Kenneth Branagh

Jack_Ryan_Shadow_Recruit_Trust

The thing that separates Jack Ryan movies from the James Bonds and the Mission: Impossibles and the Bournes, etc., is that Ryan is an analyst for the CIA. That means they should be smarter than your average spy thriller. Sometimes they’re at least as smart. However, the latest, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, is one of the dumbest, more cliched entries of the genre. It’s an embarrassment of plotting and exposition, with so many instances of presumed circumstances that fortuitously turn out to happen that it may as well be called “Jack Ryan: Lucky Duck.” To put it in modern context, it’s like a bad episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. yet has a lot less interest in characters and the logical choices they’d make. Questions I had leftover at the end of Shadow Recruit may be explained in Tom Clancy’s Ryan novels, but that shouldn’t matter. This isn’t even an adaptation so much as an “original” story inspired by those books and featuring a character with the same name. I wouldn’t be surprised if fans of Clancy find it no more a true Ryan installment than Die Hard fans found A Good Day to Die Hard recognizable as a movie fitting into that series. Feel free to give me clarification or suggestion of an answer to any of these, and remember that, though it should be obvious, this post is full of SPOILERS if you haven’t yet seen the movie.

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JACK RYAN- SHADOW RECRUIT

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn’t an action movie. Sir Kenneth Branagh‘s reboot of the Tom Clancy-based franchise is a straight-up thriller, and that’s an important distinction to make. The film may have a globetrotting story, which goes from New York to Moscow, but Branagh’s set pieces are all contained, even the motorcycle chase at the very end. If you counted the amount of bullets fired in this movie, it would be drastically less than most spy thrillers. That fact likely spoke to Branagh, who was more invested in Jack Ryan’s quick thinking than the character’s skills in combat. If you asked him about Thor a few years ago, he would’ve expressed more interest in the themes of brotherhood than Thor swinging his hammer around. Branagh has always been a character-driven filmmaker. When you make a juicy four-hour version of Hamlet, you have to be. Everything from that Shakespeare adaptation to even Peter’s Friends seems to play a part in Branagh’s blockbuster filmmaking. The director and co-star (he plays the Russian villain, Viktor) recently discussed his progression towards tentpole filmmaking with us, along with the excitement and education that comes with it.

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Branagh Swan Song

This is a special edition of Short Starts, where we look at the Sundance shorts program class of 1993. 1992 and 1994 are very notable years in the history of the Sundance Film Festival. Mostly for features. In between, the 1993 event should be recognized for its short film program. It was only the second year of this section — though shorts were an increasingly significant part of the fest since 1988 — and it remains, two decades later, probably the most important (if not best) batch of short films to ever come together in Park City. Among the filmmakers receiving their first real notice in this program were Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, David Wain, Eugene Jarecki, Tamara Jenkins, Ted Demme, Stanley Tucci (as writer/producer), Gary Fleder, Alex Sichel, Mike Mitchell and animators Eric Darnell and Matt O’Callaghan. Their early works played alongside shorts by Michael Almereyda, Lourdes Portillo and two eventual Oscar nominees, Christian Taylor‘s The Lady in Waiting and Kenneth Branagh‘s Swan Song. It is the last film that is especially relevant now because Branagh helmed the biggest new release in theaters this weekend, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. That’s the latest franchise entry for the actor-turned-director, another feature that’s very far removed from his initial reputation as a filmmaker interested primarily in Shakespeare adaptations and movies with an old fashioned dramatic sensibility (I don’t care how Shakespearean his Thor movie seems, it’s still just a Thor movie).

