Well, this is becoming quite the challenge for me personally. I’ve now reached letter S having ploughed through 7 more movies. Revisiting La La Land for L was surprising in how much I enjoyed it and appreciated the story second time around, and would now rate it higher than my existing review. For M, Mission Impossible Fallout was an easy pick as I’d brought it on Blu-ray awhile back and not got around to watching it. Yes just as good if not better on second viewing.
Reaching N … I chose another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North By Northwest … an exciting man-in-the-wrong-place mystery thriller with Cary Grant that was a lot of fun. O was one my most disappointing movie of last year, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, and although I enjoyed it a little bit more, it overall didn’t work for me and I stand by my initial review.
I recently reviewed Parasite, my letter P and was overall impressed with it, despite a somewhat far-fetched ending. Q was the mostly reviled Bond outing Quantum of Solace, a movie I still think is ok but the story is weak and unengaging even though Daniel Craig is still good and some of the action is great. Then we came to R and I chose the Spanish found-footage horror [REC] a movie I really like even if subsequent viewings do dilute the experience for me.
Now will I get the remaining 8 movies watched by June 30th? I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
My self proposed challenge continues and is going fairly well. When going into this I didn’t intend it to be one of these movie marathons , generally taking a moderate pace to it whilst still intending to get it done well before my June 30th limit. I think I’ve done well so far and have reached letter F next, which is going to be one of three movies, depending on mood.
So for letter C I went with the underrated Al Pacino gangster thriller ‘Carlito’s Way’, a movie that offers up a rather romantic take on the crime thriller and boasts a solid turn from Pacino as well as Sean Penn. Director Brian De Palma is on fine form delivering his signature style, if somewhat toned down compared to other works, and a whimsical vibe aided by Pacino’s reflective narration. Next was D, and here I went for one of the less appreciated Die Hard sequels, namely ‘Die Hard 2’ which to be fair is a solid entry, with a similar tone to the first movie but on a bigger scale with Bruce Willis again on wise-cracking form. For E I went with the Tom Cruise sci-fi actioner ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, a clever and particularly fun movie with a great central concept and good support from a badass Emily Blunt. Director Doug Liman takes the classic Groundhog Day premise and marries it perfectly with alien invasion battle sequences to deliver solid thrills.
So onto letter F which should be interesting. It’s been good rediscovering movies from my Blu-ray collection, but also see myself discovering some movies I happen to own but haven’t got around to watching. So there will be a few first-viewings during this challenge. I may write full reviews for those entries, we’ll see.
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.
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.
I’m not afraid to say I’m a fan of Tom Cruise. If ever there was a genuine ‘movie star’ this guy is it and has been in some of the greatest movies ever made, as well as always being a watchable and likeable presence. This latest effort follows the true story of Barry Seal, an airline pilot who inexplicably becomes embroiled in drug running for notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar as well as working for the CIA. It’s an unbelievably crazy story that also just happens to be based on real events.
Doug ‘the bourne identity’ Liman’s movie certainly follows a similarly erratic, caper approach to it’s story telling as seen in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and even seems to echo TV hit Breaking Bad, what with Cruise’s gradually spiralling out of control situation, hiding money, trying not to get killed whilst also looking out for his wife and kid. Cruise brings his usual charisma to his performance but it’s refreshingly free of those typical Cruise-isms making for a more believable and human performance than we’ve seen in a while. Add to this welcome support from a slimy Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, The Last Jedi) and assured direction from Liman and I had a great time with this.
I was surprised how little focus the movie has on Pablo Escobar, reducing the man to little more than a cameo. Also it’s a bit too mad from the off and took some getting into, and is a bit too light-hearted when a bit more grit and darkness might have aided the movie’s overall impact. Yet once the journey started and stakes kept getting raised I was suitably gripped.
With Rogue Nation fresh in my head, I thought it might be fun to revisit the original 1996 blockbuster. Now sitting down to this, my memory was fairly cloudy and I realised I hadn’t actually seen it since it’s cinema release, yet recalled finding it overly confusing with a couple of stand out sequences.
Cruise, looking very young is Ethan Hunt, not quite the super-spy we know him to be today but simply a special agent for a CIA division known as IMF. Headed by John Voight, Hunt and his crew consisting of smouldering French beauty Emmanuelle Béart as well as former brat-packer Emillio Estefez must locate some stolen files that could leak the identities of a number of special agents into the wrong hands. However during the mission, Cruise finds himself double-crossed and his team all but killed. He’s then on the run and out to unmask the real culprit as his own innocence comes into question.
Directed by one of my favourites, Brian De Palma (Carrie, Carlitio’s Way) and with a twisting, complex narrative … this stylish and very well filmed ‘espionage thriller’ seems at first worlds away from the action extravaganza the series is known for. Yes, we hardly get any chases, fights or stunts for pretty much the entire run time. This was therefore more closely based on the TV show, with a more ‘pure’ mission: impossible storyline and with a strong if somewhat arrogant turn from Cruise and good work from series stalwart Ving Rhames. It is too complicated (but not that clever) and at times confusing, which marred my enjoyment, but with a very tense CIA headquarters break-in that has been parodied to death (but is still cool) and a stunning climax on the roof of a speeding train heading into the channel tunnel – this remains a good start to a franchise that has developed and (mostly) improved with every entry. Oh and ‘that’ theme has never been better implemented.
The Blu-ray is a mixed bag. The image quality at first appears impressive until I noticed some harsh edge enhancement and wider shots seriously lacked detail. The bog-standard Dolby Digital 5.1 is serviceable but lacks some punch. Thankfully then we do get some decent extras on this box-set re-issue such as a M.I. retrospective documentary, various featurettes, a documentary on Tom Cruise and photo galleries. A lack of a commentary is a let-down but not surprising considering the fairly underwhelming treatment of the movie itself.
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