The Martian Review

The Martian movie posterSynopsis
The crew of the Aeris III mission on Mars is forced to leave the red planet earlier than scheduled when a gigantic storm approaches their base camp. In the evacuation, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and believed dead. Watney wakes up and realizes that he is alone on Mars and will be months or years before he can be rescued, so he does everything he can to survive until help arrives.

Review
The concept of someone getting lost in space has been done time and time again over the years. Some have tried to be more serious, while not many that I recall try to be lighthearted about the situation. The Martian opts more for the latter. What becomes of it is a fun adventure that reeled me in with its whimsical nature.

A man or group lost, alone, and without help is nothing new in the world cinema. So to stand out The Martian goes a route not many comparable films have gone: it remains laid-back. This sub-genre has the tendency to become serious and dark, this movie separates itself by never becoming like the others. Sure, there are moments when Matt Damon’s character feels hopeless, but his optimism always shines through. As a result, there are many moments that made me laugh. I honestly wasn’t expecting a movie about a man stranded on a planet to be so humorous.

This film lived or died based on Matt Damon’s performance. While a good portion of the film is spent on Earth, that group is composed of an ensemble. The majority of The Martian is spent solely with Mark Watney and his escapades on Mars. If Damon dropped the ball, the movie fell with him. I guess it is good then that he did a fantastic job. Watney went through a range of emotions while stranded, from terrified to ecstatic, from anger to joy, and many in between. Damon expertly portrayed these emotions as well as the character’s signature snarky-ness.

I didn’t really pay much attention to the cast list before going into the movie. Besides Damon, I had little idea who else was in the film. To my surprise, the cast was full of big names, such as Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, and Jessica Chastain, as well as some other surprises including Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Michael Pena, and Donald Glover. While Damon was on his own for the majority of the film, the rest of the cast had each other to work off of.  The folks at NASA in particular were an interesting bunch to watch together. This is where most of the all-stars were. Jeff Daniels may have been my favorite but they all did a good job.

Not a significant amount of time is spent with the rest of Watney’s crew, which was played by Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, and Aksel Hennie, until more towards the end. Each had their own unique personality and seemed like a fun group to be around. It was clear the actors were having a fun time together and had good chemistry. I would have liked to see more of them, but that may have stemmed from my selfish need to look at Kate Mara some more.

If I didn’t know any better, I would say The Martian was shot on the surface of Mars itself. The special effects look great and the practical effects are even better. And the cinematography was beautiful, too. So many times I was awestruck, thinking I was actually with Watney on the red planet. I don’t know what to say other than this film is very well shot and looks stunning.

The Martian isn’t your average man-stranded-in-space-alone movie. There are the helpless moments you’d expect but they are spaced between the main character’s humor and optimism. Carried by Damon and combined with its great special effects, The Martian is one of the most fun space movies I have seen in a long time.

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Drew Goddard – Screenplay
Andy Wier – Novel
Harry Gregson-Williams – Composer

Matt Damon – Mark Watney
Jeff Daniels – Teddy Sanders
Sean Bean – Mitch Henderson
Kristen Wiig – Annie Montrose
Chiwetel Ejiofor – Vincent Kapoor
Jessica Chastain – Melissa Lewis
Michael Pena – Rick Martinez
Kate Mara – Beth Johanssen
Sebastian Stan – Chris Beck
Aksel Hennie – Alex Vogel
Mackenzie Davis – Mindy Park
Benedict Wong – Bruce Ng
Donald Glover – Rich Purnell
Nick Mohammed – Tim Grimes
Chen Shu – Zhu Tao
Eddie Ko – Guo Ming

Ocean’s Thirteen Review

Ocean's Thirteen movie posterSynopsis
After Reuben (Elliott Gould) gets double crossed by a new business partner, Willy Bank (Al Pacino), Danny (George Clooney), Rusty (Brad Pitt) and the rest of the gang set out for payback.

Review
I was not very impressed with Ocean’s Twelve. Granted my anticipation after Ocean’s Eleven may have been too high, it didn’t have the same heart. So going into Ocean’s Thirteen, I was a little more cautious. Maybe it was because my expectations were lower, but Ocean’s Thirteen is the sequel Ocean’s Eleven deserves.

