Jason Bourne


Viewed – 29 November 2016  Blu-ray

By this stage in the supposedly dead Bourne franchise, following the commercial and critical failure of ‘Legacy’ (which I actually liked) you wouldn’t think we’d see Matt Damon play the eponymous rogue agent again.  However most likely a big pay cheque and some fan anticipation lured him back and here we have Jason, formerly presumed dead after ‘Ultimatum’ getting back in touch with Julia Styles’ ex-CIA agent.  She’s uncovered info on Jason’s deceased father and that he may have been involved in the government programme that Jason was in before Jason lost his memory.  Wanting to uncover more and quickly learning that CIA chief Tommy Lee Jones may have the answers, soon Jason is back hiding from cameras and a particularly deadly assassin (Vincent Cassel).

Jason Bourne

I liked how this mixed the usual Bourne formula with some relevant and topical themes, such as a side plot involving a social media guru clearly modelled on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.  Damon as always is brilliant and nails Bourne’s character again; deadly but vulnerable and well, he kicks ass like nobody else (I’m looking at you Mr Bond).  Cassel was a nice surprise too, one of my favourite French actors and he’s particularly ruthless.  Jones, looking old still chews up the screen and is perfectly cast and although Julia Stiles is a bit under-used she helps bridge the gap between the third movie and this fifth entry.  For a Bourne movie it’s a bit formulaic, ticks all the boxes (ooh look a female agent takes pity on him…again) and well we get the expected car chase.  Helps though it’s probably one of the best chases in the franchise through the neon glitz of the Las Vegas strip.

For fans of the franchise, this is a strong entry and is full of tension and style, even if it does little to truly warrant it’s existence other than ‘let’s do another one’.  Regardless I had a ball with this and you might too.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

X-Men Apocalypse


Viewed – 08 November 2016 Online-rental

An ancient Egyptian mutant, said to be the very first mutant finds himself resurrected in the eighties after thousands of years and is hell-bent on rising up against humanity. However when Dr Xavier stumbles upon his plot, a somewhat disbanded collection of X-Men must unite to save the world.

X-MEN: APOCALYPSE

I wasn’t expecting much from this and wasn’t the biggest fan of the previous movie, Days of Future Past which everyone seemed to love (?). However presented with a rather formidable villain from the off and with plenty of colourful and recognizable characters I soon found myself enjoying an X-Men movie again.  Director Brian Singer seems to have swapped that rather convoluted time travel plot-device this time around in place of a more coherent good versus evil battle with a threat of global genocide thrown in for good measure.  It works much better having a simpler narrative in such a complicated universe with so many characters and their various back stories.  Yet the movie cleverly weaves in nods and often funny references to past movies and the comics without beating the viewer over the head.  It made for an experience that was more comfortable and easier to simply enjoy.

Cyclops and Jean GrayThe story took time to build tension, focus on key characters, explore individual motives and convincingly bring them together when required.  Standout performances came from Jennifer Lawrence who this time is more character driven and less kick-ass as Mystique and James McAvoy as the always fascinating Xavier.  I also enjoyed Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse, perhaps his first bad guy role and he nails it – sinister, powerful and visually bad-ass.  It was also fun to see an origin story of Cyclops and to an extent Jean Gray (Game of Thrones’ Sophie Turner – still not much of an actor, sadly).  However Michael Fassbender’s Magneto whilst good has a character ark that purely services the plot and doesn’t entirely ring true, and well the whole end of the world stuff is particularly clichéd. Yet with often stunning action, some excellent CGI and plenty of energy this 2hr 20min+ movie still zipped along.  For me it’s the best in the franchise since X2 … and probably the most satisfying blockbuster of the year.

Verdict: 5 /5

31


Viewed – 30 October 2016  Online-rental

I like Rob Zombie, at least as far as his intentions are concerned.  The execution, not so much but for me he has still delivered some effective movies with a grindhouse, video-nasty feel many horrors ignore in place of glossy production values and pretty actors.   As fairly typical for a Rob Zombie movie a group of travelling carnival-types (included Mrs Zombie herself, Sheri Moon Zombie as well as a few other Zombie regulars), find themselves kidnapped by a mysterious organization and thrown into a deadly game, involving an increasingly psychotic bunch of killers and a cat and mouse night of survival.

