Three awkwardly titled movies about a devastated Earth, three big-name stars. How can a movie fan keep them straight? Here's a quick guide to the apocalyptic avalanche coming soon to a theater near you.
TriStar, Universal, Columbia
Three similar sci-fi movies are headed to theaters. Matt Damon, top, stars in "Elysium," Tom Cruise, lower left, in "Oblivion," and Will Smith, lower right, in "After Earth."
'Elysium' Star: Matt Damon
Opens: Aug. 9
Plot: The wealthy have left Earth and live on a space habitat called Elysium. Earth itself is now crime-ridden and impoverished, and people there are in desperate need of medical care. Matt Damon, who's beefed up to major hunk levels for the film, is a tough Earth bruiser who has a mission to get to Elysium and save the people of Earth. To do so, he must confront Jodie Foster, Elysium's mayor. The film is directed by Neill Blomkamp and also stars Sharlto Copley from "District 9," which also dealt with issues of wealth, poverty and the social separation they bring.
Extras: Damon gets robotic armor attached to his body to help him invade Elysium. It looks creepy and painful -- a bone saw is somehow involved.
'Oblivion' Star: Tom Cruise
Opens: April 19
Plot: Earth was attacked by aliens 60 years ago and has been pretty much abandoned. Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, a drone mechanic stationed in a tower floating near Earth and part of the mission that's scavenging final resources from the planet before abandoning it forever. But then a spaceship crashes, and Jack rescues a woman in it and is taken prisoner by a group led by Morgan Freeman. Turns out everything he thought he knew about Earth and the invasion that ravaged it just might be wrong.
Extras: Don't miss the creepy post-apocalypse shots of a half-destroyed Pentagon, leaning Washington Monument, and buried Statue of Liberty.
'After Earth' Stars: Will and Jaden Smith
Opens: June 7
Plot: Guess what? Earth's trashed again! Society has rebuilt itself on another planet, but when Will and Jaden Smith leave there, they crash-land on Earth. Will's injured, so it's son Jaden (now 14, you remember him from "Karate Kid") who must make a perilous trek through the wasteland to try and save his dad.
Extras: The animals on the planet have evolved into killing machines. It's like if Disney's Jungle Cruise was suddenly doused with The Incredible Hulk's gamma rays or something.
Who's the best hero (or hero team?) Cast your vote below.
We've been fascinated for months by occasional photos showing the transformation of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon for the upcoming Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra." Now Entertainment Weekly shows off the two stars with a glitzy cover and story about the Steven Soderbergh-directed HBO film.
Douglas (as the famed entertainer) and Damon (as his young lover Scott Thorson) take hair, makeup and wardrobe to their late-'70s extremes. EW calls the movie "one of the weirdest, glitziest gay love stories ever put on film, one that required both actors to do things they’d never done before onscreen."
Damon tells the magazine about the ritual for achieving his spray-tanned backside and about filming sex scenes with Douglas.
Douglas says he was advised by Debbie Reynolds, a close friend of Liberace's, who also plays his mother in the film. "She just told me, '[Your voice] can never be too nasal.'"
Michael Douglas, left, and Matt Damon in "Behind the Candelabra."
Poor Boston: Take a look at the films Hollywood makes within your borders and you'd think the whole place was flooded with guns, mobsters and mercenary Harvard students.
On the other hand, go, Boston! You appear to also be packed with geniuses and passionate sports fans. And in all cases, you'd be right. Here's a look at eight of the best Boston-based, (largely) Boston-made films out there. So pahk yer cah in our yahd a moment and check 'em out!
Ask any Bostonian to name the quintessential Boston film, and they're almost guaranteed to mention the Peter Yates film based on the novel by George V. Higgins. Robert Mitchum plays the title character, a gun-runner for the local mob in Boston who tries to save himself by becoming an informant, but ends up in very murky waters. The film uses the city to great effect, wandering from the legendary Boston Garden to suburban Brookline back to roughneck South End and ending at City Hall.
The story behind "Good Will Hunting" is in some ways better than the film itself: Two childhood friends, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, collaborated on the screenplay about an MIT janitor (who's a secret math genius, but also psychologically troubled) who matures and tries to reach his full potential underneath the mentoring eyes of his shrink, best friend and girlfriend. It won the virtual unknowns two Oscars and propelled them to Hollywood stardom, crowning them the kings of Boston big-screen storytelling.
This Clint Eastwood-directed film based in Boston's working class Southie neighborhood follows three neighborhood friends, one of whom was abducted and assaulted when they were children. Two of its stars, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, won Oscars for their performance in an uncompromising film about growing up lower-middle-class in Boston, and about trying to right very old wrongs.
