We’re back! We’ve been away for a little while, but the wait is over, and to celebrate our return we’re catching up on ALL of your feedback! We work our way through an entire summer’s worth of comments and emails, and there are plenty of conversations and debates to be had. Hopefully, we’ll be able to make this a regular segment in order to encourage fan interaction, albeit in a much more concise way.
With the recent release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, we here at ATAIG thought it would be the perfect opportunity to trace the lineage of the series—from 1996 to 2018—and try to figure out how and why this franchise has managed to keep going strong. We talk about the ones that worked (five of them), the one that didn’t quite work, all of the crazy stunts, and all of the insanely complicated storylines over the years. We also have an important announcement at the beginning, so make sure you don’t miss that, and enjoy!
Hosted by Sam Noland, Jason Read, and Anthony Battaglia!
Question For You: Which M:I movie is your favorite? Also, whose facemask would you want to have? But, most importantly, can you explain the plot of any of these in one sentence? Comment below, email us at email@example.com, or follow us on Twitter: @AnywayCast.
The next few months promise a lot of big and small delights at the theater, so we decided to preview 2018 summer movies on Cinemaholics, noting our most anticipated films from May through August. From Incredibles 2 to Deadpool 2, there are plenty of blockbusters to get excited about, but to be honest, a lot of our picks happen to be smaller flicks this year that we seriously can’t wait to see.
Special guest Sam Noland joined us to help unpack the summer, and we started with some listener emails and light discussion about how our letter grade system “works” and where we stand on theater experiences versus staying at home to watch a movie. Toward the end of the show, we went through a few Mini Reviews, tackling I Feel Pretty, Super Troopers 2, and The Endless.
Question for you: What are your Top 3 most anticipated summer movies?
Back in May, I shared my top 10 movies of 2015 as of January through May. This included movies that came out over the winter and spring, including early summer hits like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max, and other well-liked films I’ve already highlighted.
Well, we’re about 35 weeks into 2015, and we still have a lot of potentially great movies to look forward to as the year continues, including a new James Bond movie made by Sam Mendes (Spectre). We have a spy thriller coming out that’s directed by Steven Spielberg, written by the Coen brothers, and starring Tom Hanks.
And of course, there’s a new Star Wars movie due in December, as well as a new Tarantino movie, a Matt Damon movie that doesn’t look terrible, Bradley Cooper as a chef in Burnt, Tom Hardy playing two roles in one movie, and Leonardo DiCaprio in a role that might finally get him an Oscar.
But let’s pause and reflect over the movies we already saw this summer. I’m of course sharing my own top 10 movies, but feel free to share your own list in the comments, especially if you’ve seen something I haven’t.
So let’s get started. Keep in mind that this list doesn’t include any movies from May. That means great films like Mad Max: Fury Road are in my previous top list for the first third of the year. Enjoy!
#10 The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
This is the only movie on my list that I gave a B minus, but I’m still happy to recommend it to anyone looking for a thrilling spy adventure with a soundtrack better than the actual film. This is also a good watch for anyone curious to see how Henry Cavill performs during the post-Man of Steel era in anticipation for next year’s big-budget superhero fusion, Dawn of Justice.
But I’m more excited to point out how much I liked Armie Hammer in this, especially since this was his chance to shine post-Lone Ranger. And then there’s Alicia Vikander, who has nothing to prove (yet) thanks to her brilliant role in Ex Machina, and we still have a slew of other films she’s set to star in this year alone.
That said, U.N.C.L.E. suffers from a pretty generic plot, but its good characters, memorable scenes, and commitment to 60s era spy themes is well-worth a watch on DVD. Even though I’ve ranked other movies better than this one, like The Diary of a Teenage Girl, I can’t help but recommend this one as a flawed, but fun, escape.
#9 Straight Outta Compton
This is another recent hit and one of Universal’s biggest as the summer comes to a close (even compared to Minions and Jurassic World). And it makes my list for managing to capture my interest in a true story that I didn’t care much about before watching the film.
The story of N.W.A. gave me an appreciation for a cultural era and art form I never paid much attention to growing up, and it was a powerful piece of storytelling. Looking back, I still remember the dynamic performances (notably including O’Shea Jackson) and excellent visuals that captured the world of this racially charged rags-to-riches story.
I only scored it a B, mostly because while the first half is certainly A material, the last hour and a half tends to meander and lose focus. Weirdly, this is apparently intentional, as it illustrates the slow, downward spiral of some N.W.A. rappers contrasting with the successful ones. Still, that doesn’t excuse pacing issues and the film coming off as imbalanced.
What was a middle-of-the-road and cliched boxing movie to some ended up being one of my favorite boxing films in years. This is despite plenty of problems that hold Southpaw back from showcasing what’s truly great about Jake Gyllenhaal as an actor and instead reminding us that this is the director who gave us Olympus has Fallen (another mediocre movie I still managed to enjoy).
