Do the Bourne movies make any sense? Enough. The first three films — The Bourne Identity Supremacy and Ultimatum — throw in just enough detail into the covert ops babble and high-speed action that by the end Jason Bourne comes out an emotional character with an evident mission. That's where Bourne Legacy drops the ball. A "sidequel" to the original trilogy Legacy follows super soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) as he runs jumps and shoots his way out of the hands of his government captors. The film is identical to its predecessors; political intrigue chase scenes morally ambiguous CIA agents monitoring their man-on-the-run from a computer-filled HQ — a Bourne movie through and through. But Legacy has to dig deeper to find new ground to cover introducing elements of sci-fi into the equation. The result is surprisingly limp and even more incomprehensible.
Damon's Bourne spent three blockbusters uncovering his past erased by the assassin training program Treadstone. Renner's Alex Cross has a similar do-or-die mission: after Bourne's antics send Washington into a tizzy Cross' own training program Outcome is terminated. Unlike Bourne Cross is enhanced by "chems" (essentially steroid drugs) that keep him alive and kicking ass. When Outcome is ended Cross goes rogue to stay alive and find more pills.
Steeped heavily in the plot lines of the established mythology Bourne Legacy jumps back and forth between Cross and the clean up job of the movie's big bad (Edward Norton) and his elite squad of suits. The movie balances a lot of moving parts but the adventure never feels sprawling or all that exciting. Actress Rachel Weisz vibrant in nearly every role she takes on plays a chemist who is key to Cross' chemical woes. The two are forced into partnership Weisz limited to screaming cowering and sneaking past the occasional airport x-ray machine while her partner aggressively fistfights his way through any hurdle in his path. Renner is equally underserved. Cross is tailored to the actor's strengths — a darker more aggressive character than Damon's Bourne but with one out of every five of the character's lines being "CHEMS!" shouted at the top of his lungs Renner never has the time or the material to develop him.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton Duplicity and the screenwriter of the previous three movies) is a master of dense language but his style choices can't breath life into the 21st century epic speak. In the film's necessary car chase Gilroy mimics the loose camera style of Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass without fully embracing it. The wishy washy approach sucks the life out of large-scale set pieces. The final 30 minutes of Bourne Legacy is a shaky cam naysayer's worst nightmare.
The Bourne Legacy demonstrates potential without ever kicking into high gear. One scene when Gilroy finally slows down and unleashes absolute terror on screen is striking. Unfortunately the moment doesn't involve our hero and its implications never explained. That sums up Legacy; by the film's conclusion it only feels like the first hour has played out. The movie crawls — which would be much more forgivable if the intense banter between its large ensemble carried weight. Instead Legacy packs the thrills of an airport thriller: sporadically entertaining and instantly forgettable.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
When Austin’s winters fail to produce even the slightest chill, as is currently the case, I find myself, without fail, recalling a certain scene from one of my favorite films. An old Russian sea captain, his eyes fixed on the horizon, stands on the deck of his vessel, a nuclear submarine, and returns a trivial remark about the cold weather to one of his officers. In that moment, it is clear that the elements are the last thing on his mind as he consequently and irreversibly captivates us. That scene is from 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, and we hope you’ll consider giving it a spin via Netflix’s Instant Watch service.
Who Made It: The Hunt for Red October was directed by John McTiernan, who is best known for giving us the action film standard that is Die Hard. McTiernan also gave the ultimate mercenaries-vs-aliens film with 1987’s Predator. The Hunt for Red October is a decidedly different film for him, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Who’s In It: Easily one of the biggest draws of The Hunt for Red October is its tremendous cast, in terms of both size and excellence. The cast is lead by the incomparable Sean Connery and a baby-faced Alec Baldwin. In addition, the film boasts Sam Neil, Scott Glenn, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Stellan Skargard, and Jeffrey Jones. Usually Quentin Tarantino has to be involved to wrangle this much talent in one film.
What’s It About: Taking place in 1984, still very much in the midst of the Cold War, The Hunt for Red October is the story of a Russian nuclear submarine, The Red October, equipped with an experimental new propulsion system that allows it to run almost completely silently. The captain of this submarine disobeys his direct orders and makes a b-line for U.S. waters. When alerted to this, the Navy scrambles to mount a counteroffensive and blow The Red October out of the water. But is this rogue Russian sub captain out to initiate World War III, or is he, as one you analyst suggests, trying to defect and hand the sub over to America?
Why You Should Watch It:
The Hunt for Red October is one of several films based on a novel by Tom Clancy, a man who specializes in political and military thrillers. More specifically, it is the first of four Clancy adaptations to revolve around his recurring character Jack Ryan, played in this initial outing by Alec Baldwin (the role would later be played by Harrison Ford in Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger, and Ben Affleck in The Sum of All Fears). Alec Baldwin’s depiction is my favorite—his Ryan is a lovable fish-out-of-water who gets more assertive as the film progresses. As an analyst, you might doubt his heroic capacity at first, but by the time he cuts himself free of the helicopter tether, plunging himself dangerously into the ocean rather than delaying his mission, your doubts will be thoroughly assuaged.
Let me be as clear about this as I possibly can: any film featuring Sean Connery is worth seeing. Even the dreadful Avengers is worth one viewing thanks to him. Yeah, I said it. Connery plays Marko Ramius, the rebellious captain of the Red October. He plays the character with so many remarkable facets, not the least of which is his dizzying cunning. He makes reference at one point to playing a game of chess, and that parallel is quite apt considering Connery’s character always seems to be thinking several moves ahead. It is fascinating to watch his plan unfold.
The Hunt for Red October is a magnificent thriller, but one that interestingly incorporates conventions of the genre into a cerebral military strategy film; again, the chess metaphor is upheld. But just when you might expect the film to list into tedium, that’s when an unexpected murder or a shootout or a submarine battle sequence will crop up. Not so much to win back your attention, but as a reminder of the stakes at play in this dangerous game. At the risk of alienating any female readership, The Hunt for Red October is one of the quintessential “guy movies.” I’m not at all saying that women won’t appreciate it, but it’s a film focused on warfare, Scotch-swilling, constantly asserting dominance over one’s peers, and Sean Connery’s badassery. Yup, that about sums up what we look for in film. You win again, John McTiernan.
Find more recommendations in our past For Your Consideration columns!