Former fashion icons Zoolander and Hansel (Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson) are reunited after many years to help Interpol find out who’s assassinating pop stars. This belated sequel does everything wrong, even though it closely imitates the original by adding an abundance of cameos and inventing another outlandish plot involving fashion super-villains. A frenzied adventure full of eye-candy, but everybody involved must have thought that Rome locations and funny costumes would be enough. It’s all noise and no laughs.
2016-U.S. 101 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Ben Stiller. Cast: Ben Stiller (Derek Zoolander), Owen Wilson (Hansel McDonald), Will Ferrell (Jacobim Mugatu), Penélope Cruz, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen… Milla Jovovich, Billy Zane, Sting, Benedict Cumberbatch. Cameos: Jerry Stiller, Katy Perry, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tommy Hilfiger, Naomi Campbell, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, John Malkovich, Kiefer Sutherland, Susan Boyle, MC Hammer, Anna Wintour, Mac Jacobs, Alexander Skarsgård, Kate Moss, Valentino, Willie Nelson, Susan Sarandon, Lewis Hamilton.
After failing to capture a former child actor turned supervillain, Gru and Lucy are fired from the Anti-Villain League… but then they meet Gru’s long-lost twin brother Dru. Another contrived sequel in this series, but one that’s very hard to dislike, right from the hilarious opening chase. Steve Carell is clearly having fun with his dual role. Colorful supporting characters, the minions and a new bad guy, a cheesy villain who’s stuck in the worst trends and fashions of the 1980s, provide guaranteed laughs. Packed with action, as always in this series, gorgeously designed in 3D and widescreen.
2017-U.S. Animated. 90 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Pierre Coffin, Kyle Balda. Songs: Pharrell Williams. Voices of Steve Carell (Gru/Dru), Kristen Wiig (Lucy Wilde), Trey Parker (Balthazar Bratt), Miranda Cosgrove, Steve Coogan, Julie Andrews.
It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2017 for ya. As always, premiere dates may change.
* The Comedian – Robert De Niro gets a chance to redeem himself after appearing in far too many bad comedies. Directed by Taylor Hackford; Danny DeVito has a supporting part.
* Split – … and this is M. Night Shyamalan’s chance to redeem himself after far too many convoluted, bad horror movies. This one has James McAvoy as a kidnapper with 24 personalities.
* The Founder – Early reviews of this drama following the early days of McDonald’s say the movie may not be a masterpiece, but Michael Keaton is aces in the lead.
* The Lego Batman Movie– Will this spin-off to The Lego Movie (2014) be as surprisingly enjoyable as the original?
* Fifty Shades Darker – Will this sequel to Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) challenge its audience more than the original did? The trailer doesn’t look too promising.
* John Wick: Chapter 2 – Keanu Reeves returns for more action. February really is a month for B-movie sequels.
* A Cure for Wellness – Gore Verbinski delivers a horror thriller, his first since The Ring(2002), and it is set in the Swiss Alps.
* Tulip Fever – Alicia Vikander stars in this drama set during the tulip craze in The Netherlands in the 1600s. Also has Christoph Waltz, Zach Galifianakis and Cara Delevingne in the cast. Directed by Justin Chadwick, who made The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) look so good.
* Logan – The world seemed a bit tired of all the X-Men movies, but then came the trailer above for James Mangold’s next Wolverine movie, and now we’re all excited again.
* T2 Trainspotting – Danny Boyle’s long-awaited sequel to Trainspotting (1996) reunites the old cast. Opens January 27 in Britain.
* Kong: Skull Island – The big ape is discovered during a military mission to Skull Island. The first two trailers look great. Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston.
* Beauty and the Beast – The live-action version of the 1991 animated classic. Guaranteed to be a box-office hit judging from the online interest in the trailers. Stars Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor and Dan Stevens.
* King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Guy Ritchie’s version of the oft-filmed legend. The trailer makes it look brutal. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur.
* Ghost in the Shell – This manga adaptation has Scarlett Johansson in the lead as “The Major”.
* Going in Style – The trailer promises no fireworks, but I’m sure it’ll be a pleasure to watch Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Michael Caine and Ann-Margret at work.
