Matt Damon

Candelabra

It’s here! Finally, with the release of its first trailer, we get to catch our first glimpse of Michael Douglas donning sequins and feathers to play famed, flamboyant musician Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming biopic for HBO films, Behind the Candelabra, and—oh boy—it’s not a let down. Douglas looks like he had a great time with this one, and it should be a ton of fun watching him chew scenery for one of today’s greatest (non) working directors.

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Promised Land

When he’s not being overly experimental with his stories, there’s no amount of heart that director Gus Van Sant can’t deliver. He’s proven such abilities time and time again with films like Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester and most recently with the biopic Milk. Van Sant has never been bad at finding the humanity in his stories, so it shouldn’t surprise that his latest team-up with Matt Damon finds plenty of humanity and heart as well. And it’s not just a matter of being set inside the economically ravaged American heartland, where such stories litter the once flourishing agricultural landscape. With Promised Land, Van Sant once again finds his safe zone. And when combined with a cast of seasoned veterans, he also finds himself the director of yet another engaging human story.

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Promised Land

Promised Land has been met with a few Frank Capra comparisons, clearly establishing it as one of director Gus Van Sant‘s more easily digestible and accessible pictures. The filmmaker has never been afraid to test an audience’s patience or make them feel truly uncomfortable, but the new Matt Damon- and John Krasinski-penned movie isn’t one of those pictures. If anything, Promised Land, the story of a man trying to convince a small town to turn towards big business fracking, fits in quite neatly with Van Sant’s other, softer pictures: Milk, Good Will Hunting, and Finding Forrester. Those are his audience-friendly movies, the kind you’d pick watching with your grandma over, say, To Die For or Elephant. Speaking with the highly acclaimed Van Sant, we discussed his relationship with his audience, the process of test screening, and the investigations his characters tend to go on:

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image_elysium sharlto copley

One of the more anticipated films hitting theaters next year is Neill Blomkamp‘s Elysium. The sci-fi epic is the director’s long-awaited (well, since 2009 anyway) follow-up to his breakout hit District 9, and it follows a similar path melding action, science fiction and social commentary. It stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, William Fichtner, Diego Luna, Talisa Soto and Sharlto Copley. He played the hero in District 9, but Copley’s turn here is of a far darker flavor. Empire Online has just debuted the first glimpse above of Copley in full bad guy gear, and he’s nigh unrecognizable. Elysium is set in the year 2159, and pits the oppressed people of the ruined planet Earth against the privileged elite aboard the Elysium space station. Matt Damon is ex-convict man-on-a-mission Max, fighting with the Terrans for equality, and Jodie Foster is the dastardly government official intent on enforcing anti-immigration laws and keeping Elysium for the Elysians; Kruger is her relentless attack dog.” Elysium invades theaters August 9th, 2013.

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Matt Damon in Elysium

While discussing his new film Promised Land and how boring he is, Matt Damon told Playboy (don’t click if you dislike looking at a lot of butts) about the experience of filming in a massive trash dump for Elysium and got humble about the roles he missed out on. “Having to say no to Avatar was tough because I particularly wanted to work with James Cameron, and still do, because he’s fantastic,” Damon said. “He knew he was the star of that movie and that everyone was going to go see it anyway. When he said, ‘Look, I’m offering it to you, but if you say no, the movie doesn’t need you,’ I remember thinking, Oh God, not only do I have to say no because of scheduling, but he’s going to make a star out of some guy who’s going to start taking jobs from me later.” Damon also talked about missing out on Milk and Brokeback Mountain, but ultimately concluding that Josh Brolin and Heath Ledger were the right actors for the parts because of how stellar they portrayed their respective characters.

