Jason Bourne (2016)

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This weekend, nine years after the anticipated release of The Bourne Ultimatum,  Jason Bourne hit theatres in what can only be described as a shattering return. This latest iteration reunites Damon with director Paul Greengrass, who displays his mastery of muscular, deafening and frenetically edited action sequences. Co-written with editor Christopher Rouse, Greengrass whisks us to cities all over the world, culminated in an eye-poppingly enormous finale in Las Vegas.

Jason Bourne, reticent and carb-free, hurries through various European capitals – Rome, Athens, London – with the grim determination of a tourist desperately seeking a men’s room with far too much pride to ask for directions. I’m not casting shade on Matt Damon, who looks terrific at 45, with the complete opposite of a dad bod and a residual Will Hunting twinkling in his eye. Jason, for all of his prodigious talent and honed technique, finds himself in a generational pincers grip, squeezed on one side by a self-aggrandising and sentimental boss and on the other side by a tech-savvy millennial rising through the ranks. But if I can simply the plot for you: Jason Bourne is the target of a radical pursuit by heavy surveillance, where his former employers in the CIA track him as if he were the quarry in a high-stakes game of Pokemon Go.

At the heart of it, Jason Bourne is a semi-beloved pop-culture throwback brought into circulation primarily because it’s summer (in the States) and winter (in Australia). Lets face it, aussie’s need something to do, and while the shrimps and the barbecues are extinct, two-hours of make believe paranoia might provide a soothing respite.

Jason Bourne was so bad, it made me retroactively reconsider my love for the franchise…

But not to worry, the thrill isn’t entirely gone, just a little more subdued. Unfortunately, Damon is subdued as ever. Jason Bourne envelopes a uniquely passive action hero, a man who runs on pure survival instinct as he attempts to draw conclusions of his past. But there is also a rote quality to the film, an absence of passion and skill. Just as the initial Damon-driven trilogy wrapped up Bourne’s business but left us wanting more, this sequel offers closure even as it entices us with the possibility of his return.

★★☆☆☆

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016)

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A quick review about this .. may I say .. hilarious idiotic comedy.

Forget what Mike and Dave need, if you need a blast of mad-raunchy summer fun then this baby comes damn close to filling the bill. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates has the jumpy exuberance of a puppy that won’t stop humping your leg, guaranteed to split your sides (sometimes). This marks the feature directing debut of Jake Szymanski, who previously directed a handful of segments for Saturday Night Live and online shorts. So rest assured this guy kinda knows what he’s doing when it comes to comedy.

Given its title, you may be surprised that the story stems from factual roots. Mike and Dave Stangle, two party-hard brothers from upstate New York who took an ad on Craiglist to find two nice girls to take to a cousin’s wedding. They appeared on The Wendy Williams Show and even wrote a 2015 memoir. Hollywood bravely takes this premise with a goofy grin. In their version of events, when their younger sister Jeanie announces that she’s getting married, the family insists the party boys discover dates for the wedding. After endless unsuitable candidates, Tatiana and Alice, former waitresses at a Hooter-ish bar, hatch a plan of transformation into nice, polished and selfie-ready girls. What follows is a ridiculous Hawaii vacay of limitless suprises.

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is very much an ensemble comedy, but Audrey Plaza’s ineffable style of comedy suits the material so perfectly she leaves the others in the dust. Zac Efron provides the eye candy while Adam Devine provides the comedy-almost perfect brothers really. This film is hardly a masterpiece, but more a collection of set pieces, with some greater than others. I’ll leave it to you to root for any feminist messages. There’s certainly a theme of equality, demonstrating that Tatiana and Alice can be equally as revolting as Mike and Dave. But at the end of the day, this is just a fun flick. A little crude, a little over the top … but all in all, I loved it. We were chuckling from start to finish.

★★☆☆☆

The Legend of Tarzan (2016)

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Shot almost entirely on a soundstage in England, The Legend of Tarzan is a CGI masterpiece, recreating lush nineteenth century Congo forest and savanna with the magic of pixels. From an almost turgid attempt by British director David Yates to build on his epic vision for Tarzan, comes an original sequel story and a radical pragmatic history lesson all in one.

