Notes from the back row 

Summer blockbuster season begins

Well, Summer Movie Blockbuster season officially begins this Friday when the Village 8 opens Mission Impossible 3 , the first huge-budget, popcorn movie of the summer. I bet producer/star Tom Cruise would really prefer that I focus only on the movie rather than on him, his wife, his new child, and the fact that he’s been acting pretty dorky/creepy/schizo for the past, oh… forever. Sure Tommy, you got it.

The Mission Impossible franchise is cool, action-packed and sexy. Much like the James Bond franchise, except that some people actually remember what happens in Bond flicks and thinking of the last two MI films my mind was pulling complete blanks. Probably ’cause the last one sucked so much.

This time around things are looking up. Cruise handpicked director JJ Abrams (Creator of TV’s Lost and Alias ) and the first-time big-screen director handles the ball well – he certainly doesn’t drop it. In MI3 Cruise’s Agent Ethan Hunt is semi-retired and living the domesticated man’s life of love with his fiancée when things at work go straight down the shitter. First, his protégé (Keri Russel) is captured and killed, and to make things worse Hunt’s girlfriend, who didn’t realize he was a globe-trotting super-spy, gets pulled into the fray by the ultra-villainous villain Owen Davian, played perfectly by Philip Seymour Hoffman in his first action film. That Oscar was no fluke.

Despite Abrams’s attempts to focus more on Hunt’s personal life and real-man qualities (hey, it worked in Spider-Man) Mission3 is still chock full of stunts, gadgets, explosions and snappy plot twists. The intro alone is worth admission price and sets the tone nicely.

This is more of a character-ensemble movie than the first two, with Ving Rhames returning as the tech guy, along with master of disguise Jonathan Rhys Meyer and sassy inside girl Maggie Q filling out Hunt’s team. This element is a nice toss back to the original TV series and also helps the film from being a total Bond rip-off (plus it has Matt Damon’s Bourne movies to compete with now, too).

Anyone walking into Mission Impossible 3 looking to change their lives or learn about the human condition is as looney as a scientologist hopped up on goofballs, but if you want tense action, crazy stunts, a not-so-surprise ending, and the world’s biggest movie star actually starring in a movie rather than acting the fool, well here you go. Summer movie season begins and this is not too shabby a start.

The DVD of the week is perhaps my favorite terrorist movie, Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopian futuristic black comedy Brazil. It’s like George Orwell’s 1984 on three hits of sunshine acid but the cool thing is how much Gilliam’s 21-year-old film kind of resembles society today. With its flatscreen monitors, cell phones, and limitless bureaucracy Brazil portrays a world where people go right back to their dinners after terrorists blow up half the restaurant. George Bush would be proud. Forget about the plot of the film, it’s as convoluted and tricky as they come, but it doesn’t matter. The set design, costumes, and characters (including Robert De Niro as a good Samaritan terrorist heating engineer) keep the movie rolling and the laughs coming. Gilliam paints a future of supposed total organized efficiency yet nothing, not even the elevators, function properly. It’s a half-ass world full of forms, receipts, and receipts for receipts.

And the terrorists? The government’s official stance is, ‘these terrorists will lose on the basic rules of sportsmanship. You can’t win the game if you’re a man short."

I guess time will tell.

AT VILLAGE 8 May 5-11: Mission Impossible 3; Friends with Money; RV; Stick It; Scary Movie 4; Lucky Number Slevin; The Sentinel; Ice Age 2; Silent Hill.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE May 5-11:

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