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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My Go-To Movies

There is a sense, one must admit, that when a person goes through any major time in life, that that person searches for inspiration or encouragement or any major emotion in the different seasons life offers. For me, I’m one to look to the movies. Movies is not my answer to problems, but I will say that movies certainly ease pain, distract, and act as an excellent escape from the demons in my mind at times.

Here’s a list of some of the movies I go to first when I need a laugh or a little inspiration.

Go-To Funny Flicks

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
The Hangover

Happy Gilmore
Jim Carrey anything
School of Rock
She’s the Man

Go-To Chickflicks

(500) Days of Summer
Elizabethtown
The Holiday
Never Been Kissed

Notting Hill
The Wedding Date

Go-To Inspirational Films

50/50
The Artist
Cast Away
Good Will Hunting
Jerry Maguire

Go-To Psychological Thrillers

Anything Christopher Nolan directed
The Matrix
Vanilla Sky
Equilibrium

Go-To Action Flicks

Back to the Future 1 & 2
Inception
Lord of the Rings trilogy
Mission Impossible
 1, 3 & 4 

 

Out of all those movies listed, Elizabethtown is probably the movie I go to the most in all different times and seasons of my life. There are zillions of other movies that I love, but these are the ones that immediately came to mind for me when I need a “go-to” movie. Go-to movies are different for everyone–we all gain inspiration, get a good laugh, or find ourselves mesmerized by different films. These are mine.

What are your go-to movies? Which movie have you rewatched the most? Do you ever get more out of a movie the 10th, 18th, or 39th time watching?

Week of Favorites: Actors

The great thing about film is that there are so many aspects to appreciate, favoring specific tracks on soundtracks to cinematographers to performances to directors. Another great part about film is that it’s always evolving, introducing new actors, rehashing old story plots, improving technology. There are always new and old films to watch and rewatch, new introductions to characters to be made, new soundtracks worth listening to, and so on.

After a stroke of writers’ block, I decided to get back to the basics and post my “Favorite Five” of various film categories each day this week, today starting with my five current favorite actors. While over time (and with more films to view), I’m sure my favorites will change over time, but for now, these are my five six favorites. Stay tuned for favorite actresses, films, and other favorite lists coming up this week.

6. James Franco

I’m of the belief that James Franco will become one of the best actors of the younger generations. He’s still only in his 30s, but he already has a rocking resume that boasts plenty of potential. He’s done everything successfully, from the big screen to the small screen to soaps to hosting the Oscars, and yet he pulls it all off with incredible charisma. I really enjoyed him playing the sharp, confused Harry Osborne in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, although I was especially blown away by his Oscar performance in 127 Hours. I still laugh at him in Never Been Kissed, watching the then-unfamous, unrecognized Franco spout off a couple forgettable one-liners in the background. Who would have figured him to have embodied James Dean only two years later? There’s loads more of positive things I could say about him, so I would direct you to my spotlight post on him here.

5. Tom Cruise

Coming in at my number 5 slot is none other than Tom Cruise. He may not be the most popular person in real life, but on screen, he’s one of my favorites. I tend to lean more toward his 90s or early 2000s films, such as A Few Good MenVanilla Sky, and my favorite of his, Jerry McGuire. He also established himself through the Mission Impossible franchise, his latest film hitting theaters only in December of last year. He’s versatile enough to be playing action hero or dramatic lead, and he brings an intensity to each role that he plays. I found him unusually funny in Interview with the Vampire, easily outdoing his popular co-star Brad Pitt. Although Risky Business wasn’t my favorite film, I still appreciated Cruise’s hilarious performance back when he was younger. The guy ceases to age physically, as Richard Roeper tweeted during the Oscars that Cruise has aged at least 3 years in the past 30.

4. Matt Damon

Matt Damon is another hard hitter, although he’s often overlooked for George Clooney or Brad Pitt. While both the latter are good actors in their own ways, there’s this drama and insight that I see more in Damon. He embodied a newer, more interesting, James Bond-like character as Jason Bourne in the Bourne series, but he really won me over with his stunning and moving performance in Good Will Hunting. He’s transitioned from action star to more fatherly roles in his more recent films, and he balances them well. He works well as both a supporting and leading man in film, and I’m excited to see what else he has up his sleeve.

3. Will Smith

Part of me leans toward Smith because I grew up watching Fresh Prince and I dug his humor. He lights up the screen in whatever film he’s in. Smith either fights off the bad guys or moves you to tears. He also does a nice job of staying out of the limelight despite being married to an incredible actress and raising two kids that are turning in careers of their own. Since 2005, Smith has acted as producer for all of the films he’s collaborated with. My favorite films of his are currently Hitch and The Pursuit of Happyness. Will Smith is one of the few actors who seem to hold a strong grip on comedy, action, and drama films, making him one of the more flexible actors in Hollywood today. I don’t care much for the Men in Black franchise, but I look forward to him taking on newer projects in the future.

