Movie Review: The Martian (2015)

Running time: 142 minutes

Director: Ridley Scott

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After being hit by a projectile in the middle of a fierce storm, astronaut Mark Watney is left behind in Mars by his crew mates who think he has died. Stranded in Mars all by himself, Mark will have to try to survive while finding a way to tell NASA he is still alive. In a hostile planet where food is unavailable, his only resources will be his intelligence and his optimism.

The character of Mark Watney in the book is simply fascinating. He is incredibly charming, he has a great and unexpected sense of humour, considering the situation he is in, but you also get his frustration when things don’t work as he planned. He is a relatable character and comes across as a real human being and it is all of those traits that make you so invested in his journey and Matt Damon captures every single one of those.

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However, this is not a one-man show and with such a huge cast there is not a weak link in the movie. Every single character serves its purpose and every actor is absolutely amazing. It’s a long list of actors to mention but from the people at NASA (Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Mackenzie Davis, Donald Glover) to the Hermes crew (Jessica Chastain, Sebastian Stan, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Aksel Hennie) everyone is fantastic.There is not exactly character arcs but they are all well realized. You even get the relation between Watney and his crew mates even though you hardly see them together.

Even though there are some changes, as it is expected, I felt the same as I did when I read the book and that is what I want from an adaptation. I don’t mind the changes as long as they keep the essence of the book. The emotion and the tension was all there and especially the comedy. It’s amazing how such a serious situation can actually be so funny without being cartoonish. They succeeded at pulling it off just like the book did.

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Everyone is describing it as Castaway meets Apollo 13 and it really is. And it is just as great if not more. There is a lot of science going on but, unlike Interstellar, the science is easy to follow. You believe that everything going on in Mars could have actually happened as it doesn’t play so much as fiction but as a true story, with real humanity in it. It’s visually beautiful and the special effects, as it is typical from Ridley Scott, are outstanding.

The masterful editing, cutting between Mars, Earth and Hermes makes the 2 hours and 20 minutes just fly by. Ridley Scott’s filmmaking has proven to be a bit inconsistent in the last years (even decade) but The Martian shows that he still has it in him. This is one of those rare occasions where everything comes together perfectly, the direction, the writing, the performances, the visuals, to make a breathtaking film. The Martian is a movie not to be missed.

9,75/10

Movie Review: Ant-Man (2015)

Running time: 115 minutes

Director: Peyton Reed

34321After it was announced last year that Edgar Wright and Marvel had parted ways due to creative differences over the Ant-Man script for years, and with Peyton Reed taking his place in the director’s chair, a lot of people started to believe this was proof that Marvel’s glory days were coming to an end and that Ant-Man would be the first movie for the studio to bomb at the box office. Sure, that was the exact thought when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced and it ended up doing more than ok. So, did Marvel end its Phase 2 in a high note, ensuring that at this point we should trust Kevin Feige, or did they not recover from Wright’s departure?

Ex-convict, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself involved in Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) plan to retrieve from Pym Tech the shrinking formula he developed in his youth and that his former protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is trying to replicate to create an army. With the reluctant help of Hank’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), Scott learns how to use the Ant-Man suit and become the hero they need to pull off this heist.

Marvel's Ant-Man..L to R: Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Hank Pym/Ant-Man (Michael Douglas)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014The first time we meet Hank Pym is in 1989 as a spectacular CGI young Michael Douglas is resigning from SHIELD after finding out that Howard Stark has been trying to replicate his shrinking formula. This scene introduces us to the original Ant-Man and sets up some backstory to his character, in addition to revisiting some beloved MCU characters from previous movies like Howard Stark (from the first Iron Man) and the always delightful Peggy Carter (Captain America: The First Avenger) as the SHIELD founders.

