Movie Review: Looper [2012]

Looper [2012]

Looper [2012]
Director: Rian Johnson
Genre: Action/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels
Runtime: 118 minutes

After 2005’s criminally overlooked Brick, it’s great to see director/writer Rian Johnson and lead star Joseph Gordon-Levitt collaborating once again. This time around, with a clever time travel sci-fi premise and a bigger budget, the results are even more impressive.

Looper takes place primarily in the not-so-distant year of 2044, with the focus being on a group of assassins known as “loopers.” Their job is to wait in a cornfield for their victims to be sent back to them from the future (2074), blindfolded, where the loopers promptly shoot them and collect their rewards. It’s a relatively easy job, but their one rule is to never let anyone escape, even if that means their future selves.

Looper [2012]

That’s exactly what happens to Joe Simmons (Gordon-Levitt). When presented with the prospect of killing his future self (played by Bruce Willis), Simmons hesitates, and as a result his target gets away. Now on the run from the mafia, Joe has to hunt down himself in order to complete his job. The plot gets a bit convoluted from there, adding in some romance with a single mother, Sara (Emily Blunt), and a mission to kill the future Rainmaker, a crime lord who is wiping out the loopers one-by-one. There’s a lot to digest, especially since time travel is involved.

Multiple viewings are definitely going to be helpful in analyzing and understanding Looper‘s multiple layers, but this is still a film that can be appreciated on its surface. For one, time travel is just one aspect of the film, and it is not the primary focus. This is more about the struggles of a particular character (Joe), in which time travel just so happens to have caused the conflict. Now, there are potential discrepancies with the time travel logic in the film (as expected with this subject matter), but for the most part, it works.

Looper [2012]

When I heard that Gordon-Levitt and Willis would be playing the same character, I had to do a double-take. The two really look nothing alike in reality, but thanks to the wonders of Hollywood makeup, the resemblance between the two in Looper is uncanny. Both stars deliver strong performances to boot, with the centerpiece of the film being an especially entertaining diner conversation between the two. Emily Blunt, Paul Dano and Jeff Daniels also excel in their supporting roles, each integral to the film’s development.

In the end, Looper is a rather intelligent film that is both fresh and entertaining. There is a lot to take in, but it’s a fun ride, and it makes for one of this year’s more enjoyable experiences.

8/10

Movie Project #31: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989]
Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action/Adventure
Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery and Alison Doody
Runtime: 127 minutes

I’m not sure what took me so long to finally see Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. I had watched Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom pretty much back-to-back, but over a year has passed since then. Perhaps my general disdain for Temple of Doom had something to do with it — after that subpar effort, I was skeptical that the third entry could achieve the greatness of the original. Little did I know that I would enjoy the hell out of the finale, which in some way even surpasses its legendary beginning.

Set in 1938, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford), now teaching at Barnett College, is informed that his father, Henry Jones, Sr. (Sean Connery), has gone missing while searching for the Holy Grail. Knowing that his father must be in trouble, Indy travels to Venice, Italy to meet with a colleague, Dr. Elsa Schneider (Alison Doody). After a thrilling trip through rat-infested catacombs, the duo learn that Mr. Jones was abducted by the Nazis and is now held in a castle near the Austrian-German border. This soon becomes a globe-trotting endeavor in which Indy races to find both his father and the Holy Grail, all while fending off those evil Nazi bastards.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989]

At this point, it’s Indiana Jones 101, but the Last Crusade is most enjoyable thanks to its near-perfect casting. Harrison Ford and Sean Connery have terrific chemistry, and they are a lot of fun to watch together. Although Connery is only twelve years older than Ford, he looks much older in the film, and he does a great job adding comic relief to the non-stop adventures on screen. I’ll take him over Short Round or Willie any day. Old favorites Marcus Brody (Denholm Elliott) and Sallah (John Rhys-Davies) make welcome returns, and the new love interest Elsa is enjoyable as the icy cool blonde.

The Last Crusade has a number of memorable moments as expected. Two obvious highlights are the aforementioned trip through the catacombs, and the epic tank chase en route to the Holy Grail. Also, who can forget the absolutely ridiculous (and awesome) cameo from Adolf Hitler? This is a film that revels in its over-the-top adventures and has a good time doing so.

