Friday, August 31, 2007

Review: Halloween (2007)

Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Sheri Moon Zombie, Tyler Mane, Scout Taylor-Compton, Brad Dourif, Danielle Harris
Director: Rob Zombie

Producer: Malek Akkad, Patrick Esposito, Andy Gould, Andrew G. La Marca, Matthew Stein, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein, Rob Zombie
Release Date: August 31, 2007
Running time: 109 min

MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Dimension Films

“Behind these eyes one finds only blackness, they absence of light, these are of a psychopath.”

The Skinny:
Rob Zombie’s remake, er… re-imagining of the 1978 classic, Halloween.

The Review:
This guy’s got some nerve. Rob Zombie has made all of two movies, then up and decides out of thin air he wants to do a remake - of Halloween no less. Who the hell does he think he is anyway? Sure The Devil’s Rejects was great, but Halloween? The grandfather of all slasher movies? Talk about swinging for the fence. This is more than just a horror movie. This is a remake of arguably the greatest slasher flick of all time, the 9th Halloween movie, and a Rob Zombie movie. There were so many prejudged expectations that it never really had a chance, did it?

By now the story of Halloween is the stuff of horror movie lore. In case you are freshly revived from a time capsule: A 10 year old Michael Myers kills his sister and others on Halloween night. He is committed to a mental institution, Smith’s Grove Sanitarium, under the care of Dr. Samuel Loomis. After not speaking for 15 years, Myers breaks free from the hospital and heads back to his childhood home, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake.

Let me just say this - this ain’t your granddaddy’s Halloween. This is Zombie’s take on the classic, and there are differences. In order to justify the remake, there had to be something new enough to interest me. This movie takes chances, and for the most part - they pay off. If you want a shot by shot rehash of something, go watch Van Sant’s pile of swill Psycho remake. That’s not to say it’s not without its flaws, but overall it worked very, very well.

The main glaring difference is the back story. We are made privy to some of Michael Myers’ history previous to his initial batch of Halloween killings. To dig deeper into the back story is to attempt to gain a better understanding of Myers’ motivations. At first, I was mildly offended by Zombie’s presumptions. Why would you go and ruin a good thing by trying to explain why Michael Myers is the way he is? Wasn’t that one of the reasons the original worked - not knowing why? Absolutely, but as the movie unfolded and we were able to see the rest of the chances Zombie took with the picture, everything found its place and it worked. In the end, the back story gives us the necessary information to almost care that he completes his journey. At the very least it added an additional level of tension not present in the original.

Detractors will protest the amount of violence and blood in the film, crying foul because the original worked so well with so little. Huh? Zombie’s first movie was called House of 1000 Corpses. You can’t rack up that many dead bodies without shedding a little blood. That’s like going on a date with Rachel Ray and complaining because she cooked dinner for you.

There are a lot of great performances here that worked too. Sheri Moon-Zombie shows some unforeseen range as Myers’ stripper mother, Deborah. I loved William Forsythe as Deborah’s abusive boyfriend. Tyler Mane makes for a very imposing adult Myers. And Daeg Faerch as young Michael Myers is without a doubt, the creepiest kid I have seen on film in a long time. One down spot for me was the Dr. Loomis character, played by Malcolm McDowell. I appreciated the concept of further intertwining Myers and Dr. Loomis’ story, but this Loomis came off as a bit egotistical whose motivations were more than simply caging the evil of Myers.

All in all, I loved this movie. It worked for me on many levels. As a horror movie, it is tense and conceptually fresh. As a Halloween movie, it is an original yet respectful reinvention. And as a Rob Zombie movie? The script is sharp and inspired, the music is great, and the performances rose above regular horror movie conventions - it is a worthy tribute that Zombie successfully made his own.

And you get to see a ‘monkey’ selling guns.


The Rub:
This movie is Rob Zombie’s Halloween. It is violent, bloody, and fierce. It is audacious in its concept, arrogant in its confidence, and skillful in its execution. I admire the chances he took, and his presumption to think he could pull it off. There is a fine line between introducing original devices to the story and respecting the material of origin. Zombie walks that line to perfection. While not quite as good as The Devil’s Rejects, this is hands down the best Halloween since the original.

