Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit

"Jack Ryan" Filming In New York City - September 2, 2012

I enjoyed Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit. It’s not a great movie, but it’s entertaining enough. And it stars pock-skinned Chris Pine, who is one of those flashes-of-brilliance actors who sometimes, sometimes, tantalisingly hits the all right notes. This is not one of those times. Keira, who I’m not so fond of, plays his girlfriend, and she manages her lazy eye long enough to be not-quite-irritating. There’s a lot of chasing and punching and running about, and Kenneth Branagh munches the scenery like a fat kid at a Twix convention. So.

Not that it really matters one bit, but JRSC is about a Russian plot to destabilise the US economy in revenge for (not sure what) using a couple of sleeper agents who’ve gone to ground somewhere in Manhattan. But as I said, this isn’t about the what, it’s about the how, and the how, well, that’s fun enough to pass ninety minutes on an airplane.

Unstoppable

Unstoppable rattles along like a runaway train…… No, wait! Unstoppable really is about a runaway train and the heroic efforts of lowly transportation workers to bring it to a halt, thwarted along the way by greedy corporate fatcats. So yes, it’s not a very complicated plot. And the main characters – lip-licky Denzel, glorious Rosario Dawson and dirty-old-man-crush of the moment Chris Pine – are so thinly sketched they’re all but transparent. But boy is it exciting, it looks great, moves fast, and the adrenalin just keeps you pumping.

For what’s essentially a road movie on tracks, Unstoppable uses a LOT of locations: Martins Ferry, Bellaire, Mingo Junction, Steubenville and Brewster in Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Emporium, Milesburg, Tyrone, Julian, Unionville, Port Matilda, Bradford, Monaca, Eldred, Turtlepoint, Port Allegany and Carnegie in Pennsylvania The elevated and elegantly curving bridge where the chemical tanks threaten to spill off into the oil terminus are actually in Bellaire, Ohio – a town that unusually brands itself a village rather than the more Americanly ambitious “city” (pop. 2108)

Another interesting thing I found out: we’re not always seeing the same train. Like some 40 ton quadruplets in a bad soap opera, the directors swapped in and out a number of identical trains hired from Canadian Pacific Railways. Sweet!

Carriers

A couple of random things. 1.) A couple of years back, I took a road trip through New Mexico. I thought it looked like the Klein Karoo. 2.) I read a short story book about Zombies while in LA. And 3.) I also just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s bleak (and a little pointless?) book The Road about a road trip from hell. (I probably won’t watch the film now, thanks.)

So, aside from now planning to create a food and medicines stash in my basement, I was reminded of all of the above when I caught another little road movie called Carriers on the looonnng plane journey from LA to Dubai.

Carriers stars the rockin’ Chris Pine and the even more lovely Piper Perabo as a part of a mismatched foursome travelling through New Mexico in the aftermath of a vicious and extensive plague. Most folks have died nastily, and the increasingly desperate survivors battle to retain their humanity in the face of unspeakable choices. Christopher Meloni’s in it too, a Dad struggling to save his infected little girl.

It’s a small film really – it was apparently filmed back in 2006 and never released – but it’s creepy and disturbing and pretty convincing. Well filmed, well lit, well acted, it proved an uncomfortably enjoyably way to fill some of a 16 hour flight.

Star Trek

Having just watched X-Men Origins, I was wary of the latest incarnation of Star Trek. Would it be Star Trek Origins – plodding, joyless and worthy, all the a-ha tick boxes checked?? The answer – a resounding NO. JJ Abrams Star Trek completely rocks.

An evil, renegade Romulan named Nero (an unrecognisable Eric Bana) is bent on destroying all the planets in the federation – including Earth. Young Kirk and Spock – and Uhuru and Checkov and Sulu – fresh from the Starfleet Academy, set out to save the world. Even Scotty shows up about 80 minutes into the picture (and almost steals the show.)

Yes, there are a few minor irritants (would your ship’s pilot be your first choice to send on a hand-to-hand combat mission?) but these instances are quickly forgotten because generally the movie’s a complete supersonic blast; rapid fire story telling, great action scenes, mind-blowing CGI, and a team of actors who clearly feel right at home in their old clothes. I was never a massive Trekky, but I actually think I could become one…….

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