Box Office Preview: ‘Bourne’ (sans Damon), ‘The Campaign,’ and ‘Hope Springs’

The Bourne Legacy

After the first three “Bourne” movies grossed a combined $945 million worldwide, Universal Studios wasn’t going to let something as “petty” as the series’ star, Matt Damon, walking away stop the cash from flowing in. Even though “The Bourne Legacy” will likely break an impressive pattern—that each of the trilogy’s installments was more successful than the last in terms of both opening and cumulative grosses (“The Bourne Identity” debuted to $27.1 million and had a domestic total gross of nearly $122 million, “Supremacy” made $52.5 million in its opening weekend, winding up with $176 million, while “Ultimatum” opened to $69.3 million and had $227 million to its name when things were all said and done)—the studio can still expect to make a pretty penny. Plus, given that “The Dark Knight Rises” was last week’s top earner with just shy of $36 million in its third week, Universal can expect to own the nation’s number one movie, as “Legacy” will have no problem clearing $30 million over its first three days at the box office.

Anyway, let’s talk about the film itself, shall we? With Damon gone, writer/director Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplays for the first three “Bourne” movies, had to come up with some way to introduce a new main character. As we find out from the trailer, “There was never just one… Jason Bourne was the tip of the iceberg.” Enter Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Avengers“) as Aaron Cross, who’s essentially another Jason Bourne.

Overlapping with the ending of the last film, the story has broken that the CIA has been conducting top-secret experiments involving genetically enhanced spies. As a result, they’re putting an end to all such programs, which means killing all of the various programs’ agents. With the exception of the new leading man, “Legacy” has everything we’ve come to expect from the series: a super spy on the run from the government with a damsel in distress in tow. Only this time, Renner’s playing the hero, the damsel has a doctorate, and newcomer Edward Norton steps in as Colonel Eric Byer, who’s in charge of hunting Renner’s character down. It seems he’s escaped the government’s attempt on his life and needs to find Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) so he can get a hold of the medications that help him function at superhuman levels.

The film has split critics right down the middle, it currently sits at a 50 percent on the Tomatometer. It’s sure to be entertaining, but like so many of the reboot/sequel/spin-offs coming along these days, it leaves something to be desired because you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve seen this film before. I think Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker put it best:

“The Bourne Legacy” shares a sentiment with a couple of other movies released this year (“American Reunion,” “Men in Black 3” [and I’ll add “The Amazing Spider-Man” to the list]) in that it was not at all necessary, yet still enjoyable. That might be damning the movie with faint praise, but considering the lengths that Universal is going to in order to keep the Bourne cash cow mooing – really, everything about the movie’s existence is pretty damn cynical – they would be wise to take any praise people are willing to give them. They get a pass this time, but they’re going to need to raise the stakes for the next one.

The Campaign

From director Jay Roach (best known for directing the “Austin Powers” films as well as “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers”) comes “The Campaign,” a satirical political comedy boasting big name stars like Will Ferrell, Zach Galfianakis, Jason Sudeikis, John Lithgow, and Dan Akroyd. With actors like that and a premise as easily mockable as American politics, this one’s sure to be a slam dunk, right?

Not this time. Although it’s got a 65 percent rating on the Tomatometer, the general consensus seems to be that the film is one big missed opportunity. In an election year, the filmmakers could’ve gotten a bit edgier, really putting our political system on trial while still generating big laughs from Ferrell and Galifianakis. In fact, one might wonder why this wasn’t the case, given that Roach has pushed some boundaries in his HBO election dramas “The Recount” and “Game Change.” To quote Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale:

Though the film is actually much better than expected, it never fully takes advantage of its satirical premise, especially with the 2012 elections only months away. There are a number of good laughs sprinkled throughout, but it’s not nearly enough to warrant sitting through all the dry spells. And try as director Jay Roach might to make his characters more absurd than our real-life politicians, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Oh yes, you’re probably wondering about the plot. Here it is: Incumbent North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is essentially running on auto-pilot until a sex scandal puts his campaign under a microscope. As a result, two corrupt businessmen played by Lithgow and Akroyd, the Motch brothers (whose similarities with the real-life Koch brothers are no coincidence) decide to back country bumpkin Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) who will turn a blind eye to their plan to use import Chinese factory workers on the cheap.

Hope Springs

Last but not least this week is “Hope Springs,” a dramedy that is sure to skew older than the previous two films. It stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a couple who despite being loving and devoted have watched as their relationship gets somewhat stale over the decades. Streep’s character, Kay, hears of Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), a widely renowned relationship specialist and tries to persuade her husband, Arnold, to embark on a trip to the small town of Hope Springs to meet him.

The film has been certified fresh with a 77 percent rating on the Tomatometer. The site had this to say about the film: “Led by a pair of mesmerizing performances from Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, Hope Springs offers filmgoers some grown-up laughs — and a thoughtful look at mature relationships.” Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker offers a different perspective: “How much you enjoy ‘Hope Springs’ will depend largely on how much you enjoy watching older people have sex.” It’s pretty easy to figure out whether you’re part of “Hope Springs” target audience, and as a result, whether or not you’ll enjoy the film.

  

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2011 Winter Press Tour Wrap-Up: Kneel Before Oprah!

