FlixChatter Review: Jason Bourne (2016)

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As a fan of the Bourne trilogy, I was dismayed when in 2012, Universal went ahead with the sequel (Bourne Legacy) without Matt Damon. That fact perhaps made me more excited to see Damon teamed up again with director Paul Greengrass for a fifth (well, technically fourth) entry. I guess it’s inevitable that a franchise as lucrative as Bourne will keep on going and going like the Energizer bunny, it’s essentially the American version of James Bond.

This movie starts out about eight years after the events that took place in Bourne Ultimatum, where Bourne exposed CIA’s covert ops Blackfriar. As a result he’s been hiding out in Greece, and apparently does bare-knuckle boxing in his spare time. Whilst the previous three films followed Bourne on a journey to find out who he really is, this time around he’s aware of his identity. He knows his real name is David Webb and became the lethal assassin that is Jason Bourne when he joined Treadstone. But of course there are new revelations about his past that the CIA’s been keeping from him, and later we find out the matter is quite a personal one.
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Intense secrecy and not knowing who to trust is at the heart of any spy thriller and that’s the case here. There are obvious antagonists, CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) and his henchman known only as The Asset (Vincent Cassel), but there’s Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) who heads the Cyber Ops Division who’s sort of in the gray area. On Bourne side is his longtime ally Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles), who risks herself retrieving classified files about Bourne’s late father.

Now, one major beef I have with this movie is how they handled Nicky. I feel that for someone who’s been with the franchise for that long, the writers (Greengrass & Christopher Rouse) should’ve given her a much better character arc. Heck, I’d love to see just a bit of background to her character that would at least explain why she’s loyal to Bourne. I mean, they did so with The Asset, which explains his personal vendetta against Bourne. At the very least, why not give her the same courtesy?

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But what I did like is that like in previous films, Bourne is given an adversary worthy of his prowess. Jones’ Dewey is ruthless in his pursuit to eliminate him and Cassel is one menacing guy who makes The Asset a formidable foe for Bourne. Dewey’s ruthlessness isn’t just concerning Bourne, but the fact that he’s willing to sacrifice his own people, as well as civilians at large, in order to fulfill his purposes. The film also delves into the state of current tech and geopolitical climate and woven it into the plot. Things like privacy, hacking, the political instability in Greece, etc. are certainly timely things we deal with in our world today. So the subplot involving a social media program called Deep Dream is pretty relevant, and British actor Riz Ahmed is quite memorable here playing its founder.

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The movie is basically a giant chase scene. There’s not much breathing room because of the way Greengrass shot every scene. Even the mundane office scenes are shot in a frenetic style with hand-held camera that gave me a bit of a headache at first. But thankfully after a while I was able to overcome it and it didn’t bother me as much, though I still think it’s a bit excessive.

Going into a Bourne movie, of course you expect a ton of exhilarating action sequences, and this movie delivered! The motorcycle scene through narrow streets, scaling up and down steps through a Greek city gives you such a huge adrenaline rush. But that’s nothing compared to the crazy car chase in the Vegas strip involving a SWAT truck plowing through a bunch of cars. It certainly isn’t aiming for realism, but boy was it fun! Apparently the sequence took five weeks to shoot and ended up wrecking 170 cars.

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Those wanting to see hand-to-hand combat won’t be disappointed though. There’s an extended scene of Bourne vs. The Asset that’s pretty darn intense. I noticed there’s no music going on during that scene, only the sound of bone crunching and flesh tearing to enhance the impact. Damon’s definitely still got it, Bourne is certainly one of my favorite roles of his. At 45 he’s looking more grizzled with bags under his eyes, but he pulls off the physically-demanding role once again. But of course like Bond, Bourne’s got stamina of super-heroic proportion and seems to be impervious to pain.

The finale suggests the strained relationship between Bourne & the Agency remains unchanged. Of course there wouldn’t be a Bourne franchise if the hero’s suddenly in good terms with a big, powerful organization notorious for overreaching its boundaries. Vikander acquits herself well here as the new face who might be present in future installments, and I have no problem with that.

