I've been a shitty blogger this year. Well, I'm always a shitty blogger, but this year has been appalling. Not a single post since July. Why? Well, the reason is simple: Life (shut up!) Okay, to be more precise, the lack of available hours in a day.

I started a new podcast, don't ya know (in Danish). That took some time away from blogging.

And then, as part of my regular podcast, we did a Twin Peaks marathon, reviewing every single episode of the old show on the brand new Bluray. That was fun. But also a bit tough. Took more time than I expected.

I tell you, my stats for the year in terms of movie-watching suffered. There are other reasons for that too, but now that I have my own new show I hope to get back on track. My motto is "A day without a movie, is a day wasted" - so 363 movies in a year should be doable. That's my goal for 2015.

As for this blog I will try to get some more blogging done. I still have many ideas that aren't particularly suited for my audio shows, and I enjoys keaping my english writting scharp.

Anyway, time to close down 2014. I'll leave you with this single image from Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, one of the boldest films in recent memory.

I suggest we take one lesson away from the film and apply it to the new year.

Let's try a little harder, simply to be smarter.

See you on the other side. 


The Dead Pool (1988)

The 411 on the 415

In this star-studded fifth and final Dirty Harry movie from Clint Eastwood the central case concerns a morbid game, called the dead pool, where the players try to guess which celebrity will die next. Horror movie director Peter Swan (Liam Neeson) is one of the participants, but when the star of his music video, and coincidentally one of the names on his list, rocker Johnny Squares (Jim Carrey), suddenly dies from an overdose, he becomes a suspect. Along the way Harry runs into dedicated reporter Samantha Walker (Patricia Clarkson), who takes a kind eye to his unkind face, while struggling with the media's role in the violent modern world.

Word on the street

(Placeholder for funny or memorable line from movie.
Space for rent. Contact administrator for a good offer.)

Rap sheet

It's five years later. 1988, the year after the universe gave us another iconic hardcore cop: RoboCop. Dirty Harry is starting to look fairly burned out, and it's reasonable to wonder if there's still a place in the world for these movies. That feeling will not dissipate during the opening of The Dead Pool, which comes across like an alternate credit sequence from The Streets of San Francisco.

Then we get into more pressing issues: Why is Jim Carrey miming to a Guns N' Roses song? Why is he acting like he's in Batman and Robin? (The only Batman movie worse that the one he was actually in.) And why is Oscar Schindler directing an Exorcist knockoff!? It's all very mysterious. Of course, we're on the set of a music video, so it's all just fun and games. The question is, do you really want fun and games in your Dirty Harry movie?

Once again the script is the major issue here.

So there's a dead pool. People are betting on what celebrity will die next, but suddenly the people on that list are being murdered. Could somebody be trying to rig the game? That's plot 1. Then it turns out that there's a killer trying to frame one of the dead pool players, because of some unknown vendetta. That's plot 2. Then Harry's name shows up on the list, and simultaneously a gangster boss is trying to kill him. That's plot 3, and a bit of plot 1, but mostly irrelevant to plot 2. Then we have the reporter trying to get the scoop on Harry's story, while struggling with the way modern media is obsessed with blood and death. That's plot 4, but also ties into plot 1, but again, it's completely irrelevant to plot 2. And guess what plot strain turns out to be the true plot of The Dead Pool? Yup, number 2. The one plot strand which is always at odds with all the other potentially interesting stories.

The dead pool story is dull, but it could have worked, if we were introduced to the participants and they turned out to be cool, interesting individuals. Then we could start to suspect which one of them is trying to rig the game. Instead The Dead Pool turns out to be about an obsessed horror fan, and the actual dead pool part of the story is more or less irrelevant.

There's also potential in the connection between Harry and the female reporter. Jumping into bed with enemy no. 1, the media, is almost worse than sleeping with a suspect! Of course, this is inexplicably the one and only film where Harry suddenly has good press, which directly works against that conflicted cop/reporter love story.

Meanwhile the film flirts with the media's (and the public's) fascination with blood and gore. Another interesting angle, especially when it's tied into the cop/reporter story. She's conflicted about the media providing these bloody stories, Harry is conflicted about dating her, meanwhile he's the one supplying the bloody stories she's conflicted about covering. Look, it all ties together. That story would have made for a great movie, because it would force Harry to take a good look at himself. The drama would reach its crescendo during the scene where Harry is called out to a situation where a man wants to set himself on fire, unless he gets on TV. Harry plays Samantha's cameraman and suddenly the two would-be lovers are standing side by side, literally facing her professional dilemma.

