Mission: Impossible – Fallout 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray Review

The Mission: Impossible – Fallout 4K Blu-Ray is a great home video package. Included in the box are three discs: A 4K UHD version of the film, which includes some of the special features like the commentaries, a Blu-Ray version of the film, and a separate Blu-ray disc that contains the rest of the special features. The biggest downside of this release is that it doesn’t match the box art for Paramount’s recently released 4K Mission: Impossible set. Really makes you wonder who Paramount is making those sets for, because in general, anyone who’s going to buy a 4K box set of all these films is probably going to watch those discs to match. Just going out on a limb there.

In terms how the feature presentation looks, it’s great. The movie’s shot and lit beautifully and loses very little in its journey to the small screen. Of course, Fallout was shot on a a mix of film and digital and this does make for an occasionally jarring viewing experience, but this is something that was present in the theatrical presentation as well. The sound mix is also great and it’s a particularly great way to experience composer Lorne Balfe’s score, which is one of my favorites of the franchise.

When it comes to special features, the highlight is the feature length commentary featuring Tom Cruise and Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie is an extremely generous filmmaker. Even before this disc was released, I’ve probably listened to about 8-10 hours of interview with him, but even so, I still Learned a few things about the production of this film listening to this commentary. And if you’re a fan of Tom Cruise, it’s great to hear his enthusiasm for the storytelling and the stunts of this film. He seems genuinely excited about the movie and grateful to his cast and crew to have the chance to make it.

On the special features disc there are a few cool things worth noting. First of all, instead of “deleted scenes” there’s a Deleted Scenes Montage. It’s a bunch of deleted scenes cut together with finished color grading and visual effects set to music. The objective of including this was just to give you a sense of all the hard work put into this film that you didn’t see. I personally would’ve preferred to see all the complete deleted scenes here, as it would’ve been fascinating to get more insight into how they decided to structure the final story. But my sense is that director Christopher McQuarrie wants us all to think of the final film as the definitive version (the “Director’s Cut” as it were) and putting in completed scenes might’ve muddied the waters a bit.

There’s also a ton of featurettes about the making of virtually ever major set piece in the film, where you learn really cool tidbits about production, like how they did hundreds of jumps prepping for the halo jump sequence, or how they needed five helicopters for that chase sequence at the end, or how they needed to airlift 150 crew onto the site for the final fight that they shot at Pulpit Rock. It’s all fascinating stuff and reminds me of the heyday of Blu-Rays when discs were just loaded with content.

But it’s not all perfect. One downside is that a lot of the special features are edited in a really distractingly frenetic way. It felt like the person making these didn’t trust they could hold the audience’s attention throughout literally an entire sentence, so you end up with sequences where they are cutting mid-sentence and you have like 4-5 people contributing to that same sentence? After awhile of watching this, it got pretty distracting. I wanted to say to the creators of this disc, “Hey, what you’re showing me is already pretty impressive. Please don’t edit this to ribbons, thanks!”

The second thing is that everything on this disc and these special features is meant to convince you that Tom Cruise risked his life to make this movie. I have no doubt that people put themselves in danger, but the special features do a lot to downplay all the safety precautions that were taken. It’s never about “Here are the 15 things we did to make sure Tom Cruise didn’t die,” it’s always about “Here are all the ways things could’ve gone wrong for Tom Cruise.”

I’m not sure if we should be celebrating the fact that Tom Cruise almost died making Mission: Impossible – Fallout? On the one hand, yes, we’re living in an age where advancements in CG have made audience skeptical of virtually anything they see on screen. And it genuinely is impressive that Tom Cruise did a lot of this stuff practically. But it’s also true that a lot of it was augmented with visual effects, and the special features barely talk about any of that at all. For me, I would’ve been much more interested in how they were able to combine both the practical and the digital, and how the director made those calls. But fundamentally, that’s not the story these features are interested in telling.

In a time where stunt people have actually died while making movies quite recently, the idea that this billionaire risked his life for us just feels like a weird message to hammer home in this piece of mass market entertainment.

Those minor issues aside, if you’re a big fan of Mission: Impossible – Fallout like I am, I think you’ll find this disc is worth your money. I just wish they had made the box art match.

