Tag Archives: matt damon

FORD VS FERRARI (2019) – My rating: 9/10

Ford v Ferrari (titled Le Mans ’66 in the UK and other territories) is a sports drama directed by James Mangold and written by Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, and Jason Keller. The plot follows a determined team of American engineers and designers, led by automotive visionary Carroll Shelby and his British driver, Ken Miles. They are dispatched by Henry Ford II and Lee Iacocca with the mission of building the Ford GT40, a new racing car with the potential to finally defeat the perennially dominant Ferrari racing team at the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans race in France. Despite the great trailers for this movie, I didn’t intend to see it but I kept hearing great reviews from friends so I finally gave in.  Ford vs Ferrari exceeded whatever expectations I had.

In 1963, Ford Motor Company Vice President Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) suggests to Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts)  that he purchase the cash-strapped Ferrari as a means to boost their car sales, participating in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone), however, walks out of the deal because Fiat offered him a more lucrative deal that would allow him to retain his ownership of Scuderia Ferrari. In rejecting the proposed deal with Ford, Ferrari insults the company and its CEO. A furious Henry II orders his racing division to build a car to defeat Ferrari at Le Mans. For this task, Iacocca hires Shelby American, owned by Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a racing driver who won Le Mans in 1959 but was forced to retire due to an ongoing heart condition. In turn, Shelby enlists the help of Ken Miles (Christen Bale), a hot-tempered British racer and struggling mechanic. The two were best friends and had a long-standing relationship. Shelby and Miles test the Ford GT40 Mk I prototype at Los Angeles International Airport, working out all of its design flaws until it was race-ready. The events that followed were heartfelt and forever carved in history.

From this point in the movie, Ford vs Ferrari tells a compelling true story that is intriguing, to say the least.  Ford vs Ferrari, which is based on actual events, turned out to be a better story than I anticipated.  I expected a run of the mill movie with a lot of meaningless car races.  Not being into car racing, I didn’t know names of the car racing greats so Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles didn’t mean anything to me.  What a story Ford vs Ferrari turned out to be.  I don’t know quite how it was done, but the camera work, while they were racing, was magnificent. I felt like I was in the car with Ken Miles.  The excitement was non-stop.  I’m sure if you go to see Ford vs Ferrari, you’ll like it as much as I did. The film has grossed $172 million worldwide and received positive reviews from critics, who lauded the performances and racing sequences. It was chosen by the National Board of Review as one of the ten best films of the year, while Bale was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Drama and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. FYI: In the early stages of the film’s production, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were cast in the starring roles, but those plans fell through. I believe the right actors were cast.  I found this true story exciting and I highly recommend it to everyone, not just car racing fans.  Check It Out!

[FORD VS FERRARI is Oscar-Nominated for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Editing — Totaling 3 Oscar nominations]

DOWNSIZING (2017) – My rating: 7.5/10

Downsizing is an American science fiction comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne and also co-written by Payne and Jim Taylor.  What an adventure Downsizing has turned out to be. This movie was so unique, I was unable to predict anything.  However, this is where most of my praises end because there are a million reasons Downsizing could never happen.  This movie is the fantasy of all fantasies.  I think I have the most problem with 5″ people, that’s just not feasible.

In a futuristic world, Mr. and Mrs. Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon, a physical therapist and Kristen Wiig, respectively) are living in Omaha, Nebraska with financial issues. At a high-school reunion, they encounter Dave and Carol Johnson (Jason Sudeikis and Maribeth Monroe, respectively) who have gone through the process of “downsizing”.  This process, which is irreversible was invented 15 years earlier and involves shrinking humans to a height of five inches. While the inventors advocate that downsizing is environmentally friendly through the reduction of waste, Dave argues that its benefits extend far beyond that and improve one’s life through the increase in value of their money.  Their total assets of 125K would add up to 10 times as much as they have now or clearing 12.5M allowing them to live a very different lifestyle.  Everyone the Safranek’s interviewed seemed to be happy and without any money issues.  Children born to the downsized residents are born small and all body parts are in proportion.  Animals are separated from the downsized by domes and hundreds of precautions are taken to protect all personnel.  So needless to say, after exploring all the possibilities of downsizing, Paul and Audrey agreed to undergo the process and move to Leisureland, one of the most popular communities for downsized individuals.  The procedure is turned out to be grueling and unnerving which caused one of them to back down at the last second.  At this point, there’s no way to warn the other so only one ends up going through with the procedure.

Now you may think I’ve just given away this movie but I assure you, it’s only just begun.  After getting over my anger at the spouse who wimped out for not jumping through hoops to let the other know of their decision, I wondered what would happen to the other since the procedure is irreversible.  There must assuredly be a divorce for starters, and what about the money.  How would that be allocated?  Or would the other spouse have a change of heart and come on board later?  Where would one find love in this small community, and if companionship couldn’t be found, what would their future look like without someone to share such a meager existence with?  Choices are limited and regret began to show up rapidly.

