Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Movie Reviews: The Martian and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

I watched three movies on my eleven-hour overseas flight back to the states in January.  I also slept for four of those hours.  Not as much as I’d hoped, seeing as how I only napped for an hour before getting up at 4:45am that day to get to the airport on time. 

One of the movies, the last one, was a familiar favorite, Moulin Rouge!  Ohh, that Roxanne tango gets me every time.  Not to mention that Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman are gorgeous in it.  The first movie I put on was The Martian, the Matt Damon space saga based on the novel by Andy Weir, which has nothing to do with aliens or shooting lasers or planet-blower-upper-guns.  As a fan of older space movies (Apollo 13 and Space Cowboys), I thought it might be good.  Also, Matt Damon is absolutely delightful.

The movie was well-done.  It is entertaining, and the red planet is beautiful in all its desolate and deadly glory.  I’ve heard complaints from people who have read the book, but since I haven’t read it, I don’t have that perspective.  Matt Damon gets stranded on Mars when a storm hits and the rest of his team assumes he is dead and makes an emergency evacuation back to Earth.  The movie details his quest for survival and rescue through journal/video log style tapes and traditional movie narrative.  Once he re-establishes communication with NASA, they help him solve problems by using duplicate space models here on Earth, while Damon is trying to figure it out with the real pieces up on Mars.

I would have liked to see more of the problem-solving, on Mars and on Earth.  Matt Damon gets left for dead on Mars, but happens to survive, growing a crop of potatoes and using the remains of Pathfinder to communicate with Nasa in the meantime.  There seemed to be a lot of characters that were just there, for a quick quip or two in emotional scenes.  It was like, well, we can’t just have the two head Nasa guys argue about the morals and what to do, so we better have a few other people in the room to add to the discussion.  That was their whole purpose.  I also would have liked to see a little more from Jessica Chastain as the crew commander.  Why did Damon respect her so much?  What did she do to earn that?  The ending also seemed a little bit of a last-minute addition.

The second movie I picked was The Man From U.N.C.L.E.  There are a lot of characters, and a lot of “conning the other guys” plot twists, but the two leads, Henry Caville (of Superman, The Tudors, and Count of Monte Cristo fame), and Armie Hammer (of Gossip Girl and The Social Network) both look damn good in a suit.  This turned out to be the flight of good looking people!

This movie was entertaining, once it got going, although that took a while.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of the old TV show (thanks, Dad!), which stars the bleach-blonde guy who’s in The Great Escape, and it seems that they did a good job trying to keep that style.  It is set in the 60’s, right in the middle of the Cold War, and somehow, a US ex-high-art-thief secret service agent, and a Russian KGB agent come together on a case that takes them to the beautiful backdrop of Rome.  

Caville’s Solo is pretty much a straight rip on a Mr. Bond, James Bond, but he pulls it off nicely.  The period piece flair adds a lot to the movie, otherwise it would just be another buddy-spy flick.  It follows in this year’s theme of nostalgia (think Jurrasic World, Spectre, and Star Wars), but doesn’t overexert it like the previous examples.  It had an element of fun that these others missed because they were trying too hard to impress everybody.  Even though it’s a little long, I’d say it’s worth watching, if only for the beautiful cast and entertainment factors.

(photos collected from blogs.lcms, static6.techinsider,, universetoday, imgur, images1.villagevoice, and lovelace-media.imgix)

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