Tagged: Matt Damon

John Ostrander: The Bourne Formula

Spoiler note: Various plot elements of the Bourne movies may be revealed below. The movies have been out for a while so I’m assuming those who want to see them have seen them. Nevertheless, the spoiler flag is flying just in case.

There are a number of movies that, when I come across them on the tube, I’ll stop and watch them. I tell myself that it will be just until a certain scene or bit of dialogue but the fact is I usually wind up watching them through to the final credits. When this happens late at night, I can wind up staying awake for far too long and suffer for it the next day.

The Bourne series of movies fall into this category. They include The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum and Jason Bourne but not The Bourne Legacy which, despite its name, has no Jason Bourne in it and appears to be ignored by the series filmmakers so I do, too.)

The reason I’m doing this retro review is to look at how something that starts fresh can drift into formula.

The films center on an assassin working for a clandestine special ops CIA agency. Born David Webb, he has become Jason Bourne – among other identities. Trained to be a living weapon, Bourne (wounded on one failed assignment) has become amnesiac. Over the course of the films, he starts to recover that memory.

The series starts with 2002s The Bourne Identity, loosely (some say too loosely) based on Robert Ludlum’s novel of the same name. It was a refreshing take on the spy/action genre, which previously had been defined by the James Bond films. The action was more realistic as were the characters and the situation. There was a car chase but it involved what I think was a Mini. The villain in the movie was not a huge over-the-top megalomaniac but the very agency that employed Bourne. The female lead was not a striking Bond girl but a Bohemian woman named Marie. The film ends with Bourne and Marie putting a new life together for themselves and the agency that hunted them has been closed down.

The film was a big success and re-defined the genre; the Bond films were re-cast in the Bourne mode – tougher, grittier, more realistic. They had needed to change and Bourne showed the way.

The Bourne Supremacy (2004) continued the trend. There’s a successor to the black ops agency in the first film but there’s a traitor inside who frames Bourne for a failed mission. In attempting to take him out, Bourne’s love Marie is killed. This is startling; Marie was a major character in the first film and her death has a major effect on Bourne, giving him a motivation that continues through the series. Still, the Big Bad is again the Agency or, at least, elements of it. We’re seeing a pattern developing.

The third film in the series, 2004’s The Bourne Supremacy, once again has Bourne and the Agency at odds. This time, the film winds up bringing Bourne back home to the U.S., specifically New York City. He learns the truth about his origin and there are touches throughout that bring us back to the first film suggesting this is the final installment in a trilogy.

And it was, for 12 years.

In 2012, the studio tried to capitalize on its franchise with the Bourne-less The Bourne Legacy. It also tried to make Bourne more of a superhero. That didn’t work all the way around.

Last year saw Jason Bourne (with returning star Matt Damon) hit the theaters. Once again, a woman who is close to Jason is killed and once again the central villain is the Agency (or someone at the Agency). And the formula is starting to become obvious.

Every film has a car chase, each becoming more spectacular than the last. The first one was relatively modest and interesting. After that, any time Jason takes the wheel insurance rates are going up and there will be considerable collateral damage. In all the cars being upended or hit, I just imagine people being hurt and dying. I’m no longer impressed.

There will be a big hand to hand fight between Jason and… somebody. Somebody trained enough to give Jason a good fight but the outcome is never in doubt, It will be very violent and no music plays during it.

In every film, Jason says some variation on “This ends here.” Except it never does. If the studio has its way, it never will. So why even say it?

The antagonist is always the Agency or someone at the Agency. Always. Jason might as well be fighting Spectre and Blofeld.

In two out of the four films, a woman close to Bourne is killed. The first time it was effective if startling and had real impact and consequences. It’s starting to look like a trope.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve enjoyed each Bourne movie I’ve seen and I wouldn’t mind seeing another. But what started out as fresh and different is becoming old and formulaic. That’s hard to avoid when you’re working on a series. How do you keep from repeating yourself especially when part of the attraction for the fans is that repetition of fave motifs and lines?

It can be done. The next Bourne should avoid the Agency or maybe have Bourne work with the Agency, Different settings, different stakes. As it stands now, they’re not doing sequels; they’re doing remakes.

The Bourne Repetition.

