The Bourne Ultimatum


Viewed – 26 July 2016  Blu-ray

So we come to the third movie in this popular franchise and this is where several plot threads begin to get tied off as deadly former assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) searches for the answers he needs to his identity.  Along for the ride this time around in the form of a new ally is Julia Stiles who tries to help Bourne piece together the final details whilst the CIA, headed by Joan Allen try to cover everything up.

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Paul Greengrass once again takes directing duties and much like the last movie has a flair for shaky camera rapid-fire editing, but unlike Supremacy the plot is at times less coherent and the confusion that blighted that movie’s final act seems to be in full force here.  It’s certainly fun watching Bourne out smart various CIA surveillance teams and uncover skeletons in various closets, but it also means this is probably the most repetitive of the franchise, with the run time mostly dedicated to watching, sneaking, getting into a fight, then more watching and sneaking.

The-Bourne-Ultimatum-This does bring together the storyline of all three movies well and the viewer is given some closure about Bourne even if questions still remain unanswered.  Yet thrilling car, bike and on-foot chases and plenty of action meant I was far from bored.  The movie just needed to have more character moments and a bit more downtime between scenes to catch one’s breath (simple office scenes are filmed like they take place in the middle of an earthquake).  However, this was still entertaining despite struggling to forge it’s own, er…identity and therefore by default is the weakest entry so far.

The Blu-ray is again impressive and is packed with extras including a director commentary and wealth of behind the scenes footage and interviews.  The image is perhaps the best of the franchise up to this point and even though the shaky camera approach causes issues with focus, it’s still pops off the screen.  The same can also be said for the sound which envelopes the viewer in a wall of sound and atmosphere throughout.  A treatment somewhat undeserving but welcome all the same.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

The Bourne Supremacy


Viewed – 19 July 2016  Blu-ray

I don’t know why, as someone who enjoyed the first movie in this franchise, I didn’t get around to seeing this sequel until the other day.  Matt Damon is once again hard-as-nails CIA assassin Jason Bourne who lives a life of leisure with his girlfriend Marie (Franka Potente) until he gets set up for the theft of some top secret files.  Soon his former employees are out to get him as he struggles to stay one step ahead and unmask the real culprit.

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Taking over directing duties this time from Doug Liman is Paul Greengrass, who despite lacking some of the subtlety and finesse of Liman has made a tighter, albeit rapidly edited but more exciting movie.  Support comes in the shape of Joan Allen as a CIA chief out to apprehend Bourne and Brian Cox also returns as Bourne’s former boss.   I felt the stakes seemed a lot higher this time and although the finer details on certain plot threads connecting certain sequences seemed to get muddled as the action kicked in (including possibly one of the best car chases I’ve seen) … I was still gripped from beginning to end.

JoanAllenUnlike the last movie, there’s nobody to really touch Damon’s performance that is once again complex, emotional and bad-ass.  Allen seems particularly under-developed.  A superior sequel in the adrenaline stakes then, which suffers a couple of coherence issues.  Yet as it stands, this remains a thrilling follow-up that left this viewer thirsty for more.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing.  The image looks great (a little dark but a clear step up from Identity) and the audio packs a hefty punch and is clear and atmospheric.  The extras are again plentiful with several featurettes, behind the scenes footage, interviews and an invaluable commentary from the director.  A great treatment to what is possibly the most underrated movie in the series.

Verdict:

(the movie)  4 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

The Bourne Identity


Viewed – 12 July 2016 Blu-ray

With some hype being drummed up for a new Bourne movie, I thought it was as good a time as any to revisit the movie that kick started this franchise. I’ve always liked Matt Damon as an actor and he especially impressed most recently in Martian. However at the time of this movie’s release few people saw him as an action star, especially the fan-base of the best selling books by Robert Ludlum.

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However time was to prove the naysayers wrong and here, Damon cements himself as a tough-as-nails guy left for dead in the Mediterranean sea.  Once back on terra-firma, he’s out to unravel both the truth behind his own identity and why people are trying to kill him.  Along for the ride is a German woman who crosses Bourne’s path, played by the decidedly yummy Franka Potente (Run Lola Run), and the two make for a good pairing as the thrills and spills kick in.

