Monthly Archives: August 2012

Review – The Bourne Legacy

Here’s the thing with a film like The Bourne Legacy, a film that occupies the same universe as a popular franchise (the Bourne films with Matt Damon) that doesn’t follow the same story as them, and that’s that nobody really knows if they want a film like that. A lot of people are skeptical that the film would be perhaps just made for the cash, and who can blame them? With the popular franchise tag and Jeremy Renner in the leading role, it’s a big draw. Fortunately, the film is not just a cash cow project, it has merits of its own.

The film’s story is always vague and unclear, which is something of an issue, although it essentially centers on Aaron Cross (Renner), an agent from the government branch that created Bourne. But that’s basically all you’re told, and the film’s pacing and narrative strength is majorly hampered throughout a clumsy first act. It’s cross cutting and attempts to tie it into the events of The Bourne Ultimatum (using the excellent Waterloo station scene) weaken the strength of the narrative, and you’re never quite sure where you are with it chronologically. The flaws in the script remain present, particularly in the final act, where it simply descends into predictable thriller territory, when it had the potential to be something greater than that.

It doesn’t really get going until Aaron and Dr. Shearing (Rachel Weisz) meet. Weisz plays the role ably enough, but she is painfully underwritten and seems to serve as nothing more than a foil for Renner.

Some of the new characters however, are interesting, and very well performed. Renner, for instance, brings charisma and a dynamic sense to the character of Cross, elevating him to more than just another weapon, and he allows the audience to latch on to him and root for the character. The cast highlight is Edward Norton Eric Byer, who leads the hunt for Cross. It is a testament to Norton’s ability as an actor that he can bring such conviction and presence to the role, helping to keep the pace of the film up, giving a gripping portrayal whenever he’s on screen.

Renner and Norton in The Bourne Legacy

Tension is built well and, like all of the films before it, it is filled with excellent and well executed combat set pieces, bolstered by high speed camerawork and high energy fight choreography.

Perhaps the film’s main issue is that it lives forever in the shadow of the film’s that came before it. It never manages to get the narrative clarity of The Bourne Ultimatum, or the sense of mystery of The Bourne Identity. Also, the old guard are sorely missed, particularly the always excellent David Strathairn as Noah Vosen. The issue here is of course that the film does have its own merits, a charismatic lead performance and an excellent supporting turn from Norton, but it can never quite spread its wings and be its own film.

By no means a bad film, The Bourne Legacy is hampered by its label as a Bourne film, as it tirelessly tries to latch onto the films before it, it’s writing feels clumsy in the first act and predictable in the last. It is saved by the dynamic set pieces associated with the series that spawned it, and a strong, dynamic performance from Renner. While it does have plenty of merits of its own, it simply doesn’t seem to have the staying power of the first trilogy. 

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Post-Cannes Oscar predictions

So, after Cannes film festival, awards season talk tends to come a bit more into the front. And so, in light of that, and a handful of release date changes that happened a while back, notably the likes of Gravity and The Great Gatsby being pushed back to next season, now seems a good time to bring up a slightly revised list of predictions.

However, since most of these films are still yet to see the light of day, the majority of it remains sight-unseen, or simply educated speculation.

Best Picture

  • Les Miserables
  • Anna Kerenina
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Django Unchained
  • Lincoln
  • The Master
  • The Dark Knight Rises
  • To the Wonder
  • Argo

ChangesThe Great Gatsby out and Beasts of the Southern Wild in.

Best Director

  • Tom Hooper for Les Miserables
  • Joe Wright for Anna Karenina
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for The Master
  • Stephen Spielberg for Lincoln
  • Ang Lee for The Life of Pi

Changes: Chritopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) out and Ang Lee (The Life of Pi) in.

Best Actor

  • Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln
  • Joaquin Phoenix for The Master
  • Bill Murray for Hyde Park on Hudson
  • John Hawkes for The Sessions
  • Hugh Jackman for Les Miserables

Changes: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) out, Leonardo DiCaprio (The Great Gatsby) out, Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) in and Bill Murray (Hyde Park on Hydson) in.

