Green Zone is a story we’ve already heard shot in a manner we’ve already seen and starring Matt Damon in a role he’s already played. Remember those WMDs that were never found in Iraq and later exposed to be the invention of a dubious and poorly-vetted informant? Remember the misguided and hideously botched attempt at establishing democracy after the fall of Saddam and the violent prolonged insurgency that ensued? If you’ve been away from the television for the past hour and somehow managed to forget any of these details Green Zone is here to remind you.
Damon plays Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller an Army weapons inspector whose frustration over repeatedly coming up empty in his search for Iraqi WMDs leads him on a quest to track down and expose the people responsible for leading him (and us) down that infamously bogus path. Though his hand-to-hand skills are a notch below Jason Bourne’s Miller’s single-mindedness moral certainty and permanent expression of square-jawed defiance — always threatening another “How do you like them apples?” rebuke — in the face of an insidious multi-level government conspiracy are essentially equivalent to those of Damon’s Bourne trilogy soulmate.
And like Bourne his most dangerous adversary isn’t found on the battlefront but rather within the government he once served so proudly. As Miller delves ever deeper into the Case of the Faulty WMD Intelligence Clark Poundstone (Greg Kinnear) the duplicitous arrogant Defense Department bureaucrat in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq summarily relieves him of his post. (Hint: the better dressed a Green Zone character is the more sinister his ambitions.) But Miller remains undeterred and he goes rogue to locate the CIA informant “Magellan ” a formerly high-ranking Iraqi official whose supposed confirmation of Saddam’s nuclear ambitions served as the basis for U.S. invasion.
We know how the story ends. Green Zone’s pervasive overarching sense of deja vu is accentuated by director — and veteran Bourne helmer — Paul Greengrass who employs the trademark hand-held super-shakycam style which was so fresh and inventive in 2004 but now feels stale and predictable. (Admittedly my aversion to Greengrass’ approach was no doubt heightened by a previous night’s viewing of Roman Polanski’s excellent The Ghost Writer a political thriller as subtle and precise and finely tuned as Green Zone is ham-fisted and haphazard — and which also uses the phantom WMD controversy to far greater narrative effect.)
Green Zone culminates in essentially a violent footrace between Miller and the Army Special Forces as they scour a heavily-armed insurgent stronghold to find Magellan with Miller hoping to secure his potentially damning testimony before the Army can silence him for good. The climactic sequence for all I could tell was either shot in Damon’s backyard culled from Bourne trilogy deleted scenes or assembled from scattered YouTube clips. This punishingly chaotic often incoherent and ultimately exhausting approach to storytelling isn’t cinema verite; it’s dementia pugilistica.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.
MGM is finalizing a deal to have Jackie Chan star in the remake of the 1960 comedy The Bellboy, Variety reports. The film will reportedly be set in Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel. The original The Bellboy starred Jerry Lewis.
Actor Ben Affleck, who checked himself into the Malibu Rehabilitation center Promises on July 31, is making progress, Entertainment Tonight reports. While Promises is not a "lock down" facility, it does monitor its patients 24-hours a day. ET also reports that Affleck was spotted on a casual shopping outing over the weekend.
Bobby Dall, the bassist for the 1980s rock band Poison, is recovering from back surgery, The Associated Press reports. Dall had several discs in his spine replaced and will need at least six months to recover. The injury occurred Sunday during a concert at the South Dakota State Fair. Poison has cancelled the rest of their tour dates through September.
Larry Adler, better known as the king of the harmonica, died Monday in a London hospital, Reuters reports. Adler, 87, had been ill for several months. His career spanned seven decades and he worked with artists such as George Gershwin and Elton John.
Debbie Mathers, Eminem's mother, will only receive $ 1,600 of a $25,000 settlement she won against the rap star, AP reports. Macomb County, Mich., Court Judge Mark Switalski ruled Monday that Mather's attorney, Fred Gibson, was entitled to $23,354.25 because they had made a deal entitling him to more than the standard one-third of the settlement. Mathers sued her son in 1999 for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress because of some lyrics on the rapper's CD The Slim Shady LP.
MGM is preparing to do a sequel to Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon, the Hollywood Reporter announced. Marc Platt, who produced the original film, also is in talks with the studio along with screenwriters Karen McCullah and Kirsten Smith. Witherspoon would reprise her role as Elle Woods subject to script approval.
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Madonna and Jason Alexander will voice DreamWorks animated feature Madagascar, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The film centers on four zoo animals that are shipped back to their homeland by animal rights activists. The foursome is left stranded in Madagascar after their ship capsizes. Madagascar will be directed by Eric Darnell (Antz) and Conrad Vernon (Shrek).
John Mellancamp is expected to finish up a musical he is working on with writer Stephen King in February, AP reports. So far, Mellancamp has written about five songs for the story, which he describes as anything but rock. The singer still has another 10 songs to write for the production.
Limp Bizkit have recorded a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" for the film Zoolander starring Ben Stiller, SonicNet.com reports. Electronic artist/producer BT is scoring the film. The only other track confirmed so far for the soundtrack is The Wiseguys' "Start the Commotion." BT described the score as "out of control." The Zoolander soundtrack is due out Sept. 25.
British pop star Robbie Williams said he would keep his promise to help a 23-year-old woman dying from leukemia, according to the BBC News. Williams provided a blood sample and has promised to donate bone marrow if he is a suitable donor. Williams. 27, met Johanna MacVicar after a concert in October.
In an effort to expand theater uses, the Texas-based Cinemark movie theater chain will screen a live concert by Sugar Ray in 14 locations across the Untied States, Reuters reports. The theater chain will broadcast the Aug. 15 concert in a live simulcast via satellite to locations in 21 states.
Alfred A. Knopf will publish the memoirs of former president Clinton, Reuters reports. While no amounts were disclosed, the figure is rumored to exceed $8 million for the deal. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Clinton's wife, reportedly received between $7 million and $8.5 million for her memoirs published by Simon & Schuster. According to Sonny Mehta, Knopf's president and editor-in-chief, the book would focus on Clinton's two-term presidency.