Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Netflix Files: Road Warrior, This Ain't

I owe Mad Max: Fury Road and apology.

I'm sorry, Mad Max: Fury Road -- I was too harsh on you. I said that you were overrated; I called your action scenes a one-note car chase/gunfight through an apocalyptic wasteland & thought they got repetitive very fast; I thought some of the characters like Immortal Joe's prized Breeders and the title character didn't get enough characterization; etc. Sometimes, you have to own up when you're wrong, and I was in this instance, especially when you come across watching something so laughably bad that it makes you pine for a better, more competently made picture.

Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End is just that sort of movie that made me pine for George Miller's expertly made, but flawed action-thriller, warts and all. In fact, this is a low-budget action movie that will take its cues from other better movies, but more on that later. Revelation Road was made by Pure Flix Entertainment. Who are they, you ask? They're a faith-based studio who churn out feature films and television programs with a Christian edge to it. They're also responsible for the surprise 2014 hit and previously reviewed drama God's Not Dead, which I called as one of the worst, most insulting films I've reviewed since doing this blog, and with this crappy action film, along with the bland action-thriller Jerusalem Countdown, they're 0 for 3 in my book.

Josh McManus  (David A.R. White, who also serves as a producer) is just your ordinary salesman, traveling the road to sell a bulletproof vest for a few dollars. Yes, I said that he's selling protective gear, and yes, he apparently only has one item. No forums, no boxes full of bulletproof vests...just one vest he tries to sell to a gun store owner, Frank (Ray Wise), only to be asked whether or not he places his faith in the thing he's selling, or in God. A tip for all salesmen out there: if someone asks you if you place your trust in the Almighty or in gear that can stop a bullet and save your life, just walk away, because it's not worth dumbing yourself down to earn a sale. Unfortunately for Josh, Frank and his granddaughter Beth (Noell Coet), they are held at gunpoint by the least-threatening gang of bikers I've seen on film. The actors playing them try to look tough and intimidating, but I don't know what's less believable: their posturing or David A.R. White suddenly flipping the script and becoming a gun-toting bad ass.

Yes, you heard that right -- Josh turns his personality on a dime and suddenly takes out three members of the biker gang as if he's Viggo Mortensen's Tom Stall from A History of Violence. Frank is thankful for his bravery, and he begins to tell the audience that he's a man with a dark past and can't ask for forgiveness for what he's done over the years, as if the audience don't have the brain capacity to see that cliche coming from a mile off. Also, if you're trying to explain that Josh has a dark past and that he was trained to be an emotionless killer, here's a tip: show, don't tell!

The Bikers, led Brian Bosworth (yes, 'The Boz' himself is in this) swears brutal vengeance on going after Frank, his wife and granddaughter. Why do they do this? Never once explained. Frank wasn't the one shooting up the place, so why go after his ass? Even less understandable than the bikers going after the wrong target is David A.R. White cast as a character that direct-to-video has-been actors like Steven Seagal or Dolph Lungren could play. Simply put: the man doesn't have the presence or the look of an action hero, and seeing him take on biker thugs or an irate domestic abusing husband in a motel brings nothing but unintentional fits of laughter.

In fact, the cheapness of the whole thing, coupled with the abysmal fight choreography would make this a really entertaining "so bad it's good!" episode for Internet reviewers like Allison Pregler and Brad Jones to endlessly mock, as well as seekers of B-grade schlock, but the film takes its premise way too seriously, thanks in part to how much the filmmakers lay the religious angle on thick. In key scenes where other characters interact with our main hero, the dialogue goes something like this: "Put your faith in Jesus Christ, and he will absolve you in all your sins!" or, "God has a plan for you, if you just open your heart."; etc, etc. The preaching gets really old really fast, and it feels as if I've stepped into a church sermon with Mad Mad Rockatansky as pastor.