Box Office Democracy: Jason Bourne

I have repeatedly gone on the record as a huge fan of the Bourne series. The Bourne Identity was a landmark action movie; one that changed how fight scenes are choreographed and shot throughout all of cinema. When they needed to prove that James Bond wasn’t a Cold War relic, they did it by making him more like Jason Bourne. The Bourne Ultimatum won three Academy Awards and deserved every one of them; it’s a stunning example of the genre. The Bourne movies always seemed like they were two steps ahead of the action game in the same way their protagonist was two steps ahead of his pursuers but something has happened in this nine-year layoff. Now Jason Bourne feels a step behind.

There isn’t anything wrong with the Bourne formula— I still quite enjoy globetrotting and big set pieces filled with any combination of fighting, car chases, and explosions. The final sequence in Las Vegas is as good as any other climax this franchise has had. Neither Athens nor Berlin feel very special as exotic locales, and going back to London again after it was featured in Ultimatum feels a little lazy, but there’s only so many countries out there and we are on the fifth movie here. Tommy Lee Jones is here to be the token evil old white guy and that’s all fine. The real problem is that because this is the paradigm now, what once felt fresh is now cliché and this is all evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Matt Damon did a round of press where he seemed very proud that he only has about 25 lines of dialogue in Jason Bourne, and what a mistake that was. Bourne isn’t an emotionally expressive character, so if he isn’t telling you how much he cares about things it’s easy to assume he just doesn’t. If we let everyone else in the movie tell us how important things are or how emotionally devastating these revelations are, then we start to empathize with those characters more than the titular one. It’s easy to assume everything is rolling off his back as he stumbles through more and more of the plot. Even when they go to the tired trope of fridging a prominent supporting cast member (for the second time in three movies if we’re counting) it doesn’t seem to have an impact that lasts longer than the scene directly after the one it happens in.

There’s a big story going on in Jason Bourne, but I’m pretty sure Bourne himself has no idea it’s going on. There’s some big conspiracy between Jones and his CIA influence on a social media platform run by stereotypical tech mogul Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) and while Bourne comes in to possession of files that could expose the program we never see him read them, mention them, or seemingly have any interest in present-day CIA operations. Bourne is consumed with evidence that his father (a character that has had zero footprint on this series to date) might have been killed as part of a cover-up. The bad guys spend the entire film scrambling to cover-up and protect a program that the good guy has no knowledge of or interest in. It feels like the two sides are brought together solely by contrived coincidences and in a saner world never would they come in to conflict.

I want to believe that the Bourne franchise is bigger than this misstep. The biggest problems are narrative and let’s be honest, no one is seeing these films for their tight, coherent storylines. It needs to be a little better than this, but this is a slight stumble not a tumbling fall. Paul Greengrass, if he chooses to stick around, can recover from this and make a better movie. They left so many plot threads to continue on, from Ahmed’s character not coming close to having a character arc, to the surprise emergence of Alicia Vikander emerging as the most compelling entity in the whole film. In fact, if they decided to move away from Damon again, I would much rather watch a movie about Vikander’s morally ambiguous CIA character than I would like to have Jeremy Renner back. We’re 15 years in to the Bourne era, and while Jason Bourne is not the genre-defining pipe bomb its predecessors were, I’m not ready to write the whole venture off yet.

Box Office Democracy: The Martian

I really enjoyed watching The Martian when I was sitting in the theater, but that love has faded quickly in the days since. There’s a high amount of amazing spectacle and suspense to keep audiences engaged but there’s an emotional emptiness to the film that makes it feel inconsequential in the long term and hurts the film. Ten minutes after I thought it was an Oscar contender released too early, two days after it feels like just another movie, and in a couple months I doubt I’ll be thinking about it at all. I suppose this is what Ridley Scott is these days and it’s so sad that the man who made Blade Runner and Alien is making such hollow science fiction these days.

The set pieces on display in The Martian are as good as anything I’ve seen this year. From Martian sandstorms to daring space stunts to random bouts of explosive decompression it’s a thoroughly arresting film. The action is interesting and it’s fun to hear all of the characters try and scheme their way out of impossible space problems. The interplay between Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, and Chiwetel Ejiofor is particularly crisp and feels if not what actual NASA meetings are like certainly what I would like to imagine them to be.

