Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Harvey Weinstein & Hollywood’s Complicity

So. This is a difficult subject to broach because of its sheer scope. Unless you’ve been hibernating under the proverbial rock, you know now that Harvey Weinstein has been accused of rape, sexual misconduct, and various kinds of inappropriate behaviour that are mind-boggling in their number. Harvey Weinstein is (was?) a producer and film studio executive who co-founded Miramax, which produced several popular indies, including Pulp Fiction, Clerks, and The Crying Game, and 24th-annual-producers-guild-pga-awards-backstage-roamiwon an Oscar for producing Shakespeare in Love. He was recently ousted from his own company because of these accusations, though it should be said that it was likely a form or self-protection for the company rather than any sense of moral obligation. Indeed, many people at said company will have had knowledge of, and helped cover up, the very reprehensible behaviour that got him ousted in the first place.

We know why women stay silent – it’s the same reason the abuse took place in the first part. Men in positions of power take advantage. Weinstein is (was) a king of Hollywood. He did indeed make and break careers. To reject him is to risk your career, your whole life ahead of you. But his power continues to assert itself long after you’ve left the room. It’s something that has clearly haunted dozens if not hundreds if not thousands of women for decades, and now, because of a few brave women speaking up, it’s all come tumbling out. But Weinstein, who clearly has an M.O. as you’ll see below, cannot have done what he did without people knowing. People as in the many, many male colleagues who have attended the same meetings and events. Weinstein, for example, is responsible for the breakout success of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. He greenlit Good Will Hunting and they have remained loyal friends of his. So you know what? Hollywood’s women are calling them out.

Ben Affleck came forward to condemn him (eventually), only the second man in Hollywood to do so (George Clooney was the first). Affleck’s statement:

I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades. The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick…We need to do better at protecting our sisters, friends, co-workers and daughters.

BUT a) he was then reminded of his own groping incident, for which he has since apologized; and b) Rose McGowan has reminded him that when it happened to her (when they were costarring in Phantoms), he said “Goddamnit! I told him to stop doing that!” Which, you know, kind of sounds like he knew about prior incidents on top of her own. And can I just say: stop branding us as sisters and daughters. We’re human beings and we deserve to not be sexually abused regardless of our relationship to you. You shouldn’t have to be fond of or related to someone before you don’t want to see them get raped.

But Affleck’s not the only one under fire: both Matt Damon and Russell Crowe have been accused of killing one journalist’s report of these incidents as far back as 2004. Damon claims he did call the reporter but didn’t know anything about sex-related accusations in the article, and that may be true, but it’s also sort of damning that he didn’t have anything to say about this until it was to clear his own good name. Just how many men in Hollywood have been complicit with their silence?

 

Trigger Alert: I’m including all the victims we know about so far, and the crimes that were perpetrated against them. These are just the ones we know about, and in cases of sexual abuse, that’s usually the tip of ice berg, which is disconcerting since we’ve already uncovered a land slide. Harvey Weinstein is a bad dude that Hollywood’s been covering for for far too long. And he’s not the only one.

 

Gwyneth Paltrow: recently confessed to the New York Times that Weinstein touched rs_600x600-171010105954-600.Harvey-Weinstein-Brad-Pitt-JR-101017her and suggested having joint massages in the bedroom shortly before filming Emma. She said she told her then boyfriend Brad Pitt about the incident and he confronted Weinstein [Brad Pitt has confirmed].

Angelina Jolie: Jolie told the Times she had to turn down advances from Weinstein in 1998 and chose never to work with him again, after making Playing By Heart. She has been warning other women about him ever since.

Louisette Geiss:  Called to a late night meeting with Weinstein in 2008, he emerged in a bathrobe and told her he would green light her script if she watched him masturbate. “He returned [from the bathroom] in a robe with the front open, buck-naked. He told me to keep talking about my film and that he was going to get into his hot tub which was in the room adjacent to his office, steps away. I kept talking as he got into the hot tub. When I finished my pitch, he asked me to watch him masturbate. I told him I was leaving. He quickly got out of the hot tub. As I went to get my purse to leave, he grabbed my forearm and pulled me to his bathroom and pleaded with me to watch him masturbate. My heart was racing and I was very scared.”

