Darke Reviews | Jason Bourne (2016)

Jess, where’s the review of The Killing Joke? Yeah….I was on a work trip which takes priority. It helps that I love my job and it always takes precedence over this very passionate hobby of mine. Due to some of what my job entails however, as well as a few dozen (re: Hundreds) news stories over the past few years this segways nicely into the movie you are getting a review of today.  I have watched all of the films with varying degrees of satisfaction since the first one fourteen years ago. Identity was good and new, but sadly introduced Shaky cam as a thing. Supremacy was a romp I enjoyed and Ultimatum tied it up nicely. Legacy was a disappointment within the realm of the franchise, but ok as it’s own film. I was rather put out with how they integrated it and I have a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood had a script around and did rewrites to make it work within the Bourne franchise. They do that all the time; at least two Hellraiser films are victims of this as well as Die Hard 4.

So is Bourne back or do we have an imposter film?

The movie is written by Christopher Rouse, who is normally an editor on such films as Paycheck, The Italian Job and Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum, alongside Paul Greengrass (Bourne Supremacy, Ultimatum, Captain Phillips). It appears the two work well together as Rouse is an editor for the majority of Greengrass films and earned himself a writing credit this time. This is the first time Greengrass took up the pen on a Bourne film as the previous movies were scripted by Tony Gilroy. I might surmise that Gilroy was not trusted by the studio after the less than stellar performance of Bourne Legacy which he wrote and directed, especially up against the Greengrass directed Ultimatum which brought in $227 million domestic back in 2007. Just a guess mind you, I also believe that after the success of Captain Phillips that Paul Greengrass wanted to return to this franchise and do something with it and was given the reigns as a passion project.

Now passion projects can be disastrous, see Dungeons and Dragons (review will be part of the October set this year!), or box office gold (Avatar – the Cameron one). This time I think it will be the later of the two as this is a return to form in creating a highly intense spy thriller with just enough twists turns and plays that you aren’t sure which way is up or how it might end. This may be one of the best executed spy thrillers in recent years and is absolutely a better executed thriller than last years Spectre. It is also incredibly relevant to our cyber-technology and privacy age and uses those issues as a lynch pin (or grenade pin) to the plot. While as with most, if not all, thrillers like this liberties are taken with technology and little things like international privacy laws and capabilities; which in and of itself is an incredibly relevant story. Is it Hollywood as hell? Oh yeah. Is it entirely inaccurate in the questions it raises which could spur interesting discussions among the more millennial and tech minded audience members? No..not entirely, but there are discussions that can come from it – really good ones.

From an acting perspective, I am pretty sure Matt Damon could do Bourne in his sleep and truth be told, he may have for some of his scenes. Many times he appears along for the ride and not quite the Bourne we know and love. Tommy Lee Jones as CIA director Dewey is the heavy Jones does best. The breakout performances that steal their respective shows are Alicia Vikander as a CIA cyber security specialist and Vincent Cassel as a CIA asset. Vikander  (Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Ex Machina) is an absolute delight in the movie. It’s yet another female character who is in charge, technically capable in her own right and does pass a few of the “Tests” including Sexy Lamp and Mako Mori. I repeatedly found myself cheering for the character and not being disappointed in her decisions through the film. Cassel (Le Pacte des Loups/Brotherhood of the Wolf – another review coming in October) just is a force of nature and has more menace to him than the last few villains I’ve seen in Marvel, DC, Bond, and many many other movies. In what would be a one note performance from someone else, Cassel is a perfect antithesis to Bourne.

That isn’t to say this movie isn’t flawless. There are pacing issues throughout the film that drag the story in an unneeded manner. The camera work and shaky cam are as bad as you’d expect, but also viable for this genre. I found there were too many edits in places that could have used more tracking shots, or longer shots on other components of the action. It was a victim of too much at once from time to time. There are a handful of spoiler-ish plot holes that had me and my friend roll our eyes that are clearly there for the convenience of the story rather than logic. At least one major annoyance occurred in the film that I really can’t forgive.

TL;DR?

Bourne is back. I think this may be one of the best of the franchise, if not the best. It’s relevancy, plot continuation of a character that logically follows that character, and sticking to the rules of it’s world and even it’s predecessors beats make it a really solid film. Matt Damon was born for this role, pun intended, and while the movie doesn’t set up a sequel as well as Supremacy…I wouldn’t be upset to hear of one coming. Choose from the most used tags

Should you see it?

Despite the handful of flaws, and the unforgivable one, it is a good movie that I can recommend for anyone this weekend. If you enjoy the spy genre, Bourne films, and general action movies – see this.

