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Jack Ryan, the character who can’t seem to hold down a franchise.

Jack Ryan, the character who can’t seem to hold down a franchise. (photo)

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In an interview with the AV Club that ran through his past roles, Ciarán Hinds made a revealing statement about his participation on the last installment in the Jack Ryan movie, “The Sum of All Fears.” He recalled coming up to director Phil Alden Robinson on the second day of the shoot and saying “It’s lovely to meet you and thank you. I don’t know how I got this job.” Robinson’s all-too-believable response: “I don’t know why they asked me to direct this film, either.”

That desultoriness perfectly characterizes the Jack Ryan movies, a series based on the Tom Clancy character that seems to have proceeded more from inertia than anything else. Unlike the smooth, interlocking machine that is the “Bourne” trilogy, the Jack Ryan movies have gone through three actors and directors, separated by 12 years, and are about to be rebooted again, probably with Chris Pine succeeding Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. It’s easy to imagine some overqualified supporting actor on the eventual set having the same conversation Hinds did with whoever ends up directing.

Part of what worked about the “Bourne” films — beyond the quality of their actual filmmaking — is that they scrapped the geopolitical context of Robert Ludlum’s books and started over. The Jack Ryan films only half did this, changing back stories but keeping the national enemies the same until “The Sum of All Fears,” at which point the gap between publication and production date had grown too large and it was no longer feasible (or advisable, anyway) to make a movie with a bunch of Muslim terrorist bad guys. (The movie subbed in an Austrian neo-Nazi.)

Just as Clancy has sold his name as a branding tool and assembles research into novels as opposed to policy statements, the movies have taken his name and, at this point, are practically hollowing it out.

07142010_patriot.jpgClancy’s not as good a writer as his mega-selling peers Stephen King and John Grisham, and because of that the character of Ryan seems perpetually undefined — former Merrill Lynch guy, CIA operative, eventually president, but always just another resourceful yet somehow anonymous white establishment dude.

And maybe that’s why no actor has ever managing to make Ryan his own, to stake down the kind of Bond-esque franchise the studios have hoped for. “Clear and Present Danger” was a sequel to “Patriot Games,” but it never really stuck — the two are probably the most forgotten financially successful movies of Harrison Ford’s career.

Yet Hollywood sticks with it, because most of the subsequent wave of bestselling airport thrillers aren’t anywhere close to coming to their big-screen moments — work from guys like Brad Thor, who gives lectures at the Heritage Foundation and is a regular on Glenn Beck’s show, or Vince Flynn (same). Their uber-conservatism (and the attacks of Islamophobia that shadow them) mean that there’s no new generation of thriller writers to provide plausible grist for the blockbuster mill, which shies away from that kind of contentiousness. So Clancy it is.

Speaking of Clancy, here is a retroactively surreal video of him being consulted for (I guess) his “political expertise” on CNN, on 9/11. Don’t watch this if you get easily upset:

[Photos: “The Sum of All Fears,” Paramount, 2002; “Patriot Games,” Paramount, 1992]

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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