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At the beginning of Jason Bourne, we have a brief recount on the adventures of the eponymous agent, but it's useless, because the saga has got so entangled through three films (four, if we count the "spin-off" The Bourne Legacy) that any explanation ends up being irrelevant. The only thing we need to know is that Jason Bourne offers us more from the same. 14 years ago (it's hard to believe the way in which time flies by), the film The Bourne Identity was a newfangled alternative in the action genre; a kind of a serious James Bond, shot with a realistic but quite dynamic style (some years before Bond himself adopted that formula). However, now, in 2016, we have already seen too many films with similar pros... which gradually ended up becoming cons. Unfortunately, Jason Bourne is one of them. I hoped the fact that the return of director Paul Greengrass meant a change of road for the saga; another creative reinvention to justify its continuation. Needless to say, it wasn't like that. Despite everything, I found Jason Bourne entertaining despite its rancid niche and archaic intentions. The action scenes are well shot; Greengrass' direction is clear and efficient; and the screenplay includes some interesting themes such as government intrusion and online privacy. Matt Damon practically doesn't speak in the leading role, but he doesn't need any words in order to eloquently express that "now, it's personal". Julia Stiles isn't given much to do as a human mcguffin, while Tommy Lee Jones repeats his worried bureaucrat routine; he probably doesn't even know what movie he's in, but he still evokes absolute credibility. And we finally have Alicia Vikander, a brilliant actress trapped in the mediocre role of Heather Lee, who spends the 80% of her scenes in front of monitors while trying to find new ways to enunciate lines such as "Satellite on-line", "Bring me camera one", and "Target on sight at twenty seconds"; what a waste of one of the best contemporary actresses. Talking about "cyber-operations", Jason Bourne employs the old cyber-tricks which don't cheat anyone anymore: instantaneous penetration of remote systems, access to ALL kinds of technology in a matter of seconds and improbable animated graphics to represent the frantic hacking of the specialists. After the sober realism of the TV series Mr. Robot and the documentary Zero Days, I can't swallow those artifices, which haven't changed much in the 21 years which have gone by since Sandra Bullock was hacking on a bikini in The Net. Despite my complaints, Jason Bourne kept me entertained with its agile rhythm, and it doesn't request too much attention from the audience, because it constantly repeats us the key elements for us not to think too much. So, I can give a moderate recommendation to Jason Bourne as a casual weekend entertainment. Besides, I can't dislike a movie which takes us to "ExoCon", a parody of DefCon in Las Vegas. Or it might be BlackHat. Whichever it is, Bullock would immediately identify it.
Ben-Hur (2016) isn't based on the Bible, but the eponymous novel by Lew Wallace; even though it is undoubtedly much more famous the 1959 film version, which consecrated Charlton Heston and ended up forever stamped in the popular culture... of 20th century. That's why the idea of a new version with the 21st century sensibility didn't seem so far- fetched. And I have to say that the result ended up being unexpectedly solid. My expectations for this new adaptation of Ben-Hur were very low, but I can say without any irony that I found it a very competent movie which can be appreciated on its own merits; and even though it's not perfect, it kept me quite entertained with its "peplum" drama seasoned by some action and solid performances from the whole cast. And, sure, the tranquility of knowing that the legendary quadrigae race employed digital animals in order to avoid the repetition of the atrocities committed during the shooting of the 1959 version. The dramatic axis of Ben-Hur (2016) is the relationship between step-brothers Judah Ben- Hur and Massala Severus. The destruction of their friendship is well handled, and neither of both is portrayed as hero or villain. Well, I guess Massala is "the evil one" (after all, the film isn't called "Severus"); but on a human sense, both were victims of cultural and political strengths much bigger than them. Oh, and we also have the affair of the carpenter who is obviously inspired by Yoda, because his dialogues are identical. Or he might have some historical relevance; I will have to look for him in Wikipedia. The cast is a bit more ethnic than other "whitened" epics for Hollywood commercialism. Sure, everybody has British accents, but we can't ask for miracles either. The only one speaking with a North American accent is Sheik Ilderim, but it doesn't matter because he was played by Morgan Freeman, and we already know that his voice is magnificent and doesn't have to fake nationalities in order to bring all the weight in the world to his lines. Jack Huston and Toby Kebbell have a perfect chemistry with each other, while feeling credible and enthusiastic. Nazanin Boniadi also makes a competent work, while Pilou Asbæk credibly transmits arrogance and cruelty as Pontius Pilate. And here comes the sacrilege: Rodrigo Santoro brings a decent performance as Jesus, but I frankly found all the religious affair in Ben- Hur (2016) unnecessary. When it seems that the movie is going to end, we still have 20 minutes of biblical passages... and I found them out of place, as if they belonged to another tale which was forcefully incorporated. Talking about cutting material, this review is already getting too long, so I will just say that I enjoyed Ben- Hur (2016) pretty much mainly because of its substantial drama and competent performances. And even though there undoubtedly are special effects, it wasn't a techno-nightmare such as Gods of Egypt or The Legend of Hercules. In summary: I expected to fall asleep in the cinema, but I ended up entertained and satisfied.
