Tag Archives: Matt Damon

The Martian

On a routine space expedition to Mars, a ground crew are on their final research mission when a fierce storm lashes the planet’s surface. The team of astronauts, severely buffeted by the relentless gales, manage to scramble back to their craft. They watch in horror as one of their crew members, Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon), is blasted hundreds of metres out of sight by the high winds. Assuming he has been killed, Commander Melissa Lewis (by Jessica Chastain) departs the surface of Mars to preserve the lives of her remaining crew. They start their journey home to Earth. Several hours later when the storm has passed, Watney now lies on the calm Mars ground. He regains consciousness and slowly realises he has been left behind on Mars … alone. Now what should he do?  … Left on this inhospitable barren planet, does anyone even know he’s alive?  … How will he survive?  … Will anyone ever come back for him?

This is an entertaining and well-made movie. Once the viewer realises it’s not supposed to be a serious sci-fi, but more a light-hearted drama (almost comedy) made as an adventure story, the whole experience is enjoyable. As Astronaut Mark Watney, Matt Damon is perfectly cast as this highly intelligent, but realistic and practical botanist who’s left to use his every ounce of instinct and ingenuity to figure out a way to survive. He’s got to be smart, as there’s a whole station of highly advanced technical equipment to operate and there’s fundamental mathematics and science to be applied to this survival situation. His co-stars add interest and intrigue to the story – I love that there are some strong, smart women in driving roles – Jessica Chastain is our courageous and innovative Commander Lewis; Kristen Wiig is the digital satellite expert at NASA; and Kate Mara as the crew’s technology whizz. Our resident “Mars” expert at NASA Ground Control is Vincent Kapoor, played very well by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the necessary political animal is NASA Director Teddy Sanders, by Jeff Daniels, who must navigate the stakeholders to get what he needs to keep the space crew alive, the media at bay and the political climate positive. It’s good to see Sean Bean here as NASA’s Mitch Henderson (and not a bad guy for once), he hasn’t been around much lately. Overall, it’s an entertaining adventure story, supported well by a great script and good soundtrack – how timely to note that David Bowie’s “Starman” is used very well in this, along with several other songs from a time gone by. Quite deservedly, the movie won the 2016 AFI Award for “Movie of the Year” and it made no. 5 in the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) 2015 “Top 10 Films”. It also won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture and Matt Damon for Best Actor. In the 2016 Academy Awards (Oscars) it was nominated for Motion Picture of the Year and in both the Oscars and the BAFTA’s nominations were for Matt Damon (Leading Actor), Writing, Production Design, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects. It is based on the book “The Martian” by Andy Weir. Very well done.

Made in 2015. Directed by Ridley Scott.



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Posted by on January 18, 2016 in Movies


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The Monuments Men

It’s wartime 1944 and signs of weakness are appearing in the Germans’ stronghold across Europe. The German Armies start to retreat east, back to their homeland – but they don’t leave things as they’ve found them. Their Führer, Adolf Hitler, a lover of fine art, has ordered that all art treasures (mostly paintings and sculptures) across Europe be collected from the churches and galleries in France and Belgium and brought to him in Linz, for his own personal collection and exhibition. His orders are carried out and those pieces that the Germans can’t take with them, they destroy in their wake, leaving a trail of empty halls and wreckage behind them. At the same time, art expert Frank Stokes (played by George Clooney) initiates an operation to find and retrieve as much of the art as he can. He forms a special squad of experts – art restorer James Granger (by Matt Damon), architect Richard Campbell (by Bill Murray) art teacher Jean-Claude Clermont (by Jean Dujardin), sculptor Walter Garfield (by John Goodman), British art expert Donald Jeffries (by Hugh Bonneville) and Preston Savitz (by Bob Balaban). Stokes has worked with all these men before and, although none are in active military service and they’re all out of shape, he knows this is the best team to get the job done. They must get to the front line and rescue the priceless art pieces before the Germans destroy them as they leave or the Russians steal them when they arrive. Quite straightforward really …

