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Movie review: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig out of this world in Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’

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By Jay Bobbin

Starting this week

The Martian

Anyone who may not have given Matt Damon sufficient credit for his acting ability will have to rethink that after his work in director Ridley Scott’s completely effective, well-paced drama based on Andy Weir’s story of an astronaut mistakenly thought dead by the rest of his crew and left behind on Mars. As he uses his ingenuity to survive on the “red planet,” others try to figure out how to – as the ad line said – bring him home once they realize he’s still alive. The top-flight (pun partially intended) cast also includes Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor. *** (PG-13: AS, N, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Hotel Transylvania 2

Dracula (voice of Adam Sandler, who also co-wrote the script) tries to appeal to the more monstrous side of his half-human grandson – which finds the youngster going through a sort of boot camp that also involves Frankenstein (voice of Kevin James) and others – in this enjoyable animated sequel. That’s not Dracula’s only concern, though: His very traditional father (voice of Mel Brooks), who arrives for a visit, is surprised by the changes at the hotel. Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Molly Shannon and Fran Drescher also return to the voice cast. DVD extras: audio commentary by Sandler, co-writer Robert Smigel and executive producer Allen Covert; sketch gallery; music video. *** (PG: AS) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Mr. Robot: Season 1

One of last year’s most-praised television series, the USA Network drama stars Rami Malek as a security-form engineer whose social withdrawal prompts him to relate to people through hacking them – which gets him noticed by the leader (Christian Slater) of a group of very modern vigilantes, and recruited to help right perceived wrongs via bits and bytes. Carly Chaikin and Portia Doubleday also star. Guest stars include Gloria Reuben, Brian Stokes Mitchell and B.D. Wong. *** (Not rated: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray)

Irrational Man

Woody Allen’s most recent film puts him back on the strictly serious turf he’s walked with such previous efforts as “Interiors” and “Match Point.” Joaquin Phoenix has the central role as a college professor whose involvements with a peer (Parker Posey) and a student (Emma Stone) are complicated enough without his having the information in a conversation he overhears. He then discovers what a dangerous thing knowledge can be. Jamie Blackley (“If I Stay”) also stars. DVD extras: red-carpet premiere footage; photo gallery. *** (R: AS, P) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Sinister 2

The horror sequel stars Shannyn Sossamon (“Wayward Pines”) as the mother of twin boys (Robert Daniel Sloan and Dartanian Sloan) who encounter ghostly youngsters. Another concern for the family may be posed by a former lawman (James Ransone, back from the first film) who has been destroying area houses where murders have occurred … but in the end, the biggest danger may come from within their own clan. John Beasley (“Everwood”) also appears. ** (R: AS, P, V) (Also on Blu-ray and On Demand)

Demi Lovato: This is me

It certainly is her, and there’s a lot of the music star and actress in this unauthorized biography that traces her rise from youthful roles on such shows as “Barney & Friends” and “Sonny With a Chance” to become the hit-maker of such tunes as “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Cool for the Summer.” Since many of the programs on which she appeared are copyrighted by others, this project consists largely of interview excerpts and music-video segments. *** (Not rated)

Coming soon

Everest (Jan. 19)

Climbers on the legendary and potentially lethal mountain end up in the midst of a storm; Jason Clarke stars. (PG-13: P, V)

The Intern (Jan. 19)

Robert De Niro plays said intern, who becomes invaluable to an ambitious young boss (Anne Hathaway), in director Nancy Meyers’ comedy. (PG-13: AS, P)

Jem and the Holograms (Jan. 19)

A young woman (Aubrey Peeples) becomes a superstar in this live-action update of the animated show based on the doll line. (PG: AS, P)

Straight Outta Compton (Jan. 19)

The formation and survival of the controversial hip-hop group N.W.A. is dramatized; stars include Aldis Hodge and Paul Giamatti. (R and unrated versions: AS, N, P, V)

Burnt (Jan. 26)

A troubled chef (Bradley Cooper) tries to redeem himself and return to the heights of his profession in London. (R: AS, P)

Goosebumps (Jan. 26)

Jack Black plays R.L. Stine – the author of the title book series – in a tale of a town overrun by the monsters he created. (PG: AS)


FAMILY-VIEWING GUIDE KEY: AS, adult situations; N, nudity; P, profanity; V, violence; GV, particularly graphic violence.
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