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Movie Review: Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

Mike Finkelstein is being offered a mission, should he choose to accept it. Go to the theater. See an action movie starring Tom Cruise that absolutely blows the rest of the action movies this year out of the water. Buy popcorn. Don’t get killed. He did all this, and even bought gummy worms. Mission accomplished. Here is his review of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”.



Mike Finkelstein is being offered a mission, should he choose to accept it.  Go to the theater.  See an action movie starring Tom Cruise that absolutely blows the rest of the action movies this year out of the water.  Buy popcorn.  Don’t get killed.  He did all this, and even bought gummy worms.  Mission accomplished.  Here is his review of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”.

PLOT: After being implicated in the bombing of the Kremlin, the IMF is officially shut down (aka Ghost Protocol).  Fighting to clear their name, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team go rogue, only to find out that they’re not only trying to save themselves, but the rest of the world from nuclear war.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  A fourth MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.  It seemed like the movie that nobody wanted.  J.J Abrams left the series on a huge high note with part III…what were the odds that a fourth entry could actually beat it, especially now that many considered Tom Cruise’s career over?

The odds are pretty damn good, because MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: GHOST PROTOCOL is nothing but balls-to-the-wall action and thrills.  It isn’t just a worthy addition to the series, but arguably the best so far.

This time around, we find Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) an inmate in a Moscow prison.  In prime M:I fashion, we save the explanation for later, and go straight for the break out.  It turns out things are pretty bad on the outside, and Hunt, along with CIA Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and the capable goof and now field agent, Benji (Simon Pegg) need to break into the Kremlin to steal some nuclear arms codes.

Nothing is ever that easy, though, and when the Kremlin is bombed, the IMF is blamed, and shut down (Ghost Protocol).  Suddenly, Hunt and his team, along with new by-the-books field agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner), have to go rogue to both save the world from nuclear disaster and clear their names.

Brad Bird, a director known strictly for animation, has done a remarkable job of choreographing and layering some of the best action sequences of the year.   From a prison break to the Kremlin exploding…from Cruise scaling the 800 meter tall Burj Khalifa to a car chase in a sand storm, there is no off switch.  What makes it more impressive is two-fold.  First, Bird and writer Josh Applebaum are not only able to bring that action, but also infuse each scene with that trademark lighthearted humor that makes the M:I series so much more than a run-of-the-mill action film.  (Think some Dean Martin to bookend a prison escape, a self-destructing telephone that needs a Fonzie-punch to self destruct, and a malfunctioning sticky glove at the top of the Burj Khalifa that seems pulled straight out of a Road Runner cartoon.)

Secondly, in any film with crazy stunts, there’s always a suspension of disbelief.  Besides only one factor at the end (Cruise walking away from a car nose dive), I was on board for all of it.  Hell, even a horribly clichéd line that could come out of a Segal/Van Damme movie sounded awesome coming out of Tom Cruise’s mouth!  When you’re that immersed in the world of a film that anything and everything is fair game, it’s pretty impressive.

Speaking of Tom Cruise, you have to give the man his due.  Cruise does all of his own stunts (as usual), and brings us back the charming and unstoppable Ethan Hunt that we’ve all grown to love over the past decade and a half.  He may have been jumping on couches a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean he can’t still own a movie, and he does.  It also helps when you have the absolutely gorgeous Paula Patton to stare at, as well as the scene stealing Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner backing you up.  (Speaking of Renner, it was rumored that he would take over the M:I franchise because studios weren’t sure about Cruise’s star power anymore…guess that went out the window…)

As for the bad of M:I 4, only one basic complaint comes to mind.  While the action sequences were absolutely mind-blowing (especially if you see it in IMAX), there was never any time for any character development.  J.J. Abrams walked a fine line with M:I III, giving us not only crazy action, but also a beautiful story with Ethan and his wife, as well as a baddie you just wanted to hiss at in the form of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  Here, we get a few moments of exposition for the good guys, and never get a chance to hiss at the baddie because, frankly, we never really see him.  Granted, this is a small factor and something I only realized after a long discussion, but it’s a critique nonetheless.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE GHOST PROTOCOL is some of the most fun I’ve had in a theater this year.  It is yet again another high point of the franchise, and I tip my hat to both Brad Bird, who has officially earned my respect as a wonderful architect of action and storytelling, as well as Tom Cruise, who has proven that while he may be crazy, there’s a reason why he has been on the A-list for so long.  Only thing I could say is that I hope both can make it back for MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 17.


