Director Ridley Scott knows how to do space movies, having really kick-started his career and setting the bar in outer-space tension with 1979’s “Alien.” He continued building his vision of interstellar suspense in 2012’s “Prometheus.” Here, Scott brings to life Andy Weir’s novel about an Astronaut on a manned mission to Mars, who gets left for dead and must survive on nothing but his ingenuity and a sense of humor. Matt Damon gives real heart as the Martian, carrying a large part of the movie alone, but there’s a big and diverse cast to fill in the blanks. Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña and Kate Mara are the core of the the ship’s crew, and they sling around a nice emotional weight. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig and Jeff Daniels anchor the NASA ground team with firm performances. But let’s be honest, Damon is out of this world, making this film worth a watch.
When you hear filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s name, you may roll your eyes and ask, “What has he done now, made a movie where old people are really made of bees?” Maybe you’ll ask, “Is his new movie set in a bunker, 100 years in the future, but just looks like a country kitchen?” Okay, these aren’t spoilers. This film is actually Shyamalan’s return to good old-fashioned horror. Well, it’s mostly weird and filled with scenes of creepy senior citizens doing disturbing stuff. It’s a small cast (four generally unknown actors and Kathryn Hahn.) It’s filmed with a shaky-cam style, as two young siblings film an amateur documentary about meeting their kooky grandparents for the first time. Their mom is off on a vacation with her boyfriend while the grandparents’ behavior spirals from distressing to dangerous. Shyamalan isn’t back to “The Sixth Sense” good, but he’s not “After Earth” bad either. If you’ve liked Shyamalan in the past, maybe you should revisit his, because this one is barely worth a watch.
Horror sequels can go either way. Sometimes, they can improve the original story. Other times, they just retell the same story in a worse way. Scott Derrickson, the writer of the original film, returns here. That’s good and bad news. He’s penned some winners in the horror genre, but he’s also scribbled out some real losers. Unfortunately, the winners came earlier in his career – “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and “Sinister.” The losers, “Devil's Knot” and “Deliver Us from Evil,” have been in the last few years. James Ransone is the only member of the original cast to return, and he’s accompanied by the usually dependable Shannyn Sossamon. Their middle-of-the-road performances are as good as this one gets. At one point, fresh concepts may’ve been in here somewhere, but they get buried under heaps of mediocre acting, clunky plot points and silly theatrics. It comes off as silly and far from sinister – pass.