We've seen Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird all have a crack at this spectacular spy series but Christopher McQuarrie is the first director to return for an M:I sequel. The previous instalment Rogue Nation offered McQuarrie's complex, not so far fetched take on the spy genre - upping the ante so much that making a superior MI flick seemed unimaginable. After a mission goes terribly wrong, Ethan Hunt and his IMF crew must race against time to retrieve three nuclear bombs.
Hearts will race and fingernails will be bitten down as Mission: Impossible - Fallout delivers a masterclass in how to make spy cinema history. With nuclear bombs, HALO jumping and mountain top helicopter chases all in the mix the only impossible aspect of this mission remaining is creating a sequel better than Fallout. Six films in - Mission Impossible remains the most consistent film series in Hollywood and the only one to get increasingly better by each instalment. McQuarrie as well as Tom Cruise have surpassed themselves, constructing an adrenaline rush adventure that stands among genre greats.
Just when you think there's no ground untouched Fallout makes new space for a story concerning figures of authority, nuclear warfare and the motives that drive an agent to get the job done despite the risks. Sean Harris' Solomon Lane is also the first villain to return for an MI sequel as well as the first to get inside Hunt's head - except possibly Philip Seymour Hoffman in MI3. The words "You're mission, should you choose to except it" play as an underlying theme of the story - challenging Hunt as to why he chooses to lay his life on the line every single time. Fallout aims the lense at Ethan Hunt in a way that MI3 did - we understand that he fundamentally cares about saving the individual as well as the masses - every time.
Cruise is at the top of his game, continually broadening the take on the standard action hero. As the films develop Ethan Hunt becomes more compelling as the scenarios increase in danger. Hunt risks his life for the sake of the wider world yet again, this time Cruise learned how to fly a helicopter, whilst acting and operating the cameras alone inside the cockpit. The action is used to support and propel the storyline which is more that can be said for a lot of current blockbusters. In all their realism the stunts pose genuine risk - it's no CGI illusion. Much like the IMF the Mission Impossible production team insist on delivering a genuine experience that's worth every penny - this is why the series excels and is head and shoulders above the rest.
Paris and London act as Fallout's main playgrounds and McQuarrie makes perfect use of them - choreographing thrilling action whilst capturing the beauty of both cities through expansive camera work. Fallout - as the title suggests - is the most chaotic and challenging mission Ethan Hunt has accepted but it's the greatest one he's ever going to accomplish. A slick, sharp espionage puzzle that's the best of its kind - Mission: Impossible - Fallout is so good it makes contemporary James Bond look like Johnny English.
Mission: Impossible - Fallout:
Even though her acting career is virtually in retirement nowadays it's wonderful to see Jodie Foster check in to the shadowy Hotel Artemis. Succeeding his screenplay for Iron Man 3 and the more celebrated Mission Impossible: Rouge Nation - Drew Pearce writes as well as directs Hotel Artemis. Taking place in the near future of 2028 during water shortage riots in Los Angeles, "The Nurse" runs a members only secret emergency room for criminals.
Although you may not wish to stay the night Hotel Artemis is an easy four out of five stars on Trip Advisor. Pearce presents some very interesting ideas in a self contained, play like story - the rich and surprisingly developed characters truly drive the narrative forward. Hotel Artemis surpasses the average mediocre action romp because it finds an intriguing balance between the guests and the employees, those in need and those who help, those who kill and those who save, those who uphold and those who break the rules.
Foster shines through a dingy and chaotic setting as the dedicated nurse who oversees the operation with dedication and skill. She emphasises her dextrous but firm nature as she handles a batch of badly biffed baddies meanwhile turning away an injured crook who's membership has lapsed. As the story unfolds however the cracks begin to show, we learn she suffers with severe anxiety which prevents her from leaving the Hotel; constantly reminded of ghosts from her past. In the Hotel the primary rule states how everything that happens outside stays outside - this reinforces Pearce's vision of isolation, that the Artemis acts as a safe haven from the outer world not just for its wounded guests, but for its employees too.
Hotel Artemis succeeds as a film by combining each of the characters back stories into one, explosive main plot line. Sofia Boutella's role as a mysterious contract killer offers an insight into the life of criminals - explaining how it's not necessarily what they wished for but that "we can't all choose what we're good at". Despite the dynamic between him and his brother left a tad underdeveloped - Sterling K. Brown emerges as a likeable robber who desperately trying to escape the criminal underworld. Aside a generally well cast picture Charlie Day's irritating, loud mouth performance adds nothing to the narrative as well as popping up unwanted in moments of high tension.