I enjoyed this movie. It’s sort of a Boy’s Own wartime jaunt through Europe, crossed with an Indiana Jones style search for art icons that dodges the inevitable Germans, features wartime exploits and is punctuated by strong mateship during combat. A meaningful piece it isn’t, but an enjoyable movie it is. None of the action scenes are believable, but overall the story is there. I’m not really sure what the “cold as ice” French Museum Curator, Claire Simone (played by Cate Blanchett) adds to the story, except perhaps to provide a source for one or two clues in the search and I guess as a token female character, but she plays the role well and does look great in the forties French fashion. The ensemble cast are very entertaining and the script is delectable – I love the way Clooney bounces off Matt Damon in this – as in several movies they’ve done together (obvious examples are “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Ocean’s Twelve”) and of course both Bill Murray and John Goodman are masters at this. It’s refreshing and entertaining to see Hugh Bonneville here, in a role other than his recent efforts as Lord Grantham in television’s “Downton Abbey”, which may well have typecast him. The movie does make some important points about the value of life compared to art, the deep respect and honour amongst soldiers and the futile wastefulness of war.  Even though George Clooney has directed much better movies than this one, it was awarded the 2014 Heartland Film “Truly Moving Picture” award.

Made in 2014. Directed by George Clooney.

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Posted by on December 6, 2014 in Movies


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Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon) is a rugby player – but not just any old rugby player – he’s the captain of the national rugby team of South Africa – the Springboks. In 1993, his team faces a challenging time ahead. South Africa is to be the host nation of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in only eighteen months’ time and the Springboks currently languish at the bottom of the world’s elite league. At the same time, Nelson Mandela (by Morgan Freeman) has just been released from prison after 27 years as a political prisoner who challenged and fought his entire life against apartheid. Mandela has quickly ascended to become the democratically elected President of the nation and he is focussed on radical change for South Africa. This is a significant challenge for such a divided country He loves rugby and endears himself to many through his support of the national game. One day Mandela meets Pienaar – through his wisdom and courage developed over years of hardship and incarceration, he inspires Francois to work hard to lead the team back to world class rugby standards once again, to really put South Africa on the global stage – both in sports and the broader political landscape. The 1995 World Cup arrives and the entire country holds its breath in the hope that the Springboks can do it for South Africa …

This is a good sports movie – if you’re expecting a political drama, you won’t get it here – but you will get an excellent introduction to this highly complex nation and the issues surrounding their political landscape. As Nelson Mandela, Morgan Freeman takes on an almighty challenge, but he really does it justice. His performance is excellent. To have the courage and confidence to emulate such a great man in world significance is marvellous and to be applauded. As Francois Pienaar, Matt Damon is good here too, thankfully his character shows a lot more depth than the grit and determination required to become an elite footballer, which is appreciated. Overall, the story is lightweight on the political issues, but you get the idea. The drama is in the sport, which is done quite well. There are interesting sequences of rugby, but – being a Kiwi and an All Blacks fan from birth – it doesn’t really seem authentic to me. However, the majority of the audience should find it interesting. The interactions between the other staff members who are getting to grips with the new ways of the Mandela Administration are interesting to watch and several performances are worthwhile here – but again, the outcome is more worthy of a television drama than a movie. It’s okay, but it wasn’t until later I realised that this was directed by Clint Eastwood. I have seen several other movies that demonstrate better work from him in my opinion (such as Mystic River“, “The Changelingand “Million Dollar Baby”). For their performances, in 2010 Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon earned Academy Award (Oscar) nominations for their leading and support roles. They also received Golden Globe nominations for this work and Clint Eastwood was nominated for Best Director.  Oh, and … in case you are wondering … Invictus is Latin – it means unconquered, unconquerable and undefeated – it might refer to the state of overcoming and taking control of a place or its people.

Made in 2009. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Movies


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Lisa Cohen (played by Anna Paquin) is really smart. She’s studying in a class of intellectuals at a Brooklyn High School in New York. She’s pretty good at school and loves nothing more than to debate the issues of the day with her politically aware classmates. Her teachers are all challenged by her – her maths teacher Mr Aaron (by Matt Damon) is overwhelmed by her confidence, her English teacher John (by Matthew Broderick) is exasperated by her forthrightness and her political science teachers struggle to keep their class under control when she’s there. Lisa lives with her actress mother, Joan (by J. Smith-Cameron) and her younger brother; her father now lives in California. One day, while Lisa is out shopping she starts to muck around … her actions lead to her witnessing a road accident where a pedestrian is killed. Lisa is deeply impacted by this and her life is taken over by it – she feels she must take steps to correct the injustice caused to the victim. She’s determined that the driver involved, Maretti (by Mark Ruffalo) be held to account for his part in the accident and she mounts a campaign to achieve this.

