Jul 31, 2015

Tom Cruise is Insane: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Review

Friday Night vs Monday Morning Reviews are simple. I go see a movie and do a write-up of my initial feelings and reactions so you have them by Friday Night. Then on Monday Morning I write another section after I've had time to think about the movie that will go more in depth.

Friday Night
How insane is Tom Cruise? The guy strapped himself to the side of plane and had it take off for a stunt in the movie. It's not green screen. It's not a stunt double. It's Tom friggin' Cruise strapped to a friggin' plane. Say what you will about the man's beliefs or off screen antics but the man has a damn good work ethic. It's not just Cruise that put in good work, cast and crew have put together a great summer blockbuster.

So this time around the illustrious IMF organization is disbanded at the start of the movie because most of their exploits cause, frankly, a crap-ton of collateral damage. Do they get the job done? Yes. But at the same time a lot of their results rely on luck just as much as they rely on the team's skills. (Frankly it's an apt description of the IMF, and one of those genre breaking observations movies like this probably shouldn't bring up.) The organization and personnel is folded into the CIA but Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt goes rogue to track down the Syndicate, a terrorist organization that is made up of various spy agencies' MIA or presumed KIA operatives.

Here's the thing, there are a lot of holes in this movie. Stop and think about any of the murkier plot points and the whole thing crashes. What is the Syndicate's ultimate goal? They have a short term goal in the film but it's definitely not a mission statement. Why are all of these MIA or KIA agents joining a terrorist organization? Are there that many corrupt spies? Why is Simon Peg playing Halo 5 with a PS4 controller? These are the hard hitting questions that can derail a movie. Not in this case though. The movie never slows down long enough to let you realize it before exciting stuff starts happening. It's kinda like a parent waving a flashy toy at a toddler who just skinned his knee. Don't think about the bad focus on the spectacle. And boy oh boy, does this movie have spectacle.

I've already mentioned the whole, "Tom Cruise strapped to a plane" thing. That's just the opening sequence. Then there's the car chase that turns into the most satisfying motorcycle chase I've seen in a long time. There's the computer file heist, a game of cat and mouse between hitmen and heroes at an Opera, then the climax where the conflict is up close and brutal.

The whole cast hits the right notes and extra props goes to Rebecca Ferguson for being an even more ass-kicking spy than Tom Cruise. Hell, if Black Widow is ever out sick she could fill her slot on the Avengers. Go see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation if you choose to accept it.

Monday Morning
Reboots. Sequels. Superheroes. Those are pretty much the three different types of big blockbuster you're going to get these days. That's been true for a while and it's something I've accepted for good or ill. But the Mission Impossible franchise made me stop and think about something I can't shake. Three out of the five Mission Impossible movies have seen Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt on the run because he's been blacklisted and on the run. The first, fourth and fifth movies have that at their narrative core. So that's kinda like being both a sequel and a reboot. Somehow the film series got away with it again with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation but they can't do it again. I mean--they could do it again--but they really shouldn't.

Basically everybody loves this movie. With good reason too, it's a really great spy movie. It's not trying to make its' audience think too hard. Just sit back and enjoy the show. It's the same show but it's different, at this point the IMF and/or Ethan Hunt being black listed is just a staple of the franchise as a crazy heist sequence. Doing it over and over comes dangerously close to breaking the suspension of disbelief. Yeah we can all buy the crazy superhuman (or rather super-durable) stuff our various IMF agents can do but it only works because we the audience want to believe the illusion. But suspension of disbelief of any action movie is walking a tight rope with a weight limit. Pile enough on and it'll snap. At a certain point, Ethan Hunt would've been pulled from the field for all the times he's broken protocol or cause a lot of collateral damage in the course of chasing the bad guys. The IMF itself would've been scrapped too. But I can hear you now.

"But the IMF was disbanded in this movie! At the beginning!"

Yes but in the end it's fully restored and Hunt is back being its' MVP. The fact that the movie itself brings up the problems of Hunt and the IMF in the actual plot is a problem within itself. Unless you're going to do something substantive with those concepts they shouldn't have been brought up at all. The overall story of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation could easily have been told without Hunt and the team being fugitives. While it does add a layer of tension to the proceedings its runs the unnecessary risk of adding more weight to the suspension of disbelief. The time they spent on that narrative thread could have been better used to establish what the hell the Syndicate's long term plan is. They're responsible for several different terrorist attacks but what's the goal? What's the group's mission statement? Yes in this movie they are trying to get access to more money to continue their activities but what in the hell are those activities trying to accomplish? Answering these questions (or asking them) is a more worthwhile endeavor than the "team is on the run" trope they've done already.

