Tag Archives: Ben Affleck

“I’ll see you again, on this side or the other.” – A Review of the film “The Town” (contains some spoilers)

I’m going to let you all in on a little secret.  I used to have a massive crush on Ben Affleck.  I mean MASSIVE!  Just to give you an idea of the intense LOVE I had for this man . . . up until very recently, I had a rather large poster over my bed that may or may not have looked something like this . . .

 . . . and a smaller one in my living room, that may or may not have looked something like this . . .

Then something happened.  A little movie came out.  For argument’s sake, lets just call that movie . . . Gigli.

All of the sudden, it was considered less than “cool” to have a “massive crush” on Ben Affleck.  Friends who used to be fairly supportive of my little obsession, started teasing me mercilessly about it.  And whenever I had boys over (not that THEY ever really liked those posters anyway), my fandom was a subject of constant ridicule.

And yet, I stuck with my guns, and hung on to those posters . . . for a little while longer, at least.  Then, shortly after I moved back to New Jersey, I sold them to a lovely gay couple at my Aunt’s Summer Yard Sale.  I like to believe they are in a better place now . . . one free of judgment and Gigli-related abuse.

Now, I have yet to see Ben Affleck’s directorial debut film, Gone Baby Gone . . .

. . . but I’ve read enough reviews and watched enough award shows to know that (1) it was pretty spectacular; and (2) much of its spectacular-ness can be attributed to what I would like to call “Ben’s Mad Directorial Skills.”

So, when the trailers for The Town started showing up in theaters, and I saw that it was, not only directed by, but also starred my former love,Ben Affleck.  And when I saw that the cast included the Dapper Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm . . .

. . . the enigmatic, Jeremy Renner . . .

 . . . and Gossip Girl‘s Blake Lively, playing a strung out, much dirtier, ho bag than Serena van der Woodsen could EVER be . . .

. . . I just knew that I HAD to see this film!  And, let me tell you, I am THRILLED I did!

Based on a novel by Chuck Hogan, entitled Prince of Thieves . . .

(which the publishers have since cleverly renamed The Town, and slapped Ben Affleck’s pretty, but gritty, mug on the cover)

. . . The Town follows career criminal, Doug McRay (played by Affleck), as he tries repeatedly to “go straight.”  But when you live in a town like Charlestown, Massachusetts — which churns out bank robbers and crooks, like Yale University churns out lawyers and politicians — and when your best friends are THESE GUYS . . .

 . . . “going straight” is easier said than done. 

The film begins, as most films of this genre tend to begin, with a “routine” bank robbery.  And it only takes a few minutes, for us viewers to realize just what good criminals, McCray and his crew are.  From the creepy face-obscuring masks they wear on their mugs, to the inside men who disable the security cameras immediately upon their arrival, to the way they torch the place upon leaving, to destroy all the evidence, it’s clear that these are NO amateurs. 

That is one UGLY nun!

Yet, despite all of their painstaking preparation and skill, McCray’s crew runs into a little snag during the heist, and is forced to take a hostage.  They decide on Assistant Bank Manager, Claire Keesey (played by Rebecca Hall).

 They blindfold Claire, and pack her into the getaway car, but, ultimately, let her go.  Afterward, some of the crew express concern about Claire, and her ability to identify them to the FBI.  These concerns are intensified when a look at Claire’s driver’s license (which they stole) reveals that she lives in the neighboring town, just a few blocks away from the crew’s headquarters.  McCray’s best friend, the hotheaded, but loyal-to-a-fault, Jem Coughlin (played by Jeremy Renner), whose idea it was to take Claire as a hostage in the first place, offers to “take care of her.”  McCray, however, doesn’t want to see Claire get hurt (if such a thing could be avoided) and offers to take care of the situation, himself.

So, McCray stalks Claire a bit, and figures out that she leads a fairly solitary life (no quirky “Best Gal Pal” in this movie).  Eventually, he follows her into a laundromat (where all the cutest movie couples meet), charms her a bit, and asks her out for a drink.

