Smile Politely

What to Watch: Jan. 27-Feb. 1


Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Savoy 16 IMAX): Jack Ryan, an analyst for the CIA is thrust into becoming an operative for the organization after being asked to stop a man who wants to cause the collapse of the American dollar and create a second Great Depression.

Why to Watch: The origins of the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan that made Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford even more famous than they were in the 90s did not interest me. As I sat and watched Chris Pine’s vision for the character I thought about what connected me with the character. By the time the credits rolled on the screen all I could think of that I loved about the character was his vulnerability. We learn how  Ryan got involved with the CIA, but we really only get one scene very early on the film that shows Jack Ryan going through any real emotional struggle. The scene in question involves Ryan’s rehab after an accident where he meets Keira Knightley’s Cathy. Kenneth Branagh, who directs and acts as the film’s villain, shows that he doesn’t know how to film action scenes without quick cuts every 5 seconds. And Branagh’s Russian villain is only a threat once in this film. The rest of his time is used moving the big terror plot along. Reading my review, you’d think this is a bad film. It’s not bad; it’s just I wanted the film to go deeper into Ryan’s emotional turmoil with the fact that he is thrust into being an operative. I wanted the villain to issue and possibly carry out more than one nasty threat. This film could be stronger, but it’s just okay. See it for Pine doing the best he can to make Jack Ryan cool for teenage viewers.

The Nut Job (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): Surly Squirrel gets banished from the park for doing something stupid. This forces him to acclimate to living the city. The problem is winter is coming and he needs nuts. Luckily, he realizes if he steals from Maury’s Nut Store he can survive winter no matter how harsh it is.

Why to Watch: This film is wrong on so many levels. Movie executives must think children were born yesterday. Literally. That has to be it because the characters don’t seem to have any other direction than the fact they have to steal the nuts from Maury’s store. Surly is voiced by Will Arnett, whose career has sunk faster the mediocre expectations I had for this film going into it. I’m not going to remember anything about this movie other than the fact that Surly made me surly by the end of this film. Kids might enjoy it, but if not take them to see the first film on my Still Playing list.

I, Frankenstein (Savoy 16 IMAX): In the battle of gargoyles vs. demons, the one person who doesn’t take a side is Frankenstein’s monster.

Why to Watch: Aaron Eckhart’s makeup as Frankenstein’s monster looks phenomenal. The visuals are bleak and gothic, which help the films tone. My main problem is I’m not motivated to even like this film because Frankenstein’s monster is neutral in the fight. Will it look great in IMAX 3D? Without a doubt. Will teenagers enjoy it? Sure. Is there something in it for everyone? Not really. Nothing really gives this film any weight or makes me want to read the book this dismal movie is based on.


Frozen (Savoy 16 and Carmike 13): Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, the story involves a young woman who is chosen to be queen but is ostracized because she has the power to freeze things. Her sister is the only one capable of breaking the spell that froze the entire kingdom indefinitely.

Why to Watch: Frozen is the second feature by Disney to be a mixture between hand drawn animation and CGI (the first being Tangled). This new approach worked well for Disney, and it succeeds again here but only because the film has such a strong story to tell. Kristen Bell voices the heroine, Anna, who is out to rescue her sister, Elsa (voiced by Tony winner Idina Menzel). This film again harkens back to the 90s’ Disney feature catalog and reminds us why we love those movies so much. For me, it’s the fact that the characters stand for something and seem like people who could learn from if they existed in reality. Most of the film’s comedic moments are provided by a snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad). Olaf is a Disney supporting character treasure, and I’d be more than happy to see this film multiple times just for his antics. See this film with the whole family. You’ll have a great time.

Inside Llewyn Davis (The Art Theater Co-op): This film is the story of folk singer Llewyn Davis and how he endured life as a struggling musician in Greenwich Village in the winter 1961.

Why to Watch: We all go on a journey in life. For some people, it’s to try and find their place in the world. For others, it’s about figuring out what they can be good at. Llewyn Davis already knows what he’s good at. He already has a passion for being a folk artist. It’s really just a matter of whether audiences embrace what he offers them. At the center of this film are the trials and tribulations that Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) faces every day. He wants badly to be important in the music world, but what I found so compelling is how he struggles to support the people who need him most. Music is all he wants, and all his financial and social struggles are at the front of it. What makes Inside Llewyn Davis compelling is not the music (though it is fantastic), but all of the mistakes and unwise decisions Davis makes trying  to reach music notoriety. His journey is circular, much like a lot of mankind, but while some may find the idea of this a turn off, watching Davis face all of his obstacles is compelling. See this journey, and go on one for yourselves.

Ride Along (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): This comedy centers around a man who goes on a ride along because he wants the approval of his girlfriend’s brother for her hand in marriage.

Why to Watch: Ice Cube and Kevin Hart can be funny. The reason is that their characters are written to play at every strength they have. Ice Cube’s specialty is his witty and biting examination of urban culture a la the Friday franchise. Hart’s strength lies in complaining about how women don’t understand men. The problem with Ride Along is that, while these two have chemistry, Hart is doing all of the comedic heavy lifting–and he’s short, so that’s a huge load on his shoulders. Nothing about this film feels unpredictable or surprising. Despite this fact, I know that it is almost impossible not to laugh at the one-liners Hart uses to deflate the ego of Cube’s tough cop. You know how the movie will end: Hart has to get the girl but the friendship he gains with her brother will be more important. See this film for the jokes told by Kevin Hart because, without them, this film would be dead on arrival.

Gravity (Savoy 16 IMAX): This latest Alfonso Cuaron visual masterpiece revolves around two astronauts who become separated in outer space due to an accident on their space module.

Why to Watch: Intense claustrophobia in space. My sweet month-long nightmares about lack of air returned when I saw this film recently. I find this film to be a nostalgic reminder of how good at exploring America used to be with a monkey wrench thrown in when things go wrong. Overall this film teaches audience not to believe in space or NASA but the survival of the human spirit. In this case, the survival of Sandra Bullock guided by George Clooney.

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