Jason Bourne Movie Review

(barely) 4 out of 5 stars if you’re caught up on the series

3 out of 5 stars if you’ve never seen a Bourne movie

Bourne-970-80Jason Bourne (played by Matt Damon) is the fifth movie in the Bourne franchise, and satisfactorily ties up some important lingering plot points.  It’s a solid movie and I had a good time.  Tommy Lee Jones plays the antagonist, and is, of course, wonderful in any role he plays.  There was a scene where you may wonder if you’ve entered the Marvel universe as one of the characters seems to have super healing powers like Wolverine, but no, this is just more of Hollywood’s recent determination to be totally ignorant of the basics of human biology.  If you’ve seen all the other Bourne movies and enjoyed them, you should watch this one; if you haven’t watched the others, don’t watch this one — watch the first movie instead:  The Bourne IdentityThe Bourne Identity is a solid 5 out of 5.

These criticisms are aimed at Bourne movie fans:

  • Nothing new developed in terms of Jason Bourne’s personality, character or skill set.
  • As played by Matt Damon, Bourne seemed world weary with none of the innocence and goodness in the earlier movies, which makes sense, but being less complex and sympathetic was somewhat distancing.  There was one attempt to show complexity and a hint of goodness in Bourne, but it wasn’t well done and irritated me, but it passes quickly.
  • The choreography and imagination of the hand to hand combat scenes was not as good as in the first two Bourne movies, but since no other movie has matched them either, that’s not such a bad criticism.
  • The car chase scenes were just that.  It was all done before.

Boy, that list sounds dreary!  Not so, it’s just that the movie pales in comparison to the truly great The Bourne Identity, and for me the emotional connection was dependent on the earlier movies.  Waiting to watch it on T.V. would have been okay, but there is a lot of action — not stellar but better than most — and that always looks better on the big screen.

Trivia:  The book The Bourne Identity was part of a trilogy by Robert Ludlum in the 1980s, the other two books being The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum.  I recall they were excellent.

— Jenny Tennant

Suicide Squad Movie Review

4 out of 5 stars

maxresdefaultThis movie was great fun!  I liked the suicide squad characters, their introductions, how they related to each other, and changed over the course of the movie.  Dark people with dark pasts, but brave, and a bit of unreliable goodness in them from time to time.  Yes, Harley Quinn, to the left, was my favorite.

The villain, which is a frequent flaw in movies lately, was too empty — killing and causing pain had no emotional pull for the villain.  This was true in the last Star Trek movie (Star Trek Beyond), the last X-man movie (X-Men:  Apocalypse), and Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice.  Writers and directors are trying to replace visceral Silence of the Lambs style evil with mass killings of people the audience doesn’t know, CGI special effects of power and pyrotechnics.  In this case they also added dirt and weird body movements but it was not enough.

The central love story was not compelling, but it didn’t get much screen time so that wasn’t much of a loss.  On the other hand, the interaction between Harley and the Joker worked for me, was interesting and got more screen time even though it was a sub-plot to the main story.

However, the main reason to go is to see the freaky bad-heroes, and I would go see it again just to see them romp (which is the definition of a 4-star review).  They were all entertaining, but the standouts were Will Smith’s Deadshot, Margot Robie’s Harley Quinn and Jay Hernandez’s Diablo.

Jared Leto did a good job on the Joker with what he had — a credible and amusing Joker — but what the writers gave him to work with did not allow him to emote evil with anywhere near the same intensity as Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight.  Again, a fundamental problem with understanding how to make skin-crawling, horrifying evil.  Maybe this is a skill-set writers and directors should contract out.  However, the Joker was unlikable and Leto did try really hard to be unlikable during his method acting phases:  Will Smith was not pleased.

Will Smith On Jared Leto’s Joker: “I Don’t Like Jared Leto”

Perhaps we should all be glad, especially Will Smith, that Jered Leto was not going for evil after all.

Stay until after the credits, if you’re at all invested in the DC universe.

