ARISTOTLE ON MARS

THAT FEELS BETTER

 When Aristotle talked about catharsis (the purging of fear and pity through drama) he MAY have been thinking more about killing your father and sleeping with your mother than invasive alien life forms.   

But in times like these we here at The Thread will take catharsis wherever we find it. So last week we finally watched Clint Eastwood’s Scully, and when the ferry crew started pulling the 155 passengers off the plane wing our eyes got all moist right on cue. 

 By the end of the movie an evil NTSB panel is forced to admit that sometimes heroes actually are heroes.  And we were forced to admit that every once in a while things actually do turn out well.  Aristotelian or not, it did perk us up.

But Scully isn’t exactly representative.  Far more common in films are films where small human errors add up to disaster.  Like  the Oscars — or the latest Alien knock-off that opens this week. 

 iTunes iTUNES USER ALERT!
Just want to make sure you know you don’t have to pay $14.99 at iTunes for a movie you’re only going to watch once.
Every other service will let you rent most titles for $10 less than iTunes.
Amazing, right?  Even if you love Apple, don’t let them scam you.

 

  LIFE-JGyllenhaal
LIFE (2017)

 At the outer limits of human endeavor, the margin for error becomes increasingly slim.  So when an alien life form pops up in a movie — and it doesn’t have Star Wars in the title — we know there’s a good shot that before long something unanticipated is going to pop up.

Except that by now, the unanticipated is exactly what we anticipate, like:  Really?  You’re gonna stick your finger in there?

In Scully, the pilot’s experience and human ability to judge a complex situation more rapidly than any computer saves the day.  The lesson here is a flip of that — as the crew   members struggle to contain a ruthlessly aggressive Martian life form, their humanity keeps getting in the way.

The early reviews are decent, even though everybody agrees that it falls apart in the last act.  Reportedly whole multicultural crew are provided with  back stories  – not just Jake Gyllenhal and Ryan Reynolds.

Genre purists should be saving themselves for Alien: Covenant, Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise.  It opens in May, with a fun and even more multicultural cast.  But in all likelihood, they’ll come out anyway, just to jeer at not-so-cheap knockoff.

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Deepwater Horizon 2
DEEPWATER HORIZON (2016)

 Like Scully, we pretty much knew exactly what this movie was going to be before we watched it.  And we watched it anyway – though we did save it for a weekend when we were home alone, so we could pump up the 5.1 sound to an eyeball-jiggling volume.

You know from the start that Marky Mark is going to survive to get back to Kate Hudson.  And you figure he’s probably going to save the cute Hispanic woman (Gina Rodriguez — she could save him, but that would be a big genre stretch for this movie).  And it doesn’t take advanced calculus to figure out pretty quick that John Malkovich, sporting a honey-dripping drawl, is the villain.

It’s a real Dad flick – more technical jargon than cleavage.  And a nicely aging Kurt Russell in the solid-as-a-rock captain role.

Oh yeah, and (spoiler alert) there are explosions.  Biiig explosions.  Lots of explosions.  That damn oil rig blows up again and again and again; and again.  Here at The Thread, we don’t track every single superhero movie closely; but to our untrained eye there were more, bigger, better explosions than we’ve seen anywhere else recently.

There are human errors, falling in the subcategories of corporate greed and tempting fate.  But the movie accurately depicts the biggest error, which was made by the highly competent and super-experienced crew – not realizing what was happening and taking action quickly enough, as this geekoid article points out.

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the-lone-survivor1
LONE SURVIVOR (2013)

 Deepwater Horizon is the second of three collaborations (Patriot Day is #3) between star Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg.  They’ve honed in on a sort of disaster sub-genre: hyper-competent teams (overwhelmingly male) and how they deal with extreme situations when all the layers of failsafe fail.

Lone Survivor is based on non-fiction book by former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell.  A four-man Navy Seal reconnaissance team is inserted into the Hindu Kush, with the mission of scouting the location of a Taliban leader.  In the hilly terrain, they lose radio contact with their base.  They then stumble onto an elderly shepherd accompanied by two teens.

Luttrell (Wahlberg) convinces his comrades not to kill the three, but one of the teens gallops off, and before they can re-establish communications Taliban fighters come streaming in.

