Friday, October 2, 2015

The Martian (2015)

Just to get this out of the way, I haven't read the book, so there will be no comparisons or anything like that. This is a movie review. I can barely read in the first place. On a related note, I talked to a couple after seeing The Martian that was all too happy to tell everyone within earshot that Andy Weir was his cousin. I had to fight every fiber of my being to respond, "Who's that?" Seriously though, The Martian is the kind of movie that makes you want to read the book.

The Martian doesn't waste any time. Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stranded on Mars in the opening moments of the film. Since that's the whole premise of the film, might as well get it out of the way, right? No sense in building that up for 30 minutes when the trailer reveals this. Watney must figure out a way to make his supplies last and contact home. As said in the film, he sciences the shit out of it.

It made me happy to see a film where everyone is smart. Hell, the main character of the film is an astronaut-botanist. How geeky is that? Matt Damon might be the main character, but the hero of The Martian is Science. Anything that gets people interested in outer space and celebrates Science is already winning my book. Doesn't hurt when Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets that The Martian got "crucial science right." He did also say that it's still fantasy, but some of those comments seemed to in jest.

It's a testament to Matt Damon's acting and charisma that The Martian stays entertaining even when watching long stretches of just talking to himself, or doing repetitive tasks. Like many stranded films, it can be hard or tedious to watch a guy struggling to survive if you don't like the actor or can't root for the character.

The Martian is a good example of a great cast that isn't wasted. They exist in the Goldilocks zone where everyone's screentime and performances are just right. It's is also very funny with a lot of sharp dialog. I didn't realize Drew Goddard (The Cabin in the Woods) wrote the screenplay, so perhaps its humor shouldn't have surprised me as much. The script also does a good job of explaining everything just enough that it's not too complicated, so nobody will get lost. It's not bogged down with jargon or techno-babble.

I'm glad to see Ridley Scott knock one out of the park again. Feels like it's been a good decade since he really nailed a film, so it's nice to see him return to form. I was worried that he might have totally lost it

Funny, thrilling, and best of all, smart, The Martian hits on cylinders. This is one of the most entertaining films of the year, and you don't need to be a fan of the book to enjoy it. It's a must see!

5 (out of 5) Death Stars

The Walk (2015)

Do you ever get that weird feeling that goes right down to your bones when looking down at heights? It doesn't even matter if it's a picture or a video game, it's some automatic thing that you're just wired with. If you get that feeling, then be warned that a good 40 minutes of The Walk will do that to you.

The Walk is an interesting story about a real event, but it's unusually, and sometimes unnecessarily narrated by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, playing Philippe Petit, the man that actually walked a tightrope between the Twin Towers. It constantly breaks up the story and is an example of the movie telling you rather than showing you. This is especially unusual since The Walk hangs so much on the visual aspect of it. It's also a little weird to see so much narration to a story that's already has an Oscar winning documentary about it. If you want to know how Petit really felt about his walk, just watch Man on Wire on Netflix. It kind of makes the whole movie feel like overkill, only existing to show you how good the CG is.

The cast is good though, and I enjoyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt's performance. I didn't even find his accent annoying, and after a while I forgot I was watching JGL. He's done a pretty good job of doing roles that are different from film to film, rather than playing the same character over and over. The characters take a backseat to the real star of the film, the computer generated Twin Towers. It's done so well and they are shot so lovingly that much of The Walk feels like a tribute to them. Even the way Petit speaks about them seems like he's in love with them.

The final act of The Walk is what you're really waiting for, and it's a doozy. The effects and cinematography are both excellent. It's one of the few times where seeing something in IMAX 3D really felt worth it, as it adds that extra depth to the experience.

I found this to be an interesting contrast to what I saw in Everest. In Everest, I didn't have much sympathy for the characters, and thought what they were doing was nuts. I also thought Petit was nuts, but super ballsy, and oddly poetic. Perhaps it's because Petit considered himself an artist, and I connected with that on some level.

The Walk is a mixed bag of uneven drama, but great, thrilling visuals. I do think it's worth seeing on IMAX if available to you though. Also, if you haven't seen it yet, I'd really recommend you watch Man on Wire, which is a really great documentary about the real event.

3 (out of 5) Death Stars