Film: The Martian

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Title: The Martian
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chewitel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena
Seen on: 27 September 2015

I’m usually a bit skeptic when it comes to books made into films, but The Martian blew every expectation I had of it. I am very comfortable saying Ridley Scott took a great book and made it into an even better film.

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Matt Damon plays Mark Watney; Botanist and NASA astronaut on the Ares 3 mission to Mars. It takes all of 3 minutes for the film to leave him for dead on Mars with the rest of his mission crew fleeing the planet for their lives, convinced he is dead. It’s jarring, to get the main problem of the film presented to you as a viewer so immediate and sudden, but it makes you sit up and pay attention. And while the action from that first scene never quite gbets repeated (and it doesn’t have to!), the film manages to keep you hooked and invested and on the edge of your seat all the way through its long 142 minutes.

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So, Watney’s problem? The nearest rescue mission is 4 years away and he doesn’t have enough water, oxygen, or food to survive that long. His conclusion? “I am going to have to science the shit out of this.” Book-Watney is sarcastic, cynical, and sassy. Matt Damon brings all of that, plus his trademark dry delivery, to film-Watney. His humour and spirit draw you in and make you root for him. Watney’s unique approach to his situation lures you in and turns you into his personal cheerleader. That, and awful 70s music and Happy Days reruns. An hour in, all you want to do is hit Jeff Bridges’ NASA director over the head for even suggesting not going out to save him.

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Watney goes through several successes (“That that, Neil Armstrong!”) and failures (“I blew myself up. Because I’m stupid.”) before settling on the plan to find the last Pathfinder that was sent up and establishing contact with NASA. He succeeds and together with NASA, he hatches the plan to get him to the land site of the next Ares mission so he can regroup with them and come home. The base he works from is accidentally blown up though and Watney and NASA are forced to come up with Plan B. Plan B is still a long wait, until a stereotypical scientist (young genius sleeping in his office, drinking too much coffee, and unable to speak to other humans normally, played by Donald Glover) finds a way to send back the Ares 3 crew – now on their way home aboard their space station – faster. It is more dangerous and the NASA director doesn’t allow it, but the crew override the space station’s controls and do it anyway.

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The plan is dangerous, ludicrous, and just stupid enough to work. In Watney’s words, “are you f–ing kidding me?!” They weren’t. It involves the Chinese, a stripped down space pod (“you’re going to send him into orbit under a tarp?”), a few meters of rope, and a puncture in Watney’s space suit. It sounds too outrageous not to work. Of course they make it and Watney is brought home to thousands of people in the streets.Though I doubt Trafalgar Square and Times Square really would have been filled with people watching the rescue mission live on big screens if this were to actually happen. But hey, sci-fi, right? Some suspense of disbelief is always required and with everything scientific in the film all based on facts it doesn’t actually feel like too much to ask to go with the idea of Mark Watney becoming a worldwide obsession.

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Matt Damon is fantastic as Mark Watney. He digs himself into your heart so bad you want to cheer and gasp out loud when something good or bad happens. The Ares 3 crew, NASA people, and JPL team aren’t used enough as characters despite the length of the film, though each get their little moment right before the credits (space hanky-panky, anyone?!). Kristin Wiig is completely under-used, and the Chinese feel a bit dodgy for some reason. And the aforementioned gathering of thousands in the streets of New York and London (and presumably around the world) seems a bit ambitious, but that can be forgiven. The rescue mission gets a little bit muddled for anyone with less than a master in some scientific field which sometimes makes it difficult to understand exactly why something is so dangerous or stupid, but by then you’re so invested they could be telling you Watney would be saved by aliens from Jupiter and you’d just cheer them on. Ridley Scott did good, really good.

