Tags :: Spy vs. Spy

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation REVIEW

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Building on the momentum of its predecessor, McQuarry whips up a similar blend of brilliantly constructed set pieces, spectacular stunts, humor, exotic locations and — well, that’s about it, really. What more do you need?

Penguins of Madagascar [video] POST

Penguins of Madagascar [video] (2014)

Stick a fork in them, they’re done. Or maybe that’s just me.

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Despicable Me 2 [video]

He was bad to the bone. Now he’s Dad to the bone. Does his mojo survive the transition? Despicable Me 2: my “Reel Faith” 60-second review.

REVIEW

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

“Dr. Evil without Austin Powers,” I called Gru in my review of Despicable Me. Turning Dr. Evil into Austin Powers (mutatis mutandis, for a family film) is the best possible way to keep the reformed character from losing his mojo. (Oh, how Mike Myers has influenced this discussion!)

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Skyfall [video]

Skyfall in 60 seconds: my “Reel Faith” review.

REVIEW

Argo (2012)

The fact-based premise is almost enough to sell Argo by itself. Argo opens and closes as a tense political spy caper, but it’s also an affectionate send-up of the movie-making process. The old advice to writers to “write what you know” is applicable to movies about movies, from Singin’ in the Rain to The Artist, and few subjects inspire Hollywood — or appeal to movie fans and film critics — more reliably than Hollywood itself.

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Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is so preposterously entertaining that it makes watching other recent Hollywood action spectacles feel like work. What in the last few years even compares to it?

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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy [video]

Here’s my 30-second take on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

REVIEW

Cars 2 (2011)

Visuals aside, Cars 2 is the first Pixar film ever (or at least since A Bug’s Life) that could one could easily imagine as a DreamWorks film—circa Shark Tale perhaps, with its punningly fishified analog of the human world. Or, with its frenetic action and gimmickry, Cars 2 bears some resemblance to a Blue Sky Studios cartoon (circa Robots, say, or Rio, with its world culture flavor). In a word, not only is Cars 2 mediocre, it doesn’t even feel like mediocre Pixar.

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Salt (2010)

Salt is tasty in moderation, though you wouldn’t want to make it a big part of your diet.

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Knight and Day (2010)

Little things like plot holes and leaps in logic shouldn’t matter that much when a movie like this is working. Watching Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn in Charade is a lot of fun even if you’re not completely sure afterward exactly what happened. If True Lies works for you, it’s because of how Arnold and Jamie Lee Curtis sell it, not because the story makes so much sense. When you find yourself nit-picking plot points and character motivations, it’s a sign the movie isn’t working.

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Quantum of Solace (2008)

Ferocious car chases, rooftop pursuits, brutal combat sequences, elegantly choreographed stunts, a parade of exotic locations… Quantum does all this, with credible panache. Just don’t expect to care like you did in Casino.

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The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

With The Bourne Ultimatum the eponymous hero has accomplished something rare indeed: Jason Bourne has gone the distance for three straight films. With The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum seals the achievement of a rare action franchise for thinking adults, combining gripping entertainment with an undercurrent of moral seriousness.

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Mission: Impossible (1996)

As he did with The Untouchables, in Mission: Impossible De Palma borrows the marquee value of an earlier franchise as a pretext for a series of loosely strung-together set pieces, highlighted by a single dazzling sequence that’s better than the rest of the movie put together.

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Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Despite its flaws, M:I‑III is competent, disposable entertainment. There’s nothing here that really grabs you like the first film’s CIA break-in, but it doesn’t leave a sour taste like Woo’s M:I‑II. Even so, in the post-007 world of Jason Bourne, that may not be enough.

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The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) has come a long way since he was fished out of the ocean with a pair of bullet holes in his body and even bigger holes in his memory. His past is still a blank, mostly, but he’s finally fully in command of his devastating training and skills as a CIA black-ops agent. These days, when he kicks into high gear, it’s by design, not reflex.

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Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London (2004)

Unfortunately, while this sequel is the least morally problematic of Muniz’s three big-screen outings, it’s also far and away the lamest, lacking utterly its predecessors’ fitful humor and excitement. When the high point of your movie involves a Queen Elizabeth lookalike getting down to a youth-orchestra Euro-pop version of Edwin Starr’s "War," something has gone disastrously wrong.

