The Martian (2015)

Moving right along, up for a few Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role along with adapted screenplay and production design and more is The Martian.  I had meant to see this in theatres but I believe it landed in a time when I didn’t find much time to go anywhere or do anything other than the normal routine.  Regardless, I came home from a weekend getaway with a friend and decided to start this one up!

Let’s check it out! 🙂

The Martian (2015)

The Martian

Director: Ridley  Scott

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Wiig, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong

During 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.-IMDB

The Martian is a smart and thrilling action adventure.  Its adapted from a novel by Andy Weir with the same novel. I’m going to be honest that I’m not a huge fan of Matt Damon.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen many of his movies and the ones I’ve seen are somewhat forgettable.  The premise of The Martian looked good and one that could amount to some fun and intense moments.  All these expectations were met and exceeded.  Its rare for me to stay engaged in lengthy movies and coming in at 2 hours, I’d say it borders along the length I’m not a huge fan of although most movies are averaging around that sort of runtime nowadays.  However, it never feels like its that long.  Even if he stays on that planet for something like 3 years or whatnot. This has to do mainly with pacing and the tone along with some good performances.

The Martian

I can’t compare it to the source material but nothing in The Martian ever felt like it was lost in translation.  The story pieced together well.  For one, The Martian is kind of like Cast Away but in space except it shows the other side of the spectrum working hard to bring him home, almost as hard as he is working to stay alive.  Its because of that, our endearing characters go from Matt Damon’s witty attitude towards this as he slowly transforms over the time in Mars by himself to the scientists at NASA working to get him back as soon as possible and to his crew that reluctantly had to leave him behind in the first place.  While this can be dramatic, it also is strewn with comedic moments to mellow out the seriousness of the situation.  In many ways, its the heart of having a positive heart that keeps you going in the first place or just its better to try to work stuff out then to give up. On top of that, the production design was great along with the visual effects.

The Martian

The cast here is pretty fantastic.  I’m loving that Jeff Daniels is in this one also.  Back to back movies with him is refreshing (the last one was Steve Jobs that I reviewed HERE).  Its also with a very different and much more serious performance from Kristin Wiig which I liked quite a bit.  At the same time, Chiwetel Ejiofor is a fantastic judge of picking decent movies to be involved with and his role in this one is dynamic to say the least.  Jessica Chastain might not feel like she’s in here for a long time and honestly, I didn’t even think her role was that groundbreaking, especially considering the crew also included Sebastian Stan who should get more bigger roles. A young actor Rich Purnell gets the small role of being the astrophysicist who kind of solves all the problems here and I’d truly love to see him in more movies because I loved his part.  But, Matt Damon blew me away.   It was a memorable performance full of energy.  Smart and funny; the latter adjective is something I never quite associated him with before.  Mark Watney is a great character and he did a great job bringing him to life on the big screen.

the martian

Overall, The Martian is a fun action-adventure movie.  It carries a good message, adds in some thrills, puts a little space twist, and is smart and comedic all wrapped up in a little bundle.  It works well and is an engaging story.  The cast and their performances were great from Matt Damon to Kristin Wiig to Jeff Daniels and much more.  Is it a Oscars material? Maybe not exactly fitting the normalcy and the format of it but it does have rewatchability and that’s even more important to me. It exceeded my expectations and I love that! 🙂

Did you see The Martian? What did you think of it? Are you a fan of Matt Damon? Any of his roles stand out to you?

The Departed (2006)

A round of applause please! I made it through The Departed finally! I figured it was the stylish way to end off the Infernal Affairs trilogy review and finally get this crossed off my to-do list.

Lets check it out!

the departed posterDirector: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Vera Farmiga, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin

An undercover state cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob race to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both sides realize their outfit has a rat.-IMDB

The Departed is inspired by Infernals Affairs in case you didn’t know before. Directed by Martin Scorsese, it has a style that cannot be replaced or doubted. I’ve always been a fan of his despite sometimes really not liking the length especially in gang/crime movies. The Departed really could have benefit from being shorter. The first half was so slow. I literally wanted to cry because it felt like it would never end. And then the halfway point hit and the majority of the events were almost identical to Infernal Affairs.  I’m not saying thats a bad thing but I guess because I found the original to be genius, this one didn’t have as much of an impact.Does that make sense?

