Elysium opens this friday in the US. Here’s the Review from IGN:
SCI-FI WITH SMARTS
In 2009 Neill Blomkamp exploded onto the film scene with District 9, a stunning slice of celluloid sci-fi that somehow took the issue of apartheid and turned it into an action-packed summer blockbuster, earning a Best Picture Oscar nomination in the process.
This year he returns with Elysium, an equally intelligent science-fiction flick that replaces the issue of racism with concerns about poverty, immigration and overpopulation, but yet again delivers in terms of spectacle and jaw-dropping entertainment.
The year is 2154, and the world has been divided into two very distinct groups: the poor, who live on the diseased and overcrowded earth, and the wealthy, who have fled to a man-made space station called ‘Elysium’ in order to preserve their privileged way of life.
Via flashbacks we are introduced to Max (Matt Damon), an orphan struggling to comprehend the injustices of the world he has been born into. Max’s ambition is to one day make it onto Elysium, but when we encounter him as an adult in the dilapidated future Los Angeles, he couldn’t be further from fulfilling that dream.
Serving parole and labouring on an assembly line, it’s a grim existence, the people of earth kept in line by nameless, faceless robots who wrap them in reams of red tape. Max’s existence is made all the more terrible when he suffers an accident at work which has devastating consequences on his health, making his need to reach Elysium all the more pressing.
Meanwhile up on the space station Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) – responsible for the defense of Elysium – is finding herself frustrated by a newly liberal administration, and identifying the opportunity for a coup, she makes a grab for power.
Delacourt activates Kruger (Sharlto Copley), a sleeper agent who revels in death and destruction, and who is charged with the task of doing her bidding on earth. Meanwhile Max becomes embroiled in a hair-brained scheme to save his own skin, and through a somewhat convoluted chain of events, the three of them are set on a collision course that could change the course of the future for mankind.
It’s gripping stuff, made all the more chilling by the fact that in spite of the film’s many flights of fancy, the premise is all-too-believable. Indeed Blomkamp seems to be very good at this brand of high-concept sci-fi, the film’s narrative similar to District 9 in that it sets up a credible future-world, takes an ordinary man, places him in extraordinary circumstances, gives him near superhuman powers (alien DNA in D9, a mech-suit here) and follows his efforts to smash the system.
And Matt Damon is the ideal man for that job, being an actor who can take morally ambiguous men and make them instantly sympathetic. Max is a complicated character whose motivations shift throughout the movie, and Damon’s nuanced performance makes him a complex and wholly compelling anti-hero.
Aesthetically Elysium is also similar to District 9, all metallic surfaces and muted colours, although the visuals are much more sophisticated this time around, the technological advancements made in the last four years plastered all over the screen so that Elysium is a constant feast for the eyes, most notably during the film’s spectacular final third.
But the film’s greatest ‘special effect’ is Sharlto Copley, so good as ‘racist-with-a-heart-of-gold’ Wikus in District 9. A mystery man of few words when we first meet his character in Elysium, Kruger gradually starts to dominate proceedings as the film progresses, so much so that you hardly notice the presence of Damon when the two stars share the screen.
And while there’s a degree of scenery-chewing to his work here, it matches the crescendo of the film’s finale, with Copley delivering what may be the performance of the summer.
He’s well supported by the always-reliable Foster as the manipulative Delacourt, and William Fichtner as the equally deceitful businessman John Carlyle.
Ultimately Elysium is Neill Blomkamp’s film however, and yet again he’s hit one out of the park. If we’re going to be critical of the movie, it follows the conventions of the sci-fi action genre a little too closely, so while the visuals are singular and innovative, the story itself smacks of the familiar.
Equally, while the film is full of gravitas and packs a serious emotional punch in the final few scenes, the sobriety is somewhat relentless, and could have been punctuated with the odd joke or light moment beyond Copley’s over-the-top posturing.
But if you are looking for serious science-fiction, bursting with allegory and social commentary, you need look no further than Elysium. Blomkamp’s vision of the future is a grim one, but in using the genre as a prism through which to tackle the many serious issues currently facing the planet, he’s yet again made the smartest blockbuster of the year. What’s more impressive still is that it’s so damn entertaining, and that deadly combination of crowd-pleasing and smarts marks him out as one of the most exciting filmmakers working today.
