Tag: Sean Bean

The Martian (Movie) Review 3

The Martian (Movie) Review

The Martian might be the first major studio release of October, but it feels more like the last summer blockbuster of 2015. This is rip-roaring, crowd-pleasing entertainment filled with movie stars at their brightest, special effects at their slickest, budgets at their highest, and themes at their most optimistic. So why didn’t it come out in the summer? My best guess is because it didn’t have a superhero or sequel number in the title. Unfortunately, merely making a fun n’ crowd-pleasing blockbuster that isn’t already in some way indebted to a popular franchise qualifies as specialty filmmaking these days and relegated to a fall release. That’s strange to say the least, but don’t kid yourself, The Martian serves up delicious popcorn fluff even if it didn’t come out in summer. In fact, you might find yourself so convinced you’re watching a summer blockbuster that you’ll feel like running to the beach immediately afterwards. Please don’t make that mistake like I did. It’s definitely October and cold as hell in beach water…sigh…

themartianinsert3Ridley Scott’s flick kicks off on the red planet suggested by the title. A group of astronauts/scientists lead by Jessica Chastain are going about their business studying the dusty new landscape when an unexpected storm forces them to leave post haste. In the scramble to get out of dodge, they are forced to abandon a member of their team, presuming that he is dead. Since that astronaut is Matt Damon and he’s on the poster, obviously the guy survives. He’s trapped on Mars, but he’s a genius and a botanist, so he quickly figures out how to create a crop of potatoes to stretch his supplies. Then, to expand on his smarty-pants nature, he even digs up an old probe to let NASA know he’s still alive.

From there, a one-character film (enhanced by quipy digital diaries) expands out. NASA turns out to be run by a snarky Jeff Daniels straight out of The Newsroom who (alongside Kristen Wiig of all people) is as concerned with the media PR of the situation as he is in saving a lost astronaut’s life. Thankfully, Chiwetel Ejiofor is there to be a conscience for NASA and rather quickly, everyone starts pitching in to figure out how to get Damon’s pretty little face back on earth. A few things go wrong but thankfully, Donald Glover pops up as a quirky scientist with a plan and since Chastain’s gang of astronauts played by the likes of Michael Pena and Kate “still hasn’t seen Fantastic Four” Mara, they are far too kind and played by far too famous actors to leave a man behind. Let the death-defying life-saving in space begin!

Given that this is a Ridley Scott joint, the visuals are predictably astounding. Mixing CGI and sets and God knows what, Scott and his team create a stunning vision of Mars that is both beautifully serene and eerily terrifying. The set pieces are handled with breath-taking bravado and even though some of the science likely doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, it’s been handled with a nerd-friendly attention to detail. However, all of those qualities likely could have been assumed simply by Scott’s name being in the credits. The big surprise is that the movie is also quite funny, perhaps even reaching “romp” status. Credit for this can likely be shared between Andy Weir’s source novel and the screenplay by sardonic quipster Drew Goddard (Cabin In The Woods, Buffy The Vampire Slayer). Tension and humour are mixed masterfully in a stellar bit of entertainment that actually earns a big fluffy ending without ever feeling too manipulative.

The cast is also equally impressive and important in nailing the tone and outlandish situation. Obviously Damon stands out given that he pretty much carries the first half of the film himself. He commits to his patented body-modifying dedication to the role and sells blue screen survival desperation with ease. Yet, like the movie itself, the welcomed surprise in his performance is the humour. This is one of the most fun n’ laidback performances of Damon’s career and he’s absolute delight at the centre of a big pulse-pounding sci-fi narrative. The rest of the cast all do their stressed-out faces and tossed-off one-liners well, but it has to be said that the ensemble outside of Damon is fairly underwritten and perfunctory. There just isn’t enough screentime to go around to give the other characters much depth. Thankfully, Scott helped lesson that issue by filling pretty much every role with a recognizable actor who brings all of their baggage with them and helps fill in the gaps through their previously existing relationship with audiences. It was a wise choice that keeps viewers distracted from how underwritten all the supporting players are until the credits roll.