Here is a list of all the special features included in this disc:

  • Behind the Fallout (Featurettes)
    • Light the Fuse
    • Top of the World
    • The Big Swing: Deleted Scene Breakdown
    • Rendezvous in Paris
    • The Fall
    • The Hunt is On
    • Cliffside Clash
  • Deleted Scenes Montage with Optional Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton
  • Foot Chase Musical Breakdown
  • The Ultimate Mission
  • Storyboards
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise
  • Commentary by director Christopher McQuarrie and editor Eddie Hamilton
  • Commentary by composer Lorne Balfe
  • Isolated Score Track

The Content Cycle

Max Read, writing for New York, has a good overview on how cable news, social media, and blogs have a symbiotic relationship with each other:

The Content Cycle, a phrase I did not just come up with right now, describes how content arises from the internet, is absorbed into cable television, and then gets redistributed back into the internet for the cycle to begin anew. Like the water cycle, the Content Cycle provides sustenance and habitation to a multitude of organisms, and in many ways it exists independently of human thought. Let’s walk through Problematic Rudolph as our emblematic example of the Content Cycle.

That time David Edelstein said something dumb

From the AP:

NPR’s “Fresh Air” has parted ways with contributor David Edelstein after the film critic made a joke about the rape scene in “Last Tango in Paris” on his Facebook page following Monday’s death of director Bernardo Bertolucci.

In a statement Tuesday, “Fresh Air” said the post was “offensive and unacceptable” because of what actress Maria Schneider experienced filming the scene. Schneider said in a 2007 interview that the simulated sex scene was unscripted and that she felt bullied by Bertolucci and unsupported by her co-star Marlon Brando. “I was crying real tears,” said Schneider, who died in 2011.

Edelstein later apologized and said he wasn’t aware of Schneider’s remarks. I find that unlikely given that heard about them at the time and I feel much less plugged into the film scene than Edelstein is. Still, even if he hadn’t heard about them, the joke was inarguably in poor taste.

One common mistake I see people make when news like this drops about a public figure is to assume they understand the totality of the circumstances. There are many potential reasons that NPR might want to show Edelstein the door that go beyond this tweet. But the tweet can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Edelstein’s views on cinema have been…pretty interesting in recent days (like when he longed for a time when everything, “even racism,” seemed simpler). But Edelstein has decades of work to stand on. Should one mistake cost him his job?

One thing that has really swung into focus for me recently is what a powerful responsibility it is to be able to express yourself to thousands of people so quickly and easily. Twitter and Facebook make it super easy to dash off a latent thought or an ill-considered jokes, but ultimately, they are public forums. They entice you into thinking you’re speaking to a small group of friends, when in fact, you’re broadcasting for the world to hear.

Ultimately, our words come with stakes attached, even if you write them on your smartphone while half awake in the morning, or after an all-night binge. We should all proceed accordingly.

See also: Terry Rossio and Paul Schrader.

Too viral to check

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On November 16, Thrillist published an article by Kevin Alexander in which he tried to come to terms with his role in the closing of a restaurant named Stanich’s after naming its burger “the best burger in America.” Apparently, Stanich’s couldn’t handle the increased attention and influx of tourists:

For the past year, the story of Stanich’s has haunted me. For most of that time, I’d been away from Thrillist, as I worked on a book that frequently took me to Portland. Each time I was there, my story would somehow find a way into conversation, like the one with my Lyft driver who asked if I liked burgers. Yes, I said tentatively. “Well, we had a great one here,” he said, as we drove over the Burnside Bridge. “But then some asshole from California ruined it.” Or the time, while sitting at the bar at Clyde Common, the bartender came up to me and in a soft, friendly voice inquired if I’d planned on closing any more burger restaurants while I was in town.

This self-reflective deep dive went even more viral than than the initial burger rankings. According to BuzzSumo, this article was shared more than 9K times on Twitter and had over 37K Facebook engagements (compared to less than 1K Twitter shares and 32K FB engagements on the original piece). Self-flagellation in the publishing industry not only makes for compelling reading; it also pays pretty well too.

