Monthly Archive: April 2012

Mission Impossible 2

In Which Tom Cruise Appears to Grin Mischievously for 2 Hours Straight.



I had dinner with fellow author Dan Krokos the other night. As usual, dinner with Dan always ends in horror, hangover, and humiliation. This time the horror, as it so often does, came courtesy of Tom Cruise. Dan insisted that Mission Impossible 2 was a good – nay! Great! – movie, and resisted all attempts to talk sense to him. I haven’t seen MI2 since it came out in theaters in 2000. As with just about everything else from 2000, I have very little memory of it. Just a vague sense of the ridiculous, lingering shots of fire and doves and the long-haired version of Tom The Cruise which we have all tried to forget so very hard.

So, being a basically fair and decent human being, I offered to re-watch MI2 and write a little something about it, good or bad. To see if perhaps my memories of it were skewed, if it was a better movie than I remember. To be frank, it’s a little difficult to get past Tom Cruise’s hair. WHY IS IT SO LONG AND GIRLISH?

And, to be honest it isn’t as terrible as I remember. There’s a decent action movie buried in there. It’s just suffering from Attempted Awesome Failure. There are soooo many things in this movie that are just ridiculous. If you take one second to think about aspects of the plot or the action sequences, they start to fall apart, even though the basic premise of the movie isn’t a bad one.

This is a movie, after all, that is guilty of a plethora of style-obsessed sins. Everybody taps at their keyboards when “hacking”! Every action scene has extended slow-motion takes, often repeated as if the film editor had some sort of nervous tic (so we can marvel at teh AWESOMENESS over and over, I suppose)! The ridiculous MI masks that make you look exactly like someone else, right down to sweat level and beard growth, are used so often it’s actually a comic effect by the end. Those masks were super dumb in the series, in the first movie, and forever. This movie uses them as plot points no less than three times. Maybe more. There was some flicker-related epilepsy while watching this movie.

On a larger scale, sense is sacrificed on the altar of AWESOME a few times as well. There’s a scene towards the end when Ethan Hunt has to break into a secure office building in order to destroy the horrible virus. It’s an awful scene, because Woo keeps cutting between the Bad Guy, who is predicting exactly what Hunt will do, and Hunt actually doing it, and it plods. Now, to show that the Bad Guy, a former IMF agent, is smart and knows Hunt well enough to predict his moves isn’t a bad plot idea, but the scene is so badly edited we keep stopping in our tracks for the Bad Guy to tell us what we’re about to see. Jebus.

And then, despite predicting exactly what his enemy will do … the Bad Guy allows him to do it anyway.

And then, when Hunt is attempting to break into the building by diving into an airshaft his teammates are trying to open for him, he dives before they have actually opened the airshaft, for no apparent reason.

And then, once inside, hunt moves with an elephantine slowness while trying to destroy every trace of a horrible virus that could kill everyone in the world. He moves like he’s wading through Jello, which Woo apparently thinks escalates the drama.

And then, in order to get a momentary advantage after being pinned down by the Bad Guys, Hunt sets off several powerful explosions in a laboratory that houses deadly viruses. My god, he just killed us all and we won’t even know it for a few weeks.

This sequence alone should have killed this film series.

The ending, of course, gets a lot of negative attention, but really isn’t the worst thing about the movie. Sure, there’s a lot of unnecessary slow motion. And pigeons, because doves would have been ridiculous somehow. And fire. And motorcycles. And yes, that final kick where Ethan Hunt, like Neo in The Matrix, learns how to manipulate the fundamental laws of physics and somehow kick a gun out of the sand into the air so he can catch it and shoot the Bad Guy a few times.

For that kick alone, John Woo should be mocked wherever he goes. It’s the sort of move little kids make up when playing cops and robbers: Now I kick the gun into the air and catch it!

So: Mission Impossible 2: Not a good movie, but you can see the decent movie it’s hiding under its bloated, awful carcass, I think. Something tells me there’s a good script version 1.0 somewhere, ruined by several layers of AWESOMEING. Which is now a word, for truth.


Busy Weekend

Jeesh. I am right now as I type this sitting in an Au Bon Pain in New Brunswick, on College Avenue. Where I attended college, actually, though my memories of this period of my life, as with any period of my life, are vague. I wandered about a bit thinking, ah, yes, I have stood in this spot before, but that’s about as far as my creaking old brain goes. College Years Jeff might as well be some other person.

IN fact, this Au Bon Pain wasn’t here when I attended school. I am outraged that the universe evolves without my direct participation.

I’m here because The Duchess is running a half marathon. Yesterday, we got up early and drove down here to pick up her bib, and it was frustrating because there were absolutely no signs anywhere telling you where to go, and my memories of Busch Campus are as vague as my memories of everything else, resulting in us driving around for a while while I frowned and mumbled things like “Ah, I think I went to a party in those apartments once …”

For the record, The Duchess does not care where I went to a party once.

