In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Tom Cruise appears in a scene from "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation."  (Bo Bridges/Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions via AP)

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Tom Cruise appears in a scene from "Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation." (Bo Bridges/Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions via AP)

Reeling it in: ‘Rogue Nation,’ ‘Vacation’ beat expectations

“Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation”

2 hours, 11 minutes

Paramount Pictures

 

“Vacation”

1 hour, 39 minutes

Warner Bros.

 

As it’s summer and there are just too many movies that I want to see, I’m continuing in the tradition of the last couple of weeks and reviewing multiple films this week. Of course, seeing two movies isn’t exactly the hard part. Convincing the paper to pay me double would be the real trick.

The movies I saw this week were both continuations of long-running franchises, each a fifth film in the series, and, as always, expectations play into the viewing experience. With “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation,” I was just not all that interested in the trailer, though I knew I would see and probably enjoy the film. I’m a fan of the series and a bigger fan of Tom Cruise, though everyone agrees that “MI:2” was a piece of junk. What I didn’t realize was how dependent the film would be on a terrific new actress in the person of Rebecca Ferguson.

The other film, the latest outing of the “Vacation” series, looked to be a trainwreck and, though I really like Ed Helms, here playing a grown-up Rusty Griswold, and Christina Applegate as his wife, I had very low expectations for this film. Those expectations, again, proved incorrect, despite what every other critic in America seems to be saying.

In “Rogue Nation,” Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is now a legend within the IMF (Impossible Mission Force). His attempts, however, to uncover a “rogue nation” — that is, a highly funded collective of ex-intelligence operatives working to foster chaos in the world — have branded him a crackpot amongst rival U.S. intelligence agencies. When CIA chief Alec Baldwin (I can’t remember his name — it’s just Alec Baldwin) convinces congress to shut the IMF down, Hunt goes on the run, assembling his crack team to find the rogue nation on their own, aided by — or maybe not — the enigmatic double agent Ilsa Foust, played the aforementioned Ferguson.

This new “Mission: Impossible” is terrifically entertaining and fast-paced to boot. Unlike the “Fast and the Furious” movies, “MI” definitely has brain over brawn, but like those films, this series is definitely finding its legs the longer it exists. Cruise is typically great, although these films don’t require a huge amount of acting from him. To make up for that, I suppose, the star preforms what has become a bit of a ritual for these movies — Cruise performing his own stunts in the extreme. In the last film he scaled the side of the world’s tallest building. Here he hangs on to the side of an airplane as it takes off, going, at one point, over 200 mph.

Personally, I’d rather see Cruise acting, but there’s something thrilling about knowing that one of the biggest stars in the world is risking his own neck onscreen — and old Tom obviously knows that.

While Cruise is the star, it is Ferguson who steals the show. Both lethal and completely approachable, she creates a kinder, gentler action heroine, one whose smile is completely disarming and who’s soft good looks completely blind the bad guys to the fact that she’s about to break their necks. Though I loved Rebecca Ferguson, and very much enjoyed the movie as a whole, there’s no denying that it’s a little forgettable — somewhat slight.

That said, I can’t wait to see it again. Grade: A-

“Vacation” is a raunchy comedy — a genre with plenty of entries in the last few years. But where most of those other films, i.e. “Neighbors” or “The Interview,” left me cold, “Vacation” felt like a throwback. This is a film where, despite the prevalence of gross-out humor, you don’t feel like you need a shower after watching it. And where so many of these kinds of films can be somewhat morally and intellectually bankrupt, “Vacation” has plenty of heart to go around.

Rusty, a pilot for the lowly commuter company Econo-Air, feels his wife is pulling away from him and so decides to jump in and take the family on a cross-country trip to Walley-World, the scene of his father’s infamous implosion some 30 years previous. What follows is a madcap trek across America that is nearly as jam-packed with jokes as the original. The difference is that in the original “Vacation” there are a lot more hits than misses.

Yes, many of the jokes in this film don’t land, but many more do. The film is packed with cameos, with varied comedians from Keegan Michael Key to Charlie Day as a despondent river raft guide in one of the films funniest scenes.

Also great is a sequence that takes place at the Four Corners National Monument that has to be seen to be believed.

It could be that I expected so little, or it could be that the movie is just really funny, but I find myself repeating lines days after seeing the movie, and I can’t for the life of me seem to get Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” out of my head. That’s something, right?

I’m sad that “Vacation” is tanking at the box office. I guess it’s a fine line between too dumb and not dumb enough. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen or anything, but it’s fun and sweet and so much better than most of the films of its genre. I’m guessing we won’t get more adventures of the Griswolds, at least not starring Ed Helms as Rusty. It’s a shame because he and Applegate do a terrific job, as do the two kids as their sons, Lesley Mann as Audrey along with a hilarious Chris Hemsworth as Audrey’s hunky husband.

Is it classic cinema? No. But is it a worthy addition to a floundering franchise? Absolutely.

Grade: B

“Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” is rated PG-13 for action and mild language.

“Vacation” is rated R for crude humor, violence, and sexual content.

 

Chris Jenness is a freelance graphic designer, artist and movie buff who lives in Nikiski.

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows, Skyler Gisondo, from left, as James Griswold, Steele Stebbins as Kevin Griswold, Christina Applegate as Debbie Griswold, and Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold, in a scene from New Line Cinema's comedy "Vacation," a Warner Bros. Pictures' release. (Hopper Stone/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

This photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures shows, Skyler Gisondo, from left, as James Griswold, Steele Stebbins as Kevin Griswold, Christina Applegate as Debbie Griswold, and Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold, in a scene from New Line Cinema’s comedy “Vacation,” a Warner Bros. Pictures’ release. (Hopper Stone/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

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