And there’s the rub.

*** 1/2 out of ****

Monday, August 20, 2007

Review: Rush Hour 3

Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker,
Director: Brett Ratner
Producer: Robert Birnbaum, Andrew Z. Davis, Jonathan Glickman, Athur M. Sarkissian, Jay Stern
Release Date: August 10, 2007
Running time: 90 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: New Line Cinema




“If you're half Chinese, I'm half black. I'm your brother and I'm fly. You down with that, Snoopy? That's dope, innit?”

The Skinny:
God help us, it’s the third Rush Hour. Chris and Jackie, sitting in a tree. S-U-C-K-I-N-G…


The Review:
I almost made it. I almost made it all the way through the summer but now the weight has become just too much to bear. Here we are with the umpteenth sequel/threequel and I have but one thought pulsing through my head: For the love of all that is holy, haven’t we had enough already? Tired, unnecessary rehashes of stories we barely cared about the last time around. I don’t mind sequels if they can bring something new to the table but to have the audacity to do pretty much the exact same thing as the previous film is contemptuous and insulting.

In the Socratic dialogue, The Republic, Plato famously tells us that “necessity is the mother of invention.” If that is true, then the counterbalance to that argument must be an exercise in nonessential free will, and Rush Hour 3 must’ve been exactly what they had in mind.

A few years after Rush Hour 2, we rejoin the two main leads in their current jobs. James Carter (Chris Tucker) is directing traffic on the streets of Los Angeles. Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) is now the bodyguard for Ambassador Han, the former Consul from the original Rush Hour. At the World Criminal Court discussions, Ambassador Han addresses the importance of the fight with the Triad, a society of underground Chinese organized crime. During his announcement that he knows the identity of the Triad leadership, an assassination attempt is made on Han’s life when he is shot by a sniper. Later in the hospital, Lee and Carter make a promise to Soo Yung (Han’s now grown daughter) to find and capture the person behind the attack to ensure her fathers safety.

There is nothing in this movie that feels fresh to me. It is essentially one clumsy setup after another to a car chase/fight scene. Lee has a cause that he just “has to go at alone this time” and Carter disrupts any action with smart-ass, unfunny commentary for the sake of hearing his own high-pitched, whiney voice (“Lee this guys on steroids! His head is bigger than Barry Bonds”). We are also treated to the same tired, clich├ęd jokes. Aww look, Carter and Lee get into another lovers quarrel and go their separate ways. Lee orders fried chicken and sweet potato pie from room service and Carter orders Mu Shu Pork from around the corner, unbeknownst to each other. Listen guys, it took me a minute but I get it - you two can be friends despite your cultural differences. I think that after three movies, I have earned the right not to have my nose rubbed in it. Again. We get the same over-choreographed fight scenes that I would describe as more B-grade Three Stooges antics if that didn’t qualify as a compliment. I half-expected Carter or Lee to put a hand straight up on their nose to stop the Triad from poking out their eyes.

For the most part, Jackie Chan movies seem like nothing more than a vehicle for showcasing his martial arts ability. They can be funny and entertaining, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. And it seems like Tucker is just wasting his prime. He hasn’t made a single movie in the last decade except Rush Hour movies. Wow. For someone with such a promising career after Friday, I can’t for the life of me figure out why he has decided to wallow in mediocrity like this. Seriously, how long are we going to milk this cow? Seeing Tucker go on Letterman and tell everyone he can “kick Jackie’s ass”, or Chan on Leno telling everyone he can “sing and dance better than Chris” leaves me feeling exasperated thinking what else they could’ve been doing besides this. The final scene in the movie sums up the whole experience for me. The two stars go dancing into the Paris night and the song “War” pours over the speakers and in one fail swoop, the filmmakers inadvertently but perfectly summarize the whole experience through the lyrics of the song, and no truer words have ever been spoken about the movie: “… what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again, y’all.”


The Rub:
This is a pointless, nonessential, unnecessary, forced, boring slapped together movie from start to finish. A complete waste of Tucker and Chan’s comedic abilities that I can only hope is the cold water in the face that Tucker needs to motivate him to do something different with his potentially excellent career.

And there’s the rub.


