About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

So the first 2014 movie I saw in 2014 was Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Took me a while.  Even by the standards of January/February movies, this year has been off to a pretty shabby start.  Not many movies I wanted to see, not many new movies coming out that I was anticipating seeing, so I could keep shoving this aside in favor of other things.

I enjoyed it.

For one, I like Chris Pine very much.  He has "it," that special movie star quality.  He radiates charisma and likability, much like Denzel Washington over the course of his entire career (the two of them together in Unstoppable is a casting coup central to an excellent movie), or Tom Cruise twenty or thirty years ago, or Ryan Gosling when he doesn't do bad indie movies.  He is very Chris Pine here!

I have a soft spot for Kenneth Branagh.  Oh, he's not one of the great directors of the past thirty years, but his Dead Again was a movie I liked enough to see twice, he's done some good Shakespeare movies, he did the good Thor movie.  He knows how to direct actors with charisma, he doesn't get in their way, he let Chris Hemsworth shine outside of the Thor suit in Thor, and he lets Chris Pine by Chris Pine.  And he's a solid enough actor himself.

So all in all, it works.  It's a little bit similar to the last Mission Impossible movie, but not as big a budget so things happen on a smaller scale, and the movie's short and moves briskly, which isn't a bad thing.  There's one major action set-piece in the middle which the film builds to nicely, and one major action piece at the end which impressed me for doing a good enough job of faking NYC without being in NYC that I was willing to buy into it even though I knew the geography was unfamiliar.

Branagh isn't as good, always, at directing women.  Not much for them to do in Thor,  Keira Knightley has a pretty thankless role to play.

Nothing great, but as January releases go this was a pleasant way to pass the time.

Saw two Broadway shows on the same day.

Machinal at the Roundabout's 42nd Street Theatre was good for a nap.  When I was up, I was quite impressed with the set design and the costume design and the creativity and beauty of the physical production.  And the play, some decades old and based on a real life murder case, is a decent enough choice for revival because the play and the case it comes from anticipate quite nicely a lot of today's celebrity culture, enough so that we have to reconsider if today's celebrity culture is really just today's.  We'd like to think so, but the 24 hour news cycle may just be an accelerant and not the flame and fire itself.  I can't exactly recommend the play, because it's clear I got enough out of it from staying awake for a third or a half, which suggests half of it just kind of sits there. But I've also stayed awake for many a play that's given far less back to me.

Little Me is a 1962 musical with a book by Neil Simon and a Cy Coleman score that was originally intended as a star vehicle for Sid Caesar.  It's an old woman narrating her life story, which consists of a series of short-lived marriages, with the husbands all played by one actor.  It's got a juicy role for the old woman, another for the young woman, and a very juicy role indeed for the man.  Here, Sid Caesar's shoes are filled by Christian Borle, a Tony Award winner for Peter and the Starcatcher and a star of the TV show Smash (male half of the composing team).  I was glad I saw this.  The first act goes on too long, but the play starts off with charm and humor enough to almost allow it to coast over the dull hills later in the act.  Christian Borle was perfect in his role, Broadway veteran Judy Kaye was excellent in her role as the old woman who narrates, and the supporting roles well cast as well.  Part of the Encores series, the show had one week, seven performances, and is gone.

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