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Friday, January 29, 2021

"When you talk about stakes... Talking to Karen, who watched the film with me, and so we talked about it afterwards. And she said, you know, they could have made a movie out of his first team. Because it's Kristin Scott Thomas, and it's Emilio Estevez, and...but, that's great stakes, because you go, wow, you know, these are real move stars, in his first team, and he just kills them all. And you go, oh my God, this movie has no rules! [Laughter] Yeah, so I love that."

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Saturday, January 30, 2021 11:10 AM CST
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Sunday, January 17, 2021

I was intrigued by the description of the latest episode of the podcast Light The Fuse:
This week we are joined by bestselling novelist Matthew Pearl (“The Dante Club,” “The Poe Shadow”) and we talk about his research into Eliot Ness and the connection he made between “The Untouchables” Odessa steps sequence and the climax of the original “Mission: Impossible.” We discuss other connections between the films, go over some unused script pages, and Pearl brings up a fascinating “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” mystery. Released January 15th, 2020.

The episode is interesting, but there isn't any real direct or concrete connection brought up between the discarded train sequence in The Untouchables and the train sequence in Mission: Impossible. The gist of it is simply the idea that after having to drop the train sequence from the earlier film, Brian De Palma might have been making up for that with the train sequence from the later film. The podcast does explore other connections between the two films, and is an interesting listen. And the hosts also mention that they are hoping to have De Palma on the podcast later this year when the paperback version of Are Snakes Necessary? is published.

However, as I dug around a bit looking for information about the Mission: Impossible train sequence, I found a Bold Entrance article about it that includes quotes from when visual effects supervisor John Knoll was on the Light The Fuse podcast last year, for three episodes...

I haven't listened to these episodes yet, but I plan to this week. In the meantime, here's an excerpt from the Bold Entrance article:

What Makes An Action Sequence Great?

According to Cinelinx, Knoll and De Palma researched two of the great action films, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, for inspiration. Sequences, such as Indiana Jones chasing the Nazi truck carrying the Ark and the truck pursuing John Connor through the canal in Raiders and T2 respectively, provided key insights into the structure of a great action sequence.

These sequences revealed that every element in a great action sequence is well choreographed together. Camera angles, camera movements, vehicle speed, music, the timing of the stunt to provide a suitable payoff for the audience, sound effects, and music all work in concert to turn a good action sequence into a great one. The placement of vehicles (in this case the helicopter and the train) also needed to favor the performance of the actors.

But unlike Raiders and T2, the majority of the train sequence is not shot on location and relied heavily on a soundstage, miniatures, and visual effects. Knoll and the rest of the crew at ILM had to bring their A-game to this sequence in order to bring a level of realism that made the on-location footage indistinguishable from the effects and soundstage footage.

While Knoll and his team created the most realistic effects possible, De Palma decided to limit the use of music for the first few minutes of the sequence to focus on sound effects. The sound of air rushing by at 200 mph helped set the tone for the sequence, and sell its realism. This directorial choice also helped build the scene up to its crescendo when Cruise finally jumps onto the helicopter’s landing skid and the familiar Mission: Impossible theme music emphasizes the climactic payoff.

From Storyboards to Animatics

To help choreograph these elements, Knoll initially worked with De Palma to storyboard the complex sequence. From his work on Star Trek: Generations (1995), Knoll recalled the limitations of storyboarding correct perspectives for complex FX elements in a shot. To solve this on Star Trek, Knoll had built simple CG models of a lot of the assets and did shot design in 3D “so then I’d know for sure that any shot I designed would be correct.”

Knoll soon found it necessary to follow a similar approach on Mission: Impossible.

“[When De Palma] wanted a list of all the camera focal lengths and positions, so there was no guessing on the stage, it seemed like the natural way to do that was to have a CG model of the train and helicopter, and layout those shots in perspective-correct 3D. I did a first pass on that and then, after I had done stills reproducing the storyboards, Brian requested running footage with animatics. This was just like a previs, and it worked tremendously in helping us make the sequence.”

