Movies: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
The newest "Mission: Impossible" flick wasn't on my radar until I learned that it was being directed by Brad Bird (who helmed "The Iron Giant, "The Incredibles," and "Ratatouille"):
Like Bird's animated films, "Ghost Protocol" is a slick, well-paced movie with some nifty action setpieces - the much-heralded free climbing sequence on the Burj Khalifa doesn't disappoint, especially if you see it on a big IMAX screen. I also got a kick out of all the spy gadgetry on display (there's a particularly fun scene featuring a portable active camouflage screen).
Thanks to Bird, "Ghost Protocol" doesn't take itself too seriously, and the film isn't above poking fun at famously self-destructing messages or having Tom Cruise shout something corny while he's saving the world. The last two installments of the "Mission: Impossible" series were too grim for their own good; the lighthearted tone works better considering the inherently campy nature of the premise (a covert agency named "The Impossible Mission Force"? Really?).
Plot-wise, the movie is a pretty standard piece of chase-the-MacGuffin storytelling, and the main villain is ridiculously generic, with none of the effortless menace of Philip Seyour Hoffman from MI:III. Still, if you don't have much to do this Christmas weekend, it might be worth checking out "Ghost Protocol."