Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Martian … and movies to help kill time until Nov. 25

Real quick, stop what you’re doing and watch the first trailer for “The Martian.”

martian-gallery3-gallery-imageIt comes out on Nov. 25 and it’s my favorite movie.

Here’s the rundown:

Matt Damon is lost in space (but not forever because he — I mean his character Astronaut Mark Watney — can survive anything.)

My girl Jessica Chastain (who says lines in the movie like “Let’s go get our boy”) stars opposite Damon.

Jeff Daniels returns to the big screen in what will be his best role since “Speed.”

Kristen Wiig is in the trailer twice making faces like a shocked emoji, as described by Chris Ryan and Andy Greenwald on the Hollywood Prospectus podcast.

You’ve already watched the trailer,  I hope, by the time you’re reading this sentence so I shouldn’t need to tell you now to mark you calendar for Nov. 25.

In the meantime, I will try to catch up on the Matt Damon movies I haven’t seen. He’s had a bit of a science fiction kick lately with “Elysium” and “Interstellar” so maybe I’ll start there to prepare for :The Martian.” I suppose I could also read the book, which Greenwald and Ryan said on their podcast was sold for movie rights even before the author finished writing it.

If by chance you have seen every Matt Damon movie AND read “The Martian” then here are a few other film suggestions to occupy your time for the next six months.

Sunshine Superman

Sunshine_superman_StillThis documentary about “BASE” jumper Carl Boenish was briefly in the theaters and should be on DVD or streaming soon. I had the chance to see it in the theater, which added to the beauty of all the footage Boenish had from his skydiving and other jumping excursions in the 1970s and 1980s. I actually knew very little about Boenish’s story and watching it unfold on screen, again through his jump footage, home movies and some media interviews(with Pat Sajak!), made it all the more interesting to learn about.

“I don’t want to grow old or grow up.” – Carl Boenish

“Ex Machina”

exmachinaBack to the science fiction genre, “Ex Machina” delves into artificial intelligence and testing the ability of one, Ava, to display human emotions. Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is selected by Nathan (a bearded Oscar Isaac) to spend time with Ava over one week at his remote house. What could go wrong? The film has its share of twists and turns to keep the viewer in suspense about Ava and Caleb and how much power Nathan, as the inventor, really has. There are certainly scenes where I wanted to close my eyes, but trust me, don’t do it. Oscar Isaac dances, and you don’t want to miss that.

“While We’re Young”

youngIf you’re in the mood for some lighter fare, with a healthy dose of life lessons, try Noah Baumbach’s “While We’re Young.”

In a way, the film is “Frances Ha” with a focus on 40-somethings. Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts star as Josh and Cornelia. Josh is a filmmaker struggling to finish a project who meets Jamie (Adam Driver) while teaching a class. Jamie and his wife Darby (Amanda Seyfried) befriend Josh and Cornelia, who are awakened by their bond with the couple.

It’s a funny film with moments of seriousness that bring Josh and Cornelia’s relationship and next life decisions to the forefront for the viewer.

Baumbach’s next film, “Mistress America,” stars his partner Greta Gerwig (also from “Frances Ha”) and he is also the writer on Lake Bell’s next project starring Jeff Bridges.

I hope Baumbach continues to work with actors like Stiller (“Greenberg”) and Driver and explore themes like life and love. In the meantime I’ll just watch the “Modern Love” scene from “Frances Ha” on repeat.

frances ha

Good news, “While We’re Young” will be on DVD June 30.

pitch“Pitch Perfect 2”

Last but certainly not least, I am sure you will have a free two hours before November to spend with the Barden Bellas. I kept my expectations in check with this one and the film started out a little weak, but I was pleasantly surprised by the end.

And, comedy nerds rejoice, Reggie Watts, John Hodgman and Joe Lo Truglio all have roles in the movie. Adam Devine, Keegan-Michael Key and David Cross round out the comedy cast and, what can I say, I do enjoy a good singing battle led by Anna Kendrick.

As soon-to-be star of “Pitch Perfect 3” John Hodgman would say, “That is All.”

Stories from Cary Elwes

chris hardwickWP_20150606_23_03_33_ProWell it turns out Cary Elwes is no Chris Hardwick in terms of the effect seeing him up close and personal had on me last night at The Fitzgerald Theater, but he was fantastic during the Wits season finale and dished on some great stories from his movie-making career. That’s not to downplay his influence on popular culture and in the world of film by any means, but I was just happy to watch his performance and how he acted in the wild meeting fans from afar. (Plus, understandably, he was signing only books after the show to avoid having to meet everyone in attendance. That wasn’t enough to stop one fan, however. Elwes’ crew nixed allowing fans to take selfies with him but one ambitious young fellow managed to interrupt the book signing–twice–to snap a picture with Elwes while holding a poster from “Saw.”)

Based on my experience meeting Chris Hardwick two years ago, I can relate to the fans who were likely having internal meltdowns about being face-to-face with Westley himself. But for me the whole Wits experience seeing Elwes and hearing his tales and character impersonations as well as music from Kat Edmonson in the company of friends made for the perfect night.

The guests talked with John Moe about their heroes and shocking facts about their lives and Elwes couldn’t stop telling more stories during what was supposed to be a lightning round of questions toward the show’s conclusion.

Elwes can do a mean impersonation of Mel Brooks and Marlon Brando and Andre the Giant. In fact, just about every story he told about actors he’s worked with was complete with voices of the different people involved. He could easily switch from his lovely British accent to the voices of Rob Reiner and Billy Crystal during stories about being on the set of “The Princess Bride.” And Elwes gladly introduced his appearance on the show, at the request of John Moe, with one “As You Wish” to avoid any risk of disappointing his fans.

It didn’t appear Elwes and Edmonson knew each other before doing the show together, but they were a good pairing for a night of music and storytelling. Edmonson performed from her new album “The Big Picture,” inspired by watching old movies as a kid and led a sing-along of Joe Jackson’s Is She Really Going Out With Him?

If you haven’t been to Wits before, I definitely recommend it. It probably doesn’t match the live experience but they also turn each show into a podcast. For that reason the guests must have to rehearse with the Wits crew in advance, but the live show didn’t seem staged at all. They allow for some improvisation and a little time spent off script. Or maybe that’s just what happens when Cary Elwes enters a room wearing a black leather coat, jeans and rocking a pair of red Converse and is giving a microphone.