Arthouse Summer: The Goonies

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

In 1985, Steven Spielberg was at a new height in his career. He was not only a powerful director, but had started branching out in to producing very successful films as well. Enter The Goonies, reteaming him with Gremlins writer Chris Columbus and bringing on Superman director Richard Donner to tell the story of a group of outcast preteens on a treasure hunt with a family of criminals on their heels. The film would become a generational touchstone and would launch a plethora of careers in the decades to come. But does the film hold up or should it say “die”. MovieDude Eric, Kent, Chris and special guest Willie follow the clues to find out.

 

If you like this episode, you can find more of Arthouse Legends on GonnaGeek.com along with other similar geek podcasts. You can also leave comments at ArthouseLegends@gmail.com or on our Twitter feed @arthouselegends.

Please make sure to leave feedback about the show on your podcast directory, especially on iTunes in order to help us gain more listeners. Thank you.


A Fantastic Woman

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

In 2017, the Chilean film A Fantastic Woman became a sensation on the film festival circuit and became Chile’s entry for the Foreign Language Academy Award, which it would go on to win. The film about a young trans-woman who is reeling from the death of her partner and dealing with her everyday life with the added scrutiny of dealing with said partner’s grieving family. But did the film deserve the Oscar? MovieDude Eric, Kent and Chris find out.

 

If you like this episode, you can find more of Arthouse Legends on GonnaGeek.com along with other similar geek podcasts. You can also leave comments at feedback@arthouselegends.com or on our Twitter feed @arthouselegends.

Please make sure to leave feedback about the show on your podcast directory, especially on iTunes in order to help us gain more listeners. Thank you.


The Incredibles

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

In 2004, Pixar Studios worked with Iron Giant director Brad Bird on his first 3-D animation film known as The Incredibles. The film about a family of superpowered humans quickly became benchmark for both the studio and the budding superhero genre. But does the film deserve the godlike praise it received or should it be forced into obscurity? MovieDude Eric, Kent and Chris don masks and capes to find out.

 

“District Four” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

If you like this episode, you can find more of Arthouse Legends on GonnaGeek.com along with other similar geek podcasts. You can also leave comments at feedback@arthouselegends.com or on our Twitter feed @arthouselegends.

Please make sure to leave feedback about the show on your podcast directory, especially on iTunes in order to help us gain more listeners. Thank you.


Person of Interest Ep. 0401: Panopticon

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Quick Note: This was written to coincide with the Season Premiere last week, but things got wonky. I will be back on schedule to post episode 3 on the day after airing.      

MovieDude Eric here. I can’t explain just how excited I am that GonnaGeek tasked me to write about my favorite show on television right now. For those who have never seen an episode of Person of Interest or perhaps Panopticon was your first taste of the sweet badassery that this show delivers, allow me to say welcome aboard. Few shows with such a deep mythology as POI rarely have great jumping-on points mid-show, but if you were going to hop on without going to the beginning, this isn’t a bad place to start. But before I get started talking about this amazing premiere, allow me to assure everyone that I don’t believe in spoilers, but I might make some speculations near the end. No doubt I’ll tie this episode with earlier ones, but if I need to get deep into the mythos, I’ll post those either in separate posts or towards the end. So are we ready?

Over the last three months, I have been on pins and needles wondering how this show will maneuver after that devastating finale. We are now in the Age of Samaritan, noted now by the new nearly-silent interface transitioning scenes, the blatant sifting of information onscreen as we go from one narrative to another. It amazes me how that cold open set up the situation so well for newcomers by both laying down the new reality of a Big Brother’s wet dream and the worst nightmares of conspiracy theorists everywhere. We ARE being watched. And under Samaritan’s reign, everybody is guilty until not being proven innocent because it already sent the assassin twenty minutes ago.

