Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Here is a new twist. Ethan and his regular cohorts have to race against time when a mission goes wrong. Yeah... I know... I've come to realize that clichés become clichés because they are devices that work.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie (Oscar for "The Usual Suspects") is back directing another slam-bang actioner for Tom Cruise. They have been an extremely successful team ("Mission Impossible," "Edge of Tomorrow," "Valkyrie," and "Jack Reacher"), and in my opinion, they've done it again. The Mission Impossible team knows by now "if it ain't broke..." So they bring us interesting locations: London, Paris, Kashmir. White-knuckle chase scenes: motorcycle, helicopter, automobile, parkour. Battles: bare knuckle, gun, knife and wits. Also the time-tested countdown, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, ...you know the drill.

Part of McQuarrie's huge cast:
  • Tom Cruise ("American Made") Ethan will never give up. But we already know that. 
  • Henry Cavill ("Justice League") August has a problem bringing in witnesses...alive! 
  • Ving Rhames ("Guardians of the Galaxy") Luther can be counted on to trust his boss. 
  • Simon Pegg ("Star Trek") Benji just can't stay out of danger, no matter how hard he tries. 
  • Angela Bassett ("Black Panther") Erica never cuts the IM crew any slack. 
  • Alec Baldwin ("Will & Grace") Alan doesn't want to regret transferring from the CIA 
  • Rebecca Ferguson ("The Greatest Showman") Ilsa is a worthy agent. I'm always surprised. 
  • Sean Harris ("Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation") Solomon Lane says "The greater the suffering, the greater the peace," and he is willing to suffer. 
  • Vanessa KIrby ("The Crown") White Widow always negotiates for the best terms. 
  • Michelle Monaghan ("Saint Judy") Yes, we get to see Julia again! 
As you can see by the preview, the action never lets up....for two and a half hours! Cruise likes to be in PG-13 films, so expect fisticuffs, vehicular mayhem, aerial stunts, gunfire and blowie uppie stuff, but very little profanity, drugs or sex. As usual, each action sequence runs longer than necessary. I could easily cut 30 minutes of running time, but no one asked...

The screening audience left the theater excited, vocal and happy.
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Check it out:
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The Equalizer 2

"Unflinching." I saw this character described that way and nothing suits him better! This sequel picks up where the first one left off, with our hero officially dead. We see his simple life as a Lyft driver and note the interest he takes in his passengers: the old man, the weeping woman, the hitman. We also see what an involved neighbor he is, cleaning up graffiti and mentoring a teenager.

With a script by action specialist Richard Wenk ("The Expendables" and "The Equalizer") and directed by Antoine Fuqua ("The Magnificent Seven" 2016) this one never lags.

Part of Fuqua's cast:
  • Denzel Washington ("Fences") Robert McCall has a new problem based on an old one, he could never overlook a wrong, and something very wrong just happened.
  • Melissa Leo ("Snowden") Susan Plummer is a friend McCall can trust. She was in his old department and worked with the same crew. We watch a crime being committed which is assigned to her to investigate.
  • Bill Pullman ("The Equalizer") is her husband Brian. He still writes books.
  • Ashton Sanders ("Moonlight") Miles is a neighbor boy our hero can see is going off the rails. Something must be done and we in the audience find ourselves deeply involved in his story.
  • Pedro Pascal ("Game of Thrones") Dave York worked with McCall and Plummer. He has a wife and two children in the suburbs.
As you might expect, this R-rated action-filled thriller brings exactly what we expect to the screen. We bounce from Washington D.C., to Boston, then to Brussels and back. Having never seen the first movie, I was interested to hear screening audience veterans describe the difference between the 2014 version and the sequel. The general consensus is that this one is far more involving and has more humanity, despite brutal R-rated fight scenes and point-blank killshots.

With two Academy Award-winning actors on tap plus lots of action and suspense, our audience left the theater exhausted but happy.
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Here is a preview:
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Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Expect lots and lots of the same old fun stuff. After all, if it ain't broke...

Written and directed by Ol Parker ("The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel") still based on the story by Richard Curtis, we find ourselves back off the coast of Greece (actually shot in Croatia) with a combination of flashbacks and unfolding stories that feature our old friends and how they got that way (plus over a dozen Abba standards).

