On DVD & Blu-Ray: June 10, 2014

You could ask Kenneth Branagh where he found inspiration for the latest re-visioning of Jack Ryan, Tom Clancy's definitive character, but it would seem he looked to Martin Campbell's re-figuring of the Bond franchise in 2006 that led to a younger, more intense take on the Ian Fleming character. It would seem Branagh knew that Campbell did things right, that it was a more than flattering way to breathe new life into a franchise that had long since lost its luster yet Branagh also seems aware that simply going for dark and gritty has now become a cliche and doesn't immediately make your final product better off. It has to fit the tone of the character and Campbell along with Daniel Craig were able to create that correlation while Branagh has brought in Chris Pine (who has a knack for playing younger versions of iconic characters) and kept the timid, inexperienced attributes of our titular hero in mind while flattering his intelligence with modern technology and the issues and destruction that can be done in the wake of these advancements. Four films have come before this that center around the Ryan character with the most successful of them all released between twenty and twenty-four years ago. A reboot similar to this was attempted twelve years ago in the form of The Sum of All Fears with Ben Affleck in the lead role, but it never took off. While this attempt will seemingly share the same fate as Fears it doesn't mean this is a dull experience, but in fact it's pretty damn entertaining before devolving into standard action movie climaxes that are in line with the previous films yet insult the deliberate pacing and character development of the first hour of the film. In saying that, the good outweighs the bad in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit as Branagh has competently followed up his big budget/action debut with both an expertly acted film and a strong craft only lacking when it has to go for the bigger scope the genre this kind of film requires. Branagh has brought the character into the present world, easily introducing him to audiences who may not have seen or even heard of the Harrison Ford films and making his skills more than relevant while maintaining the core values and personality of our main character; something many were weary of when the marketing made this out to look more Bourne than Ryan. Full review here. B-

With what has become somewhat of an annual or biennial tradition, we wait with eager anticipation to see what type of fun, B-movie situation Liam Neeson might get himself into next after transcending the lines of the serious and prestigious realm of actors to become nothing short of everyone's favorite action hero in early 2009. Not only did Taken mark a change in pace for Neeson though, but it was the first time, in a long time, that it really felt everyone was on board with a movie and that it had all the parts to please everyone no matter what demographic you fell into or what genre you enjoyed the most. Neeson was there for the serious film-goers, the action was there for the male and younger crowds while the storyline concerning a kidnapped child put the older sets in a "what would you do" type situation that was all-around engaging and was simply the perfect storm of elements that made agreeing on Taken an easy thing to do, a wagon we could all jump on and not feel bad for doing so. Neeson has seemingly embraced this new-found identity as he has translated it into some fun (Unkown), some poignant (The Grey) and some not so great (Taken 2) experiences that show no signs of slowing down. With Non-Stop he may have made his most middle of the road, yet still fascinatingly interesting B-movie to date. There is a sense of something a little extra here, an element not necessarily present in what would be considered your typical first quarter release, but something that heightened not just the quality of the overall picture but the experience it entails and if Non-Stop has anything going for it more than the fact it fits squarely into Neeson's new catalogue it is the experience it offers the first time around. It is one of those tightly structured, elaborately plotted thrillers that consistently dares the audience to get in on the game of who is behind it all and this one in particular happens to be extremely satisfying in its execution while giving its justification more weight than we might expect, turning what could have easily been a brainless, exploitation flick into something that might make Hitchcock proud, or at least allow him to have a good time watching. Non-Stop may not be something that will endure, but for a rental, for that present moment when you first experience the story unfold it is nothing short of guilt-free fun. Full review here. B-

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