Matt Damon

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Robert Downey Jr. Joins Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’

While it sounds like a match made in comic book heaven – sorry it’s not a CBM – but it still sounds pretty epic as Robert Downey Jr. has joined the cast of Christoper Nolan’s upcoming Oppenheimer movie. It’s also reported that Matt Damon has joined the cast of the tentpole, which already includes Cillian […]

Marvel Movie News

Watch ‘Thor’ 4 Footage Of Matt Damon

Thor 4 footage has landed online featuring Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and more from Australia, as director Taika Waititi continues filming the movie. The scenes don’t dive too deep into spoiler territory and they are fun to check out, but – spoiler warning – just in case. The Thor 4 footage, which can

Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Elysium (2013)

Metropolis Wanna-Be
A Film Review of Elysium
By: Lawrence Napoli


Neil Blomkamp, the writer/director from South Africa that created District 9 follows up with his second foray into spearheading a special F/X, Hollywood production with Elysium.  The lead-up to this film certainly had me very excited in that it was a brand new idea that blended sci-fi and action while seeming to have a solid cast in addition to making some worthwhile social commentary all at the same time.  This would definitely be my kind of movie, but at the same time seemed like an all too familiar experience from District 9.  That film didn’t exactly resonate with the global masses mostly due to its lack of action for the majority of the film, and it seems that Elysium was made specifically to address that issue.  As a matter of fact, there are so many similarities between these films in regards to plot and theme that I wonder if this film was simply a make-up for District 9’s deficiencies.  This summer has been very average in terms of the blockbusters we’ve all seen and/or heard about, and as much as I wanted Elysium to be the best, it simply did not deliver that summer fun, impactful glee represented by 2012’s The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises
Elysium is a very good looking film.  Set design, CG settings and costumes were extremely well done to create a very convincing portrayal of what Earth would be like in 2154.  The setting where most of the movie takes place depicts an arid, desert-like environment that bottle necks the populace into dense slums similar to the Brazilian “favellas” we saw in Fast Five.  Everyone and everything looks dusty and dirty and every step the viewer takes with the cast from the slums to the industrial sector screams “poverty” at every turn.  All of these visual elements contrast beautifully with the pristine, tech-plasticity of everything and everyone on the space station known as Elysium.  The color palate is strictly whites, blacks and metallic grays (with a little green for the fake grass they show in the residential areas).  Everyone looks like they were just in a business meeting or exiting an Abercrombie & Fitch, and everyone has had plastic surgery.  Elysium is disgustingly pretty, and the fact that these visuals are constantly colliding allows the audience a chance to really get into this fictional world in order to appreciate this futuristic reality of the “haves” versus the “have-nots.”
Elysium also demonstrates some fairly impressive visual and CG effects throughout that pays off with satisfaction during action sequences.  I was particularly impressed with the fidelity of the robots used throughout this film in that their rudimentary design seemed practical and realistic enough to be within the grasp of current technology while their interaction with people in the environment seemed as real as someone wearing a robot suit on set.  I also enjoyed the gunplay in this film which depicts slightly advanced ballistics on the planet, but then graduates to more laser/plasma ferocity on the space station.  My one complaint is in regards to the hand to hand combat which is neither aesthetically pleasing, nor competently captured by the camera for the audience to appreciate.  I understand that our combatants are wearing exo-skeleton suits that wouldn’t allow them a ballet-like fluidity to their punches and kicks, but the use of hand-held camera work to capture these moments makes it seems much faster than it really is and the audience misses a lot.  This continues to be a standard Hollywood strategy that allows the cinematographer to cheat by pushing the frame as close as possible to the action and then shaking it incessantly so our eyes can’t catch up to what probably is uninspired fight choreography or shoddy execution.  If you want to shoot action, then make sure the real work gets put in before deciding on angles and when the camera rolls.
