Posts Tagged ‘matt damon’

jason-bourne

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is no longer suffering from amnesia and is off the grid, making a living by fighting illegally in Greece.  Former CIA analyst Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) is now working with hacktivist Christian Dussault (Vinzenz Kiefer) in Iceland.  Nicky hacks files related to the Treadstone operation, and finds out that Bourne’s father was involved in Treadstone. Nicky and Jason meet during a violent demonstration in Greece, where they are being tailed by a CIA assassin, nicknamed the Asset. (Vincent Cassell)  The asset shoots Nicky, but Jason escapes to Berlin to meet Dussalt.  In Berlin, Jason learns that ex-CIA agent Malcolm Smith (Bill Camp) was intimately involved in Operation Treadstone.  In London, Jason meets Smith, all the while being followed by The Asset.  As the chase continues, divisions grow between CIA director Dewey, (Tommy Lee Jones) and his protégé Heather Lee. (Alicia Wikander )  Lee believes she can bring Bourne back to the CIA without violence, while Dewey wants Bourne dead or alive.

While tailing Bourne, CIA Director Dewey is also meeting with tech wiz Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed) founder of Deep Dream.  Kallor says that Deep Dream is all about internet privacy, but if that’s true, why is he talking to Dewey?  What does Jason learn from Malcolm about Treadstone and his father’s involvement in Treadstone?  Does The Asset find Jason Bourne?

Jason Bourne doesn’t give the audience much for continuity.  The last time Bourne was seen he was swimming away, the movie doesn’t say how he got to Greece.  It’s just an article of faith that he does get away.  There are element of this movie that are interesting, the personal aspect of Bourne’s fight, the involvement of his father, the re-emergence of Nicky Parsons, the distancing of Bourne from the hacker character.  Bourne is not interested in bringing down the CIA, even though he could.  I liked that aspect of the movie.  There are things I didn’t like about the plot, the illegal fighting scene seemed to be more a vanity scene than integral to the plot.  Also the sub-plot with Dewey and Kalloor was underdeveloped, and really seemed unnecessary, and the ending was left open-ended, for yet another sequel, which will happen, because of the commercial success of this movie.

Matt Damon is perfectly suited to play Jason Bourne, the stoic action hero.  Damon uses the economy of words to his advantage, when he speaks it commands attention.  He’s very much in the Clint Eastwood mold in the Bourne movies, he doesn’t say much, but his character acts when necessary.  He’s one of the few people who can play an intelligent action hero.  It’s nice to see Julia Stiles again, she and Damon have a nice onscreen chemistry.  Tommy Lee Jones plays the CIA Director as a no-nonsense gritty character who gets the job done whatever means necessary, something about him playing people in positions of authority, just makes sense.  Alicia Vikander is an interesting addition, her character is not going by the book here, she wants to bring Bourne in alive, but she also wants to impress the CIA director. Vikander walks the tightrope well, but the accent she uses is odd. Riz Ahmed doesn’t fare well here, because the role is underwritten.

The direction is superb, this is first and foremost an action film, and it works as an action film, despite underdeveloped characters and continuity plot holes. Director Paul Greengrass  who’s directed all four of these films knows this territory well, and keeps the action surging forward.  There are two big action scenes one in Greece, one in Las Vegas, and Greengrass keeps the pacing quick enough to keep the movie interesting enough to get to the big Vegas action scene.  He gets mostly good performances from the top-notch cast.  Greengrass also directed United 93, and Captain Phillips, two great movies in their own right.

