Ocean’s Eleven (2001) Film Review

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Danny Ocean (George Clooney) has two goals when he gets out of jail; to win back his ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts) and to rob the casino that belongs to her current beau, Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia). He gets together a crack team of specialists (ten others to be exact… hence the Ocean’s Eleven).

A heist film is great. A casino heist film is even better. And with a whole bunch of hunks and spunks, clever writing and fun technology, plus twists that have you thinking one thing then it flips? What more could one want? How about a half decent female character in here? There is only one woman of any significantce in this film, and she is an object to be possessed. What’s more (spoiler alert), when she learns that her current beau is not the nicest guy, does she go and work her own life out? Hells no. She goes back to the man who lied to her and ruined her life. Sheesh, this film would have been better with no women at all. Annoying, because I really liked the rest of it.

 

Elysium (2013) Film Review

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Elysium is a place orbiting Earth where all the wealthiest people went when the world became overcrowded and where the poor who remain dream of one day going. Not only do they have beautiful houses and gardens and no fear of crime, but they have fancy machines that are used to heal any injuries or illness. Max (Matt Damon) lives on Earth working an honest job after a wayward youth of stealing cars. He dreams of earning enough for a ticket to Elysium. But when he is hit with a soon-to-be-fatal dose of radiation at his work, he feels his only hope is to get there now, and hooks up with his underworld pals again. Along comes Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a nasty enforcer who will do anything he is ordered to by his sometimes boss, Delacourt (Jodie Foster) and things get mega violent. Add into the mix Max’s childhood love and her sick child and you have a whole film.

I found much of this film didn’t click for me. Yes, it had a lot of action, and there was injustice and good versus evil. There were certainly some aspects of the film that had similarities to Blomkamp’s previous film, District 9. The creation of a powerless underclass and the need for them to regain some power, and that is surely making comments on human nature in so many different ways. It felt like it should work; decent script, some top actors giving great performances. But it just didn’t work for me. Still, give it a try.

 

Good Will Hunting (1997) Film Review

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Will (Matt Damon) works as a janitor at MIT and is secretly a genius, but he prefers to spend his time with his mates. After solving a maths puzzle set by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellen Skarsgard), he is discovered, but his behavioural and emotional problems need to be dealt with. Eventually, he finds a fit with Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) who is dealing with his own problems. And chuck in gorgeous British beauty Skylar (Minnie Driver).

This film may always be known as the film that rocketed unknown actors Matt Damon and Ben Affleck into the spotlight as (or so the legend goes) fed up with not getting work, they wrote an awesome script and here it is. I don’t know if that is true as such, but I will say that after watching several of the Ben Affleck directed films, Good Willing Hunting gives us an indication of his talent. He knows how to craft a good, emotionally engaging story with flawed characters trying to beat the odds. It’s a good film. Real good.

Good Will Hunting won Oscars for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Robin Williams) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck).

The Monuments Men (2014) Film Review

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A group of art historians are brought into the army to save artwork that Hitler has had collected and plans to destroy if he loses power.

That is an interesting story in itself. Yet, watching the trailers, it looked terrible to me. It seemed very lighthearted and possibly too funny. IT didn’t matter that there is an excellent cast: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban. Or that it was directed by Clooney. It just looked average. But I went.

I was pleasantly surprised. It’s not a total hard-hitting war film. The humour was good and not too much of it, and it was nicely balanced with some heart wrenching moments. I believe it is not true to the original story, but it is not a documentary. I’m happy to forgive that. I’m happy to have just enjoyed it for what it was.

Behind the Candelabra (2013) Film Review

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It’s the late 70s. Librace (Michael Douglas) is at the height of his fame, playing to sold-out houses in Las Vegas, wearing his trademark outrageously spectacular outfits, masses of jewelry and playing a mirror-covered grand piano. He is introduced to Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), a young, beautiful and naïve young man and they begin a romantic relationship. Over the course of the relationship they are faced with a variety of challenges including fame, plastic surgery and drugs.

