Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Year: 2001
Director: Kevin Smith

Summary: When Jay and Silent Bob learn that a “Bluntman and Chronic” movie is being made featuring their comic book counterparts, they drool at the thought of fat movie checks rolling in. But when the pair finds that there won’t be any royalties coming their way, they set out to sabotage the flick at all costs.

Times Watched: 1

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Steven Spielberg

Possibly the most recognizable director in the world, Spielberg is certainly one of the best at making blockbuster movies really entertaining.  He almost never goes for straight comedy, but his movies almost always have good laughs. Some of his worse movies have been sequels, suggesting he may have a weakness for resting on his laurels, though being okay with sequels gave us Last Crusade.  He’s great at casting, not always finding the best actor, but almost always someone who fits the role. And since most of the roles in his movies don’t require significant character depth, it works. And while he’s not generally groundbreaking with camera techniques, he’s not afraid to take on really difficult projects with epic scope or heavy drama. He’s definitely earned his reputation.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Dumb, pointless sequel that does a terrible job of building off the first movie. I don’t know how much of that is on Spielberg vs. Michael Crichton, but I’m pretty sure this movie doesn’t need to exist. Love the scene in the field, though.

Grade: F

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: I’m most definitely in the minority here, but in general I’m not a fan of movies that glorify children and make adults mean and/or stupid. Perhaps because of this I didn’t find it as moving as everyone else does. Some amusing scenes.

Grade: D-

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Somewhat enjoyable in the theater, but upon reflection is just really insulting, going for cheap and easy laughs while poorly developing every character. Spielberg’s inability or unwillingness to take control of this project and let George Lucas call all the shots really killed it. Spielberg liked Frank Darabont’s script. Ford liked Darabont’s script. Spielberg was quoted as saying he wanted no CGI. But Lucas likes David Koepp (who is decent, but also wrote Death Becomes Her) and Lucas likes CGI. In fact, this movie is responsible for the phrase “nuking the fridge”, usurping the similarly meaning “jumping the shark” from over thirty years earlier. It was probably never going to be as good as the hype, especially with the decision to cast Shia Lebouf and Sean Connery bowing out, but we’ll never know how good it could have been had Spielberg had full reins.

Grade: C-

Saving Private Ryan: The first half hour is brutal, gutsy filmmaking, which unfortunately activated serious PTSD symptoms for a lot of men who lived through D-Day. For people like me who barely know which end of a gun the bullet comes out, it was refreshing to get a honest depiction of war, even for a little while. The rest of the movie is a drama about Tom Hanks finding this private (Matt Damon) who has lost all his siblings and is being recalled home. It’s fine, but didn’t do much for me, especially with an ending that has Mr. Ryan asking a very poignant question to the audience, but before we can even mull it over, Ryan’s wife answers it for us. Gee, thanks for that.

Grade: C+

Catch Me If You Can: Based on a true story, we have Tom Hanks chasing another person, Leonardo DiCaprio, a young man who has made a career out of forging checks and his identity to stay one step ahead of law enforcement. Not terribly gripping, but a lot of fun. DiCaprio is perfect for this role and he nails it.

Grade: B-

Minority Report: Tom Cruise works for a futuristic law enforcement agency which has the ability to see murders before they happen, then intervene before the perpetrator has a chance to commit the crime. However, the perp still gets prosecuted as if he committed the crime anyway. This is all fine and dandy until Cruise gets seen murdering someone; of course, he can’t imagine he’d ever do so, and before he gets apprehended, goes on the lam, desperate to clear his name. Engaging premise and a lot of fun. Cruise is capable in the role. I wish it were more than just an action movie.

Grade: B-

Jurassic Park: Crichton’s famous book about a dinosaur park gone bad is pretty thrilling with occasional corniness and some plot holes that are easy to ignore considering the ride. Really tense in some parts, and convincing dinosaurs (other than, you know, the non-existent mutant raptors).

Grade: B

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: Gets kind of a bad rap among the original Indy trilogy, though I hear less and less about that since Crystal Skull came out. Completely lacks depth and character development, but it is a prequel that visits Indiana Jones before he began to have feelings, so it’s not entirely unintentional. Casting his then wife as the heroine (Kate Capshaw) was a bad idea, as her sexy to annoying ratio is quite lopsided compared to Karen Allen, though the script is largely to blame for that as well. But the movie is still fun and has many action-packed scenes, which is kind of the point. Jonathan Ke-Quan does a great job as Short Round, and the special effects work is amazing. The final scene on the bridge is a fantastic example of creative film-making without the help of computers.

