Reviews, Thriller

Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne

Copyright © 2016 by Universal Pictures

Story
Having eluded the authorities, Jason Bourne / David Webb (Matt Damon) survives alone by partaking in prohibited fighting rings. When former CIA operative and aide Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into the agency, she uncovers new information about Bourne’s enlistment and his father, Richard Webb’s (Gregg Henry) involvement in the original Treadstone programme. His investigation leads him to unsettling news about his father while being pursued by the CIA Director, Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones), Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), a computer specialist and a resentful Blackbriar assassin (Vincent Cassel).

Review
“Bourne has been off the grid for a long time. He’s been hiding in the shadows”, says an ambitious Lee whose frosty façade is complimented by a cool Vikander. She is confident that “bringing him back in is the smart move”. It has been almost a decade since ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ concluded on a high and ‘The Bourne Legacy’ failed to excite fans, scrapping plans for future sequels.

Theoretically anyway. Reassembling the winning team of Damon and director Paul Greengrass who assumed directing duties after Doug Liman’s ‘The Bourne Identity’ renewed hope that the wavering series could be reinstated enthusiastically, promising new revelations of the covert agent with the same initials as the other superspy that garnered two consecutive Oscars for ‘Best Original Song’ and pulsating action.

Greengrass is no slouch when it comes to the latter; ‘United 93’ and ‘Captain Phillips’ are based on real accounts but transformed into riveting pieces about loyalty, unity and tenacity. The chases in Athens and Las Vegas are nothing short of industrious though I still detest the use of handheld cameras. Apart from that, it is a snoozefest with uneven pacing and insipid acting.

You have got some real talent here – Jones, Cassel, Henry and Riz Ahmed; yet they are all wasted on second-rate writing. ‘The Bourne Legacy’ bit off more than it could chew with its intricate framing but I would go for complex over vapid any day. Damon still commands the screen easily although his isolation from interaction squanders further growth on Bourne. He utters only 25 lines in the entire movie? Clearly somebody must have missed ‘The Martian’.

Rating
Entirety: B-
Acting: B
Plot: B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief strong language

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Animation, Reviews

The Secret Life of Pets

Secret Life of Pets

Copyright © 2016 by Universal Pictures

Story
Living in Manhattan with his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper), Max (Louis C.K.) is protective and spends every possible moment with his best friend. He patiently waits for her return whenever she leaves the apartment. But he whiles away the time quickly with visits from his other animal friends within the vicinity. One day, Katie brings home a new dog, Duke (Eric Stonestreet) from the pound, angering Max. Sensing his hostility, Duke deceits Max into venturing farther to the city and they are extraordinarily captured by Animal Control. To free themselves and safely get back to Katie, the two dogs put their differences aside and form an obligatory alliance.

Review
Positioning a few weeks after the release of ‘Finding Dory’, it looks as if the Universal production is ready for its own anthropomorphic animals challenging the combined strengths of Disney and Pixar. Domestically, it is closing in on ‘Zootopia’ and will vie for the runner up spot after the leggy sequel to ‘Finding Nemo’. No surprise that a follow up has been green-lighted.

Children and adults are loving the misadventures of Max and company which I presume will lead to a higher ownership rate once they are done with this 90-minute romp. Who wouldn’t? I sure would. The cast bring out the best in each character; C.K. suitably lends his acerbic wit as the threatened terrier, Kevin Hart is fabulously restrained and Albert Brooks is a delightful menace fending off his instinctual needs.

‘The Flushed Pets’ resistance where Snowball leads against the humans is the most fascinating aspect of this otherwise inconsequential tale from Chris Renaud whose previous entries, the ‘Despicable Me’ franchise featured sturdier storytelling. This is where Pixar (and now Disney) remain an unstoppable force not only as the leaders for revolutionary animation but as pioneers in novel and original concepts.

