What Summer at the Movies Taught AEOS

This past summer passed by so quickly, I hardly saw as many movies at the theater as I would have liked. I did, however, manage to cram a state move, job change, wedding, and bridesmaid duty into the summer, so I tried not to skimp half-heartedly.

A few weeks ago, I read a simple, yet beautiful post by Ryan at The Matinee. Now that autumn has reared its head and summer has ceased, Ryan used one line per movie he saw over the summer months to sum up lessons the movies taught him. I decided to follow suit, so here are what the movies of summer 2014 taught AEOS:

I learned that a reboot with better lead actors doesn’t make it better than the original franchise.

I learned that even Seth Rogen can get away with playing the “responsible” character.

I learned that a movie can deliver on all of its promises when Bryan Singer is at the helm.

I learned that there’s no shame in crying at the theater when I’ve witnessed an actress’s best performance yet.

I learned that while poor marketing can prevent people from attending, a great movie will still perform well from good word-of-mouth.

I learned that funny sequels do exist, but I especially appreciate that they realize it’s time to stop making sequels.

I learned that forcing robot machines to take a backseat to inconsequential and uninteresting humans in a movie about robot machines doesn’t work.

I learned that getting lost in a great movie is the best possible feeling a summer day at the movies can bring.

I learned that heart can be found in the most unlikely of movies.

I learned that a plot works well only when you have good writing to back it up.

I learned that a movie does exist where no one except Chris Pratt should play the lead role.

I learned that Harry and Sally weren’t the only ones trying to figure out this whole opposite sex friends thing, and making a charming movie about it for this generation is certainly worth it.

I learned that sometimes stupid comedies shouldn’t be anything more than stupid comedies. And that’s okay.

I learned that even the best of intentions to adapt a novel to film can leave you disappointed and wanting.

[All images were found via Google Images.]

It’s your turn now. What did summer at the movies teach you? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

Advertisements

AEOS Double Review: Prometheus and Rock of Ages

I suppose I couldn’t pick two more different movies to be reviewing together, but having seen both this past weekend and having each fresh in my mind, I decided to double up on this review.

Prometheus

Well, I think I’ll always be catching up on movies. I have never seen any of the Alien films until last Friday, when my best friend sat me down and said, “You have to at least see the first Alien before seeing Prometheus.” So we did just that — and I was amazed at how cool a sci-fi film could be made, even in the late 1970s. Sigourney Weaver was the sole survivor and hero of the film. I was a big fan.

So going into Prometheus, I felt slightly more prepared and that much more excited to be able to make comparisons or relate similar ideas and characters if need be. For one, let me just say that I was a big fan of the cast of Prometheus. Both Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace have been making names for themselves in the U.S., especially within the past couple years. Charlize Theron is still a pro at playing a cold character, and the others worked out their roles as any other nonessential supporting characters would.

Ridley Scott also brought us stunning visuals, which comes as no surprise to anyone who even caught a preview of the film. It really was a dazzling film to view on the big screen, especially the scenes within the caves.

There’s been a lot of hubbub and analyzing over all the open-endedness of the film. My personal take is that the questions were intentionally left open in order for audiences to discuss, arrive at their own conclusions, or just appreciate the complex beauty of the film and take it for what it is–pure science fiction at its core. Many have made comparisons to that of Tree of Life, or people give their own take from an atheistic or Christian perspective.

Yes, I’m a Christian, but I view the film from a fictional perspective. Perhaps if I had seen the other Alien films and revisit Prometheus a time or two, and read various articles on the film, I would give my own deeper explanation for my own lack of explanation and analyzation of the film. Sorry for anyone I might disappoint. The biggest movie comparison for me was Inception. Do I have your attention now? 🙂

The only comparison I make of the two films is that Inception also closes with an ending that is a question: did the top fall over, did it not? Was Cobb still dreaming?