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989]

I feel I would need to revisit Raiders of the Lost Ark to determine which I liked more, but to say I enjoyed the Last Crusade would be an understatement. This film blew away my (admittedly reserved) expectations, and it’s one that I feel I may enjoy even more on subsequent viewings. Now, the question is, dare I risk tainting these memories by watching the fourth movie?

9/10

Movie Review: The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]
Directors: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action/Crime/Drama
Starring: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard and Morgan Freeman
Runtime: 164 minutes

Note: I tried to make this review as spoiler-free as possible, but you may want to tread lightly in the comments/feedback.

Eight years is a long time. After the wanton chaos and destruction in 2008’s The Dark Knight, it’s hard to imagine Gotham City remaining in a peaceful state for eight long years, especially without their legendary protector, Batman.

The man behind their hero, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale), has also gone missing during this time. Now a recluse with a bum leg, Wayne spends his days locked inside Wayne Manor. It’s not until a run-in with master jewel thief Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) that Bruce musters up the will to do anything meaningful. Quickly he learns about the recent appearance of a monstrous villain, Bane (Tom Hardy), who is on a mission to destroy Gotham. Despite warnings from his loyal butler Alfred (Michael Caine), Wayne once again suits up as Batman to save his beloved city.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

That is a summary of the plot in its most basic form, but at a sprawling 165 minutes, there is a lot to digest. Bane’s planned destruction of Gotham is at the forefront, but a number of minor characters are introduced into the chaos, all of whom are tied into this in a variety of ways. Newcomer Joseph Gordon-Levitt has an especially crucial role as rookie police officer John Blake, a clever lad who acts as a bit of an understudy to Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) while also discovering Batman’s identity on his own. Two other newcomers play important parts in this ever-encompassing saga: Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, who has a very complex relationship with Batman/Wayne, and Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), a philanthropist investor with an interest in Wayne Industries.

All of these characters, and many old favorites, are seamlessly interweaved together to create a grand feature that can holds its own against the rest of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy. A strong case could be made for any of the three to be the “best” of the bunch, and right now I would put this a close second to The Dark Knight.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012] -- BANE

A big reason why this film succeeds is because of its main villain. Every good superhero movie needs a badass adversary, and Bane is one of the best yet. Menacing and physically dominating, Bane is frightening nearly every time he is on screen. As I witnessed the destruction of Gotham City first hand, I was wondering just how the hell Batman and/or the city would make it out in one piece. Bane is as intimidating as I have seen any villain in recent years, and his bizarre face mask only adds to his daunting persona. There were a few moments where his mask would make it hard to understand his dialogue, and his audio did seem unnecessarily louder than others, but these are mere nitpicks. The dude is impressive, and he is a more than worthy rival to our legendary hero.

For a film pushing three hours in length, there really isn’t a lot of “fat” here. Everything happens for a reason, and most plot devices are explained in depth for newcomers (or those who need a quick refresher). There are definitely moments in which a certain amount of suspension of disbelief will be required, including the much-discussed ending, but that is to be expected in a fictional universe like this. Taken on its merits, The Dark Knight Rises works exactly as it should.

The Dark Knight Rises [2012]

Is this a perfect film? No, not exactly. The weird audio problems with Bane are a little too noticeable, and I found occasional bits of dialogue from others that irked me the wrong way. There is one cop early in the movie, a very minor character, who has maybe three lines of dialogue total. Even though he was incredibly minute in the big picture, I winced every time he was on screen. Each line was forced and unnecessary, and it felt strangely out of place while in the middle of an epic car chase. Again, I am really nitpicking here, but that stuck with me for some reason.

Regardless, tiny complaints aside, I couldn’t ask for a better conclusion than The Dark Knight Rises. The story, the cast, the characters, Han Zimmer’s score. All top quality. This is a film that demands to be seen on the big screen, and I would be hard pressed to find a better summer blockbuster this year.

9/10

Movie Project #25: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]
Director: Shane Black
Genre: Action/Comedy/Crime
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan
Runtime: 103 minutes

Look up idiot in the dictionary. You know what you’ll find?
A picture of me?
No! The definition of the word “idiot”! Which you fucking are!

Now where in the hell did this movie come from? It’s rare that a film can combine dark comedy, action and mystery so effortlessly in one package. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang has all of this, with a satirical spin on Film Noir to boot.

