Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Martian

This week for Hit Me With Your Best Shot Nathaniel at The Film Experience is taking a week off and so I thought it would be fun to continue the series and ask my twitter followers for a suggestion. My follower Ken Gardner was first to pipe in with The Martian as his suggestion and I was happy to comply! I think I will do this more because it was fun to have something completely unpredictable to watch.

I have previously reviewed The Martian so you will want to check out that review here. Back in 2015 it was one of my favorites of the year, so does it hold up? Yes, yes it does!

Back in my original review I said ” I loved the character of Mark Watney and found even the smallest victories compelling. Plus, the overall story of his rescue is so exciting!” and I’d still agree with that assessment. If you don’t bond with Mark and Matt Damon’s performance than you won’t like this movie. It’s as simple as that. Fortunately I did so I had a blast watching it, even on the rewatch.

I think what makes him so great is he is an optimist. I’m so tired of cynical movies with bitter characters. Here you have a man who has every reason to give up but he doesn’t. He keeps going and he does so in such a likable engaging way. When he cheers, you cheer. When he faces obstacles you feel tense and frustrated. That is SOOO refreshing.

A lot of the success comes from the novel that manages to explain the science without being boring. I know nothing about thermodynamics, botany or physics but author Andy Weir and screenwriter Drew Goddard do such a good job breaking the science down, making the simplest of things compelling and easy to understand. When Mark creates water for instance or grows potatoes it isn’t confusing but a thrilling victory.

Ridley Scott also does a great job creating a believable Mars environment that feels barren and yet beautiful. It’s what I imagine Mars looks like, which is really all that is required of a director.

I admit the ending is a bit sillier than in the book but the ensemble cast is so good I buy it. I love that the entire world cheers the rescue of one man. How great would that be if we could all grasp the value of the one person? I love movies that make me cheer and The Martian definitely is one of those films.

All that said, my best shot is probably fairly pedestrian. The reason this movie works is Matt Damon. He earns his Oscar nomination for best actor by creating a believable survivalist that I was rooting for all along the way. I love Mark Watney in the novel, and I love him in this film, and I think you have to give a lot of the credit for that to Matt Damon. He makes him a character we want to be saved.

Just as he is telling us how bad a situation he is in, Mark reminds us he is a botanist and “Mars will come to fear my botany powers“. This is my favorite shot because it encapsulates the script and character of Mark, which is so much fun to watch.

Make sure you are following me on twitter for my daily superhero showdown and other opportunities to suggests videos and posts like this one!

Review Rewinds 6/13/2017

Today I am continuing in my monthly series of Review Rewinds!  This is a new series where I look at old reviews that I am either higher or lower on with the rewatch. My initial reviews are still valid as my initial response but I think it is perfectly fine to grow and change in opinions over time. Here goes:

Minions– Original Score C-. Rewind Score D

I wasn’t very high on Minions when I saw it. In the review I said “it was cute but I didn’t laugh.” My main excuse for the film was that it was ‘made for little kids’ but then I admit “but it has those adult moments which are unfortunate”.

On the rewatch I couldn’t even give it the kid credit because of the lewd humor and the boring story. It just did nothing for me and by the end of the year it ended up on my worst of the year list. The worst thing about it is it just isn’t funny at all and the story is all over the place. I’ve really grown to dislike the picture.

Independence Day Resurgence– Original Score C. Rewind Score D

The most likely candidate for a rewind review is movies I come out feeling meh on. In my original review of Independence Day: Resurgence I said “it all felt a little forgettable and silly but not necessarily in a good way. It just was ok. The acting was ok. The special effects are ok. The story is ok.”

On retrospect that’s just not good enough. I still don’t think ID2 is one of the worst films of last year but it is very boring. It really feels like nobody even tried to make a good movie here and in that regard they deserved all the disdain they got- especially because the original is so beloved to many.

I was pretty critical of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One but those films are leagues better than Independence Day Resurgence.  This deserves a D.