Unfortunately every good element in The Dead Pool is a red herring. None of the stories play out the way I've laid out above. The film only uses these wonderful interlocking conflicts to distract itself from the real plot: An obsessed horror movie fan with a restraining order trying to kill a director, who doesn't want to read his script. Funny how those raving madmen with no connection to reality, suddenly become very apt at navigating the real world, when they have a murder spree to unleash, by the way.

Oh, lest we forget: This week's disconnected-pointless-look-how-cool-Harry-is scene comes 22 minutes into the story. It features Harry reading a fortune cookie for a robber in a Chinese restaurant ("It says... You're shit outta luck!"), and some kung fu from Harry's new Asian partner.

I'm getting tired complaining over Harry's incompetence, so here's the quick lowdown, before we wrap this up: In The Dead Pool Harry's almost killed in a mob hit because he doesn't realize two cars following him might be a bad thing. And he manages to get blown up by a toy car filled with explosives, after failing to make his getaway during a 20 minute car chase. Let me reiterate: We're talking about a chase between Harry in a real car for humans and a FREAKIN' TOY CAR! And he LOSES!

But the Coup de grâce, the most disheartening moment, comes during the final showdown when the killer orders Harry to drop his gun, while he's threatening to kill a woman with a knife. What does Harry do? He complies. Dirty Harry Callahan drops his gun at the command of a madman with nothing more than a knife.... Guys, why you gotta do me like this? It's like you don't even know Harry any more.

Final report

The Dead Pool, despite being the shortest of the Dirty Harry movies, is a chore to get through. It's a dull, unfocused story, with a dull ending, full of wasted potential. An embarrassing finishing to a decidedly shaky franchise.


Sudden Impact (1983)

The 411 on the 415

It's 1983, the year of Return of the Jedi, and the Dirty Harry franchise has come out of retirement to tell the story about a series of brutal murders. A young woman is wreaking revenge on the punks who gang-raped her and her sister, by seeking them out one by one, and shooting them in the head and in the balls.

Word on the street

"Go ahead, make my day."

"Listen, punk. To me you're nothin' but dogshit, you understand? And a lot of things can happen to dogshit. It can be scraped up with a shovel off the ground. It can dry up and blow away in the wind. Or it can be stepped on and squashed. So take my advice and be careful where the dog shits ya!"

Rap sheet

Two lovers are getting it on in a car parked by the bay at night. Suddenly, in the middle of the moaning and rustling of clothes there's the distinct sound of a gun being cocked. Moments later two shots ring out, and just like that we've got another case for Dirty Harry.

Pop quiz, hotshot. What follows next? Is it A) time for Harry to get right to it, take on this case, wrap it up in a quick, and be home in time for cornflakes? Or do we B) once again need establish Harry's badassery in an unnecessary show of force?

That would be B. Not only that, but we start the film with a trial, where the judge throws out clear evidence of murder, because Harry didn't have proper cause for a search. He didn't even beat anybody up this time, he just had a hunch, and it turned out to be correct! Maybe San Francisco's problem isn't Harry's excessive use of violence, but the utter ineptitude of the city's prosecutors? So after that lengthy scene, including a confrontation between Harry and the recently released punks, we get the Harry-is-a-badass scene, when he walks into a half empty diner to disturb a robbery in progress. Four heavily armed men have inexplicably decided to rob the cash-register of this small establishment, plus steal from a handful of patrons. What's the score going to be? $15 and a Junior Mint? Anyway, it allows Harry to burst into the place and say his famous "Go ahead, make my day" line, which everyone thinks is from the first film, and kill everybody. Then Harry walks into the middle of a mob-wedding to give the bride's father a heart attack (Hey, that's Frank Pentangeli from The Godfather II). And after ALL that, Harry finally shows up at the crime scene from the cold open, which fells like an hour and a half ago (it's 17 minutes).

Most of this feels completely redundant. This is simply NOT efficient storytelling. The whole point of this opening act is to establish the initial murder, and send Harry off on a BS assignment to a safe little town, where he can't make trouble. Of course, by coincidence, he ends up right in the middle of a hornet's nest, with several murders connected to the first one. Beautiful, let's do it! It takes the film 45 minutes to get to that point! I haven't even mentioned the obligatory the-captain-yells-at-Harry scene, or the two different attempts on Harrys life, before he's despatched to Redneckville.