So, we ran late in getting the race bib, and then had to race into Manhattan to participate in “The Future: What Does It Mean” event sponsored by Asis&t Metro. Fellow author David Louis Edelman and I had been tapped as Science Fiction authors to declaim on our vision of the future and information technology and such. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed David’s presentation and the conversation that ensued, despite arriving in a flurry of harried incompetence, having forgotten all my notes, books, and other items in my rush to get there on time.

David Louis Edelman impressed me, and I’m really looking forward to reading his books, and so should you. For serious.

Then, The Duchess and I had to rush back to Jersey to attend a dinner that had been in the works for a few weeks which we also barely managed to make on time. And then, drunk and full, I went home and to bed. Which means subjectively, yesterday took about three minutes to elapse.

And now I’m back in New Brunswick, having dropped The Duchess off, sitting in Au Bon Pain waiting for her to finish the race. This weekend didn’t even happen, from my point of view.

Jeff in the Wild

Guess what? I’ll be here blathering on about the future and such on Saturday:

WHAT: The Future, What Does it Mean? (sponsored by Asis&t metro)

WHERE: Hotel Pennsylvania, New York, 401 7th Avenue, 33rd Street, New York, NY 10001

WHEN: Saturday, 4/21, 2pm – 5pm

I’ll be there with fellow author David Louis Edelman (Infoquake, MultiReal, Geosynchron), and others to discuss “the information landscape of the future and the skills required to navigate this rapidly changing terrain.” I can only assume I was invited to be the comedy relief.

Not a Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

The Cabin in the WoodsFriends, I saw The Cabin in the Woods over the weekend. It’s rare these days that I actually buy into hype and get excited about a movie, but this one grabbed me. It just looked mysterious and cool, like that kid at a high school party smoking weed right out in the open, wearing sunglasses, and you’re fifteen and you see him and think, shit, if I could just hang out with that dude I’d be set for life.

So, this isn’t a review. I liked the movie a great deal, but everyone in the universe is reviewing it and breathlessly praising/criticizing the twists and turns and the premise, which is so huge and ungainly it either works for you or doesn’t, frankly. It worked for me. Enough said.

No, what I’m most excited about is the five minute sequence towards the end of the film where everything goes batshit insane. I think of this moment as the Natural Batshit Moment. Warning, I’m a gonna spoil the heck out of this movie.

The Natural Batshit Moment in a story is when you come to a point in the plot where something you’ve set up long before is sprung into action and the pace of the story goes into overdrive for a bit, careening off into complete joyous insanity – but it feels natural, like a piece clicking into place instead of a desperate attempt at injecting life into your moribund plot. Towards the end of The Cabin in the Woods, our two surviving sacrifices make their way down into the corporate offices. On the way they encounter a selection of the supernatural horrors kept in cages for use in their ritual sacrifice to the Elder Gods – it being revealed earlier that the evil they summon to destroy them all are trucked up in an elevator – and when pinned down by a cleanup SWAT team of sorts, they notice a huge, candy-like PURGE SYSTEM button. So they press it, releasing the horrors hidden under the cabin in waves, delivered promptly every few minutes by the dinging elevators.

Put aside the silliness of a PURGE SYSTEM button like that – we’re talking a universe where giant spiders and Pinhead-knockoffs are kept in glass cages to be delivered unto unsuspecting, drugged teenagers. Forget the silliness, and just sit back and enjoy the insane spectacle of the buttoned-down corporate environs being invaded by the nightmare creatures they’ve been serving upstairs as part of their jobs. This is batshit territory, but the story earned it. One, we’re shown how subdued and corporate the basement areas are – these fucks are killing innocent teens as part of their jobs. Two, we pretty much know the creatures are selected and delivered already, so the “storage system” isn’t too much of a stretch. Three, it doevtails nicely with the protagonists being pinned down with no way to fight back – except to purge the system.

The sequence that follows is fantastic. The quick shots of nightmare fuel killing the salarymen and women are quick and creepy. The throwaway scenes of people committing suicide rather than be taken by their worst nightmares are brutal and done with the right touch of blank affectlessness. The chaos, the panic – it all feels right. These people might work for some ginormous conspiratorial nightmare factory, but they woke up that morning, drank some coffee, went to their day job, and started making plans for diner. And then someone released the monsters, and the place became a massacre.

The rest of the movie is OK. Better than most, worse than others. This one sequence, however, will always raise The Cabin in the Woods up beyond the mediocre for me. When structuring plots it’s always hard to come up with a Natural Batshit Moment. You always want that crazy moment of freefall, that exhilarating sequence where plot points come together and send the reader/viewer on a brief gravity-free mission to fuck yeah. But it’s hard to pull off. The Cabin in the Woods pulls it off, and for a few minutes there every time the elevators dinged I almost cheered.

So there.

Monday is Guitar Day

Epiphone Les Paul CustomDespite my best efforts, people continue to not request that I post more guitar songs, so I keep having to do so despite the lack of public clamor. You people are killing me. As punishment, I’m going to post more anyway.



The usual disclaimer: 1. I admit these are not great music; 2. I claim copyright anyway, so there; 3. No, I cannot do anything about the general quality of the mix, as I am incompetent.