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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...

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