To be fair and completely honest? Although Revelation Road: The Beginning of the End is a cheap, poorly made and construction action-thriller; it isn't the worst thing made by Pure Flix Entertainment. If anything, it's just really dumb and corny as hell, and if you take a look one night, it's good for some laughs and pretending you're with Kevin Murphy, Michael J. Nelson and the rest of the MST3K crew, providing commentary and hilarious analysis on what's being depicted onscreen.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mr. Brown Rambles #2

* Bad people can still make fine art. I love Michael Jackson's music while acknowledging that he was a man who had serious demons that were never exercised over the course of his life. I'm just getting into the works of writer-director Woody Allen and I think his movies are just incredible from what little I've seen, yet I do think he's definitely a pervert at best and a messed up child-fucker at worst with the allegations that he molested his own daughter, Dylan, during his widespread split with actress Mia Farrow in '92. Johnny Depp, in spite of taking paycheck roles since he rose to superstar status with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies as Capt. Jack Sparrow, I still think he's one of our generation's finest actors, and he's a woman-beating piece of shit (allegedly). People who make exemplary art shouldn't be punished just because they're a shitty human being, nor should they be driven out of the Oscar race, which is what is happening to Nate Parker and the upcoming slavery drama, The Birth of a Nation (due out Oct. 7). For those of you who don't know: in 1999, Parker was accused of raping a fellow college student while he was attending Penn State; he was later found not guilty on all four counts in court. However, the event has re-surfaced as the Sundance winner has picked up considerable Awards buzz as a possible frontrunner for Best Picture, though now, with stories written about Parker's past from Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, The Daily  and other media outlets, it seems that it's slipping further into irrelevance (the fact that the same studio that financed the film, Fox Searchlight Pictures, has also bought the rights to distribute the biopic Jackie, doesn't help it's chances). Stories like this aren't exactly new in the Awards rat race, as those who follow and talk about it will tell you, but I hate the idea of a quality piece of work being denied because the artist is a questionable person at best, POS at worst. And speaking of the Oscar race....

* As much as I enjoy the Kris Tapley's, the David Poland's, the Anne Thompson's, the Sasha Stone's (and yes, even the Jeffrey Wells's) of the movie beat discussing who and what should get nominated, who'll get screwed, and which film, director, actor & actress will take home the big prize; I sometimes wonder if these gurus of gold ever get sick of diving into the rat race because, as much as I, myself, enjoy the race itself, that for all the essays on why The Revenant is a masterwork of cinema, the counter-hit pieces on how Zero Dark Thirty endorses torture and shouldn't be nominated, the seemingly endless diatribes on why Room sucks, etc., etc., - there's this sense I pick up that the covering of the Awards season isn't all that much different from the norms and customs I experienced in high school which made those four years sometimes unbearable: cliques, sabotage, backstabbing, verbal bouts, frenemies - all this drama and bullshit that goes down each and every year has to drive those guys insane!

* Here's a "hot take" - hot takes is just another word for a troll trying to stir up the pot without adding anything interesting, thought-provoking or any nuance to the conversation, and nowhere is this trend becoming more prevalent than in sports talk. Look, I don't want to listen to boring sports talk radio hosts who don't have a little personality or pizzazz, but I don't want the other extreme either - an obnoxious hack who thrives on throwing out meaningless takes which either haven't help up from the start, takes which didn't pan out over the course of time, or takes that are just plain, grade A bullshit. I'm talking about hacks like Stephen A. Smith, who confuse yelling over people like a petulant child with having a debate with his co-partner on the other side of the chair. I'm referring to Skip Bayless (the same douchebag who speculated that Troy Aikman was hiding in the closet), another hack who constantly rags on LeBron James, despite the fact he's made six straight NBA Finals appearances and won two titles with the Miami Heat and one recently with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, is widely considered to be the best player in his sport. The same guy who thought Robert Griffin III would be a better overall player than Andrew Luck, despite that Luck has advanced in the playoffs each of his first three seasons, and got a bad break with a lacerated kidney injury that sidelined him for most of the 2015-16 season.; whereas Griffin had one good season his rookie year, and followed the next three years with injuries and poor QB play which led to his dismissal from the Washington Redskins at the end of last season. The same guy who rode on Tim Tebow's jock strap when he arrived in the NFL and continued defending him, despite the consensus that Tebow, while a fine athlete, just didn't have the intangibles to be a pro-level QB in the league. I can't stand when noise, stupid takes and just being aggressively irritating and obnoxious are thought of as good sports talk: it isn't. It's just fucking lazy.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

I Can't Forget.

