*JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT REVIEWED AND REVISITED*

The MAD MOVIE RANTER

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New recruit. Same problems. Hardly the best Ryan outing but it wasn’t a complete misfire.

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.

Jack Ryan has been brought back numerous times and always (shamefully) fails to stick around as a continuing franchise, much like the Alex Cross series. There have been some great installments with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck taking the helm. Clear and Present Danger being a personal favourite.

Pine (Star Trek) was an engaging and very likeable Ryan. His charisma carried the film when the pace slackened. Something that happened far too often.

We flashed through Ryan’s origins (A nice change) as he became a “shadow recruit”. Working for the CIA on an unofficial capacity (In a nutshell). Harrowing images of 9/11 spurring our protagonist to drop his economics degree…

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*NEW* THE JUNGLE BOOK REVIEW *NEW*

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Ooh-bee-do, oh-bee-do I wouldn’t see this if I were you-ooooo.

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as that feeble pun. BUT now I have your attention. Disney take a trip back to the jungle with mixed results.

After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and free spirited bear, Baloo (Bill Murray).

I was hardly surprised when I heard that Disney were going to reboot the classics. A sign of the times that even the best were running out of ideas. However, I really enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s lavish adaptation of Cinderella (What?). If the rest of the classics could deliver the same standard then my doubts would happily be washed away.

BUT not even this perfectly cast and visually stunning little reboot could take on the king of the jungle that was the original. It was certainly watchable and (at times) even enjoyable BUT something somewhere along the line was missing.

The rapid and incredibly disorienting opening didn’t get things going for me as Sethi jumped from one badly CGI’d tree to another. Desperately praying for the sequence to stop.

Sethi delivered an impressive debut and captured Mowgli perfectly. He couldn’t look any more like his Disney counterpart if he tried. His whining and insufferable commentary did grate against me in parts BUT that always did with the original.

I liked how writer Justin Marks shook up the story structure. It was a breath of fresh air. NOT all of it worked BUT a change nonetheless. A lot more time was spent with Mowgli and the wolf pack. It gave more depth and allowed a better connection between Mowgli and his “mother” Raksha (Lupita Nyong-o/Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

BUT maybe a little too much time was spent on that dynamic. Things perked up when the feral feline Sher Khan appeared. I was on the fence with Elba’s initial introduction BUT he killed it by the fiery finale. His gravelly undertones bringing the sinister CGI monster to life.

The animation and detail on the animals were superb. The jungle was captured in all its colourful glory. The watering hole sequence was a sight to behold.

The rest of the story pretty much followed along the same lines as the classic. It’s easy for me to make comparisons between Disney movies when I never read the original source material from Rudyard Kipling.

Kingsley was everything I expected. A perfect Baghera. He wasn’t in it enough. Scarlett Johansson nailed Kaar. Her strangely alluring and seductive voice doing justice to the role. She even managed to keep the “Trust in Me” rift. Didn’t quite go into the song which was a shame.

It was always going to be a tough act to follow the iconic Phil Harris. The voice that heralded several Disney favourites; O’Malley the alley cat, Little John and (of course) Baloo the bear. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bill Murray to give it a crack. He was hilarious. Even if his grumbling may have reminded me of another another animated favourite. A certain fur-bag that loved lasagna.

The pace did test in times and the whole thing was a little too cheesy for my liking. BUT what did I expect from a family film? And even more so, a Disney one? As much as I got a little smile out of hearing Murray sing ‘Bare Necessities’, it almost didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

I couldn’t believe that Christopher Walken was voicing the King-Kong sized King Louie. The monkey mafioso angle was a different touch. His singing was a little hooo-oooo-ooooorrendous. BUT fair play to the chap for giving it a go.

It was easygoing fun BUT for every little change, I felt a little piece of the charm that made the original such a classic melt away. There were no Beatle-esque vultures. No elephant soldier marches. Just a load of pretentious guff about the elephants being the Gods of the jungle. Really?

The man village angle barely scraped the surface. If anything, it wasn’t needed. It was only brought into the mix for “the red flower”. Sher Khan’s real agenda. The power to make fire. It certainly delivered a strong environmental message about the damage of wildfires and the woes of man on nature BUT it just wasn’t enough.

To be honest, I had the same gripes with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake. When I have little sprogs of my own, I wouldn’t want them to watch the Michael Jacko/Johnny Depp reboot, I’d grab the Gene Wilder classic any day of the week. If you asked me the same question about the Jungle Book, I’d still be reaching for that animated 1967 classic.

Don’t get me wrong. It killed the time. There was fun to be had and you will certainly keep the little ‘uns at bay. Depending on big a Disney fan you are will probably determine how much you’ll love this.

BUT for a me, it’s a 3/5

*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

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Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5