Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Elysium Delivers

10 Aug

Summer is almost over and of all the movies to enjoy in air-conditioned theaters there was an awful lot of trash and a tiny bit of treasure. Elysium is the last of the big, hyped summer films and hovers above the garbage of comic book and sequel movies that overpopulated summer 2013. Here’s my spoiler free, poorly written, stupid review.

Elysium 2

First off I should say that I had mixed feelings about Director Neill Blomkamp’s last movie District 9. I thought that movie was too clunky. It started out with the format of a social documentary, then changed to become an action movie that escalated to ridiculous levels making it more of a video game, only to once again jump to end in the documentary fashion. District 9 looked great and was original and shined a satiric light on political and social topics you don’t see in many movies. And I appreciated all that but the method in which these truncated styles were forced together made the movie to inconsistent for me.

But I am a sucker for giant floating things in space and the impressive visuals of Elysium got me excited. I had to see this one in IMAX. Once I’d walked past the box office and seen that this particular theater had started selling 32 ounce beers since the last time I was here, I knew it was a good day. Elysium wasn’t a perfect movie but if you just want a basic action movie set in a world with great looking robots, spaceships, and an orbiting ringworld habitat to boot, this movie is good entertainment. Matt Damon is an average underdog type who winds up being repeatedly shit on to the extent that he has no choice but to attempt one impossible goal in a short period of time. The plot is pretty simple and details don’t really hold up to logical scrutiny but it is still better than most man vs. the world action stories. The flaws don’t stand out while you’re watching it because it’s a fast flowing ride that doesn’t waste time to let you think. There isn’t too much explanation about why things are, this movie isn’t there to tell you why, it shows you visually. It shows things like Matt Damon kicking ass, shooting crazy guns, crashing space ships, and fighting robots in space. It’s pretty awesome.

The cast is a mixed bag. Jodie Foster is in charge of security for the geostationary gated community. But she is doing some weird Bavarian/British accent that is very unnecessary. It sounds like the character was a waitress at Oktoberfest then got hired as Elysium’s security chief and is trying to make people think she’s Margaret Thatcher. William Fitchtner played the blind guy in Contact and once again his character teams up with Jodie Foster on Elysium. He is great at playing that slime ball you just hate right off the bat. He’s in his element, when he tells his subordinate not to breathe on him you just want to kick him in the mouth, while wearing golf shoes. District 9’s “Wikus” actor is back, this time as “Krugar” who is Jodie Foster’s henchman. He is barking mad with bat shit insane on top. It’s very fun watching his wacky super villain performance plus he has a force field. But really (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) Matt Damon makes this whole movie work. When he’s cracking wise with robots it’s funny and when those robots drop his ass to the ground you pity him. The outlandish situations you have to believe he endures are actually grounded by Damon’s conviction.

Elysium

But the thing that got me to watch this movie were the visuals. They’re spectacular, not in their audacity but in how naturally they seem to exist. The robot enforcers are hard and threatening. The space ships are practical and varied. The views of Earth are gritty like detailed garbage slums while Elysium glistens above. This movie shines in the space porn moments, there’s a shot of Elysium from space over the Earth’s horizon and the special effects people knew to put a distorting effect as the station shows through the earth’s atmosphere. When a missile hits a ship in zero G it doesn’t just explode and disappear like in most movies, all the tiny pieces fly forward and fan out slowly tumbling and twinkling along. The sprawling curvature of Elysium fills the screen with details of homes, lakes, lights, and you just go “Wow”.

One important thing in the movie is that there are these beds that heal anything and everything, they’re only on Elysium. Discussing the movie afterward someone made the point that it didn’t make sense that not even one of these beds was on Earth (I’ve since read this criticism on the internet a lot). I said it made perfect sense “The Aristocracy in space want to go back to Earth but only after most of the poor have died. So they don’t want any of those beds slowing down the die off.” That was never expressly said in the movie but I saw a lot of evidence for it. My point is all sci-fi movies have some nonsense in them, it is part of the genre. So just go along for the ride and you’ll enjoy this one and if the theater serves beer it’ll help.

Carl Wells

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A Stupid Opinion about Man of Steel

17 Jun

Battle of Algiers used cinema verite techniques to build up the atmosphere and bring the events of the film to more personal level for the audience. But everyone involved with the film thought, “We really aren’t making the most out of this format. We can really go further.”

