Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Way

Ever since I was younger and found out that Martin Sheen was the father of Emilio Estevez, I always wondered what it would be like to see them in a movie together.  It has always been a fascination I had with acting families.  The idea of seeing father and son together in a movie somehow made the movie seem more special, like Will and Jaden Smith in Pursuit of Happiness or, to a lesser extent, Ben and Jerry Stiller in Zoolander.  So when I heard about this movie, directed by Emilio Estevez, I was intrigued to see what Sheen and Estevez could do together.   What I got wasn’t exactly what I expected, but at the same time it was still so very good.  Looking back at all the films I watched in 2011, I would have to say this topped my list.
The Story is about an estranged father (Tom) and son (Daniel) that don’t look at the world the same.  Tom thinks his son should settle down, start a job like he did, but Daniel wants to live life to the fullest and explore the world.  Daniel decides he wants to walk the “El Camino de Santiago” and asks Tom to come with him, but Tom decides he can’t.  Daniel ends up dying, so Tom decides to walk the trail to get closer to his dead son. 
Estevez and Sheen barely spend any time together, but obviously there is love between them.  Once Estevez is out of the picture, Sheen carries the bulk of the film.  It takes a skilled actor to pull off the grumpy depressed old man and make him likable but Sheen is able to do it with ease.  Along the way Tom comes into contact with a few erratic traveling buddies (Deborah Kara Unger, Yorick van Wageningen, and James Nesbitt), all with their own reasons to be hiking the trail.   These others manage to bring some humor and lightness into the film, which greatly helps to make the film enjoyable.
One could almost argue that the real star of this film is the location.  Shot on location at different points along “El Camino de Santiago” in France, this film is beautiful.  Estevez has previously shown he knows how to create a good film with Bobby, but with The Way he has made a good looking film.  After watching this film I can definitely see why Emilio decided to make this, it makes you fall in love with the countryside of France. 
Unlike in Bobby, this film has a small cast with a singular story which I think makes for a better movie.  I thought Bobby was good, but at times with so many characters and stories Estevez failed to make a connection with all the people.  In The Way,  it is easy to find a connection with at least one of the members of the hiking party. 
With a good cast, director and beautiful location Emilio Estevez has managed to make another good film.  Fans of films like The Motorcycle Diaries or Into The Wild, should enjoy this film quite a lot. 

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

                Unlike what seems to be the majority of people, I have never had a problem with Tom Cruise.   True, he might be a little off his rocker in the public eye and his religious choices are questionable, but his acting is always on par.  That is never more evident than when he dons the moniker of Ethan Hunt.  The Mission Impossible films have never failed to disappoint when it comes to heart pounding action set pieces and Ghost Protocol continues in that tradition.  The one thing that this Mission Impossible does better than all the others is make it all really fun.  The first and third Mission Impossible films were good but got kind of serious when the revenge angle kicked in.  The second MI veered a little too far off into the over dramatic romantic side.  Ghost Protocol managed to bring the action, drama, and suspense but still kept it light enough to be fun all the way through. 
                The premise of this outing is that someone blows up the Kremlin and MI5 gets the blame.  The government shuts them down and Ethan and his team go on the run to prove they are innocent.  This adventure spans from Russia to Mumbai, with a stop off in Dubai which has what I believe is the most tension filled scene since Tom Cruise hung from a rope an inch from the floor trying not to sweat or touch the ground in the first Mission Impossible.
                The cast is solid as usual.  Headed by Tom Cruise as Ethan, he brings his usual go hard or go home attitude.  He also brings a little something else.  In all the other films he has just done what was needed to be done without so much as a flinch.   In this one he brings a little something extra.  With a look here or a flinch there Cruise has shown something in Ethan Hunt that has not been seen up to this point; he is human.  When deciding who will be the crazy guy who climbs out the window and scale the largest building in the world, Cruise doesn’t follow the norm and volunteer.  He looks at everyone else and only when they know he is the only one that can do it does he reluctantly do it.  New to the series is Jeremy Renner as a CIA agent along for the ride.  Unlike Jonathan Reese Myers in the 3rd movie who was having fun just being along for the ride, Renner proves to be a fellow team member willing to go toe to toe with Cruise.  If this is any indication of how Renner will handle the Bourne series later this year, then we are in for a treat.  Also new to this series and the IMF team is Paula Patton.  In another time she would have been a wonderful love interest for Ethan Hunt, but now she is just another member of the team, but she does a good job.  Finally, is Simon Pegg the only returning team member and he has a bigger part.  It was a smart move bringing Pegg back, because he brings a lot of what makes this film so fun.  He is always there to bring a laugh to the scene. 
                As mentioned before Mission Impossible always brings the action and Ghost Protocol is no different.  Apart from the mentioned building scaling and the Kremlin incident, we are also treated to a very intense fight in what can only be described as the coolest parking garage ever.  Also we get to see a nice foot chase scene through a sandstorm, yet another example why I think Tom Cruise has the coolest run on the silver screen. 
                I would say if there was anywhere the film could have done a little better, it would have to be the villain(Michael Nyqvist).  He never really seemed very threatening and left most of the work to his henchman. 
Overall, this was a great entry into the Mission Impossible franchise.  If you enjoyed any of the previous movies, then you will not be disappointed with this one.  This movie is for fans of the Bourne movies and the Bond films. 

