Talking Movies

September 30, 2015

The Martian 3-D

Director Ridley Scott tacks away from the Erich von Daniken-inspired marvel of nonsense that is the Prometheusverse for a cracking foray into hard science sci-fi.

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Ares III astronauts carry out their varied tasks on the surface of Mars, until a storm unexpectedly lethally strengthens. Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) leads her crew; Martinez (Michael Pena), Johanssen (Kate Mara), Beck (Sebastian Stan), Vogel (Aksel Hennie); from their quarters, the Hab, through the blinding sandstorm to their ship, which blasts off just before it would’ve tipped fatally off-balance. But Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is left behind, killed by flying debris. NASA director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) leads mourning for Watney, but when Mars maven Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) convinces him to pinpoint Watney’s corpse via satellite, Sat Operator Mindy Park (Mackenzie Davis) discovers Watney’s still alive. Teddy, Vincent, PR director Montrose (Kristen Wiig), and Ares director Mitch (Sean Bean), agonise over the ethical and logistical quandaries of a rescue mission, while Mark uses his wits to colonise Mars.

It’s a bold move to start with the evacuation: imagine Zemeckis cutting the lead-in to the plane crash in Cast Away. But it works because it so quickly funnels us to NASA, and the personalities who will decide Mark’s long-term future as he ensures his short-term survival. This is probably the most consistently funny film Scott’s ever directed, courtesy of Drew Goddard’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel. Goddard knowingly pushes ratings boundaries with Mark’s cursing, and renders Mark’s never-ending vlog a series of riffs and one-liners. But it’s not a one-man show. Prometheus’ Benedict Wong is wonderful as Bruce, the Jet Propulsion Lab director given impossible deadlines and tasks, Davis breaks out from indies (What If, Bad Turn Worse) to share archly comic moments with Ejiofor, Pena delivers another assured turn, while Daniels and Bean duel with gravitas and humour.

Sunshine showed one mistake creating dilemma after dilemma. The Martian shows a series of problems to be solved with a can-do spirit, and it’s nice to see characters mentally calculating trajectories, accelerations, and chemistry problems. Arguably this actually realises Tomorrowland’s stated intention to restore technological optimism to the popular imagination. Although the valorisation of science is complicated when you realise Mark only survives because his potatoes were not genetically modified to be barren… The sacrifice on the altar of Blake Snyder’s beats annoys, but Mark’s slight hubris and its inexplicable random flashing ‘Malfunction’ sign mitigate. It also makes the finale very tense because statistically something ought to go badly wrong after that long in space. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, a regular Scott collaborator, renders Earth in blue tones, Mars in red, and the Ares III in white; emphasising the different environments.

Ridley Scott has become a seriously prolific director this century, and on the evidence of this triumph he ought to sign Drew Goddard to write all his future films.

5/5

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December 1, 2013

Subtitle European Film Festival Awards

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The Subtitle European Film Festival drew to a close tonight in Kilkenny with the second Angela Awards, celebrating excellence in European film-making.

Actors honoured at the awards included Norwegian actor Aksel Hennie (known for his role in the crossover hit Jo Nesbø’s Headhunters), Finnish actor Peter Franzén (who will shortly be seen on screens starring alongside Sean Penn in The Gunman), Russian actor Danila Kozlovsky (star of the forthcoming Vampire Academy alongside Gabriel Byrne) and Danish actor Pilou Asbaek (star of TV hit Borgen). The Awards were hosted by actress and author Pauline McLynn in The Set Theatre, Kilkenny, with a host of luminaries including director Jim Sheridan, writer David Caffrey, Harry Potter producer Tanya Seghatchian, and actors Robert Sheehan, Amy Huberman, Laurence Kinlan, Sean McGinley, Tom Hickey, Peter O’Meara, Aisling Franciosi, Morten Suurballe (The Killing), and Allan Hyde (True Blood) all in attendance.

At the awards Jim Sheridan also presented Emmy Award-winning casting director Avy Kaufman with a Lifetime Achievement Angela. Kaufman was the casting diector for films as diverse as The Sixth SenseThe Life of PiLincoln and Shame. She has also worked with Jim Sheridan, casting many of his films. Subtitle presents popular films from European countries such as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, France, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Bosnia. With 70 screenings of 36 popular films from over 13 countries across Europe over 7 days in Kilkenny, Subtitle makes you see cinema in a different way.

Full List of Angela Winners:

 

Pilou Asbaek, Denmark, Actor

For his role in: A Hijacking

 

Agnieszka Grochowska, Poland, Actor

For her role in: Walesa

 

Aksel Hennie, Norway, Actor

For his role in: Ninety Minutes

 

Peter Franzén, Finland, Actor

For his role in: Heart Of A Lion

 

Danila Kozlovsky, Russia, Actor

For his role in: Soulless

 

Antonio De La Torre, Spain, Actor

For his role in: Grupo 7

 

Marija Pikic, Serbia, Actor

For her role in: Children Of Sarajevo

 

Jakub Gierszał, Poland, Actor

For his role in: Suicide Room

 

Laura Birn, Finland, Actor

For her role in: Purge

 

Hannah Hoekstra, Netherlands, Actor

For her role in: Hemel

 

Jessica Grobowsky, Finland, Actor

For her role in: 8-Ball

 

Marwan Kanzari, Netherlands, Actor

Breakthrough: Wolf

 

Per-Erik Eriksen, Norway, Editor

Editing: Kon-Tiki

 

Avy Kaufman, US, Casting Director  

Lifetime Achievement: Casting

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