Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Dude's Movie Update

Sorry it's taken me so long for my follow up to that "best of the year so far" list. By the way, before I get on to the dreck of the 2004 movie releases, let me add to my previous list by mentioning a few excellent offerings that have come to theaters recently.

The Bourne Supremacy

Have I mentioned how much I love the current trend of assigning big-budget Hollywood vehicles to talented and stylish independent and foreign directors? It seems to have caught on in the last few years and has led to the production of some excellent blockbusters: movies that appeal to the masses but don't insult the intelligence of the more discriminating viewer. Bryan Singer on X-Men. Sam Raimi on Spider-Man. Not to mention Peter Jackson and the whole Hobbit thing. Heck, even the failures are interesting. I'd rather watch Ang Lee's flawed but interesting Hulk over studio garbage like Bad Boys 2 any day.

The new sequel to The Bourne Identity successfully continues the original's formula of putting a potentially generic big-budget action movie in the hands of a director with serious indie-credibility and little experience with a big studio. The 2002 original was helmed by Doug Liman (Swingers, Go) and turned out to be a smart, above-average thriller with a great action-star turn by Matt Damon.

The sequel brings on director Paul Greengrass (who directed the excellent Bloody Sunday a couple years ago) and his serious love of handheld camerawork to create an even better movie than the first. Seriously, these are what the James Bond movies should be: Stylish, smart, exciting spy action that doesn't hinge on crazy wannabe world-conquerors or plots to destroy the earth. Also, this movie has about the best car chase since The French Connection. Now, admittedly, there was one plot point that pissed me off in it's lack of originality (Honestly, how many sequels rely on this?) but it didn't dampen the overall effect of this excellent movie. One of the best action movies I've seen in a while.


Scene for scene, Michael Mann is just about the best director working right now. If this guy had started making movies in the 70's, I truly believe that we'd be hearing his name in the same breath as Scorsese, Spielberg and Coppola. Regardless, the guy hits pretty solidly every time he gets up to bat. Even the over-long, slightly unfocused Ali contained filmmaking that would make most directors envious. Collateral, as it falls in Mann's canon, can best be compared to David Fincher's Panic Room. Both directors had just come off their most ambitious projects to date (Ali and Fight Club, respectively) to mixed critical response and indifferent box-office. So, it seems, they both decided to take a breather between "important" projects and both hone and show off their impressive cinematic skills on a tightly-plotted, somewhat formulaic genre exercise. And in so doing, both gifted filmmakers end up elevating the genre in which they choose to dabble. I won't say much more, just that Mann's cinematography is amazing, as are Jamie Foxx and Tom Cruise. The great characterization and dialogue between the two of them more than make up for the rare times that the genre's more conventional trappings rear their ugly heads (two-dimensional secondary characters, ho-hum ending.) And if the shootout in the club (which holds its own with Mann's other great shootout in Heat) does not provide enough evidence of Mann's cinematic genius, then my advice is that you may want to hurry and catch Garfield: The Movie before it leaves your area.

Okay, that's enough for now. I promise to get back with the list of stuff to avoid as soon as I can. Until then, the Dude abides.


Blogger Izdatyel said...

Great...two more movies to add to that list I can't seem to even get started on. When you mentioned great car chases and the "The French Connection," I immediately thought of the car chase in "Ronin." Though "Ronin" is a flawed movie, the car chase is second to none. Regarding shoot-out scenes; the one in "Heat" really is brilliant. Another great shoot-out scene: the rain shoot-out in "Road to Perdition."

9/03/2004 3:45 PM  
Blogger Jason Work said...

Right you are. "Ronin" has some excellent car chases. In fact, it was that movie that inspired BMW to create their cool series of online short films featuring Clive Owen (also available on DVD at and to get "Ronin" director John Frankenheimer to direct the first one. Others have been directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo and Joe Carnahan to name a few.

As for Michael Mann and great shootout scenes, I might as well mention one of my all time favorite action scenes in a movie: The one in "Last of the Mohicans" where the retreating British army is ambushed by Indians as they pass through a valley. The way that scene is paced, shot and directed is truly incredible.

9/07/2004 7:16 PM  

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