“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”

Writing reviews for the Mission: Impossible franchise is often repetitive since I’ve said the last three installments, “This is the best of the franchise.” Well, I’m here again to say that about Fallout! If more installments are released, they’ll have to work hard to top the suspense and insanity of this one.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) saves his team in a failed mission, resulting in the loss of plutonium cores. He’s forced to team up with the straight-faced CIA operative, August Walker (Henry Cavill) to recover the cores, leading to a reunion with double agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and old enemy Solomon Lane (Sean Harris). It wouldn’t be a Mission: Impossible movie without the action sequences!

The previous M:I installments (Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation in particular) had impressive action sequences that relied on Cruise’s stunt work. Fallout’s action reaches new achievements in action movie filmmaking. Every sequence raises the stakes both for the film’s cast and narrative. HALO jumps, a brutal bathroom fight, and a thrilling helicopter chase will leave you wondering, “How the hell did they do that?”

Screenwriter/director Christopher McQuarrie (Rogue Nation, Jack Reacher) once again balances character-driven storytelling with spectacular action sequences. We learn what makes Ethan tick: his addiction to the mission and love for his team. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames return as Benji and Luther. We see a few key scenes where Ethan’s willing to sacrifice the mission for his only family. Both Pegg and Rhames once again shine in their supporting roles.

Cruise has never been better as Ethan Hunt. At 56 years old, Cruise displays amazing agility and fearlessness in his stunts. It’s hard not to gasp for breath watching him jump into a lightning storm or fly a helicopter between mountains. He also delivers a more tormented performance, showing Ethan is burned out, but determined.

Cavill’s August Walker is a great foil to Ethan. Younger, more physically imposing, and okay going after colleagues since “it’s the job,” August is one of the more formidable antagonistic characters in the franchise. Plus, I can watch his “arm reload” pose on repeat.

Fallout runs at 147 minutes long (the longest installment in the franchise) and is never dull. In fact, McQuarrie paces the film in a roller coaster fashion. If we can just get rid of the “last-second countdown” cliche, then Fallout would be perfect. But I can forgive that one little flaw and will pay full price to see it again (thanks, MoviePass).

Grade: A

 

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“Atomic Blonde”

If any movie hasn’t already claimed action sequence of the year, I think David Leitch’s (“John Wick,” the upcoming “Deadpool” sequel) spy thriller “Atomic Blonde” will. A six-minute-long shot featuring a barbaric fist fight, shootout, and car chase has to be worthy, right?

MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) is called to Berlin to obtain a mysterious list. Like most spy movies, this list contains information on undercover agents. She has a buddy cop dynamic with a debauched rock star-like operative, David Percival (James McAvoy) and the two race against time to find the list.

“Atomic Blonde” excels in genre splicing. It has the wide frames, slow pace, and convoluted narrative you’d find in a spy thriller, as well as the neon visuals, brutal violence, and cynical anti-hero found in Neo-Noir. Leitch is somewhat unrestrained in his direction, but “Atomic Blonde” is a blast regardless.

The neon visuals suit the film well due to its setting. “Atomic Blonde” takes place near the end of the Cold War during the collapse of the Berlin Wall, so there’s a strong 80’s aesthetic. Each song is used appropriately (New Order’s “Blue Monday” and George Michael’s “Father Figure”) and we get a brief history lesson on East Berlin. We don’t often see Berlin Wall-related movies, so it’s a refreshing change of setting.

Theron and McAvoy  both deliver fun-yet-committed performances. Between Theron’s stuntwork, dialect, English accent, and expressive moments of silence, she’s the perfect action heroine. Between McAvoy’s charisma, line delivery, and sense of humor, he steals nearly every scene from Theron.

I mentioned “Atomic Blonde” is convoluted and I’m not kidding. By the end, my friend and I were both struggling to figure out the twist ending. Does a spy movie with a cliched list plot need to be this difficult? As I’ve said in past reviews, a confusing ending is enough to warrant a sequel. “Atomic Blonde” is based on a comic book, so it’s bound to happen.