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Matt Damon

What is Casting Couch? It’s not so much a couch as it is a list, a list of recent castings. And it seems to be talking a lot about World War II today. George Clooney and Matt Damon must have decided that they both look super handsome when they’re standing next to each other, because not only have they already worked together on the Oceans movies and Syriana, but now Deadline is reporting that Clooney has decided that he’s going to cast Damon in his next project as a director, The Monuments Men. This is that one about the museum curators who try to save as many artifacts and works of art as possible during the Nazis’ slash and burn campaign that took place during the dying days of World War II. If Damon’s negotiations go well and he signs up, he’ll be joining a cast that already includes Clooney himself, Daniel Craig, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Hugh Bonneville, and Bob Balaban—which is enough big name actors that they should probably just cash in and rename this thing Oceans Monuments Men.

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Promised Land Trailer

Things get perhaps a bit zippy and drippy and cliched at the end of this first trailer for Gus Van Sant‘s Promised Land, but there’s just so much good stuff before all that upbeat music and hackneyed professions of maybe-wonder to sink it. Originally slated as Matt Damon‘s directorial debut, Promised Land does still feature Damon in front of the camera and behind its script, as he’s co-written this one with co-star John Krasinksi (of note, this is the sort of pairing dreams are made of), who first conceived of its story with author Dave Eggers before Matty and Johnnycakes (as we like to refer to them) penned the script. Details have been slim about the project, but we have known that it would center on “a salesman [who] experiences life-changing events after arriving in a small town” and that it would possibly involve fracking. It looks like both those nuggets have proven to be true, as Promised Land looks like a mix of Erin Brockovich and Michael Clayton, set in a small town that Damon’s natural gas conglomerate is trying to convince to sell off their drilling rights. Things get messy when some of the townspeople start to revolt against ol’ smoothy Damon and his company, and that crisis isn’t helped by a potential love triangle that also involves Krasinski and the lovely Rosemarie DeWitt. Take a look:

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From the aesthetic to its own protagonist, Tony Gilroy did some work to distance The Bourne Legacy from the previous, Jason Bourne-led trilogy. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) isn’t Bourne, and The Bourne Legacy isn’t a carbon copy of the voices Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass helped shaped this series with. His mythology-expanding feature focuses on one man with one simple goal – which doesn’t involve his identity, finding forgiveness, or getting revenge for his girlfriend’s death. As Tony Gilroy told us at the start of the summer, the Michael Clayton director didn’t want to “lose the balls.” With an edgy anti-hero in the lead – one who’s capable of using either a wolf or a fire extinguisher to save his own skin – Gilroy kept the balls of this series intact while also exploring new thematic corners of the Bourne universe. If Gilroy is correct, we’ll soon see more episodic and expansive mega-blockbusters told in the vein of The Bourne Legacy, and it’s a prediction the Academy Award nominee seemed excited by.

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Elysium at Comic-Con

When you venture into the multiplexes anymore, one thing becomes abundantly clear: the suits are firmly in control of Hollywood. Sure, movies have been a business since practically the dawn of the medium, but lately the corporate and marketing stranglehold is so tight that the cold plastic from the action figures and the wax from the fast food drink cups can be tasted in the air by the time the first reel gets moving. So with this near insurmountable obstacle of commercial influence, any time an intelligent, well-crafted genre film sneaks through the board rooms and the  farcical focus groups is a victory for geeks like us.

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What to Expect at Comic-Con 2012

Check out a preview of what the Rejects will be up to this year at the San Diego Comic-Con, beginning with SDCC virgin Brian Salisbury… Having never been to Comic-Con, in fact having never before set foot in the state of California, I can’t help but feel a tinge of trepidation as I pack for San Diego. Chief among these concerns was whether I’d even get an adequate feel of the Con on my first outing as I darted from roundtable to roundtable, from press screening to blogger party. Would I leave my first Comic Con with no legitimate understanding of what keeps people coming back year after year? It was then I decided that, as a noob, it was best to experience the convention as a fan and not an industry professional. I needed to separate these two factions of my personality, to make a clean break from the behind-the-scenes journalism aspect and the intrepid geeks who walk the floor without the benefit of credentials. That’s when the idea of wearing a mask came into the picture, to disguise myself and resist the temptation of professional perks. I will walk the floors, stand in lines for panels in the various halls, and talk geek shop with the other attendees; providing journal entries for each day. This seems doubly fitting given the amount of cosplay that I’ve heard takes place at Comic Con. I will blend in even under fantastical vestments. So what character would I choose? What hero, outlaw, […]