The headline was exquisite, promising a piece that would not only reveal some insights about the aftermath of being named in these type of listicles, but also serve as an indictment for the viral systems many of us are complicit in every day. I was happy to see Alexander’s piece was creating a lot of soul-searching in the online publishing community. But I had my doubts about the actual premise of the article (much smarter folks like Nate Silver did too). One passage from the piece stood out, in which Alexander describes the events leading up to the restaurant’s closing: “I can say that there were personal problems, the type of serious things that can happen with any family, and would’ve happened regardless of how crowded Stanich’s was, and that real life is always more complicated and messier than we want it to be.”

Now, new reporting has come to light that makes clear Alexander left some major parts out of his original piece. Here’s Matthew Singer, writing for Willamette Week, detailing those personal problems:

On April 18, 2014, Stanich was arrested for choking his then-wife in front of their then-teenage son at their home in Northeast Portland. Documents show his wife, then 57, had been a manager at Stanich’s for 19 years before being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Stanich pleaded no contest to charges of misdemeanor harassment and strangulation, and was sentenced to four years of probation. He was prohibited from owning a gun or contacting his wife. He was required to undergo treatment for his drinking, barred from consuming alcohol and, in a stiff prohibition for a bar owner, prohibited from entering establishments that primarily serve alcohol, except for work. For the past four years, the only bar he was allowed to set foot in was his own.

The information undercuts Alexander’s piece in several important ways. The first is that, obviously, there were probably greater forces at work creating trouble for the restaurant beyond the Thrillist burger ranking. Only Stanich’s family know the real story behind these events, but it’s safe to say that the restaurant could’ve easily shut down even if the Thrillist article had never been written. Right off the bat, the entire premise of Alexander’s piece is shot.

But in a more significant way, the piece also upends the way Alexander positions himself as a commentator on journalistic quality and ethics. Before he wrote about how he helped cause Stanich’s demise, Alexander explains:

[G]ood, sturdy, reliable lists requiring on the ground knowledge and reporting were actually hard/expensive to make, and few places wanted to pay for that sort of reporting, so most lists just ended up plagiarizing off of the few good ones. And, as these lists increased in frequency while simultaneously decreasing in quality, you watched the collective trust in any one list diminish. Comment sections turned cynical, “this is clickbait!” being the most common refrain, then outright ugly and hostile as discourse on the internet has devolved into a garbage fire inside a waste processing plant atop a landfill built on a massive skunk burial ground.

Alexander explicitly positions his own writing as being a force for good in this mixed up, Facebook-algorithm-driven world:

From a content perspective, my final list overachieved. It got the proper number of engagements, and shares, and clicks, and all the other analytics boss folks use in the Billy Beane Moneyball era of journalism, and the video with Steve Stanich joyfully weeping got millions of views and I got to go on podcasts and radio shows and be interviewed by local newspapers. People could disagree with my picks (and they did!), but they couldn’t call what I’d done clickbait. I’d done the work. I’d made a good list.

But with Alexander’s new piece commenting on the matter, he unwittingly created that thing that he sought to avoid: A clickbait piece whose headline couldn’t deliver on the premise, and whose lack of context (conveniently ignored in service of a story that was too viral to check) ended up bringing more attention to Stanich’s problems. It’s a cautionary tale about cautionary tales.

If the narrative feels too convenient to be true, it frequently is.


Some things that might be worth your time:

All the best TVs I didn’t buy

I was hoping to snag a nice TV this Black Friday to upgrade from my current (discontinued) Panasonic 50″ plasma television. This Panasonic was one of the first things I bought when I first moved to Seattle many years ago and it’s served me well for both movies and videogames. Plasmas aren’t sleek and they eventually became commercially unviable, but their image quality is still great, even compared to what we have today.

The majority of TVs out there right now are LED and OLED screens (plus QLED, if you’re into that sort of thing). In looking for an upgrade, I wanted a TV that met the following conditions:

  • Significantly larger than my current TV (65″ and up)
  • Superior image quality to my current TV
  • Less than $1000

Turns out it was difficult to find a television that met all of these conditions. While OLED and high-quality LED prices for great TVs continue to decline, they still aren’t all that cheap.

