Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, rated PG-13
****

Mission Impossible: Fallout, the sixth film based on the television series that ran from 1966 – 1973, is an exciting, non-stop action film, one of the best films of the year. The film is directed by Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). McQuarrie, who also wrote the screenplay, directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  The film had a budget of $178 million, and made that back with an opening weekend worldwide gross of in excess of $205 million.
This film picks up the storyline from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It is set two years after Ethan Hunt, played by three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Magnolia, Born on the Fourth of July), had captured anarchist Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Remaining members of Lane’s organization called the Syndicate have since formed into a group calling themselves the Apostles. They have a belief that suffering leads to peace. They have been working with a mysterious John Lark inside of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) to obtain three plutonium cores to create three bombs. Hunt has to get the plutonium back, but Lane, who Hunt left alive rather than killing, is working with the Apostles, even though he is in custody.
Ethan is sent to Berlin to find Lark before he buys the plutonium by his boss Alan Hunley, played by Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler). Ethan meets Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, and Luther Stickell, played by Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames (Don King: Only in America) in Berlin, but the mission to buy the plutonium fails when Ethan chooses to save Luther’s life. The plutonium is taken by the Apostles.
CIA Director Erica Sloan, played by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do With It) Hunley’s boss, insists on sending one of her agents, August Walker, played by Henry Cavill (Superman films) along with Ethan to Paris to insure the mission is successfully completed. We don’t know who to trust. It appears that Baldwin and Sloan, as well as Ethan and Walker, are working against each other.
Ethan and Walker make a thrilling HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jump through a thunderstorm into Paris. Cruise trained for an entire year to perform that stunt. In Paris they attend a fundraiser party where Lark is set to buy the plutonium from the Apostles, with an arms dealer known as the White Widow, played by Emmy nominee Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), acting as a broker.
Will Ethan and his team, including Ilsa Faust, played by Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) along with Walker be able to get the plutonium and keep the Apostles from using it to create incredible suffering? And are Ethan and Walker really on the same team?
The film has a number of exciting car chases, incredible stunts and double-crosses. It takes place in Berlin, Paris, London and Kashmir and features stunning shots from those locations, courtesy of cinematography by Rob Hardy (Annihilation). The film features a strong cast, with many members returning from previous films in the series, along with a few new additions (Bassett, Cavill).
Content issues include some adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ name, and a significant amount of violence.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is a thrilling, non-stop action film with great visuals and stunts. It’s overly long at nearly two and a half hours, but that is my only complaint about this excellent film.

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My Review of the Movie ~ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v. Superman PosterBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, rated PG-13
**

Some may ask how many times will we need to see a new Batman or Superman film. Well, since 1943, this is the tenth time Batman has been portrayed, and the sixteenth time for Superman since 1939. And based on the large crowds in the theatre last night when we saw the film (the film is projected to make $160 million this weekend in the U.S. alone), pairing the two superheroes (along with Wonder Woman) in the same film is a welcome idea. A good idea perhaps, but poorly executed in this (estimated) $250 million hot mess of a film.

It’s not for lack of effort. The film, loosely based on the graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller, features a strong cast – Ben Affleck is good as the new Bruce Wayne/Batman and Henry Cavill returns from the disappointing Man of Steel as Clark Kent/Superman. Kevin Costner makes a cameo as Superman’s father while Diane Lane has a larger role as his mother Martha. Amy Adams, one of our better actresses, returns as Lois Lane. We have Jesse Eisenberg, excellent as Lex Luthor, Laurence Fishburne rather irritating as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and Wonder Women.

**SPOILER WARNING! **

The film is directed by Zack Snyder (who also directed 2013’s Man of Steel), but ultimately the script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer is disorganized and confusing, beginning with a flashback to when a young Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot to death outside of a movie theatre. We then see another flashback (there are many of them in the film) of the alien invasion of Metropolis eighteen months ago by General Zod (Michael Shannon).  Bruce Wayne has been closely watching the now controversial Superman since the attack. Clark Kent now lives with girlfriend Lois Lane.   Note:  I guess Superman’s morals have slipped a bit, and Batman is no boy scout in this film either.

Superman has become a deeply polarizing figure, leading to a Senate committee led by Senator Finch about Superman not being above the law.  While Wayne seeks to bring Superman under control as Batman, Luthor heads up Lex Corp and wants to get his hands on kryptonite and create his undefeatable monster Doomsday and dominate the world.

Luthor, and the film, portray Superman as a Jesus-figure who has come from above to save the world. Luthor is a devil figure, and is provided with dialogue right out of the Christian liberalism playbook (“If God is all powerful, he cannot be all good. If God is all good, then he cannot be all powerful”).

The film serves to introduce us to the upcoming Justice League franchise. Affleck is planned to portray Batman in several forthcoming films – Suicide Squad (2016), The Justice League Part One (2017), Untitled Batman Reboot, Justice League Part Two (2019), and possibly 2 sequels to the Untitled Batman Reboot. I hope the following films are much better than this one.

This dark and violent film is overly long at two and a half hours. Although the action scenes were generally done well, a shorter better-edited version of the film with more focus on the storyline would be more satisfying.  An “R” rated version of the film is planned for DVD. The film includes a small amount of unnecessary adult language, including a few abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, and a bathtub scene with Adams and Cavill.


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MOVIE REVIEW ~ The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

The Man from UNCLEThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., rated PG-13
***

This film is based on the popular 1960’s (1964-1968) television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement), starring Robert Vaughan and David McCallum. It can be looked at as a prequel and sets up the possibility of a new series of films. The film is directed and co-written by Guy Ritchie.

The film is set in the early 1960’s during the Cold War. It starts out with an exciting opening scene featuring Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill of Man of Steel) meeting auto mechanic Gaby (Alicia Vikander of Ex Machina) in East Berlin. Victoria’s father, who she hasn’t seen for some time is a nuclear bomb expert. As Solo tries to get her out of East Berlin, they are chased by Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer of The Lone Ranger), who has incredible strength and tenacity.

After Solo and Gaby escape, they soon find out that they will be partnering with Kuryakin to save the world against a Nazi-like organization led by Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki). As they go undercover, Illya portrays a Russian architect and Gaby is his fiancée.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film which includes some good action scenes, deception, beautiful scenery and clothing, music, cars and technology from the 1960’s. Cavill and Hammer often did their own stunts in the film. Hugh Grant is effective in a small role in the film as Waverly.

The film is rated PG-13 for action violence and one scene of partial nudity. There is some sexual content, though nothing explicit is shown. For a PG-13 film there is minimal adult language, which was refreshing. I enjoyed the humor between the two main characters.

The film will inevitably be compared with Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, released just two weeks ago. Ironically, Cruise was originally cast to play Napolean Solo, but chose to make the Mission Impossible film instead. Cavill, who was at first considered for the role of Illya, was then cast as Solo. This film, though not nearly as good as Mission Impossible, is still an entertaining summer film, and worthy of a sequel to further develop these characters.