Neill Blomkamp’s sophmore effort proves that District 9 was no fluke, with Elysium the kind of exciting and intelligent entertainment that’s been sorely missing from the summer movie season.
In “Promised Land,” you get a chance to see Matt’s inherent likability. Some actors have that quality, some don’t. And that likability is necessary to play this kind of scam artist and still be as caring as you are for his trip.
His face is an open book from the first frame when he’s washing his face and he’s tormented and nervous about what’s to come. He handles it without pushing. And he ends the picure with a final speech before the town, telling them the entire truth and what’s he’s been involved with. It’s emotional and powerful without being pushed.
In some ways, Matt is like John Wayne, who had that inherent feeling of trust. Which you also get from Matt. There’s a direct truthfulness there that a lot of actors don’t have. They have to get tricky. Matt has this inherent shit detector. He’s a very good listener, but he also has the ability to handle lengthy dialogue, which is becoming a relatively lost art in film.
He produced this picture and wrote it, and from my own experience with doing dual roles, it never gets in the way for him. Matt has enough knowledge as a writer and producer to surround himself with the best people possible. He’s not threatened by talent. He enjoys it.
Promised Land opens on: December 28, 2012, on a limited release and wide release on January 4, 2013.
Here’s the trailer:
Margaret is being released today on limited theaters and Many reviews are now out. Mixed reviews! And some stills.
Margaret, the long-awaited second film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me), has an offscreen history so fraught with drama it trumps anything in the movie. The tale of a ferociously precocious and high-strung Upper West Side Jewish girl, Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin), who witnesses a tragic bus accident, the film was shot at the end of 2005. But Lonergan, contractually obligated to deliver a two-hour movie, fell in love with his three-hour version (so did Martin Scorsese, who is said to have called it a ”masterpiece”), and he refused to cut it. Six years and several lawsuits later, Fox Searchlight is releasing a two-and-a-half-hour version of Lonergan’s film, which has been on the shelf so long that Paquin still looks like a teenager, Matt Damon (as her geometry teacher) is still skinny, and at one point someone imitates Bobcat Goldthwait.
So was Margaret worth the wait? Lonergan’s dialogue can sweep you up in a whoosh of personality and ideas, but it’s hard to see what, apart from ego, convinced him that this story was so epic. Lisa fixates on the accident because she was flirting with the driver (Mark Ruffalo) when he ran a red light and killed a pedestrian. First she lies about what happened, then she changes her story in a fit of guilt and rage. She makes the accident about her, which is why she must learn that it wasn’t. The trouble is, it’s a lesson we grasp all too early on. Margaret may be the longest film ever made about the moral education of a selfish, annoying princess. B-
DVDs: How Good Is Matt Damon? Damn Good
TRUE GRIT ($39.99 BluRay or $29.99 regular DVD; Paramount) — The Coen Brothers movie is solid fun that’s better than the original and more true to the terrific novel by Charles Portis. Hailee Steinfeld gives a funny but very particular performance that could be the sign of a singular talent or a one-off stunt. Josh Brolin is hissable as the villain. Jeff Bridges shamelessly chews the scenery in the hammy role made famous by John Wayne. But I want to talk about Matt Damon.
He gives the best performance of the film as the over-confident Texas Ranger LaBoeuf. The character is nominally comic relief, but Damon makes him the heart of the movie. The little girl is preternaturally calm and mature. Bounty hunter Cogburn is a caricature of the hard-drinking frontierman. Only LaBoeuf is a recognizable human being, a man who is a tad vain but at heart a decent person. Damon gets all the humor out of this easily offended young man but he also makes you care about LaBoeuf and consequently about the film as a whole. If anyone might die in this enterprise you fear it would be LaBoeuf, so all the suspense and drama centers on whether he’ll make it home alive or at least redeem himself as a brave and valued companion. With his accustomed ease, Damon steals the show by playing a supporting role that other movie stars might not deign to accept.