Jason Bourne:  The action hero born again.

rainmaker

Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon) is a recent graduate of law school, looking for a job.  He visits Bruiser Stone’s (Mickey Rourke) law firm, and Bruiser asks Rudy to sign up prospective clients for the law firm.  One of those clients is Colleen Birdsong (Theresa Wright) a widow who wants to leave her considerable estate to a televangelist.  Colleen takes Rudy in as a border.  Another prospective client is Donnie Ray Black. (Johnny Whitworth) Donnie Ray is dying of leukemia, and his insurance company, Great Benefit has denied his claim for a bone marrow transplant eight times.   Bruiser Stone’s lawfirm suddenly comes under investigation by the FBI for racketeering, Rudy and associate Deck Schifflett (Danny DeVito) deftly move to open their own firm. While ambulance chasing Rudy sees Kelly Riker (Claire Danes) in the hospital, Kelly was put there by hubby Cliff (Andrew Shue) who has an explosive temper and takes it out on Kelly.  Rudy implores Kelly to sue Cliff for divorce, but she refuses and stays with him.

Despite the turmoil around them, Rudy and Dick still represent Donnie Ray, and get a break on the case when the original judge Harvey Hale (Dean Stockwell ) dies and is replaced by a judge named Tyrone Kipler (Danny Glover) who’s  much more sympathetic Donnie Ray, but they still have to face Great Benefit’s top attorney, Leo F Drummond (Jon Voight), and despite some shady tactics by Deck Schifflett, Rudy still has an uphill battle.  As if the case isn’t difficult enough, witnesses who used to work for Great Benefit are hard to find, and Kelly calls Rudy for help form her once again abusive husband.

This is pretty much a standard issue goody two-shoes, fresh faced lawyer versus evil corporate attorney story.  The Kelly Riker subplot spins out of control with melodrama that strains credulity, and threatens to take the rest of the story off the rails with it. The subplot is also resolved far too quickly and neatly, to the point of questioning why it was even included in the film.  But there is a nice nuanced ending that is more than just a verdict, and that ending is one of the reasons that this movie is enjoyable. However the movie is very long, and the subplot could have been cut out completely and nothing would have been lost.

I really like Matt Damon as an actor and I wanted to see him in an early role.  He does not disappoint.  Even his Southern accent is subtle and not overwhelming and cartoonish.  He plays the character as naïve and it’s almost like the character wants to take advantage of their impressions of him and his newly minted law degree, and use that to his advantage.  Damon never fails to show the character’s mind is at work at all times, as he tries to figure a way out of this perpetual minefield.  Danny DeVito is good at playing smarmy characters, Louie DePalma is one of my all-time favorite tv characters, but why he sounds like he’s from New Jersey, in the middle of Tennessee is beyond me. Claire Daines is a talented actress, but only plays the helpless victim here, and is not given much else to do.  Can you imagine Mickey Rourke as member of the bar?  Maybe I could see him drinking in a bar, but not as a lawyer, absolutely not.  Jon Voight is an absolute stiff, and he tries to put on a Southern accent, its cringe inducing.  There is a great little cameo by Roy Scheider of Jaws fame as the insurance company CEO, it’s a small role but well-acted.

The movie is written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, no slouch indeed after the Godfather Trilogy, but he tries to turn a simple story into an epic, and this story simply just doesn’t lend itself to a grand telling.  It’s also odd that with this great cast, it’s Matt Damon that stands head and shoulders above everyone else.  There is nothing very visual about this movie, it’s mostly a series of drab courtroom scenes.

The Rainmaker:  Damon reigns supreme here

 

the-martian

Commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is exploring Mars on a mission for NASA.  Without warning, a windstorm approaches, and botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is impaled by an antenna, and presumed dead.  Lewis and the rest of the crew reluctantly leave Watney behind, and head for Earth.  Watney however is alive and uses extreme heat sources to split hydrogen atoms, create water, and fertilize the Martian soil with his own feces to grow potato plants.  Meanwhile, back on Earth, Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) realizes while viewing satellite pictures, that the Mars rover has been moved. Park summons Vincent Kapoor, NASA’s director of Mars operations (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and they conclude Watney is alive.  Kapoor in turn tells NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) that Watney is alive.  Sanders decides not to tell the public until they have a plan to communicate with him and at the very least resupply his food supply.  Watney is working on the communications issue, he is driving the rover to the Pathfinder.  When Kapoor realizes where Watney is going he gets the Pathfinder crew together, and works on getting the communications satellite on Pathfinder up and running,  Kapoor communicates with Watney first through hexadecimal and later through some kind of instant messaging system.

