All 6 ‘Mission: Impossible’ films, ranked (Movie commentary)

In honor of “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” hitting home rental this week, I thought I’d do a ranking of all six “M:I” movies in which Tom Cruise plays Agent Ethan Hunt.  As an action movie junkie, my views may differ from the typical critical rankings. Cruise does almost all of his own stunts, and they are just as much the star of the show as he is, so I’ve included a nod to the best action sequence in each film.

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One-season wonders: ‘Six Degrees’ (2006-07) (Review)

ABC publicity photo

“This Is Us” will soon to bring the “people living their lives” genre back to TV, and it seems to feature character/story paths distinct from each other. So I thought it would be a good time to look back at a similar show, “Six Degrees” (2006-07, ABC). The 13-episode series from J.J. Abrams falls halfway between the genres he’s most associated with: It’s a character piece like “Felicity” or “What About Brian,” but it also flirts with bigger ideas like “Lost” or “Fringe” (albeit much more tangentially).

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In ‘The Force Awakens,’ the creative side of ‘Star Wars’ dies – with thunderous applause (Movie review)

“Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens,” the first big-screen building block in Disney’s takeover of the empire formerly owned by George Lucas, is frustrating on many levels: It copies the plot of “Episode IV — A New Hope” without adding any new perspectives, it gives no sense of the scope of the events, and it regularly taunts us with the fact that a much more interesting story happened between Episodes VI and VII. Overall, I wasn’t so much thrilled by the return of “Star Wars” to the big screen as I was saddened by how Disney only seems to care about the shallowest aspects of the saga. (SPOILERS follow throughout this review.)

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The speculation begins as ‘Jurassic World,’ ‘The Force Awakens’ trailers debut (Movie commentary)

Trying to parse out the plot and character details of a movie based on a trailer – particularly a teaser trailer – is a ridiculous exercise. But – if only to give myself something to look back and laugh at after the movies come out – here are my thoughts on the buzzed-about trailers for “Jurassic World” (June 12, 2015) and “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens” (Dec. 18, 2015). My thoughts are relatively spoiler-free, based only on the trailers and the most broadly known facts about the films.

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‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ boldly goes … where the saga has already gone before (Movie review)

Like director J.J. Abrams’ 2009 “Star Trek” film, “Star Trek Into Darkness” gets all the Trek-isms correct. Everyone is still spot-on as alternate-universe versions of the iconic characters, Scottie and Chekov have thick accents, there are winks about red shirts, Bones says a variation on “Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor …” and so forth.

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‘Felicity’s’ J.J. Abrams seems like a solid choice to direct ‘Star Wars — Episode VII’ (Movie commentary)

I’ve never fully jumped on the J.J. Abrams bandwagon; he just doesn’t excite me that much as a director, or as a writer. That having been said, I think he’ll do a fine job directing 2015’s “Star Wars — Episode VII” (the announcement swept across the internet on Thursday), as long as George Lucas asks him to tone down the lens flares. Heck, Abrams might not even need that instruction: While the helmer’s oft-parodied affinity for lens flares was appropriate for channeling nostalgia as in “Star Trek” (2009) and “Super 8” (2011), I think he’s smart enough to make “Star Wars” look like “Star Wars.”

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Fond farewell: ‘Fringe’ (TV review)

To me, one of the most exciting things about the end of “Fringe” is that I can now look forward to rewatching the show on DVD someday. For five seasons, I watched every episode as it aired on Fox, but I’ve found that people who watched it in large chunks on DVD embraced it more than me. Ironically, like a lot of complex TV shows (“Lost” being another prime example), “Fringe” didn’t play as well with the weeklong gaps.

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War — what is it good for? A few good plots, at least (TV commentary)

We’re in a curious situation right now where 94 percent of the country supports pro-war presidential candidates yet other polls show that the majority of people are against war (although most of Congress is pro-war). Of course, war is a complicated issue, and I don’t pretend to understand all of it (although I certainly respect soldiers’ views, which tend to lean anti-war, in my experience). But because of the mainstream media’s focus on the two major parties, the raw fact of our involvement in the Middle East is generally not questioned — rather, the questions are about the details of how to conduct the wars.

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First episode impressions: ‘Fringe’ Season 5 (TV review)

In the early days of TV, every episode was a standalone, so if you missed an episode you wouldn’t get lost. Eventually, we started to see more serial TV with ongoing stories that rewarded regular viewers. “Fringe” (8 p.m. Central Fridays, Fox), now in its fifth and final season, is the next iteration: I’ve seen every episode, yet I feel like I’ve missed several.

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First episode impressions: ‘Fringe’ Season 4 (TV review)

Most shows are naturally constrained by their narrative — sort of like a choose-your-own-adventure book where every choice is locked in once it happens. But at the staff meetings for “Fringe” (8 p.m. Central Fridays on Fox), I imagine that if a writer says “What if this were to happen?,” he never hears “Oh, that can’t happen” as a response.

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