Bourne Again: An Early Review of “The Bourne Legacy”

Upon seeing The Dark Knight Rises, a friend (and That Essence Rare blog reader) and I discussed the best trilogies of all time. Christopher Nolan’s work with The Dark Knight approaches the top of my list, as do Lord of the Rings and The Godfather (yes, the third one is the disliked and underperforming red-headed stepchild of the three, but it’s still better than most children out there, ok? The third was nominated for Best Picture after all). Star Wars is not my thing because George Lucas can’t write his way out of a paper bag filled with Ewoks, but I respect it as a top choice for its groundbreaking approaches to film and its genre. As I started to think more, maybe The Bourne Identity movies should be considered. Well-acted, well-written, sharp, taut, and entertaining (even to those who can’t handle director Paul Greengrass’s handheld camera style that worked brilliantly in United 93), the Jason Bourne movies guaranteed high-level entertainment. While The Bourne Legacy has its highlights and entertaining scenes, it, sadly, does not live up to those admittedly high expectations.

The Bourne Legacy is an occasionally entertaining film and many will find its thrills and chases entertaining summer fun with a bit of added interest for the pharmacists in the audience. The film’s brief focus on other secret agents inflitrating North Korea, Iran, and Pakistan would make a fascinating film on its own, but it is relegated to a sub-plot that is quickly dispensed with.

The film’s main weakness is that the filmmakers refuse to let the new film stand for itself. Jeremy Renner is not tasked to be Jason Bourne but, rather, another highly-trained and over-medicated killing machine engineered by the U.S. government.  Constant references to Jason Bourne and better plot lines from the first three films keep this fourth installment always in the shadow of its better predecessors. If you’re going to take the film in a new direction, stop setting it up as if Matt Damon is about to smash through the closest window and take control of the film. (Sorry, he doesn’t.)

Renner is a talented, Oscar-nominated actor coming off a great ten months (Mission: Impossible 4, The Avengers) and offers a new, scrappier version of a Bourne-like character in the same way Daniel Craig brought a new, scrappier version of James Bond. Both actors in their respective franchise re-boots usually hold their own, but, in action films, no man is an island — unless that island is booby-trapped with transforming alien robots that spit fire and eye-roll-inducing quips. A supporting cast filled with Oscar winners (Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz, Albert Finney) should not be so disengaging, whether they are keeping track of Renner’s character (Norton, Finney) or going along for the occasionally bumpy ride (Weisz). Norton has now replaced his tag “a less-good Hulk, compared to Mark Ruffalo” with “a less-good CIA boss, compared to Joan Allen.” Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It’s also interesting to see Weisz’s scientist character as just a panoply of whining and helpless action female stereotypes, especially after her film last year, The Whistleblower, which was the true story of a Nebraska cop who fights sex trafficking and promotes female empowerment.

But no one goes to an action movie for the acting or moral message. The Bourne Legacy starts slowly and intelligently in the arctic and offers explosive moments throughout, but also gets bogged-down by talking. That would be good if the dialogue and plot lines weren’t so repetitive. Chase scenes across the roofs of buildings bring to mind the raging sport of parkour, but without parkour athletes’ oddly common grey sweatpants. The main thrill of the film is an extended foot/car/motorcycle chase sequence filled with thrills, chills, jeers, and other emotions to keep you from wondering why the movie is two hours but feels longer. It’s a great set of scenes and shows that the filmmakers did not waste the original trilogy’s smart use of constant action. Still, even after the most entertaining and engaging moments, viewers’ minds will likely wander back to the better days of the original Jason Bourne trilogy.

DZ Deathrays


Hey, here is a band you aren’t listening to even though you should.  Shane Parsons and Simon Ridley are DZ Deathrays and they are young and loud and angry about something (probably a lot of things).  The next time you want to turn your nice quiet get together into a a PCU style house party, throw this guy on.

Summer movies … without explosions!

I know, I know … you’re thinking “I just saw Battleship and That’s My Boy! and Dark Shadows in an awesome movie marathon… how can summer movies get any better!?!?”

