“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”: Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy vs. Spy

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation!

We once lived in a cinematic age when pushing a series to five or more installments was a generally unwise move. Rocky V. Friday the 13th: A New Beginning. Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach. A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. Superman Returns. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. An unwatchable army of various grade-Z horror also-rans that made it to #5 only through the undiscerning benevolence of the direct-to-VHS market. Many of us remain thankful the producers of Jaws and Lethal Weapon quit while they were behind.

Today, sequel failure is no longer a given. X-Men: Days of Future Past and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix may not be the greatest of either franchise, but they’re nonetheless commendable works that furthered their sagas, asked more of their actors, challenged themselves to create their own unique moments, and validated their existence. They confirmed it can be done. Along that same line of logic comes Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Any other series built around any other A-list star might be accused of being a soulless cash-grabbing machine if they repeated a role this many times. Maybe not all the parts are brand new, but the ones that worked before shine up really nicely and fit together into interesting new shapes if you know how to tweak them.

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2014 Oscar-Nominated Animated Shorts: a Brief Rundown

Mr. Hublot

Behold the complex world of Mr. Hublot.

Each year since 2009 my wife and I have made a day-long date of visiting Keystone Art Cinema, the only dedicated art-film theater in Indianapolis, to view the big-screen release of the Academy Award nominees for Best Live-Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film. Results vary each time and aren’t always for all audiences, but we appreciate this opportunity to sample such works and see what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences deemed worthy of celebrating, whether we agree with their collective opinions or not.

Presented below are my thoughts on this year’s five Animated Short Film nominees. Shorts International, which masterminds these theatrical releases, strongly discourages the nominated filmmakers from posting their works online for free, but it’s my understanding they’re available on iTunes, Amazon, and/or Video On Demand. If you live in a large city where they’re playing in theaters, this year you’re treated to silly framing sequences starring an animated ostrich and giraffe who work as stand-ins during Oscars ceremony rehearsals. Voices are provided by Red Dwarf alumni Kerry Shale and Mac McDonald.

Enjoy where possible!

And the nominees are…

“The World’s End”: Midlife Crisis Begets Drinking Quest Begets Apocalypse

The World's End, movie

Under normal circumstances, a film like The World’s End would be miles outside my bailiwick. It’s been years since I could stomach flocks about man-children stalled in permanent adolescence (e.g., half the comedies starring SNL vets). I’m not interested in celebrations of the magical bonding power of alcohol (e.g., half the comedies released in the last five years). I’ve seen maybe one R-rated comedy in the last five years (Tropic Thunder had its good parts). Combine the three elements and I would anticipate the kind of mess least likely to earn a dime of my own money. Only on the strength of the talented names of Simon Pegg and director/co-writer Edgar Wright did I temporarily waive my reservations and see if the minds behind Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz came within a stone’s throw of the same achievement levels in wit and ingenuity.

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