E. R. Torre is a writer/artist whose first major work, the mystery graphic novel The Dark Fringe, was optioned for motion picture production by Platinum Studios (Men In Black, Cowboys vs. Aliens). At DC Comics, his work appeared in role-playing game books and the 9-11 Tribute book. This later piece was eventually displayed, along with others from the 9-11 tribute books, at The Library of Congress. More recently he released Shadows at Dawn (a collection of short stories), Haze (a murder mystery novel with supernatural elements), and Cold Hemispheres (a mystery novel set in the world of The Dark Fringe). He is currently hard at work on his latest science fiction/suspense series, Corrosive Knights, which features the novels Mechanic, The Last Flight of the Argus, and Chameleon.
Last Friday the latest Marvel Comics Universe film, The Marvels, was released and its opening box office numbers were, to put it kindly, quite abysmal.
I wasn’t shocked, frankly.
This is the 33rd MCU film and while the movies released recently haven’t had the super (pardon the pun) success of the films released during the MCU’s golden age, neither did they appear to be “flops”. That seems to have changed with this film.
There are those who say it isn’t about superhero fatigue but I’m firmly of the belief it is just that.
Of late, the DC movies, including Black Adam, The Flash, and Shazam!Fury of the Gods didn’t have spectacular box office numbers. I found it interesting how many comic book nerds (of which I am one!) gloated that the DCU films were such a dumpster fire and how they were doing so badly… yet The Marvels has underperformed even those films.
Which brings me back to the idea there may be some kind of superhero fatigue going on.
Let’s face it, the movie industry is still trying to get its legs. COVID really messed up the way movies were both made and released and once people got used to not going to theaters and seeing things via streaming and in the comfort of their homes, things certainly had at least the possibility of changing.
I’ve noted this before: The older I get the more I realize just how things can change and radically from one moment to the other. I’ve lived through many different music eras and have seen styles come and go -and return! I’ve also seen how the digital industry has changed my own shopping habits. Things change and sometimes we do not go back to how it was before.
The MCU films have been a truly staggering success. A lot of money has been made since Iron Man was first released in 2008 and the success of superhero films has been something a comic book fan like myself has enjoyed.
However, even a comic book fan like myself can get tired of things… especially when it feels like we’re getting retreads of concepts and stories.
Frankly, I’ve been bored with the MCU since the dual release of the first Dr. Strange film as well as the first Guardians of the Galaxy. The later was a huge success but when I saw the film it didn’t work for me at all. Dr. Strange, I felt, was little more than a reworked Iron Man, only with magic instead of the Military Industrial Complex.
And shock yourself: I have yet to see the final two Avengers films.
This is coming from someone who feels Captain America: The Winter Soldier is my second favorite superhero film of all time. (To those curious, my favorite remains the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve Superman)
Now, I do wonder if maybe things can turn around and people give these types of movies another go. There’s no reason to think they don’t but I do feel like maybe it’s time to stomp on the brakes a little and perhaps not flood the market with so much superhero stuff, both in movies and on TV.
Either way, it is what it is and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few months down the road Hollywood discovers something else that’s a big success for them… not unlike the recent Barbie and Oppenheimer releases.
…the song lacks the real-time collaboration that defined the Beatles’ style, despite the deliberate attempt to include all four members on the track. The drive to finish this song seems to have been spearheaded by McCartney.
Sonically, the song bears much more resemblance to recent Paul McCartney works than to other pieces from the Beatles’ repertoire. The song’s jaunty rhythm, guided by heavy piano and acoustic guitar, would fit much better on McCartney’s 2018 “Egypt Station” than on any Beatles album.
Mr. Root then compares “Now and Then” with “Real Love” and “Free as a Bird”, the previous two songs McCartney/Harrison/Starr finished up from Lennon’s demos:
Unlike “Now and Then,” however, the studio versions of (“Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”) stay truer to both the original demos and the Beatles’ own sound. Neither “Free as a Bird” nor “Real Love” tamper with the structure of Lennon’s original compositions, as the only real changes to the songs themselves are finishing touches to some incomplete lyrics in the chorus of “Free as a Bird.”
