Movies

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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2014

Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios

Directed by Anthony and Joe Russo

Produced by Kevin Feige

Written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely

Based on “Captain America” created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby

I think that the thing I take away from seeing CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER besides my admiration for the excellent acting performances and the complicated yet meticulously laid out plot is that the talent involved in the crafting of the Marvel Cinematic Universe respect their characters. You can’t mistake an Iron Man movie for a Thor movie or a Captain America movie. Each of these characters have their own worlds inside of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and we should be rightly exploring each of those worlds in the solo movies featuring these characters. And so with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER we get a story concerned the role of espionage organizations and what their ethics should be. Themes such as sacrificing personal freedoms so that we can be “safe.” National security and how far our government should go to pursue that security. The compromises made against the privacy of American citizens. Those are some heavy themes for what is supposed to be “just” a superhero movie. But then again, Captain America has never been “just” a superhero.

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Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is settling into 21st Century life quite well after the events of “The Avengers.” He’s working as a card-carrying S.H.I.E.L.D. agent now and his latest mission finds him partnered with Natasha Romanoff aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson)  They have to recover a S.H.I.E.L.D. freighter/spy ship that’s been hijacked by the bloodthirsty mercenary Batroc (Georges St. Pierre) a master of the French martial art of kickboxing known as Savate. The mission is success but Steve is naturally upset that The Black Widow’s mission on the ship was unrelated to his. A mission personally given her by the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Colonel Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)

The mission she was on concerned retrieving encrypted data about Project: Insight, a preemptive strike program involving spy satellites and three Helicarriers (where do they keep getting the money for those things?) And the data is responsible for the very infrastructure of S.H.I.E.L.D. being put into serious jeopardy and it isn’t long before Captain America and The Black Widow find themselves declared traitors and on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. with their only allies either dead or trying desperately to save their own asses. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s elite S.T.R.I.K.E. team leads the hunt for the fugitives along with the mysterious and deadly Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) whose combat skills, amplified with his cybernetic arm may make him the equal of and possibly superior to Captain America.

Now, even though The Winter Soldier is being held up for much of the movie’s running time as the movie’s villain, the real villain of the movie is the morals of politics and national security. As the characters battle each other physicals they’re also battling the lies that have been told to them and that they’ve told to the nation they’re protecting. But who are they really protecting? And why?

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Like I said earlier, the plot is pretty complicated. But because the movie takes the time to delve into these themes and a government conspiracy plot Tom Clancy would have loved, CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER is about much more than characters punching each other because since this is a superhero movie then somebody has to be getting punched every few minutes.

The acting in CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER is really good. Chris Evans gives a speech at one point that sells the soul of Captain America. He also gets some nice scenes where he gets to show that even though Steve Rogers has acclimated to the 21st Century, he’s still a man out of time. He and Scarlett Johansson have some really great chemistry together. And due to the contrast in the moral ideologies in the two characters it makes for some nice friction in how they go about working together to find out what’s broken in S.H.I.E.L.D. and how they’re going to fix it.

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It’s no surprise that Samuel L. Jackson is terrific because since when is Sam Jackson not terrific? Cobie Smulders provides more than able backup as Maria Hill and newcomer Anthony Mackie fits in with the established cast as if he had been a part of the MCU right from the start. Seeing Captain America and The Falcon in action together on the big screen made a ten year old kid outta me. Robert Redford knocks it out of the park as Alexander Pierce, an senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official. An actor of his stature and talent gives an added weight to every scene he’s in and since his name was one of those mentioned back in the 1970’s and ‘80’s as playing Captain America whenever a theatrical movie was rumored, I thought it was nice to find such a meaty role for him here.

