Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jason Bourne - Review

Jason Bourne

It’s only appropriate that the film “Jason Bourne” starts out with him bareknuckle boxing, somewhere in remote Greece probably not too far from where we first saw him floating in the Mediterranean in ‘The Bourne Identity”. After all it has been his boxing skills, plus a high IQ and quick agility to extricate  and escape impossible circumstances that overall has made the JB series one of the more perplexing and popular espionage film characters.

So with this array of well-developed and honed attributes we have followed the gone rogue CIA agent for 12 years now as he attempts to survive on the run from a range of international assassins under the authority of the CIA who simply want him (for better or worse) dead.  And if you exclude that cinematic hiccup in 2012 starring Jeremy Brenner in “The Bourne Legacy” playing  a similar  super CIA Agent on the run named Aaron Cross, the overall legacy of 3 of the 4 “Bourne films” have had Matt Damon at the helm with the results always being spectacular, thrilling and smart entertainment. So, you ask what has Jason been up to.

PREMISE: Starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, recent Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), and Vincent Cassel (Ocean 13 and The Black Swan) it’s been nine years after his disappearance from New York at the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum. In 2016 we find Jason Bourne unexpectedly resurfacing at a time when the world is faced with unprecedented instability through the back drop of US agencies wrestling with the need for national security at all cost verses personal privacy at all cost. At the same time, a new program has been created to hunt Jason down while he is still trying to find all the answers to his past and family, which as in the past has essentially left him without answers as to who he was and who he is now.

REVIEW: It’s so good to see this franchise revived at the hands of Director Paul Greengrass who directed Supremacy and Ultimatum. From the onset Greengrass appropriately makes it clear our Jason is a weary and tired man as he looks like someone worn down from having to look over his shoulders 24 -7 with advancing gray hair and wrinkles around the eyes. Jason is approaching middle age before our eyes.

But in short order Greengrass takes us on a typical Bourne chase sequence about 30 minutes into the film with the intent (I guess) of capturing the same brilliant chaotic crispness and magical intrigue from the previous films. Instead it felt like a simple retread from “The Bourne Ultimatum’ boarding purely on “Bourne Redundancy”. And yet after that minor miscue the film does settle down to be better than it started. Why?

Well, because of Matt Damon of course, which makes the Jason Bourne film the best action thriller I have seen this year. And while it is not as edgy in the past – maybe not as passionate in the past and in fact even a bit more subdued than in the past, it still works.

Yeah I know Rotten Tomato has it underwater with a score of 59, but for me it still has terrific chase sequences, terrific fight scenes, smart uses of cyber technology and a smart easy plot pace to follow. And while some scene transitions seem a bit out laddish just like in “Star Trek Beyond” it is still just fun to watch.

Furthermore Damon owns the DNA of this character as the laconic, restless, emotionally wounded and personally conflicted Jason Bourne. He is like a “Dark Knight” figure of real flesh and blood minus any reliance on a bullet proof fancy suit or a souped up car or unusual electronic devices to help him survive. It’s all mental acuity and physical instincts on full display with JB and a concise and precise joy to see.

Ultimately with all of the previous Bourne efforts, its all about Jason. Why, because we root for someone who seems underneath like a good guy inspite of the fact the entire world seems to want him dead.

See Jason Bourne – “The Bourne Remastered”.