The always charismatic Robert Downey Jr. stars as Harry Lockhart, a common thief who acts as the meta narrator for our story. After a botched robbery attempt, Lockhart cleverly evades police by running into an ongoing audition for a detective movie. The part, conveniently enough, is eerily similar to the exact situation Lockhart is going through at that moment. He nails the gig, eludes the cops and gets a part in the movie. Now THAT’S how you run from the law.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

To train for his role, Lockhart is teamed up with private investigator Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer), commonly known as “Gay Perry”. While working on a case, the duo unwittingly stumble upon a vast conspiracy involving kidnapping and murder, and they soon become swept into a web of crime. Also caught in the heat of things is Lockhart’s high school sweetheart, Harmony Lane (Michelle Monaghan), who he happens to run into at a Hollywood party.

What transpires is an expertly written mystery that is both hysterical and suspenseful. The movie moves at a brisk pace, one that is occasionally hard to keep up with but always entertaining. The laughs are dark and crude, without resorting to slapstick or lazy humor. The story doesn’t take long to spiral out of control and it stretches the boundaries of believability (okay, it is hardly believable at all), but that doesn’t matter. This is a self-aware movie that revels in its irreverence.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang [2005]

And who better to play the lead narrator/thief/pseudo-actor than Robert Downey Jr.? The man’s comedic timing and delivery is impeccable, and he plays the lead with just the right amount of cynicism. His chemistry with the surprisingly buoyant Val Kilmer is off the charts. In fact, there are moments where Kilmer steals the scene. His “Gay Perry” delivers some brilliant wisecracks, a perfect complement to Downey’s zaniness. Bonus points go out to Michelle Monaghan who is as stunning as I have seen her, and boy does she know it in this film.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of the last decade’s more underrated films. Somehow this slipped under my radar (and many others, apparently) and I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this gem. Sure, the plot can be hard to keep up with, but damn if this isn’t an fun and wild ride. I am very glad to have included this in my project.

8/10

Movie Review: Prometheus [2012]

Prometheus [2012]

Prometheus [2012]
Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Action/Horror/Sci-Fi
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green
Runtime: 124 minutes

Ridley Scott’s latest film is one that I had minimal interest in at the beginning of the year. Sir Ridley has been very much hit-or-miss with his work in the last decade, and a return to the deteriorating Alien universe seemed to have all the makings for another disappointment. But then the viral marketing kicked in.

First it was a video of Guy Pearce, as the character Peter Weyland, delivering a speech about his vision for the future. Soon after came a new batch of breathtaking promotional images. Longer trailers were released, as were teaser clips. In April, a video clip introducing the David 8, a robot played by Michael Fassbender, began making its rounds. My level of anticipation began to grow with each new piece of promo material, and by the end of May I was genuinely excited to see what Prometheus had to offer.

While the movie’s marketing campaign ranks as one of the all-time greats, it may have been a little *too* good. Could a film looking this awesome possibly deliver the goods? Well, yes and no.

Prometheus [2012]

As far as recent sci-fi films go, Prometheus is one of the better ones I have seen. I am generally not a huge sci-fi guy, but I was hooked right from the beginning. It helps that the film’s concept is an intriguing one — one that asks all sorts of questions.

Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green star as Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, respectively, an archaelogist couple that has discovered an amazing star map that may shed some light on the origin of mankind. After receiving funding from the Weyland Corporation, the duo join the crew of the scientific vessel Prometheus to follow the map and see if their findings are legit. When they reach their destination, it doesn’t take long for the shit to hit the fan. They quickly realize that they are not alone.

Who/what else is on this moon? Why did the star map point in this direction? Is this really the home of the creators of the human race? What’s up with this black gooey stuff? Why is there a giant statue head inside this large dome? Why is there a decapitated body inside? What does all this mean?

Prometheus [2012]

The characters, not to mention all of us viewers, ask so many questions but get so few answers in return (certainly not unexpected given that Lost creator Damon Lindelof co-wrote the script). There are some serious thought-provoking ideas in place here, especially when it comes to religion and evolution. Prometheus is one of those movies where you’ll want to talk about it with your friends immediately afterward. There are just so many big ideas mentioned that it would be impossible to get answers for all of them. Undoubtedly, this will infuriate some, but it will at least lead to some fruitful (albeit often polarizing) discussions.