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That’s not to say I loved every moment of it. I’ll never forgive this movie for what it does to Jasper Sitwell. There was one point I found myself scratching my head wondering why Steve and Natasha just didn’t call Tony Stark for help (I figured the events of “Iron Man 3” must have been happening at the same time as this movie and so Tony had his own problems to worry about) And for a covert espionage agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. sure seems to like operating out in the open a whole lot. Including waging war right in the streets of Washington, D.C. And the fight scenes at times got a little too fast and frenetic for me. I appreciate seeing who got hit and how they got hit. Still, the fight choreography did a fantastic job of displaying the speed, power and agility of Captain America in combat which is what I wanted to see.

So should you see CAPTAIN AMERICA:THE WINTER SOLDIER? Absolutely YES. This movie makes a daring move in changing the status quo of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a major way, one that I didn’t see coming and establishes that this is going to be a universe that will change and grow with each new movie. It’s also a whole lotta fun. It’s such a kick for me to be able and go to the movies to see my favorite Marvel superheroes up on the big screen and presented in a way I could only dream of as a kid. It’s a good time for Marvel superhero fans. Enjoy.

PG-13

136 Minutes

Sabotage

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2014

Albert S. Ruddy Productions

Directed by David Ayer

Produced by Bill Block, David Ayer, Ethan Smith, Paul Hanson and Palek Patel

Written by Skip Woods and David Ayer

I’m going to put my neck out there and say that I truly and honestly admire Arnold Schwarzenegger for what he does in SABOTAGE. This is a Schwarzenegger who realizes that he would look downright silly trying to do the same kind of action movie he did back in the 1980’s. He can’t be the One Man Army Killing Machine anymore. Sure, he’s still in better shape than 90% of us but he’s no kid anymore. And he doesn’t try to hide it unlike the other two members of The Holy Trinity of Action Movie Heroes. Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis are still trying to convince us they’re still able to pull off stunts they did 30 years ago. But not Schwarzenegger.  He’s got respect for our intelligence. Oh, he still does physical stuff but nothing like the stunts he did in say, “Commando” or “Eraser” These days he’s relying a lot more on story, characterization and supporting casts to give his movies weight.

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SABOTAGE isn’t a movie he could have made back in the 1980’s. He had to wait until now to make a movie like this where he could make his age work for him and for the character he plays. Don’t get me wrong…this isn’t Schwarzenegger doing Hamlet (and I still say he should have done it. Who in their right mind wouldn’t pay to see that?) but he certainly doesn’t embarrass himself.

John “Breacher” Warthon (Arnold Schwarzenegger) ramrods an elite team of wildass DEA agents. These agents are just one notch above being full blown renegades. A couple of them (Sam Worthington and Max Martini) appear to have severe psychological issues while Lizzie (Mireille Enos) is the team’s loose cannon, brazenly flaunting her drug habit and sexual promiscuity in the faces of her boss, her teammates and her husband (Worthington)

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During a raid on a cartel safehouse, Breacher and his team help themselves to $10 million of the cartel’s money and blow up the rest to cover their theft. They hide the $10 million but when they go to recover it, they’re pissed off beyond words to find it’s gone. In the meantime, the DEA has somehow found out about the stolen money. Breacher is put on a desk job and his team suspended pending an investigation. Six months later and with no concrete evidence tying them to the money, Breacher and his team are reinstated.

Turns out that isn’t a favor at all as a couple of team members are gruesomely killed and there’s only two possibilities: either the cartel is killing off Breacher’s team in revenge for stealing their money or it’s a team member who is killing his (or her) partners to keep all the money for themselves. Either way, Breacher’s stuck in the middle. Unable to trust his team or the DEA, he has to rely on the help of Investigator Caroline Brentwood (Olivia Williams) the homicide cop assigned to the case. But can Inspector Brentwood trust Breacher? Because during the course of her investigation she discovers that Breacher just may have more motivation than anybody else on his team to steal and kill for the money.

