Monday, February 27, 2017

Video Reviews: The Dish and The Martian Extended Edition

Although I occasionally do a movie review for a release that particularly impressed me (here's my last review of Passengers), I thought some random reviews of a SF with/without R videos might be of value (especially if I can sprinkle in a few titles that you may not have heard of).

This time I have:

1) The Dish--which isn't really SciFi in the way that Apollo 13 isn't SciFi, it's Science Drama. this case, Science Drama with a very humorous spin. It's based on fact, and both the video and the actual history are among those obscure little gems that most SciFi or space enthusiasts may not know about. Namely, that man's first step on the Moon was televised worldwide--but it almost didn't happen.

2) The Martian Extended Edition. You've probably seen The Martian a time or twenty, but this new version includes some of the original footage that wasn't included in the final motion picture release (the "extended cut"), plus over two hours of special features including some "never-before-seen" material. The Extended Edition also includes the original motion picture, so if you haven't yet purchased the movie for home viewing, you may want to tune in to this review.

The Dish

Starring Sam Neill (Jurassic Park) and Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld). DVD.

Originally released in 2001, this is one of those rare space-exploration based films that almost slipped by me. Twelve years later, I became aware of it when a copy was offered on the now defunct Brenda Novak Online Auction for Diabetes Research. The story sounded intriguing enough that I mentally ear-marked it as a "must see sometime." It just took me a few years to get around to that "sometime."

Though I seldom buy a DVD or Blu-ray sight unseen, the blurb and solid 4.8 star review average on Amazon for The Dish (from 53 reviews), persuaded me to take a chance. I wasn't disappointed.

Any space exploration enthusiast who wants to round out their experience of our early Apollo program would probably be delighted with this quirky little fact-based drama/comedy about a small Australian town, its people, their massive dish, and how it became the center of the universe for a few brief moments on July 20, 1969--the day a man first walked on another world.

But they only made it happen by the skin of their teeth and an act of "do or die."

The only less-than-optimal thing I'd note is that being a 2001 archive release, the sound quality wasn't the best, but it was passable enough to enjoy the story. Although there are no heart-pounding space rescues, or eye-popping special effects, there's enough humor, action, suspense, great characters and stirring pride contained in this story to please just about everyone.

This one's a 'Go'!

Special thanks to co-blogger Greta van der Rol (who has seen the real "Dish") for sending this link to more facts about the real Parkes Dish and this photo on her Facebook page - photo of The Dish which I've inserted it below. (Thanks, Greta!)

A photo of the actual Parkes Dish taken by Greta van der Rol

The Martian Extended Edition

Starring Matt Damon (The Bourne series), Jessica Chastain (Interstellar), Jeff Daniels (Speed), Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity). Blu-ray + Digital HD streaming.

The added scenes in the Extended Edition were sometimes superficial, and sometimes enