Film Review: Mission: Impossible (1996)

Release Date: May 20th, 1996 (Westwood premiere)
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: David Koepp, Robert Towne, Steven Zaillian
Based on: Mission: Impossible by Bruce Geller
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Tom Cruise, Jon Voight, Henry Czerny, Emmanuelle Béart, Jean Reno, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vanessa Redgrave, Emilio Estevez

Cruise/Wagner Productions, Paramount Pictures, 110 Minutes

Review:

“Can I ask you something, Kittridge? If you’re dealing with a man who has crushed, shot, stabbed, and detonated five members of his own IMF team, how devastated do you think you’re gonna make him by hauling Mom and Uncle Donald down to the county courthouse?” – Ethan Hunt

I wasn’t super fond of this when it first came out but I must have been stupid at 17 years-old. Revisiting this movie over two decades later was a real treat.

Full disclosure, I haven’t seen any Mission: Impossible movies since the second one and I haven’t watched any of them since that one came out in 2000. Friends always rave about them but I’ve always been like, “Meh, whatever.”

Since I’ve heard exceedingly good things about the last few, I figured that I’d start the series over and see how I feel about them now. Well, this one was a hell of a lot of fun and it resonated with me much more now than it did in 1996.

I really like Tom Cruise in this picture and Ethan Hunt really is the American equivalent to James Bond. However, he isn’t quite there yet, as far as being as cunning and as suave as Bond, but it is a work in progress. While this isn’t Ethan Hunt’s rookie mission, this story feels like the moment where he becomes more than human and actually evolves into a super spy or really, a superhero without a cape.

Brian De Palma did a nice job of creating an interesting and rich world. This is the smallest and most confined of the Mission: Impossible films, as they would get more and more grandiose with each release, but it is still a real big screen extravaganza. It feels and looks like a blockbuster. And while I’ve been a massive James Bond fan my whole life, I think it was the slightly more realistic approach with this series that didn’t allow it to click for me, as I had just come off of Goldeneye, a year prior. You see, Bond still had a good amount of cheesiness to it then.

Now don’t get me wrong, Mission: Impossible had some cheese too but it was less gadget-y and not full of sexy one liners and sexual tomfoolery every five minutes. That final confrontation where we see the helicopter go into a subway tunnel is absolutely insane and it bugged me in 1996 but in a way, it still kind of does because it didn’t feel like it fit the tone of the film. It felt like the movie jumped the shark there and even though I appreciate this more, that scene still made me cringe a bit in 2018.

But that’s really my only gripe about this motion picture. It had a very capable director and a solid cast, although I wish Emilio Estevez wouldn’t have gotten killed off so damn fast.

Most importantly, this gave birth to a massive film franchise and looking back, this wasn’t a bad launching pad.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Mission: Impossible sequels, the Bourne film series and the Kingsman movies.

Comic Review: Old Man Logan: Northern Flight

Published: August 22nd, 2018 – September 12th, 2018
Written by: Ed Brisson
Art by: Damian Couceiro, Andrea Sorrentino (covers)

Marvel Comics, 46 Pages

Review:

This wasn’t the best story that we’ve gotten in the ongoing Old Man Logan series but it was still mildly entertaining and decent filler, as the arc after this one is probably the big finale of the series.

This story was told in two parts over issues 46 and 47. It sees Logan go on a little mission with Alpha Flight up to rural Nova Scotia. While there, they are confronted by an alien plant creature that is devouring the town and growing in size.

The story is used as a way to have Logan reflect on his life, which he knows is coming to an end. He does some crazy and very painful shit in order to stop the plant alien menace but that’s what nearly indestructible manly men do in comics.

Anyway, we get a nice moment between Old Man Logan and Puck. This whole story is really just one big human moment but other than tapping into Logan’s thought process and his physical way of working through his emotions, there’s not a whole lot here.

Still, it’s always cool seeing Wolverine in Canada and I usually enjoy Alpha Flight cameos.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: Other Old Man Logan stories.

TV Review: The Gifted (2017- )

Original Run: October 2nd, 2017 – current
Created by: Matt Nix
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: characters by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman, David Buckley
Cast: Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Natalie Alyn Lind, Percy Hynes White, Coby Bell, Jamie Chung, Blair Redford, Emma Dumont, Skyler Samuels, Grace Byers, Garret Dillahunt

Flying Glass of Milk Productions, The Donners’ Company, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Kinberg Genre, Marvel Television, 20th Century Fox Television, 13 Episodes (so far), 45-47 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I’m way behind on a lot of shows, especially the superhero stuff but I finally got around to checking out the first season of The Gifted.

