By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
I am old enough to remember when summer was
rerun season, a time, pre-video/DVD, when you could watch again
favorite episodes of favorite TV shows while waiting anxiously for
the new season to begin in the fall. These days, with shows
premiering year-round on so many channels and platforms, rerun
season has faded away.
Take heart, there still is the movie
industry's summer blockbuster season, an ever-expanding block of
months when high-budget popcorn films hit the theaters for a few
weeks and soon enough will move into other platforms by fall.
July 2018 of the blockbuster season was the
Month of Sequels, as the offerings at theaters were revisits to such
familiar characters as Ant Man, the Mama Mia crew, the Incredibles,
Hotel Transylvania's Dracula, Denzel Washington's kick-ass Robert
McCall, and the IMF crew led by Ethan Hunt. Then there is the latest
wave in horror, the social media-driven nightmares of online terror
Impossible: Fallout" is a hoot, 2 and 1/4 hours of
seeing what outrageous stunts Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) can survive.
There is a plot in there somewhere, concocted by writer/director
Christopher McQuarrie, that involves a case of plutonium that may
fall into the wrong hands, as well as a renewal of hostilities
between Hunt and adversary Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and Hunt's
complicated love life that involves colleague Ilsa Faust (Rebecca
Ferguson) and his wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan). And of course,
Hunt's faithful teammates Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon
Pegg) are there to offer assistance and comedy relief.
But the stars of the movie are the various
fight/chase scenes that involve police cars, motorcycles, foot
pursuits, helicopters, leaping from building to building; as well as
donnybrooks in public restrooms and at the edge of a cliff. Yep,
it's live-action comic book stuff, minus the super hero
affiliations. When Hunt can engage in a five-minute brawl in a
restroom that involves crashing into mirrors and plunging through
porcelain, yet emerge not even bloodied or winded, you know you are
engaging in total fantasy.
But it's a ton of fun. However, Tom Cruise
turned 56 on July 3. Don't know how much longer he can engage in
this kind of carnage before he saddles off to the action hero sunset
in the footsteps Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, et al.
Speaking of age, Denzel Washington is old
enough to start drawing Social Security. But that did not stop him
from revisiting his role as Robert McCall in
"The Equalizer 2,"
teaming up again with director Antoine Fuqua, who directed
Washington in the first "Equalizer" as well as Washington's
Oscar-winning role in "Training Day."
These movies, based upon the 1980s
television series starring Edward Woodard, focus on McCall, a former
member of an elite Marine fighter unit, now in semi-retirement. In
the first movie, McCall is coaxed out of retirement to battle evil
syndicate of Russians. In "EQ2" he still is more or less active,
doing an occasional assignment but mostly living a quiet life is a
Lyft driver in Boston. There he also mentors a teen in the
neighborhood, Miles (Ashton Sanders), who McCall hopes can develop
his artistic talent as a way to keep him away from the local gangs.
When McCall's friend Susan (Melissa Leo),
still involved in government intelligence, is killed in Belgium,
McCall investigates and grimly learns he must go up against some of
former Marine colleagues, led by Dave York (Pedro Pascal), who has
grown cold and cynical from too many years in intelligence that has
blurred the distinction between good and bad.
"EQ2" is mostly
a quiet movie, which makes the explosive finale all the more vivid,
taking place as a severe storms rips apart McCall's former hometown
while he engages in a deadly cat-and-mouse game, outnumbered 4 to 1.
You pretty much know McCall will prevail. But watching him improvise
to turn the tide is compelling to view.
"Unfriended: Dark Web" is another movie in which the
viewer looks at nothing but a computer screen, where unfortunately,
so many things are going on it brings on eye fatigue.
It centers around a half-dozen young people
who "gather" one night on Skype to play some silly game. One of the
people, Matias (Colin Woodell) has claimed a new laptop -- it is
this device that provides the POV. Matias also is trying to mend
fences with his deaf-mute girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras) via
It turns out Matias did not purchase this
laptop, but claimed it from lost and found and soon discovers the
owner wants it back. Soon things escalate and Matias finds he has
unwillingly put his friends as well as Amaya in mortal danger.
The main problem with "Unfriended" is that
there is too much onscreen activity, a flurry of clicks and page and
prompt pop-ups that make it all too difficult to follow. Ultimately,
the conclusion is horrifying and a brutal warning about the pitfalls
of engaging too deeply into the cyber world where the potential for
danger remains largely untapped.
Then there is the prequel, "The First
Purge," which lays the foundation for the successful "Purge" series.
In this one, when the New Founding Fathers of America gain power,
and this new government decides to try a social experiment devised
by The Architect (Marisa Tomei), which is the idea that if people
get 12 hours to commit any crimes without legal repercussions, this
might be a way to blow off steam, so to speak, and maybe in the long
run flatten out the crime rate.
So Staten Island in New York is where the
first Purge is to take place. This of course triggers protests not
only about the human cost but also the injustice of this taking
place in a largely low-income area and is seen as a social
To no surprise, the fix is in. The new
government wants this experiment to succeed so it can be expanded,
and The Architect learns she has unleashed a monster.
On the streets of Staten Island the story
focuses on Nya (Lex Scott Davis), an activist who is unsuccessful in
warning away people, who are being lured by monetary compensation if
they participate in the experiment. Her brother Dmitri (Y'lan Noel),
already on the brink of being drawn into the local gangs, defies his
sister's warnings and signs on to the experiment, only to find it
horrifying. Another character is Skeletor (Rotimi Paul), a crazed
drug addict who finds the Purge to be his vicious version of
First Purge" evolves like the sequels to the
original, zeroing in on the fight for survival on the streets, but
it does help set up the premise for the Purge series.
One rare non-sequel among the recent
theatrical releases is "Skyscraper," starring Dwayne "The Rock"
Johnson. But is has a lot of parallels to his earlier effort "San
Andreas." In "Skyscraper" he plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI hostage
rescue team leader and war vet who has lost the lower half of his
left leg in a suicide bombing. He now makes a living assessing
security systems in skyscrapers.
As in "San Andreas," Will has a family,
although in "Skyscraper" he is in a solid marriage with Sarah (Neve
Campbell) rather than the splintered relationship his "San Andreas"
character Raymond Gaines is having with his wife Emma (Carla
Gugino), in the aftermath of the drowning death of one of their
daughters. In "Skyscraper," Johnson's Will is the father of twins
Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell).
Will has been contracted to assess the
security of what is the tallest building in the world, in Hong Kong,
a majestic structure that almost upstages everything else in the
Of course, sinister things are brewing, with
corporate bloodletting, as the building's developer, Zhao Long Ji
(Chin Han) has an enemy who will stop at nothing to obtain some key
data from the Chinese mogul. This includes torching the building
(with Will's family trapped on floors above the escalating blaze)
and framing Will as the fire-starter.
So Will, like Ethan Hunt, engages in a
series of death-defying challenges in his efforts to save his family
as well as stop the bad guys. Like "Mission Impossible," it is fun
to watch but in the end, pretty ludicrous. But it is nice to see
Campbell be resourceful as Sarah.