G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA
Anticipating that the movie would suck, a friend extended a challenge prior to my screening of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Try making it through the whole movie without thinking of Team America: World Police.
In truth, that seemed an impossible task, as Trey Parker's seminal action-flick satire is what I always think of when sitting through some new '80s-time-warp Hollywood ball-buster. But I'm happy to report that I didn't think about the film once during G.I. Joe's first 15 minutes. Given the cringe-inducing dialogue, the spastic editing, the incoherent destruction, the pummeling sound, and the "in association with Hasbro" title card, I was too busy thinking about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and wondering if I'd actually underrated that movie, after all. (My favorite bit in G.I. Joe's first action scene: Sienna Miller dangling above a potential victim and getting his attention by whistling to him, which he somehow hears amidst the explosions and gunfire.)
After that first reel, however, I was a goner, because not only was I thinking about Team America (plus every ridiculously clichéd, jingoistic, boring blockbuster I'd ever seen before or since 2004's marionette-laden comedy was released), but apparently director Stephen Sommers and his five - five! - co-screenwriters were, too. See if any of this sounds familiar. A secret governmental facility hidden in plain sight. A buff maverick (Channing Tatum) who plays by his own rules and rides his motorcycle in the rain. A cadre of crackerjack military agents, including a world-weary team leader (Dennis Quaid) and a hottie in a breast-hugging bodysuit (Shana Nichols). A training montage scored to a familiar pop song. ("Bang a Gong [Get It On]" - naturally.) Spy techniques involving extreme, and painful, facial reconstruction. Lines such as "When all else fails, we don't." Battles royale held in large cities, with our glass-shattering heroes appearing to cause far more damage than their nemeses. And, in the movie's France-baiting pièce de résistance, the inevitable collapse of the Eiffel Tower. (The only difference between its demolition here and in Team America? When the tower falls in Sommers' movie, it doesn't land on top of the Louvre.) So I completely pooched my challenge, and G.I. Joe racked up $56 million in ticket sales over the weekend. America! F--- yeah!
A PERFECT GETAWAY
Somewhat unexpectedly, considering that its writer/director's last outing was the execrable The Chronicles of Riddick, David Twohy's suspense thriller A Perfect Getaway turns out to be one - a lean, nasty, totally unpretentious good time. Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich star as Cliff and Cydney, a newly married couple vacationing in Hawaii who learn that another honeymooning couple was recently murdered on a neighboring island. Could their killers be the shady hitchhikers (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton) whom Cliff and Cydney refused a ride? Or perhaps their unanticipated traveling companions, the grinning special operative Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and his girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez)? With only a handful of suspects to choose from, you might have little trouble guessing, but that doesn't make Twohy's achievement any less impressive, or the tension any less palpable.
With the camera keenly focused on the performers' faces, we're alert to the subtlest changes in expression and intent, and Twohy elicits both miniature and major jolts with strategically composed images and beautifully realized flashbacks and split-screen effects; it's a first-rate piece of direction, artful but never show-off-y. And the cast delivers terrific performances across the board, with Zahn (in a welcome change) employing his cagey dynamism in the service of dramatic, rather than comedic, hysteria, Olyphant at his most commanding and entertaining (the man earns bonus points for his unbelievably spot-on Nicolas Cage impression), and Jovovich more effortlessly likable than she's been since ... well, damn, has this actress ever been likable before? A Perfect Getaway is nothing more than a juicy little throwaway, but by giving us a Milla Jovovich who kicks ass when not offing zombies, Twohy makes you think that he might be capable of miracles.