I have to admit, I’m rather confused by Mr. Root’s argument. He’s saying that because “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” remained closer to Lennon’s demo they are therefore more like “real” Beatles songs? Further, the fact that Paul McCartney seemed to be the force behind the release of “Now and Then” and obviously worked on it more than the other two songs therefore it’s more of a… I don’t know? More of a McCartney song (modern vintage) versus a Beatles song?
Of the three demos given to McCartney by Yoko Ono to work on, clearly “Now and Then” was the one that was in the “roughest” shape. Had it not been, I strongly suspect it would have appeared on one of the Anthology Albums, where it was originally intended to go. As it was, “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love” were the songs that technology allowed at the time for the then three remaining Beatles to work on and finish up while “Now and Then” had to be put aside.
In listening to the John Lennon demo (which can be found on YouTube though I believe it is being knocked out wherever found) I very much hear a “rougher” version of the “Now and Then” we eventually got, for good or ill. Yes, there are flourishes in it that weren’t in the demo and I know at this point in time, with both Lennon and Harrison having passed, it was very likely worked on more by McCartney than anyone else but, again, it was a very rough work and someone had to do that. My understanding is that Ringo had to be convinced to come in and do some drum work, so clearly of the two Beatles left things had to fall more to McCartney.
In the demo, Lennon at times sings gibberish words, an obvious placeholder for later on when he would try to come up with “proper” lyrics. Obviously he never got to that point and unless this song was released with the gibberish placeholder lyrics and/or a seance managed to get Lennon and Harrison to work on it from the beyond, someone had to be there to fix it up, no? And why not McCartney?
Which brings us to Mr. Root’s complaint that this is more of a Paul McCartney work.
I don’t know Mr. Root’s age. I don’t know how much he knows about The Beatles so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here: The Beatles worked both as a collaborative band as well as individual artists on their songs.
For example, one of The Beatles most famous songs, “Yesterday” was created and recorded entirely by Paul McCartney. No other member of the band was involved in its making or recording… perhaps other than sitting around while it was being made. There are no Ringo drums nor any Lennon or Harrison guitars. McCartney plays the acoustic guitar and an Orchestra -led by producer George Martin, I suspect- backs him up.
Similarly, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” was recorded solely with Lennon and McCartney present. Neither George Harrison nor Ringo Starr were involved in that song. It, like “Yesterday” is still listed as a Beatles song even though not every Beatle was involved.
And get this: The most streamed Beatles song ever, the George Harrison composition “Here Comes The Sun”, perhaps the pinnacle of Harrison’s musical output (though one could argue “While My Guitar Gently Sleeps” is damn near) was recorded without John Lennon’s participation.
Yes kids, “Here Comes The Sun” featured George Harrison, Paul McCartney, and Ringo Starr but, because he was recovering from a car crash, no John Lennon.
Yet it too, like the others I mention above, is very much a Beatles song.
I’ve written a lot here and I’m wondering why at this point.
If you don’t feel “Now and Then” is a “proper” Beatles song, so be it… but at least come up with a reason that doesn’t feel like you’re upset because there’s too much –gasp!– McCartney in the song -as if he’s somehow not a “real” Beatles bandmate- and not enough of everyone else.
To me, all three post-breakup Beatles songs taken from Lennon’s demos are interesting curios. I don’t feel any of them are as “strong” as the best of the Beatles stuff but neither do I feel they are failures.
It’s incredibly hard to go back to your most successful era of creativity and knock out stuff that sounds like that but neither do I feel the remaining Beatles did themselves a disservice going back to these Lennon demos and “finishing them up”.
Officially released a few days ago, the song “Now and Then” is reportedly the last Beatles song…
The song is a melancholy affair and the video, depending on the version you see, is either filled with footage from all Beatles eras or a more Pepper-esq piece.
It’s been interesting seeing/reading the reactions from people, most of which consists of tears and nostalgia as well as a realization that this song’s release is both a monumental accomplishment… and a final one.