Judith Godreche: Weinstein tried to massage her and pull off her sweater after asking her up to his Cannes suite in 1996.

Dawn Dunning: Called to his hotel in 2003, Weinstein presented her with three scripts for his next three movies which he would let her star in, if she had a three-way with him. 

Tomi-Ann Roberts: Weinstein met her when she was waitressing as a college junior in 1984 and told her to meet him at his home. When she arrived he was naked in the bath and told her she would give a better audition if she was nude. 

Rosanna Arquette:  Claims her career suffered after she rejected Weinstein’s advances in the early 1990s – he tried to put her hand on his erect penis during a meeting.

Asia Argento: Weinstein forcibly performed oral sex on her when she was 21. “He terrified me, and he was big. It wouldn’t stop. It was a nightmare.” She documented the alleged attack in her 2000 film Scarlet Diva.

Katherine Kendall: Weinstein changed into a bathrobe and told her to massage him. When she resisted he returned naked and chased her.

Lucia Evans: Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him in 2004 at a ‘casting meeting’ in a Miramax office in Manhattan. 

Mira Sorvino: Weinstein tried to massage her in a hotel room at TIFF in 1995. He then went to her home in the middle of the night but she called a male friend to protect her. She claims turning him down adversely affected her career.

Rose McGowan: She’s been talking about being raped by a studio head for years, always keeping his identity secret. Now we know she sued him after he assaulted her in 1997 at Sundance. He paid her off, like he did many others, and she had to sign a non-disclosure agreement to close the suit.

Ashley Judd: During the filming of Kiss The Girls, Weinstein repeatedly asked her to watch him shower. She says “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”

Emma De Caunes: Weinstein offered to show her a script, and asked her up to his hotel room, where he began to take a shower. He emerged naked and erect, asking her to lay down with him on the bed and telling her that many others had done so before. ‘I was very petrified,’ said de Caunes. ‘But I didn’t want to show him that I was petrified, because I could feel that the more I was freaking out, the more he was excited.’

Lauren O’Connor: A former employee of The Weinstein Company, she told executives there in 2015 of the ‘toxic environment for women at this company’ after one of her colleagues told her that Weinstein had pressured her into massaging him while he was naked.

Cara Delevingne:  Weinstein brought up sexual subjects during more than one business meeting and also tried to get Delevingne to kiss a woman in front of him.

Ambra Battilana: In March 2015 Weinstein asked if her breasts were real before grabbing them and putting his hands up her skirt during a meeting. She reported the alleged incident to police, but they did not press charges. Weinstein later paid her off.

Jessica Barth: Pressured her repeatedly to give him a naked massages from 2011 onwards.

Laura Madden: An ex-employee, Weinstein had asked her to give him massages from 1991 onwards. “It was so manipulative.”

Emily Nestor: Temping for the Weinstein Company for just one day in 2014, Weinstein approached her and offered to boost her career in exchange for sex.

Zelda Perkins: An assistant of Weinstein’s, she confronted Weinstein after she and ‘several’ others were harassed and later settled out of court. 

Elizabeth Karlsen: The Oscar-nominated producer of Carol and The Crying Game, told of an incident dating back almost 30 years where an unnamed young female executive who had worked at Miramax with Weinstein had found him naked in her bedroom one night. 

 

Liza Campbell: Weinstein summoned her to his hotel room and told her to get in the bath with him.

Lea Seydoux: “We were talking on the sofa when he suddenly jumped on me and tried to kiss me. I had to defend myself. He’s big and fat, so I had to be forceful to resist him. I left his room, thoroughly disgusted. I wasn’t afraid of him, though. Because I knew what kind of man he was all along.”

Lauren Sivan: Weinstein trapped her in a closed restaurant and masturbated in front of her to completion in 2007.

Jessica Hynes: She was asked to audition for Weinstein when she was 19 – in a bikini. When she refused she lost the job.

Romola Garai: Was already hired for a part in Atonement when Weinstein scheduled yet another work meeting in his hotel room and showed up to it in his bathrobe. He asked for another audition so she could be “personally approved by him.”

