Wonder Woman (2017) is, if you’ll pardon such an obvious comment, a wonder of a superhero movie, a film that doesn’t transcend the genre but most certainly sets a high bar, especially next to the ponderous, humorless films of the new big screen universe of interconnected DC Comics heroes.
Gal Gadot debuted as Amazon princess warrior Wonder Woman in the turgid Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and brightened the film immediately. The spirit we glimpsed there carries this origin story, which sends us back to the 1910s and the hidden island paradise of the Amazons inadvertently invaded when American pilot Steve Trevor (an earnest yet spirited Chris Pine) flies past the invisibility field and crash lands on the beach, the first man ever to set foot on the island. Diana is intrigued to say the least but more compelled by news of a world at war and, after the inevitable assault by German forces after Trevor, is convinced of her purpose: stopping the god Ares from destroying all of mankind through warfare. She leaves the island against the wishes her mother (Connie Nielsen, commanding and regal). Steve’s not so convinced of that stuff about ancient gods and eternal Amazons but he has no doubt as to her abilities as a warrior or her commitment to justice and he knows a valuable ally when he meets one.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Paramount, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, On Demand) is prequel and reboot all in one, with Chris Pine taking on the role of the young CIA analyst Ryan as he takes his first field assignment under the command of Kevin Costner. Pine is the fourth Ryan in the fifth Ryan film, but this is the first one that isn’t adapted from one of Tom Clancy’s novels. It’s an original story and it takes the US / Russia tensions out of the Cold War of Clancy’s first books and into the Putin era, with Kenneth Branagh as a Russian financial tycoon plotting an act of economic terrorism on the U.S. Which is why Jack Ryan, a former Marine and a graduate of the London School of Economics, is sent in for this very specialized mission.
Branagh directs this one too, wrangling a complicated production with more efficiency than personality. For that he has Pine, just fine as the brainy American patriot, and Costner, perfect as the veteran soldier and father figure mentor, and Keira Knightly as well, playing Ryan’s fiancée who gets pulled into the mission when she shows up to surprise Jack. The surprise is on her when she finds out he’s a covert agent and she’s a target.
The supplements are on the Blu-ray: Commentary by director / co-star Kenneth Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, four featurettes, and deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary.
Non-Stop (Universal, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, On Demand) continues Liam Neeson’s unexpected career reboot as an aging action hero. This time he’s an alcoholic air marshal who is targeted by hijackers and then framed for a series of murders that take place at 20,000 feet. Which turns out to be pretty easy when you can peg your target to overreact on cue and send it viral from passenger cell phone video.
Neeson gets to play the compromised hero set up as a patsy, and who gets a shot at redemption when he defies his place in the bad guys’ script, but it’s no Taken. Director Jaume Collet-Serra put Neeson through his paces in Unknown and does the same here, unleashing him on a script that is not much more than a series of plot twists and evil genius scheming with so many moving parts that it could only work in the movies. Julianne Moore is a fellow passenger with a second act revelation that is a screenwriter’s gimmick with no satisfactory payoff and Michelle Dockery is a stewardess who knows a little of Neeson’s backstory and his problems with the bottle, but Lupita Nyong’o (an Oscar winner for 12 Years a Slave) is shamefully wasted in a nothing role. Collet-Serra comes up with some inventive ways to shoot the enclosed space and keep it all roaring ahead, but this is one of the action films that is deviously clever but not all that smart.
Blu-ray and DVD with the featurette “Suspense at 40,000.” The Blu-ray also includes the bonus featurette “Non-Stop Action,” plus bonus DVD and UltraViolet Digital HD copies of the film.
Look at that: my first feature for the Today Show entertainment website!
After more than a decade of desk duty, Tom Clancy’s famed fictional CIA agent is back on the big screen Friday in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
Ryan’s been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck, and he’s fought his way through submarine diplomacy, the heat of the Cold War and South American drug cartels. But forget all that — the character is getting a complete reboot. In the new movie, he’s played by Star Trek movie veteran Chris Pine, and he’s working in a changed world informed by the tragedy of Sept. 11.
Can a Cold War patriot reinvent himself as an American hero for a new millennium? Odds are in Ryan’s favor. Here’s why.
Chris Pine’s a good fit for the role
Best known as young Captain Kirk, Pine is 34 but his baby face makes him look younger, and he has a brashness that sets him off from previous actors in the role. “Jack Ryan already somehow suggests a kind of an oak tree — something yeoman-like,” director Kenneth Branagh told The Huffington Post. “And Chris Pine — that six-foot-two, blue-eyed fit guy — just feels like the right guy.” No arguments here.