Jason Bourne Suffers from SML Syndrome

Jason BourneI enjoy action/adventure movies. I’ve seen the first 3 Bourne movies a couple of times. I knew the kind of movie to expect when I went to see the latest installment.

It was an adrenaline-rushed, action-packed, car-chase-scene-explosion movie. Pretty much what I expected. It was enjoyable in that way.

But there were two things in the plot that set my teeth on edge and actually ruined the overall experience for me (especially the first one).

Major spoilers ahead – you have been warned.

The beginning of the movie had me internally cheering. Two fierce, intelligent women were headlining the action. I was particularly excited about the return of Nikki and really curious about the way they were going to develop the character of Heather Lee.

And then it happened. Nikki, who has evaded the CIA and anyone else looking for her for years and has repeatedly shown herself to be clever and resourceful falls victim to SML (Solitary Male Lead) Syndrometm.

With SML Syndrometm, female supporting characters have to be neutralized in order for the SML to pursue his solitary quest alone. They also must die in order to provide the SML with an extra emotional impetus for achieving said quest.

Marie suffered from SML Syndrometm in The Bourne Supremacy dying at almost the exact same point in the movie, if I remember correctly (it has been a while since I’ve seen that one). It’s one thing to get Nikki out of the way so Bourne can do his thing, but there was basically zero narrative reason for it to have to be a death. She and Bourne have obviously not been in contact since the end of The Bourne Ultimatum. She has gone her own way in a lot of ways, which is clear from the work she is doing when she finds the information about Jason’s father. And there were a lot of ways her character could have added some interesting dimensions to the plot if she was off causing little bits of mayhem on the side.

And, if you don’t have time for that, which I get – it was, after all, already a 2 hour movie, then just have her run off into hiding. Dying is not the only way to get rid of a character like that.

The main reason Nikki had to die was so that Heather could take her place (because heaven forbid we have more than one major secondary female in a movie like this /sarcastafont). Heather basically ended up being Landy and Nikki rolled into one with her own little ambitious quirk.

However, I did really enjoy her character and I loved that, even at the end, you weren’t entirely sure what she was playing at other than giving herself a foothold up at the agency. She helped Bourne, but it isn’t clear whether she does so to serve her own purposes, gain his trust, and have a super soldier on her side when she moves up or if she really wanted to help him and it happened to help her too. I liked that ambiguity in her character.

And that leads me to point two. What ruined her character for me is that she is the only one who is suspicious of/frustrated with Dewey. It is consistently only the females in the agency who come to the realization/suspicion that Bourne is looking for something else and that there is more to the story and that there is a larger cover up/corruption going on. And the thing with this plot point, as with the first, is that it would have been so much more interesting for, say, Jeffers to start realizing how corrupt Dewey really was. I kept waiting for it to happen. There were even little moments in Vegas where he hesitates in his conversations with Dewey. As he’s running for the suite where Bourne is going after Dewey I kept waiting for Jeffers to pause, to reconsider, to realize Dewey needed to be stopped.

Instead, they shot him. Lame.

So, yes, it was an entertaining shoot-em-up action/adventure flick. It was a Bourne movie. But these plot points made it feel more like just a rehash of earlier movie plots than as interesting a development to the Bourne franchise as it could have been.

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Why I love it when Hollywood doesn’t take itself too seriously

We were recently shopping and stumbled upon a rack of $3 movies. There is some sort of law that requires us to then browse the entire rack and purchase at least one title. As we were looking through we stumbled across a movie that had a remarkable explanation for its R rating (I don’t remember what the movie was and it is, frankly, beside the point).

DSCN8497As you can see, it is rated R because of language and “werewolf attacks” – not violence, not gore but specifically “werewolf attacks.” I can’t quite explain why this cracks me up so very much, but it does. This is a tiny little thing – most people would probably not even notice this, but I find it hilarious.

