Mini-Review: The Martian

The Martian

PG-13, 141 Minutes, 2015

The Martian

About: Astronaut must survive on Mars after being left for dead by accident. NASA must figure out how to bring him back.

Starring: Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Do you know how rare it is to find a protagonist named Mark in the movies? Okay, this site does, but who remembers any of these supporting roles? The Martian also stars like 8 other actors you’ll recognize and like a lot.

Directed: Ridley Scott making up for Prometheus and Exodus: Gods and Monsters.

Best Thing About It: Matt Damon. He is the perfect lead – charisma, humor, everyman. You want him to survive. He is the next generation Tom Hanks, but a little sexier. You want him to be your husband/boyfriend/best friend.

Worst Thing About It: So the book is better. Andy Weir’s novel has so much more depth. More things happen to Watney and to NASA. The science is explained instead of just shown loosely in a montage. And Weir is a first time novelist! Go read the book.

Notable Thing About It: The movie is better. Because it does what movies can do and books can’t – the visuals of Mars are incredible. Seeing Watney’s struggles and successes is very different than reading about them. Go see the movie.

Overall: This is a crowd pleaser. If you can live with a few curse words and one stunt-double’s butt, this is a movie you can take your kids, your parents, your friends. Like Apollo 13, it casts NASA in a heroic light even as it faces a failure. This is a beautifully made, well acted, often funny, exciting, Hollywood movie. It doesn’t break much new cinematic ground, but sometimes it is nice just to be entertained.

3D note: While the swirling dust at the beginning looked cool and the Mars landscapes were richer, like most live-action films, seeing it in 3D isn’t vital.

Rating: 3 ½ RAMAKs (out of 4)

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Mini-Review: The Walk

The Walk

PG, 123 Minutes, 2015

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About: Exactly as in the excellent documentary Man on Wire, a Frenchman decides to walk a wire between the Twin Towers

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt as not quite Pepe LePew, Ben Kingsley as Ben Kingsley in every movie of the past 2 decades, Charlotte Le Bon as really pretty but bland, and people you’ve never heard of

Directed: Robert Zemeckis who has a pretty impressive career and also The Polar Express

Best Thing About It: Passes the Apollo 13 test – I know how it ends, but I am still tense and interested

Worst Thing About It: Some of the American supporting characters are really stereotyped 1970s – although in real life they may have been that way too

Oddest Thing About It: The constant CGI of the World Trade Center reminded more more of how I thought of them during my childhood (boxy, powerful, iconic) than as just 9/11 images. This is a good thing.

Overall: The walk on the wire itself itself is worth it especially in IMAX 3D. Breathtaking. JGL somehow let me believe he was a Frenchman (which he actually speaks) despite that outrageous accent. Twin Towers CGI was fantastic. 1st half a little whimsical. 2nd half is spellbinding.

Rating: 3 RaMaKs (3 ½ perhaps if you see it in IMAX 3D)
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#BlogElul via the Movies 3 – Tootsie’s Intention

It is it action or intention? I suppose it depends on the circumstance. Often we hear, “I tried really hard” and that counts for something. Teddy Roosevelt wrote in 1900: “It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort.”

We praise hard work as Americans, as Jews. But we also cherish success. The intention behind our actions is vital as a moral victory, but it is our actions – and even our results – that ultimately define us.

In one of my all-time favorite movies, Tootsie, Dustin Hoffman’s character is full of intensity and focus. Early in the movie, he argues with his agent about his fantastic work in various shows including his role in a commercial as a tomato:

“I was a stand-up tomato: a juicy, sexy, beefsteak tomato. Nobody does vegetables like me. I did an evening of vegetables off-Broadway. I did the best tomato, the best cucumber… I did an endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass.”

Essentially he is a drive, self-important jerk. And this is partially because he is unsuccessful. (He is also unsuccessful because he is a jerk). But success changes everything. Our drive now mutes, or at least dulls, our flaws as quirks and idiosyncrasies. As he succeeds in the film, masquerading as Dorothy Michaels, a female daytime soap star, he is seen as a true actor. His personality flaws that previously ostracized him are now overlooked, forgiven, or, at least, tolerated. Continue reading