Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Bourne to Kill

Matt Damon returns as memory-challenged spy in grim, glum ‘Jason Bourne’

Film Title: Jason Bourne

Jason Bourne
Starring Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones & Alicia Vikander
Directed by Paul Greengrass
PG-13

For espionage fans, Jason Bourne has always been the spy who can’t remember. Based on the character created by novelist Robert Ludlum, he’s appeared previously in three movies (2002-2007) played by Matt Damon, who now returns to the role (after sitting on the sidelines for the oddly Bourne-less The Bourne Legacy, starring Jeremy Renner, in 2012).

A former brainwashed CIA killing machine who went rogue as his head began to clear, Bourne, has been wandering the Earth for the past decade (apparently) in an existential quest to distance himself from the murderous, amnestic murk of his tortured past.

When his old colleague Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) hacks into a government computer, she discovers files suggesting that Bourne’s late father might have been involved in the clandestine government program that “indoctrinated” his young son into the CIA and erased his previous life. She tracks Bourne down to tell him, and it puts both of them in serious danger.

Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones

Learning that sensitive, covert computer files have been breached, CIA director (Tommy Lee Jones) knows the situation requires drastic action. If Bourne and Parsons leak those files, one of his advisors frets, “It could be worse than Snowden.”

That means calling on the agency’s top assassin, known only as “the Asset” (Vincent Cassel), to “cut the head off this thing.”

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander

Alicia Vikander plays an ambitious CIA cyber-ops expert who thinks she can bring Bourne back in to the side of the good guys. But will she get the chance? And the line between “good” guys and “bad” guys gets plenty blurry.

There’s also a plotline about a gigantic new cybertech company, Deep Dream, and its charismatic owner (Riz Ahmed), whose ties to the CIA bring up some timely, troubling concerns about privacy and governmental policing.

A generous amount of globetrotting culminates in a slam-bang Las Vegas crescendo involving a hotel sniper, a brutal back-alley brawl and a colossal downtown chase, dozens of smash-ups and a “jackpot” of a crash inside the Riviera casino.

Film Title: Jason BournePaul Greengrass, who also directed two films from the original Bourne trilogy, is behind the camera again—but can’t seem to hold it steady for a single scene. The director’s penchant for woozy, wobbly “shakycam” shots is meant to convey edge, movement and action, but man, it sure gets old. Even when characters are having a calm conversation, the camera is fidgeting like it can’t wait to split.

And spy flicks have always been about thrills, danger and even death—but this Bourne feels and looks especially grim, glum and grungy, especially given the tenor of the times. Gunmen on rooftops, bombs, civilians dying in the fray, government corruption, a mopey Matt Damon—there ain’t no escapist sunshine here, folks.

“I remember… I remember,” Bourne intones at the beginning of the movie. By the end, the audience may remember, too—that there were other, not-quite-so-downer choices at the multiplex.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Hey, Mr. Spaceman

Super-smart astronaut survival yarn will leave you cheering

The Martian

Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Directed by Ridley Scott

PG-13

Super-smart, sharp-witted, funny, dramatic and moving, The Martian is a gripping, gorgeous, geeky, high-tech, big-screen adventure-survival yarn that will leave you cheering.

When a brutal, blinding surface dust storm causes a group of scientist-astronauts to abort their Martian expedition after only a few sols (days, or solar cycles), one of them gets left behind, lost and believed to certainly be dead. But after the Ares III blasts off and heads for home and the Red Planet dust clears, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) revives, wounded but very much alive.

NASA and his crewmates have no idea he survived. He has to find some way to let them know, some way to stay alive, and some way to keep his hopes from fading—knowing that it could take years for another mission to mobilize and reach him.

What to do, what to do?

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who draws upon his           ingenuity to subsist on a hostile planet.

“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m gonna have to science the s— out of this,” Watney says into a camera, in the video log he begins filming as a high-tech diary.

It’s not a spoiler to tell you that Watney “sciences” how to grow his own food, rig up a communication device, make water and generate heat from radioactive material. One of the coolest things about The Martian is the way it makes knowledge hip and cool, how Watney’s process of discovery and learning and figuring things out are integral parts of its plotline.

Kristin Wiig and Chiwetel Ejiofor

Back on Earth, the world becomes transfixed with the man marooned on Mars. NASA officials (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean) race to figure out how to reach Watney before he runs out of time and resources. America’s competitors in the space race on the other side of the world, the Chinese, offer their top-secret technology to help. And once Watney’s crew mates (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie, Sebastian Stan) find out they’ve accidentally left him behind, they’re willing to spring into action, even if it means staying in space for another year or longer.

