AEOS Review: The Bourne Legacy

I haven’t reviewed a film in quite a while, but I have some free time right now, so I’m back to posting. Thanks for everyone’s patience! (I know all of you just missed me so much, ha!)

There haven’t been that many great films to review this month (see: last post), but The Bourne Legacy was one of those films I was looking forward to for one reason: Jeremy Renner. He arrives on the Hollywood scene in his early 40s, and he seems to be the “back-up plan” for all of these franchises that seem to bumble between furthering the franchise with yet another film, rebooting the franchise entirely, or recasting the series with Renner.

Renner first showed up in The Hurt Locker and did one heck of a job so I’m told, although I have yet to see that film. But I’ve witnessed him play an excellent supporting role in The TownMission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, and The Avengers. Renner knows how to own the screen whether it’s a starring or supporting role, and I look forward to seeing more and more of him in the future!

Unfortunately, I did not dig The Bourne Legacy like I hoped to. I wouldn’t call Renner and Weisz’s performances saving graces since the film wasn’t that terrible, but the truth of the matter is that the film fell flat. It didn’t live up to the previous Bourne films, it lacked a great villain, it completely wasted Edward Norton’s talents, and Aaron Cross’s motivations were consumed solely with finding the “chems.”

Aside from the film’s notable issues, however, I found it to be an enjoyable action film. The lab scene where one of the workers goes on a killing spree was especially terrifying and shot in such a serious and subtle way, that it stood out as the best scene of the film for me.

Nothing about The Bourne Legacy especially grabbed my attention aside from the lab scene–the score lacked the excitement of the previous films, although the film did end with Moby’s Extreme Ways, which I appreciated. I tend to wonder whether there will be a fifth installment with the lackluster response both critics and audiences have given the film.

If you’d like to hear more of my banter on the film, please check out my movie buddy Ryan’s podcast on his site, The Matinee. I had the privilege of getting to guest on episode 66, where we talked not only about The Bourne Legacy, but in light of this interesting recast (Matt Damon to Jeremy Renner), also listed off each of our top 5 recasts in films. And not only to put in a plug for Ryan, but also just to say from my own perspective — Ryan runs a great site and is so up to date. He puts me to shame with how on top of things he is from writing posts, to seeing films, to recording podcasts. Please take the time to check out his site and specifically listen to episode 66 if you can spare the time! You won’t regret it.

What did you think of The Bourne Legacy? Did you like it more than I did? Do you think Jeremy Renner lived up to Matt Damon in the Bourne series? Do you think there will be a fifth Bourne film?

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Top Ten Favorite Movies of 2011

The time has come for me to finally make this list. I haven’t seen Tree of Life or Drive yet, so I feel like this list could possibly be adjusted after a viewing of either, but despite those exceptions, I still had a difficult time compiling this list. Without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite movies of 2011:

10) Something Borrowed

Of course I’m the only person out there who will be putting Something Borrowed on my list. It rated 14% on Rotten Tomatoes and received poor reviews all around. HOWEVER, this is my “dud” on the list. There’s a reason Something Borrowed makes my favorites list (as I not so subtly bolded the word favorite earlier), and not the list I consider to be the BEST movies of the year. I know it’s not going to be other people’s favorite, but that’s the point, right? This film resonated with me. I enjoyed the story (and the book it was based off), and maybe part of my problem is that I have this thing for John Krasinski. I don’t know.

9) The Muppets

And now to hit the movies that are on other people’s lists. I ended up seeing The Muppets twice. This is one of the most fun films to come out this year. Jason Segel did an excellent job reincarnating this group of lovable puppets that stole many hearts of earlier generations. From the screenplay to the original music, The Muppets won me over almost without trying.

8) Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I found this newest edition to the franchise to be the most adrenaline-pumping of them all. Nonstop action, and some of the craziest stunts I’ve seen take place in a movie. There was great chemistry between Simon Pegg, Tom Cruise, Paula Patton, and Jeremy Renner for the latest IMF team. I really enjoyed the craziness of this movie and am happy to see Tom Cruise phoning in another good performance.

