Tag Archives: Matt Damon

“I can do nothing for you, son.”

I feel like the Coen Brothers making great movies is one of the few constants in my life. That, along with death (although I’m not throwing in the towel on that one), taxes, and vacation constipation. Sure, every now and then they throw a Burn After Reading at us. But they make up for it with a Big Lebowski, a Fargo, and a No Country for Old Men. Yes, what a time to be alive.

And before you ask, you can go ahead and add True Grit to the pantheon of Coen favorites. As the last film I’ll see at the movies in 2010, it more than made up for the bitter disappointments the year opened with, with films like Daybreakers and Legion kicking me in the balls and leaving me curled in the fetal position.

The film — the second adaptation of the 1968 Charles Portis novel — is narrated by Mattie Ross, a 14-year old girl whose father was murdered at the hands of outlaw Tom Chaney. After some questioning around town, Mattie seeks out Rooster Cogburn, whom she believes possesses the titular true grit to track Chaney down and bring him to justice. Accompanying them on their trek is Texas Ranger La Boeuf, who’s after Chaney for separate crimes. Together, the three learns lessons about each other, life and each other.

Those of you going into the theater expecting another No Country may be a little disappointed, as True Grit is a much more straight up western than that previous film, but at the same time it’s no less good. It’s superbly acted all around, which should come as no surprise. Tron notwithstanding, since when does Jeff Bridges not bring a healthy dose of badassery to the roles he plays? Matt Damon was a big surprise here. His portrayal of La Boeuf seemed to be one part Jason Bourne, two parts Mark Whitacre and Linus Caldwell. What was so great about it was that it was funny without trying to be funny. And oh, how wrong things could have gone there. I mean, how tired are we of the snarky sidekick who’s only snarky to be snarky?

But the real showstopper here is Hailee Steinfeld, who plays Mattie Ross. She’s come out of obscurity and proven in just two short hours how capable she is of rolling with the big dogs. Now, if you’re asking who Hailee Steinfeld is, I don’t imagine you’re much different from the rest of the world, and that’s including her parents. But fear not, because you’re probably going to be hearing her name much more in the future.

True Grit is definitely one of those the-journey-is-more-important-than-the-destination films. The relationship between Mattie, Cogburn and La Beouf and how it develops is what keeps you glued to the screen. The actual resolution to their journey, the reason they’ve all banded together in the first place is over so quickly you daren’t (DAREN’T!) blink for fear of missing it. And once it’s all over, the film peters out a bit, with its coda feeling more like a, “Well, we sure had some fun, eh?” than anything that really adds to the story. I’ve never read the book, so I couldn’t say how faithful this is to that, although I’ve heard that the film as a whole toes the line pretty close.

I really liked this one. The chemistry (as we say in the hard sciences) between the leads is more than enough to make up for whatever small shortcomings the story has. And at two hours, the whole thing goes by pretty fast. As westerns go, this is probably one of the purest we’re going to see in a while, which is a credit to the Coen Brothers and the tone they’re able to set in their films. Tickets cost about, what? $30 apiece now? Go out and spend it. It’s completely worth it.

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“I came here to bring you in.”

Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne as Roy Miller in Green Zone, Paul Greengrass’ explosive sequel to The Bourne Ultimatum! Actually, if Greengrass and co. had tried to rewrite the entire Iraq War, with Treadstone in league with Saddam Hussein, building nuclear weapons and planting sleeper agents at the highest levels of the US government, I have the feeling I would have walked out of it feeling better than I did walking out of this one.

Somewhere inside Green Zone is a really good movie. Unfortunately, it’s covered up by an action movie that lacks any real depth. Matt Damon plays Roy Miller, a warrant officer searching for WMDs at the beginning of the Iraq War. When alleged storage sites keep turning up empty, he begins to suspect the intelligence they’ve been given isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Miller only suspects more at play when he meets Brendan Gleason, who plays a CIA agent who’s been finding the exact same thing. Now, Miller’s on a journey to discover the truth, a journey that will take him all the way to the heart of the Green Zone! Or out of it, but it’s not important.

