Matt Damon Shines 249 Million Miles From Home

In “The Martian” Ridley Scott directs this great Matt Damon vehicle that combines Apollo 13,” Cast Away,” and “MacGyver.” When astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) 75is left for dead on Mars, he must discover how to survive on his own in a hostile environment where the smallest of mistakes can cost him his life.

It is the story of perseverance, human will, and ingenuity. As rich as the story is here, the set design, sound mix, casting, and visual design make this a complete film. This film transcends science fiction, and is much more drama than science fiction, yet should appeal to audiences of both genres. Damon’s character provides elements of comic relief in the midst of utter chaos. Audiences witness a character at war with nature, the unknown and himself in a film that earns a solid “A” on the Cinemascene scorecard.

The Martian is rated PG-13 for language & disturbing scenes, and brief nudity. It is distributed by 20th Century Fox. 6-ways-mars-could-kill-matt-damon-in-the-martian-475703

Johnny Depp in the Master of Black Mass

by Noel T. Manning II

Johnny Depp shines in a role a bit different from what we’ve seen in the past. No wacky Mad Hatter, insane pirate, demon barber, out of place vampire, or Frankensteinian hedge-clipper here. This time, Depp stars as true-life Boston mobster, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.377203-black-mass

I’ve seen so many mob films over the years, that it is difficult not to compare on-screen characters in films of the past (biopics or originals). But in Black Mass, Depp brings a character to life who is familiar, yet original at the same time. In many US mob films, you will find a typical rise and fall of a character and a twisted search for their interpretation of the American dream. Most of the time tragedy befalls anyone standing in the way, with the kingpin mobster finally meeting the grim reaper as a result of the battle with self. These are the very stories that would make Shakespeare proud.

In this film, Depp’s character is truly focused on power for the sake of power much like Heath Ledger’s Joker was serving up violence and mayhem just because he could. This mob picture is filled with FBI double-crosses, unholy alliances, mob wars, & family dysfunction. I did find the story to be less compelling than it should’ve been (or than I’d hoped for), and it felt like it was trying to copy the Scorsese formula, and that was my biggest imagesproblem, it was an average copy at best. The absolute best part of this true-crime story was the casting. Depp continues to show he’s able to be versatile and do what Depp wants to do within any role. Johnny Depp is not just a movie star, he’s a top rate actor as well. And because of him, Black Mass gets a B- instead of a C+. I’ve seen plenty of mob movies over the years, and as a whole, this one will be forgettable, even if Depp’s performance won’t.

If you’re interested in some better gangster flicks, I’d suggest checking out Goodfellas,” “The Godfather,” “The Departed,” “Scarface,orReservoir Dogs.” 62951

A Captivating Story too Crazy to Be True

 

By Noel T. Manning II

Gods-not-deadIn the past few years, filmmakers have discovered the power of the Christian audience at the boxoffice. Films like “Courageous” (2011), Heaven is for Real” (2014), “God’s Not Dead” (2014), and this summer’s hit “War Room,” prove that this once forgotten market, has potential for growth and success for filmmakers willing to invest into this expanding genre. Coming next year we will see God’s Not Dead 2,” “Risen, and the remake of Ben Hur.” But, if you can’t wait until 2016, or if you choose not to check out “War Room” a second time, you can view another faith-based flick hitting about 800 theatres this weekend in Captive.”

captfeatr1“Captive” is based on the true story of the 2005 incident of a woman taken hostage by a convicted murderer and rapist. As she’s confronted with the possibility of a worst case scenario for her future, she has to find a way to connect with her captor or face death. Somewhere in the midst of a dialogue between the two, she begins to read aloud from Rick Warren’s best selling book “Purpose Driven Life.” What happens next is truly unbelievable, as the captive’s every moment hangs in the balance.facebook

David Oyelowo (from last year’s “Selma”) and Kate Mara (from this year’s horrible “Fantastic Four” reboot) star in this flick, that is dark, and gritty at times. The film offers an examination of characters searching for purpose, self, and better life. “Captive” has the potential to reach beyond viewers from the faith-based background, and I believe it can appeal to anyone searching for a true-life story ripped from the headlines.

Captive_T_1_cmsOverall it is a tale about regret, second chances, and hope. It is a well-acted and well-executed crime-drama, with a few hiccups in pacing along the way, yet it is worth viewing. Captive earns a solid “B” on the Cinemascene report card.

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Do You Believe in the Power of Prayer?

by Noel T. Manning II

“War Room” is  a story about the power of prayer and the challenges of life (with and without God in one’s life). The struggles, and challenges may still be there … but there’s something compelling about the resource of God’s presence.22613_1617888921776020_8398078566296844273_n

Alex and Stephen Kendrick have brought together a film shot in Charlotte for a distinct audience – the Church (and for church outreach). NC filmmaker Gary Wheeler gets a production credit, and helps the Kendricks capture the Charlotte region on film. Out of Georgia, these brothers have produced several films including successful Christian films “Fireproof” and “Courageous.” This is by far the most polished, well written, and best acted of the team’s films.