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However, like Infernal Affairs, it has a very strong cast. I may not be very knowledgable about Matt Damon but I have always liked Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. They both did well. I still think Leonardo did better than Matt in some ways. The best has to go to Jack Nicholson in his role as the bad guy, the leaderof the Irish gang. He had this outrageous unpredictable nature and that gave immense life to the movie. I couldn’t really picture another actor taking up that role in having such an impact. Another actor that I loved was Mark Wahlberg. He was completely an asshole but it worked well to give the movie some conflict and friction.

the departed vera farmiga

These movies are all about the boys but the difference is in the love story behind this. In this one, it just has one lady, but who wants to compete with the lovely Vera Farmiga? She really can act in any role. Her character brought in nice balance especially because she was kind of like the intermediary between the undercover and mole. Her one character replacing the two separate ones gave The Departed a nice little twist that I thought worked very well.

the departed mark matt

Casting and cinematography are definitely not my issues with this. My issue is really the story itself. I can get that background check would lead to Leonardo’s character being discovered and his getting kicked out. But although its not an obvious connection, Matt’s was really visible ever since he was a kid. How was it not apparent? Maybe its just me being nitpicky but I felt on some levels this was just a little too over the top for my liking.

I really don’t have much to say anymore. Overall, The Departed was an okay remake of its original. It had an awesome cast that brought life to a stretched out story. Although it did give it a new twist to it, I’m still debating if I really liked the ending. I know I’m the minority who doesn’t think this was absolutely great but thats okay. We can’t agree with everything 😉

What did you think of The Departed?

Contagion (2011)

I’m starting to feel like I’ve been living under a rock because in the past while, I haven’t really known much about any of the movies I watch. Usually, I just do that for B-horror and this isn’t one of those.  Honestly, I never had a doubt about Contagion because Steven Soderbergh (who I love) directed it and the entire cast is pretty strong so there were high expectations for this one.

Now, just to see if they actually lived up to my expectations 🙂

contagion posterDirector: Steven Soderbergh

Cast: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bryan Cranston, Chin Han, John Hawkes

When Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes home from a business trip feeling ill, the following day she has a seizure and ends up dying.  Shortly afterwards, her son is also infected and her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) is quarantined.  At the same time, multiple people around the world also start falling ill and dying with similar symptoms.  Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) is brought in to take care of what seems to be an epidemic and with the help of Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) to find out what this virus is exactly; Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) to go out into the field to contain and help set up facilities for the widespread virus and treatment and Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) to Hong Kong to investigate where and how it all began.  They are racing against time to figure out the vaccine that will save the lives against the constantly changing lethal virus.  While at the same time, they are up against the turmoil in the public along with people doubting their motives such as Alan Krumweide (Jude Law).

contagion kate winslet

Contagion is a drama thriller as you would probably expect with the topic on hand: epidemic and racing with time.  I love thrillers and I believe since Outbreak I haven’t quite found one about spreading virus that has quite as much impact.  Funny enough, I have never reviewed Outbreak.  These movies tend to be heavy and I spread out the viewings.  But, I will do it soon.  With that said, Contagion 1-ups Outbreak.  I’m going to tell you a little story of what happened while I was watching this.  I turned this on Saturday night after dinner and I was sitting in my room and then Gwyneth Paltrow enters and shortly leaves because she dies fairly early in the flick (is that considered a spoiler?) It becomes obvious that coughing is a symptom and then as they were going through this intense part of infected people around the world sweating, coughing, hazy vision and then they go back to Laurence Fishburne and the other doctors talking about it and then right then when its more silent and tense, my mom starts coughing.  I kid you not, I jumped out of my chair and I tensed up really quickly.

Contagion matt damon

Contagion was a kick-ass thriller.  I have nothing but good things to say about it.  The opening sequence, Gwyneth Paltrow, the buildup of the virus, the balance of chaos and tension, the whole tone of the movie: everything worked well together. The only thing was that they involved so many characters that at times, I needed to recall who those people were and a lot of times, it didn’t give the space to relate to them much.  The one person would be Marion Cotillard’s character who pretty much is dismissed at the second half for a good part until she resurfaces for just a small part.  Some characters, like Matt Damon, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne and Jennifer Ehle had more impact on the movie as they were the main leads of the whole operation on different sides of the situation. Matt Damon was the biggest loser in this though.  He lost his wife and his stepson and even when he’s being the overprotective parent, I still felt that I supported his idea in this one.  He really didn’t have much else to lose so even if it seemed unfair, extreme measures, right?  I had to write some on Matt Damon because I don’t watch a lot of him and he is usually in the “meh” territory but this one, I did like his character.

contagion

Still, the other characters did a great job.  I particularly like Kate Winslet’s character.  If you’ve been reading my reviews, you already know I’m a HUGE fan of hers.  She is just a classy awesome actress who can do no wrong.  And if there is wrong, its the movie, the story, the writers and whatever else, but nope, never her.  In this one, she just totally steals it.  As for Laurence Fishburne, the only thing that bothered me was his moustache.  It just doesn’t suit him well but other than that, his character was great.  He tried to keep the pieces together and his character was human because it wasn’t a perfect savior.  He just tried to balance his own personal worries during the tough time and make as objective as possible decisions based on what he had.  Along with Jennifer Ehle, who I have never seen before this, was pretty awesome.  She was really just in and out of scenes for short amount of times but she was in a lot of the critical scenes and handled them very well.

