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The Bourne Trilogy is one of my favourite movie series of all time. It started with The Bourne Identity, which was a great action spy story with a fantastic hook. The Bourne Supremacy brought in director Paul Greengrass, whose handheld shaky-cam style has come to define many action films for good or ill ever since. Greengrass came back to cap off the Jason Bourne story with The Bourne Ultimatum, which, going with only a basic outline of a script, stripped everything down to a series of amazing action sequences while maintaining some extremely poignant character and emotional beats. I guess it was too much to hope that the suits at Universal would let those three films stand on their own as a nearly perfect, complete story.

The Bourne Legacy takes that third word in its title very seriously. Writer-director Tony Gilroy, who’s also credited with writing the previous films, seemingly owes everything to three sources: his own screenplay for The Bourne Identity, Paul Greengrass’ directorial grittiness and Matt Damon. It’s a shame, then, that despite trying so hard to honour that ‘legacy’, Legacy brings none of those elements to the table in any kind of satisfactory way, either literally or in spirit. What might have been the start of a thrilling new story set in the Bourne universe instead owes a debt it simply can’t pay back. Click to read more.

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In discussing remakes I usually try to avoid discussing the film in relation to its original. I am generally not interested in what the film does the same or differently, so long as it does those things well. Remakes are hardly ever necessary, but that doesn’t devalue them in my eyes. I’ve loved plenty of remakes, from The Thing to The Fly to Let Me In. Is it nice to see when one of these films ventures on its own path away from its inspiration? Sure, but I don’t see that as a strict necessity, and so I don’t like to even bring up the original. It’s always about the film at hand.

Well, almost always. Though The Amazing Spider-Man is not a remake, and though I prefer to look only at the film I’m reviewing, in this case I can’t help but compare the film to its brother from 2002. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man is not a film beloved in my neck of the woods. I think it handles the origin story of a super-powered hero better than any other film in the modern era of comic book films, but I also find the film visually unappealing, poorly acted, overly silly and paced pretty unevenly. I also think these problems got worse with the sequel. But at its core, Spider-Man did the origin right. In terms of story beats I’d almost be willing to say it did Spidey’s origin perfectly. I’m not opposed to the idea of The Amazing Spider-Man being another origin story, but by being one so half-heartedly, and by sticking too closely to the one in the 2002 film, it forces the audience to recall a much better telling of the same basic story. Click to read more.

I don’t think reviews of live theatre will be commonplace here, particularly since I don’t often go to plays, but then this is only half a play. You see, when Danny Boyle put on a stage production of Frankenstein, newly-adapted by Nick Dear, it only ran for a few weeks, and only at the National Theatre in London. Would that I could have gone to see it live. Luckily, two performances were filmed and broadcast to cinemas around the world. This happened last year, but I was tied up and unable to go. Thankfully, National Theatre Live decided to present the play on the big screen once more. It’s a play, but it’s filmed and seen on the big screen, and while these kinds of events are now commonplace, it’s the first time I’ve been to one.  Well, in this case I saw it twice.

You see, Danny Boyle cast two great actors to play Victor Frankenstein and the Creature. Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch took the roles, but they did something really special. Each night they would swap parts, each taking a turn playing the other character. Quite the clever ploy considering I got two tickets and saw the same play twice in the space of a week. I suppose I could have just chosen one or the other, but part of the fun was to see how each actor would approach the roles. It’s a sight worth seeing, though I do think one version comes out better than another. Click to read more.

A Message: I walked out of this film. I went to a theatre, paid money to see it, sat down, got through the ads and trailers, the movie started, I got approximately one hour and ten minutes into it, I got up out of my seat and proceeded to walk home. There was about forty minutes left in the movie, maybe less, I’m not quite sure, but I didn’t care. It’s the first time in my life I’ve walked out of a movie just because it was bad. Now, let me tell you why…

Never have I seen a film by a major director so lazily directed as David Cronenberg‘s Cosmopolis. If even the director can’t be bothered to direct his movie, why on earth should I be bothered to watch it? Alas, the name Cronenberg drew me in, as did some vague positivity out of Cannes. When I say I have no idea where that positivity comes from, know I am not being hyperbolic in the slightest. Sometimes I just don’t like a movie that other people like. Often times I can understand their point of view in part. Other times I realize I’m simply not the target for a specific movie. With Cosmopolis, though, I just don’t get it. A film so badly made, enjoyed unironically? It’s beyond the scope of my comprehension. Click to read more.

