Alright gang, I know it’s almost February of 2020, but I still have a Best of 2019 post or two I want to get out before moving on! I’ve already covered old and new horror films, but I saw a lot of other flicks this year that I at least want to say a few words about. So, I’m going to do exactly that and run down a whole slew of movies and just say a few sentences about what I dug! LET’S. GET. INTO IT!
Between a mix of business and less-than-desirable equipment, I’m bummed to say I haven’t done nearly as much blogging as I wanted to this year. However, as I sit here under my brand new laptop — one with the luxurious benefit of a fully working keyboard — I wanted to get into a trio of movies I’ve seen recently that I really enjoyed!
In addition to continually checking out new or new-to-me movies this year, I’m also trying to make a concerted effort to go through my existing collection. To help narrow the search down — I have a comically large binder that I keep most of my DVDs and Blu-rays in — I asked Alexa to pick a random number between 1 and 26. She chose 8, so I did a little finger-counting and settled on the letter H. Being a well-organized geek, my flicks are in alphabetical order, so when I got to H, Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz practically jumped off the page at me. On one hand, Edgar Wright’s just the best and on the other, I realized I hadn’t watched it in just about a decade!
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 funny. With a lot of movies, especially big-deal horror movies from the past decade like Shaun Of The Dead, I usually have a solid memory of the first time I saw it. In this case, I’ve got nothing. I was in college in 2004 when the film came out and was probably hearing things about it. I remember watching it at some point and loving the ending and then checking it out on DVD later on with my wife who was into it aside from the ultra gore (which I’d forgotten about for the most part). I do remember that my pal Rickey Purdin passed me the DVD copy I watched last week because he had an extra, but that’s about it.
With Edgar Wright’s latest film The World’s End hitting theaters, I figured it’d be fun to go back and watch Wright’s other movies Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, all of which happen to reside in my DVD collection. You guys, this is such a good movie, I can hardly stand it. It’s so good, I actively disliked myself for about half of it for not watching it more often. Yes, you’ve got the high quality gore effects that tend to get left behind in horror comedies and you’ve got the fantastic comedic elements, but there’s a huge, gigantic beating heart to Shaun that really drew me in this time around.
First off, you’ve got the friendship between Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost). On the surface it seems like any other dude friendship in movies, just two adult children hanging out, drinking and playing video games. But you also get that element of two friends who have been friends for ages that might be growing apart, where the friendship might actually be inhibiting one or both of the parties from evolving as individuals.
Then you’ve also got Shaun’s relationship with his mom Barbara (Penelope Winton). He loves her, but doesn’t love all of the decisions she’s made, specifically when choosing a mate. That’s a deep connection that really tugs at the heart strings when Shaun has that last moment with his stepdad Philip (Bill Nighy). I know I’m a much bigger softie these days now that I’m a parent, but that was a really amazing emotional beat in the middle of zombie movie. So good.
Finally, you’ve got Shaun’s relationship with Liz (Kate Ashfield) which is kind of a synthesis of the ones he has with Ed and his mom. They’ve been together so long that she’s starting to think he might be holding her back while at the same time, there’s a deep, emotional almost assume connection between them. Watching the movie this time around, I got a bit of a Madame Bovary vibe from Shaun. Because he’s seen so many movies and TV shows, he thinks things are going to turn out a certain way, but the real world isn’t fictional (even this one packed with undead monsters). Shaun winds up stepping up and proving that he’s the hero he always imagined himself to be, which winds up solidifying his relationship with Liz.
The beauty of this film is that it balances all of those relationships — plus more, I didn’t even get into all the stuff with Ed and Diane — with all that great humor and gore. It really is just a wonderful movie and I didn’t even talk about how well constructed the movie is. The way Wright shot Shaun’s daily routine at three different stages in the story was so great to watch, I remembered it was coming and got really excited as it unfolded. I’m sure there’s a lot more in that department that I’m missing, but I’m still kind of in a euphoric state after enjoying the film so much.
After checking out the first three Mission: Impossible movies at the end of last year, I was interested in checking out Ghost Protocol. That’s kind of saying a lot because it’s a franchise I’ve forgotten a lot about (including almost all of the third installment, as it turns out). I also have very mixed feelings about Tom Cruise as a person, though he seems to keep doing a good job acting. I’m not sure how I’ll feel after everything shakes out from his divorce from fellow Toledoian and one-time grade school classmate of mine Katie Holmes.
Anyway, this movie wound up being exactly what you want from a M:I movie. You’ve got Cruise and company winding up on the run and on their own (that’s the plot of at least two of the other movies, isn’t it?). But, even if the broad plot strokes seem familiar, director Brad Bird and company did a great job of upping the ante along with the tech. Instead of climbing a mountain, Cruise climbs the tallest building in the world (awesome scene). Instead of dangling in a control room, Jeremy Renner magnetically floats in a ventilation shaft. While I’m not always a big fan of the sequel formula that assumes the new film needs to hit several of the same plot points as the original, I think it was well done in this case.
