Good Morning, Mr. Hunt

Good morning, Mr. Hunt… You’re mission should you choose to accept it…

I settled down to watch my copies of the Mission: Impossible films this weekend, and I will say this, this is a film series that undeniably gets better as they go along. Though if I was chosen to rank them, I think I would go Ghost Protocol, III, I and II.

It’s through these films though that one can separate the art from the artist, and can admit that Tom Cruise is a consummate performer in these films. He does as many of the physical stunts as he can, and those moments inevitably end up on screen. The mountain climbing sequence in II, the exploding aquarium restaurant in I, the building climb in Protocol. The man does like to push his own limits.

Then there’s the directors, Brian DePalma who directed Carrie, and The Untouchables, John Woo, who helmed Hard Boiled and Face/Off, first time director J.J. Abrams who went on to give us the Star Trek reboot and Super 8, and Brad Bird’s first live action film after showing he could make an actioner with The Incredibles.

The first film, under DePalma established the universe, reintroduced us to updated versions of the tech which Bruce Geller’s original show, and the remake introduced us to. Of the four films, this one could be most able to define as a spy thriller. Ethan must unearth a mole within the IMF and clear the names of himself and his dead team members, working outside of the IMF as he has been disavowed. Yes, there are is an action sequence, the train/chopper fight at the end of the film, but the rest of it plays as a thriller, using misdirection and deception to keep the story rolling. Of course it does have the tightly paced breaking into the CIA to steal the NOC list sequence.

I know that when I originally saw it I was a little upset that it wasn’t more of an action film, but it really has grown on me, and has a great cast featuring Jean Reno, Emmanuelle Beart, Jon Voight, Vanessa Redgrave, Ving Rhames, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Henry Czerny.

It featured a script and story by David Koepp, Steven Zaillian and Robert Towne.

When I head John Woo was taking over the director’s chair for II, I knew exactly what I was getting, choreographed gun battles, sweet stunts, and the loosest of all the Mission: Impossible stories. Ethan must work to recover a super-virus and its cure before an ex-agent can sell it to the highest bidder.

But that’s ok, it’s set against the backdrop of Australia, and has some fun action sequences, and I love the opening climbing sequence. There’s the infiltration off Biocyte and the ensuing gun battle, the fight on Bare Island followed by the moving battle on motorcycles, culminating in the duel on the beach.

It has a pounding score by Hans Zimmer, and a screenplay by Brannon Braga Ronald D. Moore, and Robert Towne.

This time out the film featured Dougray Scott as the baddie, the sexy Thandie Newton as the love interest, Brendan Gleeson and Anthony Hopkins.

Then the films took a rest, but came back bigger and better, actually molding the film series into a stronger reflection of the tv series, and one of the concepts of the first movie… that Ethan Hunt may be the leader, but he’s a member of a team.

This time first time director J.J. Abrams was taking over the center seat, but before that he’d already brought us Lost, and the spy series Alias.

With J.J. and Cruise, the cast seemed to get bigger and better.

This time out, Ethan, who is now an instructor is brought back into the field to rescue one of his trainees and unearths a huge weapons deal, including a device referred to by one of the techs, Benji as an anti-god.

Following along with J.J.. Abrams is his seemingly personal composer, Michael Giacchino as well as his writing partners Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman.

The story is much more epic in scope, this time spilling over into Ethan’s personal life and his impending nuptials.

Joining Cruise onscreen are Maggie Q, Keri Russell, Billy Crudup, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Monaghan, Simon Pegg, and menacing the IMF this time around, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

This film sees the film breaking into the Vatican, a helicopter chase, battling drones and soldiers on a bridge in the Keys, an infiltration and parachute escape in Shanghai as well as tense face-offs between Cruise’s Hunt and Hoffman’s Davian.

This one climbed right into position of my favorite and best of the series as soon as I saw it. Abrams first film knocked it out of the park as far as I was concerned. And it saw Ethan working in a team format, something that the original show was always all about – each member has their specialty, and they can’t pull it off unless they solve it together.

With the success of three, there was no doubt that a fourth wouldn’t be too far off…

And Ghost Protocol came along with Abrams took a back seat to directing, settling into the role of producer, Brad Bird, who brought us Iron Giant in addition to The Incredibles settled in to make his first live action film… and it kicks ass!

