Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Today, I’ll be looking at something that involves the future of watching movies, which is in fact, a new streaming service. No, I’m not talking about Netflix. I’m talking about a streaming service that was just released a while ago, and no, it's not Apple TV+. I’m looking at a streaming service that I’ve been anticipating for quite a while, and that is Disney+. Disney+ is the latest addition to the “streaming service” collection that consists of everything Disney-related. If you’re wondering why I want to talk about Disney’s new service, well…it’s because I wanted to do something different for this section, and I happen to like Disney a lot, so…here you go. So far, I have been relying on Netflix and Amazon Prime to watch or review new films at the comfort of my own home without being bothered by people on their cell phones, and based on the information I read about Disney+, it looks like I’ll be adding at least one more service to that collection. For this episode of Movie Talk, I’ll be talking about my first impressions on Disney+ as well as its two original films that were released as launch titles and see if it’s worth the money. With that said, let’s put on our Mickey Mouse ears and get our magic on.
The first time I tried out Disney+ was obviously on its launch date, which was Tuesday November 12, and boy, was it something. What happened was that I got up in the morning, had some breakfast as usual, and downloaded the app on my phone, my Smart TV, and my family’s Smart TV. Yes, we have two Smart TVs. It makes watching movies very easy for us. Anyway, after I got the app downloaded, I attempted to create a couple of profiles for me and my family. One for me, one for my mother, and one for my sister. I didn’t make one for my father because he didn’t watch that many Disney films like the rest of us. Now, what’s nice about Disney+’s profile menu is that you can select a healthy amount of profile pictures that feature characters from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and even National Geographic. If you have a favorite Disney Princess or a favorite Marvel superhero, there’s a good chance that they’re on there. However, from what I saw, the profile picture selection menu doesn’t have every character, so if you don’t see one that you really want, my advice is to go with your second favorite character and hope that it’s on there. Now, here’s where things got a little…interesting. I was about to go into the “profile picture” menu so that I can change the picture of Iron Man to Princess Jasmine from “Aladdin” for my sister’s profile, and then all of a sudden, I got an error message. You read that right, I got blocked by an error message on my first day of using Disney+. I reseted the app and reentered the “profile picture” menu a few times, and I still got the same error message. After multiple attempts, I decided to leave it alone for now. I did some research on the streaming service during my lunch break at work and I found out that the reason why I kept getting the error message about the app not being able to connect was because it received some technical difficulties upon launch. That means that I wasn’t the only one who has that problem. The main source of those technical problems would have to be the high demand since it has already gathered more than ten million subscribers on its first day. That’s not too surprising to me given how popular the Disney brand is nowadays. When I got done with work, I went back to the app and tried the profile menu again. I didn’t get the error message that time, which means that they fixed the app. I successfully changed my sister’s profile picture to Jasmine, and I was finally able to explore Disney+. So let’s see what it has to offer.
The Disney+ homepage looks exactly like what you would expect from a streaming service menu in terms of the display and how they list its selection of films and shows in different categories. Speaking of which, the search menu in Disney+ not only lets you search for something, but it also has an "Explore" section, which has a list of special categories that filter specific films and television shows based on the selected category. For example, the “Princess” collection has a list of films and shows that involve Disney Princesses and the “Star Wars” collection has everything that’s related to “Star Wars”. I found that to be a nice touch. The app menus were easy to navigate similar to Netflix, and so far, I didn’t have any buffering issues while I was watching some content. I did receive an error message once while browsing, but it’s nothing too serious. So it looks like the presentation and the playback are both passable, but what about the app’s library, AKA the main reason why everyone wants Disney+? Well, from my personal perspective, it’s definitely a match made in heaven for Disney fans. Disney+ has a buttload of content that features films and shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, and National Geographic, ranging from the classics to the most recent ones. Yes, even the ones that have cultural stereotype moments that were now deemed insensitive, except “Song of the South”. For those types of films such as “Dumbo” and “Peter Pan”, Disney+ has put out disclaimers warning viewers about those topics. It also contains specific content from 20th Century Fox since it was purchased by Disney back in March as well as select titles from Fox Searchlight Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Disney