Movie Review – Mission Impossible: Fallout

I re-watched the previous Mission Impossible movie — Rogue Nation — last night, and boy am I glad I did. MI: Fallout follows closely on the heels of the previous movie and if you, like me, haven’t watched it recently, you might want to give it a re-watch before heading out to see the sequel. If you don’t have time, you can read my What you need to know before seeing MI: Fallout article that will refresh your memory about the key elements from the previous movie.

In my review for MI: Rogue Nation I gave it an “A,” and it’s hard to find a meaningful difference between the two. In many respects these two movies are just one long movie, with a three year intermission.

If there’s one glaring difference between the two films, it’s that Jeremy Renner, who played William Brandt in the previous two MI movies, isn’t seen or mentioned in Fallout.  (Find out why.) The space for a new character is taken up by Henry Cavill (a.k.a. Superman) who fills a similar role on the team, that being an equal to an Ethan who can oppose his ideas…but Cavill’s character doesn’t come close to providing the same levity. (Not the actor’s fault. The character just isn’t written that way.)

The twists and turns of plot in this movie require a lot more attention. We should all pity those moviegoers who don’t have the RunPee app, and get up between the 2nd and 3rd Peetime. They’ll come back and be completely baffled.

Grade: A

Peetimes:
We have 4 Peetimes, 2 of which are recommended.

Personally, I’d suggest the 3rd Peetime. It’s one long scene that continues well after the Peetime ends. You won’t miss anything important, just some running,  and a bit of mild humor.

 

Related:

Why Hawkeye, I mean Jeremy Renner, isn’t in MI: Fallout

Character Relations Map for Mission Impossible: Fallout

Summary – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise Breaks Ankle Filming MI Stunt – and Keeps Running

Cruise Jumps 106 Times in a HALO Skydive on Broken Ankle for Mission Impossible: Fallout

 

What you need to remember about MI: Rogue Nation

Solomon Lane: Former MI6 agent and now head of *The Syndicate*

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is determined to prove the existence of the Syndicate, a criminal consortium the CIA does not believe exists. Ethan is captured by the Syndicate at a record shop in London, while their leader, a blond man in glasses, kills the IMF agent stationed there.

 

Rebecca Ferguson: undercover MI6 agent Ilsa Faust.

Ethan escapes a torture chamber with the help of disavowed MI6 agent and Syndicate operative Ilsa Faust.

 

 

Alec Baldwin: CIA/IMF Director Alan Hunley

Back in Washington, D.C., CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) testifies before a Senate committee charging that the IMF is destructive. Hunley succeeds in having the IMF disbanded and absorbed into the CIA.

Cut off from the IMF, Ethan follows his only lead: the man in glasses, later identified as former MI6 agent Solomon Lane.

Simon Pegg: tech guy on Ethan Hunt’s team.

Six months later, Ethan enlists former colleague Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) to attend an opera in Vienna, predicting that an assassination attempt will be made on the Austrian Chancellor. Ethan and Benji stop two snipers,  and meet Ilsa who is also there to kill the Chancellor, but her loyalties are… complicated. (She’s sent by MI6 to infiltrate the  Syndicate.) Ethan and Ilsa escape the opera house together, believing they have saved the Chancellor, but he is killed by a car bomb, and Lane is still not found.

Ilsa convinces Ethan that she has to stay undercover and jumps out of the car, pretending that Ethan captured her but she got away, so that the Syndicate agents will pick her up and return her to Lane.

Benji stays with Ethan instead of reporting back to the CIA, despite knowing his action amounts to treason.

Ving Rhames: Ethan’s loyal friend and tech guy.

Ethan, blamed for the Chancellor’s death, is pursued by the CIA’s Special Activities Division. Former IMF teammate William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), who now works with the CIA, contacts Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) to find Ethan before the CIA does. Luther tracks Ethan, Benji, and Ilsa to Casablanca, where they acquire a secret file from a secure building. Ethan drowns during the mission, but Ilsa rescues him and uses a heart defibrillator to resuscitate him. Ilsa then flees with the data, evading both Ethan and Syndicate members, although Ethan kills the pursuing agents.

Benji reveals he copied the data onto a second USB drive, as Luther and Brandt catch up to them.

Ilsa returns to London and attempts to use the file to quit her mission to infiltrate the Syndicate, but her MI6 handler, Atlee, compels her to continue, whilst discreetly wiping her drive. Meanwhile, Ethan learns that the data is an encrypted British government red box that requires the Prime Minister’s biometrics to unlock.

