Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Review

I am a fan of Jack Ryan. I’ve read from the Hunt for Red October – in which Tom Clancy introduces us to Jack Ryan – to Executive Orders – the point at which I started losing interest in Jack Ryan, since he wasn’t the analyst turned operative he was in the earlier novels, and the novels themselves had become wish-fulfillment by the author rather than straight up espionage adventure tales. I can also say that now I have seen all the movie, having recently watched Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

I would rank this above Sum of All Fears but below Patriot Games – which I would put below Clear and Present Danger, with the Hunt for Red October still being my favourite Jack Ryan movie. JR:SR is a good movie, verging on great. The performances are all solid, and it’s fun to have our old cold war foe back as the bad guy. The action was fairly well done, though I still don’t think Kenneth Brannagh – who directed this and stars as the main baddie – is a good action director. He needs to find a good action choreographer or second unit director and hand off the chore to them, like Ang Lee did for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

My biggest problem was the evil conspiracy to topple America’s economy. The terrorist plot itself was interesting, and I like that it wasn’t “end of the world” or another “OMG they’ve got nukes!” but a straight up bomb. That was refreshing. What bugged me was the financial part of the equation. I had a hard time believing that the threat was so severe. Maybe there are economists or financial managers out there who would say “fuck yeah, dude, that’s tots what would happen!” but while watching the film, I wasn’t buying it.

And if you find the villain’s plot laughable or unsatisfactory at best, that decreases a huge amount of the tension. And that’s a problem, because otherwise the espionage portions of the movie are pretty good. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I like that during the infiltration scene, they have human foibles as the greatest asset rather than having some hi-tech device do the trick.

I also don’t like how the mentor figure also becomes the operational support figure. I thought the action in Moscow would have been a good time to introduce Clark or Ding Chavez into what is hopefully going to be a continuing series.

Overall, I enjoyed this movie and would be interested in seeing more Jack Ryan movies with Chris Pine. I give Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit four financial shenanigans out of five.

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Weekly Roundup for 26 October 2014

This week saw more than a little Netflix viewing. I’ll have a review up later for Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, but these three didn’t do enough for me to warrant more than a paragraph. Still, they weren’t bad so much as they were medicore or just not good.

 Event Horizon: I was itching to watch a far-future, space-faring sci-fi, and this is what came up on Netflix. I only watched about 30 minutes of it before moving on. It just didn’t hold my interest. It tried really hard to replicate the slow burn of Alien, but the story isn’t as strong and Paul W. S. Anderson isn’t Ridley Scott. I’ve seen this movie before, and it’s a passable sci-fi horror, but this isn’t anything great.

 Resident Evil: Extinction: This is an above-average actioner mixing post-apocalyptic imagery with zombies. Yes, zombies generally represent an apocalypse at some level, but the desert imagery and abandoned civilization of RE:E was much more in line with the Road Warrior than the Walking Dead – it even had a convoy of vehicles! I had seen the first of the series some time ago and found it enjoyable, and this one entertained, which is all you can really expect from this kind of action-fest.

 Resident Evil: Afterlife: A continuation from RE:E. Like it, this was a passable actioner with zombies. This one had a lot of the mythology of the RE movie series, much more than I noticed in the preceding. This movie, to me, seemed like a Syfy TV movie. It seemed kind of low budget. I am wondering if that were not because they used as cutting-edge CGI as they could afford at the time, but that has become much less cutting edge now. Still a fun watch if you have time to burn and don’t want to use your brain.

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Feeling of Unease

I almost feel guilty writing a post about some of the enjoyable things I did this week considering the shooting death of Cpl Nathan Cirillo in our nation’s capital on Wednesday. I’m a resident of Ottawa. I haven’t seen anything that leads me to believe that this was more than the work of a sick fuck and that the threat to my city has in no way increased, but that’s cold comfort when a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and single father of a 5-year old boy is dead. This is compounded by the earlier death of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent by another sick individual, another warped mind radicalized by an extremist philosophy. And let me repeat something I posted on G+ the other day, because I want to be clear about my thoughts on the criminals who perpetrated these murders.

Our Tunisian neighbour was in tears after hearing the horrible, disgusting comments made regarding Muslims at the gym she attends. I wish I could say I was surprised at how quickly the xenophobia appears, but I am not.

The shooting in Ottawa was the work of a sick mind warped by extremism, and extremism exists everywhere and in every culture. If this sick fuck had lived earlier, he would have been in a bell tower. We didn’t decide to eradicate white males because of Marc Lépine. At other times, men like the Ottawa shooter joined the Thugee, the Red Army Faction or the Japanese Red Army. None of those are around, but the cultures which spawned them are, because the extremism they represent did not represent the entire culture.

I’ll have a Week Ending post later today. I don’t think that belongs with this.

You can read more about the attacks here.

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Star Wars: Rebels Review

When it comes to Star Wars, I’m pretty easy to please: it’s got to feel like Star Wars (AKA A New Hope), be fun, and not be horrible.