It was 15 years ago today that I went on a camping trip with my 6th grade class, along with the others from across the San Diego Unified School District up in Palomar. The whole idea is to to get the students to learn about nature, the environment and to enjoy meeting new people from another school; it's a tradition that's been going on for decades in the school system in SD. 

That was also the day everything changed, as the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. & a fourth plane taken over by ordinary passengers on United Flight 93 crashed into a meadow in Pennsylvania, put us on a different path, one that led us into a fearful place, driven by our need to feel secure, whatever the cost. It also shined a light on the people we might take for granted - police officers, firefighters, first responders - men and women who went into harms way to save as many lives as possible, and lost their own in doing so. It signaled that even in perilous, evil times, the best of our race as homo sapiens comes forth. 

For me, it was one week of hiking, swimming in the river, and learning about plant life. The counselors at the camp never told us that our world was changing in real time, nor did they show it in their faces when the news kept pouring in about buildings falling, ash clouds engulfing the most populous city on earth and how names like Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda would become boogymen that would haunt us for years to come. 

How could they tell us that we were a nation under attack, soon to be a nation at war? 

How could they turn our week of peace into one of fright, confusion and despair? 

How could we understand the grasp of something as heavy as a terrorist attack, or how a senseless and cowardly attack has and will continue to change the very landscape of our lives, our generation, our country in the days, weeks, months and years to follow?

They didn't. As far as we knew, the world was still spinning with its comings and goings as it had done the minute we left for camp. For that, I am grateful. The world - as dark and uncertain as it had become on September 11, 2001, could wait. 

That was an act of charity us kids at the time could not begin to comprehend, nor I could repay now.

Always remember, never forget.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Suckfest! The Worst Movies of 2016 -- So Far

Ok, let's be honest -- the calendar year for 2016 has been kinda shit, hasn't it? Sequels to cult hits that gave us secondary slop....superhero movies that failed to deliver on the super....studios still trying to cram the awfulness of Kevin Hart down our throats....and this season's offering of summer popcorn flicks did nothing to buck the trend. Does it get better as we turn to fall and the Awards race? Maybe, but for now, here's my compiled list of the worst this calendar year had to offer us thus far.

London Has Fallen - Baltimore movie critic Max Weiss warned me about this abhorrent, xenophobic, racist and profoundly idiotic picture and gave it one star in her review. I felt that was waaaaaaay too kind after sitting through one of the worst action films I've seen in the last 15 years. Gerard Butler is doing his second rate John McClain thing, Aaron Eckhart is still the President with a target on his back, and fine performers like Angela Basset, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman are doing next to nothing in this sequel that the whole of London should be demanding an apology for by the filmmakers.

Zoolander 2 - Once Will Ferrell's Mugatu appears on screen, it seems that this sequel to the 2001 surprise cult hit would begin to find its stride and save this laugh-free debacle. Unfortunately Ferrell's not in this movie for long, and the jokes leave with him once he does. Ben Stiller (who also co-wrote and directed), back as the super male model without a brain, along with Owen Wilson as his equally clueless BFF Hansel, give it their all, but the gags feel forced and the satirical element about fashion world and celebrity culture is tired and worn out, particularly when you get every movie star, pop star and fashion icon crammed in, and not particularly funny, either. With the first Zoolander, the titular character was a dim-wit getting caught up into a world of of fashion espionage and sabotage was funny because how in over is head he was and, despite his dumbness, there was a earnesty about his lack of intelligence. That quality is nowhere to be found in this terrible sequel.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie - Much like Zoolander 2, the best quality of the dynamic between Edina (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley) during their misadventures in trying to recapture their glory days as trendsetters on TV was that there was an earnestness to the proceedings; the fear of getting older and facing one's mortality is something most people can relate to. And like with the former, said quality is absent in this film adaptation of the British comedy series. Eddy and Patsy are on the lam after accidentally knocking and potentially killing Kate Moss over the Thames River; the former's granddaughter in tow, along with her wealthy inheritance, to the French Rivera to live their lives as fabulous as possible. No, that's the plot - you know, the same plot we've seen in better, funnier episodes when the show aired.

