Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Starring Tom Cruise, Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg and Jeremy Renner
Directed by Christopher McQuarrie (Jack Reacher)
Rated PG-13 for violence, language and some drug material

     This fifth installment of Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible franchise finds Ethan Hunt (Cruise) deep in the middle of a huge international case when the CIA decides to disband the IMF and make Hunt enemy number one. But instead of revolting or disappearing, Hunt and his crew of highly skilled misfits continue to work on finding and stopping the international crime “syndicate” that the CIA doesn’t even believe exists.

     Each one of these films has bigger and flashier set pieces but this one really takes the cake, and even in the first few minutes. In the very first act, Cruise pulls off a stunt hanging from the side of a jumbo jet as it takes off, and from the press around the film it appears the stunt was very real. With today’s technology this could have easily been done on a computer. But to give his audience the biggest thrills possible, Cruise gives the movie his all, over and over again. His abilities and dedication to his craft have never ceased to amaze me and this film just takes everything up a notch.

     New to the franchise is director Christopher McQuarrie, who until recently has had mostly writing credits on his resume, including his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Usual Suspects. Here he really shows that he has the chops to direct a big tentpole picture. Along with a very talented production team, and a gigantic budget I’m sure, he pulls off a massive undertaking with style and class.

     While Ethan Hunt has been considered by many to be the American answer to James Bond, I didn’t think I would ever see the day that a Mission: Impossible flick could be better than a Bond film, especially in the presence of new Bond Daniel Craig. Until now. Rogue Nation is better than any 007 film I’ve ever seen and has the potential to be a legendary movie in the spy genre.

     So your mission, should you choose to accept it: show some discipline and don’t see this film – no matter how good people say it is. If you believe Mr Cruise to be the leader of a dangerous and recklessly un-American cult, then send a message to him, with your pocketbook, that as long he is associated with Scientology, you will not support his “church” with your hard-earned dollars. Trust me, with the reviews this film is going to get, should enough people stay home this weekend, he will hear you loud and clear.  A

New in Home Entertainment – July 28, 2015

Water Diviner

New in Home Entertainment

July 28, 2015

The Water Diviner
Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Russell Crowe directs and stars in this drama about an Australian father who travels to Turkey to find his three missing sons after the Battle of Gallipoli. While one of the greatest actors of our time, Crowe is making his directorial debut here and he does a pretty admirable job. The pacing is a bit off at times but his presence on screen carries the film and makes it so you at least care about his plight, no matter what the result. The film does lose its focus a bit in regards to the single mother who works in the inn where he resides, which diverts the story in the direction of being a slow-moving romance. While this subplot isn’t horrible, it is against character as Crowe seems distracted from his honorable cause a little too much. My knowledge of wars in that region of the world is less than adequate, so I’m very thankful there is a special feature about the Battle of Gallipoli to help with context. B

White God
Rated R for violent content including bloody images, and language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In Hungarian with English subtitles
When a girl’s mutt is taken away from her and released on the outskirts of the city, she goes on a daring quest to reunite with him. But her dog’s journey creates a scenario where he becomes an alpha of a large and aggressive pack, bent on revenge against mankind. This is definitely a case of a film being impressive in regard to how they made it, but the overall project could have used some help in the story department. I loved the dog’s tale, but the girl’s tale was less than compelling. I have to admit that it’s a truly amazing achievement how the filmmakers were able to make a movie using rescued dogs, turning them into such fantastic characters. The vision is truly extraordinary. As a horror film it’s not particularly scary, but it’s still an adventure worth taking. B-

New in Home Entertainment – July 21, 2015

What we do

New in Home Entertainment

July 21, 2015

What We Do In The Shadows
Rated R for bloody violent content, some sexual material and language
Available on Blu-ray and DVD
This comedy from Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi (Flight of the Conchords) and Funny or Die explores the lives a group of vampires who share a flat as a documentary crew follows their day-to-day existence. From arguing over household chores to discussing fashion to picking fights with a local group of werewolves, their exploits are hilariously crafted and while mostly silly, provide an overall hilarious 86 minutes. The brevity of the film is key as the filmmakers know that the joke will get old fast, so why torture the audience. Instead their mockumentary provides for fresh and memorable entertainment. A-

Available on DVD
In Estonian, Russian and Georgian with English subtitles
In this Oscar-nominated foreign film from Estonia, two Estonian immigrants who operate a tangerine farm in Georgia find themselves in the middle of a war when they save the lives of two opposing soldiers who clash and nearly die on their property. While the film is about a poorly understood conflict following the breakup of the Soviet Union, it is ultimately about peace, friendship and saving our humanity in the midst of a mindless crisis. Beautifully shot and impeccably acted, the script is able to deliver not only a wonderful story, but also a hard-hitting message and a better awareness of recent events that most of us know little about. A

