Matt Damon

The Accountant

In life, I’ve found that it’s fine to have preferences, but that you should remain open-minded. You just never know when your tastes may change. I used to prefer Matt Damon to Ben Affleck. Comparisons between the two have been inevitable, as they’re best friends who emerged on the Hollywood scene in tandem. Damon always seemed to be the superior actor, and I still think that holds true. However, I don’t like Matt Damon as much as I once did. And Affleck lately has just seemed…cooler. The Accountant looked like a smart action thriller, and I was drawn in by the titular character’s backstory. Unfortunately, it was just an average movie, and my mini-streak of duds continues.

Affleck (Batman v. Superman) stars as Christian Wolff, an accountant with the uncanny ability to crunch numbers better than a calculator. He has a beautiful mind, one that is suited perfectly for his chosen profession. Through flashback we learn that Christian was born with a high functioning form of autism that gifts him with amazing intellectual abilities while rendering him socially inept. His father refuses to coddle him, teaching him instead to defend himself to the literal death through relentless combat and martial arts training. His compulsive need to finish tasks lends itself well to this borderline abusive instruction. Fast forward to present day, and Christian’s unique upbringing and skill set have led to a lucrative career “uncooking” the books for some of the world’s most notorious criminal enterprises.

If you consort with international criminals, chances are you won’t go unnoticed for long. Eventually Christian draws the attention of Treasury Agent Ray King (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) who pinpoints his identity with the help of junior agent Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Arrow). When Christian lands a high-level corporate client, the Feds become even more invested in his activities, and King and Medina turn up the heat. Working alongside young accountant Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), Christian becomes entangled in a web of danger in the pursuit of millions of missing dollars for their mysterious new client. Soon their lives are in jeopardy, but who’s calling the shots?

I enjoyed the sight of Affleck stomping his way through would-be foes shocked that a pencil pusher was kicking their ass. However, the plot was a muddled mess. My need for things to make sense wouldn’t let me ignore the seemingly pointless series of events that were strung together and called a storyline. Although the plot strengthened the film in its establishment of Christian’s backstory, it faltered miserably as the movie wore on, and any “twists” fell woefully short. Affleck was effective for the most part, though his performance could easily be panned as a caricature. Jon Bernthal (Sicario) makes an appearance, and though his presence usually enhances a film, here it was just more evidence of a poor storyline. Wait for this one on Redbox. Grade: C+

Jason Bourne

I try to keep celebrities’ personal lives separate from the way I view their work, but sometimes it’s hard for me to draw a line between the two. Matt Damon (The Martian) was one of my favorite actors, and I thought of him as cool and smart, and he is – but recent comments have lead me to believe that he’s tone deaf at best, and ignorant at worst as it pertains to diversity in Hollywood. As an aspiring screenwriter, this troubles me. I still appreciate his work as an actor, but I can’t divorce myself from his recent statements and opinions. That being said, of COURSE I was going to see Jason Bourne. I own the first three installments in the trilogy on DVD, and I’m a big fan of the franchise.

Jason Bourne promised to reveal the secrets that have always tormented the super spy from the beginning. Who is he? Who can he trust? Has his government betrayed him? Unfortunately, I think the film was long on promises and short on results. It opens with the familiar face of Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles, 11:55) whom you may recall is one of Bourne’s few allies. She hacks into the CIA database, accessing their black ops files in the hopes of gaining intelligence that might help Bourne piece together his past, including information about his father. Meanwhile, our hero is off the grid, earning a living as a bare-knuckle boxer. When Nicky reconnects with Bourne, she leads The Agency right to him, as they began tracking her as soon as the files were hacked. Headed by Director Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, Criminal), the CIA dispatches an operative (Vincent Cassel, It’s Only the End of the World) to dispose of both Jason and Nicky.

What follows next is an exotic game of cat and mouse, as Bourne criss-crosses the globe in an attempt to exact revenge upon the CIA for betraying him. He is as formidable as ever, dispatching foes with ruthless efficiency. However, from a viewer’s standpoint, these scenes didn’t excite me. Part of the appeal of the first three Bourne movies was witnessing great hand-to-hand scenes like this one: . If Bourne is knocking people out with one punch, where is the fun in that? Furthermore, the intrigue and mystery just weren’t there for me. The backstory involving his father was never fleshed out in a satisfying manner. The movie just felt like an opportunity for Damon to cash in, though he certainly doesn’t need the money. I thought he had moved on from this franchise? That’s why Jeremy Renner (Captain America: Civil War) stepped in for The Bourne Legacy. Now we have another installment with Damon and instead of rewarding, it’s just disappointing.