Suicide Squad - Whereas Batman v Superman succeeded in launching the answer to Marvel Studios' interconnected film universe despite its shortcomings, writer/director David Ayer's introduction the villains of the DC Extended Universe failed because of its numerous shortcomings - sloppy editing, poor writing and acting, and the obvious studio interference during post-production. I'd love to see Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn and Jared Leto's Joker cause chaos in future movies, and I thought Viola Davis was wonderful as Amanda Waller, a tougher, darker version of Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.  However, Will Smith was miscast as Deadshot; Joel Kinnaman comes off as one note as Rick Flag; and other actors like Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as El Diablo, Captain Boomerang and Killer Croc, respectively, aren't given much to work with and fail to make much of an impression. At the end, Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affeck in a cameo role) tells Waller to cease and desist with any and all activities regarding Task Force X. Perhaps Warner Bros and DC should take his advice.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant - When your teen dystopian sci-fi flick has to borrow elements from Kurt Wimmer's Equilibrium and Ultraviolet, you know your movie sucks. You should also spot red flags when your director, Robert Schwentke, and four of your screenwriters can't keep basic continuity with Shaileen Woodley's hairstyle from the last movie, which was short, to the latest movie, where it mysteriously grows longer again. Speaking of: if your lead actress and your supporting players like Miles Teller, Naomi Watts, Octavia Spencer and Jeff Daniels simply look like they'd rather be doing anything else but fulfill their obligation to this uninspired piece of young-adult junk, it's time to do the audience, the actors, and the studio a favor and just pull the plug on the series. A prime example of everyone on 'just don't give a fuck!' mode if I've ever saw one.

Independence Day: Resurgence - Of all the movies to have come out in 2016, this just might be the worst I'll see all year. It's everything I hate in cinema - a storyline that makes little sense and makes even less sense as it goes on; characters so wooden and so devoid of charisma, energy or anything remotely interesting that calling them both one note and dimensional would be generous at best; nonexistent performances by everyone involved; and the adherence to the Michael Bay playbook that audiences only care about effects that look cool and loud, ongoing explosions rather than telling a decent story with interesting characters. The original knew what it was, it didn't take itself too seriously, and you had two charisma-fueled performances by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum, as well as eye-popping effects and a memorable, thrilling sequence of the aliens blowing up the major cites. This is Roalnd Emmerch trying to re-capture what he did in 1996 and failing miserably to do so in 2016, and an insult to the paying audience who forked over money to watch this bullshit.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Even Us Liberals Have To Deal With Annoying Loudmouths

Editor's note: the point of this post is not to target Bernie Sanders supporters. My intention is to talk about an experience I had with one person in particular and convey that I'm not a fan of his "agree with me or you're not a real liberal!" style of radio/podcasting.

From the website

obnoxious: adjective
highly objectionable or offensive; odious:
obnoxious behavior.
annoying or objectionable due to being a showoff or attracting undue attention to oneself:
an obnoxious little brat.
Archaic. exposed or liable to harm, evil, or anything objectionable.
Obsolete. liable to punishment or censure; reprehensible.
I love watching The Young Turks on You Tube. I try to catch clips and stories by the Internet broadcast group whenever I get the chance because you do get to hear the stories that the mainstream media, otherwise don't usually report on, and their views are proudly progressive. I may not always completely agree with the overall points that Cenk Uygur, Ana Kasparin and Jordan Chariton try to lay out, but I still respect their reporting and their viewpoint. Well, most of the people on the network save one comedian, but I'll get to that later.

No other viewpoints and overall feelings & opinions were challenged and argued over (through me talking to a computer monitor) than the election cycle of 2016. To begin with, TYT felt the Bern, while I was with Her. Cenk and company made the point that the establishment was firmly stacked in Clinton's favor, I felt that Bernie knew what he was getting into when he chose the Democratic Party to launch is presidential aspirations, and while he clobbered both Trump and Clinton in turning out the youth vote, Bernie did a poor job trying to cater to another vital section of the Democratic base -- African & Hispanic Americans and women voters. 

