Notes from the back row 

Bourne again

This time of year, when the back-to-school-sale ads start popping up, it’s nice to be an adult — August means not much longer until a mid-week matinee is peaceful and tolerable again.

The other rad thing about being “all grows up” is that sometimes people make an action movie just for you — something clever with wit and thought sprinkled in amongst the glory shots of explosions and flying cars. The Bourne Ultimatum, opening Friday at the Village 8, is such a film.

By far the best Threequel of this summer, Ultimatum continues the saga of Jason Bourne, a dude who can kick serious ass but has no recollection of how he learned such skills or who he really is. In the first film he had to figure this out. Then he had to find who erased his memory and get some payback.

This time around, he’s content just to chill and lead a normal life. Until a journalist stumbles onto some super-secret info about a Black-ops CIA unit, info the bigwigs in Washington really don’t want getting out. Bourne, involved again, needs to contact the journalist and discover more about his past while the CIA just wants to kill everyone involved. What follows is a fast-paced, action-packed battle of wits and intelligence systems, with beatings, rooftop chases, double crosses, car wrecks and paving style that would suit a speed freak on a rollercoaster.

Matt Damon, as Bourne, is really good — he doesn’t say much but he hurts a lot of people, looks real badass, and is turning into a bona fide action star. Director Paul Greengrass ( United 93) is back (he did the second Bourne film) and relies heavily on the restless handheld camera and quick, nervous editing. While this does muddle a few of the action sequences, overall it’s a very engaging technique that quickly draws you into the flick.

Speaking of action, this flick has tons of it — Greengrass delivers five good chase scenes, from crowded London subway stations to the busy streets and rooftops of Tangier. The stunts and camerawork are fantastic and Bourne is the most action-packed flick of the summer. It does lack a tiny bit in character development (the villains are pretty lame) and thematic resonance but Damon and crew more than make up for it in the ass-kicking, blood-pumping thrills department.

Apparently this is the last Bourne flick (it has set a new standard for the espionage sub-genre) but personally I’d like to see a Bourne/Bond crossover, R-Rated of course, for us adults.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Underdog comes out on Friday, hoping to bank on adult nostalgia. Remember the Underdog cartoon? Me neither, it ran from 1964 to ’73 and from what I understand it was a Superman parody about a dog who’d pop some sort of pill (ie take drugs) and get super powers to save the world. I guess he spoke in hip, rhyming jive talk and spent much of his time saving dog-reporter Sweet Polly Purebred from danger.

Anyhow it sounds like a pretty subversive cartoon for the acid generation but this live-action, big-screen Disney adaptation is, unfortunately, looking more like Garfield than Scooby Doo. Jason Lee does the dog voice and there is a midget in there too, but it’s probably best to avoid this, unless you’re a dog. Or a kid looking to get as many movies in as possible before September slams you right back in the classroom. Or a really bored, high or nostalgic adult with nothing better to do. These are, after all, the dog days of summer.

AT VILLAGE 8 Aug. 3-9: Bourne Ultimatum; Underdog; Simpsons; Chuck and Larry; Hairspray; Transformers; No Reservations; Harry Potter.

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