Jason Bourne Review

Year: 2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 123 minutes
Main Cast: Matt Damon
Tommy Lee Jones
Alicia Vikander
Julia Stiles
Main Production Company: The Kennedy/Marshall Company
Written by: Paul Greengrass
Christopher Rouse
Directed by: Paul Greengrass

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Matt Damon returns once again as the conflicted Jason Bourne in the fourth installment (or five depending on how you count) of the Bourne franchise. Jason Bourne is a movie that falls under the fine line of being a disappointment but not being a bad movie at all. I saw things that I liked but I also saw elements in it where the filmmaker’s eyes were bigger than their stomachs. At least Jason Bourne the movie had the ambition to be about something, even if it fell short of the line of greatness.

Jason Bourne follows the titular character being a lone wolf former CIA agent. As he learns from Nicole Pearsons (Julia Styles), there is more to his past that meets the eye. So he has to infiltrate the CIA to get an important document which he hopefully learns everything about his past. We are treading into familiar territory here.

Matt Damon does a good job of doing his “damaged-man-who-just-had his-fourth-bout-of-not-believing-he-knows-everything-about-his-past” character. He is also good at establishing himself as a tough guy. He can king hit a guy so hard it makes people at The Cross look like wimps (probably because both he and the victim were sober, facing each other and the victim consented as it was an organized fight, but those are minor technicalities of course). This works well for the action scenes that ensue.

If I were to rate this movie based on the action scenes alone, it would have been in the 3.5-4 star range because they were really good. The action scenes were intense, dramatic and stylistic (especially the climax). Another great thing about this movie is the action sequences have a sense of build-up with their chase scene. It’s the simple but effective cat and mouse trick. Those scenes were well choreographed and they get visceral which is good because Damon does a good job at portraying Bourne is a conflicted man.

While all the action itself was good, I have a problem with the cinematography. The cinematographer is primarily using shaky cam techniques in the action sequences. Shakey cam is a professional camera technique that gives the illusion that you’re seeing the picture like a handheld camera. It’s meant to give the feeling that you’re part of the action. I don’t like shaky cam. I saw it in Star Trek Beyond and now in Jason Bourne. It’s disorientating and feels messy. I have noticed a trend with cinematographers using long takes and shaky cam techniques in action movies. They usually don’t work unless you have a great cinematographer or director. If they do both the shaky cam and the long take at the same time, I am going to freak.

The main issue with the movie is the subplot. It simply doesn’t connect. The subplots and themes are a mere backdrop but it’s transparent they tried to use it to drive the action due to the time they give it. Unfortunately, the subplot that explores the themes of security and privacy doesn’t really gel with the movie. I give them points for trying, but the subplot permeates and hurts the story’s momentum that stopped it from being great. It’s also a subplot that has been in many action movies for the last 3-5 years meaning the movie doesn’t break the mold.

I am appreciative that there is a movie in the action genre that wants to be smart without it feeling forced. All too often, you see too many action (and sometimes superhero) movies that try to be so smart that they border condescension (Batman vs Superman) or try to be clever only to be stupid (London Has Fallen). Jason Bourne is neither of the two, but cannot really grasp the story it’s trying to tell. It is not bad, but nor is it what I hoped for. You can do better, but you can do worse. **3/4

Love and Friendship Review

Year: 2016
Rating: PG
Runtime: 92 Minutes
Main Cast: Kate Beckinsale
Xavier Samuel
Emma Greenwell
Morfydd Clark
Tom Bennett
Stephen Fry
Main production companies: Blinder Films
Chic Films
Based on: Lady Susan by Jane Austen
Written and directed by Will Stillman

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Written by Nelson Cumming

Love and Friendship is one of the movies that likes to take narrative and character concepts and turns it on its head. Love and Friendship is a movie based on a novella by Jane Austin and is as beautifully made as if it were Austin’s vision. It pays homage to her work and parodies her time. It isn’t as good as I thought (99% on Rotten Tomatoes) but it is a beautiful and well-made film nonetheless.

If there were a personified parody of 19th-century society, it would be Lady Susan Bernard played by Kate Beckinsale. She plays a widow whose husband recently passed away. Her aim is to continue to live a comfortable life with her daughter. She wants to do this my manipulating wealthy royals and marrying her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and herself off to them. As with any manipulation tactic, the web gets messy and the plot thickens, making it harder for Lady Susan to get what she wants.