The film’s final act was effective, but after two hours of mediocrity, it wasn’t enough for me. And I wanted to like this movie, trust me. This franchise should’ve ended in 2007 and been limited to the true trilogy it once was. Grade: C

The Monuments Men

The intriguing thing about history is that there is always an untold story.  Against the backdrops of some of the most memorable historical events of our time lie fascinating subplots.  In times of war, for example – the prevailing story will understandably be one that focuses on human casualties.  The artistic or cultural loss of war may not be readily apparent, and most historical narratives don’t explore such considerations.  As a result, actor/director George Clooney (Gravity) found a unique opportunity to highlight a chapter of world history that was previously untold.

During World War II, Hitler instructed the Nazis to seize all works of art, including paintings, sculptures and other precious artifacts.  He supposedly had designs for a museum in his own honor and wanted to fill it with items he’d pilfered along the destructive path he carved through Europe.  In the event that Hitler was killed or captured, he instructed his troops to destroy the stolen art.  President Roosevelt recognized the value in preserving culture and authorized a commission to retrieve the items and return them to their rightful place.  Clooney stars as Lieutenant Frank Stokes, the man tasked with assembling the group that would be known as “The Monuments Men” for their willingness to sacrifice their own lives for the preservation of precious cultural monuments.

You might ask yourself, who cares about a painting when people are being killed? However, Stokes’ character conveys the purpose for The Monuments Men, answering the necessary question of whether or not a piece of art is worth a man’s life.  I’m paraphrasing the quote, but Stokes says that if you burn a man’s house down, he can come back.  But if you destroy his achievements and his history, it’s like he never existed.  That line struck me, and I think The Men’s sacrifice should be celebrated.

The commission is comprised of former military, all of whom have a unique knowledge of art either through study or creation.  Matt Damon (Elysium) co-stars as museum curator Lieutenant James Granger, while Bill Murray (Moonrise Kingdom) and John Goodman (Inside Llewyn Davis) are featured as Sergeants Richard Campbell and Walter Garfield, respectively.  The cast notably includes Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), and Jean Dujardin (The Wolf of Wall Street), with all of the characters filling unique roles that were integral to advancing the storyline.  At the helm both literally and artistically is Clooney, and the men he commands share his passion and commitment to the cause.

The Men contend with Nazi soldiers as well as resistance from Allied troops who don’t share their passion for art, at least not when weighed against the potential risk to American soldiers.  However, I never doubted the validity of their cause, and perhaps that is a testament to Clooney’s storytelling and direction, though I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the film is based on a book by authors Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter.

The Monuments Men was a solid movie, and I found it well made and well acted.  However, it’s not the type of movie that drives foot traffic to the theater, though my show featured high attendance.  This is a quiet movie that you can see with your mom.  You’ll learn something, you’ll chuckle a few times, and you’ll probably be pleased overall.  But this is not the type of movie that will have you talking and telling your friends that they’ve “gotta see it.”  While it was enjoyable, I found myself ready for the credits to roll, despite some good performances and entertaining moments.  This is the kind of movie you’ll stumble across while flipping channels, and you’ll be glad that you did – but it was a bit too understated in its direction for me to give it a ringing endorsement.  Grade: B

This article first appeared at Poptimal and was reprinted with permission.


I love Matt Damon, and if you’ve read my reviews of any of his movies, I usually include that sentiment at some point.  Matt Damon and a big budget summertime action flick seemed like a cant-miss pairing, in my estimation.  That’s why it pains me to say that I was rather underwhelmed by Elysium, his latest film set against a bleak, post-apocalyptic Los Angeles landscape.  Jodie Foster (The Brave One) is also featured, and so quite naturally I thought her inclusion would bolster the movie.  Unfortunately, something about the movie just failed to connect with me, as a viewer.

In the year 2154, the world has been ruined by disease, over-population, and pollution.  Those who could afford it have long since moved to Elyisum, an artificial space station/planet of sorts where disease is a thing of the past.  Citizens of Elysium are afforded body scan technology that eliminates all traces of disease or injury.  The lawns are perfectly manicured, and the sky is always blue.  Picture an entire planet that resembles The Hamptons.  Meanwhile, everyone on Earth looks indigent.  Everyone has dirt under their fingernails, and resources are meager.  The nebulous “powers that be” have relegated humanity to menial low-paying jobs, and everyone appears to be “just getting by.”  Apparently there is no middle class in the future (some would argue that it’s a current myth as well), because you’re either poor on Earth or rich on Elysium.

