*Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is practically a greatest-hits collection—fake latex faces are ripped off for dramatic effect, an impenetrable fortress is penetrated and the globe is trotted to dazzling effect. It’s familiar and fun and expertly packaged, and it settles into an eminently watchable formula that’s reminiscent of a Roger Moore-era Bond movie.
*Read the capsule version of my Mission: Impossible review HERE.
*Adapted from a novel by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn, Dark Places certainly has the feel of a page-turner, so densely packed with red herrings and coincidences that it’s absurd, but the white-hot Charlize Theron grounds her character in something recognizable and relatable.
*Infinitely Polar Bear gives off a palpable sense of sincerity, but I wish that writer-directory Maya Forbes wanted to give her audience something a little more substantial than a case of the warm fuzzies.
*Vacation is simultaneously a sequel, a remake, and a reboot, but above all it’s a mean-spirited and depressing waste of time and money.
*There’s certainly a palpable sense of warmth and understanding to Maya Forbes’ family memoir Infinitely Polar Bear (pictured), but I wish that she wanted to give her audience something a little more substantial than a case of the warm fuzzies.
*The searing documentary Cartel Land examines the brutal violence being waged on America’s doorstep by the Mexican drug and human trafficking cartels, and especially at the armed vigilante movements that have sprung up on both sides of the border in retaliation.
*My ESFS review of Cartel Land was reprinted in this week’s San Antonio Current.
*Trainwreck feels like the product of Judd Apatow convincing Amy Schumer to turn down her volume in order to appease the immature male chauvinist jag-offs that they both hold in high contempt.
*In Bennett Miller’s dark and compelling Foxcatcher, Steve Carell plays real-life billionaire and murderer John DuPont, and while the casting may seem like a stunt at first glance, the character actually has a lot in common with Carell’s other iconic role – Dundler Mifflin regional manager Michael Scott from The Office.
*Tommy Lee Jones’ slyly revisionist western The Homesman leads the viewer down familiar and comforting alleyways only to ambush them with ugly truths.
*Jean-Marc Vallee’s Wild is blessed with excellent performances by Reese Witherspoon and Laura Dern, a smart Nick Hornby script, beautiful scenery, and exquisite editing and sound design, so perhaps the whole inspirational thing is just a little too Hike, Pray, Love for my taste.
In this week’s issue of the SN&R, I will have reviews of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, The Gambler, Into the Woods, and Unbroken.
*The setup of Bong Joon-Ho’s meditative sci-fi action epic Snowpiercer may be high-concept times a thousand, but the obviousness of the symbolism is so inextricably interwoven with the forward momentum of the plot and so well complemented by Joon-ho’s comic-book style and sick humor, you can’t help but buy in.
*Begin Again is director John Carney’s blatant attempt to recapture the magic of his 2006 surprise hit Once, and if it seems churlish to hold this shiny new product’s feet to that previous film’s lo-fi flame, blame Carney for rubbing our noses in it.
*Everything fresh and original about Once has been recycled and sanitized for Begin Again, only it’s broad and excessive where Once was charming and concise. The rumpled male lead is now a struggling music executive desperate for one last chance at whatever (Mark Ruffalo), the mousy Czech songwriter has become a manic pixie nightmare played by Keira Knightley, and the only major player in this musical who can actually sing is Adam Levine of Maroon 5, and he can’t act.
*Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment of Michael Bay’s long-form paean to soullessness, is better than some of its predecessors and worse than others, but God only knows which ones or why.
*The documentary Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is a fast-paced and calorie-free puff piece with enough name-dropping to hold your attention, not unlike an Us Weekly magazine cover story, although it would have been more interesting to know how the sausage was made.
*My Earth to Echo review was reprinted in this week’s Colorado Springs Independent.