By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

The stakes just keep on getting higher with each of these Mission: Impossible films. First, it was a matter of compromised secret agent identities, then came biological chaos, followed by Ethan Hunt’s personal life being put in peril, and now finally we’ve arrived at the threat of mass nuclear destruction; a rather logical progression, really. But the thing about Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is that it feels like it’s late to the party, almost as if it’s the cool kid at school thinking they’re making a grand entrance when in reality, the real cool kid has already shown up to the party and this is the arrival of that kid who’s desperately trying to fit in and be hip. For me, the best way to sum up this movie is to call it a victim of over-hyping, and while I certainly can’t call Ghost Protocol a BAD movie, I also can’t embrace it like a lot of other people seem to have — especially with the number of issues I have with it.

It seems the honeymoon didn’t go so well for Ethan (Tom Cruise), because as Ghost Protocol opens, we find him locked up in a Moscow prison for mysterious reasons, and fellow IMF operatives Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) are in charge of breaking him out. They of course do, giving the excuse that they need Ethan’s help in handling the fallout of a failed mission involving the death of a fellow agent while trying to procure information concerning someone code-named “Cobalt.” This leads to another quick mission, this one involving a break-in to the Kremlin to protect nuclear codes from falling into the wrong hands and also to identify Cobalt. But since this is the movie’s inciting incident, things go horribly wrong and the Kremlin crumbles in the wake of a mass bombing, for which the IMF is framed. As if things couldn’t get worse, the IMF is soon thereafter disbanded, leaving Ethan, Jane, Benji and intelligence analyst William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) the only ones left to clear the IMF’s name and catch Cobalt, now revealed to be Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist), a Swedish-born Russian nuclear strategist who wants to start a nuclear war. But this time, all the elements seem to conspire against Ethan and his team, as they find that this mission is more impossible than any they’ve embarked on before. Read the rest of this entry »

Release Date: November 5th, 2004

Running Time: 1 hour and 55 minutes

Written & Directed by: Brad Bird

Starring: Craig T. Nelson, Holly Hunter, Jason Lee, Samuel L. Jackson

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

Ah, the glory days. That seems to be the topic at hand when discussing The Incredibles, in more ways than one. Not only do the characters in the film, former superheroes forced into early retirement by citizens who’ve experienced said heroes’ destructive collateral damage, sit around and reminisce in some form about their own glory days, the film itself is a pleasant reminder of when Pixar Studios could do no wrong. Just to clarify, though: I don’t mean that to be taken as they’ve gone down the toilet in most recent years, but I still think there’s no denying that ever since after the release of Toy Story 3, Pixar has seemed to lose that magical spark which made them put out so many great movies, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who longs to see that spark return. Quite frankly, The Incredibles remains one of Pixar’s finest achievements to date, a movie filled with creativity, excitement, heart and humor, but that’s not where my praises end for it. I also consider it to be one of the best superhero films ever made, period, a title which The Incredibles is more than worthy of.

The film takes place in a world where superheroes are a part of the fabric of everyday life, but as already mentioned, begins when the public has become fed up with the costs of their day-saving. Specifically, the focus is on Bob Parr (Craig T. Nelson), formerly Mr. Incredible, who’s become an office drone working for an insurance company and very bored with his ordinary life. He’s also a family man, having married Elastigirl/Helen (Holly Hunter) and fathering three children with her: Violet (Sarah Vowell), Dash (Spencer Fox) and infant Jack Jack. Like their parents, Violet and Dash possess super powers; Violet has the ability to disappear and create forcefields, while Dash, as his name suggests, can run super-fast. The Parrs’ suburban lifestyle is interrupted, however, when Bob receives a cryptic mission to dispose of an experimental robot running amok on a secluded island. He does, but it opens up a whole new set of problems, at the center of which is Syndrome (Jason Lee), a vindictive supervillain with nefarious plans for all remaining superheroes in the world. Suddenly, the Parr family finds themselves the only ones who can put a stop to Syndrome’s schemes and in the process, give the public a good reminder of the benefits of having superheroes around.

