Mission: Impossible is one of those malleable concepts that can tackle any content and is only as good as the concept, cast, and director. As a result, the film version of the classic 1960s television series has had its hits and misses, but seems to be getting stronger with each film. J.J. Abrams reinvigorated the franchise with the third installment and then handed it off to Brad Bird, making his live action debut with Ghost Protocol.
It’s been far too long since Ethan Hunt and IMF team were handed a mission after that strong outing so it’s thrilling to see Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol be such a rousing success. The movie is out this week on Blu-ray and DVD and is a Must Have because there’s so much to like about it. Bird, best known for the underrated Iron Giant and The Incredibles, takes everything from those animated adventures and brings them to the real world. Bird brings his sense of pacing and timing to the mission along with a much needed dose of humor, leavening the drama.
Hunt (Tom Cruise) is in a Russian prison for unknown reasons but an IMF team breaks him out and only then does he get told of a nuclear prophet determined to set off an atomic war to bring about change. His mission: find the man and stop him. Of course, nothing goes easy, especially when it appears the IMF is accused of bombing the Kremlin, a clever feint on the part of the real villain: Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist). As a result, the Secretary is in Russia to tell Hunt the president has executed the Ghost Protocol, effectively dissolving the IMF but handing Hunt and his team one final clandestine mission to save the world.
The team? The only regular from previous films is Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg), now promoted to field agent. He’s accompanied by Carter (Paula Patton), who lost her fellow agent and lover (Josh Holloway) to an assassin who is now connected to the new mission so she sees it as a chance for revenge. The fourth member is new to the IMF; Brant, a consultant to the secretary (Jeremy Renner) who it is learned was a former field operative who believes he was responsible for the death of Hunt’s wife, Julia Mead, (Michelle Monaghan).
The screenplay from André Nemec and Josh Appelbaum takes us throughout Eastern Europe and the Middle East at a breakneck pace, but always pausing long enough to dole out character revelations and a chance for the characters to actually talk to one another, a rarity in these kind of action films. Bird clearly can handle the adventurous aspects and dramatic bits with an even hand. The cast works well together and the leads are well supported by a fresh cadre of international performers, including Anil Kapoor, Léa Seydoux, keeping the film looking and feeling fresh. There are two nice cameos towards the end which tie all four films together and for those who haven’t seen it, I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Visually, the film is breathtaking, as we see the splendor of Mumbai and elsewhere but of course the set piece, Hunt’s magnetic climb up the world’s tallest tower, is stunning. Bird and the scriptwriters have hit upon a series of obstacles that feel like M:I but updated for today, which is a strength.
If anything doesn’t work, it’s the more tried and true elements such as an overlong chase through a bazaar (even with a sandstorm) and a climactic battle inside a car park. Everyone struggles to beat the countdown clock but it all drags out just a bit and the film could have been tighter with a few judicious edits, but they’re minor quibbles. Helping overcome that is Michael Giacchino’ s wonderful score which honors the original series and gives it a flavor all its own.
The movie is spectacular on Blu-ray and sounds swell. Now, if you loved the film, you should seek out the Best Buy exclusive edition which has an hour’s worth of bonus material you won’t find on the regular Blu-ray release. Whereas the regular Blu-ray stuffs the extras with the film on a single disc, the Best Buy edition requires a disc just for the extras.
“Mission Accepted” (47:35) is found on both versions of the Blu-ray release while “Impossible Missions” (51:37) contains most of the Best Buy bonus material. In both you get 15 minutes of deleted scenes which makes for interesting watching and it’s recommended to use the Bird commentary. The regular Blu-ray offers up “Heating Up in Dubai” (17:36), a pretty travelogue; “Vancouver Fisticuffs” (12:01), a look at the climax, which happened to be shot in Canada; “The Sandstorm “ (3:06), which took two weeks to shot in Canada and Dubai; and “Props” (3:07).
The Best Buy material includes “Suiting Up in Prague” (17:58), “The Russian Prison” (11:49), “Shooting in IMAX” (3:33), “Art Department” (2:56), “A Roll of Film” (2:33), “Life Masks” (1:40), “Stepping Into the Storm” (2:02), “Dubai Car Crash” (8:15), “Lens on the Burj” (:57), and “Composer” (10:42). The two original theatrical trailers are also included.
Season 2 of Game Of Thrones premieres tonight on HBO, and people have been chomping at the bit to find out what will happen this year after the events of last year. Never fear! We here at ComicMix have acquired detailed and extensive information on what will happen in the next seasons of the Emmy-award winning drama, directly from George R.R. Martin himself.
Weddings are about beginnings and endings, as two single lives end and become one married life, promising a hopeful future. The universe beyond our planet is a breathtaking void filled with great unknowns that also can be seen as a hopeful place where anything can happen. In both cases, when the unexpected occurs, all hell breaks loose.