The other great thing about Love and Friendship is the way the movie is executed. It finds the right balance between making a comedic period piece that makes fun of societal values of the 19th century without mocking it. This delicate balance made the movie funny, interesting and engaging without feeling forced at all. Everything about this movie feels it has a place and a purpose.

The acting from everyone is great and what is even better is each one of them is completely different. Beckinsale has the timing to perfection and her posture, facial expressions and the way she moves around the room went a long way with her performance. Tom Bennett is playing St. James, one of the wealthy men who nails playing the simple man. When you think he isn’t any more awkward in conversations, he finds a way to top it. It’s funny instead of grating because he does it with eloquent enthusiasm.

The other thing that is good is the dialogue (mostly) as it has a load of flair and wit. The scenes that are funny come from lots of quips and one-liners from Beckinsale as she manipulates and exploits things in her favor (“As there’s a friendship involved, I do believe that paying wages is offensive to us both”) and other funny scenes come from the other main characters come either from their timing or how they establish themselves in a scene.

The problem about the dialogue for me is it wore me down. I slowly became inundated by the onslaught of 19th-century dialogue. It weighed me down and I was getting bored. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a bored stupor as the movie is short for a period piece as it’s only 92 minutes long and the comedic elements were fun for brief periods of time. That kept me going. The language was something I understood but needed a break from, which is not what you get in this movie as it’s dialogue driven.

Overall Love and Friendship is a movie that successfully caters to the audience well-educated, female, literary enthusiasts while trying to break new ground with other groups of people. Either way, Love and Friendship is a unique movie that is a standout for the genre that it’s in. ***3/4

Me Before You Review

Year:2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 110 minutes
Main Cast: Emilia Clarke
Sam Claflin
Production companies: Sunswept Entertainment
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
New Line Cinema
Written by: Jojo Moyes
Directed by: Thea Sharrock

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Written by Nelson Cumming

You know those movies that aim to constantly be poignant, romantic, yet it feels rushed? Well Me Before You is that kind of movie. Me Before You is a movie that will either attract to repel you depending on your reaction to the posters or trailers. There are things that I liked and the movie and it looked professionally made, but the material is very cheesy. Women will cry (I know. I saw them) and men will groan, but I am in the middle of the fence.

The premise of Me Before You is what you would expect from a romatic drama that tries too hard. Louise Clarke (Emilia Clarke) gets a job taking care of Will Treanor (Sam Claflin) who has recently been a paralytic man from a motorcycle accident. Will has been behaving cynically ever since the accident. Louise, with her perky attitude, tries to cheer Will up. Louise learns of Will’s intentions to be euthanized and tries to show him the bright side of life to prevent him from doing it.

What I learned from Me Before You is what to say to a woman. The scriptwriters were meticulous on Will’s dialogue as he says everything a woman wants to hear. I now know when to say “No, I’ll pay” or “No, I’ll do that job” or “I want to feel like a man who has taken a woman home” or “Take off the scarf, wear that dress with confidence”. Because of the detailed writing that was in the script, the dialogue doesn’t feel lazy. The dialogue was funny and sometimes witty. People may argue about me for that but there is one thing no one can argue: Writer Jojo Moyes committed putting the pen to the paper.

The other good thing about Me Before You is the chemistry between the Clarke and Claflin. They were believable in their acting both when they are on their own and when they are together. I believed that they loved each other and the what they talk about keeps the movie from being stale. There is one really funny scene involving the two talking about horseracing at a horse racing venue. They discuss which one is likely to win. The funniest moment in the movie is when the race starts and Clarke’s reaction to her horse’s performance.

A major issue in Me Before You is how it flippantly treats the subject of euthanasia. I just thought they used it as a plot device to gain sympathy from the audience. I got that from the way they decided only to tackle that theme at the climax. They mention it briefly throughout, but only a one-liner and never coming from the paralytic man himself (As I said, Will only says things women want to hear). Now that I am thinking about it, it was a really cynical move because it used serious material loosely and as a means to an end, and that end is to try and make us cry.

