Richard hosted the TIFF press conference for “Downsizing” with director Alexander Payne, stars Matt Damon, Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz, screenwriter Jim Taylor and producer Mark Johnson.
The script by Payne and Jim Taylor opens with a Norwegian scientist making a breakthrough he thinks will save humanity: a technique that can shrink people to 5 inches (12 centimeters) tall. That means they use a tiny fraction of the resources they once did — and need to pay less, allowing people of modest means to grow instantly rich by becoming small.
Richard and CP24 anchor George Lagogianes have a look at the weekend’s new movies, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall,” Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness” and “My Scientology Movie.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall,” Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness” and “My Scientology Movie.”
“The Great Wall” is not the story of Donald Trump’s relations with Mexico. It’s a $150 million historical epic from Chinese director Zhang Yimou that garnered a lot of criticism for the controversial casting of Matt Damon in a major role.
Detractors called the choice an example of a “white saviour” from the West appropriating Chinese culture and stepping in to save the day. Constance Wu of “Fresh Off the Boat” voiced her disapproval, accusing the film of “perpetuating the racist myth that only a white man can save the world,” adding, “our heroes don’t look like Matt Damon.”
Zhang fought back. “Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor.”
“As the director of over 20 Chinese language films and the Beijing Olympics,” he said in a statement, “I have not and will not cast a film in a way that was untrue to my artistic vision.”
More on that later, but having seen the film, a more blatant criticism would be the generic, formulaic filmmaking.
On the run, mercenary soldiers William Garin (Damon) and Pero Tovar (Pedro Pascal) are captured at a Great Wall outpost by a band of Chinese soldiers called the Nameless Order, led by General Shao (Zhang Hanyu) and Strategist Wang (Andy Lau). The interlopers are due to be disposed of until they offer up a claw Garin separated from a mysterious beast days before.
Turns out, the creature is a Tao Tie, a nasty breed of beast that attacks the Imperial Court every sixty years. The walleyed creatures look like a smooth green werewolf- Komodo Dragon hybrid and are very difficult to kill. When the Tao Tie attack days earlier than expected Tovar and Garin’s bravery earn them privileged spots in the battalion—“We’re honoured to be honoured,” says Garin.—but the pair are secretly only interested in the local “black powder.” “It turns the air into fire!” they gasp. If they can smuggle the gunpowder out of the battalion it will make them rich men in the West.
It’s a great plan until Garin opts to leave his mercenary ways behind join forces with General Lin (Jing Tian), the only female English-speaking commander at the outpost. Her bravery turns his head, reminding him of why he became a soldier in the first place. “Let me fight with you,” he says. “If this is where you choose to die, good luck to you,” scoffs Tovar. If the Tao Tie breach the wall, we’re told several times, nothing can stop them.
“The Great Wall” uses every epic monster film trick in the book. Cameras sweep and swirl, flames lick the screen, there’s slow-mo galore and loads of Zhang’s unique wuxia style action but despite the grandeur and the lushness of the cinematography and costume details it is all rather dull. It’s “Lord of the Rings” without the engaging fantasy and “Game of Thrones” sans the lusty carnality that keeps people watching between dragon conquest scenes.
There is some humour between the battle scenes. Garin and Tovar are awfully quippy for a pair of Song dynasty soldiers. “I’m the one saving you,” Tovar jokes on the battlefield, “so I can kill you myself.” It’s “Hope and Crosby on the Road to the Imperial Court!”
As for Garin as the Saviour from the West, I have to agree with Wu. There are several heroes in this movie but Garin eats up the most screen time and in the end is instrumental in (SPOILER ALERT) keeping the nasty beasties from having their way with the Emperor. Damon is an agreeable actor, although here he dons a flat and ever-changing accent that simply amplifies how completely out of place he seems in ancient China.
“The Great Wall” feels more like an exercise in marketing than it does a movie. The size and spectacle of it appear geared to appeal to an audience used to avenging superheroes, while the casting of a white American star at the heart of another culture’s tale looks to be a blatant attempt at creating a tentpole film for a world audience. What they forgot about was including compelling characters and story.
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with Andrew Carter to discuss the weekend’s big releases, the Ice Cube high school comedy “Fist Fight,” the Matt Damon white saviour flick “The Great Wall” and Dane DeHaan in the incomprehensible “The Cure for Wellness.”
Richard sits in with Marcia McMillan to have a look at the the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”
In the latest Jason Bourne movie, Matt Damon will punch, kick and spy master his way to the top of the box office charts.
His previous Bourne films, Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum, were all hits commercially and critically.
Damon says he owes a great deal to the fictional character.
After the early success of Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan and The Talented Mr. Ripley made him a star, a string of flops cooled his box office appeal.
“Right before The Bourne Identity came out,” he said, “I hadn’t been offered a movie in a year.”
Then his career was Bourne again.
“It’s incalculable how much these movies have helped my career,” he told The Telegraph. “Suddenly it put me on a short list of people who could get movies made.”
In the spirit of “one for them, one for me” for every film like The Martian or the new Jason Bourne, Damon has attached himself to smaller, riskier projects.
He lent his star power to The Good Shepherd, a low budget film directed by Robert De Niro. It’s a spy movie without the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from our favorite undercover operatives.