* The Fate of the Furious– The eighth film in the franchise adds Helen Mirren and Charlize Theron to the cast. The trailer is quite explosive.
* The Lost City of Z – Tom Holland and Charlie Hunnam star in James Gray’s film about a real-life explorer who disappeared while searching for a city in the Amazon in the 1920s.
* The Circle – A thriller about a big tech company, starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson.
* Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – This sequel comes with a fun trailer that promises more of the laughs and thrills that made the original a hit.
* Snatched – Goldie Hawn returns to the big screen after a 14-year absence, playing Amy Schumer’s mother in a raunchy comedy.
* Alien: Covenant – Ridley Scott returns with this sequel to Prometheus, a film that (judging from the trailer) seems firmly grounded in the Alien universe.
* Annabelle 2 – A sequel that hopefully will improve on the lackluster first film. Lights Out director David F. Sandberg has his work cut out for him.
* Baywatch – The film adaptation of the cheesy 1990s TV show aims for babes, laughs and a few thrills. Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron are in the leads.
* Pirates of the Caribbean: Salazar’s Revenge – The fifth chapter in this franchise. Javier Bardem joins the usual gang.
* Wonder Woman – The DC films have largely been disappointments so far after Man of Steel (2013)… but this one could change that. The trailers have us all excited.
* The Mummy – Universal aims to create a monster universe the way Marvel and DC have created cinematic universes out of their superheroes. This one looks exciting, with Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe in the leads… but I was hoping for scary.
* Cars 3 – Pixar’s least interesting franchise is beloved by children; this chapter promises to be a little darker in tone.
* Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Colin Firth returns as a dapper agent in this sequel, and he’s joined by several other big stars. Will bigger equal better?
* Transformers: The Last Knight –The fifth movie in this franchise, and Michael Bay shows no sign of wanting to change it for the better. Audiences will show up anyway.
* The Beguiled –Sofia Coppola directs this Western, which is set during the Civil War and has Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman in the cast.
* Spider-Man: Homecoming– Tom Holland introduced his Spider-Man in Captain America: Civil War (2016) and here comes a stand-alone movie that looks like a lot of fun.
* War of the Planet of the Apes – The third film in this series pits Caesar against an aggressive colonel played by Woody Harrelson. The trailer is no disappointment.
* Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan delivers a historic epic depicting the famed WWII evacuation of Allied soldiers. As expected, it looks amazing. One of the summer’s few major blockbusters to be grounded in real-life events.
* The Dark Tower – An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel that combines Western with sci-fi. Stars Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba.
* The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Action-comedy starring Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, about a bodyguard who has to deliver a client to the Hague so he can testify against a dictator.
* Villa Capri – Another action-comedy starring an unlikely duo, this time Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones in a story that looks very much like Midnight Run (1988).
* It – Stephen King’s novel was turned into a miniseries in 1990, but here comes the film adaptation. Bill Skarsgård plays the terrifying clown Pennywise.
* American Made – Doug Liman joins forces with Tom Cruise for a thriller about a pilot who becomes a drug smuggler. Based on a real-life story.
* Flatliners – A remake of the 1990 movie, which starred Kiefer Sutherland. He’ll make an appearance here as well. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo).
* Blade Runner 2049 – The highly anticipated sequel has Denis Villeneuve directing. Harrison Ford returns as Rick Deckard.
* The Snowman – Tomas Alfredson is directing this adaptation of Jo Nesbø’s bestseller, with Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson in the leads.
* The month also has fresh sequels in the Insidious, Friday the 13th and Saw franchises. If there’s anyone out there who still has confidence in them.
* Thor: Ragnarok – The third film in the series stars Thor and the Hulk, you know, the guys who were too busy to make an appearance in Captain America: Civil War… Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) will also show up.
* Justice League – The DC universe’s answer to The Avengers, uniting its big heroes. Zack Snyder has a lot to live up to.
* Murder on the Orient Express – Kenneth Branagh’s all-star remake of the 1974 classic will feature himself as Poirot.
* The Darkest Hour – The story of Winston Churchill’s early days in World War II. Gary Oldman plays the Prime Minister, Joe Wright is directing.
* Star Wars: Episode VIII – Rian Johnson is directing this film, which will likely devote some time to give Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) a dignified farewell.
