Tomorrowland

May 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”)
Written by: Damon Lindelof (“World War Z”) and Brad Bird (“Ratatouille”)

Vagueness in a film’s marketing is something we’re all going to have to get used to as moviegoers from now on. From ambiguous trailers to the ridiculous amount of press a leaked photo gets to the cast and crew having to sign discourse agreements before actually shooting a single scene, cinematic secrecy is becoming all too familiar these days for studios who want very little revealed before a film’s release (it’s odd since spoilers basically start hitting the internet minutes later, but we regress). There is a problem, however, when a film’s mystery frustratingly seeps into its storytelling and never lets up. Such is the case with “Tomorrowland,” a sci-fi movie so concerned about giving away too much too soon, that before we know it, at least a third of the film is over and we still have no idea what the heck is happening – nor do we care anymore.

Far less creative than it thinks it is, “Tomorrowland” takes the central premise of “making the world a better place” and runs its mediocre narrative into the ground. Britt Robertson (“The Longest Ride”) stars as Casey Newton, an intelligent young girl witha positive outlook on life who is invited to experience the utopian world of Tomorrowland by way of a magical pin given to her by an android named Athena (Raffey Cassidy). Athena has been in search of individuals driven by hope for the future and Casey’s just the girls she’s been looking for (although calling her special in any way is an overstatement). Inventor Frank Walker (George Clooney as an adult, Thomas Robinson as a kid) once fit that description when he was younger, but now as an adult, he is far less certain that Tomorrowland is a reality. When Casey asks him to take her there, he scoffs at the idea before he realizes they are the only two people who can save the world from apocalyptic doom.

Keeping things obscure is one thing, but director and co-writer Brad Bird (“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”) and co-writer Damon Lindelof (“World War Z”) do it in such an annoying fashion, you never feel like any of the ideas they present to you are important enough to embrace at more than face value. A myriad of questions are asked, none of which are answered. In fact, any question a character utters throughout most of the film is sidestepped sloppily and without regard to compelling dialogue between the characters. At one point Clooney’s character asks, “Do I have to explain everything? Can’t you just be amazed and move on?” It’s hard not to imagine Lindelof writing this little exchange in the script while snickering at his computer. To answer your question, Damon, no you don’t have to explain everything, but at least give us a reason to stay around and find out what big surprises you have in store for us (spoiler: there are no big surprises). Also, if you honestly think some “amazing” special effects (these are average, at best) are going to be enough to get us through the mess you’ve written, your characters in “Tomorrowland” aren’t the only ones living in another world.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg
Directed by: Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”)
Written by:  Andre Nemec (TV’s “Alias”) and Josh Applebaum (TV’s “Alias”)

The “Mission: Impossible” franchise is an odd one.  As the only, “Hey, let’s update an old TV show!” film series to make it out of the ’90s alive (“Lost in Space,” anyone?), the movies have been a mishmash of styles, each film having little to nothing to do with the one that preceded it aside from the character of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

The first one, released 15 years ago and directed by Brian De Palma, was Tom Cruise’s answer to James Bond with elements from the TV show, like fantastic disguises and self-destructing messages,  grafted onto the plot for name recognition alone. “M:I- 2” in 2000 was a balletic John Woo-directed fever dream that featured things like a motorcycle fight and slow-motion doves. In 2006, “Mission: Impossible III,” directed by J.J. Abrams, brought a lens-flared grittiness to the series. Hunt took a beating after finally being held accountable to the laws of physics, and the franchise was given new life, as if a tiny explosive device had been shot up its nose.

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” directed with ease by animation veteran Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”) ends up being the first true sequel in the series. Continuing the tone set by Abrams (credited here as a producer) “Ghost Protocol” opens to find Hunt locked away in a Russian prison. With the help of agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton), recently-promoted agent Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” Hunt manages to stage an elaborate escape. The IMF needs Hunt, because it seems the recent murder of IMF agent Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway) has resulted in the loss of Russian nuclear launch codes that could bring about the end of the world. After a mission to infiltrate the Kremiln and obtain a launch device goes awry, resulting in the IMF being branded as terrorists and disavowed, it’s up to Hunt, Carter, Dunn, and analyst-turned-agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to stop global nuclear war.

While you can’t deny the slickness of the presentation, it’s the mechanics of the plot that dampen the enjoyment. The film’s big action set piece, featuring Cruise sprinting vertically down the side of the world’s tallest skyscraper, ends up being the end result of an incredibly robust network firewall, of all things (not to mention that his stealth is undone by running on the outside of building on actual windows), and the back story of Renner’s character (rumored to be a replacement for Cruise in future missions) is unceremoniously defanged by the time the credits roll. The gadgets range from innovative and fun, like an iPad-powered cloaking device, to complex and contrived, like a magnetic hover suit/robot combo. As villains go, Michael Nyqvist’s Kurt Hendricks is a disappointing bore, especially following Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brilliantly psychotic turn as Owen Davian in “M:I-3.” While Cruise’s Hunt remains a cipher, Renner and Pegg combine for some welcome bursts of humor, and the chemistry of the pairing is reassuring for the day Cruise decides to step away.

The stakes have never been higher and the spectacle has never been greater, but the plotting has never felt more episodic. After raising the bar with the third movie, you can’t help but feel a little let down that Cruise, Abrams, and Bird merely maintained the status quo.