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Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Jason Bourne

The long awaited installment in the Bourne series is in theaters now. I eagerly went to see it, and was not disappointed. Jason Bourne is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language.

Nicky (Julia Stiles) has hacked into a database with records from the covert training programs dating back to Treadstone. She finds Jason (Matt Damon) in Greece during protests that occurred there, with chaos reigning between protestors and military. With this as their backdrop, they meet and flee, with the man simply known as Asset (Vincent Cassel) in pursuit with orders to eliminate them. So begins the first over the top chase scene in this film.

At the CIA, Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) presides over the hunt for Jason and Nicky with the help of an up and coming agent, Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander). Heather is ambitious, with the smarts to get her up the career ladder, but is also vulnerable to the ulterior motives of Director Dewey.

Jason eventually arrives in London where he is attempting to meet with his original recruiter to Treadstone. The CIA cannot leave Jason alone and again sends the Asset after him.

Meanwhile, a big platform for an Internet company is being launched by Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). This is the part of the film that draws us into the moral dilemma of our time. How much personal privacy must be sacrificed in the name of public safety? The last film with Jason came out in 2007. Information technology has skyrocketed in sophistication since then. Just how vulnerable is the average citizen to being monitored? Aaron states that privacy equals freedom, and he argues that it is a right to be maintained.

The social media atmosphere is central, everyone taking photos with their cell phones and filming everything that’s going on around them. Especially at the big conference in Las Vegas where Director Dewey and Aaron are both featured. It all comes down to that showdown, and the chase scenes that are in Vegas should definitely be left in Vegas, and only on the screen.

After the film, I overheard people talking about how those scenes were so over the top, dozens of innocent people getting in the way of the Asset and Jason trying to destroy each other, that if this were reality, those innocent citizens would all be dead. It is so unrealistic, exciting, yes, but I truly hope no one ever gets in the middle of a high-speed chase in real life. A comment was made that Americans seem to need to be stimulated, overly stimulated, with constant action. Those chase scenes feed that need apparently.

If there is another Bourne film, I hope it delves deeper into the story of Jason with a bit less flash and crazy adrenaline producing segments. This is a good storyline. Everyone in the theater was cheering for Jason, so expertly played by Matt Damon. I highly recommend you go to the theater to see it.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Bourne Legacy

Some fans were skeptical about the fourth film in the Bourne series, The Bourne Legacy, as it didn’t feature Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. Instead it starred Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, another in a line of men recruited into the clandestine program that began with Jason. The Bourne Legacy is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.

The program called Outcome has evolved into biological engineering to create men with exceptional skills. Aaron is in training in the frigid wilds of the Arctic when he realizes he needs more of the pills he is being given as part of the program. When a drone attempts to kill him, he makes his way back to Virginia to the clinic that has always provided him with the drugs.

Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is a physician dedicated to science, and when a coworker goes ballistic, she is drawn into the chaos. Aaron finds her and the two flee together, being tracked and pursued by the usual types of characters. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) wants to find both of them as they are attempting to shut down the operation by killing anyone who knows about it.

Aaron is a bit different from Bourne in that he has come to rely on the drug to sustain his superior physical and intellectual powers. Bourne was the first and they didn’t give him the pills. His intelligence would then appear to be innate. References are made to Bourne in this film, and Aaron becomes aware of his existence while holed up in a cabin in the woods with another operative. Aaron’s curiosity serves him well; always asking questions, he sets a good example in questioning authority.

Marta shows herself to be a compassionate woman, ultimately helping Aaron get the care he needs to thrive once again. Their globetrotting is exciting to watch, and the fight scenes and hot pursuit up and down narrow alleyways in Manila and on the streets leading to the sea are phenomenal.

I found it disturbing to watch Aaron and Marta referred to as targets, and equally disturbing to hear an assassin referred to as an asset. When someone dehumanizes, it is easier to kill, and that’s part of the training in the program.

Biological engineering is not some science fiction idea; it’s now reality what with GMOs and manipulation of genomes becoming all too commonplace. Tracking and surveillance of citizens is chilling to watch and again a reality. That’s why strong safeguards must be in place to protect average people.

Who knows what the military does to those select few who join elite forces. Do you really think that Navy Seals or other soldiers are just exceptional? With athletes taking steroids and other drugs to improve performance, I wouldn’t doubt that soldiers are given those types of drugs too, as a common practice.

I highly recommend this fourth Bourne film. Matt Damon as Jason Bourne will be back tomorrow! And I’ll be back in a couple of days with my review of it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Bourne Ultimatum

Jason is back, and the bad guys are after him in The Bourne Ultimatum. He discovers that an investigative journalist, Simon Ross (Paddy Considine), has uncovered the story of him and Marie. This is very unsettling to him and he seeks out the man in London to find out who his source for the story was.