Age of Adaline– Original Score C- Rewind Score B+

I must own I am not finding many reviews I think I was too tough on for this Rewind project. However, one that I think qualifies is Age of Adaline. In the original review I said “it’s fine. I’m glad I saw it but it’s a definite mixed bag.”

I loved Blake Lively as the lead and Michiel Huisman as her hunky love interest. I also praise Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker as “very good” in their roles. My main issues with the movie are the narration, which I still think is horrible as it attempts to “take out the magic and make it about science”. Also I criticize the “dopey dialogue” and that “it would have been nice to see more of her in the different ages”

It’s fair criticisms but I found on the rewatch they didn’t matter as much. I thought Lively was strong enough in the role and the chemistry between all was so good I enjoyed it. Plus, I think there is something interesting about a woman from the 30s confronting modern life- not in a time machine way but in a ‘I’ve lived through it all and seen how we got here’ way.

I think Age of Adaline is worth a watch.

So there are my Review Rewinds for this month. What do you think of these 3 films? Please put in the comments section.

My Cousin Rachel Review

One of the indies I was looking forward to this summer is My Cousin Rachel. I really disliked Lady Macbeth at Sundance and MCR seemed like a similar style of movie but being based on a Daphne du Maurier novel it might be more to my taste. Today I had the chance to see My Cousin Rachel and it is definitely better than Lady Macbeth but in the end it’s just an ok film not great.

My Cousin Rachel is about a man named Philip (Sam Claflin) who is raised by his cousin. One day he finds out his cousin has married a woman named Rachel (Rachel Weisz) and then quickly died. Philip then rushes to defend his cousin’s honor only to be swept up in the wickedly ways of this woman.

There are a lot of positives to My Cousin Rachel. My favorite part was the beautiful cinematography and production design. It had everything you want in a period piece to feel immersed and swept away. It reminded me of Far From the Madding Crowd from 2015. In fact, there is one scene where they are celebrating with the servants that was nearly identical.

I also thought Rachel Weisz was excellent. She keeps her performance very even-keeled, except for rare moments of theatrics. This is a movie that would be ruined by a loud exasperated performance. It keeps the mystery afloat because she is so sedate and hard to read.

The ending to the film is also surprising, and I like that it didn’t feel the need to answer every question and explain every character’s motivation. It kept it from feeling boring.

The downside is a little hard to talk about without spoilers but I will try. Basically Philip is a complete moron to a point that feels hard to believe. Some of the stuff seemed natural for a man infatuated but other stuff was impossible any sane human being wouldn’t pick up on or question. At one point after a revelation I leaned over to my friend and said ‘Duh!’ because it was so obvious.

It makes it less of a thriller and more of a pathetic romance. You are basically watching this weak loser get manipulated by a strong woman, which is entertaining but not in the way I was anticipating from a Daphne du Maurier thriller.

Also Sam Claflin felt a little out of his league with Weisz. He seemed like a poor man’s Michael Fassbender for most of the film. Maybe if he was a little younger looking like a Tom Holland type it might be more believable? He was so stupid and he didn’t have the gravitas or screen presence to pull off a role like this (like a Fassbender would be able to). I think he is better as a supporting character/love interest like he was in Their Finest.

But all in all, My Cousin Rachel, was an entertaining film. It’s not one I will remember for years to come or anything like that but it’s worth checking out for Rachel Weisz’ performance and beautiful production values.

It’s also not that long for this kind of film (106 minutes) which makes it a decent watch. Still, if they had a more magnetic lead actor and made Philip a little less of a dolt it would have compelled me more, but oh well.

It is rated PG-13 for some sensuality and one scene of violence towards women.

Overall Grade- B-

Utah Movie Club 1: Boatniks Review

Hey guys! I’m so excited to share with you a new development in my life. I have movie friends! Not just all of you lovely readers but actual friends who are as into movies as I am! Recently I became friends with 2 movie buffs Phaedra Johnson and Stanford Clark. They are totally awesome and you should check out their blogs.



