Tag Archive: Jack Ryan


Expendables team

Review by C.J. Bunce

What you want to see in a giant ensemble movie is probably different than what you’d expect to see in any other movie.  Above all, you’re probably after sheer entertainment—whatever that means to you—and you’d likely judge the movie using a different standard than what you’d expect to see in the next Academy Award nominee for Best Picture.  These ensemble movies are plentiful enough today that they deserve their own sub-genre in the “Action” tab on streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime (what used to be the “Action” aisle in Blockbuster or Movies To Go).

We’re talking about those movies that crammed in every star that could be found, showcases where studios would show off their current talent, but always big in scope and always a box office draw.  A comedy like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World!, disaster movies like Airport ’76, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno, epic Western films like The Magnificent Seven and How the West Was Won, and biblical efforts like The Greatest Story Ever Told.  Each offered some of the best stars of the day, sometimes full of current stars, sometimes full of has-been stars.

Expendables Ford and Stallone

The Avengers franchise seems to have turned around the ensemble film with its many lead actors in leading roles, or at least reinvented the sub-genre, but they still don’t have the sheer volume as past ensemble cast films.  The Avengers suffers like many past efforts—with so many actors, how can you please every movie watcher with so little time to devote to each actor?  Ultimately it’s all about finding a good balance.  None of these films ever get a nod for filmmaking perfection, and many would hardly even rate a 5 on a 10 star scale, but that doesn’t mean they don’t often result in good, old fashioned entertainment.  Which brings us to The Expendables 3.

Remember the joke about Rambo, The Terminator, The Transporter, Zorro, Jack Ryan, and Mad Max walking into a bar?  Probably not.  It would probably not be that funny.  But it would be fun to see.  It’s that visual that is enough to make The Expendables 3 work.

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jack ryan shadow recruit poster

After Tom Clancy’s passing this week, fans of his biggest character, Jack Ryan, have been introduced to a new phase of the movie incarnations of his geopolitical thriller novels with this weekend’s release of the first trailer for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Last December we at borg.com listed Jack Ryan as one of the ten characters to watch in 2013, and we included Jack Ryan, the movie, as one of the 24 films we predicted would be worth seeing in 2013.

Since last year’s announcement of Chris Pine taking on the lead, the title was changed to add the subtitle Shadow Recruit, replacing the prior subtitle Shadow One (we think Hollywood really needs to work on their subtitles).  The role of Jack Ryan was, of course, first played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October in 1990, followed by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games in 1992 and Clear and Present Danger in 1994.  Ben Affleck then played a younger Jack in the 2002 prequel film The Sum of All Fears.  All four of these movies were based on bestselling Clancy novels, The Hunt for Red October often being listed as one of the best thrillers of all time.  Likewise, The Hunt for Red October is one of the best, and most exciting, movies of all time, with Alec Baldwin’s performance still the standard for future Ryans to be measured against.

Costner and Pine in Jack Ryan

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Downton Abbey

For you genre TV and film fans that got sucked into the BBC/PBS series Downton Abbey, now that the series is on hiatus are you ready to entirely re-immerse yourself back into sci-fi and fantasy?  Or do you still need a bit of the British manor fix now and then?  A great feature of British manor series and movies is the overlap of actors back and forth into the best of sci-fi and fantasy.  So if 12 inches of snowfall has stranded you inside and you want to further investigate your favorite performers on Netflix or other streaming media as they stretch their acting chops, here’s an excuse to dive into some films and TV series you may not have otherwise tried, featuring the best of the world of sci-fi and fantasy.

Remains of the Day Dyrham Hall

Christopher Reeve plays an American who buys this estate in Remains of the Day.

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Phantom movie banner

Advance marketing for the new Ed Harris and David Duchovny submarine movie Phantom used “Something is Down There” as the tagline for the film.  Sounds supernatural?  We think so, too.  If so, it’s about time we get David Duchovny back in full supernatural X-Files mode, and back on the big screen.  And Ed Harris isn’t a stranger to the supernatural or submarines, starring in the 1989 film The Abyss, and genre favorites The Truman Show, Apollo 13, The Right Stuff and the original Coma.  But they dropped the earlier tagline and are now using “You’ll Never See It Coming,” “Brace for Impact,” and “The Enemy is Within.”  Sounds like a supernatural thriller.

So what about the “Inspired by Actual Events” part?

