Mission: Impossible – Fallout


Viewed – 31 July 2018  Cinema

By the time the sixth entry in a popular franchise rolls around, you’d be forgiven for expecting things to get a bit lazy.  Tom Cruise has now cemented himself as the biggest action star since Schwarzeneggar with a does-his-own-stunts calling card to rival Jackie Chan, but can another outing keep on upping the anti? Let’s see… Cruise returns as super agent Ethan Hunt who this time is given the job of tracking down three nuclear bombs that have fallen into the hands of black market dealers.  He must stop them falling into the hands of The Apostles, what remains of Rogue Nation’s The Syndicate to prevent a global catastrophe.  However when a mission takes an unexpected turn, Hunt and his team (including series regulars Simon Pegg & Ving Rhames) find the odds stacked against them – just how it should be.

Mission Impossible Fallout

Ok so having to stop nuclear bombs falling into the wrong hands is probably as generic a plot as it gets and with the return of Rogue Nation’s sleepy-talking villain, this initially felt like it was going through the motions.  Yet it soon dawned on me that this time it was less about the mission and more about Ethan Hunt; the man, his methods and his dilemmas, constantly haunted by that fateful decision he made three movies back to send his wife (Michelle Monaghan) into hiding.  The story handles this aspect that’s only ever been hinted at in previous movies, very well indeed and proves the movie’s beating heart in place of set piece after set piece.  Yet along with the return of Rebecca Ferguson’s assassin ‘Elsa’ we still get tons of action, car chases, roof top chases, fights and a helicopter chase sequence that has to be seen to be believed.

The pacing stumbles occasionally, not helped by some copy and paste sequences that aren’t quite as good as we’ve seen before (another bike chase?), yet the movie makes up for this in strong performances and memorable character moments that made me love the camaraderie between Hunt and his agents.  Six movies into the franchise this may be a different kind of Mission Impossible but by this stage that’s a good thing.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

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Ready Player One


Viewed – 11 April 2018  Cinema

I went into this not knowing much.  However, for as long as I can recall I’ve been a huge fan of much celebrated director Steven Spielberg, and usually seek out his movies when they land.  Yet this particular effort seemed like something different whilst at the same time an excuse for Spielberg to throw his hat back into a field he’d pretty much pioneered.  Does he still have it to deliver blockbuster spectacle once again?

ready-player-one

Set in 2046, a society lives in the slums governed by rich corporations who run everything whilst the general public turn to a virtual world for escape.  One such player, Wade Watts (Ty Sheridan)  finds escape from his real world problems by entering the ‘oasis’ a vast online game where the only limitations are one’s imagination, where all your favourite pop-culture, video-game and movie obsessions run wild.  Following the death of the world’s creator, the reclusive, eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance) it transpires he has left an ‘easter egg’ and if a player can find it, he will own it all, worth trillions.  Of course a shady government organization lust for such power also, and so a race to unlock the game world’s secrets is on.

Art3misThis was an interesting cinema experience.  The theatre I was in was fairly bare considering the movie had not long been released, and it got me thinking well, this isn’t a sequel, a remake or a comic book movie.  That’s a shame that cinema going has become that marginalized, but I guess it’s inevitable and probably why Valerian bombed at the box office.  I predict a similar fate for this, which would be very disappointing because this was refreshing, imaginative and most importantly – a barrel load of fun.  At it’s core it’s kind of a cross between Wreck It Ralph and The Matrix, with a sprinkling of Tron for good measure.  The writer of the book it’s based on clearly had many influences, and the wealth of references, cameos and nods to movies, games and music is exhausting.  Initially I had trouble getting into the movie – it’s a bit of an avalanche of information and visual excess … but once I adjusted I was along for the ride – and what a ride! The rag-tag team of ‘resistance’ who team up to beat the game are a incredibly likeable bunch especially Bates Motels’ Olivia CookeBen Mendelsohn also makes for a suitable boo-hiss villain and I got a kick out of each character’s video-game alter egos (think avatars from games like World of Warcraft or Destiny).  This is a movie that plays to the geek in us, it seemed to work for me as a gamer and a movie geek but I can see it possibly dividing audiences as a result – and well, all that recognisable imagery doesn’t exactly serve the story.  That matters little though, with amazing sequences like a section in the Overlook Hotel from The Shining and a ton of spectacle and fun characters, I had a blast with this.

Tired of superhero movies?  See this.  Want something different?  See this.  Love geek culture?  See this.  Simple as that.

Verdict:  5 /5

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation


Viewed – 03 August 2015  Cinema

Good to see that one of our most enduring Hollywood stars can still deliver a pulse-pounding action extravaganza even as he settles into his fifth decade on this planet.  Add to this the fact he does many of his own stunts, and actor Tom Cruise is the real deal, regardless of what some may think of him personally.