In present day, Scott Lang is about to be released from San Quentin State prison after serving some years for a Robin Hood-like burglary. Out in the real world, his priority is to make amends with his family and prove to his ex-wife Maggie and her partner that he is still fit to be a good dad. But, despite his clear efforts they won’t let him see his daughter Cassie (played by the most adorable Abby Ryder Forston) until he pays the child support he owes them. Once again this year we have Judy Greer in a blockbuster film being the worried mom, at least Bobby Cannavale had an active part in the film besides just being the stepfather who is a jerk to the hero.

screen-shot-2015-04-13-at-10-12-53-amUnable to find a proper job with his criminal record, his friend Luis (portrayed by Michael Peña, who steals the show every time he is on-screen) convinces him rob an old man’s house. This way his path crosses that of Hank Pym’s, who needs his help and wants him to become the Ant-Man to retrieve from Pym Tech the shrinking technology that Hank’s former protégé, Darren Cross, is trying to replicate to create an army of tiny men. And as it is so typical with Marvel movies now, the villain is probably the weakest part and in the end, forgettable. Corey Stoll is good in the role and his motivation is clear but the execution is quite poor and often needs of a lot of exposition.

Scott is trained by Hank and his daughter, Hope, with whom he doesn’t have a very good relationship and creates great father-daughter parallels with Scott and his own daughter Cassie. Hope is reluctant to use Scott for the mission as she is far more capable and already knows how to use the suit. And even though her character was well realized and she had some cool fight moves during the training session, I would have liked to see Evangeline Lilly taking some part in the action. Spoiler! At least the end credit sequence foreshadows some exciting stuff for her character in the near future.

Ant-Man-3We will never know what movie did Edgar Wright have in mind so it is pointless to compare what we have and what we could have had. The important thing is that Marvel did it again and Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man is a simplistic but effective heist film with well-balanced comedy and does a great job at tying the film to the MCU while keeping it self-contained. Unlike Thor’s quest in Age of Ultron, neither of the references or cameos pull you out of the movie or feel like set up. The action sequences may not be the best we have seen from Marvel, but the use of the macro photography makes it a visual spectacle, and the relationships between the characters are a treat to watch. In the role of Scott Lang, Paul Rudd proves that he is a legit superhero and deserves a place in the Avengers. He was likable, believable, relatable and a perfect addition to the MCU. In a shared universe where supersoldiers, gods, raging monsters and enhanced humans defend the world, Ant-Man seemed like an odd choice to add to the franchise but, as Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Erskine said in Captain America: The First Avenger, maybe what we needed now was a little guy.

9/10

Movie Review: Fury (2014)

Title: Fury

Running time: 135 minutes

Director: David Ayer

Starring: Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LeBeouf, Michael Peña, Jon Bernthal, Jason Isaacs, Scott Eastwatch

Summary: April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

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The topic of war has been frequently approached in films such us Hurt Locker, Saving Private Ryan, Monuments Men… In Fury, David Ayer explores a new aspect of World War II, now focusing on a tank crew and showing a cruel reality, war is ugly and no matter if you win or you lose, there’s no glory in it.

The majority of characters in the film are people completely gone because of the war but still trying to grasp bits of humanity, which makes for quite a bunch of dislikable characters where the acting is spot on. From Brad Pitt’s Wardaddy, who could earned him an Academy Award nomination if the competition for Best Actor wasn’t so tight this year. To his crew, you can’t deny despite all the talk that Shia LeBeouf is a great actor. Maybe he showed too much dedication to the part while filming, like refusing to shower, pulling out his own tooth and constantly cutting his face, but it payed off. Michael Peña brought a funnier side and Jon Bernthal a darker one. And of course, the new recruit Norman. Logan Lerman gave probably the best performance of his career, for me he was even better than in Perks of being a Wallflower.

The problem with having only dislikable character in a film is that it’s difficult to care for them and in a movie like this you should be in constant fear to be engaged and here you don’t feel that way. It would have been nice to get at least some back story for any of the characters.

Now, there’s a scene towards the middle where they are in a house that completely messed up the pacing of the movie for me, which had been so good until that point. Maybe it was necessary to add tension and have some character building, especially in the case of Norman, but it definitely didn’t have to be that long.

Overall, the war scenes are incredibly well done and you can feel the claustrophobia when the characters are inside the tank. Portraying with accuracy the consequences of war, Fury takes a hard and brutal approach, without romanticizing it, making it a grim and intense movie. Its basic problem relies on the lack of actual story and character information that makes it feel more like a documentary than a movie.

8/10