The Martian (Film Review)

Posted: October 4, 2015 in Movies
Tags: ,

The Martian is a film where Matt Damon’s character Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars. Mark is part of a manned mission to Mars, and in the opening scene Mark’s crew mistakenly believe Mark has died in a sandstorm. The crew leaves Mars and heads back to Earth in their ship, called the Hermes, not realizing Mark has survived. Frequently throughout the film Mark records video logs explaining his situation. It would take four years for a ship from Earth to come to Mars and rescue him.

The first part of the film focuses on his basic survival. He manages to produce water, and grows potatoes using his own feces as fertilizer. Despite the harrowing circumstances, Mark in the first act seems to solve his immediate problems with ease. Things start to go wrong later in the film, bringing some tension in as he struggles to survive. Meanwhile back on Earth, NASA learns that he is alive and struggles to figure a way to both keep him alive and rescue him. Various characters are introduced throughout the course of the narrative offering solutions to the various problems that come up. The Chinese Space program ends up giving some assistance, marking the first time in modern American cinema the Chinese have come to save the day.

Ultimately Mark’s crew decides to disobey NASA and rescue Mark themselves. The situation of the crew of the Hermes in a way was more interesting to me than Mark’s. We get some lip service on what they are risking, court martial, never being sent in space again, and additional time for this mission that will keep them from their families. However the crew decides to help Mark with no hesitation.

Tense moments aside there is room for some humor as Mark jests about his situation, as well as other small anecdotes such as how the only music he has to listen to is his crew mates 1970s disco collection.

The final two acts provide a lot of tension as various things go wrong right up to the very end. The Martian tells a very satisfying story. Although I do enjoy the action/franchise oriented films of our day, The Martian is a breath of fresh air that tells a pure science fiction story for our time.

One of the standard videos on Youtube is a song mixed with Movie/TV/Game footage. There’s lots of videos of the classic 1980s song “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler (or it’s assorted remakes) set to movies, superhero cartoons, video games, etc. It was hard to pick among all of them, but being a child of the 80s this is my favorite. I’m biased obviously, feel free to share any you enjoy.

Here is is at #9.

Grendel vs the Shadow pits the 1980‘s independent comics character against the double pistol wielding pulp hero of the 1930’s. The two characters meet via mystical time travel. In the Shadow’s time, the last descendant of Genghis Khan (The Shadow’s traditional arch enemy) smuggled a sacred burial urn into New York. The Shadow shut down the operation and the urn sank to the bottom of New York Harbor.

Decades later some treasure hunters find it and sell it to Hunter Rose/Grendel. For those unfamiliar with the character, Grendel is like an evil version of the Green Hornet. Grendel wears a black mask and fights the mafia, while actually running a crime syndicate himself.

The scene where the treasure hunters meet Hunter Rose has some Easter eggs, but they’re Easter eggs relating to history. Hunter Rose has collected various items from history such as a Hemingway typewriter, Jesse James’s gun belt, Al Capone’s cigar, and the armor worn by Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.

Once Hunter obtains the urn he finds a Chinese scroll inside of it identified as the Eternity Codex. Hunter reads the incantation and finds himself sent back in time to 1932 New York. One of the first things he notices is that the Twin Towers aren’t visible, so Rose’s “present” in this story is presumably before 2001. A movie theater marquee advertises the 1932 film Boris Karloff’s The Mummy.

Realizing his situation, he decides to make the best of it. Knowing that prohibition is about to end the next year, he starts his own criminal organization that focuses on gambling, prostitution, and narcotics. While on his crime spree he attracts the attention of the Shadow, who upon hearing the name Grendel notes the connection to the famous Beowulf poem.

Meanwhile Grendel’s civilian identity establishes himself as a literary figure. At fancy parties he drops several names from literature and jokes that Hemingway might kill himself.

Issue one of the series ends with the two costumed characters about to meet. Issue two opens with their battle as Grendel manages to overcome the Shadow’s hypnotic powers. The Shadow gets bloodied during the fight but wins the encounter as Grendel runs away.

Later they both meet in their civilian identities and recognize each other instantly. As the conflict carries out Hunter Rose gets a new love interest, the daughter of a mafia don who provides her own plot twist (Grendel’s lost love Jocasta is mentioned). Meanwhile there’s a subplot between the Shadow and his assistant, Margo Lane. Margo comes across a means to do something else with her life, which raises the question of whether or not Margo and the Shadow need each other.

