Martian Movie Review

Guys I’ve got a great movie to tell you about!!

First, I want to say that I finished reading the book The Martian by Andrew Weir this week and loved it.  I normally don’t like a lot of modern novels but this book resisted the modern cliche of having the lead character be all brooding and conflicted.  It had the audaciousness to have a lead current-day character that is actually likable!!!  I seriously feel like that is so rare in modern books (even YA we get a lot of Bellas and dystopian brooding characters snooze…).

In both the movie and the book I loved the character of Mark Watney and found even the smallest victories compelling.  Plus, the overall story of his rescue is so exciting!

martianIf you don’t know The Martian is about an astronaut named Mark (Matt Damon) who is left in a storm by his crew on Mars.   Each day then presents Mark with a series of problems, which he uses his know-how as a botanist and scientist to solve.

martian8I never thought I would be so excited for a character growing potatoes but I’m telling you in both the book and movie it is so thrilling when he harvests crops on Mars just based on his ingenuity and smarts.

He’s also such a likable character.  In the movie and book much of his personality is presented through daily logs that he does.  In these entries he is serious but also extremely funny.  It feels like a well-rounded real person.  Matt Damon is just nerdy enough and cool enough to pass off both sides of Mark’s personality.  It really worked!

martian5It is perhaps easy to compare The Martian to Interstellar because both have Matt Damon as a marooned astronaut but they are totally different films.  One is a philosophical treatise on the meaning of life and the connection of individuals and the other is an engrossing action movie about a man trying to get rescued and survive.

It is perhaps closer to Gravity but that is really more of a thriller with Sandra Bullock’s character being much less of an expert and more a helpless pedestrian in space who has to figure out a way home. The tone in films is very different. I loved all 3 films so it is good company any way!

martian7The surrounding players around Damon really helped as well.  To me there wasn’t a single misfire in the cast. Director Ridley Scott did a great job and that is saying something considering some recent misfires like Exodus: Gods and Kings.   Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, and more play the crew that leaves Mark for dead.  For not being in that many scenes they are fleshed out characters that have to make difficult decisions about their lives verses one man left behind. Throughout the movie there is a looming question- ‘how valuable is one human being?’.

Jeff Daniels is great as the head of NASA. He has to deal with the bureaucratic side of things and could have been a one note bad man executive character but he’s not.  He’s practical but wants to do what is right as well.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is the mission director who becomes an advocate for Mark and in a way helps narrate the story back at home.  Kristen Wiig is the PR rep for NASA and she does a good job being practical like needing a good photo of Mark on Mars to sell the public on him while still intensely caring for him too.

Sean Bean is a director who refuses to see the practical, bureaucratic side of things and Donald Glover is a young astronomer who has a breakthrough that helps the rescue.  They all make such good use of their minimal screen time.

martian2I was totally engrossed in this picture.  It is the kind of film you want to finish and cheer.  And this works because Mark is such a good person.  You want to believe in the value of one person and that such effort would be made to rescue the one. A side of me kind of wishes it was a true story especially when the Chinese get involved.  Wouldn’t it be great if we were all rooting for the same humans?

With Gravity there is a sense of relief when she is free from danger but it’s the kind of relief that you get at the end of a thriller.  The bad guy (outer space) is defeated and the character can breath.  The Martian is a triumph of human being over insane odds so it has more a tone of a Rocky movie or a sports movie with the underdog finishing victorious!

martian3It’s a cliche but I literally was on the edge of my seat.  I was leaning as close to the screen as I could get I was so anxious for everything to work out.  I couldn’t have been more absorbed in the film.  And just as in the book each victory for Mark makes you smile.  It’s so satisfying!!

As far as content it is on a whole pretty tame.  There are 4 F words and a few other profanities.  You do see Matt Damon’s butt in a scene and he does surgery on himself that is bloody.  That’s it.  I have to say I would feel comfortable taking mature kids and teens to The Martian.  It actually could inspire kids to see so many creative uses for science and math used by a variety of different personalities.

I loved The Martian in both book and movie form.  I recommend reading the book first and then seeing the movie if you can.  I did not see it in 3D or on Imax but I am sure it is cool in those formats.

Definitely my favorite live action film of the year.  Go see it!

Overall Grade- A+ Content Grade – B-

Here’s my youtube review.

Interstellar Review

interstellar-poster-3I just finally got back from seeing Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi space movie Interstellar and my response is WOW! In a way my experience with this movie was kind of unique when compared with other bloggers and reviews you might see.  Most people were extremely excited for this movie and then when it was different and more challenging than they expected they were disappointed (at least most people I know).  I on the other hand because I had waited had the opposite situation.  I was expecting to be bored and was totally engrossed.  So perhaps chalk it up to low expectations but I thought it was great!   I am also not a Christopher Nolan fangirl.  I love Inception but his other very popular movies I am more mixed on because I do not like scary or violent movies.

interstellar3I also am a huge fan of 2013’s Gravity and I wondered if I could tolerate another space movie since that one was done so well.  Well in my opinion Interstellar is an entirely different experience from Gravity.   It is like a combination of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Wrinkle in Time (wrap your brain around that).  Gravity is more of a thriller in space where this is a sci-fi drama.