* out of ****

Review: Honey, I'm Home

Honey, I'm Home

Writer/Director/Producer: David Branin

Cinematographer/Editor/Producer: Vincent Martinez

Starring: Jacob Magnuson, Karen Worden

Composer: Rudy Mangual




"You'll walk the floor the way I do. Your cheatin' heart will tell on you.” - Hank Williams Jr.

The Skinny:
A short film about that tells the story of infidelity... with a twist.

The Review:
Short films are not only shorter in length, but typically made on the most minimal of budgets. So in order to be worthwhile, they have no choice but to be efficient. This film is exactly that. There seem to be no wasted as each shot serves a purpose to set the mood and the greater good of the story. And talk about shoestring budget; according to their
press page, this film was made for less than $100. In this day in age of multimillion dollar blockbusters and $20-30 million paychecks, it's comforting to know that there are still people out there interested in what makes good movies great. Writing, performances, and directing.

The tagline for the film is “He cheated. She knows.” The filmmakers do a good job at setting the mood right from the beginning with a very captivating piano piece. It’s raining outside and we see a man coming home. He is nervous, fidgety, and he is trying to get his bearings about him before he enters the house. He tucks his shirt in, fixes his tie, takes a deep breath and goes inside. The rest of the film shows him coming to grips with his decisions and attempting to make amends. But wait, there’s a twist. The twist at the end shows the movie in an entirely different light. It takes standard conventions and spins them like a top. The end result is quite funny. It’s like those jokes your grandfather always tells that are funny enough, but so obvious you have no choice but to laugh. That is the exact reaction I had to this movie. During a second viewing, even armed with the knowledge of how the story turned out, I was surprised at how well the story was set up leading up to the twist, and I actually enjoyed it more the second time around.

The Rub:
This is an entertaining and very efficient film that relies on the strength of the writing and the performance of Jacob Magnuson. The direction and editing are tight and together made for a very satisfying experience. It is rare to see a film dealing with a somber subject such as infidelity in such a comedic light.

And there’s the rub.

*** 1/2 out of *****

http://www.myspace.com/honeyimhomethemovie.com

http://www.dreamregimeproductions.com

Friday, August 17, 2007

Review: Superbad

Starring: Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Bill Hader, Seth Rogen
Director: Greg Mottola

Producer: Judd Apatow, Evan Goldberg, Shauna Robertson, Seth Rogen
Release Date: August 17, 2007
Running time: 114 min

MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Columbia Pictures



“The guys either going think 'here's another guy with a fake ID', or ‘here's McLovin, 25 year old Hawaiian organ donor.’”


The Skinny:
Two social retards whose high school status has been riddled with calamity, attempt to change their longstanding losing streak all in one night.


The Review:
I was admittedly a dork in high school. I was by no means unpopular, but socially, at least along the lines of women, I was about as awkward and inept as they come (no pun intended). That is why teen comedies, when done right, kind of strike a cord with me; Fast Times, American Pie, Dazed and Confused, and my all-time favorite, Porky’s. I can identify with the characters’ awkwardness and all too often remember similarly embarrassing moments from my own experiences. They are all funny(ish) now and years later I appreciate them for the impact they had in molding any social ability I have now, but at the time, oy… But who hasn’t been there. I mean, that’s what high school was all about.

We’ve heard the story a thousand times; a couple of misfits attempt to overcome their ineptness by forcing their way into the popular clique via ‘the last party of the year’ to gain that ever eluding social acceptance. Superbad is really no different. Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (the infinitely brilliant Michael Cera) have been friends forever. They do everything together; ride to school, decide which porn site they are going to subscribe to, and why. They had always planned on going to the same college, but on the eve of their graduating high school, they are wrestling with the realization that things may not end up as they had planned. Evan has been accepted to Dartmouth and Seth, who wasn’t, will probably end up in state college. During this process of revelation, they are also reflecting on how pathetic their high school social experience has been. They each have an object of affection, but for distinctly and morally separate reasons; they have yet to act on them. In Home Economics class, Seth is partnered with his ‘White Whale’, Julie; during which time he is invited to her house party later that night. As if by fate, their friend Fogell (newcomer Christopher Mintz-Plasse) bursts into their class to tell them he is picking up his fake ID during lunch. He is invited to the party also, provided he can supply the alcohol by way of his new fake. Seth tells Julie that he has the fake ID and that he can get all the alcohol for the party. He gets money, creates a beverage list and things are set for the night they boys have been waiting for. They finally catch up with Fogell, who shows them his new ID. Great, only it shows him as hailing from Hawaii. And being 25. And graced with the name ‘McLovin’. Seth and Evan verbally abuse Fogell for what they see as a huge misstep. He doesn’t look anywhere near 25 or Hawaiian. Then of course there’s the issue of the name. They agree to try it, after a failed attempt by Seth to steal the alcohol. At the end of the sale, McLovin is assaulted during a robbery, Seth is hit by a car in the parking lot and fearing the worst, they end up splitting up for the better part of the rest of the movie. During the rest of their evening, Seth and Evan end up at another party on route to their women and McLovin spends the evening with the two cops who responded to the robbery, seemingly unaware that he is underage
.