From the start of the film we’ve seen the cardinal rule that these guys live by – never yield; never give up.  In the ensuing firefights and chases, the four Seals take monstrous amounts of bullets and physical abuse but keep on going.  Eventually they make contact and two Huey helicopters swoop in – only to have one of them shot down in flames and the other retreat.

Only Luttrell survives – and only because he is saved by a Pashtun villager who risks himself and his whole family because of his Islamic moral code which obliges him to shelter the stranger.

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Apollo 13
APOLLO 13 (1995)

Lately we’ve been searching for classics to watch with our tweens (nota beneCity Slickers is much more of a raunchfest than you may remember).  Classics, in this context, being anything pre-2010.  Which is why we’ve ended up re-watching a lot of Tom Hanks movies lately.

Apollo 13 is probably the highest profile they-all-came-back-alive situation in modern history.  You do very much know how it turns out, so this kind of thing is a real test of a filmmaker’s craft, which is why Clint Eastwood or, in this case, Ron Howard gets the job.

You’ll be waiting for the biggest meme from this movie: “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”  We’ve got to admit that Hanks is really good at humanizing these super buttoned-up, understated types.  In the photo above, he’s next to another all-purpose nice guy.  No, not Kevin Bacon — the recently departed Bill Paxton.

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The-Martian
THE MARTIAN (2015)

When it comes to writerly eloquence, the self-published Kindle novel The Martian was horribly written – kind of high school junior level.  And just like Fifty Shades of Gray, there are lots of pages you can just scroll right through.  But if you’ve got a certain sensibility (the kind that would lead you to read a novel about an astronaut stuck on Mars), don’t start it late at night, or you’ll still be up when the birds start chirping.

Author Andy Weir is one of those overnight success stories – although he was still a computer programmer when he published The Martian as a serial on his website, he’d been writing for years.  Some followers asked him to self-publish it on Kindle.  Four years later the feature film was released, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott.

When an epic sand storm forces a Mars mission to abort and take off early, a crew member is hit by debris and blown away.  Telemetry shows he is dead, the craft is teetering in the wind;  so to save the rest of the crew, the commander (Jessica Chastain) blasts off.

Of course, Watley isn’t dead, just skewered like a bug by a spear-like antenna.  He manages to make it inside and remove the antenna.  With all communication cut off, he faces a long slow death from starvation.

Except, of course he doesn’t.  Through tenacious will and a lot of mental meat, he figures out how to restore the radio, and then how to grow enough potatoes to survive until his crewmates can improvise an emergency return mission to pick him up.  More shit happens, but he perseveres.

For a lot of the novel, Watley is sitting alone and thinking about potatoes, so it wasn’t an easy story to dramatize.  The adroit touch with which Scott accomplished reminds us that we should go out to a theater to watch his Alien reboot.

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Jack and Rose
Titanic (1997)

And the music swells.  Dare we use the words “Celine Dion” and “catharsis” in a single sentence?

Wanted our 5th pick to be Shackleton, the miniseries in which a stalwart Kevin Branagh (even more thin-lipped than usual) endures more wind-whipped ice and penguin meat than any man should have to; and miraculously brings them all back alive, minus a few random fingers and toes.  But we realized that it’s not available for streaming.  If you have Netflix DVD or a good library nearby, check it out.

So.  We recently re-watched Titanic at home, and the boys were transfixed, despite the love story pasted onto the epic deflation of human hubris.  Even viewed from the couch, it’s a grand, imagination-stirring film, with mind-boggling effects and a life-was-simple-then moral compass.

This movie cemented our love affair with Kate Winslet, which had begun with Heavenly Creatures.  And, we’ve gotta say, we like Leonardo better now than we did at the time.

Those last scenes must have been good training for The Revenant.  Although we must add this unfortunate Weir-esque fact – there was actually room for both of them on that door.  Don’t believe it?  Well, Mythbusters re-enacted it and proved that he didn’t have to die.

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TRIPPING ON TRAINSPOTTING

Twenty years on we have the sequel to a film that defined a generation. When Trainspotting was released it unleashed a shock  felt round the world. The term “Generation X” had been coined by novelist Douglas Coupland and this film defined it.

