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News Around the Net! UPDATED with Avengers 4 Trailer!

UPDATE: The first trailer for Avengers 4 has finally dropped!

First off: the title.  Endgame.  That’s… OK.  Not a bad title, but it’s a bit generic.  I think the phrase “endgame” is a bit overused in genre circles, and Dr. Strange’s line in Infinity War that “we’re in the endgame now” frankly wasn’t my favorite piece of dialogue in the film.  I’m not sure why Marvel felt the need to keep this title so top-secret for the last few years!  After such a build-up, this title is a bit disappointing.  But it’s fine.  The title underlines the importance of Dr. Strange’s line of dialogue in Infinity War that there was only one way in billions to defeat Thanos.  I’d commented in my original review that I suspected that Strange’s choice to give Thanos the Time Stone wasn’t a defeat but, in fact, the key to victory.  From this title, it looks like I was right, big time.

As for the rest of the trailer — excellent!  We don’t actually see very much, but it’s a great tease.  The first half with Tony Stark is fantastic and strikes the right “hopeless” tone.  I like seeing this more substantial clip rather than just fast-paced shots.  I love the way the Marvel logo dissolves just like everyone dying at the end of Infinity War.  I’m delighted to see Hawkeye (who appears to be dressed up as Ronin from the comics — that’s an interesting touch and a nice reference for comic book fans) and Ant Man in the trailer, since they were the two main characters left out of Infinity War.  (Looks like Scott escaped from his perilous situation in the post-credits sequence of Ant Man and the Wasp!)  I love what I am seeing so far.  I really hope Marvel can stick the landing on this one.  I am counting the days.

Ok, back to our regularly scheduled post…!

Stop what you’re doing and please watch Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie’s new short PSA about how the motion-smoothing setting on most HD-TVs ruins movies.  Their life-and-death, super-serious tone is sort of hilarious. But also, I agree!! I am evangelical about this, though most of my friends and family just shake their heads. Turn off this setting so that you can watch movies properly!!

Then, for follow-up reading, this is a great piece on Tom Cruise and Mr. McQuarrie (author of The Usual Suspects)’s many recent collaborations.

This is an inspiring interview with architect Frank Gehry on how he got started.

I’m impressed and awed that, after more than a half-century, Doonesbury continues.  Here’s a great interview by Rolling Stone with Garry Trudeau.

Red alert: Nicholas Meyer, one of the … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Mission: Impossible — Fallout

It is astonishing to me that not only does Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible film franchise still exist a whopping twenty-two years after the first movie was made (1996’s Brian DePalma-helmed Mission: Impossible), but that the series has arguably never been better!  I really like that first Mission: Impossible.  The second film is the weakest, but things got back on track with J.J. Abrams’ Mission: Impossible III, and the series has been on a heck of a roll since then.  Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) came on to helm the fourth film, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol, which was even better than the third film, and then Christopher McQuarrie (author of The Usual Suspects) came on to helm the fifth film, Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, which I thought was the best film of the series!

For the first time in this film franchise’s history, a director has returned for the next film, with Mr. McQuarrie returning to the director’s chair for Mission: Impossible — Fallout.  While we’ve had to wait a lot of years between the last several installments, this sixth film comes fairly hot on the heels of 2015’s Rogue Nation, which was a pleasant surprise.  With Mr. McQuarrie back at the helm, and most of the cast of Rogue Nation returning, would Fallout be able to match the greatness of that film?

I am pleased to say it does!  I’ll have to see Fallout again to decide if I think it’s better than Rogue Nation, but it’s certainly as good and a wonderful follow-up piece.  Mission: Impossible — Fallout is a triumph of fun pop action-adventure filmmaking.  It’s a delight from start to finish, filled with terrific characters, a tightly-woven plot (that actually, for the most part at least, makes sense), and some of the most outrageously bonkers action sequences I have ever seen.  I loved it.

Fallout certainly stands on its own, but for fans of this series, it’s a delight to see the way these films have gradually begun to cohere into a larger continuity.  I love how Missions III, IV, V, and now VI all fit together, leading one into the other and developing characters (good guys and bad guys) across the films.  The first few Mission films were completely stand-alone, and it was certainly fun to see different directors craft entirely different types of Mission films.  But I love seeing the connections between these more recent films, and Mission: Impossible — Fallout is filled with pay-offs to character relationships we’ve been watching develop across these past several films.

