Mission Impossible: Fallout – A Movie Review

I’m not a huge Mission Impossible fan, but I thought it would be fun to take this little movie in on its Thursday night release.

The good news is that it’s an action-packed, fast-paced movie with jaw-dropping chase scenes, very cool hand-to-hand combat, and beautiful locations.  You’re going to take thrill rides in cars, on motorcycles, out of airplanes, and in helicopters.

Tom Cruise is charming as always, Simon Pegg is funny, Rebecca Ferguson is a force, and Ving Rhames is cool (and also surprisingly emotional).

The movie moves very quickly, especially considering its two and a half hour run time.  (It honestly didn’t feel that long!)  There were several moments that I caught myself gasping out loud because some of the action scenes were flat-out incredible.

The bad news is that, even though you haven’t seen it all before … you’ve seen it all before.  We’ve got a nuclear bomb threat, Ethan Hunt and his team have to disarm it at the last possible moment.  We’ve got a traitor in the midst.  We’ve got Ethan’s loyalty to the USA coming into question.  We’ve even got a recurring villain in this one.  Did these retreads make me like the movie any less?  No, but it didn’t make me like the movie more, either.

I’m honestly at these movies for the stunts, chases, and fight scenes.  I don’t come in expecting much from the story.

By the way, I’m no Tom Cruise acolyte, but I have to give this man credit.  I believe he was 54 when he made this movie, and he’s currently 56.  This man is physically incredible!  His acting skills peaked long ago, but to be able to still perform his own stunts–even to sprint down the street at his age–it’s amazing.  I have no doubt he’s in better shape at 56 than most of us have ever achieved in our lives.

So, if you like the Mission Impossible films, you’ll like this one, too.  It’s a fun action movie that will thrill.  Oh, and not to worry, you’ll still get your people pretending to be other people in masks moments. Image result for mission impossible fallout movie poster

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

The Mummy – A Movie Review

I’m a sucker for the old Universal movie monsters.  I love them all.  When I heard Universal wanted to get into the shared universe game with their classic horror characters, I howled in delight.  They’re calling it Dark Universe and plan to release new, connected films featuring the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Van Helsing, Wolf Man, Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Invisible Man, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and the Phantom of the Opera.

Their first outing?  The Mummy, starring Tom Cruise.

I had very serious concerns walking into The Mummy because it was not doing well at all on Rotten Tomatoes.  I tend not to put too much stock in reviews if I want to see the movie badly enough, but my concern regarded the future of my other Dark Universe movies.  I worried that if The Mummy floundered, Universal would abandon the Dark Universe initiative and I wouldn’t get to see my Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Bride of Frankenstein.  After all, this is exactly what happened with King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword.  (Yes, I’m still made about that.)

So here’s the thing, I saw it with three other guys, and we all liked it for various reasons.  Is it the greatest movie ever made?  No, not by a long shot.  But, it seemed like they put a lot of effort into it, Tom Cruise delivered a likable character, the special effects were cool, the action was great, and the movie generally entertained.  Yeah, there were a few plot holes.  Sure, parts of it we’ve seen before.  It even got a little confused at times as to whether it wanted to be a horror movie, a buddy action comedy, or a romance.  And the ending, well, somehow the ending came off both clichéd and vague.

But, like I said, it entertained throughout.  There were all kinds of visual hints and references to the other Universal monsters, and it actually had us chuckling more than we expected.  I would definitely consider it far more of an action thriller than a horror movie.  Cruise had great chemistry with his wingman in the film, Jake Johnson.

Tom Cruise played a man who is mostly a decent guy, but he’s also a little egocentric, a little bit of a thief, a little blockheaded, and, for quite a bit of the movie, very confused.  But, Cruise pulls all of this off with his usual charm and charisma.  And while there’s plenty of action, I wouldn’t call Cruise an action hero in this one.  He’s more often than not the victim of action and just trying to survive.

It was also a lot of fun to see Russell Crowe hamming it up as Dr. Jekyll.  He will supposedly be the connecting link between all Dark Universe films, and, like Cruise, he is a generally magnetic actor.  If you’re hoping for a Mr. Hyde appearance, by the way, you won’t be disappointed.  Of course, the transformation didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  We cracked a few jokes after the film about how he really needs to get one of the timers a lot of older folks use with their medicine, but that’s okay.

Actually, that’s my mantra for The Mummy — “That’s okay.”  I wasn’t expecting much, and it lived up to my expectations.  Were the female roles a little bland and shallow?  Yes.  Did the story itself never quite come together organically?  Yep.  Did parts of the movie look like they had been snatched right out of other films?  Absolutely.  Did the ending leave us generally confused?  Definitely.

But, even having said all of that, we had a great time.  We had fun.  Fun.  Let’s not disregard the importance of that word.  Sometimes we want to just go see a monster movie and have some fun.  That’s okay.

Edge of Tomorrow – A Movie Review

There’s been a lot of hype concerning Edge of Tomorrow, and let me tell you, it’s all well deserved.

