Mission: Impossible – Fallout Movie Review

The Mission: Impossible franchise has now reached its sixth feature and its 22nd year of existence, providing the seemingly ageless Tom Cruise with a hit making series that continues to deliver. That’s a rather remarkable accomplishment and Fallout belongs in the upper echelons in terms of bang for your buck entertainment.

Truth be told, there’s been no total dog yet in the Mission sagas. My one minor complaint about its predecessor, 2015’s Rogue Nation, was its lack of directorial vision. Christopher McQuarrie and his large squad of tech and stunt wizards pulled off some impressive action sequences in that picture. However, unlike the previous four pics, it didn’t feel quite as distinctive. Part 1 was certainly a Brian De Palma experience and the first sequel was all kinds of John Woo (for occasionally better and more for the worse). Same goes for J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird in the next ones (Ghost Protocol still stands as my personal favorite).

McQuarrie is the first filmmaker to return in the director’s chair. I must admit that maybe I just didn’t fully recognize his stamp on the series the first time around. These latest missions are all about spectacle and not really concerned with melding the mayhem to its maker’s vision. In Fallout, that’s pretty much perfectly OK even more so than in Rogue. That’s because the team of people making the action are the best at it. We’ve seen plenty of car chases, helicopter battles, and bathroom brawls in our time. This franchise excels at it in ways few others do.

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his IMF squad (including Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames) pick up two years after the events of the fifth installment. Learned Mission watchers know the plot will likely be convoluted and a secondary consideration. That’s true here, but let’s go over the basics. We have lost plutonium that IMF must find or risk nuclear attack. Part 5’s villain (Sean Harris) is involved. Ethan is forced to partner with a bulky CIA agent (Henry Cavill). MI6 agent Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) from Rogue resurfaces. She continues to be one of Hunt’s more interesting partners. And the short-lived wedded bliss that we witnessed Ethan in during part 3 with Michelle Monaghan becomes a focal point. Oh… and there’s plenty of double crosses. And those masks. Fallout also features the most satisfying use of a CNN anchor ever committed to film.

Of course, all of this leads to Ethan globe-trotting from London to Paris to Kashmir. And the song remains the same: our hero is the only one capable of figuring out how to keep the world from crumbling. What’s often startling is just how much care is expended in creating the impossible situations he finds himself in. McQuarrie’s biggest contribution may just be the go for broke style vibe to Ethan’s dangerous exploits. As always, Cruise is a more than willing subject and he even broke his ankle during one stunt.

Cruise and McQuarrie simply refuse to allow Mission to coast on auto pilot. The franchise continues to come up with new and exciting ways to put our mega star in peril. Six films in, that is quite a feat.

***1/2 (out of four)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout Box Office Prediction

Now in its 22nd year of existence, Tom Cruise’s signature franchise keeps rolling along as Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth offering in the series debuts stateside next weekend. Christopher McQuarrie is the first director to come back behind the camera (he made 2015’s predecessor Rogue Nation) for repeat work after Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird made their stand-alone entries. Returning cast members from previous installments include Rebecca Ferguson, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Michelle Monaghan, and Alec Baldwin. Newcomers include Henry Cavill and Angela Bassett.

The buzz for Fallout indicates it could be a high mark in the long running franchise. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 93% with some critics claiming it’s the best of the bunch thus far. It’s particularly being praised for its action scenes and stunt work (which actually caused its mega-watt star to break an ankle on set). Even with the generous helping of sequels and genre pics out there (Skyscraper will be in its third weekend of release with The Equalizer 2 in its second), this series seems to be going strong.

In order to achieve the largest opening of all the M:I features, Fallout would need to top the $57 million achieved 18 years ago by part 2. Rogue Nation came close three summers ago with $55 million. I believe this should have enough juice to do so with a low to mid 60s gross.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout opening weekend prediction: $63.6 million

For my Teen Titans Go! To the Movies prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/18/teen-titans-go-to-the-movies-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch – Mission: Impossible – Fallout

For 22 years now, the Mission: Impossible franchise has been a sturdy and profitable one for its star Tom Cruise. Two weeks from now, the sixth picture in the series Mission: Impossible – Fallout hits theaters stateside. Early reviews have been quite impressive with some critics hailing it as the best movie of the bunch so far. One prominent critic went as far to say it’s the best action flick since Mad Max: Fury Road. The Rotten Tomatoes score stands at 96%.

