Archive for the ‘Jeremy Renner’ Category

MOVIE: The Avengers (2012)

August 22, 2012

I actually saw this movie about a month ago, but I was having a hard time figuring out what to say about it in a review so I never got around to writing one.  But the blooper reel from the upcoming DVD release just hit the Interwebs today, and I realized it kind of says everything that needs to be said.  Which is this:  The Avengers is FUN.  It’s just REALLY, REALLY FUN.   IT IS SO FUN, YOU GUYS.

I can’t think of anything profound to say (clearly) — I’m not a superhero movie or comic fan generally speaking, and I don’t know anything about any of the characters (except for having watched a lot of The Incredible Hulk episodes as a kid, which I bet doesn’t count for much, right, nerds?).  But to me, this struck me as a movie written by a totally joyful fan boy (Joss Whedon) and acted by a whole bunch of incredible talents who were having the time of their lives on set.

Need independent proof of that?  Check out the blooper reel here:  http://vimeo.com/48114558.  Kind of says it all!

This is a movie that oozes happiness and fun.  But it’s not just silliness.  Some of the characters (Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk, for example), are complex and interesting, not just big, green, and fond of breaking things (though I confess, I’m still confused why we have a group of human superheroes and then. . . a GOD?  What is Thor doing in this gaggle?  I guess I’ll have to watch his movie next and find out!).  And the script is brilliantly, hilariously written — just what you’d expect from Whedon (I’d actually forgotten he’d written the script, in fact, until the scene at the end during which Capt. America is assigning battle tasks, then turns to Hulk and says simply, “SMASH.”  Oh yes, WHEDON.  Of course!).

You could not do better for a popcorn-munchin’, summer-heat dodgin’ film, in my opinion.  This one fits that bill absolutely perfectly.

So, you know, RECOMMENDED!  Doy.  And that goes for fans of the comics and not-fans of the comics alike!

[Prequeue it at Netflix | Preorder the DVD]

Genre:  Action, SMASH
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner,  Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany

MOVIE: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

April 25, 2012

I’m not at all embarrassed to admit that I find Tom Cruise action movies incredibly entertaining.  Well, okay, I’m a little embarrassed to admit it.  But not so embarrassed I can’t take a little ribbing in the comments, so feel free to mock away.

This one, the latest in the Mission: Impossible series, is nowhere near as good as the previous installation of this series (the one with Philip Seymour Hoffman), but it’s still a good time.  The mission is a little on the dull side — they’re trying to stop a crazy guy who wants to blow up a nuclear bomb to sort of “reboot” the world — but it moved along at a decent enough clip, with plenty of one-liners and awesome gadgetry to make it more fun.  The problem with the story, from my perspective, is that the villain is usually the make-it-or-break-it part of a film like this, and “crazy” is not nearly as fun as “evil,” if you ask me.  (In terms of “evil” villains, by the way, I like “evil scientists” the best.)

Simon Pegg is back and enjoyable as always, though half the funny lines he delivered are funny lines I’ve heard 10,000 times in action movies.  But this one also saw the addition of Jeremy Renner to the team, his character left with just enough mystery to suggest he might be a permanent addition to the series (oh, that would be nice!).  I dig.

Worth a rental for sure.  I’ll probably see it again with my mom, by the way, as she’s also a fan of Tom Cruise action flicks.  And yeah, we liked Knight and Day  with Cameron Diaz too.  You can’t make me feel dumb for it, either.  Though I have no doubt you will try.  GO AHEAD.  MAKE MY DAY.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Action, Spy
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Ving Rhames, Josh Holloway, Tom Wilkinson

MOVIE: The Town (2010)

September 30, 2010

I went into this film expecting it to blow me away.  After all, Gone Baby Gone completely knocked my socks off back in 2007.  It was, in fact, the movie that finally made me stop rolling my eyes at Ben Affleck after years and years (and yeeeears!) of rolling my eyes at Ben Affleck.  And now he’s back to direct another film set in Boston, a town I adore and one I know he knows inside and out?  Bring it on.  I am IN.  Between 2007 and 2010, I’m sure he’s learned a gazillion new things about filmmaking, and I was definitely eager to find out what they were.

Alas, it seems that what Affleck learned in his time away from the rear-end of a camera was that thoughtful, creative movies don’t make money; movies that blow a lot of shit up do.  Another one lost to the tired traditions of Hollywood blockbusters?  I won’t write him off just yet, but I will confess to being extremely disappointed.

The Town is set in Charlestown, a neighborhood of Boston.  It opens by telling us Charlestown is the “bank robbery capital” of America, with the trade being somewhat of a local tradition, passed down from generation to generation.

