Mission: Impossible

Binary System Podcast #21 – New year, out of control already

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Binary System Podcast #21 – New year, out of control already

Without a Night Vale episode this week, we set off to do a short podcast about what we’ve got coming up for January. It quickly spiraled into a discussion about X-Files, book authors, spoiler warnings, fan fiction, Warehouse 13, Mission Impossible, Doctor Who, and Star Wars. Of course. (Kathryn hasn’t seen Force Awakens yet so we’re still SPOILER FREE.)

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Movie Issues: Mission: Impossible

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Movie Issues: Mission: Impossible

This week during Action August month the guys watch the 1996 flick Mission: Impossible. Tom Cruise kicking ass, dangling from wires, hanging off of speeding trains and running everywhere. It’s a solid flick with some great action beats. We also discuss sad news of Robin Williams death and give him some love. Its a full episode full of our normal random thoughts. Please download and enjoy with us.  Read On

Mission Impossible: 3

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The first Mission Impossible was a fun, empty-headed mid-1990’s boom-boom fest, its virtue actually being its vapidity and silliness (helicopters in train tunnels, anyone?). The second one was a forgettable mess in only the way that a latter-day John Woo movie can be – Chinese food for the soul. This one, directed by J.J. Abrams of Alias and Lost fame, well, it was far, far better than the franchise or its insane star Tom Cruise deserved for it to be. Abrams has learned through his TV experience that we likey the action, but we needy the story to support it. Sure, Cruise fulcrums his way into some insane, unlikely situations, as the franchise demands. But this time, we actually care why.

I started the movie actually petulant and unwilling; my friend had to pay for myself and my erstwhile free screener companion to see it with him, so I was naturally resistant. And indeed, the movie started out with a straightforward op that was entertaining but certainly only as perilous as our crack team of IMF agents will let it. Begrudgingly, I started to admit that this or that was pretty cool. And then the real movie starts, and by the end we were all very pleased and surprised at how much we enjoyed it.

Smart references and device-explaining exposition made the story flow smoothly; Cruise, despite being so insanely batty lately, managed to make me forget that most of the time. And that dude can run like a throroughbred! He doesn’t have the most range, but like others with the same limitations (Keanu Reeves) he can really work his milieu.

You like gadgets? Abandon James Bond and come to the IMF – talk about nifty and even almost plausible. This movie feels like what the series 24 used to – gutsy and exciting and fun and even when you’re like, “come on!” it’s still just within the realm of movie-possible to not alienate you. Abrams has saved this franchise. If they’re smart, they will let it die now, before it has a chance to embarrass itself again.

Abrams touches lightly on what seems to be a pet theme for him, the dangers of unchecked technology, but never really grabs on to it. Simon Pegg gets to shine to mainstream audiences as the Q-like comic relief back at the office, and here is where Abrams can deal with the serious issue under the surface without making Cruise and Co. any more deadly serious than they already are. (Bonus: Special thanks in the credits to the Hanso Foundation.)

Philip Seymour Hoffman pays his contractual Capote dues as a world-weary sociopath of a villain; he’s interesting just by being so disinterested in being Interesting. He’s not hamming it up as the crazed genius or power-mad murder fetishist, he’s just tired of everyone getting in the way of his amoral behavior. Leave it to Hoffman to raise the Gene Hackman bar of villainy at last. It’s better than the popcorn movie it could have been reduced to. See it instead of Poseidon and you will get your fun fix without too much guilt – besides that Scientology thing.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/5/06
Time in minutes 126
Director J. J. Abrams
Studio Paramount Pictures

Comments Off on Mission Impossible 2

Mission Impossible 2

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I’ll say right off the bat that despite the played-down Apple presence (compared to the first one), despite the utter lack of motivation that everyone in the movie has, and despite the relative boringness of the supposedly exotic Thandie Newton (seven of you may have seen her in Besieged and/or Beloved), Mission Impossible 2 was a fun, popcorny, silly movie full of impossibly hot men. Yes, my friend, this movie was made for the ladies. I wouldn’t have thought John Woo to have the eye, but he does. So we get the guys in the seats to see some cool, slo-mo airwalking kicks from Tom Cruise and Dougray Scott, and girls along with them to remember why we liked Cruise so much in the first place. You may remember Dougray Scott from his swoony role in Ever After. Cruise has been in a couple of regrettable films, including Eyes Wide Shut, Days of Thunder, and Losin’ It. We love Tom so much, we let him get away with that haircut decade after decade. Why? Sometimes he can just smile in such a way that we scream “show me the boxers!” and forgive him for his past transgressions.

I digress. Don’t get me wrong, both the films in this franchise are Mission Implausible, but I think John Woo (Face/Off) can work the fantasy-testosterone action with more skill than Bonfire of the Vanities’ (and MI 1) Brian De Palma. And mano-a-mano is just plain less silly, even when stylized, than leaping from a helicopter onto a train while both are traveling in a tunnel. Man, that was insulting! But MI2 is no Silence of the Lambs, despite Anthony Hopkins, version 2.0 (post-Merchant Ivory, pre-Amistad). MI2 is good clean fun, lots of violence and danger and implied sexual situations, a little sneaky-snoo spy stuff, cool camera work, and Tom giving us that look that says, “you love me, don’t you?” We do love you Tom, like that bad boyfriend we keep getting back together with. You’re no good for us, you disappoint us on the big screen sometimes (not in Magnolia!) but it’s fun to watch you run around!

The sad truth of movies like this is simply that they feel they have to top each other, and we end up being excited to death – over-stimulated with no emotional connection, no reason to care, no tension, and so no charge. I really couldn’t tell half the time why people were doing what they were doing but I could tell good guy from bad guy (the hats helped) and that was enough to know that that guy shooting at Tom is someone I should enjoy getting kicked in the face. A scene I thought was the end of the movie (premature climax) was loud and broken glass and yelling and rolling and shooting and I was just utterly uninvolved. This is a shame, because, technically speaking, it was nicely shot. Woo has a lot of glass flying around in his movies – it’s tense (remember the broken glass on the bathroom floor in Die Hard? True, not his movie, but great glass!) and it catches the light and it’s a great symbol of chaos. No one gets a scratch on them, no one has to walk barefoot through it, nothing. Nothing in MI2 was as tense as the hanging from a wire cat burglar scene in the first film, either. Yet again, I was far less confused and insulted by the second film. So, make your own call here.

Lalo Schifrin’s legendary dun-dun-daada dun-dun daada theme to Mission Impossible may well be what has kept this franchise going at all. MI gives us precious few James Bond gadgets to arouse the technophiles, one woman at a time for Ethan Hunt, but WOW! What a theme. They could just crank the theme over a scene of 20 people walking peaceably to the park for a picnic and the scene would be riveting…up to a point. That’s where storytelling is supposed to take up the slack and as of yet, the MI franchise is still lacking there. Still, I’d rather see this than the Joel Schumacher Batman crapchise! It’s not great, but it can be fun.

MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/25/00
Time in minutes 125
Director john Woo
Studio Paramount