* Jumanji – A remake of the 1995 movie, starring Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart and Jack Black.
* Downsizing – Alexander Payne directs this drama-comedy, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig.
A hot dog sausage and his bun girlfriend realize that their existence at the Shopwell’s supermarket is based on a lie – those groceries that humans bring out of the store are not saved, but eaten. A 3D animated comedy targeted at adult audiences, a very raunchy, foul-mouthed spoof of Disney/Pixar movies. Filled with the expected stoner and sex jokes that are part of every Seth Rogen comedy. Some of it is funny, and those looking for food-related puns will get their fill… but what makes other Rogen movies more satisfying is an emotional core. This one’s too childish.
2016-U.S. Animated. 89 min. Color. Directed by Greg Tiernan, Conrad Vernon. Screenplay: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir. Voices of Seth Rogen (Frank), Kristen Wiig (Brenda), Jonah Hill (Carl), Bill Hader, Michael Cera, James Franco… Danny McBride, Paul Rudd, Edward Norton, Salma Hayek.
I saw Ghostbusterstoday. In an alternate, sane universe the experience wouldn’t have been very special. I gave this remake three stars. It was fun and entertaining but typical of Paul Feig’s filmmaking style; his comedies would be even better if he made them snappier by cutting jokes that don’t work very well. All his films are bloated but have great stuff in them, and one of his virtues is finding good roles for women. None of this is controversial were it not for an army of online male trolls who for some mysterious reason declared war on this project the minute it was announced because women were to play the new ghostbusters.
The first time I read about this controversy I had to check my calendar to see if we had time-traveled back to the 19th century. But apparently we haven’t. And the whole thing grew out of control. The trolls have stubbornly tried to make this controversy about everything else, the problem with remakes, the trailers don’t look funny, whatever, but none of that bullshit holds up. These people hated the new Ghostbusterslong before cameras actually started rolling. And I saw the trailers. They were no better or worse than many other comedy trailers in recent years. There is no valid reason to say “I have finally had enough of all these remakes” based on this very example. In the clip above, Internet critic James Rolfe explains why he won’t see the new Ghostbusters… and every reason he has rings hollow.
I don’t know if Rolfe in particular has a problem with women. But after reading endless comments about the film on IMDb and watching how concerted efforts have been made to manipulate user ratings, it’s pretty clear that it’s the women that have the trolls up in arms. The worst part of it? The barrage of racist and sexist shit thrown at Leslie Jones on Twitter, a scandal that made Jones leave the microblog a few days ago. That finally made Twitter react, and several accounts were suspended for having participated in the attacks on Jones, most famously that of British right-wing blogger Milos Yiannopoulos. He was furious over the ban, saying according to The Guardian that Twitter had become a “no-go zone for conservatives”. Hardly flattering for conservatives having their political brand compared to online bullying by one of their own, as a positive thing…?
Personally, I believe being a fanboy should be something you’re proud of. In the olden days, when I was a kid, being a fanboy meant that you were a nerd who couldn’t get girls because they found you too nerdy, not one of the cool guys. But you were passionate about something. These days, after Gamergate and the Ghostbusterscontroversy, being a fanboy means you’re a misogynistic shit who, much like a Trump voter, doesn’t understand that the world changes. Is that a good thing? Hell, no.
By the way, the clip starting this blog entry has Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig engaging in more sacrilegious activities, performing a hilarious folk version of Ray Parker, Jr:s classic theme song on The Graham Norton Show.
When one of New York City’s oldest buildings appears to be haunted, two parapsychologists jump at the chance to see an actual ghost, and drag a skeptical friend (Kristen Wiig) along. The folks behind the original franchise long tried to get a third movie made, but instead we got a remake that was maligned by Internet trolls even before cameras started rolling. The reason? Women were cast as ghostbusters. The final results turned out to be an entertaining ride, with intense visual effects in 3D and amusing lead performances. As always with Paul Feig movies though, an uneven barrage of jokes and action.