Lane’s henchmen abduct Benji , and use him to blackmail Ethan into decrypting the data and delivering it to them. Ethan agrees to the ultimatum.

As part of Ethan ‘s plan, Brandt reveals their location to CIA Director Hunley. During a charity auction Hunley, Brandt, and Atlee (Ilsa’s handler) take the British PM to a secure room to protect him from Ethan. Brandt has the PM confirm the existence of the Syndicate, a project proposed by Atlee to perform missions without oversight. After the PM reveals the origin of the Syndicate to CIA Director Hunley, Atlee reveals himself as Ethan in a mask.

When the real Atlee arrives, Ethan forces him to admit that he continued with the plans to create the Syndicate without permission and that he has been covering up its existence after Lane hijacked the project and went rogue, turning the Syndicate against him and MI6.

With the PM’s biometrics, Luther discovers the file contains access to £2.4 billion in various bank accounts, which would allow the Syndicate to continue their operations unnoticed; Ethan promptly destroys the data.

Ethan meets Benji and Ilsa at an outdoor restaurant. Benji reveals that he’s wearing a suicide bomb and has an earphone so he can deliver the message from Lane.

Ethan tells Lane he destroyed the drive and memorized the data and offers himself in exchange for Benji and Ilsa. Lane is forced to deactivate the bomb and let Benji go. Ethan and Ilsa are chased through the streets of London by Lane’s men. Eventually Ethan is wounded and chased by Lane. He lures Lane into a sealed glass cell where he is gassed unconscious and taken into custody.

Hunley, having witnessed an IMF operation’s success firsthand, returns with Brandt to the Senate committee and convinces them to restore the IMF by covering for Ethan and his team. After the meeting, Brandt congratulates Hunley, who is now the new IMF Secretary.

Related:

Movie Review — Mission Impossible: Fallout

Why Hawkeye, I mean Jeremy Renner, isn’t in MI: Fallout

Character Relations Map for Mission Impossible: Fallout

Tom Cruise Breaks Ankle in MI:Fallout Stunt, Keeps Filming

 

 

Why Hawkeye, I mean Jeremy Renner, isn’t in MI: Fallout

Tom Cruise (Ethan) and Ving Rhames (Luther) are the only two actors to appear in all the Mission: Impossible movies. However, the previous two movies — Ghost Protocol and Rogue Nation — have begun building a consistent team around Ethan and Luther with the addition of Simon Pegg’s Benji, Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, and to a lesser degree Alec Baldwin’s Alan Hunley (as the IMF Director). There is even a consistent villain presence between Rogue Nation and Fallout, with Sean Harris’ character Solomon Lane.

The missing piece is Jeremy Renner as William Brandt. He isn’t seen or even mentioned in Fallout. The film’s director, Christopher McQuarrie, blamed Renner’s omission on bad timing:

At the time, when the movie started, we didn’t really have a screenplay, so it was very difficult for us to say who would be in the movie for how long and on what days, and he had a commitment to Marvel. So there was just simply no predicting. If we had a finished script, we would have been able to say, ‘Yes, this will work and we can let you go for this time’, but there was just no predicting what those roles were going to turn out to be. It was just an unfortunate case of bad timing.

Personally, I’m not buying it. If it were just bad timing, they could have at very least mentioned Brandt’s name, and given an excuse for him not being available to help — thus making it easier to bring the character back in a future MI movie.

It’s also possible, given Renner’s price-tag for appearing, added on top of the high price of Cruise and addition of Henry Cavil, they just didn’t have the budget for a character that could easily be omitted. If so it’s a pity, but that’s the economics of Hollywood.

Related:

Movie Review — Mission Impossible: Fallout

Character Relations Map for Mission Impossible: Fallout

Summary – Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

Tom Cruise Breaks Ankle in MI Stunt and Keeps Filming

 

Quiz – Denzel Washington (10 questions)

Denzel Washington


Movie Review – The Equalizer 2

I gave the first Equalizer movie an A+, so this one had a tough act to follow. Plus, I just rewatched the first movie last night before seeing EQ2, so it’s fresh in my mind.

EQ2 is a very good movie, but not as good as the first. The action is about as good, with the exception that the last fight scene in EQ2 wasn’t nearly as good as the fight scene in the hardware store at the end of EQ.

Where EQ2 fails — the story is choppy. There’s a lot of back and forth between cities, mainly Boston and DC, with a dash of Brussels here and there. I think I saw the common “travelling” cue of a passenger jet landing at least three times in this movie.