Why not tie the whole thing together? Harry disturbs a robbery. He kills the culprits, and one of them turns out to be the gangster boss' son. The gangsters put a price on his head. The captain sends him off to a small town. He says goodbye to his partner, who must now investigate a new murder on his own, but not before giving Harry a few details he can use later. Boom, done. 20 minutes max. What we have now is SO cumbersome. It's like Dirty Harry can't get out of his own way to tell a real story.

The only thing keeping me really interested in Sudden Impact is the subplot, where we follow the ice-cold, determined blonde. This is our killer, we know that early on. She visits her catatonic sister, she talks about "an event", and we see flashbacks to what happened years ago. It's pretty hardcore, and fairly intriguing. Although the lack of scope makes this neat little revenge story feel like something Colombo should handle in a quick episode. Of course, given the sexual implications of the story, and Harry's involvement with the killer, that wouldn't be appropriate.

For me the real heart of the story, and where it becomes interesting, is the potential relationship between Harry and the killer. Perhaps it had been better, if we didn't know this girl to be the killer quite as early. It would have been fun to see a version of this story, where Harry is genuinely reconsidering his life as a cop (perhaps he was wounded in an attempt on his life, before he left San Francisco), and at this crucial moment, he meets a kindred sprit. He falls in love, and only then do we discover she's the killer. That would create an interesting conflict for the character. As it stands now, the film is in too much of a hurry to build that scenario, it's got too many cartoonish moments, and too much overconfident grandstanding from Harry. Less clutter, and a bit more focus on Harry as a person would have allowed Sudden Impact to fully explore the potential of the setup. You could even tie it into him reconsidering his sexist ways after having lost a female partner in the previous film, which would add even more dimension to the current killing spree.

Alas, that is not the kind of film we're dealing with. Rather, it's the kind of film where - after those 45 minutes of crap I complained about earlier - we get this scene: The moment Harry arrives in Hick Town he comes across a bank robbery in progress. The robber flees on a motorcycle, and Harry hijacks a bus full of senior citizens to take pursuit - in a stunning display of slapstick that wouldn't feel out of place in The Benny Hill Show. All this to let the Chief in town know that Harry is a lose cannon, which let's them pick up right where Harry and his captain left off. Oh, great.

I'm being a little harder on the film than it really deserves. Truth be told, Sudden Impact is pretty entertaining, in a trashy way, and I guess back then - with the previous Dirty Harry movie a faint 7-year-old memory - it was necessary to reestablish the character and his faults. So even though the film is top-heavy, features some off-key moments (the bus-chase), and some absurd overacting (from Pat Hingle as the Chief, and Paul Drake and Audrie Neenan as two of the rapists, in particular) it's not a complete disaster.

Final report

For the first time in the franchise Clint Eastwood picks up the megaphone and finally directs himself. Like so many other movies from Eastwood the result is a decent-looking, fairly entertaining, but not great film. It's more fun to watch than the first one, and the story is better than the main plot of the third film, but the second one remains my favorite. Still, I feel they haven't quite created that perfect Dirty Harry film yet. Maybe fifth time is the charm?


The Enforcer (1976)

The 411 on the 415

The third Dirty Harry movie is the last from the 70's, and is there a more fitting way to say goodbye to that decade than with a revolution? Our favorite renegade policeman faces two formidable opponents here. First and foremost a group of militant revolutionaries, who plan to blackmail the city of San Fran through threats of violence. Second, Harry must face off against gender equality, as he breaks in a new partner: Kate Moore (Tyne Daly)! That's right, she's one of them females.

Word on the street

"It's a war isn't it? I guess I never really understood that."

"She wants to play lumberjack, she's going to have to learn to handle her end of the log."

Rap sheet

There is a formula to some film series. You expect a teaser action sequence at the beginning of a James Bond movie, for example, and that's the way it should be, but I get annoyed by the constant need to reaffirm Dirty Harry's bad boy credentials at the start of every one of these films, with a disconnected action scene. At the start of The Enforcer Harry arrives at a hostage situation in a liquor store. He drives his car through the storefront, jumps out and kills everyone, with complete disregard for the hostages' safety, and the fact that he should have been killed four times over by the bad guys. It's just too cartoonish.

