Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) – The Mission: Impossible franchise is in danger of becoming like the James Bond franchise: You can remember that you saw them, and you can remember that you enjoyed them, and you can remember some of the scenes and stunts, but you just can’t remember what happened in each movie because the plot on which the action set-pieces were hung was just an excuse, not a reason. (At least with James Bond movies you can say, “If Bond was a dirty old man on skis, it was a Roger Moore installment.”) On the other hand, I suppose you could say the same thing about the Rube-Goldbergian plots in the original TV series, so…
Anyway, this was fun. Tom Cruise is doing a great job of staying spry and healthy into his fifties and can still do a surprising number of his own stunts, and my favorite part of any Mission:Impossible movie — ripping off the masks — were well done. Special kudos to composer Joe Kraemer, who incorporated recognizable themes from the original series’ incidental music into his own score. I love Easter eggs like that.
The Stand (1994) – Shameful admission: I haven’t read the novel. Yet! (I’ve owned the uncut edition for about twenty years, but it’s in hardcover, and have you seen the size of that thing? I can’t take it along anywhere!) And I’m only just barely getting around to watching the miniseries, which tells you how behind I am on my TV watching.
Director Mick Garris has been involved (as writer, director or producer) with seven other Stephen King adaptations, and he obviously appreciates what makes King’s writing resonate with readers: the characters, not the monster that menaces them. And he really, really tries here to keep the character bits in the forefront. But when you’re trying to reduce a 1200-page novel to six hours of television, a lot has got to go by the wayside. And since this multi-character saga is interwoven so completely, he can’t even do what other movie and television adapters do in excising characters and subplots. There ain’t no Tom Bombadil in The Stand.
Which means that sometimes, especially when we get to the third and fourth installments of this four-part miniseries, the scenes are presented in almost point-form style, because there’s just so much that needs to be told. And sometimes, even character motivations get short shrift. There’s a lot of, “Wait, why did he–?” and “Howcome she–?” in the last installment, and coupled with some fair-at-the-time (but still not top-notch) CGI prior to and right at the climax, there’s definitely some fail in the final innings.
I’m still gonna read the novel someday, though. Really.
Robot Overlords (2014) – This movie reminded me of The Dinosaur Project in a lot of ways: the title and concept sound like something that in America would be cranked out for a Friday night slot on SyFy, but instead it’s a British film which attempts, and largely succeeds, in being honestly engaging and entertaining.
It’s also another science fiction tale which, like The Tripods (1984), shows how deep the scars of World war II run in the British psyche. In this story, the titular extraterrestrial robots have conquered the world before the opening credits have finished, and as part of their occupation have fitted every human on Earth with an implant behind the ear which tracks their location. The robots promise that their occupation will be temporary through their almost-human-but-not-quite spokesrobot, but also have one hard and fast rule, punishable by death: Everyone must stay indoors for the duration. There is a “volunteer corps” of collaborators, as represented in this neighborhood by Ben Kingsley, who keep people fed and the lights on. But when a group of teens accidentally discover that a certain electrical shock from a defective battery charger will temporary disable their implants and they start venturing outside, the discover… well, the rest of the plot.
Well-acted, well-written, and well-paced, with believable CGI robots, this is the kind of SF movie we don’t seem to make in America anymore, between the summer tentpole blockbusters and the SyFy cheapos. Alas.