I have been to many movies with one or both of them and had a great time. They will even see obscure animation with me like My Entire High School Sinking in the Sea! And they both love Your Name as much as I do!!

We have decided to start up a Utah Movie Club where each month we get together and watch a film together and yesterday was the first meeting. Phaedra couldn’t make it but hopefully she will soon and it will continue to grow.

This month we decided to watch the Disney comedy The Boatniks. It was based on my suggestion as I had recently seen it and thought it was charming. It seemed like a good fit to start off summer.

My review of The Boatniks!:

In many ways the Boatniks feels like a comedy from a forgotten era. Now I rarely go to comedies because they are so raunchy and crass that they don’t interest me. Just this summer alone there are 6 hard R comedies. The Boatniks has a few adult moments but is still something I would have no problem watching with my family and having some laughs.

The Boatniks is about a marina in Southern California that is managed by the US Coast Guard. Things get nutty when 3 jewel thieves and try to take their contraband to Mexico and have tons of problems getting a boat. Crazy shenanigans begin! There is also a new recruit named Tom Garland who has one mishap after another- all while trying to charm a local boat renter named Kate.

The highlight of the Boatniks is the jewel thieves played by Phil Silvers, Mickey Shaughnessy and Norman Fell. I especially love Phil Silvers who I think could read the phone book and make me laugh. They go through about every kind of boat, plane and even submarine you could imagine trying to get those jewels to Mexico.

I also thought Stephanie Powers and Robert Morse were charming as Tom and Kate if a little bit forgettable. Don Ameche is also hilarious as Tom’s exasperated commander.

The Boatniks is on a sitcom level of entertainment. It’s not reinventing the wheel like say Monty Python might but it is a charming comedy nonetheless. Watching it made me yearn for the Disney comedies of old where you could watch and enjoy them together as a family and have a great time together. At the very least it is worth seeing for Phil Silvers who owns every scene he is in.

Overall Grade- B

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Parent Trap (1961)

This week for Hit Me With Your Best Shot Nathaniel over at the Film Experience has selected a film right up my alley- The Parent Trap (1961).  This is the original version of the movie. Not the superb remake starring Lindsay Lohan in 1998 (that’s how you do a remake right!).  I’m excited to talk about this film because I really do adore it.  It is one of my favorite live action Disney films.

The premise is simple enough. 2 girls meet at camp and surprise! They happen to look just like each other. It turns out they are twins separated at birth. Now they start up a scheme to switch places and bring their parents back together again. It’s not the most original story in the world but it is what they do with it that works so well. And most of the credit goes to the charismatic and wonderful cast. Hayley Mills is amazing as the twins. She gives them each individual personalities and manners of talking. Even when they have the same haircut and clothing I still know clearly who is Susan and who is Sharon.

I also love Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith as the parents. They have terrific chemistry together and you buy these two people have always been in love with each other but have let their passionate natures keep them apart. I even love it when she ends up slugging him in the eye in one spirited argument. It feels believable for their characters that it might happen. Under all that fiestiness is of course passion and love for each other. It is classic!

The movie is also really funny. I love Maureen O’hara when she flirts it up with the local Reverend (Leo Carroll) come to go over wedding plans for Mitch and his fiance Vicky (Joanna Barnes). She is hilarious as she drives her ex crazy in front of the Reverend in a bath robe!

Vicky is a very stock gold digging horrible girlfriend you often see in romantic comedies. They can’t have her be too great or we won’t want him to get together with Maggie very much. However, here the trope works because they get a lot of humor out of it. I love when the girls submarine her on the camping trip because I could be equally spooked in the great outdoors. I hate camping and if bear cubs were licking my feet I would have words just like Vicky!

The beginning scenes at camp are also hilarious with the most epic sabotage in movies. I think every kid dreams of pulling those kind of pranks off at camp or with their friends. (I was never big into being pranked but I thought the idea of it was hilarious). It never becomes dour or depressing but is light and fun.