While the song started as a John Lennon rough demo created in 1977, well after The Beatles split up, back when the three Anthology albums were released, an attempt was made to make it a proper song not unlike “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”. Those two songs were also demos John Lennon created but wasn’t able to fashion into a “complete” work and were given to the remaining Beatles, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, to complete.
But “Now and Then”, at least back then, was simply in too rough a shape to make into a proper release. Supposedly George Harrison ultimately refused to continue working on it and it was rejected and that was that…
…until years later and thanks to A.I. programming used by Peter Jackson to take all the Get Back footage and fix it up to make it usable.
Welp, that same program allowed Jackson to isolate John Lennon’s voice in the “Now and Then” demo and that, in turn, allowed the remaining Beatles, McCartney and Starr, to finally finish off the song. I believe there is some Harrison work in this new song, but I’ve also heard that Paul McCartney emulated Harrison’s style of guitar playing so I don’t know how much of Harrison is there in the end (no pun intended).
There’s a further interesting bit of history here: It has been reported, many years before McCartney would receive this demo, that the last time he saw John Lennon the very last thing he said to him was “Think of me every now and then, old friend.”
So, yeah, there’s considerable emotional baggage tied into this song and it spills over to the fans and… it’s a wonderful thing, in my opinion.
Paul McCartney is 81 years old now. Ringo Starr is 83.
We won’t have these icons of music around much longer and it’s wonderful to get another sample of their genius, even if it is via a project that was not originally created as a Beatles work.
Film noir arguably first began with features released in the 1930’s. Influenced at least visually by the stark -and very stylish!- black and white imagery coming out of some of the great German films, one could look at Fritz Lang’s M (1931) as a prototype of what became the film noir crime feature. The US remake of the film, released in 1951 and also titled M, was a surprisingly good remake and if one doesn’t consider the Lang film noir, there is little doubt the American version is noir through and through.
One of the biggest stars of the noir movement is Humphrey Bogart. He would appear in several noir films, perhaps most famous of them being The Maltese Falcon (1941). Dead Reckoning is another fascinating Bogart starring noir and feels an awful lot like a lighter version of The Big Sleep (1946), which starred Bogart and Lauren Bacall and which was released the year before Dead Reckoning.
The Big Sleep was based on Raymond Chandler’s classic first Phillip Marlowe novel and benefitted tremendously from the charisma between the two stars (who would marry). Dead Reckoning, unfortunately, doesn’t have quite that literary backbone to prop it’s story up though I thought Lizabeth Scott did a great job as the love interest/possible femme fatale (a role very similar to that of Bacall’s in The Big Sleep). In fact, so similar is Scott to Bacall that there’s at least one sequence where she’s dressed so similarly to something I recall seeing Bacall in that I actually thought they snuck her into the movie somehow…!
Anyway, this would be Scott’s first “big” role and she did well with it. Bogie was also quite good and displayed his usual charisma… though I admit it felt like he wasn’t doing too much heavy lifting in the role. He did well but it wasn’t Bogie in Casablanca or The Big Sleep or The Maltese Falcon… but it was Bogie and that alone is sometimes good enough!
The story? Bogie and an army buddy are escorted post haste following the end of WWII from their hospital (they were injured in combat but to look at both of them they seem mighty healthy to me!) to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor. Bogie says it was all his partner’s actions and that he was just there for the ride, but when his partner realizes he will be photographed and become a media darling, he bails.
Bogie searches for him and tries to unravel the mystery of why his friend would suddenly want to disappear from the face of the earth and that leads him to his partner’s real name and home town… and a mysterious murder which he may have committed and an old flame (guess who) who may or may not hold secrets of her own along with a casino owner who has ties with then modern (now old time) mobsters.
What secrets will Bogie uncover and whodunnit?
Watch and find out!
Anyway, I recommend the film to anyone interested in delving into 40’s era film noir. It’s a decent film that certainly tries hard to fit into the Chandler mode and, while it doesn’t quite reach that lofty level, it is an entertaining work.