The movie is raunchy. The dialogue is spot on and filthy as all get out. Not purely as a shock device, but that’s just the way they talk. Hell, that’s the way me and my friends talk. There is a realism in their speaking that just hits it right. Like all of those movies this one aspires to be, Superbad just ‘gets it’. You relate to Seth and Evan because you were either just like them in high school, or not that far removed from people just like them. It is also hysterical in that it is relatable material. Not that I’ve ever had a “Merlot spot” on my pants before, but the situations they get into, while outlandish, are not that far from the scope of possibility (aside from the cops). Hands down, the best part of the movie is McLovin. This guy, in his first movie, gets it perfect. His whininess, his geeky demeanor, his wannabe gangster attitude, everything. He wants to be everything his new moniker is supposed to embody, and comes damn close. He reminds me of DJ Qualls in Road Trip, in that he IS that geeky kid we all knew and hits every note just so. Only McLovin is a thousand times better and in my opinion, is an instant classic teen movie character.

The two cops McLovin (I just love typing the name) ends up with for the night, Officer Slater (Bill Hader) and Officer Michaels (Seth Rogen) are the only down point of the movie. Both are capable of much more, but here end up being more of a distraction than anything. Hader can be much funnier, even as recently as this month in Hot Rod. Hell, he’s been funnier than this at his worst on SNL. And somehow Rogen ends up being the best and worst part of the movie. As co-writer, his script is top shelf materiel. The dialogue is sharp, raunchy, and hilarious, but his character is dopey and irrelevant. I would have much rather he not wasted his talent on this role. All that being said, this movie actually lives up to what it has been heralded to be; an instant ‘R’ rated teen movie classic.

The Rub:
This movie lives up to the hype. The dialogue is raunchy and filthy and hilarious. But more than just being boorish, it is real. This is really how high school kids (read: my group of friends) talk. It isn’t perfect and it wasn’t two hours of non-stop laughter, but when it works, it is as good as any other movie of its kind. Even when it doesn’t, it’s still better than most of the imitations made to cash in on the good ones. It was a little long, but nothing that will take you away from the overall experience. Now we need only to brace ourselves for the wave of second-rate clones that is no doubt assembling as we speak, ready to insult us with their inferiority.

And there's the rub.


*** out of ****

Monday, August 13, 2007

Review: Sunshine

Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Michelle Yeoh
Director: Danny Boyle

Producer: Andrew Macdonald
Release Date: July 20, 2007
Running time: 108 min

MPAA Rating: R
Distributors: Fox Searchlight Pictures




“Only dream I ever have... is the surface of the sun... everytime I shut my eyes... it's always the same.”

The Skinny:
50 years into the future, the Sun is burning out, causing the Earth to enter an ice age. The crew of the spacecraft, Icarus II, is sent to basically re-ignite the Sun.


The Review:
That Danny Boyle can sure make a mean movie. Not only can he make a great movie, but he doesn’t stick with one type of movie. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but to cover so many different genres like he has in such a short amount of time (just over a decade) and have them all be as relevant as they are, that is just plain impressive. Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Millions; even if you sprinkle a few bombs in there, these five movies alone make for one hell of a resume. Well you can add this one to that list.