Flash forward to Denmark circa 1995, a film collective gets together and tries to create a cinematic movement that will finally be able to use cinema to its fullest ability. But even after their ten-year run that launched/fostered the careers of Lars Von Tier, Harmony Korine and Anthony Dod Mantle, they realized that what they were doing with the medium was still falling short of its potential.

Then in 2002 director Doug Liman and cinematographer Oliver Wood were saddled with an action heavy script and an A-list star who’s most physically active role to-date had been walking around a golf course with Will Smith. They knew they were going to really have to reinvent the wheel to justify their bid for a new product placement franchise. And re-invent they did. They were able to shoot scenes in such a way that they were able to convince people a drama kid could take out a guy with a machine gun using nothing more than a magazine. Even with the mountains of success, they still realize that it wasn’t enough.

Then the mix of Zack Snyder, a billion and one videos posted to YouTube, and the most iconic superhero of all-time, and we finally get the most realistic handheld camera work in the history of cinema. It was just such a pleasure to watch as a man flying across the sky and sliding across pavement and up the side of buildings in the gritty way that cinema verite really aspired to be all those years ago. Finally, everyone can bask in the full potential of movies.

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That the was the longest most hyperbolic introduction to any Man of Steel review you will read. The movie was a good film, and as Carl correctly predicted there were some cheesy and unnecessary pop songs, it was a tight film that looked pretty good. I can’t remember a second of slow motion footage in an action sequence, and there were plenty of action sequences in the film. As far as comic book movies go, it was of the highest quality. But my stupid opinion about the film goes beyond the confusing choice to give the movie the raw handheld look, I just wonder how long this formula will continue to work for comic book films.  And I can’t even add “spoiler alert” to this because it is in every single blockbuster tentpole film, the equations can vary for the first 40-ish minutes of the movie, but it always ALWAYS ends with the good guy and the bad guy in hand-to-hand close proximity combat at the center of massive amounts of collateral damage.

These films have become the equivalent to the dumb action movies from the eighties and nineties with just tighter fitting clothes. I equate comic book movies to the Doritos of the cinema world. There’s an old suburban legend that Doritos have been so carefully engineered that the taste is supposed to vanish in a matter of seconds after it is registered on the brain, therefore making it so easy to eat an entire bag in one sitting by ourselves. This is what these comic book movies are they keep upping the ante, the effects get bigger, the characters and villains more outlandish and unbelievable, but the story just stays the same. And you can’t just have one, Iron Man 3 broke all kinds of records and Man of Steel is on the same path. There are going to be comic books every summer every year for as long as I can imagine. All I’m asking is can’t there be a different ending to one of them?

When I was growing up, I loved it when people asked what my favorite movie was. I’d think about it and mull over the movies that I’d seen, and I’d finally come to the conclusion that my favorite movie was the last movie I’d seen. Just because that was the way my kid brain worked. I loved going to the movies, and it wasn’t until much later that I realized there was more to films than just the latest thing, and that films were not necessarily better the flashier and more polished they were. As I grew up and narrowed down the films I’d seen I was able to finally name a favorite film just about the same time that comic book movies really began to take off. Can you imagine trying to pick a favorite comic book movie? Well, you’ve got a pretty solid Batman sequel that is slightly ahead over of everything else, but after that. . . their all the same fucking movie. And that’s even before Warner Brothers began to emulate Disney with their plans for a Justice League film.  The Dark Knight is the only comic book film that is coming to mind where the climax isn’t this battle of mass destruction and instead this small battle philosophical battle between hero and villain. I get it, endings are hard, and having a lot of stuff explode is a good way to make people think they’ve got a good ending, when really all it was was a loud ending.

I know that I’m not saying anything new here, Steve and Steve have recently both been claimed the sky is falling when it comes to making movies. I can see a Heaven’s Gate of comic book movies coming right around the corner, but the sad thing is that this film will probably bomb because it tries to do something that is different. I would have loved to see The Avengers by Robert Altman, Fantastic Four by Soderberg, a Wes Anderson version of Aquaman, or a French New-Wave homage to Superman, but I favorite-movied myself right out of the studios key demographic. They have no interest in making movies for me anymore, or really any interest in making any type of movie that is different at this point.

-C. Charles