I found this movie very slow and hard going. Lisa is highly intelligent and insightful, but she’s also immature and idealistic, so her expectations of life and social justice are firm and unyielding. With her intelligence comes confidence, almost arrogance – most of her rich-kid intellectual class mates are afflicted with this also. She wants to bring to life a point based on highest principles, but hasn’t learned that compromises must be made in life along the way too. Her mother is infuriated by her behaviour, but she sticks it out because she loves her and she can see Lisa is troubled. Lisa’s brother is too young to understand. Lisa continues her spoilt, opinionated, selfish, childish behavior – she becomes promiscuous and even more precocious – to the bewilderment of everyone around her. She gets told some home truths as the story plays out – which she richly deserves, particularly by the victim’s long-term friend, Emily (by Jeannie Berlin). Anna Paquin does do a good job as this totally awful girl and the London Critics Circle Film Awards awarded her their Actress of the Year award in 2012 for her performance. By the way, nobody in the movie is actually called “Margaret”, that’s a reference to a play that is read in one of the scenes. Matthew Broderick gets some good work to do and he’s fine, but Matt Damon is totally wasted here, I’m not sure what he was thinking taking on such a pathetic role. J. Smith-Cameron does well as Lisa’s mother, Joan, she’s probably best I think.  Perhaps I missed something with this one ….

Made in 2011. Directed by Kenneth Lonergan.

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Posted by on December 1, 2013 in Movies


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Behind the Candelabra

Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon) has had a difficult childhood. Raised by foster parents in Wisconsin, he is now enjoying his great life, out and about in Los Angeles with his friend Bob (by Scott Bakula) – they attend one of Liberace’s famous shows. Bob knows Liberace’s Manager, Seymour Heller (by Dan Akroyd) and they have been offered a backstage pass to enjoy the after-show party. Seymour takes them “behind the scenes” to meet the great performer. Scott is overawed by the opulence and luxury of the dressing room and the lifestyle. Once Liberace (by Michael Douglas) sets eyes on Scott, he is smitten and a relationship between the two develops. Liberace takes Scott to dinner, to his home and into his life – Scott becomes Liberace’s assistant, then his live in companion, then his lover. Liberace bestows all manner of affection, gifts and attention on Scott and their life becomes full of all the luxurious trappings that wealth brings. However, the relationship does have its challenges too and the couple deal with the ups and downs of this, as any couple does. This is the dramatization of the five year relationship between the two during those heady Las Vegas times.

This is an enjoyable movie. Michael Douglas absolutely inhabits the persona of the great performer Liberace and he is marvellous – believable and authentic here. His on-screen relationship with Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) is great – they are good together. The chemistry is not forced and they have done well for two actors new to this type of role. Their “campness” is necessary for this story and it is believable. Their emotions are as real as any couple you might watch on screen as they journey through the tumultuous relationship that features the heights of passion along with the depths of jealousy, betrayal and bitterness. There are some great performances by others here too, Dan Akroyd’s Seymour Heller is really good – but best of all is the fabulously entertaining performance by Rob Lowe as Dr Jack Startz, Liberace’s doctor and plastic surgeon – that’s a true classic, well cast and very well done. Yes, Liberace had as many talents as faults – a great performer and a true narcissist, but he was a man just like any other and it’s shown well in this movie. I note that Debbie Reynolds plays Liberace’s mother in this movie, but I didn’t recognise her. Michael Douglas is sensational and he truly deserves the Emmy Award he recently received for this work. This is based on the biography “Behind the Candelabra, My Life with Liberace” by Scott Thorton.