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I think there’s nostalgic elements here that affect my enjoyment. I love that the Moby song Extreme Ways is still used, it’s certainly the defining theme for the franchise. On the whole I think Jason Bourne is on par with the trilogy even if it isn’t as impactful. It could be because the mystery surrounding his identity is no longer there, which was the secret ingredient that makes Bourne’s journey so intriguing. That said, it’s certainly still an enjoyable action thriller because I’m a big fan of this character and Damon playing him. Unlike Bond though, it remains to be seen if this franchise can have as much longevity without Greengrass and Damon.

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Have you seen ‘Jason Bourne’? I’d love to hear what you think!

TCFF Day 7: Review of ‘Silver Linings Playbook’

There has been quite a lot of buzz around this movie, so I’m thrilled that it’s showing at TCFF about a month before its wide release! As I’ve mentioned on this post, this movie has won the coveted People’s Choice Award at TIFF and there’s been some Oscar buzz on Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, deservedly so.

This dramedy is written and directed by David O. Russell, his first film since his Oscar-nominated The Fighter, adapted from a novel of the same name by Matthew Quick. Instead of his usual muse Mark Wahlberg, we’ve got Bradley Cooper as former teacher Pat Solitano, who’s coming home from an 8-month stint at a mental institution and moving back with his parents. He refuses to take his medication, which no doubts creates some issues for his parents, such as waking them up in the wee hours complaining about the bleak plot of an Ernest Hemingway book, amongst others. Pat’s bipolar meltdowns are done in a delicate mix of pathos and hilarity that makes you laugh as well as sympathize for him. He still pines for his wife Nikki who has left him after he nearly beat her lover to death when he found them making love in the shower.

At home, things aren’t so simple for Pat either, especially in regards to his dad’s obsessions with the Philadelphia Eagles and how the extremely superstitious Pat Sr. thinks his son brings good luck if he watches the game with him. I tell you, I think he’s perhaps more of a nutjob that his son! But all Pat wants to do is reconcile with Nikki. One of the ways to get to her is through Nikki’s friend Veronica (nice to see Julia Stiles again albeit in a small role), and during dinner, he ends up meeting Veronica’s sister Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl who’s recently lost her husband in a car accident. Life takes an unexpected turn for both Pat and Tiffany, who initially has their own agenda for befriending each other. It’s apparent that they’re drawn to each other and the loss of their spouses makes them able to relate to one another more than they otherwise would, even if on the surface they bicker like cats and dogs.

The eccentric family dynamics remind me of those in The Fighter, Russell has a keen eye to frame these kinds of scenes and he’s also got the skill to get the best from his actors. The Solitanos are played by thespians Robert De Niro and Aussie Jacki Weaver, who nabbed an Oscar nomination for Animal Kingdom a few years back. The scenes between all three of them are mostly comical, though there are times where it got very intense during Pat’s mental breakdown. There’s also a hugely heart-wrenching scene between DeNiro and Cooper that showcase one of De Niro’s best performances in years.

The stars of the film are definitely Cooper and Lawrence here, especially the latter. I have to admit I’m not usually fond of pretty boy Cooper, but he’s made up to look very plain here and shows that he’s got some dramatic chops. He’s certainly come a long way from his TV days in Alias. I’ve always loved Lawrence, and her scene-stealing turn here makes me like her tenfold in this movie. Her screen charisma is undeniable, at only 22 she has the maturity and panache of an actress twice her age. The supporting cast is excellent all around, Julia Stiles, John Ortiz, and Anupam Kher as Pat’s therapist are all wonderful in their roles. There’s also Chris Tucker, who made a come back of sort as his last movie Rush Hour 3 was 5 years ago. He’s still the comic relief but though he still talks pretty fast, his role is a bit different from the typical irritating wisecracks we often see him play.

This is definitely a comedy with a heart, the laugh-out-loud parts are well-balanced with the some profoundly moving scenes. The dancing parts are a lot of fun to watch as well, that was a pleasant surprise for me as I had no idea it was integral to the plot. What I like most is the theme of finding a ‘silver lining’ no matter how dire you life is, it’s an uplifting message that any of us could relate to in one way or another.

