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Thursday, April 9, 2015
STUNTMAN REVIEWS TOM CRUISE'S 10 BEST STUNTS
AND MENDELSON: WHEN 'GOLDENEYE' & 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' REINVENTED THE MOVIE TRAILER
Vulture's Bilge Ebiri interviewed a veteran stuntman to get his take on Tom Cruise's "ten greatest stunts"-- and the top two are from Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. Here's Ebiri's introduction, and the stuntman's reviews of the top two stunts:
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When the trailer for the new Mission: Impossible film landed last month, it seemed all anybody could talk about was the stunt of Tom Cruise hanging off an airplane. And with good reason — ever since the first Mission: Impossible movie, Tom Cruise films have featured more and more daring stunts, often performed by the actor himself. Impressive stuff, to be sure. But what do real stuntmen think of Tom Cruise’s stunts? To get a professional’s opinion, we turned to Randy Butcher, a veteran Canadian stuntman, stunt coordinator, and director who is currently the stunt coordinator for Orphan Black and has worked on a variety of films, including X-Men, Dawn of the Dead, K-19: The Widowmaker, and countless others. He took a look at some of Cruise’s best-known and most impressive stunts, and offered his take on how they might have been done — and whether that really is Tom Cruise doing those stunts.

1. Mission: Impossible (1996): Breaking into Langley, suspended on a wire.

Butcher: This is the wire gag that everybody copied forever. I’ve personally copied it myself. That’s Tom, hands down. It’s a pretty contrived scene, but I was on the edge of my seat. He’s in a harness, and they’re using some Spectra Rope, which is better than cable. Whether it’s 30 or 40 feet, Tom is absolutely in that harness, using his own stomach muscles and his own balance to maintain that position and that shot. They don’t cut away from it at all.

The fact that we can always see that it’s Tom really helps make the scene. There’s a profile shot of him over the computer, and you can actually sense his struggle to maintain that balance, which really adds to it. I know it’s not cool to like Tom Cruise anymore, but I’m a fan of his. I think he’s an underrated actor. His physical mannerisms complement what’s happening inside his mind. I like watching him act.

2. Mission: Impossible (1996): Fleeing as a giant fish tank explodes behind him.

Butcher: I’ve done stuff similar to this. They have a build, they fill it with water, and the special-effects team goes through a great deal of trouble to place detonation devices on that glass. If memory serves, in the scene, Tom Cruise sticks some kind of explosive on the glass. And there’s a guy standing in front of it. And that guy is jerked backwards on a cable, which is taken out in post, of course. If you have the opportunity to watch this scene frame by frame, watch the top of the glass before the guy gets jerked through. As he rises into the air, they cut to the opposite side of the glass that he’s going to come through. And if you look closely, you will see that at the top of the glass is a little hole that breaks first — that’s where the cable is going through. They’ve probably cut a hole in the glass, fed the cable through it to his harness, then, on action, he’s jerked backwards, probably from an air ratchet. And as he blows through, special effects create that spider effect that completely shatters the tempered glass.

And once he’s come blasting through, he’s opened up this huge, empty space in front of this tank for Tom Cruise to come through. And if you watch, you’ll see that Tom is at first behind a pillar. So he was out of harm’s way when they jerked the guy through. Once the glass is blown through, he comes out from behind that pillar and runs through the scene, towards [the] camera. I would have personally no issue at all putting an actor in that spot. I have no doubt that that’s Tom Cruise. (I’m pretty sure that that’s not live fish in there, though.) His only danger is that when this glass does blow, some of the broken glass will be carried along by the water, but not at any speed that would turn it into a projectile and potentially harm Tom. Plus, the lens has compressed the distance so much that he could be quite far away and you wouldn’t necessarily know it.

On the TV series Orphan Black, I just put an actor through a window. I had a stunt double there, and the actor and I had a chat. He was into doing it, but the producers weren’t because it was the first shot of the day and we had to shoot in sequence because of the way this apartment was going to be destroyed. But I designed how to do it so this guy wouldn’t be harmed. I needed him to go through, but I didn’t need to drag him back — that’s where the danger would have been. And he did it. So we had his face coming through the glass, and not the back of the stunt guy’s head. And I can’t begin to tell you what a big difference that makes, to be able to see the actor’s face in a situation like that.