Here is part of Parker's HUGE cast:
  • Meryl Streep ("The Post") Yup. Donna is back, finally! 
  • Lily James ("Cinderella") is young Donna in sometimes deliberately confusing flashbacks. 
  • Amanda Seyfried ("The Last Word") Donna's daughter Sophie is the one with three dads ...or not... 
  • Dominic Cooper ("Agent Carter") Sky is back, but for how long? 
  • Colin Firth ("Kingsman") Shy Harry - What can I say? Firth can deliver a comic line with the best! 
  • Pierce Brosnan ("The Foreigner") Conflicted Sam - He just gets better and better; it's not fair! 
  • Stellan Skarsgärd ("Borg vs McEnroe") Sweet Bill - His heart is still broken. 
  • Christine Baranski ("The Good Fight") The caustic Tanya can't be quoted in a family review. 
  • Julie Walters ("Brooklyn") Rosie will never change; she has decided that her soulmate is carbs, i.e., cake! 
  • Cher ("Burlesque") Yes, you've seen the trailers, Ruby is the surprise guest at the party and her version of "Fernando" is my all-time favorite. We in the screening audience audibly reacted to her spectacular entrance. 
  • Andy Garcia ("Book Club") Fernando (I know. I know. Just watch!) is the magical party planner who can make it happen ... over and over and over. 
The six capable actors who played the younger versions of our principal characters are perfectly cast. They have captured the signature moves, speech patterns and attitudes of their future selves.

This is rated R, so expect implied sexuality but nothing crass, no profanity, no vehicular mayhem, no gunshots and no blowie uppie stuff. Just silly fun from well-loved characters. Enjoy the unique choreography of at least three contributors; I won't mention any names. Be sure to stay for the best curtain call/encore EVER (to "Super Trooper")!
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Here is the international trailer:
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It's inevitable that this will be compared to 1974's "The Towering Inferno" (3 Academy Awards) but that movie was made before the advent of Computer Generated Imaging, so with that in mind, Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as The Rock is willing to challenge the likes of Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Fred Astaire.

This 2018 version (not to be confused with the 1996 classic which starred Anna Nichole Smith) is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber ("Easy A" and "DodgeBall"). For a movie with credentials like this, we entered the press screening with high hopes. And thanks to lavish amounts of CGI, generous shots of Mr. Johnson performing hair-raising stunts, plus bits of humor, we were in for an entertaining white-knuckle ride that never let up!

Part of Thurber's cast:
  • Dwayne Johnson ("Jumanji" 2018) Former Hostage Extraction Specialist Will Sawyer, after a traumatic event nine years earlier, now assesses the safety of high rise buildings. This skyscraper in Hong Kong is his latest assignment and he has scrutinized every aspect of it.
  • Neve Campbell ("House of Cards") Sarah Sawyer came to Hong Kong with her husband because she and their children want to see the sights. This former combat veteran is tough and smart, make no mistake.
  • McKenna Roberts ("The Young and the Restless") Georgia trusts her father even when things look hopeless.
  • Tzi Ma ("Arrival") The fire chief has a vested interest in proving Sawyer is behind the catastrophe he sees unfolding.
  • Chin Han ("Marco Polo") Zhao Long Ji is the developer who has absolute faith in his astonishing building. Along with the amazing building however, it seems he has developed some powerful enemies.
Do we ever doubt Mr. J? How could we when we learn that he believes "If you can't fix it with duct tape, you're not using enough duct tape."

There is so much noisy mayhem: fisticuffs, gunshots, motorcycles, crowds, blowie uppie stuff and shouting from high places, I was glad I had closed captions. I suspect I picked up more dialog than the two fellows giggling next to me. By the way, if you are in the least acrophobic, the heights depicted in this one are real enough to make you sweat!
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Take a look:
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Won't You Be My Neighbor?

From the charming opening scenes to the sweet finale (bring a tissue), I was enthralled by the iconic Mr. Rogers. As I rarely watched television, I had never seen an episode so I have lived in a cultural void.

Director Morgan Neville ("30 Feet From Stardom") adds another distinctive documentary to his body of work. He does it through flashbacks, archives, interviews and news clippings. He brings to life the singular man who was an ordained Presbyterian minister, father, husband, musician, friend and neighbor to millions.

Some of the things I learned about Mr. Rogers:
  • He objected to "pie-in-the-face" comedy
  • He was opposed to violent children's television
  • He favored a simple set
  • He was convinced that each child had a "real relationship" with him
  • He honored silence: he set an egg timer for a minute and demonstrated
  • He illustrated how integration worked in a very practical way
  • He was lifetime friends with artists such as Yo Yo Ma
  • He explained tragedies such as the Challenger disaster
  • He was intolerant of intolerance.
Mr. Rogers (his real name) was from a wealthy family and was a pudgy little boy. He understood bullying from personal experience. He respected children and they recognized his respect and affection. Watch the looks on their faces. His interview with the little boy in the wheelchair is a classic.
He accepted that his stardom made him a target for ridicule and satire. Watch Eddie Murphy, Johnny Carson and Jim Carrey each take a shot.

Please see this movie. It's only a bit over an hour and a half and you'll remember it for a long time.
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Here is a preview:
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