Son of God

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Lightworkers Media/20th Century Fox

Directed by Christopher Spencer

Produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett

Screenplay by Richard Bedser, Christopher Spencer, Colin Swash and Nic Young

Based on The History Channel Mini-Series “The Bible”

About halfway through SON OF GOD my wife Patricia leaned over and whispered to me; “How does this movie look to you?”

“What do you mean?” I whispered back.

“Doesn’t it kinda look like a TV movie to you?” she replied.

My answer as I squint at the screen; “Well, yeah…now that you mention it, it does.” In fact, earlier on I noticed some scenes that I recognized from The History Channel’s 10 hour mini-series “The Bible”. And there’s an excellent reason for that. SON OF GOD is a theatrical movie edited from the Jesus Christ episodes of the mini-series. Some extra scenes were shot, sure. But for all intents and purposes, if you’ve seen “The Bible” mini-series on TV then you’ve pretty much seen SON OF GOD.

This is a movie about Jesus Christ that is firmly and clearly made for true believers of the Christian faith and is not interested in being a revisionist or controversial re-telling. There’s no artistic vision or eccentric casting at work here as there was in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ”. That movie dealt with the doubts Jesus had about his life work but Diogo Morgado’s Jesus Christ is not doubtful or conflicted one little bit. He embraces his mission with a willing heart and warm smile. Morgado is extremely likeable as Jesus Christ. He’s no Jeffrey Hunter but he gets the job done and is a very convincing Jesus in his humility and accessibility to all. I got a huge kick out of a scene where he comes to a village and the kids squeal over him as if he were Justin Timberlake.

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SON OF GOD is very straightforward about telling it’s story in a no-nonsense manner that doesn’t leave any room for surprises as we all know how the story ends. And it does it in a manner that could almost be called ‘Jesus Christ’s Greatest Hits’. The movie doesn’t get into his relationship with John The Baptist at all. The Sermon on the Mount which was depicted in such a magnificent manner in Nicholas Ray’s outstanding “King of Kings” is actually kinda dull here. But we get Jesus walking on water. We get Jesus feeding the multitudes and raising Lazarus from the dead. But we barely get time to marvel at these miracles before we’re rushed to the next one. It’s as if the movie wants to speed right past the preliminaries and get to the main event: Jesus Christ’s arrest, trial, torture and crucifixion. It’s not presented in as graphic a manner as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” but it’s still plenty gory and wince-inducing. The movie ends on a strong inspirational high with the resurrected Jesus instructing his disciples to go into the world and preach the gospel.

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If SON OF GOD distinguishes itself from other film biographies of the life of Jesus Chris it’s in how it delves a little deeper into the political and racial conflicts between Romans and Jews as represented by Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) and Caiaphas (Adrian Schiller) instead on on the actual teachings of Jesus.

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How would I rate it compared to other movies about Jesus Christ? Well, my favorites are always going to be “King of Kings” starring Jeffrey Hunter which for me is the definitive film about Christ and “Jesus Christ Superstar” I’ve always found “The Greatest Story Ever Told” way too ponderous and dull. Franco Zeffirelli’s “Jesus of Nazareth” is probably the most comprehensive of all movies made about Jesus. I like and appreciate “The Last Temptation of Christ” for its audacity in exploring an alternate reality where Christ lives out his life as a mortal man.

I’d rate SON OF GOD somewhere around “Jesus of Nazareth” as it’s sorta like The Reader’s Digest version of that mini-series. SON OF GOD isn’t interested in trying to be controversial or daring or challenge your beliefs about Jesus Christ. It simply presents its story with conviction and performances that serve the needs of the material and no more. It’s not light entertainment but if you’re a Christian you’ll be pleased to know that this is a movie about Jesus Christ that celebrates his life and his message in a reverent and respectful fashion. Enjoy.

