Tag Archives: The Martian

Truth, Brooklyn, Room, Spotlight, Concussion, The Martian

I have a new blog/life project in the works but I did want to recap some of the movies I saw last year before moving on to my new venture. These movies are among my favorites of 2015 and are making the rounds on critics’ top 10 and award contender lists.

The performances in each of these films stood out for me and I think the way actors took on the characters in the films based on true stories should be the source of recognition as awards season continues.

In no particular order …


tru2Movies about journalism and the news business make me happy. They make for good drama and a peek into a world that informs us of what’s going on. Journalism has changed a lot, so films about “old school” reporting on true events to build a story and the following success or fallout are especially interesting to me. In Truth, Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford star as producer Mary Mapes and CBS News Anchor Dan Rather in the time leading up to his resignation. That time includes their investigative report and broadcast about George W. Bush’s military service as well as the career-changing aftermath it caused for Rather and Mapes and their reporting team. In addition to learning more about the facts of the story in the early to mid-2000s as it played out on screen, I found myself enamored with Blanchett and Redford’s performances and I think they really made this movie. The supporting cast has its highs (Elisabeth Moss) and lows (Topher Grace and sometimes Dennis Quaid) but I think this film is overall underrated. Some scenes were a bit over-the-top but Blanchett and Redford always brought it back and their moments alone together really honing in on what they were trying to accomplish and why, away from all the drama, put the story into perspective. Truth doesn’t have a strong presence on the awards circuit (at least Blanchett’s hairstyle should be nominated) but I think it’s worth watching for newsies and film buffs alike. It will be out on DVD Feb. 2.


room_stillIf I ever write a movie, Brie Larson will need to be in it. She’s having a moment right now, which I expect will continue for some time, so I am sure she will be game to star in my rom-com that has a plot no one has ever used before. Brie, call me.

Larson has range from working in dramas and comedies and in Room takes on a role where I imagine she needed to combine those skills to play her character, Ma. Room tells the story of a mom and her son, Jack, locked in a garden shed for several years after Ma was kidnapped as a teenager.

A good part of the film is Ma and Jack together trying to maintain a normal life in one room with, seemingly, no way out. If you see Room only once it is a drama and suspense, if you see it twice — which I did — it turns into more of a character-driven story about a family trying to rebuild their life and relationships. Ma’s parents come into the picture in the film as well and what happens to her is an avenue for them to focus on and rebuild their relationships with Jack at the center of it all.

I didn’t read the book the film is based on, which I think is a good way to go into this particular film, but if you did I still think watching it on screen will present a dynamic and unexpected telling of the written story.

Room is probably one of the strongest award contenders on this list, in addition to Spotlight, and I just hope Larson will still star in my movie after she wins. Seriously, call me.



Brooklyn is a perfect movie. It ends the way you want it to end, Saoirse Ronan is just compelling to watch and it presents a complete picture of her character’s dilemma to build a new life in Brooklyn or stay in her hometown in Ireland.

In some ways I felt myself wanting more conflict in the end and to be left with a dissenting opinion about Eilis’ (played by Ronan) life decisions – but then Brooklyn wouldn’t be a perfect movie.

It is not often I find myself with little to write about a film — and this does not mean I didn’t like Brooklyn — it’s just that good and I think it’s probably a story all audiences will like.

I will say Ronan’s performance stands out in this film and I would like her to be in my movie with Larson. Saoirse, call me. If you want to hear more of her lovely voice (and life story) I recommend listening to her 2013 interview with Chris Hardwick on The Nerdist.



Spotlight is another movie about the news business – this time about print journalism and The Boston Globe’s coverage of abuse in the Catholic church. It is directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy and includes top character performances by Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo (who could also join my movie if they would like) as well as Rachel McAdams and Liev Schreiber.

This NPR story focuses on how the cast, mainly Keaton as Walter Robinson, took on who their characters are as much as depicting how the Spotlight team uncovered and reported on the story of the Catholic church scandal in Boston.

I actually want to see Spotlight again but as it stands now I think the acting carried the film as much as — if not more than — the telling of the story it is based on.


concussionTell the truth! Doug Loves Movies fans out there will know that Doug Benson has been working on his Will Smith character impersonation for the past few weeks when he asks his guests about their favorite movie that the actor stars in.

What’s interesting about Concussion is you will lose sight of the fact that it’s Will Smith playing Dr. Bennet Omalu not long into the film. Omalu, a pathologist performing autopsies, very thoroughly, comes across a disease affecting football players that can really only be detected after they die. Concussion is another true story and character-focused plot and Smith excels at playing a man fighting keeping his reputation and career as a doctor intact while trying to bring the truth out and ultimately help people while the NFL tries to silence him. It presents a well-rounded telling of the story but one that could be pretty forgettable without Smith’s performance.

