We Want Action: John Carter, Edge Of Tomorrow & Jack Ryan

john_carter_ver2 I’ve been pretty tired and/or busy lately. Between work and the kids, the days are pretty full and I get awfully sleepy by the time evenings roll around. This is a bummer for me because I like to stay up and watch movies at night, but that’s been more of a piecemeal process lately. However, I’m still trying to take in new films like this trio of more recent big screen offerings.

Let’s start with Andrew Stanton’s 2012 film John Carter from Disney. This adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ space traveler didn’t do so hot at the box office and I think I know why. First off, the well seemed to be pretty solidly poisoned before the movie even came out. I have no idea why that is, but I was heavily in the movie coverage thing for Spinoff when this film was coming out and there seemed to be a lot of pre-press about how it was going to fail. I don’t know why and this might sound conspiratorial, but it seemed to me like someone didn’t want the movie to do well and then it didn’t.

But, that’s not all. This isn’t an easy film to understand and, for me, that’s not a knock. You’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on and do a little thinking yourself to keep up with this tale. It’s not all laid out at your feet, which I appreciate because too many movies spell everything out so there’s absolutely no place for confusion. I don’t mind working for my entertainment and actually think better of the projects that make me get into that headspace.

This isn’t just a thinking person’s sci-fi action film, though. It looks rad. The aliens are fantastic and the action sequences are on point. I’ve read maybe a quarter or a third of ERB’s A Princess of Mars and it seemed like Stanton and company took what’s a fairly dry, clinical narrative and gave it a bit more heart which I appreciated (I actually stopped reading because that old school style of simply listing everything weird that’s happening gets real old for me real fast). All in all, I give this one a big thumb’s up and hope more people discover it at home. It’s too bad we’re not going to get more of this world…at least for a while.

edge of tomorrowAs I move on to talking about Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, I’m realizing that all three of these movies were adaptations. This one is probably the least well known because it’s a manga (which I haven’t read, for what it’s worth). Basically, aliens are invading earth and humanity uses mech suits to fight them off. Tom Cruise plays a self-serving PR guy who gets unceremoniously recruited to the front lines where he kills one of the creatures which gives him a kind of Groundhog Day-like ability to keep living the same day over and over again. He gets in contact with Blunt’s super soldier character who had a similar experience and starts training like crazy, dying constantly along the way.

The story has a pretty high concept and some specific rules about how you get and lose these powers, but again, I don’t mind learning these fairly outlandish details as they’re presented. I was much more interested in Blunt’s character than all that anyway. She’s such a cool, shrewd character who, in a way, knows what’s going on, but in another is completely in the dark because she has no idea how many times Cruise has come back and tried any number of alternative methods. While he’s falling for her over and over again, she’s basically meeting him for the first time every day (and killing him a number of those times).

So, if you can buy into some bonkers rules and like Tom Cruise evolving from brash douche to war hero, then give Edge Of Tomorrow (or as it was retitled upon home video release KILL. DIE. REPEAT.) a shot.

jack ryan shadow recruitFinally, let’s talk a bit about Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, based on the character seen in Tom Clancy’s novels. This particular story doesn’t come from one of those books, instead giving the CIA operative an updated origin story for the modern era starring Chris Pine. The idea here was to start a new franchise, but apparently the film didn’t do to well and those plans have been put on hold, but I thought this was a gripping thriller that kept my attention the whole time.

Ryan starts off as a finance wiz who joins the military after the events of 9-11. While serving, his helicopter gets blown up, but he survives to meet and fall for Keira Knightley in a hospital. While getting better Kevin Costner appears and offers him a job as a covert financial analyst for the CIA. He soon comes upon Kenneth Branagh, a Russian whose machinations include a massive terrorist attack that will topple the world economy.

As much as I love James Bond movies where our hero is super experienced in all things espionage, I kind of liked seeing someone like Ryan in his early days. He’s got the training and does okay when he gets attacked early on, but Pine also conveys how overwhelming some of these experiences are. It would have been cool to see his version of this character evolve over a series of films.

Of course, Jack Ryan has been in a series of movies like Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger and The Sum Of All Fears. I don’t think I’ve seen any of those movies, so I wasn’t spending the whole run time comparing Pine to Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford or Ben Affleck which was cool, but I am interested in going back and check them out.

 

Trailer Time: Jack Ryan: Shadow One & Escape Plan

The timing is pretty crummy for this first Jack Ryan: Shadow One trailer to hit so close to author Tom Clancy’s recent passing, but it’s still nice to celebrate the man’s work which had been so influential. This first trailer from the Year One type film stars Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner and Kenneth Branagh who also stars as the bad guy. The film opens on December 25th.

Escape Plan, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, now has TV spots that seem to be playing in fairly regular rotation. Better yet, they do a pretty solid job of explaining the film in greater detail than we’d seen previously. This one bows on October 18th.

 

Quick Movie Review: Thor (2011)

I feel like a bad geek. Three pretty well regarded comic book movies came out this summer and I didn’t see any of them in theaters. Younger me would be in there opening weekend, if not at a midnight showing. Ah well, I’m a dad now, I guess that counts as a good enough excuse. Anyway, the wife and I finally got around to watching Thor the other night after the DVD sat around from Netflix for a while (bumping down to one at a time has been rough).

The movie was good. The cast was fun and interesting, but what else would you expect from a Kenneth Branagh film starring Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Natalie Portman, Ray Stevenson, Kat Dennings and Skellan Skarsgard? Even Chris Hemmsworth who I knew nothing of did a good job with the character of Thor, balancing out the brash warrior and “needing to learn a lesson about life” student.

I think what kept me from loving the movie stems from the fact that I just read and flipped through a big stack of Thor comics from the late 70s/early 80s and discovered that nearly every Thor story is the same: something big and evil happens, Thor rushes in and Loki tends to be behind it. Meanwhile, Odin’s usually being tricked or is asleep and the god of thunder deals with some small human problems that are supposed to show how good of a guy he is while also not really posing any kind of danger. I’m sure there are plenty of Thor stories that don’t follow this model, but I was surprised to see how many of them do.

So, with those in my head, I wasn’t surprised to see a movie where Loki was ultimately the bad guy, Odin sat out most of the movie and Thor wound up proving how good of a guy he can be. It was interesting watching the movie with the missus though as she’s never read anything having to do with the characters and yet she called Loki as a bad guy about 10 minutes in. It made me realize that the uninitiated would definitely go into this movie differently than the comic fans and would possibly enjoy it more, but I also thought it was interesting that it was kind of “on the page” as it was.

As far as the Marvel movie universe building goes, it was fun to see Hawkeye have his scene and the SPOILER appearance of Nick Fury and the Cosmic Cube at the end of the movie. I’m not sure what to believe when it comes to the Avengers movie, but it would be rad to see that come into play. If so, it’s pretty cool that the ante will truly be upped.

At the end of the day, I liked the movie, but thanks to my recent reading adventure was already keyed onto the story. I think, had I watched it when it came out or maybe even a few months from now, I’d dig it more. At the end of the day, it’s a solid movie with a great cast, some really fun and funny moments, maybe not as much action as the Thor movie in my mind had, but a great appearance by the Destroyer and some cool looking Frost Giant battles. Plus, watching a guy beat bad guy ass with a hammer just never gets old. Now, when do the Warriors Three and Sif get their own movie? That, I want to see.