Tag Archives: Ving Rhames

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) Blu-Ray Review By D.M. Anderson

MI Fallout

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller (based on the television series created by)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames

I spotted a true lunatic while driving home from work the other day. Like countless other egocentric morons with an inflated sense of entitlement, he was in the lane next to me, texting as he sped along at 40 miles an hour. The difference was this guy was behind the wheel of a Smart car. 

All would take is a sudden wild turn to end up getting swallowed by an SUV. It could be weeks before anyone found a single trace of him and the glorified go-kart he chose for a coffin. Man, that’s not only crazy…that’s utter Tomsanity.

Like Lou Gehrig’s Disease ‘Tomsanity’ is named after the man who’s most prominently afflicted, Mr. Tom Cruise. It’s a condition where one deliberately risks their life to accomplish a task, even though a perfectly safe alternative would achieve the same results and no one would know the difference. If Mr. Important behind the wheel of that Smart car regularly engages in such douchebaggery while driving – and you just know he does – wouldn’t a big-ass Dodge Ram have been a wiser investment? The recipient of his call wouldn’t appreciate it any less.

One key difference between Tom Cruise and that Smart car simpleton is Tom at-least trains for his stunts beforehand with a crew of hundreds to assist him. But even with tethers and wires to assure my safety, no way in hell would I ever attempt to jump from one rooftop to another as Cruise does in Mission: Impossible – Fallout (and he still broke his ankle). 

Unlike that self-absorbed motorist, Tom isn’t putting anyone but himself in harm’s way, and it ain’t for personal gratification. When he makes that 25,000 foot HALO drop early in the film, he’s doing it for us. They could have easily used a professional jumper and simply CG’ed Tom’s toothy grin into the frame, but the fact we know it’s him is part of what has always made the entire Mission: Impossible franchise special. Say what you will about him personally, one thing Tom Cruise can never be accused of is phoning-it-in. 

Maybe that’s a chief reason this is the only franchise that seems to improve with each entry. True-to-form, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is the best one to date and absolutely loaded with Tomsanity. Previous films were already notable for the lengths Cruise went for the sake of an action sequence, so I’m assuming Tomsanity must also be a progressive disorder because there are a half-dozen jaw-dropping action sequences where Tom’s letting it all hang out for our enjoyment. To truly appreciate that, check out this disc’s hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary right afterwards. 

But Fallout isn’t just a stunt showcase. The intricate, twist-laden story keeps us guessing, whisks us to various intriguing locations and introduces a few nifty new characters along with some old friends (even Henry Cavill is interesting in this one). The film doesn’t forget its past, either. In fact, Fallout is the first in the franchise that might be considered a direct sequel. It features the same primary antagonist, Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) as Rogue Nation, while Ethan Hunt’s estranged wife, Julia (Michelle Monaghan), figures predominantly in the story. As such, the film does sometimes assume the audience is up-to-speed.

But it’s still mainly the Tom Cruise Show, which is just fine because, even after six films, there’s never a moment where we suspect he’s going through the motions. I don’t know how long he can keep this up, but here’s hoping he can crank out at least one or two more without killing himself. Maybe he can even squeeze-in the mother of all Tomsanity stunts: a chase where he’s driving a Smart car while texting. As it stands, though, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is currently the franchise’s high-point and the best action film of the year.

Dawn of The Dead (2004) (and the Crumbling Cookie) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Dawn of the Dead Review

Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: George A. Romero, James Gunn (screenplay)
Stars: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Mekhi Phifer, Jake Weber, Ty Burrell, Kevin Zegers

Who doesn’t love Oreos?

That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Everyone loves Oreos.

There’s a damn good reason these delectable delights are the best selling cookies in the world…they’re the perfect marriage of wafer and creme. Not only that, Oreos are the all-purpose cookie…great with ice cream or turned into pie crusts. And who on Earth hasn’t simply tossed a few into a glass of milk in the middle of the night, turning them into divine ambrosia before spooning this orgasmic mush into our mouths? Sorry, but you just can’t do that with Fig Newtons.

As a kid, whenever Mom returned from grocery shopping with a fresh package of Oreos, my sister and I felt truly loved. It also made me feel sorry for my friends whose parents demonstrated utter hatred for their own kids by bringing home Hydrox instead.