Rogue

Cruise plays super-agent Ethan Hunt who, currently in hiding and ‘gone rogue’ is trying to unmask the real identity of secret organization ‘the syndicate’ whilst back at Langley, CIA headquarters the big wigs are disbanding the IMF.  Following a lead in London, Hunt witnesses the murder of a contact and the revelation that those he believed he worked for may be involved in a global conspiracy.   Like Ghost Protocol before it, this is a confident and well directed spy movie full of fancy gadgets, intense action and lots of double-crossing.  Director Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher) has put together what feels like the Mission Impossible movie we’ve all been waiting for – the action feels bigger, the locations more diverse and glamorous (London, Paris, Vienna etc.) and the story seems more dramatic.  Add to this a wonderful discovery in actress Rebecca Ferguson, who may be the sexiest (and deadliest) femme-fatale we’ve had on screen in years, and with excellent comedic support from Simon Pegg – this almost has it all.

Rogue NationI felt that even for an M.I. movie, sometimes the stunts and situations got a little implausible (a somersaulting car?), and some moments were just plane mad (the admitedly tense under water sequence).  Also, creepy-demeanour aside, the villain was again like Ghost Protocol, rather one-dimensional.  It was a shame to also see Jeremy Renner not be fully utilized for such a gifted actor … but regardless, this was still a shot of adrenaline to the heart and packed full of memorable moments, an amazing car turned bike chase, and an ending that made me want to stand up and applaud.  With Spectre on the horizon, I’d say in the spy movie world, this is going to take some beating.

Over to you, Mr Bond.

Verdict:  4 /5

The World’s End


Viewed – 26 January 2015  DVD

I went into this fairly apprehensive.  I’d heard only luke warm opinions of it and the usual it’s no ‘Shaun of the Dead’ which has been ringing in my ears with every movie the comedy pairing of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost have appeared in since.  This time around Pegg plays a lovable loser whose never really grown up and still yearns to complete the sacred ‘golden mile’ pub crawl that he and his friends attempted and failed at on the last day of school.  Now approaching forty, he decides to ‘get the band back together’ and hunts down his old mates who have all moved on, got jobs, gained families, become someone where as Pegg is still the same person he ever was.

worlds end

A great initial concept sets forth a very energetic ride with snappy dialogue-a-plenty and the usual slapstick pop-culture referencing fun of Pegg & Frost at their best.  Lending a helping hand is a wealth of familiar Brit actor faces, including The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman along with Paddy Considine to name but a few.  Unlike Pegg & Frost’s last outing ‘Paul’ however this is brought endlessly to life by the scatter-shot, imaginative direction of Edgar Wright, yes the same man that brought us ‘Shaun and Hot Fuzz not to mention the underrated Scott Pilgrim Vs The World.  Very clever editing and stylish camera work and surprisingly excellent effects work too.  You see the friends all go back to their home town to attempt this so-called pub crawl and suddenly find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion where the majority of the towns folk have been assimilated, ala The Stepford Wives.

I’m not ashamed to say it, but I had a riot with this.  There’s some very funny lines (… ‘he may be a bit of a cock, and he is a cockbut he’s my cock’…) and some great action (the gents fight scene is first rate, think the matrix with a twist) and the on-going gag of getting a pint in in every pub, no matter what is happening just never stopped being funny.  Yes the ending feels a tad thrown together, and well the alien invasion concept is almost as tiresome as zombies … but that never hurt Shaun of the Dead.

Check it out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Star Trek Into Darkness


Viewed – 03 September 2013  Blu-ray

Although far from calling myself a Trekkie, I have enjoyed the movies and grew up with a brother who is quite passionate about them along with the various TV shows.  When learning that director J J Abrams was bringing the franchise up to date with an all new, younger cast – I could understand why fans were somewhat nervous what the creator of Lost may do with their beloved saga.  Rest assured though that 2009’s Star Trek was a resounding success and with a (mostly) perfect cast breathing new life into very old characters – I came away rather impressed.

This second outing had much to prove – could Abrams nail it twice in a row?  The simple answer to that is … yes.  We return to the crew of the Starship Enterprise who get caught up in a terrorist attack on Star Fleet and accept a mission to hunt down a rogue officer who seems responsible.  Joining the likes of Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg this time is British actor Benedict Cumberbatch as the mysterious terrorist, who brings no shortage of sinister intensity to his role and really gives Kirk & co a run for their money.

The big-budget FX laden look of this is just gorgeous, set-design and locations all adding a wow factor (including London).    Pegg has a little more to do this time around as engineer ‘Scottie’ and Quinto’s Spock is just excellent, capturing the spirit of the character as well as adding a few quirks of his own.  Yet the sultry Zoe Saldana is a little side-lined, as is John Cho’s Sulu.  Although not a big fan of Chris Pine, I think he is a perfect Kirk, arrogant but charming just like Shatner in his heyday, and the friendship between him and Spock is really well observed.  For me the frequent nods and winks to Star Trek of old got a bit much, (“I’m a doctor, not a torpedo technician!”) bordering on satire, but were still fun.  Also the script borrows a little too much from the older movies, yet still manages to make it work regardless … especially towards the end.

So a worthy sequel that in some aspects surpasses the last movie, whilst also managing to be a fine tribute to the Trek legacy as a whole.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5