Search This Blog


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Sicario & The Martian

Dearest Blog: Yesterday it was off to the pictures for a promising pair, Sicario and The Martian.
Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers.
First on my agenda: Sicario.
A tactical specialist for the FBI is recruited for a multi-agency operation targeting a drug kingpin.
Dear Reader(s), I was a HUGE fan of the TV series The Bridge, so when I started seeing trailers for Sicario, I thought, "The Bridge on the big screen, with a li'l Josh Brolin stirred in for good measure? SIGN ME UP!" The movie does have its twists, but it definitely includes all the "law vs. cartel" aspects you'd expect, too.
To wit: It will surprise exactly no one that a film about running down a cartel boss is not for the faint-hearted. Sicario is brutal, and it does not flinch in its presentation of violence and gore, though torture is mercifully more implied than explicitly shown. It's all about ugliness, with the occasional surprisingly pretty moment. In a world of dirt and shacks, suddenly there's a silhouette framed against a stunning sunset, a frame of breathtaking beauty. Emily Blunt is fantastic in the lead, a competent, confident woman who lands in a situation she doesn't fully understand and can't control. For the second time in as many weeks, Josh Brolin turns up as a vaguely obnoxious guy that you'll kinda like anyway, and Benicio Del Toro all-but steals the show. The proceedings are accompanied by a menacing, magnificent score (composed by Johann Johannsson) that perfectly enhances the movie's tense tone. There are many moving pieces in Sicario, but, at almost an even two hours, it never feels muddled, slow, or long.
Sicario clocks in at 121 minutes, and is rated R for "strong violence, grisly images, and language."
I anticipated greatness from Sicario, and I'm pleased to report it exceeded my expectations. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, Sicario gets eight.
Next up: Ridley Scott's The Martian.
A space mishap leaves a presumed-dead astronaut alive and alone on Mars.
Box office reports indicate that, if you went to the movies this weekend, you probably saw The Martian. And you loved it, didn't you? Seems everyone did. Well, almost everyone...
First, the positives: The Martian is a great story, and very well acted. A strong supporting cast is uniformly solid, but it's essentially up to Matt Damon to ensure you aren't rooting against astronaut Mark Watney's rescue. Damon does a fine job; he's believably smart, funny, and likable, yet also beautifully plays those moments of despair bound to beset a person in his situation. It's worth noting that, for all the movie's meant to be taken seriously, it does not hesitate to get a shirtless Matt Damon onscreen as early and as often as possible. There's a shortage of Sebastian Stan (would you even believe I wrote this if I didn't say it?), but it's nice to see Stan, an excellent actor in his own right, in something worth watching. I'm a long-standing Stan Fan, but outside Marvel projects, I'm pretty sure he hasn't done a decent movie or show since the short-lived NBC series Kings. The Martian's effects are big and sweeping, not in the same universe (see what I did there?) as the visual magnificence of Interstellar, but certainly worth seeing on the big screen. It's played for laughs, but there's also a proper disco-stompin' soundtrack that'll leave you humming ABBA's Waterloo for the next week or so.
The negatives? Despite all that, The Martian is pretty boring for pretty frequent and pretty significant stretches. You've no reason to care whether anyone outside of Watney lives or dies. The off-Mars sequences at NASA are actually far more interesting and entertaining than the movie's galactic bread and butter. If we're being honest, I looked at the clock a LOT and was fidgetingly anxious to wrap it up before the movie's halfway point.
The Martian runs an excessive 141 minutes, and is rated PG13 for "some strong language, injury images, and brief nudity."
It's a good movie, maybe even a great movie, but on the heels of Sicario, 
The Martian just didn't feel all that special. 
Of a possible nine Weasleys, 
The Martian gets six and a half.
Until next time...

Saturday, October 3, 2015


An idealistic FBI agent (Emily Blunt) is assigned to work a dangerous stretch of the US-Mexico border by her superior officer (Josh Brolin). She's exposed to the brutality of the Mexican drug cartel, and becomes partners with a defector from the cartel (Benicio Del Toro) who possesses keen knowledge about the organization. As she gets deeper into the ruthlessness and corruption surrounding the FBI sting to find the organizations leaders, her moral and professional boundaries are pushed to their breaking point. Denis Villeneuve directs this pulse-pounding crime drama, which competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya

Release Date: Sep 18, 2015

Runtime: 2 hr. 1 min.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama


Sicario is the type of action thriller that leans towards the adult audience more so than the blockbusters.  It’s a moody mix of suspense peppered with action and compelling characters.  Denis Villeneuve’s is beautifully shot film that never shies away from the ugly side of violence and vengeance.  Still it’s not nearly as bleak as his previous film Prisoners which seemed intent on showing the closing darkness.  That’s not to say that this film is a bright and uplifting sing along, far from it.  Its characters are various shades of gray.   Emily Blunt’s performance here shores up her transformation from rom-com to ruthless but with a touch of subtle vulnerability.  The supporting cast is headline by Josh Brolin who is having a good time playing a CIA spook that is out for his own interest but Benicio Del Toro is the star of the show.  Del Toro is a fascinating mix of cool and dangerous throughout.  His character doesn’t say much but the performance lets you know there’s plenty going on behind those eyes.  It’s an intriguing drug war drama throughout Villeneuve’s most accessible film yet.



