Movie Review – Anna

Movie Review - AnnaIt appears that Luc Besson has fallen into the trap that has been the downfall of many a director; if it worked before, they’ll do it again, and oftentimes the end result is a disaster.

Anna is not a disaster of a movie: the pacing was well done; but the writing, acting, and directing was a disappointment. Helen Mirren’s role as a Russian spy was almost comically performed by this award-winning actor. Nothing about the character was believable, and the Russian accent sounded like a parody of itself. The rest of the cast also gave sub-par performances; however none of them would be considered ‘award winning’ actors, so I didn’t hold them to the same standards I’d set for Ms. Mirren.

A few minutes into the movie I realized I’d seen this before, except with the title “La Femme Nikita”, another spy movie, written by Luc Besson. Oh, and the movie Point of No Return, the American version starring Bridget Fonda, was also written by Besson. La Femme was an extraordinary movie, Point of No Return was acceptable…but Anna fell short.

The biggest problem I had with Anna were the flashbacks, and flash forwards. It was a bit like a Christopher Nolan movie, where time is not linear — a bit irritating, and sometimes, a bit confusing. Also, the incredulous fight scenes (of which there are many) where Anna kicks the butts of a gang of nefarious men wearing outfits straight out of Victoria’s Secret (with stilettos) was way over the top. Each fight scene looked more like something out of a Stephen Seagal movie.

I didn’t hate Anna, but my recommendation is to wait for the DVD.

Grade: C+

About The Peetimes: This was a hard action movie with only a few breaks from the chaos, making it just a little difficult to get good Peetimes. I was able to include an Emergency Peetime coming near the end of the movie.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Anna. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for strong violence, language, and some sexual content
Genres: Action, Thriller

The Bourne Identity Song by Moby – Extreme Ways Lyrics and Video

matt damon in the bourne identity with extreme ways by moby
You gotta admit: the man does know some extreme ways to kill people.

Extreme Ways is one of the first songs I really noticed at the end of a film that I felt a need to go home and look up  — it was that good, and that arresting. It haunted me the whole drive home after viewing The Bourne Identity and I became a big fan of Moby after that.

On my research, I was pleased to note a Moby song was also a major component of one of my all-time favorite episodes of The X-Files:  All Things. Again with the lyrical haunting sound. I was Moby-hooked. (The Wikipedia states: The episode makes heavy use of The Sky Is Broken, a song from Moby‘s 1999 album Play, as well as a gong. The episode has been analyzed for its themes of pragmatism and feminist philosophy.)

Here’s the video of the end credit segment of The Bourne Identity, followed below by Moby’s lyrics to Extreme Ways.  It’s got a really good beat, too. Enjoy!


Lyrics for Extreme Ways

(Song by Moby)

Extreme ways are back again
Extreme places I didn’t know
I broke everything new again
Everything that I’d owned
I threw it out the windows, came along
Extreme ways I know move apart

The colors of my sea
Perfect color me

Extreme ways that help me
That help me out late at night
Extreme places I had gone
But never seen any light
Dirty basements, dirty noise
Dirty places coming through
Extreme worlds alone
Did you ever like it then

I would stand in line for this
There’s always room in life for this

Oh baby, oh baby
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
Oh baby, oh baby
Then it fell apart, it fell apart

Extreme songs that told me
They helped me down every night
I didn’t have much to say
I didn’t get above the light
I closed my eyes and closed myself
And closed my world and never opened
Up to anything
That could get me along

I had to close down everything
I had to close down my mind
Too many things to cover me
Too much can make me blind
I’ve seen so much in so many places
So many heartaches, so many faces
So many dirty things
You couldn’t even believe

I would stand in line for this
It’s always good in life for this

Oh baby, oh baby
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
All day, all day
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
(Falling apart)
It’s a Monday morning, it’s everywhere
Oh no I can’t

All day, all day
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
All day, all day
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
All day, all day
Then it fell apart, it fell apart
All day, all day
Like it always does, always does…

(Songwriters: Richard Melville Hall
Extreme Ways lyrics, 2002 © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd., Warner/Chappell Music, Inc)


Virgin Movie Review – Get Smart

get smart movie
Less than smart.

