You are here: Home > Blogs > Movie Maniacs

Latest Posts

Off Line

Four Jacks

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

I always keep an eye out for a possibly overlooked series I can throw your way and I've found a couple of very good ones. And because they both happened to have in the starring role somebody named Jack, that led me to throw in two other well know Jacks- Reacher and Ryan.

From 2012 let’s start with Tom Cruise bringing life to Lee Child’s very popular anti-hero, Jack Reacher. Cruise stars as the title character, a former Major in the US Army Military Police Corp who has opted out of a life of duty but still attracts trouble like a magnet. This series was ripe to be made into a movie, and came with a built in audience of legions of fans from around the world. But when word first leaked that the diminutive Cruise was going to be playing the 6’ 5” behemoth, fans were outraged. There were talks of boycotts and other such nonsense, but then fans really do not like their legends messed with. Also people do seem to divide into the two Cruise camps, 'love him or hate him' more readily than for a lot of other actors. Because I try hard to disassociate actors from their real life personalities I can say I almost always enjoy Cruise's performances. And not being a particular fan of the books, I didn't have a lot invested in the character, so I was able to take this movie on it’s own merit. It worked for me, was worth my two hours and did well enough at the box office that a sequel is planned.

Jack Irish is an Australian television series originally broadcast as made for t.v movies and did well so they pulled it together into sets. It stars Aussie Guy Pearce, an actor who first came to North American audiences' attention as the ambitious Ed Exley in 1997’s excellent LA Confidential. Pearce is another actor I have always enjoyed and rarely does he miss the mark.

A great way to find unexpected recommendations is to pick up one thing- like Borgen or Jack Irish- watch the trailers and then get directed to more unexpected and potentially unnoticed series. So with help from Sue, this is how Jack Taylor came to my attention. This one stars Iain Glen who you will recognize from many things--- like Jorah Mormont in all four seasons of Game of Thrones and in the first season of Downton Abbey.

Now Jack Ryan has been kicking around a long time in film, in many incarnations and over a varied time line. He first made his appearance in 1990 in The Hunt for Red October and was played by Alec Baldwin---good movie. He next appeared in 1992 in Patriot Games and again in 1994 in A Clear and present Danger, both times played by Harrison Ford---I still go out of my way to watch these. Then Hollywood did something strange in 2002 and brought out a prequel starring Ben Affleck, The Sum of All Fears--- if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean about strange time lines. Nonetheless, good enough to invest your time in. Then nothing until 2014 when the character was resurrected for Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit, starring Chris Pine, StarTrek’s rebooted James Tiberius Kirk. I’ll let you make up your own minds about this one.

David Tennant

by Moe - 0 Comment(s)

The deceptively young-looking David Tennant is a remarkably versatile actor, but the same can be said of many actors who are classically trained. When he was 16 he auditioned for and won a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the youngest student to ever do so. A three year stint as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company helped hone his skills.

At the advanced age of four he decided to become an actor, inspired by his love of the BBC show Doctor Who. How ironic then that he would play the iconic Doctor and in the process make himself a household name.

Since leaving Doctor Who his career has continued to rise, with lead roles in films, TV series and theatre. He also voices many audiobooks ranging from Shakespeare to the popular children’s ‘Dragon’ series by Cressida Cowell.

Check him out in 2014’s Masterpiece Mystery, The Escape Artist. This is a dark, taut and well-crafted mini-series with a devilishly good unexpected ending.

United is based on the true story of Manchester United, the youngest championship team in English soccer history and their rise from the ashes of a tragic plane crash that devastated the team.

He seems to really like doing mini-series and Casanova, The Secret Smile and Spies of Warsaw are all well rated in IMDB. A little harder to get your hands on due to current popularity (but worth the wait) is Broadchurch, now starting its second season in Britain, with season one available for holds at Calgary Public Library.

Also, check out the documentary Earthflight narrated by Tennant. Earthflight is a nature documentary filmed with a bird's-eye view of the natural world, joining the journeys of snow geese, cranes, albatrosses, eagles and other birds across six continents. It's very good and worth a watch.

Borgen

by Moe - 2 Comment(s)

If you haven't started watching Borgen yet, you're missing out on an excellent series. This first aired on Danish television in 2010 and CPL now carries all three seasons. It follows the rise to power of the first female prime minister and her struggles to keep her feet on the shifting sands of a barely stable coalition government. The episodes revolve around the PM and her spin doctor as they try to navigate through the corruption, changing allegiances, scandals and political dilemmas. Counter this with a relentless female reporter who digs deep to get to the truth behind all the spin. A third recurring story line includes a former MP who has turned into a truly reptilian tabloid editor. Machiavellian political machinations abound, there's plenty of sex and scandal and fine, fine acting! The PM, Birgitte Nyborg, is one of the most finely crafted female characters I have seen in years.

One of the things I have always loved about British, European, and Australian television, is that their series tend to be populated with 'real' people. They are not all cookie-cutter perfect like the characters in North American television, with an overabundance of white teeth, chiseled physiques and just-returned-from-the-hair-dresser hair. Although having said this, all the main characters in Borgen are pretty fine looking—plus they can show you really great ways to wear big scarves! But it's not their looks that are going to keep you coming back for more. It's the great acting, the au courant storylines and a look at a political system that makes me so glad we don't have six parties from which to choose.

Unless you speak Danish you will be watching Borgen with sub-titles, but it's worth the effort. This is a BAFTA award winner for the Best International T.V. series, a win for Mrs. PM in the best actress category plus numerous other international awards. I wish it was more than three seasons long and I hope that the U.S. networks leave it alone and don't try to re-imagine it for a North American audience, as they did with the fine British series, House of Cards. The Kevin Spacey version has proved popular but falls far short of the original.

Thanks Sue for bringing this one to my attention.