Mission Impossible Retrospective Part 1

With Tom Cruise committing his suicide to celluloid (or digital) again for Rogue Nation on July 31st, I thought it would be appropriate to dissect the entries leading up to his latest untenable assignment.

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE-
It probably seemed unlikely in 1996 that Tom Cruise, one of the most lionized box office stars, would saddle himself to a franchise when he had a veritable smorgasbord of projects to choose from. And yet five films later with rumors of a sixth installment already unspooling at Paramount Pictures, the espionage brand is at its pinnacle of popularity.

For the first outing, Brian De Palma is the helmsman and it incontrovertibly emblazoned with his hallmarks. A dinner rendezvous where Ethan Hunt (Cruise) is accused of being a double agent is framed with traditional Dutch angles. More than once, he shifts to his most characteristic, neoclassical shot- the POV of a predator in pursuit of their quarry.

De Palma doesn’t overreach into his Hitchcockian worship on this film although the amount of double and triple crosses become absolutely absurd. While it is culpable for the attributes that are synonymous with Mission: Impossible (the latex masks, the gadgetry, the team disavowal), it is also the most tedious of the bunch. Scenes of high-wire tension like the aforementioned combustible-gum escape are showstoppers but they are diamonds hidden within the almost somnambulistic pace and contrivances.

On top of that, Cruise hadn’t quite polished his dashing action chops yet and he often comes across as smarmy in his NOC exchanges with Max (the coquettish cougar Vanessa Redgrave). Judging from these past few paragraphs, it could be construed that I was underwhelmed by this preliminary adventure. On the contrary, the film is redeemed immeasurably by two sequences that are categorized in the annals of action movie history.

The first is the crisply executed harness stunt where Ethan is suspended in a temperature-and-volume-garrisoned room where the slightest sound or rise in heat could trigger an alarm. De Palma wisely ratchets the breathlessness to nearly exhausting lengths with complications from a rat in the ventilation system to a bead of sweat off Ethan’s glass. The second is the Channel Tunnel chase which is still dazzling in its breakneck speed and rear projection for the train.

Yes, it’s mildly disenchanting that the team is dispatched early on (Emilio Estevez’s tech guy Jack Harmon would’ve been an amusingly wiseacre recurring character) and the murder mystery is an inscrutable web of deceit. Nevertheless, the film is urbane, moderately engrossing entertainment of the highest caliber and it spawned the modern-day spy genre.
Rating: 3 out of 5

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Interjections Podcast July 12th – San Diego Comic-Con and Minions

Well, Cory and I have been pretty busy this weekend – Comic-Con was thriving this weekend in San Diego, with news about Star Wars, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman, Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Wolverine 3! We couldn’t resist having another podcast to finally cover all the things we’ve learned since Friday. In addition to all the film and franchise news, we also both caught the animated sequel Minions and Cory has a sweet review about instant classic Dope.

Hope you haven’t been inundated with all the podcast majesty, because here we are:

True Detective Season 2 Episode 4 Review

At this point, we are officially at the midpoint for Season 2 and while it isn’t shaping up to eclipse Season 1, there have been glimmers and highlights. Despite the missteps, it can’t be uprooted as an echo of its former self and showrunner Pizzolatto is digging a new Plymouth Rock to blaze a different path.

Frank’s storyline is one of a fallen gangster empire with Scorsese ultraviolence lined throughout it. In the earlier episodes, a line like “You don’t take on someone else’s grief” would’ve been a blunder but now they sound like second nature for Vaughn. It’s a disenchanting sight to watch Frank’s licit behavior crumble and resort back to channeling his club as an exchange port for MDMA, cocaine and other paraphernalia. Vaughn rustles with accusations towards his underlings and when he assigns Blake (Christopher James Baker) to be pit boss for the time being, he could easily demoralize or kill.

After the Supreme Court’s widespread approval of gay marriage, Paul’s tearful remorse at “letting [himself] go” with his military compatriot is despicably backwards. I really find this subplot to be deplorable and indicative of an archaic gay panic. Also it feels like it is running perpendicular to the main Caspere investigation and I doubt it will intersect without a catastrophic contrivance occurring. Nonetheless, the pregnancy epiphany is a galvanizing twist for Paul to further distance himself from his temptations.

It’s refreshing to see Ray play counselor to Paul about his Black Mountain woes and paparazzi onslaught (“You’re a survivor; everything else is just dust in your eyes. Blink it away man”). It’s the inception of an apotheosis for Ray; it’s an incremental, perhaps hypocritical step for someone with custody issues overhead but Farrell sounds steadfast and more gung-ho than before. The outward, interpersonal growth suits him well.

Overall, this episode is defiantly unpredictable (Ani’s suspension for fraternizing with other subordinates and her partner), dankly funny (Eliot’s tangent about green and black aura around Ray) and tantalizingly vitriolic. It’s probably safe to say that Pizzolatto has apostatized the original sin of the previous installments and he is firing on all cylinders.

In terms of comparisons, Season 2 is Predator 2 to Season 1’s Predator which the crackerjack, 7-minute-long concrete jungle shootout confirms like a feverish Michael Mann sequence. Like that franchise’s second entry, it might be unfairly maligned during its release but it will be ripe for rediscovery in the intervening years. The dive bar is akin to Monk’s Restaurant in Seinfeld or Central Perk in Friends. It’s the recurring nexus between Ray and Frank for the series. Now to bifurcate from Paul’s dead end…

Rating: 4 out of 5

Podcast July 10th – Terminator, Self/Less and Omar Sharif

Hey, Tristan and Cory are back again with their weekly Interjections Podcast. Tristan managed to catch Terminator: Genisys, so the pair are able to review the film, and look forward to any potential sequels. Cory also happened to catch Self/Less right before recording this, so he lets us in on the quality of the film…we also heard of the passing of screen legend Omar Sharif, so we pay tribute to his efforts in cinema. Meanwhile, on the west coast, San Diego Comic Con is in full swing, so Cory and Tristan posit what it means to have spoilers in today’s culture.

Hope you enjoy!

True Detective Season 2 Episode 3

Nic Pizzolatto reminds me of a late-blooming pitcher. His first balls are wind-ups at molasses speed. Then he begins to find his groove in the penultimate innings and throws curveballs at the plate. Last week concluded with a point-blank execution of Velcoro and the viewers are somewhat concussed by shock. He has thrown us off balance in the best possible way.

With Velcoro on the sidelines, the prayer for most of us is that Paul will be italicized in the remaining six episodes because he has been the elusive main character so far. All the clues indicate that Paul was a Robert Ludlum black-ops assassin who is shell-shocked by his past transgressions. Much to our chagrin, Paul is still an asterisk but with him on the suspect detail with Antigone, he can still ramify into a fully fleshed-out character in later escapades. He is shadowed by Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) which will hopefully be a gratifying payoff but so far, he is just a caricature of homophobia which was antiquated and insulting back when Cruising was released in 1980.

Continue reading True Detective Season 2 Episode 3

Interjections Podcast July 3rd – Terminator and the Future

Hey everyone,

Cory and Tristan were at a baseball game in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania yesterday, so they decided afterwards to hold an impromptu podcast, with the advantage of having better audio by actually being near a microphone together. We discuss the Terminator franchise mostly, but also cover Tristan’s views on Inside Out, as well as future films such as Creed, Kong: Skull Island, TMNT 2, Steve Jobs and Deadpool.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Interjections, the most succinct we’ve ever been!

Knowing the right time to talk about movies, music and television