Ethan Hunt is no mere agent. He’s a force of nature that keeps pushing himself to the brink of imminent death every single time we meet him. Last time he hung on the side of a high rise, and this time he hangs along the side of a flying aircraft. Not to mention he merely drowns in one of the many close call operations he and the disbanded IMF commit towards. Tom Cruise lends the character an intensity and bug eyed gutsiness that make him a hero you want to root for, and someone you most definitely want on your side at all times. Hunt has met his match this time with the evil Lane (Sam Harris), a leader of a rising organization called the Syndicate, who is always one step ahead of Hunt, while sidekick Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) displays an enigmatic aura that makes Hunt uncertain if she’s friend or foe.
It’s nice to see director Brad Bird inject a new sense of excitement and novelty in to the “Mission Impossible” movie series, as it now embraces its episodic origins to completely reboot the epic story of Ethan Hunt. After the pretty good third outing, “Ghost Protocol” sports an entirely different atmosphere, where the team from the IMF are still out and lurking about, while Ethan Hunt has become a pariah, now jailed in a Russian prison. After Simon Pegg’s character Benji stages a caper to free Ethan from prison, Ethan discovers that the world must be in dire trouble if he’s being turned to for help.
Johnny Depp has never been one to be defined as a comedy genius of any sort, and it’s pretty telling of that fact when the one gag he has to ride on throughout “Mortdecai” is his mustache and how it twirls. That’s basically the defining comedic element of Mortdecai. He’s painfully proud of his mustache despite the obvious disgust by his loving wife, and he takes great pride of flashing it around. He even gleams proudly when he finds himself in America packed in to an elevator with men donning mustaches and beards of their own. That’s what counts as comedy in the painfully unfunny “Mortdecai.”
It’s hard to imagine a movie this year more sadistically boring and bland than “Jem and the Holograms.” This comes as somewhat of a surprise since director John M. Chu is a pro when it comes to making films that are visually dazzling and marketed toward teens. “Step Up 3” was a fun, beautifully edited, visual feast, while “GI Joe: Retaliation” was a decent follow up to a much maligned movie. So it’s disappointing and crushing to see Chu not even really seem to try. Everything about “Jem and the Holograms” is so vanilla and uninspiring that I never even care about anything happening on screen. I’m not one of the kids from the eighties that watched “Jem,” so I have no nostalgic connection to the animated series, but I can understand that anger toward such a horrible movie.
Music bio pics are rarely masterpieces, and while “Love & Mercy” is itself a fine movie, it’s not the entry in to the long library in the sub-genre that’s changed my mind about music bio pics just yet. Much like previous films about musical geniuses, the film gets lost in a miasma of pit falls, including the inability to balance the story of the musician and the story of the man himself. So we’re thrust back and forth in to what ends as a flawed, but above average tale about mental illness, and the creation of art. “Love & Mercy” takes the concept of the bio pic above the norm, focusing on Brian Wilson, the founder of the Beach Boys through two stages of his life. One as a young man, and through his perils as a middle aged man. In both stages he’s enduring the horrors of mental illness and is systematically being victimized by someone in his life that he finds incapable of escaping.
Brad Bird is certainly a fun storyteller filled with ideas about science fiction that’s a welcome break from the normal grim and grit of the modern era, I just wish “Tomorrowland” were a masterpiece. If not, I wish it were more than mediocre. As it is there’s a great movie somewhere in the script, there’s just too much narrative and disjointed writing to really see it rise to the surface and hit a home run. “Tomorrowland” is one of the more entertaining messes of the year. It’s a film that doesn’t introduce its heroine until thirty minutes in to the movie, and completely cuts her out of the equation in the finale. “Tomorrowland” is not a bad movie by any means, it’s just the writing is so scatterbrain and haphazard, I couldn’t really appreciate the whole shebang, in the end; which is sad, because I certainly wanted to love “Tomorrowland.”
I was seven when “Home Alone” first arrived in theaters, and oddly enough I don’t remember the first time watching it. I did go to the movies to see it, as we always did, but I do fondly remember one night when my brother and I dragged my dad to see it for a third time. Beside “Who Framed Roger Rabbit!” we’d seen “Home Alone” at least three times in theaters, and we loved it. My dad had worked late, and he picked my brother and me up during one snowy night and we debated on what to see in the theaters. He was anxious to watch “King Ralph,” but we begged him to let us watch “Home Alone” once again. He obliged and allowed us to watch it yet again, despite entering the theater mid-way through the movie for the final half.
Adapted from the novel that made bored housewives across the world dream of being tortured by the most boring man in the world, “Fifty Shades of Grey” lives up to its reputation. It’s cheap, misogynist, Z grade exploitation masquerading as the romance of a woman trying to tame the ultimate man, who by all accounts should be alone left to his own demented fantasies. It began its life as fan fiction and reads like the cheap fantasies of a bored sexually repressed woman. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is about boring people doing stupid things to one another, and cardboard characters trying to create some sense of tension and conflict that never amounts to anything interesting. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is the film that essentially romanticizes abuse and misogyny as something that’s admirable in a man and can potentially be snuffed out with the right woman by his side.
Todd Strauss-Schulson‘s “The Final Girls” is probably the best coming of age film of the year. Hiding beneath the veneer of a slasher horror comedy beats a touching and heartbreaking dramedy about letting go, and accepting that sometimes nature has to take its course. Taissa Farmiga is wonderful as young Max, the daughter of Amanda, a once popular actress who has unfortunately been typecast for her role as Nancy in a famous slasher movie named “Camp Bloodbath.” Max keeps the hope in her mom alive, despite Amanda completely losing faith in herself, and in the hope of becoming a popular actress once again. Tragically the pair gets in to a horrible car crash killing Amanda and leaving Max orphaned. Three years later, Max is still clinging to memories, and is convinced by friend Duncan to attend a double screening of mom Amanda’s “Camp Bloodbath” movies, in hopes of indulging hardcore fans of the movie series.
Empire and Charles Band always had a knack for creating Westerns, but the type of Westerns that just were not as traditional as you might think. They had every opportunity to deliver us a normal western, and yet they went the odd route delivering creative amalgams like 1994’s “Oblivion,” and mediocre fare like “Ghost Town.” Richard Governor’s “Ghost Town” watches more like an extended episode of a mediocre anthology horror show, and when you get right past the whole supernatural tropes, it’s another ordinary western that we’ve seen a thousand times over. It’s not a gem of the Empire/Band library, but it’s a unique diversion.