The Martian – A Movie Review

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Feb 292016
 

The_Martian_PosterDuring a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crew-mates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

Director: Ridley Scott
Writer: Drew Goddard (screenplay), Andy Weir (book)
Stars: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Vincent Kapoor, Benedict Wong
Runtime: 144 min; Rated: PG-13; Genre: Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi; Released: 02 Oct 2015

We watched this Saturday evening. I’d been wanting to see it for a while. Overall impressions, it was OK at best, but not nearly as good as I expected. Lay didn’t like it at all, but he’s never very keen on sci-fi. Continue reading »

Robin Hood – A Movie Review

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May 172010
 

In 13th century England, Robin and his band of marauders confront corruption in a local village and lead an uprising against the crown that will forever alter the balance of world power. And whether thief or hero, one man from humble beginnings will become an eternal symbol of freedom for his people.

“Robin Hood” chronicles the life of an expert archer, previously interested only in self-preservation, from his service in King Richard’s army against the French. Upon Richard’s death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion, a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life. Together, they begin preying on the indulgent upper class to correct injustices under the sheriff.

With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure. This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war and return glory to England once more.

Genres: Action/Adventure and Drama; Running Time: 2 hrs. 11 min.; Release Date: May 14th, 2010 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content.

Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, William Marshall, Mark Strong, Mark Addy, Oscar Isaac, Danny Huston, Eileen Atkins, Kevin Durand, Max von Sydow

Directed By: Ridley Scott

We went to see this film at an earlier showing Friday evening to avoid some of the crowds. The film is no Gladiator, maybe one of the best films, but it is a decent movie. I got my money’s worth.

One of the problems with the film is a sense of urgency. Instead of sometimes lingering to develop the story, it often charges ahead and can seem somewhat aimless. Also, often the music overpowers the dialog. Combined with the accents, it can be hard to understand.

Crowe and Scott reunite again and Crowe gives a solid performance as a rougher and tougher Robin. Blanchett too is solid as an older Maiden, showing she is a tough woman who also willing to fight: a woman that properly would not have existed in this period. Strong shows once again that he is an excellent villain, having stared in Sherlock Holmes and Kick-Ass, a man who thinks about his own self-interest. Strong has been making a good career as villain for hire and he was the strongest actor in the film. The American in this English set film did well, William Hurt was very strong as the wronged advice in the King’s court, whilst Huston seemed to be having a blast as Richard I and obviously shows he is not as noble he seems.

This film felt like an origins story, a start to a new film series. This is Robin Hood that has not been seen on-screen like this before. I actually hope there is a sequel and the Merry Band get more film time.

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American Gangster

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Nov 062007
 

American GangsterNobody used to notice Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), the quiet driver to one of the inner city’s leading black crime bosses. But when his boss suddenly dies, Frank exploits the opening in the power structure to build his own empire and create his own version of the American Dream. He comes to rule the inner-city drug trade, flooding the streets with a purer product at a better price. Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) is an outcast cop close enough to the streets to feel a shift of control in the drug underworld. Roberts believes someone is climbing the rungs above the known Mafia families and starts to suspect that a black power player has come from nowhere to dominate the scene.

Director:
Ridley Scott

Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller

Cast:
Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, Lymari Nadal, Ted Levine, Roger Guenveur Smith, John Hawkes, RZA, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Goodwin, Ruby Dee

Lay and I went to set “We Own the Night” Sunday night at Westshore. We arrived to find the parking lot nearly empty, so we rightly assumed that American Gangster might not be packed. So that’s what we watched.

This movie was long, but Anyone who has every seen a Ridley Scott film will know that his films are long. (Blade Runner, A Good Year, Matchstick Men, Hannibal, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, all ran for at least two hours or more.) Scott didn’t set out to film another scarface, he set out to tell a story not just about Frank Lucas but rather a tale of corruption and how pervasive it is. There were a number of subplots, but they all played to the overarching theme of the movie. I never felt tired or bored, and the movie moved along at a nice clip.

This was a great biopic of New York gangster Frank Lucas, who I knew nothing about. The film shows Lucas’s relationship with the Italian Mafia perfectly, giving you almost a two way view of the city’s underworld. Denzel Washington excels at the part as Lucas, and Russell Crowe as the cop out to get him is excellent. Crowe does well portraying a cop out to just do his job but can’t do it for the corruption all around him. It’s a film about Lucas’ rise to fame in New York’s Heroin business, and his fall due to both Crowe and police persistence.

With many gangster films, you are always put off by either the acting or the story. But here this is not the case with this story. You have a true story that does not mask Lucas’s violent life but rather portrays it as a life of both murder and violence. It does not glamorize his life, and the story is and characters are well-developed but understated, despite the over-the-top lifestyles that had to be sometimes depicted. Crowe and Washington play well off each other.

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Kingdom of Heaven

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Nov 132005
 

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Balian of Ibelin travels to Jerusalem during the crusades of the 12th century, and there he finds himself as the defender of the city and its people.

Directed by
Ridley Scott

Genres
Action, Drama, War

Cast
Martin Hancock, Michael Sheen, Nathalie Cox, Eriq Ebouaney, Jouko Ahola, David Thewlis, Liam Neeson, Philip Glenister, Orlando Bloom, Bronson Webb, Kevin McKidd, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Steven Robertson, Marton Csokas, Alexander Siddig

We rented this movie Friday night. Much is said about how the film portrays religion, given the sensitive subject of the Crusades, but I feel that Ridley has achieved a wonderful balance between how Christianity and Islam are portrayed. Both are given fair airtime on their ideologies, and the film tries to preach (pardon the pun) about tolerance, yet highlights the dangers of fanatical followers of both religions, of misguidance from men in search of worldly power.

Christianity took a beating – where senseless battles are waged in the name of Christ, where insensitivity breed contempt. Priests are cast in negative light and given lines like “convert to Islam, repent later” when all around seems lost. It is emphasized in the show that what matters is in your head and in your heart – that noble actions speak louder than mere empty and repetitive “praise the Lord” chants, as if that will protect you during Judgment Day.

The script is no revolution of coherence or cohesion, yet it works rather well for this type of movie. Because this is more pure entertainment than anything else. In the press material Ridley Scott stated himself that this should be seen more as entertainment than historical facts. Which is absolutely fine by me i might add, at least as long as he states this beforehand. Perhaps the most disturbing things is for instance the way that Orlando Bloom goes from clueless blacksmith to full-fledged sword-wielding knight in 15 minutes movie-time.

And the actors? Orlando Bloom is in my opinion one of the most over-rated actors around today. Here though he’s better than I’ve seen him before. I think the main thing is that he manages to act and look more like an adult this time, while in most previous movies he has felt almost childish. The rest of the cast consist mostly of quite well-known names and they all do a fine job, making this movie quite well-acted although it’s not exactly Shakespeare…

All things said and done?I found this movie to be very entertaining. It’s visually stunning, reasonably well acted with a decent script and some nice characters. What it lacks in coherence and story it makes up for with a strong and quick pace (for the genre) and some truly impressive action scenes.

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