Tag Archives: scientology

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT

Three and a half Star Rating

“…in a larger-than-life tale of espionage and counter espionage, it’s once again our vertically-challenged shiny-toothed hero that steals the show.” – Wayward Wolf.

Unlike James Bond, the Mission Impossible films seem to have that uncanny habit of consistently getting their recipe just about right. You’ll doubtless have your own favourite from this long-running re-booted franchise, but it’s hard to deny the quality of each and every chapter that unfolds.

And according to many, Mission Impossible: Fallout is in fact the pick of the bunch.

Not that it’s in any way ground-breaking or indeed some sort of game changer. It’s evidently not. But through a few well-placed tweaks to a familiar, tried and trusted story line, Mission Impossible: Fallout succeeds in being both entertaining and suspenseful enough to keep the old grey matter sufficiently engaged over the film’s two-and-a-half hour duration.

Directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Mission Impossible:Fallout continues Hollywood’s current trend of acknowledging the ageing process in our big screen heroes, depicting them as getting a little long-in-the-tooth for the extra-ordinary feats that continue to be asked of them. They are of course, by and large, human after all.

This has been very evident in the closing chapters of Daniel Craig’s residency as James Bond, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s increasingly arthritic attempts to keep up with the machines that threaten both him and those that he attempts to protect within the Terminator franchise. Granted, Schwarzenegger’s character is not exactly human, but the point still stands. Old age will eventually make us all obsolete.

Accordingly, there are one or two “Christ, not again… really?” withered looks of despair that flash across the face of our resident Mission Impossible hero, Ethan Hunt, during certain more physically demanding scenes. A small yet tell-tale sign of an action hero who is fast becoming aware that old man time is finally beginning to catch up with him.

Never is this more evident than when Ethan Hunt is paired up with a Government-appointed somewhat younger sidekick, August Walker (Henry Cavill), who, resplendent with 1980’s moustache could ably be passed off as being Freddie Mercury’s man-mountain Cyborg love child, were he to have had one.

I’d imagine.

The threat of terrorism-induced nuclear armageddon provides sufficient motivation for Cruise and his merry band of foe-foilers to dig deep, pull out all of the stops and once again achieve the truly extraordinary under nigh on impossible circumstances.

Some things never change.

Simon Pegg, whilst adopting his usual role of light-relief-bringer in otherwise super-intense circumstances, is however noticeably less jester-like during this particular outing. Ving Rhames once again portrays the dependably tech-savvy Luther. Rebecca Ferguson is all seductive glamour, beauty and know-how as agent Isla Faust, whilst Sean Harris is probably more weaselly than sinister portraying ideologue and all-round enemy of the state, Solomon Lane.

But in a larger-than-life tale of espionage and counter espionage, it’s once again our vertically-challenged shiny-toothed hero that steals the show.

As he always does.

Say what you will about Tom Cruise the high-ranking Scientologist and fully paid-up member of the Hollywood aristocracy. This is a man seemingly impervious to any and all attempts by media hacks to publicly assassinate his character by repeatedly calling into question his most private of private lives. But one thing remains undeniable:

He’s simply superb at playing these kinds of roles, in fact I’d go so far as to say that Tom Cruise is very possibly the finest exponent of our time of playing the Action Hero.

The cracks may well be just starting to appear, but whilst there’s still life in Tom Cruise, there’s still life in Ethan Hunt, and that can only be good news for the innumerable fans of this most unfailing of film franchises.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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APOSTASY

