May is the month of “M:I,” as we look back at the six “Mission: Impossible” films from May 2-10. Next up is the third entry, “Mission: Impossible III” (2006):
Similar to “Spider-Man 3” (2007), so much is going on in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014) that – even if all that stuff is pretty good on its own – a viewer can’t appreciate any of it as much as he should. In this sequel that probably was not intended to be the final statement in the “Amazing” series but ended up that way when Spidey got rebooted over to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for “Captain America: Civil War” (2016), director Marc Webb and a team of four writers cram in a ton of ideas.
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.
In 2009, J.J. Abrams rebooted the “Star Trek” movie franchise by making a “Star Wars”-style movie with “Star Trek” trappings. The second entry, “Star Trek Into Darkness,” was perhaps closer to “Star Trek,” but it cribbed so liberally from “The Wrath of Khan” that it barely registered as a distinct movie. And now we have “Star Trek Beyond,” which – aside from superficialities — is so far from being a “Star Trek” movie that I scoffed out loud at the conclusive “These are the voyages …” voiceover.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.