Once again, the chemistry between not just George Clooney and Brad Pitt but the entire gang, is just so much fun. It all feels so natural, like this is just another day, another dollar. This is their third job as a group so it’s no surprise that they are as strong as ever. I’ve been amazed that throughout the entire Ocean’s series, even though the ensemble cast is very large, everyone still manages to get their own development and some sort of interaction with everyone else on the team.

The series started in Las Vegas, so it’s only natural that they return to Vegas for the last outing. Sequels have a very difficult task of needing to remain true to the original film while doing something to keep it feeling fresh. This is where Ocean’s Thirteen triumphs over Ocean’s Twelve. Twelve definitely had the right idea to change to location to Europe. However, it diverged from the core of Eleven too much. Thirteen goes back to its roots and feels much more like Eleven.

What makes this an interesting heist is that they aren’t stealing the money for themselves, but rather trying to screw Banks from his money and give it to his casino’s patrons. That is what I have liked about the Ocean’s series. This group is no doubt a group of thieves, but the are a lovable group of thieves and they have a code.

Throughout the previous Ocean’s films, Linus’ dad is regularly brought up. It is implied that he is an amazing thief and Linus (Matt Damon) gets upset every time he gets mentioned. Finally, we get to meet him and the meeting is every bit as humorous as you would expect it to be.

Ocean’s Thirteen gets back to what made Ocean’s Eleven so fun and enjoyable. They are back in Las Vegas, the job is simple, well simple from a story point of view, and the titular group is all together and are having a blast. Most the main players from the previous two films return in some capacity. This could have become a convoluted mess like Ocean’s Twelve, but thankfully it doesn’t and proves that simplicity is the key to a great heist film.

Rating
3.5/5

For the rest of the Ocean’s Trilogy, read my reviews for Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Twelve.

Favorite Quote
Saul: This is why revenge jobs don’t work, Daniel. You put yourself in a position you know you should walk away from but you can’t. That’s how guys die or go to jail.
Danny: Alright. So anybody want to walk away? [Everyone is silent]
Rusty: Saul?
Saul: I didn’t say I was walking away. Let’s gut the son of a bitch.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Soderbergh – Director
Brian Koppelman – Writer
David Levien – Writer
David Holmes – Composer

George Clooney – Danny Ocean
Brad Pitt – Rusty Ryan
Al Pacino – Willy Bank
Matt Damon – Linus Caldwell
Elliott Gould – Reuben Tishkoff
Eddie Jamison – Livingston Dell
Don Cheadle – Basher Tarr
Shaobo Qin – Yen
Casey Affleck – Virgil Malloy
Scott Caan – Turk Malloy
Bernie Mac – Frank Catton
Carl Reiner – Saul Bloom
Eddie Izzard – Roman Nagel
Andy Garcia – Terry Benedict
Ellen Barkin – Abigail Sponder
David Paymer – The VUP
Olga Sosnovska – Debbie
Vincent Cassel – Francois Toulour
Bob Einstein – Agent Caldwell

Ocean’s Twelve Review

Ocean's Twelve movie posterSynopsis
When Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) discovers “Ocean’s Eleven” were the ones responsible for robbing his casinos, he tracks them down and demands they repay him everything they stole, with interest. Unable to perform jobs in the United States, they travel to Amsterdam. While in Amsterdam, Danny (George Clooney) and Rusty (Brad Pitt) are challenged by Europe’s greatest thief, the Night Fox (Vincent Cassel), to find out who is the best thief in the world.

Review
A few of the things I discuss in this review may be spoiler-ish, so heads up.

Ocean’s Eleven is one of my all time favorite movies. So I was more than excited to see the whole gang back together again. Now I don’t say often that I’m let down by a movie (disappointed maybe, but not necessarily let down), but I’m let down by Ocean’s Twelve. The entire cast was returning, plus they were moving their operations to Europe, a place ripe with heist possibilities. It had so much going for it, but it never can harness it and becomes a mess.

