Tag Archives: The Martian

Best Films of 2015

I know. We’re hours away from 2017 and I’m only doing my Best Of list for 2015 now. That’s just the way life goes sometimes. Anyway, I finally tabulated all the films I’ve watched with a 2015 release date, and the total number has come to 151! That’s 0.41 movies a day, 2.9 movies a week.

The highest rating I gave was of course 5, and the lowest was 0.5. The average score was 3.05 and the median score was 3, suggesting I was either too generous or the average 2015 film I watched was “pretty decent” (my definition of a 3-star film). And honestly, I feel like that’s a solid assessment of 2015, which garnered the most 5-star scores in I’ve had in a single year since (probably) I started reviewing movies online. The hardest part about this list, as always, was deciding which movies with the same score should be ranked before the other.

Without a further ado, here are my (subjective) top 10 films of 2015, with a few honorable mentions tossed in for fun.

Honorable Mentions

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Steve Jobs, Creed, Inside Out, Spy, Kingsman: The Secret Service

These were movies I enjoyed a lot and I even thought some of them might make the list (until I realised how many other good movies I watched).

Just Missing the Cut

Straight Outta Compton – Never much of a rap guy, even in my youth, but this true story was gripping and explosive.

The Big Short – Sharp, informative, insightful and witty. And that superstar cast is a pure delight.

Spotlight – Superbly made film about an important true story, with brilliant performances all round.

Room – Harrowing, terrifying, yet beautiful film about love and hope.

Amy – I’m not much of a Winehouse fan, but this was one of the best documentaries I had seen in a while. Wish I could have included a doco on the list but I couldn’t push any of the others out.

The List

10. The Stanford Prison Experiment

This was the closest to being replaced with by one from the honorable mentions list, but I really wanted to highlight this film rather than just putting in another lauded movie that appears on most critics’ lists. I was so captivated by this bizarre true story about a university experiment in which some students were cast as inmates while others were cast as prison guards. It was frightening to see how far things went, which was both surreal yet strangely believable. Nice young cast too.

9. Anomalisa

This was one of the most unusual movies I’ve ever seen, and certainly one of the most memorable. The stop-motion animation, the authentic yet purposely fake appearances of the characters, the awkwardness and razor sharp black humour, and the strangely poignant love story — I adored this movie from start to finish. In any other year this is likely in the top 5.

8. Ex Machina

There have been many films about robot, AI and consciousness, but this was just such a brilliant idea and executed so wonderfully. The film rightfully won the Oscar for best special effects and featured a performance by Alicia Vikander that I personally thought was more Oscar-worthy than what she delivered in The Danish Girl (which she actually won the Oscar for).

7. Sicario

Not sure about the sequel coming up because I felt it was near-perfect as a standalone film and should be left alone. This was the only movie I gave 4.75 stars to in 2015 and I still don’t know why I didn’t give it a perfect score. It was intelligent and stylish, and above all, it was so tense and so riveting that I was on the edge of my seat all throughout. This movie is the reason that Arrival (also directed by Denis Villeneuve) is the film I want to see more than any other at this moment.

6. It Follows

The most original horror film of the year. A simple idea but a smart one that takes an otherwise typical horror trope and twists it around— and the execution is incredible. The type of film that makes you put yourself in the shoes of the characters and sticks in your mind long after the end credits roll.

5. Goodnight Mommy

The only foreign film on the list this year, and a highly deserving one for being by far the creepiest movie experience I’ve had in quite some time. It’s slow and not for everyone, but if you like atmospheric horror and want to be creeped out, this is the flick for you.

4. The Martian

My most enjoyable film experience of the year in terms of pure fun and entertainment. I still haven’t read the book, but the film totally nails it, from the performances to the humour to the science (I don’t know how legit it is, but the important thing is that it feels legit). One of the more rewatchable films on this list too.

3. Bridge of Spies

I know some people aren’t that high on this movie, though for me, it’s as close to perfect storytelling as you can get and demonstrates again why Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest directors of all time. I went from being not very interested in the idea of the film to absolutely loving it. Well-deserved Oscar to Mark Rylance too. Humble brag: I called it as soon as I saw the film.

2. Mad Max: Fury Road

This was so close to being my No. 1 of the year. Having never watched the original, I had no idea what to expect, and what I saw blew my mind. The action, the strangeness, the intrigue, the horror—it was simply a jaw-dropping spectacle that has been etched into my memory. Can’t wait to see what George Miller does next.

1. The Revenant

In the end, despite all the great films on this list, the choice wasn’t that hard. The all-time spectacular visuals, the exhilarating, brutal extended action sequences, the Oscar-winning performance from Leo, and of course that memorable bear attack — everything combined to propel The Revenant to the very top of my Best Of 2015 list.

2016 Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win & Who Should

oscars

I don’t have the time to do a detailed post for the Oscars this year, but it wouldn’t feel right without throwing some predictions out there. Here are my predictions (ie, guesses) on how I think each category will turn out, and which nominees I feel are most deserving.