There were plenty of short stories, especially early on, where Robert is helping people out. That much works well, as it did in the first movie.

It’s a waste of time to talk about how well Denzel Washington performed: brilliant, as always. It is however, worth mentioning that Ashton Sanders, as Miles the artist, did a fantastic job with many difficult scenes. This guy has a bright future ahead of him.

We learn more about Robert’s past, but not everything. So I’m hoping we’ll learn more in EQ3.

Grade: A-

About Peetimes:
This was a rare occasion where 3 of us watched the movie together and worked on the Peetimes. We all agreed that the 3 Peetimes we have here are very good.

The 1st Peetime has a little more plot development than the others, but was easy to summarize.

The 2nd is mostly action, but with an unimportant/unknown character.

The 3rd is the buildup to the last fight scene, and has almost no dialog and zero action.

Movie Review – Skyscraper

Not even duct tape could hold together this mess of a movie.

I’m willing to overlook a lot of unrealistic stuff in order to enjoy a good Dwayne Johnson movie, but this one just doesn’t offer enough of a payoff to warrant the price of a movie ticket. Or even just two hours of your life.

What I do like: The Rock climbs out on a ledge in this movie as a man missing a leg. He’s still big and strong, but at a big disadvantage, yet he perseveres. But honestly, I feel like a movie that showcases the struggle of a handicapped character deserves a better story.

That’s it. There’s nothing else to like. Oh, except the duct tape jokes.

The story fails in so many ways. There was no chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Neve Campbell. There were plenty of scenes where we’re supposed to get how much they love each other, but they fall flat. Watching these two together was the first thing that tore me out of the movie experience. Dwayne Johnson has a few nice acting scenes, but that was the extent of it. Not to dig on DJ, because he’s *The Rock* for a reason, but when his acting performance stands out as the best in any movie, you might have problems. He needs a decent cast to support him — just as every actor does — but he didn’t get it in this movie.

Beyond that the story creators made many questionable decisions, like: how did Will (Dwayne Johnson) get back across the harbor to the Pearl? We saw him go across the harbor to the control center, then he has to get back — we never see it. It’s a minor thing until you notice it. But once you notice it, the movie magic is gone. And that just kept happening.

And an unforgivable sin the creators made: so blatantly giving away the setting for the end of the movie. It’s great when a story is able to introduce something early as unimportant, that later becomes vital. The director might as well have painted “climax happens here” on the door to the sphere.

Okay, I have to stop. This movie really isn’t even worth my time to nit-pick. I’ll leave it at that. Dwayne Johnson stars in a new featured movie about every other month. They can’t all be great.

Grade: C-

About the Peetimes:
All three Peetimes are pretty good and evenly spaced out through the movie. Use whichever works best for your bladder.

Movie Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp

When leaving the theater my overall feeling was that I liked the movie — I gave it an 8.8/10 in the RunPee User Poll — but the more I think about it, the less I like it.

What I liked
The movie had plenty of funny moments and the action was decent. Actually, the action had most of the humor. And the father-daughter relationship scenes are heartwarming. The relationship dynamics between Scott, Hope, and Dr. Pym works really well. There’s conflict and regret, along with trust and support. The creators did a great job in that department and should have expanded on it.

The quantum realm stuff was pretty cool. I love that they included a scene with tardigrades. (Tiny animals in the cellular world.)

It was also a nice touch how the quantum probe they built got smaller in quantum jumps. Meaning, it didn’t get gradually smaller, it got smaller in discrete steps:  quantum.

(There’s a common misconception that quantum equals small. That’s not necessarily true. If you could travel in quantum jumps it would mean you would go from one place to another without traversing the space in between. That quantum jump could be a micrometer or kilometer.)

What I don’t like
I think the problem is, overall the MCU movies have done a great job building a believable unbelievable universe. What I mean is, we accept the existence of Infinity Stones, and that all of them united in a gauntlet can give the wearer unfathomable power at the snap of their fingers. Most of the technology is fantastical, but we buy it because it works in the story. However, in Ant-Man and the Wasp there are a lot of inconsistencies I find annoying the more I think about them.

