The Notebook (2004)

I hate the goddamn Photoshopped version where Gosling's beard is removed.

I hate the goddamn Photoshopped version where Gosling’s beard is removed.

Directed by: Nick Cassavettes (I’d have to say his best movie is either this one or She’s So Lovely, but I haven’t seen the latter film in over a decade so that would require a re-watch)

Written by: Jeremy Leven and Jan Sardi adapted Nicholas Sparks’ novel to the screen

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner, Gena Rowlands, Joan Allen, Sam Shepard, Kevin Connolly, David Thornton and James Marsden

What it’s about: a man reads from a book to attempt to revive a woman’s memory

What I liked: First of all, the chemistry between Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams is off-the-charts explosive.  I mean, explosive in a good way.  You truly get the sense that these characters loved each other passionately.  The story is fairly by-the-numbers, and without Gosling and McAdams starring, it would probably have been a forgettable film, no matter what director Nick Cassavettes did.  The movie looks gorgeous, and the acting throughout is decent.  The characters feel real, in particular the poor James Marsden character, who reacts in a fairly realistic manner to life-changing news.  Plus, he’s charming!

What I disliked: Well, with any romantic drama (romama? dramantic?) there is an inherent quantity of cheesiness, and that is not absent throughout the entire movie.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Certainly.  No, wait.  Some people will think it is just a “chick flick” (a designation I detest), and they will be pre-disposed to hate it, no matter how good it is.  I’d recommend it to people that like good movies.

Rating: 4 / 5

As soon as I saw this scene, I knew that someone would have made a gif out of it.

As soon as I saw this scene, I knew that someone would have made a gif out of it.

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

So much negative space

So much negative space

Directed by: Tony Gilroy (he also directed the excellent Michael Clayton and the boring Duplicity)

Written by: Tony and Dan Gilroy, sort of using characters based off of Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne books

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach, Zeljko Ivanek, and plenty of re-used footage from the previous Bourne movies.. or was it re-shot?

What it’s about: a secret government agent (?) fights for his life after his handlers turn on him… or something?

B-Movie Alternate Title: The Bourne Files: Alex Cross

Movie Mash Up: (The Bourne Identity – Jason Bourne) + Edward Norton… I guess, I dunno, probably should have not done this category for the movie

What I liked: It was an extremely well-shot movie, full of gorgeous cinematography (and no lens flares!).  The action set pieces were fairly entertaining.  I liked seeing Jeremy Renner in a Bourne-esque role, and he handled himself well.

What I disliked: There is no reason for this movie to have been made.  It was just an easy cash-in on the Jason Bourne name.  An actress of Rachel Weisz’ talents should be playing a better character than someone that was essentially “Hysterical Female Doctor”.  It was like the Gilroys were trying to be writing as smart as the original Bourne movies, but it just got all convoluted and they kept trying to tie in that Trilogy to every move that Renner’s character made.  There was no real emotional connection to the characters, like why should we care what happens to them at all?  That’s not a needed ingredient in a movie, but having those feelings towards the characters makes me more emotionally invested in the movie, and as it ended up, it was essentially a popcorn Jason Bourne movie.

Would I recommend it to anyone?:  For everything that I disliked, I have to say that I still enjoyed the movie, and if you’ve seen The Bourne Trilogy, then yes, by all means watch it.  It doesn’t disrespect the original movies, but it is ultimately unnecessary.

Rating: 3 / 5

Jason Bourne never needed two guns at once!

Jason Bourne never needed two guns at once!

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

Totally wrote this review a few years back, feel the same way about it, the rating slipped down half a point.  Still an amazing movie.

Ever since the Jason Bourne franchise hit the big screens in 2002 with The Bourne Identity, I’ve had a love/hate relationship with it. I enjoyed Identity and its 2004 follow-up The Bourne Supremacy well-enough, but I never allowed myself to truly love them because I had read the Robert Ludlum books upon which the movies are “based” before seeing the movies. Having just seen The Bourne Ultimatum, I have finally been able to completely divorce the books from the movies. Sure, there’s a few story elements and characters that they share with one another, but in the end the adventures the movie version of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) gets into are far more entertaining than the printed word is able to convey to me.

Paul Greengrass returns to helm his second straight Bourne movie, and it picks up almost directly after Supremacy ended. Bourne is beginning to regain more memories and is finally determined enough to take down the people who made him what he is. Of course there’s still the matter of putting all the pieces together, and much of the movie is of the fact-finding, spy intrigue variety. The CIA is still focused on eliminating Bourne, and continue to pull out all the stops in every effort to bring him in. Not to mention crossing a few legal and moral lines to achieve their goal.

I must caution you about watching Ultimatum. After it’s all over, you’ll never see another action movie the same way. You will be insulted (if you’re not already) by cheesy explosions, cartoonish villains, and meathead leads that make contextual quips about the demise of their enemies. Ultimatum shows us that there is absolutely no reason why action flicks have to be dumb blow-’em-ups, that you can have a thriller-esque feel to an action movie and make it work. Then again, perhaps that’s not entirely true and the only reason it works is because of Greengrass’ direction, or the stunning handheld camerawork. Maybe it’s John Powell’s amazing score combining with measured and realistic fight scenes and intense car chases. Personally, I think it’s all those things combined with an amazing character, a realistic and powerful performance by Matt Damon, and a well-developed story.

Rarely do I watch a movie and immediately want to sit down and watch it again, or start counting down the days until it comes out on DVD/Blu-Ray. The Bourne Ultimatum is one of those rare movies for me, one that had me gripping my theatre seat as the action built up and the camera was right in there, feeling every shot. At the end of one helluva spectacular car chase, I noticed that I was actually catching my breath. Your enjoyment of the movie will be increased exponentially if you’ve seen the previous two Bourne movies, and you should do that anyways because now that I’ve freed them from my past snobby-book-adaptation opinion, I have to say that the Bourne Trilogy is truly one of the best movie franchises ever put together.

4.5 / 5

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

I’ve spent the last two days trying to write up a review for this movie, when all I can think about to say is that it is a slightly better movie than the one that came before it, The Bourne Identity.  It was directed by Paul Greengrass, a man who loves handheld camerawork, and that gives it just a bit more immediacy than the previous one.  The car chase scene in Supremacy is a bit better than the one in Bourne Identity, almost to a Ronin level.  The supporting cast is a bit better this time, or are at least used in a better fashion than they were in the first Bourne movie.  I don’t have much else to say about it, because all the old feelings I had about the Bourne movies I addressed in my Bourne Identity review yesterday.

4 / 5