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Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

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***

Hunt is uniquely trained and highly motivated – a specialist without equal – immune to any countermeasures. There is no secret he cannot extract, no security he cannot breach, no person he cannot become. He has most likely anticipated this very conversation and is waiting to strike in whatever direction we move. Sir, Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny – and he has made you his mission.

This movie was astonishingly favorably reviewed, and I just do not see it. It takes the plot of Mission: Impossible (1) and does it again. Which was also the plot of Spectre, for what it is worth. We get boringly competent Tom Cruise again, with his abs and snappy lines. We get Rebecca Ferguson who just has one of those faces/performances that makes you feel like you have seen her before, and I think that is a good thing. The returns of Pegg, Renner and Rhames were fine as well, but failed to take advantage of their true skills. I am especially glad Rhames got this paycheck.

So that is an average movie, but there are pros and cons. Alec Baldwin seems only slightly more interested in his role than One Take Tommy in Jason Bourne. At least the action, set in as dumb of places as planes and underwater computers, is good. And the resolution is smugly satisfying.

Independence Day

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**½

Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!

Is there any other quotation I could possibly have gone with? Everything else was dependent on the actor’s accent or style. Try to imagine someone besides Jeff Goldblum delivering his lines. And dammit, Jeff Goldblum did the best he could. His performance was especially impressive considering what he was tasked with in the 90s.  For instance, how are you supposed to deliver a snappy comeback to elicit laughter following lots of deaths? Roland Emmerich will tell you how — like Jeff F’n Goldblum.

About Roland Emmerich…I do not know if he has a misanthropy problem, or if he just loves overcoming impossible odds through gibberish science problem. Here is what we know about Roland:

1. He loves blowing stuff up;
2. He loves landmarks;
3. He loves blowing up landmarks; and
4. He uses flash wipes, which are only ever appropriate when the Men in Black take away your memory.

You can imagine what scenes took place in this movie. Also, what is with those flash wipes? And why did he give Randy Quaid a “hero” theme in the score? If Randy merits his own theme, which he does not, then it should have been one with the hint of redemption, not a spoiler alerting hero one.

Here are the rest of my disjointed thoughts, presented chronologically:

Why does SETI not pick up the aliens until the ship is at the moon?
Great effect for the first appearance of the ships, awesome.
Good shocks, but cutesy.
Laughter after hundreds of thousands and maybe millions are dead. Why? Because this is supposed to be a fun massive death movie. Also, Roland Emmerich is an misanthrope who just wants to watch the world burn. I made this point above, but he likes to repeat stuff so I can do it too.
Why are the pilots so, for lack of a better term, d-bag-y?
Harry Connick, Jr. could not die fast enough.
How is Will Smith’s jet out of gas?!?
YES! Tank top plus flannel unbuttoned and untucked! In jeans without a belt! The single most 90’s look ever.
Judd Hirsch gets in the “nobody’s perfect” line as an homage to Some Like It Hot.
And lastly, returning to Randy Quaid — Flying while going through withdrawal is probably worse than flying drunk.

One last big footnote. Emmerich directed a movie called Stonewall in 2015. While it was not favorably received, there were no monsters (other than human ones) in the time that lead up to the Stonewall Riots in New York City, so why did he make this? I have no clue.

Jason Bourne

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**½

Why would he come back now?

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And why did I come back to watch this? From the trailer and the cast/crew list there were a lot of checked boxes that I look for in movies.

  1. Is it directed or written by Paul Greengrass? Yes and yes, so that is +2 (and besides Green Zone has he put out a non-excellent movie before?)
  2. Is this part of the Bourne Trilogy? Kind of. Same world, but it is a number greater than three…
  3. Does this sequel have the original cast still? Matt Damon and Julia Stiles, seems like enough to me. +1.

And what did I learn from this fifth installment? Well, it seems like the CIA is still full of a-holes. Even with so many prior elements returning in microwavable form, it just did not feel the same, like a reheated slice of pizza. And just like microwaved pizza being consumed alone in sweatpants, it was a bit depressing. To be candid I did watch this on a plane so the audio was only so-so, but I do not think the issue was the audio. I never thought I would say this, but Vincent Cassel disappointed me with his performance as another “asset”. I adore Vincent Cassel, so this was even more disappointing than his role in Oceans 13. Lastly One Take Tommy (Lee Jones) dour faced his way through this one, resulting in unlikable, but uncompelling villains (when you include Cassel).

I will say that there was one particular shot that was really cool. One of the most memorable shots in the original, The Bourne Identity, was when Bourne is walking away from the camera and a minibus cuts off our view of him and he disappears. In this one a bus or tram blocks our view of him and when it has moved he is still visible and the CIA agents spot him. Returning to my pizza analogy, even reheated pizza is pizza, and everyone likes pizza.