Prometheus is hampered a bit by its batch of characters. With such a large crew on board, it’s difficult for the majority of them to receive fleshed-out storylines, and therefore we don’t really feel too attached to most of them. They also have a habit of falling into sci-fi/horror stereotypes, occasionally acting irrationally for no reason. In a way, this is expected for the genre, but it does feel a bit out of place when compared to the cerebral nature of the overall film.

Prometheus [2012]

Regardless of their actions, not enough can be said of the very impressive cast. Noomi Rapace is tremendous to watch as her character evolves into a spiritual successor for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, and it’s great to see her continue to succeed in Hollywood. The other absolute highlight of the film is Michael Fassbender’s performance as the android, David, in a role not too far off from 2001‘s HAL 9000. Quite simply, he owns the screen every time he makes an appearance. Charlize Theron fits in well as the supervisor from Weyland Corporation, a strong assertive female with a strict set of rules for her ship. I was also particularly pleased with Idris Elba (Stringer f’n Bell) and his charismatic ways as the vessel’s captain.

Prometheus is a visually stunning film that delivers some impressive eye candy (which everyone can enjoy), and it has a killer concept with a bunch of great ideas. It doesn’t quite live up to its lofty potential and excessive hype, but it’s still a damn good sci-fi film that is engrossing from beginning to end. Fans expecting a direct prequel to Alien will be disappointed, but if you go into the movie with an open mind you should walk out mostly satisfied.

8/10

Movie Project #22: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]
Director: John Huston
Genre: Action/Adventure/Drama
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt
Runtime: 126 minutes

This review contains potential spoilers for those unaware of this classic.

After reading the travel narrative God’s Middle Finger, I was inspired to visit the classic John Huston film, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, as the next entry in my project.

The critical acclaim for this film is staggering — 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, 8.5/10 on IMDB (good for #76 overall), an entry in Roger Ebert’s brilliant Great Movies feature.

Humphrey Bogart stars as Fred C. Dobbs, a down-on-his-luck American currently living in Mexico who gets by via begging and working odd labor jobs. When one employer cheats him out of promised wages, Dobbs and another worker, Curtin (Tim Holt) beat the hell out of the guy and get their money. After realizing that hanging out in town is no longer a good idea, the two men team up with grizzled old prospector Howard (Walter Huston) to hit up the Sierra Madre mountains in search of gold.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

What transpires is a tale of greed, paranoia and deceit, as the men do end up finding a moderately successful spot for gold mining. Dobbs, in particular, becomes completely unhinged once the gold starts rolling in. He demands that the three men split up the gold equally every night, and that each person is responsible for their own treasure. He becomes suspicious of others, especially when someone spends too long alone for his liking.

The mental and physical deterioration of Dobbs happens quickly. While he was hardly a great man at the beginning of the film, he becomes much worse as the greed of gold and $$$ starts to set in. It is fascinating to watch Bogart take on the role of a character who has little, if any, redeeming values. By the end of the film, he is a despicable shell of a man.

The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [1948]

His companions in this are much more level-headed, especially Howard, who is full of energy despite his old age. Walter Huston, director John’s father, won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor thanks to his charismatic and enjoyable performance. Tim Holt is outshined by the other two prospectors, but he doesn’t feel entirely out of place. In fact, his character may be the most level of them all.

As the film reaches its conclusion, it’s clear that things aren’t going to end the way ANYONE envisioned. In fact, as the remaining men sit down, knowing they have nothing to show for their efforts, all they do is laugh. After seeing the horrific depths a human’s soul can go to, what else is there to do?

8/10

 
Fun trivia: This film contains one of the most popular lines in cinematic history, although it is often misquoted:

Badges? We ain’t got no badges! We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!

Movie Project #18: Rocky [1976]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Rocky [1976]

Rocky [1976]
Director: John G. Avildsen
Genre: Action/Drama/Sports
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Talia Shire, Carl Weathers, Burt Young and Burgess Meredith
Runtime: 119 minutes

I watched Rocky at the perfect time — I was very sick and needed to spend some time resting. What better way to get me through a nasty illness than by watching one of the most popular (and inspirational) sports films of all time?

Now six films deep, the original Rocky is still regarded as the best of the series. Sylvester Stallone, a virtual unknown at the time, wrote the screenplay and starred as the eponymous Rocky Balboa, an underachieving Philadelphia boxer who works as a debt collector on the side. He is poorly educated and fights in dimly light venues, often bringing in just a small cut of the gate revenue. Little does he know it, but Balboa is about to get the biggest break of his life.