The Martian

The-MartianI know I raved a lot about The Martian from the moment I heard about it and I am finally getting to writing about it now, months after I saw the film. It is nominated for Golden Globes in the best picture, directing (Ridley Scott) and acting (Matt Damon) categories. I think it has some strong competition as far as awards go and I’ve heard some critics pan it because they are sick of space movies and found The Martian didn’t live up to the hype. I, overall, liked the film and felt (despite all my bias about Damon) he did well acting alone for much of the film. While Damon (as Mark Watney) is stuck on Mars trying to survive, Scott and the film’s writers (including novelist Andy Weir) did well mixing in the story of people on Earth trying to save him or “Bring Him Home.”

You may or may not know what happens, but I like how understated the very end of the film was and overall how the narration by Damon as Watney (which I didn’t like very much in the book) played out on screen.

There are a lot of movies to see this year, but I wouldn’t mind revisiting The Martian. It is out on DVD Jan. 12.

In the meantime, I am starting out my year in movies by seeing Mustang today and I’m pretty excited for what’s to come.

Also Matt Damon, call me.








Black Mass

Hey hey!

It’s here. Fall movie season is here.

Dramas. Mystery. Matt Damon. Horror. Biopics. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I started things off with my first Benedict Cumberbatch movie ever, “Black Mass.”

While Cumberbatch does pull off a Boston accent in the film, I know it’s really all about Johnny Depp and his portrayal of James “Whitey” Bulger.

black massThe role is being labeled as a comeback for Depp and of course there is some buzz about an Oscar nomination, but his physical transformation into Bulger was a distraction from his overall portrayal of the Boston crime boss/FBI informant. In fact, the makeup, dyed hair, discolored teeth and definitely the icy blue contact lenses were probably unnecessary for moviegoers to understand the true Bulger through Depp’s performance.

That’s especially the case because this rendition of his story, based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neiil, focuses as much on aspects of Bulger’s personal life as it does on his criminal activity on the streets of South Boston and secret business with the FBI.

That aspect of the story is introduced not long into the film when Bulger’s childhood “friend” John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) approaches him to be an informant about another mafia family in Boston in exchange for some immunity – of course as long as he doesn’t kill anybody.

It starts in 1975 and spans all the way until 2011 when Bulger was ultimately arrested after a long long time in hiding.

There are flash forwards of police interviews with members of the Winter Hill Gang who were arrested before Bulger and dished about his crimes and control over them in exchange for possible lesser prison sentences.

You’ll see a lot of familiar faces in the gang – like Jesse Plemons (also with a physical transformation for the role) and Rory Cochrane as Bulger’s right-hand man Steve Flemmi.

Lucaslucas2I kept thinking about other films I’ve seen Cochrane in while watching “Black Mass” and realized by the time I got home he was my favorite character Lucas in “Empire Records.” I also remember now thinking the same thing when I watched “Argo” and “Public Enemies,” also starring Johnny Depp.

Back to “Black Mass,” the dynamic between Flemmi and Bulger was perhaps the most interesting — and hard to watch — during the film.

There was a sense of trust and loyalty between Bulger and Flemmi, but not enough to would prevent Bulger from betraying his friend and confidant.

As Flemmi said in one of his later FBI interviews, Bulger is truly criminal.

The film also explores the dynamic between Connolly and Bulger and delves somewhat into the relationship between James and his brother Billy, a prominent state senator.

That story alone could be the focus of a movie, which leads me to the real flaw of “Black Mass.”

Bulger’s life and crime career are so complex and span so much time, it’s too much to fit into one movie. The film has a strong cast, for the most part, writing and acting, but the choice to try to fit the bulk of Bulger’s story into two hours was just too much.

Focusing on 35 years of Bulger’s story, ending with his arrest, actually left me wanting to know more about all aspects of what I saw on screen. It just wasn’t possible for director Scott Cooper and the film’s writers to show enough about who Bulger is when they chose to cover that much of his life.

Luckily, as is the case with a lot of movies out this time of year, there is the book to fill in the blanks.

“Black Mass” certainly wasn’t a bad way to start fall movie season and, as I probably say about too many movies, it’s worth seeing. My personal expectations for the film were probably just a little too high.

In other news, “The Martian” starts on Thursday! No complaints, but I thought it was coming out on Nov. 25.
I guess I better start reading that book.


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.”