Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - Paramount - Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, Peter Andersson, Kenneth Branagh. Full cast + crew
It'll be a bummer if Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit doesn't spawn a new franchise of films based on the beloved character created by Tom Clancy (previously played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck). However, even if no Jack Ryan sequels get green-lit, it'll be okay because at least we got this version, which holds up quite well to repeat viewings.
What's so nice about Shadow Recruit is how measured and balanced it all is. It's a smart, patient spy thriller that isn't filled with ludicrous end-of-the-world scenarios. The action is very grounded and realistic, and yet still quite intense. And Chris Pine does a really nice job of giving his Ryan its own, unique stamp, while also playing off Kevin Costner's seasoned CIA veteran attitude. And it'd be great to see all those ingredients move forward.
Non-Stop - Warner Bros. - Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Nate Parker, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery. Full cast + crew
He may not be a brand name, but Jaume Collet-Serra is one of the most consistently entertaining commercial directors around. He made the House of Wax remake stand out better than anyone expected. Orphan takes the killer-kid premise to a highly amusing new level. Unknown is Hitchcock with good action. And now Non-Stop is a great, bottled whodunit thriller.
Considering much of the fun comes from watching Liam Neeson play a great game of Guess Who while he tries to figure out which passenger aboard his plane is really a terrorist, I'm not sure how well it will hold up on repeat viewings, but at least the first time around this is a smart, breezy, just plain fun movie. It's got a really nice supporting cast that all feed into the "it could be anyone" paranoia that makes movies like this such a delight. It's certainly worth checking out.
Other Notable New Releases
Britons will be far more familiar with the character of Alan Partridge (a bumbling radio host played by Steve Coogan) than Americans, but even if you've never heard of this British regular before, you should give this stand-alone movie a shot. Coogan's great in it, and the whole thing is a wry send-up of bad media hosts and hostage movies.
Teller, of Penn and Teller fame, directs the fascinating Tim's Vermeer, a sharp, insightful documentary that cuts right into art culture. It's about an inventor who sets out to prove that Johannes Vermeer, one of the most acclaimed painters of his time, actually painted with the help of a series of mirrors. That may sound absolutely boring, but trust this is an engaging documentary that takes a potentially dry material and makes it utterly fascinating.
Also out this week are two different Spike Lee collections. The first contains The 25th Hour and He Got Game, while the second volume holds Son of Sam and Miracle at St. Anna. That last set isn't nearly as impressive as the first, but if you're not familiar with Spike Lee's range as a filmmaker, these four do represent a rather compelling picture of the director's more commercial side. In particular, if you've never seen the utterly superb The 25th Hour before, just go ahead and buy this set and consider He Got Game (also a good movie, but not as great) as a bonus.
And then we have Shout! Factory's release of Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles, the latest martial arts movie from the director of Hard Revenge, Milly. It takes a funky, modern approach to old-school samurai movies. Its production values are probably a bit too low to impress non-martial arts fans, but if you love to see Japanese people fight in crazy, inventive ways, give it a shot.
This week a handful of particularly great TV series hit Blu-ray, and so we wanted to highlight a few of them.
There's a reason everyone's been raving about HBO's True Detective. It's basically a career high for all involved. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are both given excellent characters that they're allowed to open wide and explore in challenging, memorable ways. Nic Pizzolatto's writing is a sweaty blend of existential horror, and it's the kind of dense, borderline absurd stuff that shouldn't work in live action, and yet director Cary Fukunaga always finds the right way to guide everything toward a cohesive, scintillating experience. I couldn't recommend this show more.
I also couldn't recommend Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey more, though for very different reasons. (However, it weirdly does tap into a lot of the same existential fears that True Detective does, and the latter's finale makes an interesting double bill with the first episode of Cosmos). Neil deGrassee Tyson uses the kind of cutting-edge CGI you'd expect to find in a Michael Bay movie to tell the story of humans and our place in the universe, and it's a highly entertaining, sobering and thought-provoking program that honors original creator Carl Sagan in every way possible. A must-watch event.
A little less must-watch but still interesting is Klondike, the Discovery Channel's first foray into scripted miniseries TV. It was executive produced by Ridley Scott and captures life during the late 1800s as two men trying to make their way through the Yukon territory in search of gold. It's a bit dry, and history nuts may pick apart a few of the details, but it's got a good cast (including Tim Blake Nelson, Abbie Cornish, Tim Roth and Sam Shepard) and should satisfy those with a passing interest in 19th century gold rushes.
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