It's easy to compare The Shallows to other horror films such as Open Water, Open Water 2: Adrift and Black Water, not only because of sharing aquatic settings and minimum casts, but because they all handle themes of isolation, discouragement and search of internal strength, generally inspired by adverse circumstances which put men and women in conflict against nature. In The Shallows, said circumstances include a fierce shark determined to devour a female surfer who got stranded on a rock in a short distance to a beach she can't reach due to the wounds she suffered during the shark's first attack... and because it doesn't stop stalking her cautious attempts to escape. The idea is simple, but screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski expertly complicates the narrative with multiple variables which make a positive or negative influence on the main character's tortuous experience. Needless to say, I won't mention those variables, but I can say that The Shallows cunningly avoids any monotony in order to become a clever and fascinating horror film full of suspense, exciting action and excellent special effects which keep themselves into the limits imposed by the PG-13 rating, but not losing any impact because of that. The direction from Jaume Collet-Serra (making his best film so far, in my opinion) is fluid and economic, and it is supported by perfect cinematography which captures even the most agitated scenes with clarity and visual beauty; we never lose the notion of time and space, something which is essential for us to get hooked on the main character's experiences. Speaking of which, Blake Lively brings a very good performance in that role, naturally expressing the fear and anguish her character goes through, as well as the machinations of her brain to escape, or at least improve her chances of survival. Needless to say, The Shallows should't be taken as a documentary about marine fauna, because the behaviour of the shark doesn't correspond to any zoological reality; but I didn't care at all about that. It's a movie shark, more "monster" than "animal", and I was perfectly capable to accept that. I have said in other occasions that the best horror movies are the ones which have an interesting story even from before the elements of the genre come in; however, The Shallows is an exception. The horror is the only thing defining it, and that was enough to keep me hugely entertained. I enthusiastically recommend it both to casual spectators and fans of the "man (or woman) against nature".
Ellen Page, Allison Janney and a baby with an uncertain future. Am I talking about a sequel of Juno? Of course not; Tallulah is a more conventional drama, even though it deals with similar themes of maternity, personal responsibility and the importance of the "foster family" who doesn't need to share genes in order to bring the support and patience which can't always be offered by biological families. Besides, Tallulah hides some controversial aspects, as well as difficult questions which society might not be ready to answer. That ambiguous stance is causing some negative reactions, but I feel they are more based on the ideology of the film than on its intrinsic values (something which also happened to Juno, by the way). But, well... leaving that aside, I will limit myself to describe the multiple pros of Tallulah, starting by the solid screenplay, which tells a story that is simple in shape, but complex in its emotional ups and downs. And, with the help of the excellent performances from Page and Janney, two conflicting, but not necessarily opposite, points of view are developed. Let's say that their characters share good intentions, despite their methods being very different. That might be the key element of Tallulah: there are grey areas in life which aren't solved with logic, but emotions... something which will not be always compatible with the rules of society. I guess that, in these case, some sentimental scenes are needed, so I won't call them "manipulative", but honest and consistent with the humanity of the characters. Ugh; it's difficult to review such personal dramas when one has a heart of stone. Speaking of which, I liked the visual metaphors employed by director and screenwriter Sian Heder to condense the final message of Tallulah; I found them a bit excessive on the beginning, but the dramatic reward was satisfactory, while eloquently expressing the evolution of the characters. I wouldn't consider Tallulah a great film, but I found it quite a solid drama which is superior to many more expensive and prestigious Hollywood movies belonging to the same genre.
After the excellent Big Ass Spider! and the tedious TV movie Lavalantula, director Mike Mendez changed the road with The Last Heist, a hybrid of criminal thriller and visceral horror which, inside the modest niche of "B-Movies", fulfills with the minimum requirements of coherence and violence in order to keep us moderately entertained without making us feel we wasted our time. However, The Last Heist suffers multiple problems which darken the experience. Some action scenes feel too ambitious for the limited resources Mendez had to work with; the locations are bland and ordinary; and there are technical fails which end up being too distracting (example: the digital flashes of the guns; I could almost see water springs falling from the cannons). Fortunately, we have a slightly original premise compensating that to some point; we have seen uncountable bank robberies out of control, but the addition of a serial killer breaks the monotony. Sure, we have to swallow the huge coincidence of both things happening the same day (the robbery and the killer's visit), but it's appropriate as a catalyst of the story. Oh, and when the killer is played by Henry Rollins, we can be sure that he will exude intensity and threat. So, in conclusion, The Last Heist is a mediocre film, but it made me have a moderately entertaining, even though not lacking of frustration, time, and I can give it a slight recommendation specially to followers of "B" cinema who can appreciate a film mainly for avoiding the capital sin of this cinematographic niche: being boring. The Last Heist wasn't so, and that was enough to validate my time.
