Tag Archives: matt damon

Movie Review – Downsizing (2017)

Oh, the joys of being small!  I know all about small things.  For example, my audience is a mere 3.5 readers.  Don’t even get me started on what’s in my pants.

BQB here with a review of “Downsizing.”

What if all of your problems, and coincidentally, all of the world’s problems, could be solved by a simple invention?

In the world of this film, “downsizing” or the process of turning humans very, very small, has been invented.  At first, the idea sounds ridiculous, but then when you think about it, if it worked, it might not be a terrible idea.

Got money problems?  You don’t anymore.  Can you afford a box?  That’s a mansion for a tiny person.  Can you buy one bottle of vodka?  Cool.  That’s a lifetime booze supply.  Drive a car the size of a toy, nourish your body on mere crumbs and international travel is as easy as being shipped in your very own, comfy little box.

And what a boon for the environment!  Why, an entire tiny city’s supply of trash made in four years can fit in a single garbage bag!

Amidst this backdrop lives Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), a down on his luck occupational therapist who, due to a string of bad luck, missed out on all his lifelong dreams and struggles just to make ends meet.

Downsizing has become all the rage, marketed heavily to the masses as a way to live like a king for pennies on the dollar.  When life becomes a daily grind, Paul and wife, Audrey (Kristin Wiig) decide to shrink themselves and move to the tiny community known as Leisure Land, where they are promised that they will be able to live like movie stars in their own luxurious estate, only with the $150,000 they are able to raise from selling their modest home in the big world.  Turns out that sum is equal to $12 million bucks in tiny town.

Seems to good to be true?  Well, I don’t want to give it away.  The first half of the film is devoted to just showing a lot of fun things that might happen if the world were to get small.  At first, it’s a concept driven film, discussing all of the ramifications of miniaturization and to the writers’ credit, they get in deep, discussing not just the fun parts but also the ethical ramifications as well as the potential for abuse by unscrupulous characters (one such fellow being Paul’s new neighbor, a smuggler played by Christoph Waltz.)

After the coolness of seeing mini people live their lives wears off, the film struggles to find a plot, or any sense of meaning.  Celebrity cameos come and go – Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris, etc.  A cleaning lady, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), helps Paul find meaning in his new existence.

Eventually, I ended up hoping that someone would come along and downsize the film’s running time.  Will there be a villain?  Will there be some downside to downsizing that was heretofore unexpected?  Will the proverbial other shoe ever drop?

You spend so much time being wowed by the awesomeness of smallness in the first half that you feel invested and have to press through the second half but alas, like a botched Mexican shrink job where an unshrinkable filling is left inside the shrinking patient’s head, I too ended up wishing my head would explode just to get the film over with already.

There was some potential here and although protecting the environment is important, I think the film starts off with a fun message (i.e. perhaps science might find a fun, awesome way to save the environment) but then descends into preachiness (you’re ruining the earth with pollution and Matt Damon feels really, really bad about it, you suck bag.)

And yes, you are, but you know, I came for the entertainment, not for Matt Damon’s melancholic ennui.  If he’s worried about the environment, he can take one less private jet ride per year.

Sigh.  I just think like, I don’t know, a more dramatic turn, like a psycho villain who wants to stomp on little people towns or something might have given the film more pizzazz but nope, they just focused on the melodrama.

STATUS:  Stay for the first half.  Feel free to downsize the second half by changing the channel.

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Movie Review – The Great Wall (2017)

Swords!  Gunpowder!  Monsters!  Matt Damon in a ponytail!

BQB here with a review of The Great Wall.

3.5 readers – this film got a bad rap.

Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal aka Prince Oberyn of Game of Thrones fame play William and Tovar, a duo of European mercenaries/scoundrels who have come to China in search of black powder.

Alas, their hopes of making big time money off of the boom boom stuff is put on hold when they are captured by the Nameless Order, a vast Chinese Army in charge of protecting the Great Wall (and in the process, China) from an invasion of monsters who come down from a mountain and eat everyone in sight every sixty years.

Grand in scale, sweeping in scope, filled with bright colors and dazzling special effects, this film is a winner and unfortunately, it was treated as a loser due to political correctness…i.e…a lot of people felt it was highly un-work in the current year for a honky like Matt Damon to be playing the hero in a movie about the Great Wall of China.