Three and a half Star Rating

“Played out under a grey Lancashire sky, Apostasy is never less than bleak in its outlook” – Wayward Wolf.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses were very much the Scientologists of my childhood, in so much as they came across as both mysterious and a little ominous. From door to door they would traipse with calm but dogged determination, eager to share their literature, and impart their ‘answers’ to a wider audience.
Of course there was no mystery at all, just a devout set of believers with a rigidly defined set of life rules that anyone with a modicum of interest – or more pertinently ‘patience’ – could very easily have discovered more about should they, just for once, have chosen not to slam the door in their faces.
The odd couple of stalwarts outside shopping centres or train stations-aside, they seem to have slipped somewhat from public consciousness these days, displaced by a tidal wave of far more topical unsavoury pressing religious issues of our day, but that’s another story…
Refreshing it is then to be offered a glimpse into the curious world of Jehovah’s Witnesses by way of Daniel Kokotajlo’s excellent but rather austere tale, Apostasy.
Set in Oldham, Greater Manchester, it focuses upon a mother, Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran), and her two teenage daughters, Alex (Molly Wright), and Luisa (Sacha Parkinson), for whom a zealous belief in the doctrines forms the rigid backbone of their day-to-day existence.
Although Ivanna and Alex are unwavering in their belief (at least outwardly), Luisa has, with age, developed doubts, and on becoming pregnant, her own faith as well as that of her immediate family is to be sorely tested.
But on whom can she rely to guide her on her path into motherhood? And can her predicament ever be endorsed within the strict parameters of her family’s staunch religious beliefs, and indeed those of the religion’s ‘elders’?
Director Kokotajlo was apparently keen that northern English acting talent should be afforded the limelight here, and in Siobhan Finneran, we are treated to a fine portrayal of a mother mentally conflicted between the iron grip of her religious devotion and her natural role as a caring mother. Molly Wright puts in a tender performance of both innocence and vulnerability as youngest daughter, Alex, whilst Sacha Parkinson is cast well as Molly’s wayward sister, Luisa.
Played out under a grey overcast Lancashire sky, Apostasy is never less than bleak in its outlook. Even the film’s fleeting romantic interest seems somewhat tainted given the rather stony ground on which it is being asked to take root and flourish.
Kokotajlo’s film seems as genuinely intrigued as it is disapproving of its subject matter, yet never is it damning or dismissive, instead it walks its viewer methodically through a succession of tough scenes that will doubtless dumbfound and frustrate through their pure indoctrinated illogic.
Blood may indeed be thicker than water, but it seems that it’s no match here for the sheer viscosity of the doctrines of Jehovah, and those who so single-mindedly adhere to them, as ultimately will become patently and tragically clear.

 

FILM REVIEW: My Scientology Movie

Scientology is something of an easy target.

But in many ways, it’s arguably no more nonsensical than any of the other man-made religions that people choose to pin their colours to, frequently in complete defiance of logic, common sense and the wider needs of mankind.

Scientology was the brain child of one L.Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer. Its origins go back to Hubbard’s initial work with Dianetics back in the 1950s. It is classified as being a form of: “spiritual healing technology and an organized science of thought,” where the intent is to free individuals of the influence of past traumas by systematic exposure and removal of the engrams (painful memories) these events have left behind…”

Dianetics was later to morph into and become known as, Scientology.

Louis Theroux is certainly not alone in having his curiosity piqued by this apparently most cultish of all religions.

Predictably, this most secretive of institutions was never going to welcome an investigative reporter like Theroux with open arms, and thus Louis is forced to find an alternative angle from which to approach his research.

Fortunately for him, there are any number of disgruntled ‘bitter’ (according to the Church of Scientology), high profile ex-members only too willing to spill the beans concerning the Church’s inner secrets and practices, and Louis takes full advantage of their knowledge.

One ex-member in particular will prove to be key in gaining as authentic an insight as possible. Mark ‘Marty’ Rathbun, an ex-senior official of the church, will, along with Louis, audition a number of young aspiring actors for the role of David Miscavige, (the current and long time head of the church of Scientology), and the ‘chosen one’ will then recreate a number of disturbing scenes from the depths of Rathbun’s own recollections.

David Miscavige, short in stature he may well be, but by all accounts he’s a pretty ruthless customer, having been accused over the years of numerous wrong doings including acts of violence.

Before too long, word of Louis’ experiment has spread, and sure enough, members of the Church of Scientology begin to emerge, armed with their own video cameras, and to a man, remain completely non-compliant with Louis’ line of questioning. Theirs is a counter-campaign of intense pressure, the sole aim of which being to intimidate to such a degree as to force Louis to call a halt to his reenactments.

