#MattDamon Knows Help Is Only 140 Million Miles Away in #TheMartian’s First Trailer

The Martian, Matt Damon, Sir Ridley Scott, movie, poster

…and he’s gonna “science the shit out of {it}”.

From Sir Ridley Scott, with a cast as impressive as this one boasts, it’s a safe bet that I will see The Martian, even if it were a live action version of Bugs Bunny’s nemesis Marvin the Martian’s life story.  Judging from the just released first trailer, it is not. What it does appear to be is a combination of both Gravity and Interstellar while managing to up the ante on them both.


Take a look at this:

While I’m on record as not being a proponent of 3D just for the sake of it, I believe a movie like this will probably benefit from every bit of technological wizardry that’s thrown at it. I’ll see it in IMAX 3D if it’s available.

During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return.

While Sir Ridley needs no introduction, The Martian is based on a best-selling (first) novel* by Andy Weir, and the screenplay was written by Drew Goddard, also responsible for the scripts for Cloverfield (and its upcoming sequel), The Cabin in the Woods, and World War Z, as well as a lot of episodes of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Alias” and “Lost”. Oh yeah, and he created current Netflix hit “Daredevil”.

As he did with Prometheus, Scott has embraced the era of viral marketing. The first promo for The Martian has been released, called “Ares Farewell”. In it, Matt Damon’s Mark Watney “interviews” the crew of the Ares (which for some reason he calls the Hermes. I wonder if the ship’s name was changed?**) as they do their final pre-flight checks. It’s designed to be viewed on your computer or device screen and includes pop-up “tweets”. One of which, “Vogel (Aksel Hennie) has to be the #synthetic right…#AresLive”, is a brilliant reference to characters in Ridley Scott’s previous space films, Alien and Prometheus.

Besides Damon, the cast includes Jessica Chastain***, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Hennie, Donald Glover and Mackenzie Davis.

The Martian, Matt Damon, Sir Ridley Scott, movie, poster

The Martian opens all over this planet beginning with the US on November 25 and the UK on 27th November.

*Weir first published the book in blog form on his own site. When people asked for a downloadable form, he offered it on Amazon for Kindle download at the (then) minimum price of $0.99. Now that’s a self-publishing success story.
**Ares is the Greek God of war. Hermes is the Greek God of transitions and boundaries, as well as being a messenger and a protector and patron of travelers. He’s the equivalent of the Roman God Mercury. Both are typically depicted with wings on their heels and/or helmets. JMHO, but Hermes seems like a better name for the spacecraft taking a crew to Mars.
***Both Damon and Chastain appeared in Interstellar, but shared no scenes together.

The First Trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar Has Landed!

Interstellar, poster, trailer, movie, Matthew McConaughey, Christopher Nolan

Not wanting to be outdone by all of the hullabaloo in the South of France, Warner Brothers and Paramount* have just dropped the eagerly awaited, first full-length trailer for Christopher Nolan‘s space opus, Interstellar which features Matthew McConaughey in his first post-Oscar flick.

This is also Nolan’s first since The Dark Knight Rises and details surrounding the film have been more closely guarded than the formula for Coke or the combination to the vault at Ft. Knox (seriously – look it up on imdb and it says “plot unknown”). Even after watching the trailer repeatedly, I’m still not exactly sure what it’s about. It seems that the human race has finally made such a mess of this planet – to the point that we’ve run out of food – that space travel is no longer a pipe-dream, but a necessity.

Jessica Chastain also stars, although I’d forgotten she was in it until I caught the brief glimpse of her standing in burning field, as does Anne Hathaway whom it took me a 2nd viewing to realize that was her underneath the space helmet.  I did catch a peek of Casey Affleck, along with David Oyelowo, who seems to be doing a take on his Rise of the Planet of the Apes stuffed shirt, and Nolan mainstay Michael Caine. Timothee Chalamet and Twighlight’s Mackenzie Foy play McConaughey’s kids. The film costars Wes Bentley, Topher Grace, David Gyasi, Bill Irwin, Elyes Gabel and William Devane, John Lithgow, and Ellen Burstyn, plus a cameo from Matt Damon.

