Reel Critics: Spy thriller follows special effects 'Protocol'

The "Mission Impossible" films magnify their spectacular stunts and special effects with each new episode. The latest frenzied installment is no exception. If gut-wrenching exploits and maximum vertigo are your cup of tea, you're in for a real treat with "Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol."

Tom Cruise continues to advance the celebrated spy thriller franchise. He combines the James Bond secret agent skills and cool persona required for international intrigue. Lovely Paula Patton plays his super girl sidekick this time around.

But director Brad Bird ("The Incredibles") is the real star of this production. He creates insane action scenes with mind-boggling camera angles that give life to the roller coaster plot. The death-defying acrobatic scene on the world's tallest building, in Dubai, is worth the ticket price all by itself.

The wild events on screen are completely ridiculous but utterly compelling. Bird adds just enough humor to the adventures to keep your feet on the ground.

At more than two hours, the long running time turns some of the hot sizzle into mild steam. But there's still plenty of white-knuckle tension to satisfy fans of this thrill ride genre.


This 'Adult' is naughty, not nice

"Young Adult" defies expectations — like getting a lump of coal from Santa when you expected an awesome present. Can a movie be ugly and cool at the same time?

Created by Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, who gave us the wonderful "Juno," we get a gorgeous, unlikable, unredeemable main character named Mavis (Charlize Theron).

Theron is pretty great as a small-town prom queen who's made it "big" in Minneapolis as a writer of young adult novels. But she's miserable and drunk most of the time.

She wakes up one day and decides to go back home and "rescue" her old flame (Patrick Wilson) from his happily married life to be with her. Evidently, Mavis thinks that drama queens are royalty. What follows is sad, funny and cringe-worthy.

Patton Oswalt is outstanding as the geeky former classmate who's still in awe of Mavis, even as he knows that she is setting herself up for disaster.


Good acting in 'A Dangerous Method'

This cerebral tale of sex and the psyche in the Victorian age boasts some wonderful performances by Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung.

Jung has just begun the "talking cure" with a hysterical patient (laughably over-the-top Keira Knightley) who later becomes his lover and then a colleague.

The real, ever-shifting relationship between Freud and Jung is much more fascinating and gives food for thought about the inner struggle with desires and emotions.

Fassbender has had a particularly impressive year, turning up everywhere from movies as diverse as "Jane Eyre," "Shame," and "X-Men: First Class." This first-class actor's star is definitely on the rise.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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