Tag Archives: 2013

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit **

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“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is the new reboot of the popular character created by Tom Clancy. He has been portrayed before by the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. Each actor did an admirable job and made the character their own. Here we have Chris Pine, an actor with a ton of charisma, who is saddled with a screenplay that makes Ryan a bore. Not only that but the story and the action are all recycled elements we have seen in much better movies.

This is a real shame because I honestly like Pine. He is great in the role of Captain Kirk in the “Star Trek” films. This might be sacrilege but if they are going to recast Indiana Jones my vote would be for him to take it over. The danger there is that you don’t want to be associated with too many iconic roles. Anyways, in “Shadow Recruit” we catch up with Jack Ryan in his early days with the CIA. He is recruited by a senior agent played by Kevin Costner. His often disappointed girlfriend is played by Keira Knightley.

We follow Ryan as he uncovers a plot by some Russian bad guys to cause some financial terrorism. The main villain is played by Kenneth Branagh, who also directs the movie. Branagh really doesn’t give himself much dialogue to chew on. He plays it fairly straight forward to be honest. His guys engage in fist fights with Ryan in moments that take their cues from better movies such as the “Bourne” series.

In the end I found this movie to be fairly boring. About two thirds of the way through the plot lost me and the action sequences were feeling stale. I think the biggest mistake is to reinvent this character as a sort of action hero. The reason the original films worked so well is that because Ryan was just an average analyst who was forced in to dangerous situations. He was a hero but not in the traditional sense.

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The Best Films Of 2013

These were my favourite films of 2013.

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12 “The Place Beyond The Pines” “If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder.”

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11 “Disconnect”

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10 “Only God Forgives” “Billy was my first son. We had a very special relationship. Julian was so jealous. It was like he was cracked or something. He had paranoid delusions about us. And it pains me to say this to you, as it would pain any mother, but he killed his own father with his bare hands. That’s why he had to get out of America. He’s a very dangerous boy.”

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9 “Dallas Buyers Club” “Oh, I’m the drug dealer? No, you’re the fuckin’ drug dealer. I mean, goddamn, people are dyin’. And y’all are up there afraid that we’re gonna find an alternative without you.”

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8 “To The Wonder” “There is love that is like a stream that can go dry when rain no longer feeds it. But there is a love that is like a spring coming up from the earth. The first is human love, the second is divine love and has its source above.”

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7 “Short Term 12” “Please don’t be offended if I’m not very friendly, but I’m going to be living with my dad soon, and I don’t really like wasting time on short-term relationships. So, you know, it’s nothing personal.”

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6 “Before Midnight” “I am giving you my whole life ok? I got nothing larger to give, I’m not giving it to anybody else. If you’re looking for permission to disqualify me, I’m not gonna give it to you. Ok? I love you. And I’m not in conflict about it. Okay? But if what you want is like a laundry list of all the things that piss me off, I can give it to you.”

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5 “Captain Phillips” “Listen up, we have been boarded by armed pirates. If they find you, remember, you know this ship, they don’t. Stick together and we’ll be all right. Good luck.”

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4 “The Wolf Of Wall Street” “On a daily basis I consume enough drugs to sedate Manhattan, Long Island, and Queens for a month. I take Quaaludes 10-15 times a day for my “back pain”, Adderall to stay focused, Xanax to take the edge off, part to mellow me out, cocaine to wake me back up again, and morphine… Well, because it’s awesome.”

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3 “Her” “It’s like I’m reading a book… and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you… and the words of our story… but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live your book any more.”

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2 “12 Years A Slave” “I am Solomon Northup. I am a free man; a resident of Saratoga, New York. The residence also of my wife and children who are equally free. I have papers. You have no right whatsoever to detain me…”

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1 “Gravity” “I get it, it’s nice up here. You could just shut down all the systems, turn down all the lights, just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe. What’s the point of going on? What’s the point of living? Your kid died, it doesn’t get any rougher than that. It’s still a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it’s time to go home.”

August: Osage County ***

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“August: Osage County” is a fairly heavy movie when it comes to the drama that takes place. There are a lot of grueling performances and long dialogue sequences to get through. I was not too surprised to find that this was based on a play. As a movie I enjoyed it but I just found that it was bursting at the seams. Perhaps the screenplay needed to be drawn out a little more to give everyone a little more weight and depth.

