“The Martian”, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon is a blueprint on how to adapt a complex, hard sci-fi novel to the big screen. Retaining the key elements of the book and resisting the urge to make major plot or character modifications (Mark is single in the movie, despite alluding to a different marital status in the trailer), “The Martian” is an entertaining romp through the travails faced by an astronaut stranded on Mars. The deadpan humor of astronaut Mark Watney from the book is translated beautifully to the big screen.

With a tremendous performance by Damon as well as solid supporting work by Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, and Donald Glover, the movie sets a great pace and keeps it up for the duration. Great special effects and sound round out the picture that ranks as one of the most fun to see movies of the year.

Watercolor on Canson watercolor board. Click on the images for a larger version.

Gary Ross’s film adaptation of the popular Suzanne Collins novel “The Hunger Games” is a faithful adaptation that should appeal to purists as well as casual fans. The film follows the saga of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), the bow-hunting heroine from downtrodden District 12 who volunteers to take the place of her younger sister in the “Hunger Games”, a contest pitting 24 youths against each other in a battle to the death.

In this dystopian view of the future, the nation of Panem is comprised of an all-powerful Capitol and 12 Districts that are ruled with an iron fist. To remind the citizens of the Districts who is really in charge, each year the Capitol requires that a boy and girl tribute from each district compete in the brutal “Hunger Games” from which only one tribute can emerge alive as the victor. The Games are preceded by pomp and circumstance, interviews, and judging much like many of today’s reality television shows.

Katniss and her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) are thrust into this aided the mentoring of sole surviving District 12 victor, the alcoholic Haymitch (Woody Harrelson), the annoying protocol advice from Capitol reprentative Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) and the fashion stylings of Cinna (Lenny Kravitz).

Over the course of the film, we meet some of the other tributes, find out a bit more about how the Games are architected by Game Maker Seneca Crane (Wes Bentley) and hear from the ominous President Snow (Donald Sutherland). The film is well cast and the performances of Lawrence, Hutcherson, and Sutherland are particularly good.

The action in the Arena is fast-paced and few scenes and details from the novel are left out. The violence is not portrayed in a particularly exploitive fashion, but it is also obvious that the tributes are killing each other in bloody combat. Some of the more subtle aspects of the book are difficult to translate to the screen with the limited time, such as Rue’s (Amandla Stenberg) relationship with Katniss and Katniss’s bond with her fellow District 12 hunting mate, Gale (Liam Hemsworth). However, I think that a viewer unfamiliar with the novel will not miss this material. What might be bit confusing to a newcomer is why all of this is going on in the first place. The explanation of the history of Panem and how the Capitol rules everything is glossed over pretty quickly, and despite a few scenes with President Snow, the underlying reasons that will drive the plot of the sequels is left fairly obfuscated.

Overall, though, the film delivers an entertaining romp through Suzanne Collins’ world. I highly recommend the movie to both “Hunger Games” aficionados and to those that just want to find out what all the hype has been about.

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