7) X-Men: First Class

This is one of the most exciting movies that came out this summer as well as the best one of the franchise by miles. Originally, I had never seen any of the X-Men movies, but on just a single viewing of  First Class, I was interested in the series. When a prequel can draw a non-fan in without annoying fanboys/girls with excessive detail or repetition (or really, just treating them like they’re stupid), then it can really be a great thing. I really enjoyed being introduced to the awesome Michael Fassbender as well as seeing James McAvoy play a young Professor X. And to top it off, a great soundtrack by Henry Jackman served as background.

6) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. II

I was one of the people who waited in line to see Deathly Hallows Pt. II and left feeling exceptionally underwhelmed, most likely due to steep expectations. After a second viewing of it, I came around and started thinking more about it. Deathly Hallows Pt. II was a great end to such a successful movie franchise. Although many fans of the books were left wanting with having many scenes changed or completely left out of this movie, it’s hard to argue that this movie didn’t move you in some way if you’re a Harry Potter fan. I was especially fond of the epilogue and the tone it left viewers with. There were so many great performances, that it’s hard to pick just one or two standouts. For me, it was exceptionally nice to see Daniel Radcliffe give all that he could to his Harry Potter role throughout the series, and then watch it all come together as he gave his life in Deathly Hallows Pt. II.

5) Midnight in Paris

I’m so happy to see all the critical chatter Midnight in Paris is drawing. I had heard almost nothing about it before I saw it, but I read a nice review by Roger Ebert. In the middle of a summer filled with lots of action, superheroes, and monsters comes this beautiful and creative stand-alone movie from Woody Allen. All the locations filmed in Paris alone serve as a great backdrop and historical picture of past and present Paris. I really enjoyed seeing Owen Wilson shine in a newer type of role for him alongside the gorgeous Marion Cotillard. From the music to the costumes to the humble, but smart screenplay, Midnight in Paris was easily one of my favorite movies of the year.

4) The Descendants

Since I first saw a trailer for The Descendants in theaters, I knew I would want to see the movie. I really enjoyed George Clooney’s previous Up in the Air, and I was excited to see him in an indie-styled film. Coming across as very grassroots, The Descendants takes a family that is seriously messed up and lets us journey with them through an especially harrowing time for George Clooney’s character, Matt King. What I enjoyed most about this movie was the realistic touch. Shailene Woodley gives her all in a dramatic role of playing a rebellious, but hurting teenager. It’s a story about family, making decisions, grieving, and dealing with unpleasant situations, and at the same time, it gives the audience a sense of realism. That pain and frustration and arguing and death is a real thing that happens every day, and shapes you as person as you deal with those times by your reactions to certain situations and interactions with the people close to you in life.

3) The Help

Based off the novel by Kathryn Stockett, the story of The Help is both moving and inspirational. This movie was able to accomplish both of those tasks–move and inspire viewers–without the unnecessary pizzazz or cheesiness that tends to accompany many films of the same genre today. Stripped of all the colors from the costumes, The Help makes you think beyond the movie theater and the book. Some of the best performances of the year took place in this movie, from Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to Emma Stone. Jessica Chastain was hilarious in her supporting role as well. Although there’s still controversy over this movie, The Help is no doubt one of the best movies to come out in 2011.

2) 50/50

Barely missing the top spot for my favorite film of the year, 50/50 made me cry and laugh and walk away very thankful for life by the movie’s end. Perhaps because the story was written by the guy (Will Reiser) who was actually diagnosed with cancer–and has now survived it and is in remission–50/50 offers the most realistic look at a young person dealing with a rare form of cancer. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is both brilliant and endearing in this role, seeming to act the part from the inside out. A great supporting cast of Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Huston, and even Seth Rogen ties this dubbed “bromance comedy” together. Both moving and hilarious to watch, 50/50 was one of my favorite movies of the year.

