The Martian (2015) Film Review


On Mars, things can be unpredictable. Like, you may just be doing some routine things, collecting rocks or whatever and then a big storm can hit and you have to get out. But what happens when one of you gets left behind? Well, if you happen to be Mark Watney (Matt Damon), you are a lucky guy. You’ve got a whole lot of brains, and you can do stuff to keep yourself alive in the hope that your awesome crew and the folks back on Earth can figure out that you are still alive and try to work out how to get you back

Apparently a lot of the science is based on real science, but really, I don’t care. It was a good, fun film. Matt Damon gets to play a character who has a lot more personality than I’d expected. The supporting cast are pretty terrific, just check out these names: Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor and it goes on and on. I loved the suspense, the fear, the making things work -it was like a whole new and exciting Apollo 13.

The Martian was nominated for Oscars for Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (Matt Damon), Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Writing (Adapted Screenplay). It won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy (Matt Damon) and was nominated for Best Director – Motion Picture (Ridley Scott). IT was nominated for BAFTAs for Best Director (Todd Hayes), Best Actor (Matt Damon), Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Sound and Best Special Visual Effects.


Interstellar (2014) Film Review


The world is dying. There is not much food and there is dust everywhere. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer, but was previously an astronaut. Now, with his father (or father-in-law, I can’t recall if that matters) Donald (John Lithgow), he is raising two children; Murph (Mackenzie Foy, then later Jessica Chastain and still later, Ellen Burtsyn) and Tom (Timothee Chalamet and then later Casey Affleck). Then he ends up stumbling across a NASA station or something and gets roped in to a mission to explore possible inhabitable planets through a wormhole. There is the Professor (Michael Caine), a fellow astronaut, Brand (Anne Hathaway) and later the nice surprise of Mann (Matt Damon. Didn’t know he was in this film!).

Yawn. I just couldn’t get into this film. I couldn’t car about the characters, I didn’t have any particular care about the planet dying. I think it is a really well made film, if about an hour too long (it’s just under three hours). The one standout thing was the soundtrack – amazing, really bringing forth the emotion without being overly annoying or overbearing.

Interstellar was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Production Design, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score (Hans Zimmer), Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Best Achievement in Visual Effects. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score (Hans Zimmer) and BAFTAs for Best Cinematography, Best Original Music (Hans Zimmer), Best Production Design and Best Special Visual Effects

Lawless (2012) Film Review


The Bondurant brothers are bootleggers working in rural Virginia, managing stills in the hills and running spirits into towns. Legend is that the brothers are indestructible, which seems likely during several of the particularly violent and gory scenes in this exceptionally violent and gory film. Things are going well for the Bondurant brothers, with young Jack (Shia LaBeouf) finally stepping up into the business. Then there is a new lawman in town – the ever-creepy Charlie Rakes (Guy Pearce) and things getting rapidly worse.

I am currently addicted to Boardwalk Empire and have been enjoying the Ken Burns documentary on the prohibition that’s been playing on SBS. It was great to see the other side of the prohibition, especially tied in with aspects of the depression. But it wasn’t the plot that made the film for me. It was the characters. In many ways, Jack was the weak link of the characters. I didn’t want him to get cocky. He spent his life not living up to his brothers, and I just wanted him to do what he needed to and not be an idiot. But, without him being an idiot, it would have been a different story. It just seemed a bit clichéd to have one character’s arrogance bring down the whole story. The annoyingness of Jack was by far outweighed by the other marvelous characters, most notably for me, Charlie Rakes. Guy Pearce looks incredibly creepy in this role, with his shaved parting and his foppish suits, but it was the coldness behind his camp behaviour that made him the evil character that he was. In direct contrast was Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Forrest Bondurant. Straight talking, when he talked. A man with no airs, no graces and certainly no bullshit. Yet he was the criminal that the audience sided with and loved.

Lawless looks into a time in the world where people were struggling and the line between legal and moral was blurred.  It’s a great yarn. Enjoy it.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012) FIlm Review


Osama Bin Laden was a bad guy; the terrorist leader who was behind the September 11 attacks on the US. He then became the face of the war on terror. He was hiding in a compound in Pakistan that was raided by US Marines and he was killed. Zero Dark Thirty is the story of how this came about.

As with most films based on reality, it’s hard to judge what is strictly fact and what has been changed for dramatic effect. It doesn’t shy away from some of the ugly truths of the war – the detention and torture of suspected terrorists, including waterboarding. It’s certainly not an easy film to watch; although, I was expecting worse. I went into the film with memories of director Katherine Bigalow’s previous, Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker. That film almost killed me. There was a tension that had me on the edge of my seat, gritting my teeth and waiting for something awful to happen. In Zero Dark Thirty, awful things happened, but I didn’t really have the same emotional connection to it. It’s a strong film; long, but it didn’t drag for me. It actually felt to me like a weaker version of Homeland, the television show.

It’s probably a shame that this has come out in the same year as Argo, which I think has taken a similar type of story but told it in a much stronger way.

Jessica Chastain has been nominated for a Best Actress in a Leading Role Oscar, won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama and was nominated for a BAFTA for Leading Actress

Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg have been nominated for an Oscar for Editing and were nominated for a BAFTA for Editing

Zero Dark Thirty has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Film, a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Film

Paul N.J. Ottosson has been nominated for an Oscar for Sound Editing

Mark Boal has been nominated for an Oscar for Writing (Original Screenplay), a Golden Globe for Golden Globe for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Original Screenplay

Kathryn Bigelow was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director – Motion Picture and was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Director

The Help (2011) Film Review


It’s the 1960s and Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) has returned to her home in Jackson, Mississippi after completing college. She takes a job at the paper writing a cleaning column, however having had a maid throughout her life, she needs help. Enlisting the assistance of one of her childhood friend’s maids, Aibileen, she becomes aware of the attitude of the rich, white families to their staff. Surreptitiously, she collects the stories of the maids which is published in a book that becomes a best seller, but which promises to shock all of Jackson.

It’s a good film. (I’ve heard that the book is marvellous, and someday, I will get to that). It has heart and struggle. Look, I’ve seen a lot of films that tell stories of the deep south prior to the civil rights movement, and this isn’t one of the most hardhitting. It’s entertaining and it tells a good story. Does it need to be more than that?


Tree of Life (2011) – Film Review


I can see why many people think this is a life changing film. I can see why it inspires people to reflect on their own life and their place not only in the world. I can see that it is very, very beautiful. I still didn’t like it.

For me, this wasn’t a feature film; it was an experimentation in alternative methods of storytelling. Sort of. There wasn’t really a story, but an exploration of a life. Or several lives. I got somewhat confused between who I was watching at times, and why. And the whispering – it was like watching a Hungry Jacks ad from the mid-ninties. I could have used less of the whispering and even a bit less of the constant overpowering music. Whilst many people will find this a beautiful film that changes their lives, I reckon that there are equally as many people who will find this film wanky, annoying and far too long. But, if you hate it that much, even ninety minutes will be too long.

It would be beautiful to watch this film at an outdoor cinema in some gardens on a balmy evening with a lot of wine – unless you don’t like it. In which case, you may get kicked out for shouting obscenities at the screen.

It’s been a couple of days since I watched the film, and while I still didn’t like the way it was structured or appreciate the point of it, the beautiful images keep flashing into my head. And I’m enjoying them, despite myself. But one thing keeps coming back. What the hell was all that with the dinosaurs and stuff about? It was awesome, but why was it there?

Tree of Life was nominated for Oscars for Best Achievement in Directing (Terrence Malick), Best Cinematography and Best Motion Picture of the Year.