Their point was that the system was rigged against him the whole time, I countered that simply 7 million more Democratic voters liked Hillary and her platform more than Bernie's and that if the Super Delegates were going to flip for the senator from Vermont, it would have been during the Super Tuesday contests in March, where Bernie needed to start piling up convincing victories and eat at Hillary's pledged delegates count.

And on and on down the line. At some point, after Hillary had all-but locked up the nomination and the "Bernie Or Bust!" movement took off, I was pleading with jaded progressives to understand that while Hillary isn't perfect, she is a better, more viable alternative to Donald Trump, and that she was on out side on various issues on social media, with close friends who were deeply in the tank for Bernie and again, through arguing with my computer screen whilst watching various pro-Bernie guests on TYT.

In the end, through their reporting through the primary season, as well as their coverage of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I came to the conclusion that some of us liberals were at a crossroads. I wasn't going to convince the Bernie or Bust crowd to come home and support the Democratic candidate, and that I'd have to accept it and stop trying to preach on the sidewalk about it, and that the same would go for everyone else who was for Clinton. 

Which leads me to the person on TYT that I simply cannot stand -- Jimmy Dore.

For the last week or so, I've been watching clips of his podcast show on You Tube and I've noticed a trend: even though I understand where he's coming from and why he refuses to pull the lever for HRC in the fall, I simply find that he comes off sounding like an angry, bitter prick about it. But again, I remind myself of two things:
  1. I'm arguing on my tablet and/or laptop. People can hear me, and they'll start to think I'm a few french fries short of a Happy Meal if I keep it up. And...
  2. There's nothing I can do to convince him and the rest of the Bernie or Bust crowd that Hillary isn't our enemy, or that this isn't a choice between bad and worse candidates.
But last night, I stumbled onto Dore's latest rant.....

Allow me to respond to some of what Mr. Dore had to say:
  1. Yes, Donald Trump is a buffoon, but he's also playing to the worst aspects of our nature are as Americans -- our fears, anger, intolerance and prejudice, and that sort of rhetoric still has a potent effect our politics. And yes, the continued stories about her damn email server during her tenure at the State Department and her lack of clarity about the whole affair are factors as to why he's gaining on Hillary in the national polls, but post-convention bounces don't last forever -- case in point, Trump was within the margin of error in many polls where he was behind a few percentage points, tied or had a slim lead nationally after he wrapped up the nomination and after the Republican convention in Cleveland. She had almost a month of upwards trending poll numbers. A month. Even with Trump gaining on her nationally, she still has the electoral map on her side in key swing states like Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, North Carolina and Ohio where she has the lead. 
  2. Dude, if you want to call her a bitch then just say it. I'd respect you more if you just dropped the pretense.
  3. Kindly, and I do mean this from the bottom of my heart: Go fuck yourself! You don't like Hillary (is loathe a more apt word choice here?) -- you don't like that she's the Democratic nominee for president and you'd much prefer that Bernie Sanders had won, and that's fine. I'm not going to try and change your mind or convince you in any way that the Bernie or Bust route only helps Trump win the White House. But let's drop the bullshit and be honest with each other: you were never going to vote for her, period. Not even if she came out for a plan that would eventually grant Medicare for all, or if she came out for re-installing Glass-Steagall. And again, that's your right to hold that viewpoint. In fact, let's be even more honest, this time with the Bernie or Bust movement you belong to....
  4. The people who are Bernie or Bust, much like yourself, were never going to vote for Hillary in the first place! She may have adopted some of Bernie's stances at the convention and now they have become part of the Democratic platform for this election cycle, and, thanks to the activism of the Bernie supporters during the race, you guys were able to move Hillary far to the left than she probably would have liked,  but at the end of the day, if it wasn't Bernie Sanders then it was Jill Stein or write-in Sanders on the 8th of November, but it sure as hell wasn't going to be Hillary Clinton. I'll repeat myself: I don't care anymore. I'm not going to try and talk you out of it, because that's just a lost cause. But stop acting like you want her to court you guys, when you're telling her to go fuck herself! But here's the real reason I'm pissed off at you, Mr. Dore:
  5. The minute you essentially said the lot of us who are supporting HRC are phony liberals and are supporting a terrible fucking person, that's the moment that I refuse to listen to another fucking word you have to say. 
Donald Trump is a horrible person for ripping of veterans by claiming one of his websites goes directly to charities for vets, but in reality, it went to his own campaign fund. 

