Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Mission: Impossible--Fallout

“The Nun,” “The Happytime Murders,” and “Becoming Iconic” are also new to Blu-Ray this week.

It’s a good thing Tom Cruise keeps up the cardio. As IMF agent Ethan Hunt in “Mission: Impossible—Fallout” he needs to rumble in hand to hand combat, sprint for long distances, and hang on to objects while dangling hundreds of feet in the air—usually after fighting or sprinting. Even with the magic of Hollywood cheating here and there, the man is in amazing shape. Director Christopher McQuarrie (who also wrote the screenplay) wants to make you aware of this as well, since many of the shots make it clear that Cruise is doing his own stunts.

The “Mission: Impossible” franchise has made a name for itself with impressive, suspenseful, death-defying stunts. “Fallout” is no exception, delivering the goods from start to finish with a hair raising high altitude skydive by Hunt and CIA partner August Walker (Henry Cavill) early on to a harrowing helicopter chase through a narrow canyon for the movie’s climax. There is also a mid-movie motorcycle chase. It isn’t a “Mission: Impossible” movie without motorcycles.

Hunt’s old crew is back, and it’s good to see them. There’s Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), who knows engineering and machines and always has Hunt’s back. There’s also Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), the tech wiz who just doesn’t want to get hurt—or killed. More familiar faces from the last installment are Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), MI6 agent and love interest; Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), new world order terrorist; and Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), government bureaucrat with a tough exterior who believes in Hunt and his team. Angela Bassett joins the cast in this outing as Erika Sloane, a high powered CIA chief who is as cynical as she is ruthless.

With an extensive cast and a lot of plot to unfold, McQuarrie keeps up the pace so that this two and a half hour movie never lags. The character moments we get with Ethan, showing guilt and regret over the way things turned out with ex-wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) are just enough to get the message across that the man has the weight of the world on his shoulders.

One of the great pleasures of “Mission: Impossible—Fallout,” as well as the series in general, is seeing how their plans come together. Sometimes details are left out so that we are no fully aware of what will happen. Rather than feeling manipulative and misleading, I can’t help but smile when something unexpected happens and things turn out okay. I’d much rather have the movie be ahead of me and keep me in suspense rather than me be ahead of the movie, just sitting there waiting for the characters onscreen to catch up. That’s a surefire way to make a movie boring. And boring, this movie is not. Buy it.

Also New This Week

The Nun

“The Nun” is scary in a haunted maze at a local amusement park sort of way. The atmosphere is dark and ominous in dimly lit stone hallways. A moonlit graveyard is extra foggy and dangerous to traverse. The graves themselves have bells on them, a throwback to the times of the plague when people were feared to be incorrectly declared dead and buried alive. Anyone familiar with the principle of “Chekhov’s Gun” will know what eventually happens here. A priest prays urgently while invisible demonic forces attack. The go-to shot is the camera slowly dollying toward the doorway of a pitch black room. All of this is punctuated by basso profundo chanting on the movie’s sound track.

In other words, “The Nun” is standard fare that we’ve experienced countless times before in better movies. The plot is pretty straightforward. A priest who specializes in…ah, screw it, let’s just call him what he is even if the movie won’t—he’s an exorcist. So, an exorcist (Demián Bichir) and a novitiate (Taissa Farmiga) travel to Romania to unravel the mystery of why a nun hung herself. The body was discovered by a local villager named Frenchy (Jonas Bloquet). Frenchy takes them to the abbey, and in classic horror movie fashion, the horse will only go so far and they need to walk the rest of the way. This movie seems to go out of its way to not have an original idea.

Don’t even get me started on the end, which I will not reveal except to say it’s like writers James Wan and Gary Dauberman took copious notes while watching “Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight.” I know that movie is about twenty-five years old and a lot of the target audience for “The Nun” has neither seen nor heard of it, so I understand how they thought they could get away with this--to use a generous word--“homage.” Even those who have seen it may not remember it after so many years. But I do.

