Series Review: Jack Ryan

This latest incarnation of Jack Ryan, a well known character created by late author Tom Clancy, secures his place on the small screen this time. I got to know the character through a series of movies, played by a string of actors that included Harrison Ford and Chris Pine.

Amazon Prime released season one on August 31. This is a series review of Jack Ryan.

Series Review Jack Ryan

Jack Ryan stars John Krasinki, Wendell Pierce, Abbie Cornish, and Ali Suliman. Episode one, titled Pilot, was directed by Morten Tyldum and carries a TV-MA rating for language and violence. Each episode in this series has a run time of 1 hour and 4 minutes.

Jack Ryan (Krasinki) is a former US Marine serving behind a desk as a CIA analyst in the Counter Terrorism Center: Terror Finance and Arms Division. As he explains to his new boss, he studies marketing and financial transactions in Yemen, looking for aberrations.

He’s found one that concerns him. Massive amounts of money are being funneled into a single account that appears to be connected to a mysterious man known as Suleiman (Suliman). Jack feels the account needs to be frozen and Suleiman tracked down, to prevent another 9/11 type tragedy.

Series Review Jack Ryan

Jack’s supervisor, James Greer (Pierce), initially disagrees, leading Jack to take matters into his own hands. He freezes the account. While getting to know a former colleague’s daughter, Cathy (Cornish), at a birthday party, Jack is interrupted and called in. He and Greer board a plane bound for Yemen, where two men have been captured and held for interrogation.

It would appear that Saleiman and his bodyguard have been apprehended. Far from his analyst desk in Washington DC, Jack finds himself in the middle of an explosive situation that poses a dangerous threat to the entire world.

Series Review Jack Ryan

I was impressed with this premiere episode in a fresh series about a familiar character. As I’ve seen several of the Jack Ryan movies and reboots over the years, it was good to start again at the beginning and see how an analyst ends up as an agent in the field.

John Krasinki inhabits the character well, I think. Best known for playing Jim Halpert for eight years in The Office, Krasinki brought a hint of humor to Jack Ryan and a surprisingly buff body. We get a glimpse of Ryan’s back story and recognize that he suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome. Krasinki brings a vulnerability to the role that I liked.

I especially enjoyed the banter between Ryan and Greer. The two get off to a rough start. Greer was sent back to the US as a disciplinary action and reluctantly assumes his new position with the CIA. Back in the field together the men develop a cautious respect for each other.

With eight episodes available for season one and the second season already confirmed, this new series, Jack Ryan, promises action, adventures and dangerous situations to defuse. I’ll be watching. Well done, Amazon Prime.

Series Review Jack Ryan

Yellowstone Season One Review

Tonight was the season one finale of Paramount Network’s big bold series, Yellowstone. I got in on the beginning of the series and was immediately drawn to the story that is best described as gritty and intense. Check out my first review from the beginning of the season. Below are my thoughts after watching all of Yellowstone season one.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Yellowstone stars Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Cole Hauser, Kelsey Asbille, Danny Huston, Gil Birmingham, Michaela Conlin, and Wendy Moniz. This western drama, directed by Taylor Sheridan, carries a MA rating for language, violence and adult situations, and has an episode run time of 1 hour.

Tonight’s episode was aptly titled The Unraveling Part 2, and was the conclusion of a two part season finale.

Yellowstone Season One Review

A Whole Heap of Trouble

The events in this season ender of Yellowstone tied up a few loose ends in the story, and peaked in the middle of a broiling stew of trouble, creating a wonderful cliffhanger.

John Dutton (Costner) carries many secrets and one of the most troubling for him involves his health. This man shoulders the burdens of owning the largest ranch in the US, a very real kingdom in the west built by his family over generations, and he feels he has no one among his adult children to hand the keys of the kingdom over to. Time is slipping away and it makes him desperate.

The son who was being groomed to run the ranch is gone. His attorney son Jamie (Bentley) has seemingly turned his back on the family to pursue his own career in politics. Younger son Kayce (Grimes) is most like his father but he’s a wild and unpredictable man, as untamed as the horses he breaks for a living. And daughter Beth (Reilly), a shrewd businesswoman, will do anything to take down her father’s enemies. But when Daddy is gone, she will be the first to sell off the ranch, piece by piece.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Yellowstone Season One Review A relaxed shot of the actors who portray Kayce and Beth.

