Jason Bourne

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I need to preface this review with the fact that I absolutely love the original Bourne films. They are amongst some of my favourite films ever, and I firmly believe that The Bourne Ultimatum is the best spy-action-thriller film I have ever seen. So, with that, I was quite excited when it was announced that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass were going to be returning to the franchise.

After the failed expansion of the franchise with 2012’s ‘The Bourne Legacy’, ‘Jason Bourne’ was supposed to be a return to the glorious films of the original trilogy. Alas, this is not what we got with the fifth film in the series.

Matt Damon was a great Jason Bourne during the 2000’s, but he was not able to fully recapture that spark in a film that turned out to be a bit of a bore and one that dragged during a story of cyber-sleuthing in the modern age.

But most of this is a direct result of how far from the books the films have strayed, and also from the corner that ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’ put the franchise into with the ending that it provided. There really was no way to bring Damon’s Bourne back after ‘Ultimatum’ but they tried and gave us a subpar storyline in doing so.

I will say that Paul Greengrass does a remarkable job of giving us some action-y fight scenes and also gives us possibly his strongest car chase scene that he has (still not the best in the series though), but the filming was not enough to make up for the story we were given.

That being said, at least the story tried to be topical to today’s society, with the fear of the government spying on us and using our own technology to do it. ‘Jason Bourne’ did a decent job of presenting a scenario that most viewers could at least understand on some level, even if for some of those viewers it was just a way to provide examples for their own paranoia.

In the end, we can now only wait for the inevitable reboot, or retooling of the character and the franchise, and I for one will hope to finally see a Bourne film where he hunts down The Jackal, true to the original stories, and a storyline that if they had followed it in the films, could have provided a reason for a return to the character at least.

As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer. Cheers all.

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Ten Favourites of 2013

About Time

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Released – November 1st

Box Office – $15 million North America/$68 million Worldwide

‘About Time’ is and should be the biggest surprise on this list. A Sci-Fi time travel film disguised as a romantic comedy, this film is quite possibly the best rom-com I have ever seen. What should not be a surprise is that a quirky British comedy rated highly with me. There really are days when I think I should be British.

The key to this film was a quiet but wonderful turn by Bill Nighy as the father of the main character. Utilized twice as a plot device to both introduce the key plot element but then to also further along the film later on, Nighy’s charm breathed life into what could have otherwise been a flat character, and allows him to hold ‘About Time’ together in the end.

While allowing the viewer an opportunity to think about what they themselves would do if in a similar situation, ‘About Time’ manages to avoid the usual trappings of a “normal” time travel film. Staying away from the usual tropes of survival or riches, ‘About Time’ creates a nice change of pace from the average film.

Captain Phillips

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Released – October 11th

Box Office – $105 million North America/$109 million Worldwide

My biggest issue with “Captain Phillips’ has been spending the past couple of days figuring out how Tom Hanks did not get another Best Actor nomination for the 86th Academy Awards. He is this film. We all know just what an exceptional actor Hanks is, but for the first time in almost twenty years, he truly shows it off in this film. Hanks is once again worth the price of admission to a film again.

What that doesn’t actually tell you though is just how wonderful ‘Captain Phillips is as a whole. Director Paul Greengrass crafts a film that manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire run time, despite the fact that you know pretty much how the film is going to end. That is always an exceptional feat to pull off.

Another amazing aspect that really helped ‘Captain Phillips’ be a strong film was the performance put forth by Barkhad Abdi as the leader of the band of pirates. Abdi manages the rare feat of actually stealing scenes against Hanks and it is no wonder that the was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Frozen

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Released – November 22

Box Office – $336 Million North America/$426 million Worldwide

‘Frozen’ continues the return of Disney to the top of the animation mountain. Having been supplanted by Pixar and DreamWorks, Disney has returned to form with recent hits ‘Tangled’ and ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ and ‘Frozen’ makes it a trifecta of all-around amazing films. Featuring a tour-de-force return to the hapharzardly abandoned fairy tale princess sub-genre that is Disney’s animated calling card, this film offers something for everyone.

