Picks of the Week
(PG-13, 105 minutes, Paramount): Directed by Kenneth Branagh in a jumbled blur of dizzying close-ups, revolving camera moves, hand-held action sequences and deceptive layers of shiny surfaces, “Jack Ryan” threatens to become less a resuscitation of the beloved Tom Clancy brand than yet another jumbled, jarring action flick that isn’t nearly as smart as its brainy protagonist.
But with Chris Pine competently stepping into shoes once occupied by Harrison Ford, Ben Affleck and, briefly, Alec Baldwin, Jack Ryan seems to have a reasonable chance at surviving into the 21st century. Viewers don’t necessarily have to follow the arcane dialogue about algorithms and cellphone triangulations or decipher countless shots of computer screens to understand the simple plot.
Suffice it to say that, true to Ryan’s roots in Clancy’s Cold War-era imagination, he’s once again fighting the Russians – here personified in a ruthless villain nicely underplayed by Branagh himself.
Contains sequences of violence and intense action and brief strong language.
Extras: commentary by Branagh and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, deleted and extended scenes; featurettes, including two focusing on the Jack Ryan character and “Sir Kenneth Branagh: The Tsar of Shadow Recruit.”
(PG-13, 107 minutes, Universal): With obvious correlations to such classics of detective fiction as “And Then There Were None” and “Murder on the Orient Express,” the film tells the story of an air marshal (Liam Neeson) who must identify and thwart a passenger who is threatening, by text message, to kill one person on the plane every 20 minutes unless he (or she) receives $150 million.
As with Agatha Christie’s famous works, most of the main characters, including Neeson’s Bill Marks, a troubled alcoholic, initially draw our suspicion. The characters are too cooperative, not cooperative enough, weirdly furtive, excessively flirty, hiding a dark secret or, in the case of one Middle Eastern-looking character (Omar Metwally), presumed to be guilty by ethnicity.
Contains violence, brief crude language, sensuality and drug references.
Extras: “Suspense at 40,000 Feet” behind-the-scenes featurette. On Blu-ray: a behind-the-scenes featurette on shooting in a tube-shaped 20-by-30-foot set.
(Unrated, 87 minutes, Cinedigm): This wordless arthouse film offers a sublime, even spiritual experience, as well as a reminder of cinema’s power to create a transformative occasion.
The movie unspools with contemplative slowness, accompanied by an exquisite score by Philip Glass. Godfrey Reggio filmed “Visitors” as a series of stately black-and-white portraits of Earth’s inhabitants, their natural and built environments, and even a world far, far away.
The images – human, organic, architectural – possess both sculptural solidity and fleeting evanescence,with Reggio’s camera investing them with timeless meaning.
Extras: behind-the-scenes interviews with Reggio, Glass, film editor Joe Kane and filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, making-of featurette.