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.It would be a lie to claim that The Martian is a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a little long, features a few ridiculous moments, has an unfortunate subplot that seems to exist purely to placate the massive Chinese audience (Michael Bay style), and ultimately has little to offer beyond surface pleasures. Yet, as pure popcorn sci-fi entertainment, there’s no denying that this big, beautiful blockbuster is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s a genuine crowd-pleasing charmer that should leave audiences with big goofy grins on their faces looking up to the stars with wonder again. While it would have been nice to see this thing succeed in the summer and prove that original blockbusters can exist in that space, the timing for this movie couldn’t be more perfect after the recent Mars discoveries from the good folks at NASA. In an era when that space program is underfunded in favour of blowing stuff up in foreign countries (aka the modern American way), The Martian pops up at just the right time to encourage a little mass interest in expanding the reach of NASA and in turn, enriching imaginations everywhere. What a delightful

Pixels (Movie) Review 1

Pixels (Movie) Review

Well, it’s been another year so it’s time for another lazy Adam Sandler comedy. This time it seemed as though the Sand-man’s new brain fart might actually have some promise. Based on a short film by the same name, it’s a high-concept action/sci-fi/comedy about classic 80s arcade characters attacking the world with only a handful of former arcade champions capable of stopping them. Even though it rips off a superior short film and old Futurama episode, Pixels still at least sounded semi-clever and had the right elements to be a Sandler loser/comedy equivalent of Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, expecting anything other than the lowest common denominator garbage from the Happy Madison crew is always a mistake. This flick is absolutely horrible, failing to deliver any of the fun or even comedy in the premise. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves (except for Peter Dinklage, that guy is alright).
pixelsinsert3So, things kick off in an 80s flashback as we see a few teens compete in a massive arcade competition. For some reason, footage of the tournament is shot into space in a time capsule. Years later, aliens who received that message consider it an act of war attack earth using vintage arcade characters (don’t bother wondering why, there’s no real explanation offered, logical or otherwise). Sandler was an arcade prodigy back in that prologue, but now he’s a middle aged burn out in the Adam Sandler way. His best friend, Kevin James, became president somehow (again don’t ask, it won’t be explained), so he seeks Sandler’s help once he realizes the attacks are based on 80s arcade games. Eventually, Josh Gad joins the team as another geek, Peter Dinklage shows up as a former arcade rival, essentially playing Billy Mitchell from King of Kong, and Michelle Monaghan appears because no Sandler movie would be complete without a trophy love interest. Once all of those semi-funny people are together, it’s time for some semi-funny jokes and expensive 80s gaming action silliness.

Over the last five years, the once amusing Sandler has become quite possibly the laziest person in Hollywood. His movies all stick to the same rigid formula that presents the Sand-man as an underachieving nice guy who just needs one triumph to find love and acceptance. Pixels sticks to that nonsense so rigidly that Sandler barely even seems present. It’s impressive that they were even able to get him to stand upright during some scenes given how completely detached he seems to be from the movie. Clearly that disinterest carried over to the screenplay, which trots out a series of puns and poorly constructed one-liners in favour of jokes, and features ridiculously convenient plot twists as opposed to any sense of story structure. It’s almost insulting to watch the film. If Sandler had popped up on screen at one point and said, “We didn’t bother shooting the next scene because we wanted to go home early that day, so just deal with it you morons. Who gives a shit anyways?” I wouldn’t have been remotely surprised.
pixelsinsert4The rest of the cast seem equally uninspired, though to be fair, they don’t really have characters to play as much as a single personality trait stretched into a running gag. The only actor remotely enjoyable or memorable is Peter Dinklage as a raging ego and mullet. He’s hysterical and completely committed to the character to such a degree that you can’t help but be saddened by the fact that this was the best movie role the immensely talented actor was offered last year. He deserves better, and quite frankly, so does everyone else involved. That extends to director Chris Columbus, a man who has made some genuinely iconic movies like Home Alone, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Adventures in Babysitting. He’s had a rough run of bombs lately, but seemed like an interesting choice to helm this one, since it had the scale to actually feel like a movie as opposed to Sandler’s typically flat timewasters directed by his beer buddies. Aside from shots being framed slightly better than typical Happy Madison movies, Columbus clearly had little involvement with the dialogue scenes. He admittedly stages a couple of fun video game attack sequences, but given that none of the characters involved in the action are worth caring about, it’s hard to feel any sense of suspense or elation.

Even by the exceedingly low standards of Adam Sandler, Pixels is an absolutely god-awful trainwreck of a movie that wastes a fun concept and a talented cast. Not only is it unfunny, predictable, and tedious, but it seems to have been made with absolutely contempt for the audience. The fact that anyone involved could possibly think viewers wouldn’t see through the tiresome jokes, lazy story construction, and stolen ideas is unsettling. Aside from a few fun action scenes and Dinklage, this might actually be a new low-point from Adam Sandler, which is remarkable considering the fact that he made Jack and Jill. If the concept appeals to you at all, just check out the original short film on YouTube. The effects are just as good as this Hollywood version and you won’t have to sit through any of the 90 minutes of garbage surrounding it. Since so much more money was spent on this flick than the usual Sandler hogwash, we can only hope that it will bomb badly enough for him to worry about his career. There’s no excuse for this degree of apathy and audience contempt from Sandler. Making his movie successful would only be encouraging him. Don’t even consider it.