There are no elaborate chase scenes a la James Bond or even the great scenery of the Bourne flicks.
In fact, the only thing The Good Sheperd shares with any of those movies is Damon, who plays Edward Wilson, one of the (fictional) founders of the CIA.
Despite mixed to good reviews — USA Today gave the film three out of four stars—and winning the Silver Bear of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival, the movie barely earned back its production costs at the box office.
Ninety per cent of director Steven Soderbergh’s job on The Informant! was casting this mostly true tale of a highly paid executive-turned-whistleblower who helped uncover a price fixing policy that landed several executives (including himself) in jail.
It’s a tricky balancing act to find an actor who can keep the audience on-board through a tale of corporate malfeasance and personal greed, who can be likeable but is actually a liar and a thief, but Damon is the guy.
The Informant! skewed a tad too far into art house territory to be Soderbergh’s new Erin Brockovich-sized hit, but Damon’s presence kept the story of accounting, paperwork and avarice interesting. Reviews were kind but A Serious Man and The Twilight Saga: New Moon buried the film on its opening weekend.
Damon teamed with John Krasinski to produce and co-write Promised Land, a David and Goliath story that relied on the charm and likability of its cast to sell the idea that fracking is bad and the corporations who dupe cash-strapped farmers into leasing their land are evil.
It’s hard to make talk of water table pollution dramatic but Promised Land makes an attempt by giving much of the heavy lifting to Damon.
Done in by middling reviews and “sobering” box office receipts, this earnest and well-meaning movie might have been better served in documentary form.
With an Oscar on his shelf and more than 70 films on his resume Damon is philosophical about the kinds of films he chooses to make, big or small.
“If people go to those movies, then yes, that’s true, big-time success,” he says.
“Jason Bourne,” the first Matt Damon led film in the series in nine years, proves that actions speak louder than words. Damon speaks a mere twenty-five lines of dialogue as he kicks, punches and crash-boom-bangs his way through this spy thriller, letting the action do the talking.
Damon’s fourth go-round as amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne begins with him tormented by his violent past. Most of his memory is intact, but he’s eaten away by guilt for the terrible things he did as a government programmed killer. “I remember,” he says. “I remember everything.”
To get his ya-yas out he goes all Fight Club, bare-knuckling any and all contenders but he’s drawn back into the international spy game—the movie never met an exotic location it couldn’t use, whether it’s Berlin, Reykjavík, Athens, London or even Vegas—after his former-handler-turned-hacker Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) tells him of a collaboration between CIA director Robert Dewey (Tommy Lee Jones, whose face is one forehead wrinkle away from becoming a caricature of an old man) and Silicon Valley kingpin Aaron Kalloor (Riz Ahmed). They’re working on Edward Snowden’s worst nightmare, a new program called Ironhead, a system of full spectrum surveillance; watching everyone all the time.
Wanting Bourne out of the way Dewey uses every newfangled asset at his disposal—like state-of-the-art global surveillance—to find the agent before turning to the old ways and bringing in an assassin known as, appropriately enough, The Asset (Vincent Cassel) to take care of business. “I’m going to cut the head off this thing,” says Dewey.
Flitting about the edges of the intrigue is the CIA’s cyber ops head Heather Lee (Alicia Vikander), who helps Bourne in an effort to keep him away from The Asset’s deadly gaze. “Bringing him in is the smart move,” she says. “There’s no bringing in Bourne,” Dewey says. “He needs to be put down.”
Cue the carnage.
If nothing else “Jason Bourne” proves once and for all that you can’t keep a good man down. Shot, beaten, dropped from a tall building or whatever, he’s the Energizer Bunny of international spies. He just keeps on ticking. We expect that from Bourne and we also demand feral fighting scenes, crazy car crashes and action, action, action. Make no mistake, there’s plenty of Bourne battle and bloodshed and some of it is quite exciting but it doesn’t have the finesse of the earlier films. Director Paul Greengrass’s signature handheld you-are-here style is in place but doesn’t feel as fresh as it did in the other films. Often frenetic instead of pulse-racing, the action sequences are frequent but not as memorable as the magazine-in-the-toaster gag from “Bourne Supremacy” or “Bourne Ultimatum’s” hardcover book punch. Still, you might not make it quite to the edge of your seat, but the combo of action and intrigue will shift you out of a reclining position.
“Jason Bourne” has its moments. Damon brings a grizzled power to the role and Vikander is a welcome addition, even if her motives are sometimes are hard to understand. There are interesting messages about online personal rights versus public safety that would have been moot in 2002 when the series debuted, a labyrinthine plot occasionally weighed down with unnecessary exposition and an unhinged Vegas climax—Bourne must really hope that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—that would not be out of place in an Avengers movie. I just wish the ending felt less like an Avengers scene—with cars comically flying through the air—and more like a Bourne moment.
Richard and CJAD Montreal substitute afternoon show host Dave Kaufman talk about 4 new releases, the rollercoaster action of “Jason Bourne,” the heartwarming (and slightly raunchy) comedy of “Bad Moms,” “Cafe Society’s” period piece humour and the online intrigue of “Nerve.”