The rescue mission is more complicated.  Sanders doesn’t want to tell Lewis and her crew that Watney is alive, for obvious reasons, so he concentrates on a food re-supply mission.  But the rocket that the Jet propulsion lab builds blows up, so Sanders has to come up with another plan.  He comes up with a plan that involves a Chinese booster rocket and a second food supply mission, but Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) has a much more ambitious plan involving the Chinese booster rocket and Commander Lewis’ ship.  Do the Chinese give NASA permission to use their rocket?  Does Commander Lewis get wind of Purnell’s plan?  Do they think it’s feasible?

I liked the film adaptation of the book the Martian.  The problems I have with the story are the same problems I have with the book.  Can hydrogen be turned into water on Mars, even in a climate controlled environment? Can the Martian soil be fertilized so easily, by just dumping human feces on it?  Would the Pathfinder communications satellites be working after all those years of lying dormant on Mars?  My mind was reeling with questions, after reading the book? But the screenplay is better than the book in this way, the book tends to get bogged down in scientific terminology when trying to explain how Watney survives.  The screenplay streamlines the explanations and exposition, and gets from stranded, to survival to rescue mission much faster than the book does.  The humor in the book is also a vital part of the screenplay.

The acting also makes the characters better.  Matt Damon humanizes Watney, honestly I really thought Watney came off as a pompous jerk in the book, and I wondered why anyone would want to save him.  Damon makes him more likeable and gives him an everyman quality instead of a techie geek quality. This role and his role in Interstellar will surely revive Damon’s career. I also like Jessica Chastain as Commander Lewis, she exudes confidence in this role, despite the self-doubt she has to express when she leaves Watney behind.  The viewer can see why a crew would follow her on a mission.  Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Vincent Kapoor with a quiet confidence, and the viewer feels like everything will work out under his guidance.  He also plays the emotional scenes well, always understated not chewing scenery.  It’s a nice performance.  There has been some press asking why an Indian character named Venkat Kapoor in the book was played by the African-Englishman.  I don’t have a problem with it. Ejiofor is one of the best actors in film today, and certainly better than any Bollywood actor I’ve seen, so they made the character multiracial, that’s ok with me.  That said, Mindy Park should have been played by a Korean American actress, there was no reason for that casting decision.  Diversity in film is important, especially when the characters in the book are written as a certain ethnicity.  But, in its defense,  the film has a lot of diversity. Kudos to Michael Pena for handling the humor to his role well, Benedict Wong and Donald Glover played the humorous parts of their roles well.  Sean Bean is always good, and does not disappoint here

The direction by Ridley Scott is fast paced and decisive, he doesn’t linger too long on any one scene for too long.  The CGI is well done and really looks like the surface of Mars, the scenes in outer space are credible and Scott gets great performances out of the cast, although with a cast like this, that is not hard to do.

Here’s my book review of The Martian

https://reviewswithatude.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/book-review-the-martian-by-andy-weir-hardcover-369-pages/

The Martian:  Better Red (Planet) Than Dead.

project greenlight

Episode 1: Do You Want To Direct This Movie:  One director gets chosen by judges Ben Affleck and Matt Damon to direct a film for HBO.

One thing I learned from watching this episode of Project Greenlight, I never want Matt Damon or Ben Affleck judging anything I do.  They are pretentious jerks, who were lucky enough to get a break with Goodwill Hunting, and now they live in a bubble, and think they are better than everyone.  I like Damon as an actor, but he needs some work as a human being.  And Matt, here’s a tip for you, if there was a little more diversity in Hollywood, maybe there wouldn’t be as many sequels and reboots as there currently are.