Well, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what happens next. Of course, they fall in love!  (Duh!)  But what’s interesting about the way this plotline is acted and directed, is that, while certainly cliche, the relationship between Doug and Claire doesn’t seem all that contrived.  Affleck and Hall have a real natural chemistry.  Right away, you can see what appeals to these two characters about eachother. 

Claire is quietly unassuming, and incredibly straitlaced, without seeming judgmental or self-righteous.   She gardens during her spare time, and volunteers at the local Boys and Girls Club.  Doug, for all his tough beginnings, and dark past, is surprisingly shy and sweet.  He listens to Claire when she speaks, and genuinely expresses a desire to take care of her. 

And I’ll be darned if this odd couple didn’t end up having a remarkably normal courtship!  They go out to dinner together.  They take walks in the park.  They go out for coffee.  He buys her a pretty diamond necklace (probably with dirty money).  They have nice gentle sex in Claire’s Pottery Barn-decorated bedroom.  Bank robberies and hostages-takings aside, Doug and Claire are probably a lot like you and your significant other.

Suddenly, Doug’s desire to get out of the “racket,” becomes more than just an empty platitude.  Now, he really means it.  Because, now, he really has something, or, rather, SOMEONE to lose if he fails.  Now, if he could just get through this “One Last Job”  (well . . . maybe two).

It may sound odd, but, believe me when I say this: The Town is the perfect date movie.  It’s got enough action, chase scenes, explosions, and crook versus cop shoot-em-ups to please even the manliest of men.  At the same time, it boasts an intelligent script, complex likeable characters, some VERY pretty faces, and a surprisingly adorable romance, all of which are sure to satisfy even the girliest of females.

In addition to great plotting, exciting action, and a heartwarming romance between its two leads, The Town also offers a very strong supporting cast.  Jon Hamm is wonderful, as the tough-as-nails, gruff, and very-un Don Draper-like FBI Agent, Adam Frawley.  A lesser actor could have made this a very forgetable role.  But Hamm’s charm, intelligence, wit and natural grace, help make the Frawley character more likeable than a cop in a film about a criminal-with-a-heart-of-gold has any right to be.

Speaking of characters that you like more than you should, Jeremy Renner does a remarkable job of making Jem Coughlin a three-dimensional and tragic figure.  In many ways, Renner’s character is very similar to the one Affleck himself inhabited back when he played opposite Matt Damon in the spectacular Good Will Hunting (except Renner’s character is armed and dangerous).  Unlike McRay, Coughlin has resigned himself to a life of crime, running from the cops, and being relatively poor.  And yet, despite his knowledge that his best friend is smarter than he is, and perhaps destined for a better future, Coughlin still remains loyal to McRay.  He would literally do anything for him, even if that meant going to jail or losing his life.  Though you might not agree with his lifestyle choices, you’ve gotta respect a guy like that.

And then there’s Blake Lively, who absolutely impressed me with her portrayal of strung out ho-bag / baby mama, Krista Coughlin.

I’m SERIOUS!  This was NOT an easy role to play.  In the wrong hands, this role could have been at the very least, annoying, and at the worst, positively laughable.  But Blake brings Krista to life.  Her Boston accent is authentic.  Her breathy intonations, and pathetic attempts at seduction, speak to a life spent on one’s backside, screwing crooks, popping pills, and inhaling toxic fumes.  Blake more than held her own, during her scenes with Affleck, Hamm, and Renner. 

And you know what else?  Blake was FUNNY!  A few of her lines had me laughing out loud.  I certainly wasn’t expecting that.

Of course, no crime caper would be complete without Pete Postlewaite, of The Usual Suspects fame.

There’s just something about this guy’s face and demeanor — a hidden menace, perhaps.  Whatever, it is, the dude always manages to scare the stuffing out of me, even when he is doing nothing more exciting than cutting the thorns off a rose.

In short, The Town is highly entertaining and intriguing film.  The acting is nearly flawless, the plotting is tight, the action is high octane, and the directing is commendable.  Its enough to make me almost wish that I never sold those Ben Affleck posters .  . . almost.