As I mentioned before, the story of Elysium is very similar to the overall message and tone of the futuristic dystopia of District 9: the poor get poorer, the rich get richer, everything and everyone is exploitable for someone else, there’s no real sense of community or family and the concept of surviving requires feral desperation, despite the evolution of technology.  All of this is well and good (and has been done by just about every sci-fi film ever), but Elysium really tries to focus on the class conflict and how it directly relates to the fragility and mortality of the human body.  Our hero Max (Matt Damon) is set on a frantic path to the space station as the only way to save his own skin, but while doing so presents an opportunity for the rest of the planet to share in the rewards.  Max, however, is not the most sympathetic character conceived on paper and when moments arise for him to think of others before himself, he always takes the selfish route.  It’s difficult to cheer for this kind of character because his circumstances do not appear to realistically burden his journey; he simply demonstrates no interest.  Eventually, Max’s character arc brings him around to redemption, but the value of his journey exposes a reality that may be true today: disease, famine and poverty will never be dealt with because they exist as an all-purpose means of controlling the majority of the species.  The themes of the script are much more meaningful than the characters or the rather pedestrian plot.  In my opinion, the rich context does not compensate for this story’s lack of charm and complexity.
If the characters weren’t particularly interesting, the performances didn’t do much more to vitalize them.  It begins and ends with Matt Damon as Max.  His strongest moments are his glib interactions with robots that are quite comical, yet fairly rare.  His biggest weakness is the flaccid “romance” he shares with Alice Braga as Frey who is not demeaned as the token babe in your generic action/sci-fi flick, but whose subplot does little to enhance the development of the overall story.  Damon puts forth a capable performance, but is clearly miles away from the Bourne Trilogy and light years away from Good Will Hunting.  Even when his character is endowed with the exo-suit, he never really cuts loose to kick ass until the climactic battle which is quite satisfying, by the way, and a clear cut above every action sequence prior to in this film.  Whatever emotional angle Damon was playing at needed more with the exception of desperation, of which there was plenty, but I need more than that to connect with a character.
And speaking of “lacking;” how about Jodie Foster’s return to big budget films?  Playing Defense Minister Delacourt, she is the true antagonist of the movie by conspiring to gain total control of the space station, but her character’s lack of control and inability to intimidate severely limits her villainy.  I also found whatever accent she was attempting to be annoying and inconsistent as she breaks frequently to her natural speaking voice and it was completely unnecessary.  Perhaps her natural talk is too low-brow for a citizen of Elysium, but that just means someone else should have been cast in the first place.  
The best performance, by far, was that of Sharlto Copley whom you’ll remember as Murdock from The A-Team and the lead in District 9.  His character, Kruger, is the real threat to the hero in this film, and he is easily the best villain of the summer thanks to his brazen malevolence and mental instability.  You might think that it is easy for an actor to sell “evil” when it is framed within “crazy,” but Jim Carey and Tommy Lee Jones both proved in Batman Forever that “crazy” can fall flat on its face.  Copley and his natural eccentricity electrifies Kruger as a defiant nihilist that lives for violence and somehow gets the job done despite a fleeting ability to focus and his only motivations being “just ‘cause” and “why not?”  Sure, Kruger is about one level higher than a caveman, but his unpredictability is actually a welcome element of chaos amidst the well ordered society of Elysium and its well orchestrated control of the planet below.
Elysium is not the best film of the summer, and I really thought that it would be.  A weak main character combined with a poor man’s Metropolis plot doesn’t match the proficiency of its thematic tone, visual style or exceptional villain.  This is not quite the “thinking person’s” film that District 9 was, nor is it as accessible as something like Olympus Has Fallen which is about as standard issue as action films get. There’s simply not enough intrigue to label this as a must see in theatres, but it’s definitely worth checking out at your earliest convenience on Netflix.  I’m glad director Blomkamp didn’t sell out by making a shamelessly unnecessary 3D port of his film, but please viewers, don’t get tempted by the allure of the IMAX screen.  If your weekend isn’t already spoken for children thanks to Planes and you really need something to do, don’t pay more than a regular admission for Elysium.
Movie News Reviews

The State of Hollywood: 10 Best American Born Actors

The State of Hollywood 5 (b):

