reviews by Peter Schorn and Jeff Kleist of The
2007 (2007) - Universal (Universal)
Released on 12/11/2007 - also available on
Film Rating: B+
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/A-/B-
In a movie year crowded with sequels and "threequels",
the highest-grossing entry not featuring a superhero, an ogre,
pirates or wizards was third adaptation of Robert Ludlum's
amnesiac spy series about Jason Bourne, The
Bourne Ultimatum. A direct continuation of 2004's
The Bourne Supremacy - it
begins minutes after the events at the end of the last film -
Ultimatum finds Bourne
(Matt Damon - go ahead, do the Team
America thing; I do) continuing his quest to discover
who he really is and what happened to him to put him in his
current predicaments. From Moscow to Paris, London to Tangier,
and eventually New York City, Bourne cuts a swath of mayhem,
mostly in self-defense.
This time, he isn't looking for answers to his origin alone. A
reporter for the London's Guardian (Paddy Considine) has been
receiving classified information from a CIA insider (Colin
Stinton) about Bourne, Operation Treadstone (the secret outfit
that he worked for) and Operation Blackbrier (an even bigger and
blacker black bag entity.)
leak makes the reporter a target of CIA Deputy Director Noah Vosen
(David Strathairn) which leads to a tense cat and mouse (and sniper)
set piece in London's crowded Waterloo train station.
As Bourne stays a step ahead of his pursuers, familiar faces start
to reappear including sympathetic CIA Director Pamela Landy (Joan
Allen) and comely Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) with whom a past
relationship in his forgotten past is hinted. The pair eventually
realizes that Vosen is pursuing Bourne a little too vigorously for
their comfort though it's not as if they were under the illusion
that they were in the door-to-door cookie-selling business. Some
slightly clunky debate on war on terror tactics is metaphorically
slipped in but doesn't degenerate into distracting soapboxing
because the story is constantly rushing forward.
To say that Greengrass conducts the proceedings with ruthless
efficiency would be an understatement. His two Bourne
films have stripped almost all narrative padding away leaving just
the sinews and bones of the plot to tell the tale. When Bourne
learns that what he's looking for is in Madrid, we see him leave the
cybercafé and BAM, we're in Madrid. The numerous brawls and
car chases border on Impressionistic as shaky camera movements and
rapid-fire edits pour meth on top of the adrenaline rush. If there
is a problem with this style is that it becomes fatiguing and after
a pair of movies with real-world car chases instead of special
effects, it's gotten a bit familiar. Crashing through New York
instead of Moscow may lend a fresh locale, but the chases themselves
are getting stale.
If there has been a problem with the entire Bourne series, it has
been that the protagonist is rather inscrutable. While Damon is
reasonably convincing as an action hero, Jason Bourne - as a man who
doesn't know who he is - is a character we can never really
empathize with. As a man who has been programmed to impassively
wreak havoc, his inner turmoil is also subsumed and thus we're left
to observe from the outside. When he finally meets his maker, Dr.
Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney), there are some answers but no real
closure. The film's surprise ending is no surprise and leaves the
door to more sequels wide open.
The film's 2.35:1 anamorphic presentation is very good, cleanly
representing the primarily bluish-black palette of desaturated
colors that characterizes almost the whole film except for Tangier.
Some scenes are too murky and dark in the shadows, but details are
generally very good, if not great. (Hi-def would've helped if the
previous films are any indicator.) On the audio side, things are
better with a very punchy presentation that keeps the back channels
happening and lend a visceral wallop to the bone-crunching and
mayhem. Dialog is clear and well-balanced, not that there's a lot of
talking going on when the fisticuffs are on.
The extras lead off with a low-key commentary by Greengrass in
which he takes care to spread the credit around for the film's
quality. While he amplifies what is happening, it's not a crucial
listening experience. The eight deleted scenes (totaling 12:18) are
presented in non-anamorphic letterbox and stereo sound. They mostly
spend time talking about what we've been shown and a couple would've
changed the ending. They were best left on the cutting room floor.
The making-of featurettes are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic
widescreen and provide a good look at how the production was
executed starting with the five-part Man
on the Move: Jason Bourne (totaling 23:55) which covers
shooting in Berlin (doubling for Supremacy's
Moscow, using fake snow), Paris, London, Madrid, Tangier. Rooftop
Pursuit (5:37) focuses more in-depth on the elaborate
footchase including how the trailer's wow moment with the camera
following a leaping Bourne as he crashes through a window was done.
Planning the Punches (5:00)
shows the prep work for the mano-a-mano slugging that followed the
The climatic car chase is covered in Driving
School (3:24) and New York
Chase (10:40) with the former showing that Damon can
actually pull off some of his own wheel work and the latter dealing
with the difficulties of shooting on the busy streets of New York
City. While all the extras are respectable and informative, free of
the usual EPK blather, they're not as exciting as the feature and
are an overall average batch of supplements.
