Movie Review: The Martian (2015) – A Sharp, Clever Movie That Is Free From Sappy Sentimentality


The Martian, featuring Matt Damon, is crushing it at the box offices and pleasing critics alike. So what is it about this space based flick that has so many people rushing to the theaters, while calling it Scot Ridley’s best movie since Blackhawk Down? Let’s find out.

The premise is a bit of Cast Away, without the crippling depression and soccer ball friends. Matt Damon plays Matt Watney, an astronaut who went on a mission to Mars, only to get left behind after his crew gives him up for dead following a storm. The movie is surprisingly simple, with Watney trying to find a way to get home, while the people back at NASA try to get him back. There’s also a lot of film time that features the crew that left him behind. Despite three different storylines and scenes going on, they manage to match it all together pretty seamlessly.

Matt Damon is pretty impressive in this movie, playing the affable and sarcastic Watney with cocky vulnerability. He plays his part with enough humor to keep this from turning into a heart pounding Gravity copy, and instead, making it a bit lighter and fun. 10OCT2015

What I loved about this movie was the complete absence of clichés. The only thing working against Matt was time. There are no evil politicians plotting against him, no crazy space aliens or weirdly nefarious rivals bent on his demise. Instead it’s a space movie that focuses on the science of space, rather than the fantastic.

That allowed Matt’s character to create his own urgency, rather than driving it with a cliché like a wife pining away for him at home, or a precocious kid begging the president of NASA to save his daddy. Instead they made Matt likeable enough in his own right to make people root for him.

Both Jessica Chastain and Jeff Daniels play leaders in their own right, with Chastain running the return crew and Daniel’s running the home base in NASA. Both leaders are compassionate and competent, devoutly devoted to bringing Mark home, even as time works against them. 10OCT20151

The movie is contained entirely within NASA. There’s no clichéd outside pressure or unnecessary characters. Instead, it plays out much in the same way I’d imagine a real space disaster would play out. The movie allows us to focus on that, without dragging us away into too many superfluous side stories.

For such a serious premise, the movie is surprisingly funny, with more than a few laugh out loud moments. The laughs come from a genuine place and fit in seamlessly, thanks to the excellent writing and surprisingly bare bones premise. It’s a sharp, clever movie that is free from sappy sentimentality.

It’s not just worth the watch. This is a must watch. For anyone who has ever doubted Matt Damon’s acting talent, this movie will make you look at him in a new way. This is a clever, refreshing intelligent movie that doesn’t try to be to high minded. It simply works that way because it was intelligently written.

four and a half stars

[youtube id=”Ue4PCI0NamI” width=”680″ height=”383″]

the-martian-movie-poster - 10OCT2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man – It’s Stupid In The Right Way

Ant-Man-Movie-Image-Gallery-Photos - 29JUL2015

Ant-Man is the newest super hero release with a comedic twist, and it’s pleasing critics and audiences alike. This snarky sci-fi flick, with an unlikely hero, it’s one to watch this summer. Here’s why.

Our hero is Scott, a thief with a master’s in engineering. When he runs into a reclusive scientist with a special suit, he’s more than happy to try it on. With the push of a button, he’s the size of a dime. What follows is an interesting scene involving Scott getting sucked into vacuums and such. Realizing his new power, Scott does the whole becoming a super hero thing and even finds an arch nemesis. He’s a dude that can turn into a yellow jacket.

While it sounds stupid, it’s stupid in the right way. It’s stupid in the way that Shaun of the Dead was stupid. It’s also hilarious, interesting and even kind of visually stunning. Of course, a lot of the visuals are recycled. Take the Ant-Man suit for example. It’s pretty much an Iron Man Suit. They didn’t even change the color scheme that much.

Ant-Man-Movie-Ant-Man-Gets-Stuck - 29JUL2015

However, for a movie that does such a good job on using the standard super hero tropes, with some self-aware tongue in cheek humor, recycled visuals can be ok. Especially with such a unique storyline. Edgar Wight is credited with some of the story line creation, which explains the similar feel to movies like “Shaun of the Dead”.

Paul Rudd was a fantastic choice for the lead. He’s unheroic enough to give the character a certain lack of grace and gritty realness, but he also has awesome comedic timing, which this movie relied on. The great thing about the movie is that the same thing that makes Ant-Man heroic is what makes him vulnerable. The danger of being squashed while in insect form would have been hard to pull off if not for Rudd’s performance.

ant-man-movie-image-13-600x327 29JUL2015

It’s a fresh take for a summer filled with big budget blockbuster action movies. Not that it isn’t well done. It’s just a bit lower key and a more slapstick and funny than other movies in the sci-fi genre. The movie knows how to laugh at itself, while keeping viewers entertained.

I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the main female character Hope (Evangeline Lilly). In a way I was kind of expecting her to emerge as some sort of femme fatale, but instead, her character stays pretty flat and sees no growth at all. So in that, I was disappointed. The two father-daughter stories were sweet, but not overtly so, and they managed to put a bit emotion into the script, in a way that doesn’t feel too over the top for this movie.

But all in all, I have to say Ant-Man was pretty well done and very enjoyable. It was a bit long in the run time, nearly 2 hours, but at least they used their time wisely. If you’re looking for a great action movie, with some good humor, then Ant Man could be one to watch this summer.

WE GAVE IT: 4 Stars – Watch the Official Trailer and Official Movie Poster below!

