Tag Archives: jason bourne

2016 in Review: A Soundtrack

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It’s been a while since we did a review of the year’s soundtracks, so we drafted in frequent collaborator Tony Black – and head honcho at the TV and film music podcast Between The Notes – who put down his microphone in favour of writing down his thoughts on the top soundtracks of 2016. Plenty to consider before you vote in this year’s Failed Critics Awards.

Let’s be honest, it’s not been a great year at the movies has it, 2016? Not if you’re a major blockbuster at least. Oddly enough though, the same can’t quite be said for the scores to many of those films, dodgy or otherwise. David Ayer, Zack Snyder or even Scott Derrickson may have let you down, but Michael Giacchino, Clint Mansell or Cliff Martinez have been right on the money with their orchestral scores to some of this year’s most disappointing or divisive pictures.

Here are five scores to the biggest (and not necessarily best) movies that have troubled your multiplex that I consider to be composers close to the top of their respective games:


5 – THE WITCH (Mark Korven)

Just like you probably hadn’t heard of The Witch before early this year, chances are you won’t have heard of Canadian composer Mark Korven. He’s a new kid on the block. Much like how Robert Eggers wowed us with his debut feature, Korven backs him up with a score that drips remote, screeching, primeval terror and the coldness of the austere Puritan setting in which Eggers tells his chilling tale. It’s not Sunday afternoon easy listening, but it’s one of the best horror/chiller scores in years.

Standout track: Caleb’s Seduction


4 – STAR TREK BEYOND (Michael Giacchino)

The new master and heir apparent to John Williams; it’s rare Michael Giacchino has a bad year. After a stonking 2015 scoring a raft of average movies with stunning music, he delivers this year both with Doctor Strange and even more so Star Trek Beyond. It’s his third score for the JJ Abrams spearheaded revival of the classic TV score and it’s possibly his best yet, a heady mixture of iconic, reworked themes with powerful, thrilling brass and an elegant sense of galactic scope. Plus you’ll always have a good laugh at the wonderful puns that litter the names of his cues, as if you needed more of a reason to listen!

Standout track: Night on the Yorktown


3 – 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE (Bear McCreary)

You’ve heard Bear McCreary, even if you don’t know his name. Trust me. He scored the excellent Battlestar Galactica remake and it’s his music that forms the memorable title track to The Walking Dead. He’s been much more television based (and continues to be) but in scoring the underrated, Hitchcockian sequel to secret blockbuster Cloverfield, he truly advances to the big leagues with a score one parts mythic, and two parts a gorgeous mesh of dark thriller & Jerry Goldsmith-esque creeping mystique. Even if you don’t love 10 Cloverfield Lane (and you should), it would be a surprise if you don’t end up a little in love with how it sounds by the end.

Standout track: Michelle


2 – THE NEON DEMON (Cliff Martinez)

Following previous partnerships with Nicolas Winding Refn on films such as Drive or Only God Forgives, Cliff Martinez perhaps reaches amongst the peak of his accomplishments with his remarkable and unique work on The Neon Demon. Now, not everyone took to Winding Refn’s garish horror about the fashion industry, but Martinez’s music drips with substance. It often sounds like diamonds falling onto a cold floor, infused with a sense of warped, pulsing disco, underlain with painful violins capturing the tragedy of Elle Fanning’s main character. It’s a stunning piece of work, and remarkable for the fact the standout piece, ‘The Demon Dance’, is a contributing from Julian Winding, the directors brother. If it’s not being played in clubs forevermore, it’ll be a travesty.

Standout track: The Demon Dance


1 – HIGH-RISE (Clint Mansell)

There’s a strong argument that Clint Mansell is the greatest composer on this list discussed today and, after listening to his score for High-Rise, it’s hard to provide a counterpoint. Ben Wheatley’s absurdist, neo-capitalist, period masterpiece and searing critique on Thatcherism may both be the greatest film of 2016 but also have a score to match. Mansell belies his roots as a Midlander growing up in the gaudy, concrete monstrosities of the 60’s & 70’s to deliver an operatic and creeping piece which matches Wheatley’s adaptation of JG Ballard’s commentary. It’s full of brash violins, strong towering themes and an underpinning of controlled mayhem which Mansell explodes outward for effect at just the right moments. Of all these pieces, it’s the score that can be most listened to and enjoyed in isolation. Even in Mansell’s glittering career it’s a standout, possibly career best piece of work.