So, yeah, I really really enjoyed the movie and recommend it for just about anyone who dug the previous flicks or action movies in general. I might have missed it in theaters, but my parents actually have one of those DVD projects and my dad made a screen out of roofing material that he hangs outside, so my wife and I did actually get to see it on the (or a) big screen. Honestly, that’s my favorite way to watch a movie. I’m thinking of just clearing out half our place and turning it into a screening room.
After four years of hearing about it, I finally decided to give Doctor Who a shot and it was all thanks to a conversation held at this year’s New Year’s Eve party. Em overheard James talking to someone about Doctor Who and asked me about it yesterday. I had added it to the instant Netflix queue just in case, but never got around to starting it. Noting that we didn’t really have much to watch this weekend, Em suggested we give it a shot and we did. So much of a shot that we watched all 13 episodes of the first season in two days, starting yesterday.
I think Em may have gotten more into it than I did, but unlike Weeds (a show she loves and I can hardly stand) I still had fun watching it and was often able to read a comic or two while the episodes were on. I really liked Christopher Eccleston as the The Doctor and find myself drawn to Billie Piper. I was impressed with how well put together the show is. Sure there’s some bad special effects, but the writers do a great job of getting to the heart of the matter even while throwing our heroes up against walking mannequins and Daleks. I was also surprised at how well they did at making things creepy, and I mean really creepy. The people with the gas masks from the episodes “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances” gave me the chills. And the first Dalek that we see in “Dalek” even had me going for a little why, but their high, shrill voices reminded me of Timmy from South Park which is interesting because they’re basically shrunken bodies using a machine to cart them around. Go figure.
I also want to mention two other things that I really liked. First up was Simon Pegg’s appearance as The Editor in “The Long Game.” I was kind of half paying attention when Em said something like “Look at this guy who’s trying to be Simon Pegg.” I looked at the screen and after a few moments realized it was, in fact, him. I remembered that someone gave someone an action figure of the character last year. Now I think I might need to track him down. I also really liked the British TV shows that made it into the future with some minor (and murderous) tweaks in the last two episodes of the season. There was Big Brother, Weakest Link and What Not To Wear (the British versions of course). Now, I don’t really know a lot about any of those shows other than the idea of an AnneDroid hosting Weakest Link is hilarious. I’ve never seen any episodes of Big Brother, but Rickey Gervais’ character does go on the show in the Extra’s Christmas Special which is fantastic and you should check it out, along with the rest of the series. Em noticed the What Not To Wear ladies and got a kick out of them. Can’t wait to burn through the next few seasons, Torchwood (maybe Sarah Jane) and maybe some of the original stuff. What’s worth watching?
Whew, it’s been a busy few weeks. I was pretty exhausted for most of last week, but Em and I did watch a bunch of movies last Sunday to celebrate the new TV. Instead of watching special effects heavy movies like Iron Man or Transformers we went in the opposite direction and watched a pair of romantic comedies. Not exactly my usual, but I did enjoy both flicks.
The first was a movie that had been sitting near our TV for a few weeks along with Drop Dead Gorgeous which Em borrowed from her friend Lee (hey Lee). It’s called The Sweetest Thing (2002) and stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate, Selma Blair, Jason Bateman and The Punisher, er, Tom Jane. I’ll be honest, it’s been over a week and my memory’s definitely fuzzy, but basically Diaz falls for Tom Jane in a club and then tries to go after him at what she thinks is her brother’s (Bateman) but is really Jane’s. Plot-wise, it’s a pretty standard romantic comedy, but it’s the flourishes that make this a pretty good flick. Diaz and Applegate have some pretty over the top scenes and they often sneak into annoying territory with their catch phrases and Diaz’s mugging for the camera. But all in all, if you’ve got to watch a RomCom, it’s a pretty good one.
We also checked out Run Fatboy Run (2007) which also falls into the romantic comedy genre and follows a lot of the standard tropes, but I’m a big Simon Pegg fan and David Schwimmer did a great job directing him, Hank Azaria and Thandie Newton. Pegg plays a dude who ran out on his pregnant fiance (Newton) on their wedding day. Now it’s five years later, they’ve got a kid, he works as a security guard at a clothing store where he runs down bra-stealing trannies and Newton’s dating the super succesful Azaria who likes to run marathons. Pegg realizes how big of a mistake he made and now wants to made good by showing people (mostly her, his kid and himself) that he can run a marathon in England (where he lives).
What I do like about RFR is that, even though it is kind of paint by numbers, Schwimmer uses a few different colors than you might expect. Like a lot of other RomComs, we see that Azaria’s maybe not the greatest guy and we do feel good when Newton finally realizes this. But, and this is a SPOILER at the end, after Azaria’s out of the picture and Pegg’s proven he’s a good dude, it’s not like he and Newton just fall in love again. I appreciate that.
So far, I haven’t seen Pegg in anything that I didn’t like, except for the flick that he co-starred with Schwimmer in called Big Nothing which really didn’t do anything for me. He’s even the reason I’m looking forward to Star Trek, though now that I’ve seen the previews, that movie is really making me want to see it, so kudos to the marketing team.
Yeah, I know romantic comedies probably aren’t what you expected to read about in this first post after a slow week, but I’m trying to catch up on what I read and watched over the week. Until next time…