Two straight years running and three of the last four years, Disney has produced what I would consider to be the best animated film of each year by offering films that out-Pixar Pixar while also bringing in both sexes with films that steal DreamWorks thunder. From jokes for all to amazing Oscar quality songs that are catchy, ‘Frozen’ is everything that you would expect from the House of Mouse and more, breaking down barriers as it goes.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

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Released – December 13th

Box Office – $249 million North America/$585 million Worldwide

Peter Jackson took what could be considered some unwarranted criticism from last year’s ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ for trying to meld a children’s book with his cinematic version of Middle Earth.  However, what Jackson managed to do was to make an even finer quality return to Tolkien’s world with ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’.

The most amazing aspect of the second Hobbit film is the dragon, Smaug, himself. When you finally see something come to life that you have long imagined from your childhood, you may get a little concerned about it. Well, in the end, Jackson and company pull off a wonderfully looking Smaug, and one that is key to this film. The other aspect, aside from the look, that sets Smaug apart is the voice work done by Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch’s voice is now how I will read Smaug’s lines whenever I read the book in the future.

While still suffering a little from the middle film syndrome, ‘Smaug’ is still a rambunctious ride and does its job perfectly of delivering our characters to the third act to come with this December’s finale, ‘The Hobbit: There and Back Again’.

Iron Man 3

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Released – May 3rd

Box Office – $409 million North America/$806 million Worldwide

The first film that Disney and Marvel have released in their post-Avengers world did not fail to deliver. Showcasing everything we have come to expect from Marvel Studios in general and Robert Downey Jr. in particular, ‘Iron Man 3’ was a great way to launch Marvel’s Phase Two much like ‘Iron Man’ did for what became Phase One.

While presenting a seeming end to the arc of Tony Stark, and to the franchise in general should RDJ not come back, ‘Iron Man 3’ did so with a bang. Featuring one of the visually best action scenes of 2013, this film further entrenched Iron Man as a character to be reckoned with at the box office, right up there with Batman and James Bond.

‘Iron Man 3’ also showed that Marvel will not rest on its laurels in Phase Two, but will work to push the envelope further, by making us all ask the question: “What will become of Iron Man moving forward?”

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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Released – December 25th

Box Office – $55 million North America/$105 million Worldwide

‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ spoke to me very much on a personal level. That it did so was a great change of pace from the normal kind of films that I watch, or even other films that some would consider similar to this one. It spoke to me as I myself have at times been lost in thought and what ifs and doubts, very much something that afflicts the main character in this film.

That the opening act of the film, while showcasing those moments, was a little slow and dodgy is something that is easy to overcome once the film starts picking up in the second and third acts. While at times it can seem that the real world adventures of Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty are even more day dreamish than his day dream adventures, the fact that it shows that once you take a chance you don’t know where you will end up highlights how amazing that can be in life.

Star Trek Into Darkness

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Released – May 16th

Box Office – $228 million North America/$238 million Worldwide

Paramount Pictures has been in the same boat as Universal Pictures lately, struggling to create new franchises that will allow it to continue to be profitable in this day and age. What Paramount does have though is a sure fire bet for North American audiences, and that is J.J. Abrams’ rebooted ‘Star Trek’ films.  The action levels have never been higher in Trek films, and in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’  they also added more of the political air back to the franchise as well.

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and all have done an amazing job on not only bringing “Star Trek’ into the 21st Century but also of making these characters their own with their own unique voices, which was something that no one could have been sure would have happened when creating a new timeline to tell new stories of Kirk, Spock et al. While putting a new twist on a story many are familiar with, they also managed to tell a story that was full of humour, action and also some easter eggs for fans of the original television series as well.

This is the End

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Released – May 12th

Box Office – $101 million North America/$24 million Worldwide

Only one true comedy made it to this list in 2013, and it might surprise most that it was ‘This is the End’. Featuring characterizations of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Craig Robinson, along with others, the film parodies the reactions of movie stars to an apparent apocalyptic event.

The film is rude, crude, offensive and everything you would expect from a tongue-in-cheek take on their own lives, and as a result was the funniest film I saw in 2013.  ‘This is the End’ is also the first film I have ever seen in theatres where people got up and left due to being offended by it, and if possible, this made it all the more hilarious to me.

