The Sisters Brothers

sisters_brothers_ver2_xlgDirected by critically acclaimed French filmmaker Jacques Audiard best known for 2010’s A Prophet and 2015’s Dheepan, The Sisters Brothers is a Western that is remarkable for its terrific acting performances and its unique and fascinating story that breaks the mold of a typical Western genre film. The plot revolves around two brothers Eli Sisters, played by Academy Award-nominated actor John C. Riley who is best known for his comedic roles alongside Will Ferrell, and Charlie Sisters, played by three-time Academy Award-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix, who are both hired assassins who work for the powerful Commodore from Oregon City, Oregon. Set in the 1850s at the height of the Gold Rush in California and throughout the American Far West, the brothers are sent on a mission to track down a prospector named Hermann Kermit Warm, played by Emmy Award-winning actor Riz Ahmed who is best known for his role in the 2016’s HBO miniseries The Night Of, who has developed a scientific technique to discover gold. As the Sisters brothers embark on a perilous journey through the wild West of Oregon and California, another hired gunslinger named John Morris, played by Academy Award-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal, has tracked down and captured Warm after which they decide to become partners in gold prospecting. Eventually, Eli and Charlie catch up to both Warm and Morris, and all four men unexpectedly join forces but are hampered by rather unusual tragedies. Throughout the film, the protagonists meet a wide variety of true characters who either want to kill them or are killed by them, all set against dramatic Western landscapes and lawless frontier towns stereotypical of traditional Western cinema. However, the movie diverges from the genre by approaching the storyline as a slow burn drama that has moments of dark comedy and explores the complicated yet loving relationship between the two brothers. Yes, there are good old Western shootouts but a majority of the plot is a much more personal narrative than what most audience members will expect. Overall, I found it to be a well-polished film with elements of a Western that surprisingly evolves into something much more than just a violent picture set in the American West, primarily as a result of its truly excellent performances from the highly regarded lead actors and its unique vision from a well-respected foreign filmmaker.

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Mission: Impossible – Fallout

mission_impossible__fallout_ver3_xlgThe sixth installment in the Tom Cruise-led Mission: Impossible film series starting with its first movie in 1996 and, in turn, based on the TV series of the same name that ran from 1966 to 1973, Mission: Impossible – Fallout is a terrific spy action thriller that is one of the best, if not the best, Mission: Impossible film as a result of its spectacular stunt work and well-written script filled with satisfying twists. The story takes place two years after the previous film and follows Ethan Hunt, played by action star Tom Cruise, who is a secret agent in the fictional American spy agency IMF, Impossible Missions Force. The mission that he chooses to accept is to recover three stolen plutonium cores that could be used for portable nuclear weapons and are in the hands of a new shadowy criminal organization known as “the Apostles” that is an offshoot of the terrorist group known as “the Syndicate” led by the now imprisoned terrorist and anarchist Solomon Lane, played by the devious Sean Harris. Ethan works with his usual team of the IMF technical field agent and comic relief Benji Dunn, played by comedic actor Simon Pegg, and the IMF agent and Ethan’s closest friend Luther Stickell, played by the muscular Ving Rhames. However, the new CIA director Erica Sloane, played by Angela Bassett, who replaced Alec Baldwin’s character Alan Hunley, now the new IMF Secretary, does not entirely trust the IMF so she sends a CIA agent and assassin named August Walker, played by Henry Cavill best known for his role as Superman, to ensure that Ethan’s team stays on mission. In order to intercept the plutonium, Ethan poses as the buyer John Lark who is told by the intermediary known as White Widow, played by Vanessa Kirby best known for her role in the Netflix series The Crown, that Ethan must help his one-time nemesis Solomon Lane break out of police custody. Ethan learns that he must rescue Lane from a heavily-guarded police motorcade in the streets of London so the audience is taken on a thrilling and intense action sequence with a car chase and gunfight. Over time, Ethan and the team discovered that not everything is as it seems and that they cannot trust certain people as working for the same side. The end of the film turns into a brilliantly executed race against time to prevent the detonation of the nuclear weapons, and Ethan finds himself on a terrifying and exciting helicopter race in order to stop a global catastrophe from happening. Overall, I found it to be one of the better action movies I have seen in a while, which can be credited to the awesome action scenes and believable acting performances, especially from Tom Cruise who is in his action superstar best.

