Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Ethan Hunt

When I think of Mission: Impossible, I think of the old sixties series with Mr. Phelps, played by Peter Graves, as an aging leader to a crack team of secret agents given the missions no one else can accomplish. I also think of Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. And although Hunt works best alone, he would give his life for any member of his team.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

For today’s Wednesday Warriors, I’d like to have a look at Ethan Hunt: his strengths, his weaknesses and why he always makes the Mission: Impossible franchise a treat to watch.

A long time ago, I once saw Tom Cruise on Oprah—no, not the couch-jumping episode. In this episode, he described Mission: Impossible as one of his most successful movies he had made. Many folks have their opinions about Tom Cruise the man, but I have my opinion of Tom Cruise the actor. Say what you will, the man can act. I use Magnolia as one of the best films he had ever starred. No one can convince me that after watching the quietly-judging-you scene he didn’t deserve an Oscar for that performance.

Yet, as much as I admire his dramatic roles, his action roles, including his role in the film Edge of Tomorrow, is where Cruise really shines as a big audience draw.

Mission: Impossible - Rogue NationEnter Ethan Hunt, the Impossible Missions Force‘s (IMF) top agent and leader. His expertise lies in virtually everything. He has an extensive background in explosives, weaponry and stealth. He can get in and out of a target’s home and before anyone knows what is happening, the target will have met its fate.

Ethan is also a master of disguise. One time he posed as an elderly man taking his enemy by surprise, disarming and capturing him. He also has a good command of languages, useful for when he needs to get himself out of a jam.

Martial arts? Ethan knows that, too. Whenever an adversary presses Ethan for a fight to the death, it isn’t difficult to know who will win.

But the best thing I enjoy about Ethan Hunt is not so much his mastery of disguise, command of languages, or him being a martial arts expert. No. What I like about Ethan is his ability to get out of one jam after another while showing his humanity along the way. Whether he’s fighting for his life on a speeding train, racing down a highway on a motorcycle at 140 MPH, or latching his fingers on the belly of an aircraft with the intention of securing its cargo, Ethan Hunt does the impossible. He will take the shots, in not only opportunities but also punches to the face, and fight the bad guy until the end.

Lastly, Ethan Hunt possesses a will never to surrender. In every mission he picks himself up, dusts the dirt from his clothes and continues his fight against the enemy, whoever that enemy is.

If I can say anything more about Ethan Hunt, it’s that he will do his best in whatever assignment he has going at the time. To me, such a character is a great lesson for any of us facing challenges greater than ourselves.

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Have you seen any of the Mission: Impossible movies? What are your thoughts on Ethan Hunt?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Mitch McDeere

Whenever I think of superheroes, I think of Batman and his ability to pass through the shadows undetected; Superman, and his power to repel bullets; Captain America and his super strength; Iron Man and his flare with a super suit; and finally, Black Widow, who is an expert at stealth and deception.

Tom Cruise as Mitch McDeere
Tom Cruise as Mitch McDeere

And whenever I think of heroes—movie heroes—I think of the ones people would least likely chose. For instance, Ray Kinsella fits perfectly in the mix as the farmer who builds a baseball field in the middle of nowhere in the film Field of Dreams. And then there’s Lester Burnham who rebels against a midlife crisis to find his way back in the drama American Beauty.

But of all the fictional heroes I enjoy watching over and over again on the small screen, Mitch McDeere (Tom Cruise) of the film The Firm has to be the most fascinating of them all.

For those wondering who Mitch McDeere is—he’s one of the top Ivy League graduates of his class, lands a position at the prestigious law firm Bendini, Lambert and Locke in Memphis, and is a faithful husband to a beautiful wife.

Tom Cruise is Mitch McDeere
Tom Cruise is Mitch McDeere

During the time of his recruitment, the firm offers him a position as a junior lawyer. They don’t stop there. They give him a brand new Porsche, which he chooses black as its color, a new house to live in at the cost of a no-interest loan, a new office complete with his own secretary, and all sorts of other delights I can’t remember offhand, but I’m sure they are also top of the line frills.

Everything seems perfect to Mitch. The perfect wife. The perfect car. The perfect house. And the perfect job.

