Tag Archives: TV Series Film Adaptation

Cinema-Maniac: Mission: Impossible (1996)

The Mission: Impossible franchise is among my favorite film series for many reasons; I like the fact every film director tries to bring something new to the table, and put their own spin on the series. Making each film entry feel distinct from one another preventing the series from becoming stale. Another aspect I enjoy about the Mission: Impossible films is seeing the transformation of the Hollywood blockbuster over the years. Being a rare example where going bigger in a series feels organic instead of a necessity. Surprisingly enough, I’ve always consider the first entry in the franchise to be the weakest. A sentiment that is further cemented with the fact future entries would add levity to their storylines, offers up more action spectacles, and slowly strive to improve the team dynamic which was always a small piece instead of its core that Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) made it. In hindsight, Brian De Palma’s starter entry is the most high brow the series ever gotten with its writing, but also provides the least entertainment having trouble being both a cerebral spy thriller, and a blockbuster.

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Jean Reno knows he’s going to be underutilized

Mission: Impossible follows Impossible Mission Force American agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) attempting to clear his name as the prime murder suspect of a disastrous operation that got his whole team killed. This movie tells a simple story, that is easy to follow, but throws in twists, and loops that make an organic story come off as convoluted when it isn’t. An obvious trick that is attempting to hide the thin plot that has little to go on. Offering little to nothing in the way of characterization for Ethan Hunt, and even less in the form of expressing compassion. Ethan Hunt dwells on his fallen comrades for a bit, and than moves on from it. It’s not a movie about characters, nor the strength of their relationship. Skipping the tradition of most first installments in franchises of being an origin story. Opting to put the viewer in the middle of the story instead. Rarely in the film are characters even allowed to have personalities, and the instances they do are sparse. The most engaging it characters become is when they work as a team to accomplish a task. Seeing the team dynamic trying to pull off a difficult job with various setbacks is eventful more so than the people involved in them.

This movie is more about the chase, the mystery, and solving it by any means. You’ll have plenty of scenes of characters talking about the logistics of their plans, the potential double crosses, and the ever increasing murkiness of everyone surrounding Ethan Hunt. The mystery aspect of the film keep things going, and is easily the best part of the film’s writing. Right from the beginning, the film drops plenty of clues for viewers to pick up on, and connect the dots. While the film does dedicate an entire sequence in the climax explaining everything. Before that point it respected the viewer intelligence by not dumbing down any scenes. Dialogue throughout is often used to reveal snippets of characters over showing it. In most films this would be a negative, but works excellently here in its attempt to make proceeding events murky in their true nature. Always ensuring you can’t entirely trust anyone on screen, even those on Ethan Hunt side, or the intent of the situation.

Now the worst part of the movie is the climax. Beforehand the film did a fine job keeping everything grounded with a few silly things relegated to small stuff like exploding bubblegum, and self detonating cassette tapes. It’s here where the serious tone becomes its own undoing creating a joke of a climax that belongs in a different movie. Seeing the sight of a Helicopter in a tunnel trying not to crash as our main character is attempting to prevent the villains escape doesn’t belong in a cerebral thriller. It’s too simplistic in the way the climax plays out compare to the rest of the movie where Ethan Hunt had to play mind games against two opponents, and his own teammates who he is uncertain he could trust. It’s just a messy climax that simply feels like it is there just to check of the big climax checklist out of a blockbuster. Another problem is Ethan Hunt getting out of some difficult situation through convoluted means. For example, the first time Ethan Hunt uses exploding bubble gum it makes sense since it was set up before he used it, but the second time Hunt uses it there’s setup to it, and comes out of nowhere to resolve the issue of a writer who wrote himself into a corner.

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Physics be damned!

