Posts Tagged ‘Spy’

MOVIE: Skyfall (2012)

November 20, 2012

You know what I want for Christmas this year?  I want to skip middle age and go sta-raight to Judi Dench.  Is that really so much to ask?

This movie was fantastic fun, and since the plot is beside the point, I’m not even going to take the time to describe it to, aside from mentioning it actually made sense this time (I still have no idea what Quantum of Solace was about — you should totally click that link to read my review because I just did and it made me laugh).  It made sense, it was entertaining and well-paced, and stuff happened that I actually cared about.  I love it when that happens!

I was excited, also, to see Ben Whishaw as the new Q — I’ve been a fan of his since Perfume and I’m a sucker for cute, young nerds to begin with– and holy crow, I tell you what, any time Javier Bardem plays a bad guy, he is the new scariest bad guy of all time.  He doesn’t need a cattle prod to be terrifying, as it turns out.  He just needs blond eyebrows.

NIGHTMARELAND.

Thumbs way, way up — go see this movie!  You need a break from holiday stress, and Bond is where it’s AT.  (Though, for the record, drinking your martini shaken instead of stirred is for rookies.)

[Prequeue at Netflix]

Genre: Action, Spy
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Bérénice Marlohe, Albert Finney, Judi Motherfucking Dench, Ben Whishaw

MOVIE: Safe House (2012)

June 22, 2012

Aside from the fact I’ve now decided Ryan Reynolds is the most boringest actor OF ALL TIME, I actually enjoyed this thriller, which was my Pay-Per-View pick at a recent librarian conference (my first night in a hotel for a conference, I always iron all my clothes while eating room service and watching a PPV movie — it’s a tradition).  The story’s about two CIA agents — a n00b, Matt Weston (Reynolds), and a old-timer-gone-rogue, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington) — who begin as guard and prisoner and end as hesitant partners at work against a force of corruption on the inside.

As the movie opens, Weston is frustrated with his stale career at the CIA.  His assignment has been to sit on a safe house in a foreign country (I forget where, but it isn’t important), waiting around for someone to need it.  Nobody ever does, though, so in his off-hours, he’s cultivated a personal life — engaged to a beautiful woman who has no idea what he really does for a living.  (And yep, THAT’S coming back to bite him in the ass later in the film, believe you me.  Fellas, why do you insist on lying to your ladies about your secret agent jobs?  It just never ends well.  Never ever ever.  Ever.  Or ever.)

Matt’s life is about to get a lot more exciting, though.  Infamous agent Tobin Frost has just turned himself into the CIA, claiming he’s in possession of some super-seekrit data (the movie’s MacGuffin — most spy flicks gotta have one) that a group of bad guys would kill for.  To protect him (while also torturing him for information — ah, the irony of the US government!), the CIA takes him to the closest safe house — Matt’s.  And though Matt’s initially treated like a servant by the agents guarding Frost, who think of him as a rookie not ready to take on anything major, it’s not long before Weston finds himself on the run with Tobin, trying to hold onto him as a prisoner while also keeping them both from being killed by the aforementioned group of bad guys.

Cue chase scenes.  About ten thousand of them.

From there, the story takes a pretty predictable path.  If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie — especially one starring Denzel Washington — then you know how this is going to end.  The protagonists start out as enemies, Weston’s youthful idealism keeping him from believing Frost’s story of massive government corruption.  But as the evidence piles up (along with the bodies), that idealism is replaced by savvy grown-up cynicism, Weston ultimately revealing himself to be a talented agent with great instincts for the job.  Frost and Weston end up working together to solve the mystery at hand, and, you know, tidy little ending, blah blah blah.

There’s nothing in this film you haven’t seen a hundred times before, in other words, but what makes it entertaining is — well, hell, I don’t know.  Something.  Something other than Ryan Reynolds who, MY GOD, is just the blandest person alive.  Washington does what he always does, though, which is something I happen to like, so he’s fun to watch.  And the rest of the cast is strong as well — Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard (mrrrowl!) and good ol’ ex-Boyfriend Liam Cunningham, who is always a pleasure.

All in all, well worth a rental.

[Prequeue at Netflix]

Genre:  Action, Spy
Cast:  Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham

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: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)

January 12, 2012

My first thought as the opening credits to this spy thriller began was, “Wow, what a cast!”  Gary Oldman, Benedict “Sherlock” Cumberbatch, Colin Firth, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Hardy, and John Hurt?  Holy crazy bananas, Batman!

Not five minutes later, though, the cast was all but forgotten — this movie sucked me in immediately, and the actors, Oldman in particular, are so tremendously good I stopped thinking about them as real people and instead became fully engrossed in their roles.