The TCA Winter Press Tour is an event which never quite seems to live up to the TCA Summer Press Tour…but, then, that stands to reason, as the mid-season series rarely match the ones which hit the airwaves in the fall, right? Still, the experience never fails to be one which I enjoy, mostly because you never know what’s going to be around the corner, and Day 1 really set the stage for that: during the course of 12 hours, I interviewed Betty White, Henry Rollins, and Bruce Jenner, and, thanks to National Geographic, I wore a giant snake around my neck. Not a bad way to begin things…

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A press conference chat with Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek of “Get Low”

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In case you haven’t been paying attention to limited release movies aimed at an older audience, “Get Low” is one of the year’s real success stories. My pretty negative review, notwithstanding, I’m surprised but not upset that the movie is doing as well as it is, both commercially and critically. These days, it’s nice to see a movie with a coherent story, at least, doing well. As for its star, Robert Duvall, being an apparent lock for an Oscar nomination, I can hardly complain. This may not be even close to being his best performance, but it’s a very good one and he’s a national treasure at this point. That’s how these things work sometimes.

“Get Low” stars Duvall as Felix Bush, an irascible and sometimes frightening hermit who contracts with the mildly rapacious local mortician (Bill Murray) to stage his funeral while he’s still alive. Though Bush says the funeral is to hear what people think of him while he’s still alive, it’s clear something in his past is disturbing him. Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek) is a former girlfriend who may hold the key to some of that.

Arriving right on time for the press conference, I saw that things weren’t quite ready and decided to grab a quick (and free) beverage. Looking over the soft drink selection in the hospitality area, however, I turned around and saw a serenely patient Sissy Spacek beaming at me and, before long, talking to me as if I were an actual human being while looking so good I was slightly stunned. As her assistant smoothly parried my lame request to turn on my digital recorder for a brief impromptu interview, she asked that I inform the public that she, at least, had showed up on time for the event. I was too charmed to do anything else but comply with the wishes of the luminous star of “Carrie” and “In the Bedroom.”

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Mr. Duvall, it turned out, was only a couple of minutes late and the event started before I could make a proper drink selection. It was immediately apparent that Spacek and Duvall get along quite well and enjoyed joshing each other in front of reporters. (They last appeared together in 2008’s “Four Christmases.”)

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A somewhat creepy, very late night end of week movie news dump

It’s late, so I’ll keep it brief tonight/this morning.

* Given the wave of movie science fiction we’ve had since the release of “Star Wars” back in 1977, it’s always been a disappointment to me how few of the most respected SF novels (“sci-fi” isn’t a term literary science fiction geeks approved of back in my day) have been made into movies. So, even though the book kind of baffled me when I read it not too long after it’s original release in 1984, it’s nice to see that a film version of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, the novel which is the original source of the word “cyberspace” — whatever that means. Vincenzo Natali (“Cube”) appears to be the helmer.

* It’s looking like “Iron Man 2” will not be a huge record breaker after all and may make (horrors!) significantly less than the $140 million “floor” we were originally given.

* The RZA (pronounced “The Ri-zuh”) is joining the select club of successful pop musicians turned movie directors that includes Prince, David Byrne, Rob Zombie, Paul McCartney (on the ill-fated telefilm, “Magical Mystery Tour”) and I’m sure some others I’m forgetting. Not surprisingly for the Kung-fu loving Wu-Tang Clan founder who worked on part of the “Kill Bill, Volume 1” score, it’s a stylized martial arts epic co-written with fellow Tarantino associate Eli Roth.

* Speaking of Paul McCartney, the one time Beatle, an outspoken vegetarian in real life, may be going in a very different entirely unauthorized and fictional direction as a brain-eating mop-topped zombie in a possible film version of yet another comic zombies-in-history novel, “Paul is Undead” which envisions a zombified fab four.  Sure, why not.

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Midweek movie news

Regular readers might have noticed that I’ve taken a couple of days off, and with the TCM Film Festival kicking off tomorrow night, and some other things possibly brewing, I might not be following my exact usual schedule for the next several days, though I’m sure I’ll be posting stuff, but we’ll have to see.  In the meantime, there’s plenty going on and I’m sure I’ve missed something.

Chloe Moretz smashes face* We eventually did get a clear, but narrow, victor in the weekend box-office battle, but nobody’s too excited about the performance of “Kick-Ass.” The film will make money, $19.8 million is not bad for a $30-40 million dollar movie, and it should help everyone’s career, but I wouldn’t bet on a sequel unless it holds really extremely well and also cleans up in home video. Also, it should be noted that the superhero comedy had a slightly unfair advantage because of its late Thursday night opening getting included in the take — at least I think it was. Steven Zeitchik, who thought the film would break out in a major way, offers a post-not-quite-mortem.

* James Cameron‘s new interview with the L.A. Times will annoy conservative anti-environmentalists and climate deniers as well as fans of contemporary written science fiction. (It’s too complicated and self-referential to make a movie out of, Cameron states, apparently unafraid of the sweeping generalization.) However, “Avatar” fans will be delighted to know that two more movies appear to be in the offing along with that extended August 3-D/Imax re-release. Cameron’s cast and crew will be, I imagine, much less happy to learn that “Avatar 2” will involve water, and lots of it. What is it with this guy and moisture? (H/t the Playlist.)

Titanic 1996

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