Reviews: 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Eighth Grade' are the must-see movies this weekend, July 27
Paramount Pictures, 2018.

With no signs of stopping, the "Mission: Impossible" franchise looks to top itself once again with its sixth feature-film adventure. But don't get too caught up in all of the hype, because while Tom Cruise's latest action flick might be the biggest movie of the weekend, it's not the best...that belongs to a small film called "Eighth Grade," which centers on an impossible mission of a different kind: Trying to survive middle school.

There are also several other movies seeing release this weekend. Here are reviews of the latest films hitting theaters this weekend, Friday, July 27, 2018:


"Mission: Impossible - Fallout"

We've been following the adventures of secret-agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) for roughly 22 years now, believe it or not. Over that stretch, we've been given five films, with a sixth called "Mission: Impossible - Fallout" hitting theaters this weekend. What the film franchise has done over this time period - having been based on a hammy TV series from the 60s and 70s, and having made over 3 billion dollars worldwide - is truly amazing. Call it "Mission: Implausible," as nobody could have predicted the success that the film series would have and continues to have. But even as our expectations rise with each chapter, don't expect any drop-off quality-wise with "Fallout." It's a worthy entry in the series and is quite possibly one of the best action films of the Summer.

Before we get started, let's ask a question: Is Tom Cruise getting younger? He is still a bona fide superstar, hanging from helicopters, jumping off rooftops and riding motorcycles into oncoming traffic, even at age 56. One would think Ethan Hunt would slow down after 22 years of impossible missions, but this guy seems to be picking up speed, not losing it. Knowing that Cruise is still doing all his own stunts - and much of what is seen on-screen is actual stunt-work being done by the actor - makes it all the more worthwhile. For example, a HALO (High Altitude Low Open) jump from a plane in the film was actually performed by Tom Cruise, and in order to get the shot, the filmmakers only had three-minutes per day to successfully capture it...they finally got the take after nearly 100 attempts, all performed by Cruise. That level of dedication to live-action is what the "Mission: Impossible" franchise is built on, and everything is better because of it.

The story in "Fallout" is self-contained enough where new fans could jump right in, but there are a number of callbacks and references to previous installments that make the viewing even more enjoyable for those that have been along for the ride these past years. Hunt's closest allies, Benji (Simon Pegg) and Luther (Ving Rhames) are both back, as is CIA boss Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin) and Hunt's British counterpart, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson). The bad guy from "Rogue Nation," Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) is also back. Introduced into the fold is a black-market broker known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby) and a super-agent, August Walker (Henry Cavill), whose motives and role aren't made all that clear, purposely.

The Impossible movies have always banked on two key ingredients that have put them a step above your average action movie: The unbelievably breath-taking, iconic action sequence, and their ability to keep the audience on their toes by throwing in clever twist after twist. This Mission delivers on both. Who can forget Tom Cruise dangling from a wire as he broke into the CIA in the first movie, or how a crashing helicopter blade came dangerously close to his face in part two? In recent films, Cruise scaled the outside of the tallest building in the world in "Ghost Protocol" and dangled from the outside of an airplane as it took off in "Rogue Nation." In "Fallout," people will be buzzing not only about that HALO jump sequence, but a climactic helicopter battle set over a snowy mountain range that easily will take its place among the franchise's best and biggest action sequences yet (a thrilling bathroom fist-fight comes in close third among the film's best scenes). And as for twists, this movie has got plenty, and they play off of audience expectations, keeping things feeling fresh.

For all of the excitement, and for all of the action, the middle portion of "Fallout" does devolve into what might be considered "less-than" for this film series. There are far too many car chases, motorcycle chases and shoot-outs, and as always, there are several scenes of exposition as characters make darned certain that the audience always knows what's at stake, what needs to happen, and just how the bad guy needs to be stopped. For a while, it was as if "Fallout" was running out of ideas...and then those helicopters took off, and all was forgiven.

It's impossible not to love "Mission: Impossible - Fallout." It's imperfect and over-the-top, but it's undeniably fun. This sort of blockbuster is why people go to the movies in the first place.

Grade: B+

Rated PG-13.
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller. Run Time: 2 hours 27 minutes.
Starring: Tom Cruise, Ving Rhames, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Vanessa Kirby.
Written and Directed by Christopher McQuarrie ("Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation," "Jack Reacher," The Way of the Gun").


"Eighth Grade"

The word that might best be associated with the new indie-comedy "Eighth Grade" is "breakthrough." That's the word that comes to mind when you think of writer/director Bo Burnham, who got a chance to make this, his first feature film, after becoming a popular YouTuber by making funny parody videos online. It's also the word that comes to mind when you think of its young star, 15-year-old Elsie Fisher, who has been a mildly successful child actor but who is now clearly on her way to becoming a limitlessly successful adult one. But the word also applies to the film itself, as "Eighth Grade" is about to break through the consciousness of movie-goers and - if there is any decency in the world - is primed to become this year's breakout indie hit.

Fisher plays Kayla, who is about to graduate from the eighth grade and embark on the next phase of her life. She herself puts out bouncy little YouTube videos, offering self-help and guidance to others her age. And while her online persona seems insightful and confident, real-life Kayla is struggling to find herself. She swoons over the hunky boy in her class and searches for acceptance from the popular girls. A nerdy classmate seems like the kind of guy she'll end up with, and an upperclassman befriends her and gives her a glimpse as to what's in store for her in the coming years. All the while, Kayla's loving single father (a magnificently goofy, sweet and pitch-perfect Josh Hamilton) can't seem to connect, and only annoys the hell out of her, as dads tend to do to daughters at that age.

Kayla's journey is wholly relatable because it's a part of childhood that we can all remember. But Bo Burnham also makes this story one of the best observations of today's youth that's ever been committed to the screen. Yes, the kids in this movie are dealing with fitting in, zits, hormones and peer pressure...but they're also communicating and expressing themselves the way that kids do nowadays, through their phones, social media and apps like Snapchat. There is a plot construct in the film dealing with a time capsule that Kayla had made when she was in sixth grade and it's only appropriate, as "Eighth Grade" itself will stand as a time capsule as to what life was really like in the year 2018.

To call "Eighth Grade" a coming-of-age film would be correct, but it also feels like a sweeping generalization that doesn't quite do it justice. What Burnham manages to do here is eye-opening, and this is a film that movie-goers of all ages should seek out immediately. Sure it's early, but "Eighth Grade" is in the same vein as movies like "The Breakfast Club" or "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" when it comes to a generation-defining teen movie. It's uncomfortable at times, but Burnham keeps his sights on his main character's journey, resisting the urge to take the movie down more "dramatic" paths. The result is a raw, realistic and sharply written story that feels authentic at every step.

There are good films, then there are great films, and this qualifies as the latter. It isn't a question as to whether or not "Eighth Grade" will appear on year-end "Best of" lists, it's just a question of where on that list will it fall. 2018 movies, you've been put on notice, and the bar has been set.

Grade: A

Rated R.
Genre: Comedy. Run Time: 1 hours 33 minutes.
Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson.
Written and Directed by Bo Burnham (feature-film debut).


"Teen Titans Go! To the Movies"

This film was not reviewed and opens in wide-release this weekend.


"Hot Summer Nights"

This film was not reviewed and opens in wide-release this weekend.


"Blindspotting"

This film was not reviewed and opens in wide-release this weekend.


All of these movies open Friday, July 27th, 2018. Check here for show times.

Movies opening next week include: "Christopher Robin," "The Spy Who Dumped Me."