In Prometheus, I’m thinking, did Shaw find her answers? I suppose she still chooses to believe in God when she puts the cross necklace back on, but she’s still searching. Will she find the answers she’s looking for? Will she survive long enough to find the answers? Are there even answers for her to find, given her limits as a human being?

The answer to all those questions is I don’t know. A gloriously blissful ignorant I DON’T KNOW. And I enjoy not knowing, because I think that’s the point of the open-ended questions that close the films. It’s an intentional choice on the end of the writers/directors to let the audience decide and arrive at their own conclusions.

Rock of Ages

On the complete other end of the movie genre spectrum is a little musical called the Rock of Ages. From many of the reviews I’ve read (and agree with), Rock of Ages can be summed up as a string of awesome ’80s music videos featuring some crazy big stars, from Tom Cruise and Catherine Zeta-Jones to Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand and newcomer Diego Boneta.

It was an average film at best. My biggest complaint is that I think Julianne Hough, who nailed her role, should stick to dancing instead of singing. This will sound petty to people who are less OCD than I am, but when you make a musical and the main role is sung by someone who’s voice is not only recognizable as highly edited throughout the film, but who clearly doesn’t possess the vocal range necessary to sing, and oftentimes, lead many of the huge vocal numbers, it’s frustrating as a viewer.

That being said, newbie Diego Boneta rocked the music and the role, and Tom Cruise was easily the most entertaining and best part of Rock of Ages. Some scenes with him are beyond funny, and make the film worth rental price just to watch him act like a rock star. I almost wish Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand would have had larger roles, because they were hilarious and enjoyable to watch interacting as well.

The problem with Adam Shankman’s latest musical wasn’t the casting or the acting, and certainly not the music selection, but the terrible screenplay. No doubt the story works better on stage than onscreen. I recently saw Jersey Boys at Broadway in Chicago, and I loved it. But I couldn’t imagine seeing a screen version of it turn out well. I assume it’s the same concept for stories like Rock of Ages.

What did you think of Prometheus? I’m open for discussion, so throw yourself out there if you have an opinion. Did you see Rock of Ages? Did you did the film, or were underwhelmed like me? Share your thoughts below!

Five Memorable Courtroom Scenes

I feel like I should be writing a “Phenomenal 5” post for Keith of Keith and the Movies, who is currently keeping it real in none other than Paris, France right now. However, inspiration for this post spurned from finally getting around to a little movie called To Kill a Mockingbird. How I have not seen it until now comes as a great surprise to me too. But what’s the line? Oh, right, “better late than never.”

Placed in no purposeful order, here are five memorable courtroom scenes in movies.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The courtroom scene in To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most intense and emotional scenes in the film. We hear statements from all the witnesses, and Brock Peters, who plays Tom Robinson, gives a heartfelt, honest account of what really happened. Following all the witness accounts, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) challenges the jury to do the right thing, concluding his speech with the famous words, “In the name of GOD, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom Robinson.”

Legally Blonde

This list would not be complete without including Legally Blonde. Dressed head to toe in her theme color, Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) takes on the role of lawyer and solves a case that a girl cut only from the cloth of an Elle Woods type would know. Too bad they went ahead and made a sequel. That was a disaster waiting to happen. And that isn’t me being biased because I’m a brunette, k?

Miracle on 34th Street

What’s more memorable than a lawyer arguing the realness of Santa Clause in court? I actually really enjoyed both the original 1947 film as well as the 1994 remake. You can’t help but feel a little warm and giddy inside when men start carrying all the mail addressed to Santa into the courthouse, or not crack up a little when the opposing lawyer’s son is used to support the existence of good ‘ol Saint Nick.

A Few Good Men

The line “You can’t handle the truth” is one of the most well-known lines to come from a film, delivered by a deliciously slimy and arrogant Jack Nicholson. The back and forth between Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) engrosses viewers as Kaffee defends innocent men on trial who were following orders. A Few Good Men is one of my favorite Tom Cruise films, and I believe it makes up some of his best work.