Giacchino returns in the music department as Ethan and his team seek to stop a madman from starting a nuclear war with stolen Russian launch codes in a story penned by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.

Bird handles the film deftly, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. He oversees Hunt’s ascent on the outside of the world’s tallest building, the sandstorm chase, a prison escape, a break-in of the Kremlin – with some great tech, and a climactic fight in an automated car park.

This time, the Impossible casting continues it’s awesome run as Pegg returns, and is joined by Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Josh Holloway, Lea Seydoux, Michael Nyqvist and Tom Wilkinson.

There’s definitely a sense of handing over the reins to Renner and his fellows by the end of the film, so one wonders if Cruise will make another one.

Of course Renner is quickly becoming a very busy man, he’s got a recurring role in the Marvel Universe movies as Hawkeye, and is taking over the Bourne films from Matt Damon, so one wonders if the M:I films will continue now or not.

I certainly hope so, they are a lot of fun so far, and I’d be very curious what director, writers and stars will be involved in the next film.

Do you need to see all the films to appreciate the most recent effort? No, but there are little pay-offs, you get to enjoy the world that’s been created by the series, and you get to see four amazing directors giving their take on this techno-spy action series. It’s easy to write them off as summer blockbusters, but the series really is a solid collection of entertaining films.

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Tim’s Tops of 2011

I’m gonna take a page from my creative partner, Sue, and give a run down of my favorite films of the year; though it appears that we do have a lot of the same films on our list.

1) The Muppets – This movie is sheer joy, and by far the best time at the theater I had all year. Sure you can blame that on nostalgia if you like, but I also believe it was a truly well written and well made film. Seeing my old friends on the big screen again made me laugh and smile. Call backs to the series made me teary-eyed and reminded me of how much fun these characters are. And that’s why we let them into our hearts in the first place.

 

2) The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard – This film is linked in my mind eternally with our site. Jeremy Lalonde the film’s director was kind enough to give us our first interview, and helped us launch our podcast format, and putt us in touch with some wonderful people. Thank you for that! But beyond that, this wonderful Canadian film is witty, fun, and has oh, so much heart. Even now, thinking about my favorite scenes makes me smile, and gives me shivers when I think about the performances. The longing for a DVD of this film may soon be fulfilled, and then everyone can share in it!

 

3) War Horse – A beautiful film made by one of my favorite directors. Spielberg works with an adaptation of the cherished children’s novel and brings to life the story of a horse named Joey who goes to war, and sees the good and the bad on both sides. Spielberg’s magic is on full display here and the film is touched with heart-touching and heart-breaking moments. Everything you’ve come to expect from a Spielberg film.

 

 

4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – As stated yesterday in my review, I was genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed this film, being such a fan of the original novel and film. But Fincher showed a deft hand and delivered a tightly wrapped thriller that was incredibly faithful to the book, and Craig is likable as Blomkvist and Mara’s turn as Lisbeth, while not a carbon copy of Noomi Rapace’s original effort is fairly close and is exactly what you think Lisbeth would behave and act like. Though as a personal side note, I preferred Rapace’s dragon tattoo on her back than the shoulder one given to Mara.

 

5) The Adventures of Tintin – Enjoyable Spielberg fun for the whole family! This film was an enjoyable romp that gave Spielberg his first animated film, as well as his first 3D film. Based on the beloved French comic this film could launch a whole new tent pole series, as long as the big players remain involved, I’m on board. And where else can you see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as identical police officers? Brilliant!

 

 

6) Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part II – I just finished rewatching the entire series yesterday, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 is a wonderful cap to the entire series. In fact this time through it affected me even more emotionally that it had the first time through. It’s easy to brush these off as simple family movies, but from the beginning the books and the films have spoken to the important themes of friendship, loyalty, belief in oneself, and doing what is right. And of course, this film allows for Alan Rickman’s finest performance as Severus Snape, proving what an amazing actor he is.

 

7) Super 8 – The Goonies and Stand By Me meets E.T. and even that comparison does the film a disservice. Lovingly made by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg, the film recalls moments from many Spielberg films, and took us back to a time when you didn’t have to lock your doors at night, and neighbors looked out for one another. Filled with a nostalgia that made me recall my own youth, and performances from children who seem able to act beyond their years, Super 8 was, for me, a magical film experience.