The NSA is hunting for this journalist due to his asking around about the covert operation Blackbriar. Jason is soon involved in the cat and mouse chase, which globe trots us from London to Morocco and finally to New York City.

Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) with the CIA is asked to head up the search for Jason since she knows something of his movements, and what he’s likely to do. She is a skilled leader, and doesn’t ever give up on Jason. Jason is always one step ahead of the corrupt leaders who long to capture him and silence him forever.

Noah Vosen (Michael Strathairn) is an NSA chief intent on destroying anyone that gets in the way of keeping Blackbriar secret.  Since this film was released in 2007, it has some establishing scenes close to the beginning so as to remind us of what Jason has been going through. It also would make it easier if you happened upon this film without having seen the first two. A wise choice.

Jason is having troubling flashbacks about his initiation into the world of espionage and assassination. It’s troubling to the viewer also as he is essentially tortured until his mind breaks and he becomes the soldier they envisioned. Jason was the first it is proclaimed.

Jason runs into Nicky (Julia Stiles) while in Madrid and she soon reveals her soft spot for Jason, every bit of the accomplice that Marie was, minus Jason’s love that seems to be only for Marie.

The requisite car chases and a really stunning pursuit on foot in the alleyways and buildings of Morocco involving Nicky, Jason and an assassin really take center stage for what seems like an eternity. That any of them could realistically do what these scenes depict is of course incredible; suspension of disbelief required. Jason certainly is capable of everything from hot-wiring a vehicle to using technology to his advantage. He must have a really high IQ.

Jason truly is regaining who he is, a man of conscience and someone who works for no one, only himself and what he believes to be good and right. This was a great third Bourne movie, and we are left wondering what Jason will do next.

This film won Academy Awards for Best Achievements in film editing, sound mixing, and sound editing, all well deserved. It is rated PG-13 for violence and intense sequences of action.

The following Bourne film did not feature Matt Damon as Jason, but brought us into the life of another trainee, played by Jeremy Renner. Come back tomorrow for a glimpse of the film that follows in the footsteps of Jason Bourne.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Bourne Supremacy

The second Jason Bourne movie, The Bourne Supremacy, came out in 2004. This is a good sequel with Jason (Matt Damon) still being pursued by Treadstone, or what remains of it. The film is rated PG-13 for violence and intense action and for brief language.

Jason and Marie (Franka Potente) have been on the run, most recently settling in Goa, India. A great thing about these films is the ground covered, literally, as we go continent hopping with Jason.

Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) is a higher level CIA staff who stumbles across Bourne’s existence and ruffles feathers at Langley when she insists on seeing classified information about Treadstone and Jason.

Jason is not one to be underestimated, as Nicky (Julia Stiles) warns the team of CIA operatives. Jason is fed up with being pursued and targeted for assassination, and is always one step ahead of those pursuing him.

Jason still struggles with headaches and his amnesia, while staying in shape and being aware of his surroundings. He is plagued by flashbacks of things that have happened in his past, dark secrets he almost doesn’t want to uncover. Is he really this cold blooded killer inside, coexisting with the man who loves Marie so completely, the man who can fight with trained assassins and win, the man who won’t pull the trigger, who has a conscience?

Jason is anything but simple. He is a complicated man trying to find his way, protecting himself and Marie as best he can, trying to find the way out from under government surveillance.

Pamela is a sharp woman, stopping at nothing to solve this mystery. She seems to respect Jason ultimately, just as Nicky does. What Jason does at the end of the film is touching and shows the true nature of the man inside, the part of him that couldn’t be shaped and molded by the military.

This is another good Bourne episode, one with the requisite action packed fighting sequences and high speed chases that one has come to expect from films with espionage and intrigue. They are just over the top crazy sequences; almost makes Jason seem superhuman at times. But that’s entertainment for you.

Why I keep watching this is because Jason is a complicated character, human, someone who has been used by the military with no regard for his own life or for human life. It’s a theme that is relevant today when soldiers are used and then sent home damaged, unable to function in society, depressed, suicidal, with PTSD and a lot to deal with. The average soldier though is not the almost superhuman Jason Bourne and has no resources to deal with the damage that’s been inflicted on him.

So there’s my plea for funding of programs for returning veterans. If they’re going to be used that way for the purposes of empire and the selfish wants of global corporations, the least we can do as fellow citizens is help them return and heal.