Near the end of the film it loses a little bit of steam as it tries to actually finish off telling a story, but for the most part, this film doesn’t take itself serious and neither should you.

White House Down

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Released – June 28th

Box Office – $73 million North America/$132 million Worldwide

As I stated in my previous “Most Disappointing of 2013″ article, ‘A Good Day to Die Hard” was out-Die Harded by a couple of films last year. The best of those films was ‘White House Down’, featuring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and James Woods, which was a rollicking action film that stood out above the rest for me.

Channing Tatum channels the best John McClane for the 21st Century that we have seen so far, and plays well off of both Jamie Foxx’s President and James Woods’ villain. There are some that will tell that based off of the box office results of ‘White House Down’ that Tatum cannot carry an action film, but that is simply not the case at all. What killed this film was its release date, nothing more.

Coming out after the failed ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ and the also quite decent and also quite similar ‘Olympus Has Fallen’, ‘White House Down’ suffered from viewer fatigue at the box office, but you should do yourself a favour and check this one out. From director Roland Emmerich, this film was the best of the three.

Rush

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Released – September 20th

Box Office – $26 million North America/$63 million Worldwide

Ron Howard’s ‘Rush’ was the best film that I saw in the theatres during 2013 and I cannot wait to own it when it comes out in a couple of weeks. Featuring Chris Hemsworth from ‘Thor’ and relative newcomer, to mainstream audiences for the most part, Daniel Bruhl, ‘Rush’ tells the story of the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda and its culminatin during the 1975 Formula One season.

Using a blend of CGI and practical effects, Howard crafted a wonderful film that left an exhilarating feeling throughout. The use of actual historical racing cars was a major part of making this possible. This film is more than just the two main actors, as the cars are also the stars that make this the best film of the year.

Showing off a more dramatic side than though possible, Hemsworth give a performance that makes it possible to believe that he could Academy Awards in the future. However, the real breakthrough of ‘Rush’ is Bruhl who shows off a wide range of emotions as Niki Lauda who suffers through a horrific crash during the 1975 German Grand Prix. Bruhl steals the screen every time we see him, and his resulting nomination for a 2014 Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor was well warranted.

I will say this as a late addition. The fact that ‘Rush’ was completely shut out of the 86th Academy Awards with zero nominations does not accurately reflect the strongest film of 2013.

Captain Phillips

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Films based on true events always carry a little bit of risk at theatres, but when you can land an actor of Tom Hanks’ caliber, that risk can definitely be lessened, and that is exactly what occurred with ‘Captain Phillips’.

Tom Hanks, a five-time nominee for the Best Actor Oscar and a two-time winner for ‘Philadelphia’ and ‘Forrest Gump’, is at his best as Captain Richard Phillips in this film and I don’t see how he will not receive a sixth nomination for this role.  For the most part, Hanks is a presence during his scenes, but right at the end of the film is where he earns all the praise for his portrayal, and that alone is more than enough to see ‘Captain Phillips’.

One of the most underrated aspects of this film is the direction from Paul Greengrass.  Lauded in the past for his excellent job directing ‘The Bourne Supremecy’ and ‘The Bourne Ultimatum’, Greengrass has managed to take a story where the ending is obvious right from the beginning, even to anyone that was not familiar with the true life basis of the film, and inject it with enough tension and uncertainty to make the ending not be a foregone conclusion.

With that being said, there was a definite possibility that this film could have shaved ten to fifteen minutes off of its two hour plus run time, and it would have still had the same overall impact as it did at the current run time.

My other real complaint about ‘Captain Phillips’ is on a personal level, and may be more indicative of the fact that I am still a popcorn movie guy at heart.  That issue comes to the fore when you realize that a film like this, with Greengrass at the helm, could really have been done as an action film, and while the film had a high level of tension, a lack of action took me out of it at times.  I hate to say it, and it probably is not fair to the film at all, but that is the biggest issue I have with it.

In the end, ‘Captain Phillips’ is a must see for one reason, and one reason only, to see another tour de force from Tom Hanks as a leading man and what really should end up being his third Best Actor Oscar to equal the mark that was set at the most recent Oscars by Daniel Day-Lewis.

For all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer.  Cheers.