This takes place in the X-Men cinematic universe but at the same time it doesn’t. What I mean by that is that this all happens in a different timeline, where the X-Men have essentially vanished and left some young mutants in charge of a group called the Mutant Underground.

The show centers around Stephen Moyer a.k.a. Vampire Bill from True Blood and his family. His two teenage kids are mutants and they are on the run from the Sentinel Services agency and later, Trask Industries.

The only really well known X-Men characters in this are Polaris, Thunderbird and Blink. Other than that, there are some minor comic book characters that show up but the majority of the main cast is comprised of new mutants and thus, this show has more creative freedom.

While this show does do a good job of filling out it’s pocket universe, it doesn’t necessarily feel like the X-Men films that most of us know and love. But it also doesn’t feel like other comic book television shows that are currently on the air. This definitely has a different vibe than the CW DC programs or the Netflix Marvel ones. This is also more family friendly than the harder stuff out there like Gotham.

The first season told a really good story that came to a satisfying conclusion that actually made me want to jump right in to season two, as it leaves off on a bit of a cliffhanger due to the non-heroic actions of one of the main heroes.

This started out a bit shaky for me though. But being that it was only thirteen episodes, I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. It found it’s footing faster than most other comic book TV series and it got really solid over the back half of the season.

I especially loved Garret Dillahunt in this and as his character’s motivations become more clear, the threat gets a lot more serious for the heroes.

All in all, I was pretty happy with season one and gladly anticipate what season two has to offer.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Other recent Marvel shows: LegionThe Runaways and Cloak & Dagger.

Comic Review: Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 4

Published: July 1st, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Camp, Larry Hama, Frank Springer, Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

The collection before this one, as well as the back half of the one before that, got more into longer epic stories that carried over from issue to issue. This collection gets back to being more episodic like the earliest volumes. I prefer my G.I. Joe stories to be larger and having multiple issue arcs but this string of issues is a good balance between the two, as some plot threads continue to be sewn into the larger tapestry.

This collection also introduces us to Lady Jaye, Flint and the Cobra twins: Tomax and Xamot. It also starts the Billy storyline, which I don’t want to spoil but he’s a little kid with ties to Cobra Commander and is initially used by Cobra agents to try and assassinate the Commander.

Most importantly, we get the debut of my favorite member of G.I. Joe, Hector “Shipwreck” Delgado. Now he was my favorite character in the TV series. I just need to see how he stacks up in the classic comics, as I haven’t read these stories since the ’80s and I never got to read the complete saga. It’s also worth noting that Barbecue first appears in the same issue as Shipwreck.

While this does have a more episodic format, the last few issues collected here sort of string together and get back towards giving us a more long-term story.

I felt that Larry Hama and this series really hits its peak with the issues in the collection before this one. However, this continues to build off of those really well. The comic book G.I. Joe universe keeps getting larger, the stakes keep getting higher and this doesn’t feel safe unlike the cartoon.

This is just another solid string of issues, the momentum is still going strong and I’m looking forward to volume 5, which is where Serpentor eventually shows up.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Film Review: Superman II (1980)

Release Date: December 4th, 1980 (Australia)
Directed by: Richard Lester, Richard Donner (uncredited)
Written by: Mario Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman
Based on: Superman by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster
Music by: Ken Thorne
Cast: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Margot Kidder, Valerie Perrine, Terence Stamp, Susannah York, Jack O’Halloran, Marc McClure, Sarah Douglas, Marlon Brando (appears only in the Richard Donner Cut)

Film Export A.G., Dovemead Limited, International Film Productions, Warner Bros., 127 Minutes (original cut), 116 Minutes (Richard Donner Cut)

Review:

“Come to me, son of Jor-El, kneel before Zod!” – General Zod

In all honesty, I like Superman and Superman II just about the same. II gets a bit of an edge though just because I like the story better and the threat in the film is a credible threat, as it pits Superman against an adversary that matches his power level.

While I love Lex Luthor, the character, and I also love the mind versus might rivalry, the Gene Hackman version of the character just doesn’t hit the right mark. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Hackman and his character in these movies but he doesn’t feel like the Lex of the comics I grew up with. He is to Luthor what Cesar Romero was to the Joker. He’s damn entertaining and enjoyable but he’s lacking the darkness that’s needed to truly be villainous.

