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"Mission to Mars"

Directed by Brian De Palma.
Written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas and Graham Yost. 
Starring Gary Sinise, Tim Robbins, Don Cheadle and Connie Nielsen.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  3/11/00 


Libby and I went to catch “Mission to Mars” during a rainy Saturday afternoon, and normally, this is a great time to watch a movie...unless the movie is a flaming piece of dog shit like "MoM."

It is the rare piece of art:  the movie that can assemble A-list actors, directors, and special effects supervisors; get promoted during a slow month out the wazoo; contain a summer-movie-style budget of $50 million plus...and, get it all wrong.  Not just some, or part, but all of that muthafucka wrong.

Let's get the credentials out again for what makes a piece of shit movie.  First, great performers in bad material.  "MoM" stars Gary Sinise--who, as a poor man's Kevin Spacey is just a phenomenal actor--as an astronaut that, having just lost his wife to some form of disease, is a top NASA mind that is America's best hope at figuring out the planet Mars and its many secrets, including whether or not it supports alien life.  Tim Robbins--he directed "Dead Man Walking," for heaven's sake!--plays one of Sinise's best friends, and Don Cheadle--the most versatile actor working, for my money:  a violent criminal in "Devil in a Blue Dress," a softie porn star in "Boogie Nights," and a Ph.D. scientist in "MoM"--plays the astronaut that gets trapped on Mars and requires Sinise and Robbins to save him.  Did I mention that the movie is directed by Brian de Palma?  BRIAN DE PALMA!  The director of "Scarface" must be wondering what possessed him to direct this god-awful script.

Second bad movie requirement:  complete and total inertia.  This movie is 120 minutes long, and it can be summed up by what happens in its final 10.  For the other 110, the cast of the movie sets about to do nothing.  NOTHING!  There is a sequence where one of the space shuttles has a loss of cabin pressure, and it takes about 15 minutes of screen time for the four-person crew aboard the ship to fix it.  Do you know what they use to fix it?




It probably cost $20 million dollars to shoot this sequence, and all I can do is laugh at this piece of shit movie for taking so long to fix a hole the size of a pinhead in the rear of the spacecraft.

Oh, you want more?  How about a six-minute sequence where Tim Robbins' character and his wife learn how to dance in zero gravity?  How about the Tim Robbins' death sequence, where as he is falling towards the Mars atmosphere while in outer space, his wife is trying to save him with a tether gun?  (Her wristband-sized computer tells her--I AM NOT LYING—that she is at "the point of no return."  The computer said that!  As if it could also say, "Hey Mary, your husband is totally fucked" too?  Bullshit!!)

The third problem, gratuitous film sequences, is kind of included in the above statements.  See, the whole film revolves around Gary Sinise's "Mission to Mars" because they are going there to rescue Cheadle.  With that in mind, Cheadle gets stranded there in the first 20 minutes of the movie.  Sinise and his crew get to Cheadle in the final 20.  So, every single thing that happens in between is useless, uninteresting, and expensive looking.

And the fourth problem?  A shit-ass ending.  Hmm, how do I say this...the dumbest ending of the last two years doesn't seem to cover it, so let me go further.  This is a top-five bad ending of all time type of ending.  It is so bad as to be offensive.  The screenwriter must have been laughing when she or he wrote it.  It is the type of ending where, if you look around your theater, you will see other filmgoers shaking their heads, too.  It is also the type of ending that produces nervous giggling around the theater as if to say, "Are you serious?", and then you slowly, painfully realize that in fact, they are not kidding.  To build up to this kind of ending, understand one thing:  the first 110 minutes are boring, but to make the last 10 minutes even more boring than the first 110, you've got to work your ass off.  But somehow, the filmmakers did it!

A fifth problem, and this is just me really, is the PG rating.  When movies are rated PG and they are not called "Babar's Trip to Washington", I get worried.  Don't you?  When you realize that this is not a kid's movie, and it is rated PG, that means there is no nudity, no SSC (for you rookies, strong sexual content), no drug use, no violence, no adult themes, no James Bondian-phrases like "I thought Christmas only *came* once a year" (during last year's "The World is Not Enough", to Denise Richards' Christmas Jones character during a love scene), no nothing.  It is just the stripped-down movie, and that movie has got to be pretty damn close to perfect to entertain me.

A sad statement, I admit...but, not as sad as this piss-poor movie (or, the "X-Men" preview...that movie looks like shit).

Rating:  Hard Vice


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09