The Martian (2015)

This is going to be a tough year for best movie.  We’ve had some real high quality delivers and the year has still to finish, with James Bond, Yoda and Tarrantino still to make an appearance.  The Martian was one that came out of no where.  The trailer was giving the same excitement I had for Interstellar.   Though that sadly failed to deliver on what was going to be a great story.  So I was a little nervous committing too emotionally to the trailer to avoid a major let down.

After getting my act together and ready to fly the next day, I found myself with a few hours to kill, which happened to be opening night of The Martian.  Being someone that has no problems going to the cinema on my own, I trotted off to what was a complete packed out first showing.   Contrast this to the same first showing of Man From Uncle, which was near on empty.

The story is a wonderful setup. 

A martian mission goes wrong when a storm suddenly appears and while they are attempting to get off the surface an accident happens rendering Mark Watney (Matt Damon) left behind, thought dead.  There is no time wasted in setting this up, with this all done in the first 5 minutes.

After this, the story is one of survival, from both Mark’s prospective as being someone stuck on Mars, with no contact with Earth, trying to work through growing food and NASA back on Earth trying to figure out how to get a rescue mission up and ready to get him.

What is wonderful about this story, is that there is no added contrived drama – there is enough going on to not need any extra drama.  There is no bad guy (even though the trailer seems to suggest that Jeff Daniels NASA director is a potential candidate).   Even the Chinese space agency are seen to be co-operative.  It is a joy to not see this, but focus on the real problem – how the hell do you get a remote stranded astronaut home?

The depth of science and realism is breath taking.  NASA fully got behind this movie and the only compromise they made was the initial storm at the start, which is the only real completely-off-the-chart unrealistic part.  Andy Weir, the writer of this story, successfully wrote this as his first book and was a big proponent to get the science right.  So much so, I actually thought for a while that Weir was an ex-astronaut himself.

The Martian delivers with both black humor (a lot actually), cool science, clever problem solving and a whole bunch of characters were none are actively creating any problems to not bring him home.  It keeps you glued to your seat in way that that I haven’t been since Django.

Ridley Scott is back with a massive hit with this one, since his rather limp 

Prometheus and 

Exodus: Gods and Kings outings.

The only criticism I can point to, is that it suffers from the Saving Private Ryan problem – you will never capture the awe and wonderment from the first viewing and subsequent viewings will feel a little empty.   Though that won’t stop me from seeing it again.

Original story, original movie, faith restored in the movie industry.


Viewing Date
Thursday, 1st October 2015


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Back to the Future (1985)

What more can be written about this masterpiece?  30 years old this year and this movie simply does not age.  As fresh and as thrilling as the day it was first shown.  Even the DeLorean is not aging after 30 years still looking futuristic.  

Living out in the Scottish sticks, I did not get the opportunity to see this movie on the large screen the first time around.  In fact, the first time I seen it was in 1990 when I as at university and we rented this on VHS.  I fell in love the instant Marty was blown back by the huge amplifier.

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to right a terrible wrong, and at midnight witnessed the beauty of this story on the silver screen at the local cinema here in Richmond.  Seeing this with a large group of people, whooping, shouting and cheering was an absolute joy.  My only criticism of this experience was that it made the movie feel very short.

A couple of months I finished the excellent book on the making of the trilogy, which was a wonderful insight into a lot of stuff I had never even known – and I pride myself on knowing a LOT about the adventures of Doc and Marty.


On the surface, this story of teenage incest, high school bullying and age inappropriate relationships should have us in disgust.  Yet we seem to skip past all of that and enjoy what is the ultimate (and yes flawed in places) time travelling story.

Just the thought of playing out that teenage fantasy, what were my parents like at high school? is just too juicy a concept not to explore fully.   Would you actually like them?  Would you get on with them?  Would you think them cool?

All of these concepts and more are explored in this movie (and the two subsequent movie followups).

The movie just keeps getting better on each watch.  Every time invested you will be rewarded with a new nugget of discovery.  Just keep your eyes open and watch for the subtle queues, in various background signs, posters and props.   You think you are watching the same scene again (time travel is like that) but you aren’t, there are changes.

If you haven’t seen this movie this year, then treat yourself.  You deserve it.


Viewing Date
Friday, 11th September 2015


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Moon (2009)

Think more 2001 less Star Wars, as this one-man thriller will take you through the longevity of loneliness while challenging what you perceive as real and fiction and what it means to hold onto hope.

Sam Bell, played excellently by Sam Rockwell, is an engineer that has been stationed on the Moon for a 3 year engagement to mine minerals to send back to Earth so it may be powered.  His only companion is a rather boxy ugly robot (voiced by Kevin Spacey) who turns out to have more flexibility in its AI than you would normally have expected from space robots, Hal for example.

Everything appears absolutely normal at first.  Getting up each (Earth) day, checks messages from home, does some exercise, washes, dons his space suit and heads out to the large machines that are mining ore for later return to Earth.

One day though he gets himself into an accident and the routine is disrupted.  Things go from bad to worse and without giving too much away, he discovers he is in fact a clone when a new ‘Sam’ is revived.

The inter play between the sick Sam and the newly created Sam is absolutely fantastic and clever in parts.  Imagine coming face to face with yourself, as everything you thought was real starts to crumble around you.  Confirmation is made when the sick Sam manages to bypass normal protocols and make an unauthorized call back to Earth only to discover his daughter now grown up and his wife dead.  Reality kicks him hard.

As both of them discover the room full of all the other Sam’s awaiting for awakening, they then realize they are in a loop that needs to be broken and hatch a plan to send one back to Earth in the next consignment.

What I love about this movie is some of the issues it raises and makes you think about the value of life.  For example, is it truly a self sacrifice if its your clone that decides to die?   How do you out think yourself?  

With only a budget of $5M, Moon managed to make nearly $10M in worldwide takings.  So while it wasn’t a runaway box office hit, it proved that small thought provoking movies are worthy to be made with minimal special effects, even if set in space.

If you are in the mood for a thinking science fiction then you can’t go wrong with Moon and you will be impressed at the ending and the debate it leaves you with to wrestle yourself.   I love a story that isn’t scared to ask a series of questions without offering any answers.


Viewing Date
Tuesday, 25th August 2015


IMDB YouTubeTrailer