Making the Outrageous Follow the Law of Physics

Making the bullet train sequence look good on paper and in animatics was quite different from making it look good in the final sequence. In fact, it was extremely difficult. According to Knoll, Cruise was involved in pre-production on Mission: Impossible, making sure that shots were staged in such a way that the audience knew he was really doing the stunt.

This also meant ILM needed to make sure the combination of live-action and effects didn’t make Cruise look silly. While the physics of the bullet train sequence gets more ridiculous as the scene progresses, Knoll knew it had to look right on screen to the audience. In a recent interview with Light The Fuse podcast, he said:

“Even if audiences can’t tell you what is technically wrong with a shot, if you don’t get the physics right, they can see that something looks wrong. They might not be able to say, ‘Oh well it’s because that object isn’t following a ballistics trajectory.’ It looks wrong to them. So I think it’s always important for us to do our homework, and try and enforce as much scientific rigor on the work that we’re doing as is appropriate. Obviously we do a lot of fantasy things that are theoretically impossible, but I always try to [think], ‘Well if this were real, if there were some mechanism behind it, what would that look like? And I try and let that drive the work.”

Knoll added that even he had misgivings about some of De Palma’s requests for the sequence:
“I do remember there was a moment where we’re obviously putting Ethan into a lot of peril in that train sequence and there’s a moment where he’s hanging off the side of the train, and there’s another train coming, and he’s about to get scraped off the side of the train. And Brian wanted Tom to be hanging on the side of the train and then sort of tipped up completely horizontal [even though in normal physics] the drag and the wind would have been pulling him sideways. And I was trying to explain, ‘Well I think he should be at a bit of an angle because if you think about the vector math here, the gravity’s pulling him this way, and then the air drag is pushing him this way. You wouldn’t get completely horizontal.’ And Brian didn’t have a lot of patience for that kind of stuff. He said, ‘We’re making a movie. This is not a physics lesson. Get a life.'”

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: Monday, January 18, 2021 12:33 AM CST
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Friday, January 8, 2021

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CST
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Saturday, November 28, 2020

On repeat viewings of Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible, the viewer now knows that Claire knows that Jim Phelps is alive. Armed with this knowledge, Claire's line to Ethan in the scene above -- "I want to get the son of a bitch who did this" -- sounds suspiciously scripted by Jim "I prefer the theater" Phelps himself. Phelps, in fact, will refer to that "son of a bitch" in his own meeting with Ethan later, in London.

In that meeting, we see a variation of the meeting in Body Double between Jake Scully and Sam Bouchard in the bar, which itself is a variation of the date between Jon and Judy in Hi, Mom!. In each of those previous scenes, a person (Jon in Hi, Mom! and Sam in Body Double) is attempting to manipulate the person they are speaking with through lies and improvisation.

In the case of Mission: Impossible, however, Ethan is not so easily duped, and Jim Phelps knows it. In fact, as much as Jim works from his own script that Kittridge was the mole, he watches Ethan intently to see if he is buying it. Ethan is also watching intently, because as soon as Jim Phelps tries to tell him that Kittridge is the mole, Ethan knows that none of it adds up. In his mind, he plays out the only scenario that seems to make sense, even is acting for Jim as if he believes his lie about Kittridge.

Martin Scorsese had a very similar dynamic in play in his 1991 remake of Cape Fear, a discussion that is punctuated by a hilarious cut to Nick Nolte forced to sleep on the couch. And to bring it all back home, the son-of-a-bitch being discussed in the Scorsese film is Robert De Niro. See it all below:

Posted by Geoff at 8:27 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 29, 2020 7:54 AM CST
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Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Earlier this month, the podcast Light The Fuse (hosted by Drew Taylor and Charles Hood) interviewed David Koepp about his work on Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible. Listen for some good discussion of how the sceenplay was developed, some fun stories, and Koepp's lovingly-rendered and highly amusing "De Palma" voice. The interview is podcast in two parts. I haven't yet listened to Part 2, which delves into "several further unrealized reunions with Brian De Palma," but here's a bit of a transcript from Part 1:
Were you brought onto the project by De Palma?

