Thursday, December 07, 2006

Catching Up

The thing about blogging is that in some ways it is easier to do it frequently than it is to do it infrequently. When you're posting every day or two, any little thought is fair game for a post. When you go two weeks between posts, you start to think, gee, if I'm going to post after all this time, I'd better have something to say.

This is, of course, a fallacy. Blogging has never been about having something to say.

I'm finally blogging now because...

I am sick. In fact, I had to take a sick day and stay home from work, which sucks when you like your job. It seems I have the flu. I'm a bit feverish, I have no appetite even though my stomach aches, and I have no energy. I wasn't able to put the pieces together myself, even as I was struggling to get through work yesterday. I haven't had the flu in ages. I'm used to the kind of sick where I'm stuffy and coughing, not this weird fever and weakness. But according to Stephanie, all that equals the flu.

Don't forget:

Re-Animated airs tomorrow (Friday) at 8 PM on Cartoon Network. And, apparently, again and again throughout December, so you really have no excuse not to see it eventually. Read about it here. Watch a new promo below:

Casino Royale

Whatever Paul Haggis brought to the script, it didn't detract from the movie, which was excellent. The parkour chase, as Tom mentioned, was thrilling, and Bond's romance with Vesper was convincingly written and well-played. As many have mentioned, it is perhaps a bit on the long side, but aside from having to duck out to the bathroom mid-movie, I didn't have a problem with it. Despite the fact that the shape of the story is a bit unexpected, you never feel like you are dealing with false endings, as there are always loose ends you realize need further tying up. It does get a bit confusing going into the third act, but I think that might be intentional, and I'm pretty sure I had it all sorted out by the end. Casino Royale lived up to its amazing trailer, and that is no small feat.

Mission: Impossible III

Speaking of movies that get confusing, I like to think I'm pretty good at following plot twists, but there were moments in M:I:iii (recently viewed on DVD) where I was faced with the unfamiliar sensation of being utterly lost. Of course, like Bond movies, the Mission: Impossible movies deal with plot twists about shifting loyalties, but in the M:I series you get the distinct feeling that the movie is never playing fair with you.

The positives: The movie looks great--the locations and cinematography are flawless, the action scenes are spectacular and incorporate the best kind of visual effects: seamless and unnoticeable. There are so many amazing composite shots that I never even thought were faked until watching the featurette. Michelle Monaghan, from Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, is lovely and the script, with uncharacteristic generosity, even allows her a big hero moment rather than giving it to Tom Cruise. Keri Russell also turns in some cool badass action chick moments in her brief appearance, and fellow hapa Maggie Q gets to look hot in a crazy dress and drive a Lamborghini. Also, whatever you may think about Tom Cruise, you can't deny that he's a hard worker who throws himself into his work with tireless--dare I say crazed?--ferocity. It shows in his physicality, his commitment to stunt work, and his intense performance.

On the other hand, he never lets up. Unlike Bond, Cruise portrays Ethan Hunt without a trace of humor. Moments that would be classic with a lighter touch collapse under his self-seriousness. At one point, while under fire, ally Keri Russell reports that she is out of ammo and asks if Cruise has any left. He replies that he has plenty, pops out and kills the gunman with the single remaining shot in his machine gun, then quips, "Now I'm out." It's a great action hero moment, but Cruise won't play the absurd one liner for the laugh that it deserves.

After the boring cakewalk that Ethan Hunt enjoyed in M:I-2, it's nice to see that Abrams and Cruise have left some room for Hunt to be fallible. He occasionally slips up and makes mistakes that cause more trouble for him, and it humanizes the character somewhat. Unfortunately, he still lacks any real flaws or quirks to make him interesting, and as such, still feels like nothing more than a vehicle for Tom Cruise to look amazing. Yes, Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt is fit. Yes, Hunt can sprint for miles through a Chinese village, and yes, Cruise can perform it all himself in a single extended take. But shouldn't he at least make it appear difficult, for drama's sake? The scene is impressive, but mainly because we're watching it going, wow, Tom Cruise really is in great shape.

Sure, James Bond and Indiana Jones don't exactly have incredible character arcs (or at least, Bond didn't before Casino Royale, and even there it's a subtle change), but they do have personalities. Six different actors have played Bond. If another actor were to play Ethan Hunt, what would be left? All he is is Tom Cruise. And as a result, M:I:iii, despite being way more enjoyable and entertaining than M:I-2, still feels like a love letter from Cruise to himself.

Do we really need to see, at the engagement party at the beginning, a group of women fawning over Ethan Hunt with comments like, "I'd marry him!" after he recites some boring facts about traffic? We get it, he's a catch. He's Tom Cruise, it goes without saying--but when you do say it, you cross into doth-protest-too-much territory.

Not to mention, the movie's subtext invites you to read the movie's romance as an allegory for Cruise's relationship with Katie Holmes, and life as a spy as a metaphor for the celebrity lifestyle, particularly at one point when Ving Rhames warns Cruise about the inevitably short lifespan of IMF agent romances. The moral of the story seems to be that even celebrity love can prevail if it's as true as the kind between Tom and Katie--but then maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Finally, on a non-Cruise-related note, it's enough with the IMF moles already. It's been said before, but would these people even have anything to do if their own people weren't constantly turning into villains?


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