Night Swimming

Something’s Got to Give is the ill-fated final film from Marilyn Monroe. Normally I wouldn’t review an unfinished film, but there’s just enough footage to make a comprehensible short. Something’s Got to Give was doomed from the start. Marilyn Monroe dealt with a never-ending series of problems ranging from health issues, script frustration, prior commitments to President Kennedy, and overall unavailability. Her final shooting day was her birthday (which is also my birthday) June 1st 1962. She was fired by an increasingly frustrated studio and director George Cukor.

Other well known actresses were considered, but Marilyn Monroe is irreplaceable. By the time she was rehired, Monroe tragically passed away leaving Something’s Got to Give forever incomplete. The story was intended to be a remake of the 1940 film My Favorite Wife before it was later reworked as the 1963 film Move Over, Darling with a different cast. Monroe would’ve been Ellen Arden who was stuck on an island and declared dead by her husband Nick who remarries Bianca. Dean Martin was committed enough to perform the title song. Cyd Charisse would’ve been a good foil for Monroe.

Other limited characters include Ellen’s hunky fellow island inhabitant, her 2 children who don’t recognize her, an angry judge, Bianca’s psychiatrist, a hapless shoe salesmen, and an insurance agent who gets an eyeful. The most iconic scene would’ve been Monroe swimming naked in a pool. I know Monroe posed for Playboy, but the surprisingly risque moment would’ve been the first major Hollywood nude scene. It’s a shame Marilyn’s entire fun loving performance was never seen. Something’s Got to Give could’ve been an instant classic.

Somethings Got to Give

Ellen emerges from the pool

P.S. I’ve supplied the full 37 minute restoration underneath.

But Why Male Models?

Zoolander 2, or Zoolander No. 2 took a number 2 on the franchise. Since the first movie is a cult favorite, it was only a matter of time before Ben Stiller made a sequel. Despite growing interest, I didn’t watch Zoolander in time to see Zoolander 2 in theaters. The very negative reception caused me to reconsider. Any minor problems with the original are even worse in the sequel. The tone is set when The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good collapses, Matilda is killed, Derek loses his son, and Hansel is disfigured. Zoolander eventually pulls himself together by redoing a lot of the same jokes and recreating versions of “Blue Steel.”

Owen Wilson is given a bigger role as Hansel, but the barely funny orgy joke from the first movie is redone to an uncomfortable degree. Despite being married to Stiller, Christine Taylor only cameos as the ghost of Matilda. Instead Penélope Cruz plays sexy Interpol agent Valentina who deals with a new conspiracy. This time it’s pop stars who are being killed because of a convoluted cult seeking the Fountain of Youth. Derek Jr. is a mini Zoolander who ends up stuck in his father’s mess. Will Ferrell eventually returns as an imprisoned Mugatu who was behind everything. Kristen Wiig really earned her Razzie as an over-exaggerated fashion designer.

The first movie broke reality when Zoolander used “Magnum” as a weapon, but the sequel’s climax is absolute nonsense. Though the biggest problem with Zoolander 2 is every celebrity who desperately needed a paycheck. There are more actors, singers, models, and fashion icons than there are funny moments. A brutally murdered Justin Bieber is just the tip of the iceberg. Billy Zane has a much bigger role and Sting replaces David Bowie as the prominently featured aging singer. Fred Armisen’s head is disturbingly placed on a kids body, but the most baffling creative choice is having Benedict Cumberbatch play an androgynous model. Zoolander 2 isn’t what I’d call PC, but it is really, really, really ridiculously bad.

Zoolander 2

Derek Zoolander, Hansel, and Valentina work together

Preceded by: Zoolander

Blue Steel

Zoolander perfected “Blue Steel” for male models everywhere. Ben Stiller directs and stars as the really, really, really ridiculously good looking Derek Zoolander. A character created for the 90’s VH1 Fashion Awards. Zoolander is another quotable early 2000’s comedy that I had high expectations for after avoiding it for years. Though not as funny as I was expecting, Zoolander is intentionally silly since it makes fun of the fashion industry. Derek Zoolander is your average empty-headed self-absorbed male model. Though he does have a heart of gold like his equally dumb roommates who die in a hilarious freak accident.

