By Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS takes place during the final 19 hours of a six-month expedition to Mars to search for and collect biological samples. Leading the group is astronauts Vince Campbell (Liev Schreiber) and Charles Brunel (Elias Koteas) and consists of eight highly-trained crew members.
One of the scientists, Kim (Olivia Williams), discovers microbial boring bacterial cells in the cavities of a few rock samples they’ve discovered. While attempting to gather more samples, another of the scientists, Marko (Goran Kostic) is swallowed into a hole in the ground, prompting Lauren (Yusra Warsama) to go after him, against the wishes of the crew, who presume him dead. When neither Marko nor Lauren return, the crew begins to worry. Eventually, Marko and Lauren return to the base, although they are humanoid and zombie-like, having been infected by a bacterial virus. These creatures attack the crewmembers and kill one, Harrington (Tom Cullen), who in turn becomes one of the creatures.
The crew leader, Brunel, is stabbed by one of the creatures and himself becomes infected with the bacterial virus. He slowly dies as he lays on a table, as the crew’s scientists trying injecting him with antibiotic fluids to counteract the virus. The antibiotic works for a while, but the virus develops a resistance. Realizing the virus can’t be stopped, the surviving crew desperately tries to find a way to contact mission control and escape.
After five of the eight crewpeople have been killed or infected with the virus, the remaining three (Campbell, Irwin, and Laine) race against the creatures, who are intelligent enough to follow their tracks and destroy their equipment. Irwin (Johnny Harris), crumbles under the weight of the situation, at times breaking into tears. He proves to be unstable and eventually deserts Campbell and Laine.
Campbell and Laine venture onward alone in hopes of securing communication with mission control and being rescued, pushed to the limits of human survival.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is a simple, formulaic sci-fi thriller with a predictable but well-executed plot and terrific acting. The writing is tight and moves along well. The biological and scientific details of the crew’s mission should prove interesting to some, and the rich cinematography and environments are satisfying to watch. For a movie without a large budget, it was executed and delivered very effectively.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS doesn’t do much in terms of character development, and this was perhaps its weakest element. It contains a few elements worthy of exploration (Campbell has several flashbacks to an experience on another spaceship that aren’t fully explained), but favors more peril and suspenseful moments. The potential for expounding on a few relational elements was there, including moments where one character asks the other about the afterlife and whether a zombie still has elements of personhood, but the movie’s budget likely wouldn’t allow much movie time beyond 90 minutes.
The foul language in LAST DAYS ON MARS is intense and relentless, and the violence is also jarring at moments. The creatures are frightening, even for an adult, and the movie creates tension throughout its running time.
However, the movie is devoid of any strong Christian or biblical elements. At one point, one character mockingly speaks about “finding God and writing a song about it” when discussing the prospect of finding life on Mars. In another instance, Laine asks Vince whether he thinks there’s an element of human existence that continues after death, but he deflects the question, saying, “That’s above my pay grade.” In the movie’s final minutes, Vince has a vision where he seems to communicate with Laine (who has died by this point) from beyond the grave, although the movie’s lack of a Christian worldview would lean one to believe this is simply a neo-pagan or occult element.
THE LAST DAYS ON MARS has a few pro-family elements. In one scene, as Brunel is moments from death, he speaks longingly in tears about wanting his family to know he loves them. In another, Irwin (also in tears) speaks of longing to see his family again. Several crewmembers make sacrifices and take risks to ensure each other’s safety.
The violence in THE LAST DAYS ON MARS is not gratuitous and ongoing, but there are a few gruesome scenes (a man being drilled in the stomach is the most intense). There is also a general mood of dread throughout and few truly redemptive aspects in the THE LAST DAYS ON MARS, which would not sit well with many viewers.
The movie’s excessive obscene language is its predominant negative element, with almost constant obscenity as the characters endure perilous situations. These elements of violence and language warrant excessive for THE LAST DAYS ON MARS.
THE ULTIMATE LIFE DVD Giveaway!
Rachel (Laura Ramsey) is a white woman working for the United States Embassy granting and/or denying visas to America. Alejandro (Jaime Camil) is a hardworking mariachi singer and single parent father.
The movie opens with Alejandro at his daughter Maria’s school, where he’s having a conference with Maria and the school board of nuns. They believe Alejandro isn’t the best example for Maria due to his night job as a mariachi. Alejandro begins to believe he’s not the best thing for Maria, despite their strong bond and love for each other. So, he decides to get her a visa to send Maria to her grandparents in America. However, Rachel denies him a visa and doesn’t even look at him as Alejandro tries to plead his case, hoping to give his daughter what he thinks would be a better life.