In case you forgot, Fury Road got itself a Best Picture nomination. That seems highly unlikely for Fallout, but it’s fair to speculate whether voters will choose to honor it in any way. If they do, it would probably be in a technical category or two with Sound Editing and Sound Mixing being the most obvious. Fallout is being hailed for its amazing action sequences (if there was an Oscar category for Best Stunts, that race could be a wrap).

Of the five Mission‘s that have preceded this, they have a collective Oscar nod count of zero. Just that fact makes it a long shot that part 6 receives any attention. However, if some of the tech category voters want to throw it a bone, it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Ready Player One Movie Review

In a time when much of our popular entertainment is now made by 1980s kids who worshipped at the altar of Steven Spielberg and others, Ready Player One often feels like a loving homage to the product he made. Except it’s made by Spielberg himself and based on a 2011 Ernest Cline novel that also placed Spielberg’s works among its many cultural references. Such an experience runs the considerable risk of collapsing upon itself in a meta avalanche. Yet there’s a reason Spielberg is considered the best in the blockbuster game and he mostly avoids the potential self congratulating pitfalls here. It doesn’t belong in the same stratosphere as his most delicious popcorn offerings, but it contains enough sweetness and eye-popping visuals to be reasonably filling.

We begin in the dystopian future of 2045 where the majority of the Earth’s populace lives in slum conditions. Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) is among them. He’s an 18-year-old in Columbus, Ohio with deceased parents and a sad life living with his trashy aunt. Wade’s existence matches that of many and their only refuge from squalor is The OASIS. That’s a virtual reality world created by the late James Halliday (Mark Rylance), an eccentric developer whose nostalgic tastes inform his fantasy universe. Those preferences include a whole slew of 80s flicks and tunes and more. Players can select alternate identities when they slap on the VR goggles. Wade takes on the persona of Parzival and he cruises around in the iconic DeLorean from Back to the Future. Wade/Parzival isn’t just a run of the mill player. He’s a good one. And he’s among a small group of high level participants known as Gunters.

Following Halliday’s death, it’s revealed he hid an Easter egg in the OASIS and the first player to find it will inherit control of the whole shebang. Wade has noble intentions should he win. So does Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), an expert gamer who attracts Wade’s admiration and his heart. There’s also those who want control of this trillion-dollar game for more devious purposes. That includes Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn), corporate overlord of IOI (Innovative Online Industries). That conglomerate envisions total control of this product and go to dangerous lengths to prevent ace players like Parzival and Art3mis from succeeding.

Ready Player One quickly establishes this dense new world to us without making it seem too complicated. We quickly accept the dual nature of these heroes and villains in the depressed looking capital of Ohio and the shimmering alternate reality of the OASIS. In the latter, players can become whoever they want and the programmers can insert anyone in. That allows a lot of references to characters we’ve seen elsewhere. If you have ever imagined King Kong, The Iron Giant, and the murderous Chucky doll in the same feature, your wish is granted.

Much of this is an excuse for dazzling adventure sequences and many of them truly are. There’s a notable horror pic that is the centerpiece of a key scene. Going much more into it would feel like spoiler territory, but I’ll say it’s a pretty amazing highlight. Some of the battles take on a sameness vibe eventually, but the OASIS is consistently a visual wonder to behold.

Leads Sheridan and Cooke are both stellar. Rylance and Simon Pegg as Halliday’s former business partner are memorable. Mendelsohn (as he did in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) brings a satisfying  sinister turn as the bad guy.

Spielberg’s classics have become so because of their heart. Ready Player One is not a classic, but there are moments when the beats of them are well replicated. The picture may be best appreciated by an audience whose nostalgia glasses are usually half full. I’m among them. While you might be watching closely for pop culture references, there’s an overall message of balance between adoration of the past and appreciating the present. The director behind the camera here is deservedly revered for his great past, but he can still provide the goods presently.

*** (out of four)

Ready Player One Box Office Prediction

Opening over Easter weekend, Steven Spielberg attempts to delve into our collective member berries with the release of Ready Player One. Based on the 2011 Ernest Cline bestseller, the futuristic adventure stars Tye Sheridan as a gamer entering a virtual reality world chock-full of 1980s pop culture references and beyond. The Warner Bros release comes with a reported $175 million budget. The supporting cast includes Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, Letitia Wright, and Mark Rylance. There’s also appearances from Freddy Krueger, the DeLorean from Back to the Future, Sonic the Hedgehog, and many more. I’ll also note the picture is set in the place I call home – Columbus, Ohio.

