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The Ocean’s 11 Series (Anyway, That’s All I Got)

ocean's 11

This week, we decided to look back on the series of films that has led up to this past week’s release of Ocean’s 8. We start all the way back in 1960 with The Rat Pack, make our way through Steven Soderbergh’s trilogy, and finally arrive at the newest installment. Afterwards, we take some time to read some of YOUR feedback (we’re sorry it took this long), which will be concluded in next week’s episode. Hosted by Sam Noland, Jason Read, and Anthony Battaglia!

Question For You: What is your favorite heist movie? Leave a comment below, send us an email (ataigpodcast@gmail.com), or hit us up on Twitter: @AnywayCast

Go on…The Ocean’s 11 Series (Anyway, That’s All I Got)

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‘The Great Wall’ Is A Middling Mashup Of Western And Eastern Tropes

the great wall

It’s not often that a film does so well to fall right in the middle, where the good and bad of its parts come together to represent one, halfway decent blockbuster for a very specific crowd.

That crowd is the group of moviegoers who might crave a Chinese produced movie that’s been written by Western storytellers, an idea that’s a lot better in theory than it is in practice, as evidenced but what was clearly a film designed by the committee to fully utilize a global box office. What if the Great Wall of China, a true wonder of human history, was built as a mythical shield against ancient aliens with a hive mind?

The Great Wall unfolds from there as an elaborate love letter to medieval Chinese ingenuity (indeed, the weapons and tactics of the film’s primary military is the true star, not Matt Damon or Jing Tian). It’s just too bad that they lumped in a passable script featuring a weightless performance from Damon himself.

Go on…‘The Great Wall’ Is A Middling Mashup Of Western And Eastern Tropes

Review: ‘Jason Bourne’ Is a Return to Formula, And Not in a Good Way

jason bourne review

Note: Before you read, it’s important to know that I’ve never been a big fan of the Bourne films. I respect them as important action movies and understand why they’ve had a profoundly positive effect on a lot of people. I’m just not one of them, and I have my reasons. That said, I’m judging this film based on someone who genuinely wants this to be the Bourne film that changes my mind and satisfies existing fans. 

Almost a decade ago, the Bourne trilogy concluded on a somewhat bittersweet note. Jason got all of his memories back, but at a cost — the realization that he volunteered to become an assassin, and he had no one to blame, really, for what had happened to him, except for him.

It’s a great way to end a very popular franchise, helmed twice by Paul Greengrass and beloved for its methodical action and set pieces, with a likable lead in Matt Damon as Bourne. Which is why Jason Bourne, the fifth film after Jeremy Renner’s non-starter role in Bourne Legacy, is a movie that doesn’t even make sense on paper, let alone execution.

Years later, Bourne has not really evolved or changed much since his self-imposed exile. In a way, he’s still a blank slate, as if he still doesn’t remember anything, as evidenced by a lack of motivation behind any of his actions early on. While there should be conflict within him, we only see a begrudging unwillingness to avoid trouble at all costs, that is, until a familiar plot takes hold that prompts Bourne into taking action once again.

jason bourne review

There’s a mystery about his past, yet again, and only Bourne can punch and dropkick his way to the truth. This plays out in a generic retread of past Bourne movies, once again directed by Greengrass, proving that new blood is badly needed to rejuvenate this franchise. Say what you want about Tony Gilroy’s Bourne Legacy, but at least that film was a heroic failure.

Yes, fans of the Bourne franchise will be happy to see their favorite tropes in this new film: frequent car chases, shaky fistfights in dark corridors, shady government officials, an “anti-Bourne” who’s after the hero, and a confident yet sensitive female who illogically forms a deep connection with Bourne, despite having any good reason to do so.

The only problem with all this is that none of it is handled as elegantly as you remember. There’s a noticeable lack of thought put into these formulaic set pieces. There should be tension in a Bourne car chase, but the five or six that take place in Jason Bourne go on for so long, you forget to care, especially when one chase in particular shows a SWAT truck flying through traffic like it’s papier-mâché.

Jason Bourne gets better as it goes along, finding its groove the more Bourne himself is shown in silence, outsmarting the CIA. But it’s still only a serviceable action movie, bogged down by the forced  and laughable topicality of Snowden, Silicon Valley, and hacker culture, along with wooden performances that consistently sound like the actors are reading from their scripts for the first time. In a way, that at least makes the dialogue somewhat consistent with what’s happening onscreen.

Grade: C

Extra Credits:

  • Remember when Matt Damon said he would only return to the franchise if Paul Greengrass directed it again?
  • I mentioned Tony Gilroy, who directed Legacy and wrote every Bourne film except this one. Yeah, it definitely shows.
  • Speaking of Bourne Legacy, Aaron Cross (Renner’s character) is still getting a sequel in 2018. So…there’s that.
  • I really wish they had gone ahead and called this The Bourne: Betrayal, as planned.
  • Alicia Vikander just can’t seem to catch a break with these spy movies. Last year’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and now this.

    I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

‘The Martian’ Review; What is Your Favorite Space Movie About Space?

the martian review

This week on the podcast, we review The Martian and chat about our favorite Matt Damon movies. Of course, longtime fans of the show know that I irrationally dislike Damon as an actor, so this was a fun conversation.