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The announcement that the Bourne franchise would continue without Matt Damon was met with skepticism by many, including myself, for several reasons. The most relevant? Matt Damon played Jason Bourne. How could the franchise continue without him and his character but still call itself a Bourne film? Would another actor step into his shoes a la James Bond, or would it simply be another case of an agent with amnesia going rogue? The answer turned out to be neither, and instead, rather ingeniously, The Bourne Legacy is a parallel story that begins during the third act chaos of The Bourne Ultimatum. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is a top agent who finds himself caught up in the Bourne fallout when the agency attempts to cover their tracks by terminating his co-workers. He’s forced to go on the run alongside an agency scientist (Rachel Weisz) while trying to out maneuver new a executive-level baddie played by Edward Norton. Some familiar faces from the first three films crop up along the way to flesh out the connective tissues between films, but this is really an introduction to a brand new character… and possibly a brand new trilogy of films. Check out the trailer below, and tell me your not at least a little excited to see this.

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The Bourne Legacy is not only one of the most highly-anticipated films of the summer, it’s a unique chance to revisit the blockbuster franchise with a different star at the helm. Meanwhile, co-writer/director Tony Gilroy, one of the key creative voices behind the original trilogy, is preserving the series’ lore while giving its events a broader and more epic context. As the film’s trailer observes, “Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg,” and Gilroy’s insights about the direction he took the franchise in, for the first time as both writer and director, suggest that this expansive view of the world of Bourne was part of his plan all along. But as if embodying the director’s perspective, Jeremy Renner’s character Aaron Cross isn’t an unknown entering a larger world, but an experienced agent who knows exactly who he is and what he’s meant to do. Speaking to the Academy Award nominated filmmaker recently, Gilroy talked about reviving the franchise via The Bourne Legacy, revealing how he paid tribute to longtime fans even as he looked to a broader horizon, and the organic approach he and cinematographer Robert Elswit approached the picture with.

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Gus Van Sant

The other day the venerable Cole Abaius reported on a rumor that Matt Damon was no longer going to be making his directorial debut on an upcoming project about a sales executive who has his life changed when he travels to a small town. The reason Damon was backing off the project was said to be “script issues,” but this sounded absurd because Damon is a co-writer on the film and he still intends on starring in it. So how could he possibly have issues with the script that would preclude him from directing?

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This is the kind of story that sounds too absurd to be true. According to an insider for Vulture, Matt Damon will no longer be making his directorial debut with the project previously reported on. The idea came from Dave Eggers and John Krasinski, and the script was co-written by Krasinski and Damon, but the insider is citing “script issues” as the reason for Damon getting up from the director’s chair. Thus, Matt Damon is having trouble with the script from Matt Damon. The best part? Apparently he’s still on board to star. So there are 3 options here: 1) Either Matt Damon thinks the writing he (and Krasinki) did is good enough to star but not good enough to direct 2) he is having an existential crisis where he’s arguing with himself or 3) the insider is wrong. Maybe Damon really is stepping back from directing, but the reasoning here sounds ludicrous in light of the work he’s already done. Hopefully some clearer information will come out before the FSR offices run out of aspirin.

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Drinking Games

January doesn’t just mean it’s time for colder days and snowfall that makes traffic a mess. January also means that cold and flu season is fully upon us. And what better movie to watch during cold and flu season than Steven Soderbergh’s thriller about a killer virus that threatens to wipe out a significant portion of the world’s population. Watching Contagion on Blu-ray or DVD gives you a sense of security because you won’t be terrified every time someone in the movie theater coughs. And that sense of security can be helped by knocking back a few beers or glasses of wine while watching the movie. Just get your flu shot first.