Channel, and Freeform. Oh, and it also has 30 seasons of “The Simpsons”, in case you’re wondering. Of course, a streaming service just isn’t complete without its own list of original content, and this one is no exception. So far, we have two original films (which I will get to later), the live-action “Lady and the Tramp” remake and “Noelle”, and a few original shows like “The Mandalorian” (which I thought was pretty good so far), “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”, and “The World According to Jeff Goldblum”. So if you want to revisit the films and shows from your childhood or get caught up on the ones you missed, Disney+ has you covered. It has everything that you could ever want from a Disney-themed streaming service. Well, almost everything. There were actually a couple of setbacks when it comes to the library. First off, Disney+ is only created to provide family-friendly titles that are G-rated, PG-rated, and PG-13-rated, so if you’re hoping that it will also have some adult content like “Alien” or “Deadpool”, I’m sad to say that Disney doesn’t roll like that. You’re better off using Netflix or Hulu or even cable. Another setback I would like to address is that due to some licensing deals, Disney+ won’t be able to have certain films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars until later on, except for “The Incredible Hulk” and the first two “Spider-Man” MCU solo films, which were still owned by Universal and Sony Pictures respectively. Unless Disney has enough money to fully purchase Universal and Sony, the MCU collection is sadly still incomplete. On the bright side, we got the original “Star Wars” trilogy. I also want to point out that Disney+ doesn’t act like any other streaming service as it ditches the binge-watching idea and have the new episodes of its original shows appear weekly instead of all at once. You know, like any other network on cable. I’m used to the binge-watching scenario since I had Netflix and Amazon Prime for a couple of years, so it’s going to be a while for me to get used to its new strategy. There were also some other issues that I read about, including the presentation of the non-HD episodes of “The Simpsons”, but since I haven’t gotten to them yet, I can’t say that much about them. Other than that, Disney+ has a respectable collection of films and shows that will surely make any fan happy. Now that that’s out of the way, it’s time for me to share my brief thoughts on the two films that were released exclusively on the streaming service.
Lady and the Tramp (2019)
The first of the two Disney+ original movies is the latest addition to Disney’s collection of “live-action remake” cash grabs, “Lady and the Tramp”. Directed by Charlie Bean, who is known for directing “The Lego Ninjago Movie”, “Lady and the Tramp” is the live-action adaptation of the 1955 animated film of the same name, which was based on the Cosmopolitan magazine story titled “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog” by Ward Greene. It tells the story of Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson), an upper-middle-class dog whose joyous life gets turned upside down when her owners have a baby in their lives. She then meets a stray Schnauzer known as the Tramp (voiced by Justin Theroux), who shows her the world that is beyond her home. This is one of the few Disney movies that I haven’t watched that often compared to many others. My mom, on the other hand, adores the heck out of it since she’s a massive dog lover. So, I decided to take the opportunity and experience the remake with my mother. Like much of the other Disney remakes, “Lady and the Tramp” follows the same plot and themes as the original, but it made a few changes to make it stand out on its own, such as the Siamese Cats because racial stereotyping. The end result is obviously what you would expect from a live-action remake from Disney: a charming, yet imperfect, treat. Because it followed the original’s plot, the story can come across as predictable and formulaic, but it did its part in delivering the type of charm that you would normally find in any romance film thanks to its likable cast and the two furry leads. Thompson and Theroux delivered some pretty good vocal performances as Lady and Tramp, respectively, and the two dogs who portrayed them were unsurprisingly adorable. The film used CGI to animate the dogs’ facial expressions and, to be honest, they don’t look too bad. The dog characters were nicely expressive without suffering from its uncanny valley effect. For those who aren’t fans of how the animals express their feelings in the “Lion King” remake, this one is a nice return to form in terms of live-action films with talking animals. The film did happen to rely on nostalgia from time to time rather than provide stronger storytelling, which is basically the main concern in any live-action Disney remake. Just because it worked well in the original, it doesn’t always mean that it will work again in the remake. I mean, it’s nice to see some classic moments being remade into live-action, but for some reason, they don’t always have the same appeal and wonder as the moments in animation form. Overall, the live-action remake of “Lady and the Tramp” is a cute and watchable film for those who are curious. While the story has the same issues as the other Disney remakes, it still has the charm and enjoyability that made the original a cuddly classic thanks to its cast and some decent CGI. I would give this one a B-.
