Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”
In the latest Jason Bourne movie, Matt Damon will punch, kick and spy master his way to the top of the box office charts.
His previous Bourne films, Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum, were all hits commercially and critically.
Damon says he owes a great deal to the fictional character.
After the early success of Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr. Ripley made him a star, a string of flops cooled his box office appeal.
“Right before The Bourne Identity came out,” he said, “I hadn’t been offered a movie in a year.”
Then his career was Bourne again.
“It’s incalculable how much these movies have helped my career,” he told The Telegraph. “Suddenly it put me on a short list of people who could get movies made.”
In the spirit of “one for them, one for me” for every film like The Martian or the new Jason Bourne, Damon has attached himself to smaller, riskier projects.
He lent his star power to The Good Shepherd, a low budget film directed by Robert De Niro. It’s a spy movie without the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from our favorite undercover operatives.
There are no elaborate chase scenes a la James Bond or even the great scenery of the Bourne flicks.
In fact, the only thing The Good Sheperd shares with any of those movies is Damon, who plays Edward Wilson, one of the (fictional) founders of the CIA.
Despite mixed to good reviews — USA Today gave the film three out of four stars—and winning the Silver Bear of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, the movie barely earned back its production costs at the box office.
Ninety per cent of director Steven Soderbergh’s job on The Informant! was casting this mostly true tale of a highly paid executive-turned-whistleblower who helped uncover a price fixing policy that landed several executives (including himself) in jail.
It’s a tricky balancing act to find an actor who can keep the audience on-board through a tale of corporate malfeasance and personal greed, who can be likeable but is actually a liar and a thief, but Damon is the guy.
The Informant! skewed a tad too far into art house territory to be Soderbergh’s new Erin Brockovich-sized hit, but Damon’s presence kept the story of accounting, paperwork and avarice interesting. Reviews were kind but A Serious Man and The Twilight Saga: New Moon buried the film on its opening weekend.
Damon teamed with John Krasinski to produce and co-write Promised Land, a David and Goliath story that relied on the charm and likability of its cast to sell the idea that fracking is bad and the corporations who dupe cash-strapped farmers into leasing their land are evil.
It’s hard to make talk of water table pollution dramatic but Promised Land makes an attempt by giving much of the heavy lifting to Damon.
Done in by middling reviews and “sobering” box office receipts, this earnest and well-meaning movie might have been better served in documentary form.
With an Oscar on his shelf and more than 70 films on his resume Damon is philosophical about the kinds of films he chooses to make, big or small.
“If people go to those movies, then yes, that’s true, big-time success,” he says.
“Jason Bourne,” the first Matt Damon led film in the series in nine years, proves that actions speak louder than words. Damon speaks a mere twenty-five lines of dialogue as he kicks, punches and crash-boom-bangs his way through this spy thriller, letting the action do the talking.
Damon’s fourth go-round as amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne begins with him tormented by his violent past. Most of his memory is intact, but he’s eaten away by guilt for the terrible things he did as a government programmed killer. “I remember,” he says. “I remember everything.”
To get his ya-yas out he goes all Fight Club, bare-knuckling any and all contenders but he’s drawn back into the international spy game—the movie never met an exotic location it couldn’t use, whether it’s Berlin, Reykjavík, Athens, London or even Vegas—after his former-handler-turned-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) tells him of a collaboration between CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, whose face is one forehead wrinkle away from becoming a caricature of an old man) and Silicon Valley kingpin Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). They’re working on Edward Snowden’s worst nightmare, a new program called Ironhead, a system of full spectrum surveillance; watching everyone all the time.
Wanting Bourne out of the way Dewey uses every newfangled asset at his disposal—like state-of-the-art global surveillance—to find the agent before turning to the old ways and bringing in an assassin known as, appropriately enough, The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to take care of business. “I’m going to cut the head off this thing,” says Dewey.
Flitting about the edges of the intrigue is the CIA’s cyber ops head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who helps Bourne in an effort to keep him away from The Asset’s deadly gaze. “Bringing him in is the smart move,” she says. “There’s no bringing in Bourne,” Dewey says. “He needs to be put down.”
Cue the carnage.