Once again the boss comes down hard on him - this time he's played by Mission: Impossible alumni Bradford Dillman - once again Harry is surprised that no one will tolerate his level of violence, once again he's transferred to another department. At this point, I'm pretty much out of patience with that routine. Oh, well. New viewers will have no trouble keeping up that's for sure.


Before we go through the familiar song and dance mentioned above, we get a cold open, introducing the bad guys: The People's Revolutionary Strike Force! They're fairly creepy, but not as effective as they should be, and the film only has itself to blame for that. Why, for example, does it feel the need to point out that only a few suckers in the group are true revolutionaries? The main guys are just playing along - they're really in it for the money. Seems like it would be way more scary with a band of true believers who would sacrifice anything for their cause. They steal rocket launchers and explosives! They bomb the effing police station! They even kidnap the mayor! These are potentially pretty horrifying events, and yet the film never quite manages to establish any kind of city-under-siege feeling, or any sense that there's an overarching goal to these acts.

Simply put: The film doesn't care enough about the bad guys to establish them as a threat. The bombing of the police station is almost a throwaway gag, while the subsequent chase for a silly pimp-looking suspect gets the full 5 minute handheld-jumping-over-roofs treatment, complete with jazz score and - this being the '70s - a brief stop at a porn film set. Even the final showdown, when Harry discovers that the bad guys are holed up in Alcatraz, feels a little underwhelming.

In the context of the Dirty Harry universe, the most interesting aspect of The Enforcer is the female touch. Early in the film, as punishment, Harry is called in to join a review board for new recruits. Naturally he gets very upset, when he learns that they plan to hire a specific number of women to the force. He gets even more upset, when the first candidate is a woman with zero experience.

Having Harry argue against women on the force is a good move. His observations aren't wrong, but neither is the allegation that he's a dinosaur. Forcing a character so defined by his masculinity to accept a woman as his equal is good drama. Perhaps that part of the story plays out a bit predictably, but it's still thoroughly enjoyable.


Tyne Daly is a good choice for the part of his new partner Kate Moore, and luckily the character isn't just there for show. Eventually Harry warms to her, they even manage to exchange a few harmless sexual innuendos, and she helps him at a crucial point in the investigation. She also gets to kill the second to last bad guy, and save the mayor! In the ultimate case of equal opportunity irony she also gets to die, same as every male partner Harry ever had.

The final image of the movie, Harry standing over her dead body, brings a welcomed sense of loss we rarely get to experience in these films. This one really stings.

Final report

The Enforcer is a step down from the second film, but it's still a lot of fun, and the new elements make it seem fresh. Clint Eastwood is always fun to watch, and challenging his macho image like this suits the character very well.

After three Dirty Harry movies in 5 years it's time for a break. It would be 7 years before he returned to the silver screen.


Magnum Force (1973)

The 411 on the 415

Dirty Harry Callahan is back on the job, but he's sidelined and forced to work a BS stakeout operation by his unimpressed lieutenant. That is until a series of execution-style murders calls for all hands on deck. Career criminals, pimps, and lowlifes are the targets, and Harry suspects that a few young motorcycle cops are responsible.

Word on the street

"I never had to take my gun out of its holster once. I'm proud of that."
"Well, you're a good man, lieutenant. A good man always knows his limitations..."

"What does a girl have to do, to go to bed with you?"
"Try knocking on the door."

Rap sheet

The opening of Magnum Force is simple, beautiful, and effective. A riot scene in front of a courthouse, where yet another sleazy businessman (but really crook) has been acquitted. He drives off with his lawyer in a limousine, impervious to the cries of justice from the crowd. Moments later a motorcycle cop pulls him over. And then, in the middle of this seemingly inconspicuous traffic stop, the cop pulls out his gun and executes everyone in the car. As the last death twitches ride through the blood-soaked bodies, the cop calmly walks back to his motorcycle. Now THAT is pretty damn dirty.

So much in Magnum Force works better than in the first Dirty Harry movie.

We've got a clear, well-defined menace, a better sense of Harry as a person, a more credible work situation, and even a more or less competent police department. We get a proper foil in the vindictive and slightly incompetent Lt. Briggs, played with quiet menace by Hal Holbrook, and there's a real sense of threat from the young motorcycle studs - who appear to outperform Harry, even on the shooting range. As the story progresses Harry - the man, not just the cop - becomes a direct target, in a rather exhilarating way. So much so that he's even forced to step up and display some moderately advanced detective skills!