Standout track: The World Beyond the High Rise


In terms of honourable mentions, a shout out again to Giacchino for Doctor Strange, to Henry Jackman for The Birth of a Nation, the great John Williams for The BFG, Johann Johannson for Arrival, John Ottman for X-Men Apocalypse, Abel Korzeniowski for Nocturnal Animals and John Powell/David Buckley’s collaboration on Jason Bourne. There are more I’ve missed, undoubtedly, from even the honourable mentions, let alone the best of list.

So take a moment to remember than even in a hellish political year, or a largely average one for movies on the screen, the composers behind the music are still delivering work you’ll be listening to for years to come. 2016 does have one saving grace, after all…

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Failed Critics Podcast: Sports Triple Bill II

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Refusing to stay down on the mat and not allowing our coach to throw in the towel, the Failed Critics are steadily climbing to their feet for one final round of the sports triple bill. The first of which was concluded back in August 2012, in time for the London Olympics. This one, coincidentally, is being released just ahead of the Rio Olympics! Almost as if it were intentionally planned that way…

Hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes are joined by Andrew Brooker and – fresh from his local Richer Sounds with a brand new microphone – Brian Plank. Each Failed Critic chose their three favourite sports movies. Did Owen try and shoehorn in Brewster’s Millions again? Did Steve just list the three Mighty Ducks movies? Did Brooker choose a film featuring a sport that isn’t American Football? Is there a single book about sports that Brian hasn’t read? You’ll have to listen to find out.

Also this week, due to the quick turnaround in podcasts, with the last Star Trek Beyond episode only released a few days ago, not much has happened in the world of film that wasn’t discussed previously, so the team forgo the news section for a slightly extended Olympics-themed movie quiz and a chat about the Bourne franchise – including a review of this weekend’s big release, Jason Bourne.

Join us again in just over a week’s time as we get back to our regular recording schedule for a review of the hotly anticipated Suicide Squad.

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Jason Bourne

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“Don’t make this personal.”

Years and years of hoping and wanting and praying have finally paid off. Matt Damon got his wish with the return of director Paul Greengrass and we can finally sit in a cinema again and soak in a brand new Jason Bourne adventure… Err… Jason Bourne.

Years after Bourne vanished without a trace after taking a header into the East River, the ex-super spy’s long-time handler/companion Nicky Parsons (Julia Styles) brings him back into the fray after hacking her way into a ton of CIA black ops files. Of course, they include historical information on Operation Treadstone, Black Briar, Bourne and a previously unknown connection to Bourne’s agency analyst father.

Sticking her nose in, Nicky garners the attention of the men and women in suits in Langley as the CIA goes all hands on deck to find her. Super-cyber-spy Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander) is on her very quickly and under the command of CIA director Robert Dewey (a grizzled Tommy Lee Jones) tracks the former analyst to Greece where Jason Bourne is hiding out. So now, everyone that was off the grid for so long is back on the radar and running for their lives again. Globetrotting hijinks ensue as Bourne chases answers to questions he didn’t know he had until Nicky’s return; chased relentlessly by the CIA and their deadly “asset” (Vincent Cassel) it’s a race against the odds to stay alive and to unearth the secrets that are keeping Bourne on the run.

Bourne is an institution for me. It appeared just as I was starting to get a little fatigued with Bond as a series and needed something a little different. Between this and the Mission: Impossible franchise, I’ve never really looked at United Artists’ 007 series the same. When Doug Liman (remember him? This wasn’t always about Greengrass. Although arguably Greengrass refined the series into near-perfection) first brought us The Bourne Identity, it was a breath of fresh air. As super human as Jason Bourne seemed to be, it always felt like an against-the-odds uphill battle for him and it never felt like a foregone conclusion that he’d be successful.

All these years later, and we are back for more. And it’s as good as any film in the franchise. Yes, including Legacy.

For the most part, I don’t have much negative to say about the latest in the espionage series. Guessing from the “Based on characters created by Robert Ludlum” and not the usual “based on the book by…”, I reckon this is the first of the Matt Damon Bourne flicks that’s been written specifically for the screen, instead of having one of the many books adapted for film. That lack of guidance from a book does show a little though. Mostly early on in the film when Nicky Parsons all but coerces Bourne back into action with secret stuff we never knew about. I can – and do – suspend my disbelief while I watch these films; you’d have to, right? But the opening 15-20 minutes, those moments that are meant to convince him and us that it’s time to suit up again, feel tenuous and stretched at best – and at worst, they just feel clumsy.

And don’t even get me started on the insanity of showing me a USB stick – which has been hidden in a locker that only Jason can find, that also comes with a gun and a notepad filled with details on the investigation into Treadstone/Blackbriar and beyond – that has a massive printed label on it that says ENCRYPTED. Thanks for THAT Mr. Greengrass, because I never would have gotten to that conclusion on my own!

