“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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“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Just because a reboot to an iconic franchise scores $1.6 billion at the box office, that doesn’t mean we need a sequel. Case and point – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Isla Nublar is on the verge of an impending volcanic eruption. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) reunites with Owen (Chris Pratt) to lead a rescue operation and retrieve the dinosaurs. Things go further south when they’re double crossed and find that the operation’s financier Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) wants to auction the dinosaurs to arms dealers.

Five movies into the series and have we learned nothing about cloning dinosaurs? Have we not learned to avoid a dinosaur island? Have we learned to not bring dinosaurs home? Fallen Kingdom is a redundant sequel filled with stupid characters that make bad decisions.

Jurassic World was my first review on Donttalkaboutmovies and I found that movie great entertainment. The jokes were funny, the characters were fleshed out, and it had a dumb B-movie spin that embraced the sci-fi, disaster, and monster genre tropes. Fallen Kingdom is a misfire.  Underdeveloped characters screaming every five minutes isn’t funny or compelling. However, director JA Bayona does embrace the genre tropes occasionally.

Fallen Kingdom is beautifully shot and filled with some terrific visuals, utilizing shadows. The opening five minutes is a thrilling homage to Jaws and Jurassic Park that features one of the funniest dinosaur kills in the franchise. Bayona understands dark humor, as there are a few more moments scattered throughout the film. Though, the praise for Fallen Kingdom is obviously minimial.

Between Boyna’s directing and Colin Trevorrow’s script, both are more concerned with paying homage to the first two Jurassic Park films than making their own film. After seeing callbacks to the T-Rex entrance and the velociraptor kitchen sequences in Jurassic Park and the dinosaur breakout scene in The Lost World, I wanted to scream, “WE GET IT!”

The filmmakers also can’t decide if they wanted to make an artistic hard sci-fi film, a B-horror movie, or a continuation of Jurassic World, resulting in severe pacing and tonal inconsistencies. There’s a human clone subplot that feels like a separate movie and pretentiously concludes to set up a third installment.

Performance wise, Fallen Kingdom is a mixed bag. Pratt and Howard both give serviceable performances and have decent chemistry. James Cromwell delivers a solid performance as John Hammond’s dying partner, but is shamefully underused. The great character actor Toby Jones has fun as a sleazy auctioneer, but I can’t tell if he was intentionally trying to do a Gary Busey impression.

We have one more Jurassic World film due for release in 2021. Afterwards, here’s hoping that producers listen to Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm and leave the dinosaurs alone.

Grade: D+

“Incredibles 2”

I loved Pixar’s superhero movie, The Incredibles, but didn’t hold my breath for a sequel. I’m happy to report the overdue sequel is as incredible (pun intended) as its predecessor.

The Parr family continue fighting crime as The Incredibles. After a fight with a diabolical villain ends in disaster, superheroes are once again outlawed. Things change when billionaire media mogul Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk) recruits Helen (Holly Hunter) to reprise her Elastigirl alias. Meanwhile, Bob (Craig T. Nelson) struggles as a stay-at-home dad dealing with Dash’s (Huck Milner) homework, Violet’s (Sarah Vowell) teen angst, and Jack-Jack developing a new power every five minutes.

Director Brad Bird once again shows great passion and skill with the highly entertaining Incredibles 2. This is a beautifully animated, hilarious, and thrilling sequel. Bird admitted he waited fourteen years to make sure Incredibles 2 was as good as the original; it’s close.

The formula is familiar; Bob misses his superhero life while he and Violet debate how to raise their kids, there’s a superhero revival opportunity, and a self-righteous supervillain. The villain is a cyberterrorist called Screenslaver, who manipulates people to commit crimes with electronic screens.  Why? Because Screenslaver feels that society is lazy and too dependent on superheroes.

Despite the grandiose action sequences, the highlight of the film is Jack-Jack! The surprised reactions from Bob, the kids, and Edna (Brad Bird) are hilariously realistic while Jack-Jack’s powers range between funny (he turns into a giant baby), cute (he fights a raccoon with his newfound powers), and occasionally scary (he turns into a goblin-looking creature at one moment). The repeated line, “Jack-Jack has powers?” never gets old here.

The big reveal with Screenslaver is a tad predictable, but I can forgive that minor flaw due to Bird’s directing, Michael Giachinno’s epic music score, and a strong cast. Nelson and Hunter once again deliver wonderful and expressive performances and Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Lucius Best/Frozone and has great one-liners. Odenkirk applies his Saul Goodman charm as the shady-yet-charming Winston, Catherine Keener is terrific as Winston’s tech-wiz sister, and even Sophia Bush of One Tree Hill fame has a few solid moments as the socially awkward superhero, Voyd.

