Aisle of the Damned: 9/1/16- Kent Hasn’t Seen Empire Records

Have you seen my wiener?

After his admission that he had not seen Empire Records last week, Kent lost several of his friends. But at least we’ve got a couple of animated films to review! Laika Studios (Coraline, Paranorman) has a new stop-motion flick called Kubo and the Two Strings. Meanwhile, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This is the End, The Interview) decide to call hot dogs ‘sausages’ so they can name their movie Sausage Party, even though nobody actually does that. Are you ready for some cartoons? All that, plus some upcoming movie discussion about Spider-Man: Homecoming and Justice League Dark. Oh, and our recommendations. And we gripe about the ratings system again.

All this and less in Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Soul Heirs- Hot Links

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: The Bourne Legacy

Bourne

One of my favorite reviewers described The Bourne Legacy as “Flowers for Algernon with a body count.”

I doubt I can do better than that.

But it is my duty to soldier on and explain what he means by that and tell you why Legacy is a decent, if unaffecting film that manages to build off the Damon films without completely copying them in every way.

Of course Matt Damon is absent for the duration of Legacy, not even bothering to put in a requisite cameo appearance, showing up only in a widely circulated photo that looks like it was taken right before he was in Good Will Hunting. His character’s name is all over the place, however. His replacement is the Hurt Locker himself, Jeremy Renner. After being the duct tape slapped onto existing franchises like Mission Impossible and the Hawkeye role for Thor and Avengers, Renner does a servicable job trying to hold together the aging series, making his performance different enough from Damon’s that it helps keep away the “been there done that” for at least a short time. (Though intercutting bits directly from The Bourne Supremacy serves as a cheesy reminder that the film is happening concurrently with the third film in the franchise.)

In Legacy we find Renner is a member of a side-program to the one that created Bourne. He is not seeking answers about who he is and where he comes from. He signed on for what he does and he is only too happy to do it, as he feels he’s doing right and serving his country and his people. It doesn’t hurt that he had an IQ approximately the same as Forrest Gump’s and they gave him some magic pills to turn him into a spy version of Bradley Cooper from Limitless.

When Bourne’s exposure of the CIA’s main program to build a better spy hits the public, the agent in charge of Renner’s division decides the risk of exposure towards himself and his people is worth razing every shred of evidence that this, apparently more successful, version exists, including the agents under their command. In charge is Ed Norton who isn’t especially menacing, but considering the main bad guys in this series always seem to be morally gray, middle-management, government bureaucrats, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, Renner escapes their initial blitzkrieg of his fellow uber-agents, but has his smart-pills taken away, dooming him to grow dumber and dumber. Enter Rachel Weisz as Generic Scientist Character and through a fun action sequence, she ends up his hostage/confidante and can help him attempt to hold onto his artificial smarts.

Bourne Legacy is not a movie full of surprises, nor does it add much originality to the formula. While Renner’s motivations are refreshingly different, the set pieces and feel of the movie are comparable and well done, but direct carry-overs,though strangely, the shaky-cam in this film feels slightly less stomach-churning than the last two. The actors are all top notch, but perhaps it is out of necessity that the film just feels like a phantom appendage to the main Bourne body. It’s enjoyable enough to watch that you’ll like it if you have liked the previous Bourne movies to this point, but it’s just extraneous. It’s a sugary confection that will not stick with you, but it doesn’t take a nose-dive into idiocy. Oddly, the most harrowing part doesn’t even involve Renner’s character, but is that way because of headlines we’ve seen over the last few years. There’s nothing patently offensive about the film, nor is there anything special about it. There just doesn’t seem to be much reason for it to exist other than to possibly line Universal’s pockets.

(I guess time will tell if the next film in the francise will “Fast and Furious” the sequels by having Renner and Damon join forces.)

(Two and a half out of five stars)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson’s newest film, Moonrise Kingdom is, as I described it to a friend, his Wes Ander-most film. In a lot of ways, this feels like the culmination of all his previous films into the pinnacle of his artistic style.

Want over-smart, precocious kids? This one has two of them. Big visual jokes, like the kind that entered his filmic vocabulary in his last movie, the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox? Check. An all-star cast working for peanuts? Bigger than ever. A French new-wave style of cinematography, updated to fit an American story-book aesthetic? Here in spades. Bill Murray? Boom, baby. Oddball characters that take comfort in their strange routines and ceremony? A-yup. Mark Mothersbaugh or Alexandre Desplat music? Both, actually. British invasion tunes? Well, okay, not that one. But there is a great French ye-ye tune that fans of April March’s covers will probably recognize.

The big difference is that, unlike his other films that seem to have been made in the past, taking place in an anachronistic future, this one actually is a period piece set on a New England island in the mid-1960s. Well, that and the fact that it’s his first live-action film that is not rated R.

The story behind Moonrise Kingdom is that of a 12-year-old couple which decide to escape their miserable lives and head into the wild, launching a community-wide search by the whole island (including the Boy Scout stand-in “Khaki Scouts”) to recover the pair before the “worst storm of the second half of the 20th century” hits.

The story then moves along at a clip, pausing for the appropriate character moments, until its entertaining conclusion in which the storm hits and all hell breaks loose. In the meantime, the kids are delightfully twisted. Sam, the boy who escapes camp and is smaller than the girl, Suzy, displays a Max Fischer-like confidence beyond his years and enjoys painting (landscapes and nudes, mostly.) Suzy is the quiet daughter of a lawyer couple who loves to read female-centric adventure fiction. Both of them are considered to have “mental problems.” It’s a great look into how little it sometimes takes to be cast a misfit and how society attempts to curb those who don’t fit in. Even if they’d rather just peacefully remove themselves from everyone else to be on their own, using the metaphor of a couple of young kids in the woods, society won’t let them, as evidenced by the extreme measures Sam’s fellow scouts are initially willing to go through to bring him back. Anderson’s bread and butter has been shining lights on outcasts and misunderstood geniuses and Moonrise Kingdom absolutely follows that arc. The way Anderson seems to bring back his eternal-autumn color palate and scenery from Fox just helps move along an almost never-ending sense of sunset falling over the end of American innocence. At the same time, perhaps a little ironically, the more family-friendly rating actually seems to help bring out the whimsy in his work, while never feeling like he’s pulled his punches.

There truly are some stand-out performances in the film. Ed Norton puts in what may be his best performance in a long time as the troop’s scoutmaster that tasks himself with trying to bring back his lost member. Jason Schwartzman is hilarious as another supposed Khaki leader that is at once a terrible authority figure and a character you will likely be rooting for. But really all the actors seem to be working together in service of the story and with deference to the main kids. Speaking of kids, Anderson coaxes fantastic performances out of his young actors, especially the scouts who exude tons of personality in a short period of time, often with just their appearance and a few actions.

It’s absolutely a fantastic experience that, if you’re a Wes-head like me, will be one of the best films of the summer and make you laugh. (Though granted, I was laughing more than just about anyone else in the theater.) In any case, in my opinion, it’s a lovely film that manages to build on Anderson’s previous work and themes while never feeling like a retread of that work.

(Four and a half stars out of five)