Tag Archives: Ben Affleck

The Accountant

What if Batman was a bean counter? Okay, that’s not exactly what The Accountant is trying to do, but it’s close, closer probably than it intended.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff (not his real name: alter ego), a mild-mannered, socially awkward accountant. And when he whips his glasses off, he becomes a vigilante crime fighter. Sort of. Okay, what actually happens is he keeps his glasses on in order to “uncook” the books for various crime syndicates. Like, for the worst and dirtiest people. But if they break his moral code, he either calls in the commissioner – excuse me – treasury agent (played ben-affleck-first-look-at-the-accountant-socialby JK Simmons, who will indeed play Commissioner Gordon in Affleck’s upcoming The Batman) or goes ballistic on their ass. But not crazy ballistic: he remains very cold and very calm in order to diligently murder everyone in his path. So autism becomes a super power and The Accountant is just Batman without a cowl. Although admittedly when I saw Ben Affleck marking up a window, I immediately though of the role as a little more Good Will Hunting meets Jason Bourne – Matt Damon’s territory, in other words.

In order to play autistic, Ben goes affectless and Affleckless. He turns off the charm and the smirk and the simmering rage but doesn’t quite know what he’s left with. It doesn’t help that The Accountant suffers from its own identity crisis, sometimes darting into the phone booth as an action flick b3dd1dc8b235f1a14730dc81f5cffdfba6e4eae050f66447637fa4e75242f350complete with stalky sniper Jon Bernthal (from Daredevil, just not THAT Daredevil) as the villain, only to emerge as a drama or worse yet, a quirkie indie romance with Anna Kendrick as the Mary Jane, I mean, the damsel in distress\love interest. And if this all sounds like a lot to keep track of, don’t worry, there’s a portion in the middle that’s perfect for taking a 20 minute nap and waking up feeling like you’ve missed nothing at all.

But for all that, I enjoyed The Accountant. It’s not going to make my top 10 this year, and maybe not even my top 10 this week (that’s not a hard knock, I’m just on my way to a film festival), but it was entertaining and fun, even if Gavin O’Connor’s direction is a bit uninspired. Plus, it’s kind of great to see autism as an asset rather than a setback. Affleck manages not to overplay his cards although the story does require us to equate a neurodevelopmental disorder with superior morality – superior even to the law, which has Viola Davis’s voice ringing in my ears – what if the next Superman is an accountant?

 

 

Suicide Squad

Anything I say about Suicide Squad needs to be weighed against the possibly discreditingbatman v superman fact that I liked Batman v. Superman. It was a mess, I’ll give you that. And a whole lot of it didn’t make a bit of sense, even by superhero standards. While there were at least a couple dozen things that I wish had been done completely differently, I walked out feeling exhilarated, as if I had just witnessed the start of something huge. And, for all that Marvel has done right, it’s never really produced a film (with the possible exception of Civil War, which hadn’t come out yet) that felt like such an event.

With Batman v. Superman, I was prepared for the worst. Even the trailers couldn’t hide some of the movie’s bigger problems. With Suicide Squad, which many had dared to hope would save the DC Extended Universe and put it back on the right track, the trailers were filled with bizarre and exciting images and I couldn’t wait to see how they fit into the larger story.

suicide squad 2By now you’ve probably read that a lot of people have felt let down by Suicide Squad. I was too. Its missteps aren’t as embarrassing as BvS’s were but its best moments weren’t as impressive either. Actually, while BvS ended with me feeling like I’d seen the biggest movie of the year, Suicide Squad ended with me wondering “Was that it?”.

Like in BvS, Suicide Squad has a lot to get done and a lot of characters to introduce and ten minutes in it becomes pretty clear that they have no idea what order to do it all in and just decided to throw scenes at you at random. This disorganization continues the whole way through.

As Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie steals every scene she’s in. Clearly insane and easy to suicide squad 1love, Quinn is the only character in the whole ensemble whose actions always make sense and Robbie is the only actor of the bunch who never makes a false move.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about the rest of the team. They include the ruthless hitman and unspoken group leader Deadshot (well, sort of a hybrid between Deadshot and Will Smith, played of course by Will Smith), Australian boomerang nut and notorious asshole Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), human flamethrower and recent pacifist El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and rope specialist Slipknot (Adam Beach, who as the trailer suggests is barely in the movie). They don’t always come to life like they should but are at their best by far when they interact with each other. That’s the whole fun of the Suicide suicide squad 3Squad. Unfortunately, they don’t get nearly enough chance to just be themselves and play off one another. Like BvS, it’s far too interested in its needlessly complicated plot than it is in its characters.