2016-U.S. 116 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Ivan Reitman, Amy Pascal. Directed by Paul Feig. Screenplay: Katie Dippold, Paul Feig. Cast: Melissa McCarthy (Abby Yates), Kristen Wiig (Erin Gilbert), Kate McKinnon (Jillian Holtzmann), Leslie Jones (Patty Tolan), Chris Hemsworth, Cecily Strong… Andy Garcia, Charles Dance, Ed Begley, Jr.. Cameos: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Ernie Hudson, Ozzy Osbourne.
Trivia: Co-executive produced by Aykroyd. Emma Stone was allegedly considered for a part. Also released in a 133-min. cut.
Quote: “I guess he’s going to Queens – he’s going to be the third scariest thing on that train.” (Jones watching a ghost escape on a subway train)
When a mutagen is stolen from a lab in the Arctic Circle, the now reformed Gru is recruited by the Anti-Villain League to find the guilty – and he’s partnered with a female agent. The kind of sequel that audiences wanted to see, but where the filmmakers really seem to have struggled trying to come up with a way to continue the story. Well-paced, with lots of amusing scenes featuring Gru’s popular minions. Looks attractive in 3D… but all the frantic spy-movie action, trying to conceal the emptiness of the story, gets a little wearisome in the second half.
2013-U.S. Animated. 98 min. Color. Directed by Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud. Song: ”Happy” (Pharrell Williams). Voices of Steve Carell (Gru), Kristen Wiig (Lucy Wilde), Benjamin Bratt (Eduardo ”El Macho” Pérez), Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Ken Jeong… Steve Coogan.
Trivia: Al Pacino was originally hired to voice ”El Macho”, but dropped out. Followed by Despicable Me 3 (2017).
It’s time for that annual list of next year’s highly anticipated Hollywood films. Here’s 2016 for ya. As always, premiere dates may change.
* 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Michael Bay leaves his robots aside for a while, taking on a politically sensitive subject. Looks far from another Zero Dark Thirty (2012) though.
* Kung Fu Panda 3 – Another entry in this popular animated franchise.
* Jane Got a Gun – Natalie Portman stars in a Western, alongside Ewan McGregor, about a woman trying to save her outlaw husband.
* Hail, Caesar!– Another star-studded comedy from the Coen brothers, where we follow the adventures of a Hollywood “fixer” (Josh Brolin). Looks like great fun.
* Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – A film adaptation of the bestseller that promises blood, gore and Victorian romance. Stars Lily James.
* Zoolander 2 – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are back as the dim-witted models that we first met in 2001. The sequel is on a large scale and has many cameos, including Justin Bieber.
* Deadpool – Ryan Reynolds plays the superhero in a movie whose first trailer was wildly praised at its release during Comic-Con. The character is tied to the X-Men movies.
* The Witch – This low-budget horror movie, which follows a 17th century Puritan family as it encounters evil in the New England woods, premiered at Sundance last January and is finally bowing in theaters.
* London Has Fallen – The sequel to Olympus Has Fallen (2013) moves the action to London. Aaron Eckhart and Gerard Butler are back as the President and his Secret Service agent.
* Knight of Cups – Terrence Malick is back with a movie following a Hollywood screenwriter. Starring Natalie Portman and Christian Bale, the trailer looks very “malicky”.
* The Divergent Series: Allegiant – The last book in the popular series has been divided into two movies; here’s the first part.
* Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – The most talked about superhero movie of the year, a follow-up to Man of Steel (2013). Starring Ben Affleck as Batman and Henry Cavill as Superman.
* The Boss – A new Melissa McCarthy comedy is usually worthy of some attention. This one has her as a ruthless former executive who’s sent to prison. Her husband Ben Falcone directs.
* The Jungle Book– Jon Favreau’s live-action take on the Disney classic was originally supposed to have premiered in 2015. Featuring the voices of Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray.
* Everybody Wants Some – Richard Linklater’s new movie has been described as sort of a sequel to both Boyhood and Dazed and Confused.
* Captain America: Civil War – The third Captain America puts Cap (Chris Evans) in conflict with Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.). This year’s biggest Marvel event.
* Snowden – Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the famous whistleblower in Oliver Stone’s take on how Snowden leaked classified documents to the press. Expect controversy.
* The Nice Guys – Shane Black is back with another action-comedy that looks overly familiar… but the trailer is funny, and stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling seem game.