I will start with some good and say this: the chemistry hasn’t changed and is still the best part about the film. The banter and playfulness that helped make Ocean’s Eleven so enjoyable still remains. Everyone returns for Ocean’s Twelve, including Tess, who gets a much bigger role. They are every bit as fun as before, never failing to bring a smile to your face.

Unfortunately, the group gets smaller and smaller as the movie goes on, limiting the interactions to only a handful by the end. It’s nice to see Linus (Matt Damon) starting to take some of the leadership role. It’s good character growth but there could have been a better way to build him up than take away Danny and Rusty. Oh wait, there was. Just look at Ocean’s Thirteen. Without the entire group together, it’s just not the same.

Even though this movie was about the heist, it didn’t feel like it was about the heist, if that makes sense. There was a lot of heist planning, but it was sporadic. As a result, the pacing suffered and felt awkward. Since the members are getting picked up by the authorities one by one, every time someone was captured, the remaining members had to come back and adjust the plan. Sometimes this can work well, look at The Next Three Days, but I don’t think it worked that well here. And with the reveal and the end, I’m left thinking ‘what was the point of that’ and I end up feeling I mostly wasted two hours.

Another fun part about Ocean’s Eleven was that even though there was a lot going on, it was still simple. Here, there’s this whole “wheels within wheels” thing going on that makes for a really complex plot that is very difficult to follow. Characters pop up, go away, then are briefly mentioned later on. Then again, the end just leaves one question: ‘why?’ This films tries to be clever but It trips over itself.

I know I’m bashing this movie pretty hard, but there is still fun to be had. Any time spent watching Danny Ocean and his merry band of thieves is always a good time. However, after enjoying the payoff of Ocean’s Eleven, the payoff from Ocean’s Twelve doesn’t compare. Not even close.

Rating
2.5/5

For the rest of the Ocean’s Trilogy, read my reviews for Ocean’s Eleven and Ocean’s Thirteen.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Soderbergh – Director
George Nolfi – Writer
David Holmes – Composer

George Clooney – Danny Ocean
Brad Pitt – Rusty Ryan
Julia Roberts – Tess Ocean
Catherine Zeta-Jones – Isabel Lahiri
Matt Damon – Linus Caldwell
Casey Affleck – Virgil Malloy
Scott Caan – Turk Malloy
Shaobo Qin – Yen
Bernie Mac – Frank Catton
Don Cheadle – Basher Tarr
Carl Reiner – Saul Bloom
Eddie Jemison – Livingston Dell
Elliott Gould – Reuben Tishkoff
Andy Garcia – Terry Benedict
Vincent Cassel – Francois Toulour
Robbie Coltrane – Matsui
Eddie Izzard – Roman Nagel
Cherry Jones – Molly Star
Bruce Willis – Himself

Ocean’s Eleven Review

Ocean' s Eleven movie posterSynopsis
Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) put together a team of con-artists to rob three of the largest casinos on the Las Vegas strip simultaneously.

Review
Do you have one of those movies that you can watch over and over again and enjoy it your hundredth time just as much as your first time? Ocean’s Eleven is one of those movies for me. My best friend and I would watch this movie all the time. We could even quote the whole movie. I have seen this so many times that if I fall asleep while watching it, I can tell you the exact moment I fell asleep. I can’t say that about too many movies.

What really makes this movie click is George Clooney and Brad Pitt. Their chemistry is superb. Seriously, every time they are on screen together, you are in for a treat. Their conversations flow like old friends together again, which is what their characters are. These fun exchanges extend to more than just the two leads. The entire team bounces back and forth off each other throughout the entire movie.

As the title suggests, the cast is fairly large. Ensembles can be difficult to balance each character’s screen time. Danny gets the most focus, which makes sense since his name is in the title, but the film does a great job of balancing everyone. I felt that each character got at least one scene with every other character, leading to some of the great exchanges like I mentioned above.

I’ve said before that the main reason I enjoy heist movies is for the setup. About seventy-five percent of the movie is spent on the titular eleven working together to prepare for the heist. Again it all comes down to these characters interacting with each other. No matter who is in the scene, they will do or say something that will make you smile. There are as many visual gags as there are verbal. As always, seeing the heist pulled off is the biggest payout. There were times when the camera would zoom or focus on an item that didn’t make sense in the moment but would be focused on again in the end and it would become clear why that item was important. Small things like that bring the film together for me.