This summer is packed with comic book films. We already got Deadpool 2 and Infinity War (both great comic book movies), but Incredibles 2 might be the best superhero movie of this summer.

Grade: A

“Deadpool 2”

If Ryan Reynolds decides to play Deadpool for the rest of his career, I’m totally okay with that. Deadpool 2 is a sequel that tops its predecessor.

Wade Wilson AKA Deadpool (Reynolds) is now an international assassin. When he changes careers and briefly joins the X-Men, he meets a troubled mutant teen named Russell Collins (Julian Dennison from the great Hunt for the Wilderpeople). He takes a liking to the angsty kid and becomes obligated to protect him from the time traveling assassin Cable (Josh Brolin). But Cable has justifiable reasons for wanting to kill the kid.

For a sequel that changed directors and its entire crew, Deadpool 2 is an improvement in nearly every way. The action is bloodier and more kinetic, the meta jokes and pop culture references are edgier and more subtle, and the songs are better suited. Just when I got tired of hearing AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” in action movies, Deadpool 2 has me wanting more of that song.

John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch (credited as “One of the guys who killed the dog in John Wick”) understands the source material and knows when to get crazy with the action. His trademark single take choreography is present, but he gets delightfully frenetic in certain sequences, including one spectacular highway truck chase.

The movie gets darker and more dramatic by exploring Deadpool’s suicidal tendencies and Russell’s outsider attitude, but it still has heart. After all, Deadpool himself calls this movie a family movie (which, it weirdly is). That’s what I love about these movies – they improve upon the source material by humanizing their titular character.

Reynolds once again is delightfully vulgar, ruthless, and unhinged as Deadpool. I’m not sure if it’s the script or Reynolds, but Reynolds makes you root for a character that’s despicable. Brolin is a great foil as Cable. He’s not as compelling as he was in this year’s Infinity War, but he delivers plenty of dry humor and arm-breaking moments. Zazie Beetz also scores some great moments as the lucky mutant, Domino, who’s a member of Deadpool’s X-Force team.

Deadpool 2 may come off drawn out and a tad uneven to some and offensive to others, but it continues Reynold’s A-game streak. The question is will we get Deadpool 3 or x-Force next?

Grade: A

 

“Pacific Rim: Uprising”

Go, go Power Ra–… I mean Go, go Gypsy Avenger! That sounds right, yes?

Ten years after the Battle of the Breach, Jake Pantecost (John Boyega playing the son of Idris Elba’s character in Pacific Rim) re-enlists in the Jaeger program to train a new group of young pilots. He reconnects with his estranged best friend Nate Lambert (Scott Eastwood) and the two find themselves thrown into a new war with a mysterious group of rogue Jaegers. But why?

Uprising follows its predecessor’s formula – an underdog pilot joins the Jaeger program and ends up in a rivalry, there’s a motivational speech before a big battle, underdog saves the day, and there’s a setup for another movie. Good news is Uprising has some new tricks up its sleeve, despite being formulaic. It’s also goofy fun.

Uprising expands its world building. We learn in the first act that people enjoy living in abandon mansions, there’s a trade system, and Jake trades for his preferred goods (he trades a Ferrari for a sriracha supply). We also learn the Kaiju have telepathic powers, making them even more formidable. In terms of character arcs and narrative, Uprising is almost the same movie as Independence Day: Resurgence. I forgave the similarities because Uprising tries new things.

The movie takes risky moves with notable characters Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and Newt Geiszler (Charlie Day). I won’t get into details, but I applauded the writers for once again taking the franchise into a new direction. Director Steven S. DeKnight might not be on Del Toro’s level in terms of flare and action sequences, but he still does a competent job with the Jaeger and Kaiju sequences.

I loved Pacific Rim, but it took itself too seriously. Uprising improves by acknowledging its own silliness. Boyega and Eastwood’s buddy cop banter, along with Day’s over-the-top performance add to the movie’s charm. I was reluctant going into the sequel, but I would be okay with a third, fourth, and even a fifth Pacific Rim.

Grade: B

“The Cloverfield Paradox”

“Paradox” is a well-suited pronoun for The Cloverfield Paradox, considering it doesn’t answer the questions it was supposed to.

Like in Lost in Space and Danny Boyle’s great Sunshine, Earth is suffering an energy crisis, prompting a space odyssey. Like in Sunshine, GravityMoon, and Life, the crew members are grieving, withdrawn, and headstrong. We have an astronaut who lost her kids (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a scientist who prefers being in space over Earth (Daniel Brühl), and a noble captain with a military background (David Oyelowo). There’s also the wisecracker (Chris O’Dowd), an astronaut who loses his mind (Aksel Hennie), and a caricature (the talented and underused Zhang Ziyi).