Cut to the film’s first robbery scene, where a group of men wearing Skeletor masks burst into a local bank, waving guns around and yelling about the time — you know, just like you’ve seen bank robbers do a million times in movies and TV shows.  They get one of the bank employees, a pretty young woman named Claire (Rebecca Hall, who reminds me of Molly Ringwald, for some reason) to open the safe and, at the last minute, one of the robbers grabs her and drags her out with them as a hostage.  They manage to escape, keeping Claire blindfolded the whole time, and once they get away, they let her go on a local beach, telling her to walk forward, keeping her blindfold on, until her toes hit the water.

Back to safety, we learn the robbers are best friends going way back, led by Doug McCrae (Affleck), the brains of the operation, and energized by the frenetic, almost ADD-like behavior of Doug’s like-a-brotha’ friend James Coughlin (a fantastic, almost unrecognizable Jeremy Renner).

James is a bit on the loose cannon side — he’s the one who took Claire hostage on a whim, something Doug wasn’t too pleased about.  He’s aggressive, impulsive, and hard to reason with.  Doug, on the other hand, plans carefully, ponders heartfully, and is about to get a taste of a life he never even knew he wanted.

Worried Claire might’ve seen something she could use to identify them, Doug decides to stage what the movie biz calls a “meet cute.”  He follows her around until she’s heads into a laundromat and then sort of “accidentally” introduces himself to her, asking if she has any quarters for the machines.  Thoroughly charmed by him, Claire ends up agreeing to go out with him for coffee.  Before he knows it, Doug’s in love, getting his first real bite of what “normal” life is like, and greatly wanting more.

And here’s where the movie goes from good to glarrrrbbbbghargh! (<– industry term).

This film had so many great things going for it:  an incredible cast, a setting with loads of personality all its own, a strong story backbone, and characters that were truly intriguing:  Doug, the conflicted smart guy with the troubled past; Doug’s father (Chris Cooper), who is in prison for robbery himself and clearly has a complicated relationship with his son; Doug’s friend James, trouble heading for disaster; and Claire, who’s about to find out her boyfriend is the same guy who put a bag over her head and stuffed her into a van.

At first, it looked like all these elements were going to come together absolutely brilliantly into a movie that looked closely at intricately built relationships, weighty family histories, and the pressures of background and tradition.  But all of a sudden, the movie inexplicably dropped most of these more interesting elements and devolved into standard bank robber stuff, turning away from the more “thoughty” parts of the story and instead diving head-first into a series of shoot-outs, car chases, the works.

We never even see Doug’s father again — that entire scene felt like a throwaway to me — and other things that seemed to be major plot elements didn’t make much sense either (like James’s tattoo — he’s so careful before a robbery he scrubs his skin down to remove any old cells that might leave behind DNA, but neither he nor Doug  think to cover up his extremely unique neck tattoo?  Baloney.).  Frankly, even the relationship drama between Claire and Doug ends up taking a pretty boringly all-too-familiar route.   Absolutely everything about the story ends up being completely predictable, with nary an original bone to be had.  Major disappointment.

That said, The Town is extremely well-crafted and it’s certainly beautifully shot.  The scenes of Boston are absolutely wonderful (especially the scenes set in Fenway Park — man, that must’ve been a dream come true for Affleck).

All in all, though, this movie felt more like a made-for-TV flick than a feature film made by a man we all know can do better.

Time to get some courage, Mr. Affleck, sir.  Balls to the wall on the next one, you got me, ya chowdahead?  You can do it.  And I can wait.

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Thriller, Crime
Cast:  Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Slaine, Owen Burke, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Chris Cooper

MOVIE: The Hurt Locker (2009)

August 10, 2009

[The following review is excerpted from the Boyfriend of the Week write-up on Jeremy Renner — I decided to make a separate blog entry for the movie so that it’s easier to find the review down the line if you’re lookin’.  Which you ought to be, because this movie is incredible.]

The Hurt Locker, set in Baghdad in 2004, focuses on three soldiers in an elite Army unit, the EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). The movie opens with the death of Bravo Company’s leader, Sgt. Thompson (Guy Pearce), in a scene that will make your stomach clench into a fist-sized knot approximately fourteen seconds in.

Just so you know: it will not unclench after that for at least 12 hours. Longer if you’re me.

Brought in to replace him is Staff Sgt. Will James (Renner), whose leadership style is radically different from that of his predecessor. James immediately clashes with his number two, Sgt. JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie), a cautious, by-the-book sort of soldier who freaks out when James continually gives the metaphoric (and occasionally literal) finger to procedure.

It soon becomes clear that James has no apparent fear of death — an alarming quality in an EOD specialist, though one you’d also think would sort of have to be a prerequisite. He routinely walks into dangerous situations he doesn’t need to walk into, taking Sanborn and the third member of their team, a kid named Spec. Eldridge (Brian Geraghty), into that danger with him. He does things like take off his headset when he gets annoyed with Sanborn, whose job it is to keep an eye out for snipers or dudes with cell phones that look suspiciously like detonators (which is all of them, naturally); or strip off his protective gear despite (because of) the fact he’s surrounded by IEDs on all side. He stays at scenes long after the time he should’ve cleared out, putting both his own life and the lives of his company at risk.