3 – 1/2 Stars

Thursday, July 28, 2016


Alien: Covenant / Prometheus 2
Alien: Covenant 2 / Prometheus 3
Alien: Covenant 3 /Prometheus 4
Alien 5 (Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn – Picks up after 1986 Aliens)
Avatar 2
Avatar 3
Avatar 4
Avatar 5
Bad Boys 3 and 4
Bad Santa 2
Beetlejuice 2
Beverly Hills Cop 4
Bill & Ted 3
Blade Runner 2
Cars 3
Cheech and Chong
Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
Chucky 7
Clerks III
Deadpool 2
Despicable Me 3
Die Hard 6 / Die Hard: Year One
District 10 (aka District 9)
Dodgeball 2
Edge of Tomorrow 2
The Equalizer 2
Fast & Furious 8
Fifty Shades Darker/Fifty Shades Freed
Frozen 2
G.I. Joe 3
Godzilla 2
Godzilla Vs King Kong
Goonies 2
Gremlins 3
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Halloween Returns
Hellboy III
High School Musical 4
Hotel Transylvania 3
How to Train Your Dragon 3
The Incredibles 2
Indiana Jones 5
Jack Reacher 2
John Wick: Chapter Two
The Jungle Book 2
Jurassic World 2
Jurassic World 3
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Kingsman: The Secret Service 3
Layer Cake 2
The Legend of Conan
Mad Max 5
Mary Poppins 2
Men in Black 4
Mission: Impossible 6
Predator 4 - The Predator
Rambo: Last Blood
Riddick 4
Rounders 2
Rush Hour 4
Salt 2
Sicario 2 confirmed as Soldado.
Spaceballs 2
Space Jam 2 (Lebron James)
Stargate 2 - 4
Star Wars: Episode VIII and IX
Taken 4
Terminator: Genisys 2 and 3
Thor 3
Three Stooges 2
Top Gun 2
Toy Story 4
Trainspotting 2
Transformers 5, 6, 7, & 8
Triplets (Schwarzenegger, DeVito and E. Murphy are biological brothers)
Underworld: Next Generation
The Wolverine 3
World War Z 2
Wreck-It Ralph 2
xXx 3
Zombieland 2
Zootropolis 2

Friday, July 22, 2016

Star Trek Beyond - Review

Star Trek Beyond

On the occasion of its 50th anniversary, for some of us who are old enough to remember the very first episode, I reflect with the common refrain “who knew”?

"Who knew” back in 1966 a seemingly unusual fictional story about an eclectic array of international earthlings and peaceful neighboring space aliens would come together as space travelers for a show titled “Star Trek. A future concept show that would eventually become one of the most “fascinating”, smart, and forward thinking franchises about space exploration in TV and feature film history?

“Who knew” that it’s base story of a crew of navy pilots, scientists, doctors and engineers, under the collective umbrella called the “The Federation” would all come together to “seek out new life and new civilizations” with a faster than light  glamorous Star Ship named “Enterprise”.

“Who knew” this fictional idea would come from the creative imaginative mind of a man from El Paso Texas named Gene Roddenberry. A man who majored in Police Sciences at LA’s City College, who joined the Air Force College, who obtained a pilot's license, who enlisted and graduated from the US Army Air Corp as a commissioned second lieutenant and who was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal. 

“Who knew” after flying for Pan American World Airways he resigned to pursue his dream of writing for the new medium called “television” that would lead him in 1964 to pushing an idea in the form of a sixteen-page pitch. A pitch that was not well received by many executives but was given a chance by a famed female comedienne and her production company to produce the science concept into a weekly show.

“Who knew”, that after its cancellation in only 3 seasons, the show lived on in re-runs with devoted fan commitment to it characters reaching cult like fervor and dedication. An alliance so strong that by the shear will of their enthusiasm alone helped re-imagined the TV series 12 years later as a feature film and subsequently 12 more films and 7 TV spin off series.

“Who knew”, that its combined film box office would reach $3.1 billion. And with that we see the 13th installment called “Star Trek Beyond”,……….. “Who knew” it would be so much fun.  

MY REVIEW: OK, hold your Warp speed folks, hardcore Trekkers, Trekaholics or whatever you call yourself. This “ST Beyond” is not in the traditional dark, gloom – doom and dire dramatic story line format. We – you can tell that things will turn out just OK in the end long before its ending. So, there is no real deep seeded cryptic mystery buried inside the plot to be revealed at the very end. No, the joy of this film lies in its basic simplicity laid down by its new Director Justin Lin, known for his work in the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise films. It is also helped along with its new screenwriter Simon Pegg who also plays Chief Engineer Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott. Together their talents offer up a plot that keeps it simple…………..someone wants to destroy humans.

Now the real plot is this; the crew of the USS Enterprise, halfway into their five-year mission, are attacked by a seemingly unstoppable wave of unknown aliens that look like swarming “metal bees” that force the crew to abandon ship. Stranded on an unknown rocky surface planet and with no apparent means of being rescued, the crew find themselves in conflict with a new and ruthless enemy named “Krall” (Idris Elba). THAT”S IT.  Now there are some interesting subplots involving Kirk and Spock and Spock and Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) on a personal level but I would not spoil that bit of mild melodrama for you.

Running just over 2 hours, “STB” is for people who simply want to have fun at the movies again. The same way Lucas and Spielberg collaborated in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. We didn’t care if Indiana Jones could or couldn’t crawl underneath a moving truck to get back inside to fight the villain at the wheel. NO, we only cared that it looked like fun watching him do it. STB follows the same blueprint.

