Thursday, January 31, 2019

‘Fists and Fun: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX… and then some.’

‘Fists and Fun: What You’re Missing on NETFLIX… and then some.’


(2019, TV-MA, 13 episodes, MARVEL STUDIOS/NETFLIX)

Netflix put the MCU on the map for the small screen with their Hell’s Kitchen crew.  It may be a shame that they are relinquishing the helm but THE PUNISHER (if also moving away) leaves Netflix with a bang.  Jon Bernthal returns with Amber Rose Revah and Ben Barnes to continue where they left off.  This may seem a tired story, vigilante hunting down the baddies, but you would miss out on so much fists and fun if you think to skip this season.  These brutal episodes are gripping, bloody, and filled with so much inner turmoil that you cannot look away.  Know that there is a tight story filled with plenty of moments for each character to shine in their own light.  They leave nothing behind.


This is a ‘must see’ joyride.  In the line of CRANK and SMOKIN’ACES, but done way better on certain levels, you get Mads Mikkelsen (CASINO ROYALE and “Hannibal”) as Duncan Vizla.  Vizla is a highly skilled assassin who is looking to retire from the organization he works for.  Of course, there are big payouts he is due and the head, Mr. Blunt, has no intentions of paying.  Blunt sends an assorted cast of oddball assassins after him to make sure Vizla does not collect his retirement.  Director Jonas Ã…kerlund has had a quiet career behind the camera that should now be launched into the mainstream after this.  At least, it better. His ability to show versatility in creating a number of varied settings, action sequences that keep your eyes glued to the screen, and a cast of wild characters to parade around a very docile Vizla makes for a great evening of ‘Netflix and chill’. 


This is the continuing of anime Godzilla as you have never seen before… unless you’ve seen their previous films – GODZILLA: PLANT OF THE MONSTERS (2017) and GODZILLA: CITY ON THE EDGE OF BATTLE (2018).  This story is placed in a futuristic timeline, where the Godzilla has pushed the human race into space.  Humans have returned to Earth and are hoping to find a way to kill Godzilla and reclaim the planet.  If you couldn’t guess for this film, they were not successful in their first two attempts.  Now, a new threat from a new religion inspired by the ‘stars’ wishes to summon a ‘planet destroyer’.  This is where the genius of the writing comes in – a new take on King Ghidorah.  If nothing else, this movie will help fuel your need for the new live action sequel coming this year, with… King Ghidorah and others.

(2019, TV-MA, 8 episodes, ELEVEN/NETFLIX)

So, we have a new way to introduce or children to ‘sex’.  No, not really.  I kid.  This is way beyond that early childhood talk.  Maybe even past a teenager’s understanding.  But still a very enlightening way to break so many boundaries we have maintained in this puritanically based society.  Starring Asa Butterfield (ENDER’S GAME), Gillian Anderson (“X-Files”), and newer to the scene supporting stars Ncuti Gatwa and Emma Mackey.  Otis (Asa) is the son of a very active and dutiful sex therapist, Jean (Gillian).  Thus, we get a teenager’s nightmare of awkward situations at ever turn.  Instead of struggling with his familial predicament, and having found that he has become a savant at helping other teenagers with those ‘special issues’, he begins giving advise to other kids at school.  The solid writing and clever ways of weaving in other viewpoints allows for enlightenment for those that struggle with the close-minded world they have come to know and surround themselves with.

And, to add to the mix, one to find on AMAZON PRIME


Starring Thomasin McKenzie (THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES) and Ben Foster (HELL OR HIGH WATER and 3:10 TO YUMA), the story follows Will (Foster) and his daughter Tom/Thomasin (McKenzie).  Will is a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and has withdrawn from society as a way to cope with his issue.  They have made a home in a national park in Oregon, and not in the traditional sense.  While growing up and living in an isolated camp, Will teaches her about survival as well as providing a full education.  Things turn for the worse, they are discovered by the authorities, and are forced back into the civilian world.  Will’s psyche cannot handle it and spirals while trying to be understanding of his daughter’s needs.  Director Debra Granik (of WINTER’S BONE) does a fabulous job visually telling this tale.  This is another pairing with Anne Rosellini on the screenplay and they do it justice.  They make a great team.  Never once do you question Will’s love for his daughter, but you can see he is unable to get past his inner demons.  This journey is powerful, and its eloquence is not burdened by the need of forced Hollywood drama into the story arc.  That is what makes this work on more than one level, by keeping to a sense of realism and put a spotlight on a horrible condition, barring a better word to describe PTSD.