PG-13

108 Minutes

The LEGO Movie

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2014

Warner Animation Group/Village Roadshow Pictures

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Produced by Dan Lin and Roy Lee

Screenplay by Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Based on Lego Construction Toys

The only people I can see having a problem with THE LEGO MOVIE are the same Batman fans who had a problem with the animated TV series “The Brave and The Bold.” Like THE LEGO MOVIE, “The Brave and The Bold” wasn’t afraid to poke fun at Batman and lighten up the character. Plenty of Batman fans absolutely detested “The Brave and The Bold” as they thought it was outright blasphemy that any trace of humor or comedy should or could be associated with Batman. Those are the ones who need to stay away from this movie, then. Me, I got a kick out of a Lego Batman who flies around in a Lego Batplane with his girlfriend composing heavy metal songs about what it’s like to be Lego Batman.

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Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is a construction worker living in Bricksburg, a Lego city that apparently is one huge construction project. He cheerfully follows the instructions for his daily routine as laid out in his instruction manual and goes to work singing the only song that exists in this world; “Everything Is Awesome!” I song I guarantee you will absolutely not be able to get out of your head once you’ve heard it.

One day at work Emmet finds a mysterious red brick that seems to speak to him and gives him visions. He passes out and upon awakening finds the brick attached to his back and himself in the custody of Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson)  the chief henchman of Lord Business. (Will Ferrell) Lord Business has possession of The Kragle, a superweapon that he intends to use to freeze the various realms of The Lego Universe in place forever. The only thing that stands in his way is a prophecy that was spoken to him eight and a half years ago by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) that a person called The Special would use The Piece of Resistance to stop The Kragle.

Emmet is rescued by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) from the clutches of Bad Cop/Good Cop and takes him to Vitruvius who explains that there are Master Builders fighting against Lord Business, so named because they are capable of building anything they need out of Legos without need of an instruction manual, simply using their own creativity. Other Master Builders are Lego versions of characters we’re familiar with such as Batman (Will Arnett) Superman (Channing Tatum) Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders) Shaquille O’Neal (Shaquille O’Neal) Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) William Shakespeare. (Jorma Taccone) And a few other characters we’re meeting for the first time such as Metal Beard the Pirate (Nick Offerman) Benny The Space Guy (Charlie Day) and Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) a unicorn/anime kitten hybrid whose unrelenting optimism and upbeat cheerfulness borders on the frightening.

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Can Emmet overcome his lack of creativity and come up with a plan to unite The Master Builders into a team and defeat Lord Business? What is The Piece of Resistance and how exactly is it supposed to be used to stop The Kragle? And what is the secret of The Man Upstairs?

Finding out the answers to these questions is a delight for the audience to find out as the characters do and you’ll have a good time doing so. A movie like this walks a fine line in entertaining kids while keeping adults engaged and the adults at the showing of THE LEGO MOVIE Patricia and I attended sounded like they were having just as much fun as their kids. I know we were.

The more cynical among you would say that THE LEGO MOVIE is simply a 100 minute commercial to sell toys and you’d be wrong. The filmmakers have actually taken their time to tell a real story about creative freedom. Lord Business wants to lock everything into a set form, following a rigid set of rules and instructions while The Master Builders want everybody to be free to explore whatever it is they can dream up and create. But it doesn’t beat you over the head with that message and never forgets it’s supposed to be entertaining and funny as well. Chris Pratt is utterly charming as Emmet. Between this and “Guardians of The Galaxy” this is going to be a good year for him. Will Arnett walks off with the voice acting honors in this one as his Batman is so wickedly pompous. And Jonah Hill is right behind with his Green Lantern who so desperately wants to be Superman’s best bud and is constantly rebuffed by the Lego Man of Steel.

But it’s not really fair to single out one or two because everybody gets a chance to shine with their characters and get their funny lines or scenes as the rollercoaster plot takes us through various Lego worlds and to the final confrontation with Lord Business that definitely did not end the way I thought it would.

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So should you see THE LEGO MOVIE? By all means. It’s got terrifically colorful animation and and an outstanding voice cast. The story is simple enough for kids to grasp but witty enough that it doesn’t insult the intelligence of adults. This is the best kind of movie. One that does not want to do anything but entertain, make you feel good and send you home with a smile on your face.