Rating: 9/10

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Film: American Ultra

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Title: American Ultra
Cast: Jessie Eisenberg, Kristin Stewart, Connie Britton, Topher Grace
Seen on: 04 September 2015

This film is Scott Pilgrim meets Jason Bourne. Completely left-field entertaining, brutal, and strong. Both Jessie Eisenberg and Kristin Stewart do an amazing job luring everyone into the safety of their stoner couple lifestyle and then BAM, they hit you over the head with stunts and kick-ass fighting.

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There are too many funny parts in the film to mention them all (just watch Jessie Eisenberg’s Mike snap between stone-cold agent to nervous stoner), but one special mention goes to the phone conversation between Mike and Topher Grace’s CIA asshole about surrendering. Absolute gold.

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No matter what you think this film is, it isn’t. No matter what you think of K-Stew, it isn’t. Go see it!

Rating: 8/10

Film: Hitman – Agent 47

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Title: Hitman: Agent 47
Cast: Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware, Thomas Kretschmann, Ciaran Hinds
Seen on: 04 September 2015

Clunky dialogue, clunky character development, and clunky fight scenes; Definitely better than the first try of putting the game on screen, but still not quite what it could be. I was hoping for a John Wick-type film, but instead got a watered down Wanted wannabe. I was expecting for Agent 47 to finally somehow find some emotions, I kept expecting some kind of impact of finding out you’re a genetically engineered fighting machine for Katia, and neither of them happened.

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Baddie John Smith (Zachary Quinto) was one of the only good things about this film. His baddie is dangerously calm and surprisingly resistant; I can’t wait to see him back in the sequel (if they commission one). Thomas Kretchmann’s baddie was understanded and under-used, and Ciaran Hinds’ character was nothing but a storyline that didn’t need to be there.

Rating: 6/10

Film: Mission Impossible 5 – Rogue Nation

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Title: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Seen on: August 02, 2015

Actually good for a 5th installment in a franchise. It’s been a while since I saw any of the other MI films, but I still enjo0yed the story on its own and the performances of the actors. Though Tom Cruise is getting to the point where he needs to have another hit outside of this franchise if he doesn’t want MI to be his only project going forwards.

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Jeremy Renner stands out the most for me in this installment, along with Rebecca Ferguson (she kicks some serious ass!). Simon Pegg is funny as always, Ving Rhames isn’t used enough, and Alec Baldwin is the perfectly obnoxious CIA suit. Sean Harris as Syndicate bad-guy Lane feels not fully fleshed out or well-rounded as a character, but he does the trick. He’s forgettable though, which is a shame, but luckily mI5 doesn’t hinge on its bad guy but the action sequences.

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MI5 could do with a few less car/motor cycle chases and a bit more dialogue, but it was enjoyable and entertaining and the ending is laugh out loud funny. Overall not bad!

Rating: 7/10

Film: Inside Out

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Title: Inside Out
Seen on: July 31, 2015

Definitely Pixar’s best in a long time! I didn’t expect to be this entertained, but I laughed and cried and shuddered and cheered along with the rest of the kids and adults in the theater. Predictable, a little. Heavy on the moral of the story, also a little. Preachy, sometimes. But in a surprisingly touching and compelling package. And what a fantastic film to teach kids about their feelings and that it’s okay to be sad or angry or just happy at all times!

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Rating: 9/10

Film: Ant Man

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Title: Ant Man
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena, Anthony Mackie
Seen on: 17 July, 2015

When you cast Paul Rudd as the main character in your superhero film, you know people will expect charm and humour and laughs. And those were already standard ingredients for any Marvel film, but Ant Man takes the top spot for funniest Marvel outing – yes, even over Guardians of the Galaxy. Any time Michael Pena opens his mouth, nothing but hilarity falls out, and the Powers That Be at Marvel cash in on that big time, but never too much. Ant Man is the perfect balance of seriously kick-ass action film and we-know-this-is-ridiculous-just-roll-with-it. Tongue in cheek, extremely self aware (“is it too late to change the name?”), and just plain funny.

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Oh and that opening scene (Peggy!!) and post-credits sting (Bucky!!).

