Tom Clancy's badass CIA superhero Jack Ryan is back on the big screen this weekend in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit," the new film from director Kenneth Branagh, whose career has taken an odd turn from magisterial Shakespeare adaptations to big-budget action thrillers.
In limited release arrive Hirokazu Kore-eda's trenchant family drama "Like Father, Like Son," Darren Stein's warm teen comedy "G.B.F." and Israeli grindhouse "Big Bad Wolves," Quentin Tarantino's favorite film of 2013. Also premiering on Netflix is the Oscar-nominated doc "The Square," with week-long runs kicking off in select cities, and maritime docu "Maidentrip" hits theaters. Trailers below.
Though marred by plot holes galore, "Shadow Recruit" benefits from smart casting and the charisma of stars Chris Pine --successor to Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck before him -- and Keira Knightley and Kevin Costner. It's a perfectly fine mid-January release sure to please thrill-seekers as well as those looking for a break from all the Oscar babble. Shot mostly on 35mm, the film is slick and stylish, but feel free to leave your head at the concession stand.
From "Nobody Knows" director Hirokazu Kore-eda comes "Like Father, Like Son," a bittersweet human drama about two sets of parents who learn that their children were switched at birth. It's no surprise that the film picked up the Jury Prize at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and that jury president Steven Spielberg bought rights to a US remake. The film bears the mark of a master craftsmen whose cinematic style never overshadows a sensitivity to the inner lives of everyday people.
Also in select cities this weekend, two hard-hitting docus off the festival circuit: Jillian Schlesinger's "Maidentrip," about a teen girl's two-year quest to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone, and Jehane Noujaim's Oscar-nominated "The Square" about Egyptian revolutionaries in pursuit of utopia amid national unrest. Both are powerful and moving works. You can also see "The Square" on Netflix Instant.
Though we have seen the story of a high school boy's difficult coming-out-and-of-age time and again, "G.B.F." is a sweet and snappy teen comedy with witty banter and warm performances from Michael J. Willett (TV's "United States of Tara") and a scene-stealing Molly Tarlov (MTV's "Awkward"). It's a celebration of friendship among queer kids, with ample doses of heart and humor thanks to the cast and the always irreverent Megan Mullally as a mom coming to terms with her son's sexuality.
Quentin Tarantino named Israeli crime thriller "Big Bad Wolves" his favorite film of 2013, which is a bit puzzling because Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado's ode-to-grindhouse is hit-and-miss. It pointlessly makes light of graphic violence and despite arty cinematography, the film is as hollow as any lowbrow stateside horror.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit Dir. Kenneth Branagh, USA | Paramount Pictures | Cast: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh, Kevin Costner | 64% Fresh | Village Voice: "'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' is half silliness, half swagger, but Branagh's arms-akimbo impudence as a director makes it work. He takes it all seriously, but with a wink." | Our review and Branagh Q&A
Like Father, Like Son Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan | IFC | Cast: Lily Franky, Machiko Ono, Masaharu Fukuyama, Yoko Maki | 80% Fresh | The Dissolve: "What makes 'Like Father, Like Son' so quietly powerful is that for the most part, it doesn’t traffic in stereotypes." | Our review
The Square Dir. Jehane Noujaim, Egypt | Participant Media, Netflix Originals | 100% Fresh | Variety: "'The Square' understands that the Revolution itself is a work in progress, and while its immediacy means it, too, will soon be superseded, it stands as a vigorous, useful account." | Our review and interview
Maidentrip Dir. Jillian Schlesinger, USA | First Run Features | 82% Fresh | NYT: "Before our eyes, Laura's lengthening limbs and deepening introspection become the point of a movie that begins with a child and ends with a young woman." | Our review
G.B.F. Dir. Darren Stein, USA | Vertical Entertainment | Cast: Andrea Bowen, Michael J. Willett, Molly Tarlov, Paul Iacono, Megan Mullally | 75% Fresh | Slant: "The film, lensed in appealing candy-striped colors, has so much fun exploding stereotypes and radiates with such infectious comic gusto and genuine good nature, that it would be almost churlish to resist its charms." | Our Frameline coverage
Big Bad Wolves Dir. Aharon Keshales, Israel | Magnet Releasing | Cast: Doval'e Glickman, Lior Ashkenazi, Rotem Keinan, Tzahi Grad | 78% Fresh | Time Out New York: "The movie is never less than involving, but rarely amounts to more than a third-generation grindhouse knockoff."