Rated PG

100 minutes

The Pursuit of Happyness

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2006

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Gabriele Muccino

Produced by Will Smith, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, James Lassiter and Steve Tisch

Written by Steve Conrad

Most of us got to know Will Smith first as a light-hearted rapper and wildly talented comedic actor thanks to his hit records like “Parents Just Don’t Understand” “Miami” and “Summertime” as well as the TV show “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” He then moved smoothly and effortlessly into high action blockbuster movies like the two “Bad Boys” as well as “Independence Day” the “Men In Black” movies, “Enemy of The State” and “I, Robot.” And in movies such as the biopic “Ali” and “Seven Pounds” he proved he had the chops as a straight dramatic actor as well.

Will Smith quickly proved himself to be one of the most likeable and charming actors of our time.  Even when he’s in a turkey like “Wild Wild West” or “Hitch” he never fails to deliver a solid performance full of humor and professionalism.  One of the things I like about Will Smith is that he always looks as if he’s having a helluva good time making movies.  He’s just all around fun to watch.  But a lot of people forget that when he started out in movies in did so in dark dramas such as “Where The Day Takes You” and “Six Degrees Of Separation.”  THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS (and yes, happiness is spelled wrong for a reason the movie explains and I won’t, so now you’ve got another reason to go see it) is a dramatic movie that has a lot of Will Smith’s trademark humor.  But it’s there for a reason.  If the character Will Smith plays wasn’t able to have a sense of humor about his situation he’d probably have killed himself 45 minutes into the picture.

It’s 1981 and Chris Gardner (Will Smith) is a San Francisco salesman struggling to keep his family together.  He’s trying to sell bone density scanners to doctors who really don’t need them since they’re little more than fancy X-Ray machines.  His wife Linda (Thandie Newton) is worn out from working double shifts on her job and she can look in the mirror and see the old woman she’s becoming before her time and she hates it.  Their five-year-old son Chris (Jaden Smith) is like a lot of frighteningly perceptive five year olds that can sense the hostility between their parents but have no idea of what is causing it or how they can fix it.  The constant financial pressure is eroding the family and Chris knows that they’re one paycheck away from being homeless.  Using all of his salesmanship skills as well as his considerable charm he manages to get accepted into a six-month internship program with the prestigious stock brokerage firm Dean Witter.  Even though there’s no salary if he makes it through there’s the promise of an excellent paying job and more importantly, a stable and secure future for him and his family.

Linda isn’t prepared to wait the six months as she’s fed up with the whole situation.  She leaves for New York which leaves Chris as a single father balancing taking care of his son, trying to sell those damned bone density scanners to keep them eating as well as fulfilling his obligations to the internship program.  Chris just can’t catch a break, though.  He and his son are evicted from their apartment and then a hotel and in a frighteningly short amount of time Chris and his son find themselves homeless, carrying around their belongings in a suitcase and a couple of black plastic bags.  They sleep in subways and public bathrooms.  If they’re lucky and can make it in time they get a room at The Glide Memorial Church for the night so they can wash up and sleep in a real bed.

 

5d2cb487bd45c97cd958fdf009024a94Throughout all of this Chris uses the love and trust of his son to keep him focused on his goal: finishing the internship and getting the job.  None of his fellow interns or instructors knows that he’s homeless.  He takes care to keep his suits and dress shirts immaculate and he always shows up for work looking clean as the Board of Health.  When asked why he’s always carrying around a suitcase he’s never at a loss with a plausible excuse.  He has to do twice the work of his fellow interns in half the time since he has to be across town to pick up his son from the daycare and then race to the church to stand in line to hopefully get a room.  It’s a situation that would make a lot of us jump off the nearest bridge and drown ourselves.  And indeed, there are scenes where we see that the strain of maintaining the fiction that there’s nothing wrong with his life is scraping Chris’s nerves raw.  His son helps by telling him really bad jokes that never fail to make Chris laugh.  He insists that his dad kiss his Captain America action figure goodnight.  And in a truly heartbreaking scene the boy reaches out to his father at a crucial time when Chris is at his lowest and says softly; “You’re a good poppa.”