But of course, as we all know, Louis’ nerdish, apparently affable innocence and naivety belies an unflappable presence, whose subtle, dogged insistence has faced up to far more threatening a foe than this before.

It all makes for some frequently odd, yet very amusing confrontations, through which the Church, in some ways, inadvertently gives away far more about itself than it would have done if it had just maintained an air of aloof mystery, and left well alone.

Theroux’s documentary, driven along by the strains of a lavish, overbearing and, it should be said, slightly out of place soundtrack, announces its intentions clearly as a cinematic piece rather than any sort of low-key documentary. It provides us ably with a general overview of Scientology for the uninitiated. Everything from the perceived negativity of an SP (suppressive person), to the concept of squirrel-busting. From Thetans to E-meters. It’s all here. It’s a steep learning curve, and one which on the surface at least, paints Scientology to be a little absurd to say the least, dressed up as it is in its science fiction finery, metaphorically speaking.

It’s only then once one breaks it all down into its constituent, functioning parts, that the nuts and bolts of scientology begin to bear quite a startling, if predictable resemblance to any number of established and ‘accepted’ religions:

Talking of the human body as being merely a vehicle for a Scientologist’s time on earth –  Aspiring to ascend to a more enlightened state of being – The rejection of logic and common sense in favour of an accepted, mythical ‘truth’ no matter whether it stands up to scrutiny or not – and adopting a sense of like-minded community and the subsequent frowning upon, and at times ostracising of those who abscond from its clutches. Theroux reveals that this aspect in particular has led to whole families being ripped apart, potentially never to be reunited again whilst the spell of Scientology retains its hold.

Possibly it’s only really therefore the sense of Scientology being a rather rigidly-policed, apparently paranoid, Masonic type of institution, veiled in its self-imposed secrecy, that leaves this most Buck Rodgers-esque of ‘religions’ so wide-open to ridicule and idle speculation?

Perhaps so, but as one of Scientology’s favourite sons, Tom Cruise, is at pains to say: “Ignorance breeds bigotry.”

A fair point, and Amen to that.

 

 

 

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation

No matter what any of us make of Tom Cruise the person and shadowy cult member, he is quite frankly top notch at entertaining the public via the medium of cinema.

I can’t remember the last thing I saw with him in it, but it’s got to have been a good ten years ago at least and seeing a noticeably older Cruise still doing what he does so well, it struck me that perhaps, much in the way I felt recently watching an older Al Pacino put in a great turn as Danny Collins, the likes of Cruise and his ilk should be treasured, because just maybe when they’re gone, we’ll not see their like again?

Yes, I just put Cruise in the same bracket as Pacino.

I know what I mean anyway…

In Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation (MIRN), his fellow IMF comrades consist of Simon Pegg who adds some welcome ‘Simon Pegg-ness’ to proceedings, unsurprisingly playing a geeky, technology-savvy sidekick, Benji. The more remote team members William and Luther, are played by Jeremy Renner and Ving Rhames, respectively.

There’s the inevitable, sinister selection of wrong-doers that form ‘the syndicate’, in particular the creepy ring leader Solomon Lane (complete with almost demonic, choked vocal refrains – played by Sean Harris), hell bent on eradicating the IMF. There are of course nigh-on ludicrous tasks to be undertaken and thankfully, the film benefits enormously from a splendid femme fatale in the shape of sultry seductress, Rebecca Ferguson.

What’s not to like?

MIRN is a highly enjoyable romp which borders on nonsense, frequently, but never in a bad or tiresome way.

You won’t need to have seen any of the others within this franchise; I hadn’t, so I couldn’t tell you how this one rates in comparison.

MIRN stands up on its own merits.

To what extent you’ve bought into the whole Mission Impossible ethos will certainly dictate how forgiving you will be of the film’s quite frankly ludicrous latter stages. Comic book stuff with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

There’s really not much more to add to be honest; I’ll just say that an evergreen Tom Cruise, actually strapped to the side of a flying plane = Tom Cruise in his element and subsequently Tom Cruise’ legion of fans and action film buffs, together, in theirs.

If it’s harmless, big screen entertainment you hanker after, look no further.

Big budget fun.