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Con Air – Review

17 Oct

When I think of the first R-rated movies I ever saw, my mind goes to the same two. The first that comes to mind is Gladiator and the second is Con Air. Two very different movies, yet they both have a special spot in the heart of this overly sentimental film geek. I actually haven’t seen Con Air in a really long time, so I had this fear that it would be nowhere near as great as I remember it being. So, I put it on and hoped for the best. What I got isn’t nearly as spectacular as I remembered it being, but it’s certainly an acceptable and memorable action fest that could’ve used a few more brain cells amongst other things.

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Cameron Poe (Nicolas Cage) has just finished serving his country as an Army Ranger and is celebrating his return with his wife, Tricia (Monica Potter). That night, Poe gets into a fight with a couple of bar patrons and accidentally kills one of them in self defense. Because of his extensive military training, he is deemed a human weapon and sentenced to 8 years in prison for manslaughter. After quietly serving his time in prison, he’s finally paroled and ready to be reunited with his wife and his daughter whom he has never met. Poe, along with some other inmates getting transferred board the transport plane, which doesn’t get too far until it is high jacked by the psychotic criminal Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich) and his crew. With U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) fighting on the ground to get the plane back, Poe is left to his own devices on the plane to stop Cyrus from using the plane to gain his own freedom, while also staying alive long enough to get home and see his family.

Like I said, I have very fond memories of watching this movie when I was younger, and while it still has some elements of being a guilty pleasure, I’ve noticed a lot of weird things that I really dislike about it. Before we get to them, I’d like to something I really like about the movie. The cast of Con Air is fantastic. Other than the names I’ve already mentioned there’s also Danny Trejo, Dave Chapelle, Colm Meaney, Ving Rhames, and Steve Buscemi. All of these actors do a fine job in their roles, with Buscemi bringing a really creepy performance as a Jeffrey Dahmer like serial killer that has disturbed me ever since I first saw this movie. The real scene stealer, though, is John Malkovich as Cyrus. Cyrus the Virus has remained one of my favorite screen villains, and this viewing of the movie still holds that opinion to be true. He just oozes with over the top villainy, and it’s so easy and fun to hate this character. I honestly feel like Malkovich is the only person that could’ve played this role, which is odd because it feels so out of place from what he usually does.

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So while the majority of the cast is really fantastic, there are parts of this movie that are so distractingly terrible, they pull me out of the movie and makes me think twice about what I’m watching. For one thing, I can’t get into Nicolas Cage’s character even though he’s the hero of the movie. There are scenes of his ridiculous long hair blowing in the wind and some really awful lines of dialogue that are so bad, it almost isn’t even funny. But I really can’t totally fault Nicolas Cage for this. Despite what many people think, Cage is a fine actor and has proven so in the past. Con Air isn’t quite a shining point in his filmography. I’d much rather blame the writers for most of the cringe inducing moments. Let’s just say that Con Air is one of those movies that you can only show to the closest of friends in order to save yourself massive amounts of embarrassment, solely because of all the awkwardness and corny dialogue.

Honestly, that one paragraph doesn’t really do justice to the amount of negativity that I would have towards this movie if it wasn’t for some really badass action sequences. The fact that a lot of this movie takes place on a plane is enough for plenty of set pieces, but there’s great sequences on the ground as well. Add in an element of time sensitivity, and you got yourself some suspense filled and memorable action scenes. There’s plenty of explosions and gunplay, but what really makes these parts so great are the maniacal villains and their psychopathic nature. There’s plenty of stand out scenes, and it’s funny to say that Con Air was nominated for an Academy Award for its sound design. It’s an example of really well constructed moments of mayhem, and these parts save the movie from being a complete flop.

The bottom line is that Con Air didn’t hold up quite as well as it did when I was a kid. I remember all of the characters and the action to their full potential, but I simply didn’t realize how awful some of the writing was. Now that I have more experience with film and how real people talk in real life, I know awful writing when I hear it, and this film is filled with it. As an action movie, it’s memorable for many different reasons, and it’s arguably a good escape from the real world. Objectively, however, it’s got so much going against it that the whole experience can feel kind of awkward.

Final Grade: C+

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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation – Review

11 Aug

It’s hard to believe that the Mission: Impossible film series has been going on since 1996. While the series has had its ups and downs, and by downs I mean Mission: Impossible II, it has remained pretty consistent in how entertaining it is. For quite a while now, my favorite film in the series was J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III, but something has happened in the past week that has changed that. If you haven’t guessed by now, that something was me seeing Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, which I can say without a doubt is the best entry in the entire series.

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After the events of Ghost Protocol, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team have dedicated themselves to finding and bringing down a mysterious shadow terrorist group called the Syndicate. Unfortunately for them, CIA director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) has been working to shut down the Impossible Missions Force and move all of its tech and people over to the CIA. When he succeeds, Ethan goes on the run, determined to still find and bring down the Syndicate. When he is saved by a supposed Syndicate agent, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), Hunt begins to realize that others are also trying to bring down the organization and believes Faust to be a member of MI6. With the help of his old team, including Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), and Luther Stickall (Ving Rhames), and still on the run from the CIA, the team engages in what they do best, facing the impossible to bring down evil.

I’m just gonna start out by saying that Tom Cruise is the man. He always has been, and we’re all thinking it, but some people are just too afraid to admit the love they have for this guy and his dedication to a project. Remember how blown away we all were in Ghost Protocol when it was revealed that Cruise actually did climb the side of Dubai Tower? Now he outdoes himself once again by getting strapped onto the side of the plane and riding it up thousands of feet in the air. Again, the dedication this man has is unbelievable. I know he isn’t the most iconic action star out there like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, but honestly, Cruise does things no one else will and that puts him at the head of the pack.

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Another thing Rogue Nation has going for it is the return of Ethan’s IMF team that were introduced briefly in the third film and really given character in the fourth. All of the actors have great chemistry and work very well with one another, and you can actually see the character growth that happened between them in between the movies. Rebecca Ferguson is a more than welcome addition, and Sean Harris as the villainous head of the Syndicate is one of the best villains the Mission: Impossible series has to offer. One of the reasons I liked the third film so much was because Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as the villain. I love a good villain and Sean Harris really brings his best. His character is just downright cold.

What’s a Mission: Impossible movie without good suspense? Remember when Hunt is dangling from the ceiling in a pressure and heat sensitive room to hack into a computer before the employee comes back? That was just the start of it. There were parts in Rogue Nation where things got so intense that you could hear audible reactions of people in the theater. That’s always a sign of a great movie, when it can get a response like that. One memorable scene in particular has Ethan Hunt holding his breath for three minutes to shut down an underwater security mainframe. If that scene doesn’t make you feel like you’re about to have an accident, I don’t know what will.

The writer and director of this film, Christopher McQuarrie, has shown that he has serious skills in the action genre already with films like Edge of Tomorrow (as the writer) and Jack Reacher, but remember he’s also the guy that wrote The Usual Suspects. Now his streak of great films continues with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. Of course it was a team effort, and it’s clear that the entire cast and crew were determined to make this movie as great as it could be. The are countless good parts of the movie, a lot of great parts, but there are a few truly exceptional scenes that makes this film more than just your average summer action film. Much more.