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By now you should have tumbled to the fact that Schwarzenegger isn’t playing his usual good guy. In fact, this may be the closest we’ll get to see him playing a bad guy as Breacher nor his team are likeable characters. In fact, they’re all really not much better than the criminals they go after. But that’s okay by me. I don’t need my characters to be likeable. As long as I understand their motivations for doing what they do, I’m cool.

The supporting cast in SABOTAGE is an unusually strong one for an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and yet another sign that you’re not getting your usual Schwarzenegger Shoot-Em-Up. Terrence Howard and Josh Holloway are members of Breacher’s team while Harold Perrineau is a cop partnered with Brentwood and provides the movie with much needed comedy relief. Believe it or not, it’s Sam Worthington who walks off with the acting honors in this movie as well as Mireille Enos. Their characters are complicated enough to deserve a movie of their own. They’re married DEA agents who have long ago surrendered to corruption and spiritual degradation in the pursuit of justice. Mirelle Enos just about steals the movie from everybody in sight during the third act.

What else? Oh, the violence…seriously, this just may be the most violent movie Schwarzenegger has made and considering his track record, that’s really saying something. Director David Ayer is not interested in cartoon violence or the glorification of it. The violence in SABOTAGE is amazingly cruel, bloody and horrifically messy. And Schwarzenegger has got quite the potty mouth as well. I gave up counting after his twentieth F-bomb.

So should you see SABOTAGE? If you’re a longtime Arnold Schwarzenegger fan like me you probably already have. But if you haven’t, give it a chance. It’s not his usual action movie and has far more of a mystery thriller aspect than the trailers would lead you to think. I appreciate him always trying to expand the range of what he can do in films and I think that with movies like this and “Escape Plan” in which he also played a different kind of character than we’re used to seeing, he’s showing that Arnold Schwarzenegger still has a lot to offer us.

109 minutes

Rated R

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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2014

American Empirical Pictures/Fox Searchlight Studios

Directed by and Screenplay by Wes Anderson

Produced by Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steve M. Rales and Scott Rudin

Story by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guiness

One of the main characters in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL works in Mendl’s, a bakery that is renowned throughout the fictional European alpine country of Zubrowka. The confections that come out of Mendl’s are famous for not only tasting as if the angels themselves had baked them but they are also glorious works of art for the eye as well as for the tongue that one can spend hours just looking at, debating whether or not it’s too beautiful to be eaten.

That’s kind of an apt metaphor for this movie as well. Because THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is like a very rich cake or dessert that looks absolutely amazing and goes down very sweetly. Like other Wes Anderson movies, this one is an ornate visual treat.  A Wes Anderson movie doesn’t look like anybody else’s movies and I am thankful for that. He uses practical effects in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL such as miniatures, rear projection and matte painting. Right now some of you reading this are scratching your head and saying, “Why go through all that trouble? Why not just use CGI?” if so, then THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL in particular and Wes Anderson movies in general are not for you.

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The story of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is told in a flashback of a flashback and while that might sound confusing, it isn’t, trust me. We meet a Young Writer (Jude Law) in 1968 staying at the almost empty Grand Budapest Hotel. This once elegant establishment is slowly and stubbornly decaying beautifully. The Young Writer makes the acquaintance the hotel’s owner, Mr. Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who takes a liking to the Young Writer and over a long dinner tells him the story of how Mr. Moustafa came to own The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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We now go to the 1930’s where Mr. Moustafa worked as a lobby boy at the hotel. Zero (Tony Revolori) is taken under the wing of the hotel’s concierge, M. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who acts like a benevolent monarch to the staff and an extraordinarily capable servant to the guests. Especially the ladies. And most especially the ones who are old and rich. M. Gustave reserves very special services for them (and a few men as well, it’s implied)

The plot (such as it is) gets going when one of M. Gustave’s conquests, Madame D. (Tilda Swinton) dies under mysterious circumstances. In her will she has left M. Gustave a priceless Renaissance Painting. Gustave’s claim on the painting is put in jeopardy by accusations from Madame D.’s son Dmitri (Adrian Brody) that Gustave himself murdered Madame D. Gustave takes the painting and goes on the run with the faithful Zero by his side, determined to clear himself and restore his good name.