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The Navigator (1924)

Buster Keaton’s most popular vehicle in his own day, and said to be Keaton’s favorite of his own films, The Navigator isn’t as sophisticated and satisfying as his best work (e.g., The General), but it’s still brilliant slapstick comedy, with a rousing third act and a slam-bang climax.

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The Tuxedo (2002)

The suit is in fact the Tactical Uniform Experiment (TUX), a high-tech weapons system that acts directly on the user’s nervous system, instantly enabling Jimmy — who, unlike most of Jackie’s characters, has no special skills of his own — to dance like Fred Astaire, climb walls and ceilings like Spider-Man, and, of course, fight like Jackie Chan.

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My Favorite Blonde (1942)

One of Bob Hope’s best comic-thriller vehicles, My Favorite Blonde benefits from its semi-serious spy-thriller ambiance, tolerably cogent plot, scene-stealing penguin, and above all one of the more human, less caricatured, less one-dimensionally narcissistic characters in Hope’s movie oeuvre.

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Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

If Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over were consistent, that protest would become Juni’s mantra, repeated every thirty seconds or so from that point on until the end of the film. Then again, if Spy Kids 3-D were consistent — about anything at all — it might actually start making some kind of sense.

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Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

In the original Spy Kids, dashing spy parents Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Guigino) exchanged the glamorous world of espionage for the even greater adventure of raising a family. Their children Carmen and Juni (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) weren’t actually "Spy Kids" — a term that in the movie actually applied to a line of robotic child warriors designed by the only somewhat sinister Fegan Floop (Alan Cumming) — but became entangled in their parents’ exotic former life when the latter were captured by Floop’s forces.

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Spy Kids (2001)

The press kit calls it "James Bond for kids," but this over-the-top fantasy romp might be more accurately described as a family-friendly True Lies: The Next Generation, or even a married-with-children Austin Powers — all with Willy Wonka-style wonkiness and inspired set design straight out of Dr. Seuss.

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Cats and Dogs (2001)

Not that I’ve anything against cats. But there’s a particular breed of cat fancier who looks down at dogs precisely for qualities like their obedience, loyalty, and desire to please, explicitly preferring the fierce independence and proud impassiveness associated with cats. I wonder whether this kind of cat appreciation isn’t often rooted in a misguided human ideal — whether such people don’t prefer cats because they themselves like the idea of being remote and independent.

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Agent Cody Banks (2003)

Welcome to our second annual Spring Frankie Muniz Morally Problematic Spy Kids Rip-Off Movie, featuring hilarious hijinks offending each year against a different one of the Ten Commandments.

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I Spy (2002)

Wilson, a capable comic force in his own right, gets laughs too, but for the most part he’s content to play the laid-back straight man setting up Murphy’s punchlines. There’s an early scene in which, discussing their working relationship, Wilson uses a Harlem Globetrotters analogy to argue that he, the professional spy, should be team leader Meadowlark Lemon, and Murphy, a boxing champ, should be Fred "Curly" Neal, Meadowlark’s sidekick. Murphy, of course, ridicules this suggestion; and, whatever the ultimate relationship of their characters, which of the actors is Meadowlark and which is Curly is never in dispute.

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Bad Company (2002)

The first hour works quite a bit better than the second hour, in part because there is a second hour. The setup: When CIA agent Kevin Pope (Rock) is murdered in the middle of an important undercover operation involving the black-market sale of a miniature thermonuclear device, Pope’s CIA mentor Gaylord Oakes (Hopkins) must convince the sellers that Pope (or rather his undercover persona) is still alive. To do this, Oakes must turn to — you guessed it — Pope’s long-lost twin brother.

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The Bourne Identity (2002)

Like the memory-impaired antihero of Memento, the protagonist of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity (and a trilogy of Robert Ludlum novels before that) has no choice but to trust himself even though he can’t be sure he’s a trustworthy individual. Perhaps his honorable aspirations themselves are a good sign. Certainly the amazing abilities and instincts that suddenly surface when needed are clues to who and what he is. Jason may not know much, but he’s pretty sure he’s something out of the ordinary.

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Spy Game (2001)

“It’s kind of difficult to explain,” CIA operative Nathan Muir (Robert Redford) hedges with a wry smile. It may be the most straightforward piece of information anyone gets from him in the entire film.

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Mission: Impossible II (2000)

This second Mission: Impossible film has almost as little to do with the 1996 blockbuster original as the latter had with the classic TV series whose name it happened to share.