Southpaw borrows a lot of its good material plot points from classic boxing films, especially Rocky 3 and 4. But Gyllenhaal’s transformation in the role and the filmmaker’s ability to translate his bleak downfall through powerful images and humbling atmospheres added something new and interesting to the genre. It really felt like a modern boxing movie, unlike modern takes on older stories, like The Fighter.
I greatly enjoyed the melodrama and powerful imagery Southpaw managed to pull off, and the performances by some of the side characters, including the daughter played by Oona Lawrence, more than carried the film to some greatness.
#7 Digging for Fire
Joe Swanberg can be a polarizing director, but I’ve always found an energetic sincerity in his work, especially with recent films like Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas, and All the Light in the Sky.
This year, Swanberg once again teamed up with New Girl‘s Jake Johnson to cowrite Digging for Fire, a scavenger hunt movie that digs deep into the psyche behind a frustrated marriage, told from the perspectives of both partners.
Rosemarie Dewitt plays the wife in this marriage, and Jude Swanberg (the director’s child) plays their young son. Throughout, there are multiple surprise appearances from great actors, including some I won’t spoil. Part of the fun in Digging for Fire, aside from its unapologetic ad-lib dialogue, is waiting to see who will show up next. It’s a quirky drama that I happily recommend.
I didn’t like Ant-Man more than Avengers: Age of Ultron. In fact, I wouldn’t put it above most Marvel movies, yet for whatever reason, people seem to really like this movie more than it probably deserves.
It’s humorous, fun to watch, and manages to be a refreshing take on a well-respected (if not horribly popular) Marvel superhero. And it features some good ideas courtesy of Edgar Wright. But it’s certainly not as deep and impactful as one of the ensemble movies, and I include last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy when I say that.
Ant-Man is one of my favorite movies of the summer, and it’s a can’t-miss for Marvel fans and even Paul Rudd fans. This is mostly because Ant-Man is weird and funny enough to stand on its own, despite borrowing some of its charm and surprises from the greater Marvel continuity. And that’s fine, at least for now.
#5 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Of all the spy movies (and there’s a lot) that came out this year, the aging veteran, Mission: Impossible still shines as one of the best. Once again, Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get at this point if you’re into Mission: Impossible movies.
But unlike other action franchises like Fast and Furious, this one continues to deliver something new with every installment, aside from just raising the stakes. The stunts, actually, are a huge part of what draws audiences, and the creative set pieces are far more interesting than everything I forgot in other action movies like Furious 7.
There was a lot of tension, a good amount of drama, and even some laughs here and there courtesy of Jeremy Renner. Rogue Nation also benefitted from the genius casting of Rebecca Ferguson and bringing back Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg for another round of saving the world with gadgets that don’t always work and a leading man who’ll do whatever it takes to finish the mission. Kind of like Tom Cruise himself.
#4 Jurassic World
I don’t want to come off like I’m overpraising this movie, though that’s inevitable considering how high I’ve put it on this list. But despite everything about Jurassic World that is frankly…stupid…I absolutely loved it.
Yes, it’s a little silly, and it’s certainly not as good as Jurassic Park. But so much of Jurassic World just works as a movie on its own, so I didn’t have a hard time judging it by its own merits, instead of comparing it to the original.
Jurassic World is a unique follow up in that it’s hard to notice its flaws unless you’re looking for them. It was easy for me to get lost in the world they created, making this an excellent movie that you might get a little more cynical about the more you watch it. Unless you’re like me and enjoy its absurdity with every viewing.
#3 The Stanford Prison Experiment
Not everyone is going to walk away glad that they watched The Stanford Prison Experiment (unless they despise Ezra Miller as much as I do). But it’s still the most gripping and tense movie I’ve seen all year, complete with a script that continues to haunt me when I dare think about it late at night.
In case you haven’t seen it, the movie is based on a true story about a group of college students who are hired by a psychology department to act out a prison simulation. Some of the students are guards, and the others are prisoners. As you can imagine, things get a little out of hand.
It’s a hard movie to watch, because as you watch it, you know that it’s sticking with you. This is thanks to director Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s knack for moving you through a compact scene and keeping you there for what feels like hours. He lets the camerawork and tight corners tell the story almost as much as the actions of the characters.
To be fair, the movie is riddled with inaccuracies and missed opportunities with the true events that inspired it. But if you walk in accepting that this is a very loose adaptation, you’ll still find that it more or less captures the same, raw emotions that provoked so much shock from the people who learned about it in the 70s.
#2 Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
If you liked Fault in Our Stars but sort of wished it had more likable characters, then do yourself a favor and check out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I strongly considered making it my #1, and it’s obviously up there in my top 10 of the entire year. And for good reason.