* X-Men: Apocalypse – This one follows X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and has the younger versions of our most famed mutants battling the world’s first mutant.
* Alice Through the Looking Glass– I was no big fan of the original Alice in Wonderland(2010), but we’ll have to see what Muppets director James Bobin has up his sleeve. Several of the first film’s stars return.
* The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist – The first film was damned scary, so James Wan’s sequel had better be good. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga return as the ghost-hunting couple.
* Warcraft – Duncan Jones is adapting the famous game and we’re all wondering if this is the one that will change the sad reputation of movies based on video games.
* Finding Dory – The follow-up to Finding Nemo (2003) has the same challenge as The Conjuring 2 – how can you top a beloved sequel? The trailer shows that Pixar likely has found the lovely tone of the first movie.
* Independence Day: Resurgence – 20 years have passed since the first Independence Day, and this sequel brings back some of the old stars as well as new ones. And, of course, the aliens are back.
* The BFG– Steven Spielberg directs this family-friendly story about a giant. Based on a Roald Dahl story, the script was written by the late Melissa Mathison who also wrote E.T..
* The Legend of Tarzan – Alexander Skarsgård plays Tarzan in this take on the classic story, directed by David Yates. The trailer suggests a rather traditional approach.
* Ghostbusters – The remake of the 1984 comedy classic has women replacing the male ghostbusters of the original. Stars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig; directed by their Bridesmaids helmer, Paul Feig.
* Star Trek Beyond – The third movie in this new franchise premiered a trailer a few weeks ago that sent fans into a rage. Will it honor the predecessors or turn into a new Fast and Furious?
* The Bourne sequel – It still doesn’t have a title, this fourth movie in the franchise to star Matt Damon, the first since 2007. Paul Greengrass is back as director.
* Suicide Squad – David Ayer directs this dark DC Comics adventure that unites supervillains recruited by the government. Will Smith leads the cast; Jared Leto plays the Joker.
* A Cure for Wellness – We don’t know much about this project, but it’s a supernatural horror movie directed by the very uneven Gore Verbinski. Dane DeHaan has the lead role.
* Sully – Clint Eastwood directs this film about the pilot who heroically landed a plane on the Hudson River. Tom Hanks plays “Sully”.
* Deepwater Horizon – The story of the 2010 disaster that caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history is directed by Peter Berg and stars Kurt Russell and Mark Wahlberg.
* The Accountant – Warriordirector Gavin O’Connor is back with a thriller starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and J.K. Simmons.
* Gambit – After Deadpool comes this, another spin-off set in the X-Men universe. Doug Liman is directing, with Channing Tatum in the lead.
* Inferno – Ron Howard is once again directing this third entry in the franchise that began with The Da Vinci Code(2006); Tom Hanks also returns as Robert Langdon.
* Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – Tom Cruise returns as Lee Child’s antihero, now directed by Edward Zwick. This time, Reacher is accused of an old homicide.
* Doctor Strange – Benedict Cumberbatch plays a surgeon who discovers a world of magic and different dimensions. Another Marvel adventure gets its big-screen treatment.
* Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – David Yates’s second movie this year is a return to Harry Potter world for him; this is a prequel set in the 1920s, starring Eddie Redmayne.
* The Great Wall – Hollywood’s love affair with the Chinese market continues with this film about a mystery surrounding the construction of China’s Great Wall. Directed by Zhang Yimou, starring Matt Damon.
* The Founder – The story of the man who turned a small hamburger joint into McDonald’s stars Michael Keaton.
* Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – A stand-alone film, a prequel to Star Wars (1977), depicting a team of rebels trying to get their hands on the plans for the Death Star. Directed by Gareth Edwards.
* Passengers – Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt star in this space romance set in the future, directed by The Imitation Game‘sMorten Tyldum.
* Assassin’s Creed – The second adaptation this year to possibly save the reputation of movies based on video games. Stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.
San Francisco, 1976; 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) embarks on an affair with her mom’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgård) and starts taping a diary… After turning the graphic novel into a play (and starring in it), Marielle Heller made her directing debut with this screen adaptation that uses the lead character’s interest in comics as an excuse to incorporate animation in charming little ways. This is above all a heartfelt, credible and non-judgmental portrayal of a teenager’s early stab at a sex life, compromised by asinine adults, and drugs. Intriguingly shot to look almost like Polaroid photos; great performances, especially from young Powley.