Ultimately, Me Before You has it’s moments and has good acting but it’s constantly hampered by the constant cheesiness that the movie aspires to be. It is not as bad as a Nicholas Sparks movie adaption but nor is it The Fault in Our Stars. I didn’t find Me Before You endearing as it strains so hard to make me care. All great films make caring for the characters effortless. This was not one of those films, not was it stupid film that was empty and devoid of meaning.**1/2

Star Trek Beyond Review

Genre: Science fiction
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 122 minutes
Main Cast: John Cho
Simon Pegg
Chris Pine
Zachary Quinto
Idris Elba
Main production company: Skydance Media
Written by :Simon Pegg
Doug Jung
Directed by:Justin Lin

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Written by Nelson Cumming

On Thursday, Star Trek Beyond was my first taste of the Star Trek franchise. It is also the first Star Trek movie released after Leonard Nimoy’s death. It has the blockbuster spectacle that would get the casual movie audience interested but ultimately, I felt the film was either boring or uneven. There were only a few scenes I thought worked well.

A surprise attack in outer space forces the Enterprise to crash-land on a mysterious world. The assault came from Krall (Idris Elba), a lizard-like dictator who derives his energy by sucking the life out of his victims. Krall needs an ancient and valuable artifact that’s aboard the badly damaged starship. Left stranded in a rugged wilderness, Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest of the crew must now battle a deadly alien race while trying to find a way off their hostile planet.

The things about this movie that I didn’t like were actually the things that critics were praising: the action, the comedy, and the character development. Overall I liked some of the payoffs, but I didn’t like the journey getting to the pay offs. I thought The action sequences were dull and generic. It reminded me of the action sequences in Independence Day: Resurgence and The Divergent Series: Allegiant. Also, at the first action sequence, the camera was shaking constantly to the point of nausea . I understand it’s because the ship was under attack, but I felt it was over excessive and unneeded. However, the way they played with the forces of gravity in the climatic battle was cool.

Because I believed the action was mostly dull, there are comedic elements in this movie that try to give it tonal variation. Aside from Spocks lines, delivery and timing, no one was funny. There were lots of comedic lines that I felt were unnatural and out of place. When one of the characters gets teleported back to the ship he felt uneasy when he was teleported. He said, “my innards are a barn door”. I got the sentiment, it just sounded odd and out-of-place. That is just one example of the many comedic lines that I thought didn’t work. Which was a disappointing experience for me as it was partially written by Simon Pegg, whom I really love.

My thoughts on character development were that there was either no character development or I felt that it was rushed. That being said, there is a pretty good twist at the climax with Krall the villain. There was also a poignant moment with Spock as he looks into a picture. These were two payoffs that were good but the road getting there with the boring action, the bad comedy, and the rushed development made the payoffs feel underserved. It made me question if the good payoffs were worth it due to a lack of buildup.

Overall the movie does get better as it goes along but for me, it was such a shaky start that by the time it builds momentum, I wasn’t into it anymore. At the halfway mark, my “bad movie threshold” was at a point where nothing could redeem it. It is not in the “one of the worst movies” category as it has some redeeming value, but the value wasn’t worth it for me. It was normal bad so it will get a normal bad rating *1/2

Sing Street Review

Genre: Musical, comedy, drama
Year: 2016
Rating: M
Runtime: 105 minutes
Main Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo
Lucy Boynton
Jack Reynor
Don Wycherley
Main Production Companies: Cosmo Films
Distressed Films
Written by: John Carney
Directed by: John Carney

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Written by Nelson Cumming.

If there was a quasi-musical feel-good movie that anyone wanted to see this year, it’s probably going to be Sing Street. This is a great film. It is a movie about a flourishing guy that is living in a dying world. It is not as melodramatic, nor it is as corny. Sing Street has all the makings of what a feel-good movie should be. This movie can be enjoyed by anyone who has had dreams or ambitions. If there is a Pitch Perfect for girls, then this is the Sing Street for guys. In saying that, Sing Street is for nearly any young adult at the very least.

It’s odd writing the premise down as on pen and paper, it sounds like a tired trope. But here it is: The story is about a kid called Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who wants to start a band called Sing Street to get the girl (Lucy Boynton) that he wants, but little does he know that it’s the gateway to something more. He learns through his older brother and his school that there is more to life than living in a miserable environment. It’s the sort of story where you root for the kid from the start and it’s also a movie where you hope everyone finds happiness.