So where is The Machine, Harold Finch’s benevolent cyber monster? No doubt it is in hiding itself, cut off from the secure feeds that now fuel its rival. One thing that this show does very well is establish all the pieces on the board and gives you an understanding of where they are. The trick comes with the fact that we never know all the players in the game (Control’s emergence last season is a very good example of that). The Machine’s presence is still felt with every text sent to our heroes, every ringing pay phone. But we too are cut off from it, grasping for any proof that it is there watching over them.

This season already seems to be setting up two major themes: the first being that humans desire the feeling of being watched over, we just don’t like being controlled. Person of Interest has always been keen on this subject, but this is the first time it becomes clear. Samaritan, the so-called bad A.I. would use this personal information to exploit and eliminate threats. The Machine was designed to protect and to empathize, which is why it gives the numbers to both the victim and the perpetrator. And tonight’s number easily fits into both camps.

The other theme in play is the one I’ve been begging for nearly since the beginning of the show: Each random life saved has a larger purpose to The Machine’s plans. Root giving sad puppy face Finch a rousing pep talk lays out that there’s more going on than just saving the random life here and there. The obvious question now becomes for what purpose? I want to say that it’s clearly benevolent, but then it did indicate the desire to assassinate a senator that turned out to be the catalyst for Samaritan’s rise. If that isn’t some Skynet tactics, tell me what is.

The number of the week, Ali, gives us a chance to see both themes a little more clearly. He’s a good man who has gotten caught up in a bad situation when he develops an untraceable communications system (off old UHF antennas, which was pretty awesome) that has become a prized possession of a narcotic syndicate that call themselves The Brotherhood (recurring threat?). Reece, now sporting a new badge thanks to the cover given to him by The Machine, aids Ali in getting this nuisance off his back and in the process, gains access to this new and much-needed network. Textbook definition of having one’s cake and making dated Portal references, too.

Is this a great season premiere? If you were to judge this by any other show’s standards, I’d say no. But then Person of Interest isn’t so much interested in hitting the gate fast or letting out their best stuff early. With each season, the game changes as new players and situations arise. This opener leaves me to believe that there’s going to be a slow burn that will build into a wildfire. In a way, I could see this being the best season of the show’s entire run. Samaritan will force each member of Team Machine to face their breaking point and show what they are truly made of. I am not sure if everybody will make it to the end of the season, but it’s way too early to start placing bets. What I’m willing to bet on is that when Root claimed they only had five (six if you count the dog, I do), I think she might be off by a few dozen.

 

Random Things:

 

  • Reece rocks the ski mask and grenade launcher again! This iconic image of the show’s lore is a test of the true fan. I myself shouted “f**k yeah!”
  • You would think that Finch would be at home in a college lecture hall. And after watching the Big Bang Theory premiere, it’s nice to know that he has at least a few more students attending his class than Sheldon Cooper.
  • Root, Shaw, seriously, get a room ladies. You’re pushing the perfume smell out of the mall with the hormones you two are letting off.
  • Wouldn’t Finch be more curious that the Machine allowed for any grammatical errors at all long before now? Or did it take him this long to get over his moral concerns with The Machine?
  • More Elias. Enough Said.

 

Transmission End. MovieDude Out.


World War Geek: Contemplating The Hugo Fiasco

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Warning: What you are about to read are my opinions about the hot-button topic of politics in geek entertainment. Please bear in mind that these are my opinions alone and are not those of GonnaGeek in its entirety. If you wish to voice your opinions, please contact me at ArthouseLegends@gmail.com. Thank you.

 

It has been nearly four days since I heard about the stunning debacle at the Hugo Award ceremony at WorldCon. I’ve actually been paying attention to it since April when the award nominees came out to the shock and some disparity of many who enjoy science fiction literature. For those who aren’t familiar with this, the Hugo nominees are voted on by those who have a membership to WorldCon. Think a cross between the People’s Choice Award and American Idol. Bear in mind that the Hugo Award is a big deal and like any big deal, there’s a lot of pressure coming from many influential parties. Over the last decade or so, the science fiction writers being nominated for the Hugos have tended to be more progressive socially and politically, trying to include more writers of diverse backgrounds and stories that tend to be thinly veiled social commentaries that had little to do with the more bombastic elements of the genre. This had eventually gotten under the skin of a few writers who saw this progressive leaning of the awards as an affront to the spirit of science fiction as a genre, where social commentary was welcomed but also dosed with a good heap of fantastical inventiveness and adventure. So these writers decided to fight back against this tide by rallying fellow voters into nominating writers who were the epitome of progressivism. They called themselves “Sad Puppies” and at first considered themselves a protesting faction.

