The Martian - Review

PG-13  |  141 min  |  Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Review - Matt Mungle

**In theaters October 2, 2015**

SynopsisDuring 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. 

Review: THE MARTIAN could be the front runner for film of the year. With that bold statement made and out of the way we can get down to the nitty gritty (as Nacho Libre would say) about why that is true. There will also be redeeming statements made to make up for referencing Nacho in this review. 

The film is built off of the best selling novel by Andy Weir of the same name. It starts off looking about as Sci-Fi as any film could. With visuals reminiscent of Gravity and Prometheus it immediately grounds you into the genre. But once the first 10 or 15 minutes have passed you soon realize that this film has few peers, if any, in the space arena. Much of that is attributed to Matt Damon who delivers the role of a lifetime. And he does it without straying too far out of the Matt Damon box.

The story is about Mark Watney (Damon) and even though there are exceptional characters supporting him; the film lives and dies by Watney. Every conversation, decision, and conscious thought is centered around him. So if Matt Damon does not give us an endearing, believable, and screen captivating performance? Then none the rest matters at all. It is important that you get that point. Because this is a fantastic film. One that is hard to find any fault in. And I am not sure that would be the case if not for Matt Damon. 

There are countless other things to geek out about in this film. There are three separate stories taking place simultaneously but all working together with perfect balance. There is Watney stranded alone on Mars. There is the NASA team back on Earth trying to figure out if/how to rescue him. Then there is his mission team on their way back to Earth. The left thinking he was dead.

The two stories other than Damon's character each have a powerhouse of acting talent. The NASA team includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig, and Sean Bean. Plus a handful of others  who all, regardless if they are in 3 scenes or the majority, give us rich, vibrant characters. The mission team consists of Jessica Chastain,  Michael Peña, and Kate Mara. And they give off the essence of a true team. You never doubt for a moment that they have spent years together in space.

If you are a science geek then this one will have you sitting on the edge of your Bunsen burner. The attention to detail is also award worthy. The decision to bring in real NASA scientists to authenticate each element pays off in the script and the visual effects. Yet even with all the technical discussions between Watney on Mars and NASA on Earth the audience never feels talked down to or gets lost in the hugeness of it all. It is subtle writing that solidifies the facts and never disengages the viewer. Space is tricky to pull off. Granted there are no on location shoots on Mars. Yet. So it is important to feel like you are there. You do. And at the same time you have a front and center seat at the helm of NASA control watching it all unfold.

Now back to Damon. He spends the biggest portion of the film alone. Watney has been there for years and has to act like a man totally separate from other life forms. He has to keep his head about him and also hang on to his wit and sense of humor. To survive he has to never give up. You get the sense that Watney is behaving as if help is hours away and not years. As if that reasoning is what helps him keep a grip on his sanity. But all the while he is preparing for and accepting the long haul in front of him. His observations and outlook make the movie very entertaining. Damon brings all of those characteristics to life and delivers a solid, believable, and heartfelt performance.

THE MARTIAN is rated PG-13 for some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity. There is nothing in this that is gratuitous or out of character. Every detail is spot on whether in action or speech. If there is an expletive it is because there was no other word that worked better. Same for content. It is completely safe for those 14 and up. I very rarely give perfect scores for a film and normally not more than one or two a year. This one easily gets 5 out of 5 rolls of duct tape. I tried to find something wrong with it but luckily for us there was nothing to be found.





New York, NY—September 30, 2015 — A+E Networks, home of “The Critics’ Choice Television Awards” and “The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards” for the past year, will combine the two shows into one star-studded three-hour event.  Together, the network and its continued partnership with the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) and the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) will showcase the achievements of some of the biggest names in television and film today. The announcement was made jointly today by Elaine Frontain Bryant, Executive Vice President of Programming for A&E, and Joey Berlin, BFCA/BTJA President. “The 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards” will air live on A&E, Lifetime and LMN on Sunday, January 17 at 8PM ET/PT immediately following a live Red Carpet show at 7PM ET/PT.

Last year’s movie and television award shows were hosted by Michael Strahan and Cat Deeley respectively, joined by the industry’s biggest stars. The host for this year’s combined award show will be announced at a later date.   

"We are thrilled to bring the two Critics' Choice Awards shows into one super-show,” said Berlin.  “At a time when there are so many great movies and television shows to choose from - and so many spectacular performances - it is logical, appropriate and useful for America's leading film and television critics and reporters to collectively honor the best of the best at the start of the new year.  Bringing all these stars together in one room is going to create an incredible night of entertainment."

“Combining the television and film communities within one telecast of ‘The Critics' Choice Awards’ even further elevates this star-studded gala event,” said Frontain Bryant.  “We’re thrilled to be able to give viewers an up close look at so much talent together under one roof with this unique and enhanced awards show.”

