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

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Thor (2011)

With The Avengers having recently been released, I thought it would be a great idea to look back on all the Marvel Cinematic Universe films that have been released (read: search engine optimization).  The only one that I’ve already reviewed is Captain America so feel free to go back and read that one after reading this stirring bit of literature I’m probably not going to provide you with here.

Of all the Marvel movies that have been made and were rumoured to be being made, I thought that Thor would have been the hardest sell to mainstream movie audiences.  I don’t know much about the comic book version of the character, other than he fucking bored me.  I didn’t expect the cinematic interpretation of the Norse mythology behind the character to be anything even remotely approaching interesting.  And then a funny thing happened: Kenneth Branagh was named as the director and I thought to myself that at the very least, it’s going to be high quality boredom.  I just wasn’t expecting a movie that was a fun popcorn summer blockbuster, but that’s exactly what Branagh delivered.

Of course, all the directing miracles in the world wouldn’t be able to save a Thor movie if the actor playing Thor was completely unsuited for the part (I’d use Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze from Batman & Robin as an example but fuck that, that movie had more problems than just one miscast).  Thankfully, Chris Hemsworth got the part (and doubly thankful that Triple H didn’t), and as a heterosexual male, even I had to admit that dude was ripped.  He was Thor.  He also had a weird Heath Ledger in 10 Things I Hate About You accent going on for the whole movie, which was somewhat disorienting, but whatever, he was great.

Honestly, the entire movie was pretty great all around, visually stunning, great casting, super performances and a surprising amount of fun.  I might have truly loved it if I was completely familiar with Asgaardian stories and such, but let me just give it a solid thumbs up mark.

4 / 5

The Avengers (2012)

I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous.  See, I’m not a Marvel Comics fanboy and the success that their high quality movie versions of their characters are enjoying makes me – a DC Comics fanboy – insanely jealous.  See, I know that if there ever were to be a Justice League movie, well DC Comics would have to have some sort of alternate (read: inferior) version of Batman, because it’s quite clear that the Christopher Nolan Batman isn’t in a world populated with heroes.  And while I enjoyed Green Lantern there are loads of others that didn’t.  Not to mention how every Superman movie that has come out since Superman II has been pretty craptacular.  Marvel went and signed Joss Whedon to direct The Avengers, so there went the best hope for any Wonder Woman movie, and there aren’t even any rumours that I’ve heard about a Flash movie.  So yeah, super jealous because DC can’t get their cinematic shit together.  Moving on.

In the next couple days, my reviews for the rest of the movies that are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be posted (except Captain America, as that one was already posted) and what you’ll find is that they’re all pretty damn good movies.  For the most part.  The sum of them all is The Avengers, and honestly, you couldn’t find a better director than Joss Whedon to helm this ship.  Whedon has an affinity for the characters that he’s been reading for decades, and if we’ve learned anything from Whedon’s fanbase, it’s that he can make us feel in a way that most directors/writers take for granted.  When Wash dies in Serenity, he wasn’t the only who felt like they’d been impaled, and that was because of the heart that Whedon instills in his characters.  So the whole time watching Avengers, I was wondering which ancillary character was going to bite the dust so we could truly feel like This Means Something.

Another trademark Whedon-ism is the wry sense of humour that characters have in the face of insurmountable odds, and that humour is very much evident throughout the entire film.  I’m pretty sure every character, from Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) hell, everyone of them gets a laugh in the movie.  Of course, front and centre is the most fleshed character out of the Avengers team (so-far), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), but this movie isn’t his.  It’s not Captain America’s (Chris Evans) or Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth).  In fact, I think that the Big Bad of the movie, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), might have had more screen time than anyone else.

The movie doesn’t really have to waste time with showing the origin stories of all these heroes, because they have their own series, just like in the comic book world.  It’s the story of a bunch of combustible elements coming together to form a super power to combat the end of the world.  Honestly, I would have to say that this is the greatest comic book movie of all time, and that’s mostly because I think the Christopher Nolan Batman films can actually hold their own as non-comic book movies.  The Avengers movie and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a lot of fanboy pandering to them, but it’s all great popcorn, summer blockbuster fun.  The Nolan Batman films, well they’re exploring areas outside of the comic books with the implication that they take place in a very realistic world.  Nolan’s Batman would never be in the Justice League.

Anyways, The Avengers is pretty much what any comic book nerd dreams of: the action on the screen taken directly from the pages of their comic books.  The heroes they love, the villains they hate, they’re all expertly interpreted into a new medium and it’s a goddamn great movie.  I don’t even think you’d need to see the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies to completely enjoy the movie, but they would certainly add more depth to the experience.  Also, the 3D was much like Toy Story 3, not invasive and all OMG LOOK IT’S 3D so I strongly recommend seeing it in a theatre when you can.

5 / 5

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Okay, well I’m a pretty big David Fincher fan, though I will admit that occasionally rarely does he make a misstep or a boring film.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the closest Fincher has ever come to making a traditional (read: mainstream and marketable) movie, and it was showered with praise and awards nominations.  Why not go back to that well, especially after the awesome mainstream success of a non-traditional film like The Social Network?

Honestly, TGWTDT is not a mainstream movie in the traditional sense, but much like everyone read “The Da Vinci Code”, seemingly everyone has read the book by the late Steig Larsson on which it was adapted from.  However, unlike “Da Vinci”, Larsson’s book is actually decent enough (although I still maintain that the translation in the first book was far too literal to provide anything substantially powerful), and back in Sweden, his trilogy of books were made into a fairly successful movie trilogy.  Which begs the question: why was Fincher’s movie even made?

Honestly, I’ll gladly take Noomi Rapace’s performance over Rooney Mara’s and the European filmmaking (read: more ballsy) over the semi-sanitized American version.  It’s a good enough movie, but that’s all Fincher’s direction and Daniel Craig / Mara’s chemistry/acting.  The worst thing we’ll probably ever get from David Fincher is that the movie was only very good.

4 / 5