 

8) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – I’ve been a huge fan of this series since its launch, and was very eager to see Brad Bird’s first live action film. I was delighted that it paid off as much as it did! What have you got next for me Brad? This is a highly enjoyable spy romp that embraces everything about the original series, updating it for today, and had some truly fantastic sequences. It also saw my favorite character, Simon Pegg’s Benji as a full field agent, hopefully to reappear in the potential sequels with Jeremy Renner.

 

9) Hugo – Martin Scorsese made a truly beautiful film about the love of movies and their origins. Wrapping it in a mystery for a young boy to solve, the film brought to life the early days of cinema. It showed us once again that if a movie is done right, it can transcend popcorn entertainment and revitalize the love of an art form that far too often gets shunt aside in the desire to make a fast buck.

 

 

10) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – An old school cold war thriller, the film is a slow burn that constantly ratchets up the tension as George Smiley attempts to flush out a Russian mole inside MI6. The film had a stellar cast rounded out by the always amazing Gary Oldman, a chameleon of an actor who buries himself in each and every role he takes on. It also didn’t play the viewer for a fool or pander to the audience. A smart spy thriller about an age seemingly long gone.

 

 

So there you have it, my top ten films of the year, I would be remiss however if I didn’t give a few honorable mentions to other films I loved this year…

-Hanna, young actress Saoirse Ronan looks to have a long and amazing career ahead of her.

-Paul, featuring the ever awesome Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as two geeks on a cross-country road-trip who have a close encounter. I love these two guys working together, they are always a sheer delight, and I would love to go for a pint with the two of them anytime!

-Source Code, Duncan Jones’ follow-up to Moon, Code was a fun temporal tale featuring Jake Gyllenhaal.

-Thor & Captain America, ramping us up for next year’s Avengers these two Marvel adaptations expanded the growing comic book universe and were good popcorn entertainment.

and finally the surprising X-men: First Class, another comic book film that introduces us to Xavier and Magneto before they turned against each other, both James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are top form in this movie and of course there’s January Jones, as Stan Lee might say… ‘Nuff Said

Sue’s Top Flick Picks of 2011

Now that 2011 is done and gone, and 2012 is finally upon us, I thought I’d take a bit of time to go through the plethora of flicks I saw in theatres throughout the course of the year.  I dug out as many ticket stubs as I could find – yes, I keep them…I am a nerd – and made little piles based solely on my enjoyment/experience of them.  I actually think I saw many more films than I can find the stubs for, but I can’t really remember anything specific, so we’ll just go with these!  I have a top four, and then several ties for what would be number five.  I just can’t choose between them, so I’ll mention them all.  ;)

1.  The Untitled Work of Paul Shepard

This one edged  my number two choice because I saw it twice in the theatre (and I believe it was the only film I did that with this year), and because it affected me so personally, and on so many levels.  The original motivations for seeing it was to support Lost Girl cast members, Kris Holden-Reid and Zoie Palmer, and to throw a bit of support toward Canadian indie filmmakers while we were at it.  Personally, I thought it looked funny, but I didn’t expect to frakking LOVE it as much as I did.  The whole experience – from getting the tickets in advance to watching the opening credits through the Q&A after – every single moment was a joy.  After that, it wouldn’t go away; wouldn’t leave me alone.  The freaking film got inside me and stirred me up, and only grew in strength once Mind Reels got to meet and podcast with director Jeremy Lalonde, producer Anthony Grani, and star Mary Krohnert – with even more to come!  We went back for a second viewing and I found I was even more affected by it the second time around.  Something shifted inside of me because of this movie, and though I can’t articulate exactly what it was, I can’t help but feel a little bit grateful.  I personally can’t wait for the DVD release, just so I can have it with me always.