What was so awesome about this movie is that everyone has a moment in the sun. The one person that I applaud in the movie is the older brother Brendan (Jake Reynor) as he teaches Conor about the rock and roll culture and lifestyle. His form of homework is giving his younger brother vinyl records and lecturing about rock and roll philosophy. He does this despite his past failures and dealing with his own struggles. He plays the role that mixes with a no-bullcrap persona mixed in with a genuine care for what is going on around himself. There is also a school bully who looks like a complete meathead and ends up being a fantastic roadie for the band.

Perhaps what is the highlight of this movie is that the character progression of Conor and the band itself which is shown through the evolution of their music and personas. At the start, the band’s costumes are an utterly inconsistent (one is gothic, another is a cowboy, another is a flashy blue suit), their music videos are so campy and are shot with a handheld camera. As the movie progresses, so do their costumes, their videos, and their music. The climax of this evolution occurs at an indoor high school basketball court with about eight dancing girls. The camera is close up to the singer. When the song starts, the camera slowly turns around not to the eight dancing girls, but something that is truly speculator. I have heard this is called the “Prom Sequence” Funny thing is it only occurs at the halfway mark but it’s a moment that will be etched in my mind for months to come and it’s my favorite scene in the movie.

Another great thing about this are the songs. If there is an album for Sing Street I will buy it. All the songs fit perfectly for a movie like this. The songs are from The Clash, A-Ha, Duran Duran and many others. It was catchy and fun to listen to (I was lip singing to the songs that I knew). It’s essentially 70’s and 80’s rock. The music isn’t played with an attitude with middle fingers in the air, but rather a fist in the air of freedom, making the moments in life count and fits with the moments in the story.

If I would sum this movie up to a man on the street I would say “Sing Street is everything a feel-good movie should be” After seeing Sing Street, I went on a bus and as I crossed the Harbor Bridge and looked up at the tall pristine buildings that were glistening by the harbor. It was a mixture of catharsis and ecstasy. At that fleeting moment, I believed that the world was my oyster, just like rock and roll was Colin’s oyster. ****1/2

Ghostbusters Movie Review

Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 116 minutes
Main Cast: Melissa McCarthy
Kristen Wiig
Kate McKinnon
Leslie Jones
Main Production Company: LStar Capital
Written By: Katie Dippold
Paul Feig
Directed by: Paul Feig

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Written by Nelson Cumming

I first saw the trailer when a Facebook friend of mine sent a link to me. I wondered why this trailer got over 900,000 dislikes. I found out at the thirty-second mark why. I thought the trailer wasn’t funny not 900,000 dislikes unfunny. I said to him that I am hopeful because the Feig-McCarthy combination has built a solid history and I fell in love with them ever since Spy came out last year. I wonder how the 900,000 would react if I said that this Ghostbusters movie does not live up to the 1984 version. It would be even more interesting how the 900,000 would react if I said I loved the movie and thought it was funny and entertaining throughout.

The plot involves Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) finding out the existence of ghosts. They get help from Jilian (Kate McKinnion) and Patty (Leslie Jones) to help clear the ghosts in Times Square.

I thought the trailer didn’t do this movie justice by a long shot. All the moments in the trailer that I thought weren’t funny ended up being funny in the movie. I believe that was the case as the gags are only funny once you know the characters and the context of the situation. When Leslie jones slaps the hell out of Melissa McCarthy, I thought it was forced and tacky in the trailer. When watching that scene in the movie, it was awesome. I laughed and I wasn’t the only one or two or ten or fifty. The scene that leads up to the gag made it worth it. The trailer showed the punchline without the proper setup.

Kate McKinnon deserves a Goldern Globe nomination for best actress in a musical or comedy. There I said it. There is never a dull moment with her, she is always on the ball. She has the look, the body posture, the attitude, the facial expressions, the costumes and the way she incorporates all of that leads to a stylistic manifestation that I have never quite seen before. My eyes were always fixated on her even when McKinnon is firmly in the background. She just nails her role as a supporting actress that stands out.