Hydrox were widely regarded as a cheap knock-off of Oreos. Parents cruel enough to pack them in their kids’ lunches were usually reported to Child Services for suspected abuse. There were actually occasions when my own Mom brought home Hydrox instead the usual Oreos. Whenever I inquired why, she’d quip, “I’m not your real mother.”

I guess that was easier than just admitting cash was tight that week. But what parents failed to realize was, in elementary school, the contents of your Scooby-Doo lunchbox said a lot about your socio-economic status. Classmates packing such precious processed products by Hostess, Frito-Lay and Nabisco were the envy of the cafeteria. Those stuck with Dolly Madison, Granny Goose and Sunshine cookies were the lowly brown-baggers. On the plus side, however, no one ever stole their lunches.

But that’s beside the point, since honestly, I never had any true aversion to Hydrox cookies. They were tasty enough, just not as awesome as Oreos. How could they be? Oreos were the original sandwich cookie…

…or so I thought.

It wasn’t until just recently that I learned Hydrox’s creme-filled sandwich cookies have actually been around since 1908, a full four years before Oreos hit the shelves. In fact, it was Hydrox that initially inspired the National Biscuit Company (a.k.a. Nabisco) to create their own version. All this time, Oreos were the actual knock-offs.

But first doesn’t always mean best. Sunshine may have come up with the idea, but Nabisco turned it into something perfectly irresistible, which is why Oreos still fly off the shelves and Hydrox exist only in the memories of those with tortured childhoods. On a side note…isn’t Hydrox a terrible name for a cookie in the first place? It sounds like an acne medicine.

Similarly, few will argue that the great George A. Romero is the godfather of the modern zombie as we’ve come to know it. 1968’s Night of the Living Dead was a taboo-smasher and the first to depict the undead as mindless, perpetually hungry hordes. In ensuing years it was oft-imitated but never duplicated, at least until Romero himself unleashed Dawn of the Dead ten years later. Not-only did Dawn up the ante in the gore department, the film had a lot to say about American consumer culture at the time. It is widely considered the greatest zombie film of all time, the standard by which nearly every other subsequent film in the genre has been measured.

And for the longest time, I concurred. I first saw Dawn of the Dead with a couple of friends when I was 15, and aside from the fact it made one of them puke, it redefined horror for me. Not only was it funny, suspenseful and loaded with social commentary relevant for its time, Dawn became the movie I dared friends to endure when it was released on home video. For years, Dawn was as untouchable as The Exorcist and Psycho…a film which could never be improved upon. Though not for a lack of trying, since Dawn was liberally ripped-off over the years, mostly by Italian hacks like Lucio Fulci and Bruno Mattei, who assumed the film’s only appeal was the extreme gore.

Though the popularity of zombies has fluctuated over the years, few would argue that their impact on 21st Century popular culture has been a phenomenon, with video games, horror movies, TV shows, parades and books all dedicated to presenting the undead as Romero first envisioned them back in 1968. Considering the ongoing Hollywood trend of remaking classic horror films, revisiting Dawn of the Dead was inevitable.

The announcement was met with resistance, of course, mostly by those (including yours truly) who considered the original an untouchable classic. When you throw in an unknown director at the time and backing from a major studio (who typically shied-away from hard-core visceral gore), how could a remake of Dawn of the Dead be anything but a shallow shell of a movie, watered down to appeal to the mallrat crowd (especially since the screenwriter, James Gunn, was best-known at the time for writing Scooby-Doo)?

So imagine everyone’s shock when this new Dawn of the Dead turned out to be not-so-much a remake, but a creative and rousing re-imagining of the original material, a legitimate zombie film in its own right. Gunn and director Zack Snyder (before he became a hack) took the premise and jettisoned everything else that endeared legions of fans to Romero’s film. Other than a few respectful nods to the original, the new Dawn had a personality as unique as John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing.

Though it pains me to do so, it’s at this point that I must commit an act of heresy by admitting I think the new Dawn of the Dead is better than the original, the cinematic equivalent to Oreos vs. Hydrox.

I’m well-aware of Romero’s legacy and his use of the undead to address society’s ills. The man has all of my adoration and respect as one of horror cinema’s most influential founding fathers. But having seen all of his zombie films multiple times, the ugly fact remains that Romero’s noble ideals tended to overshadow his actual abilities as a filmmaker. He had a shitload of audacity, a welcome trait that mades his movies true treasures (especially 1985’s Day of the Dead, his best-crafted film). But the fact remains that, unlike contemporaries such as John Carpenter or David Cronenberg, Romero had no distinctive directorial style of his own other than his willingness to push the envelope.