At first it seems like he has a death wish. But it’s not really a death wish so much as it’s, like, death apathy. The movie wants us to believe that what drives James is an addiction to adrenaline — after all, it opens with this quote by war correspondent Chris Hedges: “The rush of battle is a potent and often lethal addiction, for war is a drug.” But James is not a simple adrenaline junkie, and this movie, from my perspective, was not really about addiction to the rush of danger.

Instead, it seemed to be about the variety of ways soldiers, especially young soldiers, respond to danger and fear (for example, look at the differences between James and Eldridge, or even James and Sanborn), and the hardship and confusion that stems from being sent to a place like Iraq to live for an extended period of time — a place much more like an alien planet than simply another country — and then asked to return home and do things like shop for groceries with your wife, do the dishes after dinner, play with your children, work at a desk, etc.

Iraq, where everything seems upside-down: the nice people often the most terrifying, the children used as vehicles for bombs, the cats all three-legged and limpy (sorry, I couldn’t resist that one — what was up with all the cats?), the language completely incomprehensible, and your time on the job spent walking right up to the very sorts of things sane people run screaming away from.

When your every-single-day in Iraq is a clenched-stomach tale of impossible odds, how do you go back to picking out a box of cereal in a grocery store? Like it’s a task worth your time? Like it’s a task of any importance whatsoever? To me, that’s not addiction to adrenaline so much as it is PTSD. War breaks minds — it does it all the time, without mercy or discretion. And to me, that, more than anything else, is what The Hurt Locker is about.

Adding to the tension of this movie is the fact that though it’s shot primarily outdoors, often in large open areas of the city or way out in the enormous desert beyond, it’s one of the most thoroughly claustrophobic films I’ve ever seen. No matter how much the camera is pulled back in any given scene, your field of vision remains limited to James and about the first half-meter of the primary blast radius around him. Sometimes, it gets even smaller — smaller than James, even. Down to the exposed fingertips on his gloved hands and the inch or two that encircles the fuse he’s trying to defuse.

When working on an IED, James’s gear is almost spacesuit-like, which only adds to the sense of confinement. It’s a big clunky helmet and huge padded suit that not only weighs so much it makes him walk heavy and slow like he’s on the moon (not ideal for when it comes time to flee, I might note), but has absolutely GOT to be the hottest thing you could possibly wear in Baghdad, Iraq. Every time the face mask came clunking down over James’s eyes, I was immediately gripped by a feeling of sick enclosure. The knot in my stomach tightened. I shrunk down a bit more in my seat. And then every time time a bomb was disarmed, James would take his gear off, calmly walk back to the truck, sit, and light a cigarette. And as he’d inhale, I would too, often for the first time in what felt like forever.

As for Renner himself, wow. If I ever had any doubt about his talent, it was completely blown to smithereens by my second time through this film. He is aces, and always has been, at playing distant, emotionally cool characters. But in this movie, at long last, we get to see some cracks. There are several scenes when James just loses it, for one thing. Even more affecting, though, were the scenes in which he exhibited actual tenderness, striking not just because of his reserved character, but because tenderness in that place of violence and strain — it just plain stands out. Certainly that would include every scene with the little boy he befriends. But there’s also a scene towards the end that really stayed with me. A man has had a bomb strapped to his chest and it’s covered in half a dozen padlocks so that he can’t get free. James is struggling to figure out what to do, as the timer ticks down, down, down, but the man is freaking out, screaming and crying and it’s loud and mad and crazy. In the middle of all that chaos, James suddenly cups the back of the man’s head gently with his hand, like he’s a person, just a regular person in a regular place, and says soothingly, reassuringly, “You’re okay.” I don’t know why that stuck with me, but it did.

And don’t even get me started on that shower scene after one of his teammates gets shot. Covered in blood from trying to save his friend’s life, James climbs into the shower, gear and all, and we watch as the low-flow military-grade showerhead gradually washes away not only the blood drenching his fatigues, but the last remnants of his steely facade as well.

Goddamn. That, my friends, is what we librarians call ACTING.

Seriously, I could talk about The Hurt Locker all day, and I would, too, if I didn’t think it would drive you guys batty. I’ll stop now, though, and sum it up with this one last thing: if you haven’t seen this movie, GO SEE IT. It is a brilliant film — absolutely brilliant — and even though I don’t put much stock in the Academy Awards, if it gets shafted for a Best Picture nomination, heads will roll. (I’m starting with Joan Rivers and working my way in from there.)

[Pre-queue me at Netflix | Watch the trailer]