As always, we talk about the latest entertainment news and make fun of Adonis while listening to Kayla talk about how cool Pixar’s next film, Coco, looks.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What is your favorite space movie about space? Or in space at least…

Go on…‘The Martian’ Review; What is Your Favorite Space Movie About Space?

Review: ‘The Martian’ Makes Science Look Cool Again

the martian review

The Martian was directed by Ridley Scott and written by Drew Goddard. It’s based on the initially self-published sci-fi novel of the same name by Andy Weir. The movie has a massive cast that I won’t be able to list off here, but the main players are Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Several decades in the future, NASA has expanded enough to send manned ships to Mars. During one of these routine missions, Mark Watney (played by Damon) is left behind and presumed dead when a massive storm threatens to kill his crew. He awakens to find himself alone on Mars with nearly zero supplies and the harsh reality that it will be years before anyone can rescue him.

What plays out is a struggle for Watney to use his wits and ingenuity to survive on this harsh planet while everyone on Earth uses their own wits to get to him before time runs out. There’s also his crew, led by Commander Lewis (Chastain), headed to Earth having to deal with the fact that they left their crewman and friend behind.

the martian review

Going in, it’s easy to see a lot of similarities between The Martian and Apollo 13. The author, Weir, was certainly inspired by this and other space films. This isn’t a bad thing because The Martian has its own voice and style thanks to Ridley Scott’s signature knack for making futuristic sci-fi feel accessible. And Weir, of course, brought his own background as an engineer to the original source material, making The Martian feel very authentic.

I haven’t read the book, and I’m probably the opposite of a scientist, but the film managed to keep me engaged with the more complicated details surrounding Damon’s problems and solutions that could have easily gone over my head. There were still some moments where I felt a little lost, but it never took me out of the movie.

While the scenes outside of Mars are great, the movie really excels whenever Damon is onscreen. Mark Watney is a refreshing optimist who is nearly impossible to dislike. He’s funny and cracks jokes throughout his dilemma, but Damon also delivers some heavy, desolate scenes that are some of his best to date.

the martian review

In fact, Damon’s performance ultimately saves the entire movie. If you don’t like his character and want to root for him, then you’ll have a hard time believing that everyone on Earth is willing to spend billions of dollars and months out of their lives to save him, even though the odds of success are perpetually low.

It helps that everyone who’s seen Saving Private Ryan has gotten used to Matt Damon being someone worth rescuing, even if that means putting your entire life on hold. Because Mark Watney is such a fun character, I was able to ignore how strange this entire setup was and just enjoy the ride.

My only real issues with the film have to do with how some of the characters on Earth have limited roles despite being played by such big-name actors. Most of them are only in the movie to share exposition or explain something for a few sentences. Sure, we get to see Donald Glover play a mean Abed, and there’s one scene involving Sean Bean that had me in tears (the good kind).

But aside from Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benedict Wong, I didn’t find myself loving any of these side characters that much. Though it’s a small complaint considering how incredible Ejiofor’s performance was, even if the minor roles felt a little underdeveloped.

the martian review

That said, The Martian is a witty, funny, and sometimes nerve-wracking movie that goes back and forth between charming lines of dialogue and believable peril. For my money, it’s one of the best films of the year and one of the best space movies of the decade.

Grade: A

Please do yourself a favor and see this one on the big screen. It’s not every year that we get a Ridley Scott film that feels like a new classic.

If you’ve seen The Martian, let me know your thoughts in the comments. And be sure to check out our podcast review coming this Sunday, where we’ll talk about the film in more detail.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

What Early Reviewers Are Actually Saying About “Elysium”

The early reviews for Elysium are already out and being established as the narrative for what we’re supposed to think about this movie (too honest?)

So I took the liberty of gathering soundbites from these reviews and giving you the translations you didn’t even know you wanted. Let’s begin.

And yet for all the accomplished direction, fine performances from the entire cast (though the villains do veer toward one-dimensionality) and the successful landing of a very ambitious story, Blomkamp stumbles in the basic structural work of the screenplay. -Kevin Jagernauth (The Playlist)

Translation: It gets boring sometimes. 

District 9 writer-director Neill Blomkamp delivers a less dazzling but absorbing and intelligent bit of futurism. -Scott Foundas (Variety)

Translation: It’s not as good as District 9, but you probably won’t care.

The purity afforded Max, in stark contrast to the cartoonish evilness represented by Fichtner, Copley, and Foster, dulls the force of Blomkamp’s inventive set pieces and gadgetry, which are at the heart of his undeniable talents. -Chris Cabin (Slant Magazine)

Translation: The main character is boring unless he’s blowing stuff up.

Frankly, “Elysium” is a bit of a liberal’s wet dream… -William Goss (Film.com)

Translation: Elysium is a bit of a liberal’s wet dream.

All the interest and goodwill built up by the sharply conceived preliminaries is washed away in a succession of scenes that feel crushingly routine and generic, not to mention guided by ideological urges. -Todd McCarthy (The Hollywood Reporter)

Translation: The ending sucks. 

Like what you read? Connect with me further via twitter @JonNegroni. I’ll follow back if you seem like a real person. You can also subscribe to this blog by clicking the “follow” button in the top-left corner.

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