Grade: B

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: While I find the movie’s finale a little bit of a letdown, Richard Dreyfuss is simply masterful as the line worker who encounters a UFO and gets drawn into the wilderness to discover the truth. I haven’t seen this movie in about twenty years and I can still vividly remember those tones.

Grade: B

Jaws: While I found this a bit frightening as a kid thanks to the music and the shark, I find this even more haunting as an adult as I have a greater understanding of the isolation and emotional trauma these men experience. Dreyfuss is great again, as is Roy Scheider, but the knockout performance comes from Robert Shaw, who is probably scarier than the shark they’re hunting.

Grade: B+

Lincoln: A truly epic look into Lincoln the man and his motivations to end slavery, only briefly touching on the more famous historic events such as Gettysburg and his assassination. Daniel Day-Lewis is exceptional as Lincoln, and I found myself laughing way more than I thought I would. Watches more like a good history lesson than a good movie, but it’s a really good history lesson.

Grade: B+

Schindler’s List: Based on the life of Oskar Schindler who, while working for the Nazis, secretly rescued a bunch of Jews. One of the most emotionally powerful things I’ve ever seen, which is marred only by a completely fabricated Hollywood feel-good speech by Schindler at the end. Shot entirely in black and white and it works. Superb cast. Ralph Feinnes really stands out as one of the bad guys, and Ben Kingsley and Liam Neeson are great as well. Excellent touch at the end to have people who were personally rescued by Schindler honoring him at his grave.

Grade: A

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: A bit disjointed at times, feeling like they had a bunch of great ideas for scenes and just glued them together. But they work on their individual merits, despite how preposterous most of them are (an underground tomb in Venice!) The camerawork is really excellent, providing (along with John Williams) the thrills an adventure needs. But what really helps this movie is Sean Connery, who plays Indy’s father perfectly, giving significantly more depth to Indy’s character. The opening with River Phoenix as young Indy is unnecessary, but it’s fun enough that it was worth keeping in.

Grade: A+

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The perfect adventure movie for those who like anti-heroes. A simple, coherent plot that quickly assigns good guys and bad guys, but gives the bad guys motivations other than just being bad, and the good guys motivations other than being good. Karen Allen is a perfect love interest for Indy, and John Rhys-Davies is wonderful as his convenient Middle Eastern friend. The only significant fault I can find in this movie (and it applies to Last Crusade as well), is that Indy fails at overcoming the bad guy both times and can only idly stand and watch as their arrogance gets themselves killed. Talk about anti-climactic. But more than making up for it is the duel between Indy and the swordsman, which was Ford’s idea as he had dysentery and couldn’t engage in an elaborate fight scene. A lot of brilliance comes accidentally; Spielberg had the insight to see it when it fell in his lap.

Grade: A+

Other Steven Spielberg Movies You May Have Seen

War of the Worlds
The Terminal
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
The Adventures of Tintin
War Horse
Empire of the Sun
The Color Purple
The Twilight Zone: The Movie
The Sugarland Express

Francis Ford Coppolla

Jack: Robin Williams plays an overgrown child. It’s like the role was made for him!  Fran Drescher doesn’t help things either. When you hate a Robin Williams movie as a kid, you know it’s bad. Ugh.

Grade: F

Tucker: The Man and His Dream: Once upon a time a guy (Jeff Bridges) tried to compete with The Big Three and create his own line of cars with innovations like a rotating headlight that follows your steering wheel. That man was squashed by The Big Three, though admittedly his car did have some issues which hurt things. Based on a true story; it’s easy to root for Tucker even though you know what’s going to happen in the end.

Grade: B-

The Rainmaker: Matt Damon plays one of John Grisham’s idealist young attorneys who takes on a corrupt insurance company with the help of Danny DeVito. Solid cast and a solid plot, but nothing all that memorable either.

Grade: B

The Godfather: Part II: Camps are about equally divided on which of the two movies is better. I prefer the first one as I felt it was faster paced with more tension. Still, the character development of Michael Corleone is powerful and depressing. Diane Keaton puts in a strong performance as well as she watches Michael’s ascension to power. Robert DeNiro is also quite good, introduced here in the second film.

