUT. Just say no to lame, kids.