1) The Artist

Until this past Sunday, 50/50 held the number one spot in my list of favorite movies for 2011. And then I saw The Artist and couldn’t shake the feeling that I had seen one of the greatest films to come out in a long while. I walked in with low expectations, assuming I would be bored or disinterested, but found myself unbelievably surprised and thankful for the opportunity to see this movie gem. Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo are flawless in this Michel Hazanavicius film filled with great performances, a great score, great writing, and great cinematography. It’s difficult to restrain from overpraising The Artist, not only because was it that good, but also because nothing else remotely similar has come out in ages, much less would be comparable to it. The Artist will probably hit it big at every awards ceremony this year, and rightfully so. If you haven’t seen this movie yet, please do so. It’s definitely my favorite of 2011.

What was your favorite movie of 2011? Did you like any of the ones on my list? What was missing from my list, and what do you think I should see still? I missed out on just about all documentaries in 2011, so I’m definitely looking for suggestions!

AEOS Review: Mission Impossible 4–An Impossible Feat Made Possible?

I was obviously going to play off the word impossible or possible as much as possible, because I have to hand it to director Brad Bird–if there were a mission to edge as close to the idea of being “impossible,” Ghost Protocol was it. In fact, Ghost Protocol was so good, that it holds the reigning title of best movie I have seen this month. And that is a high achievement, given that it is the month of December and some of the best movies are coming out right now.

A failed mission has just transpired. Sabine Moreau (Léa Seydoux) shoots an IMF agent who has just attained the sought after launch codes for Russian nuclear missiles in order to deliver them to the primary villain of the story, Cobalt, who just so happens to be a nuclear extremist. Cut to Ethan Hunt sitting in a Russian prison, bouncing a rock off the opposite wall from himself. We don’t see his face or even realize it’s Hunt at first. We’re focused on the two agents trying to break him out of prison: Agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton) and a familiar face, now field Agent Benjamin Dunn (Simon Pegg).

There’s a prison break, and an all too familiar tune starts to ring in the background . . . oh yeah, we’re watching a Mission Impossible film. Throughout the remainder of the film, we hear it on occasion, and when we do, we welcome it because it isn’t overplayed and it adds just the needed rhythm for the accompanying scenes.

And so begins the fourth installment of Mission Impossible. Hunt concludes that it must have been necessary to break him out, because otherwise he’d still be in prison. The mission is to gather files located in the Moscow Kremlin in order to find and identify Cobalt. Several missteps take place. Security is somehow alerted of their presence in the Kremlin, and the team is forced to run when the Kremlin blows up. A ghost protocol is sanctioned by the Secretary, who is no sooner killed, leaving Hunt and the secretary’s analyst, William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to join up with the rest of the team and work without any outside help, having to accept blame and being deemed terrorists for the bombing of the Kremlin.

I won’t summarize the rest for you, given that the plot is fairly complicated. But there are several things to highlight, such as the intense scene where Tom Cruise is scaling the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, located in Dubai. There are a few mishaps along that way that force him to get creative in getting in and out of the building, not leaving much time to consider his own survival. Roger Ebert posted the videos of Tom Cruise actually climbing up the building, and running around and down it, and jumping across the outside of the Burj Khalifa in his journal. Here’s one of those videos:

This movie pushes the envelope more than any of the previous three have dared. Every stake is high and gets higher, the tension closes in past the last possible second, and at some points, it’s almost painful to look to see if Ethan Hunt has survived the next problem to come his way. There’s a great supporting cast, with a stand-out performance for Jeremy Renner playing secretary analyst Brandt, who happens to have a few tricks up his sleeves, meanwhile harboring a secret or two of his own. Simon Pegg’s return as Benji reminds me of the friendship / partnership that Jack Bauer and Chloe O’Brian shared on the 24 series. Pegg’s humor is the only thing offering any amount of breaking point from the high action, ultra-intense, adrenaline rush of the entire movie. Paula Patton also gives a nice performance as an agent we get to meet for the first time, who’s equally beautiful as she is physically talented.

