Jack Ryan (Season 1) Review by Case Wright


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There are two types of streaming television series: Get a sitter and watch in rapt silence with your SO and friends and Elliptical and/or Hangover Television.  Jack Ryan is in the latter category.  It’s a solid: NOT BAD.   Ok, it was a little weird seeing Jack Ryan (John Krasinski) put Osama Bin Laden’s AK-47 in a Jello Mold, but I thought it was a nice call back.  JK!

Jack Ryan has been a staple for nerds who like action for decades.  Jack Ryan is a data analyst badass who defeats terrorism and rogue commies, in other words, fictional.  He’s been in countless books, films, and video games.  The only other character that gets this much media has to use The Force.  In this iteration, Carlton Cuse of “Lost” fame takes a crack the characters.

Jack Ryan is a young Marine Vet turned CIA officer with PTSD.  He is teamed up with Greer who in the books and previous iterations was a tough talking Admiral with shitty dialogue; whereas, in this version, Greer’s a down and out muslim CIA officer whose career is in decline after killing a Pakistani asset.  They are on the hunt for the big bad: Sulieman.

Sulieman is the product of the American intervention in the Lebanese civil war in 1986, which…checks out.  He is hell bent on causing all kinds of mayhem in America and abroad.  They make a big show about how he was treated badly throughout his life-  Boo hoo.  I guess it was supposed to make him more human. I thought it made him really really whiny.  So what, you didn’t get your dream job that gives you the right to blow everybody up?!

The big question most of my readers have: Did John Krasinski – Jim- have a passable performance as a super spy?????  KINDA. He was pretty close at times, but was he held back by some purposely slowed down plot points.  I will get to the derpy derp moments later, but really the season should’ve been 6 episodes instead of 8 because there were too many contrivances, which inhibited John’s performance.  I have to write that he was in fact believable.   I did not know what to expect, but he delivered a good performance.

What they got right:

Sleepless nights with PTSD and drinking too much.  They portrayed that spot on.  I thought, I’ve had those late nights.  Ok, Pass!

The SEAL/Ranger team: I’ve known many Special Operators over the years and they are all real salt of the Earth types.  They played those matter of fact tough guys perfectly. Ok, Pass!

The inherent turpitude of civilian government officials: Very good, they’re all presumptive Dirtbaggus Americanus.  Ok, Pass!

The director building suspense? Yep, the direction was done quite well.  No complaints.

What was so very dumb?  NO F#@#!NG Way!!! NFW!!!! NFW!!!

1.  They portrayed Jack Ryan as dealing PTSD, giving him pause to shoot his weapon.  I get that, BUT he’s still a Marine.  There’s a scene where he makes the decision to shoot and misses by a mile just so they could have fight scene later.  This is just dumb.  Marines are ALL crackshots.  If you are in a Marine’s line of fire and he’s got a clear shot, you’re dust.  When you see it, you’ll roll your eyes.

2.  There’s a terrorist strike by Sulieman and he claims responsibility.  They show his face being plastered on all television networks. He’s on tv more than Anderson Cooper. Then, with no face disguise, he’s NEVER recognized.  We’re not talking just one time, but FIVE times at least.  His face would’ve been burned in everyone’s memory.  It was just dumb,  lazy, and contrived to keep the villain the in the action.

3.  A CIA Officer meets Sulieman’s wife and he just lets her walk away the same day as a major terror attack: NFW! Anyone who said that they knew an Osama equivalent would be sequestered and interrogated immediately, but it was obvious that they needed to pad the plot to squeeze three unnecessary episodes for story arc.

4.  There’s a duo who are drone pilots that are just sort of shoehorned into the story for no reason at all.  I couldn’t even figure out the message if drones were supposed to be good or bad.  I left thinking… Man, drones work really well.  Then, one of the drone pilots gets all guilty about a mistargeting incident and flies to Syria because ya know Active Duty Soldiers just get to go anywhere they like on leave…. NFW!!!!!!! Just think about it…we shouldn’t just get to go wherever we like.  It’s dangerous for us and could lead to a Soldier getting compromised.  NFW!

5.  There’s a plot point where a doctor becomes aware of a biological threat and just sends an email.  WHAAAA?!  She would be calling everyone and their brother to report that because she’s supposed to be smart.

