Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Review – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Director: Brad Bird

Writer: Josh Appelbaum, Andre Nemec

Stars: Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner

The movie is streaming on fxnetworks.com (as of 10/11/19)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is ecstatic; each scene and each set piece is full of adventure, action, charm, and whimsy in such proportions that it leaves viewers with a toothy grin on their faces for its entire runtime.  Brad Bird, the director of this modern popcorn masterpiece cut his teeth directing a slate of acclaimed animated features, The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles.  In each of these features, particularly The Incredibles, he displayed an impeccable eye for action, and an unparalleled ability to keep multiple interconnected sequences active at the same time without sacrificing any of their tension.  This ability is most evident during the film’s extended climax, which left me gasping gratefully for every joyous breath.

All of the sublime action nonsense that this film delivers with a completely straight face is held together by Tom Cruise (lots of stuff you’ve probably seen), who delivers goofy lines with cement-faced seriousness and sprints like he’s racing a herd of gazelle.  I’ve never been a huge fan of Tom Cruise the actor, but Tom Cruise the action star is without rival.  In possibly the most highly-publicized stunt of his career, he hung outside the 130th floor of the Burj Dubai Khalifa, acting out a very tense and ultimately comedic scene.  I say comedic because during this and almost every other stunt sequence in Ghost Protocol, the sequence is narrated by a running dialog between Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his analyst partner Benji (Simon Pegg).

I consider the character of Benji, and the irrepressibly hilarious exasperation Pegg (Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, Star Trek) brings to the role, as integral to the film’s success.  While he seems to have a quip for every situation, his commitment to the reality of every action scene keeps the action light yet exciting.  Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton round out the cast, lending in their own gravitas to the proceedings, and ensuring that over-the-top action never fully overshadows character dynamics.  Whereas I felt earlier editions of the Mission Impossible franchise were a bit dour, the charming, lively performances of this film’s cast keep the story afloat.

The story of this movie, while it involves the very tangible threat of nuclear war, never gets bogged down in the implications of the actions its characters take.  The movie feels like, and is simply Tom Cruise, under the sharp eye of first-time live-action director Brad Bird, having a fantastic time giving his audience exactly what they want.  It is not deep or emotional, but for those seeking out a good time at the movies, there’s hardly a modern release I’d recommend first.

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Review: Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

5 Hot New Podcasts

 

1. The Bible with David Lynch:

Acclaimed auteur David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart, Dead Mouse with Ants) reads the King James Bible “from cover to cover,” never altering the pitch, pace or timbre of his voice in the slightest.  What results is a strange, unsettling, and occasionally hilarious journey into the heart of madness.  Recommendation: never listen with the lights off.

2. Comedy Fartstorm:

Hosted by Bob Saget, Comedy Fartstorm features a parade of both famous and obscure comedians like Brendan Schaub, Sarah Silverman, and Bob Newhart making fart sounds with their mouths before laughing uproariously.  Because this podcast features no spoken words, it is up to the audience to determine what comedian makes which fart sound.  Some of the farts might even be real, no one has any idea.

3. Silly Sound Playhouse with Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman uses the uncanny gravitas of his speaking voice to introduce very silly sound clips.  Episodes are very short (15-20 minutes) and include sounds such as “Tiny tennis ball squeaky toy with multiple rapid squeezes,” and “Silly kids’ voice saying ‘Yipee!’”  After each sound, Freeman gives a brief appraisal, usually limited to one word, like “fascinating.”

4. Gary Busey Fights Monsters

Famously unhinged actor Gary Busey regales you with stories of the victories he’s had battling legendary beasts like Centaurs and Leprechaun armies during his life.  In one of the podcasts most famous episodes, he tells the story of how he faced down Medusa while he was on the set of “The Magnificent Seven Ride!”  The stories are often harrowing, action-packed, and dubious.

5. The Podcast Podcast Podcast:

Hosts Terry Grintest and Amanda Bullifer discuss the ins and outs of making podcasts about podcasts.  The hosts discuss what podcast podcast creators get right, what they get wrong, and which are the best podcast podcasts every week.  The hosts maintain a running count of how many times the word podcast is used each episode, and when the number goes over 100, they each eat ice cream sandwiches.

5 Hot New Podcasts

Brilliant Young Actor Stuns Hollywood with Talking Tracheotomy Scar

27 year-old burgeoning star Dennis Sureswith, best known for his oscar-nominated turn in “The River has no Bottom” as well as his standout performance in “Fartbusters 4: The Wettening,” recently stunned industry insiders when he revealed his commitment to method acting.  In preparation for his role as Derek Somersberg, survivor of a traumatic car accident who goes on to vanquish an alien uprising, he had an actual tracheotomy performed on himself.  “I felt I wasn’t really getting into the role as deep as I wanted to,” Sureswith told reporters at the film’s Cannes premiere, “So I told (producer Elizabeth Winegarten) to just stab me in the throat.”

