Measuring the Meaty Movie Weekend: The Martian, The Walk, and Sicario

Walcariotian

Man, this weekend was a gift from the gods compared to last weekend, when the hottest option available was that crappy Eli Roth rainforest movie.  I managed to check out three new movies on the big screen.  Considering most of you have more important things going on in your lives, I’ll compare the three movies for you right now, in hopes that you at least go see one of them.

 

The basic plot of the film:

BEST – The Martian – Guy gets stranded on Mars after his crew thinks he’s dead, has to survive alone on a planet for several years using only his problem solving skills, scientific knowledge, and millions of dollars of space equipment.

MIDDLE – The Walk – French guy Philippe Petit comes to America in the 1970s to secretly put a tightrope across the World Trade Center towers and walk around up there for a while.  Half biopic, half caper type movie; that’s a combo I quite enjoyed.

WORST – Sicario – FBI agent gets recruited into a squad of more hardcore FBI agents in order to take down a Mexican drug cartel.  She has no idea what’s going on the entire movie.  Not the worst thing in the world, but it felt like it’s been done before.

 

The Director:

BEST –  The Walk – Robert Zemeckis has a career that I actually enjoy a lot, if I brush aside that decade he went insane and only made those creepy rotoscoped computer animated movies.

MIDDLE – Sicario – This was directed by some guy named Denis Villeneuve, who was apparently nominated for an Oscar in 2011, and directed that movie Prisoners that I saw and only kind of liked in 2013.

WORST – The Martian – Ridley Scott is a guy who has probably made more things that I haven’t enjoyed than I actually enjoy, especially in the last ten years or so.  To be honest, the only hesitation I had about something as cool looking as The Martian was that it was directed by a guy that I don’t like very much.

 

The Cast:

BEST – The Martian – Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Kristen Wiig (?), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Donald Glover (?), the guy who plays Bucky Barnes in Captain ‘Murica.  Pretty solid ensemble.

MIDDLE – Sicario – Just the power trio of Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, and Josh Brolin had the power of two power trios.

WORST – The Walk – It’s mostly just a Joseph Gordon Levitt showcase, with some really small parts given to Ben Kingsley, that James Badge Dale guy, and Jean Ralphio from Parks and Rec.

 

The Screenplay:

BEST –  Sicario – This here was a well written movie, with believable characters who were incredibly vulnerable and highly complex.  And it had an ever-moving story that I didn’t know specifically where it was going.  And that final scene of conflict…  Hoo boy!  That was good.

MIDDLE – The Walk – I liked the story framework of having Philippe Petit narrate his life and motivations as the story unfolded, in fourth-wall-breaking cut scenes.  It was playful and entertaining.  Can’t help but wonder, though, if it *needed* it to work or if it would have been too generic not to include it?  It fit in with the overall arty foo-foo-ness of the whole thing, regardless.

WORST – The Martian – It wasn’t a bad screenplay.  I just didn’t like it as much as the other two.  It was a well written movie, with maaaaaaaaybe too many witty quips for its own good, but all the stuff about how science can solve all this guy’s problems was incredibly neat.  But it’s not too hard to predict how it will end.

 

Good Moments:

BEST – The Walk – The entire third act of this movie is one giant spectacular series of moments.  The tightrope walk is phenomenally executed with great tension, visuals, and emotion.  I saw the documentary about this guy’s walk probably seven years ago (Man on Wire), so I knew everything that was going to happen, but this movie really puts care into the whole sequence.

MIDDLE – Sicario – Aside from the ending which I already mentioned was great, there are numerous other scenes that blew me away.  Little moments here and there, big sweeping action sequences, lots of twists and turns that felt terrifyingly realistic.  It’s stuff that stuck with me.

WORST – The Martian – I saw The Martian third out of these three movies, and I have fonder memories of the best parts of the other two than I do for the one freshest in my mind.  I think the problem with The Martian was that everything was handled with a smug, almost punchable smirk; which seemed to get chuckles as they played out, but looking back, there might have been too many smirks?  I don’t know.  If I may compare it to Gravity or Interstellar, I think the best moments of those two movies were better than the best moments of The Martian.  And I liked The Martian better than Interstellar (but not Gravity).  I really liked the whole climactic ending sequence, though.

 

Best Shot at the Oscars:

BEST –  The Martian – Definitely going to get nominated for Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (Damon), possibly supporting actress for Chastain, and a bunch of those little technical awards, too.  And ya know, I think it has a good chance of winning them.  It seemed like an Oscar grabby kind of movie.  We’ll see how momentum favors it in the long run.  It *is* only October.