Is it worth watching?

Yes, yes it is.  It’s got real problems in terms of story holes, but my hope is that Carlton Cuse learns from this.  He can DM me if he likes.  I’ll consult or script doctor for a very reasonable rate.  Jack Ryan is great for watching on the Elliptical at the gym or if you’re hungover or something.  It is NOT at this time get a babysitter and everyone be quiet television, but it is …. fun.

 

Review: The Hunt for Red October (dir. by John McTiernan)


The Hunt for Red October

Fresh off the success of his two previous films, The Predator and Die Hard, John McTiernan was now tasked with adapting one of the 1980’s most popular novels with Tom Clancy’s debut techno-thriller, The Hunt for Red October.

By 1990, the year the film was released, Gorbachev had thawed the Cold War that existed between East and West. The Berlin Wall was months away from being torn down and glasnost became the word of the day for most people who knew nothing but the spectre of nuclear annihilation hanging over their heads since before born.

It was during the final years of the Cold War that an insurance salesman with a penchant for military and spy thrillers tried his hand in writing one. this first attempt became a worldwide sensation and was quickly put up in a bidding war by all the major studios. It would be Paramount Pictures who would win to adapt The Hunt for Red October for the big-screen and John McTiernan would be hired to steer the film.

While Sean Connery would ultimately be cast in the main role of Soviet submarine Marko Ramius, he wasn’t the first choice. German actor Klaus Maria Brandauer was originally cast but ended up leaving production a coupe weeks into production due to prior commitments. So, in comes Connery and the rest, as they would say, is history.

The thing about film adaptations of popular novels has been how much of the novel could the filmmakers, especially the screenwriter, be able to fit into a film that would run around 2 hours or so. Some cutting of scenes that fans loves would have to be done and depending on the scenes in the novel, a backlash could begin against the film even before filming was completed.

Fortunately, this was Hollywood in the late 1980’s and there was no such thing as the internet as we know of it today. There were no blogs dedicated to reporting on every minute detail of a film production. No amateur film newshound bringing up unsubstantiated rumors of the going’s on during a film’s production. This was still a Hollywood who controlled how news of their activities were going to be reported and what they decided to tell and show reporters.

This would be a boon for McTiernan’s The Hunt for Red October since the film had some major help from not just the U.S. Navy, but from the Department of Defense in trying to make sure the film was as realistic as possible in portraying the life of American submariners, Naval personnel and how the intelligence community in the West operated. Again, this was also with the film portraying all these groups in a much more positive light in return for their assistance.

In today’s world, such a compromise from the filmmakers to gain the help from the military-intelligence apparatus would be akin to some as perpetuating warmongering and glorifying the military. I could see blogs shouting for boycotts if such a thing happened nowadays.

But returning to the film The Hunt for Red October, for a straight-by-the-numbers thriller it still brings a certain surprise and inventiveness in the action-thriller genre that other filmmakers decades later would try to emulate (Crimson Tide and the many Jack Ryan-based films). Despite a Russian accent that really was cringe-worthy even when first heard, Sean Connery made for a charismatic and sympathetic Marko Ramius whose reasoning for defecting with the titular submarine Red October went beyond just the politics of the era.

Backing him up was a strong ensemble cast with a very young Alec Baldwin in the role of Jack Ryan, James Earl Jones as his boss CIA director Adm. James Greer and Sam Neill and Scott Glenn as Cmdr. Borodin and Capt. Mancuso. The film goes in heavily into Clancy’s love for technobabble and military jargon, yet the actors involved seemed very game and convincing in acting out the dialogue that would sound ridiculous is just read without context and understanding.

While the film does sacrifice some of the more political maneuverings in the book, which meant less scenes with Richard Jordan as National Security Advisor Dr. Pelt, it does streamline the film to be more action-oriented. It was a shame they went that way in which parts of the novel to cut out since Jordan’s performance as Dr. Pelt was one of the highlights of the film, despite his limited screentime.

In terms of action, The Hunt for Red October proved once again that McTiernan knew how to handle both tension and action in equal measure. He makes the cat-and-mouse battle between the Soviet and American subs seem as thrilling as any fast-paced dogfight scenes that thrilled filmgoers when Top Gun premiered on the bigscreen.