If nothing else “Jason Bourne” proves once and for all that you can’t keep a good man down. Shot, beaten, dropped from a tall building or whatever, he’s the Energizer Bunny of international spies. He just keeps on ticking. We expect that from Bourne and we also demand feral fighting scenes, crazy car crashes and action, action, action. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of Bourne battle and bloodshed and some of it is quite exciting but it doesn’t have the finesse of the earlier films. Director Paul Greengrass’s signature handheld you-are-here style is in place but doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the other films. Often frenetic instead of pulse-racing, the action sequences are frequent but not as memorable as the magazine-in-the-toaster gag from “Bourne Supremacy” or “Bourne Ultimatum’s” hardcover book punch. Still, you might not make it quite to the edge of your seat, but the combo of action and intrigue will shift you out of a reclining position.
“Jason Bourne” has its moments. Damon brings a grizzled power to the role and Vikander is a welcome addition, even if her motives are sometimes are hard to understand. There are interesting messages about online personal rights versus public safety that would have been moot in 2002 when the series debuted, a labyrinthine plot occasionally weighed down with unnecessary exposition and an unhinged Vegas climax—Bourne must really hope that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—that would not be out of place in an Avengers movie. I just wish the ending felt less like an Avengers scene—with cars comically flying through the air—and more like a Bourne moment.
From marilyn.ca: “If you love going to the movies, but you’re never sure what to see, Richard Crouse has the answer! Check out these sure-to-be blockbusters to keep you entertained all summer!” They argue about “Finding Dory” and preview “The BFG,” “The Secret Life of Pets,” “Jason Bourne,” “Suicide Squad” and “Ghostbusters.”
I don’t think it’s fair to charge audiences full price for screenings of “Captain Phillips.”
While watching this exciting new Tom Hanks thriller I was reminded of the old Monster Trucks ads that bellowed, “You Pay for the Whole Seat but You’ll Only Need the Edge!”
It a film about piracy and I don’t mean the sleazy guys who bootleg movies but the real pirates who were responsible for the first hijacking of an American cargo ship in two hundred years.
Based on the true story of veteran seadog Captain Richard Phillips (Hanks) who took on a routine voyage around the Horn of Africa in April 2009. Piloting the MV Maersk Alabama and loaded with food and fresh water, his ship was stalked by Somali Pirates led by Muse (Barkhad Abdi).
“Chances are its just fishermen,” says his first mate.
“They’re not here to fish,” Phillips replies, watching the heavily armed attackers through binoculars.
He calls for a piracy drill that goes from pretend to “real world” as the pirates prepare to board the ship.
Once aboard Muse makes it clear he doesn’t want to harm anyone. “Nobody gets hurt,” he says. “Its just business.”
But business turns violent when it becomes clear the expected million-dollar payday Muse and company were expecting isn’t going to pan out. Offered $30,000 he snorts, “What do I look like, a beggar?”
As the situation escalates Phillips is taken aboard a life raft, kidnapped, bound for Somalia where he’ll be held for ransom.
Paul Greengrass is a master of action. His work on the second and third Jason Bourne films and “United 93,” which placed the audience in the middle of the action during the 9/11 hijackings are white-knuckle action flicks that don’t simply entertain with explosions, fight scenes and shoot ‘em up scenes. Instead he stages epic action scenes that feel intimate, as if a fist (or worse!) may fly off the screen and bonk the viewer on the head.
His scenes involve the viewer and as such are exciting in a way that Michael Bay’s sequences, despite bigger budgets and giant robots, will never be.
“Captain Phillips” is a case in point. Greengrass does a great job of portraying the vastness of the ocean and the isolation of the ship and its crew, which accentuates the helplessness of the unarmed sailors against the greedy pirates. A quiet scene in the ship’s boiler room with only the pirate’s footsteps to beak the silence is also unbearably tense.
It’s outsized action and setting, brought down to a personal level, which increases the human stakes and the audience’s connection to the story.
At the center of it all are two remarkable performances. Hanks is reliable, despite an uneven Bostonian accent, anchoring the film with his rock solid heroics. (SPOILER ALERT) It’s only in the film’s final moments, when the ordeal is over, that Hanks really unloads with the kind of raw and shell shocked reaction that the Academy is going to love.
Abdi also impresses. This is an action movie and as written he is primarily a plot device to keep the action moving forward, but despite an underwritten part he brings some humanity to the villain role. His explanation for his way of life, that he is a victim of limited opportunity and not a bad man, helps place his actions in context.
“Captain Phillips” is a terrifically tense thriller that is worth the price of a full seat, even though you’ll only use the edge.
Writer Robert Ludlum died a year before Jason Bourne, his most famous character, was brought to life on the big screen by Matt Damon. He didn’t get to enjoy Damon’s take on the action hero, but he did see another version of The Bourne Identity and the famous superspy.