As with ‘Minions’, the jokes are abundant and the pace zips along furiously without letting up. Many of them work but the juvenile ones may have you rolling your eyes and facepalm to the age-old question: Really? Jenny Slate is a riot as Max’s love interest; Gidget’s arc undergoes a massive change. Sweet and shy, she is the epitome of purity until her inner beast is emancipated. If watching a Pomeranian losing it is one of your secret guilty pleasures, head over to the nearest screening now.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting (Voice): A
Plot: B+

Rated PG for action and some rude humor

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Animation, Reviews

The Little Prince

The Little Prince

Copyright © 2016 by Netflix

Story
A mother (Rachel McAdams) and daughter (Mackenzie Foy) move into a new home to enlist the girl as a student of prominent Werth Academy. Her mother has scheduled a life plan that excludes leisure activities. When their neighbour, a retired aviator (Jeff Bridges) starts his airplane and its propeller damages their house, he tries befriending the girl with a story about ‘The Little Prince’. He met the boy (Riley Osborne) when he crash-landed his aircraft in the Sahara. Intrigued by the Aviator’s encounter, the Little Girl forsakes her daily routine to learn more about the prince.

Review
We often find joy in children’s sprightly antics or listening them uttering in their own made-up language. In that brief moment, the weight of all our adult ‘problems’ are ostensibly lifted and the positivity which has long been concealed will resurface, reassuring us that nothing is ever doom or insurmountable. We see hope, aspirations and possibilities reflected in the twinkle of their eyes, the same principles adults tend to forget.

Grown-ups are bogged down by restrictions, whether self-imposed or unconsciously that escaping into an unworldly state is a reminder when things can really be pretty black and white. I am not implying the life of a workaholic (the choice of colours for the monotony in adulthood). Far from it. Our views become clearer when we embrace our once elapsed part of ourselves; you betcha, the formative years.

In any lifetime, being a child is the culmination of living (for me anyway). Why then would parents eagerly deprive the kid(s) of awe and elation? Mark Osborne’s reconstructed version has an answer for it: an overachieving and overbearing mom. Laced seamlessly with the original content from the adapted novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943, the result is buoyant, humourous and sentimental.

The stop-motion animation bits transport viewers into the author’s artistry boosted by finger-snapping tunes featuring vocalisations from Camille. Topping off the overdue royal treatment it deserves is the A-listers’ delivery; McAdams is affable as the pushy mother, Bridges is the quintessential of kooky, Paul Rudd is a hoot as Mr Prince and James Franco’s subtlety only etches the profundity of the book’s text even more.

Rating
Entirety: A-
Acting (Voice): A
Plot: A

Rated PG for mild thematic elements

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Reviews, Thriller

The Shallows

Shallows

Copyright © 2016 by Columbia Pictures

Story
Travelling to Mexico, Nancy Adams (Blake Lively) is taken by Carlos (Óscar Jaenada) to the same beach her mother used to surf while pregnant with Nancy. She meets two local surfers and they surf together for several hours. The locals leave but she stays on. While waiting for a wave, the medical student discovers a dead humpback whale and decides to leave shortly after. On her way back, she is bitten by a great white shark. Bleeding profusely, she swims to safety and settles on a detached reef. Only 200 yards to shore, Nancy’s medical background and athleticism will be her greatest assets of outsmarting the shark.

Review
Having found success with high-concept films such as ‘Orphan’, ‘Unknown’ and ‘Non-Stop’, Jaume Collet-Serra’s latest dives into well-charted waters that resurfaces as a survival piece of (wo)man versus beast at its most extreme. His flair to ground implausible circumstances is the reason a homicidal dwarf and an amnesiac assassin remains logically affecting.

It is the Spaniard’s ingenuity and Anthony Jaswinski’s succinct script that distinguishes the collaborative effort from gratuitous B-movie fun to a star vehicle for ‘Gossip Girl’ cast member, Lively. Set in an impossible condition and equipped with merely her wits, Nancy joins the ranks of Dr Ryan Stone (‘Gravity’) and Aron Ralston (‘127 Hours’) as this year’s lone survivor in peril.

Partly inspired by her husband, Ryan Reynolds’ stunning and woeful portrayal in ‘Buried’, Lively is viscerally convincing as a woman tormented by a sadistic fish to a sunnier ending. The pain she enacts while stitching herself up without any anesthesia is eerily conveyed and her lighter moments are represented amusingly with her newfound friend, Steven, an injured seagull.

At least Steven is real (enough) for our heroine to interact with and proves invaluable for her attempts in escaping; Tom Hanks has a Wilson volleyball. Cognizant of Nancy’s characterisation and motivations justifies her independence and fearlessness despite its slender running time. Add to Flavio Labiano’s breathtaking cinematography, deftly capturing the oceanic waves just before the storm, wouldn’t you be tempted for a swim in the shallows?

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting: A
Plot: B+

Rated PG-13 for bloody images, intense sequences of peril, and brief strong language

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