Unnamed assistant: Weinstein behaved inappropriately toward a woman employed as his assistant in 1990; the case settled out of court.

Another unnamed assistant: In 2015, Weinstein reportedly pressured another assistant into giving him a naked massage in the Peninsula Hotel, where he is also said to have pressured Barth.

Unnamed Miramax employee: At one point in the early 1990s, a young woman is alleged to have suddenly left the company after an encounter with Weinstein. Also settled out of court.

Unnamed woman: Was summoned to his hotel and raped.

 

The truth is, there are plenty more Harvey Weinsteins in Hollywood (and let’s face it- elsewhere, everywhere). Hollywood is built on sexism. It routinely treats women as inferior to men. It exploits the very young, ignores the not so young, denies female directors work, and treats its female audience like trash. Like we don’t exist, like we don’t buy movie tickets, like our stories aren’t worth telling. It’s a boy’s club that has gone on far too long. You’ve heard of the casting couch? Now think about what kind of sick euphemism that really is. And if you’ve read all this and are still wondering why these women didn’t come forward sooner – yeah, you’re part of the problem.

 

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How They Met: Stories Behind Famous Couples

In 2003, Matt Damon was in Miami shooting Stuck on You (he plays Greg Kinnear’s conjoined twin). It was supposed to have shot in Hawaii but the location was changed last minute and Damon was a lot less familiar with Miami. One night the crew convinced 00-matt-damon-luciana-barrosohim to join them for a drink, and that was it. Literally from across a crowded bar, he looked up and saw her. She was the bartender that night, separated but technically still married to someone else, with a young daughter at home. But he knew. They were married in December 2005 at city hall, at 9 in the morning because he was expected on the set of The Good Shepherd that night, and production was moving to Europe the next day. She went with him, and so did the unborn baby in her belly. Ben Affleck was unable to attend – Jennifer Garner had just given birth the week before. Three daughters have joined the elder one from Luciana’s previous relationship so now Matt Damon is happily surrounded by women. In 2013, ten years after they first met, they held a lavish vow renewal in St Lucia with 50 guests, including Affleck, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Messina, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Gus Van Sant, Chelsea Clinton, and Stanley Tucci (fun fact: Tucci is married to Blunt’s sister, Felicity]. Jimmy Kimmel officiated.

In the 1970s, Tom Hanks remembers being a kid at his friend’s house, watching The gallery-1452197593-tom-rita-volunteersBrady Bunch, when a girl guest starring as a cheer-leader caught his eye. She was 16 and so was he. He thought she was cute. He didn’t meet Rita Wilson in person until 1981 when she had a guest role on his sitcom, Bosom Buddies. Hanks was married to someone else at the time, and her character ended up with Tom’s costar, Peter Scolari. But fate threw them 324451C900000578-0-image-m-7_1458170786580together in 1985 on the set of Volunteers where the attraction was so strong that Hanks left his wife even though he admits that had they met in high school “I wouldn’t have had the courage to speak to you.” They married in 1988, have 2 sons together (plus Tom’s 2 kids from his first marriage). In 2015 they weathered Rita’s breast cancer diagnosis and remain a totally strong couple that’s all kinds of #goals.

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard first met in 2007 at a birthday party. Their meeting was “not electric” (her words) – no sparks, no interest on either side. He was suspicious of her “unbridled happiness.” But two weeks later she was at a hockey game (Kings vs Red Wings) with her Veronica Mars castmate\roommate Ryan Hansen and she saw him with a mutual acquaintance. 36908E2D00000578-3706107-image-a-1_1469400447589Apparently this time, it took. They fell madly in love and nauseated each other with their mushiness, but their personalities were quite different. Kristen is sweet and generous, and Dax had a long history of bad decisions and addictions. He was already sober when they met, but she was insecure as to whether he could really step up. They went to couples therapy obsessively and weathered the storm. They famously refused to marry before it was legal for everyone to marry, but once that hurdle was crossed, they speed-walked right to the court house to get themselves a license. A judge just happened to be available, so why not, they tied the knot right then and there, having spent about $140. Friends met them later with a cake that said World’s Worst Wedding in frosting, but Bell and Shepard never looked back.