Undefeated world heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), a flamboyant and cocky star, is coming into town for a championship bout on New Year’s Day 1976, the year of the U.S. Bicentennial. After his opponent becomes injured, Creed comes up with the idea of giving a local fighter a shot at his title. While scouring through names of those in the city, he stumbles upon the “Italian Stallion” — Rocky Balboa. It’s as if you can see the light bulb and/or dollar signs appear over Apollo’s head. This is his man.

Aided by his friend Paulie (Burt Young), his quiet-and-reserved girlfriend Adrien (Talia Shire) and his trainer Mickey (Burgess Meredith), Rocky begins training for a fight he never expected to have. Hell, Rocky doesn’t even think he can beat Apollo — he just wants to go the distance (something never accomplished against the champion).

Rocky [1976]

At its core, Rocky (the film) is a terrific underdog story. This is the stuff small-time and aspiring boxers (and other athletes) dream of — to break through and get their big moment. In a way, it is a glimpse at the American Dream, working hard to catch that big break. Of course, in Rocky’s case it was dumb luck (or rather, a catchy nickname) that got him his title match, but the sentiment is the same.

While pop culture has somewhat diluted the story of Rocky over the years, the fact remains that this is still an uplifting film. It is presented in a way that is very easy to digest, and the movie is one that most will be able to relate to. The fact that this was selected as Best Picture winner over several other greats such as Taxi Driver, All the President’s Men and Network, runs parallel to the film’s underdog story. With a classic rags-to-riches story, strong action scenes and an unforgettable soundtrack, Rocky is still enjoyable today.

8/10

Movie Project #17: Coffy [1973]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Coffy [1973]

Coffy [1973]
Director: Jack Hill
Genre: Action/Crime/Thriller
Starring: Pam Grier, Booker Bradshaw and Robert DoQui
Runtime: 91 minutes

“They call her ‘Coffy’ and she’ll cream you!”

Coffy (Pam Grier) has had enough. She’s tired of the pushers, the pimps and the police corruption that have taken over her town. When her 11-year-old sister gets hooked on heroin and is sent to rehab, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Let’s be sure: this is one chick you DON’T want to mess with.

Jack Hill’s Coffy is one of the premier films from cinema’s prime blaxploitation period, and it kicked off a series of titles where Pam Grier played the lead badass. Grier is fantastic in this film, confidently taking on the lead role where she uses her inherent sexiness to infiltrate the seedy underworld.

Coffy [1973]

Coffy (the character) takes justice into her own hands by working from the inside to take down a flamboyant pimp named King George (Robert DoQui) and the violent Mafia boss Arturo Vitroni (Allan Arbus). She also finds out that her casual boyfriend, city councillor Howard Brunswick (Booker Bradshaw) is corrupt and has no problem working with drug dealers for his own personal gain. All of these men are targets for the feisty Coffy.

Coffy is a B-movie by and large, and it is a blast to watch. The exuberant 70s fashion, cheeky one-liners, gratuitous nudity and a killer soundtrack from Roy Ayers (with songs that helpfully describe the action on screen) all add up to make this a very fun ride. A must-see for anyone interested in 70s cinema and/or blaxploitation films.

8/10

Movie Project #12: The Bourne Identity [2002]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Bourne Identity [2002]

The Bourne Identity [2002]
Director: Doug Liman
Genre: Action/Crime/Mystery
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente and Chris Cooper
Runtime: 119 minutes

Sometimes I amaze myself when it comes to looking at how many movies I missed from the last decade. I didn’t really start (over)indulging in film until just three or four years ago, and I never bothered with a lot of the major blockbusters. That’s how I skipped out on Casino Royale (or Bond films period), and a lot of the big-budget action flicks from recent years. Because of this large gap in my movie-watching history, I made sure to include The Bourne Identity in this year’s project.

Looking back ten years later, it’s weird to see Matt Damon look so young. Regardless, he is more than capable as the ex-CIA operative, Jason Bourne, who is rescued from the Mediterranean Sea with no recollection of his past. His only hint comes from an account number to a Swedish safe deposit box that is surgically implanted in his hip. He quickly learns that he has better reflexes and hand-to-hand combat skills than the average person, and a trip to the Swedish bank reveals even more curiosities: the deposit is box full of passports with different aliases, several types of currency, and a handgun. The CIA is alerted to Bourne’s bank visit and soon he finds himself on the run with no clue as to why.