It’s just the latest achievement by one of the best actors working today. Damon’s looks always promise the square-jawed decency of a 1950s leading man. But his talent often lies in subverting our expectations. He broke through as the math whiz in Good Will Hunting of course. Then came Saving Private Ryan, with Damon as every mother’s son caught in the dangers of war. His career seemed set as a traditional hero. But Damon followed that immediately with one of his best and most underrated turns. He became almost invisible in The Talented Mr. Ripley, a mousy killer who subsumes the identity of the people he destroys. Look at the way Damon maintains the anonymous demeanor of a servant in the opening scenes and you’ll see a movie star choosing to become an actor.
He showed he had charisma to burn in the Ocean’s Eleven movies. But it’s the Bourne trilogy that has truly vaulted Damon to the top. If comedies get little respect, even they receive more critical attention than the performances in action films. Damon’s work in the Bourne movies constitutes one of the best action performances on film, equal to Harrison Ford’s work in the early Indiana Jones movies and easily one of the most complex achievements in the genre. Damon delivers the confusion and apprehension of a man who finds a terrified release in the violence he is so clearly capable of achieving, a violence that both thrills and disturbs him. With a minimum of dialogue and often through his face and body movements alone, Damon creates a man audiences live vicariously through but also pity in his desperate desire to know exactly who he is. Best of all, Damon showed the rare restraint of walking away from the franchise before it became repetitive and dumb.
The smart choices continued: the CIA agent in The Good Shepherd, the gangster turned cop in The Departed (proving again how good Damon is at internal conflict) and the hilariously inept stool pigeon in The Informant!. That’s a very funny movie but Damon’s gifts as a comic haven’t been fully exploited yet (despite his amusing work on 30 Rock), any more than his ability to be a romantic lead. Presumably that just doesn’t interest him since he’s barely assayed such a common, almost inevitable role. Politics interests him more, from the complex Syriana to The Green Zone to his work as the narrator of the best documentary of 2010, Inside Job.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Damon’s talent is that he’s only seemed to scratch the surface of what he’s capable of doing. The older he gets, the more interesting and varied the roles he should be able to tackle. Damon’s never been trapped by leading man status but growing more mature will only play into his natural instinct for the interesting and off-beat. Unquestionably, the best is yet to come.
Quick, what’s the oddest thing about Matt Damon’s career? The obvious answer is that he has played a lot of oddballs. The drug-addled Gulf War veteran of Courage Under Fire (a role for which he lost 40 pounds — and he wasn’t exactly chunky beforehand). The troubled megamind of Good Will Hunting. The moody parasite-sociopath of The Talented Mr. Ripley. The amnesiac ex-government fighting-and-killing machine of the Bourne films. The lost-inside-himself CIA cipher of The Good Shepherd. The whistleblower-without-a-twinge-of-idealism in The Informant! The melancholy psychic of Hereafter. No question about it: For an actor who has long resembled a clean, upstanding, gleaming-white-toothed Boy Scout, and who now looks like a slightly older Boy Scout, Matt Damon has spent a long time going out of his way to cast himself against type.
But that’s still not the oddest thing about his career. That would be the fact that, in nearly 15 years as a major movie star (I’m dating his leap to leading man status from the explosive success of Good Will Hunting), Matt Damon has never starred in a romantic comedy. Not once. He has never tried to lighten his image, or rebound after a box-office failure, or simply play the game by agreeing to do some fluffy-sexy chick flick in which he plays a carefree executive bachelor who flirts with, gets taken down a peg by, and falls for Julia/Sandra/Jennifer/Kate/ Renée/Drew/etc.
The desire to steer clear of those kinds of movies has been an almost ideological decision on Damon’s part, and for anyone who follows him, it’s a choice with a ready explanation: Chick flicks are Hollywood at its most cheesy, formulaic, corporate, and even embarrassing — for the most part, they’re happy-face gobs of product masquerading as movies — and Matt Damon is not a cheesy guy, and not a formulaic or corporate actor either. He doesn’t make movies he doesn’t believe in. That’s why he’s virtually the only actor of his generation who was able to become an action star and hold fast to his integrity while doing it. The Bourne films aren’t quite works of art, but they’re super-smart about exciting audiences. They’re thrill rides with a vision.
With the movie being released today there’s a lot of reviews now. I’ve posted some below, and here are some links! Have fun!
