What We Learned This Week: October 7-13

LESSON #1: DAMIEN CHAZELLE IS A PRODIGY— We have seen young and fresh directors start out white hot and flame out.  For example, Orson Welles made Citizen Kane when he was 25 and never matched high creative mark with the rest of his career.  With First Man asserting itself as an entirely different scale, scope, and class of film compared to Whiplash and La La Land, no one can call Chazelle a one-hit wonder or a flash in the pan.  He is a mere 33 years old and is primed to possibly have his third consecutive film be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.  Wes Anderson can’t say that and neither can Christopher Nolan.  What Chazelle is doing with his craft and talent is quickly sprinting ahead of his peers and contemporaries.  It’s boggling to imagine what he can accomplish before he’s 43 or 53.  Projecting this guy’s career requires something stronger than the Hubble Telescope.

LESSON #2: IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THEM, JOIN THEM— Following the lead of Disney, AT&T and Warner Bros. have announced their intention to launch WarnerMedia streaming service to compete with Disney’s new platform and the existing giants of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.  The strong business reason is there: skip paying a competitor licensing fees to host your content when you can do it yourself.  WB has the library depth to fill a service between their own brand and their HBO and Turner holdings.  As always, the success will depend on price point.  Make it competitive and attractive and people will come.  People like paying for one-stop-shop convenience and, by the time they pay up for access to Disney, will people want to add one more service and one more hassle?  I predict in a few years this column will have a future lesson that reads “The old adage of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ doesn’t always work” because either Disney or Warner Bros. (or both) will pull back because they are not making their desired subscription numbers.  Time will tell.

LESSON #3: MARVEL STILL KNOWS WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM— Word just came through that Ryan Coogler officially put ink to paper to return to the director’s chair and writer’s desk for Black Panther 2.  It’s only fitting because anyone less than Coogler returning to what he championed and built would be a backwards step for the billion-dollar smash.  So far, as long as Marvel continues to allow Coogler to work with reasonable freedom, he will not be the next Joss Whedon to start strong and be burnt out by the micro-managing Marvel machine.

LESSON #4: JAMES GUNN WAS ALWAYS GOING TO BE FINE— Speaking of micro-managing, it didn’t matter to Disney, but James Gunn showed enough professionalism, contrition, and support from his peers to not have his career ruined for his old Twitter behavior that was revealed in bombshell headlines this past July.  Warner Bros. has tabbed him to write a Suicide Squad sequel with the possible opportunity to direct.  This counts as a positive rebound for Gunn and a coup of a hire for the DCEU.  If you remember last year, Gunn was a elevated to become an inner circle member of the MCU creative core under Kevin Feige.  He now brings that acumen and prowess to a place that could sure use more of both.

LESSON #5: TOM CRUISE DESERVES AN OSCAR SOMEDAY— IndieWire’s David Ehrlich put out quite a pitch this week say Tom Cruise deserves an Oscar nomination for Mission: Impossible – Fallout.  I enjoyed the grounds of Ehrlich’s argument and I do think there’s something special about the level of star power and superhuman accomplishment Tom Cruise has done.  Recognizing him for something that subverts his huge persona counts as honoring a departure from the norm, but when his “norm” is untouchably greater than anyone else’s, that greatness is the special achievement.  I’m with the others on the Feelin’ Film Discussion Group who chimed in on this story.  Maybe Tom doesn’t deserve an Oscar for this specific film or role, but, someday, his body of work and impact screams lifetime achievement.

LESSON #6: MOST CLASSICS DON’T NEED MODERN IMPROVEMENT— This week, Richard Dreyfus went on the record with Deadline’s Geoff Boucher to say that re-releasing a CGI-enhanced Jaws would rake in a ton of money and bring the classic to new audiences.  The production troubles of Steven Spielberg’s mechanical shark are well-documented.  I’m sure if he had the means then he has today, we would certainly see a different summer blockbuster.  Call me old-fashioned, but Jaws like all other films are products of their eras and should stay themselves.  It stands as a treasured time capsule for when practical effects, POV camerawork, and the stellar use of John Williams’s score could replace what couldn’t be done explicitly and still create a chilling effect.  Jaws still works, even if some parts could be pretty cool with a little more teeth, texture, and speed.  All I hear when Dreyfus talks though is a “cash grab.”  The royalty checks must be coming in a little slow this year.

LESSON #7: KEEP AN EYE ON THE BOYS FROM SEARCHING— You hear Aaron White and me raving every chance we get about the August family thriller Searching.  Both of us declared writer/Director Aneesh Chaganty and his writing partner Sev Ohanian as names to watch after their stunning debut.  We now know what’s next for them, namely the Sarah Paulson vehicle Run from Lionsgate that starts production this month.  Put me in the “can’t wait” line already.  I know I’ll have some friends join me soon.

LESSON #8: IT’S OCTOBER, SO TREAT YOURSELF TO A HORROR MOVIE— In a quick finish, take a gander at this list of the best horror films on Netflix right now.  The second one listed is an absolute must.  