And the Farrelly brothers, based on the last few movies they put out, should be glad that ANYONE wants to direct any hackneyed script they’ve written.  The egos on this show are unbelievable, you’re not curing cancer Farrelly brothers, get a grip!

Episode Two:  Going Rogue

The newly minted director runs into roadblocks with the writer, producer, and HBO while trying to make this movie.

It’s really interesting to see all the infighting that goes on during the making of this film, and frankly no one comes out looking great, except maybe the director, who wants to make the movie he wants to make, the way he wants to make it.

Episode 3:  Gun To Your Head

The contentiousness continues as the director and producer fight, this time over location, casting and digital or film.  The friction leads to a surprise at the end of this episode.

I take back any nice things I said about anyone associated with this show, they are all sanctimonious jerks, who think they are “gifted.” Sorry to say, this show is sliding toward reality show conventions. The overheated drama over what should be small decisions seems contrived.  Even the “shocking” ending, is a contrivance. This could have been an educational effort, but Damon and Affleck want ratings, that explains Damon’s sudden “controversial” statements.  It’s tiring.

Episode 4:Duly Noted

The director finally settles on a location and a cast, rankling feelings as he goes.

This is not a show about making a film, it’s a manipulative attempt to create sides for or against what the director is doing. If all moviemakers acted the way these moviemakers are acting, no movies would ever be made.

Episode 5:  Picture’s Up

The first day of shooting finally arrives

The director’s is still a jerk, and a big one, but I will give this episode credit, it is more about making the film than the other episodes, and less about everyone butting heads.  Just when I think it’s going to be about filmmaking, the show brings more needless drama.  The drama, again, seems contrived.

Episode 6:  Hot Ghetto Mess

The director continues to film the film he co-wrote while the producer continues to remind him not to go over budget.

This show continues to be more heat than light, and it’s largely phony controversy.  All of these could be avoided and I think much of it could be avoided, and is done for the sake of television.  There are interesting nuggets of film making technique, but they are few and far between.

Episode 7:  Accident Waiting to Happen

The director can’t agree on a location for the stunt.

More of the same, the director is being  Hamlet in Hollywood, there are helpful hints like storyboarding the stunt, and using a tractor trailer to simulate movement of cars instead of greensceen.

Episode 8: Hug and Release

The director finishes the final cut of his movie, “The Leisure Class.”

More instructive lessons on filmmaking, like digital editing, and pickup shots, known to the rest of us non-movie folk as reshoots, but more fighting between producers and newly minted director, all of which seemed entirely unnecessary and detracted from the actual mission of the show.  Affleck and Damon make cameo appearances to the show where they are the draw.  No one is tuning in to see a brand new director, and producers no one has ever heard of.

I will review “The Leisure Class” and if I don’t like it, you will be the first to know.

Overall, I’m disappointed in Project Greenlight, season 4. (I haven’t seen any of the other seasons) I thought it would be much more edifying and much less confrontational than it was. I thought with Damon and Affleck at least tangentially connected to the show, the quality would rise above the usual reality show hysteria, often it did not.

Movie Review: Elysium (2013)

Posted: April 27, 2014 in Drama
Tags: ,

elysium

In the year 2154, Los Angeles is a crime-ridden, graffiti-laden slum, where the poor subsist.  The elite citizens of Earth live on Elysium, a satellite rotating above the earth.  Max (Matt Damon) is an ex-convict who works for a company called Armadyne, and suffers radiation poisoning after an industrial accident.  Max has only five days to live, and, and has only one way to survive.  Max must get a flight to Elysium, and spend some time in a Med-Bay, a machine that can cure many of man’s current illnesses.

