Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Martian Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
From legendary director Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus) comes a gripping tale of human strength and the will to survive. During a mission to Mars, American astronaut Mark Watney (played by Academy Award winner Matt Damon) is presumed dead and left behind. But Watney is still alive. Against all odds, he must find a way to contact Earth in the hope that scientists can devise a rescue plan to bring him home. Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, The Martian provides a realistic glimpse into life in outer-space that will have you on the edge of your seat! In addition to wowing audiences around the world, the film is one of best reviewed of the year and has been named one of the best movies of the year by such groups as National Board of Review, which also awarded top honors to Ridley Scott for Best Director, Matt Damon for Best Actor and Drew Goddard for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Botanist Mark Watney (Matt Damon) has been working diligently on Mars without incident.  He is led by Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) and is close with the team of computer genius Beth Johanssen (Kate Mara), Flight Surgeon Chris Beck (Sebastian Stan), Rick Martinez (Michael Pena) and Alex Vogel (Aksel Hennie).  An unexpected storm gets nasty and Commander Lewis calls for an abort of the mission.

A flying piece of debris takes Mark out while the team is on their way to the evacuation site. With only moments before their escape shuttle topples, they take off without retrieving Mark’s body or even confirming his death. A reported breach in Watney’s suit and then loss of signal made it appear as though survival was an impossibility. After the team left and the dust settled, Watney wakes up alone and injured on the surface of Mars. The blood from his injury helped to seal the breach in his suit and he rushes inside to dig some metal out of his gut. 

After patching himself up, Watney spends a tense night in the living quarters waiting to find out of the structure will hold. When he realizes that he’s going to survive, Mark must start planning. He cannot contact his crewmates or NASA. He has a decent amount of food but not enough to last the years until the next Mars mission lands. Using his botany skills, Watney figures out a way to grow food and hopes to survive years of isolation while he waits for rescue.

Back home, NASA Director Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels) prepares Mark Watney’s eulogy. While Annie Montrose (Kristen Wiig), Director of Media Relations, prepares her statements, Director of Mars Missions, Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), wants to get back to Mars ahead of schedule to make use of the leftover supplies. When a batch of satellite images show that Watney is still alive, NASA scrambles to communicate with him and begin their efforts to find a way to bring him home. That new information causes Flight Director Mitch Hendersen (Sean Bean) to butt heads with the Director over when to tell the crew that they left Watney behind, which will open some fresh wounds.

The Martian is based on Andy Weir’s bestselling novel. Screenwriter Drew Goddard adapted the novel for the big screen and stayed very close to the book. Watney might be stranded but he often finds humor in the situation. Matt Damon was the perfect choice to play him and he’s able to carry the film through all the parts that are a one man show. Ridley Scott definitely knows how to make a space movie and commands an amazing ensemble cast. Even Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig and Dumb and Dumber’s Jeff Daniels felt authentic and believable in their roles leading NASA.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Martian is presented on Blu-ray in a widescreen 16:9 (2.40:1) ratio.  Much of the film takes place on the surface of Mars and the red sand is almost a character itself.  Fine detail and texture are excellent.  From far in space the colors of the earth are bright and beautiful.  Panoramic shots of Mars show off the vast landscape.  Back on Earth, Watney’s funeral provides green grass that practically pops off the screen.  Most importantly, CGI effects blend seamlessly with the action in a pleasant video presentation from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Audio (5 out of 5 stars)
The Martian’s DTS-HD 7.1 sound is lossless.  Whether its Martian rocks whizzing past you or rockets blasting off a planet, you won’t be disappointed in the audio quality.  Dialogue holds steady and is intelligible throughout the film. 
Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains a good combination of well thought out features that show the actors respect for the book, their Director and each other.
  • Signal Acquired: Writing and Direction (9:40) - A featurette with interviews with Ridley Scott, Author Andy Weir, Matt Damon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Jessica Chastain and others. They discuss turning the book into a movie, the importance of scientific accuracy, NASA’s involvement and the fortune of getting Ridley Scott to direct. 
  • Occupy Mars: Casting and Costumes (14:17) – The importance of casting and a look at the strengths of the ensemble cast made up of nothing but first choices on the casting wish lists. NASA provided assistance with costumes that helped to sell the story.
  • Gag Reel (7:30) - Fun on set with jokes, line flubs and prop failures.
  • Ares III: Refocused (17:18) – This would be the result of a Dateline investigation into the events that unfolded on Earth and on Mars during the Hermes failures and triumphs.
  • Ares III: Farewell (3:36) – Before leaving for Mars, Mark Watney leads a tour of the Hermes, introduces the crew with pop up crew facts and related information.
  • The Right Stuff (3:19) – Psychological interviews with the characters after 10 days of isolation in preparation for their upcoming mission.
  • Ares: Our Greatest Adventure (3:41) – Neil deGrass Tyson explains the undertaking before the crew and the details of the adventure they will take. Risks include low oxygen, radiation, temperature fluctuations on Mars and solar flares, cosmic radiation and other threats on the journey there.
  • Leave Your Mark (1:02) – Mark Watney is the perfect spokesperson for workout gear in the faux-commercial.
  • Bring Him Home (1:35) - The world rallies behind their lost hero.
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Production Art Galley
Summary (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Martian wins all around.  It has a great director and ensemble cast.  The Blu-ray looks great and contains exceptional sound quality.  The extras are not overwhelming and they continue the story for a few important characters.  I am a person who likes to watch films more than once and The Martian holds up to repeated viewings.  Even when you know how it ends it remains entertaining and I recommend making it a part of your Blu-ray collection.

Order your copy today!

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