Showing posts with label What Comes Next and How To Like It (Book Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label What Comes Next and How To Like It (Book Review). Show all posts

Friday, August 7, 2015

"Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation" and DVDs "Men, Women and Children" and "The Drop." The Book of the Week is "What Comes Next and How to Like It" by Abigail Thomas.  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with the Russian classic "The Cranes are Flying" and review the new Edmonds restaurant "Salt & Iron"]


Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is back.  This time he needs to eradicate The Syndicate, a rogue organization that wants to eradicate the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) and cause worldwide chaos.  Hunt has to get them before they get him.
It's actually not just The Syndicate that wants to get rid of the IMF. The head of the CIA, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), also wants to get rid of it, feeling it has gotten out of control, so the IMF is under attack on two different fronts. 
Ethan's boss at the IMF, Brandt (Jeremy Renner), calls Ethan in but Ethan needs to find Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) who he suspects is running The Syndicate.  He also wants to know which side beautiful Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) is on.  So he is disavowed by the U.S. government and is on the run, while at the same time trying to find out what evil plan The Syndicate is going to pull off next.
Simon Pegg, star of his Three Flavours Cornette Trilogy ("Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "The World's End") provides comic relief as Benji, Ethan's sidekick who provides behind the scenes back-up for Ethan, much as Melissa McCarthy did for Jude Law in the recent summer blockbuster, "Spy." Ving Rhames rounds out the IMF team.
The plot is really quite simple which I was glad of.  I can't tell you how many times I watch spy movies and the plots are so intricate I don't have a clue what's going on.  Here it's just find the head of The Syndicate before he does his dastardly deeds with a few red herrings thrown in along the way.
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, this is a thrilling ride.
The opening scene with Ethan hanging from the outside of a jet as it takes off is heart pounding.
There is also a spectacular "Phantom of the Opera" segment in the Vienna Opera House while "Turandot" is being presented.  You know, the opera with "Nessum Dorma" that we all first heard in "The Killing Fields?"  Ethan fights the bad guy up in the flies above the stage with that fantastic music playing in the background. That theme was also used during the romantic scenes, what few there actually were between Ethan and Ilsa.  Delicious.
Another thrilling segment features motorcycles racing through the streets and surrounding area of Casablanca.  People getting rammed, motorcycles falling all over the place.  Great stuff.
It's one amazing stunt after another with that wonderful "Mission Impossible" theme music (Lalo Schifrin).
Yes, it's far-fetched at times, but Ethan Hunt is that kind of operative.  Master of disguise, knows what is going to happen before the bad guy does, and can get out of impossible situations.  That's why it's called Mission Impossible. Though I never understand why the bad guys always want to capture him, tie him up, and torture him, giving him an opportunity to escape.  Why don't they just shoot him and be done with it?  I felt the same way about James Bond. That, of course, is their undoing.  Speaking of James Bond, the thrills mixed with the fun here reminded me of the original James Bond films before they got so dark.
My only criticism was that the dialogue was sometimes clichéd and melodramatic but that's only a minor thing. We all know this isn't real life, right?
The cast is first-rate and Rebecca Ferguson (Queen Elizabeth in "The White Queen") is a stand-out.  She is beautiful and a badass and her Ilsa is a perfect foil for Ethan.
Now I want to say a few words about Tom Cruise.  I know there are many Tom Cruise haters out there. No matter how good the film, many can't help but take cheap shots that he is really very short and others have not forgiven him for Scientology so it seems more people don't like him than do. I have been a long-time fan of Tommy, ever since I spotted his handsomeness in "Taps" way back in 1981.  I don't care that he is short.  He can't help that.  As for the Scientology thing, we can only hope he sees the light.  A different one.  But he is a good actor and he is very good at the action film. Tom is 53 and still doing all of his own stunts.  Amazing.  Another reason I think he is hot!
Rosy the Reviewer action film at the top of its game. This is the best "Mission Impossible" yet.  Thrilling and lots of fun!  See it in IMAX!