I also love when there are little easter eggs hidden in the credits because, let’s face it, how many people actually read the credits. Nowadays many people will wait through the credits to see if there is a hidden scene or outtakes or something like that, but it doesn’t seem that many people (though obviously there are some) who actually read them. I have a habit of doing this. Not in depth and not every line, but I love looking for odd names or misspellings (if you look at the end of Dante’s Peak they misspell Pierce Brosnan’s name once) or anything else out of the ordinary. This paid off recently with Frozen when there was a disclaimer that “The views and opinions expressed by Kristoff in the film that all men eat their own boogers are solely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The Walt Disney Company or the filmmakers. Neither The Walt Disney Company nor the filmmakers make any representation of the accuracy of any such views and opinions.” I love that someone took the time to put that little bit of nonsense in. And that I caught it in the theater!

cats don't danceAnother one that I have always appreciated was in the credits of the animated feature Cats Don’t Dance (which is an absolutely fabulous and much-overlooked film that I should write a post about soon). In the credits there is a disclaimer that “No animals were harmed in the making of this film. Although some were erased and had to be redrawn.” I mean, come on. That’s brilliant.

These are the kinds of things that make me love the movie industry. I’ve been thinking of this because Oscar season is upon us. And while many of the films that are recognized by the Academy are wonderful films and I have nothing against it, the thing that has always bothered me about the Oscars is how very serious everything is. Sure, they get someone to host it who tells some jokes or pokes fun at things, but the selection of the films and those that win always seems very narrow to me. There are a lot of wonderful movies that are Action/Adventure or Romantic Comedies or Science Fiction that rarely get a nod much less a win. I think if the industry could just take itself a little less seriously (like some of these films) things could be a bit more entertaining.

*Disclaimer: This is just my opinion and if you like the Oscars the way they are, that is perfectly fine. I just have issues 🙂

 

Why I was ALMOST satisfied with Despicable Me 2

I finally got a chance to see Despicable Me 2. I loved the first one and as the second one ended I announced that I felt it was a sequel that lived up to its predecessor, something that is rare indeed.

And I did like it. I liked the continued development of Gru. I loved the addition of Lucy. The girls (especially Agnes) were as adorable as ever. And the minions. I can’t seem to put my finger on my enjoyment of their ridiculous almost 3 stooge-esque humor. But they crack me up.

So why did I begin to have this niggling sense of dissatisfaction? I pondered on this for a while until I figured it out.

Antonio.

He is introduced as Margot’s crush. He is the son of the (SPOILER ALERT) villain. He is seen breaking Margot’s heart as he dances with another girl. Gru freezes him. The end. Really? That’s it?

As I thought back, I realized that throughout the entire ending segment as they fight El Macho, I was waiting for Antonio to reappear. Either as the sidekick to his father’s villainy or as the good guy who tries to stop his father or to save Margot. Either one would have been fine. I kind of like the idea of him being in on the plot the whole time too. But nothing. We get absolutely nothing of him.

Which makes me wonder what his purpose was in the movie, other than to add some hilarious scenes of Gru dealing with the fact that Margot is growing up. But these are so incidental to the plot as to be unessential. He flirts with Margot, dances with another girl, gets frozen. I don’t understand the plot point. In fact, I just went to Wikipedia to refresh my memory of his name and this side plot isn’t even mentioned in the plot summaryAT ALL.

I mean, he’s not even there to be a real love interest for Margot! That would have been slightly annoying, but at least served a purpose. Instead I felt as though a thread was woven in and then just left to fray.

By now it should be clear that animated features aren’t just for kids. Adults – even adults without children – watch these movies, enjoy these movies. There are nods of humor throughout most animated films for the adults watching. So please, for the love of film art, don’t leave such gaping holes in your plots!

Why Frozen melted my heart

I had mixed feelings about the trailer for Frozen.

But this was by the same people who made Tangled, which I LOVED so, I knew I had to give it a chance. Plus, all the people I know who are big Disney fans were raving about it.

So I finally made it to the theater and I completely and totally fell in love with this movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, you should before it’s out of theaters. Also, you might not want to read any further since spoilers will abound from this point forward.