Sunshine takes place 50 years into the future. The year is 2057 and the Sun is burning out, causing the Earth to enter an ice age. As Earth’s last ditch effort, the Icarus II and its crew of eight are dispatched to plant a bomb that will basically re-ignite the sun, thus saving humankind. The films explanation of this is far more technically superior than I have just done, but that is the basic idea. While passing the planet Mercury, the crew discovers the distress beacon of Icarus I (the first attempt at such a mission). Since all of Earth’s nuclear materials have been mined for the two Icarus ships, this is the last shot. It has been seven years since contact with Icarus I was lost. The crews physicist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) is burdened with the decision to either continue on course to complete their mission, or attempt to find and meet up with Icarus I to acquire another potential payload, essentially giving them two possible chances. Calculating their theoretical success, he decides the best course of action is to attempt a rendezvous with the Icarus I. The crew is split on this decision and the tension builds from here. There are a lot of other things that happen during the mission, and I don’t want to give anything away, but there are deaths and the film gets increasingly ominous as it progresses and there is a curveball in the last 30 minutes that will come out of nowhere and without warning. It worked - for me at least.

According to IMDb.com, there are only 9 people credited as starring in the movie (with the exception of the three people in the last shot), and there was barely any marketing for the movie, so all of the money in the budget must’ve went to the effects. And it shows. This is a beautifully shot film. The scenes outside the Icarus were so expansive; it gave you a real feeling of contrast by illustrating the sheer scope of the project. Good science fiction movies like this one will make you think. It is science fiction, so there has to be a certain suspension of disbelief when watching, but it has to be remotely believable. After seeing this movie, I had a discussion about the movie with the friend who saw it with me. He brought up a good point. A lot of thought went into writing the movie to make the science behind it sound real and technical without trying to make the audience feel stupid for not being able to keep up.

And how about that writing? This is a movie set in space with a lot of tension and weird shit that happens along the way, so obvious comparisons will be (and have been) drawn to Alien and Event Horizon and 2001; all very, very good films that any movie would love to be compared to. What works most for me is that there isn’t a lot of wasted time in the movie. The setup took a bit to get going, but once it did, they really were quite efficient at telling the story and pacing it in such a way that there isn’t a lot of down time. As far as the ending goes, I have read a lot of complaints about the last 30 minutes of the movie (I wont spoil anything, so keep reading). I agree it comes from out of nowhere and kind of threw me for a loop, but in the end, I think it added to the whole list of things the remaining crew had to worry about - like they really needed any more - and it worked. It almost didn’t, but it worked. That’s what I like most about Boyle’s films; the fact that they are a little off-kilter. He takes ordinary conventions used in movies and kicks them a little off balance to make them his own. Whether it is a tale of heroin addicts, zombies, child’s morality, or scientists trying to save the world, there is a certain familiarity in the themes represented in his work: greed, indulgence, and the human response to overwhelming situations. Sunshine fits the bill on all counts. And I can’t wait to see what he does next.


The Rub:
A very good, almost brilliant movie. The beginning was a bit slow going, and the ending worked - barely - even if it came from left field. A beautifully shot movie that is definitely one to see in the theatre. And there’s the rub.


*** out of ****

Review: Hot Rod

Starring: Andy Samberg, Isla Fisher, Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, Danny R. McBride, Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane
Director: Akiva Shaffer
Producer: John Goldwyn, Lorne Michaels
Release Date: August 3, 2007
Running time: 88 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: Paramount Pictures





“I used to be legit. I was too legit. I was too legit to quit. But now I'm not legit. I'm unlegit. And for that, I must quit.”

The Skinny:
A (very) amateur stuntman attempts a stunt where he jumps 15 buses on his moped. He hopes to raise enough money to get his step-father a heart transplant, so he can be health enough again to “uncork the ass-beating of a lifetime” on him and finally gain his respect.

The Review:
Saturday Night Live is a machine. Like any machine that has been running for 32 years, it doesn’t always work, and the quality can be inconsistent, but for better or worse, it has become quite the institution. I stopped watching ages ago, but they sure keep grinding it out don’t they? We’ve seen sketches turned into feature-length movies; from the good (Blues Brothers, Wayne’s World), to the bad (Night at the Roxbury, Superstar) to the utterly atrocious (It’s Pat, Ladies Man). In the infancy of their careers, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing some real talent come from the halls of 30 Rock, and on to more fruitful ventures. On the other side of that coin, we’ve also seen some of the most inexplicable displays of ‘talent’ attempt to cash in on their resume and fail miserably. So when movies like this come along, I typically take them with a grain of salt. In this case, I think my tepid expectation may have actually added to my enjoyment of the movie.