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS is a movie that would be so painful as to be unwatchable if it weren’t for the performances of Will Smith and his real life son Jaden.  The two of them are so resourceful, so patient and supportive of each other that very quickly you’ll find yourself rooting for this father/son team to pull themselves out of the unfortunate situation they’ve found themselves in.  The movie remind us that not everybody in the 80’s who found themselves homeless were crack addicts or mentally ill.  Many were hard-working people who simply made bad decisions.  And in our unforgiving society that’s all it takes: just a couple of bad decisions.

The movie works on a lot of levels: as a social commentary on the hoops that American society forces us to jump through in our mutual pursuit of happiness as well as a drama.  There are also a lot of moments of humor in the movie but they’re not forced and work amazingly well.  They provide a well-needed laugh to give us a release from scenes that are so painfully honest that only a person with a heart of stone could not be moved.

The movie sits on Will Smith’s shoulders since he’s on screen 99% of the movie’s running time and he’s more than capable of carrying the burden.  There’s never a moment when you don’t believe his performance.  He dials back his usual movie persona way back here and plays a recognizable human being we can relate to.  A lot of people are going to come away from this movie hating Thandie Newton’s character but they shouldn’t.  She’s not in the movie very long but she makes her pain and weariness plain.  Thandie Newton manages to do a lot of remarkable work with her brief screen time.  Look for Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson) as the instructor of Chris Gardner’s intern class.  And Jaden Smith is totally adorable as the young Chris.  I thought there was a nice little subtext to his devotion to his Captain America action figure but I’ll leave it for you guys to see if you saw the same thing I did.  The real life relationship between Jaden and Will gives the movie a lot of its emotional resonance and their scenes together are among the best in the movie.

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So should you see THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS?  You certainly should.  If you’re a Will Smith fan this is an opportunity to see him in what I suspect will come to be known as a really important role in his career.  No, it’s not an easy film to watch but it’s worth sitting through the pain for the payoff at the end  I think it’s important for us all to watch a movie like THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS if for no other reason than it get us to really look at the homeless guy on the corner and think about who he was once upon a time and what dreams and aspirations he pursued.

117 minutes

PG-13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All-Star Superman

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2011

Warner Bros. Animation/DC Comics

Directed by Sam Liu

Produced by Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Sam Register

Written by Dwayne McDuffie

Based on “All-Star Superman” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

For a long time now I’ve been trying to figure out why the live action superhero movies produced by Warner Brothers/DC Comics are so dour, so dark and so depressing. Technically they’re great looking movies and I have no problem with the acting, which is often excellent. And they make money, no doubt about that. But for me they don’t have the same thrill I get when I watch the animated movies. And for my money the finest superhero movies Warner Brothers/DC Comics are doing are not the live action but the animated ones.

There’s “Batman: Mask of The Phantasm” which I consider the best Batman movie made to date. WB/DC is banging its collective head bloody against a brick wall trying to make a live action Justice League movie when the animation guys already have made the two best Justice League movies to date: “Justice League: The New Frontier” and “Justice League: Doom.” What else? There’s “Batman: Gotham Knights” “Green Lantern: First Flight” “Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths” “Batman: Year One” “Superman vs. The Elite.” And “The Dark Knight Returns” all of which I recommend wholeheartedly.

Sure, they go into dark and dangerous waters emotionally occasionally and some of them may be a little too much for younger viewers. But they are so much more in tune with the spirit of these characters I’ve grown up reading about and love so much. In the animated DC Universe, the superheroes embrace their destiny as such and deal with it. In the live action movies, DC superheroes seem to be ashamed of being superheroes and spent most of their time trying to be reclusive and not accept the destiny they’ve inherited.