Considering all of the above, does this mean that it is time for a reboot? I just do not know. If Greengrass was attached, or even better, if some other writer/director whom I respected had a new take on the subject, then I would be right back in there. For 14 years Jason Bourne has been as much James Bond as James Bond has been, and we already have a George Lazenby (Jeremy Renner). The question is, who will be the Roger Moore?1

1 With his recent passing I expect to write something about the late Roger Moore.

Logan

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***½

As I live and breathe, “the Wolverine”.

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Finding a quotation without lots of profanity was difficult. I am not sure why it is so pervasive here, but it certainly is. Maybe just to show this was not the same world, not at all the same world as the other X films. At least it is not thematically the same world. Instead of being meta and satisfying, as many reviewers have proposed, I just found it a bit confusing. It is still a good movie and a fitting swan song for Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

The only other thought I have is that this was not an adaptation of “Old Man Logan” as you may have read. The upcoming Thor movie with Thor facing the Hulk seems to have as much in common with that story as this did—at least that has villain Hulk fighting. Tying things up with the Hulk was a fitting idea since Wolverine’s first appearance was in Incredible Hulk #181. Last thought, it is funny to go online and read crybaby rightwingers who think this movie filmed before the 2016 election was an indictment of Trump and Republicans because future US is a corporate garbage state where people have fewer rights than corporations.

Sisters

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***

What fresh fuckery is this?

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Kate Ellis (Tina Fey) & Pazuzu (John Cena), in Sisters, 2015.

I know, I know, it bothers some people when I use, or quote, profanity. But that quote is amazing because it parallels something Boromir says—in Fellowship of the Ring, obviously—”What is this new devilry?” But I never quote it correctly! I always say, “What new devilry is this?” I like to think that screenwriter Paula Pell thought that too.

So this movie was better than I expected. Certainly it was unrealistic but it was consistent in this level of unrealism. Best part of the movie — doot doodoo dooo, John Cena! His tattooed drug dealing TSA Agent was wonderful.  Also, I was impressed that Tina Fey showed a hitherto unseen acting range.

your name

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Context is everything. I have been extremely lax this year in keeping up with “good” movies. It has been a busy 365 days for me, but that is just an excuse. While flying to and from my honeymoon I had a combined 48 hours of air time. I tried to watch Spotlight, but turned it off after 10 minutes. I did, however, rewatch Independence Day. Since I was on Japan Airlines the choices were better than on any American carrier, but also included lots of non-classic Japanese films. Spotting this on in the row ahead of me I kept paying attention to it. I could tell it was a teenage body swap anime, and that it was drawn well. I used to love watching animes, but stopped for no good reason about 8 years ago. In fact, the only anime I remember watching since I started this blog was when I rewatched Ghost in the Shell in order to confirm its 5-Star Status.1  That is the sole anime in my 13 years of film reviewing to get 5 stars.

Treasure the experience. Dreams fade away after you wake up.

FOUR MONTHS LATER — So I got writers block for the first time ever. Reviewer’s block? To overcome this I am getting back to basics with (1) Ratings, (2) Quotations, & (3) Other.

(3) Other: this was a beautiful film. I cared so deeply about these characters that I was basically crying and begging an already finished film to provide me with the ending I wanted. To evoke that emotion genuinely, without resorting to musical or cultural shortcuts, is amazing. Pan’s Labyrinth does it well. This does it even better.

*****

Did I forget to say what the movie was about? That was not part of the original formula. And no pictures. Here is the phonetic Japanese of the title (Kimi no na wa).

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Taki & Mitsuha, your name.

1 The Ghost in the Shell remake starring the oh-so-white Scarlett Johansson is about to be released, and as much as I dislike whitewashing I am excited for this film. As for other animated films, the only I also gave 5 Stars was Frozen, which I now regret. This is a review of first impressions, thus barring exceptional circumstances, that score stays put forever. I have similar feelings about Supertroopers and The Departed.

Pitch Perfect 2

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***

Listen, I don’t want you guys to fight. You’re Beca and Chloe, together you’re Bhloe and everyone loves a good Bhloe.

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Rebel Wilson & Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect 2, © 2012 Universal Pics.

So this movie was not bad. I went into it with very low expectations and they were exceeded. I did get sick of the fat jokes pretty quickly. And I would say that it had trouble getting out of its own way when it came to telling a tight narrative story. But the characters were solid. Anna Kendrick was excellent reprising her role as Beca, now the leader of the acapella team the Barton Bellas. Unsurprisingly Elizabeth Banks and John Michael Higgins return to skewer our society’s sexism, racism, and ignorance through seemingly inane commentary. Surprisingly Banks directed this, which was her first feature film. What she lacked in experience she overcame with a great sense of humor. She also cast David Cross, which is always a good idea.

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