The 2002 – 2007 Bourne trilogy is the rare action franchise that matches it’s thrills with its smarts. Whereas most espionage thrillers could be somewhat silly (think Tom Cruise cracking a joke as he dangles from the Burj Khalifa), Bourne had a more straight-forward matured ambiance that set itself apart. So I was highly anticipating Matt Damon’s return to the role nine years later, however I failed to realize it would be a blatant cash grab for the studio, right down to the lazy title. It reminds me of when MGM titled the sixth Rocky movie, also many years removed from its predecessor, as simply Rocky Balboa. As for Damon, I guess it was as good a reason as any to shed the We Bought A Zoo dad bod and get ripped (I like to think this was a direct response to his BFF literally becoming Batman).
Jason Bourne is not that much different from the first 3, but that’s pretty much the problem. It has a very rinse and repeat feel. How many times is a slithery high-up CIA official nonchalantly gonna say “You know what, this Bourne is too much of a risk, let’s just take him out,” as if that plan had never been concocted before? Of course Bourne, pissed that these assholes won’t just LEAVE HIM ALONE, comes back in the fold and wrecks shop. So this movie isn’t bad per se,’ I’ve just seen it three times already.
There are two items of note that keeps it worthwhile. One is a B-A-N-A-N-A-S car chase that is really more Fast and Furious than Bourne, but great nonetheless. The other is Tommy Lee Jones, once again reprising his grumpy cop act. I can’t get enough of that guy. Grumpy Cop would be a welcome addition to any movie. Tier 6
Damn when did Chris Pine get so old?” That’s what ran through my head during the opening scene of Star Trek Beyond. I’ve always considered him in the same age bracket as myself, so upon seeing this it gave the same feeling I get when I see the “You Must Have Been Born By 1998” sign at the 7-11 checkout. Did the makeup dept. purposely age him or is this how he actually looks now? One of the broad plot points of the newest Star Trek is “Captain Kirk has a mid-life crisis,” so it’s entirely possible it’s makeup and some Just For Men – Touch of Grey, but nonetheless it rattled me. Just like it rattled me the first time I watched someone younger than me play in the NBA (Lebron James). And just like it rattled me when I turned 27 and realized I was no longer eligible for The Real World.
In regards to the actual movie….it’s ok. I thought it was kinda dull until my favorite karaoke song kicks it into gear in the third act. I’ve never been a big Star Trek fan and unless I have a few friends in the Trekkie closet, I don’t know any either. But I know they exist (similar to Trump supporters). If it is your jam, you likely already saw it opening weekend. For the rest, you can probably find something better to do with your $15 and wait for cable.
And sidenote: An unrecognizable Idris Elba plays the villain Krawl or Kral or Kale or whatever behind an alien mask and some sort of voice distortion. I have no idea what the point of having a bonafide G like Elba play a part in your movie if you can’t tell its him (same goes for Oscar Isaac in X-Men). On top of this, Elba has voiced characters in 3 different animated movies this year, but no major roles as an actual human. Hopefully he gets himself out there a little more because he really is perfect to play the next Bond.
Tier 6 Update: On second thought, you can pass on this.
So this blog is primarily about movies coming out in 2016 and to a lesser extent those in 2015 that I never got to. Once in awhile, I will see a movie from years back for the first time and feel it’s worth putting up here. One such case is 2013’s Blue Ruin.
Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room is probably in my Top 3 so far this year and after posting about it, two different friends vehemently recommended I see his prior feature Blue Ruin, so I gave it a shot. In its simplest terms, Blue Ruin is a gritty, intense, and concise revenge thriller set in the rural mid-Atlantic (look closely and you’ll recognize Rehobeth Beach in one or two scenes). The most interesting thing about it, and what drives most of the film’s events, is the fact that the protagonist seeking revenge is not your standard movie tough guy. Rather, he is a less than average Joe who is in WAY over his head. Picture 2004’s Man on Fire, only replace Denzel Washington with someone like Toby Flenderson from The Office. Similar to Green Room, this movie is “dark as a mug,” so it might not be for everyone, but I really dug it. Tier 3
Earlier this month I mentioned that London Has Fallen just seemed inappropriate given today’s climate and lacked serious self-awareness. Well, Zootopia is the exact opposite and could not have come out in a more appropriate time. This Disney kids movie of the “animals living like humans” genre depicts a mammal metropolis with a slight but steadily growing divide between the “predatory” mammals and the much bigger non-predatory population. At the center of this is a mystery being tackled by an idealistic, yet somewhat naïve bunny cop. With a set up like that, obviously there are a lot of metaphors to America’s current divide throughout. Which is interesting, but also this movie is just really funny no matter what your age is. As Netflix’s Bojack Horseman can attest, animal puns will never not be funny. Most notably there’s a scene at the DMV that cracks me up just thinking about it. Tier 2 – Runner Up
Swiss Army Man will see The Lobster’s weirdness, and raise it 10. I can honestly say I’ve never seen anything like Swiss Army Man, so it’s a little hard to classify, but this Fantasy/Art/Comedy/Drama stars Paul Dano as a sad, lonely man stranded on an island that happens upon a flatulent corpse (played by Danielle Radcliffe) in the opening minutes. The fact that it can be an art film while at the same time being one long fart joke is an achievement unto itself. It really seems like it was created in the mind of Gene from Bob’s Burgers.