Made in 2013. Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Movies


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Beth (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) is travelling for business in Asia. After her final stop-over in Hong Kong, she returns to the US, meets an old friend in Chicago, then heads home to her husband Mitch (by Matt Damon) and their children. Beth is feeling the effects of jetlag coupled with a sniffle and a cough, but she finds this difficult to overcome and soon she becomes very unwell. Mitch rushes her to hospital, where her illness takes a turn for the worse, she has a seizure then unexpectedly dies. Her young son takes ill very soon after her and due to the speed at which the illness takes hold, he also quickly becomes comatose and dies. The officers at the Centre for Disease Control are increasingly concerned. Deputy Director Ellis Cheever (by Laurence Fishburne) assigns his best officer Dr. Erin Mears (by Kate Winslet) to the situation so that the matter is contained, the illness identified and public health is not compromised. She works with research scientist Dr Ally Hoxtall (by Jennifer Ehle) to get it handled. Unfortunately, the virus moves faster than they do – and in a double whammy a controversial blogger from Seattle and opponent of the CDC, Alan Krumwiede (by Jude Law), is highly suspicious and cynical about the actions of the CDC and rallies the community against them – at the same time publishing his own theories about the virus and how to beat it. By this time, Mitch is beside himself with anxiety and worries about the health of his teenage daughter Jory (by Anna Jacoby-Heron). He watches as his family and life seems to dissolve around him and resolves to do anything he can to protect his daughter. As you would expect, word of the virus gets out and the public are understandably concerned about their own safety – leading to everyone taking their own action, some unbridled panic and a threat of full blow anarchy across the community.

This movie is really good. Its almost a documentary and the viewing is realistic – people in fear, disease control working hard to understand and fight the virus, governments and organisations with their own political agendas.  It’s all in this and the key points are explored well.  We join the story on Day 2 of the developing outbreak and by the conclusion we have understood what happened on Day 1 to set the threat to public health on such a rapid roller coaster. The performances are good – Kate Winslet is stunning here and Laurence Fishburne is a pleasure to watch.  Matt Damon is as good as ever and although she dies very early in the story Gwyneth Paltrow is featured throughout the story in flashbacks about her actions, to try to piece the journey of the virus back together.  It’s particularly good where it depicts the situtation building the the community and the responses of the public and the health and safety authorities. Yes, it’s good – well done Steven Soderbergh once again.

Made in 2011.  Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Movies


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The Talented Mr Ripley

In 1950’s America, Tom Ripley (played by Matt Damon) is a charming and personable young man, with a low-paying janitorial job. He’s also a natural con-artist and in any situation he always finds the most lucrative angle. Dickie Greenleaf (by Jude Law) is the son of a millionaire shipyard owner (by James Rebhorn) and he’s somewhere in Italy, living the high life with his girlfriend Marge (by Gwyneth Paltrow). One day, Tom is serving at a garden party and manages to convince Mr Greenleaf that he knows Dickie from his Princeton days. He gladly accepts a paid assignment in Italy to find the misbehaving Dickie and bring him home. When they meet, the handsome and confident Dickie isn’t fooled by Ripley for a second, but he plays along for a while rather than face being back at home and the reality of the family business. Tom soon settles in to the luxury Mediterranean playground and into Dickie and Marge’s friendship. As well as a good liar, Tom is also adept at imitation and forgery, so when Dickie tires of Tom, Tom goes to extreme lengths to adopt every privilege that Greenleaf’s life offers. He makes his way on the goodwill of affluent friends and acquaintances Meredith (by Cate Blanchett) and Freddie (by Philip Seymour Hoffman).

This film is engaging and vivid. The Italian Riviera sparkles like a gem and the main characters shine right out of the screen. It demonstrates the marvellous 1950’s lifestyle for rich Americans particularly well and you can feel the warm sun beating down on your back just as Jude Law, Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow soak it up on the Italian beach. Matt Damon is very intuitive as the destitute Ripley who will do anything to adopt a more affluent lifestyle. Jude Law is perfectly cast as the superficial Dickie, who will “play” with Tom for as long as he’s interested then cast him aside like an old shoe. Cate Blanchett’s performance as the rich tourist, Meredith, is marvellous and she demonstrates exquisite timing. However, for all that, the film does go on for too long and I feel it could have ended sooner with a more effective arrival at the same conclusion, but the story is entertaining and the movie is a pleasure to watch.

This movie is a dramatisation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel,

Made in 1999. Directed by Anthony Minghella

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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in Movies


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