Mission Impossible III

Posted on May 10, 2006 at 3:55 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of frenetic violence and menace, disturbing images and some sensuality.
Profanity: Brief strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Social drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and graphic peril and violence, including torture, graphic injuries and death
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000HRMAPE

At this point, the impossible mission may be finding some way to make this story work once more.


That Lalo Schifrin score still jumps and in this version there is a propulsive shot of percussive adrenalin. The idea of super-spies who speak every language, are in superb condition, and know every aspect of spycraft from shooting to fighting to explosives to computers to physics to finding the coolest sunglasses — that still works pretty well, too, and it’s always a treat to see who the new bad guy will be. But making it more than ever-bigger explosions and chases? That’s where this mission self-destructs long before it’s over.


This time, it’s personal — the script tries to turn up the heat by giving the hero a love interest and the movie begins with both of them tied up and man threatening to kill her if Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) does not give him something called a rabbit’s foot. She is Julia (Michelle Monaghan), a nurse. Flashback to their engagement party, where he is explaining his boring job with the state Department of Transportation monitoring traffic patterns.


The men find him snoozerific, but the women in essence, say, “Hey, he’s Tom Cruise! We’d marry him even if he jumps on sofas.”
Hunt has given up spying for love, and now has a nice, safe, teaching job underneath that boring Transportation Department office building. But his best student (“Felicity’s” Keri Russell) has been captured, so he’s quickly back on board with old friends (Ving Rhames as computer whiz Luther) and new ones (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Maggie Q).


The bad guy at the center of all this is Owen Davian (“Capote” Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman). And that rabbit’s foot is some kind of end of the world device (“the anti-God”) locked away in some kind of impenetrable building blah blah blah. And maybe one of the good guys isn’t good all the way through. And maybe there will be some of that face-and-voice switching we always expect from the MI series.


That’s the problem. It’s just what we expect. It’s been a long dry stretch since last summer’s bang-bangs, and all those months of Oscar-bait dramas and winter doldrum leftovers have left audiences so parched for blow-em-ups that they might not notice the under-written script. Just don’t try to think.


The bright spots are Hoffman, who gets more out of the word “fun” than Cruise gets out of his big dramatic reaction to seeing his fiancee at gunpoint, Laurence Fishburne, as a superspy boss-man, who dryly points out that his reference to The Invisible Man is “Welles, not Ellison, in case you want to be cute again,” and the Q-equivalent, “Shaun of the Dead’s” Simon Pegg. Decidedly unbright spots are Cruise, who seems to have suffered charisma-extraction, the bantering about getting married in the middle of split-second calculations, chases, and explosions and seeing a character disguised as another doing stunts that even by the low standards of probability for this genre just seem silly.


Same with all the just-miss bullet dodging. For a bunch of characters who are supposed to be the world’s most accurate shots, they miss a lot. And with the “make the explosions really loud and they won’t notice” plot omissions and inconsistencies.
The real problem that keeps interfering with what would otherwise suffice as popcorn pleasures of the movie-as-thrill-ride is that in the midst of all the faux resolute jaw clenches and corny banter there is something genuinely troubling — the specter of torture of prisoners and Machiavellian corruption. Intended to give the movie a jolt of “Law and Order”-style ripped-from-the-headlines electricity, instead it throws the movie fatally off-kilter.


Parents should know that this movie features extensive and explicit peril and violence with many explosions and chases, torture, and many injuries and deaths. There are some sexual references and brief, non-explicit sexual situations. Characters drink, smoke, and use brief strong language.


Families who see this movie should talk about the conflict Ethan faces between doing what makes him happy and doing what he thinks is right and between telling Julia the truth and protecting her from it. They should also talk about one character’s comment that you can always tell people’s characters by the way they treat someone they don’t have to treat well.
Families who see this movie will enjoy the two earlier films and the James Bond series and Lord of War. They might also enjoy taking a look at the original television series, which is available on DVD.

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Action/Adventure Movies Thriller

Goal!

Posted on May 10, 2006 at 3:52 pm

C
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content, language and a brief drug reference; Rated PG for language, sexual situations, and some thematic material including partying.
Profanity: Mild
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, scenes in bar
Violence/ Scariness: Intense games, some injuries
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000GJ0LLI

A soccer-mad friend sat beside me in the theater, leaning over from time to time to explain what was going on in the game on the screen or point out an in-joke about the appearance of a real-life figure from the world of what everyone outside the US calls football. People like me who need such assistance will not find enough in the thin story and thinner performances to make this film a satisfying experience, but those knowledgeable enough to be able to provide those asides might find something to enjoy in the depictions of the game and the challenges faced by players on and off the field.