Danish auteur Lars von Trier explores both issues in his film Melancholia, currently out on home video from Magnolia Entertainment. Compared by many in scope and reach with Terence Malick’s tone poem Tree of Life, this is a more personal and accessible story despite it depressing plot lines. The beautifully filmed and visually impressive film is also anchored by an, ahem, stellar cast.
After a prologue tipping you off that Earth is destroyed we then begin the story. Split into two sections, each named after a sister, we open with “Justine” and the wedding. Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgård) are trying to make it to the top of a mountain for their wedding ceremony at the palatial castle owned by her sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her husband John (Kiefer Sutherland). They’re late given the difficulty of getting the limo up the steep road and things spiral downhill from there. On what is billed as the happiest day of her life, Justine winds up feeling alone and isolated, retreating to take a bath during the reception. Some of her actions are to avoid her parents (John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling) who brought their own personal drama to the event. Justine is trapped, feeling as if she has made a mistake and can’t get out of it. (more…)
There’s a tremendous bit of nostalgia wrapped up in Super 8, one of last summer’s most pleasant surprises. For adult moviegoers, it makes us long for the pre-Internet days when a movie can arrive and surprise us. The movie is clearly director J.J. Abrams’ homage to the movies of Steven Spielberg, the ones he grew up watching thirty years ago, movies filled with the fantastic including Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T.
But, Abrams’ valentine is intended for today’s more jaded moviegoer and as a result, unlike the benevolent aliens who visited Earth in those two films, the ones seen in the new film are more terrifying, evoking an entirely different set of emotions. But, the innocence of childhood is retained as Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) and his pals set out to make a movie and wind up having the adventure of a lifetime.
Like the best of Spielberg’s work, this movie evokes happy memories of childhood and family so just as important as the friendship ties is the relationship between Joe and his widower father Jackson (Kyle Chandler) in the middle American town of Lilian, Ohio.
Given the setting of the story, it makes perfect sense that the young teens are using a Super 8 camera to shoot a zombie film as the previous cycle of zombie movies was just winding down. They witness and record a train wreck that unleashes a deadly secret, one the military and sheriff Dad try to contain. Unfortunately, and just like in a good Spielberg film, odd things keep happening: there are the missing dogs, missing metal objects, and then people go missing.
Abrams knows how to ratchet up the suspense and then lull you into complacency with all the family drama between father and son and young romance as Joe notices Alice (Elle Fanning) in a new way. And since this is a film about kids, of course they unrealistically factor into the climax in ways less organic than in E.T. Still, you don’t often get two top filmmakers collaborating on something that has this much heart and soul as opposed to mere pyrotechnics (although this offers those up, too). Abrams also benefited from another winning score by Michael Giacchino.They wisely spent their $50 million budget, turning out a compelling 112-minute movie that you can enjoy at home.
Paramount Home Video sent a DVD for review and the standard transfer is excellent along with superb sound. The extras available on this single-disc package include some fine Audio Commentary from Abrams, co-producer Bryan Burk and DP Larry Fong. There are tons of fun-sounding extras on the Blu-ray disc but we’re left without them, instead just able to see “Deconstructing the Train Crash”, a nice featurette complete with storyboards and interviews.
We already knew artist David Lloyd visited Occupy Wall Street when he was in town for the New York Comic Con and liked what he saw– now The Guardian has asked Alan Moore, the other half of the creative team of V for Vendetta how he feels about the image of V being used as the symbol of protest and revolution in the 21st century.
“I suppose when I was writing V for Vendetta I would in my secret heart of hearts have thought: wouldn’t it be great if these ideas actually made an impact? So when you start to see that idle fantasy intrude on the regular world… It’s peculiar. It feels like a character I created 30 years ago has somehow escaped the realm of fiction.”
V for Vendetta tells of a future Britain (actually 1997, nearly two decades into the future when Moore wrote it) under the heel of a dictatorship. The population are depressed and doing little to help themselves. Enter Evey, an orphan, and V, a costumed vigilante who takes an interest in her. Over 38 chapters, each titled with a word beginning with “V”, we follow the brutal, loquacious antihero and his apprentice as they torment the ruling powers with acts of violent resistance. Throughout, V wears a mask that he never removes: bleached skin and rosy cheeks, pencil beard, eyes half shut above an inscrutable grin. You’ve probably come to know it well.
“That smile is so haunting,” says Moore. “I tried to use the cryptic nature of it to dramatic effect. We could show a picture of the character just standing there, silently, with an expression that could have been pleasant, breezy or more sinister.” As well as the mask, Occupy protesters have taken up as a marrying slogan “We are the 99%”; a reference, originally, to American dissatisfaction with the richest 1% of the US population having such vast control over the country. “And when you’ve got a sea of V masks, I suppose it makes the protesters appear to be almost a single organism – this “99%” we hear so much about. That in itself is formidable. I can see why the protesters have taken to it.”
