Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Warp Speed, Scotty.

MI 5Love him or loathe him, Tom Cruise is box office Teflon, shrugging off sticky questions about his private life with a blinding white grin as the tills keep ringing. His latest, MI5, shows no sign of bucking the trend.

 

You know the drill. Tom is Ethan Hunt – so named long before a certain Tory Culture Secretary became the nemesis of BBC news presenters. Can you imagine John Humphries covering the MI5 red carpet? The Sloth would gladly pay to see the ensuing Wrath of Scientology reign down. But we digress.

 

Ethan pops up in London, specifically in a vintage record store (Kids, people used to buy music in flat black plastic circles. Yes, really), to receive details of his latest mission. Except he’s been duped. Instead, he’s been lured there in an assassination attempt by The Syndicate, a rogue terrorist organisation intent on destroying both Ethan and the IMF. But he escapes, because he can’t get killed in the first scenes, vowing to hunt down and destroy The Syndicate.

 

Back in the US, IMF boss Brandt (Jeremy Renner) is embroiled in a battle with head of the CIA, Hunley (Alec Baldwin), who tries and succeeds to get the IMF shut down. So Ethan has no choice but to Go Rogue himself, taking trusty Scotty, sorry, Benji (Simon Pegg) with him in his pursuit of The Syndicate. So ensues a non-stop, all action romp that takes in Europe, Morocco and the US, a ton of proper, Old Skool stunts which Mr Cruise, looking remarkably spritely for his 53 years, did the majority of himself, including hanging for dear life onto the side of an airborne plane and an epic underwater scene where either his acting skills are superlative or he really was on the brink of drowning.

 

All in all, it flies along at a rollicking pace and is great, popcorn fun. Not least due to being backed up by a smart, supporting cast including Rebecca Ferguson as kick-ass agent Ilsa Faust (at which point forgive us for getting on our high horse but, having given us a strong female character, the producers totally let themselves down by including a completely gratuitous arse-shot. Come on, you’re better than that) and the marvellous Tom Hollander as the UK PM with Simon McBurney as Atlee, his advisor. Yes, UK TV ‘Rev’ viewers, that’s Rev and The Archdeacon together in a Hollywood movie!  Obvs we were waiting with bated breath for Atlee to announce he “can’t stop, I’m late for brunch at The Wolseley with Melyvn Bragg” and were most disappointed when it didn’t happen. Maybe keep it in mind for MI6?

UK release 30 July

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Seduced And Abandoned. Those Who Cannes, Do.

seducedThe Sloth loves Alec Baldwin.  Like a fine wine, he gets mellower and rounder and fruitier each year. The spoof, but only part spoof, documentary Seduced and Abandoned sees him reaching probably his peak vintage.

Alec is at the Cannes Film Festival because he wants to make a movie. He has a director, James Caan (the Godfather one, not the Dragon). He has a script, of sorts. What he doesn’t have is money.  Movies don’t get made without money. More importantly, movies don’t get made unless they are going to make money.

Touting his script round the Cannes marketplace like a streethawker, Alec quickly finds that in Hollywood there is a ferocious pecking order. His first choice of leading lady, Neve Campbell, is denounced by all and sundry as C or D-list. But it’s not just Neve that is the problem. Alec himself is dismissed as a very small fish in a very big pond. Interspersed with talking heads from luminaries including Martin Scorsese, Frances Ford Coppola, Diane Kruger, Jessica Chastain and (a wonderfully dry) Ryan Gosling discussing the brutality of the system, it becomes clear there is no time for protecting fragile egos here.

Seduced And Abandoned is two things. Firstly, it is very funny. Furnished with surreal, larger than life characters that you really, truly, couldn’t make up and further embellished with Alec’s droll commentary, it skewers the utter ridiculousness of the movie machine. Secondly, it is fascinating. We learnt more about the slimey, underbelly workings of Hollywood in its 98 minutes than we ever knew before (and probably wanted to). Pour yourself a large glass of movie magic, sit back and savour.

UK release 8 November / UK DVD release 24 February

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Blue Jasmine. Woman On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.

jasmineBlue Jasmine sees Woody Allen’s recent European Grand Tour come to an end as he hops back over the pond to the US of A, hopefully refreshed and reinvigorated for his latest talky-thon.

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine, part Park Avenue Princess – draped in Chanel jackets, silk shirts and Hermès bags – part Beverly from Abigail’s Party monster. Jasmine’s privileged, trophy-wife life is a whirl of benefit galas, air-kissing and throwing ‘the best dinner parties in New York City’.  Until her world crashes down with the revelation her supposed financial whizz of a husband is actually a dodgy-dealing, low-down dirty dawg. With him unceremoniously thrown in the slammer and her bank account wiped dry, Jasmine has no choice but to move in with her sister Ginger, played by Sally Hawkins, in San Francisco.

Ginger and Jasmine are adoptive, not biological sisters and as unlike peas in a pod as it is possible to be. Ginger is earthy, low brow and poor. So staying with Ginger, her two laser-gun touting young boys and grease monkey boyfriend Chili is Princess Jasmine’s idea of the most hellish purgatory imaginable.

The peripheral characters and storyline are really just meat for Cate Blanchett’s razor-sharp acting chops to tear chunks off and spit aside. By turns so obnoxiously self-centred we wanted to smack her ungrateful backside, then so utterly pathetic, delusional and mentally unstable, reduced to jabbering incomprehensibly in the street, we had to kind of pity her. But only kind of.

It’s a cracking study of one of the most complex and memorable characters to hit the screen in some time. Top marks Mr Allen, seems the holiday did you good.

UK theatrical release 20 September / UK DVD release 17 February

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