- Stephen Colbert and J.J. Abrams turned out in force (get it?) this past Saturday for the Montclair Film Festival kickoff fundraiser and buddy-buddy interview. Highlights included an audience prizewinner bluntly inquiring as to how many Ewoks J.J. could take in a fight, Colbert springing J.J.’s acting reel from Six Degrees of Separation on him, and the pair peering up into the fourth tier where I was seated and making remarks like “you’re in low orbit” and “my neck hurts”.
- Kenneth Branagh will be directing and starring in the long-in-the-works Murder on the Orient Express remake, which hopefully will be so many zillion times better than Shadow Recruit.
- Ready to feel old? Toy Story turned 20 years old yesterday. Yep. Thankfully, if you want to feel young again, you can just rewatch Toy Story.
Continue reading Film & TV News: November 23
It’s fairly easy to spot a Guy Ritchie flick, and in his most recent movie The Man from U.N.C.L.E. a few of his trademark flourishes find their best use yet. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer fill the suits first worn by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum in the ’60s television show and globetrot around the Mediterranean attempting to out-spy one another. There are three or four plots going on at once — one’s a crusade to stop a maniacal heiress from obtaining a nuclear weapon, one’s a love story, one’s a hopeful reunification of father and daughter —and so Ritchie’s penchant for hand-holding and retreading ground we’ve already covered is actually quite useful at times.
Mostly, though, the moderately bogged-down plot is just kind of there; the style, the mood, the unending suaveness of the two leads — that’s really what counts in Ritchie’s Man from U.N.C.L.E. There are some slick sequences that don’t make you forget the plot but make you simply not care about it, sequences that lose you, purposefully and gleefully, in the zippy catchiness of it all. There are some slow bits and, again, the retreading of information gets tedious as it does in other habitual instances throughout Ritchie’s filmography. But mostly this movie is all about the flow, and even if the scene-by-scene progression isn’t flawless the pacing within the scenes themselves is fantastic.
Continue reading The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
Jack Ryan has the distinct honor among cinematic spies of being…not that great. He’s been in more films than Jason Bourne and as many as Ethan Hunt (once Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation hits theaters next month), but after being shuffled from actor to actor over the course of the franchise the character has lost a ton of steam. Part of this is due to the caliber of actor (from Alec Baldwin to Harrison Ford [x2] to Ben Affleck to Chris Pine) and part of this is due to the fact that Ryan’s less “spy” and more “data analyst”. That’s not a cop-out, though: Jack Ryan is really just an analyst. It’s the increasing need to shove Ryan into spy territory that begs the comparison to other spies (‘magine dat), so by the time Shadow Recruit came out Jack Ryan wasn’t a mild-mannered systems professional but a sexy gun-wielding wannabe.
And hey: if you want us to make that comparison, Mr. Powers That Be, then with the ghost of Tom Clancy as our witness we’ll do so gleefully. Or not so gleefully, as it were, because no one’s having any fun at all with Shadow Recruit. Why should we? We established in our recent review of the fantastic Quiller Memorandum that a great spy movie doesn’t even need to have a spy as the main character, so forcing Ryan to be more badass than bookworm doesn’t do much for credibility in that arena. Spoon-feeding every plot point doesn’t help either, and again with Quiller the brilliance was in the sense that any John Doe walking across the screen could be a villain; the poster tagline for Shadow Recruit is a flaccidly unoriginal TRUST NO ONE…but then we get nineteen shots of the hotel maid looking suspicious, so it turns out we’re informed exactly who we should and should not trust.
Continue reading Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)
For such a successful franchise of movies, there is no denying that of the 23 James Bond installments, a handful of the movies are nothing special on their own. That is to say, strip away the Bond allure and you’re left with a lot of movies that probably resemble a 2014 Kevin Costner film (3 Days to Kill, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit… you get the picture). But the most recent entry Skyfall certainly does not fit into this category of Bond movies. In many ways, Sam Mendes’ first Bond movie is not a typical Bond film; making it not just a great James Bond movie, but a great movie in general.
Mendes gives the viewer this sense early when Q says to Bond — but really to the audience as a sort of aside — “what did you expect, an exploding pen?” It’s Mendes way of saying, “what did you expect, a typical Bond movie?” In the case of Q, what he gives Bond — a fingerprint encoded gun — is even better. And in the case of Mendes, what he gives the viewer is also far better.
Continue reading Skyfall (2012)