Liar Liar

If you’ve seen Liar Liar, it’s practically impossible to forget the courtroom scene from the movie. Fletcher Reed (Jim Carrey) is forced to tell the truth, and well, being a lawyer . . . that doesn’t make easy for your job, especially someone who lies as often as he does. The physical comedy Carrey is able to produce is incomparable, and while over the top, is hilarious and very much a trademark of Carrey’s acting.

What are your favorite courtroom scenes? Which ones are the most memorable to you, and why?

Week of Favorites: Actors

The great thing about film is that there are so many aspects to appreciate, favoring specific tracks on soundtracks to cinematographers to performances to directors. Another great part about film is that it’s always evolving, introducing new actors, rehashing old story plots, improving technology. There are always new and old films to watch and rewatch, new introductions to characters to be made, new soundtracks worth listening to, and so on.

After a stroke of writers’ block, I decided to get back to the basics and post my “Favorite Five” of various film categories each day this week, today starting with my five current favorite actors. While over time (and with more films to view), I’m sure my favorites will change over time, but for now, these are my five six favorites. Stay tuned for favorite actresses, films, and other favorite lists coming up this week.

6. James Franco

I’m of the belief that James Franco will become one of the best actors of the younger generations. He’s still only in his 30s, but he already has a rocking resume that boasts plenty of potential. He’s done everything successfully, from the big screen to the small screen to soaps to hosting the Oscars, and yet he pulls it all off with incredible charisma. I really enjoyed him playing the sharp, confused Harry Osborne in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, although I was especially blown away by his Oscar performance in 127 Hours. I still laugh at him in Never Been Kissed, watching the then-unfamous, unrecognized Franco spout off a couple forgettable one-liners in the background. Who would have figured him to have embodied James Dean only two years later? There’s loads more of positive things I could say about him, so I would direct you to my spotlight post on him here.

5. Tom Cruise

Coming in at my number 5 slot is none other than Tom Cruise. He may not be the most popular person in real life, but on screen, he’s one of my favorites. I tend to lean more toward his 90s or early 2000s films, such as A Few Good MenVanilla Sky, and my favorite of his, Jerry McGuire. He also established himself through the Mission Impossible franchise, his latest film hitting theaters only in December of last year. He’s versatile enough to be playing action hero or dramatic lead, and he brings an intensity to each role that he plays. I found him unusually funny in Interview with the Vampire, easily outdoing his popular co-star Brad Pitt. Although Risky Business wasn’t my favorite film, I still appreciated Cruise’s hilarious performance back when he was younger. The guy ceases to age physically, as Richard Roeper tweeted during the Oscars that Cruise has aged at least 3 years in the past 30.

4. Matt Damon

Matt Damon is another hard hitter, although he’s often overlooked for George Clooney or Brad Pitt. While both the latter are good actors in their own ways, there’s this drama and insight that I see more in Damon. He embodied a newer, more interesting, James Bond-like character as Jason Bourne in the Bourne series, but he really won me over with his stunning and moving performance in Good Will Hunting. He’s transitioned from action star to more fatherly roles in his more recent films, and he balances them well. He works well as both a supporting and leading man in film, and I’m excited to see what else he has up his sleeve.

3. Will Smith

Part of me leans toward Smith because I grew up watching Fresh Prince and I dug his humor. He lights up the screen in whatever film he’s in. Smith either fights off the bad guys or moves you to tears. He also does a nice job of staying out of the limelight despite being married to an incredible actress and raising two kids that are turning in careers of their own. Since 2005, Smith has acted as producer for all of the films he’s collaborated with. My favorite films of his are currently Hitch and The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith is one of the few actors who seem to hold a strong grip on comedy, action, and drama films, making him one of the more flexible actors in Hollywood today. I don’t care much for the Men in Black franchise, but I look forward to him taking on newer projects in the future.