Derek ponders his purpose outside of modeling by returning home and possibly opening a Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good. What’s funny is seeing all the early 2000’s celebrities who make Zoolander’s modeling seem legitimate. Actors, singers, models, and even Donald Trump have surprise cameos. Billy Zane and David Bowie have the most memorable appearances as Derek’s friend and a runway judge respectively. Fellow Stiller collaborator Owen Wilson plays enlightened rival male model turned friend Hansel. Stiller’s wife Christine Taylor plays sexy journalist Matilda who uncovers an unexpected conspiracy. Stiller’s father Jerry plays Derek’s agent who reluctantly takes part in the conspiracy.

I had no idea Zoolander was about assassinating the Prime Minister of Malaysia, but it’s just one of many controversies the movie faced. Along with removing the Twin Towers after 9/11. Will Ferrell plays the unhinged fashion designer Mugatu who brainwashes Zoolander using the song “Relax.” David Duchovny shows up to reveal an even more unexpected layer to the conspiracy. Milla Jovovich plays Mugatu’s sexy Russian righthand and Nathan Lee Graham plays his mistreated gay assistant. Zoolander is very un-PC with the modeling industry and most of the time it works.

Zoolander

Derek Zoolander does “Magnum”

Followed by: Zoolander 2

Highway to the Danger Zone!

Top Gun: Maverick soars higher than anyone could’ve expected. Top Gun is an 80’s classic, but it was never a big favorite of mine. So I wasn’t sure how to feel about a sequel over 30 years later. Tom Cruise initially shot down the idea until his mind was changed around 2010. Original director Tony Scott was replaced by Oblivion collaborator Joseph Kosinski after the former’s death. Although Top Gun: Maverick was pushed back several times, it all worked out when it became the unexpected highest grossing movie of the year. Making Maverick the second Pandemic era movie to cross a billion dollars after Spider-Man: No Way Home. A superhero movie makes sense, but Maverick really earned its recognition. In the age of Mission: Impossible, Tom Cruise went out of his way to film real ariel stunts in real fighter planes. I saw Maverick on my birthday and I was blown away.

Pete “Maverick” Mitchell is still captain after over 30 years in the Navy. Ed Harris and John Hamm are his newest superiors. Maverick is currently a test pilot for a top secret supersonic jet called “Darkstar.” They hooked me with “Danger Zone,” but I was immediately won over when Maverick reached Mach 10. Though it is another legacy sequel, Maverick isn’t non-stop fan service. We get a shot of Maverick riding a motorcycle, but there’s also much deeper character motivations. As suggested at the end of the first movie, Maverick becomes an instructor at Top Gun. Iceman is now a Navy commander who has a strong friendship with Maverick. Val Kilmer has a surprise appearance that managed to make me cry. Since Kelly McGillis hasn’t aged as well as Cruise, Charlie is replaced by Jennifer Connelly as the Admiral’s daughter who was briefly mentioned in Top Gun. Penny Benjamin is a single mother bar owner who rekindles her relationship with Maverick. The Oscar winning “Take My Breath Away” is replaced by the Lady Gaga song “Hold My Hand.”

The only other song callback is “Great Balls of Fire” sung by Goose’s son Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw in a bar. Miles Teller is the spitting image of Anthony Edwards right down to the mustache. Maverick deals with the death of his best friend while trying to protect Rooster. Though Meg Ryan doesn’t make an appearance, his mother is a big part of Maverick’s motivation. The other flight students are more likeable than most next generation sequel characters. Glen Powell as Hangman is the perfect cocky pilot who redeems himself. Monica Barbaro as the only female pilot Phoenix is in no way heavy handed. At least she balances out a mandatory game of sweaty beach football. Despite the advancement of drones, pilots are still necessary for a dangerous mission. Unlike the first movie, I was able to follow the mission very well. Pilots have to maneuver a trench in order to hit a small target while avoiding enemy fire. Like the first movie, the enemy is never explicitly revealed, but it leads to an exciting climax. There’s an 80’s charm to the original, but Top Gun: Maverick is a vast improvement.

Top Gun Maverick

Maverick flies

Preceded by: Top Gun

Justice is Coming

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back gave Tom Cruise an excuse to run. At this point, Cruise continued to push the boundaries with the Mission: Impossible franchise. He never needed to go back to Jack Reacher, but it is a long-running book series. Never Go Back is the 18th book written by Lee Child. Edward Zwick replaced Christopher McQuarrie as director since the latter was busy with Mission: Impossible. The story isn’t controversial like the first Jack Reacher, but it is cliché.