The writer reportedly enjoyed the 1988 300-minute, two-part made-for-television movie of The Bourne Identity starring mini-series king Richard Chamberlain in the role Damon later made famous. Despite a cheeseball love scene between Chamberlain and co-star Jaclyn Smith the TV special (now available on DVD) was a faithful adaptation of the first Bourne novel and even earned its lead actor a Golden Globe nomination.
These days Ludlum would be hard pressed to recognize his character, however. He wrote the first three Bourne books but after his death the series was kept alive by writer Eric Van Lustbader, who has made slight, but noticeable changes to the character over the course of seven subsequent novels.
Moviegoers may also find themselves a tad confused this weekend when Jeremy Renner takes over the lead from Damon in The Bourne Legacy. Renner, who beat out Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Fassbender, Taylor Kitsch and Josh Hartnett for the gig, isn’t playing Jason Bourne, but a reasonable facsimile—a trained assassin brainwashed into taking part in covert government activities.
In Hollywood they call that expanding “the franchise mythology.” In other words Damon didn’t want to return to the franchise but the studio still wanted another Bourne movie.
Ludlum’s books—he wrote 23 thrillers with sales estimated between 290-500 million—have also provided the basis for several movies without the name Bourne in the title.
The Osterman Weekend is a confusing movie about a television journalist who becomes convinced his friends are a threat to national security. Ludlum apparently offered to rewrite the perplexing script at no charge, but was rejected by the movie’s producers. The result is an entertaining mess the New York Times said, “has a kind of hallucinatory craziness to it.”
The Holcroft Covenant was another troubled production. Star James Caan walked out the day before filming was to begin, unhappy with the script. His replacement, Michael Caine, carries the espionage story, but the action scenes are more entertaining than the spy story.
In development is the Chancellor Manuscript, Ludlum’s story about J. Edgar Hoover’s alleged “secret files.” Leonardo DiCaprio is rumored to be in talks to star.
The real legacy of Bourne, apparently, lies in frenetic action and wild hand held camera moves. That’s the only thing passed down from the first three movies. The new film, “The Bourne Legacy,” features a new star in Jeremy Renner, a new director in Tony Gilroy and a new, simpler structure.
Dovetailing the story from “The Bourne Ultimatum,” the film begins with Jason Bourne’s arrival in Manhattan, although Matt Damon who made the character famous is nowhere to be seen. Bourne’s appearance has outed the CIA’s Treadstone/Operation Outcome unit so head honcho Eric Byer (Edward Norton) orders all agents neutralized, i.e., assassinated before a Senate committee can unearth info on the genetic experiments they conducted on their agents. Among the targets is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), a highly skilled operative who requires chemical enhancement to stay in peak killing form. On the run, he picks up genetic scientist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who he hopes can lessen his reliance on his daily dose of “chems.”
Why they didn’t call this movie Bourne Again, I’ll never know. Jason Bourne may not make an appearance, but it feels like a movie we’ve seen before–the same shaky camera and over-the-top action. The only thing that’s changed is that while there’s a fair amount of CIA superspy gobbledygook, its surprisingly light on plot. For a movie about the deepest, darkest workings of secret government agencies the story is really rather simple.
Gilroy, who has written all four Bourne movies, is much more deliberate in his storytelling now that he is behind the camera as well. He’s brought the franchise’s trademarks along for the ride, but story wise it almost feels like one of the Pierce Brosnan “James Bond” movies. The ones they were making just before Daniel Craig stepped into the picture to revitalize the tired 007 series. There are gadgets, a Bond girl (ironically played by Craig’s wife Rachel Weisz) and even an unstoppable Energizer Bunny of a super villain.
It’s not bad, just familiar and not as blood-pumping as the Paul Greengrass directed “Bournes” of yore.
The action is wild and frequent, although there is nothing as memorable as the old rolled up magazine in the toaster trick from “The Bourne Supremacy.”
Renner, however, mostly holds his own. He can run, jump and shoot with the best of them, but I was hoping for more charisma. When he’s not in motion chasing after a bad guy or wrestling a wolf, I found him kind of flat. I was more on side with him in the beginning when he played Cross like a junkie who needed to score. After that he becomes a bland Bond wannabe.
“The Bourne Legacy” isn’t an improvement on the movies that came before, but it doesn’t embarrass it self either. Sure, Weisz could have been given more to do than tag along with Renner in his quest and the (MILD SPOILER ALERT) Bourne Free ending could use some finessing to make it seem less like a door slamming shut on the story, but there are enough tense moments and thrills to make it worth your dollar. It just doesn’t add much to the legacy of the Bourne franchise.