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review jack ryan

Alec Baldwin. Harrison Ford. Ben Affleck. Playing Jack Ryan is almost as dangerous of a job as being Jack Ryan, and now 24 years after Tom Clancy‘s most famous character first hit the screen in The Hunt for Red October he’s back with a new face and a new reboot. This is not a good thing. Ryan (Chris Pine) is a college student when the Twin Towers fall in New York City, and the event leads him to join the U.S. Marines. An early mission in Afghanistan leaves him incapacitated and struggling to regain his physical faculties, but a mysterious C.I.A. agent named Harper (Kevin Costner) recruits him to help follow the money on Wall Street being used to line terrorist pockets. Ryan’s nose for numbers and patterns identifies a possible discrepancy with a Russian company headed up by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), and then all hell breaks loose. Unlike those earlier films, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not based on an existing Clancy novel. The “original” story uses elements of the Ryan we already know but adds in additional elements to increase his heroism and speed up his journey into the C.I.A. These elements work well enough, but as the story and action unfold it quickly becomes clear that those novels featured something else sorely lacking here. Brains.

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JACK RYAN

Fathers everywhere may have lost their favorite novelist recently with the passing of author Tom Clancy, but the man left a multitude of parting gifts on his way out the door. At least two new Clancy-branded videogames hit shelves in a couple months, and his most memorable fictional character is getting a big screen reboot. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit brings the famed C.I.A. analyst back to his rookie days and his first real adventure after he discovers a Russian plot to upend the U.S. economy through deadly terrorist attacks. This is the first of the Ryan films to not be based on one of Clancy’s novels, and that’s fitting as it’s once again an attempt at building a future franchise for the character. Chris Pine, already no stranger to franchise characters previously played by others, steps into the title role and follows in the big footsteps of Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. This is particularly impressive for an actor of Pine’s miniature stature (see above). Check out the first trailer for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit below.

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cinderella

Disney, as a company, is one of the best that’s ever existed when it comes to matters of marketing and branding. Everyone knows the Disney logo, everyone knows the silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s ears, and, thanks to the merchandising and advertising blitz that’s taken place over the last couple decades, pretty much every little girl you’ve ever met can instantly deduce which Disney Princess they’re looking at just with a quick glimpse at the color of her hair and the dress she’s wearing. Because of this, it was kind of interesting to speculate what the new Lily James-starring, Kenneth Branagh-directed live action remake of Cinderella was going to look like. Disney hasn’t ever really done a live action feature of one of their iconic cartoon properties yet. Would Branagh be under strict restrictions to follow the visual template laid out by the company’s animated classic? Or would such a respected director have more freedom to offer up his own visual and narrative interpretation of the Cinderella story? Well, Disney put out a press release about Cinderella along with the first still taken during the film’s shooting today [via /Film], and from the looks of things it seems like they’re going to be sticking pretty closely to the Cinderella everyone knows and loves.

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Richard Madden

Briefly: As previously promised, Disney has casually rolled out another tidbit of casting news via unassuming press release. The studio has just sent around word that their once-stalled live-action Cinderella now has a prince to join its recently-cast princess. The announcement reveals that Game of Thrones’ dreamy King of the North Robb Stark, Richard Madden, has just been cast in the film, where he will star alongside Lily James as the eponymous glass slipper-wearing lady love and Cate Blanchett as that evil stepmother, all directed by Kenneth Branagh. We can only assume he’s playing the prince role, because obviously.  Yes, most UK Cinderella ever. (Yes, we know Blanchett is Australian, but we also all know that Australia is a former British colony, so let’s go with it.)

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KennethBranagh

After Disney hired Mark Romanek, a director who makes dark movies, to helm their upcoming live action Cinderella, and then fired him because all of the ideas he was coming up with for the movie were too dark, one had to wonder just exactly why they were making a live-action Cinderella movie in the first place. Did anybody behind the scenes want to revisit the Cinderella story for any particular reason, or was this just a cynical ploy to churn out some product and get one of their merchandise producers back out there in the public eye? And, given such greedy corporate motivations, was it likely they were going to make a movie worth watching in the first place? Turns out they might still make a Cinderella worth watching, and perhaps they do really have a commitment to putting together something that’s good entertainment and not just good corporate synergy. This newfound optimism stems from a Vulture report that the studio is currently negotiating with Kenneth Branagh for him to come in and be Cinderella’s new director. In addition to being a well-respected filmmaker due to his helming of impressive versions of stuffy Shakespeare plays, Branagh proved with Marvel’s Thor that he could take material that had the potential of coming off as cheesy and ridiculous and present it in a manner that made it resonant and entertaining, so his potential signing would have to be seen as a smart move by Disney.