The Bourne Ultimatum was the
last of Ludlum's Bourne novels and while a pair of subsequent books
by Eric Van Lustbader - The Bourne Legacy
and The Bourne Betrayal - were
published, they're unlikely to be adapted for the inevitable next
chapter on the onscreen Bourne saga. (With $442 million in worldwide
box office, inevitable is another understatement.) As a capper to
the series launched by Doug Liman, though, The
Bourne Ultimatum is a brisk thriller with plenty of
action and just enough depth to keep it from being little more than
a sensational trifle. Fans of the series will want this for their
ultimate Bourne trilogy.
Two-Disc Platinum Series
- 2007 (2007) - New Line
Released on 12/20/2007 - also available on
Film Rating: B-
Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A-/B
Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B+/B+
Of the tidal wave of "threequels" in 2007, the
least-needed of the bunch, even more so than the third and final
Pirates chapter, was
probably Rush Hour 3.
While the first two of the Brett Ratner-helmed, Jackie Chan and
Chris Tucker vehicles were passable buddy-cop-comedy flicks,
there was hardly a groundswell of demand for even more
adventures of the mismatched pair of Inspector Lee and Detective
James Carter. Even though we didn't ask, they still made it and
here we are with a particularly superfluous popcorn flick.
The plot, such as it is, involves the attempted assassination
of Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) at a meeting of the World Court as he
was about to reveal the Shy Shen, the list of the heads of the
Triad gangs. Lee chases the shooter and is stunned to find that
it is Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), a boyhood friend from his days in
a Chinese orphanage. Unable to shoot his "brother", he
lets Kenji slip away. Re-teamed with the motor-mouthed Carter,
they head off to Paris to find the Shy Shen and commit justice.
that's just one paragraph and I've pretty much summed up the story.
So, what else is there to occupy the viewer for 90 minutes? A: Set
pieces! That's right, there isn't really a story as much as a
consecutive string of bits that probably started life as ideas on
index cards accumulated until the bulletin board was full, and the
stack budgeted and green-lit for production. See Lee fight a
blade-throwing Dragon Lady (Youki Kudoh)! See Carter get the hots
for a exotic French woman with a secret (Noémie Lenoir)!
Witness an Abbot and Costello routine done with Chinese men named Mi
and Yu (Henry O)! (e.g. "He's Mi and I'm Yu." Har-har.
Ahem.) Observe Max von Sydow collect a check! See Roman
Polanski(?!?) as a French police detective who gives our heroes a
warm, um, welcome to town! Experience Lee and Carter singing! Thrill
to a death-defying climactic battle in a precarious location! Step
right up! Don't be shy! (Don't be too picky about quality either.)
The whole movie trudges along like a well-oiled but not
particularly elegant machine. Big stunts occur. Cracks are wised.
Tucker makes a lot of noise. Chan does some semi-astounded stunts,
though he is really starting to slow down at age 53. And so on and
so on. We aren't surprised by many of the supposed twists and are
grateful that they're quick about wrapping things up. The only stab
at an original character is George (Yvan Attal), the surly Parisian
- that's doubly redundant, isn't it? - cab driver who spews
anti-American diatribes at first before eventually bemoaning that he
will "never know what it is to be American; to kill someone
without reason." (Come to Detroit, pal!) As dim as the
storytelling may be, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is excellent,
presenting J. Michael Muro's slick primary color cinematography
clearly with minimal flaws. The rich and saturated colors -
especially golds, reds, and blues - are free of noise and smearing.
Detail is excellent with only a few instances of high-frequency
shimmering due to too much fine detail in fabrics or brick-paved
streets. As more hi-def titles enter our viewing diets, it's
tempting to dock standard discs for their limitations, but it
wouldn't be fair and this is another quality New Line presentation.
The lead audio options are English Dolby Digital 5.1 EX Surround
and English DTS-ES 6.1 (English Dolby Surround is also available;
subtitles are in English and Spanish) and other than the usual
traits of a little more loudness and bass definition on the DTS
track, there is not really a lot of difference between flavors. Both
are mastered at a higher level than usual, but there is no hiss or
distortion; they're just loud. Dialog is well-balanced so you won't
miss anything Tucker yelps. Surround activity is good.
In keeping with New Line Platinum Series tradition, the
supplemental materials verge into overkill territory considering the
slightness of the feature. Other than a trailer, the only extra on
the feature disc is a commentary by Ratner and screenwriter Jeff
Nathanson. It's not exceedingly illuminating as Ratner simply seems
pleased with everything onscreen. (Considering his reported hookups
with numerous Hollywood starlets, I suppose he's entitled to like
himself. I would like me, too.)
Rushing to the second disc, things start inauspiciously with a
boring, unfunny batch of outtakes (2:32) featuring more blown lines
and Chan's horrific English skills than the end credits could hold;
and seven deleted/alternate scenes - with optional commentary by
Ratner and Nathanson - that are superfluous and unlamented in their
absence from the final cut.
Accessing the Making Rush Hour 3
section (totaling 94 mins.) sends us spiraling down the extras
rabbit hole opening with The Story, the
Script; Casting the Rush;
and Teaming Up. The first two
are little more than EPK happy talk bits of fluff while the third is
a little more in-depth, but still lightweight. Things get deeper
with Creating the Rush: Scene by Scene
with sub-chapters for The Opening,
The Hospital Shootout, The
Hospital Morgue, The
Interrogation Scene, Lee vs.
