First of all, if you are into your school year and still make time to read my reviews, you are a terrifically nice person. Studies show that if you read my intellectual reviews on a weekly basis, your brain is guaranteed to increase in thought processing speed after the first month. At least that is what TMZ told me. In all seriousness, I have a great amount of respect for people who think much more than the average Happy Madison audience member. That is why I don’t easily tolerate stupidity in movies, and why I want thinking people as my audience; or people who just love to laugh. Anyway, today we have a triple feature, hooray! 2016 has been such a bland year. It feels like everything I review is the same thing. But the movies I am looking over today are extremely different and more than worthy of talking about. Enough talk, let’s review!
The Bourne Identity is an excellently executed thriller which made quite an impact. The Bourne Supremacy is decent, but a step down due to its less than detailed direction. The Bourne Ultimatum however, is the best of all four films. The story is fast-paced, the acting is intense, the cinematography is sleek, and the tone is action-packed. When I hear the term, “non-stop thrill ride” The Bourne Ultimatum is what comes to mind. Since all the Bourne films have eerily similar stories, something has to be done differently in each film. Jason Bourne sadly forgot that crucial detail, at best; all they did was change the title.
The biggest problem with Jason Bourne is the bland, plothole-filled, unfocused, confusing, repetitive, and predicable story. I really want to see a parody of these films titled, The Bourne Formula. Every dang Bourne movie is essential this: Jason Bourne trying to learn about his past, a CIA director who’s hiding something trying to kill him, an assassin asset with no character hunting for Bourne, and a token female character who’s skeptical of Jason at first, but helps him anyway. Oh yeah, and each film is concluded with Moby’s perfectly fitting (but overdone) song, “Extreme Ways.” Jason Bourne does have some fine acting and a few tense action scenes, but those positives are expected from a Bourne movie; except The Bourne Legacy which is just awful. When you get right down to it, I remember Identity and Ultimatum because they were the most competently made of the quadrilogy. What happened in Supremacy, Legacy or Jason Bourne? I honestly don’t remember, and I watched all four of these movies in the last two months. By the way, in addition to shaky cam, we get some extremely distracting close-ups. Betcha didn’t expect to see every nose hair on Matt Damon, or every wrinkle on Tommy Lee Jones’ face. Jason Bourne gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a C-.
Here is yet another indie film that made its way to the masses because audiences (including myself) are desperate for something different. If you look at that subculture of film (which might as well be its own genre in 2016), you will find Hell or High Water (a modern western), The Lobster (a romantic, artsy, drama), and Swiss Army Man (an oddball comedy with a romantic twist). Since horror is my favorite genre, this type of film should make me sequel with glee. However, considering that I am a film critic, the many, many issues of this movie get in the way. Admittedly, the performances are authentic, the camerawork is very active and detailed, the use of sound is creative, and it delivers the scares. However, in the midst of everyone saying that this is the best horror movie of the year (for the record, The Conjuring 2 is the best), no one is talking about the glaring issues with the movie. These problems are reoccurring. For one, characters never die. Arnold Schwarzenegger couldn’t survive the amount of damage people take in this movie! It got to the point of completely breaking my suspension of disbelief, which is not something you want if your film is supposed to be a claustrophobic thriller inside a creepy house down the road. In addition, Mr. Stephen Lang’s blind superpowers are very inconsistent. Sometimes he can hear everything, and sometimes when someone walks right past him, he won’t notice it. The movie largely focuses on his sense of hearing, not a bad idea but if the film utilized his senses of touch and smell, there would be a few less plotholes, and a shorter running time. Take that clip in the trailer when he walks past one of the robbers. He should have felt the air left by the kid against him, especially since he is wearing a tank top. This inconsistency (along with the invincible characters) gets very distracting after a while.
Speaking of characters, this movie is filled with unlikeable characters. Here is the best way I can describe it. It feels like the script is trying to make everyone sympathetic and unlikable at the same time. I guess you could count the girl as the one person you want to live, but even then her motivation is as clichéd as all heck. No matter what type of horror film you are making, there must be a compelling protagonist of some type. Would you give a crap about the psychological battles in The Silence of the Lambs if Clarice Starling wasn’t as dedicated or clever? Would Halloween (1978) be as suspenseful if it didn’t have Dr. Loomis’ dialogue or Laurie Strode’s charming likability? Would you have enjoyed From Dusk Till Dawn if the antiheros were not as entertainingly despicable?
The last thing I need to bring up is the scene that completely lost me. I’m not going into great detail because describing what I saw will make me nauseous. If you’ve seen the movie, you probably know what I’m talking about. The scene takes place at about the beginning of the third act. Essentially, this scene is a rape/torture scene. Not on the level of A Clockwork Orange, but the gruesome detail this scene has is disgusting. Bear in mind, you’re talking to a guy who ranted about the animated buttholes in The Secret Life of Pets; some people will not be as disgusted with this scene as I was. Even so, the real reason why I don’t like this scene is because it serves no real purpose. The scene is cut short, and the gruesome detail of it is entirely unnecessary (almost as if it was the director’s fetish or something). Unlike in a Kubrick film like A Clockwork Orange, there is no artistic purpose to the scene, and considering the rest of the film isn’t that violent, it feels out of place. Don’t Breathe is worth a watch, but not much thought, and it gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B-.
Hell or High Water
Man if this year don’t get better, Hell or High Water is probably going to be the best film of 2016. Brought to you by Taylor Sheridan (writer of Sicario), Hell or High Water is an exceptionally well-acted, character-focused, intelligent, perfectly shot, modern western. There is nothing about this film that I don’t like. The cinematography is excellent, the sound editing is fitting, and the action scenes are tense. By far the best thing about this movie is the screenplay. Sheridan, this is some of the finest work I have seen from an upcoming writer. Heck, this movie should win Best Original Screenplay. Hell or High Water has such an emphasis on character development and commentary that makes you weep for the rest of modern cinema. This is one of the best films of the decade, and it doesn’t need to rely on megastars or an epic setting to get people interested. As much as I like Mad Max: Fury Road, The Raid, and The Revenant (great movies that they are), they do lack a bit in the character department. My movie heart will always belong to the films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996), Spotlight, Inception, The Imitation Game, Sorcerer, Stand by Me, and Toy Story that focus on the script and characters first.
The dialog in Hell or High Water is about as natural as you can get. None of the actors ever look like they’re reading off of something, or were directed to be extra dramatic when something groundbreaking is said. Each actor (especially Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster) is thoroughly convincing, and the characters they become have very distinguishable personalities and backgrounds. If you thought the setting of this movie would be hard to embrace, fear not. Not since Southside with You has a movie done such a stellar job of creating atmosphere. The movie takes place in west Texas, the actors have the right accents, the wind is always blowing, and the soundtrack is filled with musical relics. Hell or High Water is one of the best movies of 2016 (top 5 even) and it gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A.
There you have it, my first multiple review. Sorry about the lateness of this post, but school just started, and I had to cut back. Here’s to hoping that you enjoyed this thing, and that 2016 (for the love of Jehoshaphat) steps up its game. In the meantime, if you want to see more of my content, check out my Twitter page (which I am always using).