Movie Review: Brave

June 15, 2012 — 7 Comments

A good, constructive mother-daughter relationship is hard to come by in film. They crop up here and there. Terms of Endearment comes to mind. But they just aren’t done that often. More common is the Carrie/Black Swan variety of horribly destructive relationships between mothers and daughters. So, in comes Pixar, producing the company’s first ever film centred on a female protagonist. Brave, conceived by Brenda Chapman and co-directed by Chapman and Mark Andrews, brings to the screen one of the most affecting mother-daughter relationships I’ve seen in quite some time.

Brave is a bit of a schizophrenic movie. It’s an uproarious slapstick comedy surrounding a very tender fairy tale about a mother and daughter coming to terms with each others’ views. Amazingly, the two tones work harmoniously almost all the time. (I’ll get to the “almost” a bit later.) Merida is a feisty Scottish princess who wants nothing more than to shoot arrows and climb cliffs. Her mother, Elinor, is Queen of the land, and particularly due to the boisterous nature of her husband, Fergus, she’s left to actually run the show. Part of that responsibility is teaching Merida to be a proper princess and to have her betrothed. Of course, Merida wants none of it. She just wants to live freely and take things easy. Classic conflict; a simple and effective set-up. Click to read more.

There is one unfortunate ingredient in the new version of the classic fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, and that is the star. Kristen Stewart, I’ve decided, is not a good actress. She’s not a bad one, but she suffers from a total lack of charisma. While this handicap might be okay in a film like Adventureland, where her emo mysteriousness is what makes her appealing, but when called upon to lead a film she’s out of her element.

The reason this is unfortunate is that Snow White and the Huntsman is, surprisingly, a really good film. In fact, it borders on outright greatness. The thing bringing it down is Stewart. Sadly, she brings it down both in a direct way, through her mediocre acting, but also in the perception of the film overall. How can anyone take Snow White and the Huntsman seriously when the lame actress from Twilight is the lead? I’d argue that even with Stewart’s miscasting, the film is very much worth taking seriously. I’ve seen comparison drawn to the fantasy films of the 80s, like Legend, but Snow White and the Huntsman one-ups those films by actually being, well, good. CLick to read more.

Review: 21 Jump Street

March 14, 2012 — 3 Comments

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are two of my favourite people. They were the co-creators and show runners of the short-lived cartoon series, Clone High, which is one of the funniest shows of all time. They followed that up with a great stint producing and writing some of the best early episodes of How I Met Your Mother. In 2009 they made their feature directorial debut with one of my favourite animated films of all time, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. So it stands to reason that I was highly anticipating their live-action feature debut, 21 Jump Street. I’m happy to report that Lord and Miller do not disappoint. Click to read more.

This week I got to see a big screen presentation of the animated shorts nominated at the Oscars. Along with the five nominated films were four “highly commended” shorts, a welcome addition considering the five nominated shorts don’t even fill an hour of viewing. What I generally love about animated shorts is that they’re effectively silent films. Where live-action shorts generally try to be like small versions of the kinds of movies you might see at the art house, animated shorts tend to be conceived as a way of showing off skill in animation. That makes sense, of course, but the result is usually a total lack of dialogue, focusing on expression through character animation.

Onward, to the reviews! Click to read more.

“They sure don’t make ’em like they used to.”

That’s the thought that was running through my head after I saw War Horse for the first time. It took a few minutes before I realized the irony of that notion. War Horse is a brand new film, yet it feels so old-fashioned that my immediate reaction was to think of it alongside old John Ford and Frank Borzage movies. I’m not the only one to have picked up on this. It’s been mentioned in almost every review of the film out there. What I found more curious was the reaction of people to the sentimental and melodramatic aspects of the film.

The most common complaints about War Horse relate to its sap and sentimentality. What’s weird to me is that many of these complaints seem to take for granted the idea that sentimentality is a bad quality in a film. How did this become the case? Why is it a bad thing to be sentimental, or sweeping, or even sappy? The way many critics and film lovers talk, you’d think that for sentimentality to be acceptable it has to be couched in raw reality or ambiguity or even an ironic wit and cynicism. It doesn’t make sense to me that films like Casablanca and It’s a Wonderful Life can be called masterpieces, but War Horse can be taken to task for its sweep and romance. Click to read more

Review: The Muppets

November 17, 2011 — 7 Comments

Words are useless for reviewing this movie.

Completely useless.

Instead, here’s a close approximation of my facial expression during the entire movie: Click to read more