This movie holds you until the very end and leaves you with a sense of awe. The IMAX surround sound really brings you into the middle of the craziest parts of the movie, from a car/foot chase in a sandstorm to Cruise holding his breath as his technologically-failing gloves slowly give out on him while he hangs on for dear life on the Burj Khalifa. Another crazy scene occurs when Agent Brandt is wearing a special suit that allows him to hang in the air. But first, he has to jump down a shaft with a giant fan at the bottom of it. I won’t say how that scene ends, but I will admit that I wondered a few times if he was going to make it out of there alive or not.

The best surprises are revealed in the end in a most satisfying way. I have to credit Bird for tying this movie to the previous one by including a cameo of MI3 character Luther Stickell, played by Ving Rhames. There’s a great surprise ending that makes you want to praise screenwriters Steve Zaillian, David Koepp, and Robert Towne. They did a spectacular job with moving the story along as well as placing surprises at every turn.

MI4 is one of the best action movies of the year, no arguments made. It is, by far, as close to impossible as a mission could get, especially in this franchise. Tom Freaking Cruise has finally outdone himself in the Mission Impossible franchise. He’s made some beautiful gems year after year, showing off his range of drama to action, and MI4 does not fall short of his stunning film resume in any way. He pulled out all the stops and continued to bring the drama and action to this series, by doing his own stunts and adding new layers to the character, Ethan Hunt. Anyone looking for a good great movie this month should leave in the middle of Sherlock Holmes 2 and get an IMAX seat to this unplugged thriller.

Women in the Director’s Chair

The latest issue of The Hollywood Reporter, due to come out December 16, is titled “The (Female) Directors,” with Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2) gracing the cover.

Originally, when I saw the cover, I was really confused as to why Angelina Jolie, of all people, would be on the cover. I couldn’t think of a single film she has directed or was slated to direct. According to this article in that THR issue, Jolie’s directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey, is set to hit theaters in limited release on December 23. Given her international political resume, I can’t say it’s a surprise that Jolie’s debut is a Bosnian war film. It’s neat to see the female directors together again since Nelson directed Jolie in Kung Fu Panda 2, which is only the second animated film to ever be directed by a woman (first was The Tigger Movie).

Last year marked history for female directors with Kathryn Bigelow being the first female director to ever win the Oscar for Best Director for her movie The Hurt Locker. Also mentioned in the another THR article from the same issue, “The Femmes to Watch,” include the only other three female directors to ever get nominated for Best Director:

“Only three other women before had been nominated in the category: Lisa Wertmuller for Seven Beauties in 1976, Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993 and Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation in 2003.”

It’s interesting to watch the rise of women in the film industry. Shakespeare in Love includes a great example of when women weren’t allowed on stage, and men portrayed women. Later, the Bechdel test was invented to show the type of role women are represented in movies. Perhaps you’ve even read a post about a certain type of character some female actresses constantly fall into, like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Women no longer take the backseat to men in film anymore. They’re in front of the camera, and more are starting to get behind it as well.

Kathyrn Bigelow’s Acceptance Speech:

(upon winning the Oscar for Best Director for The Hurt Locker)

“This really is when … there is no other way to describe this. It’s the moment of a lifetime. First of all — this is so extraordinary to be in the company of such powerful — my fellow nominees — such powerful film makers who have inspired me and I have admired for — some of whom — for decades. Thank you to every member of the Academy. This is again the moment of a lifetime.

I would not be standing here if it wasn’t for Mark Bohl who risked his life for the words on the page and wrote such a courageous screenplay that I was fortunate enough to have a great cast bring that screenplay to life. Jeremy Renner. Anthony Mackey and Brian Garrity.

And I think the secret to directing is collaborating and I had truly an extraordinary group of collaborators in my crew: Barry Akroyd and Kelly Juliason, and Bob Murawski, Chris Innis, Ray Beckett, Richard Stutzman. And if I could also just thank my producing partners, Greg Shapiro and my wonderful agent Brian Suberal, and the people of Jordan who were so hospitable to us when we were shooting.