Ok, I can’t stop there. But to talk more about this film I’m going to have to get into SPOILERS so… you’ve been warned!
Ok, here goes.
Sometimes it feels like the writer in me is ruining all manner of entertainment that involves a story being told. For example, when I reviewed Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny a few days back, I noted that the film felt like it had a story that was being worked on as the film was being made. How else to explain odd bits like Antonio Banderas in what amounts to an almost wordless cameo role and one of the main characters seeming to be originally written as perhaps a femme fatale (just scroll to the previous review and it will all be clear!).
Watching Dead Reckoning, I felt those same issues rearing their head.
Again, I enjoyed the film and felt it was worth recommending even though it felt like the film’s makers were endeavoring to imitate a Raymond Chandler type story and not quite hitting the mark.
The story, as I noted, involves Bogie and his partner being transported like royalty to Washington to receive, they find along the way, a Congressional Medal of Honor for their valor in the battlefield. Bogie’s partner bails because clearly he does not want his face all over the papers and Bogie becomes a detective and pursues his friend, whom he finds had an alias and might have been responsible for a murder in his hometown and before he enlisted and got away from the U.S.
This is all interesting stuff but the main point of the film is to get Bogie and Scott together. Scott’s character, it turns out, was the murdered man’s wife and Bogie’s friend’s supposed girlfriend. Scott’s character later clarifies that he loved her but she never quite loved him. Bogie’s friend’s fate, too, is revealed shortly after Bogie begins the investigation and suddenly there’s more skullduggery going on in the quaint town…!
Anyway, the film soon introduces us to a few characters, including a casino owner with mob ties and his henchman as well as a Police Detective who is always one step behind Bogie.
But the crux of the movie’s plot is the question of whether Scott’s character is a “good girl” or secretly a “femme fatale”.
Based on the way the film unfolded, I felt those behind the cameras had no clue which way to go there and, in the end, flipped a coin to determine whether she was good or bad.
The fact is within the film there is no real logic about Scott’s character and the shifts regarding her grow rather silly. When first introduced Bogie is highly suspicious of her and is constantly “testing” her to see if she is good or bad. She seems to pass the tests… that is until something happens that arouses Bogie’s suspicions and we’re off to the next set piece and the next “is she or isn’t she?” setup.
Towards the later stages of the film Bogie’s character seems convinced she is bad and has him accuse her of this or “prove” she isn’t. Bogie’s character forces her to call the police and tell them what really happened a few years back with regard to her husband’s murder. She admits to shooting him but claims it was in self-defense and that the shady casino owner is holding the murder weapon over her head for blackmail and… sheesh. She tearfully picks up the phone, calls the police, and is about to make her confession when Bogie hangs the phone up.
He says something to the effect that he had to push her to the limits to prove she was good, the implication being that she’d good.
Only problem is that the film still has some fifteen or so minutes to go and we wind up (I told you there were SPOILERS!) finding out that Bogie’s character isn’t a very good detective because -suprise and holy whiplash!- the final minutes prove she’s indeed a femme fatale.
Her comeuppance is a car crash leaves her on the verge of dying but still looking awfully beautiful in the hospital bed. Bogie gets to see her that one last time and says nice things to her as she passes away.
Yeah, the writer in me felt the conclusion was a last minute invention and almost certainly tacked on.
It is what it is…!
Oh, and one very fascinating thing about this 1947 film: Bogie’s character is a paratrooper and he talks about saying “Geronimo” before jumping out of the airplane.
The other characters in the film are oblivious to this term and I found it incredibly fascinating that at this point in time, again 1947, the “Geronimo” followed by jumping out of an airplane was something seemingly not known by the general public.
Perhaps this movie was the one that made the public aware of this?
First, sorry for the dearth of posts. Been incredibly busy of late with all kinds of things and, if I’m being honest here, I don’t know if in the next few months I’ll be able to post like I did when I was really cooking. I’ll keep trying, though…!