Damon (We Bought A Zoo) stars as Max, a hard-working ex-con who is scraping by at a shit job just to make ends meet.  After being harassed and assaulted by the robot police on his way to work, he finds himself in the hospital where he runs into Frey (Alice Braga, I Am Legend), a childhood friend now working as a nurse.  Max and Frey lived in the same orphanage as children, and Max pledged his friendship to her while longing for Elysium.  After suffering a horrific accident at work later in the day, it is imperative that Max gets to Elysium so that he can be healed.

Illegal aliens who try to sneak into Elysium are met with force and immediate deportation.  Jodie Foster’s character is Secretary Delacourt, an Elysium government official who is tasked with immigration matters and overall policing.  She refuses to allow her pristine planet to be dirtied by filthy, sick immigrants who will zap her resources.  If Max wants to make it to Elysium, he will have to get through her and Kruger (Sharlto Copley, District 9), an assassin who was dispatched to Earth to ward off any potential illegals seeking to breach Elysium airspace.

Elysium featured an accomplished cast and a provocative storyline.  I don’t know why I felt disconnected from the movie, but I thought it was just ok.  I’ve heard that director Neill Blomkamp (District 9) originally considered Eminem (8 Mile) for the role of Max, and it would have been a much smaller film.  Oddly enough, that may have made it a better movie.   The hallmark of a ‘popcorn’ summer flick is special effects, but those bells and whistles did nothing for me this time.  I love Matt Damon and don’t fault his performance, but something about the movie was hollow, despite its earnest attempt to inspire sympathy within the viewer.  My compadre with whom I saw the movie shared my sentiment.  Grade: B-/C+

The Bourne Legacy

I love Matt Damon.  I think he’s extremely talented and versatile.  His turn in The Bourne Identity convinced me that he could do nearly anything.  Prior to that movie I never would have pegged him as an action star or deadly super spy.  He ushered in that franchise and made Jason Bourne a household name.  I couldn’t imagine the series continuing without him, yet any plotline involving his character seemed to have been exhausted with the last installment in the trilogy.  Acknowledging that the Jason Bourne plot had run its course, I was receptive to a new take on the franchise.  Enter Jeremy Renner (MI: 4 Ghost Protocol), who has seen a steady increase in popularity since his award-winning turn in The Hurt Locker.

Renner stars in The Bourne Legacy as Aaron Cross, one of many covert spies working for the same entity that produced Jason Bourne years ago.  I can’t say with certainty whether this entity is a government agency or a private defense company, because I honestly can’t keep up with all the intricate plot details.  When we last saw Jason Bourne in the The Bourne Ultimatum, he was tied up with Blackbriar and Treadstone, with the on-again off-again assistance of Pamela Landy (Joan Allen).  Those covert operations are present once again in The Bourne Legacy, only this time the Powers That Be want to disavow themselves from the program all together.  This means that any agents in the field must be eliminated, as they clean house in advance of a very-much-alive Jason Bourne blowing the whistle.  Bourne knows too much and still poses a threat, especially after the way he was betrayed and hung out to dry when we last saw him.  Once the decision is made to 86 the program, past and present agents are systematically destroyed.  This includes Aaron Cross, who was enduring a hellacious training exercise when his bosses sent a missile to obliterate his wilderness checkpoint, killing a fellow agent.  Cross narrowly escapes, eventually making his way back to civilization.

Like Jason before him, Aaron is extremely resourceful and resilient.  His first order of business is to retrieve some “chems,” pills that he took to sustain himself as he completed the training exercise.  If he doesn’t get another one soon, his body may begin to shut down.  A large pharmaceutical company works with the agency in the development of its internal medicine, and Aaron must travel to the plant where it’s manufactured to retrieve some tablets.  Rachel Weisz (Dream House) features as Dr. Marta Shearing, a chemist who works for the company.  She treats the agents and has treated Aaron previously, though she doesn’t remember him.  He seeks her out in the hopes she can get him a pill, but she explains that they have been transitioning agents off the pills.  Aaron was unaware because he had been completing his training exercise and was in remote locations for several months.  His continued ingestion of the pills has made him a more physically imposing spy.  For some reason that isn’t entirely clear to me, Aaron still wants to obtain some new chems.  From what Shearing explained, it sounds like the chems aren’t necessary for his survival.  Yet Aaron is still determined to go to the plant where they are manufactured in the Philippines and get more.  If it were a life and death situation, I would understand that – but it’s not.  Aaron says something about having witnessed what happens when you go off your meds, and he doesn’t want that to happen to him.  Yeah, ok.  Furthermore, it wasn’t realistic to me that there wasn’t a single pill anywhere in the United States.  Nevertheless, Aaron must get more chems and figure out what’s going on, all while trying to evade his murderous employer.