I agree with my TCFF blogger friend June that this one is a ‘dark comedy with true heart strings.’ It’s nice that an all-star cast actually delivers, I think fans of any of the actors here won’t be disappointed. Silver Linings Playbook definitely lives up to the hype, easily one of the highlights of TCFF for me so far.

4.5 out of 5 reels


Also check out June’s review of MN Shorts: The Darker Side


Thoughts on this film and/or any of the actors?

TCFF Day 2 Continued: Reviews of ‘It’s A Disaster’ & ‘Bro’

It’s been a ton of fun watching more than 1 movie a day on the big screen. Thanks to TCFF, October is surely going to be my best movie-going month this year! Before I go to the reviews, I just want to say the film fest is going really well, nice to see the ShowPlace ICON Theatres abuzz with people coming and going all day long. Just want to give a shout out to Ingrid Moss, TCFF’s social media director for continuing to get the buzz out, and Lee Jordan and Don Stoltz who did a great job coordinating all the volunteers, and Lee actually doubles as a merchandise sales guy. You go guys!!

TCFF has a big red carpet area right next to the ticketing booth, and my blog friends and I couldn’t help posing in front of it 🙂

Ok, on to the reviews:

It’s A Disaster

I knew I wanted to see this movie as soon as I saw Julia Stiles‘ name in the cast, and the premise sounds like a good recipe for an oddball comedy. Set in a suburban house in California, the story centers on four couples who meet periodically for Sunday brunch. It seems like a ‘normal’ group thing, that is until they soon discover that the world may be about to end and they’re stuck in a house together.

You could call this a relationship comedy as we meet a bunch of quirky (read: crazy) characters all gather in one room together trying to attempt a civil brunch together. Stiles plays a doctor who’s bringing history teacher Glen (David Cross) on their third date to meet her friends.  The hosts are married couple Emma (Erinn Hayes) + Pete (Blaise Miller), and the guests are free-spirited married couple Lexi (Rachel Boston) + Buck (Nic Cage-lookalike Kevin M. Brennan), and the long-engaged Hedy (America Ferrera) + the alien conspiracy-obsessed Shane (Jeff Grace).

I think the less you know about the plot the better, as the joy is in discovering just what in the world is going on with each character. Most of the couples know each other for some time—Glen is the only ‘outsider’ if you will— but all of them create a bizarre dynamics that makes you wonder just how could they survive a brunch like this without killing each other in the end!

Todd Berger assembled a pretty good cast and arm them with sharp dialog filled with off-the-wall dry humor. He also has a cameo as the neighbor in the biohazard suit and his appearance is one of the funniest parts of the movie. The comedy isn’t slapstick or forced, I mean the situation themselves just lend to thigh-slapping laughter. These couples are so absorbed in their own universe that they’re so blatantly oblivious of what’s happening all around them, and even when they do find out, the way each of them cope with it is just hilarious. I think the sharp script and the dead-pan delivery is key here, and despite it being set in just one house the entire time, it doesn’t feel at all boring. The feeling of claustrophobia and isolation is intentional however, and it just adds to the whole zaniness of the whole thing.

Beneath all that craziness though, there are some moments of poignancy, even something a bit profound, that life is short and one really can’t take things for granted. It definitely makes you think that when doomsday looms, just what would you do with your last few hours of your life, and what’d happen to the relationship between you and whoever you happen to be stuck with in that given moment.

4 out of 5 reels


It’s a Disaster is playing again at TCFF this Wednesday Oct 17 at 9:15pm
Get your tickets now »


BRO

Bro was okay as far as movies go, but for it being the director Nick Parada’s first major film, it was pretty solid. For me, the cinematography was the shining attribute, then came the story.

The narrative falls almost into a Trainspotting formula, where people get involved with the wrong crowd, get in over their head, hit rock bottom, but ultimately they are able to regroup and learn valuable life lessons from their own mistakes. Instead of it being centered around English youth, it takes place in the Motocross subculture, where Cocaine, sex, and alcohol are the drugs of choice.

This is similar to movies like the ones in the Step Up series, where the acting and story aren’t as valued as the the athletic performances. Danny Trejo does have a minor role, but Beau Manley, a professional motocross racer, was the most interesting as far as actors go. The movie comes out for home viewing in December, and I was told that the deleted scenes and interviews that are included on the disc are worth a watch.