What the Sad Puppies didn’t expect was to be as successful in their campaign as a handful of their selections had made it to the Hugo ballot, causing a stir within the mainstream of Science Fiction writers. So when the next year’s Hugo nominees were to be voted on, the Puppies when at it again and once more caused more sensation. On the third go-around, they were joined by another group ran by the notorious writer and agitator Vox Day calling themselves the Rabid Puppies. This created a fervor of allegations of sexism, racism and bigotry of the highest order. The media got hold of the story and branded both groups as hate movements trying to silence diversity in the genre. What didn’t help this claim is that more than a considerable amount of their selections tended to skew white and male, one of the founders of the movement, Larry Correia, has a history of right-wing politics and a possible grudge as he had lost in a bid for a Hugo against a progressive writer.

But nothing could have prepared anyone for the shock of fourth year of Puppy revolution as this time, not only did Puppy selections get places in 19 of the 20 categories, but in a considerable amount of categories, they completely swept. The outcry was swift and made international mainstream news. Many claimed the sweeps a “hijacking” that the Puppies had overran those categories and ensured victory through ill-gotten means. Many news agencies tied the Puppy movement with the video game movement GamerGate (and not in a good way). Two of the most vocal voices against the Puppy revolt this time around were internationally famous writers John Scalzi and George R.R. Martin, both who considered the movement a destructive force against the genre. Many of the progressive writers and fans of science fiction decided to act against the Puppies when it came to the actual voting for the Hugos. What ensued could not be called anything short of a fiasco.

On August 22nd, with the bulk of science fiction enthusiasts awaiting the winners, awards were given to “No Hugo” in categories where Puppy nominees stacked the deck. Of the 19 categories, only one win came for the Puppies as the film they selected, Guardians of the Galaxy, won a Hugo. And each time that “No Hugo” was announced, the audience cheered.

Following the rout, Scalzi took to his blog to discuss the victory. “In my estimation (and leaving out issues of literary quality of the nominations, which is super-subjective), the reason for their massive and historic failure is simple: They acted like jerks, and performed a series of jerk maneuvers.” Scalzi is also a vehemently staunch opponent to the GamerGate cause as well.

Yet it cannot be helped to think that individuals like Scalzi brought this rift on themselves and haven’t realized just how damaging this rift can be for their industry. Instead of looking at this growing revolt of science fiction writers and fans as a means of self-reflecting that perhaps they aren’t as inclusive as they think they are, they are doing the best they can to dehumanize them and make them feel unwelcome. And they are doing so by thinking to themselves that they don’t need those types of people in their ranks.

Bear in mind that I personally have been in a situation like this before. I was affiliated with a movement that I had believed in for nearly my entire life, that I had supported even when I should have known better and when it became clear that this movement had turned into a monster and I tried to voice my concerns, I was thrown out for my insolence. They threw out others like me as they too realized the dangers of the organization and to this day that movement has become an extremist group that is a mere shadow of itself.

Now diversity is not any kind of monstrous idea. But self-importance is. A great deal of science fiction readers are white males, though that trend is changing to an extent. We should celebrate that diversity, but not at the expense of the group that is already there. While I disagree with the Puppies that the bulk of the Hugos are snobby literary pieces or that such literature doesn’t have a place winning this award, I also believe that they have a point that those who are politicizing the Hugos (and they are if you notice the nominees in any given year) aren’t really allowing the voice of the fans to really come through.