Yes. Brian and I had done Carlito's Way together a couple of years prior to that, and we had gotten along great. And I was about to do... I had just finished Lost World, I think... and I was about to start, I was gonna do Shock Corridor. Remember the Sam Fuller movie? Yeah. Uh, somebody was going to remake it at Disney. I can't remember the producer. And is there's one thing that seems perfectly suited, it's Shock Corridor and Disney. [laughter] And I... but I had an idea for, you know, a journalist who goes in and can't get out. You know, I thought it was going to be kind of cool. And I think we were negotiating, or talking... somebody was trying to convince somebody to do it. And, I got a call from Brian, who said, you know, it was pre-cell phones, or mostly pre-cell phones. So I remember calling him back from a restaurant. And I said, "What? What is so urgent?"

He said, "What are you doing?"


I said, "I'm eating."

And he said, "No, no, what are you writing?"

"I think I'm going to write Shock Corridor at Disney."

And he said, "Huh!? Shock Corridor? That's a terrible idea!"

I said, "Brian, did you just call me to berate me? I'm eating!" You know.

And he says, "Mission: Impossible. Tom Cruise. I have to see you in the morning."


And, uh, the rest is history.

Was there any material at that point? Because we've heard that, you know, Sydney Pollack and some other people had been flirting with the idea before.

Yeah, there were several pieces of material. There was a script that Willard Huyck and Gloria Katz had written. And then subsequent to that, there was a treatment that Brian had done with Steve Zaillion. But Zaillion had to go, because he either... but I've never asked him directly... either he had to go because he had another commitment, or he had to go because he got a whiff of [starts to laugh] what it was going to be like working with Tom and Brian, and perhaps a certain lack of freedom that he might have enjoyed. And so he left. But I came in and then Brian and I reworked the treatment, because it had been a first draft, but also I had some other ideas. Nobody could ever just do somebody else's thing, you gotta wreck it, so Brian and I worked through another treatment and then I wrote some scripts.

Did you read that original script?

Which original one?

The Katz? Sure! Yeah, I did. It wasn't the direction that I wanted to go. But it had a lot of good things in it.

Did any of it manage to make its way into the movie? Anything from that draft?

Uh, I don't believe so, no.


Oh, wait, his first name. I think he was Ethan in their draft. But I think he... he remained Ethan, and Hunt was mine, because Hunt seems like a cool name. But that wasn't the coolest name-- I was very happy with Luther Stickell. It's one of my favorite character names that I've made up. That was Ving Rhames' character.

And it's hung around for a long time now.

Yeah, there's a funny story about that-- yo want to hear it?


I figure this is the place, right? So, we were in Prague right before shooting. So we were doing rehearsals. And it was fascinating, because Prague had just reopened in the mid- '90s, you know, after the fall of communism. And so we were staying-- Brian had this room at a hotel that we were all staying in that was like where the politburo must have stayed when they came to town. You know, it was this gigantic room with a huge conference table with a giant map of Europe at the end of it. And I mean, you could just picture, you know, like Brezhnev up at the map, you know, talking about where they wanted to go next. It was a really cool room. So anyway, we were rehearsing, and we got to the end, and the, yo know, the script had been through its turbulent life, and, you know, there's more turbulence to come. But it was in a pretty good state, and everybody was pretty cool at that point and we were ready to start shooting. And we were finishing our rehearsal, and Brian said, "Anybody got anything else?"

And Ving Rhames said, "Yeah, I got a question."

We said, "Okay. What's the question?"

He said, "How come the black guy gotta die?"

And we said, "Well, you know, a number of people die. You know, it's not just him."

And he said, "Yeah, yeah, but, how come the black guy always gotta die?"

And we were like, "Oh. Okay, Ving, you're right." So we kept him alive. And what I think is hilarious about it is seven movies later, Ving's still there. He was not only right about the note, but he also, in terms of career longevity, was right about staying alive.

Yeah. Where was he supposed to die in the script? Do you remember?

On the train at the end. It was all very exciting.

Well, should we start talking about the turbulence of this script?


So why was it turbulent even before you told Ving Rhames that he got to live? I mean, where was it at that stage?