“The Critics' Choice Awards” are bestowed annually by the BFCA and BTJA to honor the finest in cinematic and television achievement. The BFCA is the largest film critics' organization in the United States and Canada, representing almost 300 television, radio and online critics. BFCA members are the primary source of information for today's film going public. BTJA is the collective voice of almost 100 journalists who regularly cover television for TV viewers, radio listeners and online audiences. Historically, “The Critics' Choice Movie Awards” are the most accurate predictor of the Academy Award nominations.  

“The 21st Annual Critics’ Choice Awards” will be produced by Bob Bain Productions and Berlin Entertainment.  BFCA/BTJA were represented by WME and Dan Black of Greenberg Traurig on this deal.
The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) is the largest film critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing almost 300 television, radio and online critics. The Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) is a partner organization to the Broadcast Film Critics Association. BTJA includes TV, radio and Internet journalists who cover television on a regular basis. For more information, visit: www.CriticsChoice.com

About A&E

Now reaching more than 96 million homes, A&E is the home to quality original content that inspires and challenges audiences to BE ORIGINAL. A&E offers a diverse mix of uniquely immersive entertainment ranging from the network’s original scripted series, including “Bates Motel” and “Damien” to signature non-fiction franchises, including “Duck Dynasty,” “Wahlburgers” and “Storage Wars.” The A&E website is located at aetv.com. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/aetv and Facebook at facebook.com/AETV. For more press information and photography, please visit us at press.aenetworks.com.


The Walk - Review

PG  |  123 min  |  Adventure, Biography, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle

**In IMAX houses across the nation on 9/30 and wide on 10/9**

SynopsisIn 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the immense void between the World Trade Center towers.

Review: There is much about THE WALK to enjoy and be inspired by. It is more than just the reenactment of a walk between two buildings. The infectious spirit of the main character should inspire all of us to grab our passions by the reins and ride them triumphantly into the sunset. Granted of course that your dreams aren't as life threatening and law breaking as these. 

Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a French performer always looking for a place to hang "his wire". He is an adventurous soul who, at least as portrayed in the film, is a fearless, positive and upbeat individual. Immediately you are drawn to his charisma and love for life. He lives to entertain. When Philippe sees an article about the new towers being built in NY he is possessed with the desire to string his wire and walk the void between. So with the aid of his girlfriend Annie (Charlotte Le Bon) and a few chosen "accomplices" he journeys to the states to begin this endeavor. 

In hind-site the 1970's seem like such a grand time to live. The music, fashion, and freedoms beckon us to put down our mobile devises and truly experience the sights and sounds around us. A story like this could never have taken place now. A covert operation of this magnitude needed the lack of big brother and the ability to move about unseen. Not to do something that is harmful or destructive. But rather to attempt something that is soul stirring and inspiring. Much of that feeling comes through in this film. People were different then. They trusted more.

NY is also a huge character in this film. The Twin Towers have come to symbolize so much in our country. To see them rising above the skyline is moving all on its own. Then to see them at the onset of their creation and watch a man bring them notoriety (maybe not like some would have wanted) and a bit of soul is captivating. Nothing else on earth could match them and they were so impressive that Philippe made them his ultimate performance goal. 

The characters in the movie are fun to watch and each so different. As Petit hand picks them to help in his operation you get the sense that nothing is going to work out. It is humorous and realistic though. These aren't trained experts. They are people caught up in the energy and zeal of the man. They want to be involved. As you watch you forget this is a true story; how could anything like this actually happen in the hands of these rag tagged individuals. 

To truly see this film one must experience it in IMAX or at the very least in 3D. The aerial shots of the Twin Towers and the expanse between them is breathtaking. You may find yourself holding the sides of your seat and clinching every muscle as Philippe moves about on the roof and eventually his wire. The cinematography is award worthy and takes you to new heights. Pun intended. 

The issue some may have is in the extreme use of CGI and obvious fabrication. There is a lot of superimposing - obviously - of the towers. Plus much of the film is as whimsical as Petit himself. This lends to cartoonish scenes and at times comes off as more fantasy than realistic. The voice over of Levitt as he perches on top of the Statue of Liberty to some will be off putting and to others enamoring. regardless you will not be able to downplay the character of Petit and cheer him on through out this fantastic trek. 

THE WALK is rated PG for thematic elements involving perilous situations, and for some nudity, language, brief drug references and smoking. That sounds like a lot for a PG film and yes, if it were aimed at younger audiences ti would be. Be this obvious adult story has nothing offensive about it. The language is very mild and the brief nude scene of the male bottom comes near the end at a time when you truly understand the nature of Petit. It is not sexual or lewd at all. But rather funny and as quirky as he is. 

I give the film a solid 4 out of 5 salutes. Though many may find nothing intriguing about the story and perceive the film itself as too fanciful; I was inspired and left feeling joyful and had my love of the human spirit rekindled.