The Town is in theaters now.  Will YOU see it?

[www.juliekushner.com]

13 Comments

Filed under Ben Affleck, Movie Review, The Town

The Many Faces (and Bodies) of Matt Damon . . .

Not only does Matt Damon star in my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE YOUTUBE VIDEO OF ALL TIME . . .

 . . . he’s also one of the most versatile actors out there!  The guy’s played everything from a prejudiced high school D-Bag, to a sociopath, to a certified genius, to a kick ass fighting machine, to an Angel of Death, to THIS GUY . . .

And let’s not forget his Oscar-worthy performance as a “differently-abled” puppet in the “riveting” Team America: World Police.

(OK . . . that wasn’t really him.  But it was pretty darn amusing, nonetheless .  . .)

Let’s take a look at his BODY of work, shall we?

School Ties (1992)

Although his first official role was in the 1988 coming of age tale Mystic Pizza, starring a young Julia Roberts (His SOLE job in the film was to say “MOM, do you want my green stuff?” while eating a lobster), Matt Damon wasn’t truly able to demonstrate his acting chops until four years later.  In 1992, he was cast as the conniving, weasely, generally D-baggy, prejudiced preppy cheater, Charlie Dillon, opposite Brendan Fraser in the film School Ties.  The film was about a Jewish boy (Fraser) who enrolled in a stuffy Catholic New England prep school on a football scholarship.  And while we all HATED Charlie for the senseless torture he inflicted on Fraser’s character, we grudgingly had to admit that the dude looked pretty damn fine without his shirt on . . .

Courage Under Fire (1996)

The only movie poster in this tribute that doesn’t ACTUALLY feature Matt Damon on it.  Damn you, Poopyhead Movie Poster Maker!

Damon lost 40 POUNDS (almost an entire Olsen twin!) for his role as the opiate-addicted Gulf War soldier, Specialist Ilario.  The transition between his buff bod in School Ties and his frighteningly thin physique in this film was truly shocking.

Watching this, I was truly conflicted.  I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to give Damon an Oscar for his heartwrenching performance, or buy him a pizza . . .

Good Will Hunting (1997)

My absolute FAVORITE Matt Damon performance remains his dramatic turn as the titular Will Hunting, a Bostonian custodian working at Harvard, who just so happens to be a genius.  Matt’s take on Hunting was at times hilarious (“You like apples?  I got her number!  How do ya like them apples?) . . .

 . . . and, at other times, poignant.  I cried like a baby during some of those Robin Williams therapy scenes.  (And it wasn’t just because William’s insanely hairy arms freaked me out, which they DO, by the way).  But what impressed me most about this film, was that Matt Damon not only starred in it, he also wrote the screenplay (which went on to win an Oscar), along with BFF Ben Affleck.  The screenplay was based on a short story Damon had penned while he was a student at Harvard.

Hot AND Smart (Me Likey!)

And while I am QUITE certain Matt Damon was shirtless at some point during Good Will Hunting (him and Minnie Driver got it on quite a bit in that film), a picture of said shirtlessness, doesn’t seem to appear in Google Images.  Grrrr . . .

The Rainmaker (1997)

That same year, Damon starred, alongside the diminutive, but always adorable, Danny Devito, in the film adaptation of a popular Grisham novel, about an idealistic young lawyer who took on a big bad corporation and won. (Wait.  Isn’t that what every Grisham novel is about?)  Lack of originality aside, The Rainmaker, thanks largely to Damon’s inherent likeability, was actually a pretty good film.  But it would have been MUCH better, if Damon’s character didn’t stay dressed THE WHOLE TIME!

Rounders (1998)

In Rounders, Damon and Ed Norton played two hardcore gamblers, addicted to the seductive world of underground poker.  (The film just so happened to be made a year prior to Norton’s SPECTACULAR performance in Primal Fear.  If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it NOW!)  Again, I DISTINCTLY remember some naked Matt Damon scenes in this film.  And AGAIN, my internet search came up empty.  What’s the deal, Google Images?