Now, on to the latest, and we have to assume last, Indiana Jones film featuring Harrison Ford. Here’s the movie’s trailer:
When it was announced Harrison Ford would return one more time to play what is probably his most iconic role (even above his Han Solo from Star Wars, IMHO of course!) there was excitement, at least from me.
I still recall going to see the original Raiders Of The Lost Ark (before it was retitled to Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark) back when it was originally released back in 1981. It’s hard to recall today, but both Harrison Ford and director Steve Spielberg were not the icons they would become. I firmly believe this movie made Harrison Ford an upper tier actor, which he held for decades and, it seems, only now in his twilight years is relinquishing.
But Steven Spielberg, also, wasn’t as huge a name at that time, either. Sure, he had the hit releases in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but he had just released 1941 which was a box office and critical failure. But the release of Raiders, followed by the mega-hit E.T. The Extra-Terrestial the next year, erased any worry he might be a flash in the pan.
There were three Indiana Jones films that followed the first, and in my opinion none of them were as good as the original. Temple of Doom proved too grim and claustrophobic. The Last Crusade is beloved by many fans but though I feel it has some great sequences, I can’t say I like it as much as others do. Still, I feel it is the second best of the Indiana Jones films, and that includes the one I’m about to talk about. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls I felt also had some really good sequences but boy did it have issues with its concluding act. Audiences, however, seemed really turned off by it and, especially, the infamous “nuking the fridge” sequence in the opening act.
Which brings us to Dial of Destiny. Steven Spielberg, who perhaps after four Indiana Jones films had had enough of that particular genre, bowed out and for the first time someone else directing an Indiana Jones film: James Mangold. He’s been a generally good director in my opinion, with some of his most recent films being Ford vs. Ferrari and Logan.
At the very least, and given the theme of Logan dealing with an hero dealing with his twilight years, it appeared the franchise was in good enough hands.
I wanted to see Dial of Destiny in theaters when it was released and even after some of the early reviews were mixed. But, as is unfortunately too usual these days, I simply didn’t find the time to see the film. The film wound up doing very badly at the box office and was one of the bigger flops of the year.
Reviews were generally mixed, as they were early on. There were those who liked the film quite a bit and felt it was a good conclusion to the Indiana Jones saga even though Last Crusade and Crystal Skulls both attempted to be concluding stories. Hell, Last Crusade even had Indiana Jones and his father (played by Sean Connery) quite literally riding off into the sunset!
So, finally, let’s get to Dial of Destiny…
I’ll try not to get into too many SPOILERS but there will be a few here and there and I’ll try to point them out as best as I can.
The movie begins with an extended sequence featuring a younger Indiana Jones on a mission behind Nazi lines. The “de-aging” of Harrison Ford is pretty good for most of the sequences but not spectacular. Hollywood is getting better at the process but there’s still improvement to be made.
The sequence is ok but watching the CGI action effects makes me realize how much I miss the practical effects presented in Raiders. Unfortunately, using these CGI effects seems to make directors go “bolder” with the action sequences but frankly they become cartoonish and not very believable. There’s a bit with Indy riding a motorcycle where this was a little too obvious. There clearly was no motorcycle, no actual Harrison Ford, and the scenery around them was also CGI.
It’s becoming tougher for me to be invested in these action scenes when they’re so clearly computer generated bits.
Anyway, we’re introduced to Indy’s partner Basil Shaw and the two are seeking to retrieve the legendary Spear of Destiny (not to be confused with the Dial of Destiny) which Hitler feels has some mystical power which will, in these waning days of WWII, lead to victory.
In the course of trying to retrieve this relic, Indy and Shaw realize the relic is fake but there is a very real one -or rather one-half of one- among the looted goods: The Dial of Destiny. Another character, Dr. Voller (Mads Mikkelsen), also realizes this is the real deal but at the end of the sequence, Indy and Shaw have the device and we fast forward to…
New York, 1969.
A very old Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford was around 79 when filming this movie. He is now 81) awakens to find the news of the first Moon landing but he doesn’t care all that much. He’s grumpy and his life is apparently unwinding as we get a glimpse of divorce papers between Marion and he.
