Thursday, January 23, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

          Cashing in on a familiar character, author Tom Clancy's  hero is rebooted back to his roots in this new spy thriller. Many notable actors have already worn Jack Ryan's shoes and now it's Chris Pine's turn. This time out he is joined by Kevin Costner as his CIA recruiter  and Keira Knightly as his love interest. Kenneth Branagh does double duty as the lead villain and the film's director.

            Even before the opening credits, the film jumps ahead 4 times through various time periods and then settles in for a fairly boring hour with much exposition to explain the plot. There is one exciting fight sequence to keep the audience involved. In the second hour, the action intensifies and builds to a fairly exciting finale.

           Mr Pine does an admirably job moving from analyst to operative and it's good to see Mr. Costner back on screen comfortable in a supporting role. Ms. Knightly struggles hard to keep her American accent but does have chemistry with Mr. Pine. 

           This is a perfectly serviceable espionage film but it definitely has that post holiday "let's throw it out there in January" feel to it.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lone Survivor

     The title kind of gives it away but this film is about the journey, not the destination. Based on a true memoir of a combat mission gone horribly wrong, this is a very realistic recreation of that mission.

      When a 4 man team consisting of actors Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster,  Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch are dropped on a mountainside in Afghanistan to find a Taliban terrorist leader, their mission is compromised and they end up fighting their way out. Once the battle starts you will completely forget you are watching actors and get caught up in the life and death struggle of four Navy Seals.

      Director Peter Berg gets the details right using the surviving Navy Seal, Marcus Luttrell, as his consultant. His cast of testosterone filled actors faithfully recreate every cut, bruise, bullet and break for almost two hours. It is not an easy film to watch but it serves as a fitting memory to the men who lived and died on the mission.

       It is a heartbreaking but important film. It provides a safe glimpse into a war zone, we civilians can only imagine. 

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Best and Worst of 2013

Best of 2013-
1) American Hustle-Simply great film on every level. Smart, funny, and brilliantly acted.
2) Nebraska- Beautifully shot in black & white, with wonderful performances.
3) 12 Years a Slave- Powerhouse performance from Chiwetel Ejiofor as a free man Kidnapped and sold into slavery in the pre-civil war south. An important story that needs to be seen.
4) The Dallas Buyer's Club- Devastating performances from Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in this fact based movie about the early days of the AIDS epidemic.
5) All is Lost- Robert Redford in a tour de force solo act struggling to stay alive on a crippled sailboat. Riveting.
6) Gravity- Spectacular and breathtaking. A totally immerse experience.
7) Her- Terrific performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johannsen sell this concept of modern love in the 21st century.
8) Blue Jasmine- Another hit from Woody Allen. This drama features an outstanding performance from Cate Blanchet.
9) Prisoners- A creepy thriller with excellent performances and surprising twists.
10) Captain Phillips- Tom Hanks is amazing (especially in the second half) in this true story of piracy on the high seas.

Honorable Mention-
The Conjuring- A throwback to "Poltergeist" style horror. A scary film that actually scares.
Rush- Terrific Ron Howard direction of this true story of the rivalry between race drivers Nikki Lauda and James Hunt.
Saving Mr. Banks- Emma Thompson is simply glorious as P.L. Travers, author of Mary Poppins. fighting with a great Tom Hanks as Walt Disney over movie rights to her book.
Deceptive Practices: Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay- Best Documentary of the year about the Sleight of Hand master, Ricky Jay and the great magicians who influenced him.
Short Term 12-  An Indie drama that will sneak up on you in a good way with a breakout performance from Brie Larson.

Worst of 2013-
1) Only God Forgives- And he will be the only one who does regarding this mess.
2) A Good Day to Die Hard- Dies easy
3) White House Down- Worst White House disaster since Nixon
4) Now You See Me- Ridiculous story of hocus pocus with a very un-magical flat ending.
5) 47 Ronin- A lifeless "action" movie starring the appropriate Keanu Reeves
6) Man of Steel- Tries for a dark serious mood ala "Dark Knight" but fails on all accounts. Noisy and boring.
7) Oblivion- A Tom Cruise snooze fest of stolen plot ideas.
8) Gangster Squad- No depth but some good action scenes. Embarrassing for the actors though.
9) Oz, The Great and Powerful- Anything but...James Franco should be ashamed.
10) Trance- interesting premise from Danny Boyle but too clever for its own good.