It’s the basic kid-with-a-dream story, stripped down not to a Rocky-style essentials but to its surface, without one spec of imagination or specificity of detail to capture our attention.


Santiago (Kuno Becker) is a talented player, but his father, an embittered Mexican immigrant, tells him his dreams are a foolish waste of time. What he wants is his own gardening company, so he takes the money Santiago has saved to buy a truck. Fortunately, the same grandmother whose tough love got him out of the local gang finds a way to get him a ticket to London where he has a chance to try out for a top team.


But Santiago is from Los Angeles and is used to playing in the sun, and his try-out on a drenched and muddy field goes badly. Given another chance, he faces opportunities and setbacks, friends and rivals and distractions — including a pretty nurse — and the challenges of failure and success — including a high-living star player. But other than a flicker of something interesting in the performance of Alessandro Nivola as a hard-partying star player there is always something distant and antiseptic about it all. This movie is the first of a trilogy, but it has already run out the clock.


Parents should know that the movie includes some mild sexual content, brief strong language, and a drug reference. A character is a partier who abuses various substances and has many groupies. There are some tense scenes and a sad death, and there is some sports-related violence.


Families who see this movie should talk about why Santiago’s father and grandmother had different ideas about his dreams. What matters most to Santiago? To Gavin? Why did Glen want to help him? Who has helped you that way and who can you help?


Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy The History of Soccer.

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Drama Movies Sports

Hoot

Posted on May 3, 2006 at 4:24 pm

B
Lowest Recommended Age: 4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for mild bullying and brief language.
Profanity: Mild schoolyard language, name-calling
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Some peril and injuries, bully
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: 2006
Date Released to DVD: 2006
Amazon.com ASIN: B000GB5MH4

Kids take on developers to protect endangered owls in this mildly pleasant story based on the award-winning book by Carl Hiaasen. Parents will admire some of the messages — care for the environment, self-reliance, loyalty, and communication skills. But they will be less pleased with a one-sided, ends-justify-the-means approach that suggests that any action taken on behalf of endangered species is justified.


“Six schools in the last eight years? What are you, in the Witness Protection Program?”


14-year-old Roy (Logan Lerman) felt at home for the first time in Montana among the horses and the mountains. He is not at all happy about being uprooted to Florida, about as different from Montana as you can get.


It doesn’t help that there’s a big, mean bully on the schoolbus. But Roy is not afraid of him. He is curious, though, about a boy he sees running very fast, barefoot, and about a girl who seems angry at him but won’t tell him why.


It turns out Beatrice (Brie Larson) and her step-brother Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley) have a lot of secrets. For one, he is supposed to be away at boarding school. And for another, he is the one who has been vandalizing the site for a new pancake house to hold up construction because he wants to protect some burrowing owls.


Despite the efforts of the bully, an earnest but dim policeman (Luke Wilson), and an executive with the pancake company who has a secret of his own, the three kids find a way to bring about a happy ending for everyone, especially the owls.


All of the kids have a nice, natural quality and an easy chemistry with each other. Co-producer Jimmy Buffett appears as their marine biology teacher. He’s no actor, but it is so clear they all are enjoying themselves that it makes us want to enjoy them, too.

One of the movie’s great strengths is the way Roy avoids many of the usual problems of middle schoolers — especially those in movies. He is not afraid of the bully or of Beatrice. His frankness and courtesy in talking to her about the way she treats him is something every teenager can learn from — and a few parents, too. Roy’s parents trust and respect him, even when his behavior concerns them. This partially makes up for some cheesy slapstick and caricatured bad guys, but the superficial approach to the issues and casual attitude toward dangerous and illegal behavior by the kids undermines the story’s credibility. Nature boy Mullet Fingers may be all about protecting those darling owls, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about the poisonous snakes he captures or the dogs he sics them on. Or the humans they might easily reach.

Parents should know that the movie has some schoolyard language (“screwing up”) and some bullying and name-calling. Roy is derisively called “Cowgirl.” Parents should also know that the children’s behavior in the movie raises many parental concerns, including vandalism, theft, lying, truancy, and violence.


Families who see this movie should talk about whether the ends here (protecting the owls) justified the means (breaking the rules and the law). When do you cross the line? What consequences must you be prepared to accept? Families should also learn more about the Endangered Species Protection Program and about things that kids can do to help protect the environment.

Families who enjoy this film should read the book and see Al Gore’s new movie, An Inconvenient Truth. They will also enjoy Holes. And they should listen to my podcast interview with co-star Brie Larson.

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Action/Adventure Comedy Family Issues Movies
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