You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
Emma Thompson narrates this indictment of technology that examines how the Internet affects teens and their parents.
An all-star cast has come together to make a statement about how the Internet has affected how we communicate.
We have a girl addicted to anorexia sites, a young guy addicted to porn, a mother who is obsessed about her daughter being victimized on the Internet so is constantly "cleaning up" her phone and computer, a football player who wants to quit football so he can concentrate on playing video games, a mother who has left her family and keeps in touch via Facebook and a husband and wife playing Words with Friends while they are in bed together instead of talking or having sex.
Don (Adam Sandler) and Helen (Rosemarie DeWitt) Truby are a married couple who on the outside seem to be happy, but they are living separate lives. Don likes to masturbate to porn on his computer but when his computer goes down he uses his son's computer, only to discover his son's porn activity.  He is horrified.  It's one thing that he likes to do it, but not his son!  Don is also not happily married.  He signs up for an escort service.  He doesn't realize that his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) is also unhappy and has signed up on the Ashley Madison website.
Tim (Ansel Elgort, who wowed in "The Fault in Our Stars") is a high school football star who no longer wants to play football.  He wants to spend his time playing computer games. As far as his teammates are concerned, that is heresy.  But Tim doesn't care. He cares more about his online gaming friends than his teammates and is mourning his mother leaving his Dad.  He is in the midst of teenage nihilism, quoting Carl Sagan who said we are just all molecules and thinking that we are somehow important in this vast cosmos we inhabit is silly.
Patricia (Jennifer Garner) is terrified that her daughter Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever) will be victimized on the Internet so is constantly monitoring Brandy's every move.  She is right about the potential evils of the Internet but she is such a pain in the ass about it that she has ruined her relationship with her daughter and even her friends.  The irony is that she spends more time on the computer checking her daughter's activities than communicating with her daughter. If she would just talk to her daughter she would find out more.
And that's the point here.
Everyone is communicating on their phones and devices but not with each other.
Jason Reitman has written and directed another thoughtful film ("Juno," "Up in the Air").  This time he uses the Internet and social media as a metaphor for our inability to share our innermost thoughts and feelings with living, breathing human beings sitting right next to us. Everyone wants to make a connection but they don't know how. No one knows what their kids are doing and the adults and married people don't know what each other is up to either. Maybe if they got off their computers and starting talking to each other they might find out.
The adults in this film are using the Internet to find what they've lost and the kids are using it to find what they have not yet had.  The Internet was supposed to make communication easier and bring us all closer together, but it has in fact driven us all further apart. It's friends in real life vs. our online friends.
Usually when Adam Sandler is in a film these days, it means the film is going to be terrible.  But not this time.  He's only IN this one, he isn't producing it, thank god.  It's not an Adam Sandler film.  Whew! Adam Sandler is actually a good actor and puts in a toned down and believable performance here. 
Garner is good as the uptight mother obsessed with her daughter's Internet activity and Judy Greer, a much underrated actress, is wonderful as the mother who is trying to get her daughter into show business. Likewise, DeWitt is another actress who consistently puts in great performances, but is still not well-known.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Now get off your computer and see this film!


   The Drop (2014)

 An unassuming bartender finds himself at the center of a robbery gone bad.

Tom Hardy is Bob Saginowski, a bartender at Cousin Marv's in Brooklyn.  Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini in his last film) runs the bar and is actually Bob's cousin, but the bar is owned by Chechen hoods, the kind of guys you don't want to cross. Cousin Marv's is a "drop" bar in that illegal money is dropped there to be laundered.  Marv and Tom nightly retrieve the envelopes of cash that are dropped there, count the money and place it in a safe.  They have been doing this for so long it's business as usual. 

Bob is a good-hearted Catholic boy.  We know this because he finds a puppy in a garbage can and rescues him.  That's how he meets Nadia (Naomi Rapace, the original "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"). The garbage can is in front of her house and she agrees to babysit the dog for awhile and a relationship develops between them.  

When the bar is robbed, the Chechen gang is not happy and they want their money back, which is a real problem for Marv and Bob. As Marv puts it, if we could find the money we would know who robbed the bar which would mean we were in on it which means we are dead.

Tom Hardy is amazing here.  From "Locke" to Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises" to Max in "Mad Max: Fury Road" to this, we see his range.  He is an English actor, but from the accent he effectively employs here, you would never know it. His acting range is amazing and in every role, he just gets more and more amazing.

I didn't think I would like this movie but it is an absolutely riveting movie experience.

From the script by Dennis Lehane (based on his own story "Animal Rescue")  to the direction by Michael R. Roskam to the wonderful acting, this is a taut crime drama that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful thriller made all the more thrilling by Tom Hardy's mesmerizing performance.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

298 To Go!
Young lovers are separated by the W.W. II German invasion of Russia.
Boris (Aleksey Batalov) and Veronika (Tatyana Samoylova) are in love but when the Germans invade Russia in 1941, Boris enlists without telling Veronika.  She is angry with him but then unsuccessfully tries to find him to say goodbye. No one hears from Boris and they assume he is dead.  