In between the fart jokes is actually a heartstring aiming journey that the protagonist partakes on with a limp Radcliffe doing his best Bernie Lomax impression. No joke, Radcliffe really goes for it in this one. Apparently a lifelike body double was meant to be used for a lot of the scenes, but dammit Harry Potter wanted to get his Leo on, so it’s mostly him. The most impressive thing about this movie is his performance, and given the craziness of certain nominations going around this year, who’s to say he can’t get a supporting actor nom come February. Swiss Army Man might have the best opening scene of the year and is an interesting movie that’s worth seeing, but the emotions it tries to emit didn’t really hit for me by the end. Tier 6
And the winner for 2016’s most irresponsible movie goes to……drumroll…..London Has Fallen! This is the sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, one of 2013’s two “Die Hard at The White House” summer flicks. Gerard Butler is once again tasked with single-handedly saving President Aaron Eckhart from a coordinated attack, only this time instead of a North Korean siege on DC, it’s a large scale terrorist attack at a meeting of world leaders in, you guessed it, London.
Seriously, the portrayal of the bad guys with a score to settle in this movie seems extremely reckless given today’s climate. I can’t believe the script filled with xenophobic undertones and destruction a little too in tune with today’s papers passed through the ranks without a thorough scrubbing by anyone with common sense. But then again, its worldwide box office receipts tripled its production budget, so what do I know.
And yet, all that said, not gonna lie I was entertained by this movie during a cross country flight. The action, which comprises much of the 99 minutes, is well executed and Gerard Butler’s dialogue is absolutely ridiculous, whether intentional or not (“Things are about to get sporty, watch your balls” Butler ACTUALLY says, bullets whizzing by his face). I couldn’t have said it worse myself. Tier 5
I’m not sure why I didn’t expect much out of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Maybe it’s because the last Tina Fey movie I watched, Sisters, is an abomination. Maybe it’s because a 68% RT rating just screams validation out of politeness to me, kind of like when you tell your friend you enjoy their creative endeavors (i.e. their movie blog). Or maybe it’s because the title is too damn hard to say. We get it Paramount, it spells WTF…subtle.
No matter, this film is much better than its title. It gives a funny yet compelling glimpse into the lives of on the ground war reporters, a profession most have little behind the scenes exposure to. It was also refreshing to watch something geared strictly towards adults. For some reason it reminded me of George Clooney’s Up in the Air. A semi-loner in an unorthodox work setting, stuff happens both comedic and dramatic, and things eventually come full circle. Fantastic supporting cast with the #1 stunna Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, and Martin Freeman in a different role than the nebbish ones he usually gets. Tier 3
Triple 9 has the best cast of any non-superhero movie of 2016. It features a 7 time Oscar nominee for best actress, a 2014 Oscar nominee for best actor, an Avenger, an Affleck, Wonder Woman, Breaking Bad’s favorite chemist, The Wire’s favorite criminal, and a Cheers bartender. The creators of this movie were clearly inspired by Training Day and other Antoine Fuqua shady cop movies, right down to the Cypress Hill playing over the credits. It didn’t get great reviews (55% on RT), but I was thoroughly entertained for the first 90% of the film, especially during an immaculately choreographed shootout. Perhaps the extremely lazy ending rubbed critics the wrong way.
Is it spoiler territory to say the ending of a movie sucks, without any specifics? With these blurbs I try to avoid giving anything away, because I myself like to go into movies with a blank slate. But if it is too much info let me know and I’ll adjust my methods. I’ll never forget some brat at little league practice spoiling the ending of The Usual Suspects to me. Tier 3
Here are the updated tiers as of July 1. I saw four worthwhile movies this month, two pretty good ones in The Conjuring 2 and The Lobster, and two so-so in Joy and The Shallows. No additions to Tier 1. As always you can see read spoiler-free blurbs on each one of these below.
It’s been a pretty lackluster year thus far in my opinion, but the highest quality of films tend to be released in the Fall to Winter months, so things should pick up. Out of everything currently in my Tier 1, only Everybody Wants Some and possibly Cap America would have made it in there last year.
One quick aside, just because something is in Tier 5 doesn’t mean it’s actually suitable for the plane. For instance, The Shallows is definitely best served on a bigger screen and one of the main reasons it’s even on here is because of it’s cinematography. Joy however, a PG-13 talkie, very suitable. I’m always cautious of watching R Rated movies on a plane, for fear of nudity coming on my laptop and I either have to awkwardly try to angle it away from my neighbor or just quickly close it, “nothing to see here” style. A good friend of mine, let’s just call him Cristen Totter, once tried watching Bruno on an airplane and I’m shocked that didn’t get him put on the no-fly list.