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The greatest pleasure in The Martian - among many - is seeing smart people being smart. Oddly enough, that doesn't happen all that much in the movies. (Always in movies written by Aaron Sorkin, but they are the exception to the rule.) But in The Martian, the extraordinary and riveting new movies directed by 77-year-old Ridley Scott with the verve and energy of a director half his age, and written by Drew Goddard based on a novel by Andy Weir, it seems like pretty much everybody in the movie is intelligent, fearlessly wielding their brainpower and delighting in the opportunities to solve even the most perplexing problems.

The Martian is the story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars when his crew mates presume him dead after an accident created by a devastating storm; they leave for a years-long return to Earth, and Watney must figure out to survive on a planet until another crew arrives in four years, with no food and no water (this was made before recent discoveries of water on Mars).

Two things are going for Watney. First, he's a botanist, which positions him perfectly to deal with these challenges. Second, he's played by Matt Damon, who is capable of communicating both humor and intelligence while never losing his everyman persona. When he goes to work solving the problem of surviving on Mars, he explains his every decision in a video log that serves as the narrative backbone of the movie.

This is no one-man show, though. At home, once they've figured out that Watney has survived, NASA scientists - played by estimable actors including Jeff Daniels, Sean Bean and Chiwetel Ejiofor - also try to figure out how to rescue the stranded astronaut. And the crew that accidentally abandoned him - played by Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara and Sebastian Stan - has to decide whether to return for him or not, even though it could put the entire mission at risk. And the whole enterprise is thrilling to watch, gorgeous to look at, and great, entertaining fun.

I heard a piece on NPR the other day in which they asked why NASA had cooperated with The Martian to such a great degree. The reason is simple - tons of the people now working at NASA fell in love with the idea of the space program because of "Star Trek," and they know that The Martian could do the same thing for the next generation of scientists and astronauts.

I hope it does. It certainly made me want to venture into the final frontier. And I think it'll be the same for you.




I spent some time in Denver this week, and can recommend two restaurants at which I had wonderful meals.

First, at a place called Euclid Hall, I enjoyed something they call Kermit Cakes, which essentially are crab cakes made with frog legs. Delicious. And I also ate what they call an Itsy Bitsy Fishwich, which is tempura halibut, served on a potato bun, jalapeño aioli. Yummy. Washed it all down with a cold and refreshing Howdy Beer all American Pilsner, from Colorado's Post Brewing Co. Outstanding. (See picture above.)

Then, another evening, I went to Osteria Marco,where I enjoyed amazing meatball sliders, and a creamy vegetable risotto, along with a 2013 La Calonica Sangiovese from Tuscany, which was outstanding.

It was a good week.




That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

Slàinte!

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