The premise is familiar, to be sure.  Tom Cruise plays “Cage,” an unwilling, inept soldier who is better suited as the military’s brilliant public relations man.  Cage pisses off the wrong superior and finds himself on the front line of an alien war.  He dies, and then he wakes up at a set point before leaving for the battle.  He goes to the front line again, dies, wakes up again at that set point, and this goes on for a bit.

After a while, he meets up with Emily Blunt’s “Rita,” humanity’s greatest soldier.  The two team up for reasons I won’t divulge, and Cage slowly but surely begins to learn from his mistakes with the help of Rita.  The bad news is, if they don’t destroy the alien leader, mankind is doomed.

If you’ve seen Groundhog Day or Starship Troopers, this movie does not, at first, seem terribly original.  Yet Edge of Tomorrow inexplicably feels fresh, even unique.  I think it has to do with the editing in large part.  Though many of the scenes are similar by design, they always feel new, we always see Cage develop, and we always are awarded with new information, a killer action scene, or true gallows humor.

I haven’t seen Cruise this charismatic in quite some time, and I’m glad to have him back.  He was wise to pick a character who starts off as a real jerk, a guy you delight in seeing get killed time after time.  Emily Blunt is always great, and this movie is no different.  She’s tough, smart, and an action hero through and through.  Best of all, she and Cruise actually have chemistry.

I took issue with only one aspect of the film, and that was its very end.  I didn’t care for it.  It didn’t turn me off of the film as a whole, but I felt it pandered to the masses which disappointed because it previously blazed a trail all its own.  Otherwise, the movie delighted me from start to (almost) finish.

With lots of action, awesome special effects, a dark sense of humor, incredible editing, and a plot that manages to surprise despite its familiarity, Edge of Tomorrow really is a must-see.

Tropic Thunder – A Movie Review

There’s no doubt in my mind that Tom Cruise made this movie.  I’m no Cruise apologist, but he was absolutely hilarious and nearly unrecognizable as a fat, balding, foul-mouthed movie executive.

With that being said, Tropic Thunder was really very funny.  I’m not sure it’s as good as many make it out to be, but its star-power alone (most of whom brazenly goof on themselves) guarantees entertainment. 

If you’re not familiar with the plot, Ben Stiller plays a Tom Cruise-ish action star hoping to revive his career in a movie based upon a book called Tropic Thunder, written by Nick Nolte’s character, a solider who supposedly helped rescue his POW friends.  Robert Downey, Jr., plays an Oscar-winning Australian who undergoes surgery in order to play a black solider.  Jack Black plays a Chris Farley (or Jack Black) style of actor who’s made his living on fart jokes.  Matthew McConaughey plays Stiller’s agent, and he, like Cruise, gives an unusual and therefore appreciated performance.  Finally, Steve Coogan plays the director of this movie-within-a-movie.

With all the self-obsessed actors <ahem!> acting up, Nolte’s character suggests Coogan drops them into the jungle for real in order to get honest emotions.  Before long, things go awry and Stiller’s character is taken prisoner by a drug cartel.  The other actors now must decide if they head for home or launch a daring rescue operation, just like the movie they were previously making.

While I love Ben Stiller, every character he plays is essentially the same.  Jack Black, too, suffers largely from this dilemma.  Downey, Jr., as a black man got old after a while, but I believe this was actually done on purpose focusing upon method actors’ inability to reclaim their own persona.  Nick Nolte was funny, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t on purpose.  I was glad to see McConaughey playing a role that didn’t involve a romantic comedy, and Steve Coogan’s performance, while short, was typically wonderful.  As I said, though, the surprising scene-stealer was far and way Tom Cruise.

Tropic Thunder was funny, entertaining, and fast-paced, but it wasn’t horribly original and the acting, other than Cruise and Downey, Jr., wasn’t anything you haven’t seen before from the movie’s stars.

War of the Worlds – A Movie Review

In my book, Steven Spielberg rarely goes wrong.  I’m happy to announce that his latest film, an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel War of the Worlds, is no different.

This film had me on the edge of my seat from about twenty minutes in until it ended.  Non-stop action, total suspense, very frightening moments (both with the invaders and with how humans can devolve so savagely when challenged), along with spectacular special effects make this movie worth the price of admission.

I’ll be honest, I was sort of expecting an Independence Day type of film.  Thankfully, we didn’t’ get one (don’t get me wrong, I liked Independence Day, I just didn’t want to see a rehash, and yes, I realize the irony in such a statement considering most alien invasion films are byproducts of Wells’ novel).  Instead, the film held truer to the actual novel.  I won’t offer any more spoilers than that, but please keep in mind the novel was published in 1898, so obvious modernizing is essential to capture the contemporary audience’s attention. 