I spent a lot of time researching which models would be best for my needs (Digital Trends and RTings were invaluable resources), so I thought I’d share some of my findings. Here are the TVs I seriously considered this Black Friday/Cyber Monday. I’ve linked to the 65″ models.:

TCL 6-series [Amazon, Best Buy]: This budget TV offers some great bang for your buck. It also features a Roku OS, which is super easy to use and contains lots of great services built in from the start. Unfortunately it’s been plagued by inconsistent panel quality, which produces clearly visible vertical bands in some models. Even at $800 for the 65″ model, I just couldn’t trust that this would deliver a better image quality than my current device.

Vizio P-Series [Amazon, Best Buy]: Vizio’s P-series delivers some great image quality, with some sophisticated full array local dimming. On the downside, these TVs have an OS that is very sluggish and difficult to use. On net, though, I actually wanted to buy one of these for about $900 but my local Best Buy ran out before I could pull the trigger. There’s also a P-Series Quantum that offers some advantages over the P-Series, but it is significantly more expensive and difficult to find in stock anywhere.

Sony X900F [Amazon, Best Buy]: Overall, a great TV with a responsive OS that’s well-reviewed (it also looked great on the Best Buy display wall) but its biggest downside is price. At around $1600 for a 65″ version, you’re getting up into OLED territory. And if you’re going to spend that much, why not just go all the way?

LG C8 [Amazon, Best Buy]: LG produces the best OLED panels in the industry, so it’s no surprise that their 8 series is considered the holy grail of OLED TVs. OLEDs produce some of the most gorgeous images available to consumers today, although I am nervous that I would experience screen burn-in while playing videogames. But the biggest downside is this TV is still pretty expensive. As of this writing, a 65″ C8 is still $2600. That’s just too high of a threshold for me, especially for a product that will likely be significantly cheaper in a year or two. Still, I’ll be saving up my ducats for this one and hoping that a killer deal eventually comes through.


Other TVs I considered not buying: I thought about getting the Samsung NU8000, which was also on sale this weekend,but having owned Samsungs at other times in my life I’ve been pretty unimpressed with their performance in dark rooms and their viewing angles, and it didn’t seem like the Nu8000 did a particularly great job of solving either of these issues. Samsungs are also still relatively expensive, given what you get.

The Vizio E-Series also seemed really appealing on a price level, but it doesn’t have as advanced local dimming as the P-Series and I wasn’t convinced that it would deliver better image quality than my existing Panasonic plasma.

Conclusion: There are a ton of great TVs out there, but I think I’m going to have to wait a little while longer before ones I want drop to a price that I consider to be palatable.

Am I missing any obvious solutions? Feel free to let me know in the comments below.

Creed II and the problem with modern boxing movies

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I love underdog sports films. There’s something about the balletic performances of talented athletes, the forging of the bonds of friendship, and the triumph of a group of determined folks against all odds that just gets to me at my core.

But recently, I’ve started to think I can’t enjoy boxing films anymore.

Other sports can be problematic for a variety of reasons. Football is still in the process of coping with an epidemic of CTE. Hockey can frequently be violent. But boxing is one of the only sports where the objective is to punch someone repeatedly until they pass out. It feels like a barbaric spectacle, with many parties being enriched as a massive audience cheers two people nearly beating each other to death. Boxing movies invite you into that audience and ask you to cheer too.

Of course, the Rocky films weren’t always about the spectacle. The first Rocky in particular was about the beauty of perseverance, and focused intensely on the Rocky/Adrian relationship. As the films went on, they mirrored Stallone’s other action franchise (Rambo) and became increasingly conventional, bombastic and unmoored from reality.

The problem with Creed I and II are that they add to the mythos, but they don’t really do anything to challenge or interrogate the ideas behind the franchise. The creation of the character of Adonis Creed (played with quiet intensity by Michael B. Jordan) is unquestionably a great achievement. But neither of the Creed films engage meaningfully with any of the interesting questions behind boxing as a modern acceptable profession.