The second original film from the streaming service is already getting us into the holiday spirit, even though we’re not finished with Thanksgiving yet. “Noelle” is the latest Christmas-themed film from Disney that’s set to become the next holiday tradition. Written and directed by Marc Lawrence, who worked on such films as “Two Weeks Notice”, “Music and Lyrics”, and “Miss Congeniality”, the film follows the title character (played by Anna Kendrick), the daughter of Santa Claus, as she attempts to journey beyond the North Pole and find her brother (played by Bill Hader), who is destined to become the next Santa Claus. There are many films that literally scream “holiday movie tradition”. Some are classics like “Home Alone”, “The Santa Clause” and “A Christmas Carol”, while others are watchable enough to spread some holiday cheer. “Noelle” pretty much falls towards the latter. It’s a pleasant, if uneven, holiday gift that offered a good amount of Christmas cheer despite its plot being a bit too on-the-nose with itself. Anna Kendrick once again delivered plenty of goodwill in her role as Noelle with her chirpy attitude and her unique sense of energy. Whether you like the film or not, you have to admit that Kendrick has the right spark to keep it away from the naughty list. Bill Hader was also good as Nick Kringle, Noelle’s brother, and Shirley MacLaine had some decent moments as Elf Polly, Noelle’s nanny. Along with its charm, the film also provided some thoughtful and effective messages that’ll help teach young kids about the true meaning of Christmas. As for its flaws, the story did feel painfully predictable and there were a couple of scenes that dragged a bit. The film’s humor is also a hit-and-miss for me. It had some humorous moments that were passable, mostly due to Kendrick’s performance, but the rest of them weren’t memorable enough to make me laugh as hard as the big man in red himself. Overall, “Noelle” has enough Christmas spirit to make itself a watchable holiday film for the whole family. It’s not as inspiring or endearing as Disney’s other Christmas classics from the past, but in terms of the cast and its enjoyable sense of charm, it’s a fine watch for those who are in need of some holiday cheer. I would give it a C+.
In conclusion, Disney+ has plenty of stuff to offer for Disney fans young and old in terms of the library and its presentation. Sure, it has some setbacks and it doesn’t have every film available from Disney (not yet, anyway), but it has enough interest to serve as a respectable (and cheap) competitor to the other streaming services like Netflix. I’m quite impressed with how it handles so far, and I can’t wait to see what Disney+ will deliver next in the future. If you want to check it out for yourself, it costs $6.99 a month, which is my personal recommendation, and $69.99 a year, or if you’re feeling feisty today, you can get the bundle that consists of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for just $12.99 a month. That about does it with this latest episode of Movie Talk. Thank you all for reading and have yourself a glorious Disney-filled day.
Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Today was a special day when people go out, hang out with their family and friends, and watch two of the biggest football teams battle for the championship trophy. That’s right, I’m talking about Super Bowl LIII. This traditional sports event is home to not only the epic match between the two teams, but also some of the joyous (and weirdest) commercials that are shown exclusively for the game. The popular brands, such as Pepsi, are willing to shell out the big bucks to sell their products to their audience in a unique way. Hollywood is no different as they show special sneak peeks of some of their upcoming blockbusters that will be heading our way soon. I don’t usually watch football that much unless the Green Bay Packers are playing, but the Super Bowl is a different story. I always attempt to watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, mostly the ones that involve movies, which were the best parts of the game, in my opinion. So, for this episode of Movie Talk, I will be sharing my personal thoughts on just the film commercials that appear during the Super Bowl. I would like to talk about the other Super Bowl commercials, but that would defeat the main purpose of this blog. With that said, let’s get to it.