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FORBES' MENDELSON ON THE 'GOLDENEYE' & 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' TRAILERS

After Vulture posted Louis Plamondon's 1995-flavored version of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer the other day, Forbes' Scott Mendelson got to thinking about the ways in which that era's initial teasers for GoldenEye and Mission: Impossible "basically reinvented the modern action movie trailer and slowly-but-surely changed how trailers for action movies were constructed."

Mendelson continues, "Yes, I am aware that GoldenEye was actually the 18th 007 adventure. But for all intents-and-purposes, Pierce Brosnan’s entry into the franchise, which came six years after the box office failure of License to Kill left the franchise’s long term future in doubt, was something of a soft reboot back before Hollywood felt the need to retell the origin story every friggin time. Anyway, the initial teaser trailer announced that James Bond was back in movie theaters during the summer of 1995 (attached to Species) showed off Pierce Brosnan in a tuxedo, and then dove headfirst into a 50-second montage of nonstop action and excitement, offering nary a hint of voiceover, plot, or even much in the way of narrative coherence. It was arguably the first trailer to move so quickly that you could barely digest the images.

"That’s not a criticism, but it was edited within an inch of its life and made the conventional action movie trailer, full of voiceover exposition, explicit plot points, and long take action sequences, feel downright slug-like by comparison. The James Bond franchise had one shot to reclaim its hold on the popular zeitgeist and make a case for its continued relevance in a world with Die Hard and Batman, and it wasn’t going to take any chances by coming up for air. And it was perhaps the most action-packed and relentlessly breathless action movie trailer you had ever seen. The next prime example of this somewhat new form of trailer construction came not with the second GoldenEye trailer (which was a conventional 1990′s sell with voice over and copious plot reveals), but rather the initial two teasers for Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible.

"What did audiences need to know about the Paramount release, which at the time was pegged to be the biggest grossing film of the summer (it sounds crazy now, but ID4 was not considered a sure thing even as late as June of 1996) other than that it was an adaptation of the popular ensemble spy action show and that it starred Tom Cruise? Nothing, which is what Paramount’s marketing department gave them outside of those two facts. The initial Mission: Impossible teaser dropped in late 1995 and didn’t even bother with a single line of dialogue, voice over or otherwise. They merely gave us 55 seconds of Tom Cruise and friends engaged in non-stop action set to Lalo Schifrin’s classic theme song culminating in that climactic 'Cruise flies off an exploding helicopter onto a train' bit that was one of the coolest things you had ever seen back then. That final shot of Cruise leaping from the exploding helicopter was the best money shot in a trailer I had ever seen. But upon seeing the film, my heart sank as I realized that golden money shot was actually the climactic death of the primary villain.

"So yes, I’ve been complaining about studios giving away the action finales of their films in the trailers for at least twenty years.

"The next trailer offered little-to-no plot beyond the introductory 'this is your mission' set-up and merely cryptic lines ('a simple game…') to power along what was basically 80 seconds of context-free action and just enough quotable dialogue to allow us to catch a moment’s breath. Ironically, if I may digress for a bit, it now exists as a classic example of both misdirection and spoiler-by-insinuation. If you actually pay attention to the trailer, you’ll see pretty much every major action moment in the film, which in turn makes the film appear to be far more action-drenched than it actually is. It falsely sets up Emmanuelle Béart as a damsel-in-distress spoiling not every action moment in the film but also quite a bit of the narrative. But I digress, the initial teasers for GoldenEye and Mission: Impossible were designed to be seen a few times in a theater, but they were also tailor made for the Internet, which was in its mainstream infancy."


Posted by Geoff at 11:58 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2015 11:04 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 22, 2015
'MI5' TEASER PAYS HOMAGE TO DE PALMA'S FILM
TOM CRUISE IN A SUIT, HANGING ON TO THE SIDE OF A PLANE TAKING OFF

The teaser trailer above for Christopher McQuarrie's Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation climaxes with a nod to Brian De Palma's initial film in what has become a blockbuster franchise for Tom Cruise. The aforementioned scene shows Cruise in a suit that is very similar to the one he wears on the train at the end of De Palma's film. In De Palma's, Cruise ends up hanging on to the side of a speeding train. McQuarrie ups the ante on that and shows Cruise's Ethan Hunt hanging on to the side of an airplane taking off from a runway, presented, quite literally (from the mouth of Simon Pegg), as an OMG moment. Earlier this month, during a Twitter Q&A, McQuarrie responded to our friend Rado's query as to whether the new film would include any references to De Palma's film. McQuarrie responded with a simple "Yes."