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There isn’t enough Evangeline Lilly in Ant Man, but with her character development near the end I have high hopes for her showing up as the Wasp at some point in the near-ish MCU future. Anthony Mackie’s Falcon inclusion nicely sets up the Avengers inclusion for Scott (who is one of the original founders of the Avengers in the comics but Marvel Studios couldn’t touch him due to rights when they developed The Avengers), he should bring some additional levity to that bunch.

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Not a big fan of Corey Stoll’s baddie, but I will forgive Marvel that since he’s a one-time outing. I wasn’t too impressed with the Iron Man 2 and 3 baddies either, though Ultron and Loki were fantastic villains. Good thing they’re in the business of making super HERO films 😉

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All things considered, Ant Man was supposed to be a gap-film for Marvel and turned out to be really surprisingly human and fun and touching. I can’t wait to see Scott Lange and Tony Stark snark it out in Captain America: Civil War!

Rating: 8/10

Film: Magic Mike XXL

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Title: Magic Mike XXL
Cast: Channing tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Jada Pinkett Smith, Amber Heard
Seen on: 05 July 2015

Before you start reading this review, let me give you fair warning about the state of my mind: my brain is mostly drooling in the corner unable to fully process what it has seen, so don’t expect any high-brow, in-depth character studies from this end.

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That being said, I do have a few things of use to say before I let myself completely melt into a puddle of sexual frustration (TMI?):

  • Magic Mike XXL is deliciously feminist and pro-women (you don’t care what your woman wants? fuck you!)
  • As flimsy as the story is (there is even less of it than in the first one, if that’s possible), at least we don’t get any forced romance pushed onto us (the odd flirtation between Mike and Zoe doesn’t ruin anything) this time around
  • The banter between the guys doesn’t always work, feeling forced at some points, but it actually serves the plot (yes, it has some> plot!)
  • Donald Glover is a very nice surprise!
  • Matt Bomer can sing?! And if anyone thinks Channing Tatum isn’t the god of dance needs to get out of my face
  • Hell yes to the woman-worshipping high-end dance club run by a woman!
  • Really, it is just a buddies road trip movie with a lot of added male stripping

Now, with the obligatory “proper” review points out of the way, on to the important bits: the stripping. See, this film knows exactly what it needs to be. It doesn’t pretend to be anything but a fun road trip movie with a lot of stripping and teasing and almost-nsfw dancing in between. There is a bit of story, but it never once wants to be more than just an entertaining film with an extremely (welcome!) liberal approach to sexuality.

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Magic Mike XXL has it all: cougars, male insecurity (with added bonus of a MDMA-high Big Dick overcoming this by seducing a very grumpy looking girl in a gas station to the song I Want It That Way by the Backstreet Boys – I will never be able to hear this song without flailing ever again…), a high-end strip club cum country club run by a successful woman, the difficulty of having an 11-inch penis and the comparison to it being like Cinderella’s glass slipper, drag queens, a Twilight inspired strip act (0_o), sexual abuse of power tools, and awkward inspirational speeches. What more could you possibly want?

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Ah yes, a grande finale that makes all the women in the room drop their panties and jaws in envy of the extras in the scene, which includes a sex swing, chocolate sauce, suspenders, and a LOT of face-grinding. Because holy hell, these guys can dance! All of them (except maybe Kevin Nash, can we retire him already please?) are the epitome of hot-damn-get-in-my-bed-and-ride-me-already sexy. If you enjoy looking at good-looking men, this is the film for you. Let me regale you with my immediate reaction that I WhatsApp-ed to my best friend:

Holy

Christ

Fucking

Hell

I want a sex swing too

Jesus

Fuck

Christ in hell

Also? Not good for my sexual frustration…

And Matt Bomer

JESUS

That last scene killed me

Dead

Fucking hell

Just bring a drool bucket and leave your brain at home.

Rating: 7/10