Looking at both films as objectively as possible, the original Dawn of the Dead does some amazing things with a limited budget, but is also hampered by it: Tom Savini’s make-up effects are suitably extreme, ranging from gorge-stirringly gory to ridiculously daffy (blue-skinned zombies and garish  bright blood). The same can be said for the performances, from serviceable to downright amateurish. We may like these characters, but the actors are only a notch above what you’d find in a community theater production. The editing is often clumsy, which also applies to its semi-legendary soundtrack, an uneasy combination of Goblin’s influential rock score (at co-producer Dario Argento’s insistence) and Romero’s preferred public domain library tracks. While old school purists will likely consider these elements part of the original film’s overall charm (and they wouldn‘t necessarily be wrong), these same elements also render it a low budget product of its time. And it has aged badly. By comparison, Romero’s once-maligned sequel, Day of the Dead, belies its grassroots production values every step of the way, resulting in a film which actually holds up better, despite being three decades old.

The 2004 remake starts off brilliantly, its first 15 minutes setting-up the story with a stunning opening attack and montage (creatively incorporating Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”) which not-only sets the tone, but defiantly lets the audience know this ain’t your daddy’s Dawn of the Dead. Gone are the allegories of 70’s consumerism, and while such other satirical opportunities are largely absent, its simple theme of survival at all costs carries additional apocalyptic weight. Its characters are far more eclectic and believable, ranging from common housewives and salesmen to disillusioned police officers and douchebag yuppies. Likely due to the increased budget, this version of Dawn features a cast who display more range than those in the original. Also unlike the original, which has too many dull stretches to justify its length, the remake trims the fat considerably…it’s leaner, meaner and (dare I say it?) ultimately scarier.

Then there’s the violence, which if we’re to be honest, is a big reason for any zombie movie’s appeal (how else can you explain the nostalgic popularity of Lucio Fulci’s sleazy shitfests?). Even though this version of Dawn of the Dead was released by Universal, the film is bloody as hell, going as far to depict an infected woman giving birth to a zombie baby, followed by the violent death of both. This is arguably the most brutally-Romeroesque gag that George himself never thought of. And even if you’re not a fan of this version, you have to admit the scene involving a rifleman picking-off celebrity lookalikes is inspired.

These revelations were hard for me to accept. I’ve always been one who believed the greatest movies should never be remade, since there was no way to improve on perfection. For the longest time, I believed the original Dawn of the Dead to be one of those films. But if I’m to be honest with myself, after multiple viewings of both, I’m increasingly inclined to concede Romero’s Dawn is far from perfect and the remake is more entertaining. And even though he’s gone on to bigger things, this remains director Zack Snyder’s smartest, most cohesive film.

So from my perspective, George A. Romero might be considered the founder of Sunshine, creator of Hydrox cookies, only to be ripped-off by the likes of Zack Snyder and James Gunn, turning an already great product into something even better. As much as I hate to admit, Romero’s film is now the cinematic Hydrox.

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) Movie Review By John Walsh

MI Fallout

Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Writers: Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller (based on the television series created by)
Stars: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames

It’s hard to believe that the Mission Impossible franchise is now over twenty years old. I can’t sit here and say that I was always a massive fan. I was only seven when the first came out and the early iterations were fairly repetitive affairs, with an ever changing blur of black market arms dealers making up the antagonists for Ethan Hunt to see off. That all changed with 2015’s Rogue Nation however. Christopher McQuarrie gave us a more nuanced, villainous group to contend with. 

That’s not to say there wasn’t some memorable antagonists prior to Rogue Nation and Fallout. Phillip Seymour Hoffmann’s Owen Davian from the third film was an outstanding adversary. But the Syndicate led by Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), brought an array of interesting characters. A group of freelance, for want of a better word, individuals with a shared, common goal. It’s the same group, albeit evolved, that resurfaces. They’re known as the Apostles now and they’ve got a noble, albeit genocidal cause. They’re all about world peace, but first the worlds major religious hubs and institutions must fall. 

“There cannot be peace without great suffering” is their mantra. “The greater the suffering, the greater the peace” we hear Lane and others repeatedly say. That just isn’t going to fly in a world with the IMF and its maverick leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) however. There’s an early dream/nightmare sequence, during which Hunt is haunted by Lane, who’s laying into his past misdemeanours, before McQuarrie thrusts us into a botched plutonium arms deal that’ll set the tone for the entire film. The deal goes south, hijacked by the Apostles, who obviously have nefarious reasons for wanting it. 