Donald Trump is a horrible person for conning various people while attending Trump University, all for the sake of making a profit.

Donald Trump is a horrible person because he's threatening children of parents who came to the U.S. illegally that he'll tear their families apart and deport them back to Mexico.

A horrible person like Hillary wouldn't have taken cases where children were abused during her time at Yale Law School, nor volunteered to help give legal advice to poor people for free during her postgraduate years.

A horrible person like Hillary wouldn't have dedicated much of her time as First Lady and most of her career to speaking out for for the rights of women, or help pass legislation that helped special needs children find a decent home, or create a national organization that helps women who have been abused.

A horrible person like Hillary wouldn't have helped get S-CHIP passed in the late 90's, so kids could get the health care then needed and their parents who were low-income wouldn't have to fret over paying costly medical bills.

And you damn-sure don't get to tell the lot of us we aren't "real progressives" for which candidate we support from our party. 

So I say again: kindly go fuck yourself, you fucking asshole prick fuckface! There's enough smug doucebags like a Sean Hannity, a Rush Limbaugh, etc., running around out there in the world of talk radio and in podcast land, and your brand of being a dismissive, loud-mouthed jerk, to me, gives progressives and liberals a bad look.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Mr. Brown Rambles #1

This will be a new segment where I muse about anything and everything: current events, movies, personal issues, etc. It gets me writing more, which (I hope) will get me back into the creative mood, and perhaps gets you, dear reader, thinking as well. So, without further ado.....

  • I want to say the Colin Kapernick should be is a non-issue because it is is right as an American to not stand for the National Anthem (even though I find it disrespectful, IMO), but I understand his reluctance and the reason why he has chosen to protest. In my lifetime, I have never been pulled over by the police. I haven't been stopped and frisked by police officers, and I haven't been harassed by local law enforcement. But I cannot deny this is a common occurrence in the black community; that I am more likely to be stopped by police officers than a white male; that I am more likely to be placed under arrest because of my skin color; that we've seen an alarming increase of young black, unarmed men being brutally gunned down by the people who are sworn to serve and protect. These are issues that, while thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement have been brought to light, we still aren't trying to bring solutions to the table in order to stop my community from feeling fear and mistrust of law enforcement, and we still haven't had an honest and open discussion about race in American, or our original sin of racism. So I guess this is an issue, brought by a non-issue that I'm surprised people give two shits about, instead of police brutality and young black kids being gunned down and harassed by the police. 

  • I love my progressive/liberal brethren, but this year has made it really difficult to resist putting my foot up their ass. Yes, the Democratic primary was a rough one where Bernie Sanders gave Hillary Clinton a race after the Super Tuesday contests, but you can't claim election fraud, or that the vote was stolen from you, when one candidate won over more of the popular vote, more states overall and more pledged delegates. Sure, the super delegates were in the tank for Hillary the whole time, but said SD's were for her in 2008 until Obama began piling up victories in caucus and primary states and saw that the base shifted toward him and preferred him over Mrs. Clinton. That's democracy in action, and more of us wanted the former Secretary of State to represent the Democratic Party over the Senator from Vermont. Is she perfect? No. She's more hawkish than I prefer, and I hope she understands that there is a groundswell of the base that wants action rather than lip service on the environment, beating back Citizens United, and getting tougher on the big banks, but let's stop with the "Hillary is just as bad as Donald Trump!" bullshit. One candidate has spent her career fighting for the rights of women and girls, as well as wanting to improve the Affordable Care Act and expanding the age of Medicare to the age of 55, while the other wants to cut taxes for the rich, deport 11 million illegal immigrants, and has a history of being and acting like a sexist, misogynist pig.