Rachel gets a promotion and will be moving to London, but before she leaves her boss Art (Tom Arnold) gives her one last duty. He entrusts her to pick up his laptop, full of highly confidential files and keep it safe until he returns from out-of-town business. Her best friend finally convinces Rachel to go out for drinks. It just so happens that the entertainment for the evening is Alejandro’s mariachi band, and he hopes that he can somehow convince her he must get the visa.
By the end of the evening, Rachel is asleep on a bus stop bench drunk, and Alejandro gets her a cab to take her home. She’s impossibly incoherent, so Alejandro cannot get her to go to her house, and he lets her sleep on his couch.
In the morning, Rachel realizes she doesn’t have her boss’ invaluable laptop, which Alejandro has hidden so he can pretend to help her find the laptop, and she will approve the visa for Maria. His plan is full of rerouted strategies, and the unexpected surprises such as Alejandro and Rachel falling in love. When Alejandro’s plan has a major backfire and is exposed, Rachel decides to leave his life forever, but in the end, love covers a multitude of mistakes and the couple reunites.
PULLING STRINGS is entertaining and funny. At times, the white subtitles are hard to read, but there’s a clear storyline. Alejandro is the main character who does learn an important life lesson and learns to live and love again, but it’s Rachel’s character that has the greatest transformation. She begins to trust and decides to let go of her “gypsy” life of wandering. The music is well done, and the mariachis don’t disappoint in vocals or musicianship. The songs are heart stirring. Rachel begins to see the real Alejandro through the music he writes and performs.
Caution is advised for older children for PULLING STRINGS, due to some foul language and a few instances of heavy kissing with one instance leading to implied premarital sex. This content mars the movie’s strong Christian, moral worldview, which stresses honesty, forgiveness, God, and love. Eventually, Alejandro has to ask forgiveness from Rachel for his dishonesty, which she eventually does. Also, many of the songs in PULLING STRINGS make reference to God, Heaven and love. In the opening, Alejandro attends a parent conference with his daughter Maria and the nuns of the school board at Maria’s private school. Ultimately, forgiveness and the value of honesty are the movie’s two major moral, redemptive themes.
Two other themes prevalent in PULLING STRINGS are finally articulated by an old wise man Alejandro and Rachel encounter in a bar. He tells Alejandro to stop being afraid, and Rachel to stop running. The decisions they make as the story develops point back to these two themes. By the resolution of PULLING STRINGS, both characters have matured to overcome their issues. For Alejandro, he no longer fears not being able to care for Maria, and Rachel finally stops running and settles down.
Spiritually speaking, PULLING STRINGS resolves nicely as the inner challenges of Alejandro and Rachel are not so different. When we are people without God or faith, we often allow our fears and perceived inadequacies to put us on the run so we don’t have to be responsible, or risk failure, or let others get close to our heart. However, God’s love is always there to point us to His hope and a place of healing and wholeness. His perfect love is what casts out all fear (1John 4:18) and draws us into His love.
Can Gru rescue the minions? Will he ever settle down and get married?
DESPICABLE ME 2 would be five, six, seven, or eight stars if MOVIEGUIDE(r) ratings went that high. Little children may find some of it scary, but ages five and up will find it delightful.
By Stephen Poppe, Contributing Writer
SHARK TANK is an inspiration to all those who have the American dream. In Episode 4.20, the sharks not only confront some interesting, unique out of the box ideas but also show how their previous investments have succeeded.
One unique idea was for a foam drop stop that you put between the seat and your car to prevent you from losing your keys or your change. A simple but brilliant idea got a lot of discussions from the sharks, especially how do you make money back from a previously funded idea was a way of identifying and killing bed bugs, which has now taken off across the country. One idea was to market lionfish as a food because lionfish imported from the Pacific are destroying the eco-system of the Atlantic. None of the sharks bit, because capturing the lionfish was too hard.
The most exciting idea was from a young lady, named Lani Lazzari, who came up with a cosmetic called Simple Sugars when she was a young girl with extreme eczema. Her cosmetics help people with skin problems, but can’t be billed or marketed for their medical benefits. Now, as a teenager, Lani wants to expand her business. Mark Cuban said his children suffer from eczema, and Lani landed a shark. Better than that, she said she wants to tell every teenager how to be a great entrepreneur. She was an inspiration. After the show, Lani reportedly did $600,000 in business for Simple Sugars.
MOVIEGUIDE® gives out an award for free enterprise. For too many years, the entertainment industry, which thrives on free enterprise, created stories attacking free enterprise. SHARK TANK, DUCK DYNATSY, and a few other shows are showing the benefits of free enterprise. To show how free enterprise works, SHARK TANK is must viewing.