Grade: B

The Godfather: It took me until I was 24 to watch this and I expected to be disappointed by all the hype. I was not. I watched it with a friend and we were white-knuckling our chairs multiple times. Marlon Brando is fun as the Don, but it’s a young Al Pacino who really shines. It’s easy to follow him through and understand the choices he makes and Coppolla has us simultaneously rooting for and being scared by him at the same time. I also love James Caan’s performance. In fact, the entire cast is pretty much brilliant. This movie not only defined an entire genre of movies, it also redefined real mobsters, who were never this slick in real life but aspired to be so after watching this. Oh, and it also helped Mario Puzo; from what I’ve heard, his books are not that great.

Grade: A

Other Francis Ford Coppola Movies You May Have Seen

The Godfather: Part III
Apocalypse Now
The Conversation
The Outsiders
Peggy Sue Got Married
Rumble Fish
New York Stories
The Cotton Club

Kevin Smith

Kevin Smith’s voice spoke to a lot of teenagers back in the 1990s. A lot of those teenagers have grown up and developed a keener sense of humor and a stronger desire for quality film-making. The guy can set-up some pretty good jokes, but he also doesn’t know when to quit, and even he admits a lot of his jokes are too easy. His film-making skills are amateurish for the most part. He has historically cast his friends in significant roles regardless of their acting ability. He has no appreciable skill in evoking good acting. And the pacing in his films is generally irritating, as he’ll throw in jokes for their own sake, regardless of whether or not it makes sense given the plot. I wonder if he had given his scripts to a good director who could edit and cast well, if we’d be talking about the good writer and not the embarrassing director.  All that said, I still like some of his movies despite myself.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back: I remember laughing a lot when I saw this twelve years ago, but I honestly don’t remember 98% of the movie, and I was at a party at the time. I do remember most of the jokes wouldn’t make any sense unless you had already watched every Kevin Smith movie to that point, which seems like a lot of money to spend to cater to a really specific audience. That hyper amount of referential humor also usually isn’t as funny upon repeated viewings.

Grade: N/A

Clerks II: Funny story, I was going to see this in the theater with friends, but their car broke down on the way (a few days before they moved out of state) and we didn’t wind up seeing it for another year. My friends car was quite the appropriate analogy for this wreck of a film. The authenticity of the first movie was stripped away for a silly plot, the dick jokes are even more obvious, and the original actors haven’t improved their limited skills. What saves this movie from being a complete disaster are an earnest performance by Rosario Dawson and a funny cameo by Jason Lee. Completely pointless.

Grade: D

Mallrats: After the success of Clerks, Smith got a Hollywood budget and some Hollywood actors. And he used it for ninety minutes of dick jokes. Once again, Jason Lee saves this movie; he’s good for a few genuine laughs. But there’s too much in the way of unimaginative gross-out humor. The acting is subpar, highlighted by wooden performances by Claire Forlani, Shannon Doherty, and Ben Affleck. Jay & Silent Bob’s appearance is very forced.

Grade: C-

Chasing Amy: A promising step in the right direction for Smith, his first real attempt at a genuine story. And he hits some good notes here. Jason Lee is again hilarious, as is Dwight Ewell. There’s some good honest discussions about sexuality and jealousy. And I thought the movie’s climax was brutal and hilarious with a non-contrived ending. But Ben Affleck nearly ruins everything with his lead performance. His big speech spoke to the teenager me, but is laughable now, especially because of his delivery. And Joey Lauren Adams, while giving a good effort, has a voice so shrill it’s hard to listen to her for long.

Grade: B

Dogma: Easily Smith’s best directed movie, with a silly plot that isn’t dumbed down by a hundred dick jokes. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play two fallen angels who try to exploit a loophole and get back into Heaven. If they do, humanity’s existence will be negated. An abortion worker (Linda Fiorentino) tries to stop them. There are some inspired choices here by Smith. Chris Rock plays the 13th apostle. Alanis Morissette plays God. Alan Rickman plays the voice of God. George Carlin plays a Cardinal. Unfortunately, he couldn’t help himself and had an extended scene with a Shit Demon, which was gross and not funny. And Jay & Silent Bob are once again contrived and pointless. It’s hilarious that this movie caused controversy and boycotts. Believing Kevin Smith’s opinion of religion would influence the masses is laughable in the first place, but moreover the movie doesn’t take itself all that seriously.