Whereas the first several Mission films were about Ethan Hunt: superhero — on his own fighting bad guys (with … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation!

Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series has always been a somewhat weird franchise.  Rather than having tight continuity between films, every film has felt like it’s own unique one-off adventure, usually very driven by the style of the director.  And so it’s been something of a pleasant surprise to see how smoothly the third, fourth, and now fifth films in the series have fit together, and how much creative energy this series still has even in its fifth installment.

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In Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation, Ethan Hunt and his team at the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) find themselves beset by adversaries on all sides.  They face an internal political challenge from CIA chief Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who wants to shut down the IMF.  Meanwhile, Ethan Hunt has been, for months, on the trail of a secret agency known as The Syndicate.  This “anti-IMF” is a cabal of villains aimed at disrupting the global status quo that Hunt and the IMF aim to protect.  Soon Ethan and his handful of friends and allies find themselves all that stands against this terrorist organization.

Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie.  Mr. McQuarrie wrote The Usual Suspects, and he made his directorial debut with Jack Reacher, which also starred Tom Cruise.  I thought that film was a something of a bore (click here for my review, in which I think I was kinder than the film deserved), but I guess second time’s the charm because Rogue Nation is a terrific film, a fast-paced romp that is stuffed full to overflowing with great action and humor and fun, telling a story that is intense and compelling without ever being dour.

The film starts off with a bang, with a whopper of a pre-credits action sequence (see photo above).  This sequence, which involved Tom Cruise actually hanging off the side of a plane in flight, has been hugely promoted in the weeks and months leading up to the film’s release.  What a surprise it was to discover that the whole thing takes place in the very opening minutes of the film!!  Well played, folks.  (This is a nice contrast to the very first Mission: Impossible film, about which I just wrote last week, which spoiled its big action climax in all of its trailers, something I am still sore about to this day.)

The tone is perfect in what I want from a Mission: Impossible film.  There is strong momentum from start-to-finish, as the film moves smoothly from one tremendous action set-piece on to the next.  The action in this film is extraordinary.  There are quite a few spectacular sequences that each might have been … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Jack Reacher

I’ve never read any of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Childs, so I didn’t come into the film Jack Reacher sharing the pre-conceived upset that many Reacher fans had at the casting of the very short Tom Cruise as the 6’5″ tank of a man described in the books.  I did go into the film thinking that the title of Jack Reacher was very stupid and not nearly as cool as that of the book from which the film’s story was adapted: One Shot.  (I guess the filmmakers wanted to emulate the huge success that was the John Carter of Mars adaptation John Carter…)  I was mostly interested in seeing Jack Reacher because it was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote the script for The Usual Suspects.

Overall, I felt the film was a decently entertaining crime flick, well-made though not particularly memorable.

At the start of the film, we see a sniper ruthlessly murder five pedestrians on a sunny day in Philadelphia.  The police are easily able to apprehend the shooter, a young man named James Barr, who upon capture insists that he will only speak with Jack Reacher.  Reacher (Tom Cruise), once a military police officer in the army, has left the service and dropped off the grid entirely.  Luckily, for reasons that are made clear as the film progresses, Reacher is aware of what has happened and arrives on the scene, saving anyone the impossible task of locating him.  He doesn’t feel he is needed, but the defense attorney Helen (Rosamund Pike) convinces him to assist her investigation.  The two soon discover that a fierce crime-lord known only as the Zec (Werner Herzog) is involved, as well as possibly someone in the D.A.’s office.

Tom Cruise is solid in the lead role.  He gives Reacher a more dour attitude than many of his previous action-hero roles (like Ethan Hunt), and that feels like the right choice.  Mr. Cruise is pretty convincing kicking ass in the film, and I wasn’t bothered by his height in the role whatsoever.  His handsome face and innate charm help convey Reacher’s power, and why he is so effective at getting people to do what he wants, even though he lacks almost every social grace.

I’ve been a fan of Rosamund Pike ever since her great work in the otherwise-very-mediocre Bond film Die Another Day.  I think she’s a terrific screen presence, and she is perfectly good as the noble defense attorney Helen, though the character is pretty thin.  Reacher does most of the real investigative work, and unfortunately Helen is relegated to being a damsel in distress by the end of the film.

The film’s piece of genius … [continued]