4 stars

[youtube id=”pWdKf3MneyI” width=”680″ height=”383″]

Ant-Man-Poster1 - 29JUL2015

Movie Review: Fury (2014) – A refreshing step away from glorifying War and focusing on the True Devastation

movie still from the movie Fury

 This big budget war movie, featuring a very rough looking Brad Pitt, is currently topping the box office and pleasing critics. So what is it about ‘Fury” that’s working everyone up into a fervor?

The time is April, 1945. A bulky looking Brad Pitt plays a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt). Wardaddy commands a 5 man tank crew. Their mission takes them behind enemy lines, facing overwhelming odds because they’re both outnumbered and outgunned.

This is a tense movie. I haven’t seen a movie this tense since I saw U-571. It’s not only tense, but tense and gritty, and unlike many of the other war movies out there, this film takes a step back at glorifying war and instead shows the devastation.

The movie is shrouded in grays and browns, which is an excellent visual representation of the movie itself, which focuses on the end of the war. The soldiers are exhausted, and battle weary, as they should be and the aesthetic design really plays this up.

This is a war movie along the lines of Saving Private Ryan, in that the director didn’t flinch away from being harsh. It shows true war, and not the dressed up versions that seem to be nothing more than Army recruitment films.


Fury movie still pictures a tank rolling with Brad Pitt

One great part of this movie is the contrast. It’s the very definition of ‘losing the battle, but winning the war.” By the time the tank crew starts work, it is well known that the Americans are going to be victorious over Germany. But that doesn’t matter to the soldiers in Fury, as they are facing a deadly, almost unwinnable mission. There’s almost a claustrophobic feel to Fury, especially in scenes inside the team’s tank. The movie does well by maintaining an impending sense of doom, leaving the viewer convinced that there is no way the team is making it out alive.

Brad Pitt, still gorgeous at 50, is fantastic as the hardened sergeant. With his booming voice and grizzled good looks, he’s able to spew lines like ‘the dyings not done, the killings not done’ without seeming over the top. He is a man tired of war, but at the same time, he’s a man who doesn’t know how to live outside of war.

My biggest complaint about this movie is that there is absolutely no relief from the tension. There’s very little comedy, even when the team has down time, and after 2 hours and 15 minutes, I was pretty sure it was giving me an ulcer. I could have used something to break severity of the movie.

One thing I really liked was the accurate use of tracer rounds. In a dark movie, the only color we see is the green shots from the German tanks, and the molten pink one from the Americans. They are virtually the only colors you see in a sepia toned movie and the contrast makes a huge difference in the battle scenes.

Fury is the kind of movie that stays with you. It’s an excellent watch with well done battle scenes and a competent cast. This is not your average feel good military movie. Instead, it’s a dark depressing look at the end of the war, with very little hope thrown in. While a bleak look at war, it’s absolutely worthy of all the buzz it’s receiving.

WE GAVE IT: 4.5  Stars: Official Movie Trailer and Movie Poster Below

four and a half stars



[youtube id=”FLiamMVgoxc” width=”680″ height=”383″]

Official Fury Moive Poster featuring Brad Pitt

Movie Review: Cesar Chavez (2014)

cesar_chavez_xlgA dry Academic History Lesson


I love it when a movie makes me feel smart. That’s why I like making my way over to limited releases on occasion, especially when nationwide releases disappoint me.

Directed by Diego Luna, Chávez chronicles the birth of a modern American movement led by famed civil rights leader and labor organizer, Cesar Chavez (Michael Pena). Torn between his duties as a husband and father and his commitment to bringing dignity and justice to others,
Chavez was almost like a farm workers Ghandi. He embraces non violence, while fighting for the rights of farm workers, and balancing his personal life.

Michael Peña was an excellent choice for Chavez. He had a quiet dignity which highlights Chavez’ own nonviolent beliefs. He takes a centered approach to the role that really works with the character.

It was also good to see America Ferrera as César Chávez’s wife, Helen. She played the supporting role well, though a bit flatly. That might have been due to the development of the role. The movie was really focused on the title character.


The movie starts off with a radio interview with Chavez and the entire purpose of Chavez fight is revealed as Chavez describes how his father lost his farm to big industry;

“That’s when we stopped being farmers and started being farm workers.”

After a promising opening, the movie plods on a bit. The story of Chávez is inspiring. But watching a guy fast and go on hunger strikes isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds, mostly due to subpar story telling.

The run time is far too long. While it is a biographic movie, it doesn’t have the strength to hold a viewers attention for that long. From my understanding, Chávez was an intense, passionate man. Unfortunately, the movie about his life feels dry and academic. We don’t really get to know Chávez. We just get to know what he did.

While there is an attempt to humanize Chávez by showing his conflict with his family over his activism, the subplot doesn’t really feel fleshed out and there is no really satisfying resolution.



The movie is a bit too dry and unemotional to intrigue most viewers. It really feels more like a documentary than a fully fleshed out film. This is unfortunate, as the material was there. It just wasn’t used.

Also, the racist secondary characters were one dimensional and flat. I think the movie might have done a better job by underlining the motivations of the people Chavez came in conflict with. While it wouldn’t have made them sympathetic, it would have giving the conflict more credibility.

If you are in need of a good history lesson for your civics class, this movie is slightly less dry than reading a textbook. Luckily, the title character brings some life to the role, but everything else falls a bit flat. The story plods on, the conflicts feel forced, and the secondary characters are underdeveloped at best and stereotypical at worst. While the story of Cesar Chavez is an interesting and inspiring story, this film failed to capture his particular magic. Watch the official trailer below.

[youtube id=”awP3yXv-4ng” width=”633″ height=”356″]