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The Ingredients is a column devoted to breaking down the components of a new film release with some focus on influential movies that came before. As always, these posts look at the entire plots of films and so include SPOILERS.  There are two films in particular that I thought about while watching Hyde Park on Hudson, the new historical film about an alleged love affair between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and distant cousin Margaret “Daisy” Suckley (Laura Linney). Three films if you count Rushmore, due to the reunion of Murray and Olivia Williams, who plays First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, and the much-talked-about scene depicting a handjob in a car (not a bloody Jaguar, unfortunately), but I don’t consider this one to be an ingredient in the same way. The two that I do think of as more content-based precursors are Dave and The King’s Speech. Regarding the former, I’m surely highlighting the wrong film as an earlier instance of a leader and his wife who are all but legally separated behind closed doors, the wife fully aware of the husband’s mistresses. But Dave does involve the POTUS and First Lady, and Williams’s Eleanor did remind me at times of Sigourney Weaver’s character in the 1993 doppelganger comedy. There are very likely other dramas of adulterous true stories that relate more to the overall plot of Hyde Park. I haven’t seen the JFK-mistress movie An American Affair, which might more closely fit. But given that I really despised every moment […]

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Keira Knightley Cast in Jack Ryan

Despite some apparently rigorous auditioning, there has not been a tremendous flurry over which leading lady would be cast as Dr. Caroline “Cathy” Muller Ryan in Kenneth Branagh‘s Chris Pine-starring Jack Ryan. Perhaps the years we’ve spent waiting for the film have burned us out, or maybe everyone is just sick of “shortlists,” but word is now out on the final choice for the role, and it’s an interesting one. THR reports that Keira Knightley is in negotiations for the role of Mrs. Ryan for the film, which will serve as a prequel of sorts to Tom Clancy‘s book series about his popular CIA analyst character. The film will reportedly center “on ex-Marine and Moscow-based financial analyst Jack Ryan (Pine), who uncovers a plot by his employer to finance a terrorist attack designed to collapse the U.S. economy. Ryan must race against time to save America and his wife (Knightley).” The role of Cathy Ryan has been most notably played before by Anne Archer in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and she has also been portrayed by Bridget Moynahan in The Sum of All Fears and Gates McFadden (hey, Dr. Crusher!) in The Hunt for Red October.

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Kenneth Branagh wants to hurt Jack Ryan

When news first broke that Paramount would be bringing Tom Clancy‘s adventurous accountant, Jack Ryan, back to the big screen few people were all that thrilled. The character’s three previous incarnations (across four films) struck some as a series of diminishing returns creatively and a box-office flat line. But hey, even Ben Affleck‘s turn in The Sum of All Fears collected just under $200 million worldwide, and Paramount isn’t stupid enough to let go of a built-in audience. As long ago as 2008 word was that Sam Raimi would be helming Ryan’s return, but news and interest seemed to dry up shortly thereafter. A year later Chris Pine enlisted for the lead role, but the film seemed no closer to production. Earlier this year though Kenneth Branagh tossed his hat into the ring and signed on to direct. Would that finally be enough to get this thing going? Per Variety, Branagh is moving forward and has even gone so far as casting the lead villain to play against Pine’s heroic CIA analyst. Following in a long-standing Hollywood tradition he’s gone ahead and hired a British thespian to play a Russian bad guy.

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Culture Warrior

Crowding a movie with talent often seems like a good idea only in the abstract sense. In practice, such films can easily feel overstuffed. For example, the basic conceits for both The Expendables and Grown Ups sound like products of wishful thinking held during a drunk conversation between a group of 19-year-olds at 3am. Yes, in theory a movie featuring all of the action stars of the 80s or the most successful SNL cast since the late-70s would be great – however, a bunch of famous people do not a seminal action film or great comedy make. What’s most surprising about Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is that the whole somehow proved greater than its parts. A movie with this quantity of iconic superheroes runs the incredible risk of being overstuffed and only half-cooked. The standards created by previous Hollywood films indicate that studios would be happy enough allowing the conflagration of bankable characters stand in for (or, more accurately, distract from the lack of) actual entertainment value; mammoth opening weekends, after all, are always more a sign of effective marketing than good filmmaking. But The Avengers not only stands as an equal to some of the stronger entries in Marvel’s 4-year, 5-film multiverse-building, but is arguably superior. Some of these characters came across more fully-fleshed and three-dimensional as part of an ensemble than in their respective standalone films.

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Let’s be honest – at this point, the next entry in the Jack Ryan franchise is strictly hypothetical. Despite having a star (Chris Pine), a new re-write from David Koepp (on a script that has passed from Adam Cozen to Anthony Peckham then back to Cozen then to Steve Zaillian, who then dropped it, leaving it to Koepp), and a possible new director, this project has been talked about (with Pine attached) since 2009. Combine that with reported financial cutbacks and an apparent disconnect between what everyone wanted from the script, it’s a miracle we’re even still talking about this film. But perhaps Kenneth Branagh is a miracle man. Vulture reports that Paramount is looking to Branagh to helm the feature, just a week after Jack Bender (who had been attached to direct the film for many months) kicked the bucket on the project and dropped out. While the official position was that he had to do it because of scheduling conflicts with a SyFy project, we can put two and two together – if a SyFy project looks better than the rebirth of a former blockbuster franchise, yeah, your franchise probably has some serious issues. Vulture backs that up, saying that they “hear that Bender had tired of the endless development born of creative loggerheads over the direction of the film. Pine wanted to make a character-driven espionage movie. The producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, wanted to make Jack Ryan into an action movie. Paramount executives wanted to make it […]

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Oscar 2012 Predictions: Best Supporting Actor

A frustrated actor/director, a former alcoholic and bad father, an old man coming out as he approaches death, a mysterious and gentle mute, and a young whiz kid who may shake up the world of baseball — all in all, that’s a pretty eclectic bunch of nominees. Of course, there’s no real surprises in this category. With the exception of Jonah Hill, my personal favorite of the nominees, these are all safe and understandable nominations. I, for one, am still baffled at how Albert Brooks didn’t get nominated. Who did he piss off to cause this? Someone must be behind this grave injustice! Are the nerds of the world still crying over this? They have reason to, I suppose. While they’re at it, they should continue to shed a few tears for — and sing the praises of – Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Shea Whigham (Take Shelter), Ben Kingsley (Hugo), John Hawkes (Martha Marcy May Marlene), and just about everyone who wasn’t Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Like most of their respected nominees, they all gave tremendous performances. Without further ado and less whining, here are the nominations for Best Supporting Actor, with my predicted winner in red…

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Jonah Hill

As you may have noticed if you’ve gone online or been anywhere near a TV today, the nominees for this year’s Academy Awards were announced this morning. Along with that always comes the scrambling to contact those nominated to get their reaction to the honor. Usually what they have to say is pretty boring, but hey, it’s a tradition. And it’s one that Variety has been hard at work keeping all day long. As a service to the world, I’ve compiled some of the more high profile reactions they’ve received here in one place.

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It’s been a year filled with silent screen stars seeking redemption, the 1920s coming alive in Paris, a young boy searching for the first great director, sex addicts in New York City, horses going to war, maids of dishonor, and skulls getting crushed in elevators. Now it’s time to celebrate all of those things and more with the 84th annual Academy Awards. They’ve come a long way since the Hotel Roosevelt in 1929 (although sex addicts have almost always been a fixture). Get to ready to smile, ball your fists with snubbed rage, or be generally unsurprised. Here they are. The 2012 Oscar nominees:

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Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn isn’t really a bio pic. Underneath the core love story of a naive dope, it’s about a clashing of two actors. In one corner, there’s Miss Marilyn Monroe, wanting to be taken seriously. In the other (and more respectful) corner, there’s Sir Laurence Olivier, possibly wanting the fame Marilyn has, at least according to a few characters. Marilyn needs to “find” the character, while Olivier believes it’s all on the page. The veteran actor sticks to his classical roots, while the blonde bombshell attempts more unusual methods. Kenneth Branagh, who portrays an artistically frustrated Olivier, sympathizes with both sides. Underneath their differences, the two portrayals of Monroe and Olivier are similar at heart: they’re both simply trying to create something, but they use the opposite methods. My Week with Marilyn is a deconstruction of what it means to be an actor, and those types of discussions seem to be the kind Branagh revels in. Here’s what Kenneth Branagh had to say about faking the truth, the fright of acting, and how you don’t have to be a murderer to play one.

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Kenneth Branagh seems to be a fan of author Henning Mankell. First he ,adapted the author’s series of novels about policeman Kurt Wallander into a series called Wallander for the BBC, and now there’s news that he’s going to direct a feature film adapted from another Mankell book, “The Italian Shoes.” You may be wondering what The Italian Shoes is about, and I’m glad you asked, because I didn’t know either. A quick trip over to the novel’s Amazon page reveals a hunk of text that describes it like this: “Living on a tiny island entirely surrounded by ice during the long winter months, Fredrik Welin is so lost to the world that he cuts a hole in the ice every morning and lowers himself into the freezing water to remind himself that he is alive. Haunted by memories of the terrible mistake that drove him to this island and away from a successful career as a surgeon, he lives in a stasis so complete an anthill grows undisturbed in his living room. When an unexpected visitor alters his life completely, thus begins an eccentric, elegiac journey…” Perhaps that unexpected visitor is an ex-girlfriend, because according to a Variety report Branagh is very serious about getting Anthony Hopkins to play the good doctor and Judi Dench to play a former love interest of said doctor. It would make sense that a lady would be the life-changing experience. Isn’t that always the way?

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The life of a celebrity (regardless of what they are famous for or what era we may be in) is a confounding and, at times, seemingly crazy circus of people, cameras, and lights. We have seen it with the young starlets rising (and falling) today to those featured in films like Country Strong, which try and show what it is like to live in the eye of that storm. Surrounded by yes-men and an unquestioned supply of pills, you begin to wonder what is fantasy and what is reality. In the trailer for My Week With Marilyn we see Marilyn (Michelle Williams) ask Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) if she “should be her,” meaning what the public thinks of when they think of Marilyn Monroe – the eyes, the lips, and the hips – hinting at the idea that there is more to Marilyn when she lets you behind that closed dressing room door. Based on the real-life memoirs of Clark, My Week With Marilyn follows Colin as he falls in love for the first time – with both filmmaking and a beautiful woman. Growing up in a successful and pressure-filled family, Colin found solace at the theater and decided he wanted to pursue a career in the film business. After refusing to take no for an answer (and thanks to his puppy dog eyes that charmed any woman in his path), Colin landed a job as the third Assistant Director on Laurence Olivier’s (Kenneth Branagh) film, The Prince and the Showgirl, starring none other than Marilyn Monroe.

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Simon Curtis’s upcoming film starring Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe doesn’t look like the typical film about historical figures. This isn’t a look at Monroe’s entire life, the tale of her rise and fall. This film is, just like the title says, about one week only, the week when Marilyn Monroe went to England to film The Prince and the Showgirl and ended up getting escorted around by a regular guy named Colin Clark. It doesn’t look like it’s really a story about Monroe or her costar in that film Sir Laurence Olivier, so much as it is a character drama that happens to have real life famous figures in it. That’s an interesting approach and it keeps me from dismissing this as just being yet another movie about Marilyn Monroe. The other thing that keeps me from dismissing My Week With Marilyn is the outstanding cast. It’s got veteran performers that are reliable rocks like Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond, and Judi Dench. It’s got promising young actors like Emma Watson, and Eddie Redmayne (who was the only thing worth watching in Derick Martini’s new film Hick). And it has an actress enjoying the prime of her career, one of the most talented ladies on the planet, Michelle Williams, in the title role.

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