I will try and tell you the plot but I actually don’t think the plot matters that much.  It’s about the experience of characters more than the intricacies of black holes and tesseracts. It’s kind of like in Star Wars we didn’t need to know all the  mumbo jumbo about midi-chlorians  and how the force works.  We just need to see that it is working.  We didn’t need to know about trade alliances and intergalactic treaties.  We just needed to know these are the good guys, this is the obstacle and these are the bad guys.  That’s the difference between the prequels which fail and the originals that succeed (and terrible acting, special effects and writing…)

With Interstellar I do not need one more minutia explained to me.  I just need to see it happen and how the characters react as they face challenges.  That’s it and it does it very well with stunning imagery and relationships that feel genuine and sincere.  Some have said it is boring.  I honestly did not feel that way.  I was engrossed the whole way.  To me Interstellar checks every box of a great sci-fi film.  It has characters I like, cool setting, action, mounting tension and strong allegorical or teaching plot elements.  Again, I do not need to know anything about the science. It could be complete hokum and it wouldn’t matter because within the world of the movie it works.  A lot of people hate the ending but I found it emotionally moving and again right what I wanted in a good sci-fi movie.

interestellar5The heart of the movie is a man named Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey.  He is an engineer/farmer who lives in Texas with his 2 children and father in-law (Mackenzie Foy, Timothee Chalamet and John Lithgow respectively).  It feels like a real family and the movie does a good job building up their relationships in the early sections.

interstellar6They are living in a dust-bowl world where crops are dying and the human race is in danger.  It is unclear what the timeframe for the world’s destruction is but again that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is we have an ending and a reason to go into space. Cooper had been a skilled pilot and through various means he and his daughter named Murphy meet a man named Prof Brand played by Michael Cain and his daughter Dr Amelia Brand played by Anne Hathaway.   They have been operating NASA under secret with a plan to dive into a wormhole to find 3 potentially habitable planets.  The hope is they can move the human race to these planets as earth is dying.

interstellar4Cooper is recruited to lead the mission but he knows going into the wormhole will likely mean his family will age ahead of him because of the theory of relativity.  His daughter Murphy tries to get him to stay but he goes and she is very bitter for some time.  Eventually she grows up to be both Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burystyn who actually all look a lot like little Mackenzie Foy so it works.  Casey Affleck plays the son Tom as an adult. He stays hopeful longer but eventually is forced to give up on his father but he stays in the old home running the farm.

interstellar7Amelia, Cooper, 2 other astronauts and 2 robots (who I loved. They have different comedy and truth telling settings. I kept waiting for them to be creepy robots but they weren’t)  are on the mission. Fairly quickly they get through the wormhole and must decide what planet to try and visit first (astronauts had been sent to all the planets previously).  They end up meeting up with another astronaut played by Matt Damon and have one challenge and adventure after another.  Their relationships are tested and they have to make difficult decisions to save themselves, their family and the human race.  Now that is drama!  I don’t want to give much more away about the plot.  But again I really thought the ending worked for this kind of story and movie.

The robots
The robots

It hopefully goes without saying that the special effects are astonishing and they feel palatable and real not like a green screen world.  There is humor mixed in with tense scenes where I honestly did not know what was going to happen.  That’s a real accomplishment in 2014 to make a sci-fi movie that surprises people.  There are very few character tropes and contrivances needed.  Just a story about relationships, family and exploration in space!  It’s like the Lewis and Clark of space movies.

intestellar2Most movie fans that I know look back at 1969 Oscars and wonder ‘how the heck did 2001: A Space Odyssey not get nominated for Best Picture?”.  I mean it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but to not even get nominated is ridiculous.  After all, how many people are still talking about Oliver! these days!  I have a funny feeling we will have the same experience in 2061 with Interstellar.  We will wonder what the heck were they thinking nominating a forgettable movie like The Theory of Everything over Interstellar? It’s kind of sad actually.  I only wish I had waited to do my best of 2014 because this and several other recent views would certainly have made the list.

The only problem I had with the movie was I did not care for the score.  Hanz Zimmer is great but I found the  music to be overbearing, too loud and at times distracting.  I would have gone with a more soft, subtle score like they had in Gravity which had long stretches with no music at all.

But that is a very small complaint.  I loved it! A great sci-fi movie.

As far as content there isn’t much to offend.  It does have tension and maybe one swear that I noticed but it’s pretty clean.  Kids might find it hard to follow but it just depends on the kid.  If they like sci-fi movies than they may love it. It’s certainly always good for kids to see movies that challenge them and make them think in new ways.  Interstellar will totally do that.

Overall Grade- A+  Content Grade- A