Which roundaboutly brings me to ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. I recently sat down to watch it again after I watched “Man of Steel” for the second time and I just wanted to watch a Superman movie I really enjoyed. I’ve seen “Man of Steel” twice now and have no desire to see it again. I’ve seen ALL-STAR SUPERMAN three times now and I no doubt will see it three more times as I enjoy watching it a lot more. Even though it’s a movie where Superman makes the ultimate sacrifice to save Earth and his beloved friends, it’s one of the most uplifting endings in any superhero movie because that’s what Superman does. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN stays true to the spirit of Superman in a way that “Man of Steel” doesn’t.

While rescuing the crew of a manned spaceship mission to the sun, Superman (James Denton) absorbs an overdose of solar radiation that boosts his superpowers to unreal levels (he can lift 200 quintillion tons one handed now) as well as increasing his intelligence. But his cells are oversaturated with power and ironically, the very thing that gives him his powers is now killing him. Superman resolves to spend whatever time he has left coming to terms with some unresolved issues in his life.

Two of those issues are the complicated relationships he has with Lois Lane (Christina Hendricks) and Lex Luthor (Anthony LaPaglia) who was the one who manipulated the crisis with the spaceship that exposed Superman to the increased radiation. Lex has been sentenced to death by the World Court and he cannot accept the idea that Superman will continue to live after him.

Superman reveals that he’s really Clark Kent to Lois who doesn’t believe it because if Superman really were Clark Kent, she’d have proved it years ago. He gives her a serum synthesized from his own DNA that gives her superpowers for 24 hours as a birthday present and they spend a wonderful day together going dancing in Atlantis and stopping an attack on Metropolis by intelligent dinosaurs living at the Earth’s core.

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Clark Kent interviews Lex Luthor in Stryker’s Prison in one of the best scenes in the movie as Lex explains his philosophy of the world, himself, Superman and even Clark Kent who is is surprised when Lex admits to liking and even respecting Clark. Their interview is cut short by The Parasite (Michael Gough) breaking out of his cell and going on a rampage, freeing the other prisoners in the process. It’s highly amusing to watch Clark having to keep both himself and Lex out of harm’s way while covertly using his superpowers to do so.

After settling other affairs such as finding a home for the citizens of the bottle city of Kandor, Superman then faces his final challenge as Solaris (Robin Atkin Downes), the computerized tyrant sun turns Earth’s sun blue.  Can Superman defeat both Solaris and a now super powered Luthor before his final hour is done?

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It couldn’t have been easy for Dwyane McDuffie to adapt a twelve issue comic book series into a 76 minute film but that he was able to do so is a fitting testament to his amazing talent as a writer. And wisely he doesn’t try to do so. What we get here is sort of a “greatest hits” of the comic book series. And those who watch this without having read the comic may be confused as to who Atlas and Samson are, where they came from and why they’re here but let’s face it, if you’ve bought into everything else that has happened so far, my advice is just to go with it.

And that’s perhaps the strength in the story here: since it’s a self-contained story told outside of the regular Superman continuity (whatever that is these days) the script can have Superman resolve how he feels about his friends, the greatest love of his life and his greatest enemy and thereby Just Go With It. Where lesser writers insist on bringing Superman down to human levels where we can ‘relate’ to him, Dwyane McDuffie’s script finds the humanity in Superman and allows us to relate to him not by diminishing his power but emphasizing and elevating his heart, his compassion and his never ending battle for Truth, Justice and The American Way.

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The voice actors do their job well. Christina Hendricks is no Dana Delaney (who is pretty much the definitive animated Lois Lane) but for me, she and Anthony LaPaglia are the standouts. James Denton doesn’t really make much of an effort to give Superman and Clark Kent distinctively different voices and that’s a no-no. And the animation does a great job of suggesting Quitely’s artwork without imitating it. The music score I thought was rather exceptional as well.