The first Super Bowl movie commercial appeared after Gladys Knight performed “The Star-Spangled Banner”. “Wonder Park” is the latest animated film from Paramount Animation and Nickelodeon Movies that tells the story of a girl who teams up with her animal friends to save her imaginative amusement park. I saw the latest trailer for the film a bunch of times before this commercial, and I already figured out what I’m getting myself into. It looks like something that’ll impress a suitable amount of kids while they wait for the live-action remake of “Dumbo”. Personally, I hope it doesn’t wind up being another average animated movie that’s more fitted for kids than adults because it looked so darn cute and fun from the trailers.
This commercial aired just before kickoff. “Avengers: Endgame” showcased some new footage that involves the remaining Avengers preparing for the ultimate battle. It’s short, but it’s short enough to remind me that our heroes may or may not make it out of this battle alive. We still don’t know what the actual plot is going to be, but from the looks of the new TV spot, I have a feeling that it’s going to be the type of event that people will remember for many, many years.
Before we see the Avengers take on the biggest threat of their lives, we have another solo superhero film to get to next month, and that is “Captain Marvel”. So far, Disney and Marvel did wonders in introducing the less-popular characters to mainstream audiences, such as the Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, and I have a good feeling that this film will keep the trend going. Its well-known cast and some dazzling visual sequences might be enough to make this film a success, and if the story is good enough, that would be great as well.
This is the commercial that I was looking forward to the most. Classified as the first spin-off film in the physics-defying “Fast & Furious” franchise, “Hobbs & Shaw” centers on Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw battling an international terrorist with superhuman strength. Yep, you read that right. We now have a super-powered villain in a “Fast & Furious” movie, and you thought that the franchise couldn’t get any more ridiculous. The Super Bowl spot for the film is basically the same as the official trailer that was released on Friday, but shorter. First off, I was pretty surprised at the direction they’re going with in terms of the villain, who is played by Idris Elba. Then again, they did manage to teach the cars how to skydive in “Furious 7”, so I don’t want to complain too much about it. Second, the trailer looks like it still has the proper elements that were in the other installments, such as the insane action sequences, the humor, and the chemistry between the main cast, most notably Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Say what you want about the film, but I believe it’s going to be one of the most entertaining films of the summer, assuming that the story will be able to keep up with its silliness.
That’ll have to do with the Super Bowl movie commercials. I know that there isn’t a lot for me to look over, but I have to save the rest of my thoughts for the other upcoming films I'll be looking at soon. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the Super Bowl movie commercials and I’ll see you on the next episode of Movie Talk.
Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Now that we took care of my favorite films of 2018, it’s time for me to count down the 2018 films that hit rock bottom. While there were plenty of films that succeed in making their audiences happy, there were also some films that either failed to meet (or exceed) their expectations or frustrated their audience or even both. These are the films that I believe should belong on the 2018 Wall of Shame. This is my personal top ten least favorite films of the year. As always, if there’s a film on my list that you liked, I won’t judge because we all have different views on a certain movie. Plus, it’s not fun when everyone dislikes the same film. It’s just not. Now then, let’s get this list started.
Coming in at the bottom of the list is the latest installment in the violent franchise that took its fans back in time to see where it all began, for better or for worse…mostly for worse. “The First Purge” is a prequel that relied on its tiresome formula and annoying jump scares rather than offer a deep exploration of the concept. If you’ve seen the other “Purge” movies, you’ve seen “The First Purge”. To its credit, the film had a passable cast and its tone was nicely executed by director Gerard McMurray, but everything else had “deja vu” written all over it. Fans of the franchise should have a good time watching it, but I think it’s time for this film series to cease its senseless violence.
Movies can make people feel all kinds of emotions like happy, sad, and angry. Watching “Assassination Nation” gave me only one, and that is frustration. While the performances were solid and the film’s style was nicely handled by Sam Levinson, the film offered nothing but a bunch of drama queens killing each other and making their own lives miserable. It’s not as fun and crazy as I wanted it to be and it’s not as thoughtful as its social commentary. It’s an experience that I really don’t want to relive again, especially in this day and age where people harm others via social media.