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*Spoilers aheadĀ MPW-29235Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

I don’t know if there’s anything more discouraging than apathy. With previous Star Trek films, there seems to be strong opinions going one way or the other. Whether it be the love for The Wrath of Khan or the hatred for The Final Frontier, or even the divisive opinions of The Motion Picture, all of the films had a certain level of passion which made things interesting. With Star Trek: Insurrection however, most people don’t really care. Some people don’t like it, some do, but nobody is really willing to jump up and defend it, or tear it down for that matter. Having seen Insurrection, I must say, I understand the lack of passion. While far from the worst Star Trek film, Insurrection is certainly the most mediocre.

In the Briar Patch of space, where communication is blocked, there is a planet inhabited by a race known as the Ba’ku. The Ba’ku are humanoid aliens who, having rejected technology, have lived on this planet for over three hundred years. Due to particles in the planet’s rings, the Ba’ku adults have ceased ageing. In fact, all have been physically improved and are even in a state of mental bliss. However, a dying race known as the Son’a see this planet as their last shot at survival and thus want the Ba’ku relocated. They attempt to do this subtlety, but are not above taking the planet by force. Picard sees this as wrong and is willing to fight for the challenged race.

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Labor Day Review

Posted: July 23, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

labor_day_xlgWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Back when I first started my blog, I went through a phase of seeing as much films from whatever the contemporary year as I could. Not just films I thought looked good, or even okay, I would literally watch anything. Even movies that I thought looked terrible, I’d still watch. Why? Well, because I would review it, and would justify it by getting the film free from my local library. As time went on, I started to realize how stupid this was and gradually become more selective in my contemporary viewing choices. I’ll still give some questionable films a chance mind you, but I generally avoid anything that looks truly bad to me. There are exceptions however, for example, if a film is from a director I’m fond of, I usually give it a chance. Such was the case with Labor Day, the January release from director Jason Reitman. Reitman seemed to be a fresh new talent coming off of films like Juno and Up in the Air. Then in 2011, I released a film which no one seemed to care about called Young Adult. After that, the man fell off the radar and his newest effort did little to bring him back.

Adele Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is a single mom living alone with her young son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith). Following divorce from her former husband Gerald (Clark Gregg), Adele has fallen into a severe deppresion, rarely leaving the house. Henry does his best to keep his mom happy, but he can tell something is missing in her life. One day, the two are out shopping when they come across Frank (Josh Brolin), an escaped prisoner who forces his way into the Wheeler home to hide out. Once there, a kinder side of Frank begins to show and a romance begins to blossom between he and Adele over the labor day long weekend.

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Life Itself Review

Posted: July 22, 2014 by moviebuff801 in moviebuff801's Movie Reviews

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

I can count on one hand the number of documentaries I’ve seen throughout my film-watching life. By extension, I confess to having no real idea about how to properly review one, so I’m going to do as best a job as I can without becoming long-winded, so bear with me. It’s not that I have anything against documentaries as a genre, just that I tend to wait and seek out the ones whose subjects hold a particular interest for me. So obviously, I was always going to be gravitated towards Life Itself, a documentary by Steve James based on the memoir of the same name by Roger Ebert, who was perhaps the most influential voice of film criticism for me back when I was really becoming passionate about movies, and I imagine the same is true for many other people who feel just as passionate about the subject. If so, then this is a must-see. The bottom line is, Life Itself is terrific. As a documentary, it’s insightful, engaging and as entertaining as any great narrative piece. As a film in general, it’s funny, sad, heartbreaking, moving and bursting with care and compassion.

The film, of course, is all about legendary film critic Roger Ebert. It opens in the final stretch of his life, well after his jaw had been removed due to complications from thyroid cancer, and then weaves in and out between that and the events leading up to all that. I mentioned the documentary being insightful, and it was particularly so for me when focusing on both the early years of his life and the early years of his career working for the Chicago Sun-Times — a stretch of his life that had been virtually unknown to me until now, but even if you already are familiar with this information about him, Steve James keeps the pacing and flow of information moving at a good pace during this section, so that you neither feel too bombarded with facts nor feel as if you’re being lectured to. After that, things move onto what I consider to be the movie’s most interesting stretch: the years having to do with the birth of the show which would eventually become Siskel & Ebert At The Movies, the years where the show was at its height of popularity and the time Ebert spent going to report on the Cannes Film Festival. This section includes lots of behind-the-scenes facts and trivia which fascinated me while at the same time, like the rest of the film, paints a vivid portrait of what kind of man Roger Ebert was both in front of and away from the camera. The mark of any documentary worth its salt, from my perspective, is if it manages to have you walk away knowledgeable of its subject while also making you feel as if you’ve experienced something rather than just watching it. On that front, Life Itself most definitely succeeds.

