Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation does exactly what it is supposed to do: it provides action, thrills, suspense and a modest amount of sexual tension. Tom Cruise is back as Impossible Missions Force (IMF) agent Ethan Hunt with a new trademark stunt and a new motorcycle chase.

Holding of for dear life on the outside of a cargo plane as it ascends and flies through the air is impressive. Interestingly, this latest courageous Cruise daring action occurs just minutes into the film. An underwater mission to procure a computer file midway through the movie is tension-inducing as Hunt is forced to hold his breath for an extended period.

The basic plot: CIA head Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) wants the government to defund the IMF while an organization of rogue agents called The Syndicate wants to wipe out the IMF. Hunt with IMF teammates William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Luther Stickell (Ving Rames) work to take down The Syndicate and its leader Solomon Lane (Sean Harris).

As he does in the Star Trek films, Pegg adds a touch of welcome lightheartedness to the proceedings. He’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite character actors.

The gorgeous babe in the mix is Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), an appropriately named character since M:IRN has scenes set in Casablanca and elsewhere in Morocco. Ilsa’s allegiance initially appears to be to The Syndicate, but she’s on Hunt’s side in short order. Hers is a classy sexiness, but she wears a two-piece swimsuit and a yellow evening gown very nicely. There’s no Hunt-Ilsa hookup in the movie, but there’s an attraction bubbling under.

Settings include an opera performance in Vienna, a formal state event in London and… a used record store (where Ethan Hunt gets his instructions via disc).

Director/scriptwriter Christopher McQuarrie keeps the energy going with only brief pauses in the action. Yes, Tom Cruise overacts a bit, but that’s his thing and he does it well.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation hits its marks and checks off most of the items on the list of things you’d want in an action-adventure spy story. Enjoy the ride!

Edge of Tomorrow

You don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy the new Tom Cruise movie Edge of Tomorrow. And while the story features a man living the same day over and over, this film is very different from Groundhog Day.

Edge of Tomorrow, which opens on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, centers on a military invasion on a beach in France. The enemy this time (in the not too distant future) is a group of alien creatures who have invaded earth. They’re called “Mimics.” (They look like giant metallic spiders.)

William Cage (Tom Cruise) is an Army major who finds himself thrown into a combat unit stationed in London at Heathrow. The next day he hits the beach to attack the aliens. He’s fitted with cool automatic weapons strapped onto each arm. He is killed. And, so, we hit the reset button.

He goes back to the day before and his arrival at Heathrow. He keeps living the battle over and over again, gaining greater success with each replay, but ultimately dying each time.

With help from Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a buff special forces soldier who has enjoyed some success against the Mimics, Cage gains insight and physical skill. She introduces him to Dr. Carter (Noah Taylor), a mad scientist type, who concludes that to stop the alien menace the “Omega” must be defeated.

Turns out that the Omega is at the Louvre in Paris. And underwater to boot! The journey to Paris is a long and arduous one for Cage and Rita, but, after numerous delays and side trips, they get there for the climactic battle.

Edge of Tomorrow is a fun, futuristic sci-fi action adventure. This is my favorite non-Mission Impossible Cruise movie since 2002’s Minority Report. Like many films of this genre, there are some WTF moments, but the Live, Die, Repeat structure works better on film than it sounds on paper. Gamers who’ve had characters die, only to instantly regenerate, will appreciate the way this film works.

Surprisingly, while there’s smoldering sexual tension between Cage and Rita, they never get beyond a single passionate kiss. One might’ve imagined their waking up together at film’s end, but the film’s end goes another way.

Tom Cruise is a genuine movie star and he carries Edge of Tomorrow with his talent and his teeth. Well done, Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher is a good action adventure procedural with a plotline that gets a bit convoluted. But everything works out in the end, with some help from a friend.

This film’s big problem is that it begins with a sniper using a high-powered rifle to take out five individuals. Should its release have been delayed after Newtown? Stay tuned for the blowback.

The sniper sets up in a Pittsburgh parking garage and shoots across the Allegheny River with deadly accuracy. When evidence points to one particular guy, that guy (a former military sniper) writes on a pad, “Get Jack Reacher.” Reacher, played by Tom Cruise, is a former Army policeman with a sketchy background who sets out to find the real killer.

He gets help from the district attorney’s estranged daughter, played by former Bond girl Rosamund Pike. The DA is played by Richard Jenkins, who is rapidly becoming one of Hollywood’s most dependable character actors. The daughter, Helen, claims her law firm wants to represent the alleged perp because her dad intimidates too many suspects into forced confessions. Flimsy reason, but without it, the film would have no blonde babe eye candy.