Picking up eight years after Tarzan and Jane return to civilisation, the pair are convinced to  leave England and return to the Congo to analyse Belgian progress. Reluctantly he heads back to Africa, teaming with US envoy and Civil War veteran George Williams to battle illegal slavery attempts in the Belgian Congo. The ensuing adventure gives Tarzan an opportunity to reconnect with his roots, while attempting to save hundreds upon thousands of slaves and the nation of Africa itself in the process.

When Alexander Skarsgard is swinging through the trees there is a superb fluidity and grace to his movements that can draw you easily into his moment. There is also an abundance of surprisingly genuine pathos between Tarzan and his CGI ape family. But where his bulky torso persuades, his spirit and charisma fails. Margot Robbie is entirely in perfect matrimony with her role as Jane, in her fast, insolent comic timing and pampered mischief. Yates and his writers address this romance by drawing the couple apart for the duration of the film, to prepare us for what almost feels like an ideal love story. Finally, Samuel L. Jackson delivers an intriguing and mesmerising performance in his addition to the formula – bringing spirit and character to the action-packed adventure.

While The Legend of Tarzan attempts to expose the ugliness of colonialism and the exploitation of the Congolese and their homes, it is still vaguely limited by its primary concern to entertain as an impressing visual spectacle. However, it could never have adequately expressed the brutal Belgian colonial experiment, which resulted in the loss of millions of lives and continued on for many many years after the credits. To be fair, David Yates can be praised for attempting to address this issue in an uncomfortable manner- perfect for attracting the attention of the audience.

Despite its minimal inconsistencies, The Legend of Tarzan is an enjoyable film with enough momentum and energy to keep you riveted the entire time. After initially establishing low expectations for this film, I was pleasantly surprised and entertained by its compelling story and action-packed adventure.

★★★☆☆

The BFG (2016)

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The BFG remembers what its like to see the world through the eyes of a child, whisked away into the fantasy fairy-tale world of giants. The BFG is a trifling, pleasant film, which sees director Steven Spielberg attempting to reconcile the scale and dazzle of modern filmmaking with the mischievous charm of Roald Dahl’s enduring classic. The BFG lessens the darkness of Roald Dahl’s classic in favour of an entirely good-natured, visually exquisite and largely popular family adventure.

The Giant, although at first an embodiment of childhood terrors, turns out to be a gentle soul with expressive ears, a melancholy countenance and a nonsensical flair of speech. After his accidental encounter with young orphan girl Sophie, he plucks her captive to a faraway valley with his much larger fellow giants who roam the wilds nearby. Spielberg opted to eliminate Dahl’s depiction of lumbering monsters eating humans, thereby transforming them into relative buffoons with fewer associations to terror. But when Sophie discovers the Big Friendly Giant has spent his entire life succumbing to his aggressive child-gobbling siblings, she hatches an elaborate plan to stop them.

Mark Rylance takes his role as BFG cautiously here, rolling words around to create an ordinary fully rounded character out of a children’s book invention. His face and body have been enhanced and distorted by digital magic, but his unique blend of gravity and mischief imbues his fanciful character with a dimension of soul the rest of the film lacks. For her part, brown-eyed beauty Ruby Barnhill is bossy, fearless and well spoken, but her personality rarely leaps off screen or nests in our hearts. As a whole, the movie represents Spielberg in a more pensive and philosophical vein, less interested in propulsive cinema and more reflective of what matters most; the power of dreams and the ability to bring them to life. Unfortunately, that’s all you can get with his generous measure of explicitity. But of course the digital effects that render the story are exquisite in their shimmer and glow, and childhood wonder floats vividly from the screen to enchant all the little kids.

The BFG lacks the strident messaging of children’s films, drawing melancholy from the compromises of adulthood. In particular, Sophie’s latter conversation with her giant about the future feels like the film’s one strange concession to subversiveness and sadness. There’s little silver lining in this one, showing its entirely possible for a film to completely inert, even if its constantly in motion. The BFG is hopelessly charming and hopelessly dull, but if I can sum it up; it is a kind-souled movie about kind-souls for kind-souls.

★★★☆☆