2015-U.S. 102 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Miranda Bailey, Anne Carey, Bert Hamelinck. Written and directed by Marielle Heller. Graphic Novel: Phoebe Gloeckner. Cinematography: Brandon Trost. Cast: Bel Powley (Minnie Goetze), Kristen Wiig (Charlotte Worthington), Alexander Skarsgård (Monroe Rutherford), Christopher Meloni, Austin Lyon, Madeleine Waters.
Last word: “Hers is not my story. I did not have that kind of upbringing. I did have a sexual teenagehood, sexual thoughts and feelings. I thought something must be wrong with me because girls like me were not depicted in the media. There’s a fear of teenage girls and sexuality and equality, but no fear of teenage boys and their sexuality. There’s a real double standard, and a sense of danger about teenage girl sexuality.” (Heller, Indiewire)
If you’ve ever been to Wadi Rum in Jordan, you’ve been to Mars. The valley has been Hollywood’s favorite location for movies set on the planet, its red sand and mountains being a perfectly convincing stand-in. That’s Wadi Rum you see in Mission to Mars (2000), Red Planet (2000) and The Last Days on Mars (2013). Unfortunately, none of these films have been worth your time. It’s almost been a curse for Hollywood, but finally we have a movie about Mars that you should pay money to see. As an added bonus, it is also Ridley Scott’s finest effort since Gladiator(2000).
Sometime in the near future, we have developed the capability to send manned missions to Mars. Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) is the commander of Ares III and her crew has spent a short time on the planet when a violent storm hits. Lewis gives the order to evacuate, but Mark Whatney (Matt Damon) is struck by debris and is presumed dead. Ares III begins its journey back to Earth. The day after, Whatney wakes up, makes it to the abandoned habitat, takes care of his wounds and assesses the situation. He has no way of contacting NASA. There’s plenty of food left, but it won’t last forever. Fortunately, Whatney is a botanist and figures out a (disgusting) way to grow potatoes in a controlled environment. After some time, when NASA is reviewing satellite photos of Mars, they realize that Whatney isn’t dead… but getting supplies to the planet will take years.
Meticulously researched After self-publishing his novel “The Martian” online, author Andy Weir’s literary agent sold it to a publishing house using “Apollo 13 meets Cast Away” as a pitch. The agent certainly hit the nail on its head, and this film adaptation is just as good as those now-classic survival movies. Drew Goddard, who wrote the screenplay, respected the meticulous research done by Weir (who studied astronomy and orbital mechanics), which is part of why The Martian is so compelling. After Gravity and Interstellar, we’ve come to expect movies about space travel to be as scientifically accurate and challenging as possible. This one feels realistic, both in Whatney’s work on Mars to keep himself alive (becoming sort of a MacGyver in the process) and NASA:s large-scale efforts to find a way to reach Mars and rescue their man before running out of time. There’s a lot of scientific work here, but Scott makes sure the movie never turns into a math lecture – there’s a great sense of humor and optimism in his approach that endures, even though Whatney’s situation is frightening. He also has great help from the cast. The supporting actors are wonderful, including Jeff Daniels who plays his NASA Administrator the same way he did Will McAvoy on The Newsroom (2012-2014). But The Martian wouldn’t be this good without Matt Damon, who’s thoroughly engaging as the abandoned astronaut. We sort of fall in love with him as he tapes his videolog, chronicling everything he goes through on Mars. Technically, the film is a marvel to watch, with visual effects in 3D that take us to the red planet and boost an exhilarating final half-hour as the rescue operation kicks into high gear. Harry Gregson-Williams wrote a music score that emphasizes the thrilling aspect of taking humans as far as Mars.
Shortly after the premiere of this film, I saw a funny Facebook post by someone pointing out that considering Saving Private Ryan, Interstellar and The Martian, the American government has spent a ridiculous amount of money to retrieve Matt Damon. That’s true. But it’s worth it every time, right?