Maybe I’ve been watching too many spy movies this month, but I was bored during this otherwise okay comedy spy film. We have a lot of US spy films, like the Mission Impossible series, RED 1 and 2, the Patriot Games trilogy, and Jason Bourne’s franchise. I recently reviewed a glut of British spy movies too, covering James Bond, The Kingsman, Johnny English and Austin Powers. I’m kind of spied out.  I know there’s more spy movies out there, but I have to ask myself WHY? [pullquote]Do we all secretly want to use cool gadgets and murder with government consent? [/pullquote]Does this make us a little bit evil, somehow?

In any case, Get Smart is based on a TV franchise my mother watched back in the day, and something I sat through as a child, for lack of anything more charming onscreen. I recalled the Shoe Phone, the Cone of Silence, the Telephone Booth entrance (a gag reused recently in Harry Potter of all things), and how the Maxwell Smart character made endless silly mistakes, yet carried the day in spite of it all. [pullquote position=”right”]Smart is booksmart, but not really skilled in the field. In the Get Smart movie, Steve Carell plays the smart/dumb role with aplomb. Kudos to him.[/pullquote]

For the rest of the cast, it was kind of an excuse to show up as a “Hey, I know that guy” trope, thinking that was good enough. (Clue: It wasn’t.) Anne Hathaway was over-cast and made no sense being in a silly feature like this. Don’t get me started on the total waste of The Rock’s talents. Why they agreed to show up for Get Smart is something I can’t understand. There’s also a very strange cameo with a beloved actor, who has a tiny scene while hidden in a tree on the White House lawn. I have no idea what that was about, but I won’t spoil it for you here. Look for him, and tell me if you think the scene added anything to the plot.

The best role went to the amiable Alan Arkin as the head of Control. I love his voice, and how he can be an average sort of fellow who never-the-less has a commanding presence. That worked. Not brilliantly, but good enough.

[pullquote]I did enjoy the dance-off scene, and Maxwell’s adorable partner. When she flipped the bird to the pretty little mean girls, I gave a small cheer.[/pullquote] Not to say that fat jokes are cool, but it was pleasing to see her cut a rug with Max on the dance floor. The scene where Agent 99 and Max gyrate around deadly laser beams was a cute take on the the old trope. And I liked the nod to the old Bond movies with the Jaws-type henchman character, who they call Easter Island Head — which I totally see. The skydiving segment uncannily pre-dates the recent HALO jump on Mission Impossible: Fallout, but not with the panache of Tom Cruise’s real-life stunt.

Basically, Get Smart is a non-offensive movie that thinks it’s funnier than it is..however,  my mother laughed a lot. Personally, if I’m going to watch a spy spoof, I’d prefer Austin Powers or The Kingsman. Still, Get Smart is better than Johnny English. Ah, the power of faint praise. 😉

Movie Grade: B

(A Virgin Movie Review is one where we haven’t seen the movie in question when it came out, and watched it with no particular expectations.)

Cruise’s HALO MI Dives: 106 jumps at 25,000 feet, w/broken ankle

Best Bond and Bond Parody Intro Songs

Fantastic Theme Music from the Entire Mission Impossible Franchise

 

Movie ReWatch Review – RED

bruce willis and morgan freeman in RED
Retired, Extremely Dangerous

To start with, the title RED in this film is an acronym for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. As retirees, we see these characters don’t have much of a life anymore. That’s the set-up, starting with Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses, lost in an empty house devoid of personal decor. I can see where it would be tough for such deadly folks to ease back into American suburbia, after a career of honing themselves into CIA weapons.

[pullquote]What do you do, after a rough life of adventure and government-condoned murder?[/pullquote] Make bogus government paycheck calls in a desperate attempt to connect with someone, like Bruce Willis’ infamous black-ops character? Pine away over lost love, like Brian Cox’s Russian spy; live in a bunker, like John Malcovich’s crazy bomber; or make flower arrangements and bake like a Martha Stewart clone, as Helen Mirren’s wetworks expert is reduced to?

These are good questions, and I don’t know how the real-life ex-agents manage to “transition,” as Moses puts it.

In RED, it’s nice to see the connection — and grudging respect — growing between Karl Urban’s ambitious young agent, in contrast to Willis’ older, jaded Moses. Urban’s Cooper is well on his way to becoming just like the people he’s hunting, but we start rooting for all of them somewhere along the way. [pullquote]There’s a lot of care to establish these characters as gifted, yet fallible people, and not impervious superhero agents.[/pullquote] They take bullets, make costly mistakes, love the wrong people, and — in spite of the pain —  they miss the old days.

