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.

 

Film Review: The Gift (dir by Joel Edgerton)


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Because of the nature of The Gift, this post is going to contain minor spoilers.  There’s no way to talk about what makes the film work so brilliantly without giving away a few plot points.  Such is the nature of the beast and all that.  So, if you don’t want to deal with spoilers, allow me just to say this: Go see The Gift.  See it tonight.  See it tomorrow.  See it this weekend.  But, definitely — go see it!

(And if anyone tells you that The Gift is not worth seeing than that person is not really your friend and you need to start hanging out with a better class of people.)

Ryan has already reviewed The Gift and, having watched the film earlier today, I agree with everything that he had to say.  That’s why I am happy to add my voice to his and encourage you to see The Gift.  With this week pretty much dominated by ruminations on the colossal failure of The Fantastic Four and the upcoming weekend guaranteed to be dominated by the release of both Straight Outta Compton and The Man From UNCLE, there’s a definite risk that The Gift is going to get lost in the shuffle.

And that’s unfortunate.  Much like the thematically similar UnfriendedThe Gift comes disguised as a conventional thriller but, once you start to unwrap it, you discover that there are layers and layers of subtext and The Gift is actually one of the best and most thought-provoking films of the year.

Like many great Lifetime films, The Gift opens with a married couple living a deceptively wonderful life.  Simon (Jason Bateman) is friendly and charming and appears to be on the verge of getting a big promotion at work.  He and his wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall), appears to be happy and in love.  They have also got a friendly dog named Mr. Bojangles and they’ve just moved into a beautiful new house.  After spending the last few years in Chicago, they’ve relocated to Simon’s home state of California.  They’re looking forward to starting a family.  Everything’s perfect.

And then, while out shopping for furniture, they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton).  Gordo explains that he went to high school with Simon.  (At first, Simon swears to his wife that he doesn’t even remember Gordo but that soon proves to be false.)  The socially awkward Gordo starts to send Simon and Robyn progressively more and more extravagant gifts.  After Simon tells Robyn that Gordon was known as Weirdo in high school, Robyn starts to feel sorry for Gordo and insists that Simon try to be friendly towards him.  Simon, however, remains weary of Gordo and his intentions.  At first, it seems like Simon is just being cautious but, as the film unfolds, we discover that Simon has his own reasons for wanting to avoid his old classmate.

The more Gordo tries to insert himself into Simon and Robyn’s life, the more we start to see the cracks behind their “perfect” marriage.  Robyn, it turns out, had previously suffered a miscarriage and has a history of abusing prescription medicine.  Meanwhile, it’s revealed that, behind Simon’s fast smile, there lies a condescending control freak.  (Gordo mentions that Simon ran for senior class president on a “Simon says” platform.)

There’s more to Simon and Gordo’s relationship than either one of them is initially willing to admit.  In high school, Simon was a bully and Gordo was his number one victim.  That Gordo wants revenge on Simon should not be surprising.  That’s obvious from the trailer.  No, the genius of the film is to be found in the way that it subtly reveals that, as an adult, Simon is still as much of a jerk and a bully as he was in high school.  He’s just gotten a lot better at hiding it. The same traits that made Simon a bully in high school have helped him to find material success in the real world.   When Gordo reeneters his life, Simon can no longer hide who he really is.  Gordo is not just his former victim.  Gordo is proof of what lies underneath Simon’s perfect facade.  When Robyn finally convinces Simon to apologize to Gordo, Simon cannot do so convincingly because he’s not so much sorry as he’s just inconvenienced.  When Gordo refuses to accept the apology, Simon’s mask falls away and he reveals his true nature, setting up the film’s devastating conclusion.

(I’m not going to spoil how the film ends but I will tell you that it left me breathless and stunned.  It’s not a happy ending but it is absolutely the right ending for the story that’s being told.  As both the film’s director and writer, Joel Edgerton deserves a lot of credit for staying true to the movie’s theme.)

