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    Movie Reviews at Sayville Cinema
    October 4, 2015 5:33 pm  
    Movie Reviews at Sayville Cinema

    by Liam Haber

    “The Martian”

    On this same weekend in 2013, what ended up being my favorite movie of that year was released. Gravity was an award winning, thrilling film about Sandra Bullock’s character trying to survive alone in the vast emptiness of space.

    What made Gravity so special was that Bullock was the only person on screen for a majority of the film, isolating her with the audience. That is very much unlike this weekend’s The Martian, which will no doubt be heavily compared to the former film. And that is why The Martian works so well.

    The Martian focuses on Mark Watney, played fantastically by Matt Damon. After a freak storm and a flying satellite dish force his crew to accidentally leave him behind, Watney is left alone on Mars with no means of contact. Forced to survive for four years before the scheduled ARES IV arrival, Watney is in the public eye, seen from Earth by all as he risks his life in order to stay alive for as long as any man ever has in space. Using only the dwindling supply of materials around him and his brain, Watney has to, in his own words, “Science the s*** out of it” in order to survive.

    And science has never been more entertaining, at least not since 1995’s Apollo 13 told a similar true story in a very different way. Director Ridley Scott has called this movie a “love letter to science” in a number of interviews, and I cannot disagree. Nothing is dumbed down through movie magic, and if you stop paying attention, you might miss out on an important discovery made by a character. That could get troubling at times if you lose patience quickly, but this movie pulls you in and doesn’t let go. Considering Ridley Scott is responsible for what are considered two of the best science-fiction movies of all time, Alien and Blade Runner, The Martian had a lot of expectations going into it. But unlike the former two films, this feels much more like science-reality. That mainly goes to show how much labor was put into nailing details like how the soil of Mars works or what the response time of a rover is when relaying signals from Mars to Earth and back. This movie makes science interesting, something most teachers find difficult to do daily.

    Unlike many other movies of similar scopes, The Martian mainly succeeds in utilizing the massive supporting cast it has. Some of the biggest stand outs of the cast include Jeff Daniels as NASA Director Teddy Sanders, Jessica Chastain as ARES III Captain Melissa Lewis and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Mission Director Vincent Kapoor. And this is without mentioning other roles played by Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Donald Glover and more. But as good as all of these actors are, this is Matt Damon’s movie. Every beat of the movie is driven by Watney, and Damon has never been better. Every emotion, every feeling that one would have in this situation is captured fantastically by Damon, who is forced to act against only himself and a computer for nearly the entire movie. He captures the humor the book is notable for so well, playing Watney as the average Joe who just so happens to be the only living thing on a deadly planet.

    And I should add that this movie is very funny. That is due mostly to how the source novel by Andy Weir (one of my favorite books of the decade) was written, as well as to the fantastic script of Drew Goddard, the writer of The Cabin in the Woods and TV’s Lost. But the man to thank for capturing the entire tone of such a dour story is Scott. This is a return to form for the fantastic director, following low critical and box office reception of his Russell Crowe starring Robin Hood, his attempted Alien spin-off Prometheus, and his trainwreck that was The Counselor. But his interpretation of The Martian goes above and beyond my expectations, capturing everything I loved about the novel in the first place. None of this is to say the movie is without its problems. Including its white-washed cast and poorly defined supporting characters. But overall, Scott and Damon both return to forms unoccupied for at least a decade.

    This is a visual thrill ride, demanding to be seen on the biggest screen possible. If you can handle it, the 3D is worth the price, considering how good it looks. The cinematography of Dariusz Wolski (best known for his work on The Pirates of the Caribbean series) is breathtaking, transforming the Jordanian desert that was filmed into the desolate and depressing Mars with ease and wonder. This is a beautiful movie, making a faraway world feel incredibly realistic, mainly because Scott and Damon have made our reluctant hero so realistic. This is an entertaining and fun movie that will hang with you in the best ways possible, giving you a desire to travel the stars once more.

    Liam’s Rating: 5/5 Stars

    The Martian. Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Matt Damon. Rated PG-13. 2hr 21min. Now Playing at Sayville Cinemas!

    “Everest”

    Roughly 4000 people have reached the summit of Mount Everest. Of those, apparently there is only one story worth telling. In the film Everest, the story of the most infamous expedition to the tallest peak is retold, the exact same story that could be found in Jon Krakauer’s excellent novel Into Thin Air. The 1996 disaster has been told in other formats as well, including many documentaries and TV movies. While this is a knock against Everest, it isn’t entirely intentional. My complaining is more out of frustration than it is out of true anger, mostly because the movie is very good, if overly clichéd.

    If you don’t already know the plot of this movie I’d implore you to seek out the aforementioned novel that the movie is not based on. But to sum it up quickly, Rob Hall was a mountain climber who made a business of taking people up to Everest, including the expedition in 1996 that ended so terribly, with eight people never making it back down the mountain. An ensemble leads the movie, with fantastic but underrated actor Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) leading the show as Hall. Easily the best actor in the movie, Clarke acts better than most ever could with the number of layers he has on. The emotion and the weight on him are powerful to a level I’d never have imagined from such an underseen actor. It also helps that he has the ability to speak in his true Australian accent for once. Among the rest of the large cast include Oscar nominees Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley and Emily Watson, Emmy nominees, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly, as well as up and coming actors Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Debicki, and Thomas Wright. With a cast this large it shouldn’t come as a surprise that many of the actors get lost in the shuffle, forgotten and given few lines and scenes.

    The most egregious example of this casting problem is either Gyllenhaal’s role as a rival expedition leader to Hall or possibly Robin Wright, who is billed fourth on the poster but appears in very few scenes, most of which look as though they could have been shot in a single weekend. Because the writers and director decided to focus on telling every story instead of just one, such as a movie about just Hall or just Krakauer or just Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin’s character). Instead a story gets lost behind the faces of the actors, which is a shame for such a great looking movie.

    And boy, how good it looks. I saw it in 3D, which might be the way to go. Shot partially on location on the mountain itself, as well as in the Alps, the cinematography is stunning. Although the film was not filmed in 3D, the conversion looks great, fitting the movie well. Salvatore Totino, the cinematographer, doesn’t have the longest IMDb page, but this is a promising start for him. Working with director Ron Howard on his recent movies, this should get him more attention from the greater public. The editing is good as well, telling the story through more than rote writing. A documentary using the same footage and none of the plot would be riveting, but by the very nature of film it is lost to what we have here.

    Director Baltasar Kormakur, an Icelandic director who is also responsible for the Mark Wahlberg movies Contraband and 2 Guns, doesn’t really elevate any of the material, which is amazing by its pure history. But this is no Into Thin Air. This is no documentary. It is just Everest, for whatever that means.

    Liam’s Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

    Everest. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, and Jake Gyllenhaal. 2hr 1min. Rated PG-13. Now Playing at Sayville Cinemas!

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