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The Martian

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Mark Suszko
The Martian
on Oct 5, 2015 at 3:41:08 am

This would make an interesting double-feature paired with "gravity", for you nerd types out there.

Finally, a Mars-based/themed movie gets it "right". I enjoyed the hell out of this movie, and found it a really close approximation of the book. Basically it *is* the book, with one small and inconsequential section removed, and some covered in montage, but it holds together and should please readers. You don't have to have read the book to enjoy the movie. Our saturday morning matinee screening was shared with a brace of octogenarians (boy, did they leave a huge mess of garbage on the seats and floor when they left!), but otherwise, we had the theatre to ourselves and O got my favorite seat, the one just above and behind the wheelchair cutout, with the pipe barrier fence you can use for a nice leg rest.

The art direction and the tech displayed is hyper-realistic as any Ridley Scott movie would do by default. UN-like many Ridley movies, though, the plot, lacking Damon Lindeloff's toxic input, was solid and logical all the way through, characterizations were more or less realistic (Though Donald Glover's orbital mechanics guy was played a little extra over the top, it didn't take us too far out of the story). The casting all-around was really well-done. Matt Damon carries the movie well for the most part. The book shows him as a very stoic and maniacally upbeat guy. There was a scene where he finally cracks a little and starts to cry, and really, though it wasn't in the book, there could have/maybe should have been a few more scenes like it. There are some parallels to Tom Hanks in
"Castaway" we could make here. The science is about 90 percent accurate in this movie, more so than in most genre films, but they have made the science very easy to understand by a general audience.

Photography and lighting and editing were all top shelf. An enjoyable montage set to Bowie's "Star Man" got the audience really pumped. As pumped as Octogenarians can get. Who is the audience for this movie? It doesn't have any real romance in it, no murders, battle scenes with "pew-pew-pew" lasers, or exotic aliens. It's a guy, on his own, to a degree never known before, trying to survive against literally astronomical odds... and keep his spirits up. If he's a little *too* positive and confident, you gotta remember, that's the kind of person NASA spends years to locate, select, filter, and cultivate and train, specifically to BE THAT GUY. So, it's not that he's a boring boy-scout pollyanna. He's not a regular human. He starts out as someone who's already maximized in terms of potential; highly stable, motivated, determined... a living hero. He's NOT going to emote and carry on the same way more typical Earthly characters might.
I think because it's a survival drama and not a combat movie or trope-ridden science fantasy, the marketing people are conflicted about how to push it. But the trailers are very good, and give a good sense of what you're getting.

I think the audience for this is anybody who gets annoyed by crappy sci-fi, and wants to see a vision of what we all dreamed was going to be our birthright, back in the seventies. It's a movie for people that are fascinated by explorers and how man overcomes but also learns to appreciate nature.

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Scott Roberts
Re: The Martian, The Walk, AND Sicario!
on Oct 5, 2015 at 11:39:28 pm

I'm gonna go ahead and TWO UP you, Mark! In addition to The Martian, I also saw The Walk and Sicario this weekend. This weekend was a gift from the gods compared to last weekend, when the hottest option available was that crappy Eli Roth rainforest movie. So I'll go ahead and mash them all up in one mega review right here.

The basic plot of the film:

BEST - The Martian - Guy gets stranded on Mars after his crew thinks he's dead, has to survive alone on a planet for several years using only his intelligence, scientific knowledge, and millions of dollars of space equipment.

MIDDLE - The Walk - French guy Philippe Petit comes to America in the 1970s to secretly put a tightrope across the World Trade Center towers and walk around up there for a while. Half biopic, half caper type movie; that's a combo I quite enjoyed.

WORST - Sicario - FBI agent gets recruited into a squad of more hardcore FBI agents in order to take down a Mexican drug cartel. She has no idea what's going on the entire movie. Not the worst thing in the world, but it felt like it's been done before.