Recently, Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg had made several action films that made them into a duo that can’t be beat, such as “Lone Survivor”, “Deepwater Horizon”, and “Patriots Day”. So it was no surprise that I was excited for “Mile 22” to be their next hit. However, it turned out to be something that made me thought to myself, “What the heck happened?”. This should’ve been the start of a potential action franchise for Wahlberg and Berg. Instead, we had ourselves a choppily-edited mess that lacks character depth and storytelling. On the bright side, Wahlberg delivered a pretty impressive performance as one of the main characters. Too bad this wasn’t the right film for him to express his suitable talent.
The Broken Lizard gang made a comeback with a sequel to the comedy hit, “Super Troopers”, and it’s not a pretty sight to behold. “Super Troopers 2” may prove suitable to fans of its predecessor, but as a regular comedy sequel, it’s a massive disappointment. From its familiar and underdeveloped plot to its mundane humor, this long-awaited follow-up made me question why these state troopers aren’t even fired yet…and not in a good way. Here’s hoping that “Super Troopers 3” will be better. That is, if they decided to do a third film.
“Action Point” is another adult-rated comedy that failed to live up to its hilarious potential. Described as the amusement park version of “Jackass”, the film didn’t come close to being as appealing as “Jackass”, not by a long shot. Despite a tolerable cast, its weak and unfunny story, along with its series of tame stunts, signify that it’s time for Johnny Knoxville to hang up its daredevil suit for good.
Back in February, I took the chance to see my first ever faith-based film in theaters, and based on what I experienced, it will probably be my last. “Samson” is a poorly-executed representation of the Biblical character that acts like a made-for-television film. Despite Taylor James’ worthy effort in bringing his character to life, the film lacks the strength and heart to fully honor the deeds that Samson performed during his lifetime in terms of Bruce Macdonald’s direction. It’s suitable for a church-going audience, but it's a forgettable journey for those who wanted an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the character.
We had three films this year that deal with the term “man’s best friend”. “Dog Days”, “Alpha”, and my number four pick, “A.X.L.”. What makes this family-friendly adventure the lowest of the low compared to the former films is that it lacked the heart that was hidden underneath its rusty metal. The story was underwhelming, the cast was mediocre, and the characters were either forgettable or uninteresting. This was probably the first time I watched a “man’s best friend” film that made me care less about its relationship between a person and their canine companion. Well, at least “Dog Days” and “Alpha” weren’t as bad as this.
“Truth or Dare” is the latest horror film from Blumhouse that sadly missed its mark when it comes to storytelling and scares. The concept sounds promising at first, but in reality, it’s a cliched and uninspired excuse to provide loud jump scares and kill off mediocre characters. This is one game that I won’t be playing again in the near future.
I think this is the second year where I had a Tyler Perry film in my “Top 10 Least Favorite” list. “Nobody’s Fool” wasted the talents of Tiffany Haddish and the rest of the cast in this dull and formulaic romantic comedy that’s more on the romance and less on the comedy. The plot had no idea what it wanted to be, the laughs were almost non-existent, and the characters were obnoxious and dumb. Mr. Perry, if you’re reading this, you got to step up your game, man. You’re starting to lose me.
Let’s face it, human trafficking is downright savage, especially when all of the victims are women. “Traffik” attempted to recreate that situation into a heart-pounding thriller, but wound up being the most forgettable and dull experience of 2018, at least from my perspective. The story is poorly executed, the characters are dumb one-dimensional beings, and the thriller aspect is neither fun nor intense. This is the film that should've been released on video-on-demand instead of in theaters.
As always, if you want to read my full thoughts on my picks, along with the other films that didn't suck hard enough to make it on my list, you can find them in the "2018 Reviews" page. With that said, here's to another year of movie magic. Stay tuned for my first few reviews of 2019, including "Escape Room".
Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. It’s that time of the year once again, ladies and gentlemen. As 2018 comes to a close, many movie lovers are counting down their favorite and not-so-favorite moments of the year. Yes, even the ones that are not related to film, but that’s not what we’re focusing on. For this episode of Movie Talk, I’ll be the latest film reviewer to count down the top 10 best films of 2018. This year has been pretty solid when it comes to film, with some good and bad surprises thrown in there for good measure, but it’s also filled with movies that offer great storytelling, astounding performances, emotional themes, and huge amounts of entertainment value, but only ten of them will make it on my list. Keep in mind that this is my own top 10 list, so there may or may not be some films you loved that’ll make it on my list. With that said, let’s count down the winners.