John Krasinski thought he might quit acting when he had his big break – he was cast on The Office, and he moved to L.A. In 2006, he went to the movies expecting to see 159270240_emily-blunt-john-krasinski-zoom-3cde631c-7e21-4382-9e84-75e9969cab4bSuperman Returns, but when it was sold out, he and his buddy saw The Devil Wears Prada instead. He claims to have watched the film 50 times before meeting his future wife, Emily Blunt, who stars in the film, in 2008. As he describes it: It was one of those things where I wasn’t really looking for a relationship and I was thinking I’m going to take my time in L.A. Then I met her and I was so nervous. I was like, “Oh god, I think I’m going to fall in love with her.” As I shook her hand I went, “I like you.” But he felt so far out of his league that he was sure it could never work, and almost blew the first date, on which he took her to a gun range. But she stuck it out, and when he proposed, they both wound up crying. Now they’ve got 2 daughters and lots of celebrity double dates: they vacation with the Kimmels and dine with George and Amal.

Matthew Broderick was the youngest actor to receive a Tony but of course it was landing the lead role in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that made him a household name and allowed him to go back to his first love, the theatre, this time as a director. One of his actors felt 65110102b3c437394a37f16cda4e6020Broderick would be perfect for his sister, so he made the introductions. It took Matthew three months after meeting Sarah Jessica Parker to actually ask her out, over the phone, and on their first date, she was so nervous she talked a mile a minute while he sat stunned and silent. They wed in 1997, she in a black wedding dress because the guests all thought they were attending a party. They have three kids together and though she’s currently the star of a new show called Divorce, they celebrated their 20th anniversary together this spring.

Goldie Hawn met Kurt Russell on the set of The One and article-2209534-153CC875000005DC-578_468x358Only, Genuine, Original Family Band (blink and you’ll miss her). She was 21 at the time, and he just 16. She thought he was cute and interesting but much too young. Luckily, fate intervened and 15 years later they met on another film set, Swing Shift. Kurt was hungover at the audition and immediately regretted the first thing he said to her: ‘Man, you’ve got a great figure.’ She was magnanimous. This time their age gap seemed inconsequential. They never married but after more than 3 decades together, I think it’s Kurt and Goldie forever.

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Who’s your favourite celebrity couple?

 

TIFF 2017: Bingo! I Got Bingo!, Part 3

So if you’ve made it this far, you know that I’ve thanked some volunteers, watched 3 movies from female directors, and carried around a dead phone. Impressive, if I may say so myself, but it’s not enough to get TIFF Bingo.

TIFF Bingo

Make a New Friend in Line

With hours spent sitting in uncomfortable theater seats punctuated by hours spent standing in line, the people you stand with and sit next to can really make or break your TIFF experience. A good conversation can make the two hours spent waiting for the perfect seat just fly by. Just as an annoying person can make the minutes drag on like hours. And if you’re thinking “Wait a second, I wonder if he’s talking about me. I am a total jackass after all and I did spend all of Euphoria with my elbow in his personal space,”, yes. I’m talking about you.

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Downsizing– If Downsizing isn’t my favourite movie at the festival this year, it’s definitely close. I couldn’t wait for the latest from Alexander Payne, a filmmaker whose nearly every imdb credit (Election, Sideways, The Descendants, Nebraska, and even Downsizing) has been praised by one of us at one point or another. Fans of his work may be surprised by the science fiction elements of his latest film but Payne, who introduced the film, sees this as a disappointing rehashing of the same themes. “Just a poor {‘schmuck’ I think was the word he used’] from Omaha middling his way through life trying to make some sense of it all. Just this time with some science fiction thrown in,” he joked.

Downsizing has lots of subtext to ponder and debate but it’s hard to take it all in on your first viewing because it’s all way too much fun to watch. This may be Payne’s most entertaining and laugh-out-loud funniest film so far and I’m quite sure that I’ve missed some of the best jokes because they were drowned out by the Elgin Theater crowds’ laughter.

