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Movie Review: Mission Impossible: Fallout

IMI Fallout postert’s rare for a franchise to almost completely reinvent itself in almost every outing. It’s even more rare for it to deliver, arguably, its best film twenty years in. Writer and director Christoher McQuarrie delivers his best film ever, as though he’s taken everything he’s learned from his past two and a half decades of experience, writing such classics as The Usual Suspects and being frequent Tom Cruise collaborator, to craft a great movie about the stakes of failure.

Failure is one of the great recurring themes in the film, as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt just wins by sheer luck. Several times in the film you think the good guys lose — because they do, repeatedly — and wonder if maybe this film will end with them losing, or with a noble self-sacrifice.

Our story begins with some stolen plutonium, and a failed recovery plan where Ethan chooses to save the lives of his longtime teammates Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) rather than recover the nuclear materials. So the CIA Director (Angela Bassett) does her best Amanda Waller impersonation and assigns one of their most deadly agents, August Walker (Henry Cavill), to provide “oversight” on the IMF team. Translation: he will kill anyone who gets in their way, including Hunt and his team if they go rogue.

Their clashing styles and the chemistry between Cruise and Cavill provide some of the best material of the film. Cavill is an imposing presence and director McQuarrie somehow makes it look like he hits harder here than as Superman. Cavill is also just really good as a spy and an action movie star, but somehow in a completely opposite way from his turn in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

But the emotional core here is with Pegg and returning actors Rebecca Ferguson and Michelle Monaghan. First, all three of them give great performances. Pegg has perhaps the most interesting character arc of any person in the franchise, going from computer geek in MI:III to hero-in-his-own-right in this outing. But it’s each of the characters’ connections to Hunt and his need to protect them that make the stakes of this so much higher and more personal than in previous outings. PS- If you need more reason to love Simon Pegg, you should see his recent apology for mocking Jar Jar Binks here. Really insightful stuff.

The last Mission Impossible film was full of bombastic stunts and plot, but two years later I couldn’t tell you a thing about it or what happened. Its villain, Solomon Lane, was supposedly so much smarter and always a step ahead of Hunt, but you never really felt that. In Fallout, you feel very much like the good guys are constantly being outsmarted and the stakes for failure — nuclear annihilation for a huge portion of the world’s population — are possible.

McQuarrie writes this in the same way as his tour de force The Usual Suspects, with layers upon layers of misdirection and snappy dialogue. He builds tension and releases it, hiding important exposition n moments of humor to help the explaining go down. Like Usual Suspects, there’s real humor in here. And if you’re familiar with the principle of Chekov’s Gun, he loads and cocks so many guns and leaves you waiting for the payoff. Even when you see something coming — especially when you see it coming — you just are left waiting in anticipation for sweet release of the payoff.

He’s also willing to take some risks. There is a point about two hours into the movie when I was convinced it was over, and this would be The Empire Strikes Back of a trilogy about Ethan Hunt and Solomon Lane. Indeed, in a world where Hobbits, Hunger Games, and Harry Potters are split into multiple movies for financial reasons, you can imagine wanting to extend this franchise in that way. But it doesn’t, and gives you this brilliant denouement of a final thirty minutes that gives specific payoff to everything not only from the previous two hours but the last twenty years. Yes, this is two and half hours long. It doesn’t feel like it. Bravo, Chris McQuarrie, bravo.

And then there’s his visual style. Wow, just wow. The cinematography here is brilliant. The pacing is unbelievable. There’s an extended chase scene through Paris that goes on for what seems like twenty minutes, and there’s never a dull moment. Eat your heart out, French Connection. 

This may be the best Mission: Impossible movie. And it is certainly the best spy thriller we’ve had in a long time. This is a cure for what ails the late summertime blues and the rare summer blockbuster that doesn’t require you to turn off your brain to have fun with it.

4.25 out of 5 stars

Review: Hollywood Zombie Apocalypse #2

hza02aAlthough it is potentially a weak concept to start with, the first issue of this two part series did have some things going for it.  Of course not every comic has to be completely serious, and the fundamental idea of this series is to lampoon the Hollywood culture and to even offer a bit of a critique of popular culture.  Although not particularly inspired, it still managed to make a few jokes worthy of some eye-rolls while setting up an unconventional zombie story.  It can safely be said that the second issue is inspired, but ends up being inspired in the wrong way.  This inspiration has a name and that is Selena Gomez.

