Daredevil (2003)

I don't plan on re-watching Elektra anytime soon.

I don’t plan on re-watching Elektra anytime soon.

Directed by: Mark Steven Johnson (well, this is his best movie, sad as that may be)

Written by: Johnson wrote the screenplay based on the Marvel Comics character of Daredevil

Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Michael Clarke Duncan, Colin Farrell, Jon Favreau, Joe Pantoliano, David Keith and Leland Orser

What it’s about: a man struck with blindness as a result of a childhood accident finds his other senses are greatly heightened and uses those abilities to fight crime as both a super-hero and a lawyer

What I liked: To be clear, this was the Director’s Cut that I watched.  It’s a bit longer and in some cases it actually makes the film better.  Most of the action scenes are decent, as well as the special effects.  The costuming of the characters was a fairly decent translation from the comic books, as well.  I liked Affleck’s performance, as well as Colin Farrell’s enormously intense scenery chewing as Bullseye.  It’s also a fairly dark comic book movie, and I think it was actually ahead of its time.  If this movie were made today, it would be of a higher quality with more attention paid to the darkness of the character, as modern audiences are more accepting of those themes than they were 10 years ago.

What I disliked: At times it feels like a comic book, and that’s not a great thing when it comes to the execution of the story.  Pointless scenes featuring action hero poses, and lighting choices that make no sense when you take into account the fact that the character is goddamn blind.  Some scenes are positively goofy.  There was also the sense that – much like Batman & Robin – the story was trying to cram in as much Daredevil history as possible which just led to it being somewhat scatterbrained.  If you’re doing a proper Daredevil movie series, you don’t introduce Elektra until at least the second movie.  Also, the music choices for the movie just reeked of attempted cross-marketing, featuring two flash-in-the-pan Evanescence songs.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sort of.  It is a decent enough comic book movie, but unlike the Christopher Nolan Batman Trilogy, it doesn’t transcend the genre.  All that being said, it is still a guilty pleasure of mine.

Rating: 3 / 5

See?  Goofy.

See? Goofy.

Argo (2012)

Cookie-cutter poster design here.

Cookie-cutter poster design here.

Directed by: Ben Affleck (I enjoyed The Town, but I found Gone Baby Gone to be better)

Written by: The screenplay was written by Chris Terrio, based off of “The Master of Disguise” by Antonio J. Mendez and “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman (WHAT A NAME.  BEARman)

Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Victor Garber and so many more.

What it’s about: based on true events that took place during the Iran Hostage Crisis, involving a CIA plan to use a fake movie shoot to rescue some hostages

B-Movie Alternate Title:

Movie Mash Up: Three KingsUnited 93 (minus all the horrific tragedy) + Munich

What I liked: I enjoyed about 90% of the movie (see below, but beware, slight vague spoiler).  Great acting, great “real life” story.  I don’t think Alan Arkin deserved a Supporting Actor nomination for his performance.  It was good, but not even on the level of his previous win for Little Miss Sunshine.  Bryan Cranston was great, Affleck was great but understated great, if that makes sense.  FINALLY, someone found a way to capture Clea DuVall in a way that didn’t make you feel weird for thinking she was attractive (unless I’m the only one?).  I liked the movie a lot in general, though I really can’t think of a time that I’ll re-watch it.

What I disliked: Almost the entire ending sequence.  I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, so SPOILER ALERT I guess.  The little things that kept taking time at the end kept piling up and I’m not sure if Affleck just wanted to push it as much as he could until the audience laughed in frustration or what.  I know there’s a lot of creative licence with “Based on a True Story” movies, but after that I had to do the research and it annoyed me so there.

Would I recommend it to anyone?: Sure, though it may move at too slow of a pace for some audiences.  I would preface my recommendation with that.

Rating: 4/ 5

Best Picture Nomination Rankings (so far): 1. Django Unchained 2. Argo

Ben Affleck IS Hart Bochner!

Ben Affleck IS Hart Bochner!