The new friends I made while waiting to see Downsizing took TIFF just as seriously as I did. Like me, their rough drafts of their schedule looks like the wall of an insane person trying to solve a murder. The thing is, once the line starts moving, you lose each other in the crowd . So if you’re reading this and you bought seven 10-packs to share with all your friends and you think you may have stood in line with me, leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you thought of the movie. And I hope that Karen has finally paid you back.

Pronounce “Saoirse” Correctly

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The Current War– Saoirse Ronan wasn’t in The Current War but I did talk about her in line to see it. “Who’s in Lady Bird again? Is it Saoirse Ronan or Elle Fanning?” I asked the nice couple in line ahead of me. I pronounced Saoirse correctly. Everyone seemed really impressed. What’s ironic, I realize now, is that I got her last name wrong. I always say “Rowan”. But TIFF Bingo said nothing about “Ronan” so it still counts.

I wish I’d seen Lady Bird instead of The Current War. It’s not like The Current War is a bad movie, it’s just more forgettable than it should be. The second feature from Alfonzo Gomez-Rejon (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) dramatizes the rivalry between Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) as they race to heat and light the entire country with electricity. So it’s got potential. Cumberbatch and Shannon are pretty much the Pacino and DeNiro of leading men born in the mid-70s who specialize in playing eccentrics so the thought of seeing them go head to head put this at the top of my list. I passed on Suburbicon for The Current War!

There is some really good writing in this script but for every scene that captivates there are two more that look and sound like they were filmed for a Made for the Edison Museum movie. Both actors are good but are usually even better and they share disappointingly little screen time.

There’s a good movie in here somewhere. The Current War’s best scenes concern the lead-up to the first execution by electric chair and, for a movie that suffers from lack of focus, this subplot may have worked even better as the main plot.

 

Suburbicon

Sean and I are in Venice for the Venice Film Festival. Last week we saw and loved Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water, which had us appreciating not only the lushness of the period (circa 1962, I believe), but also Del Toro’s refusal to completely excuse it. The 1950s are often given the nostalgia treatment in movies, coated in a thick gloss of fond memories with a healthy dose of forgetting the grim realities. This is a time period that inspires idiots to spout slogans like Make America Great Again, because that time period was actually quite bad for quite a lot of people. Del Toro’s film included some subtle nods to that fact, but Suburbicon is the movie that blows the lid right off it.

Suburbicon is the name of a town founded on the principles of an idyllic setting with all the conveniences of the city but none of the sordidness. The sprawling neighbourhoods MV5BMjExMjE5MDE4NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzU0NTEwMzI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1449,1000_AL_are safe, the schools are good, it’s a great place to raise a family. Except if you’re the Meyerses, who just moved in. They’re not welcome (being black and all). They’re apparently the very people all these “nice” white folk have moved away from the cities to avoid. The Meyers don’t do a darn thing to incur the slightest ill will, except have a darker skin tone, but still the wrath of the townspeople is rained down upon them. Determined to force them out, their white neighbours harass them and abuse them and generally make such a ruckus that no one notices the neighbours directly behind them.

In that house, Gardner (Matt Damon), his wife (Julianne Moore), his wife’s sister (also Julianne Moore), and his young son Nicky are being held hostage in a bizarre home invasion that leaves one dead and the whole family shattered. It’s just the beginning of a bloody series of events that get more and more lurid. It’s so suspicious that an investigator (Oscar Isaac) shows up at their door. But everyone else is so busy with their unrequited race war that no attention is being paid to the white family wreaking havoc.

It’s exactly the kind of satire-caper at which the Coen brothers excel. Incompetent criminals seem to be their specialty. Frequent collaborator George Clooney joins not only as a co-writer but as the director. He’s added a layer of social consciousness with deep, resonating roots. Suburbicon is slick and it entertains you to within an inch of your life. The cast is wonderful, and Clooney, being an actor’s director, elicits a startling performance out of Matt Damon, and a sterling one out of young Noah Jupe. This black comedy earned a lot of laughs at our screening – seemingly the darker things got, the more we laughed out of anxiety and relief. But this is a brutal story that rewards people justly for their crimes. At first it may seem like we’re flipping between two different movies – the obvious and the absurd – but upon reflection, I like what Clooney’s done with the juxtaposition.