Look, I'm not saying the movie is bad. Perhaps I'm overcompensating because I'm nitpicking an overall great movie. All I'm saying is that the Mission Impossible movies needs to ditch some of its' common tropes in order to keep moving forward. There will surely be another Mission Impossible film, in fact Cruise said they might start filming it within a year, but they've done the same thing for three movies now. They can't seriously think they can do the same thing again can they? It's three strikes and then... well you know the rest.

Jul 24, 2015

Captain America's Dark Side

Avengers: Age of Ultron has been out for a bit and it's either a movie you like or don't like. For me I really enjoyed it. I enjoy it more than the first Avengers because there's more of them together and doing their "avengering." But after seeing it a couple of times I noticed some things I don't think a lot of people are talking about. Almost everyone wants to talk about Black Widow's arc or how Hawkeye has finally stepped his game up (or rather Marvel finally decided to show us why he's there.)

But here's the things I noticed: Cap doesn't really want to beat the bad guys.

Spoilers follows after the jump.

Jul 18, 2015

Saturday Previews Vol. 6

Hello, hello, hello ladies and gentlemen. My apologies for missing last week, I moved to a new apartment and was dropping a couch on my foot and crashing a moving truck into a mailbox when I'd normally be posting this. So let's speed through two weeks of trailers.

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Now is probably a good time to mention I am not a part of the internet legion that hates Man of Steel. I think that movie was really good and got the character of Superman 100% right. I did have some misgivings about Ben Affleck being cast as Batman mostly because I wasn't sure if he'd be able to fully become the character or whether we'd be stuck watching an actor (albeit a very good actor) "pretend" to be Batman. Very similar to my feelings on the two leads in Terminator: Genisys. I'm still unsure of it but overall... this trailer... I need a cigarette. The story is moving in a direction I like and Batman's motivation for going after Superman is well rooted in his character. It also helps quite a bit to have Alfred advising Bruce that Superman is one of the good guys. I think the colors are still a bit dark. But overall I like how it's looking. My only fear is that Snyder is trying to cram too much into the movie. If this movie doesn't look like your thing, that's cool. But at the end of the day it's Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman fighting each other and (POSSIBLE SPOILERS) Doomsday. If that very concept doesn't tickle you then this movie simply isn't for you anyway.

Jul 17, 2015

Next Time On Marvel: Ant-Man Review

Friday Night vs Monday Morning Reviews are simple. I go see a movie and do a write-up of my initial feelings and reactions so you have them by Friday Night. Then on Monday Morning I write another section after I've had time to think about the movie that will go more in depth.

Friday Night
Ant-Man is certainly a film that exists. It's not bad. It's not even average. It's above-average. But at this point all I have to say is that it's your typical Marvel movie and you know what you're getting. Truthfully, that's all I really want to say about the movie but generally people expect more out of a review so I'll give it my best shot to write about Marvel's latest in something resembling a longer form review.

At this point the Marvel Cinematic Universe is like a TV show with the world's biggest budget and only puts out episodes every few months. Ant-Man is just the latest episode in the ongoing saga.

Jul 4, 2015

Saturday Previews Vol 5.

It's July 4th so you know what that means? It means I'm wearing a Captain America T-Shirt, drinking a couple of cold ones and watching the excellent documentary Independence Day. But before I get to my celebratin' let's watch some trailers. Pretty dead this week but we got two winners (in my book at least.)

I like everything that this trailer gave us. It's got a real solid rhythm to it with the great music and pacing but most of all I really enjoy that this film is first and foremost about Creed, not his mentor Rocky Balboa. I also love that they don't even have to say his name once because we all know who he is, there is no need to put it in our faces. It's a good sign out of the gate that even the marketing department knows what the focus should be on. That combined with Michael B. Jordan is an amazing actor and I cannot wait to see this.

Jul 1, 2015

They Abramsed It: Terminator: Genisys Review

Friday Night vs Monday Morning Reviews are simple. I go see a movie and do a write-up of my initial feelings and reactions so you have them by Friday Night. Then on Monday Morning I write another section after I've had time to think about the movie that will go more in depth.

Now clearly it isn't "Friday Night" but Terminator: Genisys opened on a Wednesday so you're getting the review now. So that means on Friday you're getting the "Monday Morning" section.

"Friday Night"
Terminator: Genisys is a movie that shouldn't exist. I don't mean to imply that this movie is hot garbage because it most definitely is not. I mean to say the whole shebang was tied up in a nice little bow back in Terminator 2: Judgement Day. But despite the narrative coming to a worthwhile conclusion two movies ago we're getting the fourth outing for the series because this is a moneymaking franchise dammit and Hollywood wants their money. So can Terminator: Genisys offer something worthwhile? Or is it just a cash-in?

It's both. And therein lies the movie's weakness. Mild spoilers will follow. (But none bigger than the HUGE one given away by all the marketing.)