Thursday, July 28, 2016

REVIEW: Jason Bourne

Before I talk about the newest Bourne film, let me just say what I think of the Bourne films so far. I'm a big fan of them. If someone were to come up to me and ask for a good recommendation of action movies, the Bourne trilogy would easily be a quick recommendation. From fun clever stories, to tense music, to some of the coolest fistfight scenes and car chases I can think of, the original Bourne Trilogy is a true example of an action quintessential. And unlike other trilogies, the movies only get better as the films go on. The only downside is that the story can be a little bit hard to follow at times, and I've heard people say that they don't like the fast action camerawork. Me? I don't care about that aspect too much, it adds a certain charm to the film, and as I'll explain shortly, it feels rather dull without it. The original trilogy is a fantastic action series. And though the fourth film "The Bourne Legacy" kinda fell flat, and didn't live up to the standards the original trilogy set, even it is an enjoyable film which has its moments. The main problem with The Bourne Legacy was the fact that its cast didn't have the charm to live up to the standards of the other films, and without the signature camerawork, a lot of the action fell flat to me.  But all the same, it's still a fun story. I very much wanted to do a Bourne Movie Marathon prior to this, but just never found the time.  But I'll probably review these movies in the near future.

Hearing that they were bringing back the actual Jason Bourne for this film, who is portrayed by fan favorite Matt Damon, and that Tommy Lee Jones for this film? You can bet I got excited. The films aren't the same without Jason Bourne, and the fourth film proves that. I mean they constantly mention him in that film, and we never see him once. Not even in the reused Ultimatum shots. And Tommy Lee Jones? Love the guy. This is a guy who is perfect for his role, he's played several agents before, and him in a Bourne movie is a match made in Heaven. So I had some high expectations for this film.  Did they get met?  You know, I'm pleasantly surprised because though this film isn't perfect, it did manage to keep my attention and impress me.

I guess the biggest thing I should say is that for those of you who are familiar with the Bourne films, this film is incredibly predictable. But if you walk into this theater, knowing what you're going to get, you'll probably have the fun you're looking for.  And it does need to be said that there were a few times that I legitly did not know what was going to happen in the story.  I didn't know the motivations or decisions certain characters might make.  But in following the classic Jason Bourne formula, there are several instances where you will call a certain shot, and it will go exactly as you think it'll go.  But damn it if it's still not entertaining.

As I expected, the action in this movie is as awesome as ever, and the camerawork is back, giving it that second life.  I will say that some of the action honestly feels a bit too over the top, for example, Bourne literally has a dumbell thrown at his face, and he kinda shakes it off, but the quick fistfights, the fast intense car chases, and the tense atmosphere that is indeed created alongside that incredible music is still fun to sit through. There are times the action is so big that you might actually feel it. The punches can take you by surprise at times, and the final blows, whether they're by a fist or some sort of improvised weapon will have the hardcore fans cheering silently in their seat every time. It needs to be said that there is no tame action here.  You're going to get what you pay for.  In fact, I will say I likely would not see this in 3D, it's that fast. 

Another thing that this film has going for it is the cast.  Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Alicia Vikander, Vincent Cassel, they all portray their characters brilliantly.  Not one performance felt phoned in.  As much as I love these films, there will be times where I feel the film's antagonists could have been portrayed better.  Tommy Lee Jones, despite his old age, fits perfectly in this film.  You can tell his character is always thinking, always brainstorming, and he might just be the smartest antagonist that the films have ever had. And Matt Damon, he's Jason Bourne.  It's his signature role, and he just easily convinces you that he's still got it in him.

With all this good, I'm surprised that I found certain things as underwhelming as they were.  One thing I found disappointing was that not once do they reference any events of the previous film.   I understand that The Bourne Legacy isn't exactly a fan favorite, but the end of that film does have some crucial information to the plot of the franchise that isn't once hinted at here.  There is no progress on the exposure of Blackbriar or if Pamela Landy is indeed being accused of treason. I mean sure they constantly say how Bourne exposed Blackbriar, but the focus on this is mainly Jason Bourne's father, and the new big program that the CIA are trying to launch through this social media thing.  I must say that some of the plot ideas in this story are really well done, and there will be times where you will be pleasantly surprised, but I just feel that as far as progressing the story foward, this movie could have done a better job.  Especially since we have Matt Damon back in the lead role here.