What Mitch doesn’t know, however, is all that goodness comes at a price.

The first thing to go is his time with his wife. He’s the first to show up at work and the last to leave. He works on weekends and doesn’t have the time to even study for the bar exam, which, incidentally, the firm guarantees he will pass if he maintains the strenuous pace he’s been following.

Of course, there’s one thing the firm didn’t tell him, and that’s the fact that they will supply all the rewards, luxuries and services, but in return Mitch is theirs. The firm integrates with every aspect of his life from his professional life as a lawyer to personal life, picking the furniture that goes into his home. What’s more? The firm takes an active interest in ensuring they have their hooks in him completely by encouraging him to have a child. In their view, he’s less likely to leave if he has a family to look after.

Now, before you begin thinking that Mitch got a raw deal and can’t get out, which I happen to agree with, he devises a plan. The thing is, the plan is so intricate and so complex, that he becomes that which he never thought he’d become—an enemy of the firm.

When I think of Mitch McDeere, I think of a character trapped in a life that looked great on the outside, but rotten to the core on the inside. It took him time to figure that out and a resolve few people possess. Yet, when he did figure it out, he escaped his old life and began anew. A new life. A new identity. And a new goal that doesn’t lead to a superficial victory.

Mitch McDeere is today’s Wednesday Warrior.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

Have you seen The Firm? What do you think about Mitch McDeere?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Ray Ferrier

One of the most unforgettable movie-going events my wife and I experienced happened ten years ago when we went to watch Steven Spielberg‘s War of the Worlds. We were in Nova Scotia at the time, and it was two years after Hurricane Juan had hit the Dartmouth/Halifax area. Naturally, we were all apprehensive when storms were brewing off the coast that summer, and that night was no exception. To add to the creepiness, it was ice-cold inside the theater. I was sure it would take me a week to thaw from the air conditioning.

Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier
Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier

If you’ve been following this site long, you’ll know I write my feature Wednesday Warriors for those characters I feel are larger than life or strong in overcoming tribulation. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is one of those characters.

I have to say one thing about Tom Cruise. A lot of folks are not into Tom Cruise the man, mainly for his views on psychology or his ties with Scientology or the highly publicized couch-jumping incident on Oprah. War of the Worlds came out while he was courting Katie Holmes. However, regarding Tom Cruise the actor, it is my opinion he is one of the most overlooked actors in the film industry. He should have won an Oscar for his work in Magnolia. The characters he portrays have a quiet vulnerability that shows well on the big screen.

Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier
Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier

The film War of the Worlds revolves around a father’s quest to protect his children at all costs. Not alien, human or anything else can get in his way to earning the title “Dad”. In a story where one thing goes wrong after another, and the state of the main characters spirals into a dark pit of depression, Ray takes it upon himself to keep everyone sane and safe.

Dealing with an alien invasion is one thing, but in this movie, the audience can feel the frost as Ray’s breath turns to vapor while dashing between buildings with the hope of seeing the storm that is brewing overhead. Unknown to him, the storm is more than a natural occurrence. The churning in the sky signals an ominous force ready to change his life and the lives of those he loves.

Unlike the regular Hollywood heroes who can fight through anything and come out of a battle unscathed, Ray has a complex personality. He’s not likable. He’s not the best father in the world. And, if anything, he is one of the most selfish characters a moviegoer will ever encounter. But when the invasion finally hits, Ray’s instincts kick in and he becomes the one who leads those who depend on him for freedom.

Ray’s fears take a major role in the plot, making him as ordinary as the audience viewing his growth throughout the film. What was once a man filled with assertion of his abilities, transforms into an unlikely hero with weaknesses and vulnerabilities. The key to Ray is his kids. Without his kids, he might as well not live, as denoted in one scene where he had to let one of them go.

Soon after having watched the film and exiting the theater, it had begun to rain. My wife and I dashed to our car and wondered if an alien invasion was in the midst of those clouds.

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you seen War of the Worlds? What are your thoughts about Ray Ferrier in the film?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Ethan Hunt

No matter how many iterations Mission: Impossible will go through, versions, remakes, reboots—I will always be a fan. And no matter how many heroes/anti-heroes the series gives birth to, I will always be a fan.

Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt

What makes Mission: Impossible such a great TV/movie series to follow is not only the awesome music—does anyone not know the Mission: Impossible theme?—but also the premise to the franchise. The premise is simple, spies try to outwit each other in a game of cat and mouse until there’s a winner. There’s more to it than that, but as a general rule, that’s what Mission: Impossible is all about.

In the Sixties, the coolest part of the series is the self-destructive tape recorder Mr. Phelps (Peter Graves) has five seconds from which to escape. The other part is the pull-away masks. These two items is the meat and potatoes of the Mission: Impossible series that carries over remake after remake. No matter how many versions I’ve seen of the series, how many times have I seen an MI agent remove a face and trick us all into believing the agent was someone else?

As a leader and a very smart individual, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is one of those agents. He has the cool gadgets. He has the masks to boot. However, nothing in his box of magic does he pull off the greatest spy capers without the help of his loyal team.

The current incarnation makes Ethan into an action hero. He can do anything. He can hop out of planes, drive fast cars, blow away enemy agents with his dead-accurate aim, and he can wow a woman simply by his charm. If I didn’t know better, he was a superhero.

Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise

Ethan’s big thrill is to catch an enemy agent in the act. If that means he has to scale a castle wall, knock out four guards, dive through a corridor booby-trapped by lasers, then that’s what Ethan will do. He will do whatever it takes to get the job done.

The cool gadgets are a bonus. From pen lasers to invisible ink, Ethan has it all. The best gadget however, is the one he uses against another agent during a dinner meeting. Green light, red light is how Ethan puts it. He bends a piece of chewing gum in half and tosses the piece on the face of an aquarium. It is one of the most thrilling scenes in the series. I believe it’s the same scene where he says, “Upset? You haven’t seen me upset.”

Lastly, what would Ethan Hunt be without his team? He needs the help of other agents to accomplish his missions. His team consists of experts in the field of technology, physics and the human condition. They follow his lead in everything. The tougher the mission, the more his team provides their loyalty to him.

What else can one say about Wednesday Warriors‘ Ethan Hunt? He’s a secret agent. Knowing that, he might as well be a superhero.

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RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

Have you watched any of the Mission: Impossible shows or movies? What do you like about it?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Claudia

They are flesh and blood, but not human. Probably haven’t been human for hundreds of years. Some might call it being born into darkness. For a little girl who has lost her parents to the plague in New Orleans, it certainly feels that way.

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia
Kirsten Dunst as Claudia

As Women Who Wow Wednesday continues its month-long tribute to women who rock Horror, which began last week with Maleficent, let’s examine the short life of Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) the vampire from the movie Interview with the Vampire, based on the book written by Anne Rice.

In 1791, Louis du Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt) is only twenty-four when Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise) turns him into a vampire. Before then, as the master of a large plantation, just south of New Orleans, Louis’ riches meant nothing to him. He’d lost his wife and child months earlier, and he longed for death. Young, vibrant, full of life, Lestat cuts Louis’ life short in an act of pure selfishness. Some may say, though, Lestat imparted Louis the essence of eternal life. However, how eternal is a life if it rests in the throes of damnation?

Claudia’s parents die by the plague. With the desire of wanting to revive her mother, the five-year-old asks Louis for help. Instead of bringing her mother back from the dead, a power Louis does not possess, he feeds off Claudia short of taking her life. Leaving her for dead, and with Louis’ conscience tearing at him for having drained Claudia of her life, Lestat bestows upon her eternal life, thus making her a vampire just like them.

Unlike Louis, whose manner of killing involves butchering animals but not people, Claudia’s hunger for blood has no bounds. From the moment Lestat made her into a predator, Claudia shows no regard for human life. Housekeepers fall to her scheming, leading Lestat to scold her, “Now, who will we get to finish your dress? There’s a practicality here! Remember, never in our home!”

Interview with the Vampire's Claudia
Interview with the Vampire’s Claudia

In the early days, Claudia’s victims died quickly. As time passes, she learns how to play with them, delaying the moment until she takes what she wants. No one is safe. She uses her diminutive appearance to draw victims into her arms. Shopkeepers easily surrender their goods to the vicious killer. Even her piano teacher dies at her hands, prompting Lestat once again to ask, “Claudia, what have we told you?” Of course she remembers, “Never in the house.”