It doesn't even stop there. Magnum Force also manages to pose some interesting questions. Sure, Harry is quick to solve any situation with lead, but he's still more or less inside the law's comfort zone, at least compared to the bad guys. It's ironic and intriguing to see Harry argue for order and rules, in the face of total anarchy and lawlessness. "I hate the goddamn system!" he says at one point. "But until someone comes along with changes that make sense, I'll stick with it."

A strong story, with a clear bad guy helps this movie immensely, but there's still too much clutter for my taste. Fine, Harry is on loan to a stakeout operation - we don't need to see the stakeout, or the drama that plays out when the place is robbed at gunpoint.

Does Harry really need to stumble over yet another crime in progress in a the middle of a fast food pit stop? Does he need to dress up as an airline pilot, temporarily commandeer a passenger plane, and take out two hijackers with deadly force, to once again demonstrate his pertinacity for violence? Do we really need the scene where the awfully cute 4-foot-nothing Asian neighbor throws herself at him (are they worried we think he's gay)?

At some point the bad guys decide to eliminate a pimp. Go for it, but we don't need to see a long sequence, where a girl gets into a cab, tries to hide some money on her body, is surprised by said pimp, and finally killed with drain-cleaner, to establish the character. The pink pimpmobile pretty much does the same thing in two seconds flat.

And while I appreciate that they try to organize a decoy bad guy for us, they're not fooling anybody, and subsequently we're forced to waste more time by seeing Harry have dinner with his old friend's ex-wife, when he suspects that his friend has gone off the reservation.

Oh, and one last thing: At some point the filmmakers will have to make up theirs minds about whether the public knows Harry, or not. He can't both be a 'headline-grabbing menace to society', 'the shooting champion five years in a row', while being a stranger to his neighbors, and an unfamiliar face to seasoned criminals.

Final report

Despite a few reservation, Magnum Force is a solid, engaging film, and a vast improvement over the original. The iconic Dirty Harry character is starting to take shape, and things are beginning to get interesting.


Dirty Harry (1971)

The 411 on the 415

We meet rough copper Harry 'Dirty Harry' Callahan (Clint Eastwood) for the first time, while madman sniper Scorpio (Andrew Robinson) holds the city of San Francisco hostage, demanding $100.000, or he'll kill random people. Despite being on the verge of capture several times, he continues to evade the police, and Harry gets more and more frustrated. Later Scorpio kidnaps a 14-year old girl and leaves her in a hole with no air, and finally he hijacks a whole school bus. Harry is not amused.

Word on the street

"I know what you're thinking, punk. You're thinking "did he fire six shots or only five?" Now to tell you the truth I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow you head clean off, you've gotta ask yourself a question: "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do ya, punk?"

Rap sheet

Dirty Harry is a classic, full of memorable moments. It's one of those movies you're supposed to like, but how good is it really? To be perfectly honest, it's not that great. No doubt, Clint Eastwood has created an iconic character, and when he barks those famous lines, teeth gritted, eyes squinting, he's as cool as they come. It's fun quoting that "I know what you're thinking"-speech, for sure, but I wonder how many people forget that it comes from a completely random, disconnected scene that only serves to show how cool Harry is, and how quickly he's willing to pull out his gun. In a rather clumsy manner, narratively speaking, I might add.

By today's standards, set by the likes of Vic Mackey (of The Shield), Harry isn't even all that dirty. Truth be told, he's a bit of a puppy. So he shoots a few bad guys, pisses off a superior officer or two, but that's about it. He gets a bit rough with the bad guy during an arrest, but that hardly qualifies as dirty, or even all that unreasonable, he is, after all, trying to save a 14-year-old girl.

Harry is a beast from a different time, and much of the reason for his success lies beyond my reach, outside of the present context. Regardless of the time frame, however, Dirty Harry is not a very good cop, and he's caught in a fairly substandard crime story. In fact incompetence is the keyword in this first Dirty Harry movie.

The shooter fumbles the second kill, by failing to notice that there's a cop on alert on every corner in the city, and he also manages to ignore a helicopter sneaking up on him! Luckily the police is just as incompetent, so he gets away. By his third kill the police have him cold, and only extreme incompetence prevents them from shutting him down completely. During the investigation Dirty Harry is almost beat up by four random guys, because he doesn't realize he looks like a Peeping Tom while pursuing a suspect, and it's up to his cannon-fodder partner to save him. Oh, and the sissy bad guy beats him up too.