--- James S. Austin

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - PEPPERMINT

‘Blu-ray or Bust’

I sometimes wish that I had a metaphysical stick that I could slap people with.

Just hard enough to let them know when their “brilliant” ideas are stupid.  That’s it—I wish I had a Metaphysical Stupid Stick.  If I did, I would have knocked the idea for PEPPERMINT right out of screenwriter Chad St. John’s noggin, and right over the left field fence.  This is the same guy that came up with LONDON HAS FALLEN, a tired, bland retread of its mildly entertaining predecessor OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN.

So, it should come as no surprise that PEPPERMINT (stupid title for this film as well) is basically a female DEATH WISH.  So far, St. John has done nothing to better the genre, unless you consider the recycling of ideas, stereotypes, and storylines from other films bettering the genre.  Then by all means, praise him for his lack of originality.

But he isn’t the only one to blame here, even if he’s the one that regurgitated this crap with his “brain”.  Director Pierre Morel, he who blessed us with 2007’s TAKEN, should have known better.  And perhaps there was something about the script to lure Jennifer Garner in.  The opportunity to work out and learn some new fight moves, maybe?

PEPPERMINT, in case you missed the trailers, concerns wife and mother of one Riley North, whose family is gunned down in front of her.  When a corrupt system fails to provide the proper justice, she decides to take matters into her own hands.  So, yeah: a female-led DEATH WISH.  And it isn’t that a woman version of DEATH WISH is a bad idea—it isn’t.  But this one just plain sucks.  It would actually be easier to tell you what the film gets right than to pick it apart, but that would also make for a rather short review, and I like to hear meself talk way too much to allow that to happen.

The differences between this and the better aforementioned film (which I highly recommend, by the way—Eli Roth’s remake, led by Bruce Willis, is a gleefully bloody ballet of revenge that plays out more realistically than most of the other entries in this genre) are numerous.  Most glaringly so is the plot: dead family means the survivor gets to kill every single person associated with the people that caused the tragedy in the first place.  These people will either be in the mob or working for a drug cartel, and every Hispanic person depicted in the film will be a gangbanger.  And the hero has to fix their own wounds.  The biggest detraction from the other/BETTER film is that the vigilante is not grounded in any way.  There is a distinct, singular, and well executed method to this mother’s vengeance, and it sets her apart by lifting her up, making her something more than she should be.

Hints of mental illness do nothing to propel the storyline or the character; if anything, glossing over Riley’s mental issues is nearly insulting in that, once again, you get stereotypical traits.  She sees her dead daughter (but not her dead husband) sometimes, and of course you know she will have a life-saving sighting of her at just the right moment.  Besides the occasional flashback, which is represented by a fluttering of images, and easily dismissed with a shake of Riley’s head, there isn’t a whole lot to set this vigilante “hero” apart from the actual criminals she is gunning down by the dozens.

There are special features, but seriously, by the time I got to the end I felt like my brain needed a thorough washing, and my vision was blurry from the poop fumes emitting from the television screen.  So I didn’t watch them.  The last thing I want to see is how this mess got made, how awesome everyone thinks everybody who worked on the “movie” is, and bloopers.  The entire freaking thing is just one long blooper.

Whatever excuse anyone involved had for getting suckered into this one, one can hope that the rest of their careers won’t be judged by this turd alone.  Except for St. John, that is—he shouldn’t be allowed to write anymore.  Or if he does, we should be allowed to watch over him as he does, our Metaphysical Stupid Sticks clenched firmly in our hands.  I’m personally going to call mine “Spearmint”.

Film Grade: F
Special Features: Who cares?
Blu-ray Necessary: Only if you want to start beating yourself with your own stupid sti…okay, that sounds kinda dirty.  Just: NO.

- T.S. Kummelman

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: GLASS

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on GLASS (2019, 129 minutes, R)

The Quick of It -
Yeah, so… a trilogy has been completed.  Just maybe not so ‘complete’.

We have UNBREAKABLE, SPLIT, and now GLASS coming from the mind of director M. Night Shyamalan.  This is a visualization of a timeline where superheroes are a part of today’s world… a plausible spin of what could be.  This trio of films has a great buildup to ultimately fail me in the end.  Mamma always said to finish what you started.  Maybe finishing just a strong is also just as important.

SPOILERS are ahead, to some degree - cannot be helped.