After years of drifting, Reacher returns to Army headquarters only to find himself caught in a Military conspiracy. Major Susan Turner joins Reacher on the run when her life is threatened. Cobie Smulders is a suitable replacement love interest, but she is very similar to Agent Maria Hill. Since none of the original cast returns, Aldis Hodge is the latest Military captain out to find Reacher and Turner. They’re joined by Danika Yarosh who may or may not be Reacher’s daughter Samantha. I like Reacher’s sarcasm, but his possible daughter is more annoying.

The conspiracy involves the usual drug trafficking and/or illegal weapons transfer. Patrick Heusinger is the nameless ex-Military hunter out to kill them. The action is consistent with Reacher continuing to take out several adversaries and ruthlessly killing his last enemy. It wasn’t enough to keep it going since Reacher was rebooted as a TV series with the more size appropriate Alan Ritchson. After the failure of Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, it’s safe to say Tom Cruise will never go back to the franchise.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Jack Reacher fights off criminals

Preceded by: Jack Reacher

One Shot

Jack Reacher gave Tom Cruise another major action role. Though casting the 5’7″ actor as the 6’5″ Reacher was a bit of a reach. Even though Cruise is more than capable of being intimidating. This was his first directing collaboration with Christopher McQuarrie and it made for a pretty good Mission: Impossible audition. I wrongly assumed Jack Reacher was another spy, but he’s actually an ex-Army police investigator turned drifter. The long-running Jack Reacher book series was written by Lee Child. Jack Reacher is specifically based on the 9th book One Shot.

It begins with a sniper killing 5 random civilians that Reacher is chosen to investigate. Choosing that book was bad timing since the movie was pushed back one week after the Sandy Hook school shooting. There’s even a character named Sandy in the movie. Though uncomfortable, it doesn’t hurt the adaptation since Cruise gives his usual dedicated performance. Since he’s a drifter, Reacher is an efficient fighter and a smartass who doesn’t care what he has to do. His attitude is surprisingly humorous. Reacher is joined by Rosamund Pike as sexy defense attorney Helen Rodin.

Richard Jenkins plays her District Attorney father and David Oyelowo plays the top police detective. The top suspect is James Barr, but the real culprit is a sniper played by Jai Courtney in his first major role. Though the true big bad is the always menacing Werner Herzog as a Zek who survived a Soviet prison. Reacher takes out several low level criminals until he needs help from Robert Duvall who plays a gun shop owner. Jack Reacher strikes the right balance between blockbuster action and gritty realism.

Jack Reacher

Jack Reacher sneaks around

Followed by: Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

They Made it Personal

Without Remorse is not without some merit. Tom Clancy may have passed away, but Jack Ryan continues to live on in the Amazon Prime series starring John Krasinski. Without Remorse was always an origin story for Ryan’s darker half John Clark. The role was previously portrayed by Willem Dafoe and Liev Schreiber. A movie adaptation didn’t get off the ground for over 20 years. Several high profile actors were considered before Michael B. Jordan was cast as the younger Navy SEAL John Kelly.

Aside from race, the biggest change was removing Kelly’s status as a Vietnam veteran. The story mostly works even if the war is different. It’s just the Cold War element that feels the same in every movie. This time seperate conflicts in America and Russia are meant to fuel a conflict. Without Remorse feels generic, but Jordan is very dedicated to the role. He’s joined by Jodie Turner-Smith as James Greer’s niece Karen and Guy Pearce as one of his superiors. There’s also a Fant4stic reunion between Jordan and Jamie Bell that nobody wanted. When Kelly’s wife and unborn child are murdered, he vows revenge without remorse.

The book sounds a lot more graphic, but Without Remorse is the second adaptation after Patriot Games to have an R rating. Of course Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is TV-MA. There’s a lot more action that centers around Kelly’s mission. As a trained Navy SEAL, Kelly has shooting skills and can hold his breath underwater for extended periods of time. Kelly gets his revenge and the name “John Clark” near the end, but it was all to set up the more interesting sounding sequel Rainbow Six. Without Remorse is only worth it for the leading star.

6. Without Remorse

John Kelly strangles Robert Ritter

Sleeper Agent

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the second failed attempt at a Jack Ryan reboot. The Sum of All Fears similarly recast Jack Ryan with a younger actor set in modern day. When Ben Affleck was dropped, no sequels were made in over a decade. Although Tom Clancy wrote over 17 Jack Ryan books, Shadow Recruit is 100% original. Clancy passed away before he had a chance to see it. Although I was alive when The Sum of All Fears came out, I didn’t take notice of Jack Ryan until his name was used in a title.