Good Will Hunting (1997)

An old review of mine that still rings true, hence my old style of writing a review.

It’s hard to believe that a decade (note: now it has been 15 years) has passed since the release of Good Will Hunting. When you look at the careers of the actors involved in the film, and what they’ve gone on to since the movie, well it certainly makes the film out to be quite an interesting time capsule. This is the movie that skyrocketed Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s names into Hollywood, as well as providing a vehicle to honour the slightly psychotic and mostly annoying career of Robin Williams with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Casey Affleck also got the rub from the movie, and Cole Hauser to a somewhat smaller extent. He’s almost verging on That Guy territory. Speaking of That Guy, I would suggest that no one’s career benefited more than Scott William Winters, since he’s been in numerous projects since Hunting, probably because most casting directors probably just smack their foreheads and exclaim “OH, you’re That Guy from Good Will Hunting!” But enough about the present, let’s talk about this old movie.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon co-wrote the movie – earning themselves a Best Original Screenplay Oscar – and it was directed by sort of maverick film director Gus Van Sant. You wouldn’t know that Van Sant was a director historically known for quirky or potentially controversial films by watching Good Will Hunting (or Hunting’s bastard step-child Finding Forrester which did nothing but spur on the creation of YTMND) since the subject matter is easily accessible for every audience. So easily accessible that this is another movie that the MPAA screwed over by giving an R-rating because of “strong language, including some sex-related dialogue”. Those fucking prudes. This is a movie about Southies from Boston and the movies have taught me that Southies all have filthy mouths and that is a normal and accepted thing and it feels real.

Okay, so for those of you that don’t know the story, Will Hunting (Damon) is an intellectually gifted youngster, flitting around from job to job, doing work that is far beneath him, carousing with his friends Chuckie (Ben Affleck), Morgan (Casey Affleck) and Billy (Hauser), and getting himself into legal trouble. Hunting was severely abused as a child and bounced from foster home to foster home and since then has built up an emotional wall when it comes to letting people get close to him. Soon Hunting’s life goes from shit to enormous potential, all thanks to solving a math problem written on a blackboard by an MIT Proffessor, Gerald Lambeau (Skarsgård) and beating the shit out of some guy in a neighborhood fight. Lambeau speaks with the judge in charge of Hunting’s case, and offers to take Hunting under his care as long as he gets therapy. Lambeau resorts to Sean Maguire (Williams) – an old school-time friend and Southie – to give Will Hunting the counselling he so badly needs before he destroys his own life.

I know that it doesn’t sound like anything better than a TV Movie of the Week, but the individual parts put so much into the movie that it rises above the level of your average tear-jerker piece of fluff film. Damon was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, and it was a well-deserved nomination. Unfortunately he was up against his future Departed co-star Jack Nicholson, who won for his role in As Good As It Gets. As previously mentioned, Robin Williams picked up a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his wonderfully layered performance. All in all, the movie was nominated for nine Oscars, including a Best Picture nod and a Best Supporting Actress nom for Minnie Driver. There’s a lot to love about the movie, from the performances to the score to the realistic dialogue, it’s got it all.

Well, the only thing I think that Good Will Hunting is missing to push it up to perfect status is the style of directing. I’m not saying that Van Sant did a terrible job or anything, just that it seemed like he phoned it in a bit. He did coax career-making performances out of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, but their future work would show that they nearly always bring their A-games. I don’t want it to seem like I’m punishing Hunting for being an easily accessible film, but I expected a bit more of a challenging style from Van Sant. Still, Good Will Hunting is a tremendously enjoyable film that should be watched by everyone.

4 / 5

Surviving Christmas (2004)

Back in 2004, Ben Affleck’s star was starting to wane, and movies like Surviving Christmas are one of the most glaring reasons why.  It might have the world record for shortest time between theatrical release and home release, were it not for Steven Soderbergh’s weird experiments.  Released in theatres October 2004, it came out on DVD two months later after failing horribly at the box office.  It was directed by Shrek 4‘s Mike Mitchell (and looking at his filmography, it’s almost uniformly terrible except for a bunch of “Greg the Bunny” episodes, but I may be biased), and “written” by four people.  Written is in quotation marks because apparently, there was never a finalized script and most of the shit that’s onscreen is improvised.