— Jenny Tennant

 

 

 

Babylon 5 Review (1994 – 1998)

3 out of 5 stars for The Gathering (the pilot  movie)

5 out of 5 stars for Seasons 1 through 4

4 out of  5 stars for Season 5

This is not meant to be a full review of all five seasons, as books have been written about B5, and I haven’t watched most of it in ten years.  This is being written in remembrance of Jerry Doyle, a great actor who played head of security, Michael Garibaldi, and to encourage you to try the show if you haven’t watched it.  If you like science fiction at all, you won’t be disappointed.

160729 Garibaldi

Babylon 5 actor Jerry Doyle dies aged 60

Babylon 5 (B5) was the first T.V. series structured like a book, with a beginning, middle and end — envisioned to be covered in five seasons — all outlined from the beginnng.   J. Michael Straczynski is 160729 Londothe creator of B5, the originator of this break-though approach, and did most of the writing (110 episodes).  Do not despair over changes in actors — all of the replacements until season 5 work well.  Do not be put off by the aliens, especially the Centauri (pictured to the right).  The acting is great, the different alien types are well thought-out and distinct as are the individual characters.  What makes this show excellent is that the story is complex, and the forces of events require drastic and unexpected changes in the people, how they view themselves, how they behave, and also the power and roles of their home-worlds — all of it orchestrated beautifully.  In extreme summary, B5 is an earth-created space station designed to be a neutral place for diplomacy for the five most powerful types of aliens, many of which have been at war or have long-held animosity — like the U.N. after WWII.

The pilot movie was barely good enough to inspire me to start to watch this show — the characters seemed to have odd sharp corners to their personalities that didn’t fit.  Unfortunately, the pilot contains important plot points.  I suggest reading the summary of the pilot, linked below, and then start watching B5 with the series.

B5 Pilot (The Gathering) Summary

I just re-watched season one episodes one and two, and the special effects are dated.  Even though the show had cutting edge CGI, it was 20 years ago and does look a bit cheesy.  In the first episode some of the actors are still fitting into the skin of their characters, and there’s a little too much explanation for the viewers going on in the first few scenes.  (Jerry Doyle is in the first scene.)  By the second episode that is all over.

In season two, the captain of B5 changes from the beloved Michael O’Hare’s Jeffrey Sinclair to Bruce Boxleitner’s John Sheridan.  I thought it would be a terrible change, but after the initial disappointment, Bruce was fine.  (Michael O’Hare had mental health issues, which weren’t disclosed until after his death in 2012.)

A special treat is Walter Koenig, a frequent guest star from 1994-1998 as Alfred Bester, a senior Psi Corps officer (mind readers and controllers).  I thought, “Oh, no, how can Chekov do this role, it’s going to be awful,” but instead he was deliciously malevolent.  I had no idea Walter has such dark evil eyes.

160729 b5-bester

So what happened to Season 5?  The three main blows were:

  1. 160729 ivanovaClaudia Christian, who played second in command Susan Ivanova, quit the show.  She was one of the best characters, one of the most frequently used, and a strong woman in science fiction when so many female actors were not able to seem commanding, or bring forth a truly menacing vibe.  I felt her loss keenly. This brings me to the Lurkers Guide to Babylon 5 , a still-active fan-site for B5 that still looks like a 1995 website.  It was such a friendly, gossipy site, and here you can read both JMS’ and Claudia’s version of what happened:  http://www.midwinter.com/lurk/misc/cc-leave.html.  It is quite long, but at the end I recall deciding Claudia was a dirty rat for destroying a big chunk of my beloved B5.  I note the movie career she left the show for never happened.  The fifth star in season 5 was lost mainly because of this.
  2. Bruce Boxleitner, B5’s Captain John Sheridan, left the show (I don’t remember why, but there was no drama), to be replaced by Tracy Scoggins’ Captain Elizabeth Lockley.  She was not a very good actress, and the most menacing she gets is to emanate superior frostiness.  She’s not horrible, actually had a few good scenes, and it was possible to continue to enjoy the show in spite of this change.  One third of a star was lost because of this, but Patricia Tallman came back as Lyta Alexander (a telepath) in Season 5, so that added a third of a star back.
  3. Warner Brothers had told JMS to plan for only four seasons, and so the end of the fourth season is a little odd as he was trying to wrap as many things up as possible, but psych!, you will be getting a fifth season after all.  It led to some disjointedness.