After only two weeks with his new throat hole, Sureswith attested that while the procedure had greatly helped him act the role, his extreme method acting had also delivered unexpected benefits.  As he told a stunned group of reporters at one of the several Cannes press junkets, “My Trache scar can talk.  His name is Jean-Jacque and he’s French.”

The press pool, struck by an understandable wave of incredulity, questioned whether such a thing could even be possible.  Melissa Vicontin, Dutch reporter with The Associated Press, exclaimed “How is this possible?”  In response to the question, Sureswith’s tracheotomy scar replied, “Con comme ses pieds, it simply is!  Why must you question, eh?”

This reply brought guffaws from the French press in attendance, which only grew as Sureswith joined the conversation.  “I don’t speak any French, I have no idea where this is coming from.”  At this, Jean-Jacque quipped “Of course you don’t, you are too stupid for French, tête de noeud.”  This response left the French press in further hysterics, and inspired an abrupt career shift on the part of the young American movie star.

Currently, Sureswith is remaining in France, touring the countryside as a comedy double act, “Jean Jacque et l’âne,” which roughly translates to “Jean-Jacque and the donkey.  The American star’s family and friends haven’t heard from him in weeks, leading many to believe foul play is afoot.  This controversy is the most remarkable to hit Cannes since Terrence Malick revealed that he has an extra face in the back of his head named Boris Dimitrov.

Brilliant Young Actor Stuns Hollywood with Talking Tracheotomy Scar

Guide: Modern Mime Routines

by: Andrew Halter

1. Piloting a Remote Control Helicopter

This is one of the more subtle uses of mime technique, in which the performer holds his hands parallel to each other, roughly 2-3 feet apart, scanning the sky for an invisible flying machine.  One can also open his or her mouth in amazement and excitement, occasionally becoming concerned that the imaginary helicopter will crash, only to be relieved when it does not.

2. Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Waving Tube Man

The Mime splays his or her arms wide, holding them rigid and unmoving, only to suddenly reverse directions suddenly.  The mime’s face should be completely without expression, suggesting the personification of an inanimate object.  If any small children are near, the mime could suddenly throw his arms toward them, hoping not to make them burst into tears.

3. Suicide

The mime should first pretend to sit at a desk and write a confessional note, making sure to emphasize with his or her finger the tears running down their cheek.  Then, standing up, the mime can slip an invisible noose over their neck, throwing the other end of the rope over an imagined overhead pipe. With hands clasped together in front of them, the mime could weep briefly into their own folded hands, before pretending to dangle lifeless from their own imagined suicidal rig.  Possibility: suddenly spring to life, grinning widely and ensuring any audience that it was all a ruse.

4. Mass Shooting

This act requires at least 15 mimes, as one will portray the shooter and the others his or her unfortunate victims.  All the mimes should begin together in one group, until one of them upholds an imaginary machine gun and begins to murder many of the other mimes.  There should be at least 10 imaginary casualties, with the shooter making sure to shudder his or her body rapidly as if jostled by machine gun fire.

5. Donald Trump Speech

The mime stands as if before a podium, making sure to indicate with hand motions that he or she is enormously overweight.  The mime could gesticulate wildly with his or her hands while occasionally standing openhanded as if asking the crowd a question.  Depending on what part of the country the mime performs this routine, it may end with a final triumphant Nazi salute.

Guide: Modern Mime Routines

News: Dummy Falls Down on his Stupid Face in Front of Everybody

Dummy Falls Down on His Stupid Face in Front of Everybody

by: Andrew Halter

Chicago, IL — Andrew Halter, fledgling journalist and part-time stand-up comedian, looked like an idiot last Thursday when his right toe clipped the curb in front of the Walgreens at Foster and Lincoln, causing him to drop his bag of candy and painfully exclaim “Dammit!”

Most of the 11 bystanders who witnessed the event declined to comment on how foolish Halter seemed, brushing Swedish Fish off the same jeans he wears everyday, preferring instead to look at the sky as though they’d not witnessed Andrew’s humiliation.

“Yeah that was pretty funny I guess,” remarked David Grant, local father of five, after witnessing the doofus peel himself off the asphalt.

Immediately after falling, Halter tried to gather himself as quickly as he could and walk away, though he could not hide the painful limp in his stride.

When authorities attempted to reach Halter for comment, he yelled “I don’t know what you’re talking about!” before slamming into the nearby Lincoln bus stop kiosk as he attempted to hurry away.

