By Steve Greene | Criticwire August 8, 2012 at 1:23PM
The last time Jeremy Renner made his first entry into a pre-existing franchise with a big-name star, “Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol” was a surprise hit with many critics. Whether it’s the presence of Renner or mere coincidence, the early returns from his latest effort, “The Bourne Legacy” have put him on a similar track. The praise for the newest Bourne film isn’t quite as strong as that given to Brad Bird’s live-action directorial debut, but the initial wave of support for the for enough to make it the Criticwire Pick of the Week.
As critical feedback is still seeping its way out for public consumption, the film is doing well with our fellow bloggers, with Anne Thompson and The Playlist’s Drew Taylor both wrote glowing reviews of Tony Gilroy’s quasi-sequel. Thompson credits the star for grounding the action in a solid, central figure while also explaining that "while Gilroy is not as dazzling a shooter as Greengrass, he's a fine director with an eye for the details that ground a movie in some version of reality, which helps in a picture crammed with such jargon as 'viral receptor mapping' and 'genomic targeting.'"
One of the keys for Taylor is the film manages to establish its own scope, rather than be overly beholden to its predecessors. "What may surprise and ultimately impress viewers is just how slavish 'Legacy' is to the 'Bourne' origins initially, and yet how the series spins itself off into another direction that is far less dependent on the franchise than you might have originally imagined," he writes, adding, "In that sense, this fourth picture embraces the familiar, while straddling the uncharted."
Another sequel of sorts that we’ve discussed previously here on Criticwire is "2 Days in New York," Julie Delpy’s follow-up to 2007’s "2 Days in Paris." When the film became available online a few weeks ago, we compiled a VODetails roundup of reviews from various Criticwire members. Critics were split as to the quality of "New York" relative to "Paris," but all seemed to single out the distinctive nature of Delpy’s writing. Chris Rock also drew attention for bringing an atypical comedic style to his performance as the wife of Delpy, who pulls triple duty as writer, director and co-star.
One final notable release with a number of different reviews to sift through is Spike Lee’s "Red Hook Summer," a film that, like "2 Days in New York" premiered at Sundance this past January. The story of a young boy from Atlanta forced to spend the summer in Brooklyn with his minister grandfather. Despite sharing certain story elements with his seminal "Do the Right Thing," Lee’s been pretty adamant that this is not a sequel.
And, while many critics agree that "Red Hook Summer" shows flashes of the filmmaker’s brilliance, the overall work has an inconsistency that will likely turn off a number of potential audience members. DVDTalk’s Jason Bailey describes that "Lee's instincts fail occasionally, his pacing often slack, his polemical dialogue frequently getting away from him...in his better films, the big hypotheses are at least greased into the conversations more convincingly."
Even so, Eric Kohn writes in his Indiewire review that "there's an argument one could make for Lee's scattershot approach. What it lacks in consistency, it keeps in check with furious pathos about the struggle to overcome lower-class roots." Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir furthers that claim, theorizing, "I would even argue that the shambolic, semi-improvised quality of 'Red Hook Summer' is essential to its spirit." Fans of Spike Lee’s work (or at least those familiar with the highly acclaimed entries into his filmography) will likely find at least a handful of moments to latch on to.
Also making their way to theaters this weekend are Christopher Neil’s Sundance comedy "Goats," the Meryl Streep-Tommy Lee Jones marriage counseling dramedy "Hope Springs" and the Jay Roach political satire "The Campaign."