Creed II in particular posits the concept of not boxing as an event greater sacrifice than boxing. On one side is Adonis Creed’s pride and his reputation as the heavyweight champion, but with a large possibility of a crippling or fatal injury. On the other: a fulfilling life with his family. In the end, Creed makes the predictable choice. The moral of the story is that might makes right. Boxing might not fix all your problems, but if you DO box, you should win. Winning is what gives you your value.

The films are the cinematic equivalent of comfort food, with fairly predictable arcs and endings. That doesn’t make them bad films, but it doesn’t make them particularly interesting ones either.


Here are a few things I’ve been reading this week:

What I’m thankful for this year (2018)

A non-exhaustive list, in no particular order:

  • I’ve had some health challenges this year, but overall I’m grateful that I continue to more or less get by, living in a city (Seattle) that’s beautiful, thriving, and whose best days are still ahead of it.
  • I’m thankful to be working for a company that is writing the future of how people interact with commerce and technology. It’s not a privilege I take lightly.
  • I’m thankful that the American people were given a voice in this year’s Midterm Elections and that as a result, some form of balance has been restored to our government. Trump’s legislative agenda, which has imperiled minority groups of all kinds, is dead for now.
  • As usual, I continue to be thankful for all the people who engage with me online, whether by reading my blog/newsletter, listening to my podcasts, or emailing me. Your engagement has been delightful, encouraging, and thought-provoking. And it reminds me why I do what I do.
  • I’m thankful for any and all the collaborators who’ve taken a chance on working with me (or who continue to do so). Any collaboration is always a leap of faith for all parties involved. I do my best not to underestimate the trust involved.
  • I’m thankful for Sony’s mirrorless cameras (and specifically the A7III and A6500), which have not only pushed the industry forward but have also pushed my photography forward too.
  • I’m thankful for my family, from my father who helps keeps our affairs in order, my mother who still makes me food and brings it to me in Tupperware containers, and my brother, who’s helped me put this blog together. They continue to play an important part of shaping who I am.
  • I’m thankful for the privilege of being married this year, for all the friends and family who came to celebrate with us, and for all I’ve learned about being a better person through it.
  • I’m thankful for the amazing year of videogames we’ve had, from the exceptional God of War to the hugely ambitious Red Dead Redemption 2. Many of my most memorable entertainment experiences have been through games this year.
  • Lastly, some film-related thanks:
    • I’m thankful for all the film-related podcasts I listen to (e.g. The Next Picture podcast, Filmspotting, Blank Check, among many others), the YouTube channels I subscribe to, and all amazing film writing I’m privy to reading each year. All of it continues to expand my mind, make me laugh, and remind me how much further I have to go.
    • I’m thankful for all the amazing movies I’ve been able to see this year, from big budget hits like Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, which show it’s still possible to make interesting choices on a massive scale. Meanwhile, smaller indies like Bodied, Sadie, and Prospect inspire me and show me that it’s still possible to create something great using sheer force of will.
    • I’m thankful to newsletters like Richard Rushfield’s The Ankler and Casey Newton’s The Interface, which have taught me not just the value of interesting, outside perspectives on technology and entertainment, but also the level of quality it takes to turn a newsletter into a business.
    • I’m thankful to any folks who continue to take chances on my work, like the fine people of Winchester, VA who screened The Primary Instinct this year. It reminded me of the power of movies and how things can still find an audience years after the fact.
    • Finally: AMC Stubs A-List, baby.

If you’re a new or longtime reader/listener, thanks so much. I’ll keep going for long as I can, and as long as you keep showing up.

The Darjeeling Limited Perspective

I love many of Wes Anderson’s films, but this video essay by Leon Thomas (AKA Renegade Cut) does a great job of identifying the flaws in one of Anderson’s weakest, The Darjeeling Limited.

Describing a late plot development, Thomas writes:

The brothers realize, after the first half of the movie plagued with infighting, that they have to stick together. All they were missing was a dead Indian boy. The child does the demanding work of dying tragically so that the privileged white Americans won’t have to die spiritually or emotionally. There is no joke here. The scene is played to tug at our heartstrings, and as quickly as the Indian boy is mourned, he is forgotten.

It’s all very brutal but accurate.