For instance: when Scott is gigantic we find out he has trouble breathing. He says at one point, “The air feels chunky,” and then passes out. That’s a great limitation on the technology. I can totally accept that when he’s big he has difficulty absorbing normal sized oxygen atoms when he breathes. It’s a nice nod to the realism of the physics/biology involved. But then they totally ignore that principle when the ants are enlarged. It’s like the creators want us to think that Scott has a limit, but it doesn’t apply to the ants. I’m totally okay with breaking the laws of physics/biology to create a story. But once a limit is introduced, the story should stay consistent to it. That’s just a pet peeve of mine.

By the way, if you’re interested in the physics/biology of animal sizes I highly recommend these videos by Kurzgesagt. (If you’re unfamiliar with Kurzgesagt, then you may thank me later for introducing you to them.)

What Happens If We Throw an Elephant From a Skyscraper? Life & Size 1

How to Make an Elephant Explode with Science – The Size of Life 2

And that’s not even the worst part. My biggest gripe of the movie is the Ghost sub-plot that just fell way short of Marvel’s standards. I hate to say it, but the acting by Hannah John-Kamen in some of the scenes was the worst acting in any Marvel movie to date. I can’t solely blame the actress. I think the directing had a lot to do with it.

Besides the bad acting, the Ghost sub-plot felt like a forced drama to make the plot more difficult than it needed to be. And if that wasn’t enough, we get the technology arms dealer Sonny that convoluted the drama even more. At least the Sonny character adds a dash of humor.

If I were asked to place this movie somewhere in the MCU oeuvre, I’d say it belongs somewhere in the bottom 3rd.

Grade: C+

And now, the long wait until March 8, 2019 when Captain Marvel comes out.

Peetimes:

Finding good Peetimes was pretty easy for this movie. There were long establishing shots that were very easy to summarize.

The first and third Peetimes are the best. I only made the second Peetime an *emergency* Peetime because the story jumps between 4 distinct scenes, making the synopsis longer than I’d like.

Related on RunPee.com: 

How the Quantum Realm Might Save the Marvel Universe in Avengers 4

Ant Man Rewatch Review

Ant Man and Sexism: Real Ant Science

Movie Review – Sicario 2: Soldado

I watched the first Sicario (for the first time) the night before the sequel came out, so I have a fresh perspective on comparing them.

Simply put, the sequel isn’t quite as good as the original.

While the first Sicario is a really good movie, it isn’t without its flaws. Nevertheless, I would give it at least a B+, maybe an A-.

The cinematography of the first Sicario is spectacular. Numerous times I replayed a scene just to see how beautifully it was shot. But I didn’t notice any shots like that in Sicario 2.

No one is going to complain about the acting. Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are both wonderful. I’d give a nod to Toro as giving the better performance, but his character has a lot more to work with. So it’s hardly a fair comparison.

I have to mention that Isabela Moner (who played the young kidnapped girl) is outstanding. She expresses a range of emotions, and her character evolves dramatically over a short period of time. She expressed rage and remorse equally well. So well in fact, that I don’t ever recollect questioning her performance during the movie. It just felt real.

It’s worth mentioning that the movie starts with a very uncomfortable terrorist scene, then later a character who plays a US official defines terrorism: any individual, or group, who acts to bring about political change through violence. The quote is delivered and then forgotten, but it feels like the storytellers were making a subtle hint that the American forces were the terrorists in this tale. After reading a half dozen reviews, none of them commented on the topic. I’d be curious if that’s just me, or did anyone else notice it?

Grade: B-

Peetimes Info:
There are two good Peetimes. I would recommend the 2nd one because it’s very long and easy to summarize.

Heads up:
You can watch this movie without having seen the first Sicario. The plots have no relationship to each other. But the characters do build on what we learned about them.

Jurassic World: Missed Opportunities

These are my final thoughts after seeing Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom in the theater. There are spoilers aplenty, so please read after you view the movie.

Don’t think for a second that I don’t realize that it’s difficult to write a script for a movie like this. Getting handed the responsibility of writing a script for a blockbuster sequel is like sending a batter up to the plate and expecting them to hit a home run to win the game. Be prepared for disappointment.

In this instance, to further the baseball analogy, we’d be satisfied if they just got on base, and kept the rally going; we’d be delighted with a double; and overjoyed with a triple. But I feel like what we got was the batter looking at a called strike three.

The movie started out with promise. Actually, I take that back. The movie started out pretty lame. To find out that Claire and Owen’s relationship didn’t pan out during the interval of time between the two stories is a cheap shot. It’s hard to pull that one off with any success. Don’t end one movie with two characters just getting together and then start the next movie with them split up. Sure, it can be done, but that’s a hard pill to get the audience to swallow. It must be handled with care. JW:FK just kicked it to the curb and didn’t do much more than telling the audience, “Hey, deal with it.”