Make no mistake.[pullquote position=”right”]This is a clever, funny movie. It doesn’t shy from violence, but there’s a lot of discretion shots and it’s not gory. The soundtrack is absolutely affable, with the whole affair as slick and stylish as Pulp Fiction — or even better, an older and more lethal version of Ocean’s 11. [/pullquote]When Freeman gleefully announces, “The band’s getting back together,”  I wanted to cheer.

These actors are known for their authentic character roles over decades of work, and the ensemble meshed like magic. I couldn’t get enough of their amusingly tense sparring, and can’t wait to see the sequel I somehow missed the first time around. I’ll catch RED 2 next and see if the story picks up right where it leaves off.

Helen Mirren’s Virginia reminded me of a gleeful, older Xena: Warrior Princess. She has the same focused, deadly, competent joy in her work; she just seemed grateful to get to murder with the other kids again. You go, Dame Mirren!

Even though this movie came out in 2010,  the actors haven’t aged at all. Morgan Freeman and Mirren both just headlined a brand-new fantasy feature this week (The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms), and honestly, they look the same. Good genes, I guess. (I don’t think Morgan Freeman ages. He did play God once…)

Usually the villains in CIA/FBI shoot-em-up movies are lame, with the MacGuffins fungible. Here, I felt invested in the stakes and cared about the outcome. The Vice President was a sad figure in the end. That worked.

Richard Dreyfuss’ self-titled Bad Guy was a bit over the top (not in the good way), and detracted somewhat from the otherwise graceful “execution” (lol) of a really enjoyable thriller. Dreyfuss is usually an extremely competent actor. But his was the only off-key note in RED. Maybe I can  blame the director for that.

Basically, this is darn good movie that holds up nicely over time. I’m excited to view the sequel tonite, and will post a review to the link soon.

Movie Grade: A

Movie Review – Johnny English Strikes Again

 

Movie Review - Johnny English Strikes AgainThis movie wants to be Austin Powers. It’s the same set-up, the same cringe humor, the same British secret service bumbler who nevertheless gets the job done (in spite of his inherent ineptitude). The difference: Austin Powers is ten times more amusing. Rowan Atkinson tries, and sometimes succeeds, but mostly seems to be resting on his Mr. Bean laurels.

Granted, I didn’t see the original Johnny English films, and maybe those were hysterical enough to warrant a threequel.

Johnny English Strikes Again had a half-baked plot, propped up by a few amusing set pieces. The Virtual Reality sequence was certainly a highlight. I’d see the movie just for that cute and wacky scene. (I loved seeing English using baguettes like fighting staffs.) But the rest of the film went like this: English makes a mistake, his servant Bough would quietly fix it and take no credit; then English would preen. End scene; repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Fade to black.

The genre is getting a bit full anyway. Now we have a whole range of Brit intel movies, on a seriousness continuum from the (modern) James Bond movies, to the less straitlaced but still cohesive storytelling of The Kingsman, on down through the mediocre levels of Johnny English, to the bottom of the deliriously silly level with Austin Powers.

I just don’t see a need for Johnny English. And I think the audience agrees with me. Who sat in the theater on opening night? Me. And one or two other people. Whereas my earlier showing of Mid-90s was packed.

But, as I said, there were a few good moments to be mined. English teaching the kids how to be spies was cute. The aforementioned VR scene was great. There was a message buried in the film about how the world of espionage has changed with the advent of cell phones and cyber space. How we view technology will never be the same as Bond’s good old analog days, and it’s a nice bit of self-awareness for a spy movie to recognize this — it’s gone beyond nifty pens that become grenades (although, granted, this is tossed in there too). And there’s an interesting contrast between the iconic red Aston Martin spy car and the more useful hybrid. The world is changing, and spies have to adapt.

I might be making this movie sound better than it is. Let me rest your noggin: I gave this film a C-. I doubt it will last more than a week in the theaters, but it might have some life on streaming platforms. My suggestion: if you LOVE Atkinson, Mr. Bean and/or the first two Johnny English films, by all means see this in the theater. Otherwise, this is an easy one to skip. Save your money.

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: Here are 2 good Peetimes, where were you won’t miss any of the best humor or action. Both are 4 minutes in length and nicely spaced apart. 

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Johnny English Strikes Again. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)