The problem with all these fascinating situations is we never get to see any real emotional reactions. Matt Damon is supposed to be almost certainly doomed millions and millions of miles away and with the exception of brief moments we never see him particularly sad or on the precipice of despair. We never see that reaction from anyone on earth either, neither from the people at NASA or from a member of his family, the stakes of the movie are so high but without seeing someone really care they don’t feel like anything. The Martian ends up feeling like a series of math problems to be solved and not like a life or death situation, and while approaching them like math problems might be what gets them solved from an institutional standpoint it doesn’t make for an effective movie.

There’s a chance I’m being too hard on this movie. It’s quite likely that “enjoyable but forgettable” actually describes a movie that’s more or less good, but I can’t help but hold Ridley Scott to a higher standard. I know he can make movies that are more affecting than this but seems trapped in a downward spiral of spectacle over substance that kicked off with Robin Hood, spread through Prometheus, hit critical mass with Exodus, and now has left us with The Martian a movie that barely seems to care about how little it cares.

Interstellar teaser trailer released

Interstellar teaser trailer released

Christopher Nolan’s eagerly anticipated Interstellar released its teaser trailer this morning. The movie is 11 months away so this realyl doesn’t give much away but we do know that it is about a team of astronauts travelling through a wormhole. The film began as a script by his frequent collaborator, brother Jonathan Nolan, but Christopher had his own ideas and the 2007 script became enmeshed with his own take on the story. The movie stars familiar performers from his previous works including Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine but it also stars Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Bill Irwin, Matt Damon, Topher Grace, and Ellen Burstyn.

There’s not much new here, but as teasers go, it certainly has our attention.

John Ostrander: Late To The Party

OStrander Art 130714I’m not often the firstest with the mostest. Ask Mike Gold. I was resistant to getting a computer despite his urging until, of course, I got a computer. Then I was gung-ho (and remain so). Friends back in the day told me that I had to read Lord of the Rings. My reaction was – no, I don’t. Until, of course, I did read The Lord of the Rings and became a huge fan.

There’s a couple of movies that were like that for me. For whatever reason, I resisted looking at them while they were in the movies theaters. Later, I caught them (or part of them) on TV and then discovered I really liked them. I now own DVDs of these films (yes, I’m resistant also to Blu-Ray so far; we all know how that will end but I remain stubborn at the moment).

The first of these is Disney/Pixar’s Cars. You’d think I’d be first in line because I was (and largely still am) a big Pixar fan. Part of me still prefers 2D animation but Pixar absolutely won me over with its stories and characters and the wit of their scripts. But Cars just struck me as pandering to NASCAR (another cultural phenomenon to which I remain resistant) and I passed . . .until I saw it on TV.

D’oh! (Did I mention I was also resistant to The Simpsons for a long time?)

Cars is every bit as good as any other Pixar film and has a great cast. It has Paul Newman in his last performance, for crying out loud! Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shaloub, Cheech Marin, and George Freakin’ Carlin all contribute. It even has Tom and Ray Magliozzi from NPR’s Car Talk (highly appropriate but such a nice touch). The animation is first rate with some absolutely stunning backgrounds and a story that involves and tugs at the heart. Love the film and would have loved seeing it on the big screen )if I hadn’t been so danged snobbish and stubborn. That’ll teach me.

No, it won’t.

There’s also The Adjustment Bureau, adapted from the short story “Adjustment Team” by Phillip K. Dick, who has had a stellar record providing grist for Hollywood’s mill – Bladerunner, Minority Report, and Total Recall (twice) among others. It stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt and features Terrence Stamp (a favorite of mine). It’s odd that I missed it – I really like Matt Damon and would usually watch anything with him in it but this got mediocre to tepid reviews for the most part.

I can see why. There’s a cosmic plan involved and guys in dark suits and fedoras who may or may not be working for someone who may or may not be God. Possessing a fedora allows you to travel through certain doors and wind up in a different part of the city. Damon and Bloom play very star-crossed lovers whom the cosmic forces are trying to keep at bay. It all gets a little arcane and hard to swallon.


Damon and Blunt are terrific together. They have such a natural chemistry that, for me, it sells the film. I want these two people to be together no matter what cosmic forces decree they should not. So I bought the DVD.

