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.

 

 

“I’m the motherf**ker who found this place.” With that line Jessica Chastain as CIA analyst Maya sums up her single-minded, no holds barred pursuit of Osama Bin Laden and the film’s narrative, the search for where the defiantly elusive Bin Laden is hiding.

Zero Dark Thirty is an extended, big budget procedural that details the painstaking hunt for the most wanted terrorist in American history. If like me you wondered why it took so long to capture Bin Laden, the film based on accounts of actual events relates how incredibly complicated, dangerous, and grueling such a massive undertaking is and the toll it takes on those involved.

The movie opens with audio of 9/11. The familiar visual of the planes hitting the towers is not shown and so the impact as you listen to the voice of one of the victims tell the 911 operator “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” is as immediate and heartbreaking as it was on that day. The story jumps directly from that horrific moment to the Saudi Group, a team of CIA operatives in the process of extracting information from a detainee with the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which is the euphemism used by U.S. officials for torture. Continue reading »

Take Shelter is a haunting movie that will either stay with you for days or frustrate you with its deliberate pace. I can understand why some viewers would lose patience with this film that keeps you guessing until the end about whether Curtis, a devoted husband and father is losing his mind or is a modern day Noah who can see what everyone else around him cannot. I like the suspense of not knowing if Curtis’s nightmares and hallucinations are real or imagined and this story burrowed into my psyche.

Curtis, played by Michael Shannon, seems to have a good life. He has an attractive, loving wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain), a house, and a well-paying job. The only wrinkle in the picture is that daughter Hannah (Tovah Stewart) is deaf but the family appears to have adjusted to this and is happy.

Soon, though Curtis starts experiencing strange dreams of yellow rain pouring down from the sky and violent lightning storms that eventually spill over into his waking hours. He becomes convinced that his family is in danger and decides to expand their existing storm shelter into a fortified bunker where they can live should disaster strike. At the same time, he’s afraid the schizophrenia that drove his mother into a mental facility years ago may be manifesting itself in him. Curtis’s continued uncertainty and strange behavior threaten his job, his safety, and his marriage. Continue reading »

I haven’t read the best selling book the movie The Help is based on. Nor have I paid much attention to the controversy about a White central character telling the story of black maids in Jackson, Mississippi. I can only judge the movie by what appears on screen.

You get the sense the audience is being manipulated. This is where you’re supposed to laugh; this is where you should cry. It feels like a paint by numbers movie lesson about the ills of racism that comes across as a bit shallow and sunny despite the subject matter. There is a moment in the film where you see a newspaper headline about the Freedom Riders who were pioneers in the civil rights movement. If you’ve seen the powerful and unforgettable PBS documentary about these real life heroes, The Help will come across as a flimsy and pale attempt at depicting a complex and disturbing issue that still reverberates today. Continue reading »

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