*NEW* THE MARTIAN REVIEW *NEW*

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BRING HIM AN OSCAR.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) 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 meagre supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

A return to form from Scott and a stellar performance from Matt Damon makes this space flick one to watch.

For me, Scott’s films of late have not been up to much. They were certainly big, bold and beautifully shot pieces of work. BUT they were either ridiculously over complicated messes (The Counselor) or drawn out affairs (Prometheus).

Luckily, this latest offering had the perfect balance. Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography was fantastic. I didn’t think anyone could make a barren desert planet look so beautiful and deadly with the change of a lens. Superb.

The opening didn’t mess about. It set everybody up and got straight to it. It was tense, frantic and gripping as Watney is left for dead after getting caught up in a violent storm.

I know what you’re thinking. Matt Damon playing a stranded astronaut trying to sustain food and water on a barren planet. NO, it’s not the side story to Interstellar. If anything, it was Cast Away in Space. All that was missing was a volleyball named Wilson.

When telling the story of one man’s survival, it’s crucial that you have the right actor or the movie is ruined. I couldn’t think of anyone better than Matt Damon. He was charismatic and carried the film when it seemed to lull. Every time we went back to NASA, I wanted to see more of Watney.

It was interesting and engaging. I was hooked as we watched Watney battle to survive the next FOUR years from monotonous disco music . . . As well as his tempestuous planetary prison. His video logs were a good touch. Breaking the fourth wall as he explained what he was doing to stay alive. As well as keeping his sanity.

The science behind the crop planting and the water was very clever. You could almost believe that it could happen and be dealt with.

The only problem was that despite Damon’s excellent performance, some of the supporting characters fell into the background and didn’t really make a mark. Most notably in Watney’s crew with Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan.

Jessica Chastain nailed every screen opportunity she got. If anything I wanted to see more of her. BUT this wasn’t her story. Michael Pena did his best to offer comic relief and managed to make a memorable impression by the closing minutes.

Donald Glover, or should I say Childish Gambino, was a surprise supporting character. He seems to have a dab hand at this acting lark as the socially awkward super genius Rich Purnell. Kristen Wiig played the role of the PR advisor well and proved she can do serious acting. A nice change.

Jeff Daniels was a piece of work as NASA director Teddy Sanders. His sparring with Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor made for heated viewing. One primarily looking at the costs, the others concerned with the man on Mars.

The heavy theorizing and lab debates in NASA and the world did go on in parts for me and took the story away from Watney. And as Purnell tried to explain his rescue plan using two pens, I feared Armageddon story telling creeping out of the woodwork. It was only by the 1 hour 45 minute marker that I felt a little fidgety.

BUT the finale was just as enthralling and nail biting. If anything, it was everything that I wanted from Gravity. A film that failed to impress.

I was rooting for Watney through the highs and lows. This made me want to check out the bestselling novel. A must see and dare I say it.

4/5

P.S. I couldn’t fight it. I had to . . .

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ENDLESS LOVE REVIEW

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A story we’ve seen done endless times before but surprisingly enough with a light touch and a good cast, quite watchable. Not the worst love story going, but not the best. If you love all that predictable guff, give it a go. The spiel is nothing new. Privileged, if isolated, high school loner  Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) falls in love with the charismatic rogue mechanic/car valet David Elliott (Alex Pettyfer), against her controlling father’s (Bruce Greenwood) wishes. SHOCK!  What follows is a predictable luvvy duvvy affair that occurs over the summer as the pair fight against their parents and the paths that lay before them.

There is great chemistry between the two leads; the beautiful (if a little skinny) Wilde (who featured in the shambolic Carrie remake and St Trinians franchise) and (I’m sure the ladies will say beautiful) Pettyfer (I Am Number Four/Beastly/Magic Mike). They make two likeable characters, even if you worry they’re going to choke on all the cheese they’re guzzling. I was surprised to see that the two leads were British. Their accents were spot on. It was also interesting to see the number of British actors popping up in this film; Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Emma Rigby?! The girl has gone far from her Hollyoaks days, featuring in all sorts now (The less we say the better Ridley Scott disaster The Counsellor and the US TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). Was it just me or did she have her lips pumped? I digress.

It’s all very easygoing and at times hammy with the OTT speeches of (truth, freedom and above all things . . . ) love but the cast make something that should make you cringe watchable and at times engaging. The awkward glances and exchanges blossom into a summery romance with the usual check list; riding on bicycles together, lying in the field blowing daisies, check, check. Ice cold bitchy girl jealous of loved up couple and intent on tearing them apart in the form of the alluring, if lipped up Rigby. Check. Well, kind of. She doesn’t really kick off until late on. More could have been made of her character. Dayo Okeniyi plays David’s best friend/comic relief Mace (not the spray) very well which splits them the luvvy duvvyness. Richardson and Robert “T-1000” Patrick play their parts well, even if they’re a little too soft and supportive for my liking.

The real star for me is the underrated Bruce Greenwood (the Star Trek reboot franchise/I, Robot) as Mr. Hugh Butterfield. The friction and tension between him and David makes up for all the cheesy romance stuff. He works well with Pettyfer and shows why he should be in more films. His presence, his expressions makes his encounters very watchable and makes for a fiery finale as he fears his influence over his family is fading. There was one unexpected moment and it gets a little more interesting when David’s checkered past is revealed but because of the tone of the film, it’s not as bad or as sinister as you think or could have been. It gets OTT, cheesy, but it’s easygoing, watchable and if you like romance and dramas with cheesy predictable guff, then give it a go. Not as bad as I prepared myself for nor as good but it missed out on a treat releasing this during the summer. More a summery film if anything with the well-shot sun lit locations and bright soundtrack. Could have gone a little darker and been stronger for it 2.5/5

Currently ranks #88 out of 145.

PLEASE NOTE: You might have gathered I’m not a romancey movie guy. Apologies for my terminology. I did my best 😉