The sixth “M:I” film might be the franchise’s best, while “Teen Titans GO!” To the Movies” is an embarrassment of pop culture riches.
For nearly two hours “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” is a solid entry in a franchise with surprising legs.
“Fallout’s” final act? Buckle in and get plenty of oxygen in your system. You’ll need it.
The sixth film in the series opens with so much exposition you’ll think Tom Cruise’s stand-in wrote it on his iPad. A terrorist group dubbed The Apostles craves uranium to blast the world’s most vital religious sites to smithereens.
Shake the planet like an Etch-a-Sketch and start all over again. And a baddie from the last “M:I” outing, Solomon Kane (Sean Harris), is helping make this nightmare a reality.
Enter the IMF team – Ethan Hunt (Cruise), Luther (Ving Rhames), Benji (Simon Pegg) and their crusty boss (Alec Baldwin). They nearly grab a passel of uranium only to be thwarted at the last second.
Now, the race is on to retrieve it before those Apostles rewrite history – and kill millions in the process.
An early sequence shows just how crafty Hunt’s team can be. That’s part of the mystique, the Bond-like tricks that keep the franchise humming.
We soon meet old friends and new, from a towering fellow agent (Henry Cavill) to Hunt’s frenemy from “Rogue Nation,” Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa. Her unexplained connection to the chase is just one of several puzzles waiting to be solved.
This is standard spy movie material, delivered with a high sheen thanks to writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. He’s in full charge of the franchise at this point, and his resources are impressive.
FAST FACT: Lalo Schifrin, who penned iconic music for the “Dirty Harry” franchise, wrote the theme to TV’s “Mission: Impossible” in a tidy three minutes.
Cruise’s Hunt is ageless, much like the 56-year-old actor in question. Cruise’s easy bond with his co-horts slices some of the simmering tension. It’s almost medicinal given the stakes at play.
It’s all building toward the finale, a combo pack of set pieces showing movie magic at its finest. Sure, Cruise suffered a broken ankle doing some of his own stunts. That still can’t explain how his character dangles from helicopters, mountain sides and more.
You’ll watch, and blink your eyes, and swear it’s Cruise doing all of the above. Modern FX are staggering in their authenticity. “Fallout” may be the finest example of just how far studios have come in this regard.
How do they do it? Who cares? Sit back and enjoy the visceral excitement.
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Yes, the action sequences almost always border on the improbable, if not outright insane. We still hang on every stunt.
How do they make that work?
The film shrewdly balances those heroic moments with the “oops” factor.
- A foot planted the wrong way
- A thrown punch lands poorly
- A grappling hook giving out at the worst possible moment
That balance is essential to the thrills on display.
Cavill is no one’s idea of a top-flight thespian. Still, his stoic nature is a snug fit for this franchise. And while no one is thinking the latest “M:I” affair is Oscar bait, the screenplay squeezes in enough dramatic elements to make us wholly invested in that runaway finale.
Resistance is more than futile at this point in the series. It’s absurd when the thrills are so perfectly executed.
HiT or Miss: “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” – can we have some more, please?
TEEN TITANS GO! TO THE MOVIES
Today’s kiddie films require a PhD in pop culture. Remember all the in-jokes embedded in “The LEGO Movie?”
“Teen Titans GO! To the Movies” offers more of the same. Joke after joke after joke, a good two-thirds requiring audiences grasp geek culture with both hands.
If you’re on Team Nerd you’ll be in Nirvana for much of the film’s running time. Only by the third act will you exhale and wish the story had its screws tightened a few turns.
Robin (Scott Menville) is green with envy, not a good look for a young crime fighter. He wants to be the star of his own blockbuster film like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.
Heck, he and his fellow Teen Titans are just as charming as those comic book mainstays. So where’s the love?
Robin’s quest for big screen fame lights the fuse for a furious array of gags both big and tiny. Most land squarely, assuming you spent your teen years watching movies instead of double dating.
Fans of the Cartoon Network series won’t be shocked by anything on the screen. The animation is similar enough to be familiar. The yuks come at us with that winning, wink-wink formula. And the inside jokes are lethal in their precision – perhaps mostly for the adults in the crowd.
Just look who they hired to voice Superman. ‘Nuff said.
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And yes, it’s exhausting all the same. The script hits variations on the same themes in the third act. We won’t spoil them here, but it’s hardly earth-shattering material. It’s clear the modest running time could have used a trim or two.
Maybe give Cyborg (Khary Payton) a random 5-minute stand-up set. He’s the franchise’s not so secret weapon.
Still, this is big, joyous storytelling for those longing to be 10 years old again, lost in the pages of their favorite funny books.
HiT or Miss: “Teen Titans GO!” To the Movies” demands a full working knowledge of pop culture lore. You’ll miss some pretty sweet jokes otherwise.