So should you see ALL-STAR SUPERMAN? I certainly think so. It’s not the twelve issue comic book series and doesn’t try to be. But what it is a story about Superman’s last days and his final adventure. It’s about him dealing with own mortality and trying to resolve his relationship with two of the most important people in his life: one who loves him and one who hates him. It’s simply a good movie and a great Superman story. Enjoy.

76 Minutes

Rated PG

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

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2014

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Mace Neufeld and David Barron

Screenplay by Adam Cozad and David Koepp

Based on characters created by Tom Clancy

About halfway through JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT I had the same feeling I did the first time I watched “Sneakers.” I felt like I was watching a really good “Mission: Impossible” movie. It’s a scene that involves Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) having to pretend he’s drunk so that he can slip away from the dinner he’s having with Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh) a powerful financier who is manipulating Russian and Chinese investments in America to bring about a second Great Depression. Jack has to break into Cherevin’s high tech office to hack his computer and download important evidence. Jack’s boss, Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner) has a team of expert CIA spies backing Jack up and the plan involves Jack’s girlfriend Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley) keeping Cherevin at the dinner table while Harper’s team has to pickpocket Cherevin’s security card, get it to Jack, get him in and out of the office and then return the card to Cherevin all without him knowing.

Sounds a lot like an episode of “Mission: Impossible” right? Jim Phelps and his team used to do stuff like this all the time. And that’s a large part of the problem with JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT. A lot of it felt like stuff I had seen before. Not that it’s bad stuff. JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT is a well-made movie. It’s just that it’s not all that exciting or shows us anything new we haven’t seen in a dozen other action thrillers.

It also didn’t exactly grab me that this movie isn’t based on any of the Tom Clancy novels about Jack Ryan but an origin story cooked up by screenwriters Adam Cozad and David Koepp. Why in the world they felt that Jack Ryan needed an origin story is beyond me. When we first met Jack Ryan in 1990’s “The Hunt For Red October” the movie just threw us into the adventure and filled us in on Jack Ryan’s background if and when it was needed. This movie spends a considerable amount of time showing us Jack’s grief upon seeing the 9/11 attack on TV while he’s attending school in London and then his crippling injuries he receives in a helicopter crash while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. It’s during his extensive rehab he meets the two most important people in his life; Cathy Muller who will be his wife and Thomas Harper who will be his boss and mentor as Jack goes to work for the CIA.

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Jack spends ten years working as a compliance officer on Wall Street but his real job for the CIA is to look for suspicious financial transactions that would indicated the financing of terrorist operations against the U.S. Jack does indeed find something strange about trillions of dollars being manipulated by the companies owned by Cherevin and he’s sent to Russia to check it out and see what’s going on. Harper believes that the missing money is tied into some activity at the UN, including a key vote that the Russian Federation lost.

Yawning yet? I wouldn’t blame you if you were. We’re not talking James Bond type of spying here or even Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt. The movie so far is essentially about bankers looking for money that other bankers are hiding. There’s nothing remotely exciting about Chris Pine repeatedly pointing at a computer screen and yelling excitedly; “There, there! See that?” and it’s a bunch of stock quotes.

In fact, there’s an assassination attempt on Jack’s life that makes no sense and I’m convinced was thrown in there simply because something has to happen to keep the audience interested in the plot. As is the terrorist attack thrown into the last twenty minutes of the movie in order that we have a car/motorcycle chase and a desperate race against time.

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Chris Pine is a very likeable actor and works his moneymaker off trying to bring Jack Ryan to life but he just can’t do it. I’ve always thought that the financial success of the two Jack Ryan movies starring Harrison Ford was due more to Harrison Ford being the world’s number one action movie star at that time than audiences wanting to see a new Jack Ryan adventure because Jack Ryan really isn’t all that interesting a character. He’s a desk jockey who crunches numbers. There’s a brief scene on a plane late in the movie where the script tries to impress us with how Jack can see complex patterns where others can’t while Cathy and Harper just stare at him in amazement but it comes far too late to make a real impact.