There was... you know, there's two very strong personalities at the center-- well, more than two, but the, you know, the two dominant personalities at the center of the movie were Tom and Brian. And they liked each other very much, and they also disagreed a lot. You know, Brian has a really clear viewpoint on things. You know, he is an auteurist, no question. Brian gets to be called an auteur because he writes half his own stuff, but even on the stuff he doesn't write, it's an extremely clear point of view and he's one of the few directors where you can look at a shot and say, oh, it's a Brian De Palma movie. And that's rare. And you hire somebody for that, and then you... it's very hard for them to just give it up. And Tom, I think, both wanted to respect that and struggled with it, because he didn't always agree with the viewpoint. And he had a very clear idea, and he was producing the movie and also had a very clear idea about what he thought it should be. So you know, you just had two brilliant guys who a lot of the time would get along great and were great allies, and sometimes wouldn't. I think Tom also felt quite a bit of anxiety about it. It was going to be a great big expensive movie, and he was producing the movie, which he was doing with Paula Wagner, for the first time. And so there was a, you know, really high degree of personal responsibility for it. And as personally responsible as Tom Cruise feels about every single thing he does and every single person that he meets throughout his entire life, if you could multiply that by a few, for this, the first giant movie that he was producing and starring in and creating a franchise from... you now, there's a certain level of attentiveness there.

And so Brian and I had done a thing together, and we had a relationship where we trusted each other. And so, there was a dynamic. Maybe he felt it was two-on-one. Now granted, there was two of us, and then there was one of Tom Cruise, so, it could have been 50 of us, it wouldn't necessarily have mattered. He's got an extremely strong personality and point of view. And then I think what happened is the studio made a sort of... Sherry Lansing was running the studio at the time, and she made what I think was a tiny bit of a mistake in terms of working with Tom, which was to say, at a certain point, "We love the script-- we don't have any notes."

And I think that makes a person nervous. Especially of you're a person who's used to working on something exhaustively. You know, Brian and I had no intention of stopping, but I think he heard, "We don't have any notes," and he thought, oh, they're just going to try to jam me into this and get it out, because it's a title, you know, it's a big thing. And so at that point then he wanted to bring in Bob Towne to work on it, and I didn't like that, you know. Because I was also young, and I didn't like anybody touching my stuff, and I didn't realize that perhaps you shouldn't work on hundred-million dollar movies if you don't want anybody touching your stuff. [Laughter] And so, you know, there was a lot of back-and-forth at that point-- the next several months, as Towne did his thing, and then I'd come back and do more of my thing, and then a some point, we're both on the movie, but at different hotels in London. You know, the studio's maybe going to shut it down, or maybe they're not, there's pages flying everywhere, I was staying up for three days at a time trying to combine things. And it was sort of chaotic. It was chaotic-- it wasn't sort-of-chaotic.

That was leading up to the production? All that?

Yeah, that was all before cameras ever rolled. Once cameras rolled, it settled down, as things tend to. There were still, you know, last-minute rewrites and things like that, but there wasn't the sort of... it didn't have that feeling, a little bit of the wild west prior to production.

What was the biggest logjam, in terms of... was there a set-piece or something that caused that caused all this to happen, or was it just rewriting the script again and again? Or what was the hold-up?

Just rewriting the script again and again. And I think because it was a complicated plot, and we all wanted it to be a complicated plot. But you kind of have to all agree on what the complicated plot is, and how much complication is too much. And I remember one day we had... there was an opening, you know, which was quite extensive, and jam-packed full of exposition and death and reversals and set-ups-- you know, it's a very complex piece of writing that starts, you know, with a story inside a story that turns out to be a fake, and then these people are all running a thing, but somebody's running a thing on them. And I remember getting into a disagreement with Tom about... there was one security guard who had no lines. He had to push a button.

And he said, "Well, who's that guard?"

I said, "That's... the guard, who works there."

And he said, "No, no, no, but who is he really?"

And I said, "No, he really is the guard who works there."

