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Review: Shock and Awe

The most shocking thing about Shock and Awe is how shockingly flat it turned out to be, given the star-power behind it as well as the timeliness of its core message about the role of the free press in a democracy. With a cast list that includes Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones and actor/director Rob Reiner, the biggest question you’re left with after the film is the same question raised in the film itself: How the hell did this happen? It should have been so much better – so more people might actually see it.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Jason Bourne; Bad Moms; Nerve

Jason Bourne – This was my least favorite of the Matt Damon Bourne movies. Granted, I can never remember the plot from installment to installment (much like Jason Bourne himself), but I do recall liking them well enough. This Bourne, however, is brutal to watch. Damon is in fine physical form, returning to his iconic role as a former lethal CIA operative/assassin with memory issues. And director Paul Greengrass is back to deliver his usual frenetic-paced editing and adrenaline-fueled car chases. But the movie lacks the fun, suspense and entertainment factor that made The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum cool action flicks that left you caring about the characters and their relationships to one another. This feels like more of a re-tread set in present-day global hot spots, yet re-asking the same questions of old and new characters. Julia Stiles is back, however briefly, as an operative with a conscience who wants to help Bourne fill in the blanks of his past and expose evil-doers within the intelligence community. There’s a menacing-looking assassin who has a personal vendetta against Bourne. Oscar-winner Alicia Vikander joins the cast in a role that basically amounts to a reboot of Stiles’ character. There’s a CIA black ops guy played by Tommy Lee Jones who looks a lot like an aging version of Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black, The Fugitive, and the like. There’s also a Julian Assange-type character with a pro-Wiki-Leaks agenda, and a Steve Jobs software genius type who is in cahoots with the government to violate personal privacy – in the name of national security and a hefty pay day. Jason Bourne is certainly a visceral experience. It moves. It just doesn’t go anywhere. I’m bummed, ‘cause I really like Matt Damon and have appreciated his Bourne identity. Now excuse me while I go cleanse my palate with a re-watching of The Martian.

The Family

The Family is fine, but ultimately fuhgeddable. Robert De Niro plays Fred Manzoni, a mafia boss with a price on his head for ratting out his friends. Fred and his quirky family – including wife Maggie (Michelle Pfeiffer) and teenage kids Belle (Dianna Agron) and Warren (John D’Leo) are placed in the Witness Protection Program – but keeping them out of trouble is no easy task. Old habits die hard and all.

Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis is the real reason to see Lincoln. He is without doubt the best actor on the planet. He doesn’t act — he becomes. All the portrayals of Lincoln before by many fine actors from Walter Huston to Henry Fonda to Brendan Fraser pale in comparison. And there have been more movies about Lincoln than any other President for good reason. He was a fascinating man in command at one of our country’s darkest times, and he was a masterful politician in every way. No wonder Spielberg decided to take a whack at telling it again. And he was smart not to do the “from the log cabin to the theater” history lesson that we have all seen before.

Hope Springs

I had high hopes for Hope Springs. But the film falls flat. The story and the characters are certainly real and relatable. But as in life, real and relatable can be quite boring – even at the hands of a stellar cast. Meryl Streep is excellent (as always) in the role of Kay, a woman whose 31-year marriage to Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) has lost its spark and fallen victim to routine. They love each other. But they don’t seem to be much in love with each other any more. So they venture off to the small town of Great Hope Springs for a week of intensive marriage counseling by renowned author and therapist, Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). Carell plays it surprisingly straight, providing the set-up for some of the film’s more funny and touching moments.

Men in Black 3

The third MIB is definitely not the charm. It’s the weakest of the bunch, mostly because it’s not particularly funny, dramatic or cool – elements that helped make the original premise so engaging, entertaining and quirky. MIB3 has a few funny lines, but overall, it’s kind of a downer.

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones basically phone it in as they reprise their roles as Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones), partners in a government agency that monitors alien activity on Earth. Agent J is the hip one; K is the surly one. And in MIB3, we learn why K is such a dour dude.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Holy androstenedione, Batman! Or whatever else it is that’s in the experimental serum that transforms a scrawny kid from Brooklyn into the ultra-buff Super-Soldier known as “Captain America.” He’s really hot, but the movie’s just luke-warm.

The Company Men

Put Tommy Lee Jones and Chris Cooper in a movie and you’re pretty much guaranteed I’ll go see it. Of course, it helps if the movie is also good, and The Company Men is good – quite good actually. Jones and Cooper star along with Ben Affleck as long time employees of huge manufacturing conglomerate GTX. They’ve all spent their entire careers at the place – they are “company men.”