Rebecca Hall is well-cast as Robyn but, ultimately, the film is dominated by the performances of Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton.  (Interestingly enough, both Bateman and Edgerton are made up so that they superficially resemble each other, allowing Gordo to literally become the personification of Simon’s ugly side.)  Edgerton transforms Gordo into a character who is both scary and pathetic at the same time.  Meanwhile, Jason Bateman — oh, where to begin?  For the longest time, it’s been impossible for me to look at Bateman without flashing back to that scene in Juno where he hit on Ellen Page.  Now, however, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at Jason Bateman without hearing him yell, “Accept my apology!”  Jason Bateman has played a lot of less-than-sympathetic characters but Simon … well, Simon may be the worst.  As an actor, Jason Bateman deserves a lot of credit for not shying away from revealing the truth about Simon.  It takes courage to play such an unlikable character and talent to make that character compelling even when the viewer can’t stand him.

The Gift is an excellent and thought-provoking thriller, the type of film that will both make you jump with fright (I screamed during a certain shower scene and that’s all I’ll say about that) and leave you with much to think about after the end credits roll.

It’s a film that you need to see now.

And here are the NAACP Image Award Nominations!


Dear White People

And continuing our awards wrap-up, here are the 2014 NAACP Image Award nominations!

(h/t to awardswatch)

MOTION PICTURE
Outstanding Motion Picture
• “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
• Chadwick Boseman – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• David Oyelowo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Denzel Washington – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)
• Idris Elba – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)
• Nate Parker – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
• Gugu Mbatha-Raw – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Quvenzhané Wallis – “Annie” (Columbia Pictures)
• Taraji P. Henson – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)
• Tessa Thompson – “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• Viola Davis – “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
• André Holland – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Cedric the Entertainer – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)
• Common – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Danny Glover – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• Wendell Pierce – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
• Carmen Ejogo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Jill Scott – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• Octavia Spencer – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• Oprah Winfrey – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Viola Davis – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
• “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• “Half of a Yellow Sun” (monterey media inc.)
• “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)
• “Life of a King” (Animus Films/Serena Films)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture
• Chris Rock – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)
• Justin Simien – “Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
• Margaret Nagle – “The Good Lie” (Alcon Entertainment)
• Misan Sagay – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Richard Wenk – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture
• Amma Asante – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Antoine Fuqua – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)
• Ava DuVernay – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Gina Prince-Bythewood – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• John Ridley – “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)

TELEVISION
Outstanding Comedy Series
• “Black-ish” (ABC)
• “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
• “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
• Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)
• Anthony Anderson – “‘Black-ish” (ABC)
• Don Cheadle – “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• Keegan-Michael Key – “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
• Kevin Hart – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
• Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” (FOX)
• Niecy Nash – “The Soul Man” (TV Land)
• Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Uzo Aduba – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Wendy Raquel Robinson – “The Game” (BET)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
• Boris Kodjoe – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)
• Glynn Turman – “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• Laurence Fishburne – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Marcus Scribner – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Terry Crews – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
• Adrienne C. Moore – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Laverne Cox – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Lorraine Toussaint – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family” (ABC)
• Yara Shahidi – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Drama Series
• “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
• “House of Cards” (Netflix)
• “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
• LL Cool J – “NCIS: LA” (CBS)
• Omar Epps – “Resurrection” (ABC)
• Omari Hardwick – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• Shemar Moore – “Criminal Minds” (CBS)
• Taye Diggs – “Murder in the First” (TNT)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
• Gabrielle Union – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• Kerry Washington – “Scandal” (ABC)
• Nicole Beharie – “Sleepy Hollow” (FOX)
• Octavia Spencer – “Red Band Society” (FOX)
• Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
• Alfred Enoch – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• Courtney B. Vance – “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)
• Guillermo Diaz – “Scandal” (ABC)
• Jeffrey Wright – “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)
• Joe Morton – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
• Aja Naomi King – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• Alfre Woodard – “State of Affairs” (NBC)
• Chandra Wilson – “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
• Jada Pinkett Smith – “Gotham” (FOX)
• Khandi Alexander – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
• Aisha Muharrar – “Parks and Recreation” – Ann & Chris (NBC)
• Brigette Munoz-Liebowitz – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – Road Trip (FOX)
• Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” – Danny and Mindy (FOX)
• Regina Hicks – “Instant Mom” – A Kids’s Choice (Nickelodeon and Nick@Nite)
• Sara Hess – “Orange is the New Black” – It Was the Change (Netflix)