For those who have never read the John le Carré novel, or seen earlier versions of the story on the screen, it’s about a mole in British Intelligence in 1973 and is the first in a series le Carré wrote about an older British spy named George Smiley.  The movie opens with a British secret agent, Jim Prideaux, being sent to Hungary to meet with a Hungarian general who wants to sell information to the UK.  The operation is blown, though, when the Russians get information about when and where it’s taking place and open fire, leaving Prideaux bleeding on the ground.

Word gets back to British Intelligence, and, amid the international hoopla that follows, the current head of the organization, known as “Control” (Hurt), and his number one agent, Smiley (Oldman) are forced into retirement (Control dying soon after of natural causes).  Bosses shift around, things settle, and a group of the top agents, known as the Circus, begin work on a new project that involves obtaining high-level Soviet intelligence material and then trading it to the US government for secrets of their own, a project whose real endgame Control and Smiley had long been suspicious of: Operation Witchcraft.

When Oliver Lacon, the civil servant in charge of intelligence, hears an allegation that there’s a leak in the Circus, he goes outside the group to bring in an independent investigator — George Smiley.  As Smiley begins to dig into the timeline, interview the various players, and build up evidence, he discovers that Control’s real reason for having sent Prideaux to Hungary was to reveal the mole’s identity.  He breaks into Control’s old apartment and there finds a set of chess pieces labeled with the photos and code names for each of his suspects:  Tinker, Tailor, Soldier. . . and Spy.

Though the plot is complex and difficult to follow at times (there’s a lot of jumping around in time, for one thing, without much in the way of assistance in keeping track), I never found this frustrating.  Instead, it’s what kept me glued to my seat, riveted by the multi-layered story unfolding on the screen.  The acting is incredible — when Gary Oldman is good, he is so very, very good, I must say — and the pacing is perfect.  By the end, I was squirming in my seat, anxious and paranoid — is HE the mole?  Is HE?  Is it SMILEY?  And I’ve read the book!  (Though, granted, I read it nearly 20 years ago. . .)

This is a great movie to see if you’re in the mood for a bit of a brain game, and one I have no doubt will get even better with multiple viewings.  Definitely recommended, and I hope they make at least one more of the Smiley books into a film with the same cast.  So much more fun than Bond!

[Prequeue it at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Thriller, Spy
Cast:  Gary Oldman, Kathy Burke, Benedict Cumberbatch, David Dencik, Colin Firth, Stephen Graham, Ciarán Hinds, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones

MOVIE: Salt (2010)

August 7, 2010

The first time I saw the TV show Alias, I ended up glued to the couch for two straight days, consuming both season one and a ton of caffeine absolutely voraciously.  It was smart, energetic, creative, and really damn FUN.  Season two was likewise delicious, and, well, you know, it got kind of hokey after that.  I still loved it, mind you — I own every season but the last one on DVD and have watched each one more than once.  But I missed the early days when the focus was more on the spy stuff, the costume changes, the ass-kicking, and less on Michael Vartan and Jennifer Garner’s on- and off-screen romantic woes.

So it was with a little bit of glee, silly as that may sound, that I found myself thinking of Alias not fifteen minutes into Salt.  Same premise, of course:  spy woman who kicks serious ass, using her brains just as often as her brawn, and it even had the whole “Soviets trained kids to be super spies” thing going on.  But even better, it was clever, full of twists, complicated, entertainingly sharp.  I had read some reviews when it first came out that suggested it was a bit lacking in originality but entertaining in all other regards, but I’m going to disagree with that first bit.  Even though we’ve seen spy movies enough times to know roughly how this one was going to go (I had every traditional spy story theory rattling through my head at one time or another), I still didn’t have it all figured out until much later in the game than I expected.  Agent?  Double agent?  Triple agent?  Innocent?  Guilty?  A pawn?  Brainwashed?  Damned if I knew, and damned if I didn’t have an absolute blast finding out.

Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie) is having a pretty good day the day it all begins — she’s leaving work early to celebrate her first wedding anniversary and has big plans for a quiet night in with her husband, an entomologist.  But as she’s headed out the door, her colleague (Liev Schreiber, who is great in this) stops her and asks her to talk to a Russian man who’s just come in claiming he’s a defector with information about a planned hit on the Russian president.  Salt’s had extensive experience with the Soviets, so she agrees to interview him, assuming he’s a fraud.  But all hell breaks loose when he announces he knows who’s planning the assassination — an American spy who’s really a Russian spy. Named Evelyn Salt.

Where it goes from there, I’ll leave for you to discover.  But I’ll tell you this much, I had a great time watching this flick.  The action is exciting and fun, the story kept me guessing, and everything tied up pretty neatly at the end, even while it left things wide, wide open for a sequel (which I hope they’ll follow-through on).  If you were a fan of Alias too, or you just like a good summer action flick, I think you’ll really enjoy this one.  Check it out!  And while it’s still in theaters, I say, if only so you can watch shit blow up enormously in front of your face.  Sweeeeeeet.  Recommended!

p.s. Chiwetel Ejiofor?  Mrrrrrrowl!

