The latest in Sean Marten’s “Obscure for a Reason” late night movie reviews

Mission Impossible

Netflix offered this one up to me under the category “Race Against Time Action Thrillers.” But it was the year that caught my eye: 1996. I’d forgotten that the “Mission Impossible” films began that far back. With that in mind, it’s interesting to see how prescient they really were. Everyone’s staring at a monitor; everyone’s on a cellphone; and this was a few years before that sort of thing became a totally ubiquitous reality. This being 1996, though, even the most advanced computer monitors they could find were the size of a washer-dryer, and the cellphones are approximately the size of a Steven King novel.

This first one was directed by Brian DePalma, before John Woo got a hold of the second one and started really stringing people up on wires. It’s great to see a franchise inventing itself and setting its own ground rules, as opposed to later entries when they’re clearly running out of ideas and basically exploiting themselves. The cast is solid, with great turns from John Voight, Ving “Marsellus Wallace” Rhames, Vanessa Redgrave and Jean “The Professional” Reno. And Tom Cruise, at his smiling android best. Is everyone convinced he’s quite human?


Sean Marten’s Late Night Movie Blog

I love movies: I always have. I can remember being a little kid and getting a grasp on gauging time by thinking: “Two hours – that’s how long a movie is.” I had my favorite seat at the local movie theater – front row center, where some other kid with the same initials as me had taken the trouble to carve them into the armrest. The annual televised showing of “The Wizard of Oz” was a huge deal in my world. I would regularly get up in the middle of the night after my parents were asleep, pad into the living room in my footie pajamas with a bowl of Cap’n Crunch, watch the late, late, late movie on TV, then go back to bed.

When VCRs were the cool new thing, I was one of those idiots who had to have the latest (read: most expensive) state-of-the-art model. My wife still remembers one of those veteran, temperamental machines as “the two thousand dollar doorstop.” Laserdiscs? Of course I was one of those guys, too. Still have them, and the player still works, much to the shock and awe of my grandkids. I’d subscribe to as many premium movie channels as they offered, and had to get an external hard drive to hold the overflow from my DVR.

I write and research for the website Annotated MST, which seeks to define every cultural reference in all 197 two-hour episodes of the beloved bad-movie mocking TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000. I listen to comedian Doug Benson’s podcast “Doug Loves Movies” religiously, and know that I would excel at its “Leonard Maltin Game.” The moment I’m done watching a movie, I go straight to the bonus features on the DVD. Turns out that a) the director was a genius b) everybody on the cast and crew was just a joy to work with and c) the green-screen and wire-work was really challenging. Who knew? Then I go to IMDB and bone up on every scrap of trivia and carefully noted mistake made in the production of the movie. Then I go back to the movie and look for all of those visible microphones reflected in a window, or coffee cups that change position between shots. Plenty of times, this stuff is more entertaining than the film.

That’s the beauty of movies — they don’t have to be good to be entertaining. Self-absorbed blowhard foreign fare, lame formulas, unintentional humor, bad acting, Michael Bay… they all have a place on my couch. Here – have a seat. ~ Sean Marten

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