‘Jack Ryan’ – Been There, Done That; Laborious ‘Labor Day’ Lovely But…

jack ryan

MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Jack Ryan:  Shadow Recruit’

Movie Info

Based on the character created by bestselling author Tom Clancy, “Jack Ryan” is a global action thriller set in the present day. This original story follow a young Jack (Chris Pine) as he uncovers a financial terrorist plot. The story follows him from 9/11, through his tour of duty in Afghanistan, which scarred him forever, and into his early days in the Financial Intelligence Unit of the modern CIA where he becomes an analyst, under the guardianship of his handler, Harper (Kevin Costner). When Ryan believes he’s uncovered a Russian plot to collapse the United States economy, he goes from being an analyst to becoming a spy and must fight to save his own life andthose of countless others, while also trying to protect the thing that’s more important to him than anything, his relationship with his fiancée Cathy (Keira Knightley).

PG-13, 1 hr. 45 min.

Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

Directed By:Kenneth Branagh

Tom Long Review: Jack Ryan remains a generic hero in ‘Shadow Recruit’

by Tom Long www.detroitnews.com

Chris Pine stars as CIA agent Jack Ryan sent to Russia to investigate a plot against America in the action prequel based on Tom Clancy’s character. Who is Jack Ryan?

With “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” this character, drawn from the late Tom Clancy’s novels, has now been played by four actors since 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October.” Alec Baldwin played him in “Hunt,” next came Harrison Ford in “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger” in the mid-’90s, then Ben Affleck took a shot in 2002’s “The Sum of All Fears.”

Now, after a decade, Ryan returns, younger than ever, with Chris Pine in the role. “Shadow Recruit” is basically an origins movie, and yet we still learn very little about the character at the center of all these films.

He’s mostly a gung-ho, all-American spy guy who gets into situations where he has to save the world from massive calamities. Yet you get the feeling that if you waved a hand in front of his eyes he wouldn’t blink. It’s hard to find anybody in there.

This can hardly be blamed on Pine, who has filled the personality of Captain Kirk to near bursting in the current “Star Trek” reboot. When Pine gets to actually do something — like fight for his unlikely survival early on in this film — he’s effective enough. But too much of the time Ryan is simply passing through some watered-down Bond-Mission:Impossible-Bourne hoops where he’s nothing more than the sum of his situation.

We begin with Ryan seeing the Sept. 11 attacks on a TV screen while studying something or other in England. Then he’s an officer in Afghanistan, flying in a helicopter that promptly gets blown out of the sky, which lands him, partially paralyzed, in a Washington hospital where a slumming Kiera Knightley plays the doctor who must teach him to walk again.

With Knightley as an eventual prize, he does indeed walk and even run again (wouldn’t you?). And around then a CIA guy named Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner, nice and cool) shows up. He’s noticed Ryan is brave and brilliant, how would he like to be a spy?

So Ryan is set up with a Wall Street firm where he secretly hunts for nefarious international doings while shacked up with the aforementioned doctor. One day, he stumbles on a problem with some Russian accounts and suddenly finds himself activated as an agent and sent overseas to investigate.

What he discovers is a Russian bad guy (Kenneth Branagh, also directing) on the verge of both a financial and terrorist attack on the United States (as if we’re not capable of engineering our own financial disasters). And thus begin all the Bond-Mission:Impossible-Bourne hijinks, including time-ticking sticky situations, assorted car chases, fisticuffs and — good news, locals! — a terrorist plot hatched in Dearborn.

Detroit pride indeed.

Branagh runs through all of this efficiently enough, but it feels awfully familiar.

And Ryan — well, Jack, we still hardly know you.

‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’GRADE: C+

From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140117/ENT02/301170025#ixzz2rkGCfJUW


labor day

MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Labor Day’

Movie Info

“Labor Day” centers on 13-year-old Henry Wheeler, who struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother Adele while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives.   PG-13, 1 hr. 51 min.

Drama, Romance

Review: Reitman’s ‘Labor Day’ is lovely but weighed down by the past

by Betsy Sharkey

Los Angeles Times

Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet and Gattlin Griffith star in the beautifully acted but flashback-hampered story of an escaped con, a single mother and her son.