Interstellar takes off on November 7, 2014 on most of the planet, including the US and the UK (positioned smartly for awards-season attention). More will surely follow before then, maybe even the plot.


*and they didn’t even have anything to do with Grace of Monaco.

Danny Ocean’s Grandfather Fights the Nazis

Matt Damon, George Clooney, movie, The Monuments Men

courtesy 20th Century Fox via USA Today

Way back in January 2012, Oscar nominee George Clooney, then enjoying the hoopla surrounding his performance in The Descendants, announced that his next film behind the camera would be based on the true story of a group of “soldiers” (really architects, art historians, museum curators, etc.) tasked with protecting priceless art treasures from the ravages of war and from Hitler’s grand plan to wipe out the culture of the Jewish people.  (“This sounds promising!”)

As soon as the project announcement was made, casting rumors began to circulate. Daniel Craig and Bill Murray were the first names to surface. (Craig didn’t stay, but Murray can be seen in the trailer). Cate Blanchett, with whom Clooney worked on The Good German, came next .  After that, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville all added their names to the dotted line. The last “get” was Matt Damon, who replaced Craig.  I’m sure that took some real heavy duty arm-twisting on Clooney’s part.

Based on the book “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History” by Robert Edsel, the screenplay is by Clooney and his producing partner Grant Heslov.  The cinematography is by Phedon Papamichael who shot The Descendents and The Ides of March. The score is by gifted and prolific Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat, but Clooney’s imprimatur alone put high expectations on this movie before a single frame was lensed.

Filming began on March 6, 2013.

On March 11, I saw the first mention of the film in the same sentence as “Oscar contenders for 2014”.

In April, Sony showed some early footage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.

Here we are in August and by now nearly everyone capable of making an awards contenders list for the upcoming season has The Monuments Men firmly entrenched in nearly every possible category including actor, director, and screenplay.  This is gonna be big! HUGE!  (Despite the fact that it’s not traveling to Venice or Toronto – or even, as of this writing, New York – for a festival).

So now we have the first trailer. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. What’s the tone Clooney’s going for? Where’s the gravitas?  I wasn’t looking for another Schindler’s List, but I wasn’t  expecting Ocean’s Eleven Takes on the Nazis. Have a look:

Is it me?The delivery of the dialogue implies one thing, the song playing under the trailer implies another (more in keeping with the subject matter).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I won’t see it, because I will. There’s too much here that promises to be a good time at the movies. Clooney being Clooney is very entertaining. When he teams up with his friends, like Matt Damon, they have great fun and it translates to the screen.  This is a very impressive cast and the opportunity to see them work together, again is too good to miss.  I guess I was just expecting “more”. More what exactly I can’t quite say yet. And why isn’t simply a “good time at the movies” enough anymore?

Then again, this is only the first trailer. Perhaps my questions will be answered before the very awards season conscious December US release date.

In a race against time, a crew of art historians and museum curators unite to recover renowned works of art stolen by Nazis before Hitler destroys them.

The Monuments Men costars a lot of fine European character actors like Diarmaid Murtagh (Vikings, Starz Camelot) and opens on December 18 in the US but not until January for the rest of the world, including the UK on the 9th.

Just my humble opinions. Feel free to put me in my place in the comments. In the meantime, check out the images courtesy USA Today:

Of Germs and Men…

Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, is supposed to be a horror story about a monster we can’t actually see, a virus that is travelling so quickly that it’s reaching pandemic proportions in a matter of weeks or even days. What Jaws did for beaches, Contagion aims to do for shaking hands and public transportation. (There’s even a reference made to Jaws in the script).