The Hugo organizers needed to listen to the dissent and try to answer the claims they are voicing. They need to create avenues of trust with those readers who feel marginalized because their taste in sci-fi isn’t trendy. Because whether they believe it or not, they can’t afford to lose these fans or the one these fans will generate. Larry Correia’s work (which I actually think is pretty good) matters. Orson Scott Card’s work matters. And if you don’t think that their voices aren’t trying to be silenced by the progressive side, ask yourself if Starship Troopers were written today, would it have even been nominated not to even mention win?

That said, the Puppies need to stop acting like victims of the establishment. Bear in mind while Sad and Rabid Puppies are two separate groups, the old adage still goes that if you lie down with dogs, you get fleas. You associate with unsavory individuals, align yourself with news outlets of disrepute, not only do you have to fight the battle you picked, but you have to fight the appearance of malice. You can’t proclaim to be taking the high ground and get into the mud with your opponents. If you truly are interested in being the voice of the marginalized, start acting like a reputable activist and you’ll find allies. Otherwise you’re letting your opponents paint you as a petulant child throwing a tantrum, and they could be right.

But neither side has an excuse for the “No Hugo” reaction. This is beyond embarrassing to EVERYONE. Whether you agree with the nominees or not, they are still nominees and DESERVE to compete for an award and not to be denied simply because the voters didn’t like the choices. Many of the Puppy nominees weren’t part of the movement. They were just selected because the Puppies saw their work as having merit. By denying them a chance to win, all of you showed just how demeaning and ugly your respective organizations can be. By cheering the fact that those you oppose lost makes you no better than those you swore to oppose. Scalzi tweeted on the night: “Puppy partisans clearly not getting that tonight their tears are delicious to me.” I only hope one day each side can feel the shame they brought on themselves by their behavior and stop blaming the other for being the ruination of their passion.

As a fan of Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury, I understand that social commentary has a vital part to play in science fiction, but there is also a place for the fun and gun, silly and obtuse. And it also has a place to be honored and respected within the genre, if anything to create a true egalitarian diversity that places merit over privilege. Where we don’t measure how many women get nominated for an award but instead how many win because their work is vastly superior to their competition. Science fiction should be a genre of not only the warnings of the decline of civilization but the shining example of what civilization can be if we only work a little harder and respect one another even when we completely disagree with them.


Contemplating Mission: Impossible Part 2

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Take any episode of Mission: Impossible, TV or film, and you can break it down into 4 parts: 1) the debrief, 2) the assignments, 3) the turn and 4) the objective. For most other shows, having a repetitive formula such as this would come off as rote or predictable. The reason why it works for this series is the same reason that this same formula has been repeated in shows and films such as Alias, Leverage and the Ocean’s Eleven franchise; there’s always a wild card.

The wild card, if played correctly, delivers a twist that keeps the plan from working flawlessly. Writers have to be very careful where to place the wild card because if they place it too early, the audience expects it and thus loses suspense or place too late and it feels like cop-out. Take the CIA heist in the first film (spoilers ahead). The film establishes the way Ethan has to use the harness to keep himself off the ground in the room, establishes the pulley and that Kreiger is responsible for keeping Ethan from falling. We even know that holding Ethan up exerts a lot from Kreiger. We know the time table, we know how this situation works, but what we don’t expect is the rat. What happens next creates the extra tension that makes this scene so memorable, and that’s even before the sweat beads play in.

Also keep in mind that with new filmmakers making each film, no two of which will feel the same, even if they have the same formula. Bruce Geller, showrunner and creator of the original show was more interested in creating an environment of real-life attention to detail in the kinds of tricks and tactics that could be used to infiltrate the impenetrable. The show might have been the American response to James Bond, but it became something very different very quickly.

By the time Brian DePalma got his hands on the formula, his interest was as much into the art of deception, but put more emphasis on the shock of the twists over the practical nature of the mission. He allowed for big budget action sequences with very little in subtlety, establishing the suspense through figuring out who was playing who, more in line of a traditional spy film than a mission/objective one. This is why the fans of the show weren’t as on board as the mainstream audience since the team wasn’t allowed to trust one another and therefore never really worked as a singular unit (with the exception of the CIA job).