And it really is kind of a stretch for Jack, who has been working at a desk for ten years and by his own admission has had only three weeks of operational training can not only barehanded kill trained assassins but drive cars in high speed chases like Goggles Pisano. I mean, I can throw my suspension of disbelief out the window if needs be but I’ve got a problem with a screenplay that tries to have it both way. You either give me a Jack Ryan who’s just getting his feet wet in the world in international espionage and learning the skills he’ll need to do so or give me one who is a seasoned pro and knows what he’s doing. Jack switches back and forth between the two personas when the script needs him to be one or the other.

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Movies of this type are successful largely on the bad guy and in this, JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT fails miserably. Kenneth Branagh’s Cherevin is no Auric Goldfinger or Ernst Stavro Blofeld which is what the character really needed to be and what the movie needed. Cherevin is a poor excuse for a movie villain and Branagh goes through the movie with that “Moose Und Skwirl” Russian accent I simply can’t take seriously.

What else? Keira Knightley looks gorgeous, as usual, but is wasted as Cathy spends most of her screen time nagging at Jack for no reason at all and she’s only in the story because there needs to be a damsel in distress. Kevin Costner does his usual professional job and looks as if he’s actually enjoying himself. Kenneth Branagh does double duty as director as again, he disappoints. I’ve seen “Thor” so I know that Branagh knows how to direct action scenes but here it looks as if he was trying to copy the fight scenes from the Jason Bourne movies directed by Paul Greengrass and that wasn’t a good stylistic choice at all.

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I guess by now you get the point that I didn’t like JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT. It’s not so much I didn’t like it as I was disappointed. I always am when I see so much good talent used in such a lackluster movie that does not thrill me or make me glad I went to see it. Wait for this one to show up on Netflix.

105 Minutes

PG-13

 

Better In The Dark #155 and #156

Episode 155: BITD AUTOPSY ON…THE FOLLOWING!
It’s time for The Boys Outta Brooklyn to enter the BITD Coroner’s Office and cut open another media enterprise.  This time out it’s Fox Television’s serial killing Bag O’ Stupid, THE FOLLOWING!  Join Tom and Derrick as they explain how this Kevin Bacon vehicle violates simple narrative principles, and why Kevin Williamson needs to get kicked in the butt ever day.  And if that isn’t enough–what’s up with our dynamic duo at the end of this episode!  You know an English accent doesn’t make you evil, so get to clicking (and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @BITDShow)!
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Episode 156: BITD Autopsy On The 2014 Season In Song
The Boys Outta Brooklyn returns to the Coroner’s Office for the second episode in a row, this time to tackle the latest TV season. Find out what Tom and Derrick think about racist Martin Mull, cosplay Eliza Dushku, Anna Faris’ Adventures in Chuck Lorre Land, and James Spader’s Lex Luthoring. All this, plus a rather longish digression into the nature of pop music, including Tom saying nice things about Katy Perry! You know there’s life after Auto-Tune, so get to clicking (and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @BITDShow)!
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The Wolf Of Wall Street

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2013

Paramount Pictures

Directed by Martin Scorsese

Produced by Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Riza Aziz, Joey McFarland, Emma Tillinger Koskoff

Screenplay by Terence Winter

Based on “The Wolf of Wall Street” by Jordan Belfort

I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. With THE WOLF OF WALL STREET this now makes five movies Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have collaborated on and I’ve enjoyed all of them (yes, even “Shutter Island. So there.) up to now. It’s not that THE WOLF OF WALL STREET is a bad movie. At this point I don’t think that Scorsese or DiCaprio are capable of making a bad movie. But for me this wasn’t a very enjoyable or even satisfying movie.

It’s the story of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) who in 1987 becomes a stockbroker at a well-established Wall Street firm. He’s as green as a Christmas tree until he’s mentored by his boss, Mark Hanna (Matthew McConaughey in a totally hilarious extended cameo) who introduces Belfort to cocaine and encourages him to adopt a lifestyle totally dedicated to making money and then spending it in as lavish a lifestyle as that money will buy.