One issue with any Shadow story is that he never seems to be in any real danger. He laughs, comes out of the darkness, and shoots everyone with the greatest of ease. Grendel is not superhuman, but is at least able to give the Shadow a bloody nose, which is more than most gangsters had been able to do. He also is able to disarm the Shadow, forcing him into an interesting backup plan.

With Grendel the Shadow faces the idea that crime will never be wiped out. The story ends with things returning to normal for both characters. The future existence of Grendel does not discourage the Shadow, rather it strengthens his resolve to stamp out the bitter disease that is crime.

DC Universe vs Masters of the Universe is a crossover in continuity with both DC comics’ New 52 and the current Masters of the Universe comic also published by DC. Masters of the Universe and DC comics have a long history together. He-Man’s first comic book appearance was (not counting mini-comics that were included with the action figures) DC Comics Presents #47, where Superman comes to Eternia and has an adventure with He-man. It was DC comics in fact, that introduced the superhero like element of giving He-man a secret identity, that of Prince Adam. The later Filmation cartoon would also adopt this story point.

Interestingly enough, this crossover shows some of DC’s magical characters before bigger names like Superman and Batman appear. Queen Marlena (He-man’s mother) is on Earth looking for John Constantine, who has heard of her from myth, and understands Eternia to be the center of all creation. Marlena originally was an Earth astronaut who crossed the dimensional veil into Eternia. This plot point originated in the 1980s cartoon. Marlena visits Constantine to warn of a great evil coming.

In a previous DC comics Master’s of the Universe story, Skeletor has disappeared. It turns out that he came to Earth, and is hiding out in DC’s House of Secrets with DC character Black Alice. While Constantine heard of Marlena, Skeletor also has heard of Constantine. DC’s Earth has a lot of untapped magical potential that Skeletor plans to use. However, Skeletor is not the mastermind here. Another character is giving him orders, one who’s identity will shock long time He-Man fans.

Meanwhile He-Man and his allies are hiding out, as the Evil Horde, with the help of He-Man’s sister Adora, have conquered Eternia. Events lead them to Earth where at first they fight, then later team with the Justice League of America to fight Skeletor (The Eternians of course speak English for whatever reason). There’s some cool interactions between the characters, especially involving Batman. In the Batcave Teela mistakenly thinks Batman kills kids, and Man-At-Arms objects to the large bat logo on Batman’s chest, as it reminds him of the Evil Horde symbol.

At one point Skeletor mind controls various characters of the DC universe to have them fight the Justice League and the Eternian heroes. DC’s Frankenstein even makes an appearance. Perhaps one of few disappointing things about this story is that there weren’t more Eternian villains. The DC Universe is so expansive, and the He-Man franchise is pretty large as well. A crossover between these two properties naturally has the potential to be pretty massive. It would have been fun to the DC characters come to Eternia. As I write this I realize I’d love to see He-Man fight Darkseid. Perhaps tying this story to both continuities kept it from being on a larger scale.

Still, DC vs Masters of the Universe is a fun action filled crossover that serves the continuity of both franchises, and has actual ramifications for at least the He-Man series. Here’s to hoping for a second crossover in the future.

This past spring was ten years since Youtube officially went online. Given that I remember life without the internet, Youtube is the kind of thing that still amazes me. I remember maybe 12 or 13 years talking with a friend saying wouldn’t it be cool if there was a website where you could have something like your own tv channel. You could have stuff like episodes of the Simpsons online for people to watch, and along with that you could make your own shows/have your own content. My friend agreed it would be cool, but said people’s bandwidth would never be large enough/computers would never be fast enough etc. etc. Just a few years later it became reality. Youtube is right up there with Facebook and Google among websites that have generally impacted our day to day lives.

So I wanted to make a top ten favorite things on youtube list. I want to specify that these entries will not just be random TV clips or official music videos, they all are user generated content.

My first entry is just under a year old and involves professional wrestling. For those that don’t know, the wrestler Sting was for a long time known as the most popular wrestler that never wrestled for the WWE. Last November at Survivor Series he finally made his WWE debut. Entry #10 is basically 7 minutes of people yelling “OH MY GOD IT’S STING!!!” The actual in arena reaction is especially hilarious. So here we go.

Sinister 2 Review

Posted: September 1, 2015 in Movies

Sinister 2 opens with the deputy from the previous film in a Church confessional booth. He asks the priest about evil, and is warned to stay away from it, saying you can’t defeat evil, you can only survive it.

Cut to Courtney, a single mother with two young boys Zach and Dylan are secretly staying in a farmhouse to hide from her abusive ex husband. Turns out one of the boys is being visited by ghosts at night. The ghosts have him watch old 8 millimeter films of families getting murdered.