John Woo, not really a filmmaker that creates quiet tension, preferring a more obvious and bombastic approach, is very much interested in the overall mission objective yet not at all interested in creating suspense or elaborate chess moves. Many critics and fans of the series felt this went beyond the pale in completely trashing the legacy of the show’s purpose, yet this argument is slightly off the mark. While M:I 2 was by no means a subtle thriller, Ethan’s mission, to acquire a deadly virus from a former agent, met all four of the parts. His backup did just that for him utilizing Luther’s skills to keep eyes on their infiltration asset and Billy’s chopper skills helped give Ethan cover when trying to get to Nyah. The turn had Sean find out and anticipate Ethan’s moves. And the wild card was Nyah injecting herself. While we can debate how effective this was, we cannot deny that it meets the formula.

JJ Abrams understood the formula vastly better than even Brian DePalma, most likely because he had been using it on his TV show Alias for years prior. Yet while Abrams made the mission clearer and the use of an IMF team more reasonable, Abrams felt more compelled to get into the inner workings of the agents’ personal lives, so much as to put personal stakes for Ethan to succeed. The reason why some found this approach a little too much was that the franchise established Ethan as a near superhero with a single-minded determination to complete the mission, that it was very difficult to see Ethan put more interest in his fiancé than the task at hand. I would also state personally I couldn’t feel any chemistry between Tom Cruise and Michelle Monaghan.

Then came Brad Bird, who utilized the best parts of what Abrams had started as well as the novelty of the original television show. Yet he also was the one that found the most blatant flaw of the original series’ premise; the show was most interested in the completion of the mission than the reason or the villain behind it. The show didn’t care for the motivation of the villain to do what they do since the show was more interested in seeing how the team would complete the task, almost like seeing a puzzle being put together. Bird’s film showed more interest in seeing Ethan’s team complete the task of completing the mission than why the villain is doing what he is doing, seeing that character as an extension of the mission. He also balanced the personalities of Ethan’s team with their need to complete the mission, giving them more depth of character without losing focus on the goal of the film. He also created more wild cards in his film by throwing in not just audible calls on the fly but introduced faulty equipment that either failed during the mission or didn’t work at all. This ratcheted up suspense in scenes that were already hair-raising such as the tower climb in Dubai and the Kremlin infiltration.

Christopher McQuarrie came onboard with Rogue Nation trying to keep the team-based aspect of the last two films alive with many critics and fans pleased of the outcome. McQuarrie definitely put more attention on the villain this time around while trying to create the same suspense as found in the first film. Considering that DePalma considered himself a devout student of Alfred Hitchcock, McQuarrie ironically proves himself to be more in tuned with what the master filmmaker would’ve done by pivoting off twists of suspense in order to create elaborate games between Ethan and his opponent. The mission, this time to find and detain the ringleader of an international counter espionage team called The Syndicate, definitely has the callbacks to The 39 Steps and North by Northwest, which also hinders it as well since it falls into the same pits of predictability at times.

Personally, Mission: Impossible is more than just a single operative or a method. The fact that different methods and different emphasis is used to create unique visions of the premise allows this franchise to not just feel fresh with each outing, but that it could live on just as James Bond has in a timeless (yet timely) shell that could outlive the actors and filmmakers who come on board. As Tom Cruise gets older, he will eventually have to make the decision whether or not to let go of his precious role and allow someone else to front the mission. When that day comes, I’m sure he’ll let go and look on as yet another anachronistic franchise keeps being made anew in the waves of increased technology and sophistication. It will be then that Cruise has in fact done the impossible.


Contemplating Mission: Impossible Part One

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

I just realized what my first genuine geek moment was, that moment where most other people look at you a bit differently because your passion over something considered trivial by 99 percent of the population. I was 15 and I had just seen the first Mission: Impossible film. I was torn by the film, on one hand, the suspense and action felt true to the spirit of the 1960s show that I had fallen in love with 3 years prior. On the other hand, it had disrespected Jim Phelps, a character that I had seen as one of the coolest cats to ever grace television. I was very outspoken about my feelings among friends, committing the unforgivable sin of spoiling the reveal by accident on one occasion. That said, I have bought the original film more times than any other film as each new format arrived. The only other franchise I did this with was Star Wars.