2. Jim Carrey

One of my favorite actors of all time is Jim Carrey. He tends to play character actors in most of humorous roles, but he’s also created new funny guys such as Bruce Almighty. Carrey is probably known best for his funniest films: Liar Liar, Dumb and Dumber, or The Cable Guy. It’s often said that comedic actors struggle to cross over into drama; that may be true, but Carrey would be an exception. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Truman Show to The Majestic to The Number 23, Carrey could be considered a dramatic actor every bit as much of a comedic one. He’s turned in multiple performances that make you question how someone can so effectively walk the line between comedy and drama and come out as successful as he has on both ends.

1. Tom Hanks

When I was thinking through some of my favorite actors, Tom Hanks was the first to come to mind. I grew up watching him in Big and Turner and Hooch and Sleepless in Seattle, and I loved how he was really the everyman in his films. I’ve always found Hanks to be a relatable guy in most of the roles he embodied, and that’s what always attracted me to his films. He’s won two Oscars and I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t through with winning big awards yet. He’s starred in some of the most memorable films, from Forrest Gump to The Green Mile to Philadelphia to one of my favorite films of his, Saving Private Ryan. He seems to have done a little bit of everything, from voicing the iconic animated character Woody in the incredibly successful Pixar franchise Toy Story, to working with CGI animation in The Polar Express, to bringing The Da Vinci Code books to life, to playing a man stuck in an airport in The Terminal. Hanks is one of those actors who will do most anything, even gaining a significant amount of weight, acting against himself, and talking to a volleyball in my favorite film of his, Cast Away.

Who are your favorite actors? What makes them so good to you? Who holds your top spot?

Trailer Friday – Rock of Ages

For those of you who saw Game of Shadows in theaters last month, probably caught this first Rock of Ages trailer released. Due to open early this summer, Rock of Ages features an A-list cast from Footloose survivor Julianne Hough, to Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Chicago‘s Catherine Zeta-Jones, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, and . . . Tom Cruise?

Musically-inclined director Adam Shankman, brushing up after his successful remake (2007) of Broadway musical Hairspray (2002), which was actually based off the 1988 film, will be producing and directing this musically-based film set in the 1980s rock ‘n roll era.

Up and newcomer Diego Boneta will be starring in the film next to Hough. Born in Mexico City, twenty-one-year old Boneta’s list of credits starts at Mexican soap opera Rebelde and carries through a recurring role on the ABC family teen drama, Pretty Little Liars and a guest role on 90210. Rock of Ages will bring his face and name into the Hollywood spotlight for the first time. Shankman even compared the young singer to Zac Efron in Hairspray and Channing Tatum in the first Step Up (2006).

The music alone is reason to go see this film, with it featuring Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Foreigner, Journey, Poison, and Twisted Sister. The trailer offers just a taste of it with what appears to be a singing battle of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It” serving as trailer music, with Zeta-Jones on one side and Brand on the other.

Although I haven’t seen the original Rock of Ages anywhere, I did learn that Zeta-Jones’s role was originally made for Shankman’s movie version. As for Cruise, well, with him plugging in “5 hour practice sessions” and his voice being Shankman-deemed “fantastic,” I hope we’ll all be in for a treat come June this year. Even if you don’t like musicals, I’d recommend going just to see Cruise play Stacee Jaxx. He looks hysterical.

Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!

AEOS Review: Mission Impossible 4–An Impossible Feat Made Possible?

I was obviously going to play off the word impossible or possible as much as possible, because I have to hand it to director Brad Bird–if there were a mission to edge as close to the idea of being “impossible,” Ghost Protocol was it. In fact, Ghost Protocol was so good, that it holds the reigning title of best movie I have seen this month. And that is a high achievement, given that it is the month of December and some of the best movies are coming out right now.