Will you buy it?

Yep. BluRay day 1. Goes nicely into the collection

Anything else?

This adds to the total dollars and lives to bring Matt Damon home.

What else is coming to review?

The Killing Joke (Tuesday if I am lucky) and Suicide Squad next week. I will be on radio silence from social media after the review Tuesday as it’s hard already to avoid spoileristic impressions of those who have seen it via screenings.

 

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Darke Reviews | Star Trek Beyond (2016)

I was asked today are you a Trekkie or Star Wars fan. The immediate response “I have the blueprints for the NCC 1701 D, but I also have the blue prints for a YT-1300 freighter and an X Wing.”  Yes, it is allowed to love both series. Screw anyone who says otherwise. I watched the original series in syndication, the original animated series, I was the perfect age for Next Gen when it premiered and watched every last episode on its first run appearance. I’ve seen, and own, every Star Trek movie – which is more than I can say for Star Wars. I was in love with the first movie of the reboot, and overly kind in my review of the second one. I looked back on that one the other day and wondered what I was thinking when I wrote it.

So where does that leave us with Star Trek Beyond? Should it have stopped before the final frontier?

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. Director Justin Lin (Fast and Furious 6, 5, 4, and 3)  is a good director. He does ensemble well and when I heard he was picked for the chair I was happy despite the haters. He made a very entertaining and profitable franchise that focuses on the story of multiple characters with a few in central focus. This is his “thing” as a director. He does it well again as the crew is separated and each get their own mini arc and he services each intelligently.

Writing. Rule of Three violation inbound. Simon Pegg (yes…) and Doug Jung (Dark Blue) have official writing credits. Uncredited are Roberto Orci (Transformers 3, Star Trek Into Darkness), Patrick McKay (absolutely nothing -alias maybe?), and John D. Payne (also nothing). Five writers, one of which is an accomplished comedian, one of which has only done TV, one who may have sold his soul for profit and production, and two who may or may not exist. In my perception this has created a hot mess. Knowing about 11th hour reshoots and the insertion of a new member of the cast back in March probably left me with a nice quiet dread.  Simon Pegg tried to pass them off as common place, but normally this indicates the movie is missing something or audiences/producers didn’t like something and a change was needed. Adding a full character just doesn’t happen. Seeing the scenes with the new character makes me wonder what else was added as part of these, how the story flowed otherwise? There were other technical flaws that made it feel disjointed as some characters inexplicably vanished during parts and some wardrobe adjustments between beats that told me we missed something.

I want you to focus on the next paragraph…really.

That said they do one thing right. The crew. They are a family. They make this work! They care about each other and aren’t afraid to show it. Every last one of them is family to the others and have absolute faith in that relationship. It was really really pleasing after some of what we saw in Into Darkness and so many other movies with forced conflicts. They also show that multiple races (literally) regardless of skin, sex, orientation, eye socket placement, appendages do come together and truly show the ideals of Roddenberry’s Trek. We haven’t had that in so many many years. I rather despised what happened with many of the TV series as they grew darker and more like something that Alan Moore would write to highlight the flaws of government. They did it right here. While George Takei may have (legitimate) issues with making Hikaru Sulu gay, John Cho had his own, knowing a friend who saw it tonight about cried seeing non straight orientation in such a big budget film in a known verse. Representation is important folks and I could do a huge post on that alone…I probably will another day.

Overall the writing was very disjointed to me and I can see why now as there are full on beats that I didn’t care about or have any emotional response to, yet others did make me smile.

From an acting perspective, there isn’t a lot to say. It’s movie three and the crew is the crew. Pine is Kirk. Quinto is Spock. Urban is Bones. These are facts, nothing more nothing less. When they are in frame you know who they are and the idea of it being someone else doesn’t cross your mind. I about cried when I saw Anton Yelchin. He is going to be missed and I am happy they announced they will not recast Pavel Andreievich Chekov. Idris Elba (Pacific Rim, Jungle Book) was given bad direction and so so make up, and doesn’t really work as the villain for me. Sofia Boutella (Kingsman: The Secret Service, upcoming The Mummy reboot) is a gem as Jaylah. They do everything right with the character and absolutely nothing wrong…except one thing.

