by Kris Katz
Brief spoiler-free entertainment reviews

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol (2011)

Not many films dare to put the em dash in their title. Behind the slick, hyper-modern, Apple Computer veneer, this is sort of a throwback to a time before gritty and real and visceral (but still PG-13) were major buzzwords in tentpole action films. Tom Cruise leads a group of character archetypes through a massive conspiracy to stop a nuclear war. It's so strangely safe a plot that it has to be a race against the end of the world itself. But then, the story isn't the point; these are films about high tech, high tension set piece moments and action sequences with nearly unlimited budgets, and this is where the film largely delivers. First time live action director Brad Bird (yep, the guy who made Iron Giant and The Incredibles) is able to bring more than a few pulses of exceptionally nimble choreography, ranging from rousing and novel chases to a surprising number of quiet, clever, and subdued sleights of hand. The ragtag group of misfits chosen to save the world all find a great chemistry among the chaos, with each member given several chances to really shine and be featured. It's a movie absolutely overflowing with ideas to excite even as several of the story reveals fall flat. There's a sheer confidence to its goofy stride that, while it's certainly several notches over the top, it still manages to remain unpredictable and, best of all, damn entertaining.

8 out of 10.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Wes Anderson films are sometimes a hard thing to judge. Sure they’re comedies, but they're often so deadpan it can be hard to tell. Is the film failing when it isn’t funny, or is it simply not trying to be funny at that moment? This approach works much better in some films than in others. This is one of those others. There are certainly moments in this quirky tale of a runaway boy scout, but they’re too few and too far between. In the meantime, we’re treated to some pleasantly bizarre camerawork, and intermittent appearances by the usual Wes-Anderson-film suspects spouting off the occasional one-liner or standing in a pleasantly preposterous setting. Generally, it works, but it’s missing something. The child-actors that make up the focus of the film are great as an ensemble but are very uneven when they’re off on their own, while the plot wanders with all the certainty of a child’s storybook. It’s served up with a wink, yet with little of the cleverness.

5 out of 10.

Prometheus (2012)

Let’s be clear: this is a film with problems, and some of them are pretty big. Yet the fact remains that they just don’t make sci-fi like this very often: grand and inquisitive, poking a big stick into bigger ideas and seeing what kind of horrifying monstrosity of an answer comes tumbling out. For the first half of the film, it’s almost as good as you want it to be. The setup is immediately compelling: an invitation to a faraway planet written on ancient cave walls across the world. We wonder what answers wait in the far reaches of space. This is a horror-thriller, however—wonder will soon give way to dread, and unfortunately once things inevitably start to go sideways the plot and pacing do the same. The second half is frankly a bit of a mess. Character motivations get lost in the shuffle, traumatic events pass with hardly a moment of reflection given to the victim, and developments that should be startling are met with a strange sense of apathy. Horror exists almost entirely on the premise of characters making poor decisions, but some of these are particularly cringe-worthy. And yet this is still a film worth seeing. For one: it’s absolutely gorgeous from start to finish, with barely a shot that is anything less than beautiful, even when it’s grotesque. For another: Michael Fassbender’s performance as the android David is absolutely riveting. And there are still those questions it’s keen on fiddling with, dangling like a carrot on a stick. This may not be a perfect film by a very long shot, but there’s more than enough here warrant recommending. Especially if you’re a fan of the Alien franchise.

7 out of 10.