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Posts Tagged ‘The Martian’

We have spent a lot of the 21st century gazing at the stars, or at least CGI versions of them.  The century started with the second and third movies in the Star Wars prequels trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).  A series of films that are constantly being revaluated, I’m not sure if they are officially good or bad at the moment.  Star Trek ran out of steam, with the last movie from the Next Generation Crew Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) not being very good.  But then in J. J. Abrams came along and with the help of some wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff (if I may quote a TV series in an article about movies) created a new timeline to retell the story of the original crew of the enterprise.  The first film Star Trek (2009) was excellent, the second Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), then Abrams jumped ship and the third film Star Trek Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin was a partial return to form.  There may be a fourth film in the series eventually, it keeps getting pushed back or going into turnaround.  There may also be a further film in the universe that by Quentin Tarantino, that is looking less and less likely. Star Trek Wars

The reason J. J. Abrams jumped (space)ship, was to go and work for the enemy, Star Wars.  The director of the first and final movies in a new trilogy, a third and final trilogy to bring the Skywalker saga to an end.  The films came about after Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Film (for a staggering amount of money).  All three films have their fans and detractors in a hugely polarized and quite amusing social media battle among a certain type of fanboy.  For me, the middle film, The Last Jedi (2017) written and directed  by Rian Johnson is the best (and the most controversial).  The Force Awakens (2015) is the safest of the three, but good fun and it introduces some great characters, and brings back some old favourites.  The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is certainly the weakest but is still good fun and gets to a satisfying end (except for that certain group of fanboys).  Along the way, we also got two Star Wars Anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) tells the story of the events leading up to the origonal 1977 film, and for me is the best film outside the original trilogy.  The flipside to that, Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) is totally unnecessary origin story of fan favourite Han Solo.  it isn’t terrible, just pointless.The end of the Skywalker sagaNot satisfied with just Star Wars, Disney went to space with their other big acquired property: Marvel.  They started in 2014 when they took a less well know Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy and had a smash hit with a more, fun and comic take on the superhero genre.  a sequel Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) followed.  To be fair parts of The Avengers movies were also set in space, and Thor is from another planet.  It wasn’t until Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi’s brilliant but bonkers take on the character that you would call it a space adventure.  After a decade, and about 20 movies Disney finally gave a woman a leading role in a Marvel movie.  While a lot of the movie is based on earth, Captain Marvel (2019) is an intergalactic character, as is Marvels big bad Thanos.  All the characters of the MCU came together to fight an intergalactic battle with the big purple one in Avengers Infinity War (2018) and the biggest film of all time (if you don’t adjust for inflation) Avengers Endgame 2019.  That brings us nicely onto Avatar (2009), with an even higher boxoffice if you adjust for inflation.  James Cameron’s first movie since 1997 when he made a little film about a shipwreck.  As you would expect from Cameron, it made great advances in effects and technology, especially in 3D.  I am not a fan.  As yet he hasn’t made another film yet, but understand he is filming about 100 sequels back to back with the first due for release in about two years. Marvel goes to spaceDC’s ventures into space were less successful.  The Green Lantern (2011) about a group of intergalactic supper powered policemen was rubbish.  Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of a 1970’s movie about a man called Kal-El who is sent to earth as a baby before his home planet is destroyed.  He ends up fighting against bodies from his home world.  