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Sunday, 11 October 2015

Life on Mars

Look I don't ask much from life. Two, if I'm lucky, three squarish meals a day. A trip into town once in a while and a bottle of wine.

Going to the cinema is a special treat. It's always been that for me. From when I went with my Mum to see "The Dambusters" and "Snow White". To sneaking into the local flea pit to see all those X films - "The Blob", "It Came From Outer Space", and disappointingly "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning".

I try to forget the Saturday morning pictures at the local ABC and Odeon: Juvenile fumblings during an episode of "Rocket Man" and being marched out for smoking in the back row.. Attendant's torch scanning along the rows searching out misplaced hands and unbuttoned clothing "But Miss they're doing much more than me".

Seeing "2001" in Cinerama at the Prince of Wales cinema in Old Compton Street, during my first year at University. Being blown away in South End Green, Hampstead by "A Clockwork Orange", and much later crying my eyes out in the Cuzon cinema watching "Jean De Florette" and the "Manon des Sources".

Sitting through a continuous reel of porn films in San Francisco in 1976 - we were staying with a pastor in Stockton.  Seeing "Star Wars" and applauding along with the whole cinema in Leicester Square at the end.

There are many more I could bring to mind. The original "Solaris", which I saw at the ICA in the Mall in 1974. I now can't watch it, I was so upset by the agony of the avatar lover. "Harry Potter" I love, and watch over and over again on DVD in any sequence. "Interstellar" which blew me away, as did "Avatar" for different reasons - the 3 D effects was quite,quite vertiginous.

And on Friday, my mate and I went to see "The Martian". I'm a great Ridley Scott fan. Who isn't - "Alien", "Blade Runner", Gladiator". I was disappointed with "Prometheus", far too self regarding and the story line stank. And I love Matt Damon - should that worry me? He is such a great screen actor.

I heard good reports of this latest Ridley Scott endeavour, but "Prometheus" had blotted his copy book. I was a little apprehensive. However, Matt had a part in "Interstellar" as did Jessica Chastain, who has a smile as wide as Julia Roberts and is almost as beautiful. So they would redress any misgivings

I needn't have worried. From the opening shots I was hooked (although Ridley obviously had some left over shots from "Prometheus" which he inserted into "The Martian". The storm scene in both were very similar).  But after Matt managed to remove the spike remnant out of his stomach ( "Prometheus" fans will recall a similar scene when Noomi Rapace carried out a Cesarean on herself to remove that rather nasty alien.) It went from strength to strength.

It was funny, it was extremely tense, and educational. Poo and Martian soil is great for growing potatoes. Except...one of the reasons the islanders on St Kilda left was because their crops progressively failed. Due to the increase in concentration in the heavy metals in the soil. All because they used their poo as fertiliser. So, it wouldn't have been a long term solution.

What was great was the way the film expanded. First, just him on Mars, the Earth thinking he's a goner. Then he contacts Earth - so clever that, And the goofy e-mails between Earth and Mars. 
There were echoes of "Apollo 13" with the backup team in the States running simulations so that Matt could work out solutions on Mars. 

Then his mates on the spaceship heading back home - the ones who left him for dead on Mars find out he's alive. There's a geeky scientist - there's always a geeky scientist - see "Independence Day" who works out (using a mega computer) that the space ship can loop around the Earth and go back to Mars and pick up Matt. 

I have to say, like Matt, I was rather unsure about the reality of using a canvas sheet as covering for his escape capsule. Also not having any glass in the windows of his craft seemed a bit far fetched. But since the scientists on Earth said that was fine I , like Matt, went along with it. 

The ending was pure "Gravity", in reverse since Matt's saved. It's a great climax.

The only bum note is that in space there is no air. That means no sound or smell. Unlike our cinema audience who to a man had an extremely large box of popcorn. Which was extremely smelly and noisy. Popcorn should be banned in confined spaces. 

Oh, the 70's disco sound track...a running joke in the film...was heaven to me.

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