And he said, "Yeah, but wouldn't it be better if he wasn't the guard who works there, but he's actually somebody else, and we find out who it is, and Ethan figures out that that's who it is because of..."

And I'm like, "No, it wouldn't be better, because Ethan just needs to walk through the door!"


You know, and then that would lead to an hour of discussion.


He might-- but, I'm sure he doesn't remember, but if he did, he might tell the story in a different way. But, you know, we all have our opinions.

What did you think when the movie came out and people said it was still too complicated?

[Laughter] That's a... Brian called me the day after it came out and he said, "Dave! [can't stop laughing] There's a one-word buzz on this movie. 'Incomprehensible.'"

[more laughter]

"No, no. no, it's supposed to be complicated. This is okay. People are gonna love it. And..."

[more laughter]

Well, you have this amazing archive on your website of your old scripts. A lot of scripts, and you have multiple drafts of Mission: Impossible, and we had a chance to take a peek at them. So I wanted to just ask a couple questions about how certain things evolved. I mean, I think maybe the biggest thing is the romance between Ethan and Claire. And, you know, it was more explicit in earlier drafts. I think in the earliest draft you posted on your website, the two of them are having an affair right from the beginning, and it's hidden from Phelps, and Ethan's deciding whether or not, in the opening of the movie, "Should I..." You know, he's trying to grapple with whether or not he wants to to reveal that to Phelps.] And then as more drafts come in, that gets shaded back. And then, to the final shooting script, then it's obviously very close to what ended up in the movie, except for one thing, is that they have sex on the train. They make love on the train. It's implied they do, in the middle of the movie, right before the Langley heist, I think is when it happens. So I just wanted to ask you about the evolution of the Claire-Ethan romance, and what decisions went into why it was scaled back, and stuff like that.

It was a little while ago, so I, you know, I may not remember clearly why. I remember that that's how it was originally. I'm not sure I remember how I lost that fight. Because I liked them having an affair. I liked that they were sleeping together, and I liked that he was morally compromised. And I thought that that was going to be fascinating. And, you know, having an affair with the wife or girlfriend... I can't remember, I think wife... the wife of your mentor-- that's not so good. And it gets into some... you know, Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, there's some very nice triangly stuff in there, and I love t write triangles. I think that, you know, somebody involved maybe didn't want to play that. So I think in the end the thinking was, no, no, they're not having an affair, but Phelps' treachery and jealousy actually causes the thing to happen that he was most afraid of, which is that they end up together.


Which is fine, too. And obviously the movie did well, and no one was injured during filming, so that's good. [laughter] I liked that he was having an affair. I thought that would have been kind of fun.

Did they shoot the scene on the train? Did they shoot that, where the two of them consummate their romance before the Langley heist?

I don't believe so. Before the Langley heist, in the middle of the movie, maybe.


It's on that train. Right.

Yeah, it's on the train where we first meet Krieger and Luther...


And they run down the whole scheme of what they're going to do, and then there's a scene in the train there in the shooting script that you have on your website that the two of them have a little conversation after that scene, and then they...

Yeah. I thought the best sequence in that section of the movie-- that I hope was in the first draft that you read-- was the rounding up the team sequence.


Was that in there, where he, you know...

I think that's in your second draft.

Yeah, somebody's busted out of a prison in India.


Yeah, there's an extended seven or eight page rounding up the team sequence, when, after, you know, Ethan's team's all been killed, and he's off now on his own, and he has to go figure out who's done this and why, but of course, he needs people to help him. So he, you know, every great team movie has a rounding-up-the-team sequence. You know, it's Guns Of Navarro, and it's, well, it's a million of them. So, Brian and I had come up with what we thought was fun and funny and adventurous, and had some good size to it. And it just died in the last minute, because of budget. You know, it was a very expensive sequence, but it made me so sad because I particularly liked the prison break in India. I thought it was a great idea for how to bust somebody out of prison. You go see them, you shoot them with a dart that they don't even know about so they think they're dead. And then the prison takes them up to the roof to cremate them and you rescue them with a helicopter. It's great! Because a guy wakes up in a coffin and he's sliding toward flames. That... [laughter] that seemed like a lot of fun to me.

