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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on DVDs. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Two Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo) (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.: Brad Bird, 2011 (Paramount)
If you have even a little fear of heights — as I do myself — there’s a scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, that should leave you breathless. Producer-star Tom Cruise, playing the Mission Impossible series’ head impossibler, Ethan Hunt, has to sneak from one room to another in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper in the United Arab Emirate. That’s the building that’s currently the world‘s tallest: 160 stories or 2,723 feet high. (Compared to Burj Khalifa, The Empire State Builiding (102 floors) and the old World Trade Center (110 floors) would be somewhere way down there.)
Deciding to do things the hard way, Ethan knocks out a window in the Mission Impossible crew‘s apartment, which is, oh, about 123 stories up. (Yikes!) A whole empty wall is now facing Cruise (we‘ll call him Cruise from now on), and he swings outside, with a climbing harness and wires, and suction gloves that stick to the buildings side. (Ai Yi Ai….) All Mission Impossibled up, he goes climbing up the side of the Burj. And, because this scene was shot in deep-deep-deep-focus IMAX, and is being shown on both regular and IMAX screens (I saw it in IMAX) and because cinematographer Robert Elswit and company are very good with cameras, we seem to be able to see all the way down to the ground, or at least to the tops of those other little smidgens of skyscrapers, way, way down there. The effect of being really up there is astonishing, terrifying. (Yow! Yow! Yow!).
Anyway Cruise keeps climbing up. He has that intense, focused Tom Cruise look on his face. But since we’re 123 stories up, it must be a little windy. And — wouldn‘t you now it? — his equipment starts to show some bugs. Specifically, one of the suction gloves starts to peel off the wall, and he has to throw it away. Cruise…has…to…take…off…the…glove…and…throw…it…away. While he’s up there, 123 floors high. And with assassins who want to kill them still in the building. (Ay-yay-yikes!)
I’m not going to tell you the rest. You’ll have to see it yourself — and when you do, see it in IMAX. There’s a big difference. I still think, even after Scorsese’s Hugo, that 3D is a gimmick I can take or leave, but I love IMAX. All I have to say more about “The Scene” — in a movie for which Cruise is reported to have insisted on doing his own stunts — is that if he really did do all of it, without CGI, and without a net, and without fakery of some kind, I think he deserves a special Oscar for the  most totally crazy performance by a star movie actor in 2011 who has succeeded in scaring the living hell out of his audience. He has no competition.
That scene alone though is worth the price of the ticket, especially if you see it in IMAX. And the movie has four or five more that, if not quite as nail-biting (parts of which are obviously faked), are still pretty spectacular, and are better and scarier than what you’ll see in most any other action blockbuster around. This is the fourth of the MI movies, which started in 1995, with the original show directed by Brian De Palma (and the next two by John Woo and J.J. Abrams, who co-produced this one). In the movie, Cruise and a thrown-together supporting crew — tough gal Jane Carter (Paula Patton), wise cracking techno-whiz Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg, a holdover from MI3) and moody agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) — get together on a ghost mission (they have no support, no visibility, no deniability and no help) to foil an insane nuclear terrorist who wants to blow up the world: Michael Nyqvist as Hendricks.
This was the best big-budget action movie out last year not just because it has the best action, but because the characters are interesting too: everyone we‘ve mentioned, plus the uncredited Tom Wilkinson as a spy boss, Lea Seydoux as a cold-blooded knockout killer, and Anil Kapoor (of Slumdog Millionaire) as a fashion plate baddie. Bird, who directed those modern animated feature gems, The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille — has a clean, clear, expert-looking filmmaking technique full of visual gusto and visual wit. His other showpiece sequences here include a terrific prison break, a bizarre gadgety break-in capped by the explosion of the Kremlin, a terrific car-chase and, the second best scene, a fight over a briefcase with the nuclear button, in an indoor garage, with hero and villain battling on independently rising and lowering parking spots.
But that Burj Khalifa Tom Cruise climb sequence: that’s pretty amazing. Not as funny as Harold Lloyd’s human fly routine in Safety Last, but definitely the scariest thing I’ve seem or hope to see in a movie, this year. Tower Heist, eat your heart out. By the way, the Burj Khalifa has a low occupancy rate, due to the world’s economic woes, but they do have somebody up on the 16oth floor. I just hope it isn’t Philippe Petit, the daredevil acrobat French  guy who walked on a high wire between the Twin Towers in Man on Wire, with a guerilla filmmaking crew shooting it. And if it is Petit, I hope he didn’t sneak in a camera and a camera guy. Or Tom Cruise.

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“Roger Ebert claimed that the re-editing of The Brown Bunny after Cannes allowed him a difference of opinion so vast that he first called it the worst film in history and eventually gave it a thumbs up. This is both far fetched and an outright lie. The truth is, unlike the many claims that the unfinished film that showed at Cannes was 24 minutes shorter than the finished film, it was only 8 minutes shorter. The running time I filled out on the Cannes submission form was arbitrary. The running time I chose was just a number I liked. I had no idea where in the process I would actually be when I needed to stop cutting to meet the screening deadline. So whatever running time was printed in the program, I promise you, was not the actual running time. And the cuts I made to finish the film after Cannes were not many. I shortened the opening race scene once I was able to do so digitally. After rewatching the last 4 minutes of the film over and over again, somewhere within those 4 minutes, I froze the picture and just ended the film there, cutting out everything after that point, which was about 3 minutes. Originally in the salt flats scene, the motorcycle returned from the white. I removed the return portion of that shot, which seemed too literal. And I cut a scene of me putting on a sweater. That’s pretty much it. Plus the usual frame here, frame there, final tweaks. If you didn’t like the unfinished film at Cannes, you didn’t like the finished film, and vice versa. Roger Ebert made up his story and his premise because after calling my film literally the worst film ever made, he eventually realized it was not in his best interest to be stuck with that mantra. Stuck with a brutal, dismissive review of a film that other, more serious critics eventually felt differently about. He also took attention away from what he actually did at the press screening. It is outrageous that a single critic disrupted a press screening for a film chosen in main competition at such a high profile festival and even more outrageous that Ebert was ever allowed into another screening at Cannes. His ranting, moaning and eventual loud singing happened within the first 20 minutes, completely disrupting and manipulating the press screening of my film. Afterwards, at the first public screening, booing, laughing and hissing started during the open credits, even before the first scene of the film. The public, who had heard and read rumors about the Ebert incident and about me personally, heckled from frame one and never stopped. To make things weirder, I got a record-setting standing ovation from the supporters of the film who were trying to show up the distractors who had been disrupting the film. It was not the cut nor the film itself that drew blood. It was something suspicious about me. Something offensive to certain ideologues.”
~ Vincent Gallo

“I think [technology has[ its made my life faster, it’s made the ability to succeed easier. But has that made my life better? Is it better now than it was in the eighties or seventies? I don’t think we are happier. Maybe because I’m 55, I really am asking these questions… I really want to do meaningful things! This is also the time that I really want to focus on directing. I think that I will act less and less. I’ve been doing it for 52 years. It’s a long time to do one thing and I feel like there are a lot of stories that I got out of my system that I don’t need to tell anymore. I don’t need to ever do The Accused again! That is never going to happen again! You hit these milestones as an actor, and then you say, ‘Now what? Now what do I have to say?'”
~ Jodie Foster