At a $3 million budget, this film should find a lucrative payday for the studio, and provide great content for the Christian crowd. If the audiences show, this could be a number one contender at the box office for several WarRoom_2weeks. In recent years we’ve seen the impact of faith-based films at the box-office, and I feel as long as the audiences exist (and scripts, production quality, and acting holds strong) –more of these films may be hitting the mainstream with success.

Comparing this to other films of the like, this film gets a solid A-.

Check out this interview with Gary Wheeler from WGWG. Gary talks about War Room

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When All Hope Seems Lost … Work for Tomorrow

by Noel T. Manning II

Disney’s Tomorrowland is the 1st great family adventure of the summer. It is a unique, creative, and inspirational film about hope.

Here’s the story question of the film: If you got a glimpse into a better world & you had the opportunity to make it happen (even if the whole world thought you were crazy) … would you take the chance to change the world?britt-robertson-movie-tomorrowland-brad-bird-damon-lindelof-e1374189081709

The film was visually stunning, I loved the music (Michael Giannhino), the digital set designs were amazing … I wouldn’t mind visiting this place again.

Directed and written by Brad Bird (Ratatouille , The Incredibles  and The Simpsons ), the film stars George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, Tim McGraw, and the incredible Britt Larson.

tomorrowland_movie-wide900I would recommend this for ages 10ish and up. Some adult themes of death, destruction and war could be difficult for younger viewers. Due to some of these dark elements, this film may not be a huge box-office success. This is not a standard happily-ever-every film for the Disney traditionalists (but if you really look into Disney traditions … it is truly a fitting story).

The action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy is rated PG from the MPAA and score this with an “A” grade on the Cinemascene report card.

 

Mad Maxine Comes Alive

By Noel T. Manning II

Director George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road offers a wild and freakalicious ride

When the world around you goes mad, you have to embrace your inner madness and let it fuel your journey.

It’s hard to believe that George Miller’s original vision for a post apocalyptic story about a cop who has lost everything except a will to survive can still find a place in today’s world of cinema three decades later, yet it does in Mad Max: Fury Road (the fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise).max-max-fury-road-sequels-trilogy

Miller’s surreal version of a future world where landscapes are barren, and the car shows are on steroids, offers a visual spectacular, death-defying stunt work, sonic wonders, and an amazing soundtrack from Junkie XL. It is a film truly for the ears and the eyes, yet the unique and odd characters, disturbing themes of human trafficking, class warfare, and religious manipulation will turn off some viewers, and maybe even confuse others.

450065_067Tom Hardy carries the Mad Max handle this go round (taking the torch from Mel Gibson), and his character is facing a very real post traumatic stress, and a tortured past he may or may not have ever had control over. But this story is really not his, which seems a bit odd given the film’s title. The film is actually carried by Oscar winner Charlize Theron who plays Furiosa, a former slave searching for redemption, freedom, salvation, a bit of revenge, and a place to call home. This is her story, and her journey … and honestly Max is really just along for the ride. A friend and fellow film critic said this should’ve been called Mad Maxine … I agree. Theron is wonderful as an action star in a film fueled by high octane fight scenes, expertly choreographed automotive battles, non-stop explosions, and one of the longest car chases in film history.

FURY ROADIt is not a film for the casual filmgoer. It is confusing at times, disorienting, and just plain disturbing in parts … but isn’t that exactly what made the original Mad Max films so intoxicating … they were different, engaging, and uncomfortably inviting. I got the same vibe this time around. Sure, it had it’s plot issues, early sound mix problems, and felt like a strange hallucination caused by some bad sushi … but it was still a wild, crazy, and entertaining ride, and one I was happy to survive.

For many in this generation of filmgoers, this will be their first introduction to the Mad Max universe, and a memorable one it will be. I believe that the original films from 30+ years ago may even gain some new fans for those who don’t get carsick on this Fury Road. But for others, they may leave the theatre shaking their heads feeling as if they’re suffering a concussion from a massive traffic pileup.mad-max-fury-road-jumping-car-wallpaper

Mad Max: Fury Road isn’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for a film offering it’s own brand of crazy chaos and mayhem, set your GPS for this one.

Mad Max: Fury Road Report Card

Characters – A-

Story – C

Action Sequences – A

Special Effects – A

Acting/Casting – B

Sound Design – C

Soundtrack – A

Directing – A

Mad Max: Fury Road  – Cinemascene Overall Report Card Grade: B