This teaser is a TV spot that played today during an NCAA playoff game-- a full trailer is said to be hitting the internet tomorrow.

Posted by Geoff at 4:02 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, March 22, 2015 8:04 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 8, 2015
MCQUARRIE ANSWERS RADO'S 'MI5' QUESTION


MovieWeb: Mission: Impossible 5 Details Revealed

Posted by Geoff at 6:52 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 8, 2015 7:00 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 7, 2015
TWO VIEWS ON THE 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' FILMS
COMPARING/CONTRASTING THE FOUR FILMS, AND AN ALL-OUT DEFENSE OF WOO'S ENTRY



Den of Geek's Tim George posted an article yesterday examining the unique ways in which each film in Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise has been "clearly delineated by the vision and preoccupations of its particular director." For the first film, George focuses on the ways in which Brian De Palma utilizes suspense techniques learned from watching the films of Alfred Hitchcock:
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It is a testament to De Palma’s technique that Mission: Impossible’s most memorable sequence involves Tom Cruise hanging from a wire, and is not dependant on more traditional set pieces. The midnarrative set piece would become a tradition in the sequels, with De Palma’s successors putting their own spin on an IMF mission. The most important aspect of Hitchcock’s style that De Palma has made his own is his use of an omniscient point-of-view. De Palma’s camera may appear to approximate the subjective view of the characters, but his directorial control dictates what the viewer can see.

An early example of this is the early sequence where Ethan Hunt witnesses his boss’s death by an unseen assailant via a camera in his glasses. All that Hunt (and by extension, the viewer) can see is a hand firing a gun directly at the camera. Later, when this scene is revealed to be staged, De Palma shows the action from a long shot to reveal what is really going on.

De Palma’s focus on suspense allows for other homages to Hitchcock, which are more decorative. Following his showdown with the villains, Ethan Hunt watches helplessly as a helicopter’s rotor blade spins toward him. This bit of action is reminiscent of a key moment from the climax of Strangers On A Train, where a technician sneaks under an out-of-control ferris wheel to switch off the mechanism, while the ride spins at high speed only a few inches above his head.

The introduction of the villain in the third act resembles the extended shot which identifies the twitching eyes of the killer in Hitchcock’s Young And Innocent. Starting from a long shot of a train, the camera pulls into a close-up of the killer’s hands through a window. This sequence also shows the influence of the Italian giallo, in De Palma’s use of mise-en-scene to conceal the villain’s identity. De Palma frames the character through a train compartment window, with his identity concealed by a half-closed blind. By framing the shot in this way, De Palma emphasises the character’s black gloves (a motif familiar from both the giallo genre and De Palma’s own Dressed To Kill) as he assembles a gun from the parts of a boombox.

De Palma is famous for his use of split screen to convey and build tension, and he integrates this technique into the opening action with a rather ingenious and subtle variation of the trope. As Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) directs his team, he watches their progress via cameras on their glasses. The respective point of views of these characters appear as a series of windows on his computer screen. In this way, De Palma renders his use of split screen as part of the mise-en-scene.

Sequences like this exemplify the degree to which De Palma is able to blend his style with the conventions of the genre he is working in.

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George is not impressed by John Woo's follow-up to De Palma's film. "Indeed, aside from Newton’s role," states George, "everything in Woo’s film appears to be a pale re-hash of its predecessor, with the focus on action lacking the melodramatic heft of Woo’s best work. Mission: Impossible’s most memorable set piece - Hunt being lowered by a wire - is re-worked as the prelude to an extended shoot-out. This sequence, intentionally or otherwise, exemplifies the divergence between De Palma and Woo when it comes to the material and their respective styles."

With JJ Abrams making his feature film directorial debut on the third film in the series, George notes "a shift in the franchise away from visual stylists to filmmakers with a background in screen writing." George appreciates that the third film brings a deeper emphasis on characterization than the second film had done. "Dramatically, Mission: Impossible III is far more substantial and enjoyable experience than its predecessor," states George. "However, there is no disguising a certain cynicism to the focus on character development. Some of these arcs work, but help make Mission: Impossible 3 feel like the season of a TV show collapsed into two-and-a-bit hours." For George, the most recent film in the franchise, Ghost Protocol, is a more comedic, physical, and ironic entry that positively reflects director Brad Bird's background in animated film. He also likes that Bird's film solidifies the team aspect of the franchise. "By the end of Ghost Protocol," writes George, "Brad Bird has delivered the first instalment since Brian De Palma’s original that manages to include all of the elements of the original concept while playing to the strengths of the filmmaker orchestrating the action."