Director M. Night Shyamalan created a buzz with his past outing, SPLIT.  Not until the final scene do we learn that it is a standalone sequel to UNBREAKABLE, thus launching the trilogy.  Of course, this is totally in line with his need to add twists to his films.  Of note, James McAvoy’s performance in the film deserved an Oscar, a Globe, and whatever piece of twisted metal you want to throw at him.  As hard as it is to believe, the second film was just as good, if not better than the first, unlike so many other trilogies out there.

GLASS is the final piece and filled the fans with hope and wonder on what is next.  I will first say, GLASS is supposed to star James McAvoy (the Horde), Bruce Willis (The Overseer) and Samuel L Jackson (Mr. Glass), but after thirty minutes, you realize that Sarah Paulson seems the center of attention.  And not in a good way.  Through circumstances, the three gifted people end up in a mental institution under Dr. Ellie Staple’s (Paulson) care.  This is my main gripe, but the others are not lesser in impact.  Her screen time diminishes the other’s roles.  The three core characters are only given passing glances to build their character progression, mixed with their supporting cast members to bolster… something that gets lost in the minimal time to weave the tale.

And this is only exacerbated by Shyamalan’s need to tell the story with piacular camera shots.  His style and choices in storytelling has been questionable to most critics and for the larger audience.  I have not found his work so bad, even enjoyed his weaker films.  THE VILLAGE and LADY IN THE WATER were great in my eyes.  But, whether to purposely create shots that give a comic book framing feel, or just his way of leaving his mark, it was more distracting than helpful.  It can be done, as proven in FENCES by Denzel Washington, who created a collection of shots that gave the sense of a live stage performance on celluloid. 

And then we have problems with the writing.  There was so much exposition blocked in trying to explain in comic book terms on how the story is progressing that you choke on it.  Mamma Shyamalan was there spoon-feeding us to be sure we understood what he was doing.  Even Mr. Glass’s mother was explaining why things are happening in comic book terms at one point!!!  And the kicker is when Paulson blasts off on a tirade of why Glass did such-and-such, to explain everything, almost directly to the camera… you gag on the lack of creative writing.  If you were paying attention, which was also shown on film just minutes before, you know why Glass did what he did.  Duh.

In the end, I really wanted to love the film.  I did.  Even struggled with how I wanted to write this review.  But I had to vomit this out, so I didn’t get any sicker holding in these feeling of contempt.  Always listen to Mamma Shyamalan, cause he vomited all over this one.  As a fan, I say to you, “Good luck.  I hope your experience is better.”

Grade: C-

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - VENOM

‘Blu-ray or Bust’

Just when you thought that you’d had enough of superhero movies, Sony decides to remind everyone that they still own the rights to several key characters in the Marvel Universe.

Interestingly enough, they can also produce a kickass film, too.  VENOM is the first in a planned series of films featuring several Spider-man villains, a curious move for a studio hell-bent on throwing its super-powered hat into the ring.  The bad guys aren’t supposed to win, so how to treat this rogue’s gallery of evil?  Starting with an antihero is a smooth move, and one that works surprisingly well.

Tom Hardy (MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) stars as Eddie Brock, a down-on-his-luck investigative journalist who crossed the wrong billionaire.  When we first see Eddie, he is successful in life; he’s got the beautiful girl (Michelle Williams), steady employment, and a positive outlook on life.  But in an attempt to ferret the truth out of a company magnate, he loses it all.

And in a last ditch effort to get his life back, he inadvertently gets infected with an alien lifeform called “Venom”, a dark, evil presence that would like nothing better than to live on a diet of human heads.  All sounds a bit glum and borderline horrific, does it not?

But writers Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg interject enough humor to keep the film from an R rating—which upset many fans of the character.  How could you possibly tell the story of a brain eating villain without blood and guts—er, blood and brains?  Apparently by focusing on the “fish out of water” storyline.  This is Venom’s first trip to Earth, so it is a learning experience for him, just as much as it is for Eddie, who is trying to deal with a symbiote living in his head.

By keeping the film to a short (by genre standards) hour and forty-odd minutes—don’t let that runtime fool you, as the credits are nearly fifteen minutes long as they include a promotional spot for the animated INTO THE SPIDERVERSE—the story moves at an effectively quick pace.  This is an origin story, and the writers and director all know that you’ve seen enough origin stories to not need a whole lot of exposition.  Also, there was supposedly forty minutes of the film left on the cutting room floor to allow for that PG-13 rating.  And so that Sony could sneak in that promo at the very end of the credits…

The special features are handled well, but don’t expect to see any of those deleted scenes that would FLESH OUT more of the story.  That wouldn’t be included on a PG13 release, kids.  Hopefully, we’ll see either an R-rated cut, or an uncut version of the film at a later date, just as Sony did for THE WOLVERINE.