They don’t let you see her actually fight. Oh she fights, but the cinematographer needs his camera privileges taken from him. The camera work was absolutely abysmal for most scenes either panning and zooming without a point of focus or unnecessarily shaky. I would have loved to watch a lot of the physical combat, I think it looked interesting from the few frames I saw. Other shots were so derivative as to be distracting and I am almost sure I got someone nauseous from the work. The make up effects were mostly solid. Some creatures were new, original, and others just looked good with smart designs. Others….not so much.  The other FX are ..ok. I mean well well above average; so I guess they were good. Though I really really want to ask if Simon Pegg or the production designer play Mass Effect, if you watch it you will see why.

TL;DR?

*sigh* I didn’t like it.

Wait wait wait!!

The audience around me applauded. The friend I saw it with really liked it too. They acknowledged the flaws but were able to move past them and enjoy the film. Unlike last week with Ghostbusters, I couldn’t. It has points I clearly do like, aspects of Act III that made me give a damn, and is solid. It just doesn’t work for me. It didn’t resonate and that kind of makes me sad. It is absolutely better than Into Darkness. It is ORIGINAL. not the plot so much, but it’s not a rehashed episode or plot from a previous movie.

Should you see it?

Yes, yes  I think so. I mean there were overall applause from the audience and that means something. A movie like this not resonating with me doesn’t make it bad or unwatchable, or even un-recommendable. It’s very clear that there’s good here and good should be celebrated.

I think a lot of people should and will enjoy this.

My friend said it best, “it’s like an episode with a bigger budget!”

Will you buy it?

Probably? I mean I can give it a second chance in the comfort of my own home. I know my friend is and they never buy movies.

What about? You know…

They handle the legendary Mr. Nimoy’s death in a way that had me tear up. Both he and Anton are acknowledged in the credits.

What’s next?

Suicide Squad!

Darke Reviews | Ghostbusters (2016)

The original Ghostbusters, released in 1984, is iconic. It is a staple of comedy and a near perfect film in many of its respects. As the aforementioned link indicates the movie holds up decades later from a raw filmmaking standpoint, much less fond memories. So when Sony announced, not only an all female Ghostbusters and on top of that a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe I was of mixed opinions. The move felt like a money grab on the cultural zeitgeist of nostalgia; adding the cinematic universe aspect to it added to the cash grab feeling after Sony continued to watch Marvel/Disney continue to mint their own money with the MCU. Now…it must be said the response to the all female part was….visceral from a certain demographic I would happily see wander into a ghost trap ne’er to return. I was cautiously optimistic, but then I heard the casting and was less so. I am not a fan of the movies around Melissa McCarthy. Until tonight, I have never watched a Paul Feig …anything. Not Bridesmaids, not The Heat, not even The Office when he was directing. I watched 10 minutes of Spy (also with McCarthy) and couldn’t stand it – though not because of her, but the movie around her.

Then the trailer for this came out. I was not pleased. I didn’t like the look of the ghosts. I didn’t like the humor they showed. Didn’t like Leslie Jones character…sorry caricature. Didn’t like how they implied it was part of the same universe as the original. Yes, the “30 years ago….” makes a strong implication it was a shared ‘verse. I am not the only one who didn’t like it as it quickly became the most hated trailer …ever. Then more trailers came out and I got used to the ghost design. I ended up finding the beauty in it. I was still nervous about Jones, the trailer joke was a bit meta. But I gained hope overall. Then…Fallout Boy happened. I *LIKE* Fallout Boy, quite a bit. Immortals, Centuries, My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark, etc; but the song sounds over produced and doesn’t have an original beat or bone in it’s body and is just hollow. Now, the original song while iconic – is not *great*, but Fallout Boy has talent and this didn’t do the movie any favors for me. Nor apparently the people who were dying to hate it.

I have been waiting all this week, anticipation building in me like the psychokinetic energy of New York City. People keep asking – have you seen it yet…

Now I have, but should you eat the twinkie?

From here on out I judge the movie on it’s own merits, it’s own flaws. No comparison to the original will be made.

Written by Paul Feig and Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Rec), and directed by Fieg the movie tells the story of four women who come together to bust ghosts. Simple right? At it’s core sure, if you don’t want to care about anything or anyone in the movie. You have to give the women depth. Make them relatable, and more importantly likeable. You have to decide if you are going for a horror vibe, comedy vibe, somewhere in between, and where on that needle you want to move. While the review won’t compare, the writers/director must keep the original in mind so that they can at least try to be faithful to the balance, the story, the characters, the world, and the science. You have to put the science in the front. Yes, this adds another factor in the horror/comedy – science fiction. It’s easy to overlook the science and focus on the supernatural. What I am trying to say here, before I ramble too much more is that they did not have an easy job on this reboot. No one would have. There’s a reason they haven’t been able to get Ghostbusters 3 off the ground for the past thirty years (video game notwithstanding).

