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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Quick Reviews: Bourne Legacy, ParaNorman

There's an inspired line of thinking in this article I came across the other day. It discusses the Simpsons episode where the "Itchy and Scratchy" studio, trying to reinvigorate the ratings of their tired cartoon, introduce a new character: Poochie, the rapping dog (voiced by Homer). Poochie is an amalgam of test-marketed "hip" cliches. The first "Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie" show gets tons of eyeballs, but everyone (except Homer) hates it. The studio ends the Poochie experiment quickly.

The article points out that Hollywood has taken the "Poochie" strategy to heart. Desperate to keep franchises alive, new (or sort of new) characters have been introduced in the most recent "Indiana Jones" and "Men in Black" sequels, and even a plot twist at the end of "The Dark Knight Rises" can be seen as an introduction of such a character for future films, although since Christopher Nolan is done with Batman, it's not too likely that anyone will follow up on that particular twist. But the article's prime example is the just-released "The Bourne Legacy," in which we learn that there's more than one black ops program in which super-soldiers were created. This is convenient because there's no Jason Bourne to hunt down, as Matt Damon refused to sign on for another sequel. So we have Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, who has to take pills to enhance his physical and mental abilities, on the run after Bourne's actions lead to the elimination of Cross's program -- and his life, if he's caught. The movie looks less jittery but is more confusing and generic, despite Renner's best efforts. And they still had the nerve to use that same Moby song at the end. My grade: C-minus.

On a brighter note, despite being somewhat darker in tone than the trailers led us to believe, is the animated (and 3D) "ParaNorman," which ostensibly is about a kid who talks to dead people, and has to use this ability to save his town from an ancient curse. Yet, while there's all that, and a good amount of humor, at its heart it's really an anti-bullying, we-should-embrace-our-differences movie. Whether it's the witch whose death leads to the curse, or Norman himself, seen as a weirdo because, to everyone else, he's talking to himself, the bullying angle is prominent. The film works on pretty much all levels, though, except for that 3D crap. I really dislike 3D. Wearing 3D glasses over my glasses is not particularly comfortable. 3D is not necessary except in rare cases -- the only film I've seen where the 3D really impressed me was "Avatar," which had other problems, such as plot silliness -- and it's mainly a way for the studios to make more money. My grade: A-minus.

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