Jared Leto’s Joker is the biggest disappointment. Not that it’s a bad performance. The Joker is every bit as menacing and captivating as he should be and Leto makes some very interesting choices but he’s barely in the movie and, when he is, his scenes are rarely relevant to the larger story. Leto’s take on the character never really gets a chance to resonate and deserved a film that used him better.

Suicide Squad has some terrific scenes and gets a lot of things right but overall it’s a missed opportunity to get the Extended Universe back on track. What’s worse, it doesn’t give much reason to hope it’ll get any better in future films.

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

batman-v-superman-reviewsJust when you thought the title of this movie was as pretentious as it could get, Zack Snyder delivers a pre-movie PSA on spoilers. I was offended. What else is the internet for aside from spoilers and porn? And since Snyder and crew spoiled some key parts about this movie in the title (namely the Batman VERSUS Superman part) and trailers (revealing the big bad guy), it was doubly ridiculous to waste time on a PSA that I could have spent watching a post-credits scene (SPOILER ALERT: THERE ISN’T ONE).

There’s really not much to spoil anyway. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice is exactly what you’d expect. The script is so cookie cutter and routine that the writers could skip exposition or backstory whenever convenient (and they take full advantage). But don’t worry, Batman fans! SPOILER ALERT: you will get to see Thomas and Martha Wayne get gunned down outside a movie theatre. Because we haven’t seen that often enough…

batman-v-supermanAt least we don’t rehash Superman’s origin (thank Krypton). But (SPOILER ALERT) we don’t get any hint of Lex Luthor’s origin or his motivations, other than (SPOILER ALERT) he’s evil and crazy and rich and smart and an orphan. It’s the same way with Wonder Woman – the no-origin part, not the evil crazy rich smart orphan part (as far as I know). That left me to guess as to why Lex hated everyone to the point he was willing to cause the destruction of Metropolis and Gotham (which, SPOILER ALERT, are right next to each other in a very lazy move by the writers), and why a literal greek goddess (I’m assuming) is conveniently hanging out in these twin cities waiting for an opportunity to (SPOILER ALERT) don her metal bathing suit.

One final SPOILER ALERT: despite all its issues, Batman v. Superman is actually fun in its brainless way. Batman’s costumes look great, the much-anticipated fight between the two titular characters is awesome, and the stakes are suitably high by the final battle that Wonder Woman’s participation feels like a necessary deus ex machina (and seeing all three on screen together was worth the price of admission).

batman-v-superman-trinitySo if nothing else, Batman v. Superman accomplishes its objective. It made me want to see the Justice League movie. A lot. And despite my griping, Batman v. Superman is not nearly as bad a film as many critics would have you believe. I mean, it’s your typical trashy comic book movie but it delivers exactly what it promised. Judge it as art if you want, and on that scale it fails, but so does every Marvel movie! Genre fatigue is the only reason I can think of to explain the backlash, and to that I say: if you are tired of superhero movies, you will not enjoy this film. But you also won’t enjoy any “critically acclaimed” superhero movies past, present or future. And if you are still up for more, well, see this one, and then start saving your money for May’s double feature of Captain America: Civil War and X-Men: Apocalypse. Both of which will probably be much better reviewed EVEN THOUGH THEY WILL BE THE SAME EXACT MOVIE AS BATMAN V. SUPERMAN. Critical scores are so meaningless.

And on that note, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice gets a score of seven holy trinities out of ten.

 

To The Wonder

Oh, they’re in love. Terribly, terribly in love. They’re that gross couple you roll your eyes at because they think they’re the first ones to be so over the moon with each other. Ugh.

To-the-WonderThe movie opens with obligatory montage of just how very happy Marina (Olga Kurylenko) and Neil (Ben Affleck) are. It reminds me a bit of a french, pretentious (redundant?) version of how Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind begins, which immediately makes me feel like this won’t end well. Marina and her daughter move from Paris to Oklahoma and for some reason nobody suspects that this will be a jarring downgrade. I visited both within 2 months ago and yeah, not comparable no matter how much Affleck peen you’re getting. The only thing worse than her syrupy narration is his whispery one. Careful you don’t strain your eyes from rolling them deep backward into the dark recesses of your brain.