AN IMPASSIONED DEFENSE OF JOHN WOO'S 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2'

Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly columnist Darren Franich responded to a reader who asked, "In what universe is John Woo’s flaming mess of a Mission: Impossible 2 better than JJ Abrams’ totally and completely acceptable Mission: Impossible 3?"

Franich responded, "This is an important thing that we need to talk about. Because I have heard some variation of this argument constantly for going on nine years now. The conventional wisdom, in a nutshell: Mission 2 is an incoherent action film with a ludicrous plot and bad acting; Mission 3 is a solid Bourne-era shaky-cam spy movie with a good plot and a great villain. Some people even go so far as to say that Mission: Impossible 3 is their favorite of the franchise.

"Let’s throw out that chestnut right here. Ghost Protocol is the best Mission: Impossible movie. It’s arguably the least Tom Cruise-y of the bunch: By the fourth movie, Ethan Hunt is a semi-emotionless action-bot. But as directed by Brad Bird, Ghost Protocol is a film made out of one great setpiece after another. Bird has an animator’s gift for beautiful geometry: Cruise fighting his way down a corridor in the prison sequence, Cruise fighting his way through every level of a parking garage in the climax. But Ghost Protocol is also the only film in the franchise where the whole Mission squad matters; Cruise’s low-key performance leaves plenty of room for Simon Pegg as the comedy relief, Paula Patton as the badass, and Jeremy Renner as the Cruise-in-training.

"Nobody loves or hates the first Mission: Impossible, and nobody really talks about it anymore. Which is too bad. The first film deserves more credit for starting off with such a fakeout. You think you’re watching a movie about a squad of jocular superspies on a mission that requires cool makeup and subterfuge. And then by the half-hour mark, the whole squad’s dead. (They didn’t just kill Kristin Scott Thomas; they killed Emilio Estevez.) Director Brian De Palma always loved the first-act Psycho twist—see Sisters, see Dressed To Kill—and so the first Mission: Impossible has one of the great left-turns in any vanilla-blockbuster. As a bonus, Mission: Impossible turns one of the franchise’s most iconic characters into a bad guy—the kind of bold storytelling choice that franchises used to make before everyone got too scared of fanboy freakouts.

"Thus, Mission: Impossible 2. This is the movie where Tom Cruise has beautiful flowing long hair and climbs a mountain with his bare hands (just like Shatner in Final Frontier.) This is the movie where Tom Cruise falls in love with Thandie Newton, but then sends her undercover to spy on her ex-boyfriend, charisma vacuum Dougray Scott. This is the movie where the bad guy’s plot focuses on stock options, and the movie where Cruise defeats the bad guy by driving a motorcycle really fast.

"Or something: The plot doesn’t really matter, because the plot never really matters in Mission: Impossible movies, because honestly 'plot' is maybe the eighth most important part of a movie. (Things it’s behind, in no order: Characters, Casting, Dialogue, Cinematography, Music, Lighting, THEMES.)

"The Mission movies give good directors big budgets and let them explore their peculiar fascinations in the context of a boring spy thriller, and Mission is the last great gasp of John Woo in the John Woo Era: The period of time when the Hong Kong director was everyone’s favorite cult-action obsession. All of Woo’s movies are bonkers if you read the plot summaries, but Woo’s style is still sui generis even after everyone ripped off The Matrix ripping off John Woo. Woo is dude who loves dudes with guns, but he’s also a hopeless romantic who loves soft-focus shots of lovers in love, and he has a ludicrously precise aesthetic but he was making movies pre-digital so his precision isn’t antiseptic (like the Wachowskis.)