Which leads me to another Matt Damon film, We Bought A Zoo, directed and co-written by Cameron Crowe. The film also stars Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, and a lovely supporting cast. It’s the story of a widower with two kids who ups and buys a struggling zoo and tries to renovate and re-open it. It sounded a little Hallmark Channel to me, especially the title.

My bad. I’ve gone through the grieving process for a spouse (albeit without children) and the film feels true to me, as does Damon’s performance. Again, great chemistry with his co-star, Scarlett Johansson. I’m leery of films that focus on kids and animals –they can come off cloying and/or annoying – but the children and the beasties come off very well. Again, I think the reviews were tepid and the title probably kept some viewers away (it kept me away). That’s unfortunate; I think many folks – like me – have discovered it since its initial release and enjoyed it.

There are other films that I ignored in their first release – Amelie comes to mind – that I discovered later. Thanks the powers hat be for DVD.

Or Blu-Ray. Which I’ll get around to owning.





Mindy Newell: See Ya, Hub

“I hate endings!” said the Doctor to Amy (in last night’s episode of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan”) as he ripped out the last page of the novel he was reading. The Doctor always rips out the final page of a book, he tells Amy, because he doesn’t want the story to end. The Doctor wants the story to go on. He wants to forget his near-immortal life, he wants to forget that in the end his companions always leave him because they never have enough time and he will always have too much. He wants to forget that he is the last of the Time Lords, the end of the line.

But we are not Time Lords. We know endings come. We know our ending is coming, one way or another, sooner or later. (Hopefully much, much later!) And I think that one of the ways we come to grips with our final denouement is by telling and reading stories because stories end.  And our lives are stories, aren’t they? And don’t we always want to know how the story ends?

Endings can be the reasons we keep turning the pages of the book, even if it’s 2 A.M. and we have to get up to go to work in three hours, or why we watch a movie for the hundred-and-first time.

Endings can enlighten. They can surprise, they can awe, they can make us cry. Endings can make us angry, and they can drive us crazy.

Endings can be poignant and bittersweet. Endings can really suck the big one. Or they can be both at the same time.

In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite endings:

The Gift (Joss Whedon, Buffy The Vampire Slayer): “She saved the world a lot.”

The Death Of Supergirl (Marv Wolfman And George Perez, Crisis On Infinite Earths #7): Farewell, Kara Zor-el, the avatar of my childhood dreams.

The Nine Billion Names Of God (Arthur C. Clarke): “Overhead, without an fuss, the stars were going out.”

Nightfall (Isaac Asimov): The stars come out.

Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow? (Alan Moore, Curt Swan, & George Perez, Superman #423 And Action #583): The end of an era.

The Lottery (Shirley Jackson): “’It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,’ Mrs. Hutchinson screamed, and then they were upon her.”

An Officer And A Gentleman: Hey, what girl doesn’t want to be swept up in the arms of a gorgeous Naval officer and taken away from her drudgery-filled life?

A Guy Named Joe (Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne): “That’s my girl. And that’s my boy.”

Saving Private Ryan: (Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, with a cameo by Ted Danson): “P-51’s, sir. Tank Busters.”

The Way We Were (Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford): “See ya, Hub.”


We are not Time Lords. We want to know the end of the story. Last night, in “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the adventures of Amelia Pond and Rory Williams as they travelled through time and space with the Gallifreyan came to well, an end.

But their lives went on.

All our lives are stories, aren’t they?

See ya, Hub.


TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis, more or less


REVIEW: Margaret

The world seen through the eyes of a teenager is an overly complex place, spoiled but adults who overly nuance everything while teens see it all with unjaded clarity. Such a worldview can be permanently altered by a single action and the resulting repercussions, which ripple in waves, touching many in unexpected ways. From that premise comes writer/director Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret, a film whose making is as tortured as its premise.

Originally scheduled for release by Fox Searchlight in 2007, Lonergan (You Can Count on Me) labored over the production and then the editing until the release date came and went, prompting law suits. He finally delivered a cut totaling 3:06, far longer than the 2:30 the studio insisted upon, which became a part of the suit. Finally, Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker stepped in to craft a cut that the director and studio could live with and the movie opened in December.

You missed it. You probably never heard of it or vaguely recall it was something Anna Paquin shot before True Blood made her a superstar. Before that series though, she was always an accomplished actress rarely given the right roles to demonstrate that but Lonergan wrote Lisa Cohen with Paquin in mind and she delivers a riveting performance worthy of your attention. Fortunately, the film is available as a Blu-ray Combo Pack on Tuesday and comes complete with both cuts of the film.