But this version, on its own, stands up perfectly well.  Sure, you might wish to see a bit more (ahem) CARNAGE, but for a studio’s attempt at marking their place in the Marvel Universe, they do just fine.  Whatever they intend to do with these villains, I’m on board.  So long as the studio continues to take the subject matter and the world they have created with VENOM seriously, the future looks brighter for edgier, harder, superhero films.

Grade: B
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Absolutely

-- T.S. Kummelman

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - THE EQUALIZER 2

‘Blu-ray or Bust’

I love me some Denzel Washington. 

The sixty-four-year-old Oscar winner does not shy away from many roles; we’ve seen him as a proud infantryman in GLORY, a defiant leader in MALCOLM X, and a paralyzed ex-detective in THE BONE COLLECTOR.  His face is iconic, and many of his roles are, too.  Unfortunately, his second turn as ex-military man turned anonymous vigilante Robert McCall isn’t one of those characters that resonates quite as much.

That isn’t to say his performance is bad—they never are.  But director Anton Fuqua takes this sequel into territory the first film never ventured into: TV land.  There are a few subplots in this one that feel ripped straight from an episodic drama on the little screen.  There is enough of it to muddle the goings on with the main plot, which involves a rogue military unit looking to cover up some illegal shenanigans (please, stop me if you haven’t heard THAT particular plot before…).  So much so that at times, I was hoping for a commercial break involving the Lifecall Button or a preview for the next episode of “Murder, She Wrote”.

This wouldn’t be a horrible device if it was something that had been explored the first time around—or, at least, not so heavily here.  There is much to this film that feels too familiar, too rehashed, for any of it to feel fresh.  The entire thing could have all been set in the seventies, and the difference in time periods would not have made a single difference.

However… Mr. Fuqua and company pull this all off so confidently that none of it comes across as mistakes, rather as an homage to the original television show.  They create that sense of familiarity and never let up on; partly to make you feel comfortable with Mr. McCall’s choices and his peculiarities, and also to that fans of the decades-old television show would not feel that their character had gone to waste.  Mr. Washington does a fine job as always, bringing a rough compassion to a man that has little time for niceties.  His McCall is a broken man being held together by old, fraying tape, one that sees mostly badness in the world even while he tries to make it a better place to live and grow up in.

Cinematographer Oliver Wood (STEP BROTHERS, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY) brings the city streets to life as a gritty backdrop to the onscreen action, and it complements the character well.  He even handles the action during a hurricane finale with a careful eye, and it brings tension to the action that might have been missing in less confident hands.  The score by Harry Gregson-Williams (SHREK, THE MARTIAN) also lends to the feel of the film, grounding it when necessary, tugging on the heart strings at other times.

The Blu-ray release is chockful of special features—almost an hour’s worth.  The best ones are the breakdowns of some of the action sequences, and the interview with Mr. Washington as he shares his love of the character he is portraying.

This could be the last entry in this particular series, however; Mr. Fuqua recently wrapped production on two documentaries, and is producing a biography called THE MAN WHO MADE IT SNOW.  And Mr. Washington?  He can do whatever he wants; talent of his caliber never really sleeps, and he can afford to be picky about his projects.  Let’s just hope the next director he works with is pickier with the script.

Film Grade: B
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Recommended

-- T.S. Kummelman

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - THE PREDATOR


I’ve always been a fan of Shane Black’s film career.  This is the man that wrote LETHAN WEAPON, KISS KISS BANG BANG, IRON MAN 3, and THE freaking MONSTER SQUAD, for crying out loud.

So, who better to jump start a series that went woefully off course when Fox decided to put Predators and Aliens in the same movies?  Who better to write (er, yeah—I meant “right”) the wrongs of some poorly executed sequels than the man that revived Iron Man and presented director Renny Harlin with one of his only chances at making a good movie (THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT)?

What Shane Black attempts to do here is renew interest in a movie villain that had, in the last decade, become cannon fodder for a studio that didn’t know what to do with the character anymore.  Let’s face it: the last good PREDATOR film had Danny Glover and the late Bill Paxton in the cast, and that was waaayy back in 1990.

