Please leave him on Mars

Please leave him on Mars

What is the best thing about The Martian? I believe no animals were harmed during the making of the film. Unfortunately, I can’t make the same claim about human beings unless you go to the movies to be bored. If that’s the case, then this movie is for you. What a huge, major disappointment.

There is absolutely no tension whatsoever in this movie. Matt Damon is Mark Watney, an astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars when his crew believes he has been killed in the storm that forces them to abandon the planet. This sounds like a great premise that will keep you on the edge of your seat. But, the light, spunky, throwaway “I Will Survive” tone of the movie not only robs it of any suspense but also makes it seem like being stranded on Mars is no biggie. There are tons of people back on earth at NASA wringing their hands and telling us how horrible it is and Jeff Daniels is apparently without warning woken up out of bed to appear in the movie and proclaim doom.

The problem is I don’t believe it for one second because I know I’m watching a movie the entire time. I also don’t care about a single character in this movie because they are all caricatures instead of fully developed, three-dimensional human beings. Which brings us to the 3D. There should be a special test or license that filmmakers, other than James Cameron and Alfonso Cuarón, have to take or get in order to be allowed to make a 3D film because almost no one on this planet knows how to do it. Like the recent Everest, every time there is a wide shot in the film that involves movement, it looks like we’re watching miniature toys on screen. Considering the exorbitant price of a 3D ticket, they should be able to get it right. Otherwise, why are we paying so much money??

I don’t fault the actors. They really aren’t given much to work with. When the defining trait of Jessica Chastain’s character is that she likes disco music and this is supposed to make us connect with her because she’s just like us, she listens to Vicki Sue Robinson instead of Mozart, you know you’ve got a problem. I’ve been told this is from the book—don’t care, it doesn’t work.

The best movie about astronauts stranded in space is still Apollo 13. I have seen this film countless times and it still sucks me in every time. I know they’re coming home alive, yet I’m still riveted by the story and the characters; the humanity and the emotion—no 3D glasses required.

 

 

Gone_GirlI was not in a rush to go out and see Gone Girl because not only had I read the book and would know every twist that was coming, but I hadn’t bought into some of those surprises or liked the ending. The film directed by David Fincher stays true to the book with some minor alterations necessary in order to keep the movie from running ridiculously long.

Like most book to film adaptations, there is quite a bit of nuance that is lost. I won’t give specific examples so as not to give anything away. This much you already know from the title–Gone Girl delves into the disappearance of Amy Dunne, the beautiful wife of the equally attractive Nick Dunne. The book explores in much more detail and more effectively, the arc of Nick and Amy’s relationship. Continue reading »

12_Years_A_Slave12 Years A Slave documents the ordeal of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) a free Black man from Saratoga Springs, New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South.

Solomon’s story represents the experience of every slave who was brought to the United States in chains, born into bondage, separated from family, beaten, sold and raped. Yet, the fact that Solomon had always been a free man serves as a stark illustration of the complete injustice and insanity of enslavement because he has lived as a productive citizen who is the equal, if not better, of any man.

Solomon, a highly intelligent and educated man who plays the violin is forced to hide the fact that he can read and write in order to survive as it’s forbidden for slaves to have such knowledge. Determined to be reunited with his wife and two children Solomon resolves to do whatever it takes to stay alive and refuses to give into desperation despite the relentless cruelty of his circumstances.

The brutality on screen in 12 Years A Slave seems unreal, at times so harsh that it’s difficult to process or comprehend. Yet this is the violent history of our country that still resonates today. Continue reading »

Prisoners starts out as a tense and gripping story of every parent’s worst nightmare after two young girls disappear on Thanksgiving Day.

Hugh Jackman is Keller Dover, a husband and father with a survivalist bent whose motto is “hope for the best, prepare for the worst. ” Dover with his wife Grace (Maria Bello) and kids, Anna and Ralph join neighbors Franklin (Terrence Howard) and Nancy (Viola Davis) and their daughters Joy and Eliza for the occasion.

The day suddenly takes a turn from ordinary to nightmarish when the two families realize the girls, who’ve gone off to play, are missing. The main suspect becomes Alex Jones, a young man with the mind of a 10 year-old who is parked in a camper at a nearby house right before the girls go missing.

Jake Gyllenhaal is Loki, the loner detective assigned to the investigation who has solved every case he’s ever worked. Gyllenhaal who early in his career wasn’t very interesting to watch has morphed into a versatile, three-dimensional actor and he’s intense and convincing as the dogged, determined Loki who is always watching and connecting the dots. Continue reading »

The Butler is based on the real life story of Cecil Gaines, an African-American who served as a butler in the White House through eight administrations. Cecil, played by Forest Whitaker who always disappears into whatever role he’s inhabiting, here takes on the part of a man whose job is to please by not making his presence felt; as he’s told by one employer–the room “should feel empty” when you’re in it.

The Butler starts out with Cecil as a young boy in the 1920s working on a cotton plantation in the South. From the very beginning the story is set up to tug at your heart strings and what human being with a heart and mind wouldn’t be affected by the horrors of the brutal racism of the time. The film is emotionally affecting and will make you tear up but it’s hard to escape the feeling you’re watching a movie meant to do just that.

Despite this undercurrent of manipulation the life of Cecil Gaines is extraordinary and certainly worthy of a film. The changes that occurred in American society in general, and specifically in terms of civil rights during the more than 30 years Cecil worked in the White House, and his proximity to the seat of power and history give the film weight. Continue reading »

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