M:I accelerates its output amid longer 007 film gaps

Image for the official James Bond feed on Twitter

The facts are clear. The importance is a little fuzzy.

So, producer-star Tom Cruise and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie intend to do two Mission: Impossible film back to back. The movies would come out in 2021 and 2022.

If that works out, that means there will have been four M:I films (all directed by McQuarrie) from 2015 to 2022. There will have been two 007 films (2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25) coming out during that same period.

The M:I development makes sense in that Cruise will turn 60 in 2022. While a fantastic physical specimen for a middle-aged guy, the clock is ticking on Cruise’s time as a movie action hero.

The two McQuarrie-directed M:I films (Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossible-Fallout) have been big hits. So it’s a natural studio Paramount could secure his services for two more movies. On top of everything else, McQuarrie and Cruise obviously get along.

Once upon a time, something similar was envisioned for the Bond series. John Logan was hired to write Bond 24 (later titled SPECTRE) and Bond 25. Skyfall director Sam Mendes, in a 2014 interview, said that he came back to helm SPECTRE after plans were ditched to do Bond 24 and 25 back to back. Star Daniel Craig had vetoed the idea.

Bond fans have a mixed reaction to this. There are the usual social media posts about Bond is superior, Bond is forever, Mission: Impossible will be done when Cruise is done, etc.

But there are also gibes (such as this one by the author of a Bond-related book) calling Cruise a “teeny man.” Cruise is listed at 5-foot-7 on IMDB.com while current 007 star Daniel Craig towers above him by an entire three inches, according to that same website. Craig is no runt but he’s definitely the shortest Bond in a series cast with tall actors.

(Historical note: Albert R. Broccoli, the co-founder of Eon Productions, had his early successes as a producer after he and his then-partner Irving Allen signed 5-foot-6 1/4 Alan Ladd as a star.)

The M:I news hardly means the end of Bond. And nobody is seriously making that argument.

At the same time, M:I has been showing more energy (perhaps because of the aforementioned ticking clock). On the Bond side? It star, Craig, and lead producer, Barbara Broccoli, wanted to do other things after SPECTRE. “Everybody’s a bit tired,” Craig said during a 2016 appearance.

As I said at the beginning: The importance of all this is fuzzy. M:I will do what it has to do (with the “teeny man” having a BIG say). The Bond series will do what it wants to do. Unlike other franchises, Bond is not totally controlled by a studio and the one studio involved (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) a weak industry player.

McQuarrie to direct 2 M:I films back to back, Variety says

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Christopher McQuarrie has agreed to direct two more Mission: Impossible movies for Paramount, Variety reported and film them back to back,  citing people familiar with the situation it didn’t identify.

McQuarrie wrote and directed the last two installments in the Tom Cruise series, 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and Mission: Impossibl-Fallout. Both were hits, with the latter addressing loose ends from previous M:I adventures.

The decision to film two films at once, with McQuarrie again writing and directing is  “to take advantage of the popularity of the series,” wrote Variety’s Justin Kroll. The first would be out in 2021, the second the following year, Variety said.

Cruise, who turns 57 in July, also is committed to the two movies, according to Variety.

In 2012, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced John Logan had been hired to write Bond 24 and Bond 25. The announcement occurred after the release of Skyfall, the first 007 film to generate $1 billion in global box office.

Star Daniel Craig vetoed the idea of making two Bond films back to back. Bond 24, later titled SPECTRE, came out in the fall of 2015. Bond 25 is scheduled to be released in February 2020.

Other franchises, though, have done back to back productions. Marvel Studios took that approach with Avengers: Infinity War, released in 2018, and Avengers: Endgame, scheduled for release this spring.

UPDATE Jan. 15: Both McQuarrie and Cruise confirmed the news on social media.

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MI6 Confidential looks at Diamonds Are Forever

Diamonds Are Forever poster

The new issue of MI6 Confidential takes a look at the actors who played “the henchman and heavies” in 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever.

The publication includes one article about Bruce Glover, 86, and Putter Smith, 77, who played killers Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd in the seventh 007 film produced by Eon Productions.

Issue 47 also contains a separate feature about veteran character Sid Haig who had a small role in the film. (“I got a brudda” or “brotha” depending on how one cares to spell it.)

The issue also has a non-Bond article about director Christopher McQuarrie, who has directed the past two Mission: Impossible films.

For more information, CLICK HERE. The cost is 7 British pounds, $9.50 or 8.50 euros.