Who to Trust

The person John trusts the most is his ranch foreman, Rip (Hauser). Loyal to the point of bending the law for his boss, Rip has a better understanding of the workings of the ranch and John’s intentions to hold it together, than any of the children. He will do anything to protect John and Yellowstone.

The level of strife in John’s family is multiplied among the people seeking to destroy him and seize his property. Chief Rainwater (Birmingham) has formed an uneasy partnership with ruthless land developer Dan Jenkins (Huston). The two have plans to build a casino, hotel and housing development on the edge of Yellowstone. Their ultimate goal is to drive the Duttons out and take control of their property. Even John’s love interest Governor Lynelle Perry (Moniz) appears to have her own agenda to topple him.

Other skirmishes are in play among John’s children. Kayce’s wife Monica (Asbille) has left him and taken their son. And Jamie’s political campaign is challenged by a journalist from New York, Sarah Nguyen (Conlin), who intends to expose his father as a corrupt man.

When John Dutton says the whole county has turned against him, it appears to include his own family.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Yellowstone Season One Review

Character & Story Development

This series is much more “drama” than “western”, in spite of the horses and the cowboys who work on the ranch. I was curious after episode one, to see how the characters and the story developed. I have not been disappointed.

These are complex, convoluted characters. There aren’t good guys and bad guys in Yellowstone. Everyone is a mixture of both, from the people plotting to bring the Duttons down to John Dutton himself. The characters are portrayed as flawed, broken, hurting people who sometimes do dark deeds and sometimes display moments of courageous authenticity in the face of challenges.

I love the inclusion of backstories for the major characters. I get to see how they got broken, who hurt them, and why they now attempt to manipulate and hurt others. I can see the good that was once in them and hope for its reappearance as they grapple with life. And I recognize that while these characters are larger than life, they represent snippets found within all of us. My eyes fill with tears often as I watch their struggles. Why? Because it births compassion in me and makes me look at people in my reality differently. People that hurt, have been hurt, and everyone has a backstory of their own.

I was glad to find out this week that Yellowstone has been renewed. There will be a season two airing in 2019. That’s good news for me because the story of the Duttons and the ranch and the community that surrounds it is far from over. In fact, it has just begun. I look forward to the next dynamic chapter of Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Season One Review

Series Review: Yellowstone

I’ve seen numerous previews for this new television series, starring award winning actor, director and producer Kevin Costner. The series premiered last month on the Paramount Network. I only yesterday realized I get that station, via Direct TV. I’ve long respected Costner’s work and although traditional westerns are not my favorite genre, this series caught my attention. I had the opportunity to watch episode one this evening, through Direct TV’s on demand feature.

Series Review Yellowstone

Yellowstone has a large ensemble cast that includes Kevin Costner, Luke Grimes, Kelly Reilly, Wes Bentley, Dave Annable, Kelsey Asbille and Gil Birmingham. This western/drama, directed by Taylor Sheridan, carries a MA rating, due to adult themes, language and sexuality. Each episode has a run time of 1 hour and 32 minutes. Episode one is titled Daybreak.

John Dutton (Costner) is a 6th generation rancher and the current owner of the family’s immense Wyoming property, Yellowstone. He is assisted on the ranch by his eldest son, Lee (Annable), who spends long days working the land and caring for the livestock. And John is aided as needed by his middle son, Jamie (Bentley), who is an attorney that specializes in land.

John’s daughter Beth (Reilly), and youngest son Cayce (Grimes), are the family members who, although not quite outcasts, dwell on the fringe. Cayce, whose relationship with his father is very strained, lives on a nearby Indian reservation with his wife Monica (Kelsey) and their young son.

Series Review Yellowstone

Series Review Yellowstone

As the owner of the largest contiguous ranch in the United States, Dutton encounters conflicts with those who share his borders…the reservation with its new Chief (Birmingham), an expanding town, a land grabbing developer, and one of the most famous parks in America.

It’s as the patriarch of his family, however, with its complex and complicated relationships, that true strength and wisdom are required from him.