10 Best American Born Actors as of 2012

By: Lawrence Napoli 



It was a bit more difficult sorting through the men (Editor’s Note: compared to the women) to come up with a 10 “best,” “current,” and “American born,” Hollywood actor list. Quite frankly, there are more opportunities for men in this business because those who control the means of production (writers, directors, producers) still happen to be men [who are also mostly white].  I’d like to forewarn the reader if he or she happens to be sensitive about their leading men because there will be noticeable absences on this list for the simple fact that obvious additions 10 years ago have somewhat dropped out of the game due to age, a loss of interest or (fill in the blank).  NOT appearing on this list are notables: Hanks, Spacey, Travolta, Pacino, De Niro, Agents K and J, Malkovich and “JACK” Nicholson.  Oh, did I touch a nerve there?  I believe you all know where to send your complaints.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2785:]]10) Jeff Bridges

Born: Los Angeles, California in 1949

Last major feature: True Grit and Tron: Legacy (2010)

Notable awards: 2010 SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in Crazy Heart

Highlights: Iron Man, K-Pax, The Contender, The Big Lebowski, The Fisher King, Tron, Last Picture Show

On a quick side note: if I could nominate the entire cast of The Big Lebowski I would (minus Tara Reid), but alas not everyone in that cast has had an opportunity to truly lead productions (though many have and I’m glad Buscemi is doing well in Boardwalk Empire).  That being said, “The Dude” is every bit as awesome as the nickname that made us forget he’s just another Jeffrey Lebowski.  Toss in the fact he didn’t speak a single discernible word for the entirety of True Grit and still got an Oscar nomination for it shows us that even the Academy can appreciate Jeff’s eccentricity.  The man’s a true Hollywood star and although he had no major releases last year, he’s slated for two in 2013: R.I.P.D. and The Seventh Son.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2786:]]9) Brad Pitt

Born: Shawnee, Oklahoma in 1963

Last major feature: Moneyball (2011)

Notable awards: 2012 NSFC best actor in The Tree of Life and Moneyball and 1996 Golden Globe for best supporting actor in Twelve Monkeys

Highlights: Inglourious Basterds, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Snatch, Fight Club, Se7en, Legends of the Fall

Often maligned for his “pretty boy” status, Pitt continues to show more seasoning as an actor these days as well as some smarter choices for the roles he signs up for.  You kind of have to have more patience and discipline as an individual if you are the father of a family of 20.  Say what you will about his acting ability, but his performances make the films he’s been involved with MUCH more interesting.  Unlike Tom Cruise, Pitt still has a real opportunity to win an Academy Award as an actor because he can sell more than just action flicks.  Until then, he’ll just have to remain envious of his wife’s Oscar.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2787:]]8) Lenardo DiCaprio

Born: Los Angeles, California in 1974

Last major feature: J. Edgar (2011)

Notable awards: 2005 Golden Globe for best actor in The Aviator

Highlights: Inception, Shutter Island, The Departed, Catch Me If You Can, Titanic, Romeo + Juliet

Ah Leo, another pretty boy makes the list, but this one happens to be one I formerly had a serious beef with concerning his status as the male version of Helen of Troy to all young women as a result of his work in Titanic.  Had I been getting as lucky with the ladies as Leo had in general during the late 90s, perhaps I’d feel differently.  However, his filmography speaks for itself as his recent work has definitely made me more of a believer.  As Brad Pitt has shown a deeper commitment to character, so too has DiCaprio as he matures as a professional.  Leo has a few years on Pitt to grab that Oscar, but it’s a toss-up as to which one of them actually lands it first.  His upcoming work for The Great Gatsby should be compelling enough for yet another nomination once it releases.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2788:]]7) Matt Damon

Born: Boston, Massachusetts in 1970

Last major feature: We Bought a Zoo (2011)

Notable awards: 1998 Golden Globe and Academy Award for best screenplay for Good Will Hunting

Highlights: The Adjustment Bureau, True Grit, Invictus, The Bourne Trilogy, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Rounders

