The Martian

Martian

Directed By: Ridley Scott
Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Sean Bean, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

After a storm forces an evacuation of a Mars-based research station, Mark Watney, who was believed to have been killed in the storm, wakes up to realized that he has been stranded on the barren planet. Realizing he needs to survive, he relies on his skills as a botanist to grow food, and also attempts to signal Earth that he is still alive. After several months of believing him to be dead, a low-level engineer manages to discover that base-camp for the research crew has been disturbed in a way that storms wouldn’t be able to, and soon finds proof that Watney survived the storm. After alerting Watney that they know he is alive, he and NASA scientists, come up with a crude means of communication. As time passes, Watney and NASA try to figure out a way to get him off the planet using a shuttle meant to supply an upcoming mission.

A different take on a sci-fi/survival story, The Martian is an interesting what-if story that has the potential to actually happen at some point in the future. From what I can tell, the science is fairly accurate, though I can’t say for certain. Matt Damon does well with his scenes, especially considering he spends most of the movie talking to himself while doing video journal entries. The other actors all work well together, and it was interesting to see some comedy-based actors take on more dramatic roles.

The special effects are all well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

This is an interesting movie that should appeal to most people. The drama isn’t too heavy-handed, and there’s enough comedy and action sequences interspersed throughout to hold the attention of people who don’t generally enjoy science fiction, even if it is on the lighter side of the sci-fi spectrum. It may be a little too dense to watch repeatedly, but I think an occasional viewing wouldn’t drive anyone too nuts.

The Martian is not currently available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

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Assassin’s Creed

AssassinsCreed

Directed By: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendon Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams, Dennis Ménochet, Ariane Labed, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B-

As a child, Cal Lynch watched his father murder his mother only moments before their home is invaded by unknown assailants. In the years that followed, Cal himself turned to a life of crime, eventually being executed for killing several people. When he wakes up after his execution, Cal is told by Dr. Sophia Rikkin that he is legally dead, she and her fellow scientists have brought him to their facility for an experiment. Cal eventually learns that he the last in a line of ‘Assassins’, and ancient order that has vowed to protect the Apple of Eden, and that Sophia and the other Abstergo people are descended from the Knights Templar, who have been searching for the Apple for centuries.

I’m going to start by saying I never played the video games this movie is adapted from, though I was vaguely aware of them. From my outsider’s perspective, the movie isn’t that bad. I’m sure there were some nods to the game that went over my head, but since I didn’t know to be looking for them, I can’t say whether they added to of detracted from the experience. The actors all do well with the material, though I probably could have gone the rest of my life without hearing Fassbender’s attempt at a southern accent (it’s not terrible, it’s just generally off-putting when someone considers his natural Irish one). Marion Cotillard seems a bit out of place in the movie, considering the kinds of movies she usually appears in, though she does well with the material, and her chemistry with Fassbender is spot-on. The story itself is easy to follow (a little research tells me it’s very close to the story of the original video game), and doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The special effects are all well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

While die-hard fans of the video game series may not enjoy this movie, anyone else who likes action and/or fantasy probably will. As stated before, the storyline is easy to follow, and while it may take a minute to get used to the way the flashbacks are handled, the movie itself is easily rewatchable and probably worth the couple of bucks it would cost to rent.

Assassin’s Creed is not currently available free to stream anywhere, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Good Omens

GoodOmens

Starring: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Frances McDormand, Sam Taylor Buck, Adria Arjona, Jon Hamm, Jack Whitehall, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, et.al.
Rating: TV-MA
Network: Amazon
Grade: A

At the beginning of time, both God and Lucifer sent representatives to Earth to monitor humanity and report back on how things were progressing. Over the course of history, these representatives kept running across each other, and eventually developed a friendship. When Crowley, Hell’s representative, is told that the apocalypse is coming in the near future, he informs Aziraphale, Heaven’s representative, and together the two of them attempt to stop the end of days from occurring.

Adapted from the book of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Good Omens is a hilarious, and oftentimes absurd telling of just what might happen if an angel and a demon developed a friendship and became overly-fond of the place and people they were sent here to keep an eye on. The cast is top-notch, and they all seem to be having fun, especially Sheen and Tennant, who shine as Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively, and having Frances McDormand as the voice of God is absolutely delightful. The story itself, while not overly complex, is fun to watch, and, while it does have its basis in religion and the bible, that theme isn’t something that hammer in to the point of taking away from the ultimately humorous story.

The special effects are all very well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

The cast alone is enough to garner the interest of nearly anyone who might be curious about it, though the premise might be a bit much for the hard-core religious and people who typically don’t enjoy sci-fi/fantasy, but I will note that my mother, who usually doesn’t enjoy the ‘weird’ stuff I tend towards loved this series, so I would definitely recommend at least giving it a try. The story is handled well enough that it shouldn’t get boring or tiresome on repeat viewings.

