Jack Ryan, Generic Spy

I got my FREE ticket for this from Best Buy. Using it put me over the top for a FREE soda at Carolina Cinemas so I had a really nice afternoon.

Jack Ryan


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) – Rated PG-13

Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.”

I loved many of Tom Clancy’s novels. I also mourned him before his passing as he had been letting other hacks write his novels for over a decade. While I did not always agree with his assessment of politics, he always had good reason for going in the direction he did. While Jack Ryan was his main protagonist, many many other characters served heroic roles in his novels, including reader favorites like John Clark and Ding Chavez down to individual secret service personnel.

Three of his best novels had already been adapted to the screen (The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger) with varying degrees of success as well as one of his lesser efforts (The Sum of All Fears). Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck, and, now, Chris Pine.

Jack Ryan had plenty of warning bells. It is always a terrible sign to be bumped from a Christmas release to the celluloid graveyard of January. The title, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, smacks of franchise planning. The title is also horrifically generic. Chris Pine makes a great William Shatner but can he act? I enjoyed Carriers but it didn’t really require heavy lifting from Pine.

The movie begins with a couple scenes showcasing Ryan’s character and backstory – I was almost startled that it wasn’t a montage. A lot of what occurs seems intent on setting Ryan up for future sequels.

The first two-thirds of the movie run smoothly. The action is pretty and well-handled but evokes a serious deja vu. If you are going to make an expensive spy movie, then bring something new to the table like Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol did (a sandstorm chase, a climb outside the Burj Khalifa, a fight in an automated car park).

Chris Pine is a rather generic hero, in spite of the pedigree they establish for him. Kenneth Branagh makes for a good villain. Keira Knightley is nice too but contrast this with her stunning performance in Anna Karenina.

Extremely minor spoilers (the plot gives this away):

The last act of the film though is ridiculous in the extreme. I won’t post spoilers but knowing that an attack on the U.S. is imminent, some people have to fly from Moscow to the U.S. and apparently, there are no other people in the agency (or any other agency) who can handle this situation.

Jack Ryan is so smart that all answers have to come from him, in spite of the fact that he is a minor analyst/agent in the C.I.A. There is a nice montage as they figure things out but Clancy’s strength was that all efforts, good and evil, require an ensemble of characters. Apparently in the cinema world, a wrench (Jack Ryan) is the answer to all problems, mental or physical.

That’s not to say that Jack Ryan isn’t enjoyable. It just isn’t memorable so go, enjoy, and forget.



Star Trek – Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness

Thank you Esurance! I won two tickets to Star Trek: Into Darkness from them. Not only was the contest generous but the tickets covered up to $15.50 each, which is coincidentally what the Biltmore Grande charges for their RPX evening showings in 3D. Not wanting to waste a gift horse that is what we used it for.

One Line Review: Trek is packed with action, excitement, witticisms, and character development – this one will be tough to beat for the summer crown.

My wife, daughter and I all thoroughly enjoyed the movie. The RPX sound was immersive and the bass made the seats throb. The RPX picture quality was amazingly crisp, even in 3D. I don’t normally go to RPX because I love my Carolina and the RPX is about twice the price but WOW I was blown away. This is the closest we have to Imax in Asheville.

While the RPX heightened our enjoyment, Star Trek Into Darkness is a wonderful film on its own. While I derided Iron Man 3 for being made by committee/formula, much the same approach is used here but to great effect.

Star Trek checklist:

Strenuous heroics from Kirk and Spock: Tons! This film is almost constant action with brief respites for clever dialogue.

Fun banter between Kirk, Spock, and Bones: Any time they are not in a fight and sometimes when they are, witty banter abounds and not just for those three.

Good character moments for Sulu, Chekov, Scotty, and Uhura: Uhura’s role is considerably beefed up and the others all have their moment in the sun.

References to classic Trek episodes: I don’t want to spoil any of them but they are nearly uncountable. Plots, characters, incidents are mentioned, seen, adapted, or alluded to.

Ship to ship combat: Yes and wow.

Kirk and/or Spock learn a lesson: Both do, of course.

Cameos: Yes, two – one of which is in the previews.

Three of the four quibbles I have with the film are all minor. The first, which I can only speak generally about to avoid spoilers, is that a lot of elements that they felt were necessary for Trek fans were shoehorned in at the last minute. The second is that the final action sequence, while having a couple inventive touches, pales in comparison to the several before it so it feels more like an afterthought than building to a crescendo. Third, Benedict Cumberbatch, while a wonderful actor, isn’t given enough to do – mostly because there are so many beloved characters to focus on.

The fourth quibble I have, I don’t want to go into detail for fear of spoiling but nearly every plotting aspect of this movie makes no sense (a la Iron Man 3). Almost everything in this movie is done simply to get from point A to point B, action sequence to action sequence. As a for instance, the rescue method in the beginning of the movie could clearly have been used for the insertion but that wouldn’t have been as dramatic. A second example, also from the beginning, is that we have plenty of remote placement and firing mechanisms now (robotic, radio, laser, programmed, etc.) and this is set in the future. Whatever you do, just enjoy the ride and try not to question the logic until you leave.

I am very much looking forward to seeing what J.J. Abrams and crew do with the Star Wars franchise.