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3 items from 2015

Toronto Film Review: ‘The Martian’

11 September 2015 1:36 PM, PDT | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

With ideas like cryogenic sleep and warp speed, the movies have a tendency to make space travel look easy. Not Ridley Scott’s “The Martian,” an enthralling and rigorously realistic outer-space survival story in which Matt Damon plays a Nasa botanist stranded on the Red Planet after a sandstorm forces his crewmates to abort mission. Like Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Damon’s “right stuff” hero has to get by on his own wits and “science the sh–” out of his predicament. It won’t be easy, but it is possible — and that’s the exhilarating thrill of both Andy Weir’s speculative-fiction novel and screenwriter Drew Goddard’s “science fact” adaptation. Considering that the United States hasn’t launched a manned space mission since 2011, “The Martian” should do far more than just make Fox a ton of money; it could conceivably rekindle interest in the space program and inspire a new generation of future astronauts. »

- Peter Debruge

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The Speed of Causality: Michael Mann's "Blackhat"

20 January 2015 11:39 AM, PST | MUBI | See recent MUBI news »

“Look at where you are.”

(Spoilers abound.)

Michael Mann’s new film, Blackhat, is a paradox of magnitudes and proximities. The scale is global, as announced in the opening shots that rhyme with the Universal logo just prior and, thanks to the dissolves down to Earth, Charles and Ray Eames' 1977 Powers of Ten. Once on ground, in a nuclear reactor’s control room, the powers of cinema take us yet deeper, smaller, to see how fast data travels across minuscule relays inside a screen, a computer, a network. And this data, or code, is made visible as points of light—dots arrayed and racing in tandem with the image (itself a fiction of code, or data) of this new vast universe—given weight through the thunder and crackle of sound design—a truly cinematic sequence of movement/animation no text can replicate.

This opening serves to illustrate the mechanisms »

- Ryland Walker Knight

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Film Review: Michael Mann’s ‘Blackhat’

13 January 2015 8:00 PM, PST | Variety - Film News | See recent Variety - Film News news »

In classic Westerns, the heroes wore white hats, while the villains wore black, making it easy to tell them apart. The world’s gone blurry in Michael Mann’s “Blackhat,” a surprisingly inelegant yet breathlessly up-to-the-minute thriller — as well as a newfangled “Eastern,” strategically set mostly in China, Indonesia and Malaysia — in which the FBI recruits an incarcerated hacker to help thwart an international cyber-terrorist. The weak link in a busy January weekend, Universal’s export-ready offering may not look like much, though powered by criminal stunts that make last month’s Sony breach seem amateur, plus action scenes punchy enough to justify the price of admission, it could hardly be called hackwork.

At his best, Mann’s work explores the thin line that separates good from bad, acknowledging the moral complexities of the modern world. Thematically speaking, the seemingly ripped-from-the-headlines “Blackhat” falls perfectly in line with the ambiguities of “Collateral, »

- Peter Debruge

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