By Alynda Wheat Jennifer Garcia
January 27, 2014 12:00 PM

JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT

Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Keira Knightley, Kenneth Branagh | PG-13 |

ACTION

We already know about Pine’s boyish good looks and easy charm, but Jack Ryan poses a more pressing question: How broad are his shoulders? Because winning over Star Trek fans as Captain Kirk is one thing, but to follow in the shoes of Alec Baldwin, Ben Affleck and Harrison Ford? Good luck, pal. Fortunately, Pine proves a fine successor for the spy series, which is helpful given that the impetus for this reboot seems to be little more than, “Hey, remember Jack Ryan?”

The first film in the franchise not based on a Tom Clancy novel takes Ryan back to his early days at the CIA, though it’s set in the present day. He’s an analyst, not a superspy – at least not yet – and Pine is convincing as a book-smart newbie spooked by his first kill. The action takes him to Russia (are you and I the only ones who know the Cold War is over?), where he faces a shadowy mogul (director Branagh) bent on collapsing the U.S. economy.

Since a puppy spy needs serious help, Ryan leans on his coolly lethal handler (Costner) and his doctor squeeze (Knightley). It’s always nice to see Costner, who adds gravitas, while Knightley gets to do more than just be the woman in peril. And while the plot may not take the genre anywhere new, the cast is engaging. As for Pine, I think we’re just beginning to see what those shoulders can carry.

THE NUT JOB

Will Arnett, Liam Neeson, Katherine Heigl | PG |

ANIMATED

It’s tough for the denizens of Liberty Park, facing winter with little food. If only Surly Squirrel (the aptly snarky Arnett) would use his pilfering talents for good, everyone could eat. Instead, the mighty Raccoon (Neeson, his voice full of menace) banishes Surly, who ends up casing a nut shop that’s serving as a front for a human bank heist. These creatures, from Heigl’s bland, kind Andie, to Brendan Fraser’s lunkhead Grayson, aren’t exactly warm and cuddly – or particularly funny, for that matter. But thankfully, the action picks way up when the heists go down.

RIDE ALONG

Ice Cube, Kevin Hart | PG-13 |

COMEDY

There’s nothing new in this listless take on the don’t-date-my-sister genre. Cube is tough-talking cop James, who takes wannabe brother-in-law Ben (Hart) on patrol to show what a weenie he is. The flat script lets them both down, while the usually great Hart shrieks like Chris Tucker. Don’t Ride, just move along.

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