Contagion

The character I hated the most (and I believe we are supposed to hate) was Jude Law’s Alan. The man was batshit crazy and obnoxious and just ridiculous.  You know the guy that pours oil on fire.  Thats him.  As the story intensifies, his face just irritated me.  Plus, Jude Law actually did pull off those facial expressions so well.  All in all, he did everything his character needed.  Great job, Jude Law.  You never let me down.

Contagion

Because of all the characters involved in this, switching from different levels of investigation and management and research for this epidemic, the plot stays focused on the big problem on hand. It stay tense and compelling throughout its slight short of 2 hour run time but I never felt it was even that long.  Plus, in the Hong Kong scenes, they actually used some of the Hong Kong entertainment industry’s familiar faces so it hit even closer to home for me.

Overall, Contagion has an amazing cast, a gripping plot and it may possibly be the best epidemic disaster movie I have seen ever! So yes, I’d totally recommend this.  Its smart and it brings out the scary level of this especially since we’ve already experienced some similar scares (not quite to their extent, thank goodness) in the past decade.

Have you seen Contagion? What do you think of its plot and the cast? Did it get under your skin? 

We Bought A Zoo (2011)

When I first saw the trailer of We Bought a Zoo, I found that it was an original and heartwarming idea.  Any movie that features tigers and other animals is usually a winner for me especially since it starred the charming Scarlett Johansson.  Seeing as I hadn’t seen a movie of Matt Damon in years, I decided it was time to give this one a shot.

we bought a zooDirector: Cameron Crowe

Cast: Matt Damon, Scarlett  Johansson, Thomas Haden Church, Colin Ford, Maggie Elizabeth Jones, John Michael Higgins

This movie is based on the true story of a family who bought a struggling zoo which is called Dartmoor Zoo in real life.  After some research I found that it is located in UK.  At least thats what it seems like from their official website.  However, this flick is set in Southern California.  Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) has just suffered the loss of his wife six months ago. Suddenly, he needed to take care of his two children and give up on his adventurous journalist career.  To get over the pains of constant reminder the present city he lived in brought him, he decided to take all his money and buy a new place to settle his son, Dylan (Colin Ford) and daughter, Rosie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones).  In some twist of events, they ended up falling in love with a beautiful house that had a side obligation of taking care of the Rosemoor Wildlife Park.  Against his brother Duncan’s (Thomas Haden Church) advice, he decided to take up this new adventure despite the reluctance of Dylan.  There he meets, the head zookeeper Kelly Foster (Scarlett Johansson) and the other 5 members of the workers there.  Together, they need to meet the zoo’s requirements and examination/inspection from Walter Ferris (John Michael Higgins) by a certain time and hope that this rebuilding this zoo will bring Benjamin, his children and his passionate staff more than they had imagined.

we bought a zoo matt damon spar

I didn’t originally know that this was based on a true story.  We Bought a Zoo is a heartwarming story about a family and their adventure.  In one way, it was about Benjamin Mee rebuilding a struggling zoo and taking up a new challenge, but at the same time its about rebuilding his family also.  We could see the parallels between the two with certain events that happen and Benjamin Mee’s character showed how his emotions sometimes would mix up the two.

we bought a zoo benjamin dylan rosie

On that note, Matt Damon who played Benjamin Mee was very convincing.  There were some parts that I didn’t like as much, maybe it was the dialogue maybe it was a forced situation.  I can’t really pinpoint it, but overall, Matt Damon surprised me with this role.  I haven’t seen Matt Damon in a movie since The Talented Mr. Ripley or Ocean’s Thirteen or something like that, However, those roles never really stuck with me and honestly, I don’t remember much of it.  This one was really great.  He played a great father role who was trying to deal with an ignorant son and just simply trying to be a good father for his children. At the same time, learning how to lead the zoo to a better place despite knowing nothing about how to run a zoo.

We Bought A Zoo

Scarlett Johansson plays a very different role from what she usually does.  She usually plays a flustered girl in romantic comedies who always makes bad decisions.  At times, they even seem like she plays confused roles, with the exception of possibly her supporting role as Black Widow in The Avengers.  I like Johansson a lot as an actress.  Something about her makes me feel like she’s genuine and true and captures her roles very well.  No doubt, she is charming and pretty but in this one, she played a tough head zookeeper who knew what and when was the right thing to do in the best interests.  She played the role where she wasn’t the damsel in distress but she supported Benjamin Mee in making the right move and leading and teaching him how to be a leader for everyone.  She was the foundation that helped keep everything together.