Christopher Robin

christopher_robin_ver3_xlgDirected by Marc Forster who is best known for 2001’s Monster’s Ball, 2004’s Finding Neverland, and 2006’s Stranger than Fiction, Christopher Robin is a sweet and heartwarming re-imagination of the classic Winnie the Pooh stories written by A. A. Milne and Disney animated films beginning in 1966 and is able to appeal to both children and adults. The plot follows Christopher Robin, played by Golden Globe-nominated actor Ewan McGregor, as an adult who left his furry friends from the Hundred Acre Wood many years ago and now has a stressful job that takes him away from his wife Evelyn, played by Golden Globe-nominated actress Hayley Atwell, and his young daughter Madeline. The film starts with a flashback to when Robin is given a farewell party as he is about to go off to boarding school by his magical friends Winnie the Pooh, voiced by Jim Cummings who has been the voice of Winnie the Pooh for over thirty years, Tigger, also voiced by Jim Cummings, Eeyore, voiced by Brad Garrett from Everybody Loves Raymond, Piglet, Owl, Rabbit, Roo, and Kanga. After a difficult day at work and having to skip a family vacation, Robin is astonished to find Winnie the Pooh in London who himself is looking for the other living stuffed animal characters. Robin decides he must take Winnie the Pooh back to the Hundred Acre Wood, a secret world only accessed through a tree’s door, located near the Robin family’s cottage in Sussex. Throughout the adventure to reunite Winnie the Pooh with Tigger and the others, Robin continues to reassert that he is no longer a child and that Winnie the Pooh must stop his silly childish behavior. He is also extremely frantic about a deadline at his workplace Winslow Luggages where he works as an efficiency expert, and things spiral out of control after some of his paperwork is misplaced right before a very important meeting in London. Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, and Eeyore along with Madeline try to track down Robin after taking a train ride from Sussex to London, and several funny and cute moments occur during their dangerous expedition in the human world. Eventually, with the help of his friends, especially Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin realizes that family is much more important than work and that it is okay to play like a child as an adult in order to better appreciate life. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable family-friendly movie that was terrific for nostalgic purposes but did not reach the level of the original Disney animated films or other similar movies released recently, including 2015’s Paddington and this year’s Paddington 2 that are also based on classic British stories revolving around a playful bear.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

antman_and_the_wasp_ver2_xlgThe sequel to the highly successful 2015 movie Ant-Man and the twentieth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a highly entertaining and creative film that takes itself less seriously than a majority of the other superhero movies and thereby is filled with much more humor and fun. The story takes place several years after the original in which the protagonist Scott Lang, played by the humorous Paul Rudd, is under house arrest after a mission as his superhero alter ego Ant-Man. He is a more sympathetic and well-rounded superhero because of his poignant relationship with his young daughter and having fairly usual problems in real life. Just days before his house arrest is over, he is in clear violation by getting in contact with the brilliant inventor of the Ant-Man outfit Hank Pym, played by Oscar winner Michael Douglas, and his smart and beautiful daughter Hope van Dyne, played by Evangeline Lilly, whose superhero alter ego is the Wasp. Hank discovers there may be a way to rescue his wife Janet, played by Golden Globe winner Michelle Pfeiffer, who is stuck in the subatomic quantum realm, and he must enlist Scott to become Ant-Man again to help develop a device to enter the quantum realm. However, the trio find themselves in trouble after trying to broker a deal with the black-market dealer Sonny Burch, played by the villainous Walton Goggins, who double-crosses them in order to steal Hank’s advanced technology. To complicate things even further, they encounter the mysterious Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, who is suffering from quantum and molecular instability and is desperate to find the technology to alleviate her problem. Throughout the movie as the characters engage in the typical action sequences of any comic book superhero production, Scott along with his buddies, especially Michael Peña’s character Luis, bring a certain levity to the story through their often ridiculous and hilarious antics. Much of the humor derives from the conceit of the film: the filmmakers play around with the ability of the characters to shrink and enlarge themselves and everyday objects, including an entire building shrunk down to the size of a briefcase and a life-size Pez dispenser that becomes a weapon. Overall, I found it to be one of the more enjoyable cinematic experiences found in the innumerable Marvel superhero movies as a result of its lighthearted approach while still retaining thrilling CGI-enhanced action scenes.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

The fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise which started with the release of the original in 1993 and was rebooted in 2015 with the first Jurassic World movie, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is a fairly typical popcorn summer blockbuster that provides some over-the-top thrills but ultimately feels unnecessary and obviously cannot rise to the occasion like the original Jurassic Park directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Following on the heels of Jurassic World in which the revamped amusement park featuring live dinosaurs closes under disasterous conditions, a rescue operation to save the dinosaurs is underway by a team of mercenaries under the guidance of Jurassic Park’s co-founder Benjamin Lockwood, played by Oscar nominee James Cromwell, and the head of Lockwood’s foundation Eli Mills, played by the conniving Rafe Spall. Eventually, former head of the park Claire Dearing, played by Bryce Dallas Howard, and Velociraptor wrangler Owen Grady, played by Chris Pratt, are brought in to help track down the remaining dinosaurs before the island where they are kept is destroyed by a massive volcanic eruption. Like the other films, there are a few action sequences in which the characters are running away from gigantic fearsome dinosaurs and this time is further intensified as the humans try to escape as the island literally explodes in stunning CGI sequences. Towards the middle of the movie, Claire and Owen along with a small team of dinosaur advocates realize that their objective in rescuing the dinosaurs is not for entirely altruistic aims as they were initially promised. Much of the action transitions to Lockwood’s large estate in Northern California where the protagonists must fight once again to save their lives and protect the dinosaurs. As a desperate attempt to bring back nostalgia for 1993’s Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum’s iconic character pops up in a superfluous Congressional hearing about the dinosaur’s fate. Overall, I did find it a fairly entertaining cinematic experience that brought back memories of the original that was released during my childhood; unfortunately, it did not add much to the first film’s originality and thereby the Jurassic Park series feels like it has run its course.

Incredibles 2

The long-awaited sequel of the wildly successful 2004 animated superhero movie The Incredibles, Incredibles 2 is yet another excellent Pixar Disney movie that comes close to the original with its unique retro style and family-friendly fun. Set shortly after the first movie, the story follows the Parr family in which each family member has a superpower but have not been able to publicly remain superheroes since they have recently been outlawed. In a publicity ploy to help legalize superheroes by the wealthy tech entrepreneur Winston Deavor, voiced by Emmy winner Bob Odenkirk, along with his brilliant sister Evelyn, voiced by Oscar nominee Catherine Keener, Helen who is the superhero Elastigirl, voiced by Oscar winner Holly Hunter, is recruited to serve as a positive image of a superhero saving lives. Her husband Bob who is the superhero Mr. Incredible, voiced by Emmy winner Craig T. Nelson, begrudgingly becomes a stay-at-home dad and is unable to use his superhuman strength in public because it is deemed too destructive. He is depicted as a stereotypical father who is in over-his-head while also dealing with three kids who happen to have superpowers. Violet, voiced by comedian and writer Sarah Vowell, is your typical teenage daughter with the exception that she can become invisible and project a protective force field. The middle son nicknamed Dash is a rebellious middle schooler who has superhuman speed. The most entertaining and funny moments occur with the baby Jack-Jack who we find out has some fairly unusual superpowers that are both cute and dangerous. Eventually, Elastigirl heroically fights off a new supervillain named Screenslaver who is hypnotizing citizens and ultimately other superheroes to commit crimes. Towards the end of the movie, we discover that the true villain is actually somebody completely unexpected. Overall, I found it to be a highly entertaining computer animated family movie that appeals to both kids and adults alike as a result of its exciting and sometimes funny action coupled with creative writing and look.

Adrift

Based on a remarkable true story, Adrift is a fairly typical survival movie that is enhanced by terrific acting performances and realistic and beautiful cinematography. The film follows the 23-year-old Tami Oldham, played by Golden Globe nominee Shailene Woodley, who travels the world away from her hometown of San Diego and finds herself on the island of Tahiti where she meets the handsome 34-year-old British sailor Richard Sharp, played by Sam Claflin. Through a series of flashbacks, they fall in love and enjoy sailing around the South Pacific Islands on his small sailboat that he built himself. Eventually, a couple who are friends with Richard ask Richard and Tami to take their 44-foot sailboat over 4,000 miles back to San Diego. They set out for their journey in October 1983, but tragedy strikes when their boat is heavily damaged by an unexpected Category 4 hurricane in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Richard is severely injured so Tami must take on the duties to try and survive with the sailboat missing its sails and all navigation and radio equipment inoperable. As the days progress, Tami is in an increasingly dire situation as food begins to run low and the boat is many miles away from land. She decides that the best hope for survival is to head for Hawai’i and must navigate only using the primitive tools of the sextant and following the stars. At some point, the audience realizes the extent that her mental state and hallucinations impact her ability to think properly and ultimately survive the ordeal. Overall, I found it to be a somewhat compelling survival adventure movie that differentiates itself from the rather generic formula of the genre by having a dynamic and raw performance from the talented young actress Shailene Woodley.