Grade: B

The 2017 Half-Time Report

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Hey, guys! First off, I want to say thank you for a great year and supporting Donttalkaboutmovies. This year has been an exciting year in film and you guys motivate me to keep watching movies! On that note, I want to give you guys the half-time report! This is a quick summary of my favorite (and least favorite) movies are so far this year.

In the Action/Adventure category, I was blown away by Edgar Wright’s jukebox musical heist thriller, Baby Driver. This is a candy-colored adrenaline rush that’s music to my ears and better on the second viewing. On the other hand, you can skip King Arthur: Legend of the Sword because it’s quite obvious Guy Ritchie has lost his way.

The Comedy genre has been lacking this year with lackluster films like Rough Night and Sandy Wexler; nonetheless, The Big Sick is a terrific comedy that hits all the right notes as a comedy, romance, drama, and social commentary film.

For the Horror genre, Get Out is king of 2017’s horror roster thus far. Writer/director Jordan Peele has crafted a funny, scary, and provocative horror film about racism. You can skip The Void, Unforgettable, The Belko Experiment, and The Mummy because those were all duds.

The Superhero genre has been booming lately and I can personally recommend Logan, Wonder Woman, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Each movie is great in their own way, but definitely keep Logan away from younger viewers.

The Science Fiction/Fantasy category has been a tad underwhelming, but the Anne Hathaway-helmed Colossal blew my expectations out of the water. If you want a quirky genre movie that explores characters and darker themes, this one’s for you!

I have been slacking in the Drama category this year, but I still found Danny Boyle’s long-waited T2: Trainspotting to be a fun and stylish sequel about nostalgia.

In terms of animation, I’m still telling people to watch the anime film Your Name. I saw this on a whim and don’t regret it, thanks to its beautiful animation and mind-bending narrative.

Thanks for reading! What are your favorite films you’ve seen so far this year?

The Classics – “John Wick”

So, I’m going to review more classics from various directors and franchises, leading to their successors. On that note, let’s about 2014’s sleeper hit “John Wick.”

HEAVY SPOILER WARNING! IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED “JOHN WICK,” DON’T READ THIS REVIEW.

Keanu Reeves plays the recently widowed John Wick. After losing his wife to cancer, he receives an adorable puppy as a posthumous gift from her. The warm times between Wick and his puppy are cut short when a group of young thugs led by Yusef (Alfie Allen) break into Wick’s house, kill the puppy, and steal his car.

The thugs learn the hard way that they screwed with the wrong guy since Wick is a retired hitman nicknamed The Boogeyman. The body count rises when Yusef’s father and Wick’s former boss, Viggo (Michael Nyqvist) gets involved.

The theatrical trailer made “John Wick” look like a generic revenge movie. I’m guilty as charged for being snobby because this is one of the best action films of the 2010’s.

“John Wick” takes an unconventional approach to the action genre by combining Neo-Noir narrative with both Spaghetti Western and Hong Kong action aesthetics, making it a refreshing departure from “Taken” rip-offs. This is a movie where assassins are in a league with their own hotel and currency. While we don’t have all the answers to the questions about this world, “John Wick: Chapter 2” might have these answers.

There’s a darkly funny mythology behind Wick. Bouncers are afraid of him, a chop shop owner (John Leguizamo) and Viggo both slap Yusef for stealing his car, and a particular cleaner (David Patrick Kelly) is honored to cover up Wick’s killings. He’s clearly a forced to be reckoned with.

David Leitch and Chad Stahelski made their directorial debut with “John Wick,” having a background as stuntmen for Hollywood action movies. The duo brilliantly choreographs the film’s action sequences, and focus on the actors rather than the camera work. There isn’t a single sloppy shot to disguise the actor’s poor athleticism. Instead, all shots are smooth and clear, as we watch impressive stunt-work.

The best action sequence involves Wick pursuing Yusef through a night club and shooting several bad guys with great innovation. There’s some additional morbid humor when Wick uses one man’s beard as a grip and takes a moment to reload before executing another baddie. Backed by slick visuals and a kinetic soundtrack, this shootout is the highlight.

