WE ARE MARSHALL
Here we have the (mostly) true story of what happened to a small town that lived and died by it's college football program when nearly the entire team, coaching staff and "booster" fandom was killed in a horrible plane crash.
What happened next - a charismatic outsider coach (Matthew McConaughey) took the open job and tried to ressurect the new team's, and the town's, spirit - has the makings of a Hollywood sure-thing... but the final summation (an unremarkable losing season) not so much.
Thusly, the film veers back and forth uncomfortably between rousing sports heroism and "victory isn't everything" catharsis, and never settles these contradictory vibes. Director McG, straining for legitimacy beyond his commercial/"Charlie's Angels" roots, shows visual restraint but little sense of narrative or innovative punch.
Final Rating: 6/10
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
The instant problem with presenting a movie about purporting to relate a names-changed version of "true secret history of the CIA" is that the subject matter undercuts the presentation: It's difficult to forget that if it really were the case that director Robert DeNiro and his crew were able to 'blow the lid off" the CIA they wouldn't BE the CIA. But, once you power through the films' adopted "window on history" pretense, it's entirely enjoyable as a finely-cast, effortlessly self-assured flashback to the glory days of Cold War skullduggery.
The film charts a broad, partially-speculative recounting of how the aforementioned Agency grew from a small collective of U.S. covert-liasons to British Intelligence during WWII, culled largely from Yale's ultra-secret "Skull & Bones" brotherhood, into the powerful entity we know (or at least "know of") today. The central figure is Edward Wilson (Matt Damon) a patriotic, WASPy Bright Young Thing who sacrifices happiness, family and even his own security for Honor and Duty.
An expectedly top-tier supporting cast including DeNiro himself, Michael Gambon, Billy Crudup, Alec Baldwin and Angelina Jolie (only in Hollywood do you get shotgunned into marrying the sister of your buddy because she got pregnant from your one fling... and she turns out to be Angelina Jolie) provide solid foundations and scene work, but primarily this is Damon's show and it's a convincing, affecting performance despite some questionably-minimalist "aging" makeup. Overall, reccomended.
FINAL RATING: 8/10