Like in Event Horizon, the crew travels into another dimension, then the crew turns on each other, the ship becomes possessed, and a giant monster attacks Earth. None of this is explained other than they went into an alternate dimension.

I admire the Cloverfield franchise because we don’t have many anthological film franchises and the previous entries were unique. Cloverfield combined the found footage and giant monster genres, resulting in a thrilling experience. 10 Cloverfield Lane established the film’s anthological style by acting as a psychological horror film set in the same universe (it’s the best of the trilogy). Paradox tries to establish a chronology to no avail.

SPOILERS OF PREVIOUS FILMS AHEAD!

Cloverfield was set in 2008 and revolves around a monster attack. 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t clear on when it’s set, but an alien invasion occurs. There were also small references in 10 Cloverfield Lane implying they’re in the same universe. Paradox has some small connections such as featuring a minor character from 10 Cloverfield Lane and featuring the Cloverfield monster.

However, if the film takes place in 2028, why is this monster attack happening without any reference to Cloverfield? This is due to a bad move on the studio’s part – turning a movie last minute in to the newest Cloverfield movie.

Paradox was originally titled God’s Particle and had no mention of Cloverfield until J.J. Abrams purchased the film and ordered rewrites and re-shoots to fit in the Cloverfield universe. Given that Paradox was already riddled with cliches and lazy writing, it wouldn’t have been any better, but it would have at least been more contained.

Because of the studio interference and setbacks, Paradox is overstuffed with too many ideas, conflicting tones, and cliched characters. I would have liked to know why a character’s severed arm came to life and how the ship became possessed rather than focus on a monster attack that was better executed in the first Cloverfield film.

In terms of film making, Paradox is amateur. It’s dimly lit with no color scheme, we have characters tell us what we’re seeing as it’s happening, and we even get a cheesy opening credits sequence that belongs in a 1990’s sci-fi channel show. Well, at least the cast tries.

I’m worried about genre films at this point; Netflix bought Paradox since Paramount had a packed schedule this year and studios are already selling films to Netflix for “similar reasons.” Do they really have packed schedules, or are they turning Netflix into the dumpster diver?

Grade: D- (only because the cast tries).

“Blade Runner: 2049”

I’ve now seen Denis Villeneuve’s highly anticipated film, Blade Runner: 2049 twice. That alone should tell you how I feel about the film.

Thirty years after Deckard (Harrison Ford) fled with Rachael (Sean Young), we’re introduced to a new blade runner named K (Ryan Gosling). K’s tasked uncovers a certain secret that’s connected to him and Deckard, and threatens what remains of order. That’s all you need to know.

Blade Runner: 2049 was my most anticipated film of 2017 and it lives up to the hype. This is a mesmerizing film that maintains its predecessor’s tone and aesthetics while acting as a stand alone film. It’s currently my favorite film of 2017.

A lot has changed between 2019 and 2049 in the Blade Runner universe. Replicants have evolved, computers have evolved, and the world is now overpopulated and decayed. LA isn’t just rainy; it’s snowy, foggy, and smoggy. There isn’t a single shot of sunshine, yet the film is still stunning.

From start to finish, Blade Runner: 2049 is eye candy. I was mesmerized between the aerial shots of K driving through the neon skyscrapers and the shots of him walking through dark hallways and smoggy landscapes. Cinematographer Roger Deakins (Skyfall, The Shawshank Redemption, Prisoners, No Country for Old Men, Fargo) once again proves he’s the master of cinematography.

This isn’t a style over substance film by any means. Much like Ridley Scott’s masterful predecessor, Villeneuve’s sequel maintains the philosophical themes and ambiguous questions about life, death, and humanity. It also raises new ones about memory, miracles, evolution, and survival. 2049 isn’t at all a rehash of the first film.

2049 is 2 hours and 43 minutes long (roughly 44 minutes longer than the original) and is an epic in scale and tone. If you saw Villeneuve’s previous works Sicario and Prisoners, you know he has a knack for violent quick bursts of action. 2049 has enough to satisfy action lovers.

Everyone in the cast is perfect. Gosling delivers another cool, expressionistic performance as a troubled antihero. Ford portrays Deckard as a traumatized battle-torn veteran with grace. Robin Wright adds some humanity to her cold character Detective Joshi; she’s K’s superior and acts as a caring maternal figure. Even Jared Leto has a few golden moments as a god complex-ridden replicant manufacturer, Niander Wallace. Of all the performances, Sylvia Hoeks shines as Luv, Wallace’s replicant enforcer who wants to prove she’s the superior replicant.

Blade Runner was an acquired taste and 2049 isn’t any different. If you want an artistic epic that’s restrained in action but grandiose in themes, 2049 is for you. Villeneuve once again proves he’s one of the best working filmmakers to date.

Grade: A+