The premise sounds like yet another SNL sketch forced to feature length. The movie opens with Rod Kimble (Andy Samberg), an amateur stuntman who believes his real father to have been a famous stuntman who worked with Evil Knievel, and his crew spending their days setting up a series of jumps for Rod to attempt on his moped. His crew consists of Dave (Bill Hader), the mechanic, Rico (Danny R. McBride), the ramp builder, and Kevin (Jorma Taccone), the step-brother and videographer. In the beginning, Rod attempts to jump a mail truck positioned between two makeshift wooden ramps. Before he starts, he asks his crew if they had time to reinforce the ramp. They respond, obviously, that no, they didn’t have time. He tries it anyway and flies smack into the top of the truck and the landing ramp. Undeterred by this failure, he promotes a stunt the very next day where he plans to jump the local pool. This also fails. Spectacularly.

On the home front, Rod arrives home daily to suit up for a series of gladiator-type battles with his step-father Frank (Ian McShane) in an attempt to win his respect. His step-brother Kevin tries to stop him but Rod says, “You’re his real son, so he automatically loves you. I have to earn it.” So off he goes to get his ass handed to him again. After the failed pool jump, Rod returns home to learn that Frank is in need of a heart transplant that will cost $50,000 out of pocket. This angers Rod. Not so much because of the severity of the situation, but that he will never get the chance to beat Frank in hand-to-hand combat. After going to his “happy place” (a very hilarious scene with Rod in the forest apparently training and “air punching out his aggression”) he decides that he will set up a stunt wherein he will attempt to jump 15 buses and promote the event with all the proceeds going to pay for Frank’s operation. So he can keep him alive, bring him back to full strength, and try his hand at, well, beating him to death.

Let me go on record as saying with the right projects, Andy Samberg has the potential to have a long and prosperous film career. In lesser hands, this movie could have been a disaster, but what makes it work is the honesty of Rod’s character. Rod is a man happy with simple pleasures, but he is not stupid. Samberg wisely chose not to play it up for cheesiness or cheap laughs. Yes, there are cheesy moments and cheap laughs abound, but there is sincerity in the character that makes it work. The supporting cast is also played to just the right tone as well. There isn’t a Stifler-type character that is trying to break out and be noticed. Everyone just does their part, and does it well while staying mindful of the structure of the film. My favorite parts of the movie are between Rod and Frank. Whether they are fighting or Rod is trying to talk to him to get a glimpse of the respect he almost painfully desires, it always turns into Rod finding various ways to threaten Frank’s life. Even as he lies on his death bed. Another wise move by the filmmakers was not to overdo the emotion and weigh down the picture with sappy sentiment. Again, it plays to just the right tone. And the 80’s-style soundtrack that fills the movie is just icing on the cake.

The Rub:
This movie is much funnier than I expected. A fairly textbook comedy that works because it cares about the characters. It is cheesy but sincere, over-the-top, but not overplayed, and a great vehicle to, what hopes to be, a promising career from star Andy Samberg. And there’s the rub.


*** out of ****

Monday, August 6, 2007

Review: The Bourne Ultimatum

Starring: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, Joan Allen
Director: Paul Greengrass

Producer: Patrick Crowley, Frank Marshall, Paul L. Sandberg, Doug Liman
Release Date: August 3, 2007
Running time: 111 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: Universal Pictures


“If you were in your office right now we'd be having this conversation face-to-face.” (zing!)

The Skinny:
The final chapter in the Bourne trilogy. Hopefully.


