Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Martian (2015)

I saw this movie a week or so back, I was out of town though and didn't get a chance to write about it. Now that I am, the movie is no longer fresh in my mind. So this may be a shorter post then normal.

The Martian is a story about a astronaut stranded on Mars after his crew is forced to leave him behind. Luckily he is a Botanist and using the power of science, he figures out a way to survive while trying to make contact with NASA to be rescued.

Now if you are like me, you hear stuck on Mars and just go "oh so he is dead." And that is a major point of the story. NASA and the crew have already given up on him, and as such are not looking or trying to make contact. We are given a time table of how long it would be before it is even possible for him to get rescued, and it was just depressing. He had to survive for a very long period of time, alone and in a situation where it doesn't even sound possible. That created a very neat feeling, it quickly made you feel for the guy. Now Matt Damon's portrayal of Mark Watney certainly helped, he was amazing in the role. But they really did great with the feeling of Isolation and dread. Every time something went wrong you just felt awful for the guy. It wasn't until the ending that you actually knew what would happen to him. Seeing Watney figure his way out of the issues though was just as entertaining as seeing them unfold.

I was told in the book the majority of the story is told through his thoughts, and people were confused as to how that would play out in the movie. In the movie he is constantly recording himself, and narrating what he is doing for the logs. Not sure if he did that in the movie, but it did produce a similar effect to what I was told about. Watney is funny and likable and much smarter then anybody I know. I don't know nearly enough about science to tell if what he was doing was accurate or not, but it was fascinating to see and hear him talk about it. I didn't know Matt Damon was that solid of a actor, I always think of Dogma when I hear his name. But he made this movie work, and for 50% of it he was pretty much the only actor on screen.

Other notable roles would be Michael Pena who you may remember as the best character in Marvel's Antman. He plays a much more serious role here, but still managed to bring some much needed humor to help lighten the mood at times. Jessica Chastain played the commander of the crew and helped provide some of the tension and drama in the later portions. About 3/4th of the way into the film we leave Watney for quite some time and focus on NASA and the Crew as they are trying to figure out what they should be doing. She is racked with guilt for leaving him behind and it effects a lot of her characters actions. Donald Glover shows up for awhile and was enjoyable. Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor were two stand out roles as well. Pretty much everybody in this film did a great job. I can't think of one performance that I thought detracted from anything.

The movie was filled with great Characters, and they all carried their own portion of the story. While Watney was the main role, he was stuck on Mars. There were plenty of scenes back on Earth as we tried to figure out if we should help him, and how we could even do that. Ejiofor and Bean were two of those major roles and they did a great job of keeping things interesting as we were dealing with the non life threatening portions of the film. The crew gets their own moments after they left mars. And even those portions of the film were enjoyable as nothing was going on for quite a few of them. Seeing the contrast of them when compared to Watney, or even hearing them talk about him elicited a emotion from the viewer. Speaking of emotions this is a movie that will make you tear up a few times.

It is difficult to talk about this movie without dropping spoilers. Heck every big point I would like to discuss pretty much requires you to know some major plot point.

The story is solid, and while it may seem like not a lot happens, it easily kept me entertained for its lengthy run time. If you read the book, they cut out some of the Mars stuff. I would have liked to see some of what I read about, but I think adding more time to the movie might not have been a great idea. It is almost 2.5 hours long as it is. The acting was great all around, and the various characters were all well thought out and well written.

The effects were great, Mars and Space looked awesome and I loved all the science in it. While I have no clue if it was accurate, it was fun and presented in a way that made sense. Matt Damon did a great job of pulling me in and making me quickly care Watney, and he is the main reason the movie worked as well as it did.

If you are curious how it compares to his other space film, Interstellar, well I liked this one better overall.

There were some scenes that took away from it, but not enough to really hurt the film. Sadly the only one to really bother me was in the final moments of the film so I really can't discuss it.