And I’d like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world and may they come home safe.

Thank you.”

December ’11: Entertainment vs. Oscar Hopefuls

While 2011 hasn’t been an altogether disappointing year for film, it hasn’t entirely sparked a whole new generation of moviegoers to enter the film arena, or blown away even the most dedicated cinefile. Now, that isn’t to say there haven’t been some gems found amidst the crap, or some really decent, fun movies that critics have torn apart for this reason or that, but put it on the month of December to impress viewers the most. The November/December season usually holds the majority of the Best Picture noms as well as many of the other nominations for the upcoming Oscars in February.

For Entertainment Purposes:

1) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Although the first SH in this series was pretty good, the only hit for it at the Oscars was its score by Hans Zimmer (which was very new and original). Although I’d love to see a movie like this gather some Oscar chatter, I don’t consider it a possibility given RDJ’s askew British accent and the film’s focus on more comedy/entertainment than story line (see either trailer to get a good look at RDJ dressed as a woman for one of his disguises). Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunate) for RDJ, his sarcasm and sense of humor has taken the lead in marketing for the more recent movies he has been or will be in (see both Iron Mans, trailer(s) for Game of Shadows, trailer for The Avengers). The special effects, however, do look pretty incredible, and the cinematography looks similar to the likes of 300, as well as the previous SH.

2) Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol

While I’m tired of hearing the argument–how can there be one, much less MULTIPLE impossible missions–I do respect the point and have to give it a little credit. This fourth movie in the franchise, however, looks promising as well as ending for the series, at least when it comes to Tom Cruise’s role as Ethan Hunt. The story line looks promising and more complex than past movies, and the stunts look even bigger and crazier. My hope is that the series ends after this film without a new start-up starring Jeremy Renner (geez, he’s already started that with The Bourne Series, let’s not do this with MI too!).

3) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

From what I’ve heard, the Swedes have done this series right in every way, and now we’ll see whether America can follow suite with the fictional book series and do it justice. Although there’s possibility for this movie to touch the Academy (past series have done so before–LOTR!), the odds are not in the favor of a fictional book-to-film adaptation unless you’re Peter Jackson. Still, this movie looks entertaining and interesting and different, and it looks like there’s a great cast ready to tell the story.

Oscar Hopefuls:

1) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Now when I call them “Oscar Hopefuls,” I mean that I hope that these films do something at the Oscars. And I think they have a good possibility as well. I wrote more about this movie in this post. I do think its talented British cast and interesting storyline, if well-played out, could possibly touch the Academy. The Brits have been reeling (pun intended) about this movie, and many critics have already awarded high marks to this movie since its earlier release in the UK.

2) The Iron Lady

Of all the movies I have listed, this is the film I have read or heard the least chatter about. For a political film starring Meryl Streep, I’m practically stunned that I’ve heard so little about this film. Streep has phoned in multiple Oscar-nominated (and won) performances, and it’s doubtful that this one will not join her other remarkable and stunning performances. Coupled with coming out during Oscar season and being part of a political thriller genre, it’s setting up all the right moves for gaining it’s own slot in the awards season. Stay tuned and watch out for this movie. I have a good feeling about this one.

3) We Bought a Zoo

I also wrote more about this movie in this post. Although Crowe has yet to get a film talked about at the Academy since Almost Famous, I think We Bought a Zoo has great potential. The Crowe and Damon alliance has happened for the first time, and it could reap great results. Crowe’s real-life, person-centered storytelling honed in, with the right cast, could earn him a spot.

4) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

This is surprisingly my first mention of this film. The trailer for this movie kind of came out of nowhere for me, and having people like Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock head this project makes that especially shocking. A new take and perspective on 9/11, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is already making viewers cry during the preview. I really look forward to this movie and could see it moving critics as well.

That’s my take on December! I’ve certainly seen a share of entertaining and critical films that have already been talked about for the next Oscar season. We’ll see what December holds for moviegoers. What are looking forward to watching the most this month? And do you think any of the films listed (or others not listed) have Oscar potential?