May 152019
 

The Martian

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PLOTIn 2035, the crew of the Ares III mission to Mars is exploring Acidalia Planitia on Martian solar day (sol) 18 of their 31-sol expedition. A severe dust storm threatens to topple their Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV). The mission is scrubbed and as the crew evacuates, astronaut Mark Watney is struck by debris and lost in the storm. The telemetry from his suit's biomonitor is damaged and Watney is presumed dead. With the MAV on the verge of toppling, the surviving crew take off for their orbiting vessel, the Hermes.

Watney awakens after the storm, injured and with a low-oxygen warning. He returns to the crew's surface habitat ("Hab") and treats his wound. As Watney recovers, he begins a video diary. Lacking communication with Earth, his only chance of rescue is via the next Mars mission, four years later: the Ares IV will be landing 3,200 kilometers (2,000 mi) away at the Schiaparelli crater. Watney's immediate concern is food; being the mission's botanist, he improvises a garden inside the Hab utilizing Martian soil fertilized with the crew's bio-waste, and manufactures water from leftover rocket fuel. He then plants the crew's unused Thanksgiving dinner potatoes to supplement his food supply. He also begins modifying the rover for the long-distance trek to the Ares IV landing site.

On Earth, NASA satellite planner Mindy Park, reviewing aerial Hab images, notices moved equipment and realizes Mark is alive. NASA director, Teddy Sanders, publicly releases the news, though the Ares III crew (still en route to Earth) are not told so that they remained focused on their mission. Sanders overrules Hermes flight director Mitch Henderson, who believes the crew should know.

Watney takes the rover to retrieve the nearby Pathfinder probe, which fell silent in 1997. Using Pathfinder's camera and motor, he establishes rudimentary two-way communication with Earth, first using hand-written signs, and then sending and receiving ASCII in hexadecimal. NASA transmits a software patch to link the rover with Pathfinder and communicate via text. Watney is angry that the Hermes crew is unaware that he is alive; Sanders finally allows Henderson to inform them.

Mars mission director, Vincent Kapoor, and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) director Bruce Ng prepare an Iris space probe to deliver enough food for Watney to survive until Ares IV's arrival. Meanwhile, the Hab's airlock malfunctions, causing an implosion and damaging the structure. Watney repairs and pressurizes the Hab, but the Martian atmosphere has destroyed the current potato crop and sterilized the soil. Believing it a low risk, Sanders orders the routine pre-flight safety inspections be bypassed to expedite the probe's launch. The rocket explodes 40 seconds after liftoff. Watney now believes his death on Mars is inevitable.

The China National Space Administration has been developing a powerful classified booster rocket, the Taiyang Shen. Feeling camaraderie with NASA's scientists, they violate their government's secrecy and offer to repeat the Iris mission. As Watney's situation grows more risky as time passes, JPL astrodynamicist Rich Purnell devises an alternative plan: have the Taiyang Shen rendezvous with and resupply the Hermes, which will then use Earth's gravity to "slingshot" back to Mars two years earlier than Ares IV. Sanders rejects the idea, considering it too risky for the Hermes crew; Henderson surreptitiously sends Purnell's plan to the crew who unanimously vote to implement it. They disable NASA's remote controls and make the course change. Powerless to stop them, NASA concedes the issue.

Watney begins the 90-sol journey to Schiaparelli, where the MAV for Ares IV has been pre-positioned. The MAV needs to be lightened to intercept with Hermes on its new course. Watney removes many components, and replaces the nose cone with canvas. After takeoff, the MAV fails to reach the required speed. Commander Lewis maneuvers the Hermes to decelerate, consuming much fuel. She also orders an directional explosive decompression of the internal atmosphere to better align the ship. In a Manned Maneuvering Unit, Lewis is unable to reach Watney when the tether falls short. Watney pierces his pressure suit, using the escaping air to successfully propel himself to Lewis. He and the crew are reunited after Mark's 560 sols alone on Mars.