This is one of those smaller films that just oozes charm and relatable characters. Everyone in this movie is easy to like and get invested in. The story itself is more than just original — it’s inventive. I truly wish that more movies would take the creative chances that Dying Girl treats as minuscule risks.
That said, it’s still a movie on a small scale. While I loved the movie, it didn’t really cause any introspection, despite its emotionally charged script. This is because the wit and humor is a lot more present in this movie over what’s dramatic, so not every moment that was supposed to make me feel something managed to pay that off.
But that’s just nitpicking, because Dying Girl is still a wonderful story that will hopefully last the test of time. I hold it up there with The Way Way Back as compact films I can watch a thousand times.
#1 Inside Out
Yeah, yeah, big surprise. A lot of you may look at this decision and shrug because you know how much I love Pixar movies and frequently talk about them on this site. But please believe me when I say that my overwhelming bias for Pixar’s brand of storytelling had nothing to do with the overwhelming bias I have for this film.
Because in all honesty, Inside Out is one of Pixar’s best films since The Incredibles and Finding Nemo, and it manages to rival Up as a nearly perfect Pixar movie.
I love how they took a recognizable premise that other movies and shows like Osmosis Jones and Herman’s Head failed to make an impact. They took a great concept and made it spectacular. Everything about this world Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera created feels like they spent countless hours developing. And the writing is so sharp, you’ll discover new and clever jokes every time you watch it.
The characters are well-written and the animation is gorgeous. Every joke manages to work without being too cheesy. And it does all of this without creating world-changing stakes — just the emotional future of a young girl we can all relate with.
When I first reviewed the movie, I tried hard not to overpraise it in case my immediate love for it would wear of. But Inside Out only gets better the more you watch it, and it will rightfully be considered as one of Pixar’s very best for years to come.
What about the worst movies?
This one’s harder for me to spend time on because I purposefully avoided some of the poorly received movies that came out this summer, though I’ll probably still get around to them. But I’m still up for pointing out movies I did see that fell way, way, short of the mark.
Hitman: Agent 47 was the worst one I saw this summer, as I gave it an F (the only other “F” movie I scored this year was Strange Magic). There were some other movies that I tried hard to like but ended up despising, like Trainwreck, Spy, and Aloha.
There were some bad movies I liked, including The Gallows and Ted 2, despite critics not loving them as much. Movies I hoped would be “A” material, like Paper Towns and Dope, ended up only being decent.
And then there are the movies I purposefully avoided, like Pixels, Vacation, Terminator: Genisys, Self/less, and Minions. I don’t plan on seeing these movies any time soon. That just leaves Fantastic Four, which was less than decent, but not a bad experience overall for me.
Finally, there are the potentially great movies I haven’t seen yet but plan on seeing pretty soon. These include, The End of the Tour, It Follows, The Gift, Grandma, Love and Mercy, Mistress America and Shaun the Sheep.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was directed by Guy Ritchie and stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, and Hugh Grant. It’s an adaptation of the TV series of the same name, and like the show, it’s a spy thriller set in the 1960s.
The movie is about two special agents, an American and a Russian played by Cavill and Hammer, who have to team up on a mission to stop a criminal organization from starting a nuclear arms race (the plot is only slightly less generic than I’m making it sound). They seek help from the daughter of someone within this criminal organization, who is played by Vikander.
Warner Brothers has been wanting to make this movie for over a decade now, but it’s somehow coming out during what I like to call “Spy Summer.” We’ve gotten a lot of pretty decent spy movies over the last few months, so how does this one stack up?
Well, one of the first things you’ll notice in U.N.C.L.E. is that the stunts are pretty well done. Cavill and Hammer did a lot of their own stunts, especially Hammer. At one point, his stunt double said in an interview that he hardly had to do anything (look out, Tom Cruise).
In fact, Tom Cruise was one of the lead actors first snagged for the role of Napoleon Solo, the American agent. Henry Cavill (who initially sought the role of Hammer’s character) eventually got the part, so I think a lot of people must be wondering how the “man of steel” fares in this.
Fortunately, I can say that both Cavill and Hammer have great performances in this movie. Their characters are well written, their banter has that signature Guy Ritchie style to it, and you can more or less believe that they exist in the 60s. My only complaint is that physically, they don’t seem to match up since Hammer is meant to be a brute, while Cavill is more of the sleuth. But when you look at them side by side…well, it’s just a nitpick.
Speaking of nitpicks, I didn’t find as many as I normally do in spy movies like this, and that’s a testament to the fast pace and good writing, even if there are a few too many cliches in the overall story. I can’t say I was very invested in what was going on in this movie, and at times I felt a little lost. The movie is shot with a lot of shaky cam during its action sequences, and the script kept reusing an Ocean’s 11 plot device that felt useless by the third and fourth time.
