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Tom Cruise

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT” My rating: B-

147 minutes| MPAA rating: PG-13

The latest “Mission: Impossible” is being hyped as possibly the greatest action film of all time.

Well, there’s no arguing that “Fallout” has some of the best conceived and executed action sequences ever, with star Tom Cruise appearing to risk life and limb to deliver the thrills audiences expect. (Of course, in this age of seamless CGI moviegoers can’t even be sure that a simple sunset is the real deal. Probably best to take the Cruise heroics with a grain of salt.)

Here’s the downside.  In his effort to deliver bigger, better stunts (he’d already set the bar impossibly high with 2015’s “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”) writer/director Christopher McQuarrie has jettisoned just about every other dramatic element.

Character development?  Hah.

Coherent plotting? You need a flow chart and a PowerPoint demonstration to make sense of it all.

Emotional content?  Gimme a break.

No, this latest “M:I” is essentially a perpetual motion machine careening from one splashy sequence to the next.  The connective material — the moments when the film slows down enough to explain what’s going on or to establish who’s who —  is actually kind of irritating.  It’s like being told to eat your peas before you can have some ice cream.

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Tom Cruise...just another day at work

Tom Cruise…just another day at work

“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE — ROGUE NATION”  My rating: B-

 131 minutes  | MPAA rating:  PG-13.

The latest “Mission: Impossible” film doesn’t offer much for the brain. The rest of your nervous system, though, will get a thorough workout.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie — helming only his third feature after a long career as a screenwriter (“The Usual Suspects,” “Valkyrie,” “Edge of Tomorrow” and the lamentable “The Tourist”) — builds on the spectacular/visceral approach Brad Bird employed to such solid effect four years ago in “M:I — Ghost Protocol.”

There’s not much talk in “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” and what there is is confusing and forgettable.

The big action set pieces, though, just keep on comin’.

McQuarrie announces his intentions with the opening sequence — already heavily publicized through the film’s marketing campaign — that finds Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt hanging on for dear life to the exterior of a huge military-type transport plane as it takes off. (There’s something important inside that Ethan doesn’t want the bad guys to have, dontcha know.)

Unable to stop the takeoff by hacking into the plane’s electronics, Ethan has no choice but to ride the big bird like that gremlin in the old “Twilight Zone” episode.  Much has been made of the fact that Cruise actually did that stunt…he was strapped to the fuselage of an airplane.

Well, that’s only the beginning. Ethan must foil an elaborate political assassination attempt during opening night at the Vienna Opera House (clearly inspired by a similar setup in Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much”). I especially like the firearms disguised as woodwind instruments.

He must hold his breath underwater for, like, four minutes to break into a computer data storage facility deep below the Moroccan desert. (Not to be a killjoy, but where did all that water come from? It’s a DESERT.)

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edge“THE EDGE OF TOMORROW” My rating: B- (Opening wide on June 6)

113 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

 

“The Edge of Tomorrow,” a big-budget sci-fi action epic that melds elements of “Starship Troopers” with “Groundhog Day,” has been earning the sort of reviews usually reserved for Shakespeare adaptations.

This says less about “The Edge of Tomorrow” than about the generally dismal state of the action movie.

Still, the film does have a few things going for it, starting out with Tom Cruise as we’ve never before seen him (playing a physical coward), and extending through the dry humor with which director Doug Liman (“The Bourne Identity,” “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”) approaches his offbeat tale.

But for all that, it’s still a big-budget action movie in which crashbangboom trumps all other considerations.

In the near future, Earth is under attack by an alien species we humans have nicknamed the Mimics. These are tentacled creatures (they look a bit like the Sentinels from the “Matrix” flicks) that roll around like tumbleweeds, shooting off sparks and tearing up those unfortunate enough to stand in their path.

The Mimics pretty much own Europe, having plowed across the continent. Now they are preparing to jump the English Channel to overrun Britain.

Major William Cage (Cruise) is a U.S. Army public relations specialist stunned to learn that he’s been ordered to shoot combat footage of the first wave of troops to storm the beaches at Normandy. Cage protests that he’s a word man, not a gun guy, that he’s never been trained for combat, that he’ll only get in the way, that he faints at the sight of blood.  In fact, like any sane individual, he’s terrified of the horrors that await him.

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“MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – GHOST PROTOCOL” My rating: B

133 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

If “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”  feels like a live-action version of a cartoon, it only stands to reason.

The man behind the camera is animator Brad Bird, who gave us “The Iron Giant,” “Ratatouille” and “The Incredibles,” three of the smartest and most ambitious animated features of recent years. And he brings to the “M:I” franchise the same breathless pacing, eye for action and sly humor that has marked his animated work. (more…)

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