Maybe too many expletives were used, and the rhythm that the lines were delivered felt, well, like lines being delivered. Some of the scenes felt extraneous but all in all, this felt like a first attempt at directing and acting – but not unsuccessful by any means.

– review by Emery Thoresen

2 out of 5 reels


Read what fellow TCFF blogger June Neely thought of It’s A Disaster


What are your thoughts on either one of these films?

Counting Down to TCFF! The Films I Can’t Wait to See

TCFF is just four days away and I’ve finalized the movies I’ll be watching during the 9-day film fest. I’m just thrilled that there’s quite an eclectic lineup we’ve got this year, practically there’s something from every genre. I’ve blogged about some of them on this post, but below is my full schedule of what I’ll be watching.

Before we get to that though, here’s TCFF’s Preview Video with our hosts Amanda Day & Joe Kessler.

The perk of blogging for the film fest is that I could watch as many films as I could (yay!). Of course it’d still not be possible for me to see every single film, but heck I’m certainly going to try to see at least a dozen films or more if I could help it. This year, I’m also getting some blogging help from fellow Twin Citians (I actually never ever use that term before but seems kinda appropriate here, ahah): June from Girl Producer blog and Emery, a U of M Film Student and aspiring film reviewer. So expect to see TCFF movie reviews from all three of us starting this weekend.

So here are the list of films I can’t wait to see:


Full Film Schedule & Trailers at TCFF Official Site


Friday – October 12
A PLACE AT THE TABLE

This important documentary narrated by Jeff Bridges shines a light on the 30% of American families that don’t know where their next meal is coming from, there are plenty of other compelling docs playing at the film fest. I’ll be highlighting those later this week.


Saturday – October 13
IT’S A DISASTER

I like Julia Stiles, and I always think she should get more leading roles! Well, she’s got a starring role in this quirky apocalypse comedy, along with David Cross and America Ferrera.  Directed by actor/director Todd Berger (The Scenesters). Here’s a clip from the movie:


Sunday –  October 14
QUARTET

I just re-watched the trailer again and I’m even more excited about it now. Dustin Hoffman in his directorial debut has assembled quite a cast (Maggie Smith, Billy Connelly, Michael Gambon, etc.) in what looks like a delightful comedy about retired Opera singers. Sponsored by The Minnesota Opera.
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Monday –  October 15
FINDING HOME

This character-driven drama was shot in just 10 days in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Check out the promo for Minnesota films:


Tuesday – October 16
THE SESSIONS

Normally I wouldn’t think of someone being paralyzed from polio as being funny, yet somehow director Ben Lewin seems to have crafted a heartwarming comedy on that topic. The cast is a winner, I’ve always loved William H. Macy and he’s poised to be the scene-stealer here. John Hawkes is one of those instantly-likable actor, plus it’s been a while since I saw Helen Hunt in anything. Check out the trailer if you haven’t already.


Wednesday – October 17
NOBODY WALKS

I actually saw this trailer before I saw it on TCFF schedule, and I’m intrigued by the story. I’ve been hearing Olivia Thirlby‘s name being mentioned a lot lately as she starred in Dredd 3D, but this looks like a very different role for her. The cast includes John Krasinski and Rosemary DeWitt.



Thursday – October 18
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

I’ve mentioned in the lineup post that this film won Audience Award at TIFF. Well, this past week it just received another similar prize at Hamptons International Film Festival Awards. I’m normally not a Bradley Cooper fan but I’m prepared for him to change my mind. I do love Jennifer Lawrence and she’s perhaps poised to get another Oscar nom on this one.


Friday – October 19
NOT FADE AWAY

Feature film debut from the creator of The Sopranos David Chase. Set in suburban New Jersey the 1960s, a group of friends form a rock band and try to make it big. James Gandolfini also stars in the film.