The movie is a product of the writing-directing team of  Soderbergh and Scott Z. Burns, who brought us The Informant! and seems less like Outbreak, a more conventionally scary medical thriller, with monkeys as villains, than like a tv movie of the week made specifically for TLC (pre-Gosslin) or NatGeo, except you recognize everyone in it. This movie’s cast is insane, especially considering that the majority of them are only making glorified cameos. I don’t want to provide spoilers, but even the trailer gave away that Gwyneth Paltrow is gone pretty early (and in the one truly gruesome scene proceeds to scare the bejeebers out of a pathology team during the autopsy) and is then seen mostly in flashback or in what are prerecorded images for the characters in the film. A few of the roles are defined; most are not. We are never sure who’s supposed to be a “good” guy or a “bad” guy or who we’re supposed to believe. Jude Law's character, a Julian Assange crossed with TMZ-esque blogger (there is actually a line in the movie: “bloggers aren’t writers, they’re graffiti artists with punctuation.”) with a large following,  and whose face appears throughout the film plastered on posters labeled 'Prophet' may or may not be a snake-oil salesman. He's seductive, especially to the conspiracy theorist in me. He's almost creepier than the virus…but is he wrong? The film cleverly makes use of the word viral’s other meaning. Law’s unscrupulous blogger instigates suspicion and promotes conspiracy theories, championing an untested homeopathic treatment for the disease that may or may not have “cured” him.

There is no clearly defined ending in terms of the characters because they don’t have typical story arcs.  (I found it odd that they even have names listed next to the actors in the credits. They aren’t introduced and their names may not even be mentioned.) Kate Winslet is seen providing a lot of medical information as exposition. (Thank goodness for white boards!) Elliott Gould is seen scowling and spouting medical terminology that the lay person couldn’t possibly understand (although that’s not the point) and then he’s gone. Marion Cotillard disappears at the end of the first reel and doesn’t come back until the end. We’re not exactly sure how long she’s been gone or what she was doing or whether or not she was a willing participant and we certainly don’t know what happens to her at the end of the film.

It is well crafted. I liked Soderbergh's technical style, I always have. From the ominously tight close-ups of a hand on a bus pole or in a bowl of bar peanuts, a credit card being swiped and then the use of those ubiquitous touch screens, we learn that it's anything and everything that we come in contact with that's really terrifying. There’s nothing fictitious about this, it could happen. The script does not sensationalize the disease, nor its transmission or methods of treatment and control,  all of which was reportedly based on real scientific methods. The film provides context by comparing this fictional virus (MEV-1) to those we’ve actually encountered in recent years like SARS, the swine flu and H1N1. There are several references to the perception that health officials may have over-reacted to the H1N1 scare, so why should anyone believe them now?

JMHO, but I found the human beings themselves and their reactions to the epidemic much scarier than the virus. The film uses Paltrow’s character’s husband as a kind of control. (If she was patient zero, Mitch, played by Matt Damon, was kind of ‘survivor zero’) He and his teenage daughter (Anna Jacoby-Heron) spend most of the movie holed up inside their house, quarantined, as the world around them becomes a chaotic nightmare of looting and Internet-fueled panic.

Speaking of the internet, Scenes that seem calculated to instill fear like the shots of panicking shoppers stocking up on bottled water and hand sanitizer or storming pharmacies and even government-run food programs, and most especially of people coughing without covering their mouths – were met with not with gasps, or even nervous laughter, but with silence. I found that especially odd considering that just minutes before several people in the theater were coughing or clearing their throats. I know that realistically, this is little protection just because I can’t see these people or the germs they are sending my way, but it’s one of the many reasons I sit in the front row.

Bottom line, it wasn’t the gripping, edge-of-your seat thrill ride the trailer promised, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Rather than a horror movie it was almost a war movie. The “action” takes place in the lab, complete with selfless acts of bravery. (Jennifer Ehle, as calm and clinical CDC researcher Dr. Ally Hextall, ironically also has the most emotionally-charged scene. Hextall’s father so completely understands the depth of the sacrifice that she’s made, he makes us feel it too.) It’s a wordy, cerebral and, JMHO, realistic, war fought by bureaucrats and medical professionals.