Those are very minor niggles in an otherwise excellent film. Once Bourne is back in the limelight, it’s like getting into a pair of comfy slippers. The story twists and turns and flips around at an insane pace. You just have to sit back and trust that Greengrass and Damon will do you right and explain everything, or almost everything. The break-neck pace is what makes Bourne as a franchise something special; even a simple scene like tailing a guy through a crowd is wrought with tension and an atmosphere that’ll have you chewing your fingernails the whole way through.

As it always is, the action is beautifully shot. Greengrass has taken on board criticism from his Green Zone days and stays away from shake-o-vision style shots. Car chases are fast and exciting; and the close-up combat tense and bone-crunchingly brutal. Greengrass’ ability to turn up the tension on every scene, whether it is a shootout, a chase, or a quiet exposition scene that explains the ripped-from-the-headlines story (more on that in a sec), shows just how much skill and experience the now veteran Brit director is bringing to the table.

Coming away from the narrative of the books, whilst usually a bad idea, has allowed Paul Greengrass and long-time Bourne producer Christopher Rouse to put together a story that is both current and relevant. Invoking everything from Edward Snowden and his close to government destroying activities; to the more recent animosity between US law enforcement agencies and tech giant Apple. The pair have written a story that hits close to the quick on a few occasions and they make their feelings on the situations very, very clear. As our hero finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy that not only has the old school spy ways of the past brought into question, but manages to show just how far we’ve come when it comes to technology and surveillance with the CIA’s biggest and best weapon being Alicia Vikander’s tech genius, backed up by boots on the ground. Not, as it has been for so long, the other way around.

It’s a real showcase for its stars too, taking nothing away from its main star: Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. That’s it, really. He’s a bad ass super-spy that kicks ass across seven continents and looks damn good doing it. And whilst he’s obviously the focal point of the film, knowing what you’re getting from him means you can sit and watch some awesome little performances come out of the background.

Alicia Vikander, an actress that’s fast becoming a real favourite of mine, gets to play a slightly understated role to start with. Her tech-savvy surveillance operative is convincing and fun to watch when we first meet her. But once she pushes her way onto into the chase for Bourne and Parsons, we see just how ruthless she is. Vikander does a great job in keeping us wondering just which shade of that grey area between good guy and bad she’s going to fall in to. Similarly for Tommy Lee Jones’ CIA Director Dewy, falling into the grizzled veteran bad-guy role that Brian Cox filled so well earlier in the series, we get to see the Oscar winner from a different direction than usual as he dons his bad-guy cap and looks to have a lot of fun playing the game for his own selfish reasons.

The stand-out though, outside of Bourne of course, is Vincent Cassel’s nameless “Asset”. In previous entries to the series, we’ve had a fellow program participant chasing Jason Bourne with varying degrees of success and screen time. A role that’s been filled with names like Clive Owen, Karl Urban and Edgar Ramirez, without ever really being fleshed out, actually gets the full treatment for this latest entry in the series. Nameless he may be, but Cassel’s ruthless, vicious assassin isn’t just another Treadstone robot. He’s got a long history that he brings with him and his natural aggression, cold calculation and skill – that haven’t had to be indoctrinated into him by the CIA’s scientists – make him not only Bourne’s biggest threat to date, but one of the most interesting characters in Jason Bourne.

Jason Bourne is an excellent entry into this already excellent franchise. Its problems are no more than minor irritations in an overall amazing experience. By the time you have gotten to the end (and that Moby track has been remixed for the fifth time in the credits) you are breathless, exhilarated, and considering hiding up the back and waiting for the next screening to start just to you can watch it again. So it arbitrarily sets up another entry in the series; and that kind of makes you wonder just how much more this guy can remember, but you just don’t care. You’ve had too good a time to focus on silly shit like that.

The Week in Film – 5 October 2014: I Am Legend, Pilgrim

Plenty of news has happened in the past week. Today’s article is brought to you by the words ‘franchise’ and ‘retrofit’.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

I Am, Wait for It, Legend

the searchersWe often speak of reboots in this column but this week we are talking about a retrofit.

After deciding that there is no real sensible way to do a prequel or sequel to Will Smith’s I Am Legend Warner Bros have just decided to release another version by converting a screenplay known as The Garden at the End of the World which was meant to be an adaptation of  the John Wayne flick The Searchers?

With me? No? Well I am not with me either.