Although Andrew Robinson looks creepy as hell, his Scorpio is all over the place. Is he really a madman? Criminal genius? A sociopath? Is he in it for the money? The thrills? Or some sort of perverted sexual desire? His level of insanity and incompetence seems to vary from one scene to the next. It's difficult to regard him as a serious threat, when you get the feeling that at any moment he'll put on a bunny suit and masturbate into a cactus.

This is perhaps also the reason why the film's attempt to set up a mano-a-mano situation between Harry and Scorpio never comes into fruition, because we have no idea what makes the bad guy tick, and there isn't a concrete personal vendetta between the two, beyond the perfunctory "cop hates killer, killer hates cop" routine. On top of that the film is forced to bend over backwards to make sure the incompetent killer still roams the streets, despite being caught red-handed shooting at people. Several times! Even in the skewed reality of a Hollywood movie that seems like a bit of a reach.

So, to sum up: Not only does Harry get beat up by the killer, and random people on the street, but by the law as well. Still, the flabbergasted look on his face, when he's told he can't torture suspects, almost makes you feel sorry for him. That can't be what they were going for.

Dirty Harry ends on a final image which suggests that Harry has become too dirty for police work, and so he throws his shield away in a downer, 70s style ending. I would have loved if everything leading up to that moment had supported that dramatic gesture.

Final report

I postulate that the idea of Dirty Harry is far more tantalizing than the actual movie. It's not immediately obvious to me why this film generated so many sequels and earned a place in pop-culture, but I guess the same could be said about James Bond. Sure, Harry is quite scary when you're looking down the barrel of that Magnum, but if you're a halfway decent criminal that gun will most likely not be pointing at you. The odds of escaping the wrath of Harry Callahan are quite good, so you go right ahead and feel lucky, punk.


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

Following in the footsteps of The Hunt of Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, and The Sum of All Fears, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the fifth cinematic adaptation of the popular Tom Clancy character, goes back to the start of Ryan's career, to establish how he became the formidable agent we know and sometimes love. Starring Chris Pine as Jack Ryan, Kevin Costner as his mentor, and Keira Knightly as his future wife. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also appear in the part of Ryan's main adversary, the Russian Viktor Badguyovich.   

You know you're in trouble when the opening scene of a film evokes the 9/11 horrors to induce some sort of emotional response from the viewer, which it hasn't yet earned, while surreptitiously suggesting that whatever follows is justified, you know, because of the whole terrorism thing and stuff.

For those keeping track at home, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the fourth incarnation of the character on the silver screen, luckily every new actor hasn't been forced to go through the obligatory origin story, which raises the question: What secrets lie buried in the deep background of a guy who once jumped from a helicopter to a submarine, to prove he was right? Shockingly little. The dude saved some fellow soldiers once, then he got hurt, but he was really good at getting rehabilitated, and then he was recruited by the CIA, because he had a single good idea. Even Steven Seagal would have asked for a more substantial background.

Having established Ryan's impeccable nature in both body and mind, with the subtlety of a piglet getting its nuts cut off, we're ready to embark on Shadow Recruit's riveting plot. What rip-roaring shenanigans await our cardboard hero? Someone wants to crash the dollar, so Ryan needs to audit some account in Russia.

Wait, what? So this is like a thinking man's thriller? Only if the man is comatose, I'm afraid. So it's an action movie? I guess you could say that. The problem is that the film wants the be both. How can any kind of coherent plot develop, when these two extremes are always at odds with each other? Good question. Shadow Recruit's solution – dumb down the plot, reduce the action – doesn't seem to be the way to go.

It's worth noting that the primary focus for this film - building a foundation for the Jack Ryan character - fails completely at every level. An hour into this film we still don't know anything about our so-called hero, and since boyish good looks and a winning smile does not a character make, we never will. Chris Pine brings nothing to the part. Nothing. Less than nothing. Actually it's the kind of performance that makes me like him less in other films.

At some point during Shadow Recruit, we get to the big secret agent showdown scene, which coincidentally is also the funniest scene in the movie. Ryan needs to copy some files from Viktor Badguyovich's computer (yaaawn). To get him out of his super top secret secure office Ryan arranges a dinner with said baddie. Then he pretends to be drunk, he's told to leave, and while his civilian girlfriend keeps the most dangerous man in Russian talking, by flirting with him, Ryan sneaks away to infiltrate the man’s building, where he must hack a computer in the middle of a brightly lit office in full view of the adjacent building. And guess what?! It doesn’t work!!!

Seriously! Have these people never seen a spy movie before!? Did I forget to mention the part where the good guys get the bad guy's security ID by pretending to bump into him, and picking his pocket?! That TV show with the Olsen twins had more intelligent plans! Well, at least the sequence is a roller-coaster ride of excitement! Run Jack! Check those accounts!

I sometimes complain that the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies got too wild and crazy, but I'll take invisible cars and surfing on a wave of ice water, caused by a laser on a satellite, over this unimaginative drivel, any day. I mean, the final showdown is a fistfight and a countdown. Come on! What are you doing, guys?! And the worst part is, everyone involved seems as bored with this endeavor as I was.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit will not be the start of a new franchise, but rather the reason for yet another reboot down the line. It’s worse than a TV-movie from the 90’s - so bland and vanilla that reading the phone book would be more intriguing. A laughable, lackluster bore, even by average movie-by-committee Hollywood standards. Frankly, if I had an international crisis to defuse and needed a secret agent, I’d call Johnny English before I’d call this version of Jack Ryan.


The Martian, by Andy Weir

I just finished the audiobook version of Andy Weir's The Martian, and I freakin' loved it!

The story deals with one very unlucky astronaut - Mark Watney - who gets left behind on Mars, when a mission suffers a catastrophic failure. He's got no means of communication, limited supplies, and no way off the red rock. Basically he's f**ked. Well, of course he's not completely f**cked, because he's a very resourceful guy. He's also a very funny guy, so his fight for survival is both educational and entertaining.

It took me a little while to get used to the writing style of The Martian, though. The story is told through diary-like logs from the main character, transcripts of message conversations, ordinary dialogue-driven situations, and third person, God-perspective scenes. Initially the story is told only through the logs, and since I didn't have the text in front of me that was a little weird.

About three quarters through the book I learned that a major Hollywood studio had optioned it for a movie. I don't know how the hell they're going to squeeze this story into a traditional two-hour movie, but it makes perfect sense that they'd try, especially in the light of the all-out love fest Gravity received recently. Although, this story plays out over 1,5 years, not 1,5 hours, they're quite similar in the sense that they're both science-based, inspirational survival stories that deal with one person trying to stay alive off planet.

So that's it. Just a quick recommendation for Book Club April here on The Single-Minded Movie Blog.


She Shoulda Been A Contender, Part IV


When I watch older films - in loser, non-geek speak that means anything older than 3 years - I often come across actresses that make me think "hey, what happened to her?"

That's why I came up with this blog series about hot actresses who should have had bigger careers. Don't forget to check out the previous entries here. And so without further ado, here's the fourth crop:


Mia Sara

She was Sloane. She was effing Sloane in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986). She was the one who had to look like she could keep Ferris Bueller interested, and perhaps even keep him a bit in check too. And she pulled it off. Before that Mia Sara was an effing fairytale princess in Legend (1985). And that's it.

The remaining "highlights" include playing Van Damme's wife in Timecop (1994), and playing the villain in the failed superhero series Birds of Prey (2002). The rest of her CV is an impressive barrage of instantly forgettable TV trash. She's barely chalked up a handful of guest appearances during the last 10 years. No one ever tried to get her to play Sloane-ish in anything? No sassy teen roles? Nothing? Come on people! It's unacceptable!

High point: Bueller? Bueller?
Low point: Hard to say. Mostly because you have to work in order to have a low point. Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story (2001) with Matthew Modine? The TV version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1997) starring Michael Caine? Who knows.
Should have been in:  I'd give her a regular spot on something like E.R. or Grey's Anatomy, or what about something that utilizes that ûber-cool attitude she's got? A female version of Top Gun! Boom! There it is! Military uniforms, those mirrored sunglasses... The boys wouldn't stand a chance.

Rhona Mitra

She can play sexy (just look at her), she can play tough (Doomsday (2008)), she'll do serious drama (Boston Legal (2004)) and goofy stuff (also Boston Legal (2004)), she can even lead a film (Doomsday, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)), and yet, Rhona Mitra is not a movie star. She's not on this list because she disappeared, or only did crappy TV stuff, no, she definitely did the work. Good, high-profile TV shows, big movies, but despite all that, Rhona Mitra is not a household name, and dammit she should be.