Well, they can. And please leave.

Every summer there’s always a little indie gem that shakes up audiences and reminds them not every summer movie has to involve Michael Bay-like explosions. I haven’t posted in two months, but really enjoyed “Safety Not Guaranteed.” It was a perfect escape this afternoon from a 105-degree day on the East coast.

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a quirky indie dramedy about journalism, love, loss, and time travel. It’s not for everyone, but sufficiently offbeat to enchant those who love films that win awards at festivals and just mainstream enough to win over general audiences. Are there some plot holes involving time travel, spies, and potential lies about the past? Sure, but none so big that a Prometheus-sized ship could pass through them. It’s a smart, surprisingly sentimental, occasionally hilarious, well-acted, intelligently-written film to check out in the month between seeing “The Avengers” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Check out the trailer (it’s only in limited release nationwide right now):

You Need This Tape

Trackstar the DJ

Soon El-P, Killer Mike, Mr. Muthafuckin eXquire, and Despot are heading out on tour together.  The “Into the Wild Tour” will be different from your typical hip hop mega tour in the sense that it will not be terrible.  It will, in fact, be the opposite of terrible.  Somewhere in the neighborhood of “The Best Thing Ever” and “Oh, I Just Shit Myself!”  In celebration of this momentous event they are releasing a free mixtape, hosted by Trackstar the DJ, that will serve as sort of a tour appetizer.  Get it here

(via Pigeons and Planes)

Weekend Playlist: 16 Jun 2012

These are some of my people. Guess which one is the worst.

Video Extra:  Every other singer should just quit while Lee Fields is around.

(via Yours Truly)

Grimes, Kreayshawn, Blood Diamonds, and Tragik Make “Music”

Here is your newest WTF collaboration.  It blows my mind that anyone would want to catch themselves on the same track as Kreayshawn but apparently a couple of talented artists (Grimes and Blood Diamonds) and another one (Tragik) found themselves in just this position.  These four went into a room for ten minutes and made something they are calling a song.  Its called “Don’t Smoke My Blunt Bitch” and, you are in luck, there is also a video.  Its like the musical version of middle finger and its pointed at you America.

Beef Watch: Common v Drake

(via the Fader)                                                                                                                          (pic via Fader)

Alriggghhhttt!  It has been so long since we have had a real life hip hop hatefest.  Yes, fans are great at letting an artist know when they are being terrible (i.e. Waka Flacka Flame every goddamn minute of the day.  Did you know he has a new video out called “Rooster in My Rari” starring a 6ft tall rooster?  God in heaven!.) but when is the last time we had a good diss track?  Ok, maybe this happens all the time but they are always entertaining.

This newest duel seems to be a little one sided.  In the red corner is Common, one of the most respected figures on scene and one of the few who was around when the diss track was a common weapon in the hip hoppers arsenal.  Over in this corner, which is a pale lavender that has been gently brushed with tears, is Drake.  Young, naive, former Canadian child star, Drake.  I have tried my best to make it crystal clear how unabashedly mediocre he is but, alas, the people do not seem to hear me so I guess I am going to have to let Common take him down for me.

After you listen to the two tracks (Drake’s shot and Common’s reply, which is over the same goddamn track) I feel like the winner is obvious, after round one anyway.  Their approaches are very different.  Drake beats around the bush a bit.  His disses are vague and tentative.  A scared kid hiding behind a wall of manufactured braggadocio and Rick Ross’ homeless beard.  I’m guessing when he sees how overmatched he is he will claim that he wasn’t talking about Common at all.

Common, on the other hand, is straight to the point.  The man is nothing if not confident and he seems very comfortable in this role.  Its like a dad scolding his kid.  His best line:   “Make no mistake.  I’m talkin’ about Drake.”  This is a man.  I can’t wait for the response.

By the way, I have no idea what this is about.  Its probably over something really important.  I’ll keep you posted.

(via Pigeons and Planes)