Overall director Pearce has designed a film that is refreshingly original; he wins big on creativity and develops a self contained story to a very acceptable standard. Foster, Boutella, Brown, Dave Bautista as well as a sneaking cameo from Jeff Goldblum all click together decidedly well. Hotel Artemis is an iconic and impressive venue, yet try not to check in if you can avoid it!
There's no rest for the wicked as Skyscraper marks Dwayne Johnson's third movie in just eight months. As we've seen from the gravity defying posters and trailers - Skyscraper is by no means created with any sense of realism or logic. Taking heavy inspiration from Die Hard and Towering Inferno, Johnson's latest action romp sees a father risk everything in order to save his family from a burning building.
Skyscraper aims high but has just about as much character as a crumbling bungalow. Although it's entirely derivative of Die Hard and Towering Inferno (even down to the european terrorists) that isn't particularly the issue - Skyscraper lacks enough originality and creativity to bridge from the two classic movies from which it's inspired. Obviously Dwayne Johnson movies are either hit or miss, Fast and Furious 8 was quite poor as was Jumanji - despite both of their roaring box office achievements - but San Andreas was great, big, dumb fun similarly to Rampage which released just this April. Yet as ridiculous and non sensical as Skyscraper is, it just isn't all that enjoyable.
There is a limit to cringeworthy screenplay, even for Johnson. This is the man who's charm and family friendly charisma allows him to get away with many issues from a film making perspective - but no matter how many bulging muscles "The Rock" presents in front of you, Skyscraper's clichéd formula glares you in the face. You have the terrorists, the guns, the explosions, the one liners - even a Hitchcock style climax - but none of this compensates for a very unstable plot. Johnson has established a fine line between cheesy fun and toe nail curling nonsense - and himself has spent many a time either side of it - for all his passion and enthusiasm and whilst he's always great value for money, Skyscraper doesn't really do much, failing to draw excitement or even the slightest bit of freshness from an overused template.
"The Pearl" which plays as the highly advanced two-hundred and twenty one storey building isn't used to its best ability as a set piece. The only moment of genuine thrill occurs when Johnson leaps off the end of a crane into an open window - in typical "The Rock" fashion of course. Aside from that Skyscraper's big moments are unsatisfying as they are tame - a lot more creative and refined action could've been designed with "The Pearl" alas it appears more like Dwayne Johnson's personal playground rather than a high stakes thriller. It may be heavily inspired by two existing action greats but Skyscraper also borrows from the far smarter and slicker Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. The sequence follows Johnson as he climbs "The Pearl" with duct tape stuck to his hands exactly like Ethan Hunt escalating the Burj with electro stick gloves.
Skyscraper isn't as enjoyably ridiculous as Johnson's recent flicks and takes itself too seriously when no one else is even trying to. When the question comes to mind, I can't even think of what Skyscraper's story actually explored beyond a man rescuing his family from a huge building. It's stodgy, stale and has dated quicker than the two films from which its based upon. For the time being Dwayne Johnson stills remains the king of guilty pleasure entertainment but Skyscraper is a very poor example of what the actor is capable of.
Phyllida Lloyd broke new grounds back in 2008 when Mamma Mia! became the highest grossing movie ever directed by a woman. Whilst no critical success, with the help of its stellar cast and toe tapping ABBA anthems Mamma Mia! has become a worldwide musical sensation, with Patty Jenkins of Wonder Woman fame the only director since to beat Lloyd's box office record. Ten years later we return to the Greek island of Kalokairi with mostly familiar faces - as Sophie prepares for the grand reopening of the hotel she reflects back on her mother's life.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a fizzy glass of pop infused Prosecco, but the bubbles seem to have gone straight to its head. Lacking in just about every way compared to the original, as the title suggests Here We Go Again feels more like a chore than a warm, returning treat. Director Ol Parker brings none of his charm from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel series, even current golden girl Lily James' free spirited, flower power interpretation of Donna is barely enough. More to the point Meryl Streep's absence casts a ginormous shadow over this flick and the feel good, "having the time of your life" vibe that was once there is no more.
As many speculated this sequel part prequel has very few ABBA hits to play with, being left with only the second string from the iconic Swedish band. Whilst the original was criticised for its story as well as the singing ability of its stars, when all else failed it burst into fabulous song and dance, moving seamlessly through the glittery musical numbers lined up in the ABBA jukebox. There is none of that here this time, not a single song stands out and returning favourites such as "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia" feel immensely watered down.