We Bought a Zoo rosie

The kids in this movie were also quite good.  Rosie was cute and adorable. Everything she did and said made us believe that this movie was about a new beginning.  It was about believing in the impossible.  She was a gem through the whole thing.  Dylan on the other hand did a pretty decent job as well. He was older so he portrayed the reluctance of change and of giving up what he already had in his city life.  It was part of coming of age and a journey of growing up for him and learning new values and life lessons.

we bought a zoo dylan

The combination of all these factors: the outstanding cast, the heartwarming story, and the passion for adventure made me fall in love with this movie.  Its not going to be a huge hit or will it ever be.  There are no doubt flaws in rhetorical dialogue.  However, there is also no questions as how this movie can carry you into a beautiful world and a father’s hope to give a better life for his family.  There’s a lot that the audience can get from this movie in life lessons and values.  We learn a little bit from every character and their differences.

I love this movie and I think its a great watch. It carries a good message and for once, puts the love story in the back seat but brings forth the value of family and the passion of not being afraid of adventure and building a dream, no matter how impossible it may seem, no matter how many obstacles you have to overcome.

Whats your favorite family adventure movie?

Happy Feet Two (2011)

I’m back from vacation meaning I had another 16 hours spent on the plane watching movies.  This time I got around to another 5 movies.  There were a few failures where I just passed out watching two other ones in the middle and caught an incomplete movie so I won’t talk about those.  The first movie that I saw going back was a family animation called Happy Feet Two.  I don’t know how well Happy Feet was to the public but I enjoyed it for the upbeat music and dancing.  I loved it. Despite that, I still had this feeling that Happy Feet Two would be absolute crap as I had no idea how they’d do a follow up on it.  I was pleasantly surprised though, as I enjoyed it quite a bit.  A great movie to start off my long flight back home.

Happy Feet Two focuses on Mumble (Elijah Wood) and Gloria’s(Pink) son, Erik (Ava Acres) who doesn’t seem to know his place and his talents to find himself in Emperor Penguin world.  When he sees Ramon (Robin Williams) running off to find his world again, Erik and his two friends trail behind him and end up meeting Lovelace (Robin Williams) and the Mighty Sven (Hank Azaria).  The mighty Sven grows on Erik because he sees the possibility to achieve the impossible if you have the will.  Sven is actually a puffin that tricks everyone to believe that he is a penguin that can fly.  At the same time, we meet krills that want to escape the food chain and be different with Will the Krill (Brad Pitt) and Bill the Krill (Matt Damon).  They form somewhat of a side story.  Something in the environment suddenly changes and the Emperor Penguin world shifts lower and all the penguins are now stuck with no food.  The only ones outside are Erik and his two friends and Mumble who went out in search for him.  With the help of the penguins from Ramon’s world, they face this emergency and try to find a way out that they need everyone to help them out.

Its a pretty simple story.  Whats really nice and I think works well for Happy Feet in general is the musical elements.  We get upbeat music to match up with penguins dancing and singing through happy and sad times.  I’m not saying that we can all live through life and just forget our problems with dancing and singing but I have to say that its help me through a lot of tough times.  I think that has a factor on how much I did enjoy the movie.  It was just fun.  I don’t think its as good as the first one, but it does a pretty good job.  I think also another contributing factor to why I enjoyed it was the voices.  Everyone is top of the line.  Robin Williams did voices for two parts and it had hints of the voice when he did the Genie in Aladdin and I really liked it. As usual, Hank Azaria does a great job also as Sven.  Matt Damon and Brad Pitt join in as well for Bill and Will the Krills and they were quite fun to watch and listen to.  The only thing was that it seemed that they were trying to ride the popularity of Ice Age and the squirrel side story.  Its still entertaining for the Krills to have the stage but at times, it seemed a bit like it was trying hard to make sure it kept the movie in a uplifting mood even when it was meant to be slightly more serious. I wonder if it was really a necessary addition sometimes.

Overall, I did enjoy this movie.  It was a very pleasant surprise.  Did it give me any laughs? Not really.  What it did give me was a fun and musical time with a few heartwarming moments.  That was great for the beginning of the flight and it got me ready for the next one.  If you enjoyed the first one, I’d expect that you’d find some fun with this one.

Did you see this movie? Enjoyed it? Maybe you enjoyed it more than the first one?