The Director:

BEST - The Walk - Robert Zemeckis has a career I actually enjoy a lot, if I brush aside that decade he went insane and only made those creepy rotoscoped computer animated movies.

MIDDLE - Sicario - This was directed by some guy named Denis Villeneuve, who was apparently nominated for an Oscar in 2011, and directed that movie Prisoners that I saw and only kind of liked in 2013.

WORST - The Martian - Ridley Scott is a guy who has probably made more things I haven't enjoyed than I actually enjoy, especially in the last ten years or so. To be honest, the only hesitation I had about something as cool looking as The Martian was that it was directed by a guy that I don't like very much.

The Cast:

BEST - The Martian - Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig (?), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Donald Glover (?), the guy who plays Bucky Barnes in Captain 'Murica. Pretty solid ensemble.

MIDDLE - Sicario - Just the power trio of Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin had the power of two power trios.

WORST - The Walk - It's mostly just a Joseph Gordon Levitt showcase, with some really small parts given to Ben Kingsley, that James Badge Dale guy, and Jean Ralphio from Parks and Rec.

The Screenplay:

BEST - Sicario - This here was a well written movie, with believable characters who were incredibly vulnerable and highly complex. And it had an ever-moving story that I didn't know specifically where it was going. And that final scene of conflict... Hoo boy! That was good.

MIDDLE - The Walk - I liked the story framework of having Philippe Petit narrate his life and motivations as the story unfolded, in fourth-wall-breaking cut scenes. It was playful and entertaining. Can't help but wonder, though, if it *needed* it to work or if it would have been too generic not to include it? It fit in with the overall arty foo-foo-ness of the whole thing, regardless.

WORST - The Martian - It wasn't a bad screenplay. I just didn't like it as much as the other two. It was a well written movie, with maaaaaaaaybe too many witty quips for its own good, but all the stuff about how science can solve all this guy's problems was incredibly neat. But it's not too hard to predict how it will end.

Good Moments:

BEST - The Walk - The entire third act of this movie is one giant spectacular series of moments. The tightrope walk is phenomenally executed with great tension, visuals, and emotion. I saw the documentary about this guy's walk probably seven years ago (Man on Wire), so I knew everything that was going to happen, but this movie really puts care into the whole sequence.

MIDDLE - Sicario - Aside from the ending which I already mentioned was great, there are numerous other scenes that blew me away. Little moments here and there, big sweeping action sequences, lots of twists and turns with felt terrifyingly realistic. It's stuff that stuck with me.

WORST - The Martian - I saw The Martian third out of these three movies, and I have fonder memories of the best parts of the other two than I do for the one freshest in my mind. I think the problem with The Martian was that everything was handled with a smug, almost punchable smirk; which seemed to get chuckles as they played out, but looking back, there might have been too many smirks? I don't know. But you make a good point, Mark, that NASA probably directly looks for people who act like Damon's character does. They don't send boring lumps into space. Anyway, if I may compare it to Gravity or Interstellar, I think the best moments of those two movies were better than the best moments of The Martian. And I liked The Martian better than Interstellar (but not Gravity). I really liked the whole climactic ending sequence, though.

Best Shot at the Oscars:

BEST - The Martian - Definitely going to get nominated for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (Damon), possibly supporting actress for Chastain, and a bunch of those little technical awards, too. And ya know, I think it has a good chance of winning them. It seemed like an Oscar grabby kind of movie. We'll see how momentum favors it in the long run. It *is* only October.

MIDDLE - Sicario - I think it has a real good shot at Original Screenplay. And it deserves it, so far. It will probably also definitely get a nom for Emily Blunt. Maybe a win, too? Has any leading actress done a great impression of a famous historical figure yet? That's what will end up standing in the way of a complex, original character like Blunt's. The Academy loves acting karaoke performances.

WORST - The Walk - Don't get me wrong, I think this will get nominated for a lot, and a lot of the major stuff too (Picture, Director, JGL), but this seems like another one of those movies that won't end up winning anything. Might have a shot at the Golden Globes, though.