Director Ridley Scott is no stranger to space or the future, from Blade Runner and Alien to Prometheus. But there are no bioengineered androids, ancient astro-gods or acid-drooling space creatures anywhere to be found in The Martian—just real people, working together, using their heads, solving problems, focused on one man 50 million miles away and united in a single goal: to “bring him home.”

And despite its big ensemble cast, gorgeous special-effect space shots and marvelous, desolate red-orange Martian landscapes, this is Damon’s show. He is The Martian, and he sells every minute of it in a bravura, mostly solo performance that radiates humanity and humor, and shows the amazing, odds-defying things that science—and brainwork, and dedication and teamwork—can do.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Clooney & Co.

WWII ‘mission’ movie has a modern-day message

Monuments Men

The Monuments Men

Blu-ray $40.99, DVD $30.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

 

Co-writer, director and star George Clooney’s tribute to the real-life men and women who put their lives on the line to recover and return the cultural treasures stolen by Nazis during World War II is a rollicking, Hollywood actor-packed mash-up of old-fashioned combat “mission” movie crossed with a modern-day message about the casualties of war that extend far beyond the battlefield. Based on a book of the same name by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter, it comes with behind-the-scenes featurettes on the making of the film, the real Monuments Men, and the cast, which also includes Bill Murray, Matt Damon, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett.

 

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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The Clooney Platoon

Director, star, producer & writer brings true WWII tale to life

George Clooney;Matt Damon;Bill Murray;Bob Balaban;John Goodman

The Monuments Men

Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray & Cate Blanchett

Directed by George Clooney

Rated PG-13, 118 min.

 

This tale of WWII treasure hunters is “monumental” in more ways than one for George Clooney.

To begin with, he’s the star, the director, the writer and the producer. If the movie flies or if it flops, he’ll take the bows—or the boos. And he’s obviously big on the story, based on a 2009 nonfiction book of the same name by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter.

Historically, the Monuments Men were a group of artists, art historians and museum curators commissioned by the American and British armies during World War II to help protect the historic monuments of Europe from Allied bombing. After the war, they fanned out on an even more daunting five-year mission: to recover, catalog and return millions of precious artifacts—paintings, sculptures, tapestries and religious relics—that had been stolen by the Nazis.

The movie takes a few creative liberties with the facts, but it’s mostly true, and the characters are mostly based on, or inspired by, real people. Clooney and his cast mates (Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Jean Dujardin) make a fine-looking international ensemble, even if sometimes the movie’s star power, combined with overly familiar war-movie scenes, sometimes feels like Oceans 11 plus Saving Private Ryan divided by Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Matt Damon;Cate Blanchett

Matt Damon & Cate Blanchett

The bigger problem, though, is how ironically, in the midst of its “bigness,” so much of the movie seems small. Its series of disjointed, scattered moments never really come together into a larger, dramatic whole. The large cast is confined to playing strictly on the surface—we never really learn anything about any of the characters. The humor is flat, the emotion sappy and the drama tepid; although the Monuments Men are supposed to be on the war’s front lines, they rarely seem to be, or behave like, they’re in any real danger.

The film also treads lightly—too lightly, perhaps—on the terrible human toll of the Holocaust, like in a scene in which the men examine the smoldering frame of a Picasso painting that the Nazis destroyed, then turn to find a barrel filled with gold teeth extracted from slaughtered concentration camp prisoners.

Oh…teeth. Now, back to paintings.

The Monuments Men isn’t going to win any awards, but it does shine a high-profile Hollywood light on a little-known chapter of history—and a fact of wartime looting and cultural pillaging that still happens today.

George Clooney

“Was it worth it?” Clooney’s character is asked at the end of the movie. Thirty years from now, his superiors wonder, will people remember, or appreciate, all that went into recovering some 5 million pieces of priceless European civilization?

Thanks to George Clooney’s big, ambitious movie, perhaps now they—we—will. It’s just too bad that, given such a great group of actors and such a monumental story, it doesn’t do a bit of a better job of it.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Meanwhile, Up in the Sky…

Matt Damon stars in gritty, gripping sci-fi parable

ELYSIUM_cov

Elysium

Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack $40.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Matt Damon, Sharlito Copley and Jodie Foster star in this ripping, gripping sci-fi parable set in the year 2154, when the wealthy, healthy elite on a pristine,  space station, Elysium, are kept far and away from everyone else back on overpopulated, disease-ridden, used-up Earth. After an Earth worker (Damon) is exposed to a deadly dose of radiation, he risks what’s left of his life to get treatment on Elysium—then finds out there’s something even bigger, and more mind-boggling, at stake. Extras include an inside look at the dazzling special effects, at various stages of the mega-production.

 — Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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