Mission: Impossible – Fallout


Swanner: Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) loses some plutonium while trying to protect his team; now he has to get back the plutonium before the plot to kill a third of the world takes place. August Walker (Henry Cavill) is added to the team to make sure Hunt doesn’t screw up again. Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) writes and directs for this franchise for the second time. He knows how to keep the story going, and keeps things light while still steering this serious plot.

The stunts in the film just keep getting more spectacular. It’s hard to believe the stunt industry has so few accidents. They are amazing. The last 15 minutes of the film had me focusing on breathing. I guess that makes the stunts in the film “breathtaking”. The regular cast is back with  Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, and Angela Bassett, adding Vanessa Kirby as the White Widow.

This franchise hasn’t disappointed and continues to get better. The stories are more complex, and as I said earlier, the stunts to save the world are getting more insane with each film. I’m not a big fan of Henry Cavill because he’s not a good actor, he’s just pretty. Here they gave him less to say and made him a thug. He’s a badass but he never takes off his shirt…lost opportunity. The film could also be 30 minutes shorter, I’m not saying the film was slow, but strictly as a box office builder. If the film was shorter they’d get an extra showing a day. This is definitely a film to see on a big screen.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again


Swanner: The film starts up a year after Donna’s death. Yes, Donna is no longer with us, but Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Sky (Dominic Cooper), to honor her, have made the hotel just as Donna had always wanted it to be. Days away from the grand opening, everything has gone wrong and Sophie is about to lose it all and disappoint her mother. Ol Parker wrote and directed this sequel showing us how a young Donna (Lily James) meets Bill, Sam, and Harry and how she comes to own the hotel.

The film brings back all the characters from the original and introduces us to their younger versions. Keeping with the lightheartedness of the first film, we do see how everything came to be and where these characters are headed in the future. Pierce Brosnan is given a lot less to sing this time around. which was really my only complaint with Mamma Mia. Stellan Skarsgard and Colin Firth return as the dads, and Christina Baranski, and Julie Walters complete the returning cast members.

The big reveal here is adding Cher as Sophie’s grandmother; and when doesn’t Cher make everything better? The musical itself is a big goofy ABBA songfest, and that remains the same. I was glad to see they introduced a few new songs to keep things fresh. I noticed this time around that these films feels more and more like Priscilla Queen of the Desert which also featured many ABBA classics. Adding Cher here makes this the gayest film that will come out this year without any gay characters…and I’m okay with it.

Swanner: 3 ½ stars

Equalizer 2


Swanner: Denzel Washington plays Robert McCall, a man who has dedicated his life to helping people who have been wronged by the evil that surrounds them. After his good friend Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo) is killed, McCall does whatever he needs to do to find her killer. In a career that spans over 40 years, McCall is the first character that Washington has played twice.

Director Antoine Fuqua and screenwriter Richard Wenk return to helm this sequel after the success of the 2014 film. Bringing back not only Washington, but also Leo, and Bill Pullman, and adding a full team of bad guys to give McCall someone to kill. The reason these films work is that McCall is a lawfully good guy. He must help the helpless. If he sees injustice, he’ll give you the chance right your wrong. If you choose to ignore him…well, you don’t want ignore him.

Some of the best scenes in the film have Washington changing the life of a young man, Miles (Anton Sanders), who is at a crucial point in his life where he could follow the wrong path. These are also the scenes that slow this film down. In this case I’d rather have a slightly long film then miss out on the wonderful moments Washington delivers. Pedro Pascal and Orson Bean also add to this very tight cast. Not quite a summer movie I’d expect to see but with another terrific performance by Washington, this film can play anytime.

Swanner: 2 ½ stars

Sorry to Bother You


Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield) is an African American resident of Oakland who works for a telemarketing company. When he is taught the power of his “White Voice”, he is promoted to a Power Caller and sells arms and slave labor to foreign countries. Meanwhile, his girlfriend, friends, and coworkers are striking for a living wage. Boots Riley writes and directs Sorry to Bother You, his ambitious but not entirely successful film debut.

Sorry to Bother You is a political satire that covers a lot of ground, including race, capitalism run amok, and our obsession with social media, to name a few. While the first hour of this 1h 40m feature is fantastic, it’s when Armie Hammer shows up as Steve Lift, the CEO of the corporation that runs the telemarketing company in addition to selling weapons and slaves, the movie takes a hard dive. Normally, I would lay the blame entirely on Armie whose beautiful, yet vacuous screen presence has ruined more than one film. However, in addition to Hammer, the script and the pacing of the movie goes off the rails, as Riley introduces a sci-fi element, while shifting the focus to the rift that is forming between Cassius and his girlfriend, Detroit (Tessa Thompson). It also doesn’t help that Riley considers Michel Gondry one of his biggest influences. Gondry is a critical darling, but this particular critic finds his films scattered and overwrought, at best.

The pace of the movie picks back up in the third act, but the damage had already been done, and left me checking my watch for the last twenty minutes. It’s a shame, because movies like this aren’t made often. Hollywood has a certain mold for films that feature a black cast that it rarely strays from. Sorry to Bother You breaks that mold and calls it out for the racism it’s rooted in.

Judd: 2 ½ stars