The Bourne Legacy re-boots nicely, Hope Springs stark on marriage, Kumaré probes religion and Killer Joe gets nasty
A hit series resumes with more dirty tricks and stunts. A stale marriage gets a thorny renewal. A skeptic tries to expose religious mystics. There’s quality in this week’s new films.
Here’s the list:
The Bourne Legacy: 3 stars
Hope Springs: 3 ½
Killer Joe: 2
The Campaign: --
THE BOURNE LEGACY: As the title suggests, Jason Bourne isn’t in this one. Matt Damon didn’t feel like playing him again, so we only see him in a couple of photos. His spirit is there though, to hand the baton to the new man on the run, Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner, and to bring us more dirty doings by the CIA and a rival U.S. intelligence unit. They kill a British reporter working on an expose. They send a crazed scientist into a lab to shoot everybody working there. (Except for one.) They send a drone plane to kill Cross while he’s training in Alaska. He outwits them, joins up with the sole survivor of the lab massacre (Rachel Weisz) and the chase is on.
This is a clever way to do a sequel that isn’t a sequel. The story runs parallel to the first three movies and involves another secret and morally-questionable operation likeTreadstone. It genetically improved Agent Cross and is now getting a speedy shut-down. He’s left searching for more of his “meds,” a quest that takes him to Manila for a prolonged chase by car, foot and motorcycle and a conclusion that more than hints that this story is not over. It’s not as kinetically exciting as its predecessors (the big chase is erratic and comes very late and much of what comes before is perplexing) but it is a suspenseful and intelligent thriller. Tony Gilroy, who wrote the earlier films, directed this one. (The Ridge, Dunbar, Scotiabank, Dolphin and many suburban theatres) 3 out of 5
HOPE SPRINGS: From the ads and the commercials you could easily conclude that this is a light, romantic comedy about a seasoned couple fixing a few problems in their marriage.
That’s only a small part of this film which for the most part is not light. It dwells in some detail on what’s wrong with their life and that can be very uncomfortable. Tread cautiously.
They are hardly a couple; they just live together. He (Tommy Lee Jones) doesn’t communicate much, only reads the paper at breakfast and after dinner falls asleep watching golf on TV. She (Meryl Streep) is too sheepish to complain, dutifully makes his meals and dreams of “a real marriage again.” In a rare bit of assertiveness, she drags him cross country (Nebraska to Maine) for an intense week of marriage counseling. Steve Carell is the therapist and we see several of his sessions as he patiently pulls them to talk about themselves and each other. It takes time. Then he assigns homework, keying on the central problem as he analyses it: sex. She blushes and giggles. He gets off some very funny grumpy lines. Wonderful acting in a smart film about relationships. And cheaper than real therapy. (The Park, International Village and suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5
KUMARÉ: What makes a religious leader? Vikram Ghandi, of New Jersey, not India, supposed many are charlatans and set out to prove it by becoming one himself. He grew his hair and beard, put on a swami-like robe and with two aides started a yoga studio cum ashram in Arizona. Before long he attracted a following; “socially disappointed people” as one person described them. Actually, regular people searching for a spiritual lift.
He created fake yoga exercises, spouted banal sayings and invoked a blue light of pure love. He told his followers that illusion is truth, he is not real and “the truth is inside of you.” Surprise. They accepted him as “the embodiment of the divine” and shared their fears. He surprised himself too; he was enjoying the role. So, how could he tell them the truth? That’s what he intended, after all. A visit to a couple of even more outrageous religious practitioners helped convinced him he had to stop the deception. How that played out brought a few more surprises. This film started as a cheap stunt and turned into thoughtful, often funny and not at all mean-spirited study of religious searching. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5
Playing in tandem with…
GIRL MODEL: A documentary about the traffic of young women from Russia to modeling jobs in Japan. It’s legit but not quite as sunny as promised. The focuses on one young woman and the talent scout who found her. (VanCity)
KILLER JOE: William Friedkin’s heyday as a director was 40 years ago. He jolted us and helped start the blockbuster phenomenon with The Exorcist and mounted a classic car chase in The French Connection. These days he mostly works in TV and small curiosities like Killer Joe. He says it’s as an example of people "stuck in their realities and willing to do anything to get out of them." This time it’s a 20-something in Texas, played by Emile Hirsch, who owes money for drugs and hires a hitman, a cop played by Matthew McConaughey, to kill his mother for her insurance policy. He can’t pay the downpayment either and the hitman demands his sister as collateral.
At times it’s a black comedy but a rough one. There’s so much scuzziness and brutality in it, that the rating is up there with the most restrictive (NC-17 in the U.S., 18A here in B.C.). Three times faces get beaten to a bloody pulp. Gina Gershon suffers extreme humiliation. You can ogle young Juno Temple standing stark naked before silky-voiced McConaughey and then sharing Lolita-like sex play with him. These people are caricatures of trailer trash; dumb, powerless and flexibly principled. The film, and I guess the play it’s based on, revels in condescension. It’s also very well-directed and acted which makes it weirdly fascinating. (International Village) 2 out of 5
And also now playing …
THE CAMPAIGN: The U.S. is on the verge of a very important election. So does it really need a Will Farrell comedy making fun of the process? Farrell plays a disgraced Congressman who for once in his long career has to face a challenger, a nebbish played by Zach Galifianakis. Apparently the film has lots of cheap laughs, some of them actually funny. I haven’t seen it (it previewed the same night as Bourne). I just think there’s already too much cynicism about politics. Jay Roach also directed one of the Fockers and all three of the Austin Powers films as well as a couple of TV movies about elections. (Scotiabank and suburban theatres)
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