This Week at the Movies: ‘The Martian,’ ‘The Walk,’ ‘Freeheld’

The multiplexes have two very big movies this week—and we’re talking literally, geographically big, one traversing Earth and Mars and the space in between, the other an IMAX 3D spectacular with a significant portion of its running time spent 110 stories high. So the small movies look even smaller in comparison—which is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Matt Damon’s recent PR troubles have put a bit of a cloud over The Martian in some circles, though it’s best to remember that the giant majority of moviegoers don’t pay any attention at all to entertainment press and think pieces (the lucky bastards). And when they go see Ridley Scott’s latest—and, make no mistake, they’ll go—they’ll discover a compelling, rousing, well-cast crowd-pleaser that’s brainier than your average blockbuster. Read our review here. (In wide release.)
  • If you’ve seen the wonderful, Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire, you know the story of Phillipe Petit, the French highwire walker who spent forty-five minutes walking between the twin towers of the World Trade Center one August morning in 1974. You also might wonder why they bothered to tell his story again in the dramatization The Walk, and the movie can’t really answer that question for you—aside from the fact that fancy modern movie magic can replicate that walk and put you in Petit’s shoes for it. And to be fair, that sequence is almost worth the price of admission. Almost. Read our New York Film Festival review here. (Playing now only on IMAX 3D screens; wider release to follow next week)
  • Hard on the heels of last week’s (admittedly far worse) Stonewall, Freeheld is a gay rights story that’s heavy on the message and light on the drama, though it gives us plenty of famous faces playing against type and/or playing fatal illnesses. Keep an eye out for our review later today. (In limited release.)

Natasha Lyonne and Judy Greer in "Addicted to Fresno"

  • Last summer, there was quite a bit of discussion about how the wonderful Judy Greer was being wasted in a series of nothing roles in big movies. The familial comedy Addicted to Fresno from writer/director Jamie Babbitt (But I’m a Cheerleader) offers something of an antidote, with juicy roles for not only Greer but Natasha Lyonne and Aubrey Plaza. Shame the movie around them isn’t better. Read our review from SXSW, under its original title Fresno; wonder why they changed it? (In limited release and on demand.)
  • And finally, Partisan is a harrowing and haunting story of a charming little commune that turns out to be, well, not so charming at all. Vincent Cassel has always excelled at playing charismatic bad guys; his work here falls well within that tradition, and his final scene is a real corker. Read more in this month’s indie guide. (In limited release and on demand.)