Even the film’s orchestral score from the late and great composer Basil Poledouris would lend the film a certain level of martial prowess that Poledouris’ compositions were known for. Even after many viewings it’s still difficult not to hum the film’s Soviet national hymn-inspired theme.

While The Hunt for Red October was one of the last films of the Cold War-era that still showed the tug-of-war between the East and West, it was a fitting end to a part of Hollywood’s cinematic history that portrayed Communism, especially that of the Soviet Union, as the big go-to Enemy that made action movies of the 80’s so popular with the Reaganite crowd.

The success of this film would begin a cottage industry of sequels featuring the character of Jack Ryan who would be portrayed in subsequent films by none other than Everyman himself Harrison Ford then in a miscasting in a later sequel by Ben Affleck.

An October Film Review: The Night America Trembled (dir by Tom Donovan)


Today is the 79th anniversary of Orson Welles’s infamous War of the Worlds broadcast.

In 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater of the Air performed a radio adaptation of H.G. Welles’s War of the World.  Presented as a live news program, it was one of the first mockumentaries.  It also caused a panic.  How big the panic was is open for debate.  Some say only a few people took it seriously.  Other sources say that it was a nationwide crisis.  But, regardless, Welles made history on that night.  Not only did he illustrate the power of the media but he also scared the Hell out of a lot of people.  All in all, a pretty good night…

Filmed in 1957 for a television program called Westinghouse Studio One, The Night America Trembled is a dramatization of that night.  For legal reasons, Orson Welles is not portrayed nor is his name mentioned.  Instead, the focus is mostly on the people listening to the broadcast and getting the wrong idea.  That may sound like a comedy but The Night America Trembled takes itself fairly seriously.  Even pompous old Edward R. Murrow shows up to narrate the film, in between taking drags off a cigarette.  (I enjoyed the show but, whenever Murrow showed up, I was reminded of a grumpy old teacher complaining that none of his students cared about the Spanish-American War.)

Clocking in at a brisk 60 minutes, The Night America Trembled is an interesting recreation of that October 30th.  Among the people panicking: a group of people in a bar who, before hearing the broadcast, were debating whether or not Hitler was as crazy as people said he was, a babysitter who goes absolutely crazy with fear, and a group of poker-playing college students.  If, like me, you’re a frequent viewer of TCM, you may recognize some of the faces in the large cast: Ed Asner, James Coburn, John Astin, Warren Oates, and Warren Beatty all make early appearances.

As I said, it’s an interesting little historical document and you can watch it below!

Enjoy!

4 Shots From 4 Films: James Earl Jones Edition


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking.

Happy Birthday to the man with the imposing presence: James Earl Jones

4 SHOTS FROM 4 FILMS

The Hunt for Red October (dir. by John McTiernan)

The Hunt for Red October (dir. by John McTiernan)

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (dir. by John Badham)

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (dir. by John Badham)

E3 2011: Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Trailer and Gameplay Demo


I’ve never been a big fan of Ubisoft’s tactical shooter franchise series. I know many who absolutely love the Ghost Recon franchise and I’m sure this latest entry in the series will be a hit with them as well. Ghost Recon: Future Soldier was first announced at last year’s E3 and some of the advanced tactical gameplay shown by Ubisoft were interesting enough that I was intrigued.

I’m not sure if I’ll be buying this title on it’s release date, but the gameplay demo shown during Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference really built on some of what interested me in the first place. The game looks to make use of the Xbox 360’s Kinect motion controller and it’s voice recognition capability. The important thing is that the player doesn’t have to stop using the regular controller, but just use the Kinect as a nice option and complement to the regular 360 game controller.

With the game still months from being released there’s still ample time for Ubisoft to continue to try and win over non-fans of this series such as myself and from the past year since they first announced this title they’ve done a good job. The only problem this title may run into is the glut of war shooters (first-person, third-person and tactical) that will be flooding the market from now til early next year that it may not find a place for itself. There’s only so much money a gamer has to spend at any given time and with the economy the way it is even gamers like myself with jobs may still have to forgo titles like this to get those were more fans of.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier has a tentative release date around the Q1 2012.