When the film was released, the UK was in post-Thatcher mode, the economy was stagnant and former industrial warehouses began to be reinvented as rave clubs.

Trainspotting defined a mood and a shift in culture in the 90s. Without Danny Boyle we would not have witnessed the explosion of  British culture dating from this era.

T2 T2 – TRAINSPOTTING (2017) 

Danny Boyle’s T2 is loosely adapted by John Hodge from Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno which imagined the boys coming together again 10 years on—except of course this actually 20.

20 years earlier the boys seized an opportunity for some quick cash, but Renton betrayed them and ran off with the money. Now Renton, having “cleaned up” and gone straight, returns to the only place he can call home. Spud, Sick Boy, and Begbie are still there and some are feeling more vengeful then others.

Early accounts say T2 may not be as good as T1 but it has the same punchy energy, the same rebellious spunk, and, once again, Danny Boyle directing. Can’t wait to see it!

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T1TRAINSPOTTING (1996)

Boyle’s original Trainspotting wowed critics and audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, delivering a wild mix of rebellion and dark humor, plus insight into a free wheeling drug culture. It’s the story of four friends as they try to make it in the world on their own terms and end up planning the ultimate scam.

It was powered by an electric soundtrack and a then-unknown cast of stars-to-be including Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Ewan Brenner and Kelly McDonald.

In 2007, Vanity Fair ranked the Trainspotting original soundtrack at number 7 for best motion picture soundtrack in history.

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acid THE ACID HOUSE (1999) 

Paul McGuigan directs this film, which without the cult success of Trainspotting would probably never have been made. It’s a compilation of three short films based on stories by Trainspotting novelist Irvine Welsh, featuring twisted and dark tales of bullying neighbors, losers transformed into flies and a very foul mouthed and unrealistic baby.

Combining a vicious sense of humor with hard-talking drama, the film reaches into the hearts and minds of the chemical generation, casting an unholy light into hidden corners of the human psyche.

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beachTHE BEACH (2000) 

Trainspotting made director Danny Boyle a very big deal; without its cult status you couldn’t imagine him luring Leonardo Di Caprio to Thailand to star in his adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel The Beach, or getting away with a sequence where Leo hallucinates that he’s living inside an arcade machine.

Richard (DiCaprio) is a young American backpacker, willing to risk his life for: the mind-blowing rush of braving the ultimate adventure. After hearing an improbable tale of a secret island–the perfect beach, unsullied by tourists–Richard sets off on a journey to find that paradise on Earth.

Richard soon discovers that what appears to be paradise can hide a deadly secret. Now desperate to escape, Richard explores the hidden perils and dark places that lurk just beyond the island’s shores.

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humanHUMAN TRAFFIC (1999)

Trainspotting sent an unmistakable message to the film industry: ‘people really want to watch young people taking drugs, at length’. Cue Human Traffic, basically An Idiot’s Guide To Taking Narcotics.

For Jip, Lulu, Koop, Nina and Moff, the dead-end jobs they endure during the week just kill the time until Friday night. That’s when they cut very loose and get on the crazy roller coaster ride that takes them right through to Monday morning.

An adrenaline-pumped comedy, Human Traffic chronicles the ups and downs — both chemical and emotional — of five friends whose weekends are filled with endless clubbing, pubbing and partying where there are no rules, no limits and no saying “no”.

A sequel this cult film was reportedly greenlit late last year.

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24hourpartypeople24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (2002)

Michael Winterbottom’s film about Manchester scene-maker Tony Wilson, starring Steve Coogan, involved an amazing mix of Trainspotting benchmarks—wanton hedonism, heroin, back dealings and nightclubs.

Coogan does an impressive job at portraying the legendary Wilson, manager of the infamous Hacienda nightclub, co-founder of Factory Records and journalist for Granada Television.

The film follows Tony to his first Sex Pistols gig in 1976, where he decides to organize a series of weekly punk rock shows at a club in Manchester. He’s introduced to Joy Division—the first band he would sign on his Factory Records label (in Ian Curtis’ blood). In 1982, Wilson opened the Hacienda, which was by the 90’s was considered the most famous club in the world. Around this time Wilson signed bands like Happy Mondays but they were soon edged aside by a shift in the music scene: the rise of acid house and Manchester style rave parties.

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