The Martian 2015-U.S. 141 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Ridley Scott, Mark Huffam, Simon Kinberg, Michael Schaefer, Aditya Sood. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay: Drew Goddard. Novel: Andy Weir. Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski. Music: Harry Gregson-Williams. Cast: Matt Damon (Mark Whatney), Jessica Chastain (Melissa Lewis), Kristen Wiig (Annie Montrose), Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara… Sean Bean, Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical), Actor (Damon).
Last word: “The desert [in Jordan] was virgin, [and] the rocks are spectacular — I’d compare it to Monument Valley. It was absolutely marvelous. We hit it great because it was only 70 degrees as opposed to 120 [degrees]. It looked great, but I wanted it to be more terracotta red. I love to color grade [adjust the color of the picture on screen]. It’s the final act on my film. I literally sit there with a technician artist and we grade the goddamn movie. It’s a lot of knobs and twisting. You see the whole thing come alive. And by then, I’ve put in all the skies. Every sky shot has a trail of dust going through it.” (Scott, Yahoo!)
Robert and Sarah Benson (Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig) plan to adopt a child and decide to let its mother (Jessica Lowndes) move in with them during the last months of her pregnancy… but she has ulterior motives. Made for Lifetime as a tribute to the 25th anniversary of its movie franchise, this project confused critics and audiences. Was it a parody of Lifetime’s typically cheesy soap thrillers? Or was it done in earnest? Or is it a little of both? Maybe the last option is the most likely, but the movie has neither thrills nor laughs, except in the ridiculous opening scene.
2015-U.S. Made for TV. 84 min. Color. Directed by Rachel Lee Goldenberg. Cast: Will Ferrell (Robert Benson), Kristen Wiig (Sarah Benson), Jessica Lowndes (Bridgette/Joni), Alyvia Alyn Lind, Jake Weary, Brooke Lyons.
A few years after the events of the first movie, Hiccup and his village are drawn into a battle against a conqueror who knows how to trap and control dragons. A sequel just as ambitious as the first entry. We follow Hiccup as he transitions into adulthood and its responsibilities and challenges at the same time as his mother (wonderfully voiced by Cate Blanchett) makes a dramatic comeback. Emotional and dark at times, but there’s also a rich adventure at breakneck pace with loads of 3D thrills and many new colorful dragons. Funny and exciting confrontations between the mysterious conqueror, the village and Hiccup’s mother.
2014-U.S. Animated. 102 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Bonnie Arnold. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois. Music: John Powell. Voices of Jay Baruchel (Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III), Cate Blanchett (Valka), Gerard Butler (Stoick the Vast), Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill… Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou.
Golden Globe: Best Animated Feature Film.
Last word: “I was asked by Jeffrey Katzenberg to start coming up with ideas while we were still doing the final sound mix on the first film. I have a very distinct memory of fleshing out the first outline in a little notebook, sitting at a picnic table that overlooks a baseball field at Skywalker Ranch. There I kind of knew the building blocks of it […] To me the next act of this trilogy was always going to be Hiccup defining himself against the very powerful force of two domineering parents, in a way.” (DeBlois, Collider)
After getting kicked out of a prestigious news job in NYC, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is offered to join the world’s first 24-hour news channel, and gets the old gang back together. Getting this sequel off the ground took its sweet time, and once again it seems impossible to create a coherent story around these characters. The CNN satire could have been smarter, but there’s a charming outrageousness to the whole project that’s irresistible; very silly and very funny at times. Chock-full of amusing cameos, but Ferrell is a wonder to behold; no one can look as dim-witted straight through an entire film.
2013-U.S. 119 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Adam McKay. Cast: Will Ferrell (Ron Burgundy), Steve Carell (Brick Tamland), Paul Rudd (Brian Fantana), David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good… Dylan Baker, Greg Kinnear, James Marsden, Kristen Wiig, Fred Willard, Harrison Ford. Cameos: Sacha Baron Cohen, Marion Cotillard, Jim Carrey, Will Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, Vince Vaughn, Kanye West, Drake.
Trivia: Jennifer Lawrence was allegedly considered for a role. Also available in 124 min. and 143 min. cuts.
Quote: “It doesn’t matter whose fault the break-up was, I was stubborn, you were like a mentally ill whore from the 1800s.” (Ferrell to Applegate)