Suburbicon is a little wild, a little uneven, but a whole lot of fun. It’ll be hitting theatres late October.

Downsizing

downsizingThe world is overpopulated and in the very near future it will become untenably crowded: fact. We don’t have enough space to comfortably house all these people, we don’t have the ecosystem to support them, or enough resources to fund the lifestyles to which we have become accustomed. The rate at which these 7 + billion people consume means we are making waste and pollution like there’s no tomorrow – and if we continue doing so, there won’t be.

Luckily for fictional Matt Damon, a Norwegian scientist will come up with a revolutionary bit of science that’s going to sound nutty at first, but hear me out. He calls it downsizing. A medical procedure will taking a willing human being and shrink him down, to about 5 inches. These small people will live in small towns – dollhouses, practically, taking up little space, generating little waste. A typical person might liquidate all his assets, pay off all his debts, and find that the $150 000 he’s left with is equivalent to about $12 million in the small world. Live like a millionaire by becoming a fraction of your former self!

Occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) are the kind of people to whom this kind of deal appeals. They work but never seem to get ahead. Sure this downsizing is billed as a way to save the earth, but it’s also a way to personally wipe the slate clean, and live the life you could only dream of as a normally-sized person.

As you can imagine, being only 5 inches tall comes with perks, but also some drawbacks. As writer-director Alexander Payne imagines it, there are social and economic impacts to all these people retiring from “normal” society. Illegal immigration and terrorism are facilitated. Downsizing can be used as punishment, against someone’s will. And even if you’re one of those people living in luxury, you’re suddenly vulnerable to insects, birds, even high winds.

Downsizing is a well-timed satire, science-fiction that manages not to feel too fictiony. Credit Payne’s wit for packing as much detail as he does, and if sci-fi feels a little outside the wheelhouse of the guy who did Sideways and Nebraska, he actually manages it with a lot of humour and humanity. Though the film is at times unabashedly absurdist, it stays away from easy sight gags. This is a thinking film that abounds with ideas – you’ll need to digest afterward. It’s an indictment of the American dream, people so disenfranchised that they’re willing to undergo a risky procedure just to find fulfillment. But miniaturization isn’t really the answer it’s cracked up to be, with people’s problems seeming shrinking down to follow them.

Matt Damon is perfectly cast as a nice guy who’s just a bit of a loser. But for Sean, it was Christoph Waltz as his playboy neighbour who really stole the show. He plays a Serbian sleazeball who figures that what the small community needs is a small black market, and he’s there to profit. I, on the other hand, was blown away by Hong Chau as his cleaner, Gong Jiang, a one-legged Vietnamese dissident who shows Paul there’s more to life than just keeping up with the Jason Sudeikises (he’s the classmate at his high school reunion who inspired Paul to go for the Big Shrink). When Oscar season starts heating up, I hope her name is mentioned.

Downsizing is a unique film with a lot of style. Despite being the opening night film here at the Venice Film Festival, it likely won’t be a best-picture contender for me, but it’s a film full of ideas that I found immensely enjoyable.

The Great Wall

The “Great Wall” is actually just a series of pretty okay walls that we’ve joined together over time. They were being built as early as the 7th century BC, in order to protect China’s borders from invading nomads. It was built over a period of 1700 years and stretches over 8850km.

The film The Great Wall is not nearly as impressive an accomplishment, even by blockbuster standards. It’s an action-adventure-monster movie that represents one of the several legends told about The Great Wall, and the things from which it was supposedly built to protect.

Somebody obviously has some compromising nude pictures of Matt Damon, so he stars as great-wall-movie-matt-damon.jpegthe ambiguous white guy who’s been roaming around with a group looking for black powder. Lots of his men have been picked off and they should have turned back, but instead the remaining men run into a scary beast that eats all but two. Then William and his pal get picked up by the Chinese army near the wall and are more or less taken prisoner, but it seems only so that the white guys can be really impressed by all the Chinese ingenuity.

