Posts Tagged ‘jeremy renner’

arrival

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is living a life of quiet anonymity as a linguistics professor in a small college.  She is also mourning the loss of her daughter Hannah (Abigail Pniowsky, Jadyn Malone, Julia Scarlet Dan) who died of cancer.  The silence of her quiet life is shattered by the arrival of the Heptopods, aliens from far beyond our own galaxy.  After listening to a snippet of the aliens’ language on a tape, Louise  is tasked by the American military, specifically Colonel Weber (Forrest Whittaker) to translate the Heptopods language, find out why they came to earth and what they want with us.  Louise works diligently with Theoretical Physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to translate the Heptopds language, he tries to decode it mathematically, she with words. She suggests it’s easier to communicate with the aliens using words and not sounds, she writes human on a whiteboard, the Heptopods, separated from the humans by a glass wall, respond with a splash of ink, like an octopus, the ink turns into a symbol and, Louise starts to study the symbol and translate it into English.  Louise and Ian’s mission becomes more urgent, because the arrival of the Heptopods is a worldwide phenomenon, and the Chinese are starting to act more bellicose towards the Heptopods on their territory, and other nations are starting to act on their own as well.  What began as a cooperative effort is rapidly falling apart.  Can Louise and Ian translate this language before another nation acts rashly?

At first glance, Arrival seems like a mash-up of two older stories of alien invasion , Independence Day, with Will Smith  for its non-humanoid aliens, and worldwide presence of the alien landing and an episode of the classic show Twilight Zone “To Serve Man” in which aliens present humans with a book which the humans try to translate.  But Arrival is a much quieter, more contemplative story than these.  There are lots of scenes where Louise is thinking, or reflecting on her daughter’s life and death.  All of the elements of Louise’s life and her daughter’s life are important, and play a role in the final outcome.  The story even manages to ask a big philosophical question, which adds to the intellectual nature of the film.  The use of flashbacks is very effective in this film, the flashbacks tell a story in themselves and pack an emotional wallop.  But then the film tries too hard to wrap everything neatly in a bow and the ending went too far in that regard. There were some elements that weren’t very logical, like how giant 7 legged aliens could navigate a spaceship, but Arrival was a pretty ambitious film, and it hit the mark on almost all its lofty goals.

The acting is good, but Amy Adams is great.  She should have been nominated for an Oscar for sure.  She had a complex role, where she was emotionally torn by her daughter’s death, yet intellectually sharp in her professional capacity.  She carried this movie and was always believable as both mother and linguist.  Jeremy Renner, on the other hand, has all the personality of a wet dishrag, he and Adams should have had great chemistry, but had none.  Forrest Whittaker has an ersatz authority figure look, the casting director could have gotten someone like JK Simmons, and he would have been much better.

The direction is no great visual extravaganza, there are some decent exterior shots of what is supposed to be Montana, but this is not a special effects movie, and that works to its advantage.  It’s a contemplative movie, not one filled with explosions or photon torpedoes.  The pacing is good, and he gets at least one good performance.  Not a big fan of Denis Villeneuve’s earlier work.  Prisoners and Sicario are among his work, but I like the work he does here.

Arrival:  Take me to your linguist?

Mission Impossible Rogue.Nation

After seeing a colleague shot to death, IMF agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is convinced that an organization called the Syndicate, made up of rogue agents from around the world, is responsible for a number of tragic events around the world.  CIA Director Hunley (Alec Baldwin) is not convinced that the Syndicate even exists, he thinsk that their existence might be a figment of Ethan’s imagination to keep the IMF alive and funded.  Hunley goes before Congress asking the IMF to be defunded and the money and resources to be transferred to the CIA. Hunley  asks William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to tell him about Ethan’s whereabouts, but Brant denies any knowledge of what Ethan is up to.  Ethan is in Austria trying to prevent the assassination of the Austrian Prime Minster.  Ethan has taken along Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) for logistical support.  He runs into not one, but three assassins trying to kill the Prime Minster, including Ilsa Faust,(Rebecca Ferguson) a pretty assassin with a deadly shot.  Ironically, Ilsa has saved Ethan’s life before they meet in Vienna, is she there to kill Ethan Hunt or save him?  Does Ethan prove the existence of the Syndicate or is the IMF finally disbanded?

