Tag Archives: Paul Greengrass

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 307: Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad

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Beloved Pop Culture Happy Hour host Linda Holmes is at the Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles this week, so Tanya Ballard Brown and I joined regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon for an uncharacteristically reserved episode. By which I mean, neither of the big summer movies we autopsied, Jason Bourne and Suicide Squad, is very good, though the latter is much worse. I had hopes for both of them, because I admire their directors, Paul Greengrass and David Ayer, very much, and I’ve tended to like their work. You know what late-summer release was not a big letdown? Star Trek Beyond. I endorse it. Continue reading

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Vestigial Tale: Jason Bourne, reviewed.

Jason Bourne in Greece

Look, I enjoyed the circa 2002-7 Bourne trilogy, and it’s surprising to me that I’ve never gotten around to 2012’s Damonless, Greengrassless The Bourne Legacy given how much I liked writer/director Tony Gilroy’s Michael Clayton. But as I aver in my NPR review, Jason Bourne isn’t just the least of the Damon-starring Bournes—it’s not even as good as SPECTRE, which suffered an acute surfeit of goodness. And Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. are both far more imaginative and colorful diversions, spywise and otherwise.

It gives me no joy to deliver unto you this disappointing news.

Captain Phillips and the Terrible Excitement of Real Action

black hawk down

Ridley Scott’s BLACK HAWK DOWN, from 2001.

Captain Phillips, the seemingly little-embellished new thriller based on a 2009 hijacking at sea, got me thinking about what sort of responsibilities filmmakers have — and we as audiences have — when approaching a dramatized account of things that actually occurred. You can read that piece over at Monkey See today.

Watch-day!

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I’m going to see Watchmen at midnight , and I can’t wait. Actually, that statement is demonstrably false, because I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since I read (retired?) DC Comics Publisher Jeanette Kahn’s “Direct Currents” column about a potential film adaptation of Watchmen back in the late 80s.

I was excited when I read in the long-defunct Fantagraphics-published fanzine Amazing Heroes that Sam Haam had written a screenplay that actually improved upon the one (arguable) flaw of Moore and Gibbons’ 12-issue maxi-series: it’s 1950’s The Day the Earth Stood Still-style denouement. (I hear that an alteration to the ending has survived all the subsequent drafts and years of development hell, though only the Writers’ Guild knows whether the finished film’s ending was Haam’s.)

I was excited when Terry Gilliam was going to direct it, even though his own revision of the screenplay purportedly sucked worse than the film version of Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If anybody could get this thing onscreen intact, I figured, the guy who made Brazil could do it.

I was excited again, ten-plus years later, when Paul Greengrass was going to do it. (Though Cloverfield is probably a fair indication of what a Greengrass-shot Watchmen would have looked like.)

I was skeptical when I heard Zack Snyder, he of the-shot-by-shot adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300, had won the gig. I haven’t seen 300, but I gather it was mostly about a bunch of CGI-hardbodies wrestling in Matrix-like slow-motion. But when I read about the faithfulness and commitment with which Snyder was translating Moore and Gibbons’ sprawling masterpiece for the movies — keeping it set in alternate 1985, casting non-stars, allowing for a near-three-hour theatrical-cut run time (three-plus for DVD) and, crucially, an R-rating — I began to get excited again.

In about seven hours, I’ll be watching the movie. Sometime after that, though possibly not right away, I’ll know whether Snyder and screenwriter David Hayter succeeded. I’ve tried to avoid reading the mainstream critics’ notices, though I did weaken and read David Edelstein’s review in New York, which articulated nicely my reservations about Snyder.

I believe this much, though: Snyder tried — really tried — to make something great. Or at least to be faithful to something great.

Orson Welles, who made three brilliant films and many more failures, said it takes as much hard work to make a bad movie as it does to make a good one. But William Goldman, who’s had more commercial success than Welles but never improved upon The Princess Bride, said that most movies aren’t even meant to be any good.

Watchmen, I have faith, was meant to be good. And now, we’ll see.