Grade: B+

Clerks: Smith begged, borrowed, and stole to create this movie on a shoestring budget inside the same convenience store in which he was working at the time. The movie takes place over the course of about 18 hours, detailing the conversations and hijinks of two disgruntled workers. It received significant critical acclaim, which is curious considering the direction is not good and the acting is beyond horrendous. Or perhaps it’s because the critics found themselves laughing despite those things. There are a few inspired jokes, a few funny dick jokes, a few not-funny dick jokes, and some armchair philosophy that runs the gamut from amusing to banal. I think why I still love it is the good chemistry between Dante and Randal, and the amusing goings-on of drug-dealers Jay & Silent Bob, whose presence actually makes sense. I also, as Randal put, used to “work in a shitty video store,” and can empathize with every aspect of his work day. When I would close the store at midnight, sometimes my best friend would help before we’d head out to Perkins. And because we’re dorks, I’d ask him to wrangle out the door for me.

Grade: A-

Other Kevin Smith Movies You May Have Seen

Jersey Girl
Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Cop Out
Red State

Martin Scorsese

Scorsese is hailed as one of the best directors of all-time, and sadly I’ve only seen a handful of his movies. From what I’ve read, he likes to focus a lot on male characters (especially Robert DeNiro and Leonardo DiCaprio) coping with their own inadequacies, mirroring his own struggles and fantasies. Regardless, his directing abilities are as hailed from what I’ve seen. The camera always seems to be in the right place, and he gets exceptional performances out of most of his actors. I haven’t been a huge fan of the stories he chooses, so I’m a bit hesitant to just plow through his lengthy filmography. Of course, I’ll take recommendations from my lovely readers.

The Departed: While I like this film, I’m definitely in the minority for not thinking it’s one of the best of all-time. Currently, it is ranked #49 at the IMDb. Roger Ebert gave it four stars, though he did seem to give every movie four stars in the last several years of his life. The Departed is a remake of a Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs, where one boy recruited by the mob (Matt Damon)  infiltrates the Boston police department, while one boy recruited by the Boston police department (Leonard DiCaprio) infiltrates the mob. It’s a fun, tangled web, and DiCaprio is superb, but I just never really got into the movie. I felt Jack Nicholson gave an uninspired performance as the mob boss. The police psychologist’s motivations felt completely unbelievable to me. And I felt little attachment to any of the characters, leaving me not all that interested in how it ended. Ebert says the movie is a lot about Catholic guilt, something Scorsese is intimately familiar with. Perhaps if I understood that I would have enjoyed it more.

Grade: B-

Hugo: A charming fantasy about an orphan boy in 1930’s Paris who lives inside the walls of a train station and has to solve a mystery surrounding one of his father’s automatons. Asa Butterfield, who plays the boy, is excellent, ultimately believable. The always delightful Chloe Moretz is great as well, making Hugo possibly the best assembly of pre-pubescent acting I’ve seen. Ben Kinglsey, not quite pre-pubescent, is also solid. Unfortunately, the plot itself lost my interest about half-way through. The excellent acting, directing, and cinematography kept me going through the end.

Grade: B-

The Color of Money: I haven’t seen this movie in a long time, and my memory has faded. What I do remember is that I loved Paul Newman’s performance as the old-school pool hustler. The story has its ups and down, and there’s no payoff to the mentor/pupil cliches, but it’s enjoyable to watch. What I need to do is watch The Hustler with Newman and Gleason. Someday..

Grade; B-

Goodfellas: For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. Ray Liotta narrates the first line of this epic gangster movie that rivals The Godfather in many ways. Liotta dreams of having the freedom he believes he’ll have if he can get into the mafia. He works his way in, generally happy as he’s working his way up the hierarchy, but then the shit gets really real and he wonders whether this is really the life for him. Based on the life of Henry Hill who worked with Liotta, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci while the film was being made. The acting is tremendous all around, with special props to Pesci, who is so good you can easily forget his comedic characters while watching. If you liked The Godfather, there’s a good chance you’ll like this as well.

Grade: A

Other Martin Scorsese Films You May Have Seen

Taxi Driver
Raging Bull
The Last Waltz
Shutter Island
The King of Comedy
After Hours
The Last Temptation of Christ
Gangs of New York
The Aviator
Cape Fear