Yes, the best he’s managed so far for notable acting recognition is a number of nominations.  The argument could easily be made that Good Will Hunting was such a phenomenal fluke that validated Damon and Affleck’s existence on the Hollywood scene that it should come to no one’s surprise that he hasn’t become the alpha actor he should be.  To that I say Damon still makes this list even if GWH never existed.  Sure, he’d drop a few spots, but his work on the Bourne franchise is quite balanced between the action and drama.  The chemistry he had with Emily Blunt on The Adjustment Bureau was inspiring.  But it was the command he demonstrated throughout Rounders that proved he not only belonged in Hollywood, he could headline it.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2789:]]6) Denzel Washington

Born: Mount Vernon, New York in 1954

Last major feature: Safe House (2012)

Notable awards: 2002 Academy Award for best actor in Training Day, 1990 Golden Globe and Academy Award for best supporting actor in Glory, 2000 Golden Globe for best actor in The Hurricane

Highlights: The Book of Eli, American Gangster, Déjà Vu, Man on Fire, Training Day, Philadelphia, Malcolm X, Glory

Easily the most decorated actor on this list; Denzel has accomplished just about everything a professional actor can aspire to in Hollywood land.  Everything about this man’s acting ability can be summarized in one word: intensity!  The real question is whether age is starting to catch up to him seeing how his last outing with Ryan Reynolds didn’t exactly fire up the critics in a positive way.  I can’t blame an alpha actor like Denzel for doing a paycheck film, but it does hurt his “current” and “relevant” status somewhat; thus his placement at #6. 

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2790:]]5) Philip Seymour Hoffman

Born: Fairport, New York in 1967

Last major feature: The Ides of March (2011)

Notable awards: 2006 SAG, Golden Globe and Academy Award for best actor in Capote

Highlights: Doubt, Capote, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Magnolia, The Big Lebowski

No, Mr. Hoffman does not make this list because of some “un-pretty” quota.  He’s a damn fine actor whose work extends well into the indie scene while still getting much deserved respect (and bank) from Hollywood.  Few actors can be so effective in both comedic and serious roles but Philip has this in spades.  His films tend to be a bit more cerebral in nature so his exposure to the average movie-goer may be limited.  Yet, this man is a living, breathing example that performance can transcend looks (and that’s a BIG accomplishment amidst all the plastic of La La Land).  He adds instant credibility to any cast and any production, but the smart choice is always to have him slide into a featured role because he can make the whole thing Oscar worthy.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2791:]]4) Edward Norton

Born: Baltimore, Maryland in 1967

Last major feature: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Notable awards: 1997 Golden Globe for best supporting actor in Primal Fear

Highlights: The Incredible Hulk, The Illusionist, Death To Smoochy, The Score, Fight Club, American History X, Rounders

Is he a diva incapable of playing well with other marquee actors?  Is his agent a money grubbing troll?  Who knows the real “truth” behind the fact he was not a part of the epic cast of The Avengers because it certainly was NOT the result of poor acting.  He certainly made me forget that Eric Bana practically murdered Marvel’s big green machine in tandem with Ang Lee.  Norton is as skilled as actors come.  He was plain evil in American History X, yet plain loveable in Death To Smoochy.  His skill cannot be questioned, but if he presents chemistry issues for one’s cast, that presents a legitimate concern.  Perhaps Norton is just getting a bad rap as a result of gossip gone wild.  However, if so much gossip is consistent over a period of time, there may be some truth to it.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2792:]]3) Morgan Freeman

Born: Memphis, Tennessee in 1937

Last major feature: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Notable awards: 2005 Academy Award for best supporting actor in Million Dollar Baby, 1990 Golden Globe for best actor in Driving Ms. Daisy

Highlights: The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Bucket List, Along Came a Spider, Se7en, The Shawshank Redemption, Unforgiven, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Glory

As the elder statesman of this list, Morgan Freeman continues to deliver impactful performances as an actor because he finds the roles that compliment his age rather than react against it.  Of course, his iconic voice does much to extend his legacy as a marquee narrator (thus negating any ill effects of being “too old”).  He’s still more than capable of being the single feature to any production, but he’s gravitating towards projects with strong ensemble casts.  He’s won his Oscar so I can’t argue with his approach to further cementing his legacy.  I personally feel he was hosed for being overlooked by the Academy for his work on Shawshank, but then everyone that wasn’t associated with Forrest Gump was overlooked in ’95.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2793:]]2) Robert Downey Jr.