General Zod, however, is an incredible opponent. He was created for this film series but he was so damn good that he would go on to be in the comics. Terence Stamp really brought some much needed testosterone to the table and his minions, played by Sarah Douglas and Jack O’Halloran, were pretty cool villains as well. Man, I was crushing hard on Sarah Douglas when I was a kid.

I also really liked the romance in this movie and usually I don’t care about that crap in these sort of films. I just like how Clark and Lois’ relationship blossomed and how it was really tested and pushed Superman into having to make an incredibly hard decision, which he then had to try and fix because saving the world is his destiny, even if that means he can’t love a human. Yeah, the story around this was actually weird and nonsensical but the point of it and the challenge made me accept it.

Getting back to Lex Luthor though, his role in this film seemed pretty pointless. Once again, he was the top billed star but it’s like they had nothing for him to do. He breaks out of prison, leaves poor Otis behind, breaks into Superman’s house and then aligns himself with Zod, who didn’t need Luthor’s help at all, let’s be honest. Luthor is just sort of wedged into the film just because they had to have a name as big as Gene Hackman’s, after Marlon Brando’s Jor-El was killed off in the first picture. I should note that Brando did film footage for the film but he wanted more money than the producers were willing to pay, so it was edited out of the final cut. He does appear in the Richard Donner cut of the film though.

This chapter in the Superman movie saga is a great extension of what the first movie was. Really, they just feel like two halves of a whole. The movies did a lot of their filming simultaneously because the producers knew there would be a sequel. Some of the filming on II got put on hold though, as it was holding up the production of I and the studio wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to miss its Christmas time release. There was a lot of conflict, behind the scenes, and Richard Donner was fired after directing most of II. He wasn’t given credit for his work and Richard Lester took over. Lester would also go on to direct the terrible Superman III, showing that he wasn’t as skilled as Donner. On a side note, the Richard Donner Cut was released years later, which most people seem to enjoy more.

Despite the backstage politics, this still ended up being my favorite film in the franchise.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Superman: The Movie, the 1980 Flash Gordon.

Film Review: Ghosts of Mars (2001)

Also known as: John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (complete title)
Release Date: August 24th, 2001
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter, Larry Sulkis
Music by: John Carpenter
Cast: Ice Cube, Natasha Henstridge, Jason Statham, Pam Grier, Clea DuVall, Joanna Cassidy, Robert Carradine, Wanda De Jesus, Peter Jason

Storm King Productions, Screen Gems, 98 Minutes

Review:

“…Friday night, the whole place should be packed. A whole twelve hours before sun up and there’s money to burn, whores to fuck and drugs to take.” – Melanie Ballard

Well, this was the only John Carpenter film I had never seen. That is, until now. I just remember that when it was coming out, I thought it looked terrible. My friends that did see it only confirmed my reservations about it and in fact, they were harsher on this film than I expected. So I never really wanted to give it a watch but hey, I review movies and this was on my Starz app, so I figured I’d torture myself for 98 minutes.

I wouldn’t quite say that it was torture though. It was stupid enough to entertain me but it didn’t do much to excite me. And it’s not like John Carpenter did anything wrong, it’s just that this proved that his style had become dated. Had this script been shot by him in the late ’80s, this could have been a film that was remembered more fondly because it would’ve fit that era better.

A big issue with it though, is its reliance on poorly shot and constructed miniatures, very confined sets and going the digital route in places where practical effects would’ve probably worked better. Also, it definitely lacks in the violence department, at least in what one should expect from a Carpenter film.

It’s also kind of a boring movie, for the most part. The villains are pretty shitty and this is really just a movie with space zombies that understand how to use primitive weapons. Also, the main villain just looked like any generic horror monster from the late ’90s that was trying to be a scarier version of Marilyn Manson but just ended up looking like a goth kid without a good Halloween costume.

The acting in this is terrible too. Ice Cube can do better but he really just plays himself and dialed it in. Natasha Henstridge was okay and at least believable in her role but she looked bored. Statham was pointless in this, as was Clea DuVall, who can deliver a good performance when given the right role.

This isn’t an unwatchable movie but I can’t recommend it. I think that most people will actually hate it, even though I found it okay enough to kill 98 minutes during a tropical depression.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: Later John Carpenter films, as well as other films from the era that dealt with Mars: Red Planet and Mission to Mars.

Comic Review: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.