But aside from that I think for the most part, this movie is loads of fun, and if you're a diehard fan like me, you won't mind the common formula you'll notice for these movies.  You'll have your flashbacks, you'll have your constant disarming of guards, you'll have your confrontation with the big mind of it all, you'll have your car chase and final action, and you'll have that final scene where Bourne walks away from it all, as the credits begin to roll, and that awesome song "Extreme Ways" by Moby begins to play (I'm not joking, that credit song is one of the coolest movie songs I know).  It's all here.  Is it as good as other movies in the trilogy?  Well it's better than Legacy, and Identity, and I'm not sure whether or not I wanna rank it above Supremacy or not, but I can say that Ultimatum remains the best movie of the series.  But for a movie to bring back Bourne, this movie succeeds in more ways than one.

Jason Bourne just barely earns a three and a half star rating out of four. It's flawed, predictable, but it still knows how to keep you entertained and interested, and the story is surprisingly easy to follow here.  With all this said and done, what do I see in the future for Bourne?  The potential for another sequel is there, but the ending of this movie may be one open to interpretation.  There is some unused potential that might be really cool to explore, but I think Bourne should take a few years off here before we get any definite answers. I'm hoping that should they continue these films, we get another big essential series. But for now, I'll live with just a fun action film.  Jason Bourne still shows that it knows how to pull off the action, and it'll probably continue to be the one film other action films try to be.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Feel free to request any movie you'd like me to review. Leave a comment down below explaining what you thought of the film for yourself, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

Thursday, July 21, 2016

REVIEW: Star Trek Beyond

Remember in January, when I started my Star Trek filmdom marathon in which I sat down, watched each and every Star Trek film to date, and reviewed it?  If so, I hope you enjoyed it.  If not, you can check it out in the archives.  But today, we finally REALLY wrap up the marathon because the third reboot film is out, and I gotta say that I was most anxious to see this one. As a brief reminder to you all, I myself, am a fan of the reboot. I enjoy the cast (and was saddened to hear of the tragic accident that claimed the life of Anton Yelchin), I think the action when done right can be mind boggling, and I like the darker tone the series can have in this alternate timeline. Much love and respect to what we fans call the "primary timeline", but there's no reason you can't like both.  The first reboot film is easily in my top favorite Trek movies, but though Into Darkness had its moments with me, like I pointed out in my review a few months back, it lost that spirit that made the first film so likable to me. And it was the film that made so many fans I know turn themselves away to this film.  

And believe me what I say I wanted this movie to succeed. And was given plenty of hopes. The writer, Simon Pegg, who I believe to be a fantastic science fiction writer, and knows Star Trek well enough to write for it was behind the script.  And he specifically stated that he knew what the fans wanted to see in Star Trek, and that this film would have much of those elements. But with the hope there was also the signs that the road ahead was anything but smooth when the director for the project was announced to be Justin Lin, the director of the Fast and Furious movies. I haven't seen any of those, but you know that Fast and Furious is not exactly the thing you put on the resumé if you're hoping to direct something like Star Trek. The first trailer itself made even more people shut themselves off to it when it only seemed to reveal elements of nonstop action, and...dirt bikes. Even Simon Pegg himself said he wasn't a fan of the trailer. I banked hard on Simon Pegg to give the fans of the franchise something...ANYTHING to make them see the reboots from another point of view.  As something more than just pointless action movies that only share the same name. Because if you ask me, these movies, even Into Darkness, are more Trek-like than people give them credit for, even if they're different. They can base themselves or mirror our own events, they can share (at times) culture in other alien races, and there is a sense of wonder, discoery, and technological marvel somewhere in each film.  So with all this said...I've seen the movie.  Does it deliver?

