Tom Cruise continues his quest to demonstrate that Scientology prevents physical deterioration in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, and he somehow keeps succeeding. Beginning with a dangle from an ascending plane and only escalating from there, Rogue Nation continues the franchise's preference for insane practical stunts, often powered by Cruise's near-freakish determination. He remains a credible action star four years after the previous, equally excellent Ghost Protocol, and shows no signs of slowing down, though the franchise has surely found his eventual replacement in Rebecca Ferguson. With Christopher McQuarrie at the helm and dynamic new characters added to the franchise, Mission: Impossible is taking a page from its lead and defying the laws of entropy, the rare series of films in which the fifth one is also the best.
Bryan: Jon, thanks for attending Ebertfest with me. I had a great time. We saw “Radical Grace” and “Blow Out” but before we discuss those movies, what were your thoughts on the venue? I thought the Virginia theater had a great atmosphere - the sight lines were good, the volunteers were helpful, and the audience was in it to win it. They laughed at semi-awkward times, but that probably comes with the territory when three-quarters of your audience has a Master’s degree or higher. Watching a movie in a full house isn’t typically my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed this experience. The biggest downfall was the incredibly lumpy, cramped seats.
Jon: Hey, thanks for hosting me. This was my first film festival, and will certainly not be my last. On the venue itself, we’re pretty much on the same page, though I’d give butt comfort a higher grade than you might. We both agree that leg comfort was lacking, in that it was bad enough to keep me from sticking around to hear Nancy Allen discuss Blow Out after the credits rolled on that movie. We definitely picked good seats for both showings. On the audience, I was more mixed. While I thought they laughed at mostly appropriate times during Blow Out, the same couldn’t be said for Radical Grace, where deserved laughter occasionally morphed into political choir-preaching. We’re watching a movie, not attending a fundraiser, and the applause at hearing a liberal bromide, whether I agree with the sentiment or not, was a little annoying.
On the movies themselves, let’s start with Radical Grace, Rebecca Parrish’s doc about nuns in conflict with the strictly male hierarchy of the Catholic church. I’m the lapsed (what’s a harsher term?) Catholic after a rigorous upbringing, so it was a film attuned to my inner wavelength. Not coming from that specific religious tradition, how did the movie resonate with you?
Compliance would be offensive and exploitative if it weren't based on a true story. The premise is so outlandish that it risks outright viewer rejection, except that the event happened essentially as depicted. Craig Zobel's stranger-than-fiction film is one of the more discomfiting cinematic experiences I've endured. It produces a visceral reaction, a hot sensation on the back of one's neck like some kind of mixture of rage at the events onscreen and a shared humiliation for the victim. If one of the goals of art is to engender a reaction in the consumer, Zobel succeeds tremendously, even if that reaction is not one that's eager to be recreated.
Captain America: Civil War is going to be a divisive movie. Even though it feels like another Avengers movie, there’s something decidedly different about it, both structurally and tonally. It feels like the first step to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) really growing up. Civil War is both reflective and forward-looking, which comes a bit at the expense of the movie itself. While there’s a great story here with one of the most inventive villains in recent MCU memory, what ultimately weighs it down most is what also props it up – connecting more threads to the conclusion of The Avengers as we know them.
As an introduction to the films of Todd Haynes, Carol checks off everything I expected from him. Repressive 50's society plus the impeccable costuming that goes with it, and characters that say the opposite of what they feel are all featured heavily, but that's not to say emotions don't run intensely through the film. Haynes' romance between two women, based off a Patricia Highsmith novel, simmers with deeply-felt emotion, though out of necessity, the lid mostly stays on the pot.
Random projects from the MMC Universe.