Now to my best shot. I realize this movie caused some controversy upon its release because many kids felt they could get their divorced parents back together. This is perhaps a strange testament to the effectiveness of the picture, but I think these complaints miss a key point of the film. Parent Trap isn’t saying all parents should get back together. Of course not. It is just saying THESE TWO PEOPLE should get back together.

As I said, Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith have palatable chemistry together. They belong together. It’s as clear as day. The final scene when they talk and embrace is really well written, and I love when Mitch tells Maggie all the silly things he misses about her, and she tells him to wash the stew off of his shirt. It’s just great romantic comedy writing.

So, I picked this picture of the two smiling at each other.  This is why the movie works and why I love it.


What do you think of Parent Trap 1961 or do you prefer the remake? Put in the comments section and what would be your best shot? Please share!

Overall Grade- A

Dreamworks 6: Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

If you have been reading this blog for some time you know I am not often a fan of Dreamworks comedies. The parody style of humor just isn’t my thing. However, every once in a while they produce a Mr Peabody and Sherman that I do like, so I always go in with an open mind (why waste my time if I decide ahead of the movie I’m not going to like it?). Fortunately, their newest film Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie is such a welcome surprise. It is not only very funny but extremely creative in the animation to boot.

One of the things that makes Captain Underpants special is it was made for a micro-budget of only $38 million! Dreamworks outsourced the film to a separate studio called Mikros Images in Canada as kind of an experiment in more manageable movie-making.  This smaller budget forced the team to be creative with the animation and storytelling and it shows. They even joke about it once during an action scene where the narrator says ‘this would have been very expensive but here’s what would have happened!” LOL.

I was so impressed by the way the movie uses different types of animation to tell the story. It is of course based on the popular books by Dav Pilkey but this isn’t just made for the fans of the books. The main animation has a flat yet 3D effect similar to what we saw from Blue Sky in The Peanuts Movie (an underrated film if you ask me!), but the film doesn’t stop there. It incorporates 2D animation, both sketch and traditional styles, and even has a live action sock puppet sequence! These choices weren’t merely gimmicks but kept the movie feeling fresh and surprising.

The other strength of Captain Underpants is how funny it is. Nicholas Stoller who wrote The Muppets and Storks has upped his game making a hilarious script. It does have a lot of toilet humor and normally I hate that but for whatever reason in this film I laughed. I’ve even seen it twice and both times I’ve laughed (sometimes more than the kids around me. True story!).  I think part of it is the movie goes for broke not holding back. They even have a character named Professor Poopypants and it consistently made me laugh.

I think it also helps that the two lead boys Harold and George are so likable and charming. They have big smiles and all the pranks and silliness they do is to make the kids at their terrible school happy. I loved the creativity of the boys and that they were designing their own comic books and stories. This is a good example for kids who spend too much time consuming entertainment and not creating their own art.

I loved that the two boys were effortlessly diverse- meaning you had a black and white kid and it did not matter at all. It was never mentioned or made a plot point.  They were just friends as they should be. It was also very funny that the greatest trauma in their lives is getting put in separate classes. I remember as a kid anxiously waiting to find out if my friends would be in the same class as me. Harold says “long distance relationships never work out” LOL.

It’s interesting because out of all the characters Captain Underpants is probably the most forgettable part. He is part strict principal and part superhero, which is fun, but he mainly serves as a touch-point for the boys to react off of. I liked the boys so much I was kind of glad they were the main focus.

I really only have 2 small complaints about Captain Underpants. The first is I wish they had used children as the voice actors. Kevin Hart and Thomas Middleditch are fine (Ed Helms as Captain Underpants) but it would have been more immersive if they sounded like children.

In the next movie it would be nice to get to know some of the other kids (you do meet  tattle-tale Melvin voiced by Jordan Peele). Again to use The Peanuts Movie as an example, we get to meet more than just Charlie Brown and Snoopy but the whole gang instead.  Hopefully there will be a Second Epic Movie because I really enjoyed this introduction!

