Driis Music


The Movie Report
January 2014
Volume 1

#750 - 751
January 10, 2014 - January 17, 2014

all movies are graded out of four stars (****)


...to The Movie Report, the free e-mail newsletter companion to TheMovieReport.com site:
(Note: If you are a current subscriber and wish to update your mailing address, e-mail me your new information.)



#751 January 17, 2014 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit poster Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (PG-13) ***
BUY THE: Poster! | DVD Set! | DVD! | Blu-ray Set! | Blu-ray! | Soundtrack! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
Although the four previous films in the series have all enjoyed success at the box office, the makers of the franchise based on Tom Clancy's popular Jack Ryan espionage novels have always tried to push the movies away from the technical minutiae-minded text and even further into a more action-oriented direction, and this second reboot of the series is the most popcorn slam-bang yet. Likely owing to that is the fact that this film is the first to be an entirely fresh story for the screen (credited to Adam Cozad and David Koepp), telling the heretofore untold "origin" story of Jack (Chris Pine), offering glimpses of his time spent at university in England and then his 9/11-spurred service in the Marines. But the glimpses are just that, glimpses, for Cozad, Koepp, and director Kenneth Branagh waste no time in having Jack, after suffering an injury in combat, becoming the "shadow recruit" of a shady high-ranking CIA operative (Kevin Costner). Years later and settled into fairly cushy covert mission as a Wall Street banker--and into blissful betrothal with doctor fiancée Cathy (Keira Knightley, still audibly struggling with an American accent)--his menial desk duties monitoring accounts for suspicious activity soon put him in harm's way halfway across the globe in Russia.

While this Jack Ryan film is far less talky and offering a lot more in the way of traditional popcorn thrills than previous installments, contrary to any initial fears, Branagh and the writers retain the core of the character: that of being a cerebral analyst who, when push come to shove, is prodded into action--and even then, only plausibly holding his own, not engaging in typical action movie superheroics. The sinister scheme he stumbles upon may be a bit simpler and easier to understand, and the mastermind behind it all (played by Branagh himself) may serve up more broadly drawn cinematic villainy, but the film, much like Jack, relies more on brains rather than brawn. Pine does well serving both sides, doing in-over-his-head exasperation well while believably pulling off the big set pieces, which do build as the film goes on but still within appropriately grounded levels. And that overall level of groundedness that Branagh largely maintains makes the film work and maintains the franchise's distinct flavor. While he leaves himself a little indulgence in his own performance as the big bad, his (and, for that matter, Costner's) showiness remains in a plausibly real realm, helped by the believable rapport between all the actors as they collide in various combinations. This reboot may not exactly be a game changer, but it does its job in getting the series' established game back up and running in crowd-pleasing fashion.

Subscribe to The Movie Report
<div style="background-color: none transparent;"><a href="http://www.kontactor.com/" title="who">where, what?</a></div> Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets and Concessions | Dealflicks

#750 January 10, 2014 by Michael Dequina

In Brief

The Legend of Hercules poster The Legend of Hercules (PG-13) 1/2*
BUY THE: Poster! | DVD! | Blu-ray! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
Once upon a time, Renny Harlin could always be counted on to deliver, if not exactly cinematic smarts, then most certainly amusement and quite often excitement. Alas, his '90s heyday of crafting such fun fare as Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Deep Blue Sea (the latter being his apparent last gasp) becomes that much more of a distant memory with his less-than-legendary take on Hercules. The lead character (played by secondary Twilight hunk Kellan Lutz) may technically be the demigod son of Zeus and a mortal female, but writers Sean Hood and Daniel Giat aren't telling his "legend" so much as that of Ridley Scott's Gladiator. From the military service to being sold in slavery to fighting his way in the gladiator arena on his way to vengeance against a tyrranical ruler (here, Scott Adkins), this is Hercules as Maximus Lite--very lite--with occasional demigod powers depicted through some rather corny visual effects; one climactic moment has him summoning Zeus's powers, resulting in lightning striking his raised sword, which can't help but bring to mind He-Man. Moments such as those make the film sound amusingly terrible, but most of the time it's just boring. Harlin goes through detached motions in perfunctory battle scenes; Lutz and the rest of the cast largely follow in vapid lockstep (the one exception is the ever-reliable-for-cheese Johnathon Schaech, affecting a weird anything-but-Egyptian-accent as the Egyptian slave trader, but he's not on screen long nor often enough to up the overall camp quotient); and the 3D just makes the effects and visuals in general look even further below blockbuster par.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones poster Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (R) **
BUY THE: Poster! | DVD Set! | DVD! | Blu-ray Set! | Blu-ray! | Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets & Concessions
While certainly not the first film project to be made as a direct result of market research, the Paranormal Activity spinoff The Marked Ones is probably the first to openly and rather unashamedly admit to the crassly cash-in motivation for its existence. After Paramount found that the Latino demographic made a sizable portion of the audience that made the previous four installments of the micro-budget horror franchise, the studio decided to greenlight an in-universe spinoff film focusing not on another set of Caucasian faces being haunted by the paranormal in large suburban houses, but young Latino ones in an urban apartment building. But the unusual honesty about the film's reason for being is about the only thing passing for real freshness here. Despite the cast mostly populated by young faces of color and the occasional smatterings of Spanish, writer-director Christopher Landon (who penned the previous Paranormal sequels) falls into familiar trappings, not only from previous Paranormal outings but demonic possession films and even Chronicle, for the young lead who is "marked" by a witch for the taking by a malevolent entity at first exhibits--and enjoys--some superhuman abilities. The likable cast of newcomers, led by Andrew Jacobs as the teen who gets possessed and Jorge Diaz as the wisecracking best friend/cameraman, do what they can to make a positive impression for themselves and future acting prospects, but the film ultimately fails in the most important regard: creating any sort of creepy atmosphere, much less the simple yet effective scares which made the first film such a sleeper sensation. If the twists of the finale, in which this offshoot dovetails back into the main line of the "official" series, is any indicator of where any future films under the brand are heading, then simplicity looks to be completely obliterated in favor of Saw-level convolutions that threaten to drain out whatever fun there's left to be had with the franchise.

Subscribe to The Movie Report
<div style="background-color: none transparent;"><a href="http://www.kontactor.com/" title="who">where, what?</a></div> Save up to 60% on Movie Tickets and Concessions | Dealflicks


Subscribe to RSS headline updates from:
Powered by FeedBurner

The Movie Report Archive/© Michael Dequina
All images and multimedia files are copyright their respective copyright holders and no rights are given or implied

Buy my book 50 FILMMAKERS!
Presented by A-Frame Studios

Buy my book 50 FILMMAKERS!

Driis Music


Headshell Ltd

Want a Movie Site shirt, mousepad, or mug? Check out
Mr. Brown's
Movie Merchandise.

Please keep The Movie Report/
Mr. Brown's Movie Site alive
by generously submitting a PayPal donation.

Movie Ticket Deals, Discounts, Offers, & Coupons | Dealflicks

Buy my books 50 FILMMAKERS & I AM HIP-HOP!

Buy movie posters at AllPosters.com

Register for Giant Cinema & get PAID watching TV & movies!

Search & Win

Please buy from my eBay Wish List

Please buy from my Amazon.com Wish List

Film Flam Flummox

web log free
Movie Ticket Deals, Discounts, Offers, & Coupons | Dealflicks