‘Jason Bourne’ Review

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Director: Paul Greengrass

Writers: Paul Greengrass and Christopher Rouse

Cast: Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, Julia Stiles, Ato Essandoh, Scott Shepherd, Riz Ahmed, and Gregg Henry

Synopsis: The most dangerous former operative of the CIA is drawn out of hiding to uncover hidden truths about his past.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’ve always been a fan of the Bourne films. There was something about them that made them different from all the other spy films at the time. It helped that Matt Damon completely evolved into the amnesiac CIA operative that went against the people that created him. Also, having a director in Doug Liman and then Paul Greengrass also helped. So when the films decided to go the spinoff route, it was understandable that fans were a little disappointed, but when Damon and Greengrass said they would return fans rejoice and waited for the next chapter of the Jason Bourne series. What we ended up with was a mixed bag of what makes the franchise great, but also a film that could arguably be considered a sequel we didn’t need.

Jason Bourne follows Jason Bourne (Damon) now living off the grid making money but street fighting. However, when former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Stiles), who now works for a Wikileaks-type organization, hacks into the CIA and finds a new program called Ironhand, and also finds out Bourne has been connected to the CIA’s deadly programs longer than he thinks, she takes the information hoping to get help from Bourne one more time. The hack doesn’t go as smoothly as she thought because it puts her in the crosshairs of new CIA director Robert Dewey (Jones), and CIA cyber ops head Heather Lee (Vikander). Dewey seemingly thinking Bourne is behind the whole thing sends a new asset (Cassel) to take out Bourne. What follows is Bourne doing this thing of punching, shooting and causing chaos everywhere he goes.

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Jason Bourne seems like it has a lot going on, but at the end of it all the film goes for the action rather than the subplot of political themes. The film looks like it is going one place in a post-Snowden world, but instead just puts it in the back burner after the first act of the film. It’s a bit of a shame considering the films have never shied away from tackling political themes in the past. Jason Bourne tries to go there, but instead chooses to elevate the action sequences – which personally I don’t mind, being an action guy – but knowing what this franchise was built on, it is a bummer to see the film go in that direction.

We even see Bourne finally looking like he’s broken down. He’s not hunting down people from Treadstone or Blackbriar, he’s fighting people for a living – easily winning – but when his memories starting to come back, it does look like it’s having a bigger effect on him. Sure we’ve seen Bourne hurt before, but that is all physical pain, and what we see early on in the film is mental. When Nicky finally finds him and brings him into the fold all that is pushed aside.

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So while it sounds like I didn’t like Jason Bourne, I actually did. The series did always have great action, but it wasn’t just built on it. This film has arguably a couple more action sequences than the other films. Not that it’s a bad thing since the scenes are great. The riot in front of the Greek parliament building really puts you into the action, and the final act of the film in Vegas is non-stop once the action starts and is topped off with the typical brutal and hard-hitting fight between Bourne and the asset.

The cast is great as always. Damon can play Bourne in his sleep at this point, but he never phones it in. Julia Stiles who returns for the opening of the film is a cool sight to see, but something seemed off about Stiles this time around, maybe it was me, but I don’t know. Tommy Lee Jones, who is known to phone it in a lot, looks like he’s there for the most part. It’s hard to tell, considering he plays the old time agent that knows all about Bourne. Alicia Vikander is a great addition to the series, but it hard to get a read on her character for most of the film until the end when we finally know where she stands.

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Vincent Cassel plays the asset aka the hit-man. Cassel’s asset is different from the other assets we’ve seen in the other films like Clive Owen, Karl Urban and Edgar Ramirez. Cassel does have connection to Bourne, and has another aspect to his character that seems rather too convenient, but Cassel is a great actor that it doesn’t almost matter because at least more people will get to know him. Finally, Riz Ahmed plays Aaron Kalloor, who does play a factor into the film, but is forgotten for most of the film, and doesn’t really leave in impact which is a shame because Ahmed is a fantastic actor.

All in all, Jason Bourne could arguably be labeled as an unnecessary sequel, but it’s great to see Damon and Greengrass back in this world, that is may not matter to people. The action is great as always and the cast all hold their own. While the film delves away from its political undertones, Jason Bourne has enough for fans of the franchise to enjoy.

Jason Bourne

3.5 out of 5

New Podcast: Comic Con, The Rocketeer Sequel/Reboot, Joker Theory Shot Down & Ton More

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I have a guest on today’s podcast, and not only did we have a lot of fun recording this, we ran down all those Comic Con trailers, the Marvel panel, this week’s items, and this week’s releases. So sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy.