There was also another team member, right?

Yes, who was it...

Paul... I want to say Mitnik?

Oh, right, the computer guy. Sort of combined names with Luther Stickel. Yeah. Yeah yeah yeah. As one of those Spider-Man movies came to call him, the guy in the chair. I like to think that we had an early guy in the chair in Luther.


There's always a guy in the chair. Yeah, it was a shame we lost that sequence. Imagine how well the movie would have done if we'd had it. [laughter]

Meanwhile, Christopher McQuarrie, currently in Rome filming the seventh Mission: Impossible film, posted the picture above today on his Instagram page, with the following caption:

There is no escaping the past…*

*With us strictly by chance, the lens used to shoot Ethan’s meeting with Max some 25 years ago in Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2020 12:33 AM CDT
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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

"Brian De Palma’s sinuous, elegantly impenetrable first installment" of the Mission: Impossible film franchise "remains one of the Tom Cruise series’ high points," states Justin Chang today in the fourth week of the L.A. Times Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown. It's a "16-week contest to program the greatest summer movie season ever," Chang continues. "Or at least since 1975, the year that Jaws forever changed the landscape of moviemaking, gross tallying and beach bumming forever."

Each week, Chang presents a list of 16 summer movies from 1975 to 2019, and asks readers to vote for their favorites via his Twitter acount, @JustinCChang. De Palma's Mission: Impossible is one of the 16 movies Chang listed this week.

Meanwhile, over at Forbes today, Scott Mendelson takes a look at the ten biggest Memorial Day weekend releases "that aren’t Star Wars or Indiana Jones" movies. It turns out that if you remove those two franchises, and adjust the grosses for inflation, De Palma's film is the eighth biggest Memorial Day weekend release... and John Woo's sequel is the ninth biggest. Here's how Mendelson describes each of these:

Mission: Impossible (Paramount)

$181 million in 1996/$383 million adjusted

Brian DePalma’s low-key, adult-skewing thriller, one which emphasized espionage over action, is still one of the best films in the franchise. It grossed a then-record $75 million over its Wed-Mon Memorial Day weekend. The film would be rather frontloaded, partially due to folks being appalled at having to (gasp) pay attention in order to follow the tricky plot. That Mission: Impossible II was both more streamlined and had scenes where characters stopped the movie to explain what had happened up to that point makes this franchise a rare example of filmmakers “listening to the Internet.” Oh, and turning the TV show’s hero into the villain didn’t fly any better in 1996 than it would in 2020.


Mission: Impossible II (Paramount)

$215 million in 2000/$374 million adjusted

Released 20 years ago this summer, John Woo’s ridiculously over-the-top romantic melodrama (“Notorious meets Hard Boiled”) almost qualifies as self-satire, both from the director and his top-billed star as Ethan Hunt is turned into (conventionally speaking) the coolest (and hottest) action hero ever. The film marked the end of an era where star-driven, non-fantasy action movies were expected to rule the box office. It also began the transformation of Tom Cruise from “biggest movie star on Earth who occasionally does action movies” to “American Jackie Chan who mostly makes action movies.” In a time when Hollywood was starting to embrace “gritty” realism even in its blockbusters, Mission: Impossible II was gloriously surreal.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 22, 2020 7:34 AM CDT
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Saturday, May 2, 2020

With many regularly scheduled TV series falling short of production in the wake of Coronavirus shut-downs all over the place, CBS is bringing back its Sunday Night At The Movies beginning this weekend, and all through May. You might say the network is looking to bring back the sort of time when everybody seemed to be watching The F.B.I. on ABC every Sunday night, as in Quentin Tarantino's latest, Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood. Bookended by two of Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones movies (Raiders Of The Lost Ark May 3rd, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade May 31st), Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible will air smack dab in the middle, on May 17th. The other two films are Robert Zemeckis' Forrest Gump (May 10th) and James Cameron's Titanic (May 24th).

""It's a five-week programming event with epic films, iconic stars, and brilliant stories that viewers love—and love to watch together," CBS programming exec Noriko Kelley states in the CBS press release. CBS also put together a retro-fashioned promo commercial that can be watched on its Facebook page.

