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Reviews for July 31st, 2015

Documentary Round-Up

      Desperate to boost ratings in the summer of 1968, ABC hired two intellectual men to debated one another during the Democratic and Republican national conventions: Gore Vidal, a democrat, and William F. Buckley, Jr., a conservative. Best of Enemies follows those 10 televised debates and includes commentary on how those debates changed the future of TV and shaped modern-day debates. Both Vidal and Buckley were like oil and vinegar together, but their friction was not all about yelling and insulting one another ad hominem---although there was plenty of that, especially in iconic moment when Buckley lashed out at Vidal for calling him a crypto-Nazi by calling him a queer, among other things. Their intelligence, above all, reigned supreme, along with their wit, charisma and sense of humor. Co-directors Morgan Neville do Robert Gordon a great job of showing us precisely what made those debates so unique and significant. John Lithgow provides the voice of Vidal from Vidal's memoir while Kelsey Grammer voices Buckley's memoirs asboth Vidal and Buckley candidly describe how they felt about their highly intense debate. Interviews with journalist/author Christopher Hitchens, former talk show host Dick Cavett, political commentator Noam Chomsky and writer Andrew Sullivan provide some insights. Never does Best of Enemies become boring or redundant throughout its running time of 1 hour and 27 minutes. It's just as equally entertaining and provocative as Vidal and Buckley's debates. Magnolia Pictures opens Best of Enemies at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and IFC Center.

6 Ways to Die

Directed by Nadeem Soumah


Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by eOne Entertainment.
Opens at Cinema Village.

The End of the Tour

Directed by James Ponsoldt


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by A24.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and AMC Loews Lincoln Square.

Jenny's Wedding

Directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by IFC Films.
Opens at IFC Center.

The Kindergarten Teacher

Directed by Nadav Lapid


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Kino Lorber.
Opens at Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center.

Mission: Impossible--Rogue Nation

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie

      Just as the IMF gets shuts down, rogue agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) learns of a pernicious group of terrorists called the Syndicate who threaten to start a new world order via terrorism. Ethan soon gets captured and chained to a pole before a mysterious secret agent, Ethan (Rebecca Ferguson), rescues him. Meanwhile, CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) gives orders for Hunt to be killed unless he has evidence that the Syndicate actually exists. That evidence, a computer drive listing the names of the Syndicate members, happens to be at a highly secure underwater facility. As IMF analyst Brandt (Jeremy Renner) and computer tech Benji (Simon Pegg) track Hunt down, Hunt, with the help of Ilsa and, eventually, the trusting Benji, desperately try to retrieve the hard drive.

      The plot gets increasingly interesting throughout the film's twists and turns, especially when Ilsa shows up because it's uncertain whether or not she will double cross Ethan. Simon Pegg is very well-cast because he provides the film with much-needed comic relief. Fortunately, Tom Cruise still has the knack of being terrific leading man in an action thriller because beyond being good-looking, he's got charisma to boot and can sinks his teeth quite convincingly into both action and dramatic scenes.

     It's quite a testament to writer/director Christopher McQuarrie's strength as a film director that the 5th film in the Mission: Impossible series manages to still be as thrilling, exciting and suspenseful as the last four films. To be fair, though, Mission: Impossible--Rogue Nation does lose a little steam toward the end because of too much exposition, but that's a minor issue that's forgivable because there's plenty of action set pieces before and after that to cherish. The stuntwork, largely done by Tom Cruise himself, looks amazing, whether he's hanging onto a plane as it takes off, going through an exhilarating motorcycle chase or trying to unlock a safe underwater with no oxygen mask. That underwater scene alone demands to be seen on the big screen (preferably in IMAX) for a fully immersive experience (pun-intended) so that you can feel like you're right there you're underwater with Ethan as well. At a running time of 2 hours and 12 minutes, Mission: Impossible--Rogue Nation is ultimately an exhilarating blend of action, intrigue, suspense and comic relief.

Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Paramount Pictures.
Opens at nationwide.

Paulo Coelho's Best Story

Directed by Daniel Augusto


Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Music Box Films.
Opens at Cinema Village.

The Seventh Dwarf

Directed by Boris Aljinovic and Harald Siepermann


Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Shout! Factory.
Opens at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.

Two Step

Directed by Alex R. Johnson


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Traverse Media.
Opens at Village East Cinema.

Wild City

Directed by Ringo Lam


Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Released by Well Go USA.
Opens at AMC Empire.
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