The young adult genre has been known for delivering the romance in a science-fiction setting or a fantasy setting. “The Hate U Give” is a superb change of pace for this type of genre. It’s a film that deals with the complexity of the community as well as certain topics like racism, and they were wonderfully portrayed by director George Tillman Jr. and screenwriter Audrey Wells. Amandla Sternberg and the rest of the cast were terrific in their roles and the story was immersive and pretty emotional from beginning to end. A film that’s worth watching multiple times either at home or at school.
2018 marked another successful year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it had released three action-packed blockbusters that signal the beginning of the end, including the one that clawed its way to the big awards league. “Black Panther” is not only the best one out of the three MCU films that came out this year, but it is also another crowd-pleasing experience that relies on its cultural influence and a character-driven story thanks to the awe-inspiring and talented mind of Ryan Coogler. The cast was great in their roles, especially Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan, the action and visuals were well-executed, and the story had enough substance to satisfy both comic book fans and general audiences alike. Most people will pick “Avengers: Infinity War” as their favorite MCU film of 2018, but to be honest with you, I will gladly take T’Challa’s personal journey to become king over Thanos destroying half of the universe’s population any day.
There were some long-awaited sequels that failed to meet the standards of their predecessors, and there were some that were able to come close to being as great as the originals. “Incredibles 2” is a worthy example of the latter. This is another animated sequel from Pixar that still retains the fun and charm that made the first film so special for kids and adults. Filled with lovable characters, astounding animation, and a story that smartly blends family drama with the superhero aspect, the film proves that Pixar is now capable of making follow-ups that are as endearing and passionate as the studio’s original projects. Aside from its villain, “Incredibles 2” is simply incredible.
Like “Incredibles 2”, “Ralph Breaks the Internet” is another Disney sequel that came close to being as great as its predecessor. Despite a couple of scenes that slowed down its connection, the film was able to level up with ease by displaying a fresh story that further develops the characters and expands the universe they’re living in. The film also succeeds in portraying its well-developed themes, its relatable and amusing humor, and its immersive animation. Here’s hoping “Frozen 2” will copy this type of success when it hits theaters in 2019.
The live-action Transformers franchise hit a bit of a slump with the release of “Transformers: The Last Knight” last year, and by that, I mean a big slump. Luckily, Travis Knight was here to save the day. “Bumblebee” is not only the best installment in the action-packed film series, but it is also a heartwarming and passionate sci-fi blockbuster that relied on both story and action. Thanks to its lovable cast, its top-notch visuals, its heartfelt plot, and its irresistible charm, this is the “Transformers” film that many G1 fans and newcomers will adore for years to come. It also sets the stage for potential sequels that could lead up to the 2007 live-action film. Now let’s get ourselves an Optimus Prime solo film and a Cybertron film!
The 2018 remake of “A Star Is Born” not only showcased a remake that shines the brightest, but it also expressed Bradley Cooper as an incredible actor and as a confident director. The performances were astounding, the chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga was undeniable, the story was well-executed, and the soundtrack was enticing. I honestly didn’t expect myself to love it that much since it’s a romance film, but I did. It would be interesting to see what Bradley Cooper can do next as a director.
“Blindspotting” is another film that deals with these touchy topics, and it’s something that should’ve gotten recognized more. First-time director Carlos Lopez Estrada delivered a hard-hitting and thought-provoking piece of cinema that displayed its themes with sheer honesty. Filled with strong performances from the cast (most notably Daveed Diggs), a smart screenplay, and the best ending I’ve seen this year, this is another voice that deserves to be heard.
Romance movies aren’t usually my cup of tea, but there are a few of them that I wouldn’t mind watching again in the near future. “Love, Simon” is no exception. Ranging from a superb cast to a story that’s deeply thoughtful and charming, this film not only serves as another suitable addition to the teen romance genre, but also as an important source of inspiration to those who are in this type of situation themselves. Funny, happy, sad, simple, and endearing. “Love, Simon” has it all.
