Draft Day

April 11, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Kevin Costner, Jennifer Garner, Denis Leary
Directed by: Ivan Reitman (“No Strings Attached”)
Written by: Scott Rothman (debut) and Rajiv Joseph (debut)

Think back to that amazing scene in the Oscar-nominated 2011 sports drama “Moneyball” where we witness Brad Pitt wheeling and dealing on the phone with other Major League Baseball general managers trying to trade a few of his players to make his Oakland As team better. Remember the energy of those phone calls and the excitement every time he hung up the phone and took another step closer to closing the deal? Remember Jonah Hill on the other side of the desk watching Pitt in awe as he utilized his time and his charm to get what he wanted? The drama of that scene, even though it’s just someone basically talking on the phone, was palpable. In “Draft Day,” director Ivan Reitman tries to spread that feeling across an entire day – NFL Draft Day – but fails at hooking us from the start. It’s not until the film’s waning moments when “Draft Day” chunks a Hail Mary and things hit a climax. By then, however, the corporate NFL influence has been caked on so much, the romance behind the sport is gone.

Written by rookie screenwriters Scott Rothman and Rajiv Joseph and led on the set by veteran director Ivan Reitman (“No Strings Attached,”) “Draft Day,” the first film ever allowed to use the NFL brand, is, in fact, a commercial for the pro football league. It’s a bit hard to consider this “product placement” since the product is the actual movie itself, but producers go a bit overboard in their attempt to appease their sponsors with things like flyovers of NFL stadiums. That, however, is the least of “Draft Day’s” problems. Bottom line: the first 90 minutes of Rothman and Joseph’s script just isn’t interesting or inspiring. In those 90 minutes, we watch Cleveland Browns general manager Sonny Weaver Jr. (Kevin Costner) attempt to land the first pick of the NFL Draft through a slew of unconventional tactics.

None of the conflict between characters during the first half of the movie works. From Sonny butting heads with the owner of the team (Frank Langella) and the coach (Denis Leary) to his in-house relationship with the team’s finance director (Jennifer Garner) to his run ins with upset players who think he’s trying to replace them, the narrative yields no dramatic results. It’s unfortunate since the NFL Draft, especially for fans of the league who love all the behind-the-scenes access, is probably one of the most exciting experiences a young football player could have. In “Draft Day,” Reitman and crew manage to suck all that exhilaration and personality from the story, and all that’s left are a few fancy logos and Deion Sanders.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

January 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Chris Pine, Keira Knightley, Kevin Costner
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh (“Thor”)
Written by: David Koepp (“Premium Rush”) and Adam Cozad (debut)

Though remakes, reboots and franchises have been the latest trend in Hollywood, few have had the longevity and staying power of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series. Dating back nearly 25 years and including actors such as Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford, this series has brought about a consistent stream of films. In an original story not based on a novel, “Star Trek” actor Chris Pine is the latest to take on the role of the Marine-turned-CIA agent in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.”

As an injured Marine, Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) is convinced by CIA agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) to become an undercover analyst in the CIA embedded in the financial world. As the Russians threaten to take down the U.S. stock market at the hands of Russian Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), Ryan must transform from analyst to operational to try to save the United States from danger.

From the first moments of the 9/11 attacks being shown as the impetus for Ryan’s enlistment of into the military, the audience is clued into “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” being a fresh reboot of a long standing franchise. For a fresh start, Pine is an inspired choice to take on Ryan. Relaying the tremendous amount of charisma and personality in the “Star Trek” films, Pine is a perfect candidate to take on any role, despite the committed relationship nature of Ryan being a little less fun than his womanizing role as Kirk. While Costner and Keira Knightley provide fine, if not ho-hum presences, this is Pine’s film to carry and he does so with an ability that could prove profitable for future films.

Ryan is an interesting action hero. He is seen in the film, very briefly, as a Marine, but quickly loses his strength and ability to even walk from an injury he sustains in Afghanistan. As an analyst forced into operational duty, Ryan’s training comes into prominence as he is forced to do actions outside of his pay grade. The result is a showing of pretty standard hand-to-hand combat and action scenes. Where the film succeeds is in its build up of tension during scenes where Ryan must infiltrate the Russian compound and fight to save his love. There are two major sequences that are successful in building up said tension, yet they never feel like scenes that are worthy enough to create a climax for the film.

“Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” has its moments of intensity and intrigue that is strong enough to capture one’s attention during the course of the film. But with a finished and final product that feels a little incomplete overall, it is likely a film that is easily forgettable in the long run.

Swing Vote

August 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Kevin Costner, Madeline Carroll, Paula Patton
Directed by: Joshua Michael Stern (“Neverwas”)
Written by: Joshua Michael Stern (“Neverwas”) and Jason Richman (“Bad Company”)

With the 2008 presidential election only three months away, in rolls some more political nonsense more absurd than an aging John McCain comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears.

Not since the disappointing “Vote or Die” campaign in 2004 has there ever been a more blatant attempt to draw voters through pop culture than the new political comedy “Swing Vote.” The morale of the story: Your vote counts, so make us proud America!

In the film, Kevin Costner (who hasn’t made a decent film since 2005’s “Upside of Anger”) plays Bud Johnson (can you think of a more all-American name?!), an unemployed single father who finds out his vote will ultimately decide the next President of the United States.

Bud is just an ordinary guy who wears t-shirts and drinks beer and is apparently supposed to represent the “everyman” that patriots can relate to. He’s not interested in politics, although his tween daughter Molly (Madeline Carroll) is always reminding him that it is his civic responsibility to cast a vote.

But when Bud gets wasted on election night, Molly somehow manages to infiltrate the voting booth and attempt to vote in place of her drunken daddy. The voting machine, however, shuts down before Molly can vote and the ballot, which will later be traced back to Bud, ends up stuck inside system.

Soon, Bud becomes a hometown hero as media from around the world swoop into his small town of Texico, New Mexico to get a gander of the man who holds the future of the free world in his hands. Both presidential hopefuls (Kesley Grammer and Dennis Hopper) also jump on the next airplane to New Mexico to make their best pitch to a single voter, now their most important. Also on his track is local reporter, Kate Madison (Paula Patton), who is looking to find her own fame by getting an exclusive interview with Bud before he casts his ballot.

Basically, “Swing Vote” is a tired and cliché misfire at political satire. The problems start with Costner, who makes Bud so unlikeable, it’s hard to root for a protagonist who is the epitome of a born loser without the adorable quarks. The film also misses a chance to put a real political spin to the storyline by wasting actors Nathan Lane and Stanley Tucci, who both play opposing campaign strategists. Where this could have really been a hilarious battle of minds, screenwriters Joshua Michael Stern and Jason Richman, instead, devise a desperate and silly scheme to make Lane and Tucci one up each other in dull fashion.

Whatever political attributes (if any) “Swing Vote” is peddling makes no difference. As a comedy it’s flimsy. Even worse, as a political commentary it’s uninspiring.