Which movie has the most smart ass character:

BEST - Sicario - I know you want me to say Matt Damon, with his sciencey super quips, but he just can't compare to Josh Brolin's FBI agent who shows up to meetings in sandals and Hawaiian shirts, while intentionally keeping Emily Blunt's entire reason for being there in the dark. Matt Damon was just funny, but Brolin was a scary smart ass.

MIDDLE - The Martian - See above.

WORST - The Walk - Petit was definitely a smart ass, and had a complete disregard for American laws, but he ended up having too much doubt in himself to ever be as good at smirking as the other two guys.

Use of 3D:

BEST - The Walk - The 3D was actually pretty good throughout, which was a surprise. The depth worked really well with the tightrope sequence. And there was this one part early in the movie when JGL drops a pole, and it flies right at the camera, and the entire audience flinched (myself included) because we all thought we had just been impaled in our collective right eyeball.

MIDDLE - The Martian - As per usual for most 3D movies, the effect wore off completely after a while. But the 3D looked cool every time they cut to a video diary scene, and in the opening storm scenes on Mars.

WORST - Sicario - Sadly, this Mexican drug cartel movie was not shot in 3D. Wait, shouldn't that technically make it the *best* in this category...? #3dkindasucks

Social Issue Representation:

BEST - The Martian - Let's face it, you guys... This movie made NASA look cool as hell. Space travel is where all the awesome scientists go. And... Hey... Wait a minute... That whole finding water on Mars news story came out *conveniently* well-timed right before this movie came out... Whoa... Best cross promotion ever, 20th Century Fox!

MIDDLE - The Walk - Handles the concept of art trumping a normal, boring world in a very passionate way. A win for liberal arts majors and foofy French jugglers everywhere! On another note, this was probably the most beautiful tribute to the World Trade Center towers ever done on film, without directly referencing 9/11.

WORST - Sicario - The only thing this did for the war on drugs was show just how meaningless it feels to keep fighting it. It's like putting out fire with gasoline. #bowie

Screwing up the name of the movie just a little bit:

BEST - The Martin - Finally, a feature-length movie of the hit Fox sitcom, Martin! Guys, Martin Lawrence is BACK!

MIDDLE - The Wok - A gritty take on the inner workings of a Chinese restaurant in Hoboken, NJ.

WORST - Sick Car, Yo! - A cheap, straight-to-DVD knockoff of the Fast and Furious franchise, starring Sam Worthington's brother.

The highest above sea level:

BEST - The Martian - It's light years above (Earth) sea level!

MIDDLE - The Walk - It's 1,776 feet above sea level!

WORST - Sicario - There's actually a sequence in an underground tunnel...

Overall and Scores:

BEST - Sicario - I liked this one the best overall for sure. It has stuck with me the most. I thought it was the most well written and had some really thrilling sequences. But as far as recommendations go, this might be more a matter of my personal taste, and not really what casual moviegoers would pay to see over the other two. Still, I thought this was one of the better movies of this year. 9 out of 10

MIDDLE - The Martian - It was a big movie, with big ideas, and it had a lot of successes. That being said, I still think it could have possibly been executed a little better. I don't exactly know how, but I'm not the guy making the $108 million movie. But it's a HUGE step up from Ridley Scott's recent output. The fact that I'm genuinely endorsing a post-Black Hawk Down Ridley Scott movie is a very good sign that I liked it. 8.5 out of 10

"WORST" - The Walk - I have to put worst in quotes there because I don't want to imply that this is a bad movie at all. In fact, it's probably the most accessible of the three. This was just such a great weekend for movies that I didn't end up liking it as much as the other two that I watched. Definitely worth seeing in IMAX if you have any interest in checking it out. Might not play out as grandiose on your little TV. 8 out of 10

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Martian, The Walk, AND Sicario!
on Oct 6, 2015 at 1:55:15 am

There was no need to make "The Walk".