All of this atmosphere doesn’t amount to much if the scares aren’t there—and they’re not, so it doesn’t. There are things that happen to the exorcist and to Frenchy that are more skeevy than scary. The only one who gets some spine tingly moments is the novitiate, but even then these moments mostly involve the titular Nun lurking in the shadows or some corner somewhere then popping out for a ho-hum jump scare. It’s sad when a movie called “The Nun” underuses its title character so much. Skip it.

The Happytime Murders

After watching the tasteless, sleazy, gross, disturbing, off-putting, unfunny, tone deaf, vulgar debacle that is “The Happytime Murders,” I have only one question: Does Brian Henson hate his father’s (the late Jim Henson) legacy that much? I can understand if outsiders, like writers Todd Berger and Dee Austin Robertson, couldn’t stand “Sesame Street,” “The Muppet Show” or “Fraggle Rock” and wanted to take out their aggressions on the Henson felt puppets with a hate-fueled screenplay. But why would Brian Henson, who presumably has a legacy to preserve, involve himself in such disreputable trash?

The movie stars Melissa McCarthy and a puppet named Phil Philips (voice of Bill Barretta) as ex-partners in the LAPD who have to team up to solve a string of gruesome murders involving the cast of a popular 1990s television show that featured puppets. The plot makes no sense and is so disjointed and disgusting that one of my actual notes I took during the movie is “WTF am I watching??!” The only good news in this somber travesty is that while the official run time of “The Happyland Murders” is 90 minutes, the actual movie itself is only 80 minutes long with ten minutes of credits to pad the run time. I’d say get out while you can, but a better plan is to never, ever go there at all. Skip it.

Becoming Iconic

When first entering into “Becoming Iconic” and hearing the philosophical ramblings and continuous name-dropping of Jonathan Baker, the focus of the documentary, I couldn’t help but wonder what I was watching and why. After all, documentaries are usually made about people of interest who have accomplished something. Baker is a first time director setting out to make his first feature film, which eventually came to be the 2017 Nicolas Cage/Gina Gershon thriller “Inconceivable.”

Baker talks at length about life, movies, and growing up in New York as well as how awesome and special he is because of it. The man certainly has a healthy ego and high opinion of himself. Then again, we see him walk through a graveyard for leisure, he talks about picking through garbage as a kid and selling it, and he professes a love for propaganda, so I take his bragging with a big grain of salt.

Luckily, interspersed with Baker’s ruminations are interviews with other directors with tremendous accomplishments and are worth listening to: Adrian Lyne, Taylor Hackford, Jodie Foster, and John Badham. These people share their insights on movie making with a specific focus on what it was like for them to make their first movie. What they have to say is compelling because they have a body of work behind what they’re saying. All Baker has is his mouth.

That all changes once things really get going with “Being Iconic” and Baker has a movie to make. The trials, tribulations, and struggles of movie making are put bare in an extreme example of the difficulty faced by a first time director, and it’s interesting. Baker discusses the near impossibility of the schedule dictated by the studio, the agita from the bond company, the casting troubles, and the pressure to direct, produce, and co-star in a movie that needs to be delivered on time and on budget. Once Baker is done talking and is challenged with actually doing—i.e., making a movie—things get much more compelling and worthwhile to watch. Whether or not Baker will become “iconic” is anyone’s guess, but since he survived the meat grinder of production for his first movie, anything that happens going forward should pale in comparison for him. Stream it.

More New Releases: “Operation Finale,” about a team of secret agents tasked to hunt down Adolf Eichmann, the infamous Nazi architect of the Holocaust, in the years following the end of World War II, starring Oscar Isaac, Nick Kroll, and Ben Kingsley; and “Howard Lovecraft and the Kingdom of Madness,” animated tale in which young Howard Lovecraft and a few friends must travel to Antarctica in order to prevent the awakening of Cthulhu, featuring the voice talents of Kiefer O'Reilly, Doug Bradley, and Mark Hamill.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.