 

‘Star Trek Beyond’ Review

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Director: Justin Lin

Writers: Simon Pegg and Doug Jung

Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joe Taslim, and Shohreh Aghdashloo

Synopsis: The USS Enterprise crew explores the furthest reaches of uncharted space, where they encounter a new ruthless enemy who puts them and everything the Federation stands for to the test.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

It’s only fitting that a new Star Trek film comes out on the 50th anniversary of the franchise, and that it’s actually great. Star Trek Beyond has a lot of things going for it, and some things going against it, not in the bad way though. One, a new director in Justin Lin. One of its stars, Simon Pegg, co-wrote the script, and it doesn’t follow any previous story told before. The other thing is the film has two stars that sadly passed away in Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin, which the film is dedicated to the two. Getting past that, Star Trek Beyond is a great addition to the Star Trek franchise, and one that deserves to come out on the 50th anniversary.

Beyond follows the USS Enterprise on its third year of its five-year mission, and Captain James Kirk (Pine) is starting to feel the effects of being in space for so long, saying everything feels “episodic.” It also doesn’t help that his birthday is around the corner, and for him it’s bittersweet. It’s not that he’s another year older, but it’s also the day his father died protecting the members of his crew – which will also make him older than his father. He vents to “Bones” (Urban) that he might be living in his father’s shadow, but the issue is put aside when the crew arrives at a new starbase called Yorktown. There, the crew has a short time to relax as a ship comes with an alien saying her crew was attacked and is stranded in the far reaches of space. The Enterprise then go off when they are attacked by a swarm that takes over and destroys it, leaving the crew to scatter and crash land on an uncharted planet. With most of the crew captured and taken prisoner by the villain Krall (Elba), the rest of the crew has to find a way to not only rescue them, but also rest off the planet before Krall can unleash a very dangerous and powerful weapon.

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One of the best things that Star Trek Beyond did, and one of the reasons I think it works, is that it splits the crew up. Making the film follow the crew for the majority of the film rather than making the film just about raising the stakes and stopping Krall’s plan. Yes, the crew eventually bands together to stop Krall, but that doesn’t happen until the final act of the film. It’s everything that builds before that which makes the final act better.

Uhura (Saldana) and Sulu are in Krall’s camp with the majority of the crew, Scotty (Pegg) gets found by the alien warrior Jaylah (Boutella) and helps her fix her “home,” Kirk gets help from Chekov (Yelchin), and Bones is with Spock (Quinto) going through the terrain of the planet. All of them have their own strengths and leads to some great dynamics with the highlight being Bones and Spock. The back-and-forth between Bones and Spock is easy enough to steal the film as a whole. Spock’s part in the trek, no pun intended, with Bones throughout the planet might make some hardcore Trek fans a bit conflicted, but it totally works in context.

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However, despite the focus being put on different groups, the central conflict that is introduced at the beginning – Kirk’s feeling about being out in space so long – gets thrown to the side once the action picks up and the crew is on the planet. It helps that the action is great; especially the takeover of the Enterprise and a scene that takes place outside Yorktown, but Kirk’s central conflict gets lost in the shuffle and isn’t bought back up until the very end when he’s going up against Krall. If anything, this would be the biggest misstep that Star Trek Beyond has. Which does suck a bit since Kirk is seen here as a true captain, and not trying to prove himself to his crew or the rest of the Federation like the first film or Into Darkness. The inner conflict also rose an interesting question, that we do get answered by the end, but would have been nice to see play out throughout the while film.

The returning cast all do great, this is their third outing after all, and the two new cast members aren’t that bad either. Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah is a great addition to the film, playing a strong alien character that holds her own in her solo fight scenes. When it comes to the villain Krall, Idris Elba nails. Elba already has a pretty demanding presence onscreen, but covering him up with heavy alien makeup makes him a bit more scarier. Krall does have an interesting twist, which I know a TV spot spoils (thankfully I avoided that), but his villain character is very Trek, and does mirror a bit of what Kirk feels and what he goes through.

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All in all, Star Trek Beyond is a fun, entertaining, and action-packed addition to the Star Trek franchise that is well worth the watch. The action is great, and while it does follow some of the summer blockbuster formula, the film never lacks nor eliminates its originality and fun. There are nods to the original series that are pretty organic and aren’t just thrown in for the sake of it. Thrusters on full!

