It’s been a pretty busy summer for me, so unfortunately, my movie reviews have fallen by the wayside. So, here are some capsule reviews for some recent – and not so recent – releases.
Mission: Impossible: Fallout
Arguably, the best movie of the year thus far. The sixth Mission: Impossible is exciting, highly entertaining, and action-packed. Star Tom Cruise performs all his own stunts, which when you see what he gets into is impressive. Henry Cavill is a great addition to the cast with Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, and Rebecca Ferguson returning. Writer-Director Chris McQuarrie – the first director to direct more than one M: I film – delivers a tight script that is probably the best on since the first film. Mission: Impossible has been having a late renaissance since the second film, which was not received well, and the third, which only received a lukewarm reception and Fallout is the best of the last three. It is also the only truly direct sequel in the series, so if you haven’t seen Rogue Nation yet, you may want to do so before checking this one out. Definitely see it. A-
Director Spike Lee delivers a film based on a true story about the first black police officer in Colorado Springs, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), and how he managed to infiltrate a local chapter of the KKK with the help of his white partner, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver). The film is laugh-out loud funny, but also sadly more relevant today than ever. It’s also one of the best films of the year. The cast, including Topher Grace as David Duke and Laura Harrier as student activist Patrice Dumas, is absolutely amazing and Spike Lee has crafted another winner. Expect to hear more about BlacKkKlansman come awards season. A-
Sorry to Bother You
From first-time Writer-Director Boots Riley comes a very funny social satire that takes an insane turn late in the film to transform it into something completely different by the end. Starring Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, and Armie Hammer, Sorry to Bother You tackles issues of the day in a weird, wild, alternate world that may not appeal to all audiences, but I found the film to be funny and engaging. Check it out if you’re a fan of topical, but weird films – if that’s even a genre. B+
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Look! DC/WB made another superhero film post-Christopher Nolan that critics adore! This incarnation of the Teen Titans is the more kiddie-friendly one currently on TV as opposed to the one that ran from 2003-2006, so that means audiences are in for a light, funny movie that skewers current superhero movie trends and touts the importance of friendship. Along with the show’s regular cast – which interestingly enough, carried over entirely from the first show – Will Arnett plays Slade – it’s so kiddie, they can’t even call him Deathstroke – Kristen Bell plays a movie director, and Nicolas Cage voice Superman! It’s a fun movie with a lot of laughs. B+
Disney continues its trend of taking its animated classics and turning them into live-action films with Director Mark Forster’s Christopher Robin. The tale is set in post-war London as Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) is all grown up and working for a luggage manufacturer. He’s a slave to his job and is neglecting his wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), and daughter, Madeline (Bronte Carmichael). He has all but forgotten about Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. However, when Pooh cannot find his friends, he goes in search of Christopher Robin for help and helps the man find the child inside again. It’s similar to Spielberg’s Hook, but not exactly. I found the film to be sweet and utterly charming. Yes, the story is fairly predictable, but in a well-worn genre like this, it’s about the journey and the characters you follow along and there is no better travel companion than Winnie the Pooh. See it. B+
Ethan Hawke shines in Writer-Director Paul Schrader’s tale of a priest grappling with mortality and worldly issues as he tries to shepherd a small congregation in upstate New York. It’s a fantastic performance from Hawke in one of the better movies this year. Also starring Amanda Seyfried, Cedric the Entertainer, and Victoria Hall. It’s coming to streaming soon, so check it out then. B+
The Equalizer 2
Denzel Washington returns as Robert McCall in Director Antoine Fuqua’s sequel to 2014’s The Equalizer, based on the 1980s CBS show of the same name. The stakes in this one get much more personal for McCall and despite the fact that this one was slightly less-well-received by critics, I actually enjoyed this film more than the first one. Both movies are basically just Denzel kicking all kinds of ass, but I liked the more personal story. I also liked his budding friendship with his young neighbor, Miles (Ashton Sanders). Pedro Pascal, Melissa Leo, and Bill Pullman also star. B+
You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix stars in Writer-Director Lynne Ramsey’s adaptation of Jonathan Ames’ novel of the same name as a traumatized veteran, Joe, who now makes a living finding missing girls. When a job takes a left turn, Joe’s demons threaten to overtake him. This film wasn’t totally what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it. It’s dark and weird and Phoenix delivers a powerhouse performance. Also, Jonny Greenwood’s score is absolutely hypnotic. For me, this is a film that I could absolutely see rising in score after seeing it a second time. It’s by Amazon Studios, so I’m hoping it comes to Prime soon. B
Tag is a movie that could have been absolutely terrible, but actually turned out to be very funny. The premise turns out to be very sweet, but the emotions the film tries to stir don’t really seem to fit with the goofy premise of five men in their 40s continuing the same game of tag for 30 years. The cast, featuring Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Isla Fisher, Hannibal Buress, and Jake Johnson, is stellar and their chemistry fuels much of the fun. Rashida Jones and Leslie Bibb also star. B
Director Jason Reitman re-teams with Screenwriter Diablo Cody and star Charlize Theron to deliver Tully. Theron plays Marlo, a mother of three who is overwhelmed with the responsibilities of being a mother and wife to Ron Livingston. Her brother, played by Mark Duplass, hires a “night nanny” for her named Tully (Mackenzie Davis) and she transforms Marlo’s life. However, this is not Mary Poppins and definitely gets deep and weird as the film goes on. I liked Tully, but was expecting more of a straight comedy as opposed to the dramedy I got. It’s definitely a good film, though, and will speak to modern day moms. B
David Tennant is hilariously awful and evil in Bad Samaritan. However, while Tennant’s antics will keep you unintentionally laughing, so will the terrible screenplay and stupid characters. It’s a shame, because the film’s premise is actually quite good – two parking valets (Robert Sheehan & Carlito Olivero) use their customers’ vehicles to go back and rob their homes. They rob Tennant, but discover that he’s not a typical customer and as revenge, he sets out to destroy their lives. The problem is, Director Dean Devlin and Screenwriter Brandon Boyce decided to make the film and its characters as dumb as possible. Stay far away and skip it. D-
But, that’s not all! I also saw two top-notch documentaries this summer!
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
This is Director Morgan Neville’s Mr. Rogers movie that you’ve heard so much about. The film charts the creation of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and its impact on American society. This world needs more people like Fred Rogers. He wasn’t a perfect man, but his message and how he broadcast that message were infinitely important. This film will touch your heart. See it. A
Three Identical Strangers
I don’t want to say too much about this one, because it has to be seen to be believed. Three identical triplets were separated at birth and found each other about twenty years later, but the circumstances are unbelievable. It’s funny, heartwarming, sad, and disturbing all at once. Definitely check it out. A-