For the week of December 4th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment is bringing The Bourne Legacy to Blu-ray. This picture, the fourth installment in the Bourne franchise, tasked writer/director Tony Gilroy with an unenviable job: he had to reboot the series in a way that didn't invalidate the efforts of previous Bourne stewards Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass. What Gilroy devised was ingenious - and more than a little controversial; he turns The Bourne Legacy from a sequel into a "sidequel." Much of the film runs parallel with The Bourne Ultimatum, and Gilroy shows how the events of that film bled over into the world of Bourne-surrogate Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner, much more lively and engaged here than he was in The Avengers). It isn't a perfect fit - at a certain point, the Ultimatum interruptions become distracting rather than satisfying - but by and large, The Bourne Legacy is more entertaining than it has any right to be.
Kenneth Brown suggests how the creative tension that went into creating the story manifested itself in the actual movie, writing that "Legacy is essentially two competing films: one that wants to be a Bourne contender and one that wants to be a Bourne competitor. When everyone stops talking and Cross does his thing - take out a drone with a sniper rifle, clear a farm house of heavily armed agents, fight off a team of security guards, race to save Shearing, hop from rooftop to rooftop or weave through traffic within an inch of a bitter end - Legacy fits right in, Damon or no Damon...Broadening the scope of the Bourne universe was a necessity...and the film ends with enough promise to suggest a second Aaron Cross outing wouldn't be a terrible idea."
Tuesday also brings one of cinema's buried treasures, courtesy of the Criterion Collection: Following. On its own, the film is a strikingly effective neo-noir; despite its micro-budget and amateur cast, Following makes an impact through its blend of old and new cinema styles - it feels as though Don't Look Now-era Nicolas Roeg shot In a Lonely Place in how deftly it abstracts old noir tropes. However, Following also marks the first feature film from acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and in that context, it's even more vital to cinephiles. In its fascination with memory and illusion, in the way it takes takes familiar genre archetypes and makes them unreliable and menacing, Following forecasts the major obsessions that would dominate Nolan's work from Memento through this year's The Dark Knight Rises.
In his Blu-ray review, Svet Atanasov praises Nolan's early effort, how "if the directors that made many of the greatest noir films from the early '40s and '50s were still alive today, I think that they would be making films that looked a lot like Christopher Nolan's Following...This is a flawless film, really. The British director has gone on to shoot some really big and very successful films since 1998, but I think that Following remains his masterpiece."
Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy also hits Blu-ray this week. Disney's four-color fantasy never received the attention it should have - it opened within spitting distance of Tim Burton's Batman, which garnered the lion's share of the acclaim and the box-office dollars - and that's a shame, seeing as how energetically and vividly Beatty recreates the world of Chester Gould's iconic lawman. Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro bathes the whole film in bright primary colors, and John Caglione Jr.'s wonderfully grotesque makeup effects helped transform an all-star cast that includes Al Pacino, Mandy Patinkin, Madonna, Dick Van Dyke, James Caan, Paul Sorvino, Seymour Cassel, Kathy Bates, Dustin Hoffman, and Beatty himself. Of the many comic-book-to-movie adaptations, this one is ripe for rediscovery.
Finally, TV-on-Blu-ray gets another addition through the release of Girls: The Complete First Season. With the 2010 feature film Tiny Furniture, writer/director Lena Dunham definitely positioned herself as the heir apparent to Woody Allen, and her HBO comedy Girls seems to affirm that promise. In some ways, it's the anti-Sex and the City; Dunham's quartet of twenty-somethings (Dunham, Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, and Zosia Mamet) constantly struggle to find - and keep - even a modicum of professional and personal satisfaction. To them, the world is random and cruel and terribly strange, but for us, it's often quite hilarious, thanks to Dunham's pitch-perfect dialogue and the guiding hand of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up mastermind Judd Apatow.
Following, The Qatsi Trilogy, Ashanti, and The Wild Geese for me. I can't recommend The Wild Geese highly enough, a terrific late 1970s mercenary special ops movie, the film that set the bar for many imitators to come.