[Prequeue at Netflix | View trailer]

Genre:  Action/Spy
Cast:  Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daniel Olbrychski, Andre Braugher

MOVIE: Quantum of Solace (2009)

July 9, 2009

Damn, Daniel Craig sure is hot. . .

I have absolutely no idea what this movie was about.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Obfuscation
Cast:  Daniel Craig, The Dame J.D., Mathieu Amalric, Olga Kurylenko, Giancarlo Giannini

MOVIE: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

December 31, 2007

I really enjoyed both of the other Bourne movies (Identity and Supremacy), and was excited to finally get to see the latest installment in the series.  But though I was entertained, I have to say I was also pretty disappointed.  This movie has about 18 minutes of plot — the rest is just one chase scene after the next.  Granted, they are amazing chase scenes — brilliantly choreographed and extremely fun to watch.  But seriously?  After the second one, which I swear lasted at least 12 minutes and added essentially zero to the story, I was really ready for some actual PLOT.

And what a waste, because there were all kinds of ways this installment’s story could’ve gone.  Jason (Matt Damon) has begun having flashes back to his original training, slowly regaining his memories piece by piece.  And what’s he’s remembering is absolutely horrifying.  Meanwhile, a CIA deputy director (David Strathairn) has decided Bourne is a threat — that he’s out for revenge after the murder of his girlfriend and must thus be stopped at any cost.  As Jason struggles to untangle the mass of memories in his head, he finds himself teamed up with an old adversary, both of them soon evading assasins left and right.

Sounds pretty riveting, right?  Too bad the story itself was only an eighth of the actual movie!

In any case, it IS still fun — I can’t deny it that much.  But I confess if they make a fourth one, I won’t be in a hurry to see it.  Why in the heck someone bothered to make a movie where the ratio of story to filler is 1:8, I have no idea. 

I do still love that theme song by Moby, though. . . Can’t help myself.

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Spy, Action, Thriller
Cast:  Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Joan Allen

MOVIE: Breach (2007)

September 5, 2007

Before I get into the movie review, I wanted to announce that while I put in over 70 hours of physical labor last week while on “vacation” trying to paint the exterior of my house, WE ARE STILL NOT DONE WITH PAINTING THE EXTERIOR OF OUR HOUSE. The words “shoot me now” leap immediately to mind.

I tell you this for one reason and one reason alone, and that is to urge you always, ALWAYS to choose debt over labor. Learn from me! Do not make this mistake yourself! Had we known then what we know now (which is that this is the kind of job done by 22 year olds for a very good reason), we would’ve loaded up the credit card and hired this puppy out to some young’uns. Because, lo, does painting a house ever suck ass. Pardon my French.

In any case, I also wanted to mention this so you’d know why I’m only posting this movie review today, when in reality I watched this movie last Wednesday.

The better news is that this is the one truly GOOD movie I watched last week, hallelujah! It’s based on the true story of Robert Hanssen (played by chameleon Chris Cooper, whose children I would still love to give birth to, incidentally), an FBI agent who was arrested in 2001 for espionage. And when I say “espionage,” I’m not referring to a little minor spying here and there — instead, Hanssen is widely recognized to be one of the worst, most destructive spies of all time. He was indirectly responsible for the murders of at least three Russian double-agents after he ratted them out (actually, maybe that makes him directly responsible, not indirectly so), and he sold an absolutely astonishing number of secrets to the Soviets over a period of two and a half decades as well.

The movie begins two months before his arrest, and tells the story of Robert’s last eight weeks of freedom from the perspective of a young Feebie named Eric O’Neill (Ryan Phillippe), a computer specialist assigned to work as Hanssen’s clerk in order to get close to him and help the muckity-mucks obtain evidence of his wrong-doings. O’Neill’s goal is to become a full-fledged agent, and so he jumps at the chance to impress his superiors by accepting the role. But the more time he spends with Hanssen, the more disillusioned with the whole system he becomes, and ultimately, after Hanssen’s arrest and conviction, O’Neill leaves the FBI to become a lawyer instead.

What I liked about this movie was that it moved very steadily and almost quietly, not playing any of this story out for cheap thrills. There are several nail-biting scenes of suspense, but for the most part, this is a character study, and the characters are brilliantly brought to life by both Cooper and Phillippe. Hanssen is portrayed as a very “normal” family man who attends mass every day and, rather ironically, very openly frowns upon any moral failings in his colleagues. As the movie progresses, however, we come to realize that all this is merely a facade. In reality, Hanssen is incredibly bitter about the lack of advancement in his career, and he has taken out his bitterness on the entire nation by selling as many secrets as he can for as much money as he can get (though money didn’t really seem to be his goal). Phillippe, as the rookie O’Neill, does his greatest acting work ever, in my opinion. I’ve never been much of a fan of Ryan’s, but this movie finally demonstrated he’s got a bit of talent tucked away in there somewhere. He ought to bring it out more often.