It isn’t bad, but not as good as the 1978, and 1980 movies, and like those movies, all subsequent sequels are terrible. DC and AliensRidley Scott decided that we were all wrong, the most interesting thing about his Movie Alien (1979), and James Cameron’s sequel to it Aliens (1987), wasn’t the Xenomorph, or Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.  It wasn’t the brilliant world building of the story where corporations are more powerful than countries.  He decided the derelict alien ship, and how the Aliens got there was more important.  He then gave us two extremely average films, Prometheus (2012), and Alien Covenant (2017).  There are some excellent characters that aren’t used very well, and some who don’t know how to run to the side.  almost realLets not be too tough on Ridley Scott, he has given us an excellent movie in the genre, The Martian (2015).  The story of a man left behind on Mars.  This is part of a crop of Sci-Fi movies that feel more realistic and closer to where we are now than Star Wars or Star Trek.  The pick of these for me was Gravity (2013).  A film so spectacular in IMAX 3D (the only good 3D experience I have had) that I have not re-watched it again, it just won’t be the same on TV.  Other films in this sub genre could include Christopher Nolan’s excellent Interstellar (2014), Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine (2007), Claire Denis bleak but brilliant High Life (2018), and James Gray’s disappointing Ad Astra (2019).   A film doesn’t have to be fiction, or particularly outlandish to be compelling, providing it is told well, and there are two such examples from the last two years: Damien Chazelle’s telling of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong in the film First Man (2018), and the documentary on the same subject: Apollo 11 (2019).  The latter is breathtaking look at the mission using stunning NASA images, no talking heads, or voiceover. smerfs monkeys aliens and the sunI wouldn’t include Passengers (2016) in the list of realist sci-fi movies, as it is too glossy and Sci-Fi, it is however worth seeing for the interesting plot, that is more disturbing the more you think about it.  Part of the premise of the film is people in hypersleep on their way to a distant planet.  Obviously something always goes wrong in these movies.  Others worth watching are: Pandorum (2009) a film that takes these ideas, and gives them a horror and survival adventure spin.  Pitch Black (2000) is an even better take on the horror space adventure, possibly the best and most original since the first two Alien films.  It’s sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), was terrible, but the third film Riddick (2013) isn’t bad, although its attempt to recreate the original are a little forced.  Life (2017) has the almost real world setting, a fictionalised version of The International Space Station, it rapidly turns into Alien when an alien life form gets loose.  It isn’t Alien, but it isn’t bad. Horror in spaceThe man who gave us The Fifth Element (1997) Luc Besson, was back this century, with another bold and bonkers tale: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017).  The film had mixed reviews, as Besson’s work often does, I liked it.  The title is a little misleading and under serves one of its characters, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline; Laureline is the more interesting character and probably has a larger part in the story than Valérian.  That asside, it is bright and bold and like nothing else, except maybe The Fifth Element!a mix of fact and fantasy (1)Saving the best for last.  When I went to see Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005), I had not seen (or even heard of) Firefly, I have since watched the whole (short) series more than once.  The movie is nothing short of a masterpiece.  It works whether you have seen the TV show or not.  It is all the more impressive, as it was Whedon’s feature debut as a director.  The budget was less than $40million or about a quarter of Revenge of the Sith that came out the same year.  This doesn’t show, as the film looks amazing, largely thanks to clever photography and practice sets/effects over CGI.  Ticking every box for a space adventure, and a western, the film is fun, and often very funny, but there is a far deeper message about society, about right and wrong, but it is far more nuanced than anything you will get from Disney or Star Wars, it isn’t black and white, or light and dark, The Alliance is not The Empire!SerenityI have probably missed lots, but these are the ones that spring to mind.  I pleased to say the genre is in good health at the movies, and on TV, but that will have to be an entire article in itself. 