Outside the walls of Leisureland, life was not so pretty and the ugly was about to be revealed.  A savvy Vietnamese political activist, turned housecleaner named Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau),  who was jailed and downsized against her will is about to change the entire flavor of Downsizing.  Now I will stop here and give you an opportunity to see the movie for yourself.  My 7.5 rating is only because of it’s inability to work as a workable plot, ever.  Otherwise, Downsizing is a very interesting story with all the horror and suffering man is truly capable of creating.  Lan Tran was the sole survivor of a human smuggling attempt to the United States in a television box and had her leg amputated upon arrival.  Downsizing is definitely worth seeing.  Check it out!

 

SUBURBICON (2017) – My rating: 7/10

Suburbicon is a dark comedy directed by George Clooney and written by George Clooney, Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, and Grant Heslov. The movie is set in a new, up and coming suburban neighborhood in the year 1959.  Racism, hate and just plane stupidity runs rampart throughout the community of Suburbicon.  I’m not sure this is what America needs right now with all the crap we’re already putting up with these days.

The attraction to this advertised, peaceful, all-white neighborhood called Suburbicon was no blacks, no crime, no crowds and no traffic.  When an African-American family moves in, everything changes.  The natives grow restless and start a situation that pales by comparison to anything bad they thought Blacks would cause.  Right in their own backyard Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) and his wife, Rose Lodge (Juliann Moore) would experience their own crime when robbed by a couple of white men who breaks into their home and chloroform Gardner, Rose, Margaret (Juliann Moore), Rose’s twin sister and Nicky Lodge, (Noah Jupe) Gardner and Rose’s son.

Between this highly racist neighborhood, and the scary, murderous Lodge family, you’re in for a crazy ride of anger and a whole lot of senseless murder.  At some point you are not even sure of what you are seeing or hearing, especially after a police lineup leaves you somewhat confused.  It all starts to become clear as the whole neighborhood gets out of control and bodies start dropping.  The film becomes ambiguous again when the next day comes and the cleanup begins and the film ends with no explanation as to the prognosis for the neighborhood, the Black family or Nicky.  You’d have to see this one yourself to make your own determination as to the value of Suburbicon.  These writers have a pretty sick mind, but then we are talking the Coen brothers and George Clooney.

 

THE GREAT WALL (2017) – My rating: 9/10

thegreatwallThe Great Wall is the Best Picture I’ve seen of 2017 so far. Of course it’s only February, but I must say, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was an impressive story with a different and profound plot. There’s a significant amount of humor, which will ease the pain of feeling like you’ve come to see a horror flick. I will try to review The Great Wall without giving anything away because the element of surprise is truly a surprise.

In the time of the Song dynasty during the reign of the Renzong Emperor, a few miles north of the Great Wall, a mercenary group originally consisting of twenty men searching for black powder are being pursued by Khitan bandits, who have already killed a lot of the men. Upon escaping, the remainder of the men seek refuge in a cave but are attacked by something unknown, leaving only William (Matt Damon) and Tovar (Pedro Pascal) alive.  During the attack, William slashed off part of an arm with the hand in tact, (the rest had disappeared) so the two decided to bring the arm with them as proof of the kill in hopes of identifying what it was William had slaughtered. The next day, they stumble upon the Great Wall and are taken prisoner by Chinese soldiers of a secretive military sect called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau).

The Nameless Order is a Chinese military order commissioned by the Imperial Court of the Song Dynasty as a special division of the Imperial Army conceived for the sole purpose of repelling a horde of Tao Tei, who rise every 60 years. The commanding officers are shocked upon seeing the severed hand, as the Order believed the invasion was still weeks away. Suddenly, a wave of Tao Tei attack the Great Wall, and the battalions are mobilized. The Nameless Order is divided into FIVE SPECIAL UNITS: the Melee-specialist Bear Troop, the Acrobatic-specialist Crane Troop, the Archer-specialist Eagle Troop, the Siege Engine-specialist Tiger Troop, and the Horse-mounted Deer Troop.  During the battle, William and Tovar are freed by Peng Yong (Lu Han), an unskilled soldier from the Bear Troop and William, in turn, saves him during the attack. William and Tovar’s battle skills earn the respect of General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Commander Lin (Jing Tian), leader of the Crane Troop. Later, William and Tovar meet Sir Ballard (Willem Dafoe), a European who, like them, had ventured east twenty-five years ago in search of black powder and was also taken prisoner.  Ballard has been serving as an English and Latin teacher for some time. The three foreign mercenaries discuss developing plans to steal black powder from the storeroom and flee while the soldiers are occupied in battle. Later, Strategist Wang meets William and explains the situation and further identifies the Tao Tei.