   (out of 5)

When Is a Remake Not a Remake?

I think it comes down to what kind of an emotional attachment one has to the original. I have to admit that although I liked the 1969 version of True Grit, having seen it at the drive-in when I was a kid and several times since on television, I don’t have strong feelings about it.

I do understand, however, that those who have a particular fondness for The Duke would not want to see his legacy tampered with, and I am, in general, not a fan of remaking the classics. My first question is always, ‘why?’ Are there no new stories left to tell?  The counter argument could then be made that “there is nothing new under the sun.” If that were true, then okay, tell an old story in a fresh and original way.  I cannot understand why it was thought to be a good idea to remake, line-by-line and scene-by-scene, Hitchcock’s classic Psycho. Was it just because they thought the world needed this film to be in color? That’s worse than Ted Turner’s misguided, and thankfully short-lived, plan to systematically colorize all of the classic black and white films in the Turner catalog. (Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.) I can only guess at the hallucinogens shared by director Gus Van Sant and the studio execs who backed that travesty.:What monumental hubris to think that they could do it better than Hitchcock.

I generally find appalling the xenophobic trend Hollywood is following of scavenging foreign markets for good films to bastardize by remaking them in English with actors known to American audiences.  What’s worse, they almost always end up being inferior to the original.

Was it really necessary to redo the Swedish Let the Right One In a mere two years after its release? Chloe Moretz is an extremely talented child actor, but surely something else could have been found for her to do, other than Let Me In, before Scorsese was ready for her closeup? (By the way, she’s in his next film, Hugo Cabret.)  The remakes of the three Swedish films based on Stieg Larsen’s acclaimed books, the second and third of which have just hit American theaters this fall, are already underway with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and an all-star cast.  While I think Daniel Craig will make an excellent Mikail Blomqvist, I enjoyed Michael Nyqvist’s performance in the original and I really can live without seeing Craig’s.  An Academy Award for Best Foreign Film virtually guarantees an American remake. Example: The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s brilliant German winner from 2006 is currently in development, according to imdb.Pro.

Granted, the notion of remakes is not new. It’s been happening for almost as long as there have been films. There have even been directors who have remade themselves, like Alfred Hitchcock who made two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, one in 1934 and another in 1956. Twenty years is about a generation. Many who saw the Jimmy Stewart version may not have been aware of the British version with Leslie Banks and Peter Lorre (especially since this was before the advent of television, the medium by which most of us cut our teeth on ‘old’ films.) So does the acceptability of a remake have to do with the passage of time?  A new version of Easy Virtue was released in 2009. Hitchcock’s came out in 1928 (and it’s not one of his more beloved films, although not many saw the new one either.) My question is: Was it the 81 years in between the two versions or the fact that both films were based on a play by Noel Coward that allows them to coexist?

There are many films that I would immediately be up in arms about if they were to be remade. Hell, I’m not at all happy that it was decided that 1981’s Arthur, featuring a timeless performance by the late Dudley Moore, was ripe for the picking.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Helen Mirren. I adore her and everything she stands for and I’m sure Russell Brand will be appropriately funny, but I’m not looking forward to this. Indeed, unless forced, I probably will not see it. The trailer better knock my socks off. And it could well be my own fondness for Arthur, but I see a difference between the remaking of it and this year’s True Grit.

The former is based on an original screenplay, the latter on a classic novel.

I can hear eyes rolling from here, and I know what you’re thinking: “How would you feel if they decided to remake Gone With the Wind, also based on a ‘classic’ novel?”  Are you kidding?!  I’d hate it, plain and simple. There is no scenario I can think of that would make that acceptable. Fortunately, I think GWTW is one of those rare films that is in a “protected class.”  There are a few I can think of, such as The Godfather or the original Star Wars Trilogy. Of course, that could just be wishful thinking. The Hollywood machine must be fed and it may eventually come for the pantheon of untouchables.