Not much has been released about the actual events inspiration for the film.  Scenes in two trailers released seem to mirror scenes straight from one of the best submarine thrillers ever made–The Hunt for Red October, based on the novel by Tom Clancy featuring Sean Connery as a Russian sub captain and Alec Baldwin as the original Jack Ryan.  Red October was inspired by actual events–a failed mutiny aboard the Russian anti-submarine ship Storozhevoy by Valery Sablin in 1975.  Might that be the source for Phantom?  The current movie poster has “WWIII” down the center.  Maybe it’s another Philadelphia Experiment tie-in?

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Green Arrow and Superman

If there is a constant as we look ahead to movie franchises and other entertainment properties in 2013, it is the sequel, spin-off, and remake.  We’re sure someone will provide new content and stories for us for movies and TV from entirely new characters and worlds in 2013, but just take a look at the 24 biggest genre movies coming out next year and it is obvious that Hollywood is following the “tried and true” model of investing in current properties rather than investing money in “the new”.

So with that in mind, what are the big characters to watch out for next year–the characters we already know that seem like they can only get bigger?

Chris Pine as Jack Ryan

10.  Jack Ryan.  Back in the 1980s and 1990s it seemed like Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was everywhere, first with Alec Baldwin taking on the role in The Hunt for Red October, then mega-star Harrison Ford in two sequels, followed by a big break and then Ben Affleck in the prequel Sum of All Fears.  With Star Trek star Chris Pine bringing us yet another prequel effort next December, we think a wide audience will come back again to see what this CIA agent has been up to.

Hugh Jackman as The Wolverine

9.  Wolverine.  I’ve always thought Wolverine should be Marvel Comics’ key property.  Spider-man always relied on Peter Parker (well, until recently) who seemed pretty planted in the psyche of the past.  The Avengers seemed too cartoony with characters with too little in common to really be a huge property (happily I was wrong!).  But Wolverine has a certain modern grittiness that readers, especially young readers, would seem to really attach to.  Audiences seem to like Hugh Jackman’s take on the character and his incredible fifth outing as Logan/Wolverine in July, titled The Wolverine should tell us if this will be the end of a big-screen Wolverine for a while or whether he will only get bigger.

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If you haven’t voted yet.  Go do it.  Longer than usual voting lines are expected today.  But who knows long lines better than Comic-Con fans?  Today is your day.  You can show the others how it’s done.  And why not drag your comic book-toting friends along?  Heck, bring along a stack to read.  It’s going to be a long day.

If you’re like me, you get a bit annoyed in the weeks prior to Comic-Con with people trying to hand out tips for your first Comic-Con.  Like we can’t figure it out.  So, in return, here’s a list you can send to your non-comic book-lovin’, non-genre-lovin’, the “who the heck is Buffy the Vampire Slayer voters” you’ll be stuck with all day.  Here’s a modified advice list snatched from lists of advice for first-timers at past San Diego Comic-Cons, a list which seems to apply well to your neighbors who think they know long lines but don’t:  Continue reading

By C.J. Bunce

When pondering what I want to see in the movie theater that hasn’t arrived yet I think a lot about several Philip K. Dick short stories, or TV series that I’d love to see continued on the big screen, like a big screen Magnum, P.I., or Simon & Simon or Chuck—although if it is as underwhelming as the last X-Files movie then maybe not.  I’d love to see some early twentieth century biopics of Bix Beiderbecke or Karl King (who, among other things, composed the circus themes for Ringling Brothers and played in Sousa’s band).  And it would be fun to take a bunch of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass songs from South Of The Border and The Lonely Bull and make them the soundtrack to a modern spaghetti Western, sort of like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with She’s The One A good Green Arrow or Bionic Man movie, or a good sequel to Return of the Jedi would all be fun.  And some things have been done already, but not quite right.  Space Ghost had his own cartton then interview show, but how about an adaptation of the serious origin series by Joe Kelly?  A big budget movie based on Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air could be awesome (the TV version suffered a bit despite a good cast).  The Russian story of Lieutenant Kije was filmed more than half a century ago with music by Prokofiev, but it needs a good updating.  We’ve seen four Tom Clancy novels about Jack Ryan, but the creepiest of the series, Debt of Honor, has yet to be made.

A lot of films have been made, and in coming up with this list one of my ideas–a film featuring Super Grover and the cast of Sesame Street–seemed long overdue.  I figured Sesame Street got bypassed for the Muppets, as shown in a funny scene from The Muppet Movie where Fozzie the Bear offers Big Bird a ride to the west coast to break into movies, and Big Bird says no thanks, he’s trying to break into public television back in New York.  Well, apparently they made that movie back in 1985 and I missed it, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That BirdYou can’t know everything.