Admittedly, even this writer poked fun at the concept…but in my defense, that was before I saw the movie.

3.5 readers, to make a film for an English speaking audience, you’ve got to do one of three things:

#1)  Make the non-English people speak English.  Basically, you’re giving the audience a wink and asking them to go along with it.  No, these people didn’t speak English but unless you want to read subtitles for two hours, stop being a stickler for authenticity.

#2)  Make a movie with subtitles.  If a film made primarily in a foreign language is good enough, I’ll watch it and read the subtitles.  The Ip Man movies based out of Hong Kong and the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series come to mind.  However, I am a film nerd and the average English speaking film audience isn’t going to want to plunk down cash to sit and read a film.  Too much work!

#3)  Throw in some English speaking Westerners to tell the English speaking audience what is going on.  The Western audience can live vicariously through them, exploring the idea of being an English speaker in a far away world.  Make most of the characters from that world speak their native language and put it in subtitles when they speak to each other, but have one character who can speak English and can act as an intermediary between the English and non-English speakers.

The Great Wall goes with Option 3, and it works well.  Commander Lin Mae (Tian Jing) can speak English and Chinese and introduces the newcomers (and, vicariously, the English speaking audience) to her world.

Ironically, despite the fact that it was panned for un-wokeness, one of the film’s highest ranking officers is a woman.

Further, there’s a running theme of trust or specifically, the need for people from different cultures to trust each other.  Tovar (Pascal), a Spaniard, tries to convince his British friend William (Damon) throughout the film to abandon the Nameless Order and take advantage of the chaos during the film’s numerous badass monster siege scenes to steal as much as he can carry and run away with him like a thief in the night.

Will William stay true to his past as a greedy sword for hire or will he see the chance to save the Nameless Order from becoming monster lunch as a chance to redeem himself after a lifetime of villainy?

People from different cultures, coming together, working together for the common good or, you know, something that people who are super duper politically correct claim they want.

Admittedly, there have been many occasions where Hollywood has strained the boundaries of common sense and good taste to put a honky in a role that really should have gone to a non-honky.  Emma Stone as a Hawaiian in Aloha is the most recent example that comes to mind.

That being said, I don’t think this movie fits the mold of other films that came across as stupid and insensitive due to a honky being crowbarred into a non-honky’s role.  The script is all about people from different worlds learning to trust each other.

Is America ready for a film about Ancient China with an Asian actor playing the leading man role?  Yes.  It’s long overdue. But, and here’s the rub, keep in mind that movie, in order to reach an English speaking audience, will a) require everyone to speak English, thus loosing authenticity or b) be dubbed in subtitles, which means it won’t gain exposure to wide English speaking audiences and only geeky film buffs like me will watch it.

That’s not meant as an affront to non-English speakers.  It’s just simple logic.  America is an English speaking country and it is also a country filled with die hard movie lovers.  We don’t have time to learn all the other languages of the world, so we need films to be in English or to have subtitles.  Sure, there’s also the “dub it in English” option but those rarely, if ever, sound good.

 

Somehow, I have a feeling that all the people who complained about Matt Damon playing the lead in this role would also complain if it featured an Asian man speaking English (not as an affront to Asia but just due to the reason that most American movie goers don’t know how to speak Chinese).

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Deserved more kudos than it got.

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Movie Controversy – The Great Wall

Hey nerds.

BQB here.

Soo…OscarsSoWhite.  That whole issue has led to people really paying attention to casting decisions lately.

A trailer is out for a moving coming out next year.  Sort of an action horror fantasy movie.  “The Great Wall” the idea being that the Great Wall of China was built to keep monsters from invading China.

So the hero’s an Asian guy, right?

Wrong. It’s Matt Damon.

I guess he had some time between filming the last Jason Bourne movie and the next Jason Bourne movie.

Hmmm…ok.  So I assume the story explains how a white guy ended up as the hero but…maybe just maybe Good Ole Matt has a good run in Tinsel Town.  Maybe just maybe there was an Asian guy who could have been the lead…in a movie…about China.