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We Bought a Zoo strives to be Cameron Crowe‘s biggest crowd-pleaser yet, and it’s coming after two of his most splitting features. Elizabethtown was not met kindly and Vanilla Sky either blew your mind or frustrated the hell out of you, despite being a film that made one of the most likable movie stars around a narcissist often hidden under a nightmarish mask — how many directors do that to movie stars? Not many. Crowe doesn’t exactly disfigure Matt Damon in his Christmas release, but the film does what Crowe usually does best: showing good-natured people simply trying to do their best. While speaking to Crowe, he reminded me a lot of his films — someone who clearly wears his heart on his sleeve, and not in an artificial way. In fact, the first thing Crowe said to me left a goofy smile on my face for days, which is what his films usually do as well. The man was kind enough to give me extra time, and even by the end I felt like we could have gone on for hours. The writer-director and I spent more time than I expected but hoped on Vanilla Sky, as well as his writing process, how old films are like diary entries, and why it’s easier to make cynical films nowadays.

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Let’s get this out of the way now: I’m a Cameron Crowe fan. The director has his critics. Most of his divisiveness comes down to the tone of his films, which some find wrongfully cheesy. I, on the other hand, find Crowe’s humanism endearing, never silly or phony. Somehow, when everyone else has drunk the cynical Kool Aid and acts too cool for school towards anything with a big heart, the director remains optimistic about life and (ugh) people. Crowe, who aims high to plant a big smile on your face, does so here more than competently. The surface-level concept of We Bought a Zoo is fairly ridiculous-sounding: Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) buys and decides to rebuild a broken-down zoo. I’m not sure how We Bought a Zoo differs from Dave Blank’s true life story, and while watching the film and even while writing about it at this very moment, I don’t care. The most important part of Crowe’s adaptation is that, every emotion felt genuine. The “getting the zoo back in shape!” serves as a metaphor for Mee attempting to rebuild his once happy family – heavy shit, right?

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We reported back in October that Matt Damon was planning on following his life-mate Ben Affleck’s lead into the world of directing by putting together a movie about a salesman traveling to a new town and having his life dramatically changed by the experience, and that hasn’t changed. And neither has their been much additional news on the project’s development. He’s still co-writing it with The Office’s John Krasinski, who will co-star with Damon as well, and they’re still working off of an original idea that came from Dave Eggers (“A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius,” Away We Go). But, finally, something new has broke. Damon claims that they’re getting to the point in development where they’re looking to fill out the rest of the cast, and when talking to public radio show The Business, Damon says that they’ve started the casting process strong by signing up veteran actress Frances McDormand. McDormand, of course, is a living legend at this point, and going down her filmography would be a little ridiculous. Damon didn’t give up any info about what sort of character she would be playing, but her inclusion in any cast playing any role has to be seen as a positive at this point. She’s slated to next show up in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, which is set for release this summer.

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The Bourne Identity

Before he bought a zoo, Matt Damon had a penchant for throwing elbows and knees. Also driving a tiny little car through narrow European streets trying to get away from bad guys like Clive Owen. I’m talking, of course, of The Bourne Identity, the first of a trilogy that brought about a new era of action film, one that used the shaky-cam like familiar handgun in the director’s pant pocket. The director of the first Bourne film was Doug Liman, not Paul Greengrass, as so many viewers mistakenly believe. Greengrass took duties on Supremacy and Ultimatum, but this first go-around was all Doug Liman, the director who also brought us the very cool style of films like Swingers, Go, and Jumper. Okay, you can bypass Jumper. Liman takes solo duties on the commentary track for The Bourne Identity, so let’s delve into what exactly he had to say about this film in 3…2…

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We Bought a Zoo

Since the release is a little far off, I just saw the film, and considering Fox asked me to hold my review until opening day, I decided only providing brief thoughts on Cameron Crowe’s latest would be the most suitable option. In short: I love this movie. A few days ago, like everyone else, I rushed to see The Muppets and found it thoroughly charming. We Bought a Zoo, in comparison, makes that level of heart-warming seem like child’s play. Yes, Cameron Crowe’s film is that sweet and tender, and not in a schmaltzy or dopey way, either. Crowe finds that comforting warmness he usually tends to capture with his great casts and rocking soundtracks, both more than present here with Matt Damon‘s excellent performance and Jónsi’s lovely score.

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