So the movie comes in two pieces. There’s the action movie and the mystery. This part, the mystery, is a really interesting concept. We already know the government wasn’t on the up and up in making their case for war, and an in-depth look at that on the big screen would be rally interesting to watch, and it would be interesting whether the movie itself were fictional or not. This is the film we catch glimpses of in scenes with Damon and Greg Kinnear, who plays a senior government official at the heart of the cover up. Their time together is short, but there’s a good chemistry there that really brings you into the story. But, after the gauntlet’s laid down, Damon has to go and actually find out what’s going on, and this is where the movie fails.

The film’s biggest problem, from which all other problems stem, is how completely one-note almost the entire cast is. And that’s unfortunate because it really is a great cast. Damon and Kinnear are joined by Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Brendan Gleason, and Yigal Naor, who played Saddam Hussein in last year’s House of Saddam. Throughout the film we’re given no real reason why Damon is compelled to solve this mystery. We can assume that it’s because he’s in the military and feels an obligation to his country, but even then we’re given no evidence of it. All we see is a string of action movie dialogue like, “People are dying out there and I want to know why!” When another officer tells him that they have a mission to complete and the reasons behind it aren’t important, you almost flinch when Damon sets his steely gaze on the guy and says, “They matter to me.”

Brendan Gleason, who’s a great actor, is even worse. He spends his time stomping through rooms crowded with people on laptops, never looking anyone in the eye and saying things like, “We’ve got no proof!” “You need proof!” and “Find the proof!” I’m sure in the eventual Green Zone documentary we’ll see some guy standing offstage holding up his cue cards. Amy Ryan, who plays a reporter who broke the story of an Iraqi government official who outlined his country’s WMD program to the United States gives us the exact same thing. “If you can’t give me answers, I’ll find someone who can.” Really? When Damon eventually confronts her about verifying her story, she whimpers like a scared puppy and whether the reality of the entire thing was similar to this or not, you find yourself shaking your head in the theater, unwilling to believe that she was duped that easily. That verifying the Iraqi’s claims was just something she never did.

I don’t mean to be too down on the movie, because I did enjoy it and found it easy to get caught up in some of the more action-heavy sequences. It’s just that behind all of that, the movie lacks feeling or any genuine drama. I’d also venture to say that Green Zone is coming a few years too late to feel relevant in any sort of way. The fact that it’s fictional and so action heavy don’t really lend it any weight in the conversation about America going to war in Iraq. In that sense, I believe Green Zone failed to live up to the goal it set for itself. It offers more as a solid action film, even if it’s all done a little by rote. B-

The Handsome Men’s Club

If anyone’s looking for some Monday morning funny, here it is.

The Bourne Prequel…Coming Soon?

Several months ago we heard that Paul Greengrass, director of the last two Bourne films and the upcoming Green Zone, had opted out of directing a fourth Bourne film. But when recently asked if anything about that had changed, Matt Damon had this to say…

“There’ll probably be a prequel of some kind with another actor and another director before we do another one, just because I think we’re probably another five years away from doing it. We’ve got to get a script.”

What does it all mean? Will the Bourne franchise — arguably the kick-assiest spy franchise we’ve seen in the last ten years — go the way of Spiderman and get the reboot treatment? Will we see a young Jason Bourne, now only a timid high school student, go toe to toe with Conklin and his rambunctious group of n’er-do-wells? And what about the werewolves? Questions, questions, questions.

Green Zone trailer hits!

On March 12th, Matt Damon stars in The Green Zone, also known as The Bourne Operation Iraqi Freedom. In any case, it’s proof that you don’t need Marlon Wayans to make a good G.I. Joe movie.

“Corn goes in one end and profit comes out the other.”

I’ve always wondered what people 50 or 60 years ago would think of movies today. Back then it seemed like when a movie was released, it was an event. It was done up. Now, all kinds of stuff is thrown out there. And all the time, too. There are new movies coming out every week. Are there people around today who were alive 50 or 60 years ago who I could ask about that? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want to know.

If I were releasing a movie, I’d want to do it old school. I’d want it to be an event. If the movie were like a story I was telling a friend, I’d say something like, “Dude! I HAVE to show you something!” The Informant! wasn’t that sort of movie. It was more like telling your friend, “Oh yeah. This funny thing happened and it reminded me of you.” Does any of that make sense? No? I understand.