I wasn’t at all surprised to learn this film was directed by the same guy who directed Shattered Glass, the movie about reporter (or, “fauxporter” as I like to call newsmen of his ilk), Stephen Glass. The two movies are very similar — procedural-but-very-suspenseful films about liars. Both movies are excellent, and they’d make a great double-feature! You know, if you really really want to bum yourself out about how low some people will go to feel important.

Genre: Thriller/Espionage

Cast: Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Bruce Davidson

The Company, The Kill Point, and Flash Gordon — An Update

August 18, 2007

Just a quick update on a few new TV shows I had alerted you guys about (finally had a chance to get a bit caught up on stored DVR stuff this weekend!):

TNT’s miniseries, The Company, is a total blast. Great acting, a complex and engaging storyline, and lots and lots of nifty spy stuff. Lovin’ it. Haven’t seen part two yet, but am hoping to watch it tonight before the final part airs tomorrow (Sunday the 19th). Damn, that Chris O’Donnell is ha-ZOT. He’s just getting cuter with every passing moment.

Spike’s original series The Kill Point, on the other hand, is pretty bad, though I confess I’m still watching it. Donnie Wahlberg’s cop character is so annoying I kind of want to shove a pencil in his eye. His “quirk” is that he’s obsessed with grammar — he corrects everybody’s sentences all the time, and when they say things like, “Seriously? Three bank robbers are holding 8 people at gun point and you’re upset because I split an infinitive?” he replies with, “Hey, I’m a hostage negotiator — one wrong word in this job and PEOPLE DIE.”

I try to hold back the derisive snickers (especially when he’s just corrected someone incorrectly, which has happened twice so far), but I fail every time. Not a good sign.

The show is also ripping off left and right from Al Pacino’s Dog Day Afternoon, not to mention just about every other bank robbery movie or TV show ever made, but John Leguizamo is doing a pretty good job with his part and there have been some moments in the first three episodes (haven’t seen last week’s yet) that I thought were pretty well done. All in all, not a great show, but it’s pretty watchable.

Alas, I could not say the same about Sci-Fi’s new series Flash Gordon, the pilot of which I watched earlier last week. It’s just all over the place, and I didn’t particularly care about any of the actors or their characters. The pilot was 90 minutes, but I gave up around the half-way mark and took it back out of my DVR timer. Oh well! If the show seems to pick up some steam after it airs a few more episodes, I might give it another try. And hey, if you watched episode two this week and thought it improved radically on the pilot, let me know in comments and I’ll see if I can catch it in reruns over the next few days?

Meerkat Manor, incidentally, is as awesome as ever; hope you’re watching. And if you missed any of last season’s great series Men in Trees, starring the ridiculously gorgeous James Tupper, I hope you’ve noticed ABC is rerunning those Thursday nights this summer. The second season will be extra-long, as it will feature the usual 22 episodes PLUS the five or so from the end of season one that never aired last spring (ABC kept trying out new shows in its slot instead and then decided to just roll those final eps into an extended second season). Season Two starts Friday, October 12th at 10pm. So mark your calendars and be sure to tune in and support the show — it was my favorite of all the newbies from last year and I desperately want ABC to keep it going!

Coming this Sunday: Chris O’Donnell in “The Company” on TNT

August 1, 2007

Just a head’s up that the cutest guy ever to grace the small screen of Grey’s Anatomy (and no, I don’t mean Patrick Dempsey) is coming to TNT this Sunday for a miniseries titled The Company that will be about the CIA vs. the Soviets during the Cold War. Of course, you read the subject line, so you know I mean Chris O’Donnell, and raise your hand if you wish Callie would’ve married his vet character on Grey’s instead of ending up with George “The Man ‘Ho” O’Malley. Yeah, me too. I miss Dr. McVet! Come back, Dr. McVet, come back!

In any case, the miniseries features a pretty stellar set of names: Alfred Molina, Michael Keaton, and Alessandro Nivola also star, and it’s been produced by Tony and Ridley Scott, as well as David Zucker. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Minus ten points for having a web site with faaaaar too much flash animation, but plus five back for mentioning Chris’s role in Fried Green Tomatoes in his bio, because even though it makes me sound like a disgusting GIRL, I absolutely love that movie.

I’ll report back after I’ve seen the first episode to let you know what I thought! Tawanda!!!