And that’s really all you need to know about the plot because Wes Anderson doesn’t seem very interested in it himself. As usual, the strength of a Wes Anderson movie is the visuals and the characters. And Ralph Fiennes is indeed quite the character. Ralph Fiennes without a doubt delivers the best performance in the movie. On one level the character is totally ridiculous, delighting in his own pomposity, given to reciting or making up poetry on the spot. But on the other he’s supremely devoted to his position and his respect for the tradition of The Grand Budapest Hotel that is both endearing and in its own way, quite noble.

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His chemistry with Toney Revolori is delightful and one of the pleasures of the movie is to watch the wonderful friendship that develops between Gustave and Zero. The movie is chock full of interesting, quirky characters played by many familiar faces from Wes Anderson’s usual repertory of actors who appear in his movies such as Willem Dafoe, who is blackly hilarious as a hit man, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Bob Balaban. But there’s a whole host of other actors who pop up in cameos that will give you a nice thrill when you see them.

How does this stack up with the other Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen? I wouldn’t put it on the same shelf as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” “Moonrise Kingdom” or “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” all of which are my favorite Wes Anderson movies. But I do rate it way higher than pretentious pap like “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Darjeeling Limited”

It’s a luxurious and downright opulent movie that presents us with an entire world that has weight and depth and texture. I truly appreciate movies that don’t look like other movies and present stories a little bit skewed and makes me cock my head a bit to the side while watching it. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL is well worth your time if you’re the type who likes your desserts just a little bit richer than is good for you. Enjoy.

Rated R

100 Minutes

Mr. Peabody & Sherman

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2014

DreamWorks Animation/Pacific Data Images/Bullwinkle Studios/20th Century Fox

Directed by Rob Minkoff

Produced by Alex Schwartz and Denise Nolan Cascino

Screenplay by Craig Wright

Based on “Peabody’s Improbable History” by Ted Key

There have been many time travel movies and TV shows I’ve enjoyed. “Doctor Who” “The Time Tunnel” “Voyagers!” “Back To The Future” “The Time Machine” “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” “Seven Days” “Life On Mars” “Time After Time” “Time Bandits” But my favorite time travelers are without a doubt MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN. I loved the “Rocky & Bullwinkle” show as a kid and the “Mr. Peabody’s Improbable History” episodes were a particular favorite of mine. Highly entertaining and educational, each episode would see Mr. Peabody and Sherman going back to some pivotal moment in history via The Wayback Machine, a time travel machine invented by the hyper-intelligent Mr. Peabody. The Wayback would transport Mr. Peabody and Sherman to Washington’s crossing the Delaware or Benjamin Franklin flying a kite attempting to discover electricity or Alexander Graham Bell about to make his first phone call. Something would always go wrong and it was up to Mr. Peabody with the capable assistance of Sherman to make sure that history played out the way it was supposed to. Every episode would always end with Mr. Peabody making some kind horrible pun that always was rewarded with a groan and face palm from Sherman.

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The full length movie MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN necessarily has to put a lot of meat on the bare bones of those short seven minute cartoons to fill out 90 minutes but thankfully it manages to stay true to the spirit of the characters and the premise. Mr. Peabody (Ty Burrell) is still a hyper-intelligent talking dog who wears glasses and a red bow tie. Mr. Peabody is a business tycoon, scientific genius, Presidential advisor, Nobel laureate, expert swordsdog, martial artist and gourmet chef. But he’s still lacking something in his life. Despite his accomplishments, he’s lonely. He finds an orphan baby named Sherman (Max Charles) and decided to adopt him, his argument being that if a boy can adopt a dog, why can’t a dog adopt a boy?