"So Mission 2 is ludicrous, and wonderfully so. Cruise and Newton flirt via car chase, and nothing isn’t in slow motion. There’s a central weirdness to the Cruise-Newton-Scott triangle: Scott is sort of an Evil Cruise, and sometimes he even puts on Cruise’s face, and there’s a weird sense that Scott and Cruise are both just using Newton as neutral territory where they can fight. (As played by Richard Roxburgh, Hugh is one of the great vaguely-homoerotic henchmen in action-movie history.) There are a couple of Meth Woo scenes, like when Cruise emerges from an explosion flanked by a dove because Catholicism. The final action sequence is a motorcycle chase that turns into a martial arts fight, except it’s 'martial arts' being fought by two identical-looking white dudes. Mission 2 was written by Robert Towne, and Towne basically just took Notorious and deleted half the dialogue." [A La Mod note: Woo has cited To Catch A Thief as his biggest inspiration for MI2.] "It’s not good but it’s completely unfiltered, and it’s a prime expression of Cruisedom at its peak: When Cruise dies eighty years from now, every obituary will mention Cruise climbing the Mission 2 mountain by the end of the second paragraph.

"Everything about Mission 3 makes more sense, and nothing about Mission 3 is remotely as fun. After a high-tension flashforward opening, the movie flashes back to an interminable first act. Cruise is getting married! To a boring nurse played boringly by Michelle Monaghan! Cruise has a boring squad—pre-Nikita Maggie Q looking great and pre-Tudors Jonathan Rhys Meyers looking angry—and they set off on a mission to rescue the only cool character in the movie, a pre-Americans Keri Russell. Russell dies immediately, but not before Abrams films a helicopter chase through a bunch of windmills that is one of the most incoherent action scenes not filmed by Michael Bay.

"This was Abrams’ first movie, and he hadn’t quite developed his style for the big screen. So there are a lot of visual choices in Mission 3 that feel TV-like in the worst way—close-ups and shaky cameras, the weird bluescale mid-00s monochrome that made every big-budget action movie looks like the Michael Douglas scenes from Traffic. The movie often suggests an episode of 24 with more explosions and zero moral ambiguity. The exception is the Vatican City scene, an excellent setpiece that also features the genuinely strange vision of Tom Cruise’s face being molded into Philip Seymour Hoffman’s face."

Franich concludes with his ranking of the films:

1. Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol
2. Mission: Impossible
3. Mission: Impossible 2
4. Joe Carnahan’s unfilmed Mission: Impossible 3, which would’ve co-starred Kenneth Branagh, post-Matrix Carrie-Anne Moss, pre-Match Point Scarlett Johansson, and would’ve apparently been the “punk-rock” version of Mission: Impossible. 5. JJ Abrams’ filmed Mission: Impossible 3, a.k.a. pop-punk version of Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 3:13 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, January 7, 2015 3:21 AM CST
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Friday, December 19, 2014
BORDWELL ON DE PALMA'S 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE'
VISUAL STORYTELLING & THE IMPORTANCE OF SOUND (AND LACK THEREOF)
Thanks to Peter for sending in this link to a David Bordwell essay about Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible, which was posted almost two weeks ago. Bordwell begins by stating, "The phrase 'visual storytelling' is a very modern invention." And yet, Bordwell points out, "Visual storytelling is seldom purely visual. In film, it needs concepts and music and noises and even dialogue to work most fully. We can learn a lot, I think, by starting with 'purely visual' passages and see how they’re reinforced by other inputs."

Bordwell briefly discusses Alfred Hitchcock as "the most vociferous defender of visual storytelling," before moving on to De Palma, defender of "the purity of the pictures in motion pictures." (Bordwell then lists four quotes from De Palma, including one from my own interview with the director from 2002.) This all leads up to Bordwell's discussion of the invasion sequence in De Palma's Mission: Impossible, which "runs an astonishing eighteen minutes and, as typical of a film’s Development section, constitutes almost pure delay. You can imagine doing it in a couple of minutes, or a lot more," states Bordwell.

Screenwriter David Koepp provided Bordwell with information about the production, and is quoted in the essay: "[De Palma] had another great idea, which was a reaction to the current state of summer movies at the time. He was tired of all the noise, of the bigger bigger bigger noisier noisier noisier setpieces, and desperately wanted to come up with one that used silence instead. He cackled at the idea of a big summer movie set piece that was predicated on silence."

"The result," Bordwell points out, "is nice case study in visual storytelling. It also indicates how even a pure instance needs non-visual elements to be understood."

