Every week, movie studios select candidates to enter the glorious battlefield for your hard-earned dollars. The weekend warriors of October 2, 2015 includes The Martian, The Walk (IMAX 3D Only), Freeheld, and He Named Me Malala. Box Office Battlefield is here to help you decide which movie(s) will take priority over the others and determine who will be victorious. Should you see ’em, skip ’em, or rent ’em? Find out below!
Last weekend, Hotel Transylvania 2 frightfully broke September box office records, unfortunately proving there may be some gas left in the tank for Adam Sandler. With Translyvania 2 gaining almost $50 million in domestic ticket sales, The Intern lagged behind in second with a mere $17.7 million. Ouch. Can a science fiction adaptation bolstering a star-studded cast make waves against the monsters of Transylvania or will Joseph Gordon-Levitt and crew walk away as victors? Matt Damon phone home! This is the Box Office Battlefield:
The Martian (Ridley Scott) Rated PG-13 [141 min] – During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive. Starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara, Michael Peña, Donald Glover, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Jeff Daniels
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 94% • Audience – 94%
Leading up to this film, I had always heard from others that The Martian is a wonderful book. I didn’t know exactly what it was about, but my anticipation and expectations were fairly high going in. Suffice it to say, the film definitely met my expectations and more.
Matt Damon brings an excellent balance of emotions to his portrayal of astronaut Mark Watney. While having to stay calm and collected to keep his scientific mind at peace to solve every scenario, there’s a resonating layer of humanity that Damon brings to the character that shows he is not infallible. Although we can’t always see it on the outside, we understand that he cannot let his fears get the better of him.
With the help of an incredible supporting cast, those on the ground at NASA and in the Ares space shuttle, they can fear for Watney, as they struggle to come up with a solution to bring him home. While not every character is as strong as others, and it may seem like Game of Thrones trying to keep up with everyone’s title and name, each character serves a purpose.
After a huge slump of subpar features, The Martian is Ridley Scott’s (Alien; Blade Runner) return to form. Every element sewn together to create this unreal mission to explore the many facets of science in order to save one man is all tied together neatly. And despite its long run time, there are scenes that you wish the science was explained a little more intricately because of how well it’s presented on screen.
Cast Away meets Gravity meets Apollo 13, The Martian is a sleek, entertaining adaptation that works on many levels to positively shed the more boring facade of science into the mainstream conversation.
The Walk (Robert Zemeckis) [Opens on 9/30 on IMAX Only] Rated PG [123 min] – In 1974, high-wire artist Philippe Petit recruits a team of people to help him realize his dream: to walk the the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Charlotte Le Bon, Guillaume Baillargeon, and Émilie Leclerc
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 86% • Audience – 85%
If you can’t get past Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s terrifying “French” accent than you might not be able to make it through The Walk unscathed. It’s atrocious in every conceivable way, but beyond this hiccup lies a gleefully cartoonish biopic that works far better than it should.
There’s a special chemistry that Philippe (Gordon-Levitt) shares with each of his crew that’s built very patiently and rewards in the final moments of the film as everything unfolds. As uninteresting and laborious as it all may seem, I enjoyed the camaraderie shared between everyone leading up to the walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
Having this prolonged exposition and character building adds extra value to the walk itself, because without it all their hard work would have felt empty no matter how thrilling it is. And thrilling is almost an understatement. Sadly, I have yet to see Man on Wire, the documentary this film is based on, so I had no awareness of the level of insanity Petit’s walk truly was. It’s completely bonkers that this was achieved.
Even knowing that what I’m watching on screen is fake, after the movie was over I discovered I sweat through the pits of my shirt. The IMAX 3D experience, as gimmicky as it is, pays off immensely. Credit should be given to Gordon-Levitt’s physical performance as well as the effects team. The last third of The Walk will be what many only takeaway from this cinematic experience, but without the heist-y Ocean’s Eleven gravitas it wouldn’t have felt as grand of a spectacle.
Freeheld (Peter Sollett) Rated PG-13 [103 min] – New Jersey police lieutenant, Laurel Hester, and her registered domestic partner, Stacie Andree, both battle to secure Hester’s pension benefits when she is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Starring Julianne Moore, Ellen Page, Steve Carell, and Michael Shannon
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 53% • Audience – 58%
“A television movie of the week gone uninterestingly wrong.” – Manohla Dargis (New York Times)
“It doesn’t quite feel like the prestige pictures that blow through theaters this time of year; it’s a drama often dignified by its workmanlike approach, one that feels relatively judicious with its uplift.” – Benjamin Mercer (AV Club)
All the right intentions are here, but from what it sounds like, Freeheld doesn’t seem to be as moving or inspiring as it is written on paper. I’m sure Page and Moore put on a good show, but a lot of the other character portrayals I’ve seen in the trailers look like they’re in a completely different movie – I’m looking at you Carell. I don’t think Freeheld looks terrible, I’m just not convinced the movie has that Oscar-level prestige it thinks it does.
He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggenheim) [Limited] Rated PG-13 [87 min] – A look at the events leading up to the Talibans’ attack on the young Pakistani school girl, Malala Yousafzai, for speaking out on girls’ education and the aftermath, including her speech to the United Nations. Starring Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Toor Pekai Yousafzai, and Khushal Yousafzai
Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics – 60% • Audience – 72%
“The slick, shallow result [movie] better suited for schools than the cineplex: The Malala who lets herself be captured here is to be admired and applauded, not identified with.” – Inkoo Kang (The Wrap)
“Malala’s undeterred fearlessness in the face of extremists should be applauded, and she is rightfully a model for young women around the planet. But ultimately, this amazing girl is underserved by an unremarkable, congenial and safe portrait.” – Rodrigo Perez (The Playlist)
The whole story involving Malala sounds harrowing and intense, but it doesn’t seem as though the importance of her work and movement are conveyed well through this documentary. I’m sure within the next 15 years from now there will be a feature film based on the true events that might strike a larger impact with movie going audiences.
Sure Hotel Transylvania 2 wound up capturing the many dollars of families across the country, but I don’t think that it has a strong enough appeal to keep a steady stream of cabbage. The Martian is rated PG-13, it has a huge cast of stars, and Matt Damon maintains his likability on the silver screen despite whatever nonsense he’s spouting off in the media. The Walk is a good movie that demands your attendance in theaters, but it’s only in a select few due to its IMAX 3D limitation – it expands to all theaters in 2D next weekend. So as it stands, I believe the victor for this weekend will be:
Winner: The Martian
What will you be watching this weekend? What did you think of the current releases? Tell us in the comment section below.
Movie synopses courtesy of IMDb.com and Tomatometer Scores from Rotten Tomatoes