To his credit Director Jin realized that part of this film as with any other highly visual story you have to keep pushing the envelope about what the future may actually look like. Jin makes good use of computer technology to imagine a Starbase called Yorktown as an intricately elaborate port of call for recreation and refurbishing of the Enterprise. IT’S VERY COOL.

Jin also gives the Enterprise itself more air time than Director JJ Abrams previous efforts. There is one brief scene of the ship going to warp speed with an interesting bit of a ‘Go-Pro” point of view…………….. VERY COOL. You also see the ship in full warp speed that seems to be peeling its way through the cold “dark matter” of interstellar space…………..Again very brief, but VERY COOL.

But Jin’s best directing gift to this new effort is that it’s just enjoyable to watch. It’s playful with itself with fast paced action that is well connected and overall is relaxing to be immersed in. And central to this story is it’s not just about the relationship of Kirk and Spock as its primary focus. Rather this plot involves the entire crew as the POV where everyone’s life on the ship have consequences, have meaning – that all of them matter.  

Now, “Beyond” is not without flaws. Star Trek historically always has done a delicate dance between the general technological plausible verses the not so plausible. And yet somehow as fans we always manage to simply look pass what seems at that moment something so convenient to be able to do “just in the nick of time”. In Jin’s “Beyond” on a few occasions he lays the technology “savior buttons and devices” on a bit too thick for my taste. Also, there are some battle scenes that at times are so frantic you literally may lose perspective on exactly what side of the screen are the good guys verses the bad guys; but does it really matter? NO, this is Star Trek.

With snappy new uniforms and new technology gizmos to see, Director Jin ultimately re-captures the full nostalgia of Roddenberry’s original vision I referenced above. That being Gene’s genius vison of a show that was smart, rooted in science and thinks about the future with a swashbuckling adventurous appeal.  

“Star Trek Beyond” reverts very nicely back to what was old in 1966 without really reinventing itself completely and in the end makes this new saga and its familiar characters feel authentically new, inventively smart and funny and invariably just fresh to see again.

“Star Trek Beyond”…, “Who knew” that once again we get to “boldly go where no one has gone before” with the fabulous crew of the Enterprise NCC 1701.

3 -1/2 Stars

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Ghostbusters 2016 - Review

Ghostbusters 2016

Fans have been clamoring for 2+ decades for another sequel to the 1984 blockbuster comedy “Ghostbuster”. So it’s no real surprise that it has finally come to fruition with the original cast member Dan Aykroyd taking his turn as the Executive Producer of this effort, along with Director Paul Feig, whose resume is more note-worthy from directing successful TV shows ranging from the acclaimed AMC’s Madmen to The Office, Parks and Recreation and Arrested Development. Collectively the two men are combining their talents and achievements to help guide the new 3rd reboot of the iconic film with the much heralded idea of an all-female cast in “Ghostbusters 2016”.

This time out we have paranormal researcher Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and physicist Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) who are desperately trying to prove to metropolitan locals that ghosts really exist in modern society. When strange apparitions appear in Manhattan, Gilbert and Yates turn to engineer Jillian Holtzmann (current SNL’s Kate McKinnon) for help, along with Patty Tolan (current SNL’s Leslie Jones), who is a lifelong street smart New Yorker who knows the city inside and out. Together they armed themselves with proton packs and plenty of attitude, the four women set out to prepare for an epic battle as thousands of mischievous spooky and slimy green ghouls descend on Times Square to frighten and “scare the bejeebers” (means “mental soundness and wits) out of everyone.

My review: Well, it’s not insanely boring but I also promise you this. If you should see this film, then somewhere in the time it takes you to leave your theater seat to the time it takes for you to get to your car to go home, you will be unable to recall one single memorable scene, one single unique ghost, one memorable quote or one unforgettable special effect that was redeemable to share with friends.

You then add a silly array of needless acting cameos and homages, along with mediocre special effects, I say why bother to see this in the theater. Just wait for it to come to cable – free basic cable. So, as the quoted line goes, “Who you’re going to call? No one.

To the Hollywood Executives, I am just a fan, so I don’t have your inside knowledge for what it takes to making a great movie or making big deals.  But if you are sitting around in a board room 12 months from now trying to collectively conjure up new plot ideas for films and someone utters the suggestion of another Ghostbuster sequel (which this latest version leaves open that real possibility), my advice to you all is this…………….. “The power of Lester compels you to just let the dead (Ghosts) rest in peace”.

