Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director:  Christopher McQuarrie
Screenwriter:  Christopher McQuarrie, Bruce Geller
Cast:  Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris
Screened at: AMC Lincoln Square, NYC, 7/11/18
Opens: July 27, 2018

Movies have come a long way since an audience for “The Great Train Robbery” ducked under the seats as the railroad train headed toward them in that historic six-minute film screened in 1903.  Just imagine what the audience, perhaps seeing their first film at the turn of the 20th century, would think if they saw “Mission: Impossible—Fallout”! They wouldn’t be ducking under their seats. They would be shouting and running for the exits, thinking that the end of the world was finally here.  If they stayed for most of the almost two and one-half picture, though, they would not think the world was ending. They would be certain, because the bad guys, who include August Walker (Henry Cavill) as a rogue agent actually tasked with eliminating the good guys, and especially Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), an anarchist with, of course, a full beard, plan to blow up a good part of the world knocking out 1/3 of our population to start.

Lucky for us that Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), working for the IMF together with Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), is available to make amends for his failure to capture the anarchist.  While many would think his new mission is impossible, the fallout is altogether a happy one, ultimately finding a reconciliation between Ethan Hunt and his wife Julia Meade-Hunt (Michelle Monaghan).

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, in his métier having directed “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” in 2016 (a homicide inspector looks into the case of a sniper who shot five random victims) and is the only one who directed two “Mission Impossible” actions.  At the screening I attended he spoke to the vast audience at AMC Lincoln Square’s IMAX theater, making sure that we all appreciate that Tom Cruise, who does some of his own stunts, injured his ankle during a drop from one roof to another in London, yet without waiting for his foot completely to heal continued to show up for work.  (Work?  This is pure fun.  We all should have jobs like his.)

In a picture with a great many strengths, though plot is not one of them, Tom Cruise leads his team against people out to kill off much of civilization to start “a new order.”  McQuarrie and a cast of hundreds of extras supporting to main characters, enact what some consider to be one of the greatest action movie of all time.  Given the steady march of film technology—special effects, booming sound, motorcycle chases through the streets of Paris that look so real you’d swear  you witnessed the real thing—“Mission: Impossible—Fallout” will impress audiences that are already hip to video games and scores of action features—but I can’t think of a single one that can surpass what occurs on the screen in an IMAX theater.

This sixth installment following McQuarrie’s “Rogue Nation” (Ethan Hunt and team go after the Syndicate, which had been charged with eradicating the International Monetary Fund) opened in Paris July 12, 2018 as well it should be given the City of Lights’ major role as virtually another character.  Don’t expect this to be in any way comparable to the intellectual spy stories of Joh Le Carré though you might compare the story to chapters in books by Ian Fleming, Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum.  In an opening sequence Ethan Hunt and Benji botch an operation irritating CIA director Erica Sloane (Angela Bassett) forcing Hunt to team up with Luther (Ving Rhames) and the complex character August Walker (Henry Cavill).  In a breathtaking sequence the two jump from a jet like joyous sky divers, their chutes threatening to stay closed even as they are within 1000 feet of Paris’ Grand Palais.

One of the actions exquisitely choreographed is a fight scene in a men’s room between the team and a goon, the action unfolding with a minimum of itchy editing so common to martial arts pics, the realistic punches landing with thuds.  Other adventures involve masks donned by some to conceal their identities, with a great gag involving CNN commentator Wolf Blitzer.  Audience members who may not have traveled much will be treated to the wonders of Paris, but Hunt is not one to sit in a sidewalk café watching pedestrians but is happier in cars and motorcycles charging down the cobblestone streets.  At times that most drivers would be honking their horns at traffic delays, Hunt is able to traverse the streets at 60 mph without knocking down a single civilian.

Other stunts involves jumping from roof toe roof, climbing and hanging on to a rope which Hunt holds onto for dear life as a helicopter takes off,.  All comes to a smashing conclusion in Kashmir (filmed in Norway and New Zealand) as the team of good guys try to defuse a series of bombs set to go off in 15 minutes thereby destroying most of India, Pakistan, Kashmir and presumably the happiest country, Bhutan.

Each episode tops the one before, the movie owning nothing to the James Bond series since every gadget owned by 007 has been largely surpassed by today’s technology.  So: plot is familiar, action is incredible.  The picture deserves to be seen in 2-D on the largest screen available in your area, IMAX if you can get it, but given the length of the film and the annoyance of wearing those pesky glasses I would recommend skipping the 3-D.

Rated PG-13.  144 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – A
Overall – A-

HOTEL ARTEMIS – movie reveiw


Global Road Entertainment
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten
Director: Drew Pearce
Screenwriter:  Drew Pearce
Cast:  Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Sofia Boutella, Jeff Goldblum, Brian Tyree Henry, Jenny Slate
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 6/4/18
Opens: June 8, 2018
Hotel Artemis - Poster Gallery
You might be a fan of Quentin Tarantino’s mindset and of the Jack Wick pictures but that does not guarantee affection got “Hotel Artemis.  Though there are three fine performances here—those of Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown and Sofia Boutella—the movie is lacking in a solid story and depends on episodic incidents, some violent, also considerable copy-cat fighting particularly involving a woman who speaks French but can take care of herself even when attacked by four male thugs.