Was I expecting originality from the fifth installment of this film?  Not really, but it borrows heavily from the Bourne series with the whole rogue agent plotline.  Frankly, that plotline has been far too overused since it was used to perfection in the Bourne movies.  This movie, on the other hand seems to be going through the motions, car chases, explosions, dangerous stunts that don’t look all that dangerous, villains that can’t kill one good guy even though they are all paid assassins. The good guys don’t even get hurt, one example Cruise flips his car over five times in one sequence and emerges without a scratch.  The car chases aren’t that spectacular, the best car chases is still from Bullitt with Steve McQueen. The stunts in Rogue Nation weren’t eye popping, it’s nice to see a woman do some butt-kicking instead of the usual damsel in distress routine, but that’s the only bright spot.  The movie is entirely too long, and when the moviegoer thinks it’s over, it starts up all over again.  It’s exhausting.  They’re taken a good franchise and squeezed the life out of it.  There will probably be another one. But at least I didn’t see Fantastic 4.

The acting is just ok, not great not bad.  Tom Cruise does what he always does.  When there is a dramatic scene he raises his voice, and his speaking pattern becomes staccato, and he emphasizes certain syllables, and there’s always the glare, to tell the audience he’s serious.  He had success with Emily Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow, and so he’s paired with another Brit, Rebecca Ferguson, but there’s hardly any chemistry with her, they don’t even kiss. Cruise looks tired, and old, but he produced the movie, so he is the star, and so we see a lot of the AARP cover boy acting like a 20 something.  Ferguson does a good job with her role, both the action and the speaking part, but because they rotate the female leads in these movies, she probably won’t be back.  Jeremy Renner plays a paper pushing bureaucrat, and that’s a severe under-utilization of his skills. Ving Rhames is a glorified driver, the writers could have definitely beefed up his role.  Simon Pegg was just comedy relief, and Alec Baldwin was good, in a ham-handed way, in a small role.

The direction was standard for an action flick, the audience sees one chase from the point of view of the rider, there is an airplane stunt that was not spectacular, and an underwater stunt that was average.  The pacing suffers when the movie slows down for exposition, and the director gets fair performances from all the actors.

Mission Impossible:  Becoming more like Mission Predictable.

avengers age of ultron

Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Captain America (Chris Evans) Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)  try to get Thor’s scepter from Baron Von Strucker (Thomas Kreishman)  one of the leader of Hydra.  But Strucker is hiding more than the scepter, he’s been doing experiments on a pair of twins, Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor Johnson) and Wanda Maximoff (Elzabeth Olsen) and also building artificial intelligence.  Tony Stark finds the artificial intelligence in Strcker’s hideout, and thinks he can merge it with his own artificial intelligence named Jarvis (Paul Bethany) to protect the world.  Does Stark’s plan to protect the world work or will it backfire?

I must say I liked Age of Ultron better than the first Avengers movie, that may be damning this film with faint praise, because I hated the first Avengers movie.  This movie is better because is an Iron Man centered story, and not a Thor centered story of all the Avengers, none bores me as much as Thor, I hated the Thor movies, so building this story off of Tony Stark is a wise decision.  This movie also introduces Quicksilver and the Scarlet With into the Avengers storyline.  But everytime writer Joss Whedon develops an interesting plotline or character, director Whedon sabotages those characters and plotlines by jamming the movie with overextended action sequences, and cascading amounts of CGI. The first scene is an example of the excessive use of CGI.  The Avengers are battling Strucker, why?  There is no set up.  Later, cities are leveled, citizens are screaming for help, yet none of our heroes sustain so much as a scratch, not even Hawkeye.  What’s his superpower?  A bow and arrow? Just once I wish they’d tell us how these annihilated cites get rebuilt.  Maybe they could make a movie and call it, Avengers Reconstruction.  There are also not one but two clunky love stories that ruin the interesting plot lines even further, they try to humanize the characters, but only serve to slow the movie to a crawl.  There is also product placement so obvious that it’s maddening.  None of the Audi cars being showcased got decimated in the midst of cities being leveled. Small wonder.

The acting is ok.  As usual Robert Downey Jr. carries this film, and he should.  He has a real comfort level playing the snarky Stark, and could easily play Stark for the rest of his career, as Hugh Jackman has done with Wolverine. Scarlett Johansson tries very hard to play Black Widow as an emotionless killing machine, but the clunky love story saddles her with drippy romantic lines and wrecks what could have been a very good performance. I don’t like Mark Ruffalo, he plays Bruce Banner as sort of a sad-sack loner. Ruffalo has this dog-that’s been kicked persona that is offputting, I still say Bill Bixby played Bruce Banner better than anyone else has.  I don’t like Chris Hemsworth either, he’s not a very good actor, and he proves it over and over.  Jeremy Renner doesn’t bring much to the film except a few quips and a what –am-I doing- here-attitude.  Chris Evans who’s good in his own Captain America movies doesn’t have much to add here. Elizabeth Olsen, sister of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, does quite a good job as the Scarlet Witch, Aaron Taylor Johnson of Kick Ass fame, is also pretty good as Quicksilver, although I think Evan Peters was better as Quicksilver in The Days of Future Past. Claudia Kim was good as Dr. Helen Cho, Whedon could have done much more with that character and with the actress, but he did not.