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I have now seen all the Best picture nominations, probably more than most of the voting academy members can truthfully say! Being a part time amateur film blogger doesn’t earn academy membership so rather than voting I get to sit on the outside looking in and bitching about poor choices.  If I did have a vote for the Best Picture Oscar I would struggle to chose between five films, my favourite five films eligible for this years Oscars.  Unfortunately three of my choices haven’t been nominated, making it a straight choice between two films.  Interestingly my two favourite nominated films are polar opposites; one is the most low key and down to earth, the other is the boldest, brightest, brashest and most outlandish.  In a few words, here are my thoughts on the nominated movies and their chances of picking up a little gold man on February 28th.

Spotlight: The comparisons with All the President’s Men (1976) are obvious, however where the Watergate movie was edgy and cinematic, this is a more staid and old fashioned film.  That said it is fantastic, if the was an Oscar for best ensemble cast it would be a shoe in! It would be a worthy winner and had a lot of positive buzz a few weeks ago but that seems to have passed. Like  All the President’s Men, I think it will have to settle for a nomination.Spotlight

The Revenant: Where Spotlight is very introspective and contained, The Revenant is all about the wide open spaces.  When I first saw it I thought it would win but no one seems to agree with me.  This makes me think it won’t win, it should however get cinematographer and best actor.The Revenant

Room: Not a bad film but beyond a fantastic lead performance I am not sure why it is getting so much love.  I think it is making up the numbers.'Room' is a journey out of darkness, director says

Brooklyn: The period setting makes it a very Oscar friendly film.  However I don’t hear it being mentioned in Oscar conversations, like Room I think it is making up the numbers.Brooklyn

Bridge of Spies: I am really glad to see this get a nomination as it is so much better than many people are giving it credit for.  Unfortunately it isn’t being talked out about so its probably another one making up the numbers.Bridge Of Spies

The Martian: A sci-fi film with a lot of comedy in it, how did the academy let this upstart slip in?  The simple reason, it is fun and hugely entertaining, it may not be the best motion picture of the year but it is probably the most fun.  I don’t think it will win, but if it does, it will probably be because it is lots of people second or third choice on the ballet. the martian

Mad Max: Simply my favourite film on the list but it is so un-Oscar I don’t see it having a chance, but it would be so great if it did.mad max tom hardy

The Big Short: The film seems to have divided opinion, a comedy about people who profited from the housing market crash.  The word we hear a lot of at this time of year is momentum, and this film has lots of momentum.  I really liked the film but don’t think it is the best film on the list, but I think it is favourite to win.The Big Short

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As I decide on my top ten movies of the year, here are the films I loved but didn’t make my top ten:

A Most Violent Year: Don’t be misled by the title and trailer, this isn’t a violent action movie but a classy crime thriller with fantastic performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.a most violent year

Amy: Director and producer Asif Kapadia and James Gay-Rees are back with portrait of singer Amy Winehouse.  As compelling as Senna (2010), the real brilliance of the film isn’t the telling tale that played out in front of the worlds press, but the less know and more intimate story of the tragic figure.Amy

Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance): Winner of four Oscars (Best Picture, Director, Original Screenplay, Cinematography).  Michael Keaton is perfectly cast as an actor once famous for playing a superhero trying to reinvent himself as a stage actor.  Probably director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s best film to date.michael keaton birdman

Bridge of Spies: True story of a cold war soviet spy, the lawyer who defended him and the ultimate exchange in Berlin.   Director Steven Spielberg does what he does best delivering tension and suspence as well as comedy.  Mark Rylance and Tom Hanks are both on top form.  Rylance has to be a good bet for best supporting actor Oscar.Bridge Of Spies

Brooklyn: Story of a young woman who moves from small town Ireland to Brooklyn in the early 50’s.  A surprisingly low key film but totally enthralling, largely thanks to Nick Hornby’s great script and another standout performance from  Saoirse Ronan.Brooklyn

Crimson Peak: A movie of the month winner, but it doesn’t quite make my top ten.  A spiritual successor to The Devil’s Backbone to, to paraphrase a quote from the movie it isn’t a ghost story, it is a story with ghosts.  Mia Wasikowska and Tom Hiddleston are good, Jessica Chastain is fantastic and clearly having a blast.crimson peak

It Follows: Another  movie of the month winner that just misses my top ten; Superior horror with an original antagonist.  The style and the soundtrack are reminicent of the late 70’s and early 80’s.  Maika Monroe impresses in the lead, a young star on the rise to look out for.It Follows

Man Up: British romantic comedy centring on the fallout of a woman who finds herself on someone else’s blind date.  Lake Bell is fantastic and Simon Pegg provides good support.Man Up

SPECTRE: Skyfall was my favourite film of 2012, following Skyfall always going to be an impossible task, and to say isn’t as good doesn’t mean it isn’t a really good film.  Pulling together all the elements of the previous three films to create a story arc for Daniel Craig’s Bond feels forced but taken on its own merits it really works.SPECTRE

The Gift: A confident début as feature director by actor Joel Edgerton.  What starts out looking like an 80’s/90’s yuppies in peril thriller becomes something far more interesting. Edgerton co stars with Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, all three are excellent. The end has divided opinion, but I think it is perfect for the film.