Perhaps even more interesting is the next section of the essay, in which Bordwell analyzes the opening sequence of Mission: Impossible, focusing on the visual and audio information happening behind Emilio Estevez as Jack:

"Once the official Kasimov has given the name Ethan needs, the team’s goal is achieved and Jack can search it on his computer. In the meantime, Kasimov needs to be dragged off without fuss, and so must be given a drugged drink. That, we now understand, is the task of the woman hovering in the background of Jack’s shots. We’ve also been primed by the tray with bottle and glasses in the first shot.

"One option would be to pan or cut to the woman behind Jack and show her doping the drink. (This is what the shooting script seems to call for.) We might even see the woman’s face as she does it, but even if we don’t, a shot emphasizing her would give us a lot of other inessential information about the room.

"De Palma makes another choice. This woman is important only in terms of what she does. Panning to her, or supplying a separate shot, and showing her face might make her seem as important a character as Jack, Ethan, or Claire. She’s not. So De Palma reduces her to her function: doping the drink. And for economy, she does it in the same setup previously devoted to Jack’s reaction. She’s kept in the background."

As always, Bordwell illustrates his essay generously with many stills from the film.


Posted by Geoff at 1:15 AM CST
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Monday, September 29, 2014
MORE ON 'MISSION:IMPOSSIBLE', FROM SUPERVILLAIN
Sean Witzke posted a brief riff on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible to his Supervillain Tumblr last May:

"De Palma does this amazing thing where he does the Kurosawa show-the-plan-first-in-minature but he reverses it to make it work in a spy movie where they misdirect you by telling you all the obstacles they are about to run through, but he does it by having detailed a third element buried in the telling, where the guy who works at the computer is a pawn in the narrative. And he gets beaten up as the story moves forward, just to show how callous the heroes are. It’s all games, and Hunt actually describes it as a game first. I really love how smart/aware it is for a movie that doesn’t need to be anything but set pieces.

"The movie was regarded, at release, as hackwork. Set pieces strung together by multiple writers and directed by a technician, because of the massive massive push behind it at the time. But it functions at such a high level not only as a spy story - full of reversals, nasty violence, huge scope, intimate details, personal stakes, heists, and of course flashy set pieces - but also as a De Palma movie. His themes of surveillance, misinformation, close-up violence, betrayal, visually literalizing narrative complexity, all of them wrapped around the structure of a massive summer blockbuster. The other Mission Impossible movies (all of which I do love in various ways) are Cruise doing Bond, but Mission Impossible is De Palma figuring out how to do his best tricks for the bleachers."


Posted by Geoff at 3:37 AM CDT
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Saturday, September 27, 2014
PROGRESSIVE'S 'MISSION' SPOOF COMMERCIAL
AND BRIEF REVIEW OF DE PALMA'S FILM FROM SYDNEY MORNING HERALD


Thanks to Ari for sending us this link to a new commercial for Progressive, which spoofs the vault break-in-through-the-ceiling set-piece in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible.

Meanwhile, yesterday, The Sydney Morning Herald's Ben Pobjie posted a mini-review of De Palma's film, which played on TV there last night. "The great thing about Mission: Impossible," writes Pobjie, "is that it simply gallops along, chase after chase, fight after fight, technobabble after brief love scene, the pace never slackening for introspection or boring backstory. Director Brian De Palma knew we didn't need to delve into Hunt's tortured past: we just needed to see Cruise riding bullet trains, being tossed about by explosions, and dangling from a wire to avoid sensors in one of cinema's most definitive secret-agent set-pieces. The film tracks the twisted plot through each reverse, double-cross and red herring, wisely keeping exposition brief and speedy - especially advisable when the story is this ludicrous - and focusing on the gadgets, the bangs and Tom's running-from-bad-guys-stress-face."


Posted by Geoff at 5:25 PM CDT
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014
VOIGHT SUGGESTED DIFFERENT 'M:I' ENDING
GAVE IT TO CRUISE & DE PALMA, WHO "WASN'T INTERESTED"; VOIGHT FELT BAD ABOUT PHELPS


Jon Voight reveals to Crave Online's Fred Topel that he felt bad about spoiling the heroic image of Jim Phelps, the TV character he transferred to the big screen in Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. He felt so bad, apparently, that he suggested a different ending. Here's the exchange between Voight and Topel:
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Topel: When the Mission: Impossible movies became such a successful franchise, did you regret the twist with Jim Phelps? You could have continued as a heroic character in the series.

