“Bourne Identity” leads the pack of new releases

By Christopher Smith,
Posted Jan. 15, 2010, at 5:59 p.m.

“The Bourne Identity”

DVD-Blu-ray Combo Pack: A sleek espionage thriller that reduces the world to the size of a postage stamp while focusing on a group of gun-toting characters hopping between Zurich and Paris as if they were zipping between Milo and Meddybemps. Adapted from Robert Ludlum’s 1980 best-seller, Doug Limon’s engrossing film pulls in the reins on the author’s iron-horse prose and updates the gadgetry without sacrificing the hysterical mood. Matt Damon is terrific as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac spy who is on the run from the CIA while also trying to learn his true identity. The chase that ensues plays mostly by the rules, but since it pairs Bourne with German actress Franka Potente, that chase is more fun, imaginative, sexy and diverting than it otherwise might have been. With Chris Cooper, Julia Stiles and Clive Owen. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“The Bourne Supremacy”

DVD-Blu-ray Combo Pack: From 2004, an old-school throwback jammed with jittery camerawork that’s as restless as the plot. This time, Bourne and company trot between India, Russia, New York and Germany with such ease, it’s as if 9-11 never happened. Given that the movie is a decadent travelogue laced with murder, car chases, foot chases and betrayal, it has style — too much style, really — but its story is nicely constructed, it has a great cast and, if you can get beyond the annoyingly unsteady camerawork, it’s fun. Back for more is Matt Damon as Bourne, a former CIA assassin still struggling with amnesia. Aided by his girlfriend, Marie (Potente), Bourne is working to piece together the remnants of his shattered life when he’s framed for killing two American CIA agents. Now wanted by CIA powerhouse Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), who mounts a massive campaign to bring Bourne in, Bourne is on the run, driven by killer instincts he doesn’t fully understand but which nevertheless are beginning to assemble themselves in his fractured memory. As Bourne, Damon gives a confident, brooding performance. He’s just right here, consistently believable, all inward conflict assailed by an outside world trying to undo him. Brian Cox is nicely greasy as CIA agent Ward Abbott, but it’s Allen’s sharp, quick-thinking performance as the conflicted Landy that gives “Supremacy” its sense of urgency. Rated PG-13. Grade: B

“The Bourne Ultimatum”

DVD-Blu-ray Combo Pack: Whether a fourth “Bourne” film is or isn’t on the way (right now, the news is that it’s anyone’s guess), “Ultimatum” nevertheless is a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. “Ultimatum” offers more answers for Bourne, with Matt Damon again succeeding at being a terrific — and unlikely — action hero. In this movie, the actor is put through hell — the sort of hell no mere mortal could survive, such as falling off buildings and surviving horrific car crashes — and yet throughout, Damon remains mechanically cool and expressionless. Rated PG-13. Grade: B+

“Simpsons: Twentieth Season”

DVD, Blu-ray: For 20 years, Matt Groening’s iconic show has given us plenty of tongue planted in plenty of cheek. Twenty seasons out, the series continues to give audiences what they want — Homer making a fool of himself, Bart up to no good, Marge overwhelmed, Lisa taking matters into her own hands, Maggie coolly stealing her share of scenes. This isn’t the series at its best, though the laughs do flow in the set’s best episodes — ”Lisa the Drama Queen,” “Mypods and Broomsticks,” “Treehouse of Horror XIX,” “Take My Life, Please” and especially “The Good, the Sad and the Drugly.” Given the crudeness of the animation, its appearance on Blu-ray is a curiosity, to say the least, but yes, the picture is cleaner and the audio is brighter, just as you’d expect them to be. Grade: B+

“Smokin’ Aces: Blu-ray”: A bruising, bloody film filled with a bevy of unseemly types, all out to kill Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven), a sketchy man who agreed to provide information that will sink an influential mob boss. Trouble is, when the mob boss finds out, Aces is pretty much smoked. Writer-director Joe Carnahan comes off his impressive movie “Narc” to generate an uneven, overly stylized mess that wants to recall Tarantino, but which gets only the glitz, not the depth and certainly not the dialogue. Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia and Ryan Reynolds co-star, with the film also featuring the acting debut of Alicia Keys, whose performance joins the rest of the movie in hitting a C-flat throughout. Rated R. Grade: C-

“Weeds: Season Five”

DVD, Blu-ray: When it all began, it was so simple: What’s a suburban mother to do when her husband drops dead and leaves her and their two sons saddled with debt? For Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), the answer was to pick herself up and sell a little weed on the side. OK, a lot of weed on the side. Now, in the fifth season of the show, darker times have arrived, with political campaigns at risk, assassinations ordered, and gangsters looming at every corner. This smart, darkly comic Showtime series echoes “Six Feet Under” in that its grim comedy is laced with just enough drama to give it depth. That’s particularly true this season, which features sharp writing and a very good cast. Elizabeth Perkins is especially noteworthy as Nancy’s friend Celia, who is so cynical, she makes for one of the best desperate housewives on television. Add Jennifer Jason Leigh to this pot (pun intended), and the season doesn’t disappoint. Grade: B+

Also on DVD and Blu-ray disc:

Also available this week is the third season of the BBC hit “Robin Hood,” a lively retelling of the tale that once again makes it hip to steal from the rich and give to the poor. The show stars Jonas Armstrong in the lead, with Hungary posing as 12th century England and taxes against the poor an unacceptable proposition. Humor, romance and swordplay commingle amid the fireworks, with the script connecting more often than not. The final season of “Girlfriends” is just out, and it’s a fine option for those seeking an alternative to “Sex and the City.” While the show isn’t as daring or as baring (it didn’t, after all, appear on HBO), what you find here is a show that retained its cheeky humor to the end. It tackled similar issues as “City” with its four female leads, all of whom were fighting to make it not in New York, but in Los Angeles. Other recommended titles include the horror movie “Pandorum,” available on DVD and Blu-ray disc; the third season of “Becker,” with Ted Danson; the second season of sports comedy “The Game”; and the very good movie “Moon,” which stars Sam Rockwell in space and features its share of echoes of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey,” particularly since Kevin Spacey voices the computer GERTY 3000. Not recommended are two movies available on DVD and Blu-ray — ”Fame” and “Gamer.” The former is a lame remake of the (cough) 1980 classic, and the latter stars Gerard Butler in a silly “thriller” you actually forget while watching it.

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

http://bangordailynews.com/2010/01/15/living/bourne-identity-leads-the-pack-of-new-releases/ printed on July 30, 2014