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is not only a great documentary, it’s also a gift. A gift to all of those who have forgotten what it was like to be generous to one another. Director Morgan Neville delivered an insightful and heartwarming look at the man who showed us kindness and love through his popular children’s show, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”.
It was expected to be a solid take on the Spider-Man legend, but after watching it for myself, it turned out to be amazing. “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is a fresh and witty superhero film that balances unique storytelling with its flashy action sequences. Not only that, but it also has one of the most unique animation styles I’ve seen in my life. This is a huge win for Sony Pictures Animation, and I’m hoping it continues down that road to success with the film’s sequels and spin-offs.
If you want to read my full thoughts on my picks as well as those who didn't make it on my list, feel free to visit my "2018 Reviews" page. Stay tuned for my "Least Favorite Films of 2018" list. It's going to be a doozy. Thank you so much for taking the time to view my list, and have a safe and happy New Year.
Welcome to another episode of moviemanMDG’s Movie Talk, where I talk about everything film-related. Throughout the years, the spy genre has been quite popular for two reasons: James Bond and “Mission: Impossible”. These two franchises have been gathering a crowd since the beginning, and based on their box office numbers, they’re showing no signs of slowing down. You might be wondering if this is what I’ll be talking about for this episode. Well, you’re half correct. Today, I will be talking about the “Mission: Impossible” franchise because talking about James Bond will take me at least a couple of months. Maybe even more. Inspired by the 1966 television series of the same name created by Bruce Geller, the “Mission: Impossible” films follow a team of agents from the Impossible Missions Force (or IMF, for short) as they take on a series of assignments that are deemed…wait for it…impossible. Hence the name, “Mission: Impossible”. I got engaged to the franchise ever since I saw “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” for the first time seven years ago. If you’re wondering why I wasn’t introduced to it earlier, well, let’s just say that the first three movies were released during my elementary and middle school days and I had my movie-watching limits. The reason why I’m talking about this now is because we got another “Mission: Impossible” film this year in the form of “Fallout”, and to celebrate, my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to revisit the first five installments of the action spy franchise and provide my brief reactions for each film. This is something that I wanted to do for quite a while because I felt that reviewing just one installment in a franchise each day in my usual format would be a time waster. If you happen to like this strategy, let me know and I will continue working on it with a different franchise. And now, without further ado, let’s get this mission started.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Let’s start things off with the one that helped Tom Cruise gain action stardom. “Mission: Impossible” served as the first installment in the franchise and it was directed by Brian De Palma, who is known for his work on the crime drama classic, “Scarface”. Taking place after the events of the television series of the same name, the film follows Ethan Hunt (played by Cruise) as he sets out to find the mole who’s responsible for the deaths of the entire IMF team lead by Jim Phelps, played by Jon Voight. I did remember watching this film a while ago, but I wasn’t able to get through the whole thing. I was finally able to get into it today without any problems, and I happened to enjoy every minute of it. While the plot can be a bit hard to understand sometimes, the film had enough tension and intrigue to provide a well-deserved start to the franchise. Tom Cruise and Jon Voight were both charismatic and engaging as Hunt and Phelps, respectively, and Brian De Palma did a great job at making every sequence more intense than the last, especially the scene where Hunt and his team infiltrate the CIA headquarters. The score by Danny Elfman also helped in enhancing the experience. This is a mission that I would gladly accept again. My Rating: B+
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
Next up on this impossible list is “Mission: Impossible 2”. Directed by John Woo, the man behind the slow-motion shots and the chaotic action, this action-packed sequel continues the adventures of Ethan Hunt, played by Tom Cruise. This time, he teams up with his new love interest (played by Thandie Newton) to destroy a biological weapon and defeat a rogue IMF agent (played by Dougray Scott). Like “Mission: Impossible”, this is another film that I remembered seeing parts of. After experiencing it from beginning to end, all I can say about it is that it was pretty entertaining. Despite an average story that failed to live up to the original, the film boasts another likable performance from Cruise and a unique style from John Woo to deliver a thrilling follow-up. My Rating: B-