... yourself a favor and go see it. I'll be blunt. This film is surprisingly strong, blowing Into Darkness out of the water, and becoming a very strong contender for Star Trek films right now. There is a lot of things to talk about here, and I'm gonna do my absolute best not to spoil anything. From reinstalling the Star Trek spirit back into these films, to giving us a sense of wonder and awe in the world of the Federation, to giving us an albeit somewhat clunky but fun narrative, to honoring the Mr. Nimoy himself, this film succeeds on so many levels, I'm actually astonished. I'm still a bit dazed as I write this even now.  But, I won't let that distract me.  Despite having some of the common traits of the other Star Trek reboot films, this film stands on its own, and gives me some reason to hope that there's a bit more life in these reboots than what a lot of us tend to think.

The opening of this movie, aside from a rather silly opening scene, is incredible.  Some of the character development in Kirk is very welcome, as we see him reflecting on his Starfleet career as he turns one year older than when his father was killed. These reflections give off another side of Kirk that hasn't been seen before.  The first 15 minutes or so of this film revolve around the feelings of characters all around the ship, and it's very well done.  And it's in this that we get one of the things I found absolutely flawless in this film, but we'll get to that later.  The environments of a space station called the Yorktown, are absolutely stunning to look at, creative, and give us some really visually appealing sets, even if they can hurt the eyes slightly.  Star Trek meets Inception. But when we get a distress call from within a Nebula, we're off and the action is soon to follow, and before I get any whining comments...I actually believe the action is kinda toned down a bit in this film.  In fact, ironically enough, I think most of the action takes place during this opening act.  Now that's not to say that action isn't in the rest of the movie, because it is, but it's much better paced than it was in Into Darkness.  Kahn doesn't just show up out of nowhere and start randomly blasting Klingons to oblivion here if you care to take my comparison. The action that happens, makes sense, is fun to watch, unique (I love the drone swarm concept, I mean come on, in my Star Trek fan writings, I've played with the idea to an extent), and to those of you owndering what they could have possibly done with a dirt silly as the concept is, they found a way to make it work and fit. Well I guess there's also a really...really ridiculous scene near the end where the music of the Beastie Boys literally saves the day I'll let you judge that one by yourself.  

I'm kinda showering this movie with praise.  Let me take a step back because I don't want to give the idea that this movie is flawless.  It does have some problems, mainly with the narrative. As I said above, it's a bit clunky.  There were times I watched this where I felt that the story was either trying to do too much, or just didn't know how to execute certain things.  There were times I was wondering if a little added extra footage could have enhanced certain scenes to help smooth out the story, or other things.  But I will say when the story was reaching the end, a lot of things did fall into place, and it did set up one very fun twist, even if the big bad doomsday weapon of the movie is rather underwhelming. Yeah, I don't mean to spoil anything here, but the weapon they're trying to save the day from really isn't focused on too much here.  We keep getting told that it's this powerful device that can wipe out all sorts of life, and the most we see it do is kill a person. Scary. Actually, now that I think about it, that weaon is kinda similar to the infinity stone in Guardians of the Galaxy.  Which might explain that article from way back in which Paramount said they wanted this movie to feel like that movie.  Well congradulations Paramount, you just made me more confused than ever. That's my biggest problem with this, is just the narrative really.  Though things all come together, there are times I just had to blink, scratch my head or wonder if I missed something.  And honestly, the whole weapon thing is pretty forgettable. In many ways, it reminds me of the Genesis project of Wrath of Khan. It's there, but it's not focused on too much...

But the shortcomings in story are easily forgoten with the strength this movie has in characters.  The characters of this movie are developed so very well, from the main crew, to the villain, to secondary characters, that I honestly believe that it may be one of the strongest character movies in Star Trek out there. Another thing that I love is that they manage to give a little homage to the old NX ships of the franchise.  I won't spoil much, but we do get to see one of those old babies in action, and it's actually very fun.  One of the more predictable things about this movie that I liked was the occassional comedy. There is some legit comedy here, from funny exchanges of dialogue, and other moments that had me laughing.  Heck, Chekov himself actually directly referenced a line from The Trouble with Tribbles. I think I was the only one laughing in the theater at that line.  And of course, one of my favorite things about the reboots in general that they absolutely nailed in this movie was the music.  The score is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm gonna have to make it a goal to pick up the soundtrack.  It's gorgeous.

