The Martian – A Review

Ridley Scott direct Matt Damon and an impressive ensemble of supporting cast of Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wigg, Sean Bean, Donald Glover, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Mackenzie Davis, Sebastian Stan in The Martian.

Based on the book by Andy Weir, screen writer Drew Goddard manages to keep the humor and sarcasm from the book and translates that to screen without making it sound cheesy or making light of the actual science involved. From story and screenplay point of view The Martian strikes a perfect balance of keeping the science real and still ensuring that casual moviegoers are not overwhelmed and ultimately disinterested. Comparisons calling this Apollo 13 meets Castaway aren’t far off the mark.

The story sees Mark Watney and his band of Astronauts exploring the inhospitable martian terrain when a storm looms ahead and the team is forced to return to the safety of the MAV and leave as the strength of storm was underestimated. Watney gets stranded and is assumed dead as the crew unwillingly decide to leave him behind and return to Hermes to embark on the journey back home. Turns out Watney isn’t dead but is left to his own devices as he tries to survive on the planet where nothing survives. Watney tries his hand at farming, foraging for the pathfinder and setting up a communication link back to earth using primitive techniques. Damon is perfectly cast as Watney as his dry humor and wry smile carry the entire movie on his shoulders. I could go on discussing the several hilarious scenarios he is faced with but it is best experienced first-hand on the big screen.

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The support cast is jam packed with talented names but there are so many that they are almost callously handled. Jeff Daniels as the director of NASA phones it in, there is no undercurrent of passion that we saw him demonstrate in The Newsroom. Chiwetel Ejiofor as Vincent Kapoor also seems badly written, Sean Bean as the guy who heads the mission to mars is also underwritten and his talents of dying in every movie he stars in are also criminally wasted. Donald Glover is stereotypical Nasa nerd. Benedict Wong and Kristen Wigg do a fine enough job but could have done so much more in trying to infuse more humor than they do. The only one from the support cast who left a lasting impression was Mackenzie Davis who is the first one to report that Mark Watney might actually still be alive on Mars. Jessica Chastain as the 80s disco music obsessed but cool and detached commander is also perfectly cast.

Supporting cast weakness aside, where The Martian triumphs is in its casting of Damon and his portrayal of the eternally optimistic Mark Watney who promises to “science the shit out of this” as he does everything possible to survive – I wish there was Eye of the Tiger playing in one of the scenes it would have been perfect but Hot Stuff and Fonz from Happy Days more than makes up for it. Technically the movie isn’t anything ground breaking in terms of the space-y visuals but it is adequate and does the job.

The movie shines for its light hearted and tongue in cheek look at the sci-fi which more often than not takes on a far too serious a tone and nothing against it but this one works just as well. And Matt Damon is brilliant. He reminds me of Soderberg’s underrated The Informant and that is a very very good thing. And the 80s music is a guilty pleasure so give me more disco any day of the week and I will be a happy bunny!

Despicable Me 2 – A Review

DownloadSteve Carell and Kristen Wigg lend their voices to the lead characters Gru and Lucy in the sequel to the 2010 Animated Fare Despicable Me. Directing duo Pierre Coffin and Cinco Paul return to tell the story of the now domesticated super villain Gru who once stole the moon.

The story sees Gru as the single father of 3 girls trying to play fairy godmother at a birthday party while trying to keep the nosy match-making neighbor at bay.  After retiring from Super Villainy Gru and his adorable yellow minions have now setup a jam and jelly factory with Dr. Nefario – voiced by Russell Brand leading the production line.

Dr Nefario tired of not doing evil quits and moves to another job and Gru is approached by AVL – Anti Villain League to identify and apprehend a master criminal who has stolen a secret formula which turns cute fluffy bunnies into giant purple monsters. Gru is assisted by the AVL’s own agent Lucy voiced by the multi-talented Kristen Wigg (SNL, Bridesmaid).

There has long been a Pixar vs. RestOfEmStudios debate that almost always results in the same outcome of the fact that Pixar movies have more heart and are in general better written , directed thought out movies than Others which rely too heavily on pop-culture gags which will lose relevance over time and not be as funny. Unless Pixar has a top-secret project coming out this year which no one knows of I think this year Pixar has been outdone whose latest Monster’s university was a bit of a bum note as compared to Despicable Me 2 which is genuinely funny and has plenty of heart to spare in the form of the 3 adorable daughters Margo, Edith and Agnes.

The story seems rushed in parts where they clearly are targeting 3 suspects and somehow they end up ignoring the third one completely by focusing on Floyd and Eduardo. The justification of why Gru wants Eduardo and his son arrested is done in the funniest way possible. Another thing which I did not get is the effect of the secret serum turns a bunny into a possibly-6ft tall monster but when applied to “others” it merely turns them purple with Diana Ross hair.

I laughed out loud several times and considering that the audiences did too at the same jokes validates the universality of the humor at play. Gru and the 3 girls are fantastic and so is Lucy, but the movie clearly belongs to the Minions and I cannot wait to watch an entire movie dedicated to the Minions which is slated to hit the screens in 2014. The last scene of the Minions singing is just priceless.

Watch this movie because everyone needs a good belly laugh every once in a while and this one does so by invoking fart gags only twice and that too quite effectively and it rather relies on cleverly written humor and one hell of a side-kick legion of the minions who are just insanely funny.