Captain Underpants: the First Epic Movie is made for children. It doesn’t have the winking adults-only humor that I hate in animation. It’s humor for kids but it still made me chuckle. The animation is surprising and inventive and the friendship of the boys gives the whole project heart. Check it out and support this new style of filmmaking from Dreamworks!

Oh and the Weird Al theme song is great!

Overall Grade- A-

Wonder Woman Review

It’s always hard to write about movies I love. There’s a feeling that my opinion won’t be taken seriously or will be regarded as hyperbole. And for a movie I really love it can feel like throwing pearls before swine. Obviously that isn’t the case as you, my readers, are amazing and know me well enough that I do not rubber stamp movies or give any franchise a pass. When I say I love a movie it is because it is deserved.

All that said- I LOVE Wonder Woman. And it’s not just because it’s the best DCEU film. And it’s not because it is the first decent female led superhero movie (although I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a little meaningful to me). It’s because it spoke to me on an emotional level and entertained me in every way I can think of.

You could make the case that Wonder Woman follows a traditional origin story formula and I would agree with you but much like Moana it executes that formula so well. In both films, I deeply care about the characters and their journey.However, as much as I love Moana, Wonder Woman is even better. I just loved it so much.

The story is pretty simple and comes right from the comic books. Wonder Woman is Diana who is raised on the island of Themyscira among the all-female Amazons. She is the daughter of Queen Hippolyta and was created out of clay by her mother and Zeus. One day a soldier named Steve Trevor lands on their beach and Diana decides to become involved in World War 1 and try to save the people. Updating the conflict from World War 2 to World War 1 was very smart as the senselessness of World War 1 is far more obvious. Plus, you have the horrors of nerve gas and trench warfare in World War 1 to put as a backdrop.

I won’t tell you any more so you can experience it yourself but the key to this film working is Diana and Steve. Gal Gadot is effervescent, innocent and wonderful as Wonder Woman and Chris Pine is perfect as Steve. The two have incredible chemistry, and I really cared about them and their stories. This is not a film that empowers women at the expense of men. They are both needed and valued and their love is what is powerful. All love is powerful.

The journey Wonder Woman goes on puts it above most other superhero movies I’ve seen. She learns about not only the cost of war but the ease at which humans excuse that cost as nothing. I cried a lot both times when watching the film because I found her realization of human evil to be incredibly moving.

A lot of people criticize some superhero movies for having a lack of stakes. Not the case here. No spoilers but there is a price to pay for fighting evil and here it couldn’t be more devastating. And the resolution is far from tidy but more of a momentary breath and pause before we know mankind will succumb again to the worst in their nature.

You see the true villain in Wonder Woman is war itself and the corruptible nature of mankind that so often embraces it. Some have said Wonder Woman feels like a Marvel movie instead of a DC movie. Never mind the many DC movies that were far sillier than this (cough Green Lantern cough) but I think they are missing the point. Previous DCEU films like Batman v Superman are built on a traditional masculine energy and style of filmmaking. With Wonder Woman we get something entirely different. There is more of a traditional feminine energy to it. It is about emotions and relationships and that is why it is so moving. Even when it gets bombastic it does so because of despair and love.

That’s not to say Wonder Woman isn’t fun. It does have comedic moments to lighten the mood and those work as well. There’s also great action that will satisfy the action gurus of your group but again what was special to me is the emotional journey of a woman facing the horrors of war.

I really only have 2 tiny nitpicks with Wonder Woman. The accents on Themyscira are a little cheesy. I understand why they did it to match Gadot’s Israeli accent but it doesn’t quite work. They also use a slow motion effect in the action scenes a little bit too much. There is a villain reveal that could have been handled better but since the true villain was war itself I did not care. Aside from that, I thought Wonder Woman was spectacular.

I won’t give a ranking just yet but it is definitely one of my favorite superhero movies I’ve ever seen. Congrats to Patty Jenkins and everyone involved for finally giving me a blockbuster I actually cared about!  Thank you!

And thank you for giving little girls the superhero they should have had a long time ago

Overall Grade- A

For parents there is some war violence that might be concerning and some nudity/sensuality.