Normally I would post a trailer here, but the trailer for this film is pretty much a summary of the entire movie. It spoils a lot of so much of it. Don't watch the trailer.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pixels (2015)

Fair warning, I go into heavy spoilers in this one. If you don't want to read that, just know I do not recommend the movie. It was awful.

Pixels is a movie about arcade games coming to life and attacking our planet. The idea is a alien race got ahold of some tapes we shot into space that were part of a arcade game tournament many years ago. They mistook them as threats and us challenging them to real life versions of these games in order to take over their planet. The aliens spent years devising the technology to make this a reality and have now accepted our challenge of war. First to lose 3 games loses their planet. This is further built upon by the fact that the aliens have now all taken the form of old video game characters, and are presented as 3d representations of the pixel forms. So basically all blocky looking. This is important as it is part of my biggest complaint against the movie, but that comes later.

Adam Sandler is a genius at old games, not so much the new ones. His mind sees the patterns the enemies are taking and he can react to them accordingly. This allows him to reach the finals of the tournament that was being taped before losing to Peter Dinklage, aka the firebolt. This is of course when they are children, then the movie shoots ahead to current day. Sandler is installing tech in peoples houses, tvs and sound systems. His best friend played by Kevin James is now the President of the United States, and Dinklage is in jail. Josh Gad plays the final member of the group, and is still creepy and weird and living in his moms basement. His character is a play on the negative stereotype associated with nerds, and goes all in on every negative they could come up with. I hated it.

Gad refuses to have cable television as the government uses it to spy on you. He luckily notices a transmission from the aliens he picks up on his antenna and reports it to Sandler who gives it to the POTUS. The aliens give the coordinates to he next attack, and a time. The movie is mainly about us trying to fight back using newly developed tech.

Acting is pretty much what you expect in this movie. Sandler and James tend to overact, and guess what, they do that once again. Dinklage was quite bad as well, which given what I normally associate with him was shocking. The writing was just awful, and any time the movie could have benefited from a serious scene they instead go overly silly and try to force some awful joke onto you. I know it was supposed to be a comedy, but that doesn't mean the entire movie has to take that tone. They also tend to insult or take shots at their core demographic a lot, and pretty much anybody else that they can. The Prime Minister is a ugly women who can't string together a intelligent sentence, and they call her out on it multiple times. Gad's whole character is just insulting and the way they tie up his story is even worse. He is in love with a video game character, another stereotype, to the point he has a shrine to her. She is of course brought to life by the aliens, but for some weird reason she is not pixels but a real person. He decides to let her kill him, as he can die happy if it is at her hands, and she now suddenly loves him and turns against her entire race. She is now killing her own people for him. In the end when we win the war, their planet is forfeit and their people are killed except for the 3 we get to keep as trophies. She was not one of them, but Q*bert is. Don't know Q*bert? He was the star of a great game back in the 80's. Gad's character shames him because he has lost the love of his life, but Q*bert being a trophie was allowed to live. Q is so distraught over this he movies his gender and appearance into the female and Gad is suddenly fine again. He marries and fathers children with her, who are all little Q*berts.....I wish I was making that up. We kill a entire species over a miss-understanding. We then shame one of their only survivors into giving up their identity to sexually gratify one of our own. That was the ending to the movie.

Other huge issues with the movie, how they handled the source material and integrated it into the story. We learn that Dinklage only beat Sandler in the Donkey Kong finals by using cheat codes, however there are no codes for the arcade version of that game. Dinklage then Later uses pac man cheat codes in the real world to speed up his ghost allowing him to win that battle. Other then the absurd idea that he can somehow magically enter a cheat code into our world, that game also does not have a cheat code for that. This is a major plot point as the aliens rule it as a forfeit for us and launch a all out attack. They then challenge Sandler to a last match, winner takes all of Donkey Kong. Sandler then cheats and wins the game by attacking DK directly with the hammer instead of winning the game the correct way. The aliens decide this time cheating is okay and kill themselves. There was no consistency, and it was almost as if the writers had no idea how the games they were writing about actually worked.

If you like Sandler's recent comedies, you will probably like this. If you don't, pass on it.