Chris Pine is another younger Jack Ryan who does just fine on his own. Shadow Recruit depicts his early days of enlisting in the Marines after 9/11, becoming a CIA analyst, and meeting his future wife Dr. Cathy Muller. An American Keira Knightley has a large role since their relationship is a big part of the story. Ryan is recruited by Kevin Costner as another high level CIA agent Thomas Harper. There aren’t too many familiar faces aside from Colm Feore as a completely different character than the one he played in The Sum of All Fears.

This time the Russians are definitely the villains. Kenneth Branagh is both the director and Russian oligarch Viktor Cherevin. Once again I found myself lost, but I understood Cherevin sought to topple the nation’s economy. Ryan is still primarily an analyst, but he does see more action. There’s a bathroom brawl, shoot outs, and a motorcycle chase. Unfortunately, most of the action is cut with intense shaky cam. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit does the hero justice, but his movie making days are over.

5. Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan on a motorcycle

The Price of Our Vitality

The Sum of All Fears is a victim of bad timing. Though Tom Clancy’s fifth book was written in 1991, the movie was released in summer 2002. Which makes The Sum of All Fears the first major release about terrorism since 9/11. There were multiple changes that may or may not have been affected by the tragic event. In the book, the villains are Arabian terrorists, but the movie changes them to Neo-Nazis. The only surviving element is the war in Israel. The Sum of All Fears was a bit confusing at the beginning, but it all made sense as the conflict developed. The plot is a little derivative of The Hunt for Red October.

Unlike the previous films, the recasting of Jack Ryan is an excuse to reboot the entire franchise. Along with Phil Alden Robinson as the latest replacement director. Ben Affleck is another young CIA analyst version of Ryan who doesn’t see much combat. Bridget Moynahan is the new Cathy who hasn’t married Ryan yet. The cast is still very respectable with Morgan Freeman taking over as CIA director Bill Cabot who takes interest in Ryan’s personal life. Together they try to locate a missing nuclear bomb that could lead to war between Russia and the United States.

James Cromwell and Ciarán Hinds play the morally questionable President of the United States and Russia respectively. Meanwhile, Colm Feore orchestrates events as the only notable Neo-Nazi. Although Affleck can do action just fine, it’s mostly Liev Schreiber as a more level headed John Clark who pushes him into battle. The most shocking incident is a bomb that detonates in a populated area. Aside from that, The Sum of All Fears tries to make the fight as smart as its predecessors, and mostly succeeds.

4. The Sum of All Fears

Jack Ryan works alongside Bill Cabot

Truth Needs a Soldier

Clear and Present Danger strikes a balance between the previous Jack Ryan movies. Tom Clancy once again distanced himself from the adaptation to his fourth book. The Cardinal of the Kremlin was technically next, but it was deemed too difficult to adapt. John McTernan initially wanted to direct Clear and Present Danger, but Phillip Noyce stuck around instead. One of the changes Clancy didn’t like was how much attention Jack Ryan received since he’s not always the lead. Clear and Present Danger is the only Jack Ryan movie to have a returning actor in the lead role. Harrison Ford returns alongside Anne Archer, Thora Birch, and James Earl Jones who appeared in all three movies.

When Admiral James Greer is diagnosed with cancer, Ryan is appointed Deputy Director of Intelligence at the CIA. Kathy, Sally, and Jack Ryan Jr. aren’t part of the action like they were before. Clear and Present Danger may be the hardest installment to follow since there is a lot of analytics and Government cover-ups. The titular clear and present danger is the war on drugs. It’s a harsh subject, but the rating is PG-13 this time around. A Colombian cartel follows the Soviet Union and Irish terrorists as the latest threat. Joaquim de Almeida is Colonel Félix Cortez, a “Latin Jack Ryan” who seizes control of the cartel from Ernesto Escobedo.

Aside from an intense SUV ambush, Ryan spends most of his time learning who’s behind a covert Military operation. Willem Dafoe leads the team as important CIA Operative John Clark. Clark seems more ruthless than Ryan, but they end up working together. The climax is an explosive gun fight that makes up for the more limited action sequences. The lines of patriotism are blurred when Ryan realizes the entire incident leads directly to the President. Clear and Present Danger is a clear sign that Ford made the most of his time as Jack Ryan.

3. Clear and Present Danger

Jack Ryan teams up with John Clark

Preceded by: Patriot Games