Moore first noticed the masks being worn by members of the Anonymous group, “bothering Scientologists halfway down Tottenham Court Road” in 2008. It was a demonstration by the online collective against alleged attempts to censor a YouTube video. “I could see the sense of wearing a mask when you were going up against a notoriously litigious outfit like the Church of Scientology.”
But with the mask’s growing popularity, Moore has come to see its appeal as about something more than identity-shielding. “It turns protests into performances. The mask is very operatic; it creates a sense of romance and drama. I mean, protesting, protest marches, they can be very demanding, very gruelling. They can be quite dismal. They’re things that have to be done, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re tremendously enjoyable – whereas actually, they should be.”
At one point in V for Vendetta, V lectures Evey about the importance of melodrama in a resistance effort. Says Moore: “I think it’s appropriate that this generation of protesters have made their rebellion into something the public at large can engage with more readily than with half-hearted chants, with that traditional, downtrodden sort of British protest. These people look like they’re having a good time. And that sends out a tremendous message.”
Season two of “[[[The Walking Dead]]]” opened to an eye-popping 7.3 million viewers on Sunday, and it broke cable ratings records in the key demographic categories of adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.
The preem averaged 4.8 million adults 18-49 and 4.2 million in the 25-54 demo — a new record for a basic cable drama series. It also easily ranked as primetime’s No. 1 entertaiment series for the night, according to Nielsen, topping the 18-49 delivery of Fox’s special “The X Factor” (4.2 million adults 18-49), ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” (3.4 million) and CBS’ “CSI: Miami” (3 million). AMC
AMC prexy Charlie Collier called the numbers “staggering, just like our zombies.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
(Melbourne, Florida – September 22): Dermatologist detective series: The Skinvestigator now available on Kindle
The first novel in a new Florida noir trilogy, The Skinvestigator: Tramp Stamp has just become available for download on the Kindle, Amazon.com’s handy digital reader. The novel follows the adventures of Florida dermatologist turned detective, Dr. Harry Poe. Author Terry Cronin describes the story as both “an inside look at the world of dermatology” and “a mystery novel that quickly escalates into a medical/political thriller involving tattoos, illicit cosmetic surgery, and murder”.
Ripped from today’s headlines about “scalpel tourism” where Americans travel to foreign nations to get cheaper cosmetic surgery, Cronin’s book has been described as “razor sharp”and “skincredible”. Reviewers have said the drama is tense, and the humor snaps like a whip crack and that Dr. Harry Poe vibes authentic throughout. The print version of the novel is distributed by Atlas Books and is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Tower Books.
The next novel in the series is called The Skinvestigator: Rash Guard and will be released at the end of September. Cronin, who is known for creating the critically-acclaimed horror-adventure comic series, Students of the Unusual and writing for Indie Comics Magazine, took advance copies of this new novel with him to the San Diego Comic-Con this year. “I’m known as a comic book writer but I found that comic readers and genre fans also enjoy reading hard-boiled detective novels and pulp fiction.” The new novel follows Doctor Poe as he tries to help the Miami Police with a new murder investigation involving surfers, syphilis, and the State department.
Cronin plans to complete The Sunshine State trilogy next year with the final novel entitled The Skinvestigator: Sunburn.
The Kindle version of The Skinvestigator: Tramp Stamp can be downloaded here:
No doubt this has happened to you. Despite being voted “Most Nicest Guy” in high school, you’re in your 30s, stuck at dead end job, with no prospects in sight. Suddenly you get life’s wakeup call when you accidentally get involved in a failed bank heist thanks to Fisher Stevens. Then, when you refuse to name the real criminals, despite your pleading wife (Judy Greer) you wind up in jail for your transgression. You lose your wife and want her only to be happy. Then you meet some really offbeat folk that awaken you.
No? Well, that’s what happens to Keanu Reeves in Henry’s Crime, an offbeat and underrated little film that is now out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment. There Keanu sits in prison, still wondering how he got there, when he is befriended by Max (James Caan), a long-term convict who teaches Henry that every man needs a dream and then to make his life about obtaining that dream. Of course, it’s hard to pursue a dream from behind bars. It takes Henry a year, but he gets out and takes those precious first steps towards something, perhaps for the first time in his life, real.
Henry’s dream? To rob the bank again but this time get it right. He recruits Max and his fellow cellmate to use an abandoned bootlegger’s tunnel to reach the bank. To get to the tunnel, though, Henry winds the lead in a theatrical company staging Chekhov’s, The Cherry Orchard. As the scheme develops, life tosses Henry a curveball when he falls in love with his leading lady (Vera Farmiga).
Keanu hasn’t been this charming and funny since the Bill & Ted movies, displaying a fresh side to his persona and a welcome one at that. This movie is more screwball comedy from an earlier era than a real crime drama. Director Malcolm Venville takes things slowly, probably too slowly, a vastly different tempo than you expect from the genre but he coaxes fun performances from his cast.
In other hands, this could have been a stronger film, with sharper performances and a tighter structure but it is still entertaining enough and worth a look. The DVD transfer is clean and the disc comes with no extras.