Mike’s LIKES:

1) TOM CRUISE IS STILL THE MAN: Whenever an actor has a career slump (past five years?), there’s always a moment where you know they’ve completely bounced back.  This is that moment.  Say what you want about Tom Cruise, but the man still gives his everything to his roles.  The stunts that he pulled off here are astonishing, and he is still one of our greatest action stars.  Hell, he made a joke line like “Mission Accomplished!” sound cool!

2) SIMON PEGG: Simon Pegg has slowly turned into one of my favorite comedic actors.  He never hams it up as Benji, and finds that perfect line of serious versus funny, easily stealing some scenes away from Cruise.  Oh yeah…and he actually has the balls to be a hero (you’ll see).

3) JEREMY RENNER: Renner is finally getting the recognition he deserves.  He has done great jobs in every movie he’s been in after THE HURT LOCKER, and while Cruise ain’t going anywhere, I would be on board if he took over this franchise at some point in the future.

4) STUNTS: Car chases, crazy falls, sand storms, and hanging off the Burj Khalifa.  Be ready to have your heart in your throat.  And please, see the damn thing in IMAX.

5) BRAD BIRD: The man came from doing THE IRON GIANT and THE INCREDIBLES, and somehow transitioned into one of the greatest action franchises of the past fifteen years.  AND he revitalized it, at that!  Amazingly job, my friend, and I can’t wait to see more live action films from you in any genre.

6) CAMEOS: I won’t give it away, but fans of the series will love the little surprise cameos waiting for you.  It definitely made me giddy in my seat.


1) NO SLOWING DOWN: While there is nothing wrong with non-stop action, there was no real time for any character development, whether it be on the good or bad sides.  Yes, Hunt and Brandt had their moments of exposition, but it just wasn’t the same after the in-depth love story of M:I III.

2) WEAK VILLAIN: I understand the villain isn’t really the biggest deal, and mostly another MacGuffin to get the crazy stunts going, but after Phillip Seymour Hoffman in M:I III, it was somewhat disappointing to deal with someone so underdeveloped.


1) The nuclear missile flying over San Francisco is apparently heading towards Pixar’s headquarters.

2) Anthony Mackie, Christopher Egan and Kevin Zegers were considered to play Brandt.


REVIEW: “Sing Street” Will Put a Song in Your Heart… and Your iPod



“I have just seen an instant classic.”

That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.

It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.

Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!

Hooked yet? You will be.

Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments meets “Sixteen Candles meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.

A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.

Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”

One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”).  He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.”  Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows.  Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly,  so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.

The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music.  While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits,  Carney had a bigger vision for the film.  He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today.  From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,”  to the EMO ballad “To Find You,”  there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.

There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.

The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.”  That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.

SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.






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Celebrate The Fourth With Our Picks For Great American Movies!

What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?



What makes a film distinctly American? Sometimes it recollects the spirit of our patriotism, and other times it is so iconic and popular that it defines an entire generation of our culture. Here are our picks for some great American movies! Why not celebrate your Independence Day holiday by popping up some popcorn and enjoying one?

It’s impossible to list them all… this is just a handfull! Scroll down and tell us what your favorites are!!!

Let’s start at the beginning!

Do you have what it takes to watch a black and white classic? (Don’t break my heart by replying if the answer is no.) Yankee Doodle Dandy is a 1942 classic starring James Cagney – telling the story of the great entertainer George M Cohan. He’s the man behind the songs “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”  A true classic with distinctly American music and showmanship. Watch the trailer!

There’s something about the fifties and sixties that still plucks at the nostalgic heartstrings of America. And yet, two of the most iconic movies about that period were actually shot decades later, with a heartfelt look back at those times.

Both American Graffiti and Grease come to mind. While American Graffiti can take bragging rights for bringing us more breakout stars, (and being written and directed by George Lucas), Grease seems to enjoy more clout as a family friendly favorite.

1986 was a  good year for Tom Cruise, and a good year for movies. Top Gun starred Tom Cruise stars as a student at Top Gun Naval Academy. It sparked a sense of patriotism, and the continued ascent of Cruise’s career. (If you’re watching with your kids, you might wanna skip ahead once you start hearing the song “Take My Breath Away.” Love scene ahead! Still, some might argue it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.)

Forrest Gump (1994) proved not only to be an excellent movie, but also an impromptu history lesson.
The story follows an unlikely hero (played by Tom Hanks) as he journeys through life, finding himself witnessing (and sometimes even influencing) a series of historic events, but is largely unaware of their significance. A true classic.

Before the luster of Mel Gibson had worn off, he portrayed Benjamin Martin, a man who becomes embroiled in the Revolutionary War. The late Heath Ledger plays his son, who fights in the Continental Army.