To achieve this, Belfort decides to open his own firm, going into partnership with Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill) and hiring his friends, most of them petty drug dealers who Belfort trains to become as ruthless as he is in selling penny stocks. What are penny stocks you ask? Don’t worry if you don’t know. In one of the many breaking the fourth wall scenes in the movie, Belfort looks right at us in the audience and explains what they are and how he is able to manipulate them to grow his firm from working out of a dilapidated garage into a billion dollar company.

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And as the company grows, so does the excess. Belfort throws lavish parties in his home and in the office. Parties with plenty of drugs, hookers and booze. Belfort quickly becomes hooked on coke, Quaaludes and prostitutes but his real addiction remains making and spending money. Money that comes in so quickly and in such quantity that he soon is being investigated by FBI agent Patrick Denham (Kyle Chandler) With the help of Brad Bodnick (Jon Bernthal) another one of his drug dealing friends, Belfort begins transferring money out of the country and into a Swiss bank. Belfort is starting to hear words from friends and family he doesn’t like. Words like “securities fraud” and “stock manipulation” which can earn you a twenty-five year government sponsored vacation, if you know what I mean. With the threat of the FBI breathing down his neck and his home life in shambles, what’s a multi-millionaire drug addict to do?

 

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THE WOLF OF WALL STREET isn’t a story with a lot of surprises or twists and turns in the plot. We’ve seen it all before in other movies. In fact, if you’ve seen 2000’s “Boiler Room” starring Giovanni Ribisi, Vin Diesel and Ben Affleck then you have seen it as that earlier movie was also based on Jordan Belfort’s story. But for me it really isn’t a movie with much of a story at all. And even though I enjoy scenes of debauchery as much as the next guy, after the ninth or tenth scene of DiCaprio and his cohorts banging hookers while snorting blow offa their boobs I was tired of it already. You don’t have to keep hitting me over over the head with it. I get it, these guys like getting high and screwing prostitutes. Okay, fine. Let’s move on and tell the story.

I will say that when the movie goes into comedy mode it is very funny. There’s a scene where Belfort overdoses on Quaaludes that is absolutely hysterical and had not only myself but the entire audience Patricia and I saw the movie with crying with laughter. Yes, it’s that funny. As I mentioned earlier, Matthew McConaughey is also very funny in his brief but pivotal scenes. Jonah Hill continues to amaze me as I don’t find him funny at all in his comedies but he always makes me laugh when he’s being funny in a drama. Rob Reiner and Kyle Chandler also provide more than able backup in supporting roles as does Margot Robbie as Naomi Belfort. She’s a triple threat in that she’s unbelieveably gorgeous, wonderfully talented as an actress and gloriously uninhibited. I was pleasantly and delightfully surprised to see Jon Favreau and Joanna Lumley also show up doing their usual excellent work.

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But this is a movie that has a story that we’ve all seen way too many times already. It’s the rags-to-riches story of a guy with no conscience who rises to the mountaintop of power and wealth and brought down low by his flaws and weaknesses. There are plenty of individual scenes I liked a lot and made me laugh but taken as a whole, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET disappointed me. Still, it is a Scorsese/DiCaprio collaboration so that makes it worth one viewing at least. But if I were you, I’d wait to Netflix it. This isn’t a movie you have to rush to the theaters to see unless you’re a major Scorsese or DiCaprio fan.

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One word of advice: the movie is rated R but I honestly think that it earned and should have gotten the NC-17. There are many scenes with graphic language, drug use and explicit sex. This is a movie that pushes the R rating as far as it can go and I ain’t lying. In fact, I can’t remember the last movie I saw before this one that used the ‘F’ word and it’s variations so many times. So don’t go see it and then complain about the language, nudity, sex scenes and drug usage ‘cause I’m telling you. It’s there, there’s a lot of it and Martin Scorsese ain’t the least bit shy about showing it to you.

Rated R

179 Minutes