Safe House

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Safe House

Run time 115 minutes.
Not for children.

Denzel Washington in “Safe House.”

This is a tense thriller with inexperienced CIA agent Ryan Reynolds trying to protect and, at the same time, bring in rogue agent Denzel Washington in Cape Town, South Africa. There are lots of mysterious people trying to kill Denzel.

This doesn’t present the CIA in a good light. I might have objected at one time, but from what I’ve learned about our Members of Congress and all the politicians who have occupied and worked in the executive branch since 1988 and the shenanigans in the courts, especially the Los Angeles Superior Court, what goes on in this movie can’t be easily discounted.

This is extremely well-directed by Daniel Espinosa, a Swede directing his first American movie and his first exposure to major stars (Washington has a producing credit) from a good script by David Guggenheim, with help from uncredited writers John Lee, Terry George, and Espinosa himself. Given all the people who worked on the script, it’s mind-boggling that they all have Denzel utter an appallingly ungrammatical comment about a “connection between you and I” that was like fingernails drawn across a blackboard for me; it’s bad enough for professional writers not to know basic grammar, but didn’t anybody catch this? Are Denzel and everyone who looked at the dailies so illiterate they didn’t say, “Wait a minute; this doesn’t sound right“? This has one firefight after another with car chases and rooftop chases thrown in. They go on from beginning to end. There’s not much time for thinking in this film, although Reynolds does a terrific job conveying a guy thrown into something he never imagined in his wildest dreams.

Washington and Reynolds give wonderful performances, ably backed up by a good cast that includes Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson. Equally compelling is the cinematography (Oliver Wood, who also shot the Matt Damon “Jason Bourne” films, which used similar technique), although the plethora of shots using cinéma vérité techniques highlighted by handheld cameras and cuts so quick they might make one dizzy, could be bothersome to some viewers. There are quite a few violent fights and the cuts are so fast that the gore of the actual knives and things going into bodies isn’t actually seen. But it can certainly be heard. The sound is also a big part of this movie. Every time something happens, you not only see it, you hear it, emphasized. The amplified sound, like the splendid music (Ramin Djawadi), adds immeasurably to the high tension that pervades throughout.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island IMAX 3D

Run time 94 minutes.
OK for children.

Dwayne Johnson in “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island.”

I had yet to be impressed by any movie shown in 3D since Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008). Generally the 3D is flat and the colors horrible. That all changed tonight with this sequel, which substitutes Dwayne Johnson for Brendan Fraser as Josh Hutcherson’s protagonist. This is by far the best 3D I’ve seen. When you take off your glasses, the colors remain vivid. The depth is very impressive. I saw it in IMAX and it was almost overwhelming. I was sitting fairly close and had to turn my head to see things in various parts of the screen.

As to the story, it’s clearly for children again, but it’s still an involving tale about Johnson and Hutcherson going to find Jules Verne’s “Mysterious Island” in the South Pacific. Once in the South Pacific they hook up with gorgeous, shapely Vanessa Hudgens and her father, Luis Guzmán, and fly off to crash on the Mysterious Island where they finally locate Josh’s grandfather, Michael Caine.

The rest of the movie is a colorful travelogue of the island where they encounter huge lizards and colorful birds and bees and other flora and fauna never before seen as they race to get off the island before it sinks.

For me the most beautiful scenery was provided by Hudgens, who wears a tight, scoop-necked tee shirt and short shorts throughout the film. She was definitely built to be seen in 3D. But that’s not to depreciate the beautiful colors that are almost constantly onscreen.

Brad Peyton does a fine job directing a script (Brian Gunn & Mark Gunn) that is secondary to the acting and colorful scenery. Caine gives one of his typical charming performances and Johnson, who has branched out from his normal action roles occasionally, seems more and more comfortable in a light comedy like this. He even plays the ukulele and sings. He’s getting so he can do it all, slowly morphing into one of the more appealing leading men extant. Unfortunately, when he got rid of his nickname, “The Rock,” he discarded what had become his trademark move, raising his one eyebrow. I miss that.

All in all, this is delightful entertainment for children and adults alike. It’s accompanied by a Looney Tunes cartoon in 3D, entitled “Daffy’s Rhapsody.” This is the kind of cartoon I can see and enjoy. It’s around seven minutes long, includes Elmer Fudd, takes you back to the movie experience of the ‘40s & ‘50s when they were all double features and included news and a cartoon, includes Mel Blanc’s voice, and the 3D is very good.

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