When it comes to family bitterness, “August: Osage County” gets it almost too perfectly. The story follows a rather large extended family as they reunite to mourn the loss of the grandfather. The cast includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Juliett Lewis, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Abigail Breslin. Each actor pretty much disappeared in to their character. I especially liked Julia Roberts, who manages to completely shed her super star status and inhabit a person who is harboring much anger towards her mother.

The plot I can’t really describe without giving away some of the surprises. Just know that there are some shocking and disturbing family secrets here that are about to boil to the surface. The cast all do a fantastic job of portraying a family that would rather live on the brink of destruction rather than watch the family crumble.

Part of me wishes that there was another hour or so to this movie. It almost felt like there was too much covered in the two hours of screen time. I wanted to know more about how Benedict Cumberbatch’s character turns out as well as how Chris Cooper and his wife fared. But that is just me wishing for more of a good thing. I honestly would not be opposed to a sequel.

The Wolf Of Wall Street ****

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Just when I had given up on seeing another truly great film from 2013, leave it up to Martin Scorsese to knock us out with his latest film “The Wolf Of Wall Street”. This movie is a force of nature. Scorsese hurtles us effortlessly through three hours of greed, corruption, drug abuse, over the top debauchery and pure insanity. You have never seen people debase themselves like they do in this movie. I came out of it needing a shower.

The story is based on the real life exploits of Jordan Belfort, a stock broker who made millions basically selling middle class American’s junk stocks. He knowingly conned people out of their hard earned cash to feed his life style of greed and excess. He put together a group of low life drug dealers and a bizarre friend who lived in his building, to create a high power brokerage. Belfort is played here by Leonardo DiCaprio, who fearlessly jumps in to a role that depicts him abusing as many drugs as he could get his hands on, sleeping with prostitutes on each end of the scale and spending obscene amounts of money on lavish homes, boats and toys. Jonah Hill plays Donnie, Belfort’s right hand man. Donnie seems to live even worse than Belfort does, pounding down dangerous drugs by the hand full and fornicating with whoever is standing in front of him. How these guys survived these years with their lives and their private parts intact is a mystery.

The film chronicles Belfort’s rise and eventual fall at the hands of the FBI. It is amazing how arrogant Belfort became, eventually taunting the FBI and essentially getting their undivided attention on his own. At one point his lawyers managed to put together a deal that would of seen him pay a few million in fines, step down as CEO of his company, and live out his days with all his money and belongings. The fact that he was offered this kind of deal is a travesty but more shocking is that he pisses on the deal, which pushed the authorities to pursue actual jail time and take away everything. This made me realize just how messed up the justice system truly is.

Now this movie is getting a lot of flack because of the shocking amounts of drug use and sex that are on display. Do these people not realize that this is based on a true story? Is Scorsese supposed to just water down these events so that sensitive movie goers don’t get offended? I myself was offended at how these people lived their lives but I was not offended to see it depicted on screen. I applaud Scorsese for holding nothing back and fully depicting these people as the disgusting individuals that they are.

As for the cast, everyone here is just amazing. DiCaprio and Hill are fearless in their performances. There is a moment where they are so high on drugs that they cannot remove their faces from the floor. The drug in question is a rare and powerful qualuude. When Belfort receives a call from his lawyer to stay off the phones due to wire tapping, he finds himself driving home high as a kite to stop Donnie from talking about laundered cash over the phone. This scene results in some of the darkest comedy I have seen in a long time.

At three hours running time the film covers a lot of ground. Credit goes to Scorsese and his editors at cutting this together in a way that it feels like it flies right by. The feeling felt very similar to Scorsese’s own “Goodfellas”, which was another long movie that was so absorbing that it didn’t feel long enough. Here I wanted to see more of what happened to Belfort after getting out of prison. Did he learn anything? Has he truly changed?

Hopefully this movie is a big success. I have a feeling it won’t be as big as some of DiCaprio and Scorsese’s previous collaborations. There just isn’t a lot of interest in movies that are this dark. Judging on the mixed reactions it is getting so far I may be right. I for one think it is one of the years best films.

Lone Survivor ***1/2

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Long Survivor” is a war movie that really didn’t start to resonate with me until after I saw it. Upon first viewing I had praise for the harrowing action sequences and the realism of the locations but I found that I didn’t connect with the characters very much. I realize now that not all war movies need to be a prolonged epic. The mission depicted in this movie wasn’t a very long one but it left a mark on everyone who was involved.

Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch star as the seal team sent in to enemy territory in Afganistan to eliminate a high level Taliban target. When they happen upon some kids and an elderly bystander they struggle with a choice that ultimiately decides their fate. Do they murder these seemingly innocent civilians or let them go and risk giving away their position and facing an army of Taliban soldiers.