And for those who are wondering? Bonus points, there's not that many lens flares here in this film. 

But honestly, the best thing about this movie was how they paid homage to Leonard Nimoy.  From the beginning of the film, we see Spock get the news of Ambassador Spock's passing, and it becomes a bit of a theme in the film in which they talk about Ambassador Spock, how he lived, and each time they're doing it, you will be smiling.  Zachary Quinto talks about him in the middle of the film, and each word he says makes it sound as if he's talking about Nimoy himself. It's absolutely beautiful.  And there is a moment at the end that will have even the most devoted fans who hate the reboots tear up a bit. I won't dare spoil it.  All I will say is that it does tug at the heart strings just a bit. It's a perfect farewell to Leonard, and nothing else could have made it better...except that during the credits, we do get a moment of silence as we see the text read "In Loving Memory of Leonard Nimoy". ... And "For Anton", which made me applaud just a bit, knowing that they were able not only to say goodbye to a beloved Star Trek legend and icon, but goodbye to a close friend that was taken far too soon.  

All in all, this movie is just...mind numbing. Despite the few flaws it has, Simon Pegg, and Justin Lin birthed something incredible with this film.  I am willing to bet that even those who don't care for the reboots will find SOMETHING in this film to enjoyo.  And with all this said, I am giving Star Trek Beyond a three and a half star rating out of four. I wanted to give this film a four. I really did.  But the clunky narrative can detract ever so slightly, but don't let that stop you from watching this, because almost everything else about this film is just fun, exciting, wonderful, and well...I will say it's Star Trek.  If there's one reboot film out there that I can for sure call Star Trek, it is this one.  I'm still trying to figure out which one I like more, the original 2009 film or this one. I don't know.  I enjoy both for very different reasons, but if I were to distinguish which one has more spirit of Trek?  Well...look no further. Simon...I knew you wouldn't let me down.  And Justin....hey, congrats.  You hit it out of the park.

Please feel free to request any movie you'd like for me to review, and I will do my best to cover it.  Leave a comment down below telling me of your own thoughts about this film, and as always, thanks for reading.  And thank you for joining me on this awesome marathon of Star Trek.  Hard to believe it's been 50 years...

Final Verdict: 3.5/4

We miss you Leonard.  And we miss you no less, Anton...

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Well, I'm excited for Star Trek Beyond tomorrow, but right now, I'm on kind of a Disney/Animated movie kick, and today, I came across a lone copy of a movie I haven't seen in a long time. And when I did watch it, it was in bits and pieces in French Class in High School.  I couldn't remember much about it, but hey, having been watching a lot of Disney's recent animated films lately, such as Wreck-It Ralph, and Big Hero 6, both good films, and of course this year, we had Zootopia, which I absolutely adored (Part of me actually wants to do a second review of it, or a followup of a sort, but for now I'll hold off), I decided to pick this up, and give it a much needed second viewing. I'd not picked it up before and I'll. be honest why...the name Miley Cyrus turned me off.  I'm no fan of hers, but I guess I shouldn't let a name be the sole reason I close the door on a movie...unless that name is Michael Bay. Because screw that guy.

Bolt is...well...Bolt is cute. What can I say? From the opening scene, you are treated to this absolutely adorable puppy in the pet store, which is being swarmed by all sorts of other cute little puppies, and he's getting battered around as he plays with this silly carrot toy, and it's just one big giant fluffball of adorableness that is impossible not to like. At first I thought this was going to be a story similar to that of the Ugly Duckling or something, but right off the bat, we see our white puppy picked up and adopted by a litle girl, and I then predict that it'll be one of those tales about a girl and her dog.  And it kinda is, but not nearly in the way that I predicted. Straight out of nowhere we get this plot that is as if another movie just trainwrecked its way into this one, and the little white dog, now named Bolt is enhanced with incredible powers, and his owner, a girl named Penny, is playing Spy Kid, as she looks for her father, and fights off hordes and hordes of goons under some forgettable man with a green eye (the guy doesn't even have a name), with the aide of her puppy of steel, who is pretty much the dog version of Superman. Does this sound crazy yet? I knew you'd say yes, and if Disney actually did this, I'd be scratching my head.

