Poll Results: Favorite Matt Damon Film

Good Will Hunting

THE RESULTS:
– Good Will Hunting: 7 votes
– The Bourne Identity: 5 votes
– The Departed: 5 votes
– Rounders: 4 votes
– Saving Private Ryan: 3 votes
– The Talented Mr. Ripley: 3 votes
– The Bourne Supremacy: 2 votes
– True Grit: 2 votes
– Dogma: 1 vote
– The Bourne Ultimatum: 1 vote

This was a close one, but Good Will Hunting ended up winning after holding the lead for most of the week. Interesting to note that the Bourne trilogy would have finished first if combined as one result. I’m happy that Rounders had a strong showing — for my money, that’s still the best poker movie of all time.

This Week’s Poll: There is just under a month left until the brand new Grand Theft Auto V is released onto the gaming world. The news on Rockstar’s latest game keeps trickling in, and all signs point to this being one of the year’s best games. As such, I thought it would be fun to look back at the GTA series in its entirety. What is your favorite Grand Theft Auto game? Do you prefer the Scarface-inspired 80s hit, Vice City? How about 90s LA in San Andreas? Or is the increased realism of GTA IV more your style?

Have a great week, folks!

Poll Results: Favorite Denzel Washington Film

Malcolm X

THE RESULTS:
– Malcolm X: 6 votes
– American Gangster: 5 votes
– Glory: 5 votes
– Training Day: 4 votes
– Inside Man: 3 votes
– Philadelphia: 3 votes
– Flight: 2 votes
– Remember the Titans: 2 votes
– Deja Vu: 1 vote
– The Great Debaters: 1 vote
– The Hurricane: 1 vote
– John Q: 1 vote

The write-ins:
– Devil In a Blue Dress: 1 vote
– Man On Fire: 1 vote
– “twilight”: 1 vote (what?)

I may have unknowingly altered the results here. I forgot to list Training Day, which earned Denzel his only Best Actor award, until the end of last week. I have a feeling that might have snagged a few more votes if it were more prominently displayed in the results. At the same time, most recognize Malcolm X as his finest performance, so that probably still would have won anyway. Either way, it’s great to see so many films get votes.

This Week’s Poll: The Matt Damon-starring Elysium topped the box office over the weekend despite surprisingly mixed reviews. With Damon once again in the spotlight, it only seems appropriate to ask this: what are your TWO favorite Matt Damon movies? This one should provide some interesting results.

Have a great week, folks!

Movie Project #12: The Bourne Identity [2002]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a second round for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Bourne Identity [2002]

The Bourne Identity [2002]
Director: Doug Liman
Genre: Action/Crime/Mystery
Starring: Matt Damon, Franka Potente and Chris Cooper
Runtime: 119 minutes

Sometimes I amaze myself when it comes to looking at how many movies I missed from the last decade. I didn’t really start (over)indulging in film until just three or four years ago, and I never bothered with a lot of the major blockbusters. That’s how I skipped out on Casino Royale (or Bond films period), and a lot of the big-budget action flicks from recent years. Because of this large gap in my movie-watching history, I made sure to include The Bourne Identity in this year’s project.

Looking back ten years later, it’s weird to see Matt Damon look so young. Regardless, he is more than capable as the ex-CIA operative, Jason Bourne, who is rescued from the Mediterranean Sea with no recollection of his past. His only hint comes from an account number to a Swedish safe deposit box that is surgically implanted in his hip. He quickly learns that he has better reflexes and hand-to-hand combat skills than the average person, and a trip to the Swedish bank reveals even more curiosities: the deposit is box full of passports with different aliases, several types of currency, and a handgun. The CIA is alerted to Bourne’s bank visit and soon he finds himself on the run with no clue as to why.

The Bourne Identity [2002]

Bourne hitches a ride with Marie Kreutz (Franka Potente), an unassuming pedestrian who accepts a $20,000 offer to get him to Paris. Soon she becomes targeted by association, and the two embark on a wild adventure as Bourne attempts to learn who he is, as well as who is trying to kill him.