Without a doubt the biggest issue with Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is failing to deliver the same energy as once before. Understandably Mamma Mia! took all of the best ABBA songs first time round, but it's obvious that "Waterloo" and "Knowing Me, Knowing You" could've easily been given a bit more welly. As a result of Donna's death, the characters are all in a funk and this really effects the film, in addition nobody aside Julie Walters and Christine Baranski seems to be having fun. For a musical priding itself on the cheerfulness of everyone on screen as well as those watching this proves a considerable issue.
Amazingly even Cher and Andy Garcia's firework lit rendition of "Fernando" doesn't spark any excitement. If the first movie - in ABBA terms - is "The Winner Takes It All" then Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is "Slipping Through My Fingers". Even though Ol Parker delivers a more polished story as Donna's past life intertwines with modern day, he drains all the campy zest from the original leaving us a film with hardly any acceptable music to its name. It's trying so hard to simply entertain you - but with its dry humour and fantastically dull screenplay - it's less like a Dancing Queen and more like a circus monkey trying in vain to perform its tricks.
Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again:
The Incredibles was first released fourteen years ago, and in the words of Edna Mode it’s been “Too long Dah-ling, too long”. To say Incredibles 2 is long overdue is a complete understatement - and it hasn't gone unnoticed to many that Pixar had overlooked this eagerly anticipated sequel for an absurd number of years. Yet after all this time we are thrown straight back into the action and it feels like the Parr family never even left the room. Following the Underminer’s attack on Metroville, Elastigirl is recruited by the head of a company named DevTech as the face of his campaign advocating superheroes to be made legal - leaving Mr Incredible at home to take care of the family.
Though it’s been a long time coming Brad Bird delivers an excellent sequel that frame for frame is just unmissable. Considering the quality and detail of the animation, Incredibles 2 is entirely worth the fourteen year wait. Bird tackles a common flaw with most sequels, doubling up on each element to make the film seem bigger but not nessarily better - there are more characters, more explosive action, more laughs, more Edna, more Jack-Jack but most significantly the depth of the story and the main characters takes priority. Quite unconventionally Bird allows Incredibles 2 to be bigger in scale but maintains what makes the original so special - the family dynamic. Continuing to expand the story, Bird explores the romanticism of superheroes and the destructive path they leave behind, whilst he develops the personal issues each member must overcome and the heroism behind the mask.
As Elastigirl takes centre stage Mr Incredible has a test of manhood, becoming reflective of a father struggling to come to terms with no longer being the breadwinner. Furthermore, as Mr Incredible spends a significant chunk of the film stuck at home his eyes are opened to the hectic grind of family life. Whether helping Dash keep on top of his studies, comforting Violet during boy drama or babysitting Jack-Jack whilst discovering his emerging superpowers. Comparatively, Mrs Incredible experiences new found freedom as she delves back into the superhero game after spending so many years as the stay at home mum. Incredibles 2 switches Elastigirl and Mr Incredible’s positions, emphasising not only how parenting is a two hand job but how the father’s role is just as important as the mother’s.
As the new threat of Screenslaver rises (a hypnotic, technologically advanced super villain) Elastigirl must quickly uncover the identity of this antagonist. Although Screenslaver isn’t as nuanced as the fallen wannabe hero Syndrome - their intentions both have reasonable explanations. Incredibles 2 asks what it means to be a superhero, exploring how people are dependent on superheroes without really understanding who they are. The media spoon feeds an idealistic image of them and how their gadgets and abilities should make them more trustworthy and personable, whilst Screenslaver sets out to dismantle this persona.
With Incredibles 2 Bird expands the limits of our imagination, reaching new grounds with animation, raising the bar of achievement. Visually Incredibles 2 is flawless - the animation is executed with such precision and detail it’s no surprise we experienced a fourteen year wait. This is some of the best animated world building seen - similarly to Wakanda, Metroville breathes life - the buildings, the cars, the trains and the planes surrounding it. Chiefly Incredibles 2 is a character driven story that prioritieses compelling dramatic moments over the action heavy ones. Ultimately these relatable, modern relationships has established these super heroes as arguably cinema’s most beloved family - and in Incredibles 2 Pixar delivers their finest outing since the 2004 original.
She dominated the 80's and 90s with her soulful pop, arguably she performed America's greatest rendition of "Star Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl, and her song "I will always love you" remains the best selling song by a female artist of all time. Whitney Houston - singer and actress, famous for her voice as well as her bubbly personality - is being placed in the spotlight by director Kevin MacDonald. This documentary dives into the tragic life of worldwide superstar Whitney Houston and her legacy beyond pop music.