Sometimes the past trips you up. It certainly does Frank, the escaped con played by Josh Brolin in Jason Reitman’s new drama, “Labor Day.” It definitely unravels Adele, the reclusive single mother Kate Winslet makes so fragile. It is already a defining factor for 13-year-old Henry, played by newcomer Gattlin Griffith, by the time Frank comes into their lives.

What I didn’t anticipate is the way the past might trip up the filmmaker. “Labor Day” is only Reitman’s fifth movie, but one of the distinguishing features in his films — from 2006’s “Thank You for Smoking” through “Juno” in 2007, “Up in the Air” in 2009 and 2011’s “Young Adult” — is how carefully constructed they are.

The dialogue may be loose, the characters quite frequently a mess, but the progression of the film from beginning to end, and the narrative links, are always solid. They’ve all drawn critical attention, with “Juno” and “Up in the Air” earning Reitman four Oscar nominations, two for directing, one for writing and another for best picture.

On “Labor Day,” he stumbles.

Though the characters have the kind of flaws Reitman is at ease exploring, the film is a departure in several ways. Instead of the contemporary vibe he captured so effortlessly before, “Labor Day” is set in a small New Hampshire town circa 1987 and carries the ethos of a period piece. Then there is the matter of the past, which haunts the film.

The creative team does its part to set the tone. Cinematography is handled by Eric Steelberg, who has worked with the director from the beginning, with frequent collaborators Steve Saklad on production design and Danny Glicker on costumes. And in a year of excellent movie scores, British composer Rolfe Kent contributes another one.

What unfolds over the long, hot holiday weekend is beautifully told and beautifully acted by Winslet, Brolin and Griffith. Tobey Maguire as narrator and in a cameo as a grown-up Henry adds another nice touch. It is the flashbacks that are a muddle.

“Labor Day” is based on the bestselling novel by Joyce Maynard, a deceptively slim volume graced by extremely complicated characters. All have deeply fraught histories important in explaining how love blooms between a cautious mother and the convict holding her hostage. While Maynard so effectively tossed in scraps here and there, they are more problematic on screen. Visual memory fragments are dropped in to explain how a series of miscarriages scarred Adele and a cheating wife led to Frank’s murder charge.

The difficulty is the gauzy, half-dreamlike style of them — seductive to look at but more confusing than clarifying. It doesn’t help that Winslet plays her younger self, while Tom Lipinski steps in to portray Frank as a young man. There is no issue with Lipinski’s performance; he has a brooding sensibility that is a good match for Brolin’s. But it is still hard to follow the narrative thread without having read the book.

Yet if you can get past the past, which I recommend, what is left is a lovely, intimate film about longing and love. It begins at a Pricemart, exactly the kind of low-cost superstore the name implies, when Frank asks Henry for help. The blood on his scalp and the limp make it clear he is a wounded man. Of course, not all of his wounds are visible.

Soon Adele is driving Frank and Henry back home. She puts up a little resistance, but as the film has already made clear, most of her emotional energy was expended merely getting out of the house. The real world holds too many painful reminders.

The film finds its footing as the weekend progresses and the temperature and tension — outside and in — rise. There is the ever-present fear that Frank will be found. And there are other tight spots to be navigated: the neighbor who drops by unexpectedly, a friend who needs Adele to watch her disabled son for a day and Henry’s flirtation with Eleanor (an excellent Brighid Fleming), the new girl in town messing with his mind and emerging libido.

The emotional center of the film is found in the insular world of Adele’s house as the trio fall in love — with the idea of family and one another. This is when the reading between the lines the film requires is wrought in captivating ways.

The gentleness between characters is surprisingly touching; it makes the pain of a harsh remark cut more deeply. The moments feel simple but are filled with complexities — the way tossing a baseball can bond a man and a boy, or making a pie together can express love and desire. The emotional and sexual interplay between Adele and Frank captures the idea of need with a sensitivity and insight that is rare on screen — a reminder of how good Reitman can be when he gets it right.

MPAA rating: PG-13 for thematic material, brief violence and sexuality





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