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Ridley Scott Pulls It Off: “The Martian” Is Wonderfully Done

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The Martian movie poster movie spoon

For Real?

For Real?

There are so many potential pitfalls in Ridley Scott‘s new big screen feature, The Martian, that I lost sleep thinking about them. Oh, this movie is going to be overblown and dreadful, I thought. Boy, was I wrong.

But just to tick off some of the more obvious potential problems: The Martian planet could look phony. It doesn’t. The script could be moronic and trite or technical and boring. It is neither. The whole thing could be one serious melodrama: “Bring him home” was the weepy tag line used in the film’s advertising. It could be nothing but patriotic cow flop. It isn’t any of those things, either. More ominous, as the trailers suggested, it could turn into corporate-bashing, a film in which the evil powers that be – in this case Jeff Daniels playing NASA head Teddy Sanders – decide to leave astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) on Mars with a cold and calloused disregard for all things we hold dear – namely, human life. But it doesn’t do that. Sanders has at least two tough choices to make in the film and he flatly fires a top lieutenant at NASA, Mitch Henderson (played by Sean Bean) for going behind his back in a critical moment. But that doesn’t leave Sanders stranded as some emotional oaf. He’s just doing his job, which is to calculate risks, be mindful of public relations and keep expenses down. (That’s not an easy play when we’re talking about rescuing a stranded astronaut on Mars.)

The balances in this movie are extremely critical. Will the audience get bored of Matt Damon, with his boyish intellectual aplomb, talking to himself as he explains the next survival strategy he is plotting. Like Tom Hanks talking to the volleyball named Wilson in Castaway, the problem is that Watney, the star of the show, has no one to talk to. The Martian solves this by having Watney (Damon) telling the ship’s log what he is going to do next, which puts him in the position of a schoolmarm trying to keep everything cheerful despite the point that, hmm, the nearest other human being is 141 million miles away.

One ploy Scott uses to keep this cheerful self-talk going is to have the stranded Watney munch on some crunchy snacks while explaining his next move. “Well, all I gotta do, crunch, crunch, is science the hell out of this, crunch, crunch.” This makes it seem like Watney is just a busy, casual guy, rather than, say, an astronaut stranded on a lifeless planet. This works, mostly, but it does get a bit old to have all this loud crunching going on. “I’ll either survive, crunch, crunch, or I will die, crunch, crunch.” Watney is an astronaut-botanist, but he keeps tossing snacks into his mouth like a goofy peanut farmer.

Beautifully, however, the movie does not slide into melodrama or bog down in technical explanations. This is not “Aliens 36,” so the science is going to be heavily scrutinized by a smartphone audience. If you can’t really grow a potato on Mars, this movie is going to bomb. If you can, well then, we have a movie!

And what a movie it is. The scenery is splendid, the script is spot on. The balance between the tensions on Earth and the dangers on Mars is masterfully done. Who knew that Ridley Scott was really an old theater guy at heart? Good to know.

If there is a flaw or two, Daniels is really not in his element as the crusty head of NASA. The part requires someone older and meaner. Watney is maybe a little bit too Matt Damon. It’s like he’s having a little party all by himself on Mars. But this isn’t such a bad thing. Sci-fi isn’t often staged for playful comedy, let alone Ridley Scott sci-fi, goodness knows.

Flat out: The Martian is an extremely well done, enjoyable picture that might even have the inventor of the form, Stanley Kubrick, rolling over in his grave. Scott even pays homage to Kubrick with his opening sequence. It’s just another clever turn in a very clever, extremely well balanced, beautiful film.

Izzy

Movie Magic: The De-Aging Technique of The Irishman

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Robert DeNiro de-agedHave you read Izzy yet? If so, you know that Izzy makes the apples that give the Gods their youth and immortality. It also seems Robert De Niro discovered one of Izzy’s apples too… In Martin Scorsese’s upcoming biographical film, he stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a labor union leader and alleged hitman for the Bufalino crime family. The trailer for the movie, which will premieres NEXT WEEK (!), also features a “de-aged” De Niro. “We’re so used to watching them as the older faces,” Scorsese said in an interview on the A24 podcast. “Does it change the eyes at all? …If that’s the case, what was in the eyes that I liked? Was it intensity? Was it gravitas? Was it threat?…How do we get that? I don’t know.” Some might consider this magic and I for one can’t wait to see the impact of Izzy’s apples on screen for myself. ????

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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