There were some effective elements of the movie, and some that were less successful.  The aforementioned plot point annoyed me, because it just didn’t make any sense.  It’s important to know what drives your protagonist.  The need for survival is a no-brainer, and I got that.  I also understood his need to protect Dr. Shearing, once they became caught up with one another.  But why is he going to the Philippines if she just told him that he basically doesn’t need the chems anymore?  That seems like a lot of trouble to go through just to avoid withdrawal symptoms.  Aren’t you being hunted?  Shouldn’t you lay low?  Despite that plotline, there were some very good scenes – particularly a workplace shooting that occurred at the pharmaceutical company.  It was a chilling scene that had particular relevance, considering the times in which we live.  At any rate, Jeremy Renner was convincing in his role.  I can’t say that he can fill Matt Damon’s shoes just yet, but he is promising.  He nailed every physical aspect, but I didn’t get a sense of his character’s underlying personality.  Jason Bourne was a more layered, tortured character, and I feel like we only scratched the surface with Aaron Cross.  I’m willing to see what’s in store for the future.  Grade: B.


I saw Ted last week, and so my friend asked my opinion today before taking her son.  I’ll repeat what I told her, “it’s funny – but it’s a talking bear, which is stupid “ – so there’s that.  If you actually make it to the theater to see it, you will probably enjoy.  The hard part is getting past the idea that as an adult, you’re going to see a movie about a talking bear.  Brought to us by the creator of Family Guy, I figured it would be funny.  Quite simply, it’s about a man who must put some separation between himself and his best childhood friend, a talking bear.  My other friend remarked that she thought Mark Wahlberg had turned a corner in his career and would be above such fare.  I reminded her that even Matt Damon (whom I adore) made Stuck on You.

Mark Wahlberg (Contraband) stars as John Bennett, a thirty-five year old man with a middling job and average life.  Average, that is until you look down at his best friend, a talking bear.  When John was a boy, he was bullied and had few friends.  His childhood was a lonely one, and he longed for companionship and a best friend that he could call his own.  When he received a teddy bear for Christmas one year, he finally found a companion.  I’ve never seen a little boy like a teddy bear so much, but ok.  John and Ted do everything together, they are inseparable.  John wishes that Ted would be his best friend forever, and that he was a real friend.  When a shooting star drops from the sky later that night, John’s wish comes true.  When he awakens the next morning, Ted is alive.  John panics momentarily, but Ted reminds him that this was his wish.  There was a hilarious scene where Ted meets John’s parents, who react as I probably would.  Eventually everyone relaxes, and Ted becomes like one of the family.  It’s almost like he’s John’s brother, which is a little weird.  I appreciated the fact that Ted’s identity wasn’t concealed from everyone else.  In fact, Ted becomes a celebrity as word spreads of the sensational talking bear.  Through it all, John is right by his side.

Fast forward to present day and Ted is still right by John’s side, which is sort of the problem.  As our omniscient narrator accurately points out, even if you’re a talking bear, eventually there will come a day when no one gives a shit.  Ted is living a (relatively) normal life with John and his girlfriend of 4 years, Lori (Mila Kunis, Friends With Benefits).  John and Ted live like they are still kids, getting stoned and cracking jokes while vegging out on the sofa.  Lori is fed up with John’s immaturity, and hopes that the next four years of their life together don’t involve the irreverent little bear. John can’t even make it through a thunderstorm without his teddy bear, all because of his childhood promise to be BFFs forever.  Eventually John makes the mature choice, but is able to find the right balance between fun times with Ted and the adult dynamics of a relationship.

A talking bear is obviously a cheap gimmick, but not all humor has to be dry, self-deprecating, or otherwise “smart.”   If you don’t find Family Guy amusing in the least bit, it’s probably best to avoid Ted, since MacFarlane is responsible for both.  I like that type of humor, so it worked for me.  I thought it was hilarious watching Ted do bong rips and fight with John.  On the other hand, it’s a movie. About. A talking bear.  At the end of the day, that simple fact negates a lot.  If you can get past the silly concept, it’s worth a few laughs. Grade: B.