As the bombing begins, Veronika takes shelter in the subway but her parents stay behind at their apartment.  When she returns, the apartment has been bombed and her parents are dead.  Boris' family invites her to stay with them and Boris' cousin Mark who has avoided going to war and also lives there.  Mark pursues Veronika and seduces, read that rapes, her. They are shamed into marrying and Boris' family does not forgive her for betraying Boris.  Women always get the blame!  Mark is a philanderer and they are not happy together.  Things look bleak for Veronika and she contemplates taking her own life until she rescues a little orphan boy, also named Boris, thus giving her something to live for as she holds out hope that Boris will return. 
Why it's a Must See:  "In the last years of Stalin and Stalinism, Soviet cinema almost vanished. The continuing economic devastation wrought by World War II, as well as the pervasive fear that defined everyday alife, caused the once-thriving Soviet studios to practically close shop.  after Stalin's death in 1953, a reborn Soviet cinema slowly began to emerge, and the film that came to symbolize that rebirth was Mikhail Kalatozov's The Cranes Are Flying...It also became the first Cold War-era Soviet film to receive wide distribution (by Warner) in the United States."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die 

Samoylova looked like a 1950's Audrey Tautou, her face beautiful and expressive.  This was her first role and she shot to fame, but the Russian government blocked her from starring anywhere outside of the Soviet Union. Ten years later she starred in a Russian production of "Anna Karenina (1967)."  In 1993 she was deemed "The People's Actress of Russia."

Kalatozov worked in Hollywood on a diplomatic assignment and the Hollywood influences are apparent here with the juicy close-ups and production values. This film won the Palme d'Or at the 1958 Cannes Film Festival, the only Russian film to ever win that high honor. 

Kalatozov collaborated with cinematographer Sergei Urusevsky who used a hand-held camera well before this became a popular cinematic device.  There is a sequence where Veronika, failing to say goodbye to Boris as he leaves for the front, rushes to find him.  The camera follows her from her looking out of the bus window to getting off and weaving through the crowd and eventually panning up to see her crossing between some tanks rolling down the street.  A cinematic moment before its time.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a classic of Russian cinema that deserves to be seen.
(b & w, In Russian with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***


A series of essays and musings about aging, family, the writing process, friendship and coping with life's disasters, big and small.

Thomas, whose book "A Three Dog Life," was named one of the best books of 2006 by the L.A. Times and the Washington Post, is now in her 70's and shares the loss of her husband, her family, her daughter's breast cancer, how she is spending her retirement (painting on glass in addition to writing), and yes, stories about her dogs.

I call these musings because some of the "essays" are only a few sentences long.  But she draws you in as she copes with not smoking, drinking too much, failure, being forgetful, and that final great unknown:  death.

There is some wisdom here:

"I hate chronological order...The thought that this happened and then this happened and then this and this and this, the relentless march of event and emotion tied together simply because day follows day and turns into week following week becoming months and years reinforces the fact that the only logical ending for chronological order is death."

"Love can accommodate all sorts of misshapen objects: a door held open for a city dog who runs into the woods; fences down; some role you didn't ask for, didn't want.  Love allows for betrayal and loss and dread. Love is roomy.  Love can change its shape, be known by different names.  Love is elastic.
And the dog comes back."

And humor:

"What are these awful days?...I can't rouse myself longer than half an hour before I again climb the stairs with the dogs for another long nap...But if this lasts too long, Jennifer alerts Catherine and Catherine calls Chuck, and someone comes over to see if I'm OK. 'Your daughters are worried about you,' says Chuck this morning. "I came to see if you were dead."

Speaking of Chuck, the major part of this book centers around the long friendship Thomas has with a man ten years her junior. I have always said men and women cannot be friends.  They like to say they are friends, but I would bet you a million bucks that one or both would jump the other if the green light was given.  I believe this because I have seen it happen time and time again, and I also believe that people - men and women and even those of the same sex - are attracted to each other in some visceral way.  We are friends with certain people because we are attracted to them.  That said, she never did get it on with this guy per se, but he got it on with her DAUGHTER!  Now what does that tell you?

Rosy the Reviewer says...everyone in mid-life will be able to relate.

***Restaurant of the Week***

Salt & Iron


From the slick long bar to the great food to the friendly staff, this newish restaurant in Edmonds should be part of your foodie repertoire. 
The sign of a good restaurant is a small, manageable menu so that attention can be given to each item.  And that's the way it is here.  Just the right amount of choices for variation, but not so much choice you feel like you are at Denny's.
Favorites so far are the grilled corn, the seafood chowder and the steak salad, but I look forward to trying all of it.
At Happy Hour, the prices are lower but it's still many of the same food choices as the regular menu.  But get there early as the bar fills up quickly starting at 4pm.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a fine dining destination in Edmonds to rival Seattle restaurants.

Thanks for Reading!

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Confessions of a Baby Boomer Consignment Queen:

Tips for Making Money on those Clothes
You Don't Wear Because
You are Retired, Too Fat or Too Old


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