Tom Cruise takes the lead, and does a decent job committing to the role that limits him. While the film itself is unable to create paranoia, Tom Cruise actually believes it himself helping to sell the story even more. Believing in his characters, and the story he’s convincing in a serious role. Switching between the sly, and paranoid side with ease. There’s a few sequences where Cruise is allowed to display more of his charisma, but the material doesn’t allow him much opportunity for that. Not allowing Cruise to show off what he’s fully capable off. Despite this restriction, Cruise is able to make you invested in a character that has little going for him simply because he’s that good of an actor. The only other actor who presence is enjoyable is Ving Rhames. Surprisingly playing the most balanced character. He isn’t too serious, but he isn’t just here to purely add levity to the movie. He’s able to be both fun, and be engaging despite only appearing in the second of the movie. In the few scenes he shares with Cruise are easily the best moments since they are the only moment the film nails a balance between high brow spy thriller, and Hollywood blockbuster.

Other cast members don’t come of as good because of the writing. Jon Voight enjoys himself, although he doesn’t do much besides sneer, and smile. Removing a bit of his mystic, and making a plot twist revolving around his character not come off as shocking as it should. Jean Reno is a good choice in as a potential double crosser. However, he only appears second half of the movie, and isn’t given much to do. He’s just here to look the part, and nothing more. Then there’s Emmanuelle Beart who is in a thankless role. What she’s meant to do is uncertain since she hardly appears. When she is in the movie it’s to be mopey, or supporting of Cruise. It’s okay, but not much for her to do. Henry Czerny is the most fortunate who at least is noteworthy as a enjoyable foil in his serious demeanor. As for the rest of the cast they also go forth a similar fate; good choices for the role, but not enough screen time to do anything to liven the material.

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Ethan Hunt taking the break up pretty badly

Brian De Palma direction is most unsure about what to be. On one hand he wants create tension, and paranoia with his many dutch angles close up. It has the opposite effect looking awkward instead of uneasy. Resulting in scenes that visually work fine to just being miscalculated. Where Brian De Palma shines  is the film singular best set piece. It’s a sequence involving Cruise attempting to retrieve information from a computer in a room littered with sensing equipment, including pressure sensitive floors, temperature controls and audio sensors. This sequence, played largely without dialogue, and no music. Excellently captures thrills in a single sequence having the viewer wonder if anything will go array. Masterfully directed, edited, and perform this is Brian De Palma best showcase of being master of the camera. It’s not a nail biting sequence, but it is thrilling nonetheless.

When it comes to action sequences there is none. There’s no car chases, gunfights, or fisticuffs one would expect from an action film. It’s not the fault of this movie future installments would fall more in line with what a action movie traditionally is. This entry does offer one action sequence; the climax of the movie which is easily the worst part of the movie. On paper, it’s a cool idea having a helicopter in a subway tunnel, but the terrible mixture of outdated CGI, and blue & green screen effects make the whole thing look like a cartoon. Visually being out of place with everything else that was done through practical means. It’s also boring since not much happens on top of the subway, even in the tunnel it’s just Tom Cruise attempting to prevent someone escaping. Cruise, and antagonist just try to hang on on the subway, and that’s about it. This climax aged horribly, especially the special effects when the Helicopter blows up. Another thing that aged is some of technology used. Instead of coming of as high tech some of it technology, like cellphones with big antennas, are relics of the past. However, the music is quite stellar, and moody. Doing a much better to get across the appropriate mood than the visuals themselves.

Mission: Impossible is a solid piece of spy thriller entertainment, but mixed results in everything it does. The story itself is intriguing to witness thanks to a good mystery, but without characters to get invested it prevents the movie from being engaging. Brian De Palma doesn’t know if he wants a cold, cerebral spy thriller, or a blockbuster opting for a middle ground that often juxtapose each other in bad ways. There’s hardly any action, and levity to satisfy the blockbuster crowd, and too many plot conveniences solution in difficult situations, and silly climax to fully satisfy the cerebral crowd. What comes out unscathed is the casting being decent if nothing else, and a killer theme song that is likely to get stuck in your head. It’s a odd film to see since it kickstarted would become an action franchise juggernaut from such an uneven first film.