Doom-Head

The poster art and the trailer promised so much, with some freaky, stand-out images and what appeared to be Rob Zombie back on gruesome form after a poorly realised Halloween sequel and a diversion into the supernatural with the (rather good) Lords of Salem.  So let the red stuff flow!   Yes we get some inspired creations, from a Nazi midget, a Harlequin knock-off and well, Zombie’s version of The Joker in the shape of Doom Head (Richard Brake) – easily the star of the show.  Acting is passable and how things play out fairly predictable, but still fun if you’re into unlikable idiots getting bumped off one by one in increasingly gory ways.  Zombie doesn’t hold back in such regard and we get beheadings, a graphic throat slit and some fun with chainsaws!  However, the editing is so crazy at times that it’s occasionally difficult to tell what’s going on  … but with a good feeling of unease and tension throughout … I was still glued.

Sad then that the movie lacks anything resembling a new idea … even for Zombie (we saw very similar fair in House of 1000 Corpses).  Yet it all looks good, Zombie certainly proving he has an eye for iconic imagery and can shoot a scene with genuine skill – but when what’s happening is simply rinse and repeat violence with little creativity, it all starts to get a bit boring.  That ending also was begging for a twist – but no, we don’t even get that, finishing everything on a whimper rather than a scream.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

The Nice Guys


Viewed – 09 October 2016  Online-rental

I am a big fan of the movie Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and consider it one of the career highlights of Robert Downey Jr.  The same could also be said for Shane Black, who penned the script to Lethal Weapon amongst other accolades and also directed said Downey Jr vehicle.  So coming to this latest written and directed effort from Black, you could say my expectations were dialled on the high side.  We won’t mention Iron Man 3 (oops).

The Nice Guys

With a very similar vibe to Bang Bang, this sort-of homage to 70’s detective shows has somewhat amateur detectives Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling on the trail of a missing girl who is somehow mixed up in the shady world of the porn industry and the death of a famous starlet.  Immediately this is Shane Black on blistering form; at least dialogue-wise, which leaps off the screen and is delivered with no end of personality and charm by the principle leads.  This has many very funny lines and even funnier situations (that rotating car display) as our bumbling duo go from one crazy encounter to the next, topped off with some surprisingly thrilling moments.  Along for the ride is Gosling’s character’s daughter who it seems understands how to be a detective ten times better than her adult counterparts do and you could call her the Inspector Gadget’s niece of the trio.  Also we have a not-ageing-gracefully Kim Basinger as some department of justice bigwig sporting Botox or plastic surgery, but fails to really bring anything but familiarity to the party.

The plot takes a step back to Black’s flair for dialogue and moments and it shows, as what it all ends up being about is rather ‘meh’ and well, just what was all that with Misty Mountains?  The movie also threatens to spiral out of control with a bit too much  slapstick and occasionally really stupid humour … but is held together by a likeable trio of performances and a great sense of time and place.  Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang suffered similarly but again that didn’t detract from what was otherwise solid entertainment – and the same can be said here.  One to check out.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

The Bourne Legacy


Viewed – 04 October 2016  Blu-ray

It would seem in the advent of the latest Jason Bourne movie hitting cinemas, some would like to forget this little off-shoot of the franchise that doesn’t star Matt Damson but rather has Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner as agent Aaron Kross and therefore offers up an alternative viewpoint to the events depicted in the original trilogy.  Renner finds himself on the run after fellow agents start getting bumped off as a fall out from Jason Bourne’s actions and the shady government organisation responsible trying to cover everything up.  Edward Norton is on hand as the government guy trying to sort everything out, and Renner is perfect as a tough agent in the middle of a training exercise forced to question who he works for whilst teaming up with a female scientist played by Rachel Weisz.

Jeremy-Renner

I think this would have been a hard sell to anyone not very familiar with the other movies, but as I had not that long sat through the last three movies, I found this still interesting and familiar with several nods and references to the Matt Damon escapades and for the most part it’s quite well done and compliments the franchise nicely.  The action, important in these movies is also top notch and with more assured, lesser rapidly-edited direction from Tony Gilroy it’s all a lot easier to follow too.  Helps that there is a superb bike chase towards the end that is every bit up there with the best of the series.  I also found myself wanting a smack down between Renner’s character and Matt Damon…but that’s probably a movie we’ll never see.

Rachel WeiszI can see why this was mostly ignored in the series.  There’s little here that warrants the movie really needing to exist and serves more as an entertaining spin off aimed at Bourne fans rather than the general movie going audience.  Shame then as as it stands this was thrilling, competently acted and well directed, if largely unnecessary.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing with above average image quality and punchy sound that really rocks a 5.1. system.  Extras-wise we get several featurettes and behind the scenes footage and also a commentary from the director.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)   4 /5