Max makes a deal with a shady character named Spider (Wagner Moura) who will provide a flight to Elysium in return for a data transfer from someone important on Elysium.  Max chooses to do a data transfer from the CEO of Armadyne, a man named John Carlyle. (William Fichner)  Carlyle has made a deal with Defense Secretary Delacourt, (Jodie Foster) to reboot the servers on Elysium, and install her as president.  Max and Spider succeed in downloading data from Carlyle’s mind, including the plot for a coup, into Max’s mind.  Delacourt orders a mercenary named Kruger (Sharlito Copley) to bring Max to Elysium, alive.  Max has a friend named Frey (Alice Braga) who has a child named Matilta (Emma Trembley) with cancer.  Do they get to go to Elysium with Max?  Does Max save himself? Or does Delacourt get her information back?

I don’t like Elysium.  First off it reminds me of an episode of Star Trek called the “Cloud Minders” where the people on the surface of the planet are miners who service the cloud dwellers.  Los Angeles looks like the post-apocalyptic vision in “Mad Max.”  It doesn’t help that the main character us named Max.  Writer director Neil Blomkamp also borrows from himself in District 9.  Whereas District 9 was a blatantly obvious allegory for apartheid, Elysium is a blatantly obvious analogy for undocumented immigrants. It also would have been helpful to have a backstory.  How did the Earth get to this point?  What do the people left behind do for the people on Elysium?  There was also too many plots and sub-plots going on for my comfort.  The two words, the blue collar ex-con, the Secretary of Defense with a coup plot, the love interest with a daughter with cancer, some of it seemed clichéd. There is a lot of violence and the ending was predictable.  I expected better.

Matt Damon, who I like as an actor, was not suited for this movie.  He can be an action star, as the Bourne movies prove, but he was young, and engaging, and the dialogue suited him.  He was the intellectual action hero.  This movie called for a more conventional action hero, someone like Mel Gibson in his heyday, who could toss out a catchphrase, and then get back to pummeling the villain. Jodie Foster is actually very good as the elitist, power hungry defense secretary.  She even throws in some French to illustrate her elitism.  Sharlito Copley plays a bad guy with not a lot of substance to him.  Not for kids because of many scenes of brutal violence, the adults will grow tired of an unfocused story.

The story is long and slow and takes a long time to come together.  Bad direction by Blomkamp to match the bad writing.

Elysium:  Not exactly a slice of heaven.

 

 

the-monuments-men-

Frank Stokes (George Clooney) is a Harvard art conservationist, who sees the great art of the world being stolen by the Nazis in World War II.  Germany wants to build a museum if the Fuhrer, filled with the stolen artwork from the Louvre.  He brings the story of the art theft to FDR, (Michael Dalton) who in turn asks Stokes to go into Europe, and recover the stolen art.  Stokes puts together a team of older art experts, James Granger (Matt Damon) Richard Campbell (Bill Murray) Walter Garfield (John Goodman) Preston Savitz, (Bob Balaban)  a Frenchman, Jean Clermont (Jean Dujardin) and an Englishman, Donald Jeffries. (Hugh Bonneville) The group must join the army and follow patrols into German cities as they fall.  Granger has to find Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett) who probably knows more about the stolen art than anyone in France, but Claire is not talking, because she has been jailed by the French for being a collaborator and doesn’t trust anyone.  The mission takes place with the Nazis in retreat in 1944, but the mission is still fraught with danger.  Jeffries loses his life guarding the Bruges Madonna in Belgium, and what starts as a mission to save the greatest artwork in history, becomes a mission of life and death. Stokes think he knows where the art is kept, but when he gets to the first city in Germany where he thinks the art is kept, there are no art pieces to be found.  Where in Germany is the art being kept?  Can James Granger get any information from Claire Simone?