So what is it about Mission: Impossible that made me such a die-hard fan? If you haven’t seen an episode of the original series, you’d probably never understand. A year ago, I went back to the series on Netflix to see if it still held up and found myself just as engaged now as ever before. The show is simply timeless due to the use of practical con-artist deceptions, practical threats, and a genuine love of Hitchcockian suspense. Every mission lived up to the “impossible” status, requiring that the team use inventive schemes to achieve their goals. There might be a twist or an unforeseeable factor that ruins the plan and sometimes it turns out the part of the plan to begin with. I loved how each episode brought in a mix of popular characters and some rotating guest stars, how this show made in the 60s allowed for minority and female characters to be competent and important parts of the team. The show allowed characters to be familiar with one another but kept the mission front and center (something I would take umbrage with in Mission: Impossible III). Later seasons would have its budget cut and reduced the stakes considerably, but they still work as they added in new wrinkles to keep the story exciting.

But like all good things, the show was canceled, tried to get rebooted in the 80s and failed, all before movie star Tom Cruise, looking to create an action franchise for himself, got the rights and started a chain of films that were both ambitious and unwieldy at times. He got three high caliber screenwriters to pen the first film which upset most of the cast and creators of the original series as the film put more emphasis on action set pieces than the more subtle spy maneuvering that was fresh for the show. The most egregious part was that the final twist would tarnish the memory of one of the most iconic characters of the show. Imagine if the Star Trek reboot had elder Spock to be the overall villain, then you would have an idea how much this upset the originators and their fans alike.

But overall, the film was a huge success, mostly due to the incredibly meticulous set pieces such as the initial embassy sequence, the famous CIA heist and the final train sequence. Tom Cruise came off as a viable action hero. Director Brian DePalma, mostly known for his 70s and 80s suspense thrillers, had a resurgence in his career off the success of this film (which he squandered pretty quickly afterwards). That said, there were more than a few criticisms towards the film, something that would hurt the franchise’s reputations in later installments. The most damning would be that for a series that had always been about teamwork, the film overemphasized Tom Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, a recurring complaint that would rear its head for the next two films. As for myself, I think it was important to Cruise and the franchise that shook things up and recalibrate the film series and the expectations in the first film. If they hadn’t, each upcoming film not only would have to live up to the expectations of the previous film but the show as well. It was also clear that Cruise had a long game for the franchise, though definitely an egocentric one at that.

Once the success of the first film was clear, work on the sequel started. Cruise, being a producer as well as the biggest star in the world at the time, decided that each film in the franchise would have a different director and a different vision. During this time, Hong Kong dynamo John Woo had successfully transferred his talents to Hollywood, an opportunity that Cruise would jump on immediately. Mission: Impossible II would more action-heavy with a reliance on insane action stunts and Woo’s trademark gunfights. Cruise, an actor that aspires to perfection, insisted on being able to do most of the dangerous stunt work himself. Fan favorite from the first film, Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames), also returned to provide technical backup and provided action support in the climactic action set piece at the end.

The film easily topped the first film at the box office and became an international sensation. The film had critics divided and fans of the show and the original film livid. While it had a nonstop action pace, there was very little in the form of teamwork involved, the story made little sense and there was a stench of misogyny running through it (“To go to bed with a man and lie to him? She’s a woman. She’s got all the training she needs.”). In time, the film would represent what is considered the stereotype of action sequels to the point of being mocked by other films. Personally, the film deserves the derision it got, but I do find myself having a soft spot for a film so unrepentantly gung-ho from the over-the-top stunts to the Metallica-inspired Hans Zimmer score. That said, the film is really stupid and makes the M:I fan in me ashamed that the rest of myself kind of enjoys it.