A failed mission has just transpired. Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux) shoots an IMF agent who has just attained the sought after launch codes for Russian nuclear missiles in order to deliver them to the primary villain of the story, Cobalt, who just so happens to be a nuclear extremist. Cut to Ethan Hunt sitting in a Russian prison, bouncing a rock off the opposite wall from himself. We don’t see his face or even realize it’s Hunt at first. We’re focused on the two agents trying to break him out of prison: Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and a familiar face, now field Agent Benjamin Dunn (Simon Pegg).

There’s a prison break, and an all too familiar tune starts to ring in the background . . . oh yeah, we’re watching a Mission Impossible film. Throughout the remainder of the film, we hear it on occasion, and when we do, we welcome it because it isn’t overplayed and it adds just the needed rhythm for the accompanying scenes.

And so begins the fourth installment of Mission Impossible. Hunt concludes that it must have been necessary to break him out, because otherwise he’d still be in prison. The mission is to gather files located in the Moscow Kremlin in order to find and identify Cobalt. Several missteps take place. Security is somehow alerted of their presence in the Kremlin, and the team is forced to run when the Kremlin blows up. A ghost protocol is sanctioned by the Secretary, who is no sooner killed, leaving Hunt and the secretary’s analyst, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to join up with the rest of the team and work without any outside help, having to accept blame and being deemed terrorists for the bombing of the Kremlin.

I won’t summarize the rest for you, given that the plot is fairly complicated. But there are several things to highlight, such as the intense scene where Tom Cruise is scaling the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, located in Dubai. There are a few mishaps along that way that force him to get creative in getting in and out of the building, not leaving much time to consider his own survival. Roger Ebert posted the videos of Tom Cruise actually climbing up the building, and running around and down it, and jumping across the outside of the Burj Khalifa in his journal. Here’s one of those videos:

This movie pushes the envelope more than any of the previous three have dared. Every stake is high and gets higher, the tension closes in past the last possible second, and at some points, it’s almost painful to look to see if Ethan Hunt has survived the next problem to come his way. There’s a great supporting cast, with a stand-out performance for Jeremy Renner playing secretary analyst Brandt, who happens to have a few tricks up his sleeves, meanwhile harboring a secret or two of his own. Simon Pegg’s return as Benji reminds me of the friendship / partnership that Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian shared on the 24 series. Pegg’s humor is the only thing offering any amount of breaking point from the high action, ultra-intense, adrenaline rush of the entire movie. Paula Patton also gives a nice performance as an agent we get to meet for the first time, who’s equally beautiful as she is physically talented.

This movie holds you until the very end and leaves you with a sense of awe. The IMAX surround sound really brings you into the middle of the craziest parts of the movie, from a car/foot chase in a sandstorm to Cruise holding his breath as his technologically-failing gloves slowly give out on him while he hangs on for dear life on the Burj Khalifa. Another crazy scene occurs when Agent Brandt is wearing a special suit that allows him to hang in the air. But first, he has to jump down a shaft with a giant fan at the bottom of it. I won’t say how that scene ends, but I will admit that I wondered a few times if he was going to make it out of there alive or not.

The best surprises are revealed in the end in a most satisfying way. I have to credit Bird for tying this movie to the previous one by including a cameo of MI3 character Luther Stickell, played by Ving Rhames. There’s a great surprise ending that makes you want to praise screenwriters Steve Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne. They did a spectacular job with moving the story along as well as placing surprises at every turn.

MI4 is one of the best action movies of the year, no arguments made. It is, by far, as close to impossible as a mission could get, especially in this franchise. Tom Freaking Cruise has finally outdone himself in the Mission Impossible franchise. He’s made some beautiful gems year after year, showing off his range of drama to action, and MI4 does not fall short of his stunning film resume in any way. He pulled out all the stops and continued to bring the drama and action to this series, by doing his own stunts and adding new layers to the character, Ethan Hunt. Anyone looking for a good great movie this month should leave in the middle of Sherlock Holmes 2 and get an IMAX seat to this unplugged thriller.