Bond 25 questions: Craig’s new movie edition

Time to hit the panic button yet?

So Daniel Craig has a new movie before Bond 25. A movie that will be filming the month before Bond 25’s scheduled start of production.

You know the drill. The blog, as usual, has some questions.

What are the chances of a delay in starting Bond 25 production? Given your leading man is starring in a mystery movie titled Knives Out, probably 90 percent or better.

If Knives Out were a TV movie, Craig could probably squeeze it in before Bond 25’s scheduled start date of Dec. 3. But, by all accounts, it’s a theatrical film. It may be a modest production, but it doesn’t seem likely Craig could complete Knives Out before Dec. 3.

What are the chances this pushes back Bond 25’s fall 2019 release date? That’s an entirely different question, at least for now.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout still met its July release date despite star Tom Cruise breaking an ankle. The production schedule was changed and the crew was kept on the payroll (so they wouldn’t take other jobs while Cruise recovered). The Christopher McQuarrie-directed movie was still doing work until virtually the last minute. But it still met the release date. That’s a lot of off-screen drama.

However, Bond 25 doesn’t have a director at the moment, much less a McQuarrie. Until it acquires one (after Danny Boyle resigned from the project last month), it’s difficult to say what will happen with the release date. It’s a Mr. Obvious observation, but until you have a director, you don’t have a movie.

So what is Daniel Craig thinking? The fact he accepted another movie suggests there’s no way he thinks Bond 25 will be ready to go by Dec. 3. But the blog doesn’t have a mind reading machine. Also, there’s no telling what the state of Bond 25’s script is after scribe John Hodge followed Boyle out the door.

What’s your verdict? No sense hitting the panic button yet. At the same time, if you’re wearing rose-colored glasses, you should take them off.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout: A film Bruce Geller might love

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

As I watched Mission: Impossible-Fallout, I kept wondering what M:I creator Bruce Geller would think. My guess: I think he would approve.

The best episodes of the original 1966-73 series featured slick plans devised by Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) and Jim Phelps (Peter Graves). While the plans were brilliantly devised, the Impossible Missions Force would be forced to improvise when things went wrong or surprises occurred.

Previous Mission: Impossible films, which debuted in 1996, have this same feature. But in the newest installment, IMF leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has to improvise more often, more quickly than ever before.

The new film also has a personal angle (an apsect Geller wouldn’t have been fond of) — something the 007 film series has featured constantly since 1989. But for M:I-Fallout, the personal angle doesn’t overwhelm the proceedings.

As a result, Hunt isn’t out for revenge (a la Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, Die Another Day and other 007 films). No readings of poems (a la M in Skyfall). No villain with a “personal” connection to the hero (SPECTRE’s new version of Blofeld).

The trailers for Mission: Impossible-Fallout have emphasized that evoke set pieces from 007 movies (Licence to Kill and Tomorrow Never Dies). Some fans complain that’s ripping off Bond.

But, in the end, they’re only set pieces and don’t take up that much screen time. What’s more, there are twists involved that weren’t shown in the trailers.

Mission: Impossible-Fallout still is mostly its own thing. It tips its hat to the original show via a Lalo Schifrin-inspired score by Lorne Balfe. It’s not the first time the movie series has embraced Schifrin. Joe Kreamer, composer for 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, also weaved Schifrin into his score. Balfe does it his own way. (CLICK HERE for a feature story Jon Burlingame did for Variety about Balfe’s work.)

Meanwhile, writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, who also worked on M:I Rogue Nation, keeps things at a frantic pace. The movie has a 147-minute running time. That’s almost as long as SPECTRE’s 148 minutes. But M:I-Fallout, overall, moves more quickly. At the same time, McQuarrie’s movie isn’t just set pieces strung together.

As a fan of the original TV show, I still don’t care for how the first movie in the Cruise series made Jim Phelps into a traitor. At this point, I just have to rationalize the film series is an alternate universe.

At 56, you’ve got to wonder how much longer Cruise can keep the Mission: Impossible film franchise going. But that’s something most viewers won’t think about until after they’re headed home from Mission: Impossible-Fallout. GRADE: A-Minus.

Spy fans engage in throwing bricks from glass houses

Mission: Impossible-Fallout poster

Late next week, Mission: Impossible-Fallout reaches theaters. Some 007 fans aren’t happy, feeling the movie is, well, a ripoff.

Specifically, based on trailers, there are at least two segments of M:I-Fallout that seem “inspired” from previous Bond films:

–A villain appears to make an escape similar to the way Franz Sanchez did in Licence to Kill (1989).

–Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt makes a HALO (high altitude, low-opening) parachute jump, similar to how B.J. Worth did one doubling for Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).

The resemblances are undeniable. In fact, the current Hawaii Five-0 series did an “homage” to the Licence to Kill sequence at the start of its third season in 2012. So Mission: Impossible-Fallout doing it wouldn’t be the first time.

On the other hand, memories may be short. So the following should be noted.

–Live And Let Die (1973) when it was released was seen as inspired by “blaxploitation” movies of the early 1970s. While Ian Fleming’s 1954 novel featured a black villain, the movie utilized a few characters but dispensed with the book’s main plot.

–The Man With the Golden Gun (1974) was seen as 007’s answer to Kung Fu movies of the 1970s. Fleming’s 1965 novel of the same name was mostly set in Jamaica and didn’t have any Kung Fu.

–Moonraker (1979) was seen as 007’s answer to Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fleming’s 1955 novel concerned a rocket but no space travel was involved.

–Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) were said to be influenced by the Jason Bourne movies that were popular at the start of this century.

Javier Bardem’s Silva in a Joker-like moment in Skyfall

–Skyfall (2012) was inspired by Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. Director Sam Mendes even said so. Javier Bardem’s Silva definitely seemed influenced by Heath Ledger’s Joker.

If fans want to accuse another franchise of copying, it can be a matter of throwing bricks from a glass house.

Filmmakers do this sort of thing all the time. Directors channel their inner-Alfred Hitchcock (or Stanley Kubrick, or whoever) all the time.

Christopher Nolan, who helmed The Dark Knight, channeled 007 films in his Batman trilogy. Example: Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) giving Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) gadgets more than slightly resembled Bond-Q scenes from earlier 007 films.

Chances are, if you see a shot or sequence that reminds you of a famous movie sequence, chances are it’s not a coincidence.

The key difference is what does the director do with it? Does it work? Does it contribute to an entertaining film?

In the case of The Dark Knight, whatever you might think of it, Nolan delivered a memorable movie. With Skyfall, whatever was “borrowed” from Nolan, audiences found it an interesting take on a Bond film.

I can’t judge Mission: Impossible-Fallout. I haven’t seen it, other than the trailers.

The question is where M:I-Fallout writer-director Christopher McQuarrie and his star, Tom Cruise, have delivered a good movie. “Borrowing” happens all the time in film. We’ll see soon.

M:I-Fallout gets some love from critics

A clapperboard from Mission: Impossible-Fallout

Mission: Impossible-Fallout is getting some positive reviews two weeks ahead of its release.

The sixth M:I film starring Tom Cruise and released by Paramount is due out the last weekend of this month.

It was a hectic production, which included Cruise breaking his ankle during a stunt. But the early reviews are mostly complimentary.

Here are some non-spoiler excerpts:

ROBERT ABELE, THE WRAP: “In the shootout phase of international action franchise competition, then, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” has decidedly zinged one past all caped defenders with a rousing, silly-serious, old-fashioned humdinger that could make a whole audience of veteran action stars nod slowly, wide-eyed, and say, “I remember those days, but I never worked that hard.”

RAFER GUZMAN, NEWSDAY: “Yet here is Cruise, 56, performing some of the most impressive feats of derring-do ever captured on screen….Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie, on his second “M:I” film, keeps this elaborate machine purring like a luxury sedan with only the occasional misfire. The plot gets so tangled in mental chess and double deceits that the characters often sound like internet conspiracy theorists (“Don’t you see? This is the trap!”).”

TODD MCCARTHY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: “The plot may be as indecipherable as The Big Sleep, but the action is insane in this sixth installment of Mission: Impossible. Loaded with extended sequences that show Tom Cruise doing what look like real — and really dangerous — stunts all over central Paris and London…writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s second outing on the series tops what he did with Cruise three years ago with Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation.”

PETER DEBRUGE, VARIETY: “(Tom Cruise character Ethan) Hunt himself has acquired a gravitas along the way that distinguishes the series from its most obvious inspiration, the James Bond movies of the 1960s, back when Sean Connery was that franchise’s first and only star. Now playing to an audience who’s forgotten (if it ever realized) that these films were inspired by a knockoff TV series from the same era, “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” isn’t just another stunt-driven save-the-world bonanza.”

KEITH UHLICH, SLANT MAGAZINE: ” It would help if there was a single character worth caring about…The real fallout here is that everyone’s a zero.”