Whitney is an utterly haunting whilst simultaneously beautiful, uplifting and brutally honest portrayal of the musical icon. Though the documentary highlights Whitney Houston's fall from grace as well as her tragic end - MacDonald reminds us throughout how her joy, empowerment and natural beauty left its mark in the music industry as well as modern society. Despite the film maintaining a sombre tone there is exuberant life bursting out - the incomparable "I wanna dance with somebody" music video cutting joyfully at intervals between some quite heartbreaking real life footage. The contrast of these extremes creates a striking image of Houston's spirit fighting vainly against the creeping, coming darkness that ultimately engulfed her.
Fundamentally the editing is handled with such poise and sophistication, crafting symbols and images that are outstanding as they are important - enabling Whitney to become one of the most compelling pieces of cinema this year.
Chiefly Whitney tackles the big subjects head on - MacDonald raises extremely tough questions in between the interview segments of the feature, comparing her greatest struggles with her greatest achievements. He understands that in order for us to empathise with Whitney the person we must experience the harsh and brutal realities of her life - and not paint her just as the pop princess the media has done for so many years. The documentary plays as a somewhat neutral point of view - MacDonald extracts information from various Houston family members and close friends including her ex-husband - they comment on her actions from their own subjective point of view, voicing wether they agreed with her decisions or not. Even though the film is made in her honour, she had serious issues and MacDonald has no trouble in facing them.
Whitney is the poetic story of one of America's greatest modern icons. MacDonald creates an artistic film that appears far more than a history lesson, exploring how one individual's life can be affected by fame as well as the personal issues of surrounding family members. Obviously the film is agonising but with the help of many moments of footage from Houston's greatest performances as well as spine-tingling sections of "I wanna dance with somebody" - Whitney is heartening and uplifting as it needs to be.
The Big Sick, Deadpool and Game Night - to name a few - are the primary reasons comedy is becoming a far more respected genre these days, telling stories through enriched characters and witty, razor sharp screenplay. However, in the light of a run of recent high concept movies at the box office the idea of extreme tag, whilst fairly creative, doesn't seem all that exciting. Inspired by a true story, Tag tells the story of a group of friends who have been playing the same game of tag for thirty years during the month of May - with elaborate tactics often requiring last minute travel across the country.
As a comedy, Tag fails spectacularly on every level. In almost desperate attempts to provoke laughter it is unnecessarily vulgar and ironically becomes unfunnier as the vulgarity increases. It won't go unsaid that director Jeff Tosmic made a savvy decision retelling the true and highly original story of grown men playing an extreme version of a childhood game, but nevertheless the screenplay is genuinely terrible. The film presents a smart idea that is poorly developed, it appears the actors don't know what to do with themselves and neither does the film apparently.
Fundamentally Tag struggles to make efficient use of its widely talented stars. Ed Helms of The Office royalty adds nothing as the frontrunner of this tag team - the same can be said for Jon Hamm, Annabelle Wallis and especially Jake Johnson. I have serious qualms towards Johnson's character - as a performance it's fine, however I cannot fathom why certain comedies insist on having a weed puffer. Arguably it highlights the basis of his disorientated persona yet it doesn't drive the story forward in any way, shape or form - nor does it form any solid gags - it's purely irrelevant.
At it's best Tag offers a taste of what to expect from Hawkeye's return in Avengers next year, flaunting Jeremy Renner's impressive stunt work. Though he is the best character of the bunch, Renner has very little screen time and anything else that doesn't involve him on screen is extremely difficult to sit through. Hannibal Buress delivers the funniest jokes in the film, even if there are so little of them. With a long stream of pancake flat gags, Tag - though it tries to offer a fun time - is simply boring.
Sadly Tag doesn't tap into our inner child at all, and watching the characters getting hot, sweaty and occasionally bashed is less exhausting than actually sitting through this flick. The concept itself is fairly inventive but it's discouraging to be reminded that comedy films can still be as vulgar and lazy as they use to be - particularly with a cast that should have delivered if not a great time then at the very least an amusing one. Tag - like the game itself - galavants aimlessly, desperately trying to think of its next move.
Pinch of info
Hi I’m James - a huge welcome to my film blog! I started this site just after my 14th birthday and have been bringing you my own take on the hottest box office arrivals and many art house triumphs ever since.