The other surprise is Chris Hemsworth. He is actually a funny guy. He doesn’t need to take his shirt off to sustain audience interest. His characters constant ineptitude is funny, charming, or both. He plays the Ghostbusters receptionist that is always three steps behind everyone. He was charming enough to make it work.

The only thing I was worried about was surprisingly the same thing I was worried about with Sasha Baron Cohen in Alice. That being the movie was PG and I was worried McCarthy and Wiig wouldn’t be able to be funny using clean material. I was wrong about that as well. Both are entertaining and work off each other really well. The was one really cheesy moment at the movie climax but that was the only thing that was really bad.

The only minor issue was that the story wasn’t tightly constructed as Spy. It felt like some of the scenes were improvised which was the same critique I mentioned in The Boss. It’s not as bad as The Boss but the loose comedic flow was noticeable in some scenes. Even though those moments were still good, it would have been great if they put the extra effort into editing. Tight editing makes a movie breezy. So far the most tightly constructed movies I have seen are The Big Short and Captain America: Civil War. I like it if there were more movies as slick as them.

Nevertheless, I cannot hate this movie. It was funny and entertaining throughout. While this wasn’t as good as Feig’s Bridesmaids and Spy it was still a great movie to watch. I wonder if the diehards will like the callbacks to the past, especially to the fate of one of the callbacks in particular. ****

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Review

Genre: Raunch Comedy, Screwball Comedy
Year: 2016
Runtime: 98 minutes
Starring: Zac Efron
Anna Kendrick
Adam DeVine
Aubrey Plaza
Production Company: Chernin Entertainment
TSG Entertainment
Written by: Andrew J. Cohen
Brendan O’Brien
Directed By: Jake Szymanski

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Written By Nelson Cumming

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is Zack Efron’s third raunch comedy this year and it has what anyone is hoping for with a Zac Efron raunch comedy. Personally, I think Zac Efron has a hit and miss record with these comedies and this one was sort of in the middle. I think that this is very much an in the mold raunch comedy movie that 15-25-year-olds would enjoy seeing on a Friday or Saturday night but it does not encourage any other person to give it a try.

I believe that with raunch comedies if you go all in it will either be filled with hernia-inducing hilarity or cringe-inducing garbage that gives you post traumatic stress. Based on my history with the genre, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates does not go all in which is to its benefit. I either got moderate laughs that were slightly harder than a chuckle or I wasn’t laughing for only short periods of time. It was not a cringe-inducing as Dirty Grandpa, nor is it as funny as Bad Neighbours but somewhere in the middle.

Half the premise is explained in the movie title, the other half is “Tatiana and Alice want a crazy care-free vacation”

I have to admit I laughed enough to not think that this movie was a waste of time. Every actor has a line or two that was funny. There were scenes in the first third that were college humor fun without being gross. There is one scene where Plaza and DiVine are whispering in each other’s ear that was a highlight. Plaza has the best lines in the movie while Anna Kendrick gets the short end of the stick and was the least funny of the four main characters.

I praise Adam DeVine because he commits and just doesn’t stop. In this case, it’s a good thing because a lot of the times he was funny and wasn’t overly loud even when he has to shout. I hate it when comedic actors use swearing and the loudness of their voice as a crutch for their comedy but DeVine uses it as a tool effectively. He is also great in assisting Efron with his reactionary acting and when he has to be the butt of his jokes. He helped make Efron look good on the screen.

The things I liked about the movie was the originality of the story and the set design. During the first twenty minutes, I thought “This movie is not achingly funny but it is entertaining and it has something going for it” that is until the last act. That is until the final third when the movie either goes completely out of control with its gags or when it tries to go sentimental.

The problem with the story occurs when they go for sentimentally that clearly doesn’t work. This is because the movie establishes for 60 minutes that the four main characters are tools. They may be funny tools, but they are tools nonetheless. The story tries to execute a Judd Apatow-like coming of age raunch comedy that fails because the character development feels forced and not progressive, the writing is not smart and nor does the script really hint that there is a third dimension with the Mike and Dave characters until it’s too late. This added up to me rolling my eyes when the story tried to take a sentimental turn.

I can’t say I liked this movie as a whole, but there were enough funny moments where I cannot say it wasn’t funny. The things that are against this movie is final acts and the constant movie and contemporary references. It’s not destined for immortality **1/2