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Release Date: May 5th, 2006

Running Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes

Written by: J.J. Abrams & Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Monaghan, Laurence Fishburne

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

Man, J.J. Abrams sure knows how to make an action film. He also happens to know how to make a Mission: Impossible film, because not only is his Mission: Impossible 3 a fine example of the former, it’s the best offering of the super-spy franchise to date. I know, I know — many would claim that the follow-up, Ghost Protocol, would earn said distinction, but there’s just something about the way this third film plays the game with such efficiency, skill and sheer excitement that, for me, makes it overshadow the “bigger” fourth film considerably. I’d also say that Mission: Impossible 3 is both worthy and capable of going toe-to-toe with a lot of the better James Bond movies, but that may be beside the point. What you really should be taking away with you here is that this is a very damn good action movie, the work of people who clearly have a firm grasp on genre storytelling.

Unlike the last two films, when Mission: Impossible 3 opens, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is not an active field agent anymore. Instead, he’s retired from being a full-time operative to become a training officer for hopeful new IMF recruits, which certainly has a positive effect on his engagement to Julia Meade (Michelle Monaghan), a trained nurse who thinks Ethan works in the traffic business. But Ethan’s suburban bliss is rudely interrupted when IMF Operations Director John Musgrave (Billy Crudup) reaches out to him with the hope that Ethan will come back for just one assignment: to rescue a kidnapped operative, Lindsey Farris, (Keri Russell) that Ethan trained who’s in the custody of a ruthless arms dealer named Owen Davian (Phillip Seymour Hoffman). Of course, what’s meant to be a simple rescue mission goes awry, and Ethan then finds himself entrenched in what Lindsey was involved in when tracking Davian. It turns out that Davian is in the middle of acquiring a mysterious weapon known only as The Rabbit’s Foot, and Ethan figures if they can intercept Davian and also acquire The Rabbit’s Foot in the process, then they can prevent a possible conflict with another country. Along for the mission are Ethan’s team members, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Zhen Lei (Maggie Q) and Declan Gormley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).

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Release Date: March 31st, 1999

Running Time: 2 hours and 16 minutes

Written & Directed by: The Wachowskis

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

By this point, I feel like a typical, straightforward review of The Matrix would just feel redundant, seeing as how its praises have all been well-sung. So, since I’m always trying to think of interesting ways to do movie reviews every once in a while, I thought it’d be fun to try out a style that I’ve seen others use: the “live” style of reviewing. Basically, what you’re about to read is a list of thoughts I had as I was watching the movie again, presented in a format not unlike that of live tweeting. I certainly had fun doing this, and it’s my hope that you’ll enjoy reading it.

Here we go …

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

Posted: July 16, 2014 by PG Cooper in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

jack-ryan-shadow-recruit-poster-au-691x1024Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Most years, I find myself completely disinterested in the batch of releases that come out in January. Sometimes there are exceptions though, and this year, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit was one of them. The film never looked amazing, but it did look like it had potential to be a fun spy/action film. I ultimately was a bit too busy in January to take the time to see it in theaters, but I knew I’d be checking it out once it hit the home market. I even watched all of the previous Jack Ryan films in preparation. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to such lengths for a film that I only expected mediocrity out of. Anyway, with the film finally on DVD I’ve been able to see it and can safely say it’s pretty much exactly what I expected.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is a young student who enlists in the marines in the wake of 9/11. While serving, Ryan is in a critical helicopter crash which almost cripples him. He begins physical therapy with the help of beautiful medical student Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley). Ryan also attracts the attention of Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), a CIA official who sees potential in Ryan. Cut to ten years later and Ryan, now in a long-standing relationship with Cathy, is working on Wall Street as a CIA analyst, though under the cover of a compliance officer. Ryan spots irregularities in the accounts of Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a Russian business man. Ryan goes to investigate, and soon learns that Cherevin has the intent, and the capabilities, to cripple the U.S. economy.