The Bourne Identity [2002]

Bourne hitches a ride with Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), an unassuming pedestrian who accepts a $20,000 offer to get him to Paris. Soon she becomes targeted by association, and the two embark on a wild adventure as Bourne attempts to learn who he is, as well as who is trying to kill him.

As far as spy thrillers go, this is a good one. There are moments of groan-inducing cliches, but for the most part this is a well-crafted adventure that rarely lets its foot off the pedal. A car chase scene through the streets of Paris is exhilirating, as are the moments when Bourne encounters hitmen who are out to eradicate him. There is never a shortage of adrenaline-pumping action and suspense, and the film even manages to include some romance (though not a major focal point, thankfully).

The Bourne Identity [2002]

The movie has a good set of villains in place, with Bourne’s former boss Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper) leading the operation to get rid of the ex-operative once and for all. The hitmen sent after Bourne are intimidating, especially “The Professor” (Clive Owen) with his extraordinary sniping skills.

The Bourne Identity is a fun thriller with a little more brains behind it when compared to others in the genre. It feels a little dated now, but it’s still an entertaining watch with plenty of thrills. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the trilogy in anticipation for this year’s entry in the series.

8/10

Movie Review: The Hunger Games [2012]

The Hunger Games [2012]

The Hunger Games [2012]
Director: Gary Ross
Genre: Action/Drama/Sci-Fi
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
Runtime: 142 Minutes

I don’t know what’s more shocking — the fact that a movie about kids killing kids has been a monster box office smash, or that author Suzanne Collins claims to had never heard of the Japanese cult hit, Battle Royale, before writing The Hunger Games. Of course, stories about people killing people for the sake of sport are hardly anything new. Before Battle Royale, there was The Running Man, and shortly after its release came Series 7: The Contenders. While an intriguing concept, it is amazing that such a violent storyline was written with young adults in mind.

Set in a dystopian environment, The Hunger Games shares its name with an event set up by a repressive government. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, are selected from each of twelve districts via a lottery to become participants (or “tributes”) in the games. The goal is to be the last person standing. If not, you’re dead.

The Hunger Games [2012]

We follow Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old who boldly volunteers to take the place of her sister Primrose (Willow Shields), who was initially elected to participate. The other tribute from her district is Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), who we later find out is in love with Katniss. Since The Hunger Games event is presented as a television broadcast, the creators try to stir up a romance between these two for those watching in the districts. In fact, the creators have full access to the games and can alter the environment in order to pique the interest of its viewers. This adds an interesting dynamic to what is essentially a spectacle of murder.

Although 24 children are selected as tributes, we really only get to know two (Katniss and Peeta). This fits in line with the idea that nearly all of them will die, but it does not translate well to the film. When one minor character is killed off, director Gary Ross tries desperately to tug at our heartstrings, even going so far as to show an extended, impromptu burial. While fans of the books may appreciate this scene, it felt forced to me and I was rather apathetic about it all.

The Hunger Games is a PG-13 movie, which is a tad peculiar considering its violent concept. Ross is able to get away with this in part because of the sped-up action scenes. We rarely get a clean look at any deaths mainly due to an overreliance on “shaky cam” techniques. Some of the fight/action scenes are almost unbearable to watch because of this, and it is hard to tell what is actually happening. I get the reasoning for going PG-13, but I can’t help but feel the movie would be improved if the action sequences were better executed (i.e. more graphic, matching the theme of the story).

The Hunger Games [2012]

The movie’s greatest asset is its cast, led by the surprisingly badass Jennifer Lawrence. Her stock has been rising steadily over the last couple years, but this role has just taken her to another dimension. I can’t think of a better lead for this film. Other noteworthy inclusions are Woody Harrelson as an alcoholic mentor, Stanley Tucci as the vastly entertaining MC of the broadcast, the stern Donald Sutherland as President, Elizabeth Banks as the eccentric Effie Trinket, and Lenny Kravitz as fashion extraordinare Cinna. Even Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are competent in their roles.

While I don’t quite get all of the hype surrounding The Hunger Games, I still enjoyed the film well enough. The lack of character development is disappointing, as is the overuse of the shaky cam, but underneath there is still an absorbing sci-fi story with a unique dystopian setting.

7/10