Don’t Mind the Age Difference

So I was watching The Proposal the other night on FX (it was airing for the umpteenth time), and I couldn’t stop thinking about the 12 year age difference between Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Now there’s been a lot of paparazzi photos of the two of them and their “secret Texas wedding” and other crap filling the the hole of Hollywood tabloids. But my thoughts went more to the age difference we see between pairings in movies, not tabloids or “real life” or in Hollywood.

Here are some that I thought of:

Pairing: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

Movie(s): Vanilla Sky and Knight and Day

Age Difference: 10 years

While Mr. Cruise is 16 years senior to his wife Katie Holmes, he is a surprising 10 years older than Ms. Diaz. I actually saw Knight and Day before Vanilla Sky, and I assumed there was maybe a 5 year difference between the two. After all, both have been acting for a long time. What I didn’t realize is that they’re actually 10 years a part. Even funnier, Penelope Cruz, a past girlfriend of Cruise’s and also a Vanilla Sky star who played opposite him in that movie, is 12 years his junior.

 

Pairing: Bradley Cooper and Julia Roberts

Movie: Valentine’s Day

Age Difference: 8 years

Playing two characters who sit next to each other on a plane, Cooper looks far younger than Roberts, even in Valentine’s Day. She being 8 years his senior, perhaps people were glad to find out that his character was gay, particularly for Eric Dane (understanding, ha). Cooper isn’t a stranger playing against older woman, however–he also plays against Sandra Bullock in All About Steve (age difference: 11 years).

 

Pairing: Colin Firth and Lúcia Moniz

Movie: Love Actually

Age Difference: 16 years

Although Moniz is relatively unknown in the U.S., she plays a small role in the film, with much of her dialogue in it being Portuguese. This surprising and odd pairing made it all the weirder to see the two end up together because the age difference wasn’t only significant, it was also very visible, even in spite of the roles they played.

 

Pairing: Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl

Movie: The Ugly Truth

Age Difference: 9 years

In the movie The Bounty Hunter, Butler plays opposite Jenn Anniston, who is the same age as he is. In The Ugly Truth, he and Heigl end up together, despite their 9 year age difference. The almost decade isn’t as apparent as some couples since Heigl is taller, making her appear older. On Grey’s Anatomy, she’s nearly a decade younger than all of her costars.

 

Pairing: Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie

Movie: The Tourist

Age Difference: 12 years

This was one of the most surprising age differences for me. Her romantic link (not marriage) to Brad Pitt (who’s soon to be 48 this month) as well as her overall, general look, make her appear older. I was surprised to learn she is still well in her 30s. Both she and Cameron Diaz appear older than what they are, perhaps partly because they have been acting for a long time.

 

Pairing: Shia Labeouf and Michelle Monaghan

Movie: Eagle Eye

Age Difference: 10 years

Although there might have been only a slight hint of a romantic possibility at the very end of the movie, both Labeouf and Monaghan starred in this unsuccessful (while still enjoyable) thriller. Monaghan has one of the most interesting histories of movie pairing from Shia Labeouf in Eagle Eye to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 3 to Patrick Dempsey in Made of Honor.

 

Pairing: Viggo Mortenson and Liv Tyler

Movie: Lord of the Rings trilogy

Age Difference: 19 years

Perhaps it works well that in the story: Mortenson’s character Aragorn is really an 87 year old ranger who is the last left of a dying breed of people who live exceptionally long, yet do not look as old as they are. This huge age difference actually works very well with Tyler, who is also a model, playing a pure and delicate looking elf in the films.

 

Pairing: Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway

Movie: Get Smart

Age Difference: 20 years

Similarly to LOTR, Hathaway plays a character that is actually older than she appears, but had plastic surgery that now makes her appear younger than what she actually is. One of the strangest pairings, both in personality and age difference, Hathaway and Carell sorta worked well together in this film.

Have you ever noticed any strange pairings and just wondered what the heck the director was thinking? Were you ever stunned after seeing a movie only to realize the leads were more than a decade a part?