I'm not a fan of this franchise, but I have to admit that it has got more ambitious with each new film. The Purge wasted its complicated (and too improbable) premise on a typical home invasion tale. The second film, The Purge: Anarchy, focused on the urban chaos. And the third part, The Purge: Election Year, (excessively) exploits the political satire which had barely been suggested in its predecessors. This doesn't mean that The Purge: Election Year is a very good film, but at least, it offers a more interesting and fluid story, supported by a relevant message... even though it's said on such an obvious and strident way that it's difficult to take it seriously. The ridiculous exaggeration employed by director and screenwriter James DeMonaco in every aspect of the movie barely surpass the reality; 3 years ago, when the original film was released, the Purge looked like a distant fantasy, but we are currently so close to that social collapse that an even more extreme screenplay is needed in order to return to the fiction field. The bad thing is that DeMonaco's narrative manipulations keep being weak and illogical: the heroes make inexcusable mistakes, while the villains vary between invincible and incompetent, according to the requirements of each scene; and the political rhetoric of the screenplay seems written by a first semester university student who has just read his first communist pamphlet. But, well... at least, the actors make a good work in their roles, bringing an appropriate balance of humor and seriousness. Frank Grillo brings a credible performance, while Elizabeth Mitchell is perfect as Senator Roan. And as common people trapped into the violence of the Purge, we have Mykelti Williamson, Joseph Julian Soria, Betty Gabriel and Edwin Hodge... they all play cinematographic clichés, but they still managed to bring humanity to their characters. In conclusion, I wasn't left very satisfied by The Purge: Election Year, but it didn't bore me and I found it superior to the previous two films, so I can give it a slight recommendation, mainly to the followers of this saga and public servers searching for spiritual peace because they aren't as evil as the ones portrayed in this movie.
The Offering is a Singapurean-North American co-production, something which seems appropriate, because its screenplay is built by borrowed (and quite trite) pieces from the cinematographic horror of both hemispheres. In other words: the digital ghosts and strident noises of North American cinema combined with the pale spirits and confusing structures of Asian cinema, exacerbated by horrible direction and bad performances. Besides, the screenplay doesn't make much sense. Let's see... we have Anna Waters' suicide. Her daughter Katie communicates with a supernatural presence employing Morse code. Her sister Jaime investigates other inexplicable suicides, connected to a satanic symbol. Two priests are obsessed with the lifting of the Babel Tower. There's also something about binary code, the "language of Internet"; a mysterious nanny with uncertain intentions; a cursed diving dress (I'm not kidding); and the obligatory use of technology as a conduit of supernatural forces. Where does all that lead? Good question. I would have liked to say that the multitude of sub-plots is conjugated into a logical and consistent story, but it's not like that. Even when we reach the "explanations" of the third act, they feel like last- minute improvisations. In conclusion: don't waste your time watching this piece of junk called The Offering (Caution! It's also known as "The Faith of Anna Waters"!). Better watch some of the movies copied by this disaster without any ambition or shame, such as The Exorcist, The Conjuring or Ju-On.
Part "buddy comedy", part "odd couple", part espionage thriller and part anti-bullying manifest. The result: I don't remember. Central Intelligence is one of those films which are so generic and lacking of personality that, even a few hours after having watched it, I struggle to remember something I liked... or even something I didn't like. The story is built by pre-fabricated scenes we have seen in uncountable films (examples: the louts bothering the hero in a bar and getting what they deserve; the government agents who end up being villains, etc.). With two likable actors in the leading roles (the opinion of the reader might vary) and a screenplay co-written by the subversive comedian Ike Barinholtz, I expected Central Intelligence to at least offer enough humor to compensate the incoherent "mystery" of the stolen secret codes; the anemic "action" scenes, incapable of generating the slightest suspense or exciting; and the "endearing" (and instantaneous) friendship forged between two different, and at the same time similar, persons. Dwayne Johnson repeats his "sensitive tough guy" routine; Kevin Hart is given the ungrateful role of being a generic buffoon; and Amy Ryan brings some gravity as the agent in charge of the investigation (Does she belong to the good or evil ones? Who cares?). I wish I had a more vehement (either positive or negative) opinion about Central Intelligence; unfortunately, it's one of those grey and indifferent films which aren't worthy of being remembered. I feel it would have been more productive to talk about the restaurant in which I ate after watching Central Intelligence; but the food was equally insipid. Good metaphor of the movie; bad culinary experience.