Jupiter Ascending (Movie) Review 1

Jupiter Ascending (Movie) Review

If there’s one thing that the Wachowskis have proven time and time again, it’s that they never do anything small. If the duo are going to make a movie, they are going to make the biggest and craziest movie they possibly can on the off chance that they are never allowed to make another one again. We saw what happened a few years ago when that went wrong in the fascinatingly flawed Cloud Atlas and obviously saw it all go right with The Matrix. Now the directing duo have decided to try their hand at a lil’ space opera. Their latest film Jupiter Ascending could be described as the Wachowskis’ take on Star Wars were it not for the fact that it’s also their take on Dune, Flash Gordon, Heavy Metal, Brazil, and a Disney princess story amidst at least a few dozen other inspirations. They’ve gone for full on goofy entertainment this time too, sneaking substance in as subtext in a giddy sugar rush of blockbuster entertainment. Their film is far from perfect and is quite often even laughably off-key. However, the sequences that work are so strong and everything surrounding them so outrageous that you can’t help but be charmed by the movie at least a little bit, even if it pummels you into submission.

jupasinsert1Mila Kunis stars as a Russian immigrant who cleans toilets all day and struggles to accept her family at night. She has an obsession with stars that she can’t quite explain, so much so that’s she’s agreed to sell her eggs at a fertility clinic just to afford a telescope.  Then once she’s about to undergo the surgery the doctors turn into aliens that try to kill her. In the nick of time, a half-albino/half-wolf/all-hunk Channing Tatum shows up wearing rocket boots and kills all of the aliens with a laser gun. From there, it’s time for a pretty astounding fight-or-flight action scene in the Chicago skyline. After that, it’s time to meet Sean Bean (obviously he’s in this movie) who lets Kunis know that she’s actually the reincarnation of the queen of the universe or something. How does he know? Because bees really like her and he’s got a house full of bees. Why, you ask? Well…Wait! There’s no time to explain. At this point the whole gang flies out to the farthest reaches of the universe where Kunis meets her several-millenniums old children (Tuppence Middleton, Douglas Booth, and Eddie Redmayne). One-by-one they all turn out to be evil, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for a big ol’ fight with the fate of the universe hanging in the balance. You know, that old story.

If you got lost during that plot summary, don’t worry. The actual movie is even more complicated. However, as convoluted as the narrative can get, Jupiter Ascending is never impossible to follow. The Wachowskis make pop after all. If it’s tricky to figure out what’s what, that’s because it’s supposed to be. All will be revealed for those who pay attention, even if some of the dialogue is as difficult to squirm through as some of the weakest monologues shat out of David Lynch’s brain while adapting Dune. And with dialogue that rough comes some pretty ridiculous and histrionic performances. Eddie Remayde might be a great actor under normal circumstances, but when asked to deliver tediously expositional dialogue through snarls and eyeliner, even he turns into a ham. Yep, there are plenty of things that go wrong here, but thankfully more than go right.

jupasinsert4In particular, some sequences in Jupiter Ascending sees the Wachowskis at the peak of their pure visceral entertainment powers. Working in 3D for the first time and embracing it fully, the Wachowski’s craft a handful of eye-gougingly great action scenes that will leave you breathless without a moment’s confusion about what’s blowing up or why (ahem, Michael Bay. Take notes please). Likewise, their pop culture pastiche style is on overdrive like it hasn’t been since The Matrix. This kitchen sink movie throws everything at the screen from walking dinosaurs to leather-bound princesses and an entire sequence paying homage to Brazil topped off with a Terry Gilliam cameo. It’s as if the sibling directors read the reviews for the underrated Speed Racer and the not-at-all underrated Cloud Atlas and thought, “Oh, so you want more Matrix style movies, huh? Well, here’s a full mini-series worth of them crammed into two hours. Try to keep up.” God bless those whacky filmmakers for going for broke, even when they fail. It might be as messy as it is mesmerizing, but Jupiter Ascending is certainly something worth seeing. Your jaw will be agape from start to finish for all the right and wrong reasons. Confusion and scoffing might occur in some viewers, but at least there will be no boredom.


Silent Hill: Revelation (Movie) Review 3

Silent Hill: Revelation (Movie) Review

Silent Hill always seemed like a video game that should be a movie. Sure, from Super Mario Bros. onwards big screen video adaptations haven’t exactly had a spotless record. Generally speaking, something gets lost in translation. But with Silent Hill, there was a concept and a setting filled with disturbing/brilliantly designed characters to be played with.

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