That was just the start of the problems with this story. We also have to deal with two new characters — Franklin and Zia — being introduced for absolutely no reason, other than they were needed to prop up a few scenes in the story. Notice how they just disappear from the tale when not needed. If you’re going to add characters, then make them real characters that we care about. Give them some purpose, at least something better than, “I wanna see a dinosaur.”

Things perk up a little once we get to the island. The dinosaur danger was better than I expected it to be, but still a little cheesy sometimes. (Just how many times is the original T-Rex going to save the main characters before someone gets eaten? Seriously, I really hope the T-Rex chomps on a named character that we like in the next movie and not just a villain.)

I’m not volcanologist, but the exploding volcano certainly exploded as conveniently as anyone could possibly hope for. I think it’s okay for the writers to play a little loose with the reality of a volcanic eruption if they make up for it with a few worthy thrills.  They barely managed it, but I couldn’t help but think that once our main characters washed up on shore it was nice and convenient for the falling debris to stop while they regrouped, then hiked who knows how far to the docks, and observed what’s going on before the falling debris picked up again — just as they’re running for the ship. It’s also a little convenient that the dock got pounded by debris, but the ship doesn’t take a hit. Like the volcano decided that it didn’t want to send flaming rock bombs into the ocean.

Despite everything I’ve pointed out that’s wrong with this movie so far, at this point I would have given the movie a solid B. It wasn’t great, but it was good enough. And I can’t help but grade a little on a curve because the former JP movies haven’t exactly raised the bar too high.

A word about villains: they are hands down the trickiest characters to write, especially in a blockbuster where there’s limited time to build up the character. What we get all too often are stock villains who are portrayed as nothing more than bad, greedy, and/or psychopathic people.

A good villain is someone who’s doing bad things, but we can sympathize with them. It’s the sloppiest sort of storytelling when one of the antagonists uses pliers to pull a tooth from a sedated dinosaur with absolutely no empathy for the animal. Just save the audience some time — put a Nazi tattoo on his forehead.

It’s only fair that I mention that the blood drawing scene with the T-Rex is the highlight of the movie. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter one tiny bit that they give Blue a blood transfusion from a carnivore. This is where storytelling can take a few liberties. It sounds real enough, so go with it, and the payoff is well worth it.

This clip perfectly illustrates what I think of the rest of the movie.

I need to know one thing: why on earth did the writers pick Hydrogen Cyanide as the gas would threaten to kill the dinosaurs? I guess when people hear the name they instinctively equate it as a poison, but it’s a pretty ineffective one. The French used is as a chemical weapon in WWI but gave up on it because there were better options. (Not that I knew that before reading about HCN at Wikipedia.)

This is the second worst kind of sloppy storytelling — only behind the stock villain mess I mentioned earlier. The writers need to present a clear danger to the dinosaurs, and a real reason for setting them free. How they came up with something like HCN is a complete mystery. It’s not used in any sort of DNA research I could find. It was mostly used in mining for gold and silver. Okay, so let’s say Dr. Wu had some bizarre reason for having it. You think they would take greater care in storing it?

But the problem remains: what sort of danger could be introduced that would create a believable threat to the dinosaurs so our heroes would be motivated to let them loose? We need something that kills, that the audience will understand as a threat without too much explanation, and something that spreads quickly. If there were just some sort of chemical, or even a chemical reaction, that would be suitable. Something like… Maybe FIRE!

Picture it: there are multiple dinosaurs loose, causing all sorts of mayhem. I can buy it that the fire protection system gets damaged. There’s an explosion. Things burn. The fire is spreading rapidly. (Sure, the building is mostly stone and metal, but we can roll with it.)

Maybe the fire is spreading toward something else that will explode and kill the dinosaurs. Not only does this fit the requirements needed to motivate someone to release the dinosaurs, it’s also the perfect ironic symmetry to the beginning of the movie: the dinosaurs were saved from an island about to be consumed by fire/lava only to be taken far away to a building where they are again threatened by fire. Perfect.

How did this get past everyone involved? Did no one in the writing process, or while directing and editing, not stop and say, “Hydrogen Cyanide? Really? Can’t we come up with something better?”

And not to beat a dead horse, but do you really think the roof of that old castle is going to support an Indo Raptor that’s the size of at least three horses? What were the roof supports made out of? Vibranium?