One day, Claudia sees a woman bathing, then realizes she will never grow older than the eternal child she is. She discovers the truth, provoking her to loathe both Louis for taking her life and Lestat for giving her another. However, she also realizes she and Louis are in the same predicament, locked together in hatred.

But she admits, she can’t hate Louis.

As the story goes, Claudia takes vengeance upon Lestat, breaking one of the everlasting laws among vampires—vampire shall not kill vampire. As opposed to physical strength, she uses stealth and cunning to do it. Those attributes make Claudia one of the most feared fictional characters in Horror. It’s also the reason she takes one of the top spots in Women Who Wow Wednesday. She proves someone doesn’t have to bulge with muscle in order to get things done.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

If you’ve seen Interview with a Vampire, what did you think of Kirsten Dunst’s portrayal of Claudia?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Salt

Imagine someone close to you accuses you of betrayal. What would your reaction be? Disbelief? Shock? Anger? Or would you dismiss it as another play from someone willing to do anything to get to you? The options are endless. How about the source? Where did the accuser get their information? How reliable is it? Does the source have a history of exaggerating facts with wild suggestions and ideas? Has the source proven unreliable in the past? The motive can be anything. What if the conspiracy is so farfetched that it would be difficult for anyone not to believe the accuser? Salt is this week’s highlight for Women Who Wow Wednesday.

Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt
Angelina Jolie is Evelyn Salt

Initially securing Tom Cruise as Edwin Salt, an undercover operative, the film’s writers had to rework the script after Cruise had abandoned the project and Angelina Jolie stepped in to fill his shoes. The first order of business was the name change from Edwin Salt to Evelyn Salt.

Not wanting to give away any plot points or even discuss anything about Evelyn Salt’s covert predicament since it would suggest some form of spoiler, I’m going to concentrate only on one particular event in the film—the interrogation scene and everything leading up to it.

In a dank prison in North Korea, Evelyn Salt undergoes extensive questioning. Let’s not kid ourselves—she’s tortured. The North Koreas accuse her of being an American spy. They have evidence she’s working for the CIA. She denies it. They don’t believe her. They drag her from her cell wearing just her bra and panties. They restrain her and ask again if she’s working for the CIA. She again denies it. They hold open her mouth, stick a tube down her throat and pour into it a nasty liquid. It’s not certain if it’s oil or gasoline.

She chokes, denies ever working for anyone, and begs for mercy. Her spine-chilling screams echo throughout the prison. But she doesn’t give them anything. Again, they torture her in an attempt to compel her to talk. And again, she gives them nothing.

It isn’t until her boyfriend kicks up a fuss with the American Embassy, sending letters to Congress, and igniting a political firestorm that her tormentors release her into the hands of the CIA. Battered and bruised, she falls under the comforting arm of her boss and wonders aloud why they released her—she should be dead. Her boyfriend loves her so, and because of that love and political pull, she again saw the light of day.

Evelyn Salt
Evelyn Salt

Two years later a Russian defector surrenders to the CIA and Salt is brought in to interrogate him. Naturally, the CIA tactics contrast those of the North Koreans in that Salt calmly sits on one side of a table in a cold, yet highly watched room, while the defector sits on the other.

He has something to tell her. Something very important. Something that will change her life forever. But how credible is he? Can she trust him? Where did he get his information? Who is his source?

And this is why I love the character Evelyn Salt. In her time of uncertainty, her vulnerabilities are her greatest strengths. Her intuition is her best defense. She withstood torture, degradation, and even cheated death, but never gave up in her time of almost-permanent defeat. As shocking as her agony was, her victory came with her silence protecting the government with whom they had accused her of conspiring.

Author’s note—There, I hope I didn’t reveal too much. Those were the first ten to fifteen minutes of the film. Yeah, no kidding. Trust me when I say, Salt is one of the most interesting characters I’ve had the opportunity to research. I may write a Part II to this post one day. We’ll see, though.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

If you’ve seen Salt, have you ever felt like you needed to watch the movie again? What did you like about Angelina’s portrayal of the protagonist?