Film Friday #251

The Martian (2015)

After he is accidentally left behind on Mars, botanist/astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) must “science the shit” out of his surroundings in order to stay alive using equipment that was never designed to last. At the same time a group NASA scientists and engineers lead by Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) work tirelessly to find a way to bring Mark back. The question is though, should they tell the crew that left Mark behind that he’s still alive and if they do how will they react? I recently read the novel this film is based on and I made no secret of the fact that I loved it when I reviewed it. Unfortunately for me the film did not quite live up. I enjoyed Damon playing Watney – he injects the requisite humour and tenacity into the character. Watney is the absolute centre of the story and without Damon’s performance it would have fallen completely flat. I also thought it looked pretty amazing and I totally believed it was Mars. On the other hand the supporting cast despite being awesome (Jessica Chastain, Michael Peña, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Ben Wong…) aren’t given an enormous amount to do and they just feel wasted and underused. The novel is a constant roller coaster ride but in places the film plods along and I never felt like Watney was in any kind of danger where the book had me on the edge of my seat. I know this isn’t a popular opinion and most people loved it but for me it was a decently entertaining but totally forgettable film. Don’t let me stop you but if you’re a big fan of the book you might be left a bit flat. 3/5

Mark had come to the disturbing conclusion that he had shit himself

Mark had come to the disturbing conclusion that he had shit himself

Kids for Cash (2013)

Following the Columbine shootings Judge Mark Ciavarella became famous for his hard line attitude towards juvenile offenders. It was well-known and accepted that if a juvenile came in front of him, he would convict and incarcerate. Initially Ciaverella was applauded for his actions but when parents of minor offenders became suspicious an investigation was launched which lead to a disturbing discovery. Ciavarella had not only taken money from a developer who built juvenile detention facilities but he had also mislead families to waive their right to legal representation. This documentary unfolds the story using actual courtroom and media footage, interviews with offenders and their families and surprisingly Ciavarella himself as he is prosecuted for his actions. Seeing the damaging legacy being locked up has had on teenagers and children who did things as silly as making a My Space page about their headmistress is truly upsetting and Ciavarella’s insistence that he stands by his actions which supposedly had nothing to do with the money is chilling. Unfortunately it feels a bit like this documentary could have been about 45 minutes shorter than it was and by hammering its point it loses impetus and impact and is ultimately less than satisfying. 2.5/5


Don’t think you can pretend you didn’t shit on that swan! I saw you!

Election (1999)

Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) is a real go-getter. She’s part of every club in school, she’s a straight-A student, she never fails and she has big dreams and all of these dreams hinge on her becoming Student Body President, something she’s been planning for years and for which she is running unopposed. Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) loves teaching and he particularly loves being in charge of student government. What he doesn’t love is Tracy Flick, following her career-ruining affair with his best-friend and former fellow teacher, Dave (Mark Harelik). With this in mind Jim comes up with the cunning plan of getting injured footballer and all round nice guy, Paul Metzler (Chris Klein) to run against Tracy… something that is going to antagonise his anatchist lesbian sister to the point of distraction. As Jim becomes more and more involved with rigging the election in his favour he moves further and further away from his own internal ethical compass, which leads to a catastrophic unraveling of his personal and professional life, who knew student government could get so political? Election really is comedy of the blackest variety. Every character is detestable on some (often many) levels and watching the lengths they will go to and the lies they tell themselves is fascinating. Witherspoon here shows an early talent for playing a particular kind of neurotic Aryan overachiever and Broderick is on point as a man realising that he has completely wasted any potential he might have had and that he really doesn’t know who he is at all. Even Klein is surprisingly good but then maybe he is just that dumb and playing himself. Who knows? Basically you’ll laugh and then be repulsed with yourself for laughing and isn’t that just the best? A deserved cult classic! 3.5/5

Tracy's bowl of free condoms was going down a treat

Tracy’s bowl of free condoms was going down a treat

Junebug (2005)

After a whirlwind courtship, Chicago art dealer Madeline (Embeth Davidtz) marries George (Allesandro Nivola) – originally from North Carolina. When Madeline discovers that an artist she desperately wants to represent lives near George’s family home the two decide to make a trip for her to meet her in-laws. Here she is immediately presented with a culture shock. Madeline is a well-traveled citizen of the world with sophisticated manners leaving her at a loss when dealing with George’s rather more earthy relatives including his heavily pregnant sister-in-law, Ashley (Amy Adams) and angry disaffected brother (Ben McKenzie). As Madeline gets to know the family better and bonds with Ashley, she realises that she may not know George as well as she thought she did and that fitting into his life outside Chicago might be more of a challenge than she expected. The themes in Junebug will feel familiar to anyone who has moved away from where they grew up either physically or figuratively and then returned either alone or with a new partner in tow and it poses the question of whether you can ever truly escape where you came from or if it is possible to know someone without knowing the people who raised them. While this is essentially one of those movies where not all that much happens it is packed with powerful performances both from Davidtz, who does an excellent job of balancing kind and polite with confused and often shocked, and Adams who is an absolute scene-stealer as the endlessly optimistic and over familiar Ashley. If family melodrama is your thing as much as it is mine, Junebug is definitely worth a watch. 3.5/5

Ashley felt like her corsage game was more on point than at any other time of her life

Ashley felt like her corsage game was more on point than at any other time of her life


  1. You are too funny. Love the annotations!

    1. abbiosbiston

      It’s my favourite part of Film Friday 😊

      1. You missed your calling as the tongue-in-cheek greeting card writer. I’d buy!

  2. I love how witty you are Abbi.

    1. abbiosbiston

      It’s my favourite part of Film Friday 😊

      1. And you do it with such style.

  3. Interesting set of films. They are the kind I would watch if they were on, but not sure I’d go out of my way to choose. That documentary sounds chilling. How could they mess it up though?!

    1. abbiosbiston

      That’s kind of what happened. Lol! They just let a simple set of facts drag on for way, way too long!

  4. Yay, someone who shares my opinion about The Martian!! :))) Though I was a tad harsher on it I think.

    I haven’;t heard of any of those other films though

    1. abbiosbiston

      I enjoyed some of it but I just didn’t love it like I loved the book.

      1. Hmm I didn’t like it all that much… Never read the book :\

  5. Adams was adorable in Junebug. I haven’t seen The Martian yet. Good stuff!

    1. abbiosbiston

      She is one of my absolute faves. Hope you get to see The Martian and enjoy it more than I did.

  6. I haven’t seen The Martian yet, but we plan on it, eventually.

    1. abbiosbiston

      Hope you have more fun with it than I did.

  7. Great round up. You are not alone with your opinion on The Martian. While Matt Damon was excellent, the rest was quite flat. I feel the film is overhyped and underwhelming, all things considered, and a huge supporting cast is wasted.

    I might have to check out Junebug!

    1. abbiosbiston

      Yes to all of that!

  8. As I haven’t read the book, I really enjoyed The Martian. In fact, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. It’s been ages since I saw Junebug, but yeah Amy Adams’ really good in that. Davidtz and Nivola are two terrific actors as well, but they’re so hugely underrated.

    1. abbiosbiston

      I agree on Davidtz and Nivola. They’re always great when they do pop up. Just wish it was more often.

  9. cant wait to see The Martain. I thought Election was good, just not great.haven’t seen the other two

    1. abbiosbiston

      Hope you enjoy The Martian more than I did 😊

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