And then she burns the dinner! Oh, should I have said: spoiler aleart! Spoiler alert, the reality of every day life together starts to cool their ardour a bit. And the further apart they drift, the more she turns toward fellow exile and Catholic priest (Javier Bardem) and he gravitates toward an old flame (Rachel McAdams).

Is now a good time to mention that this is a Terrence Malick film? It was released just a year after Tree of Life (only his 6th feature in 40 years) and is also semi-autobiographical, the first of his films to be set entirely in modern day. There was no script, just pages and pages of thoughts. The actors were simply told to play the emotions without speaking and while there’s plenty of voice over, there is hardly any dialogue.

What can I say about Terrence Malick other than he’s a polarizing film maker. He’s certainly a visionary but critics can’t seem to agree if he’s  a genius or a bit of a dullard. When it played at the Venice Film Festival, it was met with both boos and cheers.

Malick must commit tonnes of footage to film. In post-production he creates and hacks in equal measure, sometimes losing entire characters (Kurylenko made him promise that Marina would remail in the film, but supporting roles featuring Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet, Barry Pepper and Michael Shannon all ended up on the editing room floor). His imagery is beautiful, and this particular cake is frosted with generous dollops of religion. He’s exploring love in different ways and settings. This isn’t a narrative, it isn’t a story, it’s more a philosophical treatise on love. If you know Malick, then you’re used to the stylistic montages, though this one feels more fragmentary than most.

tothewonder22Just between you and me, I think Malick’s movies are getting increasingly masturbatory as we go along. He loves his long, meandering shots, and who cares whether they’re actually pertinent to the “plot”? Plot? Hahaha. Plot. Is this meditation or pretension? There’s a lot here that can be only experienced intuitively, which makes it quite demanding of its viewer.

This was the very last movie review that Roger Ebert submitted before his death; it was published posthumously 2 days later. Ebert was in his last days and must have known it (have you seen Life Itself?). His reading of the film is a rather spiritual one:

“A more conventional film would have assigned a plot to these characters and made their motivations more clear. Malick, who is surely one of the most romantic and spiritual of filmmakers, appears almost naked here before his audience, a man not able to conceal the depth of his vision.

“Well,” I asked myself, “why not?” Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren’t many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren’t many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn’t that almost worse than never having had them in the first place?

There will be many who find “To the Wonder” elusive and too effervescent. They’ll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need.”

 

 

Gone Girl

Gone Girl is director David Fincher’s most successful film to date and most people are familiar with it and, if you’re not, the less you know the better so I will skip the usual plot summary.

Despite Golden Globe nominations for best actress, screenplay, director, and original score, only actress Rosamund Pike walked away with a shot at an Oscar. Her best actress nomination makes sense, especially this year where the pool of strong female lead performances seems more shallow than it was over the last few years. We get to know Amazing Amy mostly through flashbacks and Pike’s eyes and haunting narration suggest she’s got secrets and we really want to find out what happened to her.

gone girl review

The fact that Gone Girl works so well though has a lot to do with Ben Affleck, who plays Amy’s husband. The press has picked on Ben almost as much as they did his Gone Girl character. It’s probably partly because he’s made more than his share of shitty movies. He also has this way about him though. He’s a charming enough guy but often can’t seem to help seeming insincere. Maybe it’s his, as Amy puts it, “villainous chin”. Or maybe it’s just hard to seem sincere under a media microscope, where your every gesture is examined for signs of insincerity. Either way, he knows what it’s like to be bullied by the press and he seems to draw on that experience to deliver probably his best performance so far. Ben’s public life serves Gone Girl just as well as Michael Keaton’s did Birdman. Even that famous smugness of his works. His character’s a nice guy but we’re not always sure we believe him, as much as we’d like to. The way Affleck and Pike play it, we’re never quite sure what the truth is.

For another asshole’s point of view, click here.

Gone Girl, Starring Ben Affleck’s Penis

The bad news is that you have sit through pretty much the whole entire movie just to see it. And don’t be distracted by his ass. That was a fine tactic by the filmmakers and I respect it but we should rise above. You can see ass in almost any movie. You came here to see dick.

See that thigh? Keeeeeep going…almost there. Penis! Side peen, but peen just the same.