Best Actress

  • Keria Knightley for Anna Karenina
  • Marion Cotillard for Rust and Bone
  • Quvenzhane Wallis for Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Viola Davis for Won’t Back Down
  • Laura Linney for Hyde Park on Hudson

Changes: Meryl Streep (Hope Springs) out, Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Smashed) out, Marion Cotillard (Rust and Bone) in and Quzenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) in.

Best Supporting Actor

  • Leonardo DiCaprio for Django Unchained
  • Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained
  • William H. Macy for The Sessions
  • Jude Law for Anna Karenina
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman for The Master

Changes: Joaquin Phoenix (The Master) out, Tobey Maguire (The Great Gatsby) out, William H. Macy (The Sessions) in and Phillip Seymour Hoffman (The Master) in.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables
  • Amy Adams for The Master
  • Sally Field for Lincoln
  • Helen Hunt for The Sessions
  • Maggie Smith for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Changes: Tilda Swinton (Moonrise Kingdom) out, Jessica Chastain (To the Wonder) out, Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby) out, Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) in, Sally Field (Lincoln) in and Helen Hunt (The Sessions) in.

Best Original Screenplay

  • Amour
  • Django Unchained
  • Seven Psychopaths
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Master

ChangesTo Rome with Love out and Amour in.

Best Adapted Screenplay

  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Lincoln
  • Life of Pi
  • Anna Karenina
  • Argo

The Dark Knight Rises out, Les Miserables out, Life of Pi in and Argo in.

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Review – Ted

I’ve never liked Family Guy. Ever. So of course, when I found out that MacFarlane was doing a movie I was, to say the least, skeptical, to say the least. And fortunately, while this film does have its share of flaws (some of them rather glaring), its infinitely better than Family Guy, it’s not plagued by the gags that divert away from the narrative, it feels like a solid and cohesive narrative.

The film is chiefly about John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), and his relationship with a foul mouthed bear called Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). The film opens with a prologue narrated Patrick Stewart (it’s also ended with such narration, which doesn’t work for me either time that its used), that explains how Ted comes to life.

The main narrative strand of it is about the relationship between Bennett and Ted, and the impact it has on the former’s relationship with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). And while Lori is a major character of course, compared to Bennett and Ted, she feels very underwritten and feels, quite ironically, almost like a third wheel.

Wahlberg, MacFarlane and Kunis in Ted.

The same can be said for the vast majority of the supporting cast, who are played by good comic actors like Patrick Warbuton and Joel McHale, but they simply don’t work in the narrative, they serve no major purpose. Warbuton’s character, named only ‘Guy’, is simply… there. And McHale plays the typical unsympathetic character in a subplot with Kunis that goes basically nowhere. And when McHale, who is always excellent in Community doesn’t produce laughs, then something’s off. However, there is one genuinely wonderful supporting performance in the movie, Sam Jones (of Flash Gordon fame) as himself, producing excellent laughs, particularly when snorting coke and proclaiming “Death to Ming.”

While the supporting roles may not be all that great, the leading duo of Wahlberg and MacFarlane is where the film really comes to life and is at its best. Their performances are both great, particularly MacFarlane’s spot on voice acting, and they manage to create an excellent chemistry and rapport, and their relationship becomes much more real than you’d expect.

And it is this dynamic that makes the first two acts of the film so good, the way these two characters work with each other, a particularly good scene involves Wahlberg reeling off a list of ‘white trash’ names, and the way it works with the bear makes the scene stand out. The most surprising thing about the dynamic is they manage to create a lot of laughs out of a lot of one note humour.

The main narrative issue lies in the final act of the film, which is often the way with comedies like this, that also try to force home sentimentality. Simply put, the latter of those elements, the sentimentality does not work well. It becomes jarring in the way it is introduced, and slows down the pace of the final act, disjointing it from the remainder of the film.

While far from perfect, with unnecessary sentimentality, and a woefully underwritten supporting cast, Ted is still surprisingly good. With its two leading performances, it makes one note jokes interesting, and in terms of writing, stands head and shoulders above MacFarlane’s TV work.

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