For me this list was tough until I moved away from books as source material.  I think the movies I see in my head are better than how some of my ideas would likely turn out produced by the studios.  But let’s get on with it–with a nod to Art Schmidt for his idea with DC Comics and Jason McClain for mentioning Connie Willis.

    

From the comic books:  DC Comics’ Dark Knight Returns and Hard-Traveling Heroes

At lunch in high school my friends and I fantasy-cast Batman: The Dark Knight Returns over and over.  Ultimately we arrived at (the now late) Paul Newman as the ideal retired Batman, in the graphic novel another wealthy race car driver type.  In real life Newman was very much the Bruce Wayne interpreted in Frank Miller’s four-issue series-turned required-reading—as suave guy, well-liked, a wealthy philanthropist.  In a different universe Clint Eastwood would be great fun as a superhero coming out of retirement to have that last hoorah with the Batman cowl.  Probably too late now.  Of all the Batman stories, The Dark Knight Returns is #1–it is so well-established as more than a cult favorite, even beyond Watchmen, you just have to ask DC Comics and the Hollywood machine:  Why can’t someone just put it on the big screen?

I’ve said over and over here at borg.com that the best Green Lantern story ever is his team up with Green Arrow and Black Canary in Neal Adams’ and Dennis O’Neil’s classic Green Lantern Issues #76-87 and 89, the so-called “Hard Traveling Heroes.”  Imagine Black Canary pulling up on her motorcycle.  Imagine Green Arrow defending the kid robbing the slumlord.  Imagine Green Arrow catching Speedy.  Imagine Hal, Ollie and Dinah driving across America in their pick-up truck.  And harpies.  And encountering a religious cult.  And more harpies.

I’ll echo Art Schmidt: DC Comics needs to catch up with Marvel Comics movies, with Iron Man (the first one), Captain America: The First Avenger, and with Fantastic Four’s brilliant realization of Human Torch and The Thing, maybe my favorite heroes to screen so far.  OK, they nailed it with Christopher Reeve’s Superman and Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson in Batman.  Hopefully with The Avengers, Marvel Comics sets a new bar that DC Comics will have to work toward with a multi-hero story, maybe even with the Justice League or Superfriends.  Art’s recommended Cry for Justice, which we have discussed here before, is a great choice for this.

From the sci-fi novel: Remake, by Connie Willis

If you haven’t read Hugo and Nebula award-winning author Connie Willis’s books then you are in for a great ride through one of several fun and varied works.  For me, the concepts and Hollywood prophesies in her novel Remake are too cool to pass up and I have no doubt represent a foreshadowing of the future of film only slightly touched on in the Ralph Fiennes film Strange DaysRemake is science fiction at its best, and was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1996.

In our near future, Hollywood no longer needs to make new productions.  A film technician rearranges classic films via computer manipulation, so that the viewer can select who he wants to watch the next time he watches Raiders of the Lost Ark.  How about John Wayne?  How about Humphrey Bogart?  Why not edit out all the cigarettes so we no longer encourage smoking for future viewers?  What other movies would be fun to manipulate?  This is the world of our future where Viacom and Paramount are now Viamount, where actors are reduced to stand-ins.  OK, so it probably won’t really be our future as totally envisioned by Willis.

The technician falls for a strange woman who wants to dance in a musical and he is continually sidetracked as he pursues her through the novel.  The love story is well done—but it’s the world of our future that would be fun to see, finally, on the big screen.  And you would not need to film an entire movie, simply clips, like the old soda pop ads that blended dead celebrities with living ones, and that allowed Nat King Cole to star in a modern music video with his grown daughter, the singer Natalie Cole.  Hollywood has the technology today—so why not see how far CGI can go?

I’d frankly love to see any Willis book adapted to film, and in addition those mentioned by others in this series, Bellwether and To Say Nothing of the Dog would be great picks.

From the sci-fi novel: Fantastic Voyage 2: Destination Brain, by Isaac Asimov

When the original Fantastic Voyage was in theaters in 1966, Isaac Asimov created the novelization.  He was not happy with it because he was adapting someone else’s work (it was based on a Jerome Bixby story).  The original film reflected Hollywood basically at its infancy with special effects related to the future of medicine.  In its day it was a good effort.  With the 1987 novel Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain, which was not a sequel but an entirely new story, Asimov created the world inside a microscope that only he could envision.  The book is like Dennis Quaid in Innerspace, but with a serious mission and tone.  A group of scientists, such as you would find in the typical multi-disciplined problem solving team from a Michael Crichton novel, shrink themselves down to microscopic size to enter into the brain and try to diagnose the condition of a colleague, Dr. Pyotor Shapirov, the creator of the very technology that finally allows man to transport to such a miniscule size.