He goes to the University for his final lecture before retiring and there a mysterious woman seems to know much of the material he’s lecturing. She also knows about the Dial of Destiny and its maker, Archemides.
Indy heads to a bar after the retirement party, not too keen about his stage in life, and the mystery woman shows up. She states she’s Helena Shaw, daughter of his one-time partner Basil. She also states that she wants to find where Indy and her father threw away the half of the device, which she states they did in a river shortly after they recovered it.
This part of the film, I have to say, shows me that the movie’s script was a work in progress and I‘ll get into that in a moment.
The bottom line is that Indy and Helena wind up forming a very uneasy alliance and travel around the world in search of the second half of the Dial of Destiny while on the run from Dr. Voller, who is still around and determined to get the device.
What does he seek? Is Helena good or bad? Will Indy triumph in the end?
Well, what do you think?! 😉
What we have her is a decent enough action film that unfortunately and as I stated above relies on perhaps too many CGI stunts that simply look like in the real world they could never work.
But the movie’s biggest flaw is that I’m convinced the film was being worked on from a story standpoint up to the very end.
How else to explain the appearance of Antonio Banderas in a role that, frankly, any other actor could have done? He literally has five minutes of screen time and barely says anything memorable before he’s gone. Mads Mikkelson’s Dr. Voller is about as one note as you can get. He is this understated villain who is simply there and never gets any powerful scene to strut his stuff, so to speak.
But perhaps the biggest artifact to find which proves the story was a work in progress is the character of Helena.
When first introduced and as I mentioned above, she tells Indy about how they tossed Dial into a river and Indy asks her if she remembers the last time they were together. I’m convinced at one point Helena’s character was a fake and not the real Helena Shaw and Indy’s question -and a subsequent flashback- proves that she wasn’t the daughter. Shaw’s daughter would know the Dial of Destiny was in her father’s possession well after the war and not thrown away into any river at War’s end.
Therefore, I feel her character was originally a cohort of Dr. Voller but the decision was made to make her a rascal rather than an outright villain and someone who would eventually go over to the side of good.
Anyway, it is what it is. Dial of Destiny is far from terrible but, unfortunately, not much more than decent. I recommend it with reservations but do feel most Indy fans will have a good time with the movie.
I will say this much, though: The final sequence was very sweet and a good way to say goodbye to this movie hero.
It’s something of a relief, in a time where it seems all films are either underperforming or outright bombing, that these two films are doing gangbusters in their release.
I have yet to see either of them and have to admit Oppenheimer doesn’t intrigue me all that much… though I am a fan of Christopher Nolan’s movies, but Barbie, at least based on the trailers, sure does look like a blast.
Either way and after potentially bigger releases like Flash, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and, yes, the latest Mission: Impossible film seem to have weak openings/legs, its nice to finally get a pair of movies released that seem to have caught the attention of movie goers. This feels like a pre-COVID release box office and its a nice thing to see.
Yesterday Special Counsel Jack Smith unveiled his case against Donald Trump for the events leading to, and following, the January 6th insurrection.
This is pretty big deal and it feels like all the major investigations into Trump and his various activities are coming to a head. He’s got cases in Florida, now in Washington, and it appears he’ll be facing indictments in Georgia as well.
…and yet there are still a vocal minority, perhaps some 30% of the country, that would still vote for this man and at least so far he’s leading the Republican field for the nomination to run for President.
Released this past weekend, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 is the latest in the Tom Cruise-starring Mission: Impossible films, the first of which was released way back in 1996. The franchise remains quite healthy and, if anything, seems to be finding its proper niche in the world of your James Bond-Ian type films.
Here’s the movie’s trailer:
I’m a fan of the series for the most part and have enjoyed almost all the releases, including this one. It is a slickly made film that never seems to slow down but like some of the other features, it works best when you put your mind into neutral and simply accept what’s being played before you and enjoy the earnestness -and at times hair-raising stunts- Tom Cruise does.