Jennifer Garner, proud wife of Ben and owner of said penis, shocked Ellen by saying Fincher needed a “wide lens” to shoot that glorious thing.nph

I believe this movie is 2-for-1 in that we also get a glimpse of Neil Patrick Harris’ cock as well, but that one comes at the exact moment that the whole theatre is recoiling in horror and looking away.

So. Big Ben. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Gone Girl

I didn’t like the book. It was too slick. You see it coming a mile away. It felt like an airport book done up in a fancy dust jacket so we’d mistake it as “lit”. It wasn’t.gonegirl

The movie? Trash. But exquisite,moody, sexy, noir trash that you can almost picture in a fast-talking, black and white, Hitchcockian way. Which is maybe what it should have been. Or maybe what it aspired to be.

It’s juicy and entertaining. The who-dunnit aspect is over surprisingly quickly, which is probably for the best since the book relied on the reader being really really dense and the movie gives us a bit more credit.

The movie succeeds with its portrayal of the media coverage of the disappearance of a beautiful blonde woman. Of course they’re going to jump allll down Ben Affleck’s throat, and of course Ben Affleck is a pretty good choice to play someone being hounded viciously by press (not to mention the brilliant casting of his chin!). The woman who does the Nancy Grace impression is spot-on. Rosamund Pike is also well-cast, and both she and Affleck handle their ever-evolving characters with subtety and competence. As an audience, we are constantly asked to re-assess what we feel about them as we learn more and like them less. Affleck excels at smug; Pike does chilling with panache. You can believe in the polarity of the characters, and that’s the hinge of the movie.

There’s a creepiness lurking about in this movie, even during the flashbacks to better times. They’re flirty, but they’re also just playing a game, and then that game gets serious, and then it gets out of control. Enter NPH, a slimy character if ever there was one. As much as I love me some NPH, I could have done with less of him in this movie, and more of Tyler Perry, playing a suave and yummy lawyer who takes the reins  and steers Affleck confidently into manipulating the media.

The questions in this movie will make you squirm (although, the sheer length of the movie may already have had you squirming anyway). Do we ever really know our spouses? Can we? And what is “true self” anyway – if we present ourselve very carefully and consistently one way, isn’t that what we mean by “identity?” And if nothing else, the movie’s ending will leave you in agony. Sweet, sweet agony.

Good Will Hunting

Good-Will-Hunting-01-4This movie is worth watching if just for Ben Affleck’s matching windbreaker and tear away pant outfits alone. He has the EXACT wardrobe of my Catholic school gym teacher\music teacher\ librarian, who accessorized hers with orange lipstick, a popped collar before they were cool, and faux-black curls that reached at LEAST three inches in height.

Matt & Ben, god love em. I love how these two high school drop-outs laboured to make the college classroom scenes authentic, but couldn’t be bothered to learn how to use a mop. I love Hollywood for that. Actors can learn to box and DJ and make a béarnaise sauce, but they can ben-affleck-and-matt-damon-owe-everything-to-good-will-hunting-co-star-robin-williamsnever convincingly fold laundry or pump gas. Why is that?

Anyway. The interesting thing about this movie is that it fools you with its quirkiness and quick wit into not seeing the incredibly predictable story arc. Sad, abused, troubled kid is actually a genius and he just needs someone to provide the Armour-Piercing Statement: “It’s not your fault” enough times to crack through his tough-guy veneer and get some healing on. Despite the basic cliché upon this film is predicated, the film succeeds in its smaller bubbles of truth. The defense mechanisms feel true. The relationships are charismatic. And blessed be, it avoids the gift-wrapped perfect ending. I like the ending of this movie so much, I’ve written about it before:

Like every other morning, Ben Affleck pulls up to Matt’s house with a product-placement cup of coffee, and jobs up the front stoop in his latest sport-douche look. This time, though, the last time, he knocks on the door, and no one answers. We already know that Ben has always secretly hoped for this very thing: he has said that his favourite part of the day is between his knock and Matt’s answering, that length of time where he can imagine that his brilliant friend has left his desultory life behind to chase the starsbenny. So we know that Ben is happy, but we also know that he will inevitably also be sad, having just lost his best friend, and having no such escape route himself. It’s a very bittersweet moment where not a single word is spoken, but so much is said. All of this is communicated with just a slight grin, but the script and the director have set this moment up so perfectly that it plays on the audience’s emotions for all it’s worth. Love it.