What was it about this movie that I loved so much? Why, I’m glad you asked!

Frozen 1

  • It’s not a romance. I know, I know. It does have a romantic storyline threaded through it, but at its heart, it isn’t about romantic love. Now I’m a sucker for a romance and a Disney romance in particular. Beauty and the Beast, Tangled, The Little Mermaid, The Princess and the Frog
  • I loved that Disney poked a little fun at themselves with Kristoff’s line that Anna couldn’t really be in love after having just met Hans.
  • I also TOTALLY didn’t see the Hans thing coming. That was such a shock to me. It was absolutely perfect though. I had been trying to figure out how Elsa and Kristoff would end up together or something (I mean, he’s the ice man, right?), but the development of the relationship between Anna and Kristoff was so sweet and the twist made the movie for me in a lot of ways. I loved that I didn’t know what to expect.
  • The music! I’m listening to the soundtrack right now. The variety of styles they played with was fantastic and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” makes me tear up almost every time. This was much more of a Broadway musical type of movie and I adored that.
  • In the end love was the answer, but it was sacrificial love – a love for her sister even though Elsa had shut her out, turned her away, hurt her, practically tried to kill her – Anna is willing to throw herself in harm’s way to protect Elsa. It was such a beautiful moment.
  • I was talking to a friend who has 2 young girls, and she made a comment that she is sometimes concerned with movies or shows that equate sexiness with independence. When Elsa leaves and builds her ice castle (which was totally amazing btw), she throws off the restrictions she’s placed on herself and tries to claim “who she is” which involves having a dress with a slit all the way up her leg. I was thinking about this after my friend’s comment. I hadn’t noticed it, but I don’t have 2 young impressionable daughters who are living in a world where they are bombarded with the message that they can never be thin, sexy, or pretty enough. But when you look at Frozen, Elsa really isn’t happy in that place. She is trying to be okay with her power, but as the solitary, “bad girl” up on the mountain she is almost as miserable as she was locked up in the castle at Arendelle. Some people see this the opposite – that Elsa finally came to grips with herself and is empowered. But she isn’t. If she was okay with who she was she wouldn’t flip out when Anna comes. She’s still terrified of herself. She’s scared of what she might do and is continuing to isolate her in the same way she’s done (and had done to her) for her entire life. It isn’t until she truly accepts her role as queen, takes the responsibility for her actions, and accepts the love of her sister that she is able to be happy. She has to move past what has been ingrained in her since childhood, yes. She has to accept herself for who she is, yes. But running away and living on top of the mountain is not the answer.Frozen 2
  • Anna. I am so so happy about her character. She is clumsy and outspoken. She has a temper, is fiercely loyal. She is savvy and intelligent, but makes mistakes and major errors in judgment. She is HUMAN. And she grows and changes throughout the story as well, gaining wisdom, listening to other people, but trusting herself as well.
  • And Kristoff is pretty wonderful as well! I read a post somewhere about how he’s a great example of a strong man who’s not afraid to be a partner with a strong woman. He isn’t cowed by Anna (or Elsa for that matter), but he’s not overbearing either. He’s the one who keeps calling Anna out on her bad decisions, but not in a mocking or cruel way. And he’s quick to praise her as well. They are a team. And it’s inspiring.
  • Everything. I really loved the little humorous bits with Olaf and Sven. Yet, Olaf wasn’t just a throwaway comedic role either. They give him a really important moment with Anna to help her realize the truth about Kristoff (just for starters). The trolls are adorable. It’s just overall a great movie that will warm your heart, even if you are watching a movie about eternal winter!

Why I was disturbed by Dr. NO

Today I watched my first James Bond movie. Yes, somehow I passed my thirtieth year never having seen a Bond movie. I decided it was time to rectify that and what better way than to start from the beginning.

So I borrowed a copy of Dr. No from my trusty local library (seriously, they save my media life) and settled in.