After returning to Earth, Watney becomes a survival instructor for astronaut candidates. Five years later, as the Ares V is about to launch, those involved in Watney's rescue are seen in their current lives.
2015Personal Rating100Rotten Critics91Rotten Audience91IMDb Rating80Combined Rating90.5

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Dec 062017
 

We Bought A Zoo

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PLOTBenjamin Mee is still grieving the loss of his wife Katherine and dealing with the expulsion of his 14-year-old son, Dylan, from school, and decides to make a fresh start by buying a new house. He tours many houses with his 7-year-old daughter, Rosie, and his realtor, Mr. Stevens, but finds none he likes until his daughter finds a listing with what seems like the perfect house. They drive to an old large house and Benjamin inspects the property, telling his realtor it is perfect. When they hear a lion roar, Stevens explains that the house comes with a zoo in the back, which closed several years before; if they want the house, they must buy the zoo.

Mee eventually decides to buy the zoo when he sees Rosie happily playing with the peacocks. Dylan, however, hates the idea of moving away from his friends and retreats into his artwork which has grown more macabre since the death of his mother. Benjamin's brother, Duncan, tries to dissuade him from the purchase, but Benjamin buys it anyway. The zoo staff, led by the 28-year-old head keeper, Kelly Foster, help to start renovating the zoo with the intent to reopen it to the public. When Kelly confronts Benjamin about why he bought a zoo, knowing nothing about running one, Benjamin simply responds, "Why not?" Dylan befriends Kelly's 13-year-old homeschooled cousin, Lily Miska, who develops a romantic interest that Dylan is oblivious to.

A strict USDA inspector, Walter Ferris, arrives for a surprise inspection and makes a list of repairs that would cost around $100,000, which Benjamin does not have. Rhonda Blair, the zoo's accountant, gossips that Benjamin will probably sell the zoo. The workers' morale sinks, fearing the property will be sold to a buyer that will close it down.

When Lily tells Dylan that she heard his family might be leaving, he is overjoyed, which hurts her feelings. Benjamin discovers that his wife bequeathed him an investment account, with instructions to use the money wisely while listening to his heart. Duncan advises him to walk away and start over with the money, but Benjamin decides to use the money to repair the zoo. While this lifts the zoo workers' morale, Dylan is unhappy about having to stay; he confronts his father, and a heated argument ensues. They reconcile the next morning and Dylan admits he misses Lily. Benjamin gives his son advice using his favorite principle, that you need only 20 seconds of courage to achieve great things. Benjamin realizes that instead of trying to start over by forgetting his wife, he should accept that she will always be a part of him.

Prior to the grand opening of the zoo, the facility passes a very stringent inspection from Ferris, who grudgingly wishes them good luck. Dylan, following his father's advice, confesses to Lily that he loves her, and she forgives him. The week prior to the opening, the worst rainstorm in 100 years is predicted to wash it out. The weather clears in time, but in the morning they are disappointed when no visitors arrive. They discover that a fallen tree has blocked the access road, with a large crowd of waiting visitors behind it. The staff help them to climb over the tree. There are so many people that they run out of tickets, forcing Benjamin and Kelly to look for more. They end up face to face in a shed, where Kelly admits to Benjamin that she is romantically interested in him and since she "can't get a handle on it", she kisses him, telling him that maybe they can do it again on New Year's Eve; Benjamin kisses her back, and tells her that he is looking forward to it.

Benjamin takes his children to the restaurant where he met their mother, explaining that it was the point where their existence became a possibility. He takes them through that day's encounter, where Benjamin worked up the nerve to talk to his future wife with "20 seconds of insane courage", and walks up to the table she was sitting at. He visualizes her sitting there, and asks her why such an amazing woman would talk to someone like him. She responds, "Why not?"
2011Personal Rating100Rotten Critics65Rotten Audience71IMDb Rating71Combined Rating76.8

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