In 2001 Imax theaters featured a documentary on its giant-sized screens called The Human Body.  Audiences were able to see (and sometimes be grossed out by) the inner workings of the body.  Filmmakers would hardly need much by way of CGI to show a voyage through the cells.  Maybe this would be fun to attempt for some creative producer, and a project showing yet another frontier of science to science fiction fans.

From the art gallery: the cinematic paintings of Edward Hopper

How about a story for stage or screen where each scene begins or ends as an Edward Hopper painting?  And the focal character is the girl from his Automat, maybe also the same girl from his Chop Suey painting?  New York Movie, First Row Orchestra, Summertime, Cape Cod Evening—they all tell some secret story.  Or at least they all could, in the right filmmaker’s hands.

Hopper’s cinematic compositions and use of light and shadow has caused filmmakers to mimic his style before.  House by the Railroad supposedly influenced the house in the Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the home in the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven.  Director Wim Wenders’ film The End of Violence incorporates a tableau vivant of Nighthawks. Surrealist horror film director Dario Argento recreated the diner and the patrons in Nighthawks as part of a set for his 1976 film Deep Red.  Hopper has inspired both Blade Runner and Road to Perdition.

Turner Classic Movies uses animated recreations of Hopper paintings as introductions to classic films and in That ’70s Show the producers recreated the diner from Nighthawks.  But how about a full-scale movie showing us something about these characters we don’t know?  That’s something I’d love to see on the big screen.

From the ancient history books: the world briefly changed by Akhenaten

I could find a non-fiction work for the adaptation, but it’s the story itself I really want to see here.  The pharaoh Akhenaten was the leader of Egypt for about 17 years from circa 1353 B.C. to 1335 B.C.  He was married to Nefertiti and had six or seven daughters and at least one son–Tutankhamen.  In his reign he revamped the religion of his country like never before, moving from a polytheistic pantheon of gods to the worship of a single god, the Aten, or sun-disk.  Following his reign the empire was returned to its prior state and for Akhenaten’s blasphemy his name was chiseled out of a significant part of the written record.  Art during his reign became more expressive and naturalistic.  Images of the pharaoh show a realistic image that hid no flaws, a long face, not the typical glorification and heroic imagery of Egyptian leaders before and after.  Akhenaten is so interesting from a number of levels that it would be a great challenge to reflect his reign in film.  Certainly a rebel and not a traditionalist.  A stunning wife.  How do you show all the Egyptian relationships—including accepted inbreeding as a norm–without coming off as judgmental?  As pharaoh he was “one with the god Aten.”  How do you portray daily life in an interesting way where the ruler is God and what could you show about his family on film?  A great pandemic swept across the Middle East during this period, taking out the Hittite ruler Suppiluliuma, and how did they manage through that?  But even more interesting, with all the stories of the history of conflict in Egypt, what did life look like during the years of Egypt’s own version of Camelot?  This all would be incredible to depict.

From fantasy opera:  Richard Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung

I have only seen one version of The Ring that comes close to clarifying this odd and complex story composed of four epic operas for a general audience: P. Craig Russell’s two volume graphic novel of The Ring of the Nibelung.  A few years ago I discussed The Ring with Russell and he said it was a great effort to produce it and it became a sort of magnum opus for him.  But even an adaptation of Russell’s adaptation would need streamlined for mainstream audiences—yet, it would be a great starting point.  Predating that other famous fantasy ring series (the one by J.R.R. Tolkien) by decades, Wagner’s opera is epic in scope and length, taking four nights or 15 hours to perform the full opera.  We already have a superb soundtrack from Wagner, but can someone make a feature-length, meaningful adaptation in the English language that conveys the energy and power of the original without all the nonlinear bits and pieces?  The reward would be a giant vision of gods, heroes, mythical creatures and magic.

Other operas due for a good movie?  The Magic Flute, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro.

More than any of the above I would love to see our own Elizabeth C. Bunce’s retelling of Rumplestiltskin, A Curse Dark As Gold (maybe a classic PBS/BBC series or Hayao Miyazaki anime film would be fun) or her fantasy noir Thief Errant series on-screen.  A Curse Dark As Gold has already been performed superbly in a full-length audio CD version by a Broadway actress so I’ve had a little taste of what it would be like to witness it fully played out.  And speaking of ECB, tomorrow she’ll give us her take on stories that should be adapted for the big screen.