  • Oscar-blogger Sasha Stone brought up a really interesting thought yesterday: During every single Awards season, there's two or three movies that become so overly hyped and/or enamored by critics and those who read the Oscar tea leaves that once the movie is released or has been released, that we just ave to start nitpicking the shortcomings, the negatives in order to show that the critics weren't correct and that the film isn't all that and a bag of chips. I think part of this has to do with the hype in of itself: there's no possible way it could be as good as advertised. The acting couldn't be that magnificent, the writing couldn't be that sharp and rich and engaging, the direction couldn't be that assured, sublime, perfect to the letter, etc. I also think the other part is due to how we already have our favorite(s) in mind before the season begins: we hold onto what we like and do anything to protect it and better its chances with the voters, be it bringing up smear pieces, like Jeff Wells did last year wen he went on a tear on the movie Room, or with false controversy about real-life issues, such as Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty supposedly being pro-torture. Regardless of the reasons, this is, unfortunately, part of the Oscar race, and one we all (those like myself who enjoy the season) get involved in. And speaking of the Oscar race....

  •   There's no real rambling thought on the trailer to writer/director Damien Chazelle's followup to Whiplash...I just love the trailer! Seriously, this looks absolutely lovely with the music and the atmosphere of love and melancholy, and this is coming from somebody who doesn't care much for musicals.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Bourne There, Done That

There are many things to say about the Bourne series - namely they were exciting and thrilling to watch. But going a bit deeper than just the two hours of intense fight scenes, betrayal and hidden, ugly truths behind the past of our amnesiac-riddled protagonist, the series (more so Supremacy and Ultimatum when Paul Greengrass took over the reigns from Doug Liman) is a product of its time and place with the War on Terrorism seemingly never-ending, headlines and reports of the U.S. Government engaging in torturing enemy combatants under the guise of protecting American lives and collecting intel, and unchecked powers that have been granted after the attacks in New York and the nation's capitol. The character of Jason Bourne is perhaps an apt metaphor of our mindset at the time - unsure and never fully trusting the powers-that-be. But most of all, the one thing we could never say about the series is this: it was never boring and uninteresting.

Jason Bourne, the fifth installment in the series, is, sadly, just that. Years after the events in Ultimatum, Bourne (once again played by Matt Damon) has gone off the grid in order to avoid detection by the CIA and the shadow organization, Project Treadstone, which created him. His exile is short-lived once Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the CIA's mainframe to leak a new black ops program, Iron Hand, and becomes the target of both the CIA and its creator, Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones). From Greece to Berlin to Laas Vegas, Bourne must stay one step ahead of an agency that still wants him dead, a tenacious young cyber obs expert, Heather Lee (newly minted Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander) and a former Brackbriar assassin (Vincent Cassell) with an ax to grind against Bourne in order to find out the connection between Iron Hand and the death of Richard Webb, Jason's father. Sounds like an intriguing, even exciting plot, right?

Think again. The whole plot just feels like Greengrass and his screenwriter, Christopher Rouse (who also serves as film editor) are rehashing the same beats that were done before in Supremacy, Ultimatum and even in The Bourne Legacy. Substitute Iron Hand for Treadstone; Jason trying to piece together the mystery surrounding his father's death for him to recollect is memories before he went rouge thought the first three movies; Dewey's justification for invading privacy for protecting his country for Noah Volson getting the green light to engage in torture and rendition in Ultimatium; Heather Lee as the agent who sees through the BS for Pamela Landy; and Cassell as the mindless assassin who's sent to silence Bourne before the CIA's dirty secrets become public knowledge; and what you have is basically the same song and dance we've seen countless times over the span of three movies and one spin-off.

Which isn't to say there aren't any redeemable aspects to Jason Bourne, because there are. As per usual, the action scenes and fight choreography are top notch; in particular, the Greek parliament riot sequence and the car chase in Vegas call to mind one of the reasons why we loved the series in the first place: the shot in real time camerawork and use of practical stunt work, as opposed to over reliance on computer-generated effects. Vikander gives a solid performance as Heather Lee, and it's always fun to see Tommy Lee Jones playing a bastard who wraps himself in the stars & stripes, but, as I stated before, all of this feels like recycled material from previous installments of the franchise. Sure, this one brings up issues of cyber-terrorism, hacktivism, and the thin line between protecting the homeland and our rights to privacy, but said issues feel like they are taking a backseat to the action. In the end, Jason Bourne ends up where X-Men: Apocalypse was in May: seeing the same beats from other installments and being reminded that they were done better the first time round.

** stars out of ****