Movies: 'The Bourne Legacy,' 'Hope Springs' & 'Total Recall'
Published 4:52 pm, Friday, August 10, 2012
Following are Susan Granger's reviews of the latest movies in area theaters:
"THE BOURNE LEGACY"
Can a Bourne action-adventure succeed without Jason Bourne? That's the hope behind this continuation of the popular espionage series -- minus Matt Damon. After the franchise, including "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," grossed nearly $1 billion worldwide, the filmmakers, including director Paul Greengrass, simply ran out of story ideas. But why stop milking the cash cow?
So writer/director Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton"), who wrote scripts for all three previous films, concocts a different device. Collaborating with his brother Dan, he expands the Bourne mythos that was originally created by best-selling author Robert Ludlum back in the 1980s. His new protagonist is Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker," "The Town," "The Avengers"), who joins a highly secretive national security program.
It helps to be acquainted with the Bourne background, including Bourne's attempts at making public the covert Treadstone and Blackbriar operations. As a result of Bourne's most recent debacle, retired military officials (Edward Norton, Stacy Keach) decide to terminate a third program, called Operation Outcome, which went a step further than its predecessors by attempting to pharmacologically enhance its field agents. Cross is one of those operatives being hunted, as is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a neuroscientist who helped administer the experimental drugs and goes on the run with him. Cross' mission is to make his "super soldier" enrichments permanent so he can end his reliance on obtaining meds.
This is such an obvious ploy to revive the Bourne-again legend, which began when Jason Bourne woke up with amnesia and was forced to find out who's trying to kill him and why. Although he's also a government target, the character of Aaron Cross simply lacks the same emotional resonance, although Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn reprise their supporting roles.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Bourne Legacy" is a black-ops 6 -- with several other Ludlum adaptations in development, including "The Janson Directive," "The Parcifal Mosaic," "The Osterman Weekend" and "The Matarese Circle."
Omaha suburbanites Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years, and their comfortable Nebraska nest is empty -- in more ways than one. Although she timidly ventures from her bedroom to his in an enticing negligee, he's too engrossed in Golf magazines to notice; that's the way it's been for the past five years. While she yearns for connection, he's completely closed off.
Working part time at Coldwater Creek, Kay hears about a weeklong couple's counseling retreat in Great Hope Springs, Maine, that's hosted by a celebrated pop-psychology therapist. Desperate in her loneliness, she spends $4,000 from her savings to sign them up. Although Arnold, who's a cheapskate accountant, initially balks, he reluctantly joins her -- in body, if not in spirit. So it's up to Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) to gently coax them into communicating with each other and re-establishing sexual intimacy.
After honing her expertise on HBO's sexy couples-therapy drama "Tell Me You Love Me," Vanessa Taylor's script is loaded with heart, soul and laughs, which director David Frankel handles with the same kind of candid, realistic honesty and intelligence that made his previous collaboration with Streep on "The Devil Wears Prada" so hilarious.
Both Streep and Jones are flat-out fabulous. She imbues Kay with warm determination and aching vulnerability, while Jones' Arnold is a stubborn, cantankerous curmudgeon who has been stifling his emotions for years and is averse to letting his guard down. (Reportedly, Jeff Bridges originally turned down the part, which is how it -- luckily -- landed in Jones' lap.)
To his credit, Carell ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin") plays it not only straight, but his calm, compassionate empathy with their nervousness and fear is quite convincing. Elisabeth Shue, Jean Smart and Mimi Rogers also contribute memorable turns.
For locals who may recognize the scenery, Norwalk, Guilford and Stonington stood in for coastal Maine during the filming last September.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Hope Springs" is a heartwarming, irreverent, uplifting 8, a downright funny, feel-good, romantic comedy/drama for adults.
Set in 2084 on a grim Earth that chemical warfare has rendered almost uninhabitable, this remake stars Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid, an assembly-line worker who, despite protestations by his beautiful wife Lori (Kate Beckinsale), is determined to spike his humdrum life by visiting Rekall, a company that converts a person's fantasies into fake memories that seem real.
Problem is, once he's injected, robotic soldiers burst into the room, forcing him to flee, and he spends the rest of the chaotic plot on the run with a mysterious woman named Melina (Jessica Biel), trying to figure out if he's really the superspy of his fantasies or if the entire scenario is just a mind-warp in a parallel universe. There are endless chases through the Fall, a commuters' chute dug through the planet's core that connects the workers' rain-soaked island Colony (Australia) on one side of the world with the ruling settlement in the United Federation of Great Britain. If the special effects look familiar, think "Blade Runner; if the storm troopers/hover car chases look familiar, think George Lucas' "Star Wars," and if the three-breasted prostitute looks familiar, think of the surreal elements in the previous version because there's little originality here.
Adapting the same 1960s Philip K. Dick short story -- "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" -- that inspired Paul Verhoeven's 1990 film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sharon Stone, writers Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback, working from a screenplay by Ronald Shusett, Dan O'Bannon, John Povill and director Len Wiseman almost completely dispense with the Mars locale and curiously mutated inhabitants, along with all character development and humor. As a result, bewildered Farrell, brutish Beckinsale and beguiling Biel are shallow prototypes, as are the adversarial political leaders, autocratic Chancellor Cohagen (Bryan Cranston) and rebellious Matthias (Bill Nighy).
FYI: Kate Beckinsale is married to "Underworld" director Len Wiseman, who goes for lanky, lean, long-haired brunettes, ultra-fashionably clad in black leather.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Total Recall" is a tedious 3 -- a total waste of time and best forgotten.