Tag Archives: kate mara

The Martian – Review

7 Oct

Ridley Scott is known for his ability to craft some of the most epic movies in modern film. GladiatorKingdom of Heaven, and even the crime epic American Gangster all fit nicely into this category of huge films. Now we have a movie based off of a novel by Andy Weir, and in my opinion, this is a pretty absurd choice of book to make a movie out of. Not because it’s a bad story, but it’s actually too great of a story with different story lines that not only spans continents, but planets. If I was a major Hollywood film maker, a project like this would intimidate me, but leave it to Ridley Scott to take the source material and make it into one of the stand out movies of 2015.

230490

In the not too distant future, NASA sends a group of scientists to Mars to learn more about the desolate, red planet. When a violent storm cuts the mission short, botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead. NASA releases the news, but are then shocked to learn that Watney is alive and well and has been stranded on Mars. Watney knows that it may be up to four years before the next mission can arrive to rescue him, so he begins working to make the dead soil of Mars into a place that he can live on. Meanwhile, NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) and Ares III mission director Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) start devising multiple different plans to not only provide food for Watney, but also find a way to rescue him from Mars as soon as possible. This may ultimately fall on Ares III commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and the rest of her crew, forcing them to turn back around and get Watney home.

I can’t stress it enough that the story of The Martian felt absolutely enormous. Not only does it cover over a year of time, but also involves so many different characters that each have very important jobs to do throughout the entire ordeal. There isn’t one character that felt wasted throughout the whole thing. It was also cool to see that even for some of the most minor roles, good actors would still fill their shoes. For example, one of the people that completely changes how NASA approaches the whole problem is astronomer Rich Purnell played by Donald Glover. This character is only in a few scenes for a few minutes, but they still casted a great actor to fill that role. Other than the people I already mentioned, there’s other actors like Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Benedict Wong, and Sean Bean. It’s one of the best casts that’s been assembled in recent memory.

fb58b92da01f4f2b830f6a70670087f2_c55-0-1985-1125_s561x327

What seems to be surprising most critics and audiences is how lighthearted this movie actually is. Sure, it’s very dramatic and some of the scenes can get really intense, but I found myself laughing through a lot of the movie. The character of Mark Watney is literally what this story needs. Instead of letting his situation get the better of him, he remains optimistic and cracks jokes throughout the entire movie. If it wasn’t for him keeping his good humor, this would be an unbearably depressing movie. It’s also cool to see how his optimism affects the other characters and keep them from throwing in the towel before something can be done. Pretty much, this movie keeps you feeling great the whole time, and never did I feel like the situation was absolutely hopeless.

I can’t really find anything to complain about with The Martian. Not only is it very well written and acted, but it’s also a beautiful looking movie. In order to get the perfect look for his Martian landscape Scott and the rest of his special effects team filmed in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which has a red desert. That location shooting combined with excellent special effects makes this film visually immersive. Harry Gregson-Williams’ low key score also accentuates the drama very nicely.

While Ridley Scott hasn’t made perfect movies and has recently slipped a little bit, The Martian is proof that he is still able to take huge stories, compress them, and successfully put them on film. This film is an achievement of special effects, but also stands out with it’s quick writing, believable characters, and feeling of hope and good humor that spans the entire two and a half hour run time. Nothing in this movie feels wasted, which means everything feels important and that isn’t easy to do. This is an outstanding movie.

Advertisements

Fantastic Four – Review

3 Sep

I always look at movies at having a certain kind of structure. Every movie I watch has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In that regard I have to hold Fantastic Four as one of the most complex experimental films I have ever seen. I’m kidding, of course. That would be the same as me saying that Fantastic Four is the best comedy of the year. Let’s be honest, though. This is a superhero “movie” released in the year 2015, and this is the best they had to offer. Fantastic Four is one of the most gut wrenchingly awful movies I’ve seen in a long time, if you can even call it a movie.

217247

Reed Richards (Miles Teller), who along with his close friend Ben Grimm (Jamie Bell), have been working since childhood to perfect a device that could act as a teleporter. This catches the eye of scientist Franklin Storm (Reg E. Cathey) and his adopted daughter Sue (Kate Mara) at a high school science fair. They bring Reed and Ben to the Baxter Foundation, along with Franklin’s son Johnny (Michael B. Jordan) and outcast Victor von Doom (Toby Kebbell), to build it on a much grander scale. When the government wants to use their people as its first explorers, Reed leads his team on a rogue trip to another dimension where they accidentally receive superpowers, but also lose von Doom. As the kids are being utilized by the military thanks to their unique powers, the threat of someone now being called Dr. Doom looms in the next dimension waiting for revenge.