2 - 1/4 Stars

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Infiltrator - Review

The Infiltrator

Based on a true story, The Infiltrator takes place in 1986, where federal agent Robert Mazur (Bryan Cranston aka “Breaking Bad” and “Trumbo”) goes perilously deep undercover to infiltrate the trafficking network of the notorious Colombian drug kingpin named Pablo Escobar.
Working with fellow agents Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger from “Inglorious Basterds”  and FX ‘s “The Bridge”) and Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo from “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “John Wick”), Mazur poses as a slick, money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella. Gaining the confidence of Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt), Escobar's top lieutenant, Mazur must navigate a deadly and vicious criminal underworld.
My Review: Before I get into the meat and potatoes of the film itself, I want to point out that I have seen Bryan Cranston in three efforts lately. One in his Oscar nominated effort “Trumbo”. His Tony Award winning performance that was reimagined for HBO cable as President Lyndon Johnson in “All the Way”. And now here with the true story of Federal Agent Mazur in The Infiltrator. For my money, Bryan Cranston, whether its films, theater or TV, is the best triple threat working actor in Hollywood today.
Cranston has had a very long career, but most of his resume is highlighted with supporting type characters who more often were on the more dramatically light side of the plot.  But since his critically acclaimed years on AMC’s “Breaking Bad”, Hollywood has re-examined the 60 year old actor’s talent in a way which has allowed his undervalued acting prowess to really flourish to the surface in ways for me are “Brando-esque” (my word for the highest of praise). And with this latest effort Cranston proves again he doesn’t just acts the written material he’s given, he elevates the film’s written material, through an effortlessly display of authentic versatility, charisma, attitude, human frailty, bravery and over all dramatic heft.
Now, to the substance of the movie I offer a couple key points. First, I have read that the overall film itself has some plot points that did not happen or were reimagined for sensational effect. For me they do not detract from a solid story of a decent man, who for whatever reason - living on a government salary, willingly volunteers to metaphorically stick his head inside the unpredictably, volatile and dangerous drug cartel lion’s mouth. So much so (metaphorically speaking again) that he could literally tickle the beast’s “family’s jewels” from the very inside………….if you get my meaning. This is what real undercover work looks like and it’s perilously deadly work on top of that where one mistake with your memory or one subtle miniscule miscue with an ever evolving convoluted profile could cost him and his family’s life immediately………………….. Without any warning.     
SECOND, ITS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU KNOW the film seemed ever so slightly out of focused while simultaneously bathed in a faint yellow and blue hue. No doubt the director was trying to capture the visual quality of the 1980’s with its less than digital crispness. And while it’s not at all an issue to enjoying the film, it’s very presence along with the well place lava lamps, reel to reel tape recording devices, tube TV monitors, flashy gaudy jewelry, polyester attire and background art deco colors all worked well in capturing the atmospherics of the Miami Vice–ish drug battles that were going on in South Florida during that time.
For some strange reason Rotten Tomato’s collective critic pool (as of my blog) has this film rated at 59 i.e. “rotten”;…………., personally I don’t get it. For the 2 hours and 7 minutes running time I felt completely immersed into what the story was about, as well as having a real  connection and understanding to what the key characters roles were. And while there were a few slightly under developed secondary characters in the film and some scenes where the transition points from one to the next were a bit confusing and clunky, overall I found “The Infiltrator” to be riveting, historically fascinating and emotionally touching, largely due to the acting dexterity and talent of Brian Cranston.
3 -1/2 Stars

Wednesday, July 6, 2016




“War for the Planet of the Apes” - Matt Reeves (director/screenplay); Mark Bomback (screenplay); Andy Serkis, Gabriel Chavarria, Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Steve Zahn – More Apes Evolution and More Human Resistance.

“Dunkirk” - Christopher Nolan (director/screenplay); Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead - The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk, France, between 26 May and 4 June 1940, during World War II.

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” - Luc Besson (director/screenplay); Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, John Goodman - In the 28th century, special operatives for the government of the human territories are charged with maintaining order throughout the universe.


“Alien: Covenant” - Ridley Scott (director); Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Demián Bichir, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Jussie Smollett, Amy Seimetz, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez, Alex England - Bound for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy, the crew of the colony ship Covenant discovers what they think is an uncharted paradise, but is actually a dark, dangerous world — whose sole inhabitant is the "synthetic" David (Michael Fassbender), survivor of the doomed Prometheus expedition.