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

That same year, Damon played the titular Private Ryan, a World War II soldier, who THE ENTIRE CAST spent THE ENTIRE FILM trying to save.  Wouldn’t you?

Honestly, I’m not even going to bitch about the lack of skin in this film.  Because, even a Shirtless Connoisseur like myself can agree that the battlefield is no place for public nudity.  Except, of course, if it’s the Battlefield of LOVE!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

In this psychological thriller, Damon once again plays the titular character, a young sociopath con artist who becomes obsessed with inhabiting the life of Jude Law’s character, Dickie Greenleaf (now THAT is a porn name, if I ever heard one).  And you know what?  Matt is shirtless in this film A LOT!  But to be honest, things start out a bit .  . . unimpressive.

Banana Hammock, anyone?

Fortunately for us (but unfortunately for Dickie, who Damon’s character promptly murders), as Mr. Ripley becomes further and further enmeshed in Greenleaf’s life, his “body of work” vastly improves . . .

Ahhhh, much better!

Dogma (1999)

In Kevin Smith’s dark comedy, Dogma, Matt played Loki, and Angel of Death eager to get back in the good graces of the Man Upstairs, after having literally fallen from Heaven.  At first, the pop culture spewing character was kind of likeable, and then he wasn’t (dude just kept killing people), and then he sort of was again, and then Ben Affleck’s character killed him.  Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot of skin in Dogma (Matt Damon’s skin, anyway).  However, he did show fans a lot of wing!  (And that’s gotta count for something.)

Oceans Eleven (2001) [and 12 . . . and 13 .  . .]

Damon held his own as a professional pickpocket in this casino heist caper that will always go down in history for me as having the HOTTEST MALE cast of all time!

Knowing a cash cow when they saw one, the producers of Oceans Eleven (which was a pretty awesome film, by the way), got this group of eyecandy back together for not one, but TWO more sequels!  (It’s just too bad, I have to watch both of them on mute, because their scripts were AWFUL!)  And again, Matt Damon . . .  fully clothed the whole time.  WHY?

The Bourne Identity (2002) [and The Bourne Supremacy, AND The Bourne Ultimatum]

To many, Matt Damon initially seemed an unlikely choice to play Jason Bourne — a fictional character from the Robert Ludlum book series, about a man programmed by (the government?) to be a ruthless killing machine.  But those “many” were proved wrong, in 2002, when The Bourne Identity hit theaters.  Damon’s Bourne was the ultimate action hero!  Unlike his other, typically verbose, characters, Bourne was the strong and silent type.  He  kicked ass first, and took names later!  Like Oceans, the Bourne franchise continued with TWO sequels, with another rumored to be on the way.

 With those tight black shirts, and tight pants, Matt Damon proved that sometimes WEARING the right clothes can be sexier than wearing none at all.  (Rarely, but it happens .  . .)

The Departed (2006)

For my final Matt Damon selection of the evening, I chose the fantastic and modern Scorcese mob flick, The Departed, which, like many of Damon’s other films, featured an all-star cast, including the likes of Jack Nicholson and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Like his role in School Ties, Damon’s character in this film was kind of weasely and D-baggy.  As Colin Sullivan, Damon played a Mob Golden Boy working undercover as a mole within the Massachusetts State Police Department.  If any other actor played the role, Sullivan would have undoubtedly been so unlikeable, as to be nearly unwatchable.  However, Damon lent a vulnerability to the role, that made audiences, if not root for the character, at least sympathize with him somewhat.  (AGAIN!  GOOGLE!  WHERE ARE MY NUDIE PICS?)

Disappointed that I haven’t provided you with more shirtless pics of Matt Damon?  As a consulation prize, I leave you with this clip of Matt Damon impersonating Matthew McConaughey TALKING about being shirtless.  (McConaughey, now THERE’S a man who could never be accused of wearing too much clothes.  I didn’t even have to TYPE “shirtless” next to his name in Google Images, for half the pictures to come out all nudie!)

9 Comments

Filed under Matt Damon