Monthly Archives: November 2016

Matt Damon in epic Chinese action


The Great Wall

Two and a half stars

Director Zhang Yimou

Starring Matt Damon, Tian Jing, Pedro Pascal

Rating M

Running time 103 minutes

Verdict An epic fantasy that crumbles under its own weight

A HOLLYWOOD superstar who can make even a pedestrian screenplay seem intelligent and a master Chinese filmmaker with a flair for ravishing visual imagery.

Matt Damon and Zhang Yimou must have seemed like the dream team for a $US135 million Hollywood blockbuster aiming to blend the best of east and west.

So what went wrong?

Perhaps the filmmakers were hampered by the clear commercial imperative for this thunderous creature feature — The Great Wall opened first in China, a new and increasingly lucrative income stream for American studios.

Or maybe something got lost in translation.

Zhang’s Bejing Film Academy classmate Chen Kaige had a smaller but similarly-puzzling misfire with his English language debut, Killing Me Softly, starring Joseph Fiennes, Heather Graham and Natascha McElhone.

The largest film ever to be shot entirely in China — by New Zealand cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano) — Zhang’s epic fantasy has more to recommend it than that.

Matt Damon for a start.

The actor is ranked among Forbes magazine’s most bankable Hollywood stars for good reason: he’s never less than watchable, even when he is barely recognisable.

In The Great Wall’s opening sequence, Damon’s grizzled, battle-hardened mercenary has been on the run for so long, he’s barely distinguishable from an animal — or his fellow travellers, for that matter.

It’s only when William and his rakish offsider, played by Chilean-born American actor Pedro Pascal, shave off their dreadlocks, that it’s possible to comprehensively tell them apart without a close-up.

Women play a powerful role in the majority of Zhang’s films (Judou, Raise the Red Lantern, House Of Flying Daggers) and The Great Wall is no exception.

How the Marvel franchise surprisingly grow well

CHRIS Pratt has caused an incident in the “war room”, a windowless bunker deep inside the heart of Atlanta’s Pinewood Studios where he’s filming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

No, the superstar actor hasn’t suddenly joined the US military; rather, he’s sent a steaming hot cup of coffee flying across a very large boardroom table in the room that serves as a meeting point for cast and crew.

“Right on cue, sorry,” he laughs apologetically.

“That’s a classic Star-Lord move. I’ve been practising that all day.”

Pratt’s assistant moves in to wipe up the offending beverage. “I’m just here to clean up his mess,” he says, good-naturedly.

Pratt reckons he identifies just a bit too closely with his goofy Guardians character, the occasionally clueless bounty hunter Peter Quill, who refers to himself as Star-Lord, because nobody else will. (Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is without doubt his spiritual animal.)

“There’s a sense of familiarity here. You know what works and what doesn’t work,” says Pratt. “It’s not a pain in the ass to come back, which can be the one downfall to coming back to something. Sometimes it’s like, oh God, I’ve got to work with a-hole number one again. It’s like a family here.”

The first Guardians followed a rag tag group of superheroes who were actually not so “super”. Alongside Pratt, the film starred Zoe Saldana as Gamora, the green-skinned assassin; WWE wrestling champ Dave Bautista as buff, tattooed Drax the Destroyer; and computer-generated scene-stealers Bradley Cooper as Rocket, the gun-slinging, sarcastic raccoon, and Vin Diesel as Groot, the talking tree. (Baby Groot will debut in Vol. 2 and is the sweetest thing you’ll have seen on screen since E.T.)

Initially, Guardians was considered to be the Marvel adaptation that would stay in the shadows while Iron Man and The Avengers hogged the limelight.

“Iron Man, etc, were considered tier one movies,” explains Pratt.