What could go wrong? Jimmy Fallon, playing a diehard, life-long Red Sox fan, wins over Drew Barrymore thanks to his passionate commitment to baseball. Key scenes were shot on the Sox' home turf of Fenway Park, including one where Barrymore's character interrupts a game-in-progress to run across the field and declare her love. However, when the real-life Red Sox managed to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years in 2004, the movie's Sox-losing-playoff ending had to be re-written -- and re-shot in St. Louis, Mo.
Perhaps the greatest irony about "The Departed" is that it won iconic New York director Martin Scorsese his sole directing Oscar -- for a film not based in New York. Instead, "Departed" takes Scorsese's patented gangster expertise and applies it to Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), a local Irish mob boss based loosely on the notorious Boston mobster Whitey Bulger. Leonardo DiCaprio goes undercover to get Costello, but Costello has his own mole (Matt Damon) in the Boston Police Dept., and things get rough.
Ben Affleck wants everyone to know: He's from Boston, darn it (even if he was born in California)! For his first and second directorial efforts, the man who shared an Oscar with Matt Damon for "Good Will Hunting" went back home to explore the criminal side of Boston's tougher neighborhoods. "Gone Baby Gone" ventures into Dorchester to investigate a kidnapping, while "Town" veers into Charlestown to find out what happens when a bank robber falls for a kidnapped victim.
Boston isn't all hardscrabble working-class folk. Across the Charles River lies the heart of Ivy League academia: Harvard University, in Cambridge. Facebook's tricky conception and birthing pains play out on the rolling lawns and hallowed dorm rooms of the school, which sticks close to Harvard Square for about half of the film before relocating to sunny Palo Alto, Calif.
Robin Williams, Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel and Andy Garcia on "Jimmy Kimmel Sucks."
Matt Damon finally got his revenge on Jimmy Kimmel. The actor took control of Kimmel's late-night show Thursday night, starting with the credits -- the ABC show's title was tweaked to "Jimmy Kimmel Sucks" and the host's face had been defaced -- and continuing through the monologue, guest interviews and conclusion of the show.
The show started out with the video that had been released earlier in the day of Damon with a bound and gagged Kimmel, whom he had kidnapped. After the credits rolled -- where all the guests, including the musical act, were announced as being "Matt Damon" -- the actor wheeled Kimmel out on stage, still tied up with duct tape and gagged with a necktie.
"Welcome to tonight's episode of 'Jimmy Kimmel Sucks.' I am your host, Matt Damon," he said. "Let me ask you this, as an audience is it weird to see a person with actual talent host this show?"
Damon went on to explain that Kimmel had bumped him from the show "1,205 times" -- a reference to when Kimmel first started his talk show and began signing off with the line "Apologies to Matt Damon, we ran out of time" -- the joke being that no guest that he had on air possessed the star power of Damon.
He said he'd been "waiting for this moment for a long, long time. This is like when I lost my virginity except this is gonna last way longer than one second."
Damon also likened himself to Luke Skywalker and Kimmel to the Death Star, saying of Kimmel: "He's big and round and easily destroyed through his garbage hole."
He continued: "Look at Jimmy over there, with a gag in his mouth. You've never been funnier, my friend. Jimmy Kimmel is to late-night talk show hosts what Magic Johnson is to ... late-night talk show hosts."
Damon also went on to make some changes at the show, including replacing sidekick Guillermo with Andy Garcia -- who came complete with heavy, Guillermo-like accent -- and bandleader Cleto Escobedo Jr. with Sheryl Crow (who later performed her new single, "Easy"). Ben Affleck also popped up as a cue-card holder who demonstrated his loyalty to Kimmel, while Robin Williams dropped by to do jokes during the monologue.
"This is unbelievable -- it took Jimmy 10 years to accomplish what I just accomplished in 90 seconds," Damon said of the show's changes.
He explained that the origin of all the "hatred and bitterness" is that Kimmel is an aspiring actor and Damon has beaten him out for every role he wanted. A video of Kimmel's "auditions" showed him trying out for roles in "Good Will Hunting," "Adjustment Bureau," "Happy Feet 2," "We Bought a Zoo," "Stuck on You" and "The Bourne Ultimatum," during which Kimmel was confused about who was playing Jason Bourne despite the fact that the movie was the third in the Damon-starring franchise.