New in Home Entertainment – July 14, 2015

ex machina

New in Home Entertainment

July 14, 2014

Ex Machina
Rated R for graphic nudity, language, sexual references and some violence
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This frightening yet sophisticated and addictive piece of science fiction follows an eccentric billionaire (Oscar Isaac) who has invented a robot with artificial intelligence in the image of a beautiful young woman (Alicia Vikander). In an attempt to test her level of AI, he hires a young genius (Domhnall Gleeson) to visit his hidden estate and interrogate the new life-form. While very artsy and with a limited cast, the film does an excellent job of taking itself in many different directions. While many movies attempt to put you into the head of the hero, this film excels at placing you in the young visitor’s shoes. The whole thing is treated like a mystery with a naive but brilliant detective guiding the way, helping you to figure out the complicated puzzle presented to him. But once the puzzle is solved, the Pandora’s box opened is unexpected and wonderfully twisted. Smart, dark sci-fi thrillers like this are so rare that I can’t help but relish the chance to enjoy them when they pop up. A

Merchants of Doubt
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
From the director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Food, Inc., Robert Kenner, comes this frightening true tale of the spin we’ve been fed for decades by corporations who need us to believe their lies in order for their businesses to succeed. From smoking to global warming, the movie uses magicians and their slight of hand as a metaphor for the lies being told to us on a daily basis and the damage those lies do when they are blindly believed by a gullible public. While many will take the information provided as mere conspiracy theory and essentially the same spin the film accuses others of, the filmmakers go out of their way to show the recent history of propaganda and the dangers it has had on its victims in order to make its very important case. Yes it doses meander in places and there is most certainly a bias towards ideologies belonging mostly to the left and against right wing agendas, but I did feel their case was stated justly and without overt factual error. That being said, I do feel that the movie is preaching to the choir. It’s audience most likely already knows most of the material and I doubt many ditto heads are going to look to the film for a paradigm shift. B+

The Salt of the Earth
Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving images of violence and human suffering, and for nudity
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
For forty years, photographer Sebastiao Salgado has traveled the world to capture the struggles of human existence with his camera. This Oscar-nominated documentary from famed German director Wim Wenders and Salgado’s own son, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, looks at Salgado’s rich life experience through his photography and his evolution from capturing the despair of man during times of genocide, famine and exodus to the hope of man through his own efforts to regrow a major rainforest in South America. For many, Salgado is a rock star in his field, but for folks like me, who have never heard the name before, there is much to be learned and appreciated. And to elevate the story is the stunningly beautiful photography which has turned me into quite the fan. This documentary does what a great documentary should: takes you to places you never even knew you wanted to go with the end result being a fantastic voyage. A-

New in Home Entertainment – July 7, 2015

Slow West

New in Home Entertainment

July 7, 2015

Slow West
Rated R for violence and brief language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
This unconventional western stars Kodi Smit-McPhee as a love-torn young man who must travel across the country to find his girl and Michael Fassbender as a mysterious traveler who wants to help him get there for his own undeclared reasons. Beautifully shot and superbly paced, this is an easy enough film to watch with lots of shocking moments and a hugely talented cast. While Fassbender always impresses, I love that they threw in my favorite movie villain, Ben Mendelsohn, as a peculiar and unpredictable bounty hunter. This is the kind of western that makes you wish they’d bring the genre back in full force. A-

Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material including bloody images, and some language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
In this post-apocalyptic world a zombie virus infects Abigail Breslin leaving her father, Arnold Schwarzenegger, only weeks to say goodbye to his dear daughter forever. We’ve had a ton of cross-genre films lately, especially in the zombie realm where zombie rom coms have proved to be a semi-successful stretch. But zombie melodramas? In this case, it just doesn’t work. There’s not nearly enough horror and the long goodbye is just too long. The makeup effects are interesting and the story isn’t a bad idea, but there just seemed to be something missing. That being said, it does feel like there is a real vision here and it was fully realized on screen. Also, the performances are actually pretty good considering what the actors are doing and who they are playing. C+

Woman in Gold
Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and brief strong language
Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Based on a true story, Helen Mirren is a woman who, sixty years after fleeing Vienna for America during World War II, tries to get back her family’s famous Klimt painting “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” after it was stolen by the Nazis and placed in a museum in Vienna. Ryan Reynolds plays her inexperienced lawyer who spends years of his life trying fight for her right to claim what is hers. The story itself is fascinating and the script and cast do a very good job of telling it. It’s not the most exciting film you can spend an evening in front of, but it has its moments. My biggest disappointment was reading about the events that happened after this story ends on film. It just shows that Hollywood can really turn on the spin when it wants to. B-