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dawn_of_the_planet_of_the_apes_poster_a_pWritten by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was the surprise of summer, 2011. The trailers may have had some intriguing special effects, but the film just looked like another in the long line of cash-grab remakes, reboots, prequels, and sequels. The fact that the Planet of the Apes franchise had been dead for a number of years, with the most recent film being Tim Burton’s heavily maligned remake in 2001, certainly didn’t help either. Yet low and behold, the film ended up being really good thanks to, in large part, its focus on actual characters and storytelling. While Rise may have benefited from lowered expectations, that certainly isn’t the case with its sequel; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The film is coming out mid-July, at the peak of blockbuster season, and with massive hype following the success of its predecessor.

The film takes place ten years after the events of Rise. In that time, the man-made virus created by the scientists from Gen-Sys has shaken the world. Many humans have been killed by the virus, and the survivors have been caught in conflict with each other over supplies. Meanwhile, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and the other mentally enhanced apes have been living in the Muir Woods, next to what is left of San Francisco. The apes have built their own society and are living in relative harmony. However, unbeknownst to them, a small human population has established residence in the city. Needing a power source, the humans seek out a nearby dam, which happens to be in ape territory. The two forces clash, but one human, Malcolm (Jason Clarke), believes that perhaps peace is possible between the two groups.

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Release Date: May 24th, 2000

Running Time: 2 hours and 3 minutes

Written by: Robert Towne

Story by: Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga

Directed by: John Woo

Starring: Tom Cruise, Thandie Newton, Dougary Scott, Richard Roxburgh

By: Michael “MovieBuff801″ Dennos

What once was all about style and suspense has become all about mindless action sequences and birds flying in slow motion in Mission: Impossible 2, directed by John Woo and overall signaling the general direction this franchise would take from here on out. To be fair, it can be said that this film has plenty of stylistic touches, but in comparison to Brian De Palma’s mark made on the first film in this series, John Woo’s sense of style seems even more emphasized as overkill. No doubt the general public who saw the first Mission: Impossible movie when it was released in theaters complained about the lack of non-stop action, or at least, I assume so because I can think of no other reason why this franchise would shift gears so abruptly from an atmospheric and intriguing Hitchcock-inspired thriller to a mediocre-at-best James Bond knock-off where the most important question shouldn’t be, “How in the world are they gonna pull off this mission?” but rather, “Why don’t these people just check the others’ faces for masks every time they meet?”

Last time, it was about protecting the security of the CIA NOC List, this time, it’s about preventing the outbreak of a deadly virus. The film opens with Russian bio-chemical expert Dr. Vladimir Nekhorvich (Rade Serbedzija) injecting himself with a mysterious biological agent before boarding a plane to the United States with Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) to escort him. But, wait! It’s not Ethan on the plane with Nekhorvich, but in fact rogue IMF agent Sean Ambrose (Dougary Scott), using a handy-dandy Ethan Hunt mask and voice chip. Ambrose and his team crash the plane, but not before making off with the case Nekhorvich had in his possession, which contains a newly-developed virus called Chimera and its antidote, Bellerophon, which Ambrose plans to sell to the highest bidder in a classic “supply and demand” scheme. The real Ethan Hunt soon learns of this and is then ordered to recruit a professional thief named Nyah Nordoff-Hall (Thandie Newton), a former girlfriend of Ambrose who the IMF believe can be turned into an asset for gaining information on the buyer (Brendan Gleeson) that Ambrose intends to sell to, as well as any other activities he gets up to. Of course, this directive comes after Ethan has bedded Nyah and fallen in love with her, making this mission just a bit more difficult. Although, as a character points out in the film, “This isn’t Mission: Difficult, Mr. Hunt. It’s Mission: Impossible.

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