The deputy did not heed the priests advice, and instead is finding houses across the country that Bughuul, the ghostly entity from the first film, has had children commit murders. He goes to Courtney’s home, thinking it’s abandoned, with the intention of burning it down. Upon realizing it is not he investigates and abandoned church on the property where a heinous crime previously took place.

From here the two plots of Courtney’s ex and Bughuul nicely intersect, both allowing for dread, tension and mistrust. Sinister 2 seemed more scary to me than the first one. However I found this is one sequel that really seems to rely on seeing the first one. I did see Sinister, but I still forgot a few things like who the deputy was. Also Courtney’s boys seemed interchangeable, I couldn’t remember which one was which at times. That did hurt on of the good plot points of tension with the boys over which one Bughuul was going to choose. Both seemed willing participants.

Still I enjoyed it overall and would look forward to a Sinister 3.

between the boys over


Straight Outta Compton is a biopic about Ice Cube, Eazy E, and Dr. Dre, who started the gangsta rap group N.W.A. and changed the face of popular music.

Clocking in at over 140 minutes, Straight Outta Compton has a lot on its plate. It mainly focuses on Cube, Dre, and Eazy, but also includes DJ Yella and MC Ren. Ice Cube is a young poet, Dre is starting out as a DJ, and Eazy E is a legitimate gangbanger. Having all grown up in Compton California, the three end up meeting, and Eazy E helps them start Ruthless Records. It’s interesting to see how, according to the movie, the original plan was for Eazy to provide the financial backing, Cube was the lyricist, and Dre would lay down the beats while they would hire other rappers to do the vocals. There’s a scene where the hired rappers walk out of the studio, not wanting to do the hardcore lyrics. Eazy E reluctantly fills in the vocals, along with Dre and Cube, and the rest is history.

After some initial success they get the attention of music manager Jerry Heller, who does bring them to a national stage, but at the same time is cheating the members of N.W.A., having favored Eazy E. This is a running plot point throughout the movie.

From the films beginning we see the hard life people in Compton live, including racial harassment by the police. After one scene where they are harassed at the studio, Cube writes the song Fuck tha Police, causing a national controversy. During once concert the police warn them not to play that song, so they do and a riot starts.

Tensions between the group, mostly around the management, come to a boil, and Ice Cube breaks off on his own and makes a solo record. The remaining members of N.W.A. diss him on a song, but are no match for the gifted lyricist as Cube fires back. Perhaps the funniest scene of the movie is the N.W.A. crew listening to the diss track, which is so good that even their own groupies are laughing at it.

Cube however ends up having his own problems with management as well, and in one scene trashes his management’s office over a dispute over money.

Dre too eventually leaves and starts Death Row records with the infamous Suge Knight, Comic book fans might see Suge as a real life Wilson Fisk, as he has violent outbursts over minor infractions like someone parking in his spot. Suge clashes with Eazy E over Dre’s contract, leading to a clash of ideologies between the thug culture these artist have come from, and the business world of contracts and lawyers. In one interesting scene Eazy E talks about killing Suge, but Jerry talks him out of it, explaining if Suge is killed his problems are over, but Eazy E’s would be just beginning.

Toward the end of the movie it is suggested that the N.W.A were talking about getting back together. However, throughout the movie it is hinted that Eazy E is having more than his share of women, and subtle hints are dropped that he is getting sick. In a very moving scene a Dr. reveals that Eazy E has contracted AIDS. Dre goes to visit him in the hospital, but at this point Eazy E is unconscious. Eventually he passes, and we see the outpouring of grief from his fans.

The film ends with a montage about the success of Cube and Dre. Dre particular has brought a lot of rappers to the forefront, like Snoop Dogg and Eminem. Probably no one person has influenced popular music in the last 30 years as Dr. Dre.

On a personal note, I watched this movie as an outsider, not having listened to N.W.A. as a kid, and not knowing much of the story. I’ve had conversations with friends who know the story more about how accurate the film was, but as a movie itself it was very effective. It has a lot of plates spinning with different plot points and characters, but manages to keep them all afloat.

Straight Outta Compton is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. It makes me want to see other music bio pics of acts I’m more familiar with like Black Sabbath and Guns and Roses. There’s already talk of doing a follow up movie about the rise of Snoop Dogg and Tupac (who both appear briefly in this film). If the Straight Outta Compton film crew were to produce this, that would surely be a great film as well.