2. Jim Carrey

One of my favorite actors of all time is Jim Carrey. He tends to play character actors in most of humorous roles, but he’s also created new funny guys such as Bruce Almighty. Carrey is probably known best for his funniest films: Liar Liar, Dumb and Dumber, or The Cable Guy. It’s often said that comedic actors struggle to cross over into drama; that may be true, but Carrey would be an exception. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to The Truman Show to The Majestic to The Number 23, Carrey could be considered a dramatic actor every bit as much of a comedic one. He’s turned in multiple performances that make you question how someone can so effectively walk the line between comedy and drama and come out as successful as he has on both ends.

1. Tom Hanks

When I was thinking through some of my favorite actors, Tom Hanks was the first to come to mind. I grew up watching him in Big and Turner and Hooch and Sleepless in Seattle, and I loved how he was really the everyman in his films. I’ve always found Hanks to be a relatable guy in most of the roles he embodied, and that’s what always attracted me to his films. He’s won two Oscars and I wouldn’t be surprised if he weren’t through with winning big awards yet. He’s starred in some of the most memorable films, from Forrest Gump to The Green Mile to Philadelphia to one of my favorite films of his, Saving Private Ryan. He seems to have done a little bit of everything, from voicing the iconic animated character Woody in the incredibly successful Pixar franchise Toy Story, to working with CGI animation in The Polar Express, to bringing The Da Vinci Code books to life, to playing a man stuck in an airport in The Terminal. Hanks is one of those actors who will do most anything, even gaining a significant amount of weight, acting against himself, and talking to a volleyball in my favorite film of his, Cast Away.

Who are your favorite actors? What makes them so good to you? Who holds your top spot?

Backstage Spotlight: 2011 Film Scores

To my own surprise, I didn’t find Oscar winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo score as interesting as their award-winning score that accompanied 2010’s The Social Network. I felt let down by the second installment of Sherlock Holmes in part due to Hans Zimmer’s lacking, all-over-the-place score. I was especially underwhelmed with Cameron Crowe’s decision to feature only Jonsi on the We Bought a Zoo soundtrack.

With those disappointments in mind, I still found three scores surprisingly well-fit for the movies they served.

  • Michael Giacchino’s score for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

While director Brad Bird was a newbie to live-action film directing until the latest installment in the Mission Impossible franchise, he took with him music composer and collaborator Michael Giacchino, who is known more for his stellar work on animated films such as his Oscar-winning score Up, or Cars 2. Giacchino isn’t a stranger to composing for live-action film, however. His work extends not only to film, but also to the popular show Lost. One of my favorite Giacchino’s scores is the latest Star Trek reboot.

Giacchino did a nice job of subtly blending the well-known Mission Impossible theme while creating new themes for the locations the IMF team traveled, such as the track titled “A man, a plan, a code, Dubai.” The fast-paced, entertaining soundtrack well complemented the adrenaline-pumping film.

  • Alexandre Desplat’s score for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2

You don’t need to be a fan of Harry Potter to be a fan of this exciting, beautifully composed score. Well-set theme tracks for certain characters to a gorgeous, sweeping end theme accompanying the epilogue, The King’s Speech composer Desplat pulled out all the stops to deliver one of the better scores for the Harry Potter franchise. With the likes of John Williams (composed for the first 2 films), Patrick Doyle, and Nicholas Hooper to follow, Desplat was given probably an easier opportunity to compose when he was writing for the epic finale in the series. Nonetheless, I applaud him for making one of the more listenable soundtracks that entertains in its entirety, unlike some of its predecessors.

If you buy the soundtrack, you’ll also get a Behind the Scenes music video featurette of Desplat conducting the final song on the soundtrack, “A New Beginning.”

  • Henry Jackman’s score for X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class introduced me to Henry Jackman, who I had never heard of before seeing the film. While I was seeing the film, I couldn’t help but wonder who had composed it, because it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. Suitably entertaining, powerful, and emotional, Jackman’s score lends the needed feeling to both the action scenes and the more emotionally-focused moments. He retains a similar theme throughout the entire soundtrack, making it memorable in viewer’s heads. This was easily my favorite score from 2011.

Even one of the trailers for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy featured the track “Frankenstein’s Monster,” from the score:

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Patrick Doyle’s score for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Patrick Doyle’s score for Thor

Ludovic Bource’s score for The Artist

What film scores from 2011 were you a fan of? Did you like any of the ones I didn’t?

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.