They’ve been preparing to face these beasts for 60 years. They have special units with special skills: the armoured bear troop engages in combat, the eagles specialize in archery, the tigers have catapults and burning rocks. The crane troop is an all female group who bungee down a pit with spears, and the unlucky deer are the cavalry.

The white guys decide that while the Chinese army is preoccupied with the beast attack, they should seize the opportunity to rob them and run. I was wholly confused by Matt Damon’s American accent in a time period when Americans did not yet exist. A lot of people balked about Matt Damon being cast in this film, but this is not whitewashing as we know it. His character was always supposed to be non-Chinese. I just don’t understand how he’s a medieval Bostonian.

As you can imagine, the battle sequences are pretty eye-popping with all these fancy fight techniques and inventive weaponry. It feels both ancient and futuristic at the same time. Screen_Shot_2016-07-28_at_2.00.40_PM.0.pngCertainly director Zhang Yimou has a visual flair but this movie overly relies on effects and imagery at the expense of literally everything else. Zhang Yimou’s special spice blend is missing. There’s no subtlety. There’s no sensitivity. And the story is just plain lacking. It starts to feel repetitive even within its 104 minutes. But it’s gloriously explody. It is that. Kaboom.

 

 

Jason Bourne

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I knew how this one would end before it began.  Screechy repeated musical notes and Matt Damon fading into a crowd after having eluded capture yet again.  I don’t even consider that a spoiler, which surely means this is a tired franchise overdue to be retired.  It makes me sad we’ve gotten to this point with Bourne when initially these movies felt like a revitalization of the secret agent genre.  Now, the James Bond franchise is the vibrant one and Bourne is the one that’s just regurgitating what has come before.

That’s the most damning criticism I can make.  Jason Bourne is point-by-point the exact same movie we’ve seen four times previously from this team.  This is not a case of a poorly executed movie or a badly acted one.  It’s far worse.  This is like if CCR’s John Fogerty had plagarized a song he wrote himself, only without any possibility of a similarly bizarre yet logical lawsuit on the horizon.  So there’s not even an intellectually appealing consequence to be found here.  Even if you liked the other movies I can’t recommend this one, because it offers absolutely nothing new.

The only interesting thing about this movie is to wonder whether Matt Damon looks more bored here or in The Great Wall (China’s latest attempt to break into the North American box office).  I’m not sure and I’m not at all looking forward to finding out.

Jason Bourne gets a score of don’t even bother out of ten.

Hollywood Doppelgängers

Hollywood has absolutely no faith in audiences. If they think you liked something, they’re so overanxious to play it safe that they’ll sell it to you twice. We’ve had twin movies as far back as memory serves: movies that have near-identical plots and are essentially the same right down to their release dates. Wyatt Earp & Tombstone. Dante’s Peak & Volcano. Armageddon & Deep Impact. Antz & A Bug’s Life. Infamous & Capote. And on and on. The interesting thing though is that we don’t just have twin movies, we have twin stars too. Hollywood thinks we like familiar things. Familiar faces. And of course, plastic surgeons can only make so many noses. Everyone wants the Liv Tyler lips and the Salma Hayek tits. We can’t be surprised when they come off the assembly line looking a little too similar.

javier-bardem-jeffrey-dean-morganJavier Bardem and Jeffrey Dean Morgan: are they actually the same person?

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Amy Adams and Isla Fisher: they don’t just look alike, they sound alike too!

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Will Arnett and Patrick Wilson: even losing hair at the same rate!

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Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard: sharing the same bottle of Miss Clairol since 2001.

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Jesse Plemmons and Matt Damon: even their accents are the same!

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Henry Cavill and Matt Bomer: yup, that’s two different people. Same damn jaw.

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Paz Vega and Penelope Cruz: they usually say that a woman this stunning “broke the mold” but that’s clearly not the case.

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Elijah Wood and Daniel Radcliffe: these two look so alike it’s creepy. Watch this face meld of the two of them and you won’t be able to distinguish one face from the other.

Who are your favourite Hollywood twins?

 

The Las Vegas Chronicles: Ocean’s 11

When Danny Ocean (George Clooney) puts together his 11-man team of thieves to pull the ultimate heist, he’s got some iconic Las Vegas locations in mind: the Bellagio, The MGM Grand, and The Mirage.

