Water on Mars, blood on Earth 

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They found evidence of liquid water on Mars last week so it's very serendipitous that The Martian opens this week at the Whistler Village 8.

Matt Damon stars as an astronaut left for dead, except he lives and has to MacGyver himself a means of survival and communication in hopes of somehow being rescued from the Red Planet.

The Martian is a mass appeal thriller from director Ridley Scott (Aliens, Prometheus) that actually is pretty thrilling. As Damon busies himself with hard science and somewhat mundane details of survival on a barren hostile planet, his former crew and the NASA stooges back home go into crisis management mode, the chaos of one offset with the emptiness of the other, but both a little mixed together as well.

It makes for a decent movie, although core sci-fi fans might note a lack of science fiction, even if there's lots of science.

Sadly the landscape of Mars is essentially as you'd expect it to look — the plot is full of creativity but the movie does lack imagination. This may make it seem a bit watered down but for the most part The Martian has enough star power (Jessica Chastain, Jeff Bridges, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig and Kate Mara co-star), humour, heart, and Damon to get the job done. At two hours and 21 minutes it actually zips by pretty good.

Also opening, Sicario stars Emily Blunt (Looper, The Devil Wears Prada) as a good-intentions FBI agent assigned to an elite government task force designed to cause mayhem in the (still) ever-growing War on Drugs.

Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men, True Grit) stars as her government boss, and consummate badass Benicio Del Toro (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Inherent Vice) shines as the hardened independent contractor who may or may not be pushing things over the lines of legality, human decency, and sanity.

Set amongst the constant violence, villainy and chaos of Mexico's drug wars, Sicario follows Blunt and her team through a quest for justice, by any means necessary.

Amid a host of gnarly scenarios and uncountable body counts, the film is pure heart-pounding terror and suspense but also very human and even has real geopolitical subthemes.

The script is tighter than a piano-wire noose and all the actors give award-worthy performances, particularly Blunt.

Canadian director Denis Villenueve deserves huge credit for how he works the overwhelming brutality and violence into a tense, engaging story on just how horrific humanity can get. This one is a must see.

Sticking with horror ('tis the season), the download of the week is It Follows, early frontrunner for best horror movie of the year, if not the last half-decade.

Written and directed by newcomer David Robert Mitchell, this one is quite unique in the horror cadre because the premise is totally original — a shambling evil entity that follows its victim until they can pass it along.

"It's not fast," one character warns protagonist Marika Monroe (The Guest, The Bling Ring), "But it's smart. Be careful."

I never want to give too much away about horror plots but the technical details of It Follows deserve huge accolades. Mitchell's slow, paranoid camera movements, including a host of tense 360-degree pans, are integral to the terror and lurking doom of the film. The camerawork may not be as complex as the infamous movements in Birdman or Children of Men but it's just as effective. It Follows could easily be studied in a university filmmaking program or a high school sex education course. And that is rare (see also: Requiem for a Dream).

Also available on download this week, big summer hits The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Spy. The first one is essentially what you expect — lots of eye-popping explosions and witty banter as earth's mightiest heroes battle to save the planet from total destruction.

Spy is a lot more grounded, although it also involves an impending global disaster. Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent) stars as a heroic CIA desk jockey thrust into the field when she goes deep, deep undercover to catch a deadly arms dealer. It's a fish-out-of-water comedy with a strong female presence, sadly a rarity in Hollywood films.

Also available, Entourage is much more in line with Hollywood's overall gender climate, but it's also not that great of a film. Fans of the show will watch it out of duty, but, otherwise, it's kinda flat. Unlike the planet Mars.

See some of those mountains and ridges where they found the evidence of water? Next they just need some snow and Mars is the new Alaska. Matt Damon!

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