Rating: 6/10

Cinema-Maniac: Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) Review

When studying writing one aspect that varies upon discovery is the usage of formulas and learning how different plot devices work in conjunction to each other. One area where the discovery of formulas is the most deadliest and most uncertain is comedy. If the punchline to a joke is foreseen before it delivery in the way expected than the joke fails. However, comedy is a tricky area to fully understand for a non comedian as even the most tire jokes can be made funny again if done right. In the case of the Mr. Peabody & Sherman it’s a well made film weighed down heavily by subpar writing.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman is about an advanced canine and his adopted son attempting to fix a time rift they created. One immediate thing is made clear early on is the lack of sufficient material to sustain a ninety minute runtime. Everything in the film from characters, humor, and conflict are rushed. So insecure about its own material that if it were to take a breather it would lose the audience. The main duo of intellectual dog Mr. Peabody and his dumb son Sherman aimed to present a meaningful relationship despite the odd setup. It’s intention are well meant, but as the characters stated themselves it’s just presented as child causes overblown issue and parent has to fix it. It’s not a father son relationship where the conflict actually helps strengthen the relationship or aptly show how this duo interact with each other outside of conflict. Rather it serves to highlight one’s very useless and the other is god like. There’s no dilemma ever arising in this relationship because Mr. Peabody written to be a perfect character. Instead of putting effort to make Peabody near perfection in everything he does be part of the conflict it becomes a tool for an easy fix. Leading to convoluted filled acts. Without good characterization in general filling up supporting characters with specifics humor functions what it main characters feel never become organic. This same issue pops up when we’re being told how much Mr. Peabody and Sherman care for each other when a good scene itself can get that across much better. While the idea behind Mr. Peabody as a parent is worth exploring the execution of it undermines the value of parenthood.

The biggest disappointment with this film is its uninspired take on a good premise. When you have time travel and characters who are interested in history the possibilities should be endless instead of recycled. Filled with humor revolving around the rule of three (writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier) invents a formulaic immunity through it course. Usage of the rule of three come around frequently enough that jokes revolving around the rule become tiring. Once you get used to the formula it stops being funny. Another area it builds its humor around are puns. These puns are very lazy and not given much thought which goes against the characters the film consider to be smart. It’s a lot dumber than it admirably wants to ignore. Historical figure were welcomed in the film, but the setup and delivery of them not as much. When Sherman gives a speech about second chances Bill Clinton appears in the background saying “I’ve done worse”. Out of all the possible jokes it chose to make a safe one. Which best describe the humor in a nutshell. Jokes are predictable, safe, reused periodically, and foreseen making their delivery fall flat. Though the biggest nitpick for me stems from the fact there’s not a single female character that’s well written. Penny Peterson has the biggest role out of any female character and she’s a tool to set the chain of events going. She changes quickly at the whim of the story demand, never redeem despite what she does early on in the film, and her only contribution in the story is negative.

Ty Burrell voices Mr. Peabody and his performance is excellent. Everything about he exquisitely voices judgement, from the way he sprints through Peabody’s scientific exposition, but never so quickly that he confuses the viewer, to the way he unveils the dog’s wretched puns is spot on. Max Charles who plays Sherm is also good in the role. His performance is filled with energy and sincerity. Ariel Winter voices Penny Peterson who despite being given a poorly written character her performance is one key. She’s bratting when the script demands it and caring when the scene demands it. Winter portrayal is more dynamic and much better than the material provided for her. Supporting cast are fine having the kind of voice actors ranging from the loud beefy character, the snooty evil character, the hyperactive inventor, and so forth. Animation is a bright spot even if the style isn’t impressive. Characters are allowed to be expressive and movement is smooth especially in the film chase like sequences. It’s colorful that’s easy on the eye. Another great spot on the animation department are the vastly time era that are provided different looks. The score won’t register much, but it is diverse in the sort of music provided depending on the era the film is currently in.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman themes and humor are undone by its predictable formula and lack of working characterization. The cast of the film elevate the material with their performances delivery some good dramatic scenes and laughs even if the material doesn’t accomplish that task to the same extent. It’s a well made film, but one that’s really needed more thought put into it that would match its characters intellect and make good use of its premise.

6/10