Series Review Yellowstone

I enjoyed this first episode, and I’m grateful for the ability to catch up on the series through On Demand. There’s intrigue present in the well done story, family secrets, deeper family sorrows, and beneath it all, the land.

Although there are plenty of cowboy hats, cattle and horses in the series, this isn’t a typical western. John Dutton rides in a helicopter, rather than on a horse, to survey his domain. And the family dynamics are as much a focus of the show as the escalating conflicts over land. Kevin Costner definitely shines in his role as a man who, while embracing his duties and obligations as a rancher, has endured much in his lifetime, and who may be growing weary of it all.

I look forward to seeing how the characters and the story develops in Yellowstone. I have one more episode to watch, and then I’ll be caught up and ready for the third episode when it televises on July 11. Ten episodes, at an hour and a half each, should be just the right amount of time to tell this big, big story.

Series Review Yellowstone

Series Review: Genius

I love and appreciate stories of all kinds, presented in many different formats. Historical fiction, whether in a book or a film, is one of my favorites, as I feel like I learn more about a real person or actual event. This is why I am enjoying the National Geographic series Genius so much.

Series Review Genius

Genius is an anthology series focusing on the untold stories of the world’s most brilliant innovators. The first season featured Albert Einstein, portrayed as a young man by Johnny Flynn, and as an older adult by Geoffrey Rush. This season, with 10 episodes, is complete and can be watched on demand or through Amazon Prime.

Series Review Genius

Season two focuses on Pablo Picasso, played by Alex Rich in the artist’s youth and Antonio Banderas as the aging man. This most reason season is on Tuesdays at 9:00 pm, central time. Episode seven airs tomorrow night.

Series Review Genius

Portraying such incredibly talented and complex men as Einstein and Picasso was a huge undertaking for National Geographic. They have created an excellent series that explores the scientific and artistic geniuses of both men, while giving the viewer a peek into their personal lives. Their brilliance is revealed, along with their quirks, flaws and challenges in life.

Accuracy is extremely important to National Geographic. The creators of the show gather historical information from documents, letters, photographs and biographies, and mix those facts with creative drama to provide an entertaining and inspiring series.

I am actually watching both seasons simultaneously, having started with Picasso and then realizing there was a season one featuring Einstein.

Albert Einstein has intrigued me since childhood. I often refer to his quotes and appreciate his imagination and creativity. It has been heart touching, and almost painful, to watch his struggles as a young man. So few understood him. His father, his professors, his friends tried to categorize him, when he was very much a round genius in a square world.

Einstein’s immense curiosity often gets him into trouble as he questions those who attempt to teach him. And it’s interesting watching his somewhat childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm about the universe fuel his passion for making major scientific discoveries.

Series Review GeniusGeoffrey Rush on the left and Johnny Flynn on the right, as Einstein.

Pablo Picasso demonstrates a different kind of genius. Introduced to painting at an early age, by his father, Picasso spends most of his life recreating himself, and his art, over and over. I am most familiar with Picasso’s cubism phase, so it has been fascinating to watch how he moved through a variety of movements and styles, from realism to surrealism.

Picasso was always searching for that which gave meaning to his life, and how best to express his unique perspectives of the world. Like Einstein, Picasso often struggled with relationships, especially the romantic ones.

Series Review Genius

Alex Rich on the left and Antonio Banderas on the right, as Picasso.

Both seasons tell the stories of these geniuses by moving back and forth between their early and later years. Einstein does so in a more linear fashion, while Picasso sometimes flips back and forth so frequently that it can get a bit confusing.

However, this series has fleshed out these two personalities so much for me. Yes, it’s dramatized, and yet what is portrayed actually happened. I fact check. I love the way the show humanizes both men. Einstein was more than a scientist with a larger than average brain. Picasso more than an artist who saw and painted the world differently. They journeyed through joys and sorrows, felt frustrations over being misunderstood, made mistakes, and changed the world through their gifts.

Genius shines because it focuses on the intimate lives, rather than the accomplishments, of two extraordinary men. I appreciate Einstein and Picasso even more than I did before. I see them differently. I see their hearts and souls.

Series Review Genius