That leaves out the pre-sequels. Hey-Oh!

The trailers for Star Wars: Rebels made it seem like my kind of series. I really enjoyed the Clone Wars, and Rebels seemed to have the quality level of Clone Wars but be set in the A New Hope universe. There were TIE fighters! Stormtroopers! Star Destroyers!

Then again, that might all be window dressing on a condemned building.

I got the chance to watch the pilot recently, and I am pleased to say it kept all its promises. This really felt like Star Wars. Even better, it felt like Firefly in the Star Wars universe. I have no idea if this was intentional or conscious on any level, but that’s how it felt to me, and I loved it.

Listen, the writing isn’t the best, and it still has so many of those logical inconsistencies so prevalent in the movies that made it much more a planetary fantasy than science fiction – whatever those terms might mean to you – but I don’t care. It was fun to watch, I liked the characters, and the voice-acting was good. The story was exciting, a souped-up freighter used its turrets to smoke some TIEs, the Imperials spoke with Brit accents and had 70s facial hair, and there were a couple of jumps to light speed.

So far, no midiclorians, stalker love stories, or economic blockades. I think we’re good.

I give Star Wars: Rebels 4 mutton-chopped Imperials out of 5.

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Butchering Farewell, Something Lovely

I’ve been looking once again at Farewell, Something Lovely. The intent was for it to be a sequel to “For Simple Coin” (published in On Spec, Winter 2009 issue) but now I think I’m going to change the protagonist to ‘the Butcher,’ the main character in an unfinished sword noir genre story. That’s not some kind of cool nickname or nom de guerre, she is an actual butcher whose debt to a crime boss puts her in the middle of a bad situation. This could be a sequel to that origin story.

I’m also dumping the first person narration. I used first person because this is an adaptation of Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler. While I liked it, first person narration is very hard to sell. Nothing will be changed by switching to limited third person narration, so that’s another change to make.

Finally, I’m going to change a fundamental aspect of the macguffin character, but that’s something integral to the story, so I’m not going to be spilling it here.

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The Role of That Woman in “Farewell, Something Lovely”

I was reading over my story “Farewell, Something Lovely,” a short story based on the Raymond Chandler novel Farewell, My Lovely. What struck me was the role of the female character who motivates the story – my version of Velma Valento. While she does nothing wrong, she seems to bring out the worst in a lot of men. They do some very bad things in order to “possess” her, and some of them do act like she is a possession. This goes on through most of the story, and only at the resolution is there any real indication of her wants or desires.

I’m worried this is going to come off as sexist, that I’m blaming the woman. The thing is, she asks for none of this. It is not that she has no agency, it is just that she chooses men for reasons other than what they expect, and those reasons are opaque, perhaps even at the conclusion.

I’m still running with it. It has been submitted, and if it gets rejected, I’ll submit it elsewhere. I believe the story strong (not known for my humility), though that female role is problematic (a word some may not like, but which I find useful).

It’s also interesting that the main character is never named nor has a gender indicated. Almost every reader I’ve communicated with still refers to the character as “he.” Might be interesting if among the reveals in the story is that she is a woman. Might come off as faux reveal, done only either to shock or to shift attention.

Another short story I started does have a female protagonist who is a butcher of the commercial variety who gets tagged to become a butcher of another variety. I’m having no problem with the voice, but parts of the plot aren’t working for me. This one is heavily influenced by the Korean neo-noir The Yellow Sea.

You can read more about Farewell, My Lovely at Wikipedia.

You can read my thoughts on The Yellow Sea here.

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Weekly Roundup for 21 September 2014

Alvvays. I picked up Alvvays self-titled album/gaggle of mp3s on Monday and have been listening to it almost on a loop. It takes me back to university and melodic indie-pop. Even when I am working, if Alvvays are on, my foot is tapping even if my head isn’t bobbing. It amuses my daughters to no end to see their daddy bopping along to tunes. This definitely scratches an itch for me.

Battle Beyond the Stars. On a whim, I watched the first half of this one night before bed. While the writing isn’t stellar (get it?) and the SFX are somewhat dated, it’s not half-bad. The actors do their best to instill the insipid dialogue with emotion and gravitas or levity. In the end, it’s a fun space opera remake of the Magnificent Seven . . . I’m not willing to link it to the Seven Samurai except through an intermediary. Just in case.

Avatar: the Last Airbender. And I am referring to the Nickelodeon cartoon series rather than the god-awful adaptation of it. I have really wanted to get my daughters to watch something other than Winx Club, which bothers me in that it focuses as much on the girls getting boyfriends as being heroes. I really want my daughters to have role models who don’t identify themselves through the men in their lives. While Avatar is ostensibly Aang’s story, Kitara is pretty much the strongest character in the series, and I can’t wait until they get to the episodes with Toph. They now request Avatar, though this is probably at least in part because they know their mother and I don’t like Winx Club.

I have also failed in getting them interested in Clone Wars. Me so sad.

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