Due to other commitments and possibly a feeling of embarrassment over how the sequel came out, it would be six years before another Mission: Impossible film would come out. During that time, his marriage to Nicole Kidman had lapsed, his connection to Scientology had been played up in the media, especially after showing erratic behavior during the courtship and marriage to Katie Holmes. The film going public was starting to show fatigue with the star. As a means of turning his career around, Cruise set out to make the next Mission: Impossible film. Between these two films, screenwriter-turned-showrunner JJ Abrams had successfully launched a spy-based TV show called Alias which had a similar approach as the original Mission: Impossible program. Abrams, a lover of thick convoluted plots and twists, not to mention lens flares, wanted to bring back the essence of a team-based Mission: Impossible using the formula that worked for him on Alias. The result would be a hybrid of the two styles.

The critics warmed up to the new approach a little bit, but the North American audiences were not as interested in this product this time around. Between the backlash of the second installment and fatigue of Cruise’s off-screen antics made this the least successful installment, leaving many to question not only the survival of the franchise but of Cruise’s star power. The saving grace for the film was the international market, which had over time become as important to film studios as a means of making back money on films that didn’t so well in North America. As I see it, this film turned me against Cruise and the franchise. This was a copy of the Alias formula, which put too much emphasis on the personal plight of Hunt and not enough on the mission. And while I applaud that the film tried to be more about the team, it still became all about Hunt as everything happening in the film happens to Hunt.

The next five years would be the hardest in Cruise’s career. The semi-failure of M:I III deflated Cruise’s ego as his partnership with Paula Wagner disintegrated, his name became a joke. The beginning of his next chance would actually come from a strange source; Ben Stiller. Stiller put Cruise in a part unlike anything Cruise had ever done before, a foul-tempered, foul-mouthed movie mogul named Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder. No one initially going to see Tropic Thunder knew that Cruise was even in the film as his role had be kept secret. When audiences were introduced to this character, very few could even recognize him under the makeup, but he immediately became one of the biggest surprises in the film. This is important for the future of Mission: Impossible as Cruise needed to become a team player in this film instead of the headliner, something that would change how the franchise would move forward.

After a few more films and less off-screen drama had brought more goodwill towards Cruise, he decided to try his hand at another Mission: Impossible film. The problem this time was that his history with Paramount Pictures had been tarnished since the last film, and was only able to get things rolling after JJ Abrams, fresh off the success of his Star Trek reboot, offered to run things through his Bad Robot production team. Many were thinking that this would be the last M:I film for Cruise, that he would hand off the franchise to someone else. Cruise this time recruited Brad Bird to direct. Bird, an iconic animation director, had never made a live action film before. This time, Cruise became the spearhead of the film that allowed many of the subplots to be given to the supporting cast, which included M:I III vet Simon Pegg, Paula Patton and 2-time Oscar nominee and soon-to-be-Avenger Jeremy Renner. That film, subtitled Ghost Protocol, blended some of the most daring stunts with a visual style not seen in the franchise before through the use of IMAX cameras.

Critics were ecstatic of the final result, garnering not just claims of the best film in the franchise, but one of that year’s best films (it was my number 2). Audiences were also very pleased with the final result, making this the second-most successful film of the lot, just behind the second. It also showed a warming of the series towards fans of the show, as the teamwork aspect and the diverse and well-used supporting cast felt more at home with the original series. For the first time in the franchise, there was a near-universal desire for another installment.

During the filming of Ghost Protocol, Cruise made a conscious choice to stay with the series as the lead and not handing the baton to a new generation. While this did ruffle some feathers, the success of the film helped Cruise make his case to continue. But there now came a new problem, time. Cruise was turning 50 and the franchise depends on a reliance of intense stunt work that Cruise will eventually not be able to perform. Given that the actor refuses to let stuntmen do what he can physically do, the question becomes how long can he last before he is no longer able to perform?