Ready premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival to mostly acclaim and it currently stands at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes. Some reviews have called it Spielberg’s most accessible and inspired work in quite some time. Even though it’s based on a known novel, questions abound as to how it will perform. Having Mr. Spielberg’s name attached doesn’t automatically generate dollars anymore, though it certainly doesn’t hurt (especially in a genre like this).

It opens on Thursday (meaning Wednesday night showings) and that’s a break from the typical release pattern. Generous estimates put this at a $50 million roll out with $35 million on the lower end. This is a toughie. I’ll estimate Player manages to reach mid 30s for the traditional portion of the weekend and possibly hit that $50 million number when factoring in its Wednesday sneaks and full day on Thursday.

Ready Player One opening weekend prediction: $36.7 million (Friday to Sunday), $50.8 million (Thursday to Sunday)

For my Acrimony prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/21/acrimony-box-office-prediction/

For my God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/03/21/gods-not-dead-a-light-in-darkness-box-office-prediction/

Oscar Watch: Ready Player One

Perhaps the most high-profile title to screen at the South by Southwest Film Festival over the weekend was Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. The sci-fi action spectacle is based on Ernest Cline’s 2011 bestseller that’s chock full of pop culture references. In the lead up to its stateside release on March 29, advance word of mouth has been mixed. However, the screening yesterday may have changed those perceptions. Early reviews are calling this Spielberg’s biggest crowd pleaser in quite some time. The festival only gives us a small sampling of critical reaction, but it is certainly encouraging.

Even if the pic turns out to be a box office success, that doesn’t necessarily translate to any awards love (especially considering the genre). I don’t see this as a factor in the big races like Picture or Director. That said, Ready appears primed to be a player in one particular category and that’s Visual Effects. It’s said to be a feast for the eyes and though competition could be fierce, a nomination in that race seems quite feasible. Other tech categories such as Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Production Design could also be on table.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

 

Star Trek Beyond Movie Review

Now that this latest iteration of the Star Trek film series has reached its third entry, the creative forces behind it are free to just let Beyond be a two-hour episode upon itself. In other words, JJ Abrams was quite successful directing the first two features in 2009 and 2013 and establishing a new cast playing iconic roles. By part III, those objectives have already been met and Abrams leaves his successor Justin Lin the opportunity to make this one an action packed sci-fi spectacle. We also have the hallmarks of the 50-year-old franchise that include celebrating the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew and injecting well-placed humor.

In a way, Star Trek Beyond reminded me of the previous 007 pic, Spectre. How so? Spectre arrived three movies after Daniel Craig had put his stamp on another half century old institution. By the time part 4 rolled around, I was ready for something that needn’t burden itself with continually reshaping itself. Spectre didn’t and was mostly successful. Beyond doesn’t either and is even more satisfying.

We begin in year 3 of the USS Enterprise’s five-year voyage that they embarked on at the conclusion of Star Trek Into Darkness. Not all is well. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine, grown and confident in the role) is struggling with the endless journey. Trusty Spock (Zachary Quinto) is having girl troubles with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and mourning the reveal that Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has passed. This, of course, holds special meaning to the audience due to Nimoy’s passing in between pics.

Everything perks up for the crew when the ship is invaded by Krall (Idris Elba), a ruthless extraterrestrial tracking a relic that Kirk has in his possession. This attack leaves the crew splintered for a decent portion of the running time, allowing many of the members their moments to shine. That includes Karl Urban as McCoy and Simon Pegg’s Scotty, who both continue to provide sturdy comic relief. Sofia Boutella is a fine addition as an alien who joins Team Enterprise. Both Saldana and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov are a bit more relegated to the sideline in terms of the overall story (tragically, Yelchin died just a month before the film’s release). John Cho’s Sulu is given a previously not revealed character development. And when it comes to the main villain, Elba is quite menacing and effective.

Without having to set up anything new, Beyond gets right to the fun stuff and doesn’t let up. Lin is no stranger to elaborate action sequences, having helmed four Fast and Furious flicks. Yet enough time is set aside to explore the strong bonds of the team. It’s about family… to borrow a theme that Fast and Furious characters endlessly beat into our skulls. So while this might be the simplest of the trio of new Star Trek’s we’ve witnessed, it also manages to be the most purely entertaining.

***1/2 (out of four)