I suppose that the greatest surprise of the film for me was the fact that no matter how much Tom Cruise has fallen, in my opinion, of late, he really did give a pretty good performance in this film.  Most movies I see with Cruise, I feel as though I’m watching Tom Cruise in a movie, not a character that Tom Cruise is playing.  In War of the Worlds, this was not totally the case.  He had some Tom Cruise moments, but overall, I felt as though he was Ray, the character he was playing (not the singer).  Cruise plays a man who is not an especially heroic person, not an especially honest or moral person, and a father who pretty much stinks at the job.  It was nice to see him playing an everyman, a reluctant hero.  In fact, I wouldn’t even call his character a hero.  Protagonist would be more appropriate, I believe. 

All in all, see this film.  I’ll say it again, Spielberg always produces gold when he directs, Cruise plays a convincing character, the little girl did not irritate me like I thought she would (I even kind of enjoyed her performance, but don’t tell anyone), and it was a fun thrill ride.  Oh, and those special effects won’t be done justice on the small screen, so don’t wait to rent.

The Break-Up – A Movie Review

I’ve argued in the past that I believe Jennifer Aniston could be a very good actress if only she’d start taking meatier roles like she once did with The Good Girl.  I really feel like the last several movies I’ve seen with her have been the same character over and over.  She’s become like the Tom Cruise of female actors-a victim of her own popularity.  Granted, I get that America wants to see her the same way in every movie, I understand she’s a lock for big box office, but I still don’t like it.

I’ll also admit that Vince Vaughn does the very same thing, yet it doesn’t bother me so much.  Is that a double standard?  Yeah, it probably is, but in my mind the main difference is that I like the fast-talking, joke-making Vince Vaughn and I don’t like the semi-whiny, always-the-victim Jennifer Aniston.  (I’m talking about the characters they play, mind you, not the actual people.  I have no idea what their true personalities are like.)

Anyway, let’s talk about The Break-Up.  Vaughn and Aniston stick to their typecasts and play the usual.  The story line is pretty simple-they meet and fall in love, buy a condo in Chicago together, break up over a lack of communication, and then the “laughs” ensue. 

Notice the quotes.

The quotes are there because other than a few truly gut-busting laughs, this movie was very, very stressful to watch.  Aniston and Vaughn spend much of it yelling at one another or doing things to upset the other.  It really had a lot of tension, more tension than I wanted from my comedy on a Saturday night. 

One thing that I love about this DVD is that to even get started you have to pick a side-are you with him, or are you with her?  That’s a nice touch, because I think you can’t help but pick a side as you watch this film.  Of course, my wife and I were siding with two different folks and we were having trouble convincing the other why they were wrong.

The supporting characters really made this film.  Jason Bateman (always gold) was barely recognizable, and that’s what I love about him.  Vaughn’s buddy Jon Favreau played Vaughn’s buddy in the film and the dynamic displayed in Swingers still exists.  Aniston’s brother in the film was truly hilarious, and Vaughn’s brothers were also very amusing.

So I guess the real question is if I would recommend this film to you?  Well, that depends.  If you’re a Vaughn or an Aniston fan, you dig their usual style of performance, and you don’t mind top-of-the-lung yelling, I think you’ll be pleased.  Otherwise, I might give this one a pass.

Mission: Impossible III – A Movie Review

You know, I have to tell you, I didn’t hate this movie.  I know Tom Cruise somehow went from being America’s favorite son to its most popular antichrist, but J.J. Abrams, the director of the film and creator of hit shows like Lost and Alias, managed to put together a pretty good little action movie.

And, please don’t fool yourself, that’s all M:i:III is-an action movie.  But, it’s exactly the kind of action movie I want to see.  There were moments when I literally couldn’t take my eyes off the screen because there was so much happening and my pulse pounded so hard.  Car chases, fight scenes, explosions, boom! bang! zoom! vroom!  Awesome stuff . . . if you’re into action movies.

Now if you’re not into action movies, this baby still has a saving grace-Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  He’s the bad guy of the flick, and when he’s on screen, he is baaaaaad, and I mean that in a good way.  The only problem is, he’s really not in the movie that much.  On the other hand, we (obviously) have lots and lots of Tommy boy.  And you know, here’s my thing with Tom-Tom, I don’t think he’s a terrible actor.  I mean, The Last Samurai is a fantastic, fantastic, fantastic movie.  I just think that Tom the man has gotten bigger than Tom the actor, and so we can no longer differentiate between the two.  I think that happens to the best of them.  Not that Cruise is the best of them by any means, but you get the point.

At any rate, as I watched M:i:III, I didn’t see Ethan Hunt, I only saw Tom Cruise.  There’s Tom jumping off a building.  There’s Tom being slammed into a car.  And so on.  But I didn’t have a problem with that, because I wanted to see an action movie and that’s what Tom and J.J. gave me. 

Unfortunately, I really enjoyed the first two thirds of M:i:III but I have to admit the last third truly fell into the venomous waters of cliché.  It just got kind of hokey and felt as though it betrayed everything it had been up to that point. 

Nonetheless, if you’re an action movie person, except for a few attempts at trying to find America’s next catch phrase and a tired ending, M:i:III is definitely worth a rent.