August 3, 2007, - 2:24 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
I took a break from screening some movies this week due to scheduling conflicts and media appearances. Therefore, no reviews of “Becoming” Jane,” about the life of authoress Jane Austen, and “Bratz,” the movie version of the incongruous, sluttily-dressed competitors to Barbie. I’m sure most readers of this site don’t really care about either of those, though I will consider seeing “Jane” over the weekend and posting a late review. “Underdog” was not screened for critics, usually a bad sign.
Of the major box office releases that I did see, I have mixed emotions:
* “The Bourne Ultimatum“–I liked AND disliked the third chapter of, 2nd sequel to “The Bourne Identity.” It’s definitely the best and most exciting of the three and full of heart-pounding action and interesting turns. That said, the plot is just silly and a liberal’s wet dream. You know how we torture and waterboard terrorists? Well, in this one, the CIA does it to those like Jason Bourne to make them better agents. Yeah, like that really happens . . . as much as I wouldn’t mind seeing Valerie Plame’s head in a toilet.
The jittery camera-work at the beginning of the movie is annoying and distracting, but it gets better from there, with exciting chases and escapes of every kind imaginable. Some of the death-defying–as in a car chase and repeated crashes or Bourne holding his own against a giant-sized Muslim CIA assassin–are completely unbelievable, just like similarly absurd, impossibly death-defying feats in “Live Free or Die Hard.” But the rest is good.
Biggest faux pas: Julia Stiles, as a friendly fellow agent, dyes and cuts her hair to escape Tangier unnoticed. Hello . . .? She’s in a Muslim-dominated town where every woman is in a hijab and she doesn’t just don one of those instead? Are real-life CIA agents this inept? I have a hunch that art imitates life on that one. (Also very annoying to hear the actress on ABC’s yenta-fest, “The View,” gushing over how exciting and lovely it was being there during Ramadan to film the scenes. Sure it was.)
The plot: Jason Bourne is still trying to find out who he is. And he finds out. We even learn his real name. And all the while he is trying to escape the corrupt CIA officials and assassins they’ve assigned to kill him. It takes us from Moscow to London to Tangier to New York. He keeps having flashbacks of waterboarding and torture. And that’s why the CIA wants to kill him–so he won’t remember. Dumb. You get it? We like Jason Bourne, and we’re hurt they’d hurt him that way. So we should be hurt they treat Islamic terrorists that way, too. That’s the message.
Reader Andy G sends this San Francisco Chronicle anti-war diatribe posing as a movie review:
If “United 93” showed the tragedy, “The Bourne Ultimatum” shows an America living with the aftermath. The events of 9/11 aren’t mentioned, but they don’t need to be, as their aftershocks are all too apparent. This is a movie about fear – a government’s fear of its citizens and citizens’ fear of their government. It’s a movie about surveillance, with people being watched at virtually every moment. Finally, it’s about philosophies in collision, about how much safety can be bought at the price of freedom and about the kinds of personalities that gravitate toward the totalitarian mind-set. . . .
Bourne is a young man who has been betrayed by old men – men he trusted, like a good son. Thus, the film presents a kind of metaphorical story of a son who was lied to and abandoned by fathers who are now trying to hide from the consequences. In any era, that metaphor has powerful unconscious resonances, but its reverberations become downright transcendental at those times when older men are betraying younger men’s idealism by sending them into wars they cannot win.
Watch for a fourth installment, The Bourne Annoyance.
* “Hot Rod“–I have mixed feelings on this one, too, because it’s absolutely one of the worst, most amateurish movies of the year. But it’s so stupid and the mildly humorous, occasionally funny jokes (’80s music on the soundtrack, the way they did it in ’80s movies) are repeated so much that the movie is mildly amusing and entertaining. It’s a really, really bad, pointless movie. It looks like a 12-year-old made it–plot, set, actors, and all. Would love to get the soundtrack from this one though. That’s the high point of this dumb film. It is light and mildly fun, if completely stupid.
The plot: Saturday Night Live regular Andy Samberg plays Rod, a kid who believes his late father was a stuntman for Evil Knievel. He dreams of beating up his stepfather, Frank, who always beats him in fights. But Frank is now dying of an ailing heart. He can’t get a transplant unless he gets $50,000. Rod–a bad stuntperson–plans a stunt to jump over 11 buses to raise the money. He wants Frank to live, so he can finally beat him up. In the meantime, he has a crush on a girl member of his crew, played by Isla Fisher, Borat’s Sasha Baron Cohen’s real-life, Omani-born fiancee.
Interesting twist on this movie: Takes place in present time with the Internet, cellphones, etc. But everyone looks, acts, dresses, talks, and does everything else like they are in the ’80s and ’70s. Been there, seen that, in “The Brady Bunch Movie.”
Tags: ABC, actress, America, Andy Samberg, Becoming, Bratz, By Debbie Schlussel I, car chase, Central Intelligence Agency, Debbie Schlussel, Frank, girl member, head, Hot Rod, Isla Fisher, Jane Austen, Jason Bourne, Julia Stiles, Live Free or Die Hard, London, media appearances, Moscow, New York, Ramadan, San Francisco Chronicle, Sasha Baron Cohen, stuntman, Takes, Tangier, The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Brady Bunch Movie, The View, United 93, USD, Valerie Plame