 

Star Trek Beyond

4.5 out of 5

‘Lights Out’ Review

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Director: David F. Sandberg

Writer: Eric Heisserer

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Alexander DiPersia, Billy Burke, Alicia Vela-Bailey, Andi Osho, and Maria Bello

Synopsis: When her little brother, Martin, experiences the same events that once tested her sanity, Rebecca works to unlock the truth behind the terror, which brings her face to face with an entity that has an attachment to their mother, Sophie.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

Are you – or were – afraid of the dark? It’s okay, so was I. Luckily, we didn’t have a crazed entity coming after us, unless you did and if that’s the case, I’m very sorry. But let’s about the movie Lights Out shall we. The film is loosely based off David F. Sandberg’s short film of the same name, and Sandberg returns to direct a feature-length film that expands on his idea and gives us a story that is more than just a horror film. It’s also helps that he has, arguably, one of the best horror directors as a producer in James Wan.

The film has a simple enough premise. Rebecca (Palmer), who lives alone, finds out that her little brother Martin (Bateman) hasn’t been sleeping after his father – her step-dad – has passed away. However, it isn’t because he’s depressed, it’s because their mother Sophie (Bell) has been presumably talking to herself at night. When Rebecca, reluctantly does back to see her mother, she finds out that Martin has heard – and maybe even seen – someone she thought she was done with: Diana. Eventually, Martin and Rebecca soon find out that Diana isn’t just a figment of their mentally-ill mother’s imagination, but a real creepy – and dangerous – entity that only appears in when the lights go out.

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I have to hand it to Sandberg, who does a great job in his first big film, of course he had help with Wan as a producer, but Sandberg handled himself pretty well. He wasn’t afraid to take chances with his own work, and even managed to create a pretty well done iteration of his short film at the beginning of the film, with his original lead star in Lotta Losten, and Billy Burke.

While the trailers for Lights Out are all about making us afraid of the dark, there is a good family drama story in the film. Rebecca and her mother Sophie haven’t talked in years – a specific number isn’t given – and the only thing is holding them together feels like it is Martin. Once they come together, you can tell they don’t want to be in the same room. Surprisingly, it’s this aspect that I wish was expanded, considering the movie is only an hour and twenty-one minutes.

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That’s not to say the horror moments don’t work or aren’t effective, because they sure as hell do and are. Lights Out is based off the idea that when the lights go out, something is about to go down, and it does. The scenes are tense and nerve-racking that will make you look at every corner of the screen to see where Diana is going to pop out of. Sandberg and cinematographer Marc Spicer even put their actors in the thick of it as they used as much natural light as they could. This shows in the film because it feels like you are right there in the dark with the characters.

The cast also pulls everything together. Palmer’s Rebecca has a great arc in the film with her little brother Martin that has a good progression, and Gabriel Bateman as Martin holds his own, and isn’t the annoying little kid in most horror movies. Alexander DiPersia plays Bret, someone Rebecca is seeing, who brings some levity to the otherwise dramatic or horrifying scenes. Maria Bello is a bit wasted here, as she doesn’t have enough screen time as she should. Her character however is a tragic one. Her mental-illness makes her an easy character to feel for, but again, she’s rarely in the film until the final act of the film. Finally, Alicia Vela-Bailey plays Diana. It’s hard to tell sometimes when Vela-Bailey was actually on set, and when she was a CGI character, because of Vela-Bailey’s performance when she is actually there is so convincing and scary as hell. Every time she moves you can hear clicks and what may be bones readjusting themselves, needless to say, Diana is sure to give you nightmares.

Lights Out works on a lot of accountants, but it does take a misstep when it starts to cluck together a lot of exposition to explain why Diana is back and targeting this family. The reasoning is okay, but the way they went about it was mishandled.

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All in all, Lights Out is a scare-worthy horror film that is sure to make you afraid of the dark again. It does take a misstep trying to make sense of it all, but overall the cast and frightening and tense-filled horror moments making Lights Out a great directorial debut by the man that created the short film the feature-length film is based on.

Lights Out

4 out of 5

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‘Ghostbusters’ Review

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Director: Paul Feig

Writers: Paul Feig and Katie Dippold

Cast: Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Chris Hemsworth, Neil Casey, Cecily Strong, Andy Garcia, Michael Kenneth Williams, Matt Walsh, Annie Potts, Dan Aykroyd, Ernie Hudson, Sigourney Weaver and Bill Murray

Synopsis: Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: Stay for the credit sequence and for the post credits.*

 

Ghostbusters for some reason, although justified for some, received a lot of hate when it was announced. It didn’t help, for those against it, that they decided to gender-swap the leads from male to females. Many thought, for some reason, this lessen the Ghostbusters franchise and automatically went out of their way to make sure they spread their negativity to anyone that would listen or read their comments. Thankfully, some remained optimistic or at least open-minded to the idea of the reboot – because that’s what it is, a reboot – and gave it a chance. With a pretty descent cast and a reliable director in Paul Feig, Ghostbusters to me looked to be in good hands. Then again, I’m not against remakes or reboots like most people, especially if it does something different to elevate itself, but let’s be honest too, some movies could use a reboot/remake. Was Ghostbusters one of them? Probably not, but it’s here and guess what? It’s not that bad.

