With one exception, I enjoyed all of these movies -- especially The Dark Knight Rises -- though I am not an avid enough fan to dig deeply into their self-referential allusions and mythic constructs. Because the professional critics are more familiar with these oeuvres, I will leave the sleuthing to, in this case, Manohla Dargis, who reviewed all four of these films for The New York Times.
The Dark Knight Rises is the final film in Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed, dark Manichean trilogy that began with the 2005 origin story Batman Begins and was followed by 2008's The Dark Knight. (Manohla Dargis's NYT review/A NYT Critics' Pick)
Jeremy Renner takes over from Matt Damon in Tony Gilroy's The Bourne Legacy, and as Manohla Dargis observes, Gilroy "doesn’t work off the [Robert Ludlum] franchise’s foundation for long, instead veering off to juggle his many new faces and places." The exchange I found most interesting in The Bourne Legacy I have already cited in my Zero Dark Thirty entry, but I will repeat it here.
Eric, a retired US Air Force colonel responsible for overseeing the CIA's clandestine operations, remembers a conversation he had with Aaron, a member of a US Defense Department's black ops program, in the field:
Eric (Edward Norton): We got screwed on the intel, okay? Nobody knew those people were in there. It would be perfectly normal for a person to have doubts about the morality of what we just asked you to do.
Aaron (Jeremy Renner): Is that a question, sir?
Eric: No, it's not. Tune in to what I'm trying to say to you. Do you know what a Sin Eater is?
[Aaron shakes his head]
Well, that's what we are. We are the Sin Eaters. It means that we take the moral excrement that we find in this equation and we bury it deep down inside of us so that the rest of our cause can stay pure. That is the job. We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary. You understand?
Aaron: Will that be all?
I like the idea of the Sin Eater, though I take issue with the idea that he keeps "the rest of [the] cause pure." Still, the exchange carries some weight even it the rest of the film is ethics-lite. (Manohla Dargis's NYT review)
James Patterson created the Alex Cross franchise, but if director Rob Cohen and actor Tyler Perry (that casting alone should have told me something) think they're going to fly with it, they are out of their minds. This thing is a real stinker. (Manohla Dargis's NYT review)
I have seen a number of the classic Bond films, but I haven't felt compelled to see those that have come out in recent years -- so I was glad I decided to go to Sam Mendes's Skyfall. From the very beginning, as the opening credits roll, you know you're in for a classy production. The credits evoke 1950s and '60s slickly clever graphics, rhythmic montage, and a fabulous theme song delivered by Adele. Daniel Craig is a cool Bond (though isn't everyone's fave Sean Connery?), and Javier Bardem embodies his arch nemesis Silva, a sadistic narcissist, with aplomb. I'm not much of what Manohla Dargis labels a "Bondologist," but even I had fun with the insider allusions (which I won't spoil) when I caught them. (Manohla Dargis's NYT review/A NYT Critics' Pick)