The most recent of patriotic classics is 2012’s Lincoln. Daniel Day Lewis delivers a flawless performance as our 16th President under the directorial brilliance of Steven Spielberg. A new classic for the ages.


For more movies updates, follow @BrianBalthazar on twitter!

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Movie Reviews

MOVIE REVIEW- WORLD WAR Z Is a Messy, Relentless Zombie Horror Flick That Really Works

Check Out Steven’s review for one of the biggest surprises of 2013, the epic zombie flick WORLD WAR Z.



world-war-z-posterWORLD WAR Z

Paramount Pictures

Director- Marc Forster

Starring-Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, James Badge Dale. Abigail Hargrove, Sterling Jerins, David Morse, David Andrews.

Steven’s Quick Review- Yes its production was messy, but WORLD WAR Z might be the biggest surprise of the summer movies in 2013. Thanks to relentless action, a number of good scares, and an on-target performance from Brad Pitt, WORLD WAR Z is an excellent zombie film. Even though it is barely based on its source material, Damon Lindelof’s rewritten third act will keep audiences guessing and add some scares to your summer movie slate.

Steven’s Review- Brad Pitt has become the kind of actor who now only does movies he truly wants to do, and only takes roles that challenge him. So when Pitt and his Plan B studios initially won the rights to Max Brooks bestselling novel WORLD WAR Z the options were endless. Yet from the start of production the movie had issues, between the initial script lacking invention, a director in Marc Forster (QUANTUM OF SOLACE) who was found it difficult to make important decisions and the very public spat between Pitt and Forster that nearly sidelined the film indefinitely.  There were also the on-set issues, besides the arguments between the actor and director, there were problems on set in Hungary when government officials stormed the set and removed live weapons. Also, forced re-shoots that moved WWZ from a winter release to a summer tentpole. It’s easy to assume WORLD WAR Z was doomed from the start. But something happened along the way, something that shocked plenty during our screening of the film in May. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Pitt, Forster, and crew actually made a darn good zombie flick. With help from Damon Lindelof (“Lost”, STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS) who came to the rescue and reworked an ending  after the studio deemed the initial conclusion was not good enough for release.  Following Lindelof’s changes and a massive marketing campaign Brad Pitt’s newest pet project was ready to show the world.

WORLD WAR Z the book takes place in a post zombie war setting, when a journalist and U.N investigator goes all over the globe talking to survivors and getting their stories.  The film adaptation written by Drew Goddard (CABIN IN THE WOODS), Matthew Michael Carnahan (STATE OF PLAY), J. Michael Straczynski (THOR) and Damon Lindelof  has little to nothing to do with Brooks acclaimed novel. We begin meeting Gerry Lane(Pitt) , a former UN investigator who lives with his family somewhere outside Philadelphia.  Within 5 minutes of the opening credits, we are thrown into a full on zombie invasion, with riots in super markets and speedy zombies chasing people down. WWZ Starts off with a bang. Gerry’s wife Karin(“The Killings” Mireille Enos), and his daughters Constance(Sterling Jerins) and Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) desperately leave the city and head towards New York, finding themselves in the streets of  Newark, New Jersey where they pick up supplies and await a helicopter pick-up thanks to Gerry’s old friends at the United Nations.

WORLD WAR Z is in no way a perfect movie; every now and then it finds itself deep into horror cliché, only to drag itself out with one big sequence after another. Pitt carries the film as he finds himself in worse situations every moment, but without being totally indestructible (meaning as an audience you never quite know whether Gerry Lane will make it out alive). Pitt’s performance feels dressed in reality, while he searches the globe for reasons why this zombie apocalypse is happening, worries for his safety and hopes to return to his family.

WORLD WAR Z is a suspenseful zombie flick that contains a few scares, but has the advantage of almost never slowing down.  The filmmakers found a way to protray a lot of violence and still receive a PG-13 rating – they show you enough death and destruction without maimed bodies and severed limbs. I enjoyed the fast paced nature of WWZ and the fact it never drags, it allows characters to develop and story to move forward without forsaking the zombie action fan in all of us.

As far as adaptations go, WORLD WAR Z could be considered one of the worst, it barely contains any connection to Max Brooks brilliant novel, other than a few characters names and one or two plot points. As far as summer surprises, WORLD WAR Z is a welcome break from comedies and super hero flicks that take up most of our time. But the pressure is on: it needs to bring in $500 million dollars to turn a profit for everyone involved. I enjoyed WORLD WAR Z and hope they can find a way to make some cash, so we can get more zombie action just like it.

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