You should, nay, MUST seek out the documentary about that wire walk, called "Man On Wire". And it stars... THE ACTUAL FRICKEN GUYS AND GALS. Recreating the actual gig, plus all that led up to it and the "fall" that came afterwards.

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Tim Wilson
Re: The Martian, The Walk, AND Sicario!
on Oct 6, 2015 at 5:03:29 am
Last Edited By Tim Wilson on Oct 6, 2015 at 5:03:55 am

He said he saw Man on Wire. :-)

Look, that movie is #3 on my all-time list. I adore it. And I DO think there was a need to make The Walk, for exactly the reason Scott describes.

In fact, I'll go further. If you enjoyed Man on Wire even a little, The Walk is MANDATORY. Stop reading this and go see it. I'll wait.

(Hums to self for 62 hours while you get time to see it.)

In Man on Wire, the walk itself barely exists. In reality, he was up there for 45 minutes. FORTY FIVE MINUTES. He talks about it in the documentary for what, three minutes? Five, tops.

The two titles tell the tale. Man on Wire is about Philippe. The MAN. Although there are other voices, it's basically his story, from his perspective, and yes, it's about the tragedy of having your dreams come true.

Oh, but wait. The one part of Philippe's perspective we never see is HIS view. We only see the view from below. We see OUR point of view, never his.

The Walk is about THE WALK. A third of the movie is THE WALK. NOW we're talking. Very close to his ACTUAL TIME on the wire.

And for the first time in history, and very likely the last time in history, we see the world from HIS point of view. We are on that wire. WE are taking THE WALK. And thanks to 3D, we FEEL it.

I'm not sure anyone could have made this as well as Zemeckis, if for no other reason than he learned a lot about how to make good 3D from having made some of the creepiest of all time. LOL

Sideways from Zemeckis: Man on Wire was directed by James Marsh, whose very next feature was The Theory of Everything...AND IT'S THE SAME DAMN MOVIE. Visionary with huge ego persuades people to support his cockamamie ideas, he gets what he wants, is devastated by it, and destroys the people closest to him in the process.

The. Same. Movie.

Plus 3D.

Anyway, I saw someone point out that after Saving Private Ryan, Interstellar, and The Martian, we have to ask: how many more times are we gonna have to go rescue Matt Damon?

As always, Scott, epic stuff!

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Scott Roberts
Re: The Martian, The Walk, AND Sicario!
on Oct 6, 2015 at 4:21:53 pm
Last Edited By Scott Roberts on Oct 6, 2015 at 4:22:28 pm

[Tim Wilson] "The two titles tell the tale. Man on Wire is about Philippe. The MAN. Although there are other voices, it's basically his story, from his perspective, and yes, it's about the tragedy of having your dreams come true.

Oh, but wait. The one part of Philippe's perspective we never see is HIS view. We only see the view from below. We see OUR point of view, never his.

The Walk is about THE WALK. A third of the movie is THE WALK. NOW we're talking. Very close to his ACTUAL TIME on the wire."

And for the first time in history, and very likely the last time in history, we see the world from HIS point of view. We are on that wire. WE are taking THE WALK. And thanks to 3D, we FEEL it.

I 100% agree with you, Tim! You summed it up perfectly. Man on Wire was a really engaging story, told in documentary form, and The Walk was a really thrilling elaboration on that story.

Plus, apparently The Walk wasn't just an adaptation of the documentary itself, it was adapted from a book. I only learned this information when the "Adapted from the Novel By..." text came up in the credits of The Walk. So The Walk wasn't just ripping off Man on Wire, it was using different source material and ideas as well.

And I'm scared of heights, so watching those tightrope sequences in IMAX 3D kinda made my palms sweaty. I *knew* the guy wasn't going to fall down, and still when he was doing his goofy tricks up there I was like "Holy crap, why would he do that?! Stop!"

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Mark Suszko
Re: The Martian, The Walk, AND Sicario!
on Oct 8, 2015 at 6:17:13 pm

Is it real???

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