While all of what I just wrote is true, the thing is, that this whole superdog, spy kid thing is just a big TV show.  However, Bolt thinks that the TV show, is actually a real thing, because the prodcers have come up with a clever idea, though I will say highly improbable, to keep him isolated from the real world, so that as they film him, he isn't acting so much, as he is working. So basically what they did on 1998's "The Truman Show" only with a dog instead of a person.  But with low ratings, and the need for a fresh story, they decide that in the show, Penny will end up kidnapped. Which is a bit of a mistake because Bolt flips out, and in his fear of losing her, knocks himself out and is accidentally shipped off halway across the country.  From there he meets a cat he mistakes as a cat of the green-eyed man, and decides that she will help him get back to where Penny is.  From there, it pretty much becomes "The Incredible Journey", minus one dog, and adding on a Hamster who joins them later on.

The setup and concept of this film is comedy-gold, with a hint of Plato's Cave (for those of you who enjoy a little philosophy). I'm a huge fan for comedy that involves misunderstanding, and with Bolt (who is excellently voiced by John Travolta) having never been introduced to the world outside the studio he knows, there are plenty of chances at this happening, which are executed brilliantly.  I absolutely love how he fears styrofoam packing peanuts, as he feels they make his powers incredibly weak.  Watching the cat hold him up with it is worth the laugh. Also the Pidgeons of this film are easily one of the best things of the film, always recognizing Bolt, and acting as rabid fans, brimming with ideas, or whatnot. Bolt's interaction with the real world, while still under the impression that he's still living the actual show is absolutely well executed, though I will say there are times I felt a little more could have been done. For example, when we're introduced to a hamster who watches Bolt's show, and sees him as the real superdog, almost immediately afterward, Bolt is told the harsh truth about him being part of a TV show. And is thus, revealed to the light outside the cave. How does he react?  Well of course he tries to deny everything, but reality hurts and the film does a good job of portraying him as he slowly comes to terms with it.

And though his coming to terms with it is also maybe a little rushed, I gotta say that sequences that follow, in which Mittens teaches Bolt how to be a dog, are some of the cutest moments of the film.  I had a good laugh when Bolt first stuck his head out a window of a moving car. It's these little moments that can just carry this film in ways I normally wouldn't think possible. It can be funny, and at times, it had some genuine heart-touching moments.  The ending of tis movie is one of the warmest Disney endings I've seen in a long time. I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it, but I will say that it can tug a bit at the heart-strings. It's one of those movies, but what more can you expect from a film about a girl and her dog, and how that dog will go through mud and water to get her back?

Bolt earns a nice three and a half star rating out of four.  Yes, despite the occassional clunky narrative, this film is coherent and tells a very fun story.  It's fun, warm, surprisingly action-packed (and it's very well done action), and just one of the best movies I can think of that tackles the special bond a human and a pet can share. It's one of those films I can legitly say "I laughed, I cried" to. And from my understanding, it was one of the first films to come out recently, to really give Disney a kick in the rear with the success it's found lately.  With other films to follow such as Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Zootopia...etc all coming out lately, to a lot of acclaim, I can't help but wonder if we're in the middle of yet another DIsney Renaissance.  I would certainly welcome one in a period where almost everything else Disney is doing is either Marvel, Star Wars, or remakes. Disney is showing some very strong ground in their animation department lately, and this was a good way to start it off. So don't be like me.  Don't let a simple name turn you off to this movie if you've let it.  It's one fun's a fireball of cute.  See for yourself.

Please feel free to request any movie you'd wish for me to review, and I will do my best to get to it. Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts of the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 3.5/4