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The story itself is interesting; an older, highly successful performer seeks love and companionship from a younger man and uses his money and success to obtain this. For me, there were two key things that made this film for me. The first was the legend of Liberace. I’ve always known who Liberace was; a flamboyant pianist who, despite the high camp of his outfits and his act, was not known as a gay man to the general public. The second was the performances. Michael Douglas was fabulous as Liberace; he was such a larger-than-life character, and any portrayal was going to have some element of cariacature. But Douglas brought heart to the character. Matt Damon showed the rise of fall of Thorson, from the innocent farm boy to the arrogant lover of a very wealthy man. And then there is Rob Lowe. Lowe plays Dr Jack Startz, the creepy, overly-face-lifted plastic surgeon. Every moment he is on screen is magnificent. Truly magnificent.

The Departed (2006) Film Review

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Two young men enter the police force in South Boston. One is a young kid who has been groomed by local Irish gangster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) to be an insider in the force. The other, Billy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an honest guy with a bad family background, who is supposedly booted from the force and turns to crime, but is actually deep undercover. The only people who know that he is undercover are his two police contacts – Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) and Queenan (Martin Sheen).

This is based on the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, and is almost exactly the same, shot by shot. So much so that I wondered if I had already seen this – but it is that I watched Infernal Affairs only recently. Yes, it is a good film, but it’s not the type of good film that is really worth watching two identical versions of. Even if the language is different. The Departed won a whole heap of awards including Oscars, and I wonder if there was any acknowledgement of Infernal Affairs or if it has been forgotten along the way. Jack Nicholson was nominated and won a series of awards for his performance which I really cannot understand as I thought his performance was very average. Mark Wahlberg, however, was amazing and absolutely deserved the recognition he got.

The Departed won Oscars for Best Achievement in Directing (Martin Scorsese), Best Achievement in film Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (William Monahan) and was nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Wahlberg).

The Bourne Supremacy (2004) Film Review

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*spoiler alerts*

Guns, explosions, running, jumping. Just like The Bourne Identity, this film is a good, strong action classic. Unfortunately, some parts are terribly predictable (we couldn’t keep the love interest alive – who would he be avenging?)but others are delightfully not.

Jason Bourne(Matt Damon) still doesn’t know who he is. There are bits of memory that are coming back to him, but not enough to let him rest easily. Then Marie(Franka Potente) is killed and he needs to step it up. However, upon returning to the places where he may learn about his past (Paris, Berlin, Milan), he is discovered and pursued by the FBI. Who is covering up what? There is layer and layer to the film, which makes it a fair bit more satisfying that your general shoot-‘em’up action flick.

The Bourne Identity (2002) Film Review

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An unconscious man, Jason Bourne(Matt Damon) is fished out of the ocean with two bullets in his back. When he wakes, he has amnesia. Back on land, he discovers that he has a wide range of skills, from speaking various languages to fighting and being super aware of his surroundings. But as he discovers things about himself, assassins are pursuing him. He goes on a road trip with Marie (Franka Potente), a girl who he met at the embassy. Of course, they hook up and together they need to figure out how to survive.

It’s intriguing, it’s exciting, there is lots of running and fighting and shooting and even a couple of explosions. I loved it. Most of the film worked for me, but there were a couple of things that didn’t really work for me. The romance didn’t work – I didn’t feel there was any sexual tension built up, so when they get it on, I didn’t really believe it. In fact, it was the relationships between Bourne and Marie that I didn’t buy – she agreed to take him very quickly, and whilst there was a very limited window for this to happen, I just didn’t buy it. Still, I put my doubts aside and just enjoyed the film; it’s my second favourite in the category of person-with-amnesia-realising-they-are-actually-an-assassin. I can’t imagine anything will overtake my love of The Long Kiss Goodnight with Geena Davis in the main role.

The Bourne films are based on books by Robert Ludlum. I’m definitely up for watching the rest of the films – and perhaps even reading the books.