Upon hearing him walk into the bus stop, Margaret Atwood, grandmother of twelve, was unable to keep herself from audibly guffawing at the silly boob as he hobbled down the sidewalk toward his apartment.

“I’m sorry,” Atwood explained as she attempted to cover her mouth with her right hand, “it was funny, I feel bad for him though.”

Douglas and Jerry Ignacio, local high schoolers who also witnessed the disturbance were less kind, remarking that “(the) bit*h better watch where he’s going.”

Reports say that after he got back to his apartment, Halter turned off the lights and watched Fargo on Netflix under his heavy comforter, vowing to never again mention the occurrence.

 

News: Dummy Falls Down on his Stupid Face in Front of Everybody

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

In 2014, the surprising hit John Wick created a diverting comic-book riff on the revenge drama, seeming like a one-off set piece that hit all the buttons action fans look for.  However, with John Wick: Chapter 2, the writer/director team of Derek Kolstad and Chad Stahelski have taken what I consider to be a significant step forward in the evolution of American action filmmaking.  Ditching the sentiment almost completely, they dove into the lunatic alternate reality they created, and came away with one of the most consistently enthralling and artistically expressive action movies I’ve ever seen.  It left me gasping, and as I pant for more I’m forced to admit that though this movie’s influences are many, from the riveting gun-fu of Hard Boiled to the intense close-quarter combat of Ong-Bak, in sheer audacious bravado this film stands alone (except for maybe Hard Boiled).

I say audacious because according to the entertainment section of businessinsider.com, the kill count of this blood-drenched magnum power shot stands at a staggering 128, meaning that the average stands at just over one kill every minute of the movie’s 122 minute runtime.  This mass of fatalities, however, is not stretched out over the entire movie, but is rather concentrated in two or three central shootouts (depending on how you determine when one shoot out ends and another begins), which see the inimitable Keanu Reeves transform into the mechanized killbot it seems he was always meant to be.  Because of his strangely vacuous performance style, which made him perfect for Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the object of derisive laughter in Dangerous Liaisons, makes him this movie’s perfect protagonist.

I refer to Reeves’ character, the eponymous John Wick as a protagonist, not a hero, because John Wick: Chapter 2 has no real heroes.  In the first John Wick, the eponymous character’s thirst for revenge was ignited by the death of his beagle puppy named Daisy, a symbol of the love he’d had for his recently deceased wife.  In this second volume of the Wick saga, the movie’s central villain simply destroys his house, without even harming the new dog he never bothers to name.  It is notable that whereas Daisy, the puppy from the original film, was a cuddly little bundle of love, Wick’s new dog is a very obedient pit bull.  This is a signifier that in the first movie, Wick lost his soul, and though he at first remains reluctant to return to death-dealing, he ends up taking to it like a master executioner, killing without thought.

This singularity of purpose and lack of true motivation are two of the things that I believe make this movie a significant advancement in American action cinema.  Too often, even in justifiably regarded tentpoles of the genre like Die Hard or Lethal Weapon, the action has to pause for the insertion of sentiment or (god forbid) romance, giving viewers like me a chance to go to the bathroom.  John Wick: Chapter 2 eschews any sentimental subplots, replacing them instead with an extraordinary visual panache.  Shootouts in an art exhibit containing a hall of mirrors and a topiary gallery that changes color depending on which side its viewed from are entrancing; so much so that they forego the need of an emotional undercurrent.  The movie’s director Chad Stahelski began in movies as a stuntman, most notably doubling for Reeves in The Matrix, and with this viscera-speckled opus, he shows that the closer one draws to violent action, the more such warfare becomes part of his identity.

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 2

Poetry: Snaps

The Ticket and the Lecture were an experimental

dance-pop

poetry duo from Statin Island, and they twisted

around the made-up minds

of the tea-cup Uberclass, intellectualizing thought

itself while calling it illusion, and they fucked

everything up the trail painted gray, so to speak

jumbly non-rhymes aplenty flowed

like breath seeping, through the air-brush

daytime taverns called shit

like Twisty’s and Fidget’s, stupid nonsense

like most of it always is

in the country, except the fields

I guess but who cares?

 

Because ain’t shit

out there anyway, wandering aimless

dummies down a path to doom, whichever

direction they end

up heading, smashers hypostitize

from centuries abstract, crushing cream puff

pillowcase pieces of shit, in the city too

as all and sundry are hollow, saying and meaning

nothing at all at any time

anyway so shit, might as well

go to McMulligan’s China Bistro and Tavern

at the bottom of the sea, drink the day

away like a shot, just write your name

in the sand with a stream, cadmium downgraded

from the gin, plumb death infinite, because depth

is too hard to make flow, though a reality.

Poetry: Snaps