Posts Tagged ‘Michael Peña’

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

February 28, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
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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War as entertainment: ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ nearly succeeds in making mass destruction seem fun and entertaining

June 2, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 2, 2014

If one wanted to put an interesting spin on Battle: Los Angeles, the 2011 war flick directed by Jonathan Liebesman, one could imagine it as a romantic comedy rather than the straight-up action-adventure movie that it is.

In this reading, the protagonist, Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart), is not the haunted veteran who has just officially signed papers to retire from the U.S. Marines; he is an emotionally distant but fundamentally decent man who just needs the love of a good woman to let go of the dark, hazy past that is weighing him down. 2nd Lt. William Martinez (Ramon Rodriguez) isn’t a newly minted officer so green that he and his very pregnant wife struggle to attach his insignia properly to his uniform; he’s the pretty young class president with a boyfriend in college who needs to grapple with adversity in order to learn about leadership, and who inspires her deputy (Nantz). Michelle (Bridget Moynahan) is no longer a frightened veterinarian rescued by Martinez and Nantz’s platoon, but the age-appropriate potential love interest who helps Nantz rediscover his emotional side.

And the uncommunicative, relentlessly violent alien invaders (portrayed by countless special effects and props), rather than being extraterrestrial invaders who blast everything in their path, are… Um, maybe they’re the arrogant rich-kid sorority girls from the snobbish private university who are competing with Martinez and Nantz’s group for a $30,000 prize that the motley public university group needs to save an orphanage, but which the obnoxious sorority girls intend to invest in a McDonald’s that requires the demolition of an animal shelter stocked with exceedingly cute, well-behaved puppies and kittens?

Well, perhaps it’s a mistake to depict Battle: Los Angeles as anything other than it is: a pretty effective straight-up action-adventure romp that revels in violence, male bonding and other hallmarks of war movies.

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