I didn't like the film Now You See Me, because it took the "nothing is what it seems" idea to the point of total incoherence. And I'm not only talking about the "magic" tricks employed by the quartet of magicians/thieves to pull their bombastic crimes, but also each one of their ridiculous plans, which required huge coincidences, improbable situations and the universal stupidity of all the people trying to stop them. But the worst thing of all was the fact that, in a film theoretically inspired by the authentic art of illusionism, all the magic acts were special effects. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the hateful attitude of the characters, who were so impossibly "cool" and casual in such an affected and artificial way that it was impossible for me to take them seriously. I have spent quite a space talking about the first film... because nothing is what it seems in this review! In fact, this review is about the sequel, Now You See Me 2! The big trick in this case is the fact that both movies are identical, not in their plots, but in abuse of improbabilities and narrative poverty. The mission is different; new allies and challenges are revealed, and some old enemies are back. But the methods are the same: basically anything is allowed to happen because: Magic! Oh, and I also experienced the same indifference when the "surprising" revelations I had guessed since the beginning were revealed. Have I mentioned that nothing is what it seems? Something I wasn't expecting was the substitution of Isla Fisher as the female member of the Horsemen, but I liked the replacement to be Lizzy Caplan, an excellent actress who is quite underrated; pity that the screenplay doesn't bring her anything substantial to do. Anyway, I know that Now You See Me has various fans, and Now You See Me 2 counts with the same elements, atmosphere and style which brought success to the original film, so apologize me for my bitterness, and enjoy this sequel to your taste. Personally, I keep thinking that "band of magicians using tricks to break the law" is a good idea; however, Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2 have extirpated all the "magic" of such concept, and made it become a parade of distractions with a lot of movement, wordiness and some fashionable themes (the hotshots of Wall Street are "out"; the hotshots of Silicon Valley are "in") which aren't enough to bring any substance to experiences without any shape or depth. Pick one card, any card... and then play solitaire for two hours. It will surely be more amusing than watching Now You See Me 2.
Stephen King, one of the most successful writers in History, has had variable luck when having his books adapted into movies. Some ones have been excellent (The Dead Zone, The Shawshank Redemption, Carrie); other ones, only good (Christine, Silver Bullet, Misery); and other ones varying between mediocre and intolerable (Firestarter, The Running Man, Dreamcatcher). The most recent one, Cell, belongs to the last group. One of the main problems I found with this film is the fact that it never explains what the "infected" ones are, or what their arbitrary behaviour is due to. More or less at the half of the movie, one of the characters says: "It's too early to know the rules"; and that forced ignorance is extended until the ending. I think that the only rule was: "I can do whatever I want because I'm Stephen King". And then, we have Tod Williams' weak and lazy direction, which doesn't wake the slightest tension or interest. As for the cast, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson seem to be there just for the paycheck, while the other actors are given the ungrateful roles of generic victims, human mcguffins or forced generators of instantaneous drama whenever it is needed an introspective moment to portray the personal side of this catastrophe which is... local? national? global? We don't know! That's one of the many questions whose answer would have made the film more attractive, or at least, less boring. As for the "horror" and special effects, this is definitely not a gory movie, or an apocalyptic tale on a big scale; it's just a diffuse story about a survivor traveling through the desolated country in search of his family or some purpose behind the tragedy. At least, that's what I think; another problem of Cell is the fact that I could never find a sense of time or distance. Have days or weeks gone by since the arrival of the mysterious signal? I don't know either! But somehow, we must accept that the survivors bathe, shave themselves and keep a tidy appearance during the end of the world. It might be possible the fact that the book Cell (which I haven't read) had a satirical intention, as a rancid denounce against the global obsession for mobile phones and the saturation of "communications" which end up saturating people more. That doesn't excuse the tremendous laziness with which this film was written, but that might explain why the central mystery of the premise is never solved. When dealing with social criticism, there is no need to offer answers, because the point is only pointing out problems, right? Finally, I have to mention the excellent movie The Signal (2007), which told a similar story, but in a much more creative and substantial way. So, I recommend you not to waste your time on Cell, specially when there are much better satires of our technological addiction, such as the previously mentioned The Signal or some episodes of Black Mirror. And I wish better luck to the fans of King's (I used to be an obsessive one during the '70s and '80s) for the next time. The Dark Tower might end up being one of those remarkable adaptations of this author's work; or it might end up being another fiasco like Cell. Anyway... there are still many other novels or short stories to adapt.
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