The Adventures of Tintin

               Up until this point I had only ever heard of TinTin in minor conversations about comics.  I’ve never read one of them or really been interested in them.  So, when I heard about this strange collaboration between Steven Speilberg and Peter Jackson to bring these comics to life, I wasn’t overly excited.  Then I heard they would be using performance capture which I thought was another strange idea.  The technique isn’t all that popular to begin with, so to take a franchise not well known in the US and make it in an unpopular form, I was certain it would be a failure.  Having now seen the results I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
                To start, the story taken from the comics was fun.  Tintin and his dog Snowy come upon a model ship, the Unicorn, which thrusts them into a globe spanning adventure.  Together with Captain Haddack the descendent of the original captain of the Unicorn, they travel the world over in order to find a hidden treasure. 
                With Jamie Bell voicing Tintin, he brings a very good likability to the character.  Andy Serkus, now the foremost expert on performance capture filming, is great as Captain Haddack.  He brings the perfect amount of humor to offset Tintin as the straight man. I can’t speak for the dog’s voice acting but Snowy is great.  Daniel Craig voices the typical villain with a sly anger and grit to everything he says.  The moment you hear him you know he is not good.  One of the highlights of this movie is getting to see, in a manner of speaking, Shaun of the Dead’s Nick Frost and Simon Pegg together again as Agent Thompson and Thompson.  They are ridiculous but funny every time they are on screen.  
                The animation is quite amazing and I wonder why it didn’t make the cut for the Oscars.  Spielberg was able to take this medium to its full potential.  In a smart move, the characters faces were obviously not made to look real.  Unlike in Beowulf or A Christmas Tale where Zemekus tried to accurately show an animated human face, Tintin knows performance capture isn’t quite there yet.  There is still just a little too much detail in a human face that animation can’t capture.  That is not to say though, that Spielberg hasn’t managed to brilliantly depict everything else. Even the characters bodies move and feel real, as long as they aren’t doing something no human could ever do.  Every body looks like it has real weight.  Every time they show a close up of someone’s hands they have all the wrinkles and groves.  Everything in the surrounding scene looks almost real.   
                Unfortunately, one of the biggest downfalls of this movie is one of its best assets.   By making the movie animated, Steven Speilberg was able to show some amazing action set pieces that live action could never pull off.  One of the most impressive scenes is a chase through the streets of Bagghar, done in one continuous shot weaving in and out of corridors, through buildings and all around everywhere else.  No live action camera could have ever done that shot.   Like I said even though animating the movie makes some impressive set pieces, it also brings with it the unfortunate stigma that all animated films need to be catered to kids.  Many points throughout the film the laughs come from pratfalls and people getting hit in the head.  Plus many times the acting goes way over the top and can become a little annoying.  It is pretty clear it was done for the younger crowd.  
                        All in all this is a fun film.  One thing that kept coming to mind as I watched this film was, “this should have been what the 4th Indiana Jones film was.”  It really showed that Spielberg is still the master of the adventure films.   Any fan of performance capture films or the Indiana Jones films will enjoy this film.  Now that I’ve seen this film I am interested to see what Peter Jackson does with the character next.  

The Sitter

                 Have you ever wondered what Adventures in Babysitting would be like if rewritten into a raunchy rated R film?  No, well obviously someone did and this is what we are given. 
                The Sitter is about a loser 20 something guy (Jonah Hill) who gets stuck babysitting 3 kids on the night where he just might get some from his girlfriend.  Of course when faced with a choice between responsibility or sex he does what any guy would do; obviously, combine the two together and bring the kids along for the ride. 
                There are a few funny moments throughout the film, but for the most part I found it hard to be really enjoyable.  I think one of the biggest problems was every character was way over the top.  Instead of trying to make anyone believable, everyone acted as though they were in some PG kids film.  Problem with that is they are all in an R rated film.  So it begs the question who thought taking a kids film idea and turning it into an adult film would appeal to any audience?  This brings me to my next issue with the film.  I don’t have any children yet, but the entire time watching this I kept thinking, “Who in their right mind would do any of these things with kids?” I just felt uncomfortable the whole time. 
                It’s sad that this film had to follow up Jonah Hill’s great performance in Moneyball  but unfortunately it did.  Luckily, from what I have seen, I have hopes that his next film, 21 Jump Street will erase the bad taste this film left.  I would say the best comparison I can make is the uncomfortable feeling the Johnny Knoxville’s Special Olympics movie, The Ringer, gives you after watching it.  You should not, nor do you want to, laugh at mentally disabled people, just like you don’t want to laugh at extremely bad babysitting.  Fans of Jonah Hill’s dirtier movies like, Superbad, or if you are an adult fan of The Pacifier (that just feels weird typing it) and looking for the next “grown man who should not be with kids film,” might find some enjoyment out of this.