Dragon Lady, The Follies,
and The Eiffel Tower. Plenty
of behind-the-scenes machinations are shown and while hardcore
extras geeks may yawn from time to time, they're more than enough
for civilian viewers. The editing, sound effects and score are given
the once-over in Cuts, Sound, and Music,
with Ratner effusively praising composer Lalo Schifrin and his score
to Enter the Dragon.
Rounding out the parade is a two-minute-long Visual
Effects Reel showing the seamless magic woven by ILM
through FX buildups and "Le Rush
Hour Trois" Production Diary - 25 episodes clocking
in at just over an hour - which appear to have been made for
webisodes. Mostly consisting of fly-on-wall camcorder footage, it's
a mixed bag best saved for those who just can't get enough of this
stuff. All of the extras are presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 with
stereo sound and English and Spanish subtitles and the case comes in
a slipcover with a snazzy animated lenticular cover with the stars
punching out at us.
If you're a fervent lover or hater of the Rush
Hour series, your choice of whether to buy or avoid Rush
Hour 3 is probably not reliant upon my opinion of the
film. For those who don't dwell upon the philosophical relevance of
the series, the most I can say about Rush
Hour 3 is that while it's not particularly good and my
quality of life wouldn't have been adversely impacted had I missed
it, I'm not mourning the loss of the time it took to view the flick.
(Look for that quote to be splashed in the trades!) However, with a
very good technical presentation and a near-overkill load of
supplemental materials running over 2-1/2 hours, the Rush
Hour 3: Platinum Series edition is worth a pick-up for
those who can't live without the antics of Chan and Tucker. There's
just no need to rush and get the movie.
Nation: The Ultimate Movie Collection
1994-97 (2007) - 20th Century Fox
Released on 9/11/2007 as a Best Buy exclusive
Widely available on 4/15/08
Films Rating: B
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B-/B/A
Based on the hit 1986 film, Alien
Nation the TV series is more of a classic science
fiction story. It takes everyday life and introduces a
fantastical element that acts as an allegory to our own reality.
In this case, that reality is the wild and diverse population of
Los Angeles, and the growing pains of a cultural melting pot.
The story of Alien Nation
becoming more than just a one season wonder is an odd one. Like
many many science fiction shows on Fox, it was sent to an early
grave. UNLIKE most of those shows, however, not only was it
fairly popular, but when the network realized what kind of
following it really had (and after Barry "The Sci-Fi Killer"
Diller had split - ironically he's now in charge of USA Networks
and the Sci-Fi Channel), they commissioned no less than five TV
movies based on the property over the next three years.
planned as a single release of the first movie only, this box set (a
Best Buy exclusive through 2007 - it'll be available everywhere in
early 2008) contains all five Alien
Nation movies - Dark Horizon,
Body and Soul, Millennium,
The Enemy Within and The
Udara Legacy. The source materials are all in great
shape, and while some of the special effects work doesn't quite
stand up today, the full frame image (the original aspect ratio) is
still nice throughout all five films. Certainly, it's fair to say
that quite a few programs of newer vintage that haven't fared as
well. Occasional, video noise and other artifacts will show up, but
these DVDs all certainly look better than the series did in original
broadcast. On the audio side, TV movies are not generally known for
their stellar soundtracks, and these are no exception. The sound
mixes are well represented, but they're not going to blow you away.
The extras are where this set really shines, starting off with A
Family Gathering. Typically, when a reunion gabfest is
help for a series like this, the result is a clip show (think M*A*S*H,
Married... with Children) with
some laughing and chatter in between. In this case, it looks like
they just let the cameras roll on what is obviously a great group of
friends having a blast seeing each other again. It's these kinds of
supplements that really let an audience connect with a show, and
coming back to it after ten years makes it all the sweeter. In
addition, virtually every film contains a gag reel, as well as home
movies and still photos from writer/producer Kenneth Johnson's
personal collection. Rounding off the package are commentary tracks
with Johnson and his daughter on each film. If you've ever listened
to his V track in particular,
you know that Kenneth Johnson is one of those rare people that
either does extensive preparation, or is naturally good at keeping
the flow going so that he can continue to be interesting and
entertaining for hours (ten in this case).
One nitpick for me with this set is that the other four movies were
added to make a box set fairly late in the game, so Fox mysteriously
decided to use DVD-10 flipper discs instead of DVD-9s (possibly for
the extra few hundred megabytes of space they offer). That means
they don't match the first disc. Flipper discs really should be a
thing of the past at this point, and I'd gladly pay an extra buck or
two if they had split out the video extras to a fourth disc.
One other word of warning: If you're new to the show, make sure you
TV series along with it, because a lot of the TV movies assume
that you've watched the series, and you'll be lost otherwise. It
wouldn't hurt to have seen
original feature film either, though it's not necessary.
For the rest of us, this set is finally the "Season 2"
(not to mention the extras) that Alien
Nation fans have been waiting for. Special thanks to Fox
for this, and also to Kenneth Johnson for fighting the good fight to
give the fans something special.