Best Picture

Nominees: The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight

Will win: This is a really tough one to pick as it has been such a tight race. It will go down to The Revenant, Spotlight and The Big Short, and my guess is that Spotlight will edge out the others to take home the biggest prize.

Should win: If it were up to me I’d go with either The Revenant or Mad Max: Fury Road. In any case it’s been a terrific year for cinema and I think all of the Best Picture nominees — with the exception of Brooklyn — are all deserving.

Best Director

Nominees: Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Will win: Another tough one. Usually Best Director also gets Best Film, though it’s not as set in stone as it used to be. I initially went with McCarthy, but after some thought I’ve decided to pick Iñárritu.

Should win: Iñárritu or Miller are the most deserving in my opinion.

Best Actor

Nominees: Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

Will win: Leo. It’s his time.

Should win: There’s been some backlash against Leo lately but I still think he delivered an Oscar-worthy performance. The Academy has given away awards for far less relevant reasons, so there’s no reason why he shouldn’t get it this time.

Best Actress

Nominees: Cate Blanchett (Carol), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

Will win: Brie Larson. She’s been the favourite for a while, though Charlotte Rampling is a dark horse.

Should win: Brie Larson or Charlotte Rampling. Both magnificent performances. I thought Larson’s was more emotionally affecting, though that’s partly due to the subject matter.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominees: Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

Will win: Sylvester Stallone. All the momentum is on his side, and if he misses out it will be a bit like when Michael Keaton missed out on Best Actor last year.

Should win: Mark Rylance. I’ve said it since I watched Bridge of Spies. He was absolutely brilliant in that film.

Best Supporting Actress

Nominees: Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Will win: Alicia Vikander. The least suspenseful award. She appears to have it in the bag.

Should win: Vikander was great in The Danish Girl, but let’s face it, she was the lead actress, not a supporting actress. And I actually think she was better in Ex Machina. The deserving winner here is really Rooney Mara, though she should have been in the Best Actress category too.

Best Original Screenplay

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Ex Machina, Inside Out, Spotlight, Straight Outta Compton

Will win: Spotlight. Would be surprised if someone else won — though maybe the voters get swayed by all the OscarsSoWhite# backlash and end up voting for Compton.

Should win: Ex Machina. The most creative and intelligent script of the year,

Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominees: The Big Short, Brooklyn, Carol, The Martian, Room

Will win: The Big Short.

Should win: Hard one to pick. I probably would go with The Martian.

Production Design

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I feel like this film will take out at least one of the technical awards.

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road or The Martian

Costume Design

Nominees: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant

Will win: Carol. Kind of like a consolation prize for missing out on being nominated for Best Picture.

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. I’m not that into costumes from period pieces. At least I can remember the costumes in Fury Road.

Make-up & Hairstyling

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, The Revenant

Will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Should win: Mad Max: Fury Road. Immortan Joe!

Cinematography

Nominees: Carol, The Hateful Eight, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Sicario

Will win: The Revenant.

Should win: The Revenant or Sicario.

Film Editing

Nominees: The Big Short, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant. Just because.

Should win: The Big Short. Loved the edits in this.

Sound Editing

Nominees: Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Revenant.

Should win: Sicario.

Sound Mixing

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: The Martian. It has to win something.

Should win: I really don’t know what this award is all about, to be honest.

Visual Effects

Nominees: Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I mean, it’s Star Wars.

Should win: The Revenant. Absolutely seamless stuff. Ex Machina is probably equally deserving considering the budget.

Animated Feature

Nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Inside Out, Shaun the Sheep Movie, When Marnie Was There

Will win: Inside Out. This shouldn’t be controversial.

Should win: I haven’t seen Anomalisa (which is apparently really good), so on that basis I have to go with Inside Out.

Animated Short

Nominees: Bear Story, Prologue, Sanjay’s Super Team, We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, World of Tomorrow

Will win: Sanjay’s Super Team. Pure speculation.

Should win: No idea.

Documentary Feature

Nominees: Amy, Cartel Land, The Look of Silence, What Happened Miss Simone?, Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom

Will win: Amy, though Cartel Land has a strong chance.

Should win: Amy. One of the best docos I’ve seen in years.

Documentary Short

Nominees: Body Team 12, Chau Beyond the Lines, Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Last Day of Freedom

Will win: The Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. Another wild guess.

Should win: No idea whatsoever.

Live Action Short

Nominees: Ave Maria, Day One, Everything Will Be Okay, Shok, Stutterer

Will win: Day One.

Should win: No idea.

Best Foreign Film

Nominees: Embrace of the Serpent, Mustang, Son of Saul, Theeb, A War

Will win: Son of Saul, it’s the one everyone’s talking about.

Should win: No idea.

Original Score

Nominees: Bridge of Spies, Carol, The Hateful Eight, Sicario, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Will win: Probably Star Wars.

Should win: Probably either Star Wars or Carol.