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based and Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com for the MovieTime Guru publication.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle and a new member of the nationally-recognized Online Film Critics Society.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

Episode 120: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

We’re here to discuss one of our most anticipated films of the year, the newest entry in Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible series. This film is the first to serve as a direct sequel story-wise to one before it, and also the first to feature a returning director. I know that we both are huge fans of Christopher McQuarrie’s direction in Rogue Nation and couldn’t have been happier that he was coming back. But with all this hype, expectations were high. Did it deliver? Your mission, listeners, should you choose to accept it… is to stick around and find out what we thought, after we briefly the first five films, of course.

What We’ve Been Up To0:01:28

(Both – Mission: Impossible series)

Mission: Impossible – Fallout  Review – 0:17:27 

The Connecting Point – 1:17:08


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MOVIE REVIEW: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT (2018)

2 Hours and 27 Minutes (R)

Villain Solomon Lane tells Ethan Hunt that the end he’s feared is coming and describes it as “the fallout of all [his] good intentions”. That statement could also apply to Mission: Impossible – Fallout and it’s director, the first ever to return for a second go-around in the series, Christopher McQuarrie. With this direct follow-on to the story events in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, McQuarrie’s aim is clear: he is going for a home run of an action flick while attempting to marry the best parts of the series into a cohesive whole. But you know what they say about good intentions…

The impossible mission that Ethan Hunt (the ageless wizard Tom Cruise) and his crew face now is one of the more straight forward in the series. It revolves mostly around retrieving stolen plutonium to prevent terrorists from launching nuclear attacks. This is not a ground-breaking story concept by any means, but McQuarrie structures the plot in such a way that there are still plenty of smaller motivations in play along the journey while always keeping the “ticking clock” in mind. And, of course, we’re dealing with spies here so this wouldn’t be Mission: Impossible without a double-cross (or two, or three, or… you get the point). One of the biggest strengths of the film is the way in which the story borrows elements from multiple films in the series and weaves them together successfully without making the result feel recycled. There is a through-line of a very personal nature reminiscent of Mission: Impossible III, there is the aforementioned “save the entire world from destruction” big stakes, and there are some wonderfully developed team dynamics that get focused on as well. There are also quite a few callbacks to specific scenes from past movies. Though it remains interesting throughout, the one big knock on the story is how telegraphed it is. If you’ve seen a trailer for the film, you already know how this is going to go and there aren’t many surprises in store for you. Even if you managed to stay trailer free, a very early reveal robs the film of what could have been much more impactful events later on. There are also some workings of the plot that create extremely high senses of danger and emotion in the audience only to later expose that there was no reason to have those emotions in the first place.

Where McQuarrie’s good intentions do manifest into something utterly brilliant is every single one of the film’s action sequences. The film moves fast from one terrific adrenaline-pumping set piece to the next in the best of ways. Whether it’s the early on HALO jump (my personal favorite that had me holding my breath) or the hand-to-hand combat inside of a club bathroom or a motorcycle chase in heavy traffic or the well-documented insanity of Tom Cruise actually climbing onto a helicopter mid-air and then piloting it in a dogfight, the audience is left breathless and physically reeling from the practical effects and stunt work on display. Not to go unmentioned, because it’s a major contributor to these pieces, is the wonderful sound design and use of the score. At times symphonic, at others completely absent, and often just incredibly powerful pops of a bullet or punches of a fist or revs of an engine, the sound in this film greatly enhances the overall experience.

Another aspect of the series that is less frequently mentioned is its humor, and Fallout may just be the best at this. Some of the most hilarious lines come from Hunt’s team of Benji (Simon Pegg), Luther (Ving Rhames), and Director Hundley (Alec Baldwin). But the film’s most interesting relationship, between Agent Walker (Henry Cavill) and Hunt, provides plenty of laughs also, as the two spies spend the majority of their time on screen together in a battle of who has the most testosterone. The results frequently evoke a light-hearted chuckle at just the right moment to provide a brief respite from the film’s intensely driven plot. Last but not least, fan favorite British spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) returns and despite seeming less important while being in more scenes, manages to ground the team in a few key emotional moments that would otherwise not have been possible.

VERDICT

Mission: Impossible – Fallout jumped out of the gate to critic claims of being the next action masterpiece. While it does excel in this area, and is certainly one of the decade’s best, technical achievement is not the only aspect of a great film. Fallout’s story is good, but not without hiccups. It’s unfortunate telegraphing of surprises holds it back from being truly special, though it has some tender emotional moments that help offset that small critique. Regardless, the film is a 2.5-hour high octane ride with a master of propulsive action and this generation’s biggest star, resulting in yet another fantastic entry into possibly the best spy film series of all-time. Don’t walk, run like Tom Cruise to the nearest theater and experience this summer’s best blockbuster in the loudest theater with the biggest screen you can.

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Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on the emotional experience he has with a film. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.