Reeves has a divided reception; audiences and critics have both praised and criticized him for his laidback acting style. His style suits him well in the titular role. Reeves has little dialogue, but his facial expressions and a particularly angry monologue show that Reeves is best as an action star.

If you want a good action movie that focuses on world building and honors actors’ stunt work, “John Wick” is one to watch. Let’s just hope “John Wick: Chapter 2” maintains the same positive attributes.

Grade: A-

“Keanu”

Yeah, I’m late on this one. I just saw “Keanu,” which was released two weeks ago (I saw “Green Room” that weekend instead), and I get it. Cats are adorable.

Did you ever see that badass 2014 action movie, “John Wick?” Well, this is a similar plot, but in comedy format. Rell (Jordan Peele) adopts an adorable kitten to cope with a breakup, finds the cat is abducted, then enlists his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to rescue the cat.

“Keanu” works best as a parody of action movies and takes jabs at “John Wick,” “True Romance” (1993), “The Boondock Saints” (1999), “Bad Boys” (1995), and a million other action movies. Keegan and Peele (easiest way to refer to them) clearly love action movies and are great as average Joe’s trying to be tough.

Clarence is in a hapless marriage due to his low self-esteem and lack of thrills while Rell is focused on rescuing his beloved kitten, Keanu. This is where the laughs are because Rell is increasingly traumatized when exposed to shootouts and crazed celebrities trying to kill him, while Clarence enjoys teaching his gang of thugs about George Michael.

The kittens and George Michael make “Keanu” a surprisingly charming comedy, but it still suffers a few flaws (I know, who am I to criticize a comedy?). Clarence’s subplot gets a bit unnecessarily melodramatic at times (mainly in the last thirty minutes), the climax is strikingly similar to “21 Jump Street” (2012), and we get the millionth action-comedy slow motion gunfight. Slow motion gun fights aren’t funny; Keanu Reeves making an obscure cameo is.

I’d still recommend “Keanu” to people who love Keegan and Peele, as well as cat lovers and action movie fans. I may haven’t gotten the whole thing, but then again, not all comedy is for everyone.

Grade: B-

“Hardcore Henry”

When I figured out the message in the opening two minutes of “Hardcore Henry” literally was, “Don’t be a pussy,” I immediately lowered my expectations. I still embraced the mayhem and Sharlto Copley’s wicked performance.

The whole movie is told from the first-person perspective of Henry, who wakes up in a lab and finds he’s now an android. His wife Estelle (Haley Bennett) is then abducted by an eccentric terrorist with telekinesis named Akan and must battle his army with the help of Jimmy (Copley).

“Hardcore Henry” is a dizzying, bizarre, and bloody good time! Director Ilya Naishuller applies video game aesthetics to an action movie that’s reminiscent of the 1995 thriller “Strange Days” and the “Half Life” video game series.

We don’t see Henry at all, which docks a few points since we don’t get to know our protagonist, but that’s okay because Sharlto Copley steals every scene he’s in! Jimmy is a versatile character who’s part suited agent, hippy, bum, punk, nerd, cokehead, and British soldier. He’s the film’s main source of humor, charisma, and exposition. I’d argue that he’s our main hero.

The action is thrilling and often has frenetic and gory results. Through Henry’s perspective, he blows up cars and flies off of them, rips a guy’s junk off, throws someone into a fan, and pulls some insane stunt work on a helicopter. It’s impressive action since most of the stunts are performed by either the cinematographer or Naishuller himself.

In terms of narrative, “Hardcore Henry”mildly stinks. There’s a predictable twist halfway into the movie with Estelle, and Akan’s plot makes little sense, but we aren’t here for the plot, are we? We’re here for a non-stop adrenaline rush featuring a brawl with Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” as background music.

I wouldn’t watch “Hardcore Henry” again by any means since this movie made me feel hungover right after I recovered from a hangover. But it’s a badass 90 minutes that everyone should experience once.

Grade: B