"All hail the return of CBS ‘Sunday Night at the Movies’ in May," reads a San Francisco Chronicle headline from this past week. Forbes' Scott Mendelson expects that a new commercial for Paramount's upcoming Tom Cruise-starring Top Gun: Maverick will air during the Mission: Impossible slot May 17th. At The Stranger, Bobby Roberts writes:

It's so bizarre to see the CBS Sunday Night Movie come back to brodcast TV after being made more-or-less obsolete by cable back in the '90s. And then cable was made obsolete in the '00s by the internet, and now because the movie industry doesn't know what it's going to be in the near future, media companies like Viacom/CBS are looking at all these watch parties, looking at their network programming, noticing their large back catalogs, and boom: The Sunday Night Movie returns with a slightly different name at 8pm tonight, presenting a perfect excuse for everyone to get together at the same time, in the same place, and watch 1981's Raiders of the Lost Ark, maybe the most perfectly constructed film in cinema history. Maybe. I’m sure someone out there has an argument on deck, but I’m betting their champion of choice doesn’t include a giant pit of snakes; a fight inside, on top of, and hanging off the front of a truck at 50 mph; a holy box that melts Nazi faces like Totino’s Party Pizza; and—most importantly—the presence of peak Harrison Ford in all his sweaty, smirky, silly-yet-sexy glory.

Meanwhile, Rickey Fernandes Da Conceição at Goomba Stomp & Sordid Cinema posted his subjective list of the "40 Best Movies of 1996" today. De Palma's Mission: Impossible comes in at number 8. "One man has one chance to do the impossible," reads the quick-tag under the film's title. The description then reads, "An American agent, under false suspicion of disloyalty, must discover and expose the real spy without the help of his organization."

Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man gets the top spot on this list.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 3, 2020 1:34 AM CDT
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Saturday, April 11, 2020

"Had things gone according to plan, today would be the opening night for No Time to Die," Scott Mendelson stated this past Thursday at Forbes. "The 25th official James Bond movie was supposed to open in the UK on April 3 and in North America on April 10 (or April 9 at around 7:00 pm counting previews). Alas, MGM and Universal delayed the movie to November due to concerns about the Coronavirus impacting overseas box office."

Mendelson's article carries the headline, "(00)7 James Bond Imitators To Stream Instead Of No Time To Die." Later in the introduction, he explains, "The bad news is that 007 fans now have to wait another seven months for their fix, which is particularly vexing since Spectre opened way back in November of 2015. So, in the name of charity, here is a list of temporary substitutes while you wait. No, these aren’t James Bond movies, but they exist in the same sandbox, and in some cases are entirely inspired by the Ian Fleming-penned spy saga (and resultant EON-produced movies). So, without further ado, here are 007 alternatives while you wait to Die Another Day and patiently figure out Another Way to Die. All of these will leave you feeling [like] you’re on an All Time High. I’ll see myself out. Oh, and I’ve tried to spread these out a little, in terms of years and decades. I could make this list just from the various spy flicks that debuted in 2015."

Among the list of seven titles, which includes films as diverse as James Cameron's True Lies (1994), Jay Roach and Mike Myers' Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), and Susanna Fogel's The Spy Who Dumped Me, Mendelson includes Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible (1996).

While the stunt-filled and action-packed franchise today stands side by side with the 007 franchise (and the Fast & Furious films) as A-level action blockbuster franchises, this first (admitted mega-hit) was indeed a buttoned down and cynical look at the spy craft, with more in common with The Spy Who Came In From the Cold than GoldenEye. Although both Tom Cruise’s first Ethan Hunt flick and Pierce Brosnan’s first 007 movie are rooted in the cynicism and weariness of lifetime government operatives questioning their purpose at the end of the Cold War. The Brian DePalma film is very much a DePalma film, just as the first five Mission: Impossible films matched the persona of their director (Mission: Impossible II is so John Woo almost spoofing himself). The film earned plaudits in its day for its adult-skewing narrative, its emphasis on suspense over carnage, and its comparatively stripped down narrative. Today, it qualifies as a miracle of modern tentpole filmmaking.