The Review:
Every now and then I have this dream. In it, I am my current age and I wake up and find myself in the halls of my high school (of which I am 13 years removed). I continue to make my way through the hallways making my way towards my locker. Everyone around me is how I remember them in high school and they don’t even notice that I am in my early thirties. The only thing running through my mind is an increasing feeling of anxiety as I get closer to my locker because I can’t remember my combination. For some reason I think that if I can’t figure it out or have to go to the principal’s office to get it, they’ll figure out how old I am and that I am not supposed to be there. But every time I get to the locker, I get the combination right. It doesn’t seem familiar to me as I am trying the lock, but I get it open first try - every time. Weird, but true. I have no clue what it means, if anything, but as I sat down to write this review that dream popped into my head and ended up being the best way to summarize how I felt watching the movie.

The movie picks up right where the last one left off. Literally. After the car crash in Moscow at the end of Supremacy, we rejoin Bourne as he evades police then goes to Paris to tell Marie’s brother that she is dead. During this time, he reads an article about himself in the Guardian Newspaper and heads to London to track down the writer, Rimon Ross, and find out who his source is. He meets up with Ross at Waterloo station and learns of Blackbriar, formerly Treadstone (the top-secret CIA program that basically ‘created’ Jason Bourne). During this meeting, Bourne gives a clinic on surveillance evasion by guiding Ross via cell phone through/around numerous cameras and CIA converging on the station. He finds out the source, gets away from an asset (Blackbriar assassin) sent to kill him and Ross, and he’s off to Madrid to track down his source. And so on and so forth.

This movie is essentially two hours of Bourne running. Away from CIA trying to kill him and towards what he hopes are answers about his identity. In the end, that is pretty much what the whole trilogy is about - Bourne trying to find out who he is and kicking everyone’s ass that gets in his way. The action in this movie doesn’t disappoint. There are two scenes in particular that stick out in my mind. There is a car chase scene is pretty intense. I haven’t seen many that look this seamless or exciting, even if it was a bit long and overdone. I had the same complaint about the chase scenes in Supremacy. How many shots do we need from inside the car where we see an incoming car smash into Bourne’s vehicle and watch his head shake back and forth? Impressive the first few times I saw it, but overused. Like that friend of yours that still quotes Old School - it was funny the first hundred times we heard it, but, we get it, let’s move on.

The real tour de force of the movie was the sequence in Tangier where Bourne is tracking Desh, an asset sent to kill his source, then him and Nicky (a CIA agent and former Treadstone contact who offers to help Bourne). There is about a 10-15 minute stretch where there is virtually no dialogue; just straight action and a chase on foot. We see Bourne hopping from building to building tracking Desh before he has a chance to kill Nicky with intermittent cuts back and forth between Bourne, Nicky, and Desh. The climax of the sequence is the confrontation between Desh and Bourne that is hands down, the best fight sequence of the trilogy. The most impressive part is, like I said, there is no dialogue at all and the suspense is basically created out of thin air through the editing and camera work. It works on all levels and I wished there had been more direction like this in the movie. I would recommend the movie solely on the integrity of this sequence alone. Absolutely amazing filmmaking.

I liked Identity, and loved Supremacy but Ultimatum, sadly, sort of let me down. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is a bad movie, by any stretch of the imagination. Supremacy was so far and above Identity that I guess I was spoiled into thinking this would be an improvement to the same degree. Instead it felt more like The Bourne Supremacy, Part II. There is a scene in the movie that is directly taken from the end of Supremacy (where Bourne is calling Landy and tells her to “Get some sleep. You look tired”). Wait, what? Didn’t we already see that once? If it was an attempt to be clever by tying the two films together, it didn’t work. Clever for the sake of clever is weak, tired writing. And if that last scene in Supremacy was supposed to prelude to Ultimatum, the jump into the middle of its sequel didn’t make any sense to me. Again, clever for the sake of clever kind of feels like cheating. The ultimate answer to the question of the series, ‘Who is Jason Bourne?’ was, well, sufficient, if not a little awkward and a bit forced. I don’t know what ending I would have accepted more, but the solution presented didn’t work all that much for me, but it’ll do. Just like in my dream, I was anxious of what was to coming but in the end, there weren't too many things to get worked up about because I'd been there before. Many times.


The Rub:
I really wanted to like this movie more than I did. By no means is it a bad movie; it just feels too much like we’ve been down this road before. A tidy ‘end’ to a very good trilogy that I didn’t expect much from when it first started. And there’s the rub.

** 1/2 out of ****