That said, the movie had a lot of memorable moments, rivaling Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (the other spy movie that came out this month). A drunken Alicia Vikander tackling Armie Hammer’s daunting character out of nowhere was great to watch, and a certain scene involving a sandwich was the film’s best moment.
Overall, U.N.C.L.E. is an entertaining B movie with some neat surprises and good performances, though a little bogged down by a generic plot. What truly saves it from getting into mediocre territory is the soundtrack, which is currently my fourth favorite of the year (behind Mad Max: Fury Road, Inside Out, and Paddington).
If you like spy movies, throwbacks to good spy movies, the 1960s, and Guy Ritchie, then this is a must-watch.
Again, I’ve never seen the original TV series, so I’m curious to know how U.N.C.L.E. stacks up. Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen both and can share your thoughts.
No after credits stinger, but it’s definitely setting up for a sequel (assuming it makes enough money).
Elizabeth Debicki is my next pick for playing Audrey Hepburn in any kind of biopic.
So Superman, the Lone Ranger, and an Artificial Intelligence try to stop a nuclear war…
If you want to hear more thoughts on this movie before checking it out, listen to our upcoming podcast episode of Now Conspiring, where we’ll do a roundtable review with multiple critics. The episode will be ready for download this Sunday at 9:00 am (Pacific).
I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni
This week on the Now Conspiring Podcast, we review Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and the new Vacation movie based on the National Lampoon original starring Chevy Chase. We also talk a bit about Jason Segel in the David Foster Wallace biopic, The End of the Tour.
We also review box office takes, the latest trailers, this week’s top entertainment headlines, and a brand new segment called “Getting Basic w/ Adonis.” Everyone but Adonis won’t be disappointed. Then we read your feedback from last week’s question of the week. Speaking of which…
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What’s your favorite Tom Cruise movie?
Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation is the fifth film in the nearly 20-year-old franchise, once again starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, as well as a host of old and new characters.
One of the interesting qualities of this franchise is the frequent remix of creativity. Each Mission: Impossible has had a different director. Many of them, like Brad Bird and J.J. Abrams, have managed to breathe life in the aging franchise, while others…John Woo…have made it gasp for air.
So I was pleasantly excited to hear that Christopher McQuarrie — known for Usual Suspects, Valkyrie, and last year’s Edge of Tomorrow — would be bringing his signature style to “Rogue Nation” as both writer and director. And as you can imagine, the results are excellent.
The basic set up of the film is pretty basic. The IMF (Impossible Mission Force) has been disbanded, and Ethan is now a fugitive hunted by the CIA. He has to gather old allies to combat a shadow organization that the CIA doesn’t believe exists called “The Syndicate,” aptly nicknamed the “Anti-IMF” by Simon Pegg’s character, Benji.
The Syndicate is composed of former government agents from around the world, sort of like a “dark” G.I. Joe, making them a pretty formidable foe for Ethan and his team. They’re not as chilling as Phillip Seymour Hoffman (the franchise’s best villain so far), but the plot is certainly fresher than Ghost Protocol and the second Mission: Impossible.
As always, Tom Cruise does many of the death-defying stunts we’ve come to expect in these films, adding to the tension of actually seeing him hang off of an airplane lifting off a runway. Every set piece in this movie graciously feels like a thrill ride that’s hard to get out of your head. You can tell that McQuarrie wanted to recapture some of the thriller aspects of the first Mission: Impossible, while making sure the action was nonstop as it’s been since M:I3. And it works to great effect.
You’ll probably love the characters, especially newcomer Rebecca Ferguson, who plays a femme fatale who seems to be having the most fun with her role. She’s electric on the screen and a welcome addition to the franchise. Alec Baldwin plays a CIA…manager or something…and has a forgettable role in my opinion, though the few scenes he’s in are pretty fun and break up the action.
Overall, this is an entertaining movie with great action and likable characters. I enjoyed it far more than this year’s Fast and Furious installment, a similar franchise that’s not ready to quit. Unlike that movie, “Rogue Nation” had me on the edge of the seat and smiling like a teenager all throughout.
The villains aren’t particularly interesting and the smart plot is undercut by predictability, but the superb action scenes and great performances make this a standout in this year’s best action films.
Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are back and better than ever. I highly doubt the franchise would still be this good without them. I was less impressed with Renner, but he did have a running joke that had the whole theater laughing at one point.
I can neither confirm or deny that this movie is good. OK, I can.
They actually make fun of Tom Cruise’s height in this movie. Seriously.
The plane is hyped up in the trailers, but it’s not even the best scene. This was a great choice.
Hunt is the living manifestation of destiny!
Rogue Nationwas directed and written by Christopher McQuarrie. It stars Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, Jeremy Renner as William Brandt, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn, Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust, Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell, Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, and Alec Baldwin as Alan Huntley.
I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni