Posts Tagged ‘chris pine’

Thandiwe Newton, Chris Pine

“ALL THE OLD KNIVES” My rating: C+ (Amazon Prime)

101 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Give the makers of “All the Old Knives” props for delivering a cerebral spy yarn, one free of gunfire, car chases, explosions and the usual trappings of the post-Bond espionage thriller.

There’s more John LeCarre than Michael Bay on display in director Janus Metz’s yarn. Nice change of pace.

Still, it’s a bit underwhelming.

Unfolding simultaneously in several time frames, Olen Steinhauer’s screenplay (based on his novel) begins with the highjacking of a commercial jet liner in Europe.  The terrorists are holding hostage a hundred or so passengers and crew on a runway of Vienna’s international airport.

Spooks at Vienna’s CIA station monitor the situation. They include station chief Vick Wallinger (Laurence Fishburne),  second-in-command Bill Compton (Jonathan Pryce) and agents Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison(Chris Pine, Thandiwe Newton), who are not only co-workers but lovers.

Eight years after that incident ended tragically, Henry finds himself pulled back into the ugly past with an unwelcome assignment.  It now appears that someone at the Vienna station was in cahoots with the highjackers; boss Vick thinks it was either Bill or Celia, both now retired from the game.

Henry’s first stop is in London to grill Bill; then it’s on to Big Sur country where Celia has married and started a family.  

Much of the story is told in flashback as Henry and Celia share a dinner at a picturesque seaside restaurant.  It’s a curious dance of nerves and insinuation. Ostensibly it’s just a meeting of old friends, but they (and we) know better …for one thing we discover that a fellow diner is in fact an agency hit man waiting for Henry’s nod to move in on Celia.

So it’s kinda tense. Henry and Celia both recognize that despite the friendly small talk with which the meal begins, the episode could end with arrest and imprisonment…if not termination with extreme prejudice.

And then there’s the issue of unrequited love…these two were never so alive as when in each other’s arms and working together on a mission.

Essentially this is a two-handed drama with brief digressions into the past. It’s a chance for Pine and Newton to flex their acting muscles without a lot of cinematic razzle dazzle.

And the plot delivers a satisfying last-minute “gotcha.”

Still, there’s something missing.  We’re told that Henry and Celia were a hot item, but we don’t necessarily feel it. As a result “All the Old Knives” is more a knotty puzzle than a gripping cinema experience.

| Robert W. Butler

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Anton Yeltsin

“LOVE, ANTOSHA” My rating: B+

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

I knew who Anton Yeltsin was, of course.  I’d seen the young actor as Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboots, and in a couple of other movies like Jodie Foster’s “The Beaver.”

And of course I knew he died in 2017 at age 27 in a freak accident, pinned against a metal gate by his rolling automobile.

None of which prepared me for the gut punch that is “Love, Antosha,” a love letter to the late actor signed by his parents, his boyhood friends, and his heavy-hitting acting colleagues.

It seems nobody who knew Yeltsin had anything but love for him. And that emotion comes roiling off the screen.

Garret Price’s documentary opens with home movies from Yeltsin’s childhood. What we see is an impossibly handsome kid with a big performer’s personality that fills the room.

We also get a bit of back story about his parents,  competitive Soviet ice dancers who emigrated to the U.S.A. to get away from growing anti-Semitism in the new Russian Republic.

Here’s something I did not know:  While a teen Anton was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, the devastating lung condition (the average life expectancy of a sufferer is 37 years). He was so full of energy, so good at masking his symptoms and plowing ahead, that many of his show biz colleagues were unaware that he had gone through life essentially under a death sentence.


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Chris Pine, Ben Foster

Chris Pine, Ben Foster

“HELL OR HIGH WATER” My rating: A- 

102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Hell or High Water” is about two brothers on a crime spree. But David Mackenzie’s film has a lot more on its mind than mere suspense and thrills.

Imagine the Coen Brothers’ “No Country for Old Men” filtered through the sensibilities of a Bruce Springsteen ballad about sibling tensions and economic alienation, enacted by players who in some instances are giving their best perfs ever, and set against a bleak West Texas landscape so carefully rendered you may find yourself trying to spit out the dust.

And although it was filmed a year ago, it  damn near serves as an ethnological study of Trump voters.

The film begins with a bank heist.  Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster) pull on ski masks and barge into a branch of the Texas Midlands Bank in an oil spot of a rundown town. Brother Tanner is clearly enjoying his power over the employees and customers — a bit too much, actually. He has to be admonished by his sibling after pistol whipping a slow-moving bank employee.

Because Ben Foster has so often played eye-rolling loonies, we assume that his ex-con Tanner is the criminal mastermind behind the unfolding series of bank robberies. Actually it’s the low-keyed Toby who came up with the plan to steal  money from the same bank threatening to foreclose on the family’s run-down ranch.

Estranged from his wife and two teenage sons and way behind on his alimony, Toby hopes to pay off the mortgage with the bank’s own money. At least he’ll be able to leave the family spread to his boys. Heck, there may even be black gold under it.

The brothers have a system, hitting different branches at off hours, then burying the getaway cars out on the back 40. They launder the stolen cash by gambling at an Indian casino up in Oklahoma.

But it’s a given that at some point the hair-trigger Tanner will deviate from the plan and throw the entire enterprise into jeopardy.

Because there’s a relentless lawman on their trail. Jeff Bridges is Marcus, a crusty old Texas Ranger facing an uneasy retirement. Marcus has been catching crooks for so long that he thinks like them; he’s just waiting for one little screwup.

In the meantime he passes the time making politically incorrect observations about the heritage of his long-suffering half-Commanche partner (Gil Birmingham).

That’s the plot.  But the screenplay by Taylor Sheridan (who most recently gave us the first-rate drug war saga “Sicario”) is noteworthy for all the other stuff going on just below the surface. (more…)

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Chris Pine, Margot Robie, DIDIDIDID

Chris Pine, Margot Robbie, Chiwetel Ejiofor

“Z FOR ZACHARIAH”  My rating: B (Opens Aug. 28 at the Cinetopia)

95 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In a lush valley somewhere in Appalachia, a young woman lives alone. With her dog she hunts wild game. She grows vegetables using hand tools.

The valley is her entire world — not by choice but of necessity. In the wake of nuclear disaster that has left most of Earth too radioactive to sustain life, this few square miles somehow has clean air and water.

It’s a miracle.

At least that’s what Ann (Margot Robbie) thinks.  She’s lived here all her life with her father — a rural preacher — and a younger brother. But months ago the menfolk ventured forth to look for survivors beyond the valley. They’ve not returned. Probably won’t.

So when an outsider arrives, it’s cause for both celebration and concern.

Happily, John (Chiwetel Ejiofor) appears to be a pretty good guy. Reeling from radiation poisoning, he’s slow to regain his strength. He was a research engineer who survived the crisis in an underground government bunker.  But after months of claustrophobia he decided he’d rather take his chances on dying under a blue sky.

Written by Nissar Modi and directed by Craig Zobel (“Compliance”), “Z for Zachariah” is a quiet, reflective, tightly-wound post-apocalyptic tale which relies on sharp characterizations instead of special effects.

Ann and John are happy to have each other, but they are distinctly different individuals.  She’s religious (the film’s title refers a children’s Bible book, “A is for Adam,” that sits on her bookshelf) and while no dummy — the house is jammed with books — has only limited experience with the world beyond her homestead. She may very well be a virgin.

John, on the other hand, is a rationalist…either agnostic or atheist. His faith is in science and his own abilities. Soon he’s contemplating building a waterwheel-powered electric generator at the foot of a nearby waterfall.  Of course he’ll have to tear down the homey chapel in which Ann’s father used to preach.  They’ll need the wood for construction material.

But when they’re done he and Ann will have lights and an operating freezer in which to preserve food.


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Chris Pine as the new Jack Ryan

Chris Pine as the new Jack Ryan

“JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT” My rating: C (Opens wide on January 17)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has always been the anti-Bond, a CIA agent who balances a normal family life with adventures that carry a torn-from-the-headlines aroma.

No luscious babes. No super villain with a high-tech lair disguised as a volcano.

Actually, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” might have benefitted from a super villain or a luscious babe or two. This latest attempt to reboot the franchise (previous

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley

Jack Ryans include Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and, most notably, Harrison Ford) is a competent but fairly sedate affair. Whether it will jump-start the series is up to the ticket buyers…I’m not terribly hopeful.

Chris Pine, fresh from his other gig as a young James T. Kirk in the “Star Trek” universe, is our new Jack Ryan. We meet him studying economics in London in 2001. After 9-11 he enlists in the Marines, is shot down in Afghanistan, paralyzed with a spinal injury, and undergoes a long rehab which not only gets him back on his feet but into the bed of his med-student therapist, Cathy (Keira Knightley).

This all happens in the first 10 minutes.

While still recuperating at Walter Reed he’s recruited by CIA spookmaster Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner), who gets Jack a job in a big Wall Street firm from

Kevin Costner

Kevin Costner

which he can covertly look for funding channels for terrorist groups. If he were married to Cathy, Jack could tell her of his real job, but since they’re only living together, he can’t. This puts a strain on their relationship.

Jack’s study of international financing raises alarms of a plot from within Russia to destroy the U.S. economy with a combined terrorist attack and world-wide sell-off of American securities that would make the dollar worthless.

So Jack is off to Moscow to confront one of those newly-minted Russian billionaires, Viktor Cherevin (a thin-lipped Kenneth Branagh), who carries an old Cold War grudge against the Yanks and wants to elevate Mother Russia to her rightful place at the top of the international food chain.


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star-trek-movie“STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” My rating: C+ (Opens wide on May 17)

132 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Well made and amusingly acted, there’s really nothing you can say against “Star Trek Into Darkness,” except that in the end it really doesn’t matter.

As is usually the case with franchise movies, the pleasure comes in being reunited with old friends. As for actually learning anything, for taking away an emotion or a thought or an idea…well, that’s the purview of other, less busy movies.

J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” reboot three years ago was a hugely clever prequel that introduced us to those iconic characters as young people. Much of the fun came in seeing Kirk, Bones, Spock and the others as Starfleet cadets feeling their way toward maturity.

But to tell the truth, I cannot remember the plots of any of the many “Star Trek” movies I’ve seen over the decades. One had whales, I know, and another had the Borg. Spock died in one of them and came back in another.

But were there messages in any of them? If there were they quickly evaporated. These were momentary diversions — a few laughs, a whole lot of special effects. Nothing to stick to the ribs or the brain.

And so it  is with “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

Though no Trekker, I recognize that Abrams and his writers (Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof) are having fun mucking about with the mythology of the series. Indeed, the entire movie may be viewed as a prequel to “The Wrath of Khan.”


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