Talking Movies

March 22, 2020

You Have Been Listening To… : Part IV

As we hunker down and wait for the inevitable lockdown to finally be announced the radio show is on a slight hiatus. There has been a lack of reviews by me of new releases on 103.2 Dublin City FM this year, and what was personally an injury-enforced sabbatical from studio and cinema has now been made a general cinema sabbatical for all. But if you’re eager to explore the back catalogue here’s a round-up of links to editions of Sunday Breakfast with Patrick Doyle and a list of the films we discussed since our Christmas countdown, as the segments morphed into an A-Z of Great Moments in Film that attempts to tip the hat to films that have an anniversary of some kind in 2020.

 

December

Review of 2019 (Free Solo, Non-Fiction)

Review of 2019 (The Mule, Apollo 11)

 

January

Review of 2019 (Balloon) + That Was The 2010s

Preview of 2020 (Tenet, Fast & Furious 9, The French Dispatch, Bergman Island)

TV Choice Terminator 2 + Classic Thunderball

TV Choice American Made + Classic Rebecca

 

February

Great Moments in Film – Groundhog Day

Great Moments in Film – Spartacus

Great Moments in Film – All About Eve

 

March

Great Moments in Film – Back to the Future

Great Moments in Film – Cast Away

Great Moments in Film – Les Diaboliques

Great Moments in Film – The Empire Strikes Back

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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