Paramount via Everett Collection
A quarter of the way into Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's far-too-long runtime, the titular hero takes note of a war-time portait in his adversary Viktor Cherevin's office. "Napoleon," Ryan says, proudly identifying the subject of the painting. "Ah," the nefarious Cherevin smiles. "I see you know your history." You'd think we'd get a bit more academic sophistication in a film directed by Kenneth Branagh... hell, in a line delivered by Kenneth Branagh. But this is par for the course in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit's script. And even more problematic, it's the thing that sticks with me most only a few days after seeing the movie. Well, that and the fact that Chris Pine and Keira Knightley make for the most compatibly attractive onscreen couple I have ever seen. Aside from these standout elements, the film dissolves into a 105-minute (jeez, it feels twice that) blur of running, driving, choking, shooting, and the like.
But it's not a painful jaunt all the while, and this is thanks almost entirely to Pine. An actor who we remember popping up in early Lindsay Lohan movies and thinking little of, Pine has earned his place at the center of franchises like Star Trek and, this weekend's box office intake permitting, Jack Ryan. He maintains character and personality in the movie's heightened scenes of "the first kill" and pulling the long con on Cherevin. With a better, smarter script, Pine could thrive in an action hero role like Ryan, but here he's only left to occasionally cut through a staunch layer of boredom.
Paramount via Everett Collection
The other winning factor of Jack Ryan is in its female lead: Knightley and her character Dr. Cathy Mullins. Another pervasive charmer, Knightley manages to inject a wealth of vitality into the movie at the points most desperate for some flavor — so much so that we're not simply thrilled, but relieved when she shows up unexpectedly to tag along with boyfriend Jack on his mission to... to... well, it's something to do with stopping terrorism. Trust me, you'll forget the specifics as soon as you leave the theater, if not sooner. But the most impressive part is that Shadow Recruit actually gives Knightley something to do as Mullins. She doesn't just wait around and lament the life choices of her danger-prone boyfriend, she gets in on the action. And we're glad for it. Without her, it'd just be Pine. And as much as we like him, he needs somebody else with a personality to play off (sorry, Kevin Costner, but you're not exactly playing your A Game here).
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In short, there's almost nothing to say about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, which in itself says a lot — it's dull, it's slow, and it's got two stars who deserve a lot better than the material they're dealt. Aw hell, maybe the sequel (yeah, we've come out of denial... it's gonna happen) will up the ante on the script, and not mistake knowing who Napoleon is for being a history expert.
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Ron P. Jaffe/FOX
In middle school, they taught us about plagiarism. I remember taking much surprise in learning that not only was it a violation to reproduce the work of others, but to reproduce your own past work as well. They taught us that regurgitating passages from papers you've turned in previously would result in a failing grade, and the deadly shame of being known as a rule-breaker (that was big for me). Well, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas, I do believe you'd earn a ribald F in Mrs. Panthaker's sixth grade English class — the How I Met Your Mother creators might be doing exactly the same shtick with a new developing project: How I Met Your Father.
HuffPo reports that the writers are teaming with Emily Spivey (creator of the production disaster that was Up All Night) to develop the new property, which (and you really don't need us to spell it out for you, but) focuses on a group of friends living in New York City, with the central character — a woman — chronicling the days/years leading up to her union with the eventual father of her children.
If that's not bad enough, MacLaren's Pub is being considered as a fixture of the show. To help better connect the Father world to HIMYM. Because the thematic connections were all too tenuous otherwise.
What's particularly shocking about this option is that we're already getting tired of the story with characters we actually care about. Although this ninth and final season of How I Met Your Mother has exhibited a new breath of life that the show hasn't seen in a while, most audiences have otherwise lost a great deal of investment in an idea that has gone on far too long. To do that whole thing again, and without even the benefits of Neil Patrick Harris, seems like a disaster of That '80s Show caliber.
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As with seemingly every other tentpole release to hit the multiplex this summer the action thriller Cowboys & Aliens is based on a comic book – albeit a lesser-known one. It’s directed by Jon Favreau whose previous comic-book adaptations Iron Man and Iron Man 2 proved how much better those films can be when they’re grounded in character. Unfortunately his latest effort is grounded not in character but a hook an alt-history scenario best expressed in the language of the average twelve-year-old: “Like wouldn’t it be awesome if like a bunch of 1870s cowboys had to fight a bunch of crazy aliens with exoskeletons and spaceships and super-advanced weapons?”
