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Movie Breakdown – The Bourne Legacy (Noah)

August 10, 2012

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Though I can’t say it bodes well for the increasingly depressing state of modern big budget, the fourth film in the Jason Bourne series averts some fears with the casting of franchise hero Jeremy Renner and the presence of series writer (and talented director in his own right) Tony Gilroy behind the camera.

The Reality:

The Bourne Legacy is the starter gun for a race that’s already been run, a strange, tempo-less sidestep for a franchise that could’ve just been left alone. I love the Jason Bourne series, love Doug Liman’s cold, action-packed opener, and adore the two gritty, politico-actioneers that Paul Greengrass helmed. There’s only one reason for The Bourne Legacy – cold hard cash for all involved. The film isn’t bad, not at all, it’s a well-filmed, decently acted action flick that is leagues above most shit currently floating in the old Hollywood pool, but there’s no reason for its existence.

The Bourne of any Bourne film that has any real value seemingly disappeared in the closing moments of The Bourne Supremacy, this Bourne (Jeremy Renner’s edgy, drugged-up Aaron Cross) is simply a sticky-tacked add on to the universe, a cheap addition scotch-taped to the side of the franchise. What adds another gawking layer of redundancy though is that The Bourne Legacy is the exact same film as The Bourne Identity just with different set pieces and a new Jason Bourne. A secret agent is revealed, targeted by the government that created him, and then hunted down by another government created secret agent. There’s some chase scenes, a new underwritten female character to save from danger, and of course, the shadowy fingers of a government agency slowly closing in on our hero. Not to say that the Bourne films ever really stray from the formula, without the finesse and bravado of Paul Greengrass, the second two Bourne films could very well have been big-budget rehashes of the first, but with a talented director behind them they not only opened the world of Bourne, but did so with propulsive action and beautiful character work.

Tony Gilroy just can’t bring it this go around, the film limps along, establishing the same formula we’ve seen before, but without the flash of the first film or the hurtling energy of the second and third. Instead we’re given Jeremy Renner’s pill-popping assassin, Rachel Weisz’s cringing scientist, and a new cast of shadowy government agents pulling the strings to do right by America – all loosely sketched characters that we easily understand because they’re basically echoes of every well written character from the first three films. Maybe, Tony Gilroy is doing exactly what he’s been told – flatten out the bumps left over from the first films (while paying enormous, irritating amounts of homage to them) while laying the groundwork for another trio of hard-edged modern day spy flicks. To some degree he succeeds, the audience is given a new Bourne, and a new set of villains, and the loose ends required to move forward, ever forward, with new films, but the film is the cinematic equivalent of inertia. Everything happens that we’d expect from a Bourne film, but, seemingly, only because it’s supposed to. It feels like the late Brosnan Bond films, where the generic formula of all things Bond had been established and new directors were just changing the locations, the Bond Girls and scene-chewing villain. This wasn’t a good thing for Bond (see the exceedingly popular reboot) and it won’t be a good thing for the Bourne flicks. Bourne is beautiful because it isn’t restrained by formula, only by the strength of it’s leading man and the story backing him. Stick to the basics and these films are going to get real tired, real fast. Or maybe, as evidenced by the lackadaisical slog of The Bourne Legacy, they already have.

The Lesson:

Instead of making new entries in to the Bourne series, lets just make new, awesome entries in to the genre of spy. I promise you, everyone will be happier.

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Movie Breakdown – The Bourne Legacy

August 10, 2012

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Jason Bourne is back! Well, actually, no he isn’t. It’s just the world that he exists in that is making a return via The Bourne Legacy. Jeremy Renner stars, and the movie was written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who penned the original trilogy.

The Reality:

While I really liked this movie, I have zero issues noting that it’s not an easy watch. The original three films are referenced frequently, and this will certainly prove to be an annoyance to some. After all, isn’t this sort of supposed to be a standalone entry full of more action and less drama? Nope!

If you’re patient and attentive, though, The Bourne Legacy does still offer a lot. Both Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz turn in great performances, and I felt like they had good chemistry throughout their frantic scramble for answers and safety. Edward Norton, who plays the guy doing the hunting, is stellar as well. There’s also a ton of rather specific information thrown around in regards to government programs and the fallout of Jason Bourne’s actions, and the movie seems focused on showing you how intricate of a scheme it has conceived. I greatly enjoyed this, but I expect that it’s going to result in a lot of shoulder shrugs from any of you that want more action and less talking. In other words, The Bourne Legacy requires your brain, so don’t go in expecting nothing but explosions.

The Lesson:

Starting anew sometimes means going deeper into the world already created.

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Movie Breakdown – The Campaign

August 7, 2012

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Because the web is inundated with long, drawn out reviews, this column opts to go a different route and break things down based on the impression that the film’s marketing gave us going in, how the film actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis team up in a political comedy where they presumably do an enormous amount of silly stuff and yell at each other a lot.

The Reality:

Naturally, there’s a lot of craziness and screaming in The Campaign.  It is, however, what Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis do best, so you should not be even a little surprised by this.  What you may not be prepared for, though, is the amount of heart that the film has.  And it’s not just hidden away deep beneath the outrageously crude acts that run the gamut from sexist to racist.  Nope, it’s proudly displayed on a big shiny button that’s pinned to the sleeve of The Campaign, and when you’re not laughing out loud, you’re torn between the desperate incumbent who clearly won’t know what to do if he loses the election, and the naive newcomer that’s in way over his head.  If you’ve got a quick hour and a half to spare, then give The Campaign a chance.  It’s definitely a funny movie.

PS – There’s a character in The Campaign that’s one of the most racist (and admittedly hilarious) things I’ve ever seen on a screen.

The Lesson:

Comedies are at their best when they have heart.

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Movie Breakdown – Total Recall (Noah)

August 3, 2012

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People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different.  In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing lead us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all.  Read on!

The Impression:

Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is a film that works as an artifact of a certain time and place. Arnold was huge, sweaty tough-guy action films were huger, and Carolco Pictures knew that regardless of Verhoeven’s stranger-than-normal touch, the film had potential. Total Recall today is just another smear in the long line of boring sci-fi action flicks that have been shat in to the theaters. Oh boy, another remake.

The Reality:

I’ll be perfectly honest: I fell asleep about twenty-five minutes in to Total Recall and woke up in the midst of Colin Farrell fighting robots in zero-gravity. Discount my opinion now if that bothers you, but I’m pretty sure the a third of the film I was privy to, spoke volumes about what I missed. Which, to continue my honesty streak, wasn’t much. There was a lot of Hollywood rigmarole when the remake was first announced that the original Philip K. Dick story the film was based on was going to be inspiration for the new film but as per usual with unwanted remakes, this idea was clearly a smoke screen so that the supremely blasé Len Wiseman could crank out another generic action film with some sort of high-concept hook. From what I understand from my brief experience with the film, Colin Farrell plays Douglas Quaid, a factory shmuck who literally dreams of a different life and when he approaches a controversial memory builder a lot more than he asked for comes bubbling to the surface. Kate Beckinsale plays a one-liner spitting assassin who chases Quaid and a cardboard cut-out “hot revolutionary” played by Jessica Biel for literally the entire film (or at least it seemed that way). Things explode and then more things explode and I think Bill Nighy might have popped up a few times, but the impression that I got was that this was just another remake pumped out for the sake of lining the pockets of all involved.

The Lesson:

Sleep is a god-send sometimes.

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