During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Millions of miles away, NASA and a team of international scientists work tirelessly to bring “the Martian” home, while his crewmates concurrently plot a daring, if not impossible, rescue mission. As these stories of incredible bravery unfold, the world comes together to root for Watney’s safe return. Based on a best-selling novel, and helmed by master director Ridley Scott, THE MARTIAN features a star studded cast that includes Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Donald Glover.

Director: Ridley Scott    

Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña.

Release Date: Oct 02, 2015

Rated PG-13 for Injury Images, Brief Nudity and Some Strong Language    

Runtime: 2 hr. 22 min.    

Genres: Action/Adventure    


Ridley Scott’s The Martian is a welcome return to form for the acclaimed director.  The film is a visually stunning and thoroughly engaging story of survival.  It’s an impressive achievement since it the type of film that focuses on a single character.  The story can be described as a mixture of Castaway and Gravity sans manufactured sentimentality.  The man at the center of the film is Matt Damon’s Mark Watney.  Damon’s performance is impressive because it steers clear of the typical tropes we’ve seen previously, keeping the performance rational and fresh.  Damon dominates the first half of the film and it’s to the film’s benefit.  The story starts to falter just a bit when it loses focus on Damon and starts throwing a myriad of supporting characters some of which are more distracting than interesting…..Kristin Wiig & Donald Glover immediately come to mind.  I would have preferred more characterization on Watney’s crew which gets the short end of the stick.  Minor quibbles aside; The Martian is a thoroughly enjoyable survival story which earns the most of its 2 hours plus run time.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Cindy Prascik's Reviews of Everest & Hotel Transylvania 2

Dearest Blog, today it was off to the pictures for strange bedfellows Everest and Hotel Transylvania 2.

 Spoiler level here will be mild, nothing you wouldn't know from the trailers or (I assume) actual events.

First on my agenda: Everest. Several groups of climbers take on the world's highest mountain. Okay, dear reader(s), admit it: From the very first trailer, you were trying to pick out who among Everest's cast of critical darlings would be first to bite the dust, and who might make it out alive.

It's a teen-slasher flick, except, instead of a masked maniac, the big bad is Mother Nature. I read a piece earlier this week that suggested the movie would keep people from wanting to climb Mount Everest, but I'ma be straight: it didn't take a movie to convince me life-threatening hobbies are a bad idea; rather, once you've seen Everest, you'll be lucky if you aren't scared to walk to your car if it's parked on a grade in a little snow.

Everest has a lot going for it, not least its stellar cast. Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhall are always big draws for me, but there are no missteps among this group. John Hawkes is terrific as always, as are Kiera Knightly and a woefully underused Robin Wright. The breathtaking scenery is worth the price of admission all on its own...just stunning.

Visual and sound effects are also top notch. (When sound effects are so good a person who doesn't do sound effects for a living notices, those are some good sound effects!) Both make you feel as though you're right on the mountain with our crew of climbers.

The film does a great job of maintaining tension throughout; in fact, there was not a peep out of anyone in my theatre for the entire two hours; the crowd was mesmerized.

Having said all that, Everest does have a couple weak points, too. Some sequences are drawn out for effect, but a trim here or there wouldn't have hurt. During the most harrowing climbing scenes, everyone is so bundled up it's impossible to tell who's who, unless you had the presence of mind early on to make mental notes of whose jacket was what color.

Necessary for realism, certainly, but not so much fun for the guy with the popcorn trying to keep score. Overall, though, those are petty quibbles with a mostly solid flick. Everest clocks in at 121 minutes and is rated PG13 for "intense peril and disturbing images."

Everest is a good movie sure to convince you mountain climbing is the world's most insane hobby.

I'm glad I learned macrame in the eighth grade!

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Everest gets seven.

Next up, Hotel Transylvania 2. Having grown up, married, and had a baby, Dracula's daughter Mavis considers moving out of Hotel Transylvania to raise her child among "normal" people.

I gotta admit, after the stressful Everest, I was never so grateful for the idiocy of Adam Sandler. Despite my general aversion to Mr. Sandler, I truly enjoyed the first Hotel Transylvania, and hoped for more of the same from the sequel. As with most Sandler vehicles, HT2's voice cast is a who's who of Saturday Night Live alums. It won't do anything for my cinephile cred to admit I laughed my butt off at BOTH Grownups movies, but, well, there it is. No movie was ever worse for a bit of Steve Buscemi, either, and Mel Brooks is a terrific addition to the cast.

Transylvania boasts beautiful art and animation, but the 3D is essentially useless. If it's a bit slow towards the end, the movie mostly moves at a good clip, and I laughed out loud more than a few times.

There are some cute moments to which the older among us are sure to relate, and plenty of gross-outs for the kids. Finally, the not-so-subtle "can't we all get along" message is more than welcome in our contentious times, even if it's buried in a kids' cartoon. Hotel Transylvania 2 runs 89 minutes and is rated PG for "some scary images, action, and rude humor."

It won't come close to any Best Animated Feature awards, but, for my money, Hotel Transylvania 2 is good fun for all ages.

Of a possible nine Weasleys, Hotel Transylvania gets six.

Until next time...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...