Posted by Geoff at 12:01 AM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 12, 2020 12:17 PM CDT
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Saturday, March 21, 2020

SYFY WIRE yesterday posted a couple of Christopher McQuarrie quotes, culled from the new May 2020 issue of EMPIRE, regarding the new Mission: Impossible movie he is working on. Last month, McQuarrie had teased that Henry Czerny would be returning for the new installment, even though he has been absent from the franchise since Brian De Palma's initial film. "I realized Kittridge had to be right in a scene, and it was transformed," McQuarrie tells EMPIRE of the new one. He also describes Czerny's character as "a meddler."

The other part of the blurb SYFY WIRE has culled from the EMPIRE issue is a quote regarding Ethan Hunt going into space-- your guess is as good as mine where that conversation started. "He’s not going to space," McQuarrie is quoted. "Nor does he need to go to space. What’s beyond that? Plenty."

Posted by Geoff at 4:52 PM CDT
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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Late last week, The Telegraph's Jack Taylor posted an article with the headline, "The complicated, colourful history of Apple products in films." The main thrust of the article is Apple's insistence through the years that on screen, only "the good guys" are to be shown using Apple products:
Over the last few decades, blockbuster films have been awash with Apple products, from iPhones and iPads, to MacBooks and iPods. And, while most companies shell out millions for the privilege of getting product placement on screen, like Heineken and its eye-watering deal to replace James Bond's martini in Skyfall, Apple doesn't pay a penny.

Suzanne Forlenza organised Apple's film and TV marketing almost single-handedly in the '90s, and worked out a system still in use today. "Frankly, we are absolutely overwhelmed with requests," she told the Irish Times in 1996, "The good news is we have established excellent relationships throughout Hollywood, so we have first crack, typically, at all the big films."

"We provide the computers requested for on camera usage on loan, all being due back to us at the end of the filming."

Forlenza made clear that Apple products could only ever be portrayed in a positive light, withholding permission where this couldn't be guaranteed. In the first Mission: Impossible film (1996), for example, she insisted that Tom Cruise use a Mac while the villains had IBMs. "We have a standing insistence that [Apple] will only be in the hands of the good guys."

This philosophy hasn't changed much since, as Knives Out director Rian Johnson was frustrated to discover: "Apple lets you use iPhones in movies, but – and this is very pivotal if you're ever watching a mystery movie – bad guys cannot have iPhones on camera."

The tech giant was one of the first companies to realise the value of lifestyle branding through film and TV, whether that be the high-tech glamour of Mission: Impossible or the socialite chic of Sex and the City. Below, the company's most influential product placement spots.

The list of films and TV shows that comes next in the article includes Mission: Impossible:
One of the earliest appearances of Apple in film is Tom Cruise's aptly-named PowerMac in the action spy thriller, which rivals Bond for its love of high-tech gadgets. Apple made a deal with the producers to feature clips from the film in their adverts in exchange for the laptop being front and centre during Cruise's hacking escapades. Marketing manager Jon Holtzman said: "We saved almost $500,000 in production costs – and got Brian De Palma to direct and Tom Cruise to act in it."

The commercial for the PowerBook can be viewed on YouTube. What remains unspoken in all of this is how De Palma subverts the whole idea of "good guys" and "bad guys" in Mission: Impossible, even though, yes, Tom Cruise is the hero of the piece. Placing Cruise's hero in the same position at the end that Jon Voight (as Jim Phelps) had been sitting in at the start of the film indicates a potential blurring of the lines, as does Ethan Hunt's taking on the role of "Job" and breaking into the CIA to steal the NOC list. Similarly, the characters using MacBooks in De Palma's Passion are all just as bad as they are good. De Palma focuses in on the MacBooks with their Apple logos twice in that film, highlighting the product as well as the two sets of characters using them, echoing the blurring of the good/bad lines in Mission: Impossible.

Posted by Geoff at 11:21 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2020 9:42 PM CST
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