Twentieth Century Home Entertainment recently sent me a screener of the studio cut and it is extremely powerful and moving. Lisa is a 17 year old girl living with her divorced mother Joan (J. Smith-Cameron), an actress, and younger brother. Preparing to spend the summer at a ranch with Dad, she is seeking the proper cowboy hat when she spots one atop bus driver Jason “Maretti” Berstone (Mark Ruffalo). Chasing the bus in the hopes of boarding it and talking to him, he is distracted long enough to run a red light and strike a pedestrian (Alison Janney). Margaret comforts the woman whose life quickly ebbs away and with that the movie is launched.

Margaret gives a false statement, at Joan’s urging, to the police and the guilt weighs on her. She struggles with the memory of the event, the lie, the lack of justice in a cruel world and questions the meaning of life itself. As a result, she is adrift, thrashing out at friends and family alike. She is distanced from her mother, who is distracted first by the impending opening of her Broadway show and then an unlikely romance with a foreign businessman (Jean Reno). Lisa confides in her math teacher (Matt Damon) and ignores her English teacher (Matthew Broderick) and best friend (Olivia Thirlby). She does, though, make a conscious decision to lose her virginity to a stoner (Kieran Culkin) in what has to be one of the most honest lovemaking scenes in a long time.

Eventually, the weight of the lie and lack of proper closure eat at Lisa who connects with Emily (Jeannie Berlin), the victim’s closest friend, and together an odd bond is formed. Lisa confronts Jason, berates the police who have closed the case, and seeks legal remedies. She has made Jason losing his job, protecting potential victims, her mission and focuses solely on that with dramatic results.

As you can see, this has a hefty cast that underplay their parts. Emily is brittle and rude and not terribly warm to Lisa but they’re in this together, a relationship Joan has trouble accepting. No adult can say the right things or make the right moves to salve Lisa’s fevered conscience and Paquin runs with it. Lisa is appealing and sympathetic for the most part, but far from ideal and perfect.

The movie is heavy and dramatic but Lonergan brings a precision to the dialogue and storytelling, making it feel honest and real. He lets his characters argue, including some nice scenes in high school where the kids debate current events and Shakespeare with fervor. There’s one false note, a blunt statement Lisa makes to two of her teachers late in the film that feels out of left field with no follow up. Still, the movie is well worth your attention.

As for who Margaret is, she is a character in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child”.

REVIEW: We Bought a Zoo

I’ll tell you right up front that I had a stronger emotional reaction to the film than most audience members, largely because of the theme of loss that permeates most of the story. As a result, I found myself loving the We Bought a Zoo and have been recommending it to families ever since. Now that it is out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment, I’m here to recommend it as a purchase as well.

Since we’re all about to fall in love with Scarlet Johansson all over again when she kicks ass in The Avengers, it’s good to see her actually acting here, paired nicely with Matt Damon, the grieving patriarch who needs to change his life in some way and chooses to do so in a rather radical fashion. (more…)

PRIME SUSPECT: Maria Bello’s PRIME New Role

PRIME SUSPECT was one of the most revered BBC series of all time. Now NBC is bringing a new version to their fall season with Maria Bello in the lead role. We talk to her about the good and bad things in taking the part, and what is the deal with that hat??  And a BEETLEJUICE sequel? Yep!

The Point Radio is on the air right now – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or mobile device– and please check us out on Facebook right here & toss us a “like” or follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.

The Point Radio: CONTAGION Ready To Spread Through The Theaters

The lights are finally on, the internet is up and we are finally back – and there is a lot to catch up on! This coming weekend, CONTAGION infects theaters and we talk to star MATT DAMON and the others involved on just how scary this really can be. Plus here’s the plan for when you can see THE WALKING DEAD finally return, DC’s NEW 52 continues to sell out and ROMANCING THE STONE is coming back – shockkkkker!

The Point Radio is on the air right now – 24 hours a day of pop culture fun for FREE. GO HERE and LISTEN FREE on any computer or mobile device– and please check us out on Facebook right here & toss us a “like” or follow us on Twitter @ThePointRadio.