Mission: Impossible III (2006)
“Mission: Impossible III” served as the directorial debut of J. J. Abrams, who created shows like “Alias” and brought back both Star Trek and Star Wars for a new generation of science fiction fans. The third installment sees Tom Cruise reprising his role once again as Ethan Hunt, who is retired from field work for the IMF and is now training new recruits. However, an elusive arms dealer (played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman) forces Hunt to spring back into action. The film introduces Ethan’s fiancé, Julia Meade, and IMF technician, Benji Dunn, played by Michelle Monaghan and Simon Pegg, respectively, both of which reprised their roles in the next three films, including "Fallout". This was actually my first experience watching this film unlike my past experiences with the last two installments. I have been adoring Abrams’ vision on the science fiction genre ever since I saw the 2009 reboot of “Star Trek”, so I was pretty interested in seeing him take on an action spy film, let alone a “Mission: Impossible” film. Long story short, it’s a well-deserved improvement over the last installment. The story is just as engaging and intense as its stunts, the performances were top-notch, and Michael Giacchino’s score is stunning. “Mission: Impossible III” once again proves that J. J. Abrams has a talent in delivering thrills and interesting stories. My Rating: B+
Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol (2011)
All right. Now for the one that fully introduced me to the franchise. Serving as the first live-action film by animation genius Brad Bird, “Ghost Protocol” focuses on Ethan Hunt and his new team, which consists of Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the technician, Jane Carter (Paula Patton), the handler of a late IMF agent, and William Brandt (Jeremy Renner), the Secretary’s aide and intelligence analyst. They set out on yet another dangerous mission that takes them halfway across the globe as they try to prevent a nuclear strategist from starting a nuclear war between the United States and Russia. It has actually been a while since I first saw the film in theaters. I have been so busy looking forward to the other movies that I didn’t get a chance to watch it again. Thankfully, I got a chance to do so on television and wow, I can’t believe I forgot how immensely entertaining it was. In terms of Bird’s impressive direction and its screenplay, the film works in not only providing a healthy mixture of action and comedy (mostly provided by Simon Pegg’s Benji), but also providing an intense and well-executed plot that changes the course of the franchise. Tom Cruise was once again great as Ethan Hunt and Jeremy Renner was a welcome addition to the party as Brandt. The stunts were also handled extremely well, with the Burj Khalifa tower climb being the main highlight due to its dizzying camerawork and its brilliant use of tension. “Ghost Protocol” still succeeds in delivering a spy thriller that offers both style and substance. My Rating: A-
Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015)
“Rogue Nation” is the second collaboration between Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie after their work on “Jack Reacher” back in 2012. The story has Ethan Hunt tracking down a terrorist organization known as the Syndicate while going on the run from the CIA. Meanwhile, the disbanded IMF is facing some controversy for their past actions as well as their collaboration with the CIA. This is another film that I haven’t seen in a while ever since I first saw it in the theater. From my first viewing, I thought that it was a solid continuation to the franchise. After watching it again on television, I think it held up pretty well. As always, the film is accompanied by Cruise’s performance as Hunt and its well-choreographed stunts. Simon Pegg also delivered some solid attempts at providing humor as Benji and Rebecca Ferguson was very talented as Ilsa Faust, an MI6 agent who is also after the Syndicate. It’s safe for me to say that Benji is now one of my favorite characters in the series because of his well-timed humor. Despite the final showdown being a small step down from its predecessor and the plot being a bit confusing for those who don’t pay attention, this is still a well-directed and fun entry in the spy franchise. My Rating: B+
So there you have it. I am now caught up with this action-packed franchise. If you want to know what my thoughts are for “Mission: Impossible - Fallout”, you can find it in the “2018 Reviews” page, or you can click here. What these films have in common is that they were held together by the presence of Tom Cruise, stunts that are intense and dangerous, and tension-filled stories that can be a bit convoluted at times if you don’t listen closely. Without these three elements, this franchise wouldn’t have made it this far. More importantly, they wouldn’t have become beloved summer blockbusters that we all know and love. Here’s hoping that the franchise will continue to thrill audiences around the world in the near future. Let me know in the comments section what your favorite or least favorite “Mission: Impossible” film is, and stay tuned for more of my upcoming reviews.