Reacher and Helen gather info on the victims and analyze the evidence. Meanwhile, they are forced to deal with bad guys who want to take them out of the picture, for reasons to be revealed later. Of course there’s a chase scene and it’s a good one that ends with Reacher’s clever escape.

Based on the alleged perp’s charge card bills, which show large gasoline purchases on weekends, Reacher suspects the guy had been driving to distant shooting ranges. Voila! When he finds the range where the guy shot targets, he gets vital information from and forms a vital association with the guy who runs the range, played by Robert Duvall.

As things get sorted out in the end, Duvall’s character provides an important helping hand and a spark of humor.

Wait, was there something missing in this movie? Yes! There’s no love scene between Cruise and Pike! Not even a kiss! The sexual tension that builds between them throughout the movie remains unfulfilled. Maybe something will happen in Jack Reacher II. (Yes, this feels like the first in a series.)

One more thing: I’ve never thought of Pittsburgh as a cool city. But the Steel Town looks good in this film, as well as in The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Dark Knight Rises. But that Iron City Beer still sucks.

Rock of Ages

You will walk out of the theater humming this movie’s songs. Because you already know them all!

All musicals are at least a little a bit cheesy. Some are just more flagrant about it. “Rock of Ages” brings on plenty of cheese and has fun with it. The music is better than anticipated and script is funnier than expected.

The story, set in 1987, has all the rock’n’roll cliché themes. Girl meets boy: Julianne Hough plays Sherrie who comes to LA to be a star. She meets Drew, played by Diego Boneta. Rock is the devil’s work: Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a Tipper Gore type who wants to rid the city of rock. Rock is here to stay: Alec Baldwin is a club owner, fighting to keep his place open. You’re never too old to rock’n’roll: Tom Cruise is Stacee Jaxx, an Axl Rose type who may or may not be over the hill.

The big question people are asking: Can Tom Cruise sing? Well, yes. His versions will never replace the originals heard on St. Louis classic rock radio, but they get the job done.

Supporting cast members include Russell Brand as a club employee and Malin Akerman as a Rolling Stone reporter who interviews Stacee Jaxx and gets up close and very personal with him. Singer Mary J. Blige adds authenticity to the cast and, presumably, a bit of African-American audience appeal. Paul Giamatti is particularly sleazy as Stacee Jaxx’s manager.

“Rock of Ages” has a good balance of hard-rockin’ songs (“Pour Some Sugar on Me,” “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”), soft-rockin’ songs (“Waiting For a Girl Like You,” “Can’t Fight This Feeling”) and medium-rockin’ songs (“Don’t Stop Believin’,” “We Built This City”).

This is a fun movie. Music, dancing, laughs, romance, sex—they’re all there. It’ll rock you. Like a hurricane. (Also on the soundtrack!)

“Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol” (Non-Stop Action!)

Tom Cruise and his MI team are on a mission to save the earth from nuclear annihilation. Sounds like a modest proposal, right? But it turns out to be rather complicated.

The team busts Tom (as Ethan Hunt) out of a Russian prison to the accompaniment of Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head.” They survive an assassination attempt in Moscow, then head off to Dubai to execute a scheme at the tallest hotel in the world.

You just know that some kind of stunt will involve the risk of falling a hundred stories or more and the filmmaker does not disappoint. This is one of the more exciting sections of the movie. After the scam occurs with partial success, it’s time for the team to go to Mumbai to scuttle the launch of a nuke targeted for San Francisco.

Throughout the movie, you will enjoy chase scenes (by car and foot), gunplay, hand-to-hand combat, a really big sand storm and some cool electronic surveillance. Should you notice any holes in the plot, or occurrences that defy all belief, don’t worry. Just enjoy.

In a genius casting move, Simon Pegg on “Shaun of the Dead” fame, appears as the team’s timid electronics guy. Pegg provides geeky comic relief. Jeremy Renner plays an agent turned “analyst,” whose cover is quickly deduced by Ethan. Paula Patton is the team’s designated babe. She’s gorgeous and feisty, too.

If you can, see this in the IMAX or large screen formats. It’s a big movie and it looks better on the bigger screen. The film is directed by Brad Bird, best known for directing Pixar hits “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” As he did with “The Incredibles,” he has delivered more fast-paced action/adventure fun.