By the way – I’m not sure I blame Matt Damon.  I mean, if Hollywood’s passing out big bucks to pretend to be a warrior in China, I’d take it.  But, it is up to Hollywood to say, “Huh.  Maybe a movie in Asia needs an Asian lead.”

What say you, 3.5 readers?

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Movie Review – The Martian (2015) (And What It Does For Self-Publishing)

“You do the math. You solve one problem. And then you solve another. And then another. Solve enough and you stay alive.”

– Mark Watney, The Martian

An astronaut trapped on Mars.  A daring rescue mission.  Matt Damon.  Jeff Daniels.  Jessica Chastain.  Kate Mara.  Sean Bean.  Kristen Wiig.  The list of top actors on this movie is too long to keep rattling names off but the biggest star of all?

SCIENCE!

Yes, in an age where people want more explosions, sex, and what the hell, explosive sex, Alien director Ridley Scott made a movie that not only entertains but educates.

Put on your spacesuit, 3.5 readers, and let’s talk about what this movie does not only for science, but for the world of self-publishing.

The Martian – Twentieth Century Fox

OK, first of all, let’s address the proverbial elephant on the sofa, the gorilla in the barcalounger, if you will.

But BQB!  Aren’t you trapped in the middle of the East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse?

I sure am, 3.5 readers.  Luckily, I’ve got Alien Jones’ plutonium powered space phone and the Esteemed Brainy One managed to stream it for my group of survivors last night.  It really lifted our spirits, because as you may have heard, we’re currently riding out the zompoc in Price Town, one of the last three stores still open at the nearly abandoned East Randomtown Mall.

HOW BIG WAS THIS MOVIE?

A “friend” of mine sent me an e-mail to let me know that this movie was so big that he’d never seen a line so long at the theater he usually goes to before.  The poor chump ended up stuck in that damn front row spot.  You know, the one where you have to keep your neck craned skywards for two hours and you have to look to the left when a character on the left is talking and a character on the right is talking.

What a jackass.  Guy probably should have taken into account how popular the movie would be and gotten there earlier.

Either that or he could have skipped the popcorn and soda.  God knows that fatty doesn’t need it.

Oh sorry, I shouldn’t speak ill of my friend on my blog.  Good thing only 3.5 people read this.

THE PLOT

A storm causes a team of astronauts to abandon their mission on Mars.  One of their teammates, Mark Watney, is impaled, presumed dead, and abandoned.

Whoops!  He’s still alive, but the the Red Planet is so far away that NASA won’t be able to get help to him any soon.

THE SCIENCE

One of the biggest challenges for a writer is to a) explain to the reader how a character is going to extricate himself from a sticky situation with enough detail so as to not leave the reader feeling cheated and yet b) not go overboard to the point where the reader feels like dozing off.

Enter Andy Weir.  The Martian is based off of Weir’s novel of the same name.

A computer programmer, Weir made all sorts of calculations, estimates, and scientific conclusions on how, in theory, an astronaut trapped on Mars could live long enough to find a way back home.

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this,”  Damon, as Watney, says.

And science the shit out of it, he does.  Literally.  He uses his own shit as fertilizer for potato plants.  Potatoes then become Mark’s only form of sustenance and I’m willing to bet he reached a point where he never wanted to see another french fry ever again.

Aside from the potato plants, I don’t want to go into too much detail on the science angle.  A)  To do so would be to provide you with too many SPOILERS and b) some of it my brain was too feeble to understand and other parts I did understand but am not sure I could explain it correctly.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of brainy people involved.  NASA scientists on the ground work on a rescue plan while Watney on Mars works on his own survival.

For any kid out there interested in science, this film provides role models to look up to, not just in the form of the astronauts, but the people – technicians, engineers, specialists, scientists, etc. working to bring their colleague home.

Science, kids.  It’s the way of the future.

WHAT DOES THIS MOVIE MEAN FOR SELF-PUBLISHING?

The Martian started out as a free serial on Andy’s blog.  He as just a guy who really loved math, science, and space.  So he took his passions and funneled them into a project to entertain his blog readers.  (I bet he had more than 3.5 of them.)