And he nearly pulls it off.  With co-writer Fred Dekker, whom he last collaborated with on 1987’s MONSTER SQUAD, he has crafted quite possibly the funniest movie of the year.  Seriously.  There are more intentionally funny moments in this film than there were in the last three Kevin Hart films.  The script is fresh, the characters more than well-developed by each individual actor, and the action sequences are highly executed.  This time around, a rogue Predator comes to earth in an effort to actually help mankind.  Only problem, he’s a rogue—none of the other Predators like him.  So they send a bully after him, and that is where a ragtag bunch of military vets, all bound for a “psychiatric facility”, come in.

The cast of characters that Misters Black and Dekker create are quite unique to the series; each is crazy in their own way.   These men are no longer active duty for good reasons, and each is more than qualified to fend for themselves so long as they have artillery in their hands.  Of course, there is a message about teamwork here somewhere, but Mr. Black handles any moral issues so flippantly that you cannot help but laugh right along with him.  You get the feeling the entire time that he and the entire crew are including you in on the joke, and most of them are original and damn funny.

But then you get to the last half hour—thirty minutes of script in which no one really could figure out how to end this movie.  There are several retreaded ideas in the final stretch of the film that may leave you scratching your head, or at least trying to count the number of movies you’ve seen this all done in before.  That, unfortunately, brings down a film that was strong and promising—promising, hell, it was damn well delivering!—for the first two-thirds, and then got mired in its own insensibilities by the final act.  That is the biggest disappointment here, really: that neither of the two writers could figure an original way out of the story.  You get a bunch of fine actors—including Keegan-Michael Key, Olivia Munn, and Thomas Jane—delivering excellent performances, and then…just…meh.

The special features include several docs about the cast and, most notably, Mr. Black’s involvement with the franchise (he acted in the first film).  There are also deleted scenes, but one of the most entertaining is the inclusion of The Predator Holiday Special, which takes stop motion animation to an entirely new level.

THE PREDATOR did not bank quite enough at the box office to warrant a sequel.  But with Disney close to finalizing their deal to purchase Fox, I doubt this entry would be considered a franchise killer.  And while it may be the best Predator film since PREDATOR 2, and although it doesn’t hit on quite the same level as the first two, it is at least a helluva lot better than any of the AVP entries.  Those ones made you laugh without meaning to, which sets this one apart.

Film Grade: B-
Special Features: B
Blu-ray Necessary: Of Course—explosions and gunshots and Predators, oh my…

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: AQUAMAN

The 'Not-So-Critical' Critic: 
on AQUAMAN (2018, 143 minutes, PG-13)

The Quick of It -
The DCU has struggled with its appeal to the mass population… so the critics say.  Most of this, I feel, is the result of critics writing pieces to get exposure (meaning – “click bait”) and the media to find cause to disrupt and churn the ‘pot of trolling’.

To put the DC bashing into perspective, Aquaman has crushed a few records while still feeling the heat.  I would believe the masses should take this cue that critics are blowing %$#@ into their wordy pieces to validate their existence.  And here I sit… 

The story follows Arthur’s, aka Aquaman (Mr. Momoa), origin and his first contact with Atlantis.  Jason Momoa, the man’s-man of the silver screen at the moment, locks this role down.  Unfortunately for Arthur, his regal duties are called upon to stop a war being instigated by his half-brother King Orm (Patrick Wilson of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and INSIDIOUS fame).  Mera, played by Amber Heard (THE RUM DIARY and 3 DAYS TO KILL), and should mention Orm’s betrothed, seeks Arthur out to stop the war between land and sea. 

So, do the critics have some merit in their words?  To start with my issues, they are only just on the spectrum of caring.  Yes, some of the dialogue feels forced – wanting the characters to have soft moments in this action barrage.  The story has some moments that seem disjointed, not having a complete flow.  Running over two hours, I am sure the cutting room floor has those needed pieces.  But, as a complete product, Aquaman delivers exactly what you want.

Momoa brings this character to life with his wit, good looks, and full acceptance in this character.  Director James Wan (a horror phenom – SAW, INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING) uses his storytelling skills with Momoa’s charisma to give this superhero film enough heart to stand on its own.  As proof, and you may have seen in the trailer, the scene in the aquarium totally sells his always-made-fun-of ability to talk to fish.  The final shot makes you stare in almost awe at such a simple thing.  This is of course supported by composer Rupert Gregson-Williams, of WONDER WOMAN, HACKSAW RIDGE, and THE CROWN.  With his ability to weave an oratory tale in harmony with the visual feast and having a familiar DC sound (thanks to his contribution to WONDER WOMAN), the package comes giftwrapped as a DC set.   