I have avoided any information about the Tao Tei or further plots as not to spoil the movie.  You may think you know what coming but you don’t.  The Great Wall is truly exciting.  The special effects are fantastic and the story is very good.  The five special units were the most colorful, structured spectacular display of an army I’ve seen.  Each unit had it’s own color and it’s own function.  It was magnificent to watch.  Even the beating of the drums were spectacular and rhythmically spellbinding. Ego and pride are not the driven force in these armies, love and romance does not get in the way and revenge is not a motive.  Plans are executed by a driven leadership who wants the best for all the people at any cost.  I highly recommend The Great Wall in standard or 3D.

 

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JASON BOURNE (2016) My rating: 8.7/10

JasonBourneYouKnowHisNameIt all started in 2002 with “Jason Bourne Identity”.  Jason is found with 2 bullets in his back, unconscious, with amnesia.  He had no idea who he was.  Since then there was Bourne Supremacy in 2004, Borune Ultimatum in 2007, Bourne Legacy in 2012 and just Jason Bourne in 2016.  Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) still has not fully regained his memory but is still trying to find out who he really is with the help of rough CIA agent, Nicky Parson (Julia Stiles).  After Nicky hacks the CIA and learns significant information about Jason’s identity, she is exposed and tailed all the way to Jason Bourne, who is in Greece.  The hunt is on once again to try and capture, kill or bring Bourne in.  Once they meet up, Nicky tells Jason vital information about his father and Treadstone, which is a Black Ops he was part of.  CIA Director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones) orders his people to find Parson in hopes they can reach her before she can hand off the files she hacked to Bourne.  Dewey calls on The Asset (Vincent Cassel), an ex-Blackbriar assassin who also holds a personal grudge against Bourne, having been captured and tortured as a result of Bourne’s actions in “The Bourne Ultimatum” and harbors resentment toward him because of it.  The Asset is ruthless in his pursuit of Bourne following him from Greece to London then Las Vegas where they engaged in the best car chase (between a Police Swat vehicle and a Dodge Charger) I’ve seen in years.  In fact, it may be the best I’ve ever seen.  All told, the chase scene involved some 200 vehicles. The scene concludes as the speeding SWAT vehicle busts through the Riviera casino entrance and onto the gaming floor, demolishing slot machines and anything else in it’s path.  This is how it looks at the end of the chase.  SwatCarCrashI won’t reveal what happens next but I am saying, SEE THIS MOVIE!  Dewey has a team of shady type agents working for him, including Heather Lee, (Alicia Vikander) the head of the CIA Cyber Ops Division.  Dewey is also busy bullying  Aaron Kalloor, (Riz Ahmed) the CEO and founder of Deep Dream, a social media enterprise that fits in nicely to his new project.  I found Jason Bourne to be entertaining, thrilling, exciting, well acted, with awesome special effects and a great ending to a really good series.

 

THE MARTIAN (2015) – My rating: 10/10

TheMartianLook for The Martian to be nominated for best picture and more.  It is worth every second of it’s 141 minutes.  When I heard The Martian being compared to Gravity, I didn’t want to see it because I didn’t particularly like Gravity.  The only similarity is deep space aliened with crisis.  Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an Astronaut on a manned space mission to Mars along with five other crew members, Rick Martinez (Michael Peña), Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara),  Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie) and Mission Commander, Mellissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain).  During a daily routine task, the crew was hit with an intense storm that caused Mark to disappear from their sight while also putting the lives of the crew at stake. Considering the situation, Mark was presumed dead forcing the Mission Commander to reluctantly leave Mark behind as the crew fled from planet Mars.

Mars provides nothing we as humans would need to survive.  Water, oxygen, fertilized soil, gravity, animals and for the most part, no light exists on Mars.  Unable to contact NASA, Mark uses his knowledge as a botanist to grow potatoes within the mission’s artificial habitat, anticipating that he will need to survive for at least four years before the next crew was scheduled to land.  He would have to  journey to the landing site of Ares IV which already has some infrastructure on Mars. To maintain morale, Mark begins to modify the habitat’s rover to make it capable of long journeys while keeping a series of video logs.  Without giving away the whole movie, I will conclude the revealing the plot at this point saying that NASA does find out that Mark is alive and though some ingenious manipulations and thought process, he finds a way to communicate.

Between the efforts of  Jeff Daniels who plays Teddy Sanders, Head of NASA, Chiwetel Ejiofor who plays Vincent Kapoor, NASA mission director, Mackenzie Davis as Mindy Park, satellite planner in Mission Control, Donald Glover as Rich Purnell, NASA astronomer, Sean Bean as Mitch Henderson, NASA mission director and Kristen Wiig as Annie Montrose, NASA spokesperson, the journey becomes both enlightening, intense, complicated and exciting.  Involvement from the China National Space Agency (CNSA) offers NASA classified information and help which was both exciting to hear and learn what they had to offer.

