Movie Review: “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back”

Starring
Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh, Robert Knepper, Patrick Heusinger, Aldis Hodge
Director
Edward Zwick

One of the main reasons why “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” is an invigorating sequel is because it doesn’t share a whole lot in common with its predecessor. While Christopher McQuarrie’s lean and muscular thriller didn’t dig very deep into its titular character, director Edward Zwick’s film raises plenty of questions about the former military man. Zwick, a filmmaker known more for dramas than popcorn thrillers, brings his personal touch to the series based on Lee Child’s popular novels while also producing an impressive crowd-pleaser.

Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise) is still drifting, traveling from town to town with a few dollars in his pocket. As the opening establishes, though, the former major isn’t done helping people in need. He also still has some ties to the military, like Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who often works with Reacher, but only over the phone. After the two develop a friendship and respect for each other, they make plans to meet when Reacher travels to Washington D.C. Once Reacher arrives in the nation’s capital and enters her office, however, he discovers that Turner is facing accusations of treason. Reacher doesn’t buy it, and he’ll do whatever he can do to prove her innocence.

Part of what’s great about McQuarrie’s film is that Jack Reacher is already Jack Reacher. He’s not at a moral crossroads. He knows right and wrong. He knows who he is. On the other hand, what’s so appealing about Zwick’s film is that we get to see Reacher start to ask questions about himself. We learned more about Reacher through action in McQuarrie’s movie, and this time around, screenwriters Richard Wenk, Marshall Herskovitz and Zwick place some of those actions under a microscope. There’s an inherent sadness to the character’s way of life; he has no real personal connections. “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” often likes to take its time to truly show what kind of effect that life of solitude would have on someone.

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Movie Review: “The Intervention”

Starring
Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Cobie Smulders, Natasha Lyonne, Alia Shawkat, Clea DuVall, Vincent Piazza, Ben Schwartz
Director
Clea DuVall

With “The Intervention,” Clea DuVall leaves a striking impression with her feature-length directorial debut. The actress, who starred in the far too short-lived HBO series “Carnivale,” has written and directed an observant, funny and sometimes moving relationship film. Its similarities to famous old-friends-getting-together-for-the-weekend movies are apparent, but since DuVall’s story is driven more by honesty than conventions, its familiar qualities are not a problem.

Putting together an intervention often comes from the right place. And as misguided as Annie’s (Melanie Lynskey) idea of a marriage intervention may be, her heart is in the right place. Annie and some other longtime pals are tired of seeing two of their closest friends, Ruby (Cobie Smulders) and Peter (Vincent Piazza), remain stuck in a seemingly loveless marriage. They’re not the only couple on this getaway having problems, though. In an effort to try to resolve Ruby and Pete’s issues, Sarah (Natasha Lyonne) and Jessi (Clea DuVall), Jack (Ben Schwartz) and Lola (Alia Shawkat), and Annie and Matt (Jason Ritter) end up confronting their own relationship problems.

All of these conflicts unfold naturally, and that naturalism is inherent in DuVall’s thoughtful script. As the story progresses, the characters slowly reveal themselves to be more than what they initially appeared to be. Every single one of them, including a character that easily could’ve been reduced to a one-note caricature (Lola), is so well-drawn in DuVall’s script – each with their own problems, fears and motivations. These are fully-realized characters, and rarely does a simple conversation or confrontation ring false in “The Intervention,” except for maybe one of its broader scenes.

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Movie Review: “Delivery Man”

Starring
Vince Vaughn, Chris Pratt, Cobie Smulders, Jack Reynor, Britt Robertson
Director
Ken Scott

It’s easy to see why Touchstone wanted to make “Delivery Man.” It has a ton of heart, and it honors the bonds and the importance of family. The catch is that it is an indie script through and through – though a flawed one at that – and the big-budget touches they add to it, namely Vince Vaughn doing that ‘look Ma no hands’ thing that he does, do not serve the material. Despite the outrageousness of the plot, it’s an intimate movie. A smaller scale would have worked wonders, but only to a point.

David Wozniak (Vaughn) is a terminable screw-up. He delivers meat for the butcher shop his father runs, and he is always late, always racking up parking tickets, and completely unreliable. (Also, he owes a loan shark $80,000, as if he weren’t already in enough trouble.) In the span of 24 hours, he discovers that his policewoman girlfriend Emma (Cobie Smulders) is pregnant, and that as a result of nearly 700 donations to a sperm bank when he was in his 20s, he is the father of 533 children. One hundred forty-two of these children want to meet him, and have filed a class action suit against the sperm bank to reveal his identity (he signed all of the documents under the name Starbuck). His lawyer friend Brett (Chris Pratt) takes the case, and gives David an envelope containing profiles of the 142 plaintiffs. Against Brett’s advice, David visits some of his kids anonymously, and tries to help them any way he can. When he sees the good fortune that his kindness provides, David’s life has purpose for the first time, but remaining anonymous quickly proves to be difficult.

Don’t let the trailers fool you: this is not some broad, wacky comedy, even if it’s based on a premise involving a sperm bank. David is essentially coming face to face with people who possess exaggerated amounts of his best and worst qualities (one’s a professional basketball player, one’s a junkie), and learning a hell of a lot about himself in the process. There are moments of levity here and there, but this is much more of a drama than it is a comedy, and it should be. To make too many jokes about this premise would be missing the point.

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