As far as spy thrillers go, this is a good one. There are moments of groan-inducing cliches, but for the most part this is a well-crafted adventure that rarely lets its foot off the pedal. A car chase scene through the streets of Paris is exhilirating, as are the moments when Bourne encounters hitmen who are out to eradicate him. There is never a shortage of adrenaline-pumping action and suspense, and the film even manages to include some romance (though not a major focal point, thankfully).

The Bourne Identity [2002]

The movie has a good set of villains in place, with Bourne’s former boss Alexander Conklin (Chris Cooper) leading the operation to get rid of the ex-operative once and for all. The hitmen sent after Bourne are intimidating, especially “The Professor” (Clive Owen) with his extraordinary sniping skills.

The Bourne Identity is a fun thriller with a little more brains behind it when compared to others in the genre. It feels a little dated now, but it’s still an entertaining watch with plenty of thrills. I am looking forward to seeing the rest of the trilogy in anticipation for this year’s entry in the series.

8/10

Movie Review: Contagion [2011]

Contagion [2011]

Contagion [2011]
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Genre: Drama/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

Pandemic movies are hardly anything new. More often than not they tend to delve into far-fetched scenarios where zombies run rampant and feast on human flesh. In this regard, Contagion is almost like a breath of fresh air. There are no zombies, and the situation is entirely feasible.

The movie focuses on a rapidly progressing virus outbreak, not unlike the swine flu, that kills those that come in contact with it in a matter of days. It is unknown where this virus came from, at least initially, and it becomes a worldwide concern as the medical community frantically attempts to develop a vaccine. Meanwhile, people everywhere are freaking out, causing mayhem to the streets and others while trying to avoid getting sick. To put it bluntly, this is total chaos.

Contagion [2011]

Rather than dwelling on an individual story or small group of people directly involved in one aspect of the pandemic, director Steven Soderbergh chose to follow people from all over the world. The movie keeps tabs on regular folk, doctors, scientists and even conspiracy theorists. The fact that the movie is spread out with so many different subplots is both a blessing and a curse. I loved the global feel of the movie, as we saw viewpoints from all over the world. However, with so many characters introduced and then dropped in and out of the main storyline, it becomes difficult to feel any connection to them. The multi-character arc is a great idea, but a few characters here and there could have probably been cut out.

I also noticed some issues with the movie’s pacing. Even though it is labeled as a thriller, Contagion really lacks any sense of excitement. The general feeling of hysteria is always there, but the movie tends to rely too heavily on random subplots that offer little emotional weight. As a result, there are moments where things feel like they are crawling along. This is a bizarre problem for a movie that pushes through over 100 days of action in under two hours.

Even though it is difficult to get behind some of the characters, it must be stated that this is of no fault to the cast. Several of the actors have been nominated for Academy Awards in the past, and they certainly do as good as they can with their small roles. Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne and Jude Law seem to get the most screen time. Damon is great as a normal guy who just so happens to be immune to the disease. After his wife and one of his daughters die at the onset of the virus, he attempts to recreate a normal life with his remaining daughter. Fishburne is in excellent form as Dr. Ellis Cheever, an employee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jude Law delivers perhaps the most enjoyable role of all as a conspiracy theory blogger, even taking a cheapshot at blogging in stride.

Contagion [2011]

Other noteworthy additions to the cast include Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, Jennifer Ehle and John Hawkes. Winslet in particular shines in her limited role, as she usually does. Cotillard’s character arc is perhaps most frustrating, as she enters and then disappears from the movie at long intervals. Again, kudos to everyone involved for getting all of these big name actors, but it would have been great to have them fleshed out some more.

Regardless of these faults, it would be inappropriate to call Contagion a bad movie. It has an excellent cast and a great concept, and I really enjoyed the tense soundtrack as well. The problem is that it simply could have been a lot better.

6.5/10

Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The Adjustment Bureau [2011]
Director: George Nolfi
Genre: Romance/Sci-Fi/Thriller
Language: English
Country: USA

The Adjustment Bureau is a jack of all trades. Action, fantasy, sci-fi, thriller, romance. There is something for everyone in director George Nolfi’s adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, “Adjustment Team”.

Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a young, brash New York Congressman with an aspiring political career. In 2006, he is gunning for a Senate seat and looks to be the front runner until some embarrassing pictures of his college antics turn up. He loses the race but meets the sexy and mysterious Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) right before he is to make his concession speech. As if by magic, there is an instant connection between the two in their brief but passionate encounter, and this inspires David to give a no-holds-barred speech, easily the best of his career. This breathes new life into his political career, but all he can think about is Elise.

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The potential relationship between David and Elise has omniscient barriers that are determined to keep them apart. This group of “case workers” as they like to be called is known as The Adjustment Bureau (made up of an impressive cast including John Slattery and Anthony Mackie). They keep track of everyone’s lives in order to make sure that everything goes according to the plan. One day David stumbles upon the Bureau in action and learns about their methods. They agree to let him live under two conditions: he cannot tell anyone about them (and if he does, they will erase his memory) and he must never see Elise again. Even with some knowledge of his potential future, David dares it all just to be with Elise. And that’s where the romance comes in.

The love plot leads to some predictable moments, but the movie is still quite enjoyable. The issues of fate and destiny are discussed in an intelligent and respectable manner, never opting to shove religion down our throats. I was very pleased with this, especially after watching the atrocious Book of Eli, a film that leaned far too heavily on religious themes. The Adjustment Bureau brings up some interesting ideas about whether there are forces beyond our control that keep our lives on track, and if “fate” can be avoided.

The Adjustment Bureau [2011, Nolfi]

The movie has two more-than-capable leads in the form of Damon and Blunt, and they have great chemistry together. During the heated bathroom sequence early in the movie, it is easy to see the instant connection between them. Damon, in particular, is on top of his game here, effortlessly playing the charming and charismatic politican. Blunt also does very well with what she has to work with here, although I would have preferred a little more depth to her character. The aforementioned Slattery and Mackie are great as part of the Bureau, especially Slattery who is in prime Mad Men form. Terrence Stamp also gets in on the action as the gruff advisor known as “The Hammer” who is sent in to take care of the escalating situation.

I can see how some viewers might be turned off by the movie — its last 15 minutes can get a little silly — but I was still pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it overall. The Adjustment Bureau has an interesting concept that brings up some thoughtful questions, and it is led by a very strong cast. Ambitious and inspiring, this film is well worth seeing.

8/10

True Grit [2010]

True Grit [2010]

True Grit [2010]
Directors: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen
Genre: Drama/Western
Language: English
Country: USA

True Grit is the famed Coen Brothers’ re-imagining of the novel and 1969 film of the same name. I haven’t seen the original film (or read the book) so I went into the theater knowing very little about this movie beforehand. The story follows a 14-year-old girl, Mattie Ross (the debuting Hailee Steinfeld), who sets out to avenge the death of her father by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin). She obtains help from the unlikely pairing of the one-eyed alcoholic U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) and the clean-cut by-the-book Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon).

This is a Coen Brothers movie through and through. The dialogue is razor-sharp and full of wit and humor, with a significant portion of it coming from the snarky Mattie Ross. Between her and Cogburn, there are plenty of memorable one-liners. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of dark humor in this film. All of the characters are well-crafted and are aided by an absolutely outstanding cast. Hailee Stenfield is remarkable as Mattie, and it is hard to believe this is her first feature film. She is sure to get a lot of work after this performance. Jeff Bridges is excellent as always — he sure has perfected the old drunk role, hasn’t he? If I had one complaint about his performance, it is that he was almost *too* good at playing the slurring drunk since there were moments were I had difficulty understanding what he was saying. It should also be noted that Josh Brolin and Barry Pepper really delivered as the “bad guys” in the movie, although their roles were unfortunately rather small.

True Grit is a strong addition to the Western genre, and it has me intrigued to see the 1969 original as well. The movie doesn’t really do anything new, but it is very well-made with an incredible attention to details of its time period. True Grit is a great story of revenge and unlikely camaraderie, and it is highly entertaining. Definitely recommended.

8/10