Good Omens is currently only available to stream on Amazon Prime, with no word as to whether or not they plan to make it available on video.

Mortal Engines

MortalEngines

Directed By: Christian Rivers
Starring: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae Kim, Ronan Rafferty, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Steven Lang, Colin Salmon, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B-

In a distant, post-apocalyptic dystopia, humans have abandon stationary dwellings, and have rebuilt their cities to move on wheels. As resources continue to dwindle, only the biggest and fiercest cities can survive and often overtake the smaller cities and towns which roam the countryside. After Hester Shaw sets herself on a city about to be overtaken by London, one of the most fearsome cities in Europe, she sets out her plan to assassinate Thaddeus Valentine, the man who murdered her mother years earlier and left Hester horribly disfigured. When her plan fails, she flees into the bowels of the city in an attempt to escape, where she is followed by Tom Natsworthy, a man who works with Valentine’s daughter in the museum. Before jumping from the city, she gives Tom a message, which he relays to Valentine when he arrives moments later. Realizing Tom knows too much, Valentine pitches Tom overboard in an attempt to silence him, which was witnessed by an acquaintance of Tom’s, unknown to Valentine. Having survived their falls from London, Tom and Hester enter into an uneasy alliance to get back to the city. Their journey, however is hampered by the dangers of Outlands, the mysterious figure in pursuit of Hester, and the terrible weapon that Valentine is crafting which threatens to destroy anyone who might stand in his way.

One of the latest YA dystopian movies, this is hindered both by having much of the material excised to make a palatable movie length, as well as being released at the end of the dystopian YA craze. Though neither one of those really has an impact on the quality of this surprisingly not awful movie. I always feel that these sprawling fantasy series would be better served by a television series so that less information is lost in translating them from book to screen. That said, the movie itself isn’t all that bad. It manages to escape many of the tired tropes that audiences have come to expect from YA movies (the ‘special’ girl who isn’t traditionally pretty; a love triangle between two vastly different boys, one of whom rarely/never takes an interest in girls; etc.) Robert Sheehan and Hera Hilmar have a decent chemistry, and Hugo Weaving always seems to be having fun when he plays a villain.

The special effects are all fairly well done, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

This should appeal to most people who enjoy sci-fi/fantasy movies. The storyline is interesting enough that the underlying fact of it mainly being a teen movie shouldn’t hamper one’s enjoyment of it. Most of the scenery is beautiful and makes it worth the watch. The movie is also good enough that it probably won’t grate on anyone’s nerves upon rewatching it.

Mortal Engines is currently unavailable free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.

Happy Death Day 2U

HappyDeathDay2U

Directed By: Christopher Landon
Starring: Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Phi Vu, Suraj Sharma, Sarah Yarkin, Rachel Matthews, Ruby Modine, Steve Zissis, Charles Aitken, et.al.
Rating: PG-13
Grade: B+

After surviving the events of a time loop which made her repeat her birthday over and over again until she’s murdered by a mysterious figure in a baby mask, Tree Gelbman is ready to start living her best life with her boyfriend, Carter. However, her happiness is short-lived when Carter’s dorm mate, Ryan, shows up in their shared room freaking out and talking about how he thinks he may have already lived through the day. Intrigued, Tree asks Ryan to walk her and Carter through the events that happened the previous ‘day,’ and discovers not only why Ryan reset, but why she was affected in a similar manner the day before, however, when a school official interrupts a test of the machine responsible for the time loops, Tree is thrown into a parallel universe where most things are the same, but a few, small, important details have changed. Tasked with trying to figure out what went wrong, Tree soon has to decide whether she wants to go back to her own universe, or stay in the one she landed in.

While marketed as a horror movie, this sequel to 2017’s surprisingly enjoyable slasher flick is more science fiction than horror. While there are still people being murdered, it’s no longer Tree’s life that’s in constant danger, though she does go through a sequence of increasingly outlandish ways to commit suicide, and the main plot is trying to fix the device that sent her into a parallel universe. That aside, this movie is also quite enjoyable. The small changes between the two universes Tree experiences helps her gain further closure with plot points from the first movie, and lets her have experiences she wouldn’t have been able to have.

A couple of the effects used are noticeable, but most aren’t, and the background filler isn’t noticeable.

If you enjoyed the first movie, then you’ll probably like this one as well, and with the lack of gore, anyone who’s not a fan of horror movies should also like it. There’s a small recap at the beginning of the movie, which means people new to the franchise don’t necessarily need to watch the first installment. It’s also enjoyable enough that one should be able to rewatch it without getting bored too easily.

Happy Death Day 2U is currently unavailable free to stream anywhere at the moment, but can be rented through Redbox or Netflix home delivery, or purchased at any participating store or on-line retailer.