For millennia, mankind has wondered whether humans have free will and make our own decisions, or if Fate, God or gods are really pulling the strings and controlling our unalterable destinies. In The Adjustment Bureau, Matt Damon plays David Norris, a New York congressman who is told by shadowy, fedora-wearing supernatural agents of predestination that his promising future cannot include Elise, a dancer played by Emily Blunt, who Norris meets and falls for in a chance encounter on the eve of a big election. See the trailer below.
Perhaps the strongest parts of The Adjustment Bureau are the early scenes between Norris and Elise as their paths cross over several years. The chemistry between Damon and Blunt is undeniable, making it easy to understand why Norris remains so smitten with her despite the Bureau’s threats. And Damon, a close follower of politics who has donated generously to democrats, displays a facility with campaign mannerisms that makes you wonder if he’ll eventually run for office.
Critic Rating: 4.5/5
When ‘Blade Runner’ meets Alfred Hitchcock
By Ann Hornaday
Friday, March 4, 2011
God is in the details. So are the best movies.
“The Adjustment Bureau,” an enormously entertaining speculative thriller starring Matt Damon, would earn its kudos for ambition alone. An adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, this is a movie of myriad genres and tonal gradations, including classic science fiction in the tradition of “Blade Runner” and “The Matrix” and the doomed romance of “An Affair to Remember.” Throw in the conspiratorial intrigue of “The Manchurian Candidate” – and a first-time director to keep it all straight – and the singular achievement of “The Adjustment Bureau” becomes all the more impressive.
Working from his own script, director George Nolfi has executed the cinematic equivalent of a twisting, tumbling high dive with precision and finesse. He proves himself just as adept with dazzling feats of visual imagination as with human emotion, which, while less spectacular, entails a higher degree of difficulty.
(CNN) — Are angels prone to human error? So it seems, though the man upstairs also bears some responsibility for overwriting his own grand plans in “The Adjustment Bureau,” a sci-fi romance that plays like an extended episode of “The Twilight Zone.”
That’s intended as a compliment. Rod Serling’s classic show was often glib and sometimes sentimental, but it also played on ideas: philosophy, paradox, even politics. This was cerebral sci-fi for mass consumption, before special effects and spectacle took over. Not that these things are incompatible — just don’t expect many visual pyrotechnics here.
George Nolfi’s film (he’s writer-director-producer) musters a chase scene or two, but they’re on foot, and it’s almost comically lo-fi — as retro as the unfortunate trilby hat Matt Damon sports in the climax. He is David Norris, a young up-and-coming New York politician whose Senate hopes take a dive when certain frat-boy antics from his recent past come out in the press.
Film: ‘Inside Job’; Director: Charles Ferguson; Voiceover: Matt Damon; Rating: ****
It was literally the greatest heist of all times, the type that erstwhile conquerors of the world would wonder how someone could do it without killing millions in the process. And it is a heist that has largely gone unpunished.
On Sep 15, 2008, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, beginning the collapse of the financial system globally. Many more companies underwent the same fate causing literally millions to lose their life savings and millions more, their jobs. The answer to the question as to who caused it, and how, has largely remained fragmentary… Until now.
‘Inside Job’ gives the much-needed and extensive full picture.
‘Inside Job’ is eerie, and surreal in its reality. Narrated by Matt Damon, it seems like the story of the wild wild west, and how a few greedy cowboys managed to do what was once the purview of marauding conquerors – loot, plunder and ravage through the financial world triggering a kind of collapse the world has not seen since the depression of the 1930s.
That great depression was largely limited to the US. In a globalised world, this one threatened to collapse the entire law and order and democracy of the world, had it not been stemmed.
The film weaves together the story of the collapse by interviewing the key people who warned against this impending doom beforehand and thus suffered for it from a world keen on growth and development, but not the truth. Obviously, the ones most responsible refused to be interviewed. But the recordings at a congressional hearing throw some startling light about the quality of people on whom the fate of the financial system rests.
The film beautifully refuses to be just confined to numbers, as it throws in a psychiatrist and a prostitute, both of whom have ‘serviced’ the wall-street gangs and thus gives a mental evaluation of the men who handle our money, and also what they do with it.