I though it charming that never once does MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN stop to explain why Mr. Peabody can talk, walk on his hind legs and is apparently the smartest being on the planet but it takes a considerable amount of time to clarify the relationship between him and Sherman and indeed, most of the movie explores their lives in a way that the animated episodes simply didn’t have time for. The plot kicks in when Sherman has to start attending public school. Naturally Sherman’s having been home schooled by Mr. Peabody for seven years and taking numerous trips into the past via The Wayback Machine has given him a distinct advantage over the other students and earns him the wrath of classmate Penny Peterson (Ariel Winter) Penny’s horrendous bullying of Sherman provokes him into biting her and calling into question Mr. Peabody’s fitness to parent a human boy.

Mr. Peabody invites the Petersons (Stephen Colbert and Leslie Mann) over for dinner along with Mrs. Grunion (Allison Janney) of the Children’s Services so that they can all resolve the situation amicably. Sherman is left to entertain Penny and once again he is provoked by her to the point where he takes her for a joyride in The Wayback Machine to impress her. This sets off a chain of increasingly wild and dangerous adventures in Ancient Egypt, The Trojan War and other periods of history that lead up to a disruption in the space time continuum and the possible destruction of time itself unless Mr. Peabody and Sherman can put time back the way it was.

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There are some minor changes to the original story of how Mr. Peabody and Sherman met but I didn’t mind as I understand where the screenplay was going with this and the movie emphasizes the relationship between dog and boy to go for an emotionally satisfying conclusion to compliment the last ditch effort to save the world ending and I didn’t mind because the final lines spoken by Mr. Peabody and Sherman to each other put a big grin on my face and any movie that does that is okay by me.

The characterization of Mr. Peabody is tweaked a bit here as he’s not as arrogant and condescending as he is in the cartoons. Sherman is still the same sweet kid he always was, totally devoted to his “dad” and living an incredibly extraordinary life with a level head and unshakable optimism. In fact, there’s only two times in the movie when he’s truly scared and worried and one of those times is when he thinks he’s going to be taken away from Mr. Peabody.

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But the character of Penny Peterson is highly distasteful. A sadistic, severely disturbed brat with a destructive streak as wide as the West Side Highway, she’s one of the creepiest characters I’ve ever seen in an animated movie. To give the screenplay credit, it doesn’t cop out by making Penny just another misunderstood kid who would change her ways if somebody just gave her a hug. Nah, this kid is The Bad Seed, trust me.

So should you see MR. PEABODY & SHERMAN? If you’re a fan of the original cartoons you should definitely enjoy it. And if you’ve never seen those cartoons, don’t let that stop you. The biggest change here is that The Wayback Machine is now an actual time machine Mr. Peabody & Sherman travel in instead of a doorway they simply step through but again, I understand why it was done and as I said earlier, as long as the spirit of the original is maintained, I’m along for the ride. And what a fun ride it is. Highly Recommended.

Rated PG

92 Minutes

300: Rise Of An Empire

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Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures

Directed by Noam Murro

Produced by Zack Snyder, Gianni Nunnari, Mark Canton, Deborah Snyder and Bernie Goldmann

Screenplay by Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad

Based on “Xerxes” an unpublished graphic novel by Frank Miller

The story goes that Warner Brothers executives, delighted with the open weekend box office numbers of “300” immediately wanted a sequel.  Apparently they hadn’t taken the time to watch their own movie. It’s taken them eight years to figure out how to do a sequel to that movie and to give the filmmakers credit, they haven’t simply reshuffled elements around from the first movie. There’s an honest effort here to give us new characters in a new situation but 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE still didn’t give me that same feeling I had when I first saw “300”. I fell so much in love with that movie I wanted to marry it and take it home to meet my mother.