Their decision results in a particularly fierce battle as the men fight for their lives. They are forced to keep shooting as they are uultimitely pushed further in to enemy territory.

I was surprised with how gritty and violent this battle turned out to be. Mainly because we have been put through so many PG-13 films that try to generate fake grittiness by shaking the camera and cutting together scenes with a blender. Here the battle is clear and easy to follow yet sill seems chaotic for the Seal team. I esspecially shuddered when they were forced to leap off a cliff and roll down a hill violently.

The director is Peter Berg, who was behind such films as “The Rundown”, “Friday Night Lights” and “The Kingdom”. His most recent film was the awul “Battleship”. Word around town is that he provided his services on that movie so that he could get this one made. Sad to think that great art comes at a price these days.

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues ***

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It has been a long time coming and it is finally here! “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” has arrived with a wave of hype. It is a sequel to a now classic comedy from way back in 2004. When “Anchorman” debuted all those years ago it found moderate success in theatres and big success on home video. I still quote that film and re-watch it to this day. The sequel is not quite as memorable but is just about as funny.

Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd, Steve Carell and David Koechner return to join the world’s first 24 hours news network. Basically they do a parody of CNN and Fox News, which are hilarious to watch in their own right.

When we catch up with Burgundy he has just lost his dream job to his wife Veronica, who has left him after his selfish reaction. He has not seen their son in a few months. He is down and out, working a dead end job at sea world. This is when he is discovered by a recruiter for GNN. He takes the job and immediately recruits his old news team to try and make a splash in New York. This results in some outrageous laughs when they realize if they make the news entertaining and stupid, then their ratings will sky rocket. I especially laughed my ass off when the team hears the new fad on the streets is to smoke crack and decide to try it on the air. “Oh you feel that right away” say Burgundy as he takes a hit from a pipe.

If you loved the first “Anchorman” then there is no reason you should not see this in theatres. It is mostly funny and some times hysterical. Ferrell and his cohorts look a little older but their humour have not skipped a beat. I certainly hope that this is not the final chapter in the life of Ron Burgundy.

Her ****

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“Her” is one of those movies that completely transcends all film genres. It is a strangely powerful film full of romance, mystery and terrifying implications. The story does not feel that far fetched if you really think about it. What if operating systems become artificial intelligence and develop personalities? Is it so inconceivable to think that someone could fall in love with one. That is what happens in director Spike Jonze’s new film, that and much more.

Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore, a deeply emotional man who has just been through the traumatic break up of his marriage. He writes personalized letters for a living and spends his nights playing bizarre video games and calling phone sex lines. When he sees a commercial for a new operating system that is a fully independent artificial personality, he is intrigued enough to get one. He decides to go with a female personality. Almost immediately she gives herself the name Samantha and begins searching his hard drive and emails in an attempt to get to know Theodore. She has the calming voice of Scarlett Johansson. Almost immediately the OS starts to become attracted to Theodore, pretty much talking him into a relationship with him.

Theodore begins to enjoy life again as he grows closer to his operating system. He keeps her in his phone so she can view the world through it’s camera. They begin to bond on a fairly deep level considering Samantha is a computer. Eventually it becomes accepted by his friends and family as more people begin to activate and fall for their own operating systems. This is when things grow complicated, not only for Theodore but for society. Samantha begins reaching out to other people as well as other operating systems in an attempt to grow and learn.

Eventually Samantha wants to take her relationship with Theodore to another level. She reaches out to another lonely soul via email and convinces her to come to their home and make love to Theodore in her place. This scene is one of the most bizarre and disturbing sequences I have seen in any film this year.

Over time Samantha begins to have relationships with other people and operating systems simultaneously. This cause Theodore pain and heartache as their relationship begins to break down. Everything builds towards a sudden decision made by all the operating systems together that stirred my curiosity to the point that my mind simply could not settle for the rest of the night. I will not spoil it here so just be prepared for it to be debated amongst anyone who sees this film.

Director Spike Jonze is one of the best directors of this era. I hope this film causes people to seek out some of his earlier masterpieces such as “Being John Malkovich” as well as “Adaptation”. Those films were also haunting in a way. Here he crafts a movie that feels majestic and melancholy at the same time. He treats this as if it is a sweeping romance while occasionally teasing us with frightening possibilities. “Her” is not only one of the best movies of 2013 but it is one that I will be thinking about for a very long time.