From the cast to the plot, to the intensity of the story to the brilliance of the acting and the efforts and planning of all who worked on this movie, I applaud The Martian and thank Hollywood for a movie that truly makes a difference when we really needed one.  There is so much more that I couldn’t tell as not to spoil any more than I did.  Whether you like science or not, The Martian is worth seeing.  Great job, great directing, great writing, great movie!

[THE MARTIAN is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Costume Design, Best Director, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects]
 

 

THE MONUMENTS MEN (2014) – My rating: 6.5/10

MonumentMenThe Monuments Men is a true story that takes place during WW2 and covers a very important era in history.  However, I am sorry to report that this film is not what one would expect.  It was a little confusing in the beginning, as I felt the director (George Clooney) assumed we knew military lingo and protocol proceedings.  It was as if the characters were carrying on their very own private conversations during an ambiguous opening.  The plan was to retrieve art stolen by the Nazis and return it to the rightful owners.  The plan was hard for the audience and, surprisingly, the military to understand.  I tried to follow along but soon became lost.  Midway through, The Monuments Men started to come to life.  I feel this was a noble gesture on the part of the US Military and was carried out to the best of their ability.  The Nazi’s still managed to destroy millions of paintings rather than allow the owners to repossess them.

For some reason, George Cloony, who plays Frank Stokes, is hard to take seriously.  He always seems to have a humorous persona. Bill Murray as Richard Campbell and Matt Damon as James Granger were brilliant as was John Goodman, who played Walter Garfield and Bob Balaban who played Preston Salvatz.  Cate Blanchett played Claire Simone/Rose Valland, the real life curator of the Jeu De Paume museum in Paris, France.  Rose documented all the paintings  that came through the museum and their rightful owners.  You can imagine how valuable this information became for this “special tasked platoon” known as The Monuments Men.

I don’t think this was a terrible movie but it wasn’t a good one.  Aside from the confusing lead-in, I found The Monuments Men a bit lack luster and at times, a bit boring.  George Clooney and Matt Damon seemed to dominate most scenes leaving Murray and Goodman overshadowed and under used.  Overall, once you get past all the unsettleing beginnings, it finally gets much better.  The Monuments Men is now on DVD and is worth an otherwise unfruitful evening.

ELYSIUM (2013) – My rating: 6.5/10

Elysium ***THERE ARE SOME SPOILERS***     In the real world, I hope our thinking never comes to the making of an Elysium.  Wealthy snobs vs everyone else.  Elysium is a man made space station where only the rich are allowed to live.  Mark (played by Matt Damon) is the only hope to achieving an equable life for all.  I wasn’t particularly fond of the ending and I felt a disconnect between Damon’s character and the audience.  I wanted the story to show more insight into the new future.  I don’t think Matt Damon fits the super hero profile for his character.  He seemed uncomfortable in this role which made me feel uncomfortable watching him.  He’s gotten a little wide and shots of him from behind gave off an elderly appearance.  His acting was very good, as usual but he seemed out of sorts and I also felt we were left hanging at the end which was designed to turn  him into a martyr as mankind was restored.

Jodie Foster was wicked as the Secretary of Defense.  But not even the great Jodie Foster could save this movie for me.  She plays a mean villain who would do anything to save Elysium.  Killing the young or old was done with ease and her character had a strong dislike for those beneath her.

I didn’t really like Elysium because it didn’t make me feel good and I wasn’t necessarily entertained.  None the less, it’s an interesting concept however,  I should have waited for DVD.

Behind the Candelabra – 7.5/10

BehindTheCandelabraBehind The Candelabra is a HBO movie based on an  autobiographical novel and the tempestuous 6-year relationship between Liberace and his much younger lover, Scott Thorson.  Liberace is played by Michael Douglas and Scott Thorson is played by Matt Damon. Casting Douglas and Damon was brilliant.   I am still reeling from their performances.  Who knew this pair would be so well suited to deliver these characters?  While the movie only touched on Liberace’s life after he was a huge star, it was crammed with information that probably was the most significant about who he  had become and how he died.

I remember Liberace as a flamboyant performer who played fantastic piano.  I enjoyed his concerts on TV and his funny way of talking and dressing.  I didn’t really know much about his personal life until now.  According to the movie, he had an insatiable sexual appetite and a thirst for new relationships.  He valued his talent and was an excellent showman.  All of this was nicely revealed in Behind the Candelabra.  Might I add, this movie was tastefully filmed and didn’t get too sexually graphic.  If you haven’t seen it, you can catch it On Demand.