But that rush of adrenaline I got when I saw “300” came mainly from the visuals which were unlike anything I had seen before in movies. That’s because back in 2007 when”300” was released, the digital backlot technology/method of filming movies was still fresh and eye-popping. The only other movies I had seen using that technology were “Sin City” and “Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow”. Since then we’ve had  “Speed Racer” “The Spirit” “Avatar” “Immortals” and half a dozen other movies utilizing digital backlot techniques. So my eyes have become accustomed to the look over the years. That’s not to say there aren’t some incredible visuals in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. There are. It’s the story that doesn’t match the visuals.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE did intrigue me at the start in that this isn’t your ordinary sequel or prequel. It tells a story that tells of events taking place before, during and after “300” It starts off with Gorgo, Queen of Sparta (Lena Headey) narrating to an army of Spartan warriors the story of how the war between Persia and Greece began, throwing in the origin of the Persian god king Xerxes I (Rodrigo Santoro) as a bonus. We’re also introduced to Artemisia (Eva Green) who is quite literally the woman that made Xerxes the god king he is now. She’s also the commander of his 1000 ship fleet and the best thing about the movie. More on that later.

300-A-Ascensao-de-Um-Imperio-24Nov2013-15Themistocles of Athens (Sullivan Stapleton) is attempting to unite Greece’s squabbling city states in order to present a unified nation to fight Persia but has no luck. The politics of all this is murky at best and really just gets in the way of what the movie wants to do: get to the numerous blood-saturated CGI sea battles that are the real heart of the movie. And when I say blood-saturated, I mean it. When somebody gets slashed with a sword, that worthy just doesn’t bleed. A geyser of blood throws a sheet of blood all over the screen. There’s a nice scene where Themistocles goes to ask Queen Gorgo for Sparta’s help which from the dialog I guess takes place right after Leonidas (Gerard Butler in footage from “300 is seen here and there during the movie) has gone with his 300 to hold the Persians at The Hot Gates. Rebuffed by Queen Gorgo (which is a pretty mild way of putting it.) Themistocles determines to take his 200 ships and handful of desperate warriors and go meet the Persians at sea.

300-Rise-of-an-Empire-03jan2013-03And that’s about all the set-up you need in order to watch the movie. Everything after that is bloody carnage. Halfway through the movie ti seems to have forgotten that Queen Gorgo is supposed to be telling the story as we’re seeing events and hearing dialog that she couldn’t possibly know about. And you should be warned that the violence in 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE is not the stylized, balletic action of “300” In this one it’s much more brutal and savage and I can’t remember the last movie where I’ve seen so many heads and limbs chopped off. In one scene Artemisia is carrying bunches of severed heads by the hair as if they were Pathmark shopping bags.

And that brings me to the best thing about the movie: Eva Green. Whenever she’s not on screen you’ll be eagerly waiting for her to come back because Artemisia is the best character in the movie. She’s far more intelligent, formidable, skilled and ambitious than anybody else and I’m willing to bet that like me, by the time you get to the halfway point you’ll be wondering why the whole movie wasn’t about her. She’s the kind of bad guy you secretly root for; the one that you hope ends up winning in the end. In fact, if 300: RISE ON AN EMPIRE had Artemisia and Queen Gorgo going at it, it would have been an immensely more interesting clash of characters as Sullivan Stapleton’s Themistocles is such a block of wood it’s excruciating. He spends most of the movie making speeches about honor and loyalty and loving your family and land that sound uncomfortably similar to the ones Leonidas made but Stapleton doesn’t even come close to the white hot energy Gerard Butler had. In fact, the only scene where Stapleton’s character comes alive is in a sex scene with Artemisia that turns into an attempted rape but we’re not really sure who’s raping who here.

300: BATTLE OF ARTEMESIUMSo should you see 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE? If you saw and liked “300” this is pretty much more of the same, only at sea and far bloodier and violent. I’d say try and catch a matinee if you can so this way you won’t feel robbed. It’s got spectacular visuals and that equally spectacular Eva Green performance going for it in its favor so enjoy.

Rated R

102 Minutes

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