MIDDLE – Sicario – I think it has a real good shot at Original Screenplay.  And it deserves it, so far.  It will probably also definitely get a nom for Emily Blunt.  Maybe a win, too?  Has any leading actress done a great impression of a famous historical figure yet?  That’s what will end up standing in the way of a complex, original character like Blunt’s.  The Academy loves acting karaoke performances.

WORST – The Walk – Don’t get me wrong, I think this will get nominated for a lot, and a lot of the major stuff too (Picture, Director, JGL), but this seems like another one of those movies that won’t end up winning anything.  Might have a shot at the Golden Globes, though.

 

Which movie has the most smart ass character:

BEST –  Sicario – I know you want me to say Matt Damon, with his sciencey super quips, but he just can’t compare to Josh Brolin’s FBI agent who shows up to meetings in sandals and Hawaiian shirts, while intentionally keeping Emily Blunt’s entire reason for being there in the dark.  Matt Damon was just funny, but Brolin was a scary smart ass.

MIDDLE – The Martian – See above.

WORST – The Walk – Petit was definitely a smart ass, and had a complete disregard for American laws, but he ended up having too much doubt in himself to ever be as good at smirking as the other two guys.

 

Use of 3D:

BEST –  The Walk – The 3D was actually pretty good throughout, which was a surprise.   The depth worked really well with the tightrope sequence.  And there was this one part early in the movie when JGL drops a pole, and it flies right at the camera, and the entire audience flinched (myself included) because we all thought we had just been impaled in our collective right eyeball.

MIDDLE – The Martian – As per usual for most 3D movies, the effect wore off completely after a while.  But the 3D looked cool every time they cut to a video diary scene, and in the opening storm scenes on Mars.

WORST – Sicario – Sadly, this Mexican drug cartel movie was not shot in 3D.  Wait, shouldn’t that technically make it the *best* in this category…?  #3dkindasucks

 

Social Issue Representation:

BEST –  The Martian – Let’s face it, you guys…  This movie made NASA look cool as hell.  Space travel is where all the awesome scientists go.  And…  Hey…  Wait a minute…  That whole finding water on Mars news story came out *conveniently* well-timed right before this movie was released…  Whoa…  Best cross promotion ever, 20th Century Fox!

MIDDLE – The Walk – Handles the concept of art trumping a normal, boring world in a very passionate way.  A win for liberal arts majors and foofy French jugglers everywhere!  On another note, this was probably the most beautiful tribute to the World Trade Center towers ever done on film, without directly referencing 9/11.

WORST – Sicario – The only thing this did for the war on drugs was show just how meaningless it feels to keep fighting it.  It’s like putting out fire with gasoline.  #bowie

 

Screwing up the name of the movie just a little bit:

BEST –  The Martin – Finally, a feature-length movie of the hit Fox sitcom, Martin!  Guys, Martin Lawrence is BACK!

MIDDLE – The Wok – A gritty take on the inner workings of a Chinese restaurant in Hoboken, NJ.

WORST – Sick Car, Yo! – A cheap, straight-to-DVD knockoff of the Fast and Furious franchise, starring Sam Worthington’s brother.

 

The highest above sea level:

BEST – The Martian – It’s light years above (Earth) sea level!

MIDDLE – The Walk – It’s 1,776 feet above sea level!

WORST – Sicario – There’s actually a sequence in an underground tunnel…

 

Overall and Scores:

BEST – Sicario – I liked this one the best overall for sure.  It has stuck with me the most.  I thought it was the most well written and had some really thrilling sequences.  But as far as recommendations go, this might be more a matter of my personal taste, and not really what casual moviegoers would pay to see over the other two.  Still, I thought this was one of the better movies of this year.  9 out of 10

MIDDLE – The Martian – It was a big movie, with big ideas, and it had a lot of successes.  That being said, I still think it could have possibly been executed a little better.  I don’t exactly know how, but I’m not the guy making the $108 million movie.  But it’s a HUGE step up from Ridley Scott’s recent output.  The fact that I’m genuinely endorsing a post-Black Hawk Down Ridley Scott movie is a very good sign that I liked it.  8.5 out of 10

“WORST” – The Walk – I have to put worst in quotes there because I don’t want to imply that this is a bad movie at all.  In fact, it’s probably the most accessible of the three.  This was just such a great weekend for movies that I didn’t end up liking it as much as the other two that I watched.  Definitely worth seeing in IMAX if you have any interest in checking it out.  Might not play out as grandiose on your little TV.  8 out of 10

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