Of course Selena Gomez is never named as such in this story, even if she is called Selena and has a whiny boyfriend named Justin.  Nor are any of the other characters like Bryan Cranston, Tom Cruise or Dwayne Johnson named specifically, but in the end it doesn’t even really matter.  While it is fine to lampoon Hollywood, this ends up being something different as instead the actors are very much out of character in what is essentially a setup for the main character to make out with Selena Gomez.  It takes a creepy concept like zombies, and goes into something kind of creepier by seeing what amounts to a realization of a fantasy put to paper.  Presumably the writer holds Selena in high regard in the looks department, because she is pretty interchangeable with any other actress in this same setting.

The story is thus doomed by itself, not in its weak concept, not in its not-so-funny jokes, but more so with its cliched Hollywood ending that the hero gets the girl, even if this is the only part of the book which is meant to be taken seriously.  It should have been an undead battle royale with actors playing out their characters in the comics, but it ended up being a twisted love story with no real justification for it.

Story: Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha Art:  David Lorenzo Riveiro
Story: 4.0 Art: 6.5 Overall: 4.0 Recommendation: Pass

Review: Hollywood Zombie Apocalypse #1

hza-covIt seems with Zenescope and the concepts that they come up with that they either hit it out of the park or they strike out swinging.  In the short history of their publishing it is rare enough that they get something that is in the middle ground of quality, but this is one of those rare entries.  It takes an interesting enough variation of the zombie genre and mixes in some jabs at popular culture, including a lot of whom the writers seem to not give much credit to.  Those that tire of Tom Cruise’s scientology antics, those who can’t comprehend the Beliebers or those that don’t like Michael Bay (which is everyone?) will both find a bit of vicarious satisfaction here.  So too does this issue pay homage to the Avengers, especially if the Avengers were played by Tom Cruise, Dwayne Johnson, Bryan Cranston and Selena Gomez.

Unlike some of Zenescope’s other properties, this series is meant to be firmly tongue-in-cheek and so although the humour is often groan-inducing, it also doesn’t really feel out-of-place.  The microbiotic-food-obessed starlets (one of whom is presumably supposed to be Megan Fox?) are a caricature of life in Los Angeles and exemplify some usual stereotypes, but at the same time there is not much wrong with that.  I don’t live in L.A. and so I can’t comment as to whether stars are really so vapid, but it is at least the pop culture cliché and so while it feels a bit forced here, it also works at the same time.

The sum of all these parts is something that doesn’t really work, but doesn’t really fail at the same time.  To be certain there is a lot better that this company puts out, but also a lot worse.  Seeing as this is stuck somewhere in between it might be of interest to those looking for a lighter take on the zombie genre, or just those that are a little tired of pop culture deciding what is popular.  At the same time, I can’t really recommend this, because of its faults and because so many other regular ongoing series from all the various companies bypass this in quality.   I suppose in the end that anyone that is interested in this and picks it up is not going to be losing a lot of money seeing as it is already halfway through the series.

Story: Ralph Tedesco and Joe Brusha Art:  David Lorenzo Riveiro
Story: 6.5 Art: 7.0 Overall: 6.8 Recommendation: Pass

Trailer – Oblivion

Radical Studios has released the first trailer for Oblivion, the new Tom Cruise science fiction film due out April 2013. The film also has a graphic novel to be released after the movie.

The film, which in addition to Cruise stars Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Melissa Leo, will be released on April 12, 2013 in the US on IMAX and April 19th worldwide.

The film tells the story of a drone repairman stationed on Earth after a devastating war who rescues a beautiful stranger from a downed spacecraft.

The graphic novel, from the concept by Oblivion director Joseph Kosinski, will be written by Arvid Nelson, with art by Andree Wallen, and will be released in 2014.

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I don’t know what the Graphic Policy readership is like, but I’m guessing many will still be here to read this blog if the Rapture actually happens today.  And, while you were planning the post Rapture looting, here’s the news you might have missed.

Around the Blogs:

CNN International – The top five political comic booksCNN doesn’t break any ground or go out on a limb with this one.

Bleeding Cool – Another Year, Another Job As Executive VPI’m going out on a limb to say I can do this job and be successful at it.

Gamers Hell – America’s Army – The Graphic Novel Third Chapter ReleasedWhy didn’t I get the press release….

Comic Book Resources – Tom Cruise Signs On For Radical’s “Oblivion”Interesting….

ICv2 – ‘Fantastic Four’ #1 Goes for $300,000I had some loose change in my couch and figured “why not.

Comic Book Resources – “X-Men: Destiny” Introduces Grant AlexanderI’m interested in seeing what this game has to offer and it’ll be interesting to see if any of the original material makes it into the comic universe.

Kotaku – For an Ass-Kicking Norse God, Thor Sure Has a Soft, Artistic SideThe movie laid on amazing visuals, so it’s expected the video game would be just as impressive to look at.

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IGN – Last Mortal #1

Saffron Walden – Noche Roja