A slew of A-listers popped up as guests -- Nicole Kidman, Gary Oldman, Amy Adams, Reese Witherspoon and Demi Moore -- all of whom continued the joke, saying that Kimmel "f------ sucks" (Kidman), is a liar who once cooked DiGiorno's Pizza and passed it off as homemade (Moore) and slipped the tongue during an on-air kiss (Adams).
At one point, Damon quipped: "Jimmy is always complaining about how hard it is it book celebrities on this show. We're only halfway through and I've booked seven big celebrities -- and that's not even counting me!"
Several other famous faces -- along with Kimmel's parents -- also appeared in recorded videos to praise Damon. Said Don Cheadle: "Thank you for allowing America to laugh again." Kimmel's parents, meanwhile, told Damon that he was "the son we always wanted."
Damon also brought out Kimmel's ex, Sarah Silverman, with whom Damon shot the "I'm F------ Matt Damon" video that went viral in 2008 (Kimmel and Affleck later released a follow-up, "I'm F------ Ben Affleck"). Silverman described her relationship with Kimmel to the fill-in host.
"You know when you're in New York and you pass those hot dog vendors and you think, 'I'm not going to eat one, it's not for me,' and then the smell gets to you, and you pound two or three of them? And then later one, you're puking, 'Why did I put this inside of me?' And you think about the encasing and all the entrails that are probably in there? So I guess it's like that."
Kimmel, incidentally, barely uttered a word during the entire episode despite being onstage the entire time.
At the end of the show, Damon asked Kimmel: "Is there anything you want to say before we wrap things up? Wait, I'm sorry, we're out of time."
During the East Coast airing, Kimmel tweeted: "You win this round Matt Damon. But I will win the war."
Matt Damon is known as a talented writer and actor -- but not necessarily known for his advice on dealing with social etiquette problems during the holiday season. But during his visit to TODAY Tuesday, he proved he has hidden talents in a sit-down with Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer and New York Times "Social Qs" columnist Philip Galanes.
"I feel so unqualified to be here," said Damon before they launched into the questions, one of which dealt with what to do if a woman wants to break up with her boyfriend during the holiday season. Damon suggested an immediate breakup so not to drag it out, but Galanes got more specific: Before the 15th of December, yes. Afterward "it starts to get a bit mean."
The married Damon understood. "It happens to me every year -- I'm sweating out December 15. I know my wife's hanging on to me, (and then) I get another year."
Later, dates also turned out to be important when figuring out how to admonish a girlfriend who tended to dip her finger into food to taste it while cooking. "The guy presumably is kissing his girlfriend. I don't see the big deal there," said Damon. "Are you afraid of her saliva?"
"So if you're swapping bodily fluids in another way, it's OK," quipped Lauer.
"It's OK if she takes a bite and uses your fork," said Damon. "If it's not OK, then you might want to reexamine the relationship -- provided that it's before December 15."
Of course, the real reason Damon was on hand was to discuss his new movie, "Promised Land," in which he plays a corporation's rep, sent to a small town to obtain permission to drill for natural gas. It's a "complex issue," he said, so in writing it with "The Office's" John Krasinski (who also stars with Damon), they wanted to ensure they had characters who were equally complex.
"What we wanted with all the characters was for them to all feel real, like people we know," he said. "We didn't want anyone to feel one-dimensional."
Originally, Damon was set to direct, but had to bow out when shooting days for "Elysium" ran too long and he wanted to make sure to spend time with his family before picking up the next project. "So we got that 'hack' Gus Van Sant (to direct)," he said, joking about the director of another film he co-wrote and starred in, "Good Will Hunting." "Best thing I did as a producer of this movie was to fire myself!"
Ben Affleck, you're no spring chicken anymore. Gracing the cover of Details' October issue, the acclaimed actor-director opened up about how Blake Lively, his co-star in "The Town," made him realize he's not the 25-year-old wunderkind anymore who won an Oscar with Matt Damon for co-writing "Good Will Hunting."
While filming the crime drama three years ago in Boston, Affleck took the newly minted Mrs. Ryan Reynolds on a tour of the city and suddenly realized she didn't even know his famous connection with his best friend and old screenwriting partner, with whom he grew up in Beantown before the two took Hollywood by storm.
"When I was doing 'The Town,' I'd tour the actors around Boston. I was with Blake, and I saw Matt's childhood home," Affleck recounted to the magazine. "And I said, 'Oh yeah, that's where Matt grew up.' And she said, 'Who?' And I said, 'Matt Damon." And she said, 'Oh my God! You know Jason Bourne?!'"