I don’t think they fully succeeded in the balance factor. The four mains are *excellent*; they feel real, but in a just exaggerated enough factor to be larger than life and to be something that could one day be iconic. Every other character, and I mean every other character is so beyond real they are a walking farce. Because of that the movie suffers in the humor beats that do not involve the four interacting directly with each other and their environment. It’s like looking at a balloon that is overinflated and starting to distort. It just separates you from the otherwise enchanting characters and breaks the moment. The plot itself is sufficient, works, and is absolutely serviceable.

What brings more to the party is Kristen Wiig (Despicable Me 2, How to Train your Dragon) as Erin Gilbert, McCarthy as Abby Yates, Leslie Jones (SNL)  as Patty Tolan, and Kate McKinnon (SNL, The Venture Bros) as Jillian Holtzmann. McKinnon absolutely steals every single scene she is in. Even in the background you cannot take your eyes off of her. Holtzmann is hands down the *best* character in the film. You can try to argue, but you’d be wrong. Wiig and McCarthy are clearly a best in class combo for comedy and they work so well together playing off of each other with a natural charisma that makes them really likeable. Jones was screwed by the trailer. This also cannot be argued. Patty fits with the other three very well and while playing the everyman role, still adds to the group and its needs as the plot moves on. All four were clearly on their A game and it shows, that even the jokes that fall flat we’re close to not doing so because of their talent. I really don’t want to talk about the other characters, they are either flat, annoying, or otherwise so unrealistic as to break the world view the crew tried to create.

That said, lets talk production.  This movie is *deeply* flawed. I could talk for hours about all the flaws. Mediocre or bad music set at the wrong times, bad editing, bad jokes, lousy camera work…the list goes on. Fieg is a comedy director so the idea of an establishing shot may be lost on him. Equal blame goes to Director of Photography, Robert Yeoman on that one. The movie cuts too often and doesn’t transition between scenes in any intelligent way that could have been creative and enhanced the mood or moments. From an editing perspective you can tell there is *a lot* of this movie on the cutting room floor. I estimated at least one five minute long scene is gone and you can tell it’s gone – that isn’t good. References are made to something you never saw and a beat you would expect to happen and didn’t. The downside, the ramifications of the beat are still on screen and it leaves you wondering – if even for a moment. I *really* didn’t like the treatment of Chris Hemsworth’s character to the point that the joke with the character wears out quickly and too much time is spent on him when it should be spent on either the story or the mains.

Lets talk part of the title.

The Ghosts. I like them. Seeing them on the big screen. I liked them. They made me smile and some of them were quite original looking.

The Busting was fun. The ideas and engineering, the build up, and the testing was actually kinda fun and really added something to the movie.

The lack of practical effects, flaws in how the plot was executed however did lead to less investment in the overall movie, which was only saved by the mains. There’s more I want to say here, but it delves into spoiler territory, but there’s some beats that flat out annoy. There are some elements so painfully telegraphed I sighed deeply when I noticed.

TL;DR?

This review is kinda long for me already, so let’s cut right to it.

I liked it.

Despite its myriad flaws, I enjoyed myself. All of the responsibility on that falls on the four stars of the film and they do deliver. All of the flaws I firmly put on the director and a lack of skill with this type of movie.

I love that girls out there can look at these characters and go “I wanna be a scientist” because of this. Not a paranormal researcher, but a scientist. They made science such a focus that these characters *can* be looked up to. They give a message of not giving up on your dream. That’s important. That representation is needed. Movies like The Martian, and others are bringing more women into leadership and scientific roles; which girls can see and realize they can live their dreams as well.

Should you see it?

Yeah. Yeah you should. This movie doesn’t do anything to the original. Absolutely nothing is taken away if you prefer the 1984 version. You still have it, you can still prefer it. You should give this a chance. If you let yourself enjoy it you may even laugh. I did.

What about 3D?

3D enhances this one. Thanks Malcolm.

Will you buy it Jess?

Yes. BluRay. Heck I might go see it again. Not just to tick off the MRA’s who are determined to see it ruined.

Anything else?

The cameo’s are applaud worthy. Stay to the end of the credits.

Shameless plug for an awesome charity group: The Arizona Ghostbusters

http://www.arizonaghostbusters.com/

No event too big.  No charity too small. Proudly serving Arizona communities since 2007

 

My final thought is, yes I enjoyed it beyond its flaws. I want to see more of these characters and I want a sequel, with a director more skilled to this type of film. I am ok with a Ghostbusters Cinematic Universe. I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.