This Week at the Movies

'The Bourne Legacy' and 'Hope Springs' are enjoyable summer fare, but 'Red Hook Summer' and 'The Campaign' are hit and miss.

Ignore the naysayers who are calling "The Bourne Legacy" a letdown.

The picture is a fast-paced and cerebral entry into the popular series based on Robert Ludlum's books. In this film, super agent Jason Bourne is nowhere to be seen, other than the occasional flash of his face on a news program, but the character still manages to be ever-present.

In "Legacy," Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, another man trained as a lethal operative who discovers that his intelligence operation is being shut down. The group's shadowy leaders - played by Edward Norton and Stacy Keach - plan on leaving no traces behind and order for the program's operatives as well as the doctors who monitor them to be bumped off.

Cross survives by pure chance - and with a little help from some excellent marksmanship - and decides to find out why he is suddenly being hunted. He brings along a doctor (Rachel Weisz), who is nearly killed first in a workplace shooting and, later, after some shady characters show up at her house during one of the picture's more intense sequences.

"The Bourne Legacy" is nothing more than a well-made summer action thriller, but it delivers with some terrific set pieces, including a rooftop chase and a motorcycle pursuit, and flesh and blood characters.

My only complaint was with its out-of-the-blue sudden ending, which obviously leaves room for a sequel. But this is a series that I don't mind continuing to follow.

It's always great to see a new film from Spike Lee, even when it doesn't rank with the provocative filmmaker's better work.

"Red Hook Summer" is a return to the Brooklyn-based narratives that Lee told so well with his 1989 classic "Do the Right Thing" as well as "Crooklyn" and "Clockers." His newest film even includes a brief cameo from Mookie (played by Lee), who is still delivering pizzas.

But the cast of "Red Hook" is full of newcomers and, unfortunately, some of the performances struck me as awkward. Some of the film's dialogue also feels a bit forced, especially between the movie's young protagonist Flik (Jules Brown), who has been transported from Atlanta to the titular community for the summer to stay with his preacher grandfather Enoch (Clarke Peters), and his pal Chazz (Toni Lysaith).

Also, many of the film's scenes revolve around Enoch's church and the sermons, which strike upon many of the film's themes, go on a bit too long.

But it's great to see Lee return to the type of low-budget personal filmmaking that made his 1980s and 1990s work so refreshing. "Red Hook Summer" has some solid ideas and includes some interesting stylistic touches, but it's not one of the director's better films.

This past weekend saw the release of two comedies - "Hope Springs" and "The Campaign," the first of which was a surprisingly charming dramedy and the latter an occasionally funny, but not exactly groundbreaking, satire of the U.S. political system.

In "Hope Springs," Meryl Streep is Kay, who has become dissatisfied with her 31-year marriage to crotchety Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). Much to Arnold's chagrin, Kay signs the couple up for intensive counseling with a couple's specialist (a surprisingly serious Steve Carell).

While some obvious hijinks involving an older couple attempting to spice up their love lives ensue, the film takes a dramatic turn in its second half and ends up having a bit more gravitas than I would have expected. Of course, Streep and Jones - both great actors - handle the material with grace and style. It's a charming film.

"The Campaign," on the other hand, is among the summer's most raucous. The film follows the increasingly outlandish campaign between a scandal-plagued Senator (Will Ferrell) and his daffy opponent (Zach Galifianakis), both of whom take mudslinging to the next level.

The good news is that the picture has some big laughs, especially during a sequence in which Galifianakis asks his family to spill the beans on any past behavior that might embarrassingly surface during the course of the campaign. Imagine the worst. It's one of the movie's funnier scenes.

The not-so-great news is that "The Campaign" does not exactly offer up anything we don't already know about our political system and its targets are pretty vague. And it culminates with its two lead characters making sudden changes of heart and personality that are a bit difficult to swallow.

But if you're looking for a few good laughs and have enjoyed previous films starring Ferrell and Galifianakis, then you could certainly do worse than "The Campaign."

"The Bourne Legacy" and "Hope Springs" are playing at AMC Loews Bay Terrace 6. "Bourne," "Hope Springs" and "The Campaign" are also showing at Douglaston's Movie World.

"Red Hook Summer" is screening at the Sunshine Cinema.


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