Director Joss Whedon keeps the pace going strong except when he tries to integrate romantic elements into the story, then the pace lags.    Whedon tries to overwhelm the viewer with CGI, instead of integrating the special effects within the storyline.  There are extended action sequences that are in severe need of editing, but they go on and on.

Avengers Age of Ultron:  Not The Age of Dull-tron, but could have been much better.

american-hustle

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) runs a dry cleaner’s store in the Bronx.  Irving then branches out into making loans, where he doesn’t loan any money but is guaranteed a non-refundable payment of 5,000 dollars.  Irving also dabbles in selling forged art.  Irving is basically a con man. He meets a woman named Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party and the two all in love with each other.  Sidney adopts an English accent and becomes Lady Edith, and they con more local businessmen of their money.  One day, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) walks in to Irving’s establishment and asks for a loan.  Richie is really an FBI agent, looking to root out local corruption.  He will let Irving and Lady Edith walk if they give him four corruption convictions.  Irving gets Carl Elway (Shea Whigham) convicted, but DiMaso has his eyes on a much bigger target, the mayor of Camden New Jersey, Carmine Polito. (Jeremy Renner)  Richie is planning on a scam to trap Polito using a fake Arab Sheik, Sheik Abdullah (Michael Pena) to provide one million dollars in funding to renovate Atlantic City, using Polito as an intermediary. Richie has a suitcase of money waiting to give Polito as a kickback, but Polito gets squeamish, and it’s up to Irving to close the deal.  Does he succeed?

I like American Hustle, but it’s largely because it does a good job approximating the 1970’s and because of strong performances by Bale, Cooper, and Renner.  For all the good in this movie, I’ve noticed a troubling trend.  Movies are taking scandalous behavior and making it seem frivolous and lighthearted.  ABSCAM was a serious scandal in the late 70’s, many politicians went to jail for bribery, ABSCAM was another example of the dysfunction between government and the governed in the wake of Watergate.  But writer/director David O. Russell chooses to fictionalize ABSCAM, and make it seem like the FBI is running amok and it portrays Polto as a hero.  Russell uses the word entrapment several times in his script .  Frankly, that is editorializing and that is something a fictional movie should never do.  Russell trivialized mental illness in Silver Linings Playbook and that bothered me, now he trivializes political corruption, and that is too much, because now he is dealing with reality and not just a fictional story.  Russell is not the only one who is guilty of this, Martin Scorsese does much the same in the Wolf of Wall Street.

The acting by the male leads is superb.  There are three aspects of the characterization of Irving that made it stand out.  The first is the comb-over, Irving’s comb over becomes a metaphor for the character. Irving goes to great lengths to hide that he’s bald, just like Irving goes to great lengths to hide the fact that he’s a con-man.  In the end both the fact that he’s bald and a con-man become glaringly obvious.  Second is Bale’s weight gain, call it method acting or whatever you want to call it, the weight gain was effective, it helped the viewer forget that this was Christian Bale, and put the focus back on the character.  Third, Bale’s Bronx accent was impeccable, it’s a very easy accent to get wrong, and he nailed it, further adding to the believability of the character.

Bradley Cooper continues his strong string of performances going back to Silver Linings Playbook.  Cooper plays Richie as a megalomaniac, who puts his hair up in curlers to maintain a certain look.  Richie’s hair is also a key to understanding that character.  He’s vain and self-important and has delusions that he can root out corruption on a large scale.  Jeremy Renner plays Carmine sympathetically, a little too sympathetically, the viewer actually believes that Carmine is working for the best interests of his town and his state.  The female leads don’t fare as well.   Amy Adams has trouble switching between an American and British accents, and Jennifer Lawrence is too young to play such a mature and worldly character.  Lawrence also has trouble with the New York accent.

The direction is nothing outstanding, there are no iconic scenes or quick edits, but the pacing is good, the two hours and 18 minutes goes by quickly.