I’ve been talking a lot about the eleven that I haven’t even brought up the rest of the cast. Andy Garcia is intimidating as Terry Benedict, the victim of Danny Ocean’s plan. He is mentioned several times before he is actually seen on screen. The film gives you an idea of the kind of person he is before he even shows up. Then you see his cunning and ruthlessness for yourself. Julia Roberts as Tess was good, too. The only characters she talked to was Terry, Rusty, and Danny so she didn’t have as many scenes as the rest.

Ocean’s Eleven is so enjoyable simply because of the cast. The heist may not be the most exciting of movie heists, but the planning and interactions between all the characters is so enjoyable. If the chemistry wasn’t there, this movie would fall flat. Thankfully the chemistry is top notch, making it rise above so many similar films

Rating
5/5

For the rest of the Ocean’s Trilogy, read my reviews for Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen.

Favorite Moment

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Steven Soderbergh – Director
Ted Griffin – Screenplay
David Holmes – Composer

George Clooney – Danny Ocean
Brad Pitt – Rusty Ryan
Andy Garcia – Terry Benedict
Julia Roberts – Tess Ocean
Bernie Mac – Frank Catton
Elliott Gould – Reuben Tishkoff
Casey Affleck – Virgil Malloy
Scott Caan – Turk Malloy
Eddie Jemison – Livingston Dell
Shaobo Qin – Yen
Carl Reiner – Saul Bloom
Matt Damon – Linus Caldwell
Don Cheadle – Basher Tarr
Michale DeLano – Casino Manager (“Walsh”)

Good Will Hunting Review

This review was originally posted by Table Nine Mutant as part of her IMDB Top 250 event.


Good Will Hunting movie posterSynopsis
Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a mathematical genius but has no direction in his life. He gets recognized by Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) who enlists help from psychologist Sean Maguire (Robin Williams). With assistance from Sean, Will begins to get his life together.

Review
To be upfront, this was my first time watching Good Will Hunting. Shocking, I know. It was one of those movies that I kept hearing and hearing about but never really got around to watching. But thanks to the wonderful Ms. Mutant, I thought her IMDB blogathon would be the perfect time to check it out. And I must say, it is as every bit as wonderful as it was made out to be.

At the center of attention is the late Robin Williams. He is not the center of the movie but Sean Maguire is at the center of discussion whenever this film is brought up. Williams won an oscar for best supporting actor for his role and, boy, was it well deserved. Looking back Williams’ filmography, I haven’t seen many of his more serious roles. After watching this, I really need to change that. He hit with such an emotion I haven’t seen from him before. Just one more reminder how phenominal of an actor he was and his versatility to take on any role.

Matt Damon as the titular Will Hunting and Ben Affleck as his friend Chuckie Sullivan were great on screen together. It was easy to feel their connection and friendship. This even extended to the minor characters in the gang. Their camaraderie bleed through the screen and seemed so natural that I wouldn’t be surprised if they are all best friends off the screen.

For me, character-driven movies are always the hardest for me to review because with action flicks, comedy films, or horrors, there are other factors I can look at. But with dramas, it simply comes down to the actors. It’s the little moments they bring to life and make them feel genuine that make or break the film. When actors or actresses make you feel what they feel and seem so realistic and sincere, that is the sign of a great drama. Every single member of the cast manages to pour their heart and soul into the film and it is palpable. Add that to an excellent script from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and you have nothing short of success.

Good Will Hunting is a heartfelt film that manages to shine thanks to a well-penned script and great performances from Matt Damon, Robin Williams, Ben Affleck and the entire crew.

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Gus Van Sant – Director
Matt Damon – Writer
Ben Affleck – Writer
Danny Elfman – Composer

Matt Damon – Will Hunting
Robin Williams – Sean Maguire
Ben Affleck – Chuckie Sullivan
Stellan Skarsgard – Prof. Gerald Lambeau
Minnie Driver – Skylar
Casey Affleck – Morgan O’Mally
Cole Hauser – Billy McBride
John Mighton – Tom – Lambeau’s Teaching Assistant