The Gift Gordo

The Gift Gordo

The Lobster: Set in a strange unexplained dystopian society where single people are turned into an animal of their choosing if they fail to find a partner.  The strangest film I have seen for a very long time, I really loved it, but I am really not sure why.the lobster

The Martian: Held together by a great turn from Matt Damon but kept tripping along by director Ridley Scott who has crafted a surprisingly funny and easy going movie.  Scott’s best film since the underrated Kingdom of Heaven a decade ago.the martian

Wild: The true story of Cheryl Strayed, a young woman who decided to walk the thousand-mile Pacific Crest Trail.  We begin to understand  her motivation through flashbacks as the film unfolds.  Well constructed with great use of music and an excellent performance from Reese Witherspoon.Wild

Watch this space for my top ten of the year some time before Christmas.  

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The busiest month of the year so far with a huge variety of films ranging from the disposable to a  couple of instant classics.

We Are Your Friends: A story about friendship and loyalty.  Zac Efron and Wes Bentley impress as an up and coming DJ and a jaded superstar respectively.  At its best when they are making music.We Are Your Friends

Straight Outta Compton: Story of pioneers of Gangsta Rap NWA.  The story is by the numbers and very sympathetic towards its characters but is hugely entertaining and enjoyable.Straight Outta Compton

The Transporter Refuelled: Pointless remake of a franchise that has already been stretched too thin.the transporter Ed Skreintake

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: A high-school student and armature filmmakers is forced by his mother to befriend a girl diagnosed with leukaemia. The pair become friends for real and result in a film that manages to funny at the same time as being heartfelt and touching.  The film reference will amuse movie fans and go over the heads of others.Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

American Ultra: A stoner comedy crossed with a spy/hitman thriller.  Some great scenes but not always as funny as it should be.  Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are great together as they were in Adventureland.American Ultra

Ricki And The Flash: A ageing singer who abandoned her family years before chasing dreams of becoming a rock star returns home at a time of crisis. You know you are in safe hands with a film directed by Jonathan Demme with a script by Diablo Cody.  Meryl Streep is fantastic, the characters are good but the film feels a little episodic.Ricki And The Flash

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials:  Follow up to the Maze Runner.  It doesn’t work as a standalone film as it lacks a begging and an end.  The action scenes are good, as are the young cast but the film lacks the intrigue and the great concept of the first film.  There are clearly twists and turns to come in the plot in the final film The Death Cure due out in 2017.Maze Runner The Scorch Trials

Legend: Tom Hardy is brilliant in a duel role as both the Kray twins.  Emily Browning tries hard in an underdeveloped part, the rest of the characters are thinly written and forgettable.  The film captures the look and the vibe of 60’s London but is glossy and lacks any real depth.  It is however well worth watching for Hardy.legend

Everest: Based on the true story of an ill-fated attempt to climb the worlds tallest mountain in 1996.  The large cast are all good but the star of the film is the photography that is breathtaking on Imax.  If you don’t already know the story go in with as little knowledge as possible.Everest

The Visit: A pair of young siblings spend the week with their grandparents who they have not previously met.  The reveal won’t come as any surprise but the film is fun along the way.  Of the ones I have seen it is M. Night Shyamalan’s best movie for a decade.The Visit

A Walk in the Woods: Adaptation of Bill Bryson’s book of the same name about his attempt to walk the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail.  Robert Redford and Nick Nolte have great chemistry.  The film has some funny moments but in a year that gave us Wild it feels a little flimsy in comparison.

A WALK IN THE WOODS

Sicario: Emily Blunt plays an idealistic and naïve FBI agent who gets drawn into a shady joint task force in the war on drugs.  Blunt and her co stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are all fantastic.  Roger Deakins photography is a spectacular as you would expect and Denis Villeneuve’s direction is sublime.  It doesn’t have anything new to say, but equally it doesn’t tell the audience what to think.sicario

The Martian: Matt Damon plays an astronaut who has to find a way to survive when is left for dead on Mars.  Held together by a great turn from Damon but kept tripping along by director Ridley Scott who has crafted a surprisingly funny and easy going movie.  Scott’s best film since the underrated Kingdom of Heaven a decade ago.The Martian

Ultimately there was no competition, the movie of the month is: sicariSicario character Posters

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