In the film, Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre, a vice president at agriculture business giant Archer Daniels Midland. Whitacre turns whistleblower (or Informant!) and confesses to the FBI that ADM is involved in a price-fixing scheme with the food additive lysine. Now this is where things get weird. Whitacre suffers from bipolar disorder and there’s plenty he’s not sharing with anyone. Slowly, the FBI discovers what that is as Whitacre works to gather evidence against ADM over the next three years.

To start off, I’ll say that trailers for The Informant! are lying to you. They make the movie look funny, which it is, but they also make it look lighthearted, which in end I didn’t think it was. The movie isn’t doom and gloom or anything like that, but once it’s over you feel like there’s something that isn’t sitting right with you, and you realize it’s because you went into the movie with different expectations. What were you expecting? You’re not sure of that either, you just know it was something different.

Matt Damon as Mark Whitacre is a lot of fun to watch. A piece of me did feel like he was shoehorning himself into the role just a little bit, although I think that may have had something to do with his makeup. I saw George Clooney gain weight for Syriana and I thought to myself, “Yeah. That’s believable.” There’s something that wouldn’t let me do that for Damon. The hairstyle and mustache and bad ties are all great, but throughout the movie I kept thinking, “Man, if that guy got a haircut and lost about 30 pounds he’d look just like…Matt Damon.” For me it was kind of like he was playing dress up and not necessarily a character that came naturally to him.

While most of the movie shows just how bumbling and unaware of himself Whitacre is, the ending brings in some emotion and really changes the film’s tone. Damon shines through the whole thing. Whitacre playing secret agent during his high-level meetings with ADM execs are the most fun to watch, but his interactions with Scott Bakula and Joel McHale — Whitacre’s FBI handlers — are great fun too. The no-nonsense authority figures who only become more exasperated as the film goes on make perfect foils for the seemingly absent-minded Whitacre. Other appearances from Tony Hale, Scott Adsit, and Patton Oswalt, among others really make you keep your eyes peeled. I think putting those names in smaller roles helped bring the movie together in a way it might not have done otherwise.

Visually, the film is great. Its look is matched up with the soundtrack in a way that reminded me a lot of Ocean’s 13. I guess it’s just Steven Soderbergh’s style. With The Girlfriend Experience and Che being among his most recently completed films, It looks like that almost hyperreal look is something he’s only beginning to venture into. I’m looking forward to seeing where he goes with it.

If you’ve got to head out and catch something in the theaters, this is probably your safest bet, but you won’t be missing anything if you hold out and wait for the DVD. This is a good movie, but I have a feeling that the entire story will make more sense if you just read the book. B-

5 Things We Love About Movies With Guns – The Bourne Identity

Hark! The return of this thing! Let’s get down and dirty with…

1. Who am I?

I know. It sucks. You can tie all sorts of crazy knots and speak twenty different languages, then you have these really weird dreams where you get shot and fall off a yacht into the ocean. You wonder, what does it all mean? The better question; who cares? You look like that Matt Damon guy and you’re on a fishing boat headed for Italy. You’ve already won.

2. Clive Owen.

“Look at this. Look at what they make you give. Uuuggh.” Dead.

3. Cut their hair. Have sex.

The cops are looking for you, so you and the girl you’ve brought into this nightmare hole up in some dirty motel. They know your names, they know what you look like, so what do you do? You, of course, do nothing, besides stop off at a Walgreen’s – or Aldi, if you’re in Europe – and buy a cheap hair-coloring kit. You take a dirty pair of scissors and, in one stroke, chop off all your girl’s hair. It looks AWESOME. Then you spend an hour checking out your bullet wounds in the mirror while she colors her hair in the bathtub. When she comes out, you stumble around awkwardly until you’re both on the bed doing it. Then you wait a couple of years and do it all again with Julia Stiles.

4. Nykwana Wombosi/Mr. Eko.

“My enemies in Afreeka ah too strong, so my drug deela frens’ and I will dress up as fake prees’ and fly to Australia, before crashing on a mizzterious eye-land an’ bein’ killed by my crazy gos’ brudda.”

5. Dude, look!

Not only is he shooting a gun, he’s shooting a gun while flying down a six-story stairwell on the back of a dead guy. So not only does he get to do all this acrobatic stuff with guns and dead people, but he does it all while looking like Matt Damon. Then he waits a couple of years and does it all again with Julie Stiles.

Will there be another column next week? No promises! Send suggestions to move.it.move@gmail.com.