The plot was about what I expected. Even though I’ve never seen a Bond film before there are certain things I knew about the character just because of how pervasive it has become in society. And one of these things is the fact that he is a womanizer. This is part of the film character. But as I watched the film, a few things began to disturb me. Individually they could be brushed off, but together they provide a rather unsettling picture.

dr. no 2In Dr. No our first introduction to Bond, James Bond, is his flirting with a woman at a card table. She makes advances and even sneaks into his room to seduce him (not that it takes much convincing). The thing that threw me is that this woman is completely unimportant. We never see her again. She is not a spy, is not working for anyone, does not appear later for him to save – nothing. In retrospect it seems that her only role in the film is to show how sexually desirable Bond is. He is handsome, debonair, and charming.

Next he flirts with the secretary, but theirs is a give-and-take relationship that is charming rather than disturbing, so I’ll let that one go.

dr. no 1Next Bond meets the secretary of a professor (spoilers) who is involved with the whole evil plot. Bond catches her eavesdropping and invites her to his hotel. Perfectly normal, right? She instead invites him to her apartment. Surprise! She’s in on the plot as well and doesn’t expect him to actually show up because he is supposed to die on the way there. He evades (and kills) his pursuers and shows up. She is in a towel and he kisses her. She protests, but apparently inviting him to her apartment is the only invitation he needs. She goes along with things because she is trying to delay Bond, but there are definite moments of her resisting Bond’s advances which he ignores. The fact that she is one of the “bad guys” or that she becomes a willing participant is not enough for me to gloss over this.

But the most distressing to me was the situation with Honey. But she is a consenting adult! you cry. She is attracted to him and even instigates their physicality to some extent, you argue. But let’s look at the facts.

1. Honey tells Bond that after her father died her landlord forces himself on her as “payment” for letting her stay on for a short time rent free. There is no real reason for this plot point to come up, yet it is clearly explicated for us.

dr. no 32. After waking from their drugged sleep Bond walks in on Honey while she is dressing. She appears distressed at this, clutching the top to her and dressing quickly when his attention is distracted elsewhere. Perhaps she is mostly still affected by their capture and their drugging, but she does not exhibit many signs of being physically attracted to Bond other than that he has saved her life and is the only person in the situation she can rely on. In fact, up until the ending, Honey shows little to no signs of desiring any kind of intimate relationship with Bond.

dr. no 43. During dinner, Bond tries to get her released. Instead she is dragged from the room while Dr. No says, “I am sure the guards will amuse her.” The intent behind the words is very clear in the context. Especially since, according to IMDb, the original line was “I am sure she will amuse the guards.” In addition, when Honey is dragged from the dining room she is wearing a tunic top and a pair of pink slacks. When Bond locates her after he thwarts Dr. No’s plan (and kills the villain) she is chained, spread-eagle on the ground and her pants are missing. I don’t think I am making too great a leap to say that in all likelihood this girl has just been brutalized by at least one guard. Unless they were interrupted by the big plans going on… but then why not just tie her up. Why half strip her and tie her down in that sort of compromising position.

5. Bond and Honey flee aboard a small ship. They run out of gas and the first thought on Bond’s mind? I’m going to seduce this young woman whose life I just saved and who was just potentially abused.

Yes, she kisses him back. Yes, she is the one who moves closer to him. But he is the one who makes the overture. With her history (which has been made clear to us) is it not possible that Honey might feel like she owes Bond some sort of thanks for saving her life? Perhaps not. Perhaps I’m reading too much into all of this. But the fact that this thought can sit in my brain bothers me just as much. That there is evidence to support it is problematic, even if it isn’t the intent.

So where am I going with this? I don’t really know. Am I decrying the Bond movies? No. Am I judging the whole franchise on this one movie? No. I plan on watching more and I’ll keep you apprised of any other observations I make. Other movies, other books, other media have similar or worse threads running through them. Acknowledging their existence and their problematic-ness is a good step. Doesn’t mean we can’t like James Bond, but it does mean that maybe we should think more about what happens in the things we read and watch and what message they are conveying, even unconsciously.