Stay tuned for the next Bourne review.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Bourne Identity

Many years ago, I read a couple of novels by Robert Ludlum, The Bourne Identity being one of them. I never forgot about this excellent story. It was a good read, so when the film came out in 2002, I was excited to be seeing it. Especially as it starred Matt Damon, one of my favorite actors.

The Bourne Identity does not disappoint. I decided to watch it again on DVD, as I heard a new Bourne movie would be coming out July 29th. So as a treat to myself and to you my reader, I am going to be reviewing all four Bourne movies prior to the new release.

I enjoyed this first film as much as I did when it first came out. Technology no doubt has advanced a bit since then, but any outdated parts to the script don’t at all detract from the story.

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) finds himself wounded aboard a fishing vessel off the coast of France. He has no memory of who he is. So begins his quest. As he finds the clues to what he’s been doing, he discovers hidden instinctual skills and talents. Jason is intelligent, rational, and physically skilled, with his body a trained weapon.

He encounters Marie (Franka Potente) in Switzerland and pays her to give him a ride to Paris. This is another thing that I liked about this film. The travel through Europe is shown to us as it is to Jason. Once in Paris, Jason finds not just himself, but Marie, has been placed in danger. After her initial shell shock, she becomes a willing accomplice in Jason’s quest to find himself and to end the hunt for him that unknown attackers seem bent on.

I won’t say anything more, as you should see this film or watch it again. It sets the stage for all the subsequent films. The Bourne films never skimp on action sequences, whether it’s hand-to-hand combat, car chases or simply drawing out the suspense.

There is one particularly quiet moment between Jason and Marie when they are at the Hotel de la Paix in Paris. Watch for it. Beautifully filmed, it is their own place of peace for a brief time in the frantic running from their pursuers.

The other thing that is not to be underrated is the deception of the government in how Bourne is set up. This is not a film that champions the CIA, quite the contrary. Government clandestine affairs are the bad guy. You figure this out very early on. Operatives include Conklin (Chris Cooper), Nicolette “Nicky” (Julia Stiles), with Clive Owen as an assassin.

The film is rated PG-13 for violence and some language. Matt Damon didn’t have long after his early Academy Award win for Good Will Hunting before he hit pay dirt in this franchise. Extremely capable and believable as Jason Bourne, he wins us over with his earnestness, and especially for the sensitivity he shows Marie.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed

Any fan of John Lennon will embrace this unassuming little film from 2013, Living is Easy with Eyes Closed. I happened upon it by chance, looking for some light entertainment one evening. It turned out to be a Spanish film, taking place in southern Spain in 1966, when John Lennon was there filming How I Won the War. The film is said to be inspired by a true story. David Trueba wrote the screenplay and directed this engaging movie. It is not rated, although I’d place it at about PG-13 content.

The story involves three people: A school teacher obsessed with the Beatles and John Lennon in particular; a young lady fleeing her residence at a girls’ home; and a boy escaping his family, hitchhiking to nowhere in particular it seems.

Antonio (Javier Camara) teaches English to schoolboys by way of Beatles' poetry, and borrows a car to make the trip to Almeria on his quest to actually meet John Lennon while he is there filming.

He picks up first Belen (Natalia de Molina) at a gas station, and then Juanjo (Francesc Colomer) joins the two, thus beginning this road trip. It was fascinating to see Spain depicted during the 60’s, the barren hills leading down to the sea, the landscape of the coastal town, the simple life of the townspeople. The story pulled me along, just as enchanting to me as the poetry of John Lennon still is.

Belen is mature for her age, and yet so vulnerable. Juanjo is just learning to assert himself and has challenges to overcome, as the world then was as full of bullies as it is today. He wants to copy the Beatles’ hairstyles just like the boys in America did. Music was everything in the 60’s, and the musicians our role models for peace and love.

Antonio wants the lyrics printed on the Beatles' albums so he can better teach English to his students, and wishes to speak to John about this. He basically stalks him on the movie set. Meanwhile, the two young people must make decisions about their life direction, something that Antonio ostensibly helps them do.

There have been other films inspired by alleged encounters with famous people, and this one fascinates just as much. Pat Metheny composed the pleasing acoustic score and Charlie Haden is another featured composer.

This Spanish movie has the feel of an independent film, something I discussed in my last post on Frances Ha. You might classify it as an art house film, something I will blog about in a future post. You get both a foreign, and an independent film if you watch this one (unless of course you live in Spain).

Please feel free to comment on any of my blog posts. I know I have readers, the stats show it, and so I encourage some dialogue. If you have any films or genres you’d like to suggest, do that too. Until next time, here is the trailer for the enchanting film Living is Easy with Eyes Closed.