A LATE QUARTET

This is one of those films you watch just for the cast. I mean, check this out, Christopher Walken AND Philip Seymour Hoffman, plus the excellent Catherine Keener in a string quartet where one of the member receives a life changing diagnosis which threatens the unity of the group. So there are TWO music-themed films with ‘quartet’ in the title that I’m looking forward to playing at TCFF! 🙂


Saturday – October 20
THE STORY OF LUKE

27 year-old Lou Taylor Pucci has got over two dozen films under his belt, yet I haven’t seen a single one yet. Well this will be the first then. He stars as a young man with autism who’s breaking free from the shelter of his grandparents and go on a quest for a job and true love. Also starring Seth Green and Cary Elwes.

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LUMPY

We don’t get a lot of films being filmed here in Minnesota, so it’s always nice to see it when that happens. Directed by a Minnesota- born director Ted Koland in his first feature film. It stars Justin Long and Jessica Weixler in story about a pair of newlyweds who has to bring their best man Lumpy’s body back to Minnesota for burial and what happens as friends try to reconnect with people who were in the dead guy’s life.


October is going to be the best movie-watching month for me. If you live in the area, I hope you’ll make time to check out TCFF!

What do you think of these movies, folks, which one(s) interest you most?

DVD Spotlight: 10 Things I Hate About You

10ThingsPosterI saw this movie not too long ago, roughly around the time of Heath Ledger’s passing. I’ve always been curious about this movie but his phenomenal performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight compelled me to see it even more. It’s been more than a decade since 10 Things I Hate About You hit theaters, and its 10th Anniversary DVD has just been released.

Film Summary (per IMDb):

Updated version of William Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew”, set at the fictional Padua High School in Tacoma where a new transfer student, Cameron (Gordon-Levitt), is interested in the popular sophomore Bianca Stratford. But Bianca’s overprotective and domineering father forbids Bianca to date unless her older sister Katerina (Stiles), an unpopular and hostile senior, does. In a bid to get Katerina a boyfriend, Cameron sets up a plan to have the school stud, Joey Donnar, bribe Patrick Verona (Ledger), an outcast senior with a rumor-filled past, to take the volatile Katerina out on dates so he can go to the school’s homecoming dance with Bianca. However, neither Pat or Kat expect their ‘going steady’ to lead where nobody expects it to.

This marching band scene is one of my favorite parts of the movie where Patrick sings “Can’t take my eyes off of you” to Kat. I forgot how good Heath’s singing voice was, he should’ve been on my list of actors who’re surprisingly good singers.
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Watching clips of this makes me feel nostalgic about Heath. He truly was one of the best actors of his generation with so much potential. His performance here was top notch, truth be told, I don’t think this movie would’ve worked as well as it did without him. Rob Pattinson’s sullen & angst-ridden Edward in Twilight might’ve taken some cue from mysteriously intriguing Patrick Verona, alas R-Patz could barely match Ledger’s charisma, sparkly torso notwithstanding.

Surely the late young Aussie thespian was the star of the film, but Julia Stiles delivered a superb performance as well. She and Ledger played off each other well and their eventual attraction was believable and wonderful to watch. I haven’t seen her in much of anything of late besides the Bourne series, which is too bad because she’s a darn good actress. According to IMDb, one of her projects in development is The Bell Jar, which is novelist/poet Sylvia Plath’s only novel. I remember Gerry Butler mentioned Stiles a few years back during the Red Eye movie premiere when discussing the elusive Burns biopic. Apparently Butler was keen on her being involved in the movie, as one of the bard’s women Jean Armour perhaps?

Anyway, it’s tough to find a teen comedy that’s not corny or obtuse, but director Gil Junger (who does mostly TV sitcoms work) managed to make one that has a universal and remarkably timeless appeal. The script is full of wicked dialog that’s both funny and touching. If you haven’t seen it, don’t be put off by the teen comedy genre, this isn’t Clueless or American Pie (shudder), as Ledger’s charismatic bad-boy portrayal, as well as strong performances from Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, truly made this one worth seeing. Interesting that a decade later, both Ledger and Levitt would be part of the mega blockbuster that is Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

I might even rent this one again if only to see the featurette aptly named 10 Things I Love About 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU: 10 Years Later and the sneak peek of Heath Ledger’s screen test.


Have you seen this film? What did you think?