Improvising with BFleck, James Gandolfini and Christina Applegate is a lot different than when Catherine O’Hara improvises with the Christopher Guest troop though.  Actually, Applegate is one of the more decent performers in the movie, apparently one of the only sane characters in the whole story.  Basically, the story goes like this: Drew Latham (BFleck) is a rich asshole who doesn’t enjoy spending time with his family or something, so on the advice of his ex-girlfriend’s (Jennifer Morrison) – who isn’t really his ex – therapist (Stephen Root), he goes back to his childhood home to burn a list of grievances he has with his family.  Then he pays the family that currently lives there (O’Hara, Gandolfini, Josh Zuckerman) to pretend to be his family to make him feel better for the holidays.  It’s pretty much insane, and not in an entertaining way.

Then other things happen!  I have no idea who would find this movie funny, unless you’re approaching it from a car crash perspective, then it’s probably hilarious.  I might enjoy watching it whilst getting hammered and commentating on it MST3K-style.  That’s a different audience though, and there are much better dysfunctional family Christmas movies than this one.  Seriously, The Ref might be my favourite Christmas movie of all time (I’m thinking about doing a list) and it is balls to the wall dysfunctional but with a point and heart and I don’t know where Surviving Christmas went wrong (everywhere), but do not subject yourself to it at Christmas or any other time of the year.

It’s like getting a present from your crazy aunt who still thinks you’re into Transformers or Hot Wheels or that you like cars as anything more than a mode of transportation.  It’s the thought that counts, sure, but if the thought is crazy, do you really want someone thinking about it?

1 / 5

The Company Men (2010)

Full disclosure: as I write this, I’m currently unemployed.  I used to work for Blockbuster Canada, but as a result of the bankruptcy of the American BB using our company as collateral for a loan from the studios and then the Americans defaulting on that loan, I was laid off.  I haven’t worked in over a month.  Right now I have a couple of things in the pipeline, but everyday that I wait to hear back from companies.. it’s one of the most deflating and hard things I’ve ever had to do in my life.  Yeah, it could be much much worse, but that knowledge doesn’t make everyday any easier to endure.

Having said all that, I am prefacing this write-up of The Company Men by saying that it is certainly possible that my current situation coloured my opinions on the film, the premise, the acting, etc.  Hell, I gave Meet the Fockers a 3.5 / 5 once because I was so happy to be in the company of the girl I loved while watching it (Ed. note.: she turned out to be a psychotic evil bitch of epic proportions that fucked up his emotional state for years).  Sometimes movies don’t live up to repeated viewings, especially viewings years after the original fact where you’re just not the same person you were when you first watched Chasing Amy and could identify with it So Much (Ed. note.: pretty sure that’s a very specific personal reference).

So if you know nothing about this movie, it basically deals with the collapse of the American economy and how Good People lost their jobs due to Greedy Companies protecting their bottom lines through downsizing.  BFleck is your lead actor in terrible emotional peril, and he does as fine a job as he’s done since discovering Humility.  Kevin Costner continues to accept his new role as blue-collar character actor guy, Chris Cooper shows us a new level of desperation, Maria Bello does her usual great job of lingering nakedly through some scenes, Craig T. Nelson is alright as Asshole Boss, and Tommy Lee Jones makes us forget that he’s kind of a prick in real life.

Great acting all around, an engaging – if a little too close to some people’s hearts – story (Ed. note: his) with real emotional impact (Ed. note.: he got misty-eyed), and decently directed by first-timer John Wells who also wrote the movie.  SPOILER ALERT for the next two days: It was the best movie I watched for July.

4.5 / 5