2.  The Muppets

This only narrowly missed being my number one film of the year, and really only because it didn’t so much change me as it did sustain me.  I haven’t laughed that much in a movie – hell, I haven’t been that HAPPY – in a very long time.  I laughed, I got teary-eyed, I clapped and cheered, I missed my friends, I celebrated their return…everything.  I loved everything about this movie.  It turned me into a kid again, and for a little while, everything was a-okay.  Nothing in the world mattered but those fuzzy critters being back on the screen in front of me, doing what they were created to do.  That’s another one I can’t wait to have as part of my collection.  It just fills me up with smiles.  :)

3.  Young Adult

Here’s a film I deliberately knew as little about as possible going in, but it turned out to be as different from even my limited expectations as possible.  It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody combination, so I certainly knew it would be funny.  But I really didn’t expect Charlize Theron to be as funny as she was, and for my beloved Patton Oswalt to play more of the straight man.  Not that I don’t think that he’s a straight man…there’s…nothing wrong with that.  I just meant I thought he’d be more like the comic relief, or something.  Anyway.  I love how unconventional this movie was, and how much it gave me to think about, and – in a surprising twist – how completely awkward and uncomfortable it made me feel.  I left the theatre with the sense that this latest creation from one of my favourite teams was not yet done with me, and I look forward to our next encounter.

4.  You’re Next

I saw this twisted little home invasion treat as my first Midnight Madness screening of the Toronto International Film Festival.  I don’t know whether it was because it was my first of the year, or because there were so many friends in the revved up audience, or because the film itself managed to balance my internal terror of strangers hiding in my house with some absolute hilarity, but the combination had something right going for it, because that was more fun than should be allowed at a midnight screening.  There were creepy animal masks dotting the audience (to mimic the ones used in the film), there were signs and banners out on the street leading to the theatre, and a packed house ready for a good time.  And You’re Next did not disappoint.  An obnoxious family holds a long-overdue reunion in a massive house location at the corner of No and Where, and before you know it, people are dropping dead all over the place.  With one of the most brilliant kill scenes I’ve ever witnessed, a tale populated with absolutely absurd characters and completely unexpected moments of creative carnage, this film felt like a thrillride and then some.  Time will tell how much of that should be chalked up to a magic combination of one-time-only pieces, versus a truly twisted and fun flick, but for right now, my memory votes it in as one of my faves of the year.

And now for the several honourable mentions…movies I enjoyed that all have that something extra I look for whenever I go into a film:

Girl With The Dragon Tattoo:  I had no idea what to expect from this one, never having read the books nor seen the Swedish originals.  So while there were several things that confused me, or made parts of it difficult to follow plot-wise, for the most part, I was engaged and enjoyed this little investigated tale.  The government should either wish they had a Lisabeth Salander finding information for them…or be glad she doesn’t exist to foil their plans at every turn.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2:  I have a Kimie and and Ingrid to thank for really bringing the boy wizard into my world, and this final chapter did not disappoint.  It was a fitting finale to an awesome series.  I came at everything sort of backwards.  I’d seen some of the movies – with some gaps – before I’d read a page of any of the books.  But by the time DH Pt 1 hit the big screen, I’d read them all, and rewatched the movies all in order, so I felt like I at least managed to go into the final film on roughly thew same page as everyone else.  I just…didn’t start out that way.  ;)

X-Men First Class was better than expected, though I wasn’t a fan of the Wolverine cameo, because I felt it took me out of the movie enough that I found it difficult to get back in.  I love James McAvoy, though.  To me, he can do no wrong!

Super 8 was another film I didn’t know what to expect going in, but there was some initial hype that may have ruined some of it for me.  I didn’t have the same nostalgic love for it that most people had.  I actually wondered when I’d gotten so old as to worry about the kids running through a train wreck/explosion instead of thinking about how awesome it looked.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped being able to see kids in danger without being nervous for them instead of excited by their adventures.  BUT, that being said, I was truly impressed by each and every performance turned in by that stellar young cast…they were truly beautiful to watch, and I enjoyed that part of it very much.  I just prefered the moments when they weren’t in mortal danger, is all!

So that’s it…my top 5-8 films of 2011.  From what I remember.  And based on my personal enjoyment and experience of them.  I know there are several that I am looking forward to in 2012, but at the moment, all I can see is Dead Before Dawn 3D and The Hunger Games.  I am so unbelieveably looking forward to both of those that I honestly can’t even see past them to any other movies.  I’ll check back later once I’ve seen each of those in the theatre at least a handful of times!!!

Thank you, 2011 – and Happy New Year!!!