Original Song

Nominees: Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey), Manta Ray (Racing Extinction), Simple Song #3 (Youth), Writing’s on the Wall (Spectre), Til It Happens To You (Hunting Ground)

Will win: Til It Happens To You. Lady Gaga is performing this song immediately before this award is announced, and she’s being introduced by US Vice President Joe Biden. So it’s hard to imagine this song not winning.

Should win: No idea

The Martian (2015)

The Martian Launch One Sheet

After a long and agonising delay brought on by unforeseen circumstances (sick kid), I finally got to see Ridley Scott’s The Martian, one of my most anticipated movies of the year. And it was well worth the wait.

I had been hoping to see the film before all the positive buzz hit (93% Rottan Tomatoes, 81% Metacritic) hit the web so I wouldn’t develop unrealistic expectations. That didn’t happen, and yet the film somehow managed to live up to the hype for me.

If you’ve heard anything about this movie at all, you’ll know it’s about an astronaut named Mark Watney (Matt Damon) who finds himself stranded on Mars. The premise can’t be a spoiler. I knew a little more than that before going in, but for the most part I was prepared for anything.

There have been a lot of comparisons thrown around. Most would have heard of the inevitable comments regarding Interstellar because — spoiler-alert for those who haven’t seen it yet — both films star Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain. And in both films Damon happens to be an astronaut stuck on a distant planet.

There are also many who have called it “Castaway on Mars” or “Life of Pi in Space” and so forth. It is true that The Martian has elements of all these movies, but it is also vastly different and stands very well on its own.

Personally, I would say that the film is like the perfect love child of Interstellar, Gravity and Apollo 13. It has the big ideas and spectacle of Interstellar without all the fantastical/theoretical mumble jumbo that turned a lot of people off. It has the beauty, tension and thrills of Gravity without the eerie silence and lack of character interaction and development. And the Apollo 13-esque tactic of cutting back and forth with ground control on Earth makes the story about more than just one person and breaks up the monotony of space travel and a life of solitude on a barren planet.

There are so many things to like about this movie. For starters, The Martian is ingenious. It’s one of the smartest films I’ve seen in recent years. I’m not sure how legit the science is (and there’s a lot of it), but all of it feels credible. I would imagine you’d need to be at least a semi-expert or very knowledgeable in certain fields to be able to poke holes in the story; for most general audiences it wouldn’t matter. And as a member of the uneducated general audience I found it all absolutely fascinating. I was engrossed.

I know the book on which the film is based, written and originally self-published by Andy Weir, has been panned by many for alleged “bad writing.” Be that as it may, the thought that Weir has built into the story and the science behind it is remarkable. It’s at least as impressive as say the work Dan Brown (a fellow oft-criticised writer) puts into blending history, religion and architecture into his novels. I can’t help but be happy for his success.

Secondly, the “action” sequences — if you can call them that — are well-executed. When you feel the tension and the adrenaline even when you know what is going to happen, and when you don’t notice the CGI even though you know most of it probably is, you know they’re doing a good job.

The other thing that stands out about The Martian is that it is surprisingly funny. That is not to say that the film is a comedy by any stretch, though it is without a doubt filled with more laughs than Interstellar, Gravity and Apollo 13 — combined.

The main reason is because of Watney’s personality, which is, for the most part, optimistic and stoic despite the odds against him. He’s a guy who tries to see the lighter side of things and can find humour in the most dire of predicaments. Because sometimes, that’s all you can do. It fits in well with the uplifting and occasionally fun tone the film tries to convey. Some might complain that it glosses over the darker aspects of the tale — the isolation, the stress, the fragile emotional state — but ultimately this is not that kind of movie, and I am glad it didn’t go down that path.

As clever and funny The Martian is, I also found myself unexpectedly moved by the drama. At its heart, it’s a simple story about one man’s unrelenting will to survive. It’s about finding solutions to problems as they arise, one at a time. It’s about human kinship and international solidarity. Ridley Scott does a great job of developing the characters into likable people we care about, not just Watney but the entire extended cast. There’s no real villain in the story, just a bunch of people doing what they think is best in a very difficult situation. The relationships and dynamics are set up early and skilfully so the emotional payoffs work when they eventually have to.

Kudos of course to the spectacular cast. Apart from Damon and Chastain there’s also Jeff Daniels as the head of NASA, Chiwetel Ejiofor as NASA’s Mars mission director, Sean Bean as the spacecrafts’s crew commander and Kristen Wiig as NASA spokesperson, plus Michael Pena, Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan as crew members. Everyone’s fantastic, and I also enjoyed the witty references to films that some of the actors have been in it are affiliated with.

At 2 hours and 22 minutes, the length is perfect. It never feels too long; there is always something going on, and I was always either being amused or thrilled or educated. I was certainly always entertained.

While The Martian doesn’t necessarily have the feel of a masterpiece — it’s not as epic as say Interstellar or as majestic or awe-inspiring as Gravity — it delivers as good of a time as I’ve had at the cinemas this year or any year.

5 stars out of 5