Hunt is then sent to Paris by Alan Huntley (Alec Baldwin) to muscle in on a meeting between the notorious John Lark and the equally infamous middleman/woman, the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). It’s their only lead on the missing plutonium, but there’s always a spanner flung in the works in these films. This particular spanner comes in the muscled form of the mustachioed August Walker (Henry Cavill), a CIA agent working for Erika Sloane (Angela Bassett). She’s not too keen on Ethan and wants her own man on the mission to oversee matters, and obviously make sure things play out to her liking.

It’s later revealed that the Widow is a CIA informant, incidentally, which isn’t the only revelation to be revealed in a film that’s literally full to the brim with two timing, incredibly realistic face masks, double agents and general backstabbing. 

This is a franchise that’s became synonymous with slick, action set pieces and stunning visuals and we get all of that and more in the opening twenty minutes alone. I’ve not enjoyed the first act of a film this much in a quite some time. It’s got everything, from stunning, cloudy, electrical storms raging below a cargo plane, to an adrenaline rush of a dive down onto the night, cityscape of the French capital and then a thrilling three way fight in a nightclub toilet. Major props to Liang Yang, Cavill and Cruise for that sequence, because it was fantastic. All of this takes place before Fallout’s story even gets going, incidentally. 

Once it does swing into action then McQuarrie sends Hunt and the best part of half a dozen primary characters to various different locales across the world. It’s done in a such an organic, realistic manner too that it’s not even jarring either. For instance, Lane is wanted by Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), an MI6 agent, that’s been tasked with capturing the rogue, British agent and so it’s only obvious that the story heads to London, and once the revelation of Walker being a double agent for the Apostles is revealed, the inevitable race against time to disarm two nukes takes the story even further afield to Asia, where Ethan’s ex is stationed.

Speaking of Walker, I thought Henry Cavill was outstanding too. I’m not accustomed to seeing the man playing an antagonist, but after his showing here, I wouldn’t be adverse to him doing it again. I’m not entirely sure that there was any need for the moustache mind, but maybe that was a classic disguise trick? Who knows. Whilst I’m on the subject of performances, I’ll fire some praise Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames way too. The latter has been synonymous with this franchise for twenty odd years, but the combination of those two and Cruise just  works so well. There’s great chemistry there and their funny chatter in several scenes, adds some comedic levity. They grow in prominence.

There wasn’t really a weak performance in the film. Cruise is in his element in this genre. He’s a bonafide action star, he does his own stunts, he can fly helicopters in real life and ride motorcycles, and so it all feels authentic when he does it in the film. And man, that helicopter sequence was glorious. He’s still in ridiculous shape, certainly for a guy in his mid 50’s and you can only take your hat off to him for battling through a broken ankle. Rebecca Ferguson was back again and there’s the hint of romance brewing between Ethan and Ilsa. I also thoroughly enjoyed Kirby’s showing as the White Widow too. 

Without giving the entirety of the plot away, I think it would be fair to say that most people will know the way the film ultimately ends. Ethan and his IMF team save the day, but not without a right struggle. The Apostles were a truly worthy opponent, they always seemed a step ahead throughout, with twists and double twists coming fast and furious. The split perspective finale was riveting, full of tension despite knowing the inevitable outcome and given the deep, interconnected, every man nature of their organisation and the fact that they’ve got members incognito, within major establishments. It opens the door for another instalment with Lane once again central to the plot. 

And that’s a refreshing change for Mission Impossible. It was a big positive I took away. The way it connected Rogue Nation, the way that the story was a direct continuation in a sense and the fact it’s almost like a trilogy within a six film franchise. 

I’ve seen a fair few action films already this year. With the likes of Rampage, Skyscraper and even the Meg had action elements within the overplayed shark sub-genre. Mission Impossible: Fallout doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with any of them though. It’s an infinitely superior experience. The story was intelligently crafted, the characters within were interesting, the action was fantastic, as was the visuals and the antagonists were some of the best in the entire franchise. For me, Fallout is the best film in a franchise that defies the usual trend of ever diminishing returns and instead keeps on getting better. 

It had me riveted from start to finish and I would absolutely recommend giving it a watch. 

Rating: 5/5