The Martian – The movie review

Thankfully The Martian is Ridley Scott’s best film in a decade. It’s not a perfect adaptation of Andy Weir’s compelling page turner, but it comes pretty close. Matt Damon is a fine fit as Mark Watney, the botanist engineer stranded on Mars when he’s assumed dead by his crew. 

Jessica Chastain is excellent as the captain of said mission, and the rest of the casting is pretty excellent too. (Sean Bean has a terrific Lord of The Rings in-joke during a NASA meeting). 

Though fans of the novel will probably moan about the speed with which problems are solved and certain key elements are jettisoned, the essence of the book remains: one man’s attempt to stay alive with a mix of smarts, humour and resourcefulness. 

  

Though I was mentally yelling “Slow down,” at certain points, this mix of Apollo 13 and Gravity is bound to be an instant crowd pleaser thanks to that terrific third act. 

A shame the final five minutes are tagged on. The book has a lean, snappy finale, but Scott’s movie (perhaps intentionally) ends like some TV series. ‘You have been watching…’ kind of thing.  

The effects and score are all great, and while not perfect, it’s light years ahead of Scott’s previous let downs Prometheus and risible The Counsellor. 

Welcome home Ridley. You’ve spent too long in the blockbuster wilderness. Nice to see you back where you belong. 

Now get the Alien saga back on track. Please. 

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Blindspot vs Minority Report

“Who am I? Who are you? Why I have I got these strange tattoos inked over my body?”

That, in a nutshell, is the premise for the first half of Blindspot, the fast paced, stylish new thriller series starring Thor veteran Jamie Alexander, and Sullivan Stapleton, that bloke from 300 sequel, Rise of an Empire.

It starts off well with a gripping opening in Times Square, when our heroine, Jane Doe, steps blinking into the neon lights, with little idea of who she is or what she is capable of.

Of course, we the viewer are struck with a nagging sense of déjà vu. 

Echoes of The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Prison Break resonate through this inaugural episode.

For me it was for more watchable than Minority Report, the TV spin-off from the Steven Spielberg’s film. Although impressive, I didn’t really engage with any of the lead characters, and although clever, the slick futuristic setting got on my nerves after a while.

Maybe it was the fact that in 2002 this dystopian future seemed relatively fresh and original, with advertising following the protagonist everywhere they went.

13 years later, it seems little has changed, with a remake of Total Recall echoing the same idea.

Given the wealth of original ideas writer Philip K Dick gave us before his death in the early 80s, it’s a shame TV and film makers don’t tap into that resource more, instead of remaking old films based on his work.

The Scorch Trials – The Review

The Maze Runner was one of my favourite dystopian YA fantasies of last year, a surprisingly dark, enigmatic, well acted version of a novel I haven’t read. 
The tale of a bunch of eclectic teens trying to escape from a giant labyrinth sustained the attention throughout. 

However, as we all know, the bridging movie of any trilogy is always a tricky hurdle to overcome, and as Hobbit 2, Hunger Games 2 and Insurgent all left me gnashing my teeth, I didn’t hold out much hope for this chapter. 

Admittedly it fell into a few annoying traps. Lots of running; in fact you could imagine the director shouting “Energy… And action!” before each take. 

The tokenism was also annoying, especially when characters started falling victim to zombies, lightning strikes and the like. It’s a cast of characters chosen by committee to appeal to demographics rather than believable individuals thrown together at random. 

  
There was the age appropriate seasoned actress (see also The Divergent and Hunger Games saga) and clothes that all looked like they’d been bought off the peg and wouldn’t wear out no matter how much attrition was thrown at them. However, despite some cliches (a character’s revelation in the third act may as well have featured the on screen stage direction: ’Enter the enemy helicopters the second the bombshell has been dropped’).   

The best set piece was set in a half collapsed skyscraper, a heroine stranded on a pane of cracking glass. Instant tension compounded by a sudden zombie attack. Brilliantly done. 

By the end I was ready to leave, but hadn’t had a wasted experience. Even the mobile phone on the front row didn’t detract too much from the drama. 

Roll on part three. 

Legend (2015): The Review 

I had my misgivings about seeing a gangster biopic about those London twins, but Tom Hardy made it worthwhile. His portrayal of the one with the glasses was astonishing. Every time he was on screen it was impossible to tear your eyes from his. It wasn’t just that he’d donned a pair of specs. Tom had assumed a completely different character. 

Hardy playing the one without the glasses was almost as compelling, a dashing, charismatic gangster. 

It was easy to compare those twins to the Gekko brothers in From Dusk Til Dawn, the smooth one and the bespectacled psycho.   

Writer director Brian Helgeland does a good job juggling the script and evoking the era. 

Okay, I spent the whole film thinking Emily Browning was Felicity Jones. She proved worthwhile as the obligatory ill fated abused wife, while the superb David Thewlis was under used as the twins’ legal accomplice. 

At times it came across as a jet black comedy thanks to Hardy’s powerhouse performances. That title was always going to be contentious, seemingly praising the brothers at the heart of the drama, but rooting for anti heroes has long been a staple of cinema and this movie is not going to reverse the fact. 

The characters are not legends. But it is an entertaining film.