Voight: I actually wrote another ending for the first movie and I gave it to Tom [Cruise]. I don’t know if I wrote it out, but I had this idea that they found messages coming and it was from Jim Phelps. They thought they killed him but they hadn’t killed him, and he returns, and the other guys return too. The people he thought were dead were not dead. It was all to try to get the mole. He was being used by us, but it didn’t work out.

Topel: Did you discuss that with Brian De Palma?

Voight: Yeah, I think I did. He wasn’t interested.

Topel: The thing was Jim was the hero on the TV show.

Voight: I felt badly about spoiling that image. I felt bad about it.

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Posted by Geoff at 7:46 PM CDT
Updated: Thursday, August 7, 2014 7:10 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 15, 2014
WOULD YOU CONSIDER THE CINEMA OF THE UKRAINE?


From the beginning of an article by Rob Nelson in today's Minnesota Star Tribune:

"Early in Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible reboot from 1996, a flight attendant offers a selection of videotapes to Jon Voight’s mysterious spy team leader, who, sitting in first class, drolly replies that he prefers the theater.

“'Would you consider the cinema of the Ukraine?' the attendant asks. The agent accepts the 'Ukrainian' tape, whose secret message concludes with the news that the tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

"It probably wasn’t De Palma’s intent to say that Ukrainian cinema is dangerous, although the nation’s current crisis should remind us of the perils of knowing about the art and culture of a country on the brink of war mainly through a brief reference in an 18-year-old Hollywood blockbuster.

"Fortunately, a handful of Ukrainian films — two of them certified classics of world cinema — are widely available for streaming on demand."

(Nelson then goes on to describe four notable Ukranian films available for streaming: Aleksandr Dovzhenko's Earth, Sergei Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors, Pavla Fleischer's The Pied Piper of Hutzovina, and Sergei Loznitsa's My Joy.)


Posted by Geoff at 8:02 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, March 15, 2014 8:04 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 9, 2014
A.V. CLUB LOOKS AT 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' SERIES
AND THE PRAGUE POST LOOKS AT THE PRAGUE LOCATIONS USED IN DE PALMA'S FILM
Last week, A.V. Club's A.A. Dowd took a look, with spoilers, at the Mission: Impossible film franchise, as part of the site's "Run The Series." Dowd notes that the franchise is, like the Alien franchise, "auteur-driven," as each film is helmed by a different director. "Though they’re all loosely based on the same popular television series," Dowd states, "every one of the four Mission: Impossible movies carves out its own conceptual and stylistic identity. The sequels don’t feel like sequels, but high-concept reboots, as though the gatekeepers of the series were so nervous that their hit formula would go instantly stale that they sought to rewrite it with each subsequent entry. As a result, the nature of Mission: Impossible depends entirely on who’s in the director’s chair.

"Brian De Palma, the New Hollywood veteran who brought M:I to the screen in 1996, offered a paranoid surveillance thriller about distrust of old heroes. Hong Kong heavyweight John Woo, who took the reins next, downplayed espionage in favor of balletic action, fashioning another of his enemies-as-brothers thrillers (this one featuring an enemy so brotherly that he 'doubles' for his rival). Moving from television to movies with his contribution to the series, J.J. Abrams shaped Mission: Impossible III into a big-screen Alias, again examining the attempts of a covert operative to balance professional and personal lives. And Pixar’s Brad Bird, in his fledgling foray into live-action filmmaking, crafted a characteristic ode to exceptional people (à la his The Incredibles), applying a playful animator’s touch to various feats of courage and strength.

"Setting aside thematic thrust, every Mission bears the visual mark of its maker, discernible in any random five-minute stretch of running time. Who but Woo could have made the very turn-of-the-millennium Mission: Impossible II, with its constant slow motion, its double-pistol gunfights, its white doves emerging from a fiery inferno? Who but De Palma could have made the original, flush as it is with split screen, POV shots, and dramatic zooms into faces? Mission: Impossible III proved that Abrams was nuts for lens flares long before Star Trek, while the car-factory finale of Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol is a dead ringer for the climaxes of several Pixar movies. Close your eyes and just listen to these films. Their scores—the inappropriate whimsy of Danny Elfman’s, the swelling bombast of Hans Zimmer’s, the third-time’s-a-charm urgency of Michael Giacchino’s—betray a specific time period and sensibility. Whatever one thinks of the individual movies, there’s no mistaking one for another."