Like perhaps. The hook was compelling enough to get someone to pony up a reported $160 million to find out and the result is a film in which the western and science-fiction genres don’t so much blend as violently collide. After the wreckage is cleared both emerge worse for wear.
Daniel Craig stars as Jake Lonergan a stranger who awakens in the New Mexico Territory with a case of amnesia a wound in his side and a strange contraption strapped to his wrist. After dispatching a trio of bandits with Bourne-like efficiency he rides to the nearby town of Absolution where he stumbles on what appears to be an elaborate Western Iconography exhibit presented by the local historical preservation society. There’s the well-meaning town Sheriff Taggart (Keith Carradine) struggling to enforce order amidst lawlessness; the greedy rancher Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford) who really runs things; his debaucherous cowardly son Percy (Paul Dano); the timid saloonkeeper Doc (Sam Rockwell) who’s going to stand up for himself one of these days; the humble preacher Meacham (Clancy Brown) dispensing homespun spiritual advice; et al.
Jake of course has his own part to play – the fugitive train-robber – as we discover when his face shows up on a wanted poster and a sneering Dolarhyde fingers him for the theft of his gold. The only character who doesn’t quite conform to type is Ella (Olivia Wilde) who as neither a prostitute nor some man’s wife – the traditional female occupations in westerns – immediately arouses suspicion.
Jake is arrested and ordered to stand trial in Federal court but before he can be shipped off a squadron of alien planes appears in the sky besieging Absolution and making off with several of its terrified citizenry. In the course of the melee Jake’s wrist contraption wherever it came from reveals itself to be quite useful in defense against the alien invaders. Thrown by circumstances into an uneasy alliance with Dolarhyde he helps organize a posse to counter the otherworldly threat – and bring back the abductees if possible.
Cowboys & Aliens has many of the ingredients of a solid summer blockbuster but none in sufficient amounts to rate in a summer season crowded with bigger-budget (and better-crafted) spectacle. For a film with five credited screenwriters Cowboys & Aliens’ script is sorely lacking for verve or imagination. And what happened to the Favreau of Iron Man? The playful cheekiness that made those films so much fun is all but absent in this film which takes itself much more seriously than any film called Cowboys & Aliens has a right to. Dude you’ve got men on horses with six-shooters battling laser-powered alien crab people. Lighten up.
Craig certainly looks the part of the western anti-hero – his only rival in the area of rugged handsomeness is Viggo Mortensen – but his character is reduced to little more than an angry glare. And Wilde the poor girl is burdened with loads of clunky exposition. The two show promising glimpses of a romantic spark but their relationship remains woefully underdeveloped. Faring far better is Ford who gets not only the bulk of the film’s choicest lines but also its only touching subplot in which his character’s adopted Indian son played by Adam Beach quietly coaxes the humanity out of the grizzled old man.
Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) is a simple family man in South Africa during the ‘80s Apartheid era. He comes home from his oil rig job to take care of his wife and children and stays out of trouble. Still Police Security agent Nic Vos (Tim Robbins) singles Chamusso out for questioning under suspicion of allying with the African National Congress. The Security Branch considers the ANC terrorists because they oppose Apartheid. In fact Vos is so obsessed with security that he teaches his lovely young daughters how to fire guns. Therefore no alibi Chamusso can provide satisfies Vos’ paranoia. He takes the interrogation so far that he threatens Chamusso’s wife Precious (Bonnie Henna). Chamusso finally gives in to save his family but when released he decides if he’s already considered a terrorist he might as well actually join the ANC. Getting deeper and deeper into the violent activities of the ANC Chamusso leaves his family altogether. This true story follows his exploits against the corrupt government and its emotional costs. South Africa is as far away from Hollywood as we can get and this is the kind of movie in which actors get to really show off transforming into people almost from another world. Luke pulls a Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda. We know Luke is a red-blooded American boy but he sounds like a native South African here. Not only the accent but he carries himself like someone who never knew the comforts of the suburbs. Robbins also produces an uncanny South African/Dutch accent. His Nic Vos is the scariest kind of bad guy so frustratingly sure of himself it is beyond evil. He has legitimate reason to fear for his family’s safety in the volatile political and social climate but could he be any more smug? Henna has the most visceral part. As the wife caught up in both sides of Chamusso’s life she suffers as innocent bait and then gets abandoned for her husband’s obsession. She cries her heart out and it always feels genuine not just a show for the cameras. All three are sure to be considered come Oscar nomination season though one may wonder if the film was written specifically for that reason. Director Phillip Noyce has done a couple of Tom Clancy movies and espionage thrillers like The Saint and The Quiet American so he knows how to handle everything in Catch a Fire. The first half of the movie is full of suspense as the audience wonders whether Vos has found a real terrorist or persecuting an innocent. Once Chamusso turns full on rebel it’s an action movie. Things blow up with the visual flair of epic spectacle. Unfortunately it all tends to come across as hollow technically proficient but lacking in heart. The story has so much tragedy inherent to it it’s tricky to put it on film in a genuine way. It seems Noyce just wants us to experience another atrocity so we feel miserable for 90 minutes then give us a little redemption so we leave feeling OK about the human condition. Perhaps it is unfair to compare Fire to Hotel Rwanda another powerful movie about Africa which affected audiences so greatly. But there is something to be said for styles of storytelling. Hotel Rwanda is a story of personal survival within politics. This is very much about politics overwhelming human beings. The identification with Vos provides enough moral ambiguity but more tension in the second half may have made it more tragic rather than just someone pushed to the edge.
The Fox network hopes to produce a sequel to the hit reality series American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in time for a January or February bow, Variety reports. The show, which premiered June 11, has averaged 9.8 million viewers over a six-week period. It follows wanna-be pop stars competing for a recording contract, with viewers eliminating contestants via viewer phone calls. British judge Simon Cowell is expected to return, but it's uncertain whether judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, as well as hosts Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest, will return for the second installment.
Leadfoot publicist Lizzie Grubman, who mowed down 16 people outside the Conscience Point Inn in Southampton with her Mercedes SUV last July, broke down in a tearful apology after a judge said he would soon set a date for her trial. The 31-year-old has pleaded innocent to a 26-count indictment for second-and third-degree assault, vehicular assault, leaving the scene of an accident and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. If convicted, she faces seven years behind bars.
The 1960s British cult TV series Thunderbirds, which used puppets and models in a process dubbed "supermarionation," will be turned into a live-action movie to be directed by Jonathan Frakes, Variety reports. Frakes, who played Commander William Riker on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, last directed the children's adventure Clockstoppers for Paramount Pictures.
Twentieth Century Fox will produce a Bollywood thriller called Ek Hasina Thi, with Ram Gopal Varma attached to direct. A Fox official told Variety this is the first time a Hindi film will be produced by a foreign company. The film is expected to start shooting in August.
The Simpsons will make its 14th season debut this fall in an episode titled How I Spent My Summer Vacation, featuring rockers Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Tom Petty, Brian Setzer, Lenny Kravitz and Elvis Costello. But according to Reuters, there are more star cameos to come next season by skate legend Tony Hawk, Blink 182, Adam West, Little Richard and David Lander (Squiggy from Laverne & Shirley). The show's executive producer, James L. Brooks, will also appear as himself in the upcoming episode A Star Is Born Again with Marisa Tomei.
In other Simpsons news, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has renamed several hundred drainage ponds at highway interchanges after characters from The Simpsons, including Apu, Clancy Wiggum, Maggie, Seymour, Bart, Barney and Milhouse. State hydrologist Patrick McLarnon told The Associate Press it was a better naming scheme than the numbers and letters system previously used.
Rapper Mystikal, whose real name is Michael Tyler, and two other men were jailed Thursday on charges they raped an acquaintance at his house, the AP reports. All three were also charged with extortion. Tyler allegedly threatened to tell police that the 40-year-old woman had received checks from the rapper's account without his permission when she showed up at his house on July 3. He also threatened to hurt her with bodily harm is she did not comply. If convicted of aggravated rape charges, Tyler could face a mandatory life sentence.