I have to give Fantastic Four a lot of credit for being a big budget blockbuster release without actually being a movie. This isn’t a movie, plain and simple. Let’s start at the beginning. We’re introduced to cardboard cutout recreations of the beloved comic book character. Since they seem to be completely devoid of all personality, it goes without saying that there is absolutely no chemistry between any of them. I can’t even blame the cast because they’re all very talented actors. Miles Teller and Toby Kebbell especially seem to be really trying to work with the lackluster material that was given to them. So with all of the characters introduced and all of the exposition given, the movie continues simply because it has to in order to get to the end, without any visible rhyme or reason.

07FANTASTIC1-articleLarge

Now we come to the middle of the “movie.” Whether you like the 2005 version or not, you have to admit that it at least builds up some sort of suspense and relationship between the characters. In this version, there is none of that. After they get their powers, we skip to one year later, and they all have complete control over their abilities. Great. So one of the most fun parts of the “movie” doesn’t even exist. The characters who will later go on to be one of the greatest superhero teams in comic book history don’t even really spend any time together or talk at all, so when they are finally all forced to combine their powers (a scene which I am unfortunately getting to) it doesn’t feel cool because they haven’t been through anything together. It’s like the whole second act of the “movie” was scrapped which made me feel like I was missing a lot.

The third act of Fantastic Four may go down as one of the best punchlines ever put on screen. It so perfectly completes the joke. Instead of seeing a fight between the Fantastic Four and their arch enemy Dr. Doom, we see… I don’t really know what. It’s not a fight certainly. It’s not even a climax since nothing was really building to it. The scene just happens because it’s a “movie” about the Fantastic Four, so we need a final showdown where they all work together as a team. But they still don’t even really do that. What was everyone working on this “movie” thinking? Have they ever watched anything else before? What twilight zone an I in that something this ludicrous, muddled, and nonsensical can be released?

How can this “movie” even be called Fantastic Four when they really aren’t even in it. I saw no evidence of them or Dr. Doom or any of the other characters. This movie was in trouble from the start with the rights to the material, the studios making major changes, and Josh Trank’s apparent behavior on set. Fine, whatever. That’s not what I’m talking about. The fact that it’s 2015 and a superhero movie like this can be released is absolutely ridiculous. I can only hope that this acts as a punch in the face to studios, telling them that just because it has comic book characters in it, doesn’t mean it can’t fail miserably.

TransSiberian – Review

8 Aug

I’ve had a few lame vacations, but none of them can compare to the nightmare that the couple in TransSiberian have to endure. The worst part is is that it is all because of their own mistakes and the fact that bad people possibly outweigh the good. This is an intriguing  and tight thriller that requires one viewing, but deserves multiple.

 

Roy (Woody Harrelson) and Jessie (Emily Mortimer) are an American couple who are traveling from Beijing to Moscow via the Trans-Siberian Railway. Along their travels they meet another couple: Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara). There seems to be more lurking beneath the surface of these two, and when a Russian narcotics officer, Ilya Grinko (Sir Ben Kingsley) gets thrown into the mix a supposedly innocent trip turns into a violent game of cat and mouse filled with murder and deception.

As I was watching this movie, my mind kept going to Alfred Hitchcock’s film Strangers on a Train. That is because TransSiberian hearkens back to the golden age of thrillers before high tech espionage and intense car chases became the norm in movies of this genre. The thrills come from the characters, their decisions, and the consequences of these decision. I always found the volatile nature of humans and their extreme drive for self preservation to be more interesting than any CGI-fest or high octane action thriller.

The setting of this movie is almost as dangerous as the characters themselves. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the foreboding Russian tundra is just as much a character as Roy and Jessie. Not only the cold landscapes, but the broken down interiors, minus the inside of the train, just scream tetanus. It couldn’t have been a better setting for a movie such as this.

Thematically, TransSiberian explores the snowball effect of lies and the amount of trust that we should put in other people. All of the trouble caused in this movie stems from these two themes. Another interesting theme of the movie is that of the Russian legal system especially in poverty stricken areas and against foreigners. I was on a message board and there was a post that claimed this movie was strictly anti-Russian propaganda. Another poster argued that they were actually from Russia, and this film is an accurate depiction of the problems the country is facing. Kingsley’s character has an interesting dialogue on the differences between Soviet Russia and modern day Russia. He pretty much says that things have changed, but not necessarily for the better.

 

So the themes, characters, and setting are what really make this movie thrilling. I have a gripe about the story, however. I understand that, without giving too much away, a certain character is faced with a massive problem that is only made worse by lying, even though telling the truth probably would have made things go a little smoother. I can’t speak for the characters or what others would do in this situation. I’m not even sure about what I would do. Let’s just say there were times where I wanted to knock some sense into this character.

TransSiberian is a gripping thriller that would make any Hitchcock fan proud. There isn’t wall to wall action, steamy sex, or death defying stunts. What we have is an intelligent and well crafted thriller that is supported by its aesthetics and its characters and how the actors portrayed them. I didn’t know much about this movie when I watched it, but when it ended I felt fulfilled and ready to share it with other people.