Perhaps that is why he selected Christopher McQuarrie to helm the fifth film titled Rogue Nation. McQuarrie, whose screenwriting credits include The Usual Suspects and Valkyrie (which starred Cruise) and directing credits involve Jack Reacher (also with Cruise), is a filmmaker more interested with story than stunts, something clearly visible in the film. The story, which ties most of the other films together, has Hunt tracking down an organized spy ring ala Spectre. Hunt’s team this time around is made up of mostly vets as Rhames, Pegg and Renner return, but adds Rebecca Ferguson as one of the most exciting female action stars since Scarlett Johannsson donned the black jumper.

What is truly fascinating is that Paramount had initially intended to release Rogue Nation one week after Star Wars, a move that most worried would be suicide to the franchise. Instead of moving the film back to the summer of 2016, like most franchises would do, they instead moved the release date UP to the last weekend of July 2015, a move that shows a strong confidence in the material considering that it demanded that Paramount put together a publicity campaign in the course of four months. While it is too early to know exactly how most audiences respond to this film, the extremely high critical response along with the above-expected box office take on its opening weekend bodes well for the fate of the franchise moving forward as Paramount has already claimed that work on the next installment is already under way.

In the next installment, I’m going to discuss the various themes directly in all five films, how they tie together, how the characters have changed with each new film and how the actors have grown with these roles. I’ll also be discussing Rogue Nation in more detail as I dive deeper into what this film does to honor the prior films and how it appears to be a transition to a new kind of franchise moving forward. Thank you for joining me as I contemplate these films.

 

Pic from cbunye

http://cbunye.deviantart.com/art/Mission-Impossible-IMF-2011-Version-2-0-295120184


ComicCon 2015: Your One-Stop Shop For Panels (GoT, Dr. Who, Walking Dead, Star Wars, Batman v. Superman)

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Hear Ye, Fellow Geeks. Here’s your chance to see a great many of the panels put on for the first two days of San Diego ComicCon. More to come later:

Game of Thrones (2 Parts)

 

Doctor Who (2 Parts)

 

The Walking Dead (2 Parts)

 

Star Wars (2 Parts)

 

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

 

More to Come


Netflix’s Daredevil Has Found Its Elektra

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

Marvel’s Joe Quesada tweeted earlier today that they have found their Elektra for the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil television show. 34-year old Elodie Yung, whose most well known parts as of today were Jink in G.I. Joe Retaliation and a pivotal role in David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, was selected to play the Greek warrior who was last played by Jennifer Garner in the 2003 film. Marvel described this Elektra as “a mysterious woman from Matt Murdock’s past whose dangerous and exotic ways may be more than he can handle”.

This announcement is the second major casting choice for the second season of the hit show. Last month came the announcement of Jon Bernthal’s addition to the cast as antihero Frank Castle (aka The Punisher).

Casting Yung is interesting considering that Elektra’s origins were Greek in both the comic books and film variations (Yung is French Cambodian, according to her IMDB profile). Add to that the consideration of dropped lines in the first season of a romantic interest of Matt Murdock of Greek persuasion while he was in college. Somehow, all things being the internet, there will be at least a few passionate individuals who will make a much bigger deal out of this than is truly neccessary.


Han Solo is Getting His Own Movie

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedinmail

According to StarWars.com, Lucasfilm announced that yet another film is set to be made in the newly minted Star Wars Anthology series. This film will revolve around a young Han Solo’s exploits as a smuggler and scoundrel across the universe. The script has already been written by Star Wars Vet Lawrence Kasdan along with son Jon Kasdan of Freaks and Geeks fame and is set to be directed by Phil Lord & Chris Miller of Lego Movie/Jump Street series fame. When asked for comment, they stated:

“This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with. We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us. This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.”

Considering the talent behind this project, it does appear to be moving in the right direction with a tone that will be both suited to the Star Wars universe as well as a fun, lighthearted fare. While there is no word who is playing Han Solo in this film, no doubt the internet will be calling for Chris Pratt to take another job away from Harrison Ford even before he takes the first one. The film is slated to reach theaters Memorial Day weekend 2018.