Friday, January 29, 2016

I Saw This!! Action Heroes

I Saw This (double exclamation point) is our all-too regular feature wherein Graig or David attempt to write about a bunch of movies they watched some time ago and meant to write about but just never got around to doing so. Now they they have to strain to say anything meaningful lest they just not say anything at all. And they can't do that, can they?

It often contains that opening paragraph, edited so slightly that you didn't notice. OK, you didn't care, but you also didn't notice.

Ant-Man, 2015, Peyton Reed (Bring It On) -- download
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, 2015, Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) -- download
The Man from U.N.C.L.E., 2015, Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Swept Away) -- download
Hitman: Agent 47, 2015, Aleksander Bach -- download

Dash colon dash dot dot dot dot dot colon. Footnote for making action movies -- add in a punctuation mark, so your audience knows you are serious.

I am kind of ashamed to say I didn't see Ant-Man in the theatre; I have been onboard with seeing all the Marvel movies first run. But this one crept by me, escaping from the theatres just as I was ready to see it. Insert usual rant about how I just don't get out as much. Insert further rant about my visual requirements now buggering up my enjoyment of cinematic visual spectacles. Pun intended.

The only black mark against this movie is that it was taken away from Edgar Wright. Despite him getting writing credits and everyone saying the skeleton of the movie is still his, I still wish I had seen his movie and not the only other major movie done by the guy who did a (still, rather funny) cheerleading movie. Yeah, dis. Nobody is really talking about why he is gone but its rather disheartening since he was working on the tale since 2006. Marvel has a vision blah blah blah, Disney controls things bleah bleah bleah. Our loss.

And yet, I still rather enjoyed the funky, funny film. Of course, the toy train scene is great, if a little absurdist, but for me the comedic weight came from Michael Pena and the supporting crew of robbers. As Wright had wanted the movie to be a heist movie, I now in hindsight even more wished he had had the chance. Oh the heist is there, but the movie is dominated by the insertion of the SHIELD and Hydra conflict. I enjoyed watching, and a rewatch is due, but the strongest memories of the movie, the most fun bits are just around Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his buddies.

MI5 is how these movies are now dubbed. Minus colon dash. It wasn't that long ago since I saw the movie but whoosh, it has flown from the coop. I have no idea what the plot was, other than the stuff embedded into my head by the trailers. So, the MI crew are being framed for ... bad behaviour? Don't all extra special spy teams cause inordinate amounts of collateral damage? But is the whole Doctor Who thing --- do they cause it, or are they just there when it goes down? Either way, they are fired, disgraced and once again Ethan Hunt is on the run. Wasn't he on the run in the previous movie? Don't remember that plot either.

What I do remember is how much fun Simon Pegg's character is. He is back working for the CIA but seems to spend much of his time playing video games and helping out Ethan from behind the scenes. Were the other members of the  team even in the movie? I don't remember. And there is Tom Cruise on the side of a plane -- meh, I just shot down fighter jets while standing on top of the same model of plane, in Just Cause 3. And there is Tom Cruise in a centrifuge. And a British undercover agent.

There is something that needs to be said for these kind of action movies. I can understand the popcorn mentality of watch it, burp it, forget about it. But that is about letting yourself move onto the next one, not actually forgetting any plot elements of it! A spy thriller should have a tightly invested plot that is engaging as well as fun to interact with. It shouldn't be so fragile as to fall apart in your memory almost immediately.

Taking an entirely different tactic on the spy thriller, along comes Guy Ritchie in a not very Ritchie, yet familiar feeling, take on the 60s TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  By not very Ritchie, I mean we are out of the gutter of London. Some of the most fun bits in his previous signature films have been the street characters and all their disparate accents. But here, we have dashing rogues in nice suits in fancy locations.

Henry Cavill (Man of Steel) is Napolean Solo, the best spy name ever, outside of my James Bond RPG character -- Smythe Corona. Armie Hammer is his partner/nemesis Illya Kuryakin, in a thoroughly engaging role. Even if the plot was a little light on engaging (bad guys, nukes, beautiful foils, etc.), Armie and Vikander (oh yeah, they two spies are babysitting Alicia Vikander) really dove into their roles. Meanwhile, I was amused how every time I saw Cavill on the screen, I was mildly shocked it wasn't the other Superman Brandon Routh, whom Cavill seemed to be channeling. Routh just looks good in a suit while Cavill seemed squeezed in.

So, three block busters and a tired resurrection of a video game franchise! Hitman: Agent 47 is the re-visioning of the 2007 Xavier Gens / Timothy Olyphant movie. Both are related to the Hitman video game franchise from.. a while ago. The first wasn't very good but was very Hollywood. The second is very, what I call "European Inflight Movie" genre. I think Uwe Boll popularized the idea of cheaply made, often set in Europe/Asia action movies where everyone speaks English. They aren't expect to make cinema money but will kill it in the after market.

This was much much better than Boll movie, but was definitely of straight-to quality. An Agent is a ruthless killing machine bred by a gene splicing scientist to be the perfect killers for hire. Agent 47 breaks from the ranks to stop a ruthless Singapore company from attaining the knowledge to create their own Agents. They are seeking the daughter of the lead researcher and its a race, kill-fest to get her.

Its not a terrible movie, and it has some decent effects. But watch, yawn, go to bed and forget. I was in the mood for exactly that, so it fit the bill. I could play games on my phone when I was bored.