To also point out another reason to venture to the local theater, James Wan incorporates an innovative action sequence process with camera shots that engages you on the level of the BOURNE series… but different.  You get the chaos of combat while still not losing sight of what is happen, like the mid-twirling and eye-crossing scenes in TRANSFOMERS.  And again, DC has the best villains.  Black Manta, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, portrays a character with depth and personality.  Seeing him with his father (Michael Beach) solidifies their sub-plot.

Take the leap off the proverbial cliff, it will be worth it.  If nothing else, you get to see plenty of Jason Momoa and Amber Heard.  Male or female, or even a rabbit, you will find the viewing ‘pretty’.

Grade: A

Wednesday, January 2, 2019


‘Blu-ray or Bust’

When I first reviewed this film, I gave it a “C”.  Hey, I can admit when I’m wrong—and I was with my initial grade of this one.

You see, I’ve always been a wee bit jealous of Tom Cruise.  He and I are roughly the same age, so you can imagine my disgust at the fact that I got ugly and he’s still pretty.  Okay, fine; I got ugly-ER.  But this guy… he was the actor all the girls wanted to see back when I was a teenager.  This was the cool guy “Joel” from RISKY BUSINESS, the handsome athlete in ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, the hero of LEGEND and TOP GUN.  He was handsome, rugged, and got to make out with Rebecca De Mornay, Elisabeth Shue, and Nicole Kidman.

I’d like to say that I got over my jealousy, but, again, I ain’t gettin’ any prettier, so there will always be some bitterness there.  So that initial review was a bit jaded.  I felt as though the movie was nothing but a set of extreme stunts (I kept imaging the cast of TV’s “The Office” yelling “parkour!” and jumping off of furniture) linked by little bits of story.  Upon a second viewing, however, I have to admit that my view was a bit… askew.

Here’s the story: after Ethan Hunt (Cruise) and his team fail on a mission, the CIA assigns an agent (Henry Cavill, doing his best “I’m not Superman” imitation) to help track down the plutonium that Hunt and his crew lost.  Somehow, the villain from the last film (Sean Harris, who, unfortunately, is not given much to do here) becomes a pawn in the proceedings, and shenanigans commence. By “shenanigans” I mean “stunts”.  And there are several good ones; a white-knuckled freefall/halo jump, another motorcycle/car/truck chase, a helicopter chase, and a foot chase that borders on excessive. 

But what writer/director Christopher McQuarrie does with the story, the stunts, and the locations is almost ingenious—and here is where the film school part of me gets really excited.  Technically, this movie should be taught in classrooms.  The cinematography by Rob Hardy (ANNIHILATION, EX MACHINA) is at times beautiful, and at others takes you so close to the action that you cannot help but cringe.  There is very little CGI in this film, and very few of the stunts were performed on sound stages or by someone not named “Tom Cruise”.  So the creativity used by McQuarrie, Hardy, and second unit director Wade Eastwood is almost astounding in its execution. Three different types of film were used in the production, and the practicality of each is discussed in the special features—namely in the eleven minute “Light the Fuse”, which offers more technical aspects of filmmaking during that time than some featurettes do in entire releases.  There is also a breakdown of the halo jump, the Paris stunts (which include cars, trucks, and motorcycles), and deleted scenes.  But even with the deleted scenes, you get direct explanations from the filmmakers which delves deeper into the storytelling process.  This care in explaining HOW they told this story, and why they told it the way(s) they did, is not something you get to experience with every disc.

Honestly, the special features declare a love for cinema that goes beyond your typical release.  You can tell how much everyone involved loves their jobs, and how, ultimately, they are all just a bunch of movie geeks like the fans that flock to their films.  So, yeah—Cruise and Co. have impressed me the second go ‘round.  And I’m sure there will be another MISSION film in the future; Mr. Cruise doesn’t seem ready to pass the stunt torch just yet, which he probably shouldn’t.  What he and McQuarrie dream up here is thrilling, even if some of the story feels a bit rehashed (there are some genre troupes you just can’t seem to escape nowadays).  Just don’t expect the next MISSION movie anytime soon, as they are both hard at work on the TOP GUN sequel.  But FALLOUT should be enough to tide you over.

Film Grade: B+
Special Features: A
Blu-ray Necessary: Oh, yes

- T.S. Kummelman