Friday, August 10, 2012

In Theaters: 'Red Hook Summer' & 'The Bourne Legacy'

ONE of Brooklyn’s greatest ambassadors is none other than Spike Lee. The director, writer, actor and sometime-activist loves the borough that some refer to as “God’s Country.”

Despite his fame and fortune, SL is still holding it down in the country. This extends to his films, too, in particular a series dubbed the “Chronicles of Brooklyn.” It started with “She’s Gotta Have It” and the culture-transforming “Do the Right Thing.” The last film in the series was “He Got Game.” The latest is “Red Hook Summer,” which SL wrote and directed. It opens in limited release today. (See video above).

Despite some subject matter that put it in danger of an NC-17 rating, “Red Hook Summer” is essentially a coming-of-age film. In a geographic reversal, 13-year-old Flik Royale (Jules Brown) is planted in New York where he is to meet for the first time and live with his paternal grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters). Poor Flik can’t catch a break.

On the one hand, his massively religious grandfather is trying to convert him. On the otherhand, this middle-class Atlanta boy is learning – sometimes the hard way – about life in the big city. In the projects … It’s hard out here for an imp!

'Tis always refreshing to see any ethnic group portrayed in various degrees of its complexity. In his 20-plus-year career behind (and sometimes in front of) the camera, SL has never strayed from examining black folk in our numerous shades of gray. Keep doing the right thing, Spike.

“Red Hook Summer” is rated R for brief violence, language and a disturbing situation.

Also opening today, nationwide, is another film in the “Bourne” franchise.

Don’t expect to see Matt Damon, though. He begged off starring in the fourth installment of the successful films flimsily based on Robert Ludlum’s spy novel. Horrors! One can just see the suits at Universal Pictures sitting around a conference table twiddling fingers and fondling Blackberrys, i-’s and other smart phones trying to figure out how to keep milking this cash cow.

Eureka! In a clever bit of marketing, they cheekily tell the moviegoing public that there was never just one Bourne, in a story extrapolated by Tony Gilroy who also directs. Apparently, Bournes or Bourne types are as potentially numerous as the Borg. Well, goodbye Jason Bourne aka Matt Damon and hello Aaron Cross aka Jeremy Renner.

Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a wanted and haunted man in "The Bourne Legacy." Photo by Mary Cybulski for Universal Studios.

Not surprisingly, there is lots of action. Fasten your seatbelts to avoid whiplash; it’s a bumpy ride. No need to know the synopsis beyond the fact that Aaron has gone rogue and must be restrained by any means necessary. On either side of the misunderstood agent are new and returning faces in the guise of Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, Joan Allen and Scott Glenn.

All the A-list star power notwithstanding, this is JR’s film. But can he make it his own as did his predecessor? No doubt, viewers will decide.

“The Bourne Legacy is rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences.

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