The "inappropriate whimsy" of the Danny Elfman score? Hardly-- on the contrary, I find Elfman's score for the first film heavy with dark themes reflecting the betrayals, sadness, and paranoia of the characters, and any of the bombastic whimsy that occasions within some of the action scenes, perhaps, entirely appropriate.

Here is what Dowd has to say about De Palma's film, more specifically:

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The biggest hit of his career, Mission: Impossible was the culmination of De Palma’s brief heyday as a Hollywood hit maker. (Just to try to imagine him getting a summer tentpole gig like this today.) But it’s no anonymous sell-out move: From its opening scene, which conflates government surveillance with the voyeurism of cinema, the film is unmistakably the work of the same director who made Blow Out or Dressed To Kill or any of those fabulously stylish, psychosexual ’80s thrillers. By asserting his authorial personality upfront, by conforming this franchise launcher to his own obsessions, De Palma set the precedent for the series. From here on out, the Mission: Impossible films would smuggle personal preoccupations into their crowd-pleasing packages.

After its cold open, Mission: Impossible launches into an homage to the original show’s credit sequence, teasing scenes from the forthcoming adventure with a fast-cut montage of enticing imagery. The callback proves to be a red herring; not long after, the movie throws reverence to the wind by having all but one member of the IMF squad slaughtered—the loud-and-clear message being that, unlike its small-screen predecessor, this Mission: Impossible won’t be a team exercise. Going one step further, De Palma and his writers (the Hollywood dream team of Steven Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne) later reveal the hero of the TV series, Jim Phelps, to be a double-crossing traitor. The controversial revelation announces that catering to the diehards will not be a goal of this franchise. Today’s geek-friendly adaptations, slavish in their loyalty to The Text, could learn something from the brazen infidelity of Mission: Impossible.

Naturally, fans—and original cast members—greeted these affronts to the show’s legacy with anger. Consensus among the incensed seemed to be that De Palma’s movie had not only butchered the source material, turning it into a vanity project for [Tom] Cruise, but had also applied the Mission: Impossible brand to a soulless Hollywood action flick. That criticism is a bit baffling, frankly. Yes, there are some pyrotechnics, especially during the speeding-train climax, heavily excerpted in the trailers. But in De Palma’s hands, Mission: Impossible is largely an exercise in suspense—in bombs under the table that don’t go off, as his hero Hitchcock might put it. The movie’s most memorable moments, like the undercover op during the party and the famous hanging-from-the-ceiling Langley infiltration, are models of escalating tension. Stealth is privileged over confrontation—a trend that would blessedly continue throughout most of the series.

In fact, the main reason that Woo’s installment now feels like the low point of the franchise is that it abandons the ethos of the original, essentially earning the accusations that were lobbed at De Palma’s movie. Whereas the first film boasts a Hitchockian wrong-man plot, with Hunt framed for a crime he didn’t commit, Mission: Impossible II riffs on Notorious—but only until about the midpoint, at which point Woo hijacks his perverse sleeping-with-the-enemy scenario in favor of some very Woo-ish adrenaline rushes. M:I 2 is a moronically caffeinated extreme-sports highlight reel, its story a thin pretext for rock-chord machismo and shots of its shaggy-haired star striking “badass” poses. (Even more so than the previous film, this one is basically The Cruise Show.) Still, there’s plenty of dumb fun to be had with Woo’s hilariously excessive approach, especially when the director pushes both his own and the series’ trademarks to their self-parodic limits.

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'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' IN PRAGUE
Here's what the Prague Post's André Crous wrote about the Prague locations used in the first and fourth films:
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Brian De Palma’s film adaptation of the well-known television series had some tense moments that were set in the land between West and East, where Americans were still hatching some dastardly plans even as the East’s veil of secrecy was gradually lifting. The first act of this film is set in a Prague where the U.S. Embassy apparently looks exactly like the National History Museum on Wenceslas Square, and main character Ethan Hunt finds himself missing a violent car explosion on Kampa square (Na Kampě), just off Charles Bridge, which is eerily deserted. In the film’s third sequel, the 2011 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Prague doubled as Budapest and Moscow (yikes!).
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Posted by Geoff at 7:47 PM CST
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