America Hustle: Bale et al. do the hustle in the 1970’s.

avengers

 

Loki, (Tom Hiddleston) Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) stepbrother is back on earth to take the tesseract back from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who is planning to build an arsenal of weapons with the ancient Asgardian power source.  Loki wants the tesseract to summon an Asgardian army and rule the Earth.  Loki takes the tesseract, quite easily from Fury, and turns Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) aka Hawkeye, into a mindless slave, with the aid of his Asgardian scepter.  Loki still needs a power source to open up a portal to let the soldiers down to earth, he finds the power source on top of the Stark building, and opens up the portal, and the soldiers rain down on New York City like the plague.  Can Nick Fury bring together the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to ward off the invasion of extraterrestrial soldiers?  Will Hawkeye join the fight for the good guys?

I really wanted to like this movie. I waited for months to get this dvd on rent, I was angry that I missed such a highly rated movie in the theater.  It was rated highly on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, and I really liked The two Iron Man movies, and Captain America, even though I didn’t like Thor at all, I was still looking forward to this movie.  Well the fanboys must be rating movies on these websites, because this movie stunk.  It stunk to high heaven. It is everything I hate about Hollywood, pure Hollywoord excess.  Car chases for the sake of car chases, explosions for the sake of explosions, mindless violence, no plot, just a huge mess, like New York City after Loki is done with it.

None of the actors had any presence besides Downey Jr. He was having fun. The rest are just non-existent.  Hemsworth is just annoying.  Ruffalo plays the same sad sack/wimp he always plays. There’s a detachment he puts in all his characters that drives me crazy.  Jeremy Renner is trying too hard to be an action hero, he should stop trying so hard, and just play it understate like he did in the Hurt Locker.  Chris Evans has nothing to do except be Mr. Gee Whiz 1950’s guy, and that gets old fast.  Scarlett Johannsson  looks bored, this is just a paycheck for her.  Gwyneth Paltrow continues to embarrass herself, what is she?  A secretary?  A nagging girlfriend?  Either way, it’s insulting.  Samuel L. Jackson is usually interesting, but even he was dull here, he’s usually a wildcard, but in this movie he seemed constrained.

For all of this I blame Joss Whedon.  He takes credit for writing and directing this drivel.  I like Joss Whedon, he did revolutionary work in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the tv show, and Cabin in the Woods had a nice twist, but the Avengers could have been written by a 12 year old with a lobotomy.  Really, rather than getting a paycheck Whedon should go into the Witness Protection Program.  Chris Nolan ruined superhero movies for me, the Avengers seems pedantic by comparison to any of Nolan’s Batman trilogy. The bad news is there probably will be one or two more Avengers movies.

The Avengers:  Green with envy? No.

the-hurt-locker

 

Sergeant Matt Thompson is (Pierce) diffusing an IED in Najaf Iraq, he is part of the Elite Bravo company that is sent to disconnect the homemade explosive devices, before they go off. On this day, Thompson is not so lucky, he is blown up before Specialist Owen Eldridge (Geraghty) can shoot the bomb maker. Thompson’s replacement is Staff Sergeant William James (Renner) James listens to heavy metal and is turned on by the danger of diffusing IED’s just as much as his predecessor if not more.  This motley crew is led by Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), but nobody listens to Sanborn much, least of all James.  He seems to be intent on leading his troops to a certain death.

James is not all macho man laughing while cheating death, he has a soft side too.  He buys dvd’s from an Iraqi boy nicknamed Beckham, and calls his wife, although he is too broken up to talk to her.  Eldridge has his own issues, he feels responsible for the death of Sergeant Thompson, so much so that he needs a psychiatrist, Sergeant John Cambridge (Christian Camargo) Eldridge goads Cambridge to get away from the base and goes out on a mission with him.  Do any of the three members of Bravo Company survive their one year rotation in Iraq?

This is a riveting, gritty movie.  Never once did I feel like I was watching a movie.  This is one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen, and surely the best Iraq war movie I’ve seen. Maybe it was because of the documentary feel of the movie.  Credit goes to director Kathryn Bigelow for the feel of this movie, she never lets go of the intensity.  The heroes go from one dangerous situation to another and another and another.  There is not a second to breathe.  Each character is different, in a likable way; Eldridge is a kid, who is being pushed over the edge mentally by the daily stress of life and death.  He is vulnerable in search of someone to mother him.  James is a devil may care type, but really enjoys his life, and is more sensitive than he would appear.  Sanborn is a quiet leader, who leads by doing.  Credit goes to the actors, who looked and acted like real soldiers.  The fact that the cast was largely unknown added to the realism.

The Hurt Locker.  Help yourself to a great war movie.