Tag Archives: Michael Peña

The Martian (2015)

9 Oct

So here’s the rub:

Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is stuck on Mars – left for dead by his crew members during a freak sandstorm – and he has no way of making contact with anybody back on Earth. Supplies for food, oxygen, and water are extremely limited, and the next scheduled Mars landing isn’t for another 4 years. Fortunately, Watney is a highly skilled botanist (and apparently, amatuer comedian), very capable of growing his own food and creating a somewhat habitable space on the red planet – if he can summon the willpower to do so.

Based off the novel by Andy Weir and Directed by Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, Gladiator), The Martian is an inter-planetary survival story overflowing science, humor, and heart.  Unfortunately, the disjointed plot wears a little thin in lieu of it’s feel good spirit.

Scott, like some of his contemporaries Christopher Nolan, James Cameron, and Steven Spielberg, has always been a bit of populist, and here he carefully inserts his love of brainy science within a crowd-pleasing blockbuster format. It’s less ambitious than last year’s mind-melting Innerstellar, but it contains just as much optimism for the chemistry geeks who offer the most hope for humanity’s future.

While The Martian gives us enough hard science to make up an episode of Cosmos, it lacks much of the drama or narrative tension needed to sustain a film 140 minutes long. An ensemble cast that features Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kristin Wiig, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Donald Glover, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, and Mackenzie Davis, give us little of actual characters and more of simple talking heads needed to relay technical information to each other.  Perhaps the most developed character is Matt Damon’s Mark “I’m going to science the shit out of mars” Watney. Damon has always been a likeable actor, but he is as charming as ever in The Martian with plenty of charisma and wittiness – even when he is facing death.

The little drama that exists lies with a Sean Bean/Jeff Daniels/Chiwetel Ejiofor corporate triangle, where NASA head Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) is faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not it’s justified to risk other astronauts lives at the expense of saving one. It’s a theme that’s never gets fully developed, with Scott instead opting for a style-over-substance epic that’s high on details but low on thematic material. The Martian does a good job at keeping things visually interesting, showcasing both Scott’s technical experience with tentpole films and the dynamics of (visual and interplanetary) space.

Bottom Line: With a story too simple for its lengthy running time, The Martian is a light hearted and extremely accessible crowdpleaser.

Bourne in space.

Rating: 7/10

Film Recipe: Interstellar + 127 Hours + All Is Lost

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End of Watch (2012)

2 Oct

Adding to the already monstrous pile of found footage films, End of Watch gives us an inside look of the infamous Los Angeles Police Department.  Brian Taylor (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are two L.A.P.D. partners who get involved with a conspiring drug cartel.

Gyllenhaal and Pena are both great together on-screen and they each drive the film with humor and sincere emotion. You really become attached to these two leads and the film cleverly shows us what is going on in their lives, both on and off the streets.

Though the shaky-cam was extremely annoying at first, you get adjusted to it after a while and instead focus on the film’s story.

And for a found-footage film, End of Watch has an extremely good story. David Ayer, who is no stranger to crime movies (he also wrote Training Day and The Fast And The Furious), directs the action and performances with perfection.  I wasn’t expecting too much from  End of Watch, but it really blew me away with it’s emotion and many clever plot twists.

End of Watch is far from perfect (the horribly over-used shaky cam is one of the obvious flaws), but the film is very well done and I was much more emotional than I thought I would be when the film finished.

Which is always a good sign.

rating  7/10