This Ghostbusters follows physicist Erin Gilbert (Wiig), who finds out her former friend Abby Yates (McCarthy), has put their old paranormal activity book online and when she goes to try and convince her take it down, she is informed of a ghost-sighting. Erin then lets it slip to Abby, so Abby, Erin and Abby’s engineer Jillian Holtzmann (McKinnon) go to find the ghost and when they do their finding goes public. However, the event is only the start as they find out ghost appearances are happening more often, when MTA work Patty Tolan (Jones) goes to them and shows them her findings. She eventually joins the team and they form the Ghostbusters, along with the dim-witted assistant Kevin (Hemsworth), they learn someone is actually causing ghosts to appear, and they are more dangerous than they thought.

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The team does a great job of making Ghostbusters their own, but they do make a healthy amount of nods to the original, including the cameos by the original cast – not including Rick Moranis, who retired from acting – and some plot points. But, for the most part this new version establishes itself as the new Ghostbusters. The movie doesn’t try to make the characters new versions of the old characters, they all have their own strengths and different personalities that makes their characters their own. It does have some tonal confusion as the film tries to balance comedy, action and horror. Some of the combinations in the scenes work, while others are a bit jarring, but overall the tones do fit for what the film is trying to accomplish.

Of course, some people won’t see that. All they will see is actresses playing the new Ghostbusters, which is sad and, I’m not really that sorry, pathetic. Having the leads be female does nothing to change what Ghostbusters is all about. Wiig, McCarthy, McKinnon and Jones have great chemistry together, and are one of the reasons – if not the only reason – this reboot works. McKinnon is definitely one of the highlights of the film as the weird, enthusiastic about her science, and bursting with energy in every scene she’s in Holtzmann. She also has probably one of the coolest scenes in the final act of the film that I, obviously, won’t spoil here, but it was pretty badass.

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The other casting highlight is the much talked about Chris Hemsworth as Kevin. Hemsworth already showed he had comedic chops in Vacation, but here, he plays the dim-witted character so well, I won’t be surprised if we see Hemsworth casted in more comedies down the line. Wiig and McCarthy do their usual best, and this also “proves” that McCarthy doesn’t have to use her weight to be funny. Jones is as equally funny, and while many feared that she would be screaming her lines, it does happen, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s funny as hell in the film too.

Neil Casey plays the “villain” in the film, Rowan North. I put villain in quotes because you can arguably saw the ghosts are the bigger threats throughout, until we realize what Rowan’s plan really is. Rowan’s arch in the film is underdeveloped and since we only get a few scenes with him in the film before he does he reveal-evil-plan-to-heroes thing, we get enough time with him. The rest of the supporting cast is played out by Andy Garcia playing the Mayor, Cecily Strong playing his assistant, and Michael Kenneth Williams and Matt Walsh playing government agents. Of course, the original stars make cameos in the film, but I’ll leave you to experience those first-handed.

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One of the things I was really impressed with was the CGI. It was one of the things I noticed in the first trailer and had me at least hooked. Thankfully, the CG works and never looks wonky or unfinished in any way, and it does add to scenes. It also helps that whenever the ghosts appear, especially in the great final act Times Square face-off, the film pops with color. This is the other big thing that sets this version apart from the original. Feig makes his version standout when he gets the chance, and when he does, that’s when the film works the most.

All in all, many people won’t give the film a chance because the main characters are female and because it’s a reboot – I stress again, not a remake – of the original film. But screw those people; Ghostbusters is well worth the watch especially when Paul Feig goes out of his way to make this version his own. The cast is great and delivers their comedic lines to perfection. Some jokes do fall flat, but that’s the case with all comedies. I thoroughly enjoyed Ghostbusters, and yes, can’t wait to see what they do with this new potential franchise.

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Ghostbusters

4 out of 5

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Also side-note, my Ghostbusters review will be up during the middle of the week. I’ll be going out of town for the weekend, but plan on seeing the film tonight.

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