‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’ Review


Dir:  Kenneth Branagh

Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner, and Kenneth Branagh

Synopsis: Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack


*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a franchise reboot of famous Tom Clancy character. Although this is not based on one of Clancy’s original stories the movie serves as an origin story. It shows how the young analyst came to work for the CIA. A college student on 9/11, Ryan (Pine) joins the Marines, survives combat in Afghanistan, and is later recruited to work for the Agency as an analyst by his mentor William Harper (Costner).  Ten years later, Jack and the CIA discover a Russian plot – created by Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directed) — to ruin the world economy.

Unlike many spy genre movies, Jack Ryan isn’t a super agent that knows martial arts and is an expert with guns. Ryan’s skill is that he’s super smart, hence being an analyst, but when push comes to shove he’ll go into the action. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good action sequences. Ryan’s bathroom brawl with someone trying to kill him shows Ryan won’t go down without a fight.

However, the movie isn’t a full action movie. The movie is a thriller and a race against time with Ryan trying to figure out what Branagh’s Cherevin is trying to do, even if that means having dinner with the man and trying to hack into his work system, and dealing with his girlfriend played by Knightley.

Pine does just fine playing Jack Ryan. Of course he is following Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford (who played Ryan twice), and Ben Affleck.  The movie ultimately falls on Pine’s shoulders and he carries it just fine. Pine has a charismatic, intelligent presence on screen and gives off a everyman quality.

Kevin Costner, who plays Ryan’s mentor Thomas Harper, does the best he can with his role. He brings a world-weariness and shadowy edge that leaves you wondering if maybe he was like Ryan when he was younger but there also a hint of mystery behind him at times. Branagh plays his Russian villain (which an interesting Russian accent) with some depth so it doesn’t lead to a generic Russian bad guy.

Arguably, the less effective scenes are between Jack and his doctor-girlfriend Cathy (Knightley), who inevitably ends up a damsel in distress at one point. And as much as I know it might be hard for actors to put on a different accent Knightley looks like she struggles a lot with her American accent. Yes, it’s nitpicky but I think it would have been better to make her British and not worry about that.

All in all, there is much fun to be had in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Although it doesn’t really add anything new to the spy genre, it doesn’t mean it can’t be good.


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

4 out of 5

‘Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones’ Review


Dir:  Christopher Landon

Cast: Andrew Jacobs, Jorge Diaz, Gabrielle Walsh, Carlos Pratts and Renee Victor

Synopsis: Jessie begins experiencing a number of disturbing and unexplainable things after the death of his neighbor. As he investigates, it isn’t long before Jessie finds he’s been marked for possession by a malevolent demonic entity, and it’s only a matter of time before he is completely under its control.


*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always.*


Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is being described as a “spinoff” of Paranormal Activity series. This is somewhat true, in that this is the first film to not center around Kristi or Katie’s family (Paranormal Activity 4 ultimately did tie in at the end).  However, I’ll get to it later but needless to say the movie opens up a whole new can of worms.

The Marked Ones centers on high school graduate Jesse (Jacobs) and his friends Hector (Diaz) and Marisol (Walsh).  Jesse, like every main character of the series, gets a new camera that he and Hector use any time they can get.  However, when a woman that everyone calls a witch and lives under Jesse dies, Jesse and Hector decide to do of course the horror movie cliché and go check out the dead woman’s apartment.  When there they discover that she was indeed up to some very strange things and even find a picture of Jesse in front of a alter.  After finding that Jesse finds himself changing and displaying what appears to be superhuman abilities.  Soon he starts to become unwelcoming and violent.

Director Christopher B. Landon, who has written all of the Paranormal sequels, does a strong job of establishing this new group of characters and Jacobs and Diaz are a likable duo, establishing a strong friendship between the two (Walsh is good, but her character doesn’t really do much).  Landon brings in more of a sense of humor than other films in this series, thanks to the early scenes of Jesse and Hector running around, having a good time.  There’s also some moments that echo Chronicle, as Jesse experiments with his “powers,” and it’s a fun mixture to have those sort of scenes intersect with the Paranormal Activity universe – and to even set up a funny bit about YouTube comments.

The series has perfected the art of the sudden, shocking thing happening during a seemingly quiet moment, which continues here.  As Jesse’s journey continues, we get some suitably creepy things going on.  The special effects are also featured a little more here than the other series but with the low budget the effects add to the jumps.

The movie does have its weak moments of course.  The movie suffers from what almost all found footage movies do, the dialogue.  In this movie it’s mostly the last half of the movie when Hector starts to notice Jesse acting differently. His pleas for Jesse to open up and tell him what’s wrong seems a bit forced but considering everybody’s problem with found footage movies is WHY THE HELL ARE THEY STILL RECORDING? I think the dialogue is the last thing on people’s mind.  But with that said, the movie adds in that sense of realism between the main characters so when that kind of stuff happens, you can almost forgive it.

Now, what did I mean when I said Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is being described as a “spinoff” of Paranormal Activity series and is somewhat true?  Well, when Jesse and his friends go into the dead woman’s apartment they discover VHS tapes marked “Katie and Kristi, 1988.” Also, there is a brief appearance from Paranormal Activity 2’s Ali (Molly Ephraim, also not a spoiler since she’s in the marketing), and there’s something else that everyone is talking about (hint: it’s the last act, which also really isn’t a spoiler since that’s starting to become part of the marketing too). But the biggest connection to the original series is the witch aspect.

The witch aspect is also bought out more here and extends the mythology and lore of the series that could be a good or bad thing.  Depending on how they take the idea it should be interesting to see how fans of the series interpret the ending.

All in all, fans or non fans of the Paranormal Activity series should have a lot of fun with The Marked Ones.  There is a lot of jump scares that the series in known and famous for and it creepy when it needs to be.  The series also gets a bit of a shot-in-the-arm, so let’s hope that Paranormal Activity 5 can continue the momentum.


Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

3.5 out of 5


P.S:  For those wondering if it’s better than Paranormal Activity 4, the answer is yes.