Born: New York City, New York in 1965

Last major feature: The Avengers

Notable awards: 2010 Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy for Sherlock Holmes, 1993 BAFTA for best actor in Chaplin

Highlights: Iron Man Trilogy, Sherlock Holmes, Tropic Thunder, A Scanner Darkly, Wonder Boys, Heart and Souls, Chaplin

(I’m not even going to mention the brilliance of Sherlock Holmes) How much money has this one individual made for Marvel Entertainment?  An exact number would be difficult to come up with, but the fact that he is playing the role he was born to play in Tony Stark has a lot to do with Hollywood’s continued obsession with adapting comic book titles.  Now let’s totally forget his involvement with all things Avengers and look to the fact that he got nominated for best supporting actor for his work in Topic ThunderTropic Thunder!?!?  Don’t get me wrong; it was fairly funny, but he was the only good thing about that goofball comedy AND he got props from the Academy for doing so.  This man has made “quirky” the new “sexy,” yet he isn’t the king of quirk as that title belongs to …

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:2794:]]1) Johnny Depp

Born: Owensboro, Kentucky in 1963

Last major feature: Dark Shadows (2012)

Notable awards: 2008 Golden Globe for best performance in a musical for Sweeney Todd and nominated for just about everything else, yet never ultimately winning

Highlights: Pirates of the Caribbean Saga, Public Enemies, Finding Neverland, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, From Hell, Blow, The Ninth Gate, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands

You do of course realize that had Johnny decided to sell out and become the teenie-bopper heart throb he was being groomed for, we would be talking about an actor with an inferior filmography and absolutely zero recognition from any notable authority in the field of acting proficiency.  He’d also not be on this list at all.  Yet, he still hasn’t won one single Oscar despite so many nominations and other performances worthy of nomination.  This reveals the inner quirk of Johnny Depp; a man determined to have his career play out the way he wants it.  Depp has all the skills as he can produce any performance for any role.  The only reason he doesn’t have multiple Oscars is a direct result of the projects he chooses to commit to.  Depp despises the mainstream as evidenced by the soul connection he shared with Hunter S. Thompson (of all people).  There are so many Oscar winning actors, yet few have been as unique as individuals let alone the roles they became famous for as Depp.  Frank Sinatra would be proud that he’s “doing it his way,” but I do see Oscar gold in Johnny’s future.  What’s really interesting is that an Oscar victory would not be seen as vindication for him personally.  His acceptance speech would probably go something like: “Thanks for this, but I have a fresh batch of opium at home with my name on it.  Bye.”  It could possibly be the best acceptance speech in the history of the Oscars for the simple fact it would finish way before the orchestra played him offstage. 

Those are my 10 best leading men and women of today’s Hollywood who actually originate from this country.  I completely understand how Hollywood is always looking for the next “hot, young thing,” but Australia isn’t the only place they should be looking.  I liken Cavill’s role as Superman to that of Patrick Stewart becoming the new captain of The Enterprise.  Stewart rose above the pressure and scrutiny of such ambition because his performances were simply amazing for every episode and every film.  All Cavill has to do is match that type of performance for one money and then maybe Americans will accept a Brit as the one who stands for truth, justice and so on and so forth.

Movie News Reviews

Movie Review: Hereafter

Clint Eastwood is a Hollywood icon.  Americans know this mostly due to his acting contributions to the western and cop film genres.  Age catches up with every actor and limits what one can do in front of the camera mostly because of aesthetic reasons.  I always felt that Clint’s move to the director’s chair was