I have mixed feelings about The Monuments Men, it is an interesting story, one that I knew nothing about, but there doesn’t seem to be enough of a story to sustain two hours of filmmaking, so there are points where the movie drags.  The cast tries to fill the slow spots with comedy, but World War II is still a very serious topic, so there is a limit to how much comedy they can put in a movie like this.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of conflict in the film, the Monuments Men seemingly cruised through Germany with little resistance or hardship of any kind.  With no conflict, there’s no real emotional hook to this movie, it’s a hybrid, it tries to be a movie about art and culture, but it also tries to be a war movie.  But it’s not Schindler’s List, or Saving Private Ryan, or the Great Escape or Stalag 17, it’s not even Inglorious Basterds.

The story is not cohesive, that is both the writer and director’s fault, and since both are George Clooney, he has to shoulder the blame for it. The story skips from the hunt for the art to the subplot between Claire and James, which features a clumsy attempt at romance, which detracts from the main plot, which is not that strong in the first place.

The cast is excellent, they make the material better than it is.  I don’t like Clooney’s dull monotone delivery, but even he has a good scene interrogating a Nazi officer about the lost art, and the officer’s participation in concentration camps.  Matt Damon is very good as Granger, the man trying to cajole information from Claire. Cate Blanchett is good, as Claire, a sweet, librarian type, who has lost her ability to trust.  John Goodman, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and Jean Dujardin all add comedic flourishes, and make the movie more enjoyable than the material.

I would say this is a good movie to rent, but not good enough for a trip to the theater.

The Monuments Men.  Not Monumental.

 

Movie Review: Promised Land (2012)

Posted: November 3, 2013 in Drama
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Promised Land

Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is an employee for Global, a nine billion natural gas company.  The company wants to buy up land in rural Pennsylvania to extract natural gas from the shale below, in a process called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.  Steve specializes in lowballing prices for this land. Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand) is Steve’s partner in this corporate endeavor, and Steve thinks it will be easy because he is from Iowa, and he understands which buttons to push with these rural folk.  Steve is not counting on opposition from Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) a science teacher, who is a retired engineer from Boeing.  Frank asks some impolite questions during a town hall meeting and a flustered Steve agrees to a vote on the fracking proposal.

In order to ingratiate himself to the townspeople, and to make his sales pitch easier, Steve and Sue go to a bar.  Steve meets an attractive teacher, named Alice, (Rosemary Dewitt) ends up buying drink for the entire bar, and goes home with Alice.  There is no environmental presence in the town, so the sales pitch should be easy.  Or so Steve thinks, suddenly , an environmentalist named Dustin Noble (John Krasinski) shows up in town, and starts spreading posters around town showing dead cows on a farm after fracking has taken place there.  Steve and Sue are blindsided by this grassroots operation, and are losing the public opinion battle for hearts and minds.  Just before the vote on fracking is to take place, Steve notices something strange about the posters Dustin is handing out, will this anomaly change the dynamics of the election?

Promised Land  is a very bland movie.  It sounds familiar themes of the evil, soulless greedy corporation, taking advantage of small town Americans.  There is a twist at the end of the film, but it’s not enough to redeem the film.  Fracking seems to be the issue du jour lately, with the documentary Gasland, and now Promised Land.  I didn’t like either.  Promised Land didn’t have enough conflict, the romance was non-existent, and the characters, except for Frank Yates, were not interesting.  Gasland had too much of one point of view, and a flashy gimmick, but ultimately left me unconvinced.

The acting was ok, it was nice to see Matt Damon play against type, and try to humanize the ‘evil’ corporate guy, but there’s not enough conflict for his character, and so Damon’s character is propelled by events and is reactionary.  Krasiniski plays the same character he does in The Office, smartest guy in the room, one step ahead of Damon, cheery, upbeat.  There’s not enough to differentiate this character from the one he played on tv.  Hal Holbrook plays the most interesting character, but his character recedes and is missing from large parts of this movie. Frances McDormand is absolutely wasted in this movie, she is given nothing at all to do, except talk to Damon on the long car trips in town.  Krasinski and Damon wrote this script, so I expected more intelligent ideas and lively debate from this film, but this film is dull, dull, dull.

Promised Land. Not so promising.