In spite of all this, that last season still earned a 4 out of 5 stars, and you won’t even mind so much out of eagerness to find out how it ends, and since you’re prepared now for the loss of important actors.

There were also several movies made as part of the B5 fictional universe, and a spin-off series Crusade.  The diagram at this webpage shows how to watch them all in chronological order (B5 time).

Order to Watch B5

160729 mira furlanTriva:

  • Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son, directed two B5 episodes:  Passing Through Gethsemane (1995) and Z’ha’dum (1996).
  • Mira Furlan, the actress who plays Delenn, was a stage star in Yugoslavia until she moved to the U.S. in 1991.  She also played Rousseau in Lost.
  • Dr. Sheldon Cooper, on Big Bang Theory, is not a fan of B5.  This came up early in the show and I had a beady eye on the writers after that as it was enough to make one lose faith.  They have not made a second idiotic blunder in Sheldon’s character, so I let it go.

Babylon 5 is available from Netflix — DVDs only

Amazon streaming videos cost $19.99 per season.

 

Star Trek Beyond Review

3 out of 5

Star Trek Beyond was not as good as the last Star Trek movie:  Star Trek Into Darkness (Khan) — I would have given Into Darkness a 4 out of 5, and not just because of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Dr. McCoy and Scotty were good for several laughs and earned one star on their own, the other cast members were solid (if not inspiring), there were a few amusing inside jokes for die-hard Trekkies (don’t miss “the green hand”, maybe the “giant green hand”, something like that), and the opening scene was clever — it gave me great hope.  I like super-hero movies, and I say this to prove I’m flexible in terms of reality in movies.  In Star Trek Beyond the writers went beyond my ability to suspend disbelief, and they did it over and over again, and it kept getting worse as the movie went on until the last half hour was ridiculous:  science, plot and human behavior.  And there was too much preaching about things the movie did nothing to demonstrate.  The historical basis for the main events is full of huge gaps with no sensible way they could be filled:  it actually made me recall the 3rd Matrix movie, which (as I’m sure you know) was a uniquely horrible experience.  Almost as horrible as the end of Lost.  It was great to see the old crew again, but to enjoy this movie:  refuse to let your brain ask, “Why?” about anything, and being somewhat drunk should help (arrange for a safe drive home).

Trivia:  The arch villain looks like a Narn (for no reason except maybe that Narns are cool).  I missed the Jeff Bezos cameo, but this is what he’s supposed to look like.

160720-bezos-star-trek

If you don’t know about the green hand you may want to watch, “Who Mourns for Adonais”, an episode of the original Star Trek T.V. show.  Actually, you should watch all of the original Star Trek shows so you can see how fantastical situations should be explained as a part of a video.

Downton Abbey’s Last Season Review

5 out of 5 stars

The nine episodes of Downton Abbey’s sixth season wrapped-up all of the multiple human plot lines into a beautiful multi-threaded bow.  Downton Abbey’s final season is right up there with the most satisfying series’ endings, ever.  It’s not necessary to have watched all of the seasons to enjoy it — I didn’t and had a blast, which is the main reason for this review.  I suspect there are a lot of people like me who didn’t stick with the show faithfully until the end.  To those people, give the sixth season a try and you won’t be disappointed.  The whole season can be streamed free from Amazon with a Prime membership; Netflix provides DVDs, only.

160725 downton abbeyThe finale was in 1925, and of course the Stock Market Crash was in 1929.  Our beloved cast of characters will have a few years of peace one hopes.  Maybe they’ll decide to make a mini-series on how they survive the Stock Market Crash and Great Depression — I hope!

If you’ve never watched Downton Abbey, the acting is uniformly exceptional, each character is distinctly different in character and perspective, the clothes and sets are amazing, the intertwining of the lives upstairs and downstairs is complex and changes at a fast pace, and the way the show reflects history (Titanic, WWI, women’s’ rights, etc.) is usually believable.  Some extra tolerance is evident from time to time due to today’s sensibilities, but it’s done with a light touch.  Most of the people are frightfully decent, but there are enough with corners to make it interesting, and the show is not afraid to put it’s characters through pain, sorrow and death, which makes their happiness and victories more powerful.

— Jenny Tennant