To be fair, the 25-year-old Lively was only 11 back in 1998 when "Good Will Hunting" came out and made Affleck and Damon household names, so the "Gossip Girl" star can be forgiven for not knowing about the hoopla over them at the time. (We guess she didn't see Mindy Kaling's spoof of Affleck in the latter's 2003 off-Broadway smash Matt &Ben, either).
In the article, aside from discussing his latest acting and directing project, the period political thriller "Argo," Affleck also talked about the challenge of balancing his devotion to his big-screen career with being a good dad to his three kids with actress-wife Jennifer Garner.
"Anytime you think, 'I'm wasting my time here,' the first thought you have is 'I could go home and be with my kids,'" noted the actor. "Now, you may go home and be with your kids and very quickly start thinking, 'I wonder what's on the work front?' Because running around after three kids is very trying. Now everything has to compete with being my family."
Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson deal with some animal magnetism in "We Bought a Zoo."
By Alonso Duralde, TheWrap.com
We all go into sentimental movies with certain pre-set buttons that directors try to hit -- some people lose it when a beloved doggie dies, others shed tears when long-estranged lovers are reunited, and then there are those who reach for their hankies when a gruff dad finally articulates his love for his child.
Me, I'm an easy touch for the dead-mom movie, so when one of those fails to move me, it's clear that whoever's jerking the tears isn't doing his or her job. Which brings us to Cameron Crowe's latest, "We Bought a Zoo."
In telling the true story of writer Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon, saddled with a wretched haircut), who raised his kids amongst a menagerie of wild animals following the death of his wife, director and co-writer Cameron Crowe doesn't take things as disastrously off the rails as his previous feature, "Elizabethtown." Still, the results feel artificial and sappy, with only a few too-little-too-late moments where the tragedy of losing a mother or a wife is handled with anything resembling grace.
Part of the problem could stem from Fox's desire to turn this movie into another "Marley and Me," and the resemblances don't end with the posters featuring animals bearing festive gift ribbons. Like that earlier hit, this is a film about a writer and his family moving into an enormous house, dealing with personal loss, and fighting for camera time against a gaggle of photogenic and insanely cute animals.
Or maybe we can pin it on Crowe's collaborator, Aline Brosh McKenna, the first writing partner that the auteur has ever employed -- or had forced upon him, as the case may be. (The first credited one, anyway.) In just over a decade as a working screenwriter, McKenna has been credited with some of the most noxious comedies of the era, including "27 Dresses," "Laws of Attraction," "Three to Tango," and "I Don't Know How She Does It," so perhaps the forced emotional content and paper-thin characterizations are her fault.
In any event, the film follows Benjamin as he moves his cheery daughter Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones) and sullen son Dylan (Colin Ford) into a somewhat ramshackle animal park that's in need of both cash and a little TLC if it's ever going to open its doors again. The place comes with a staff that includes overworked animal expert Kelly (Scarlett Johansson, frumping herself up as much as possible), boisterous animal-enclosure designer Peter (Angus MacFayden), and a handful of others.
The only ones in this crew who get anything resembling character development are Rosie and her niece Lily (Elle Fanning), and only because they're there as potential romantic interests for Benjamin and Dylan, respectively. As for Peter, and Patrick Fugit's Robin, they're basically one-quirk characters who just exist in the background.
The big plot dilemma revolves around an obnoxious USDA inspector played by John Michael Higgins, whose say-so dictates whether or not the animal park can be open to the public, and not even as gifted a comic actor as Hitchcock can make this character anything more than a two-dimensional bureaucrat.
"We Bought a Zoo" only rarely addresses the bizarre notion that an average family could, in fact, buy a zoo, and the few moments where the topic comes up allows Thomas Haden Church to mostly steal the movie in his handful of appearances as Benjamin's brother. But the ongoing mope-fest about Benjamin missing his wife and his kids longing for their dead mother are the stuff of basic-cable cheese-fests.
There's a lovely score by Sigur Ros frontman Jonsi, but we're allowed to hear it all too infrequently, because Crowe would rather indulge his penchant for aging-boomer rock favorites at the most thuddingly obvious opportunities. Playing Cat Stevens' "Don't Be Shy" over a scene where characters are meeting for the first time is one thing, but Tom Petty's "Don't Come Around Here No More" to score a school expulsion? "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" during a rainstorm? Come on!
If anything about "We Bought a Zoo" lingers after the lights come up, it's the performance from Church, and the one from Katie -- she plays the zoo's aging alpha tiger, who just wants to be put out of his misery. After 124 minutes of these shenanigans, you may empathize.