Despite a strong ensemble cast, Cruise as Ethan Hunt is the show… usually… in each of these movie but often we’re given some great scenes with the other actors. Alas, in the case of Dead Reckoning Part 1, unfortunately Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rahmes, Vanessa Kirby, and Simon Pegg this time around don’t have a ton of stuff to do. Perhaps Ms. Ferguson fares the best and Simon Pegg the worst (while he gets one exciting scene early on in an airport -no spoilers- he’s otherwise doing not all that much but following Hunt around).
Someone who does get to appear before the camera quite a bit is newcomer to the series Haley Atwell as Grace, a master thief that has gotten in over her head and whom Ethan Hunt is constantly after.
The movie is long, clocking in at two hours and forty three minutes, but the plot is, alas, somewhat underwhelming.
In the movie’s opening minutes we follow a Russian submarine on what will turn out to be its last run. It carries within it a sophisticated artificial intelligence program activated by a pair of interlocking keys. Something goes very wrong and the submarine is sunk and, a short time later, it appears the artificial intelligence is all over the world and is intent on getting the interlocking keys… along with seemingly all intelligence agencies.
Here’s the bad: After we get this setup, the movie goes from scene to scene as Hunt and his team -but mostly Hunt and Grace- get the key, lose the key, lose each other, find each other, get the key and lose the key again, and on and on to the end.
It pains me to say this but that’s what this film boils down to: Who has the key and what crazy ass stunt does Ethan Hunt have to do to try to get it back.
Again, though: At least there’s a great deal of skill in the telling of this admittedly undernourished story and things are exciting as they progress but you’ll forgive me if I’m not as impressed with the story as I wanted to be.
As a writer, and one who has dealt with the idea of artificial intelligence, perhaps I’m a little down on this because I’ve been there and done that, but it feels like the meat of the story was being held back for Dead Reckoning Part 2, which hopefully gets done soon. I don’t know how the current SAG writers and actors strike will impact the making of this film but I imagine like many other works out there, even those in mid-production, they will shut down until those issues are resolved.
Either way, I still recommend this film. It’s a fun, at times preposterous action/adventure film which will entertain you… provided you don’t think to hard about how little plot there actually is.
I do have a couple of ideas as to where the next film might go and, for the heck of it, I’ll get into them. I could be totally off but here come my thoughts.
After, of course, some…
MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1, as I mentioned above, involves the hunt for a key that supposedly will unlock a powerful artificial intelligence computer within a sunken Russian submarine.
The thing that struck me, however, was that it appeared the artificial intelligence was behind the attack on the submarine itself, which resulted in its sinking.
However, we come to find the A.I. is already spread out through the world and doing all kinds of things, including trying to find that key and a way into the submarine’s computer programming. It is stated this is so that it can get the main programming, I guess, which might deactivate it.
Or does it?
I couldn’t help but think, once the film was done, that the whole attack on the submarine didn’t make a whole lot of sense. Why attack itself? And why do so in such a half-assed way that resulted in the sub -and the program- being potentially intact on the sea floor and ready to be recovered? How exactly did the keys get recovered from the bodies of the submariners and how did they get split up to where two different parties had them (this too is explained in the course of the film… the bodies somehow left the sub and floated to the surface/ice and were there and recovered afterwards).
It just… I dunno. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. That the submarine could be knocked out in such a way that the bodies got out so nicely?
If the screenwriters leave it at that, it will leave me with some rather massive things to simply accept.
However… what if there are two artificial intelligence programs out there, fighting against each other? Perhaps one is a United States A.I., the other the Russian one.
What if one of the A.I.s was the one that sabotaged the Russian submarine and got it to attack itself as shown in the opening minutes of the film? What if the other A.I. was the one that managed to get the corpses out, so that its masters could retrieve the key… and then fight off the other A.I. that was responsible for the attack?
I’m obviously just spitballing here but that would be a fascinating twist to find in the second film… if it is something that’s coming.
The older I get, the more I realize that change is almost always in the air and what might excite people at one point in time doesn’t necessarily do so at another.
I’m old enough (cough-gasp) to remember when disco music was king. Saturday Night Fever came out and The Bee Gees were it, man.