I can imagine that Clark Gable (or even Charles Laughton) fans were not happy when Marlon Brando and company remade Mutiny on the Bounty.  Brando fans were probably up in arms about the Mel Gibson version, however, time having created distance between each versionI would argue that there is room in the canon for all three versions.

It is JMHO that the new True Grit is an old story told in a new way. It is based more closely on Charles Portis’ book than the 1969 version directed by Henry Hathaway and of course starring the inimitable John Wayne. It is not so much a remake of that movie as it is another interpretation of the source material. The 2010 version is based on a screenplay by Joel & Ethan Coen, who relied on the novel as their source. They did  NOT rely on the screenplay of Marguerite Roberts who also, however nominally, used the novel as a source. So, technically, can it be called a remake?




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I haven’t read the script for either version, but I can only imagine how tempered and watered down the one written in 1969 was, simply because of the era in which it was conceived. The Coens’ version went for ‘true’ or real ‘grit’ if you’ll pardon the pun. Everyone, with the exception of Mattie, looks filthy and like they probably smell worse. Many moons have certainly crossed the mountains between baths and dental hygiene had obviously not been introduced to the prairie yet, despite the appearance of a so-called ‘dentist’ in the 2nd reel

The dialogue has all of the wit and humor of Coen classics like Raising Arizona (Emmett and Moon reminded me of  Gale and Evelle Snoats) and Fargo, but with the formal and stilted vernacular of the 1880’s.  When was the last time you heard the word ‘braggadocio’ used in a conversation? There are no anachronistic colloquialisms or modern slang to jolt you out of the moment or clash with Carter Burwell’s authentic score.

The supporting performances are all authentic and spot on, from Leon Russom’s sheriff, J.K. Simmons voice-over as a country lawyer, to Barry Pepper’s Ned Pepper.  Josh Brolin is practically unrecognizable as Tom Chaney, including  his speech pattern.

Hailee Steinfeld is no Kim Darby. (Thank you! I can’t see her ever boiling bacon or giving John Cusack TV dinners for Christmas.) What a find. She’s phenomenal. From the moment she appears on screen, she commands it. The “grit” in the title does not belong to Cogburn as much as it does to her Mattie Ross.

Matt Damon as LeBoeuf gives a performance that we haven’t seen from him before. His verbal sparring with Mattie is a joy to watch and listen to. “Ay-dee-os”

Of course, the key to the success of the film is whether or not one buys Jeff Bridges as Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn.  The answer for me is yes, I did. His Rooster is so different from Wayne’s that it’s very easy to forget you’ve ever seen this character on screen before. I said the other day that I thought Jeff Bridges would do ‘irascible old coot’ very well and indeed he does. As a physical specimen, neither he nor the character are aging very well, but it works for the actor here.

This is ‘The Dude’ nearly twenty years on and with more than a vat load of ‘beverages’ under his belt and living in the much harsher environs of the Old West. But The Dude abides, and that’s all one needs to know.

There was one recreation of an iconic moment from the John Wayne version, and that was when Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn charges across the prairie to duel with Ned Pepper, his reins in his teeth and a gun blazing from each hand. It is my opinion that scene was recreated as a snapshot homage to The Duke and the 1969 film and the only time either Wayne or the earlier film are brought to mind.

So then do the objections have more to do with a classic John Wayne character being portrayed by another actor than the movie itself being remade? They must. I can’t imagine there are too many people worried about Glen Campbell or Kim Darby’s screen legacies.

If that’s the case, then I have to say that I at least understand the sentiment. I don’t want to see Russell Brand playing a character that, for me, is indelibly Dudley Moore’s, and I could not stomach anyone but Clark Gable playing Rhett Butler (and no, I did not watch the television miniseries. Timothy Dalton? Really?)

JMHO … the 2010 film is pure Coen Brothers, with little to no resemblance to the 1969 version…and I enjoyed it immensely.

and a 1/2 out of 5