Review: The Martian

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The summer of 2015 will not live long in the memory (film wise). However as the leaves begin to turn and the nights draw in, those responsible for the release date scehduling have already given us a cinematic gem in the early days of Autumn.

The Martian (dir. Ridley Scott) is the tale of Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) stranded on Mars and presumed dead following a storm and the evacuation of his crew mates. This story of the human survival instinct combines the great elements of Castaway (dir. Robert Zemeckis) and Moon (dir. Duncan Jones) to bring what will surely be seen as a return to form for director Ridley Scott.

Matt Damon is brilliant as Watney. Charming, funny, heart wrenching he really is the total package.

The film is also very self-aware in its tone with what could be considered moments of ‘nudge wink’ dialogue that almost adds a B-movie quality to proceedings in a very endearing manner.

This is probably where the Martian excels when inevitably compared with the recent space epic, Interstellar (dir. Christopher Nolan).

One of the problems with Interstellar was that it always felt as if it took itself too seriously. The Martian avoids this trope. While the science is always present, it often takes a back seat to the humanity of the story, and to its credit the science is never too confusing or off-putting. The rescue mission, while ridiculous in part, is never completely unbelievable. This is the charm of The Martian there are no glaring distractions you simply enjoy the ride from start to finish.

The key to The Martian is the heartfelt desire to see Watney make it home against all odds. We route for his character from minute one until the film ends. We laugh, we feel his pain (emotional and physical) and we want to see him beat the odds.

The Martian is not a science fiction tale it is a tale of the strength of determination that happens to take place on Mars.

I wholeheartedly enjoyed The Martian and will have no hesitation in returning to Mars to do it all over again.

The Martian is released UK wide tomorrow (30th September).

Thanks to MovieHouse for the advance screening access. 

Pulp Fiction: Cinematic Grace

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This weekend in Belfast the lovely folk of Pop Up Film Club are hosting a Tarantino weekender. It all kicks off tonight with a midnight screening of From Dusk Till Dawn, Sunday evening its Reservoir Dogs and on Saturday it’s my personal favourite Pulp Fiction (which is sold out).

The guys are promising a fully immersive experience each night complete with 5 dollar shakes, Big Kahuna burgers and even floor space to twist the night away.

It may seem odd for a blogger like me to plug a Tarantino weekend. Violence reigns in Tartantino’s work albeit in an explosive cartoonish way. However there is something about Pulp Fiction in particular that appeals. It may seem odd to say it but Pulp Fiction is  a film filled with the concept of grace.

Grace reigns throughout Pulp Fiction. Amid the body count, in amongst the violence, the drug taking and subsequent overdosing of Mia Wallace (A sequence that I still watch through fingers all these years later) and the cut and paster narrative there is grace in abundance.

Several of the high-profile characters experience a second chance. A second chance that for some characters we as the audience feel is undeserved.

Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) is rescued from her previously mentioned over dosed state.

Bruce Willis’ boxer Butch (having showed undeserved grace to Marcellus Wallace) rides off into the sunset on a chopper called Grace highlighting that grace is the vehicle for a new start.

Jule (Samuel L Jackson) inexplicably avoids being shot leading to an ‘epiphany’ for the scripture quoting gangster.

Grace however is unique. It breaks into the most unlikely of places. It upsets the norm. It make us uncomfortable when those we deem unworthy receive it.

Pulp Fiction is violent, it is without doubt difficult to watch in places but it may just be the best example of grace we have on film.