As he explained in an interview with Johnny, Sean and Dave of the Self-Publishing Podcast, he put the novel on Amazon at the request of some of his readers who preferred an e-reader format over reading it on a blog.  Not out to make any money and not thinking it would go anywhere, Weir put his novel on Amazon, priced it at 99-cents, and let his blog readers know it was available.

The novel took off and the rest was history.

By the way, I recommend listening to Andy’s SPP interview as it is an inspiration to anyone interested in self-publishing.  Success doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly didn’t for Andy.  He started blogging way back in 1999.  A sixteen year journey to the big screen!

Keep plugging away, 3.5 readers/writers.  Success might seem so far away as to be pointless, but then again, you’re already ahead of those who gave up.

I’ve sought out opinions as to what this movie means for self-publishers.  Andy’s novel was originally self-published before he was approached by a literary agent and sold it to a big publisher.

Does this mean the general public will look at self-publishers in a whole new light?  That if one man was able to take a project on his blog and turn it into a blockbuster film starring Matt Damon and other stars, might that not cause people to pay more attention to self-published works?

One person I spoke with answered no.  His reasoning was the majority of the movie going public doesn’t really care who wrote a book or how the book was made.  They just want to be entertained and thus this won’t do a lot to bring attention to self-publishing.

Technically, I think he’s right, but therein lies the rub.

As self-publishers, our WHOLE GOAL is to provide a piece of entertainment crafted so well that no one notices it wasn’t made by a team of big shots.

Because at the end of the day, when you turn on the TV, do you pay that much attention if a show is on NBC, CBS, or Showtime or do you just pick and watch shows because they grab your attention?

Have you ever said, “Well, I’ll never watch THAT film because it was made by Fox and Goddamn it, this is a Sony household!”

Have you ever walked into a bookstore, strolled over to the clerk, and said, “Excuse me, will you point me to the Random House books because I’m ONLY a Random House reader and I’ll never allow a Penguin book to sully my eyes!”

No.  No one cares who was behind a piece of entertainment so long as it is entertaining.

And that, my 3.5 readers, is what I believe this movie does for self-publishers.

It gives their collective souls a boost.  Andy Weir becomes another Hugh Howey to look up to.  “If that guy did it, then I can do it too!”

After all, when Andy got his start, his readers weren’t saying, “Ugh!  This book was not put out by a traditional publishing house?  No thank you!”

They were saying, “An astronaut who gets trapped on Mars and has to figure out how to survive?!  That sounds so cool!  Sign me up!”

When you’re in the clothing store, do you check the label on that shirt that caught your eye?  Nope.  You’ll just buy it because you like it.

Write cool stories, 3.5 readers and if they’re entertaining enough, people won’t bother to check the label.

Thanks 3.5.  I have to go fight the zombie apocalypse now.

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The Martian Movie Trailer – An Inspiration for Self Publishers

Sure.  We click clack away on our keyboards whenever we find the time.  We like to daydream about our name in lights, that our words will be embraced by the public, that maybe they’ll even be turned into a movie.

Well, Andy Weir, walking talking self publishing success story that he is, has done just that.

The Martian, a movie based on his bestselling book of the same name, is due out later this year.  The trailer’s been released it it looks amazing:

Movie Trailer – The Martian – 20th Century Fox

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this.”

– Astronaut Mark Watney

Matt Damon in the lead role.  An ensemble cast that includes Jeff Bridges, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara (Zoe from freaking House of Cards!), Donald (Troy from Community!) and Kristen Wiig in a role which, from the looks of it, might be her bridge from comedy to more serious fare.

Earlier this year, Andy spoke to three of my favorite self-publishers, Johnny B. Truant, Sean Platt and David Wright aka Johnny, Sean and Dave of the “Self Publishing Podcast.”  He spoke how he wasn’t an overnight success story but rather his journey was one that involved years of pain staking hard work.

Read more about that show here. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and your self publishing career won’t be either.

Andy, you’re an inspiration to every nerd with a laptop and a dream of becoming a self-published author.  You did it.  One man. One computer.  One story.  And now one major movie that has every indication of being box office gold.

I tip my hat to you sir, and shall raise a frosty beverage in your honor on opening night.  Your achievement has made it possible for a new generation of self publishers to be taken seriously and we are forever in your debt.

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