And then, just like that, suddenly chants of “disco sucks” rang through the air. Perhaps it was the mega-flop that was The Bee Gees starring Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie…
… but either way, suddenly disco was verboten and anyone who liked the music was deemed out of it (I had a high school professor at the time who thought the reason disco music fell out of favor so harshly and quickly was because adults/parents liked the music as well and started showing up at clubs playing the music. Youngsters were loath to hang out with their parents or anyone older then their generation and thus they abandoned the genre completely).
Over the past couple of weeks two films that perhaps in other times might have been hits, The Flash and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny were released and look to be pretty big box office flops.
Times, alas, aren’t normal yet. COVID decimated the movie theater experience and while the threat of catching it seems to be gone with better treatments and (yes) vaccines, it seems audiences are reluctant to return to theaters like they did before.
In part it may be due to streaming services which have become a go-to for people seeking such things. In part it may be a general tiredness regarding superhero films and/or sequels to very old films (sadly, that’s what the Indiana Jones franchise is at this point).
I don’t know the reason but the bottom line is that with some very few exceptions, “big” film releases have seemingly fallen on hard times at movie theaters.
I do wonder, I must say, what happens next.
Yes, the latest Avatar and Top Gun did good business. Perhaps Barbie and Oppenheimer and the next Mission: Impossible do well also.
But the reality is the movie studios, despite some very questionable accounting practices, seem to be hurting with many of their new releases and they really should think hard and long about what they’re going to invest in.
Things have obviously changed and time marches on as it inevitably does and, as I stated above, what worked before doesn’t necessarily work now.
Warner Brothers has hired James Gunn to oversee the new DC “universe” of films and, frankly, I wonder if maybe they invested in him precisely at the moment when superhero film fatigue might be a thing.
Maybe, maybe not.
Either way, studios need to tread carefully in this Post-COVID movie release reality.
The author of this piece focuses on the issue of “spam” reviews, often negative ones, presented online regarding published -or about to be published- works.
In this case, the focus is on Goodreads.com but it could well apply to movie review sites like rottentomatoes.com as well.
Because the internet isn’t all that well regulated and people can post reviews on works they haven’t necessarily seen or read or heard, there is a danger that a group of people might post an overwhelming amount of (often negative) reviews about a work simply because they don’t like what the author/director/actor/singer is doing or has done versus present an honest opinion of the work itself.
Ms. Alaimo notes a couple of books dealing with potentially “controversial” topics but it doesn’t have to be so. I recall a few years back when the female-centric Ghostbusters was released and a corner of the internet lost their collective minds feeling that the film was somehow slamming masculinity simply by existing in this form.
Negative and positive reviews of a product, obviously, can play a huge role in whether it succeeds or fails. By posting large amounts of negative reviews, a group of people could ensure that a work fails.
But what if they haven’t read the work? What if they’re upset with what the work is about and doesn’t conform to their world-view?
This is the rub, I suppose. When a website like Goodreads.com, which is devoted to offering readers a chance to critique a book, devolves into questionable reviews, then what purpose does it serve?
Is there an answer?
I noticed on Amazon.com (which owns Goodreads, it should be noted), reviews of novels may have a “Verified Purchase” label which indicates the person reviewing a novel has indeed bought it.
However, this likely only applies to people who purchase said novel through Amazon itself, be it a Kindle work or a physical copy, and doesn’t necessarily apply to someone who might have bought it elsewhere -such as through a bookstore or second hand shop- and were so impressed (or perhaps depressed!) by the work they felt the need to offer their opinion on it.
For example, I love the novel The Far Cry by Fredric Brown. So much so that I went out of my way to write a positive review of it on Amazon.com even though the copy I have was bought years before at a second-hand bookshop and therefore my review didn’t have the “verified purchase” label.
c’est la vie
Either way, there is no easy solution here. The effort it would take to weed out “legitimate” reviews from those that aren’t seems almost impossible to do, and the shame is that perhaps some books that could or should be successful may not be, and vice versa.