Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Chastain’

The movie version of ‘The Martian’ is surprisingly relevant to our historical moment

February 28, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Feb. 28, 2018

Mars isn’t a very hospitable environment for humans. It’s cold and it lacks breathable atmosphere, accessible water and arable soil. In short, you wouldn’t want to be left behind there by your five crewmates when your base is suddenly hit by a massive sandstorm and a piece of debris crushes your spacesuit transponder and knocks you out and renders them unable to find you as they’re staging a hasty retreat to orbit and the spacecraft that will carry them home to Earth.

However, that’s exactly what happens to astronaut Mark Watney at the start of The Martian. More than three years ago, regarding Andy Weir’s blog-turned-self-published-novel-turned-conventionally-published-best-seller The Martian, I wrote:

Watney, who’s well-trained and naturally innovative, jury-rigs a series of solutions to each of his problems using techniques and technology that I imagine would be available to someone in his situation. He recycles his bodily waste, converts the floors of his living quarters into a potato farm, and scavenges hardware in an effort to reconnect with Earth. Weir structures his book with an exciting, if somewhat predictable, problem-assessment-solution-resolution cycle that repeatedly gooses the tension levels.

Director Ridley Scott (AlienBlade RunnerGladiatorBlack Hawk Down and Prometheus, among many others) and screenwriter Drew Goddard (the horror movies CloverfieldThe Cabin in the WoodsWorld War Z and a number of TV shows) gave The Martian a faithful adaptation with their 2015 movie. As Watney, Matt Damon narrates some of the action, which — like the novel — falls into a predictable pattern over its middle third.

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The title character in the unusual ‘Molly’s Game’ plays her cards close to her vest

January 11, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Jan. 11, 2018

Molly’s Game, is a character study of a thwarted competitive skier who stumbles into the world of running high-stakes poker games.

The feature, which Sorkin directed and adapted for the screen from a memoir by Molly Bloom, opens as its title character is about to start her final qualifying run for the 1998 Winter Olympics. After her hopes of reaching Nagano are derailed by a freak accident, the recent University of Colorado graduate decides to postpone law school for a year and spend some time in Los Angeles. This decision, as narrated by Bloom, is the first spontaneous choice she’s made in her life.

While working as a nightclub waitress, Bloom (Jessica Chastain, the CIA analyst from Zero Dark Thirty and the young mother in Tree of Life) meets Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a shady businessman with an affinity for comely young assistants. Keith is a jerk, but he’s a jerk who happens to host a weekly poker game attended by some of Southern California’s richest and most powerful men — and he needs Bloom’s help running it.

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‘Interstellar,’ a space-time odyssey: Christopher and Jonathan Nolan project human destiny through the prism of one man’s journey

November 29, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Nov. 29, 2014

Interstellar, the new science fiction drama from director Christopher Nolan, is a domestic drama that takes place across the reaches of space, time and physics.

The ostensible hero of the movie is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a widower who farms an increasingly desolate homestead in what may be rural Texas. The ostensible heroine is Brand (Anne Hathaway), a scientist whose drive to salvage humanity is sometimes undermined by her usually tightly controlled sentimentality. I don’t think the film ever reveals Cooper’s first name; Brand’s given name is Amelia, but it’s seldom used, a very deliberate omission that marks the character’s emotional coolness, underscoring the distance — real or figurative — between her and the people for whom she cares, and who care for her.

If the movie, which the English director co-wrote with his younger brother, Jonathan Nolan, ever specified the time in which it takes place, I missed it. The story seemed to me to begin a generation or two after our present time. In this dystopian future, climate change has evidently occurred, bringing with it massive dust storms and global crop failures. The ensuing famine and population collapse bring a singular focus on feeding and expanding the human population at the expense of nearly everything else.

Cooper is a relic in this world. Currently a farmer, he once had an abortive career as an astronaut. He’s bitter because the advanced technology that is now all but officially eschewed includes magnetic resonance imagers, which if available might have detected the cancer that killed his wife. He’s also angry because his children — Tom, who’s about 16, and Murph, 10 — are being taught almost exclusively about agriculture.

How narrow-minded is the emphasis on survival? It’s suggested, rather improbably, that the world’s military forces have disbanded. Also, we’re told that federally approved textbooks describe the 20th-century moon landings as a clever hoax that the U.S. government perpetrated to goad the Soviet Union into wasting enormous amounts of resources on space exploration.

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