December ’11: Entertainment vs. Oscar Hopefuls

While 2011 hasn’t been an altogether disappointing year for film, it hasn’t entirely sparked a whole new generation of moviegoers to enter the film arena, or blown away even the most dedicated cinefile. Now, that isn’t to say there haven’t been some gems found amidst the crap, or some really decent, fun movies that critics have torn apart for this reason or that, but put it on the month of December to impress viewers the most. The November/December season usually holds the majority of the Best Picture noms as well as many of the other nominations for the upcoming Oscars in February.

For Entertainment Purposes:

1) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Although the first SH in this series was pretty good, the only hit for it at the Oscars was its score by Hans Zimmer (which was very new and original). Although I’d love to see a movie like this gather some Oscar chatter, I don’t consider it a possibility given RDJ’s askew British accent and the film’s focus on more comedy/entertainment than story line (see either trailer to get a good look at RDJ dressed as a woman for one of his disguises). Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunate) for RDJ, his sarcasm and sense of humor has taken the lead in marketing for the more recent movies he has been or will be in (see both Iron Mans, trailer(s) for Game of Shadows, trailer for The Avengers). The special effects, however, do look pretty incredible, and the cinematography looks similar to the likes of 300, as well as the previous SH.

2) Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

While I’m tired of hearing the argument–how can there be one, much less MULTIPLE impossible missions–I do respect the point and have to give it a little credit. This fourth movie in the franchise, however, looks promising as well as ending for the series, at least when it comes to Tom Cruise’s role as Ethan Hunt. The story line looks promising and more complex than past movies, and the stunts look even bigger and crazier. My hope is that the series ends after this film without a new start-up starring Jeremy Renner (geez, he’s already started that with The Bourne Series, let’s not do this with MI too!).

3) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

From what I’ve heard, the Swedes have done this series right in every way, and now we’ll see whether America can follow suite with the fictional book series and do it justice. Although there’s possibility for this movie to touch the Academy (past series have done so before–LOTR!), the odds are not in the favor of a fictional book-to-film adaptation unless you’re Peter Jackson. Still, this movie looks entertaining and interesting and different, and it looks like there’s a great cast ready to tell the story.

Oscar Hopefuls:

1) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Now when I call them “Oscar Hopefuls,” I mean that I hope that these films do something at the Oscars. And I think they have a good possibility as well. I wrote more about this movie in this post. I do think its talented British cast and interesting storyline, if well-played out, could possibly touch the Academy. The Brits have been reeling (pun intended) about this movie, and many critics have already awarded high marks to this movie since its earlier release in the UK.

2) The Iron Lady

Of all the movies I have listed, this is the film I have read or heard the least chatter about. For a political film starring Meryl Streep, I’m practically stunned that I’ve heard so little about this film. Streep has phoned in multiple Oscar-nominated (and won) performances, and it’s doubtful that this one will not join her other remarkable and stunning performances. Coupled with coming out during Oscar season and being part of a political thriller genre, it’s setting up all the right moves for gaining it’s own slot in the awards season. Stay tuned and watch out for this movie. I have a good feeling about this one.

3) We Bought a Zoo

I also wrote more about this movie in this post. Although Crowe has yet to get a film talked about at the Academy since Almost Famous, I think We Bought a Zoo has great potential. The Crowe and Damon alliance has happened for the first time, and it could reap great results. Crowe’s real-life, person-centered storytelling honed in, with the right cast, could earn him a spot.

4) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

This is surprisingly my first mention of this film. The trailer for this movie kind of came out of nowhere for me, and having people like Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock head this project makes that especially shocking. A new take and perspective on 9/11, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is already making viewers cry during the preview. I really look forward to this movie and could see it moving critics as well.

That’s my take on December! I’ve certainly seen a share of entertaining and critical films that have already been talked about for the next Oscar season. We’ll see what December holds for moviegoers. What are looking forward to watching the most this month? And do you think any of the films listed (or others not listed) have Oscar potential?