Bourne again: Renner takes over
Owls Head — The Bourne Legacy (Universal, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 135 min.). Not sure if Matt Damon was too busy or simply tired of playing Jason Bourne, but writer-director Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first three films, expands Robert Ludlum’s universe for this film, which occurs the same time as “The Bourne Ultimatum,” events of which are often referred to. Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, part of the secret Outcome project of agents whose mind and bodies are enhanced through drugs (yes, TV’s “Nikita” used a similar approach). However, when Bourne starts revealing secrets about Treadstone and Black Briar, NRAG head, retired Air Force Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton), orders all the programs shut down with extreme prejudice, including Outcome.
The film opens with Cross training in Alaska. He comes in early because he has dropped his meds and, while waiting for pickup, the cabin where he and another agent are waiting is attacked and destroyed by a drone. The film shows the assassination of British journalist Simon Ross, whom Bourne had gone to with information after escaping from Russia. With nearly all the other agents dead, Cross seeks Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) for more of his meds. He does not realize she is the only survivor of a massacre at her lab -- more NRAG work -- but he arrives in time to prevent her murder. Dr. Shearing explains his body already has been engineered to have the physical abilities without meds, and Cross says let’s do the same with my mental abilities. So they head to the processing lab in Manila. Once there, Byer sets a Tharx agent (a super-super secret program) on them. The film works wonderfully in the action sequences, especially the closing sequence in Manila that includes rooftops (hello Jason Bourne!) and motorcycles. The epilogue is pure James Bond by the way. Where the film sags is when Cross and the doctor have to talk to each other.
Extras include three deleted scenes (6:48, including a policeman stopping Cross for speeding and Albert Finney as Dr. Albert Hirsch leave a phone message for his daughter before he dies); the producer on continuing the series without Bourne (6:11); filmmaker commentary; a look at introducing Cross; tests of the wolf sequences; location shooting; and a closer look at the motorcycle chase. More than half are Blu-ray exclusives. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 3 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it
Collision Earth (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray or standard DVD,PG, 90 min.). Well the world did not end Friday, but it almost does every Saturday in the SyFy disaster movie of the week. Two are review here. This, the lesser of the two, has a huge solar flare that is mostly a unique magnetic event, send a charged Mercury out of orbit and heading straight for Earth. Dr. James Preston (Kirk Acevedo) had been a proponent and creator of Project 7, an orbital defense system that could deflect meteors if they approach Earth too closely. However, the project was shelved when funding went to a missile defense system, which, of course, padded the pockets of many. Nothing is really followed through much in the film, which turns into an endless series of running around for Preston, his friend and two college students who drop in. The students (laughably) are the only ones able to pick up the distress messages from the Nautilus, the spacecraft that was about to lead on Mercury when the disaster happened. They pick up the messages on a home-made radio and, coincidentally, the only survivor of the Mercury mission is Preston’s wife (Diane Farr). The film goes for some off-the-wall comedy at times (the plane junkyard sequence) and the special effects on Earth, when cars get lifted into the sky and then dropped, are so cheap that they are laughable. There are no extras. Grade: film 2 stars
Snowmageddon (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 88 min.). This SyFy original actually is not bad. It is set in snowy Normal, Alaska, and the disasters include earthquakes that set off fires, a storm that produces ice meteorites, an avalanche (the only snow threat) and the awakening of a volcano. Also, two men are trapped in a bus that has had an electrical power pole fall on it. A fantasy element has everything that happens to the town also happen in a snow globe that was mysteriously left at Sheriff John Miller’s (David Cubitt) door. Laura Harris plays his wife and the two children are played by Magda Apanowicz and Dylan Matzke. Michael Hogan (the new “Battlestar Galactica” series) plays the wise man of the town and Jeff C. Ballard is famous snowboarder Derrick Reed, who is on the mountain when the ice storm and then avalanche hit. The characters themselves make parallels to “The Lord of the Rings,” but obviously the film is nowhere in that league. It is entertaining, though. Again, there are no extras. Grade: film 2.75 stars
Silent Night (Anchor Bay, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 93 min.). If you want a gory Christmas-themed horror movie, this is the one you should pick up. It is sort of a sequel to 1984’s “Silent Night, Deadly Night,” with a Santa killer who id offing those who are naughty, such as the trio in the porn industry (and, yes, there is a naked actress running outside who meets up with a wood chipper) and the sleazy priest. In an unusual role for him, Malcolm McDowell plays Sheriff Cooper, while Jaime King is Deputy Audrey Bradimore, trying to recover from a deadly mistake. Brendan Fehr (“TV’s “Roswell”) plays another deputy, who is killed within the first five minutes. Donal Logue plays a sarcastic Santa that leaves all the children stunned or crying. And the killer Santa is hard to find because it is Christmas Eve, time of the annual Santa festival and parade of Santas in Cryer, Wisconsin. Extras include four deleted scenes (4:55) and a behind-the-scenes look (6:14). Grade: film 2.75 stars; extra 1.5 stars
Arthur Christmas (Sony, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG, 97 min.). On the other hand, this wonderful animated film is nearly a new Christmas classic. Arthur Christmas (voiced by James McAvoy) is the current Santa Claus’ younger son, a bit of a bumbler, but with a heart that views Christmas as bringing pure joy to children all around the world. And how does Santa (Jim Broadbent) deliver all those presents? Well, that is the film’s magic. Older son Steve (Hugh Laurie) runs a command center, helped by hundreds of elves. Santa also has a spaceship-looking and -operating sleigh that travels 150,000 miles an hour. It hovers over a town and hundreds more elves scamper down ropes to deliver the presents. A Code Red involves when there is a “Waker,” a child who is not asleep. However, on this Christmas Eve, one present, a bicycle for a little girl, is knocked aside. Steve is content that they have done their best and one undelivered present is acceptable. It is not acceptable to Arthur, though, who enlists 136-year-old Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) to help him deliver the present old-style in a sleigh driven by reindeer and fairy dust. Of course, they keep going off course and are seen as a UFO everywhere --eventually, they even are shot down. The film is cure, clever and a lot of fun. Extras include featurettes on the Claus family and the elves; an elf recruitment video; and five animation progression reels. A 3D version also is available. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 2.75 stars
Jack Frost (1979, Warner DVD, NR, 49 min.). This is a remastered version of the Rankin/Bass animated film about the crafty cold-weather elf who, one winter, visits the town of January Junction and falls in love with Elisa. That turns him into a human boy, but he has to get Elisa away from the clutches of Kubla Kraus the Cossack, who has an army of mechanical men. Buddy Hackett provides the voice of groundhog narrator Pardon-Me-Pete, while Robert Morse voices Jack. Larry Storch is Papa and Paul Frees is Kubla Kraus. Extras show children how to make holiday crafts and enable them to sing along with Snip the Snowflake Maker.
12 Days of Christmas (Lifetime/ NewVideo, 12 DVDs, 17 hours 28 min.). This collection groups 12 holiday-themed films from the Lifetime channel. They are “The Road to Christmas” with Jennifer Grey, “Recipe for a Perfect Christmas,” “Home By Christmas” with Linda Hamilton, “Holiday Switch” with Nicole Eggert, “A Very Merry Daughter of the Bride,” “Under the Mistletoe,” “Holiday Wishes,” “Christmas in Paradise,” “Deck the Halls,” “His & Her Christmas” and “Will You Merry Me?”