“Blazing Samurai” - Chris Bailey, Mark Koetsier (director); Ed Stone, Nate Hopper (screenplay); Michael Cera, Samuel L. Jackson, Ricky Gervais, Mel Brooks, George Takei, Gabriel Iglesias, Aasif Mandvi, Djimon Hounsou - The animation story revolves around a scrappy young dog Hank (Michael Cera) who dreams of becoming a samurai and fights to save the town called "Kakamucho" from becoming a litter box of a nefarious feline warlord Ika Chu who unveils his grand plan to get rid of the inhabitants.

“CHiPs” - Dax Shepard (director/screenplay); Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Vincent D'Onofrio, Adam Brody, Rosa Salazar, Vida Guerra, Kristen Bell - The film stars Shepard as Officer Jon Baker and Michael Peña as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello based on the 1970’s TV show.


“The Equalizer 2” - Richard Wenk (screenplay); Denzel Washington – Sequel to previous film and the 1970’s TV show. 


“Untitled Blade Runner Sequel” - Denis Villeneuve (director); Hampton Fancher, Michael Green (screenplay); Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Dave Bautista, Ana de Armas, Sylvia Hoeks - Denis Villeneuve, Director of “Sicario” and produced by “Alien” Ridley Scott, it is a sequel to original 1980’s Blade Runner and sees Harrison Ford reprise his role as Rick Deckard.

“The Snowman” - Tomas Alfredson (director); Matthew Michael Carnahan (screenplay); Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J. K. Simmons, Val Kilmer – Drama of Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) who investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman.

“Geostorm” -  Dean Devlin (director/screenplay); Paul Guyot (screenplay); Gerard Butler, Abbie Cornish, Ed Harris, Andy García, Katheryn Winnick, Alexandra Lara, Amr Waked, Jim Sturgess, Eugenio Derbez - As a man heads into space to prevent climate-controlling satellites from creating a storm of epic proportions, his brother discovers a plot to assassinate the president.


“Thor: Ragnarok” - Taika Waititi (director); Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost (screenplay); Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, Mark Ruffalo, Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett, Karl Urban, Jeff Goldblum, Anthony Hopkins – Continuation of American superhero film featuring the Marvel Comics character Thor, produced by Marvel Studios.

“Justice League” - Zack Snyder (director); Chris Terrio (screenplay); Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Ray Fisher, Amy Adams, Amber Heard, Jeremy Irons, J. K. Simmons, Willem Dafoe - Months after the events of Batman v Superman,[1] Bruce Wayne, fueled by his restored faith in humanity and inspired by Superman's selfless act, enlists the help of his newfound ally, Diana Prince, to face an even greater enemy. Together, Batman and Wonder Woman work quickly to find and recruit a team of metahumans to stand against this newly awakened threat. Despite the formation of this unprecedented league of heroes—Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash—it may already be too late to save the planet from an assault of catastrophic proportions.

“Murder on the Orient Express” - Kenneth Branagh (director) - The Belgian detective Hercule Poirot boards the Orient Express. One of the passengers requests his protection, but Poirot declines. The next day the passenger is found dead in his compartment and Poirot is asked to solve the case. The train is forced to stop due to a snow drift blocking the tracks. This gives him a few hours to figure out the murderer's identity before the local police take over the investigation. During his investigation, Poirot discovers that many of the passengers have some connection to a 5 year old case where an infant was kidnapped and murdered in which the mastermind escaped prosecution. This lead to the death (during childbirth) of the mother and the suicide of her father. This could be the vital clue to crack the case, but can he do it in time?


“The Star” - Tim Reckart (director); Tom Sheridan (screenplay) - A small but brave donkey and his animal friends become the unsung heroes of the greatest story ever told.

“Star Wars: Episode VIII” - Rian Johnson (director/screenplay); Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern - It will be the tenth installment in the Star Wars film series, and the second in the Star Wars sequel trilogy following Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).

“The Six Million Dollar Man” - Damián Szifron (director/screenplay); Mark Wahlberg - An American science fiction and action television series about a former astronaut, Colonel Steve Austin, portrayed by American actor Lee Majors. Austin has superhuman strength due to bionic implants and is employed as a secret agent by a fictional U.S. government office named OSI.

“The Greatest Showman on Earth” – Michael Gracey (director); Jenny Bicks, Bill Condon (screenplay) Hugh Jackman - AKA Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.