Stale Popcorn is Still Popcorn: Jason Bourne is Still Jason Bourne

If George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road set the gold standard for a director returning to an old franchise and Steven Spielberg’s return to Indiana Jones with Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is an example of a flop, then Paul Greengrass’s effort for Jason Bourne lands squarely in the middle. The action is as exciting as ever and all the performances are engaging, but the movie’s title indicates just how little effort was put into making the latest installment of the Bourne franchise fresh and unique. The film continues the original trilogy’s story of former CIA assassin Jason Bourne, once again played subtly but convincingly by Matt Damon. The details of the plot are more or less unimportant. Bourne is still on the run and he’s still trying to find out information about his past (and the sky’s still blue, by the way).


A Story of Selective Remembrance: Angkor Awakens at Cornell Cinema

Angkor Awakens: A Portrait of Cambodia (directed by Prof. Robert Lieberman, physics, M.S. ’65 ) starts with a rush of motion, the camera speeding up a flight of stairs with increasing momentum, panning out to reveal lush hills, stone steps and a vibrant earth that stretches on and on. Ambient music fills the theatre; the screen slips to a red backdrop, with the shadows of traditional dancers gliding about; a voiceover extracted from one of the many interviews speaks, introducing us to an eighty-minute documentary probe into Cambodia. Following independence from France, the Cambodia of the ’60s and ’70s was sucked into the Cold War when its neighbor Vietnam fell into civil chaos, despite efforts to stay neutral. What eventually emerged from the din and struggle for national survival was the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge, an extremist Communist group led by Pol Pot, which proceeded to commit one of the worst mass killings of the 20th century, claiming up to two million lives. Angkor Awakens is a poignant, revealing documentary in how it chooses to look at this highly volatile and violent time.


Unpacking Robert Frank at Cornell Cinema: Art within Art

Don’t Blink: Robert Frank, showing at Cornell Cinema this Wednesday, tells the story behind a photograph. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in his lifetime Robert Frank, named by his former employer, The New York Times, as “the world’s pre-eminent living photographer,” captures the unusual and the unseen. If you’ve never heard of Robert Frank, Don’t Blink will make you fall in love with him. If you’ve heard what critics say about the eccentric artist, Don’t Blink will have you discredit every insult.

The film frames Robert Frank as a man eschewing all expectations — or, in other words, fulfilling his stereotype: that of a frustrated artist. He’s expressed his creative urges for 70 years by freezing time, and yet he can’t stand still.


A New Look: Eva Hesse at Cornell Cinema

Watching Eva Hesse, I felt almost certain that I had seen artist Eva Hesse’s work somewhere. The latex and fiberglass sculptures, the thrown-about ropes and the arrangement of her shapes seemed to me incredibly modern, given that Hesse had worked primarily during the sixties. Perhaps it’s just that by now, Hesse is well-known in context of the modern art movement, with several posthumous exhibitions. For example, following her death in 1970, Hesse’s work was displayed in a grand exhibition at the famous Guggenheim Museum — weird, absurd sculptures that had never been quite been seen before Hesse were gathered together and in the exhibit, five years’ worth of her work completely filled the floors of the Guggenheim, a remarkable feat given the size of the museum and Hesse’s deteriorating health prior to her death as her friends note in the new 2016 art documentary Eva Hesse. Eva Hesse does more than simply recounting the life of an artist, or discussing an art movement — it explores and examines the complex interconnections between Hesse’s art and her life, detailing the development and fluidity of her times.


The Not So Old West: The Magnificent Seven Updated

Though there were some notable cinematic disappointments to come out of 2016 (I’m looking at you Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), this year we, at least, saw everyone’s favorite regal blue tang overcome her short-term memory loss to be reunited with her family and Ryan Reynolds finally redeem himself from the atrocity that was Green Lantern. After the release of Suicide Squad in August, I was expecting the box office to be relatively light on major blockbuster releases until early November, when Marvel’s Doctor Strange will grace screens. After all, seeing the world get devastated three different times in three different movies (see: Independence Day: Resurgence, X-Men Apocalypse and The 5th Wave) gets cumbersome. Even I, an action movie connoisseur, needed a break from the carnage and violence. But rising up from the dust coming in out of nowhere comes Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven, an explosive remake of the 1960 film of the same name (which, in turn, was a remake of the 1959 film Seven Samurai).


Right Now, Wrong Then: Korean Mumblecore and Déjà Vu

An established preoccupation among film directors is how the re-staging of a scene from different perspectives alters the tone, message and experience of an otherwise unchanged plot. Whether it’s the strictly formal experimentation of The Five Obstructions or the philosophical interrogation of subjectivity in Rashomon, even the most strikingly distinct auteurs are curious to witness how changes, whether they be subtly atmospheric or obviously performative, redefine the entire message of a scene, an act, or an entire film. Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s Right Now, Wrong Then follows the flirtatious courtship of a middle-aged arthouse director and a younger painter over the course of a day, before restaging the exact same events with differences both slight and noticeable. Having bagged the top prize at Locarno last year, Sang-soo’s latest film is not only an intriguing vehicle of cinematic experimentation, but an eloquent statement on the importance of selflessness in developing meaningful human connection. The first half observes Ham Chun-su, a well-respected Korean filmmaker, visit the city of Suwon, where one of his films is being screened.


Storks Delivers a Jolly Good Time

In an otherwise relatively lackluster year for film, animation has been doing very well for itself. Disney and Pixar put out incredible successes earlier this year, and Laika delivered a lovingly crafted epic tale. And now Warner Animation Group has stepped up to the plate with Storks. Written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, with Doug Sweetland also joining as director, this film is WAG’s second feature production. Their first, The Lego Movie, was a smash hit that frankly blew away my expectations.


Blair Witch Casts a Comic Spell

For a sequel to a film that is credited with popularizing the entire “found footage” genre, Blair Witch (2016) is quite underwhelming. In the film, James (James Allen McCune) is looking for his sister Heather (the main female character from The Blair Witch Project) in the Black Hills Forest in Maryland. Like the first film, this has also been made in the “found footage” format, which can lead to some creative shots. I’m not a big fan of this style of filmmaking, but a good example can be found in the Paranormal Activity movies. The technology used in the cinematography, and how we witness the paranormal, is what makes the films unique.


Café Society Is Short and a Little Too Sweet

Woody Allen’s latest film, Café Society stars Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby Dorfman, a Bronx native trying out Hollywood for the first time under the wing of his uncle, prominent film executive Phil Stern (Steve Carell). Bobby begins working for his uncle and meets members of the 1930s Hollywood elite. Along the way he falls in love with the cool and refreshing Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), his uncle’s secretary. Vonnie appears to reject the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but when we learn she is having an affair with Bobby’s uncle, it becomes apparent that she wants to be a part of “Café Society” just as much as anyone else. Their complicated romance has a lasting effect on Bobby, and shapes the rest of his journey throughout the film.


The Whiteness in Life: Wedding Doll at Cornell Cinema

Sometimes in our lives, there’s nothing sadder than looking down at the toilet paper roll in a bathroom stall and seeing only the empty cardboard ring. There’s no moment more lonely, no feeling so isolating, no issue equally pressing. Nitzan Gilday’s film, Wedding Doll, showing at Cornell Cinema this Wednesday, puts things in perspective. Because, there is something sadder than looking at that hopeless cardboard ring: A paperless roll in a toilet paper factory’s solitary bathroom. And, believe it or not, there are moments more desperate than that.