This is Foster’s first film since “Elysium” in 2013– yet another dystopian feature but with a more interesting story about how the rich live on a man-made space station while the rest of us must bide our time on an earth ruined  by climate change and other man-made disasters.  While “Elysium” is set in 2174, “Hotel Artemis” moves on only until 2028. The good news is that the earth has survived. The bad news is: why bother?  Los Angeles is in a state of anarchy, each day like the 24-hour period that motivates “The Purge.”  While criminals are at risk, there is just one safe house that virtually guarantees protection.  The Hotel Artemis, a well-known old structure that freely advertises its location is secretly available only to members.  And to be a member you must be a dangerous criminal, a fact not likely mentioned by Trivago.

The structure is run by “Nurse,” who has available some of the most modern robotic surgery equipment with corresponding computer screeners from the floor to the ceiling.  When criminals begin checking in by showing their membership cards, she opens the gate, a woman whose use of a rotary dial telephone and hi fi turntable seems an anomaly when set against her high tech equipment.

When she admits hotel owner “Niagara” (Jeff Goldblum) violence is triggered inside the safe house involving rival gangs.  Guests include “Waikiki” (Sterling K. Brown), “Nice” (Sofia Boutella), “Honolulu” (Brian Tyree Henry) and others, including a policewoman, Morgan (Jenny Slate) whom she admits for reasons of her own despite the cop’s non-membership.  With the marmoreal “Everest” (Dave Bautista) running security, “Nurse” insists that the rules are paramount, that nobody is above the law.  When the rules are broken, havoc reigns within as well as without.

The usual gunplay, knifings, strangulations, death by hard objects and even elevator shafts keeping the energy flowing, the episodic nature of the short movie (actually a mere 85 minutes without the end-credits) has no way of being redeemed by the dystopian ambiance filmed well by Chung Hoon-Chung behind the lens or by the eight-person make-up team which gave Jodie Foster an eerie look of a woman a decade or more her age.

Writer-director Drew Pearce in his freshman role as director of a full length feature, is in his métier, having scripted  “Iron Man 3” and “Mission Impossible—Rogue Nation.”


Unrated.  96 minutes.  © 2018 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – C+
Acting – B-
Technical – B
Overall – C+


BUSHWICK – movie poster


    RLJ Entertainment
    Reviewed by: Harvey Karten, CompuServe Film d-based on Rotten Tomatoes
    Grade: D+
    Director:  Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott
    Written by: Nick Damici, Graham Reznick
    Cast: Dave Bautista, Brittany Snow, Angelic Zambrana, Jeremie Harris
    Screened at: Critics’ Link, NYC, 8/9/17
    Opens: August 25, 2017

    click for larger (if applicable)

    August 2017 might be called the Black Lives Matter in the Movies month.  Four films about neighborhood protests in Crown Heights, Brooklyn (“Crown Heights”), Ferguson, Missouri (“Whose Streets?”), Detroit, Michigan  (“Detroit”) and Bushwick, Brooklyn (“Bushwick”) make the scene.  Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott, who directed “Bushwick,” are known for “Cooties” (a virus turns elementary school kids into savages) bearing the cute tagline “You are what they eat.”  You can hardly expect these gentlemen, then, to contribute a staid documentary with talking heads, and they do not. This time, though, Bushwick is not a serious look at race relations even though the Brooklyn neighborhood has a large African-American population.  Bushwick is chosen because in the context of the film, the bad guys think that a multi-ethnic neighborhood would offer little resistance to a takeover.

    While some reviewers might praise the film as a solid B-movie, the silly dialogue and mindless shooting scenes are not conducive to viewer patience, even among the target audience of young males of all races. To its credit, however, the production team capitalizes on what the media have been saying for months, maybe years.  That is the idea, given the polarization of the country into red states and blue states, and given the way that congress is badly split with only a semblance of bi-partisanship, that we are on the brink of a second civil war.    Nick Damici and Graham Reznick, who wrote the script, are on the side of those who want to keep America united, and opposed to the militia sent by Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and a few other southern states who want to use Bushwick as a zone of operations.  Remember, also, that former Texas governor Rick Perry suggested that after the election of Obama, his state could consider seceding; a statement that put him right up there with Donald Trump for idiocy.

    The plot, with dialogue that appears so dumb that it might have been improvised given the regular use of the f-work, and repeated exclamations of omigod, is almost painful to sit through.  The story finds Lucy (Brittany Snow), a graduate student in civil engineering, heading to her grandma’s house with her boyfriend—who gets killed upon exiting the Church Avenue subway station.  Lucy is on her own until she runs into ex-Marine Stupe (David Bautista) and, both armed, they proceed block by block to an evacuation center, dodging bullets, occasionally giving some help to downed neighbors.  When one of the soldiers (Alex Breaux) is captured, he confesses that he is just following orders: that the southern states want to force Congress to ratify a secession.    Among the losers they find on the way is Lucy’s pothead sister Belinda (Angelic Zambrana), who minutes after shouting “Who is that guy?” upon seeing Stupe is attempting to seduce him.

    The film concludes open-ended.  We have to wait for a potential sequel to see whether the southern states secede.  I can wait.

    Unrated.  94 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
    Comments, readers?  Agree? Disagree? Why?