Paramount Pictures has set a Dec. 16, 2011 release date for "Mission: Impossible 4."  Tom Cruise will make an unexpected return as Ethan Hunt in the J.J. Abrams produced sequel, but the "Star Trek" director won't helm the latest "mission."  Instead, reports continue to circulate that animation maestro Brad Bird ("The Incredibles," "Ratatouille") will make his feature directing debut on the event flick.

"Mission: Impossible 4"
will be going up against the third "Alvin and the Chipmunks" feature on the weekend of the 16th.  The only other picture current slated for release in that timeframe is Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's "The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn" on Dec. 23.  Both tentpoles are being distributed by Paramount so even if "Tintin" is just for kids, it may be too close for comfort for both releases (let alone egos) and "Unicorn" could adjust its release date.

Abrams' upcoming Sci-Fi thriller "Super 8" was also confirmed today for a Summer 2011 release.  The "don't call it a prequel to 'Cloverfield'" project will fit in to Abrams' shooting schedule before "Star Trek 2."

Cruise's next release is the action comedy "Knight and Day" on June 25.