High point: Underworld: Rise of the Lycans.
Low point: Getting raped by an invisible Kevin Bacon in Hollow Man (2000) - because why would you show your breasts in a scene no self-respecting guy could "enjoy"?
Should have been in: Tomb Raider, obviously. This is a no-brainer.

Paula Marshall

Paula was initially brought to my attention as a supporting character on Spin City (1997). She was Michael J. Fox's second serious girlfriend. Later came Snoops (1999), short-lived, but sweet, female-centric detective show. She also made a very memorable guest appearance on Sports Night (2000). She keeps popping up in TV shows, often for more than one episode, but that's just not good enough. She needs a regular show - a drama - or a proper feature film. She deserves it!

High point: Spin City, oh who are we kidding, it's Californication (2007) with almost full frontage nudity and raw sex.
Low point: Gary Unmarried (2008)? A sitcom with Jay Mohrs (the s is a joke). Haven't seen it, but who can contain the Mohrs in a sitcom format?
Should have been in: Gravity (2013). Front and center, lead role, she could do it!

Eliza Dushku

Eliza certainly has no shortage of street cred. With stints on fan favorites Buffy (1998) and Angel (2000), and no less than two (albeit failed) shows of her own - Tru Calling (2003) and Dollhouse (2009) - she should be able to land a cool action movie or two. Nevertheless that kind of big screen screen time eludes this capable girl. The closest she got to big screen action was playing the daughter of Arnold in True Lies (1994).

Okay, so she did a few horror films along the way, Wrong Turn (2003) and Soul Survivors (2001) among others, and even some classic teen movies like The New Guy (2002) and effing Bring It On (2000), and that's all good, but that was 10+ years ago. A reoccurring Torchwood (2011) role and a The Big Bang Theory (2010) guest appearance show that the street cred is still alive, but where's the Eliza-Dushku-Kicks-Major-Ass feature film we deserve? Someone call Luc Besson.

High point: I'm sexy, I'm hot, I'm everything you're not! (That's from Bring It On, for the uninitiated).
Low point: Guest starring in an episode of Ugly Betty (2007)? What an abortion of a show.
Should have been in: Kill Bill (2003)! She could pass for Asian, right?

Julia Stiles

A couple of late 90's lead roles paved the way for her star-making turn in 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), going head to head with the late Heath Ledger. Then she did the modern day Hamlet (2000) with Ethan Hawke, a Mamet tour in State and Main (2000), then another classic teen movie, Save the Last Dance (2001), then she did more Shakespeare with 'O' (2001) and then.... The Bourne Identity (2002). Say what, now? She wasn't playing the lead, or some sassy love interest, she played a secretary. A generic secretary. She did nothing with the role and looked unconvincing doing it, after that it was all downhill. Sometimes through interesting projects, but slowly and inexorably Julia Stiles acted her way into obscurity.

When she showed up briefly in Silver Linings Playbook (2012) in a generic mom role, indistinguishable from the wallpaper, I almost cried. Where's the girl who looked so hot dancing on the table to Biggie Smalls?

High point: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).
Low point: Gospel Hill (2008), I'm guessing.
Should have been in: Setting age aside, she should be able to do parts like Laura Linney's in The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005), or Diane Kruger's in National Treasure (2004). She should definitely do something smart, like a lawyer or an investigative reporter. She looks smart, as well as beautiful.

Mädchen Amick

Lots of TV. Lots and lots of TV. It's no surprise, after all Mädchen got her big break on TV in David Lynch's Twin Peaks (1990), playing Shelley the waitress, but after that she briefly flirted with feature films.

Sleepwalkers (1992) aptly predicted the audience's reaction, then came the hot and sexy Dream Lover (1993), which turned out to be a bit of a nightmare, and then it was all over. Guest appearances on Dawnson's Creek (1999), Gilmore Girls (2002), ER (2004) and Joey (2005) failed to impress. She looked incredible in Californication, when she did a few episodes in 2008, so it's definitely not age, or too much surgery. I guess some stars will never shine beyond the crumbled pages of the TV Guide.

High point: Twin Peaks.
Low point: Dream Lover.
Should have been in: Twin Peaks season 3, 4 and 5. Okay that's a cheat. How about... Ghost (1990)? She's so adorable when she cries.



If you ever wondered why I do these posts, scroll back up and look at all those images, and then keep this in mind: These chicks look like that, AND they're talented! Is it really so unreasonable that I want them on my TV more?