The main action takes place at the swankiest of the hotels, the Bellagio, home of those famous fountains. The Bellagio gave the crew unprecedented access, and even closed down their valet parking during filming, forcing even the high rollers to use underground parking (egads!). When Julia Roberts makes her entrance, it’s  down the beautiful staircase in the Bellagio Conservatory but no, you can’t recreate that scene, because the stairs were soon torn down to make room for a spa wing. The biggest stars all stayed at the Bellagio too, and gambled during their down time. George Clooney says Matt Damon won the most money, while Damon insists it was Brad Pitt. The only thing the whole cast agrees on is that it was George who lost the most: he managed to lose an astonishing 25 hands of blackjack in a row.

We’re writing about movies set in Las Vegas this week because that happens to be where we’re hiding out. It’s often called sin city, and I can only assume that sin is gluttony. Las Vegas is home to some of the most fabulous eateries in the entire world. You could easily find a different 12-course, $1200 meal every night of the week, or, alternatively, you could do all-you-can-eat shellfish for $12.99. Brad Pitt’s character is always taking advantage of Las Vegas’s fine foods – in one scene where he’s spying on Julia Roberts, his character is eating shrimp cocktail, and filming went on long enough that Pitt ended up eating 40 shrimps, which is maybe not all you can eat, but definitely more than you should.

In the movie, the script called for the blowing up of hotel New York, New York. However, in the wake of 9\11, it was thought that this image would be too disturbing, and a fake hotel, the Xanadu, stood in. The Xanadu never exited but it was planned to be Vegas’s first mega-resort in the 1970s. Disputes over sewage disrupted plans and it was never built.

And how can we talking about Vegas without talking about Elvis – or talk about this movie without mentioning the song that was remixed and used so successfully? Producers wanted to stay away from the obviousness of “Viva Las Vegas” so they used Presley’s A Little Less Conversation instead, giving it a modern mix. It soon found traction on the radio and became a hit, decades after it was originally recorded. The King is alive and well.

Ocean’s 11 closes with that shot in front of the fountain. The characters saunter away a little mournfully, one by one – a shot that had to be orchestrated for the movie and wouldn’t be possible in real life. They had to drain one of the fountains so the guys had somewhere to go. In the original Ocean’s 11, the men walked away from the Sands casino, which is where many members of the rat pack were performing at the time (in fact, most of the movie had to be filmed in the mornings since the guys sleep in the afternoon, perform at night, get hair and makeup done in the wee hours, and show up to set as the sun rose). Sammy Davis Jr. was not allowed to stay on the strip with his cast-mates and had to be shuttled to a “colored” hotel, and this man was a bona fide player and Vegas mainstay. Sinatra had to appeal to the casino owners for special dispensation to break the colour barrier. How’s that for some warm and fuzzy Vegas nostalgia?

 

We’re traipsing around Vegas this week, so be sure to follow our adventures on Twitter (@assholemovies) – shenanigans guaranteed.

 

The Martian

In Andy Weir’s sci-fi novel The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney martiangets accidentally left behind on Mars. You can read my review of the book at Quickie Book Reviews (yes, she reads too!). Weir self-published his book on Amazon and it did so well that a real publisher acquired the rights, and that release did so well that some studio bought the rights to make it into a stupid space movie starring Matt Damon.

Which is all well and good. The book itself is pretty heavy on sciency stuff but I think the overall  themes of isolation, preservation, and space panic will translate pretty well on film. And Matt Damon’s got some serious experience being left alone on a planet (although as I recall, that one didn’t go so well). Then yesterday I heard Jessica Chastain was added to the cast, and I instantly worried that this was beginning to feel too much like an Interstellar sequel. Also rumoured to be starring: Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, and Donald Glover. Add director Ridley Scott into the mix and what could go wrong? It’s a super starry  mix, all reportedly working for less than their normal fees just to “get this thing made.”

So what do you think? Interested in seeing this one? It’s slated for release November 2015.

 

Update June 2015: The trailer’s just been released, and people are psyched!