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
• Erika Green Swafford – “How to Get Away with Murder” – Let’s Get To Scooping
(ABC)
• Mara Brock Akil – “Being Mary Jane” – Uber Love (BET)
• Warren Leight, Julie Martin – “Law & Order: SVU” – American Disgrace (NBC)
• Zahir McGhee – “Scandal” – Mama Said Knock You Out (ABC)
• Zoanne Clack – “Grey’s Anatomy” – You Be Illin’ (ABC)

Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)
• “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
• “Drumline: A New Beat” (VH1)
• “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)
• “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• Blair Underwood – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Charles S. Dutton – “Comeback Dad” (UP Entertainment)
• Larenz Tate – “Gun Hill” (BET)
• Mekhi Phifer – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)
• Ving Rhames – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)

Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• Angela Bassett – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
• Cicely Tyson – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Keke Palmer – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Regina King – “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)
• Vanessa Williams – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Key & Peele

And here are The Independent Spirit Nominations


The Gotham Awards aren’t the only awards regularly given to films that the majority of filmgoers will never get to see.  The Independent Spirit Nominations are also dedicated to recognizing the best of independent film and they tend to get a bit more attention than the Gothams.  With the early Oscar talk being dominated by mainstream studio films like Argo, Lincoln and Les Miserables, indie films like Bernie and Moonrise Kingdom are going to need all of the help that they can get.

BEST PICTURE

Bernie

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Keep The Lights On

Moonrise Kingdom

Silver Linings Playbook

BEST DIRECTOR

Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom

Julia Loktev, The Loneliest Planet

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

BEST SCREENPLAY

Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola, Moonrise Kingdom

Zoe Kazan, Ruby Sparks

Martin McDonagh, Seven Psychopaths

David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook

Ira Sachs, Keep the Lights On

BEST FIRST FEATURE

Fill the Void

Gimme the Loot

Safety Not Guaranteed

Sound of My Voice

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

Rama Burshtein, Fill the Void

Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed

Christopher Ford, Robot & Frank

Rashida Jones & Will McCormack, Celeste and Jesse Forever

Jonathan Lisecki, Gayby

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD – (for features under $500,000)

Breakfast with Curtis

Middle of Nowhere

Mosquita y Mari

Starlet

The Color Wheel

BEST FEMALE LEAD

Linda Cardellini, Return

Emayatzy Corinealdi, Middle of Nowhere

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

Quvenzhané Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Smashed

BEST MALE LEAD

Jack Black, Bernie

Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook

John Hawkes, The Sessions

Thure Lindhardt, Keep the Lights On

Matthew McConaughey, Killer Joe

Wendell Pierce, Four

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

Rosemarie DeWitt, Your Sister’s Sister

Ann Dowd, Compliance

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Brit Marling, Sound of My Voice

Lorraine Toussaint, Middle of Nowhere

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

Matthew McConaughey, Magic Mike

David Oyelowo, Middle of Nowhere

Michael Péna, End of Watch

Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths

Bruce Willis, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Yoni Brook, Valley of Saints

Lol Crawley, Here

Ben Richardson, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Roman Vasyanov, End of Watch

Robert Yeoman, Moonrise Kingdom

BEST DOCUMENTARY

How to Survive a Plague

Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present

The Central Park Five

The Invisible War

The Waiting Room

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

Amour (France)

Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Turkey)

Rust And Bone (France/Belgium)

Sister (Switzerland)

War Witch (Democratic Republic of Congo)

PIAGET PRODUCERS AWARD

Nobody Walks, Alicia Van Couvering

Prince Avalanche, Derrick Tseng

Stones in the Sun, Mynette Louie

SOMEONE TO WATCH AWARD

Pincus, director David Fenster

Gimme the Loot, director Adam Leon

Electrick Children, director Rebecca Thomas

TRUER THAN FICTION AWARD (given to emerging documentary filmmaker)

Leviathan, directors Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel

The Waiting Room, director Peter Nicks

Only the Young, directors Jason Tippet & Elizabeth Mims

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (for ensemble cast)

Starlet Director: Sean Baker Casting Director: Julia Kim Cast: Dree Hemingway, Besedka Johnson, Karren Karagulian, Stella Maeve, James Ransone