Bourne Identity MarieThe Bourne movies are sort of like the more serious Bond before Bond went more serious and were a likable alternative, but with a focus on surveillance and teams of assassins out to get our man than over-throwing some megalomaniac villain, and is therefore routed in real-world espionage. Support from the likes of Brian Cox and a near-wordless cameo from Clive Owen bring some colour to proceedings and assured direction from Doug Liman (Mr & Mrs Smith), brilliantly-choreographed fight scenes and a stand-out car chase … this delivered the necessary thrills.  In the wake of more violent fair like the first Taken for example, this could have really gone for the jugular, and at times seems to have a rather leisurely pace.  However, Damon makes for more than just a believable bad-ass and with his acting credentials conveys vulnerability and charisma.  It leaves the viewer in the dark about much of who this guy is though, but I guess that’s what sequels are for.

The Blu-ray is very pleasing.  The image itself is acceptable but for a  little softness and the muted colour pallet prevents it really popping … but it suits the movie’s tone regardless.  However the punchy DTS Master Audio mix hits hard on several occasions and dialogue is crisp.  Extras are exhaustive for this release with behind the scenes footage, deleted scenes and a look at the series of novels that inspired a series of movies.  A commentary by the director is the icing on a very commendable cake.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

Horns


Viewed – 09 July 2016  Netflix

I know why it has taken so long for me to get around to watching this.  Firstly for the most part much of the movies on Netflix are either seen it or pretty lame, bargain bin fair that I quickly regret clicking on.  However starring Harry Potter himself Daniel Radcliffe in an against type role (does he really have a type though?) and with thoughts of his above average turn in Woman In Black … this has always been on my ‘to watch’ list.  The bizarre concept made me hesitant also.

Horns

Radcliffe stars as Iggy who we learn early on has been suspected of his long time girlfriend’s murder and whilst the cops try to build a case against him, he tries to prove his innocence.  One morning however he awakes to find a set of horns have sprouted devil-like from his head and suddenly the towns folks are confessing their deepest darkest secrets to him, whether he wants to hear them or not.

This rather unusual idea took a little bit of getting into but once I caught onto the somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone, I was thoroughly along for the ride.  It plays out like an extended Twilight Zone episode and certainly proves highly entertaining as we watch some outrageous behaviour from people drawn to Iggy as he gathers clues about the murder, interspersed with flashbacks that piece things together for the viewer at the same time.  It has a decidedly Stephen King vibe too, which is never a bad thing.  The whodunit may be a bit easy to guess, but with strong performances, especially from Radcliffe, some decent effects work, and stylish direction by Alexandre Aja (Piranha 3D) … I found this original, freaky and darkly funny which is often a great combination.  Recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Poltergeist


Viewed – 25 June 2016  Netflix

I approached this fairly open minded despite my general dislike of remakes to classic horrors.  However my memory of the original Steven Spielberg penned / Tobe Hooper directed Poltergeist is cloudy at best.  A family move into a house in a nice neighbourhood and soon find themselves troubled by weird goings on.  Yes, it’s nothing at all new and is pretty much following the blue-print of a wealth of other horror movies such as The Conjuring or anything with restless spirits in it.

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However with a likeable cast headed by Sam Rockwell (Moon, The Green Mile) and decent production values I still found myself entertained.  In an attempt to bring the idea into the modern era we get ghostly apparitions tinkering with cell phones and flat screen TVs as well as electricity and lighting to interesting effect.    There’s even a sequence with a drone robot going into a portal that proves pretty creepy.  Yet the movie’s key failing is not having any genuine scares (sorry, but clown dolls…again?) and apart from an alarming scene with a drill…it stays decidedly family-friendly throughout.  Good use of CGI and a fun if clichéd appearance by Jared Harris (Mad Men) kept me intrigued and some fun ghost pranks like kids being dragged up a staircase or a muddy puddle with a hand coming out of it made this a fun if uninspired evening’s viewing.  Characterisation was particularly lacking however (the parents are unemployed…but can still afford a swanky house!!?), the little girl as the focus of the movie just basically said her lines (with the blandest ‘they’re here’ ever delivered) and some better atmosphere wouldn’t have gone amiss instead of a reliance on effects and action.

I’m an old-school horror devotee and yes this left me wanting, but if you’re not as fussy as me or that keen on more hard-core frights … this was a competent if unimaginative remake that may still be worth your time.

Verdict:  2.5 /5