The last I Am Legend, starring Smith, was a good effort, except for the ending which a) wasn’t the original one and b) nothing like the book ending. Smith put in a very good performance in what was an average yet watchable movie.

That thought, and this new effort, will not top Charlton Heston’s Omega Man. Nor Vincent Price’s The Last Man On Earth for that matter!

Tetris

I often claim that Hollywood has run out of original ideas with sequels, prequels, retrofits and reboots being the order of the day. However with the news that Tetris is set to be made into a movie I have changed my mind. Maybe original ideas should be banned if this is what is being considered.

Many video games and toys have been turned into movies, including Lego, Super Mario and Tomb Raider and Battleship, but a film about different shaped, different coloured blocks, falling into the correct gaps and holes with no characters, plot or story is pathetic.

Really?

So a Baywatch movie with Dwayne Johnson in the lead role, sans a Hasselhoff cameo, is in the pipeline?

A Baywatch movie appears to be an original idea but yet another bad one.

The Doctor is Out

Marvel’s desire to introduce more and more new characters in their ever expanding universe hit a bit of a snag after Joaquin Phoenix dropped out of talks to play comic book hero Doctor Strange.

The film is pencilled in for a summer release in 2016, under two years away so the Marvel team need to get a shuffle on casting their leading man with Tom Hardy, Ethan Hawke and Jared Leto linked to the role.star wars rebels

Rebel Rebel

Before the first episode was even aired animation Star Wars: Rebels was granted a second series.

Although clearly aimed at kids, the show will be broadcast on DisneyXD, it will clearly have a wide audience and is the first thing Disney have put out since acquiring LucasFilm. It will bridge the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and will apparently tease a few things about Episode VII.

The Bourne Confusion

A couple of weeks we spoke about Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returning to the Bourne franchise and the sequel to the Jeremey Renner outing becoming the fourth Damon Bourne movie with Renner’s one being pushed back.

Now Renner is chatting about a crossover. Jeremy, I bet you end up annoyed at being sidelined as you did in the Avengers.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give you another round up of the latest in film news.

The Week In Film – 17 September 2014: The Age of Remakes

Welcome to the Week In Film! Steve returns from a short break to provide you with a round-up of everything worth knowing in the world of film that has occurred in the past week.

by Steve Norman (@StevePN86)

age of ultronAge of Ultron

The slow drip feed of info about the next instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continued this week as a brief synopsis of Avengers: Age of Ultron was released.

It revealed that Ultron was not created by Tony Stark, as previously thought due to Hank Pym not being introduced as of yet, but Tony Stark ‘releases’ Ultron by messing about with some old tech stuff.

With this in mind could we be seeing a Pym/Ant-Man cameo in Age of Ultron? And with a Doctor Strange movie announced and strong rumours of a Black Panther movie could we see either a cameo or mention of these popular Marvel characters?

I Know What You Did In a Summer Ages and Ages Ago

Sony are looking to remake I Know What You Did Last Summer. While it was an enjoyable teen slasher film, is there really any need to reboot it? I imagine they will attempt to spawn a franchise.

Hollywood needs some new ideas. The amount of remakes, reimaginings, prequels and sequels is getting pathetic.

Another Remake

Ben Hur is set for a rehash by Hollywood. Charlton Heston starred in the successful original, famous for its chariot race and Jack Huston and Morgan Freeman are set to star in a new version written by 12 Years A Slave’s John Ridley due for a 2016 release.

Despite a good cast and noted writer on board, whenever a film of this ilk is due for modernising it makes me think of a mediocre singer trying to belt out Whitney Huston on the X-Factor.ben hur

Bourne Again

More sequel news as Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass have agreed to return to the Bourne franchise. Previously it was thought that the character had gone as far as it could and Damon stated he would not return without Greengrass, which is what led to the reasonable but not as good as the originals Jeremy Renner outing.

How this will tie in with the Renner ‘Legacy’ film (if at all) and any further plot details are some way off, but if it is as good as the first three…? There’s certainly potential for expansion in this franchise.

An Original Origin Story

It appears that almost every character on the silver screen must, at some point, have an origin story movie. Judge Dredd looks set to have one, based on the comics, but King Kong, whose early life on Skull Island has only been briefly touched on in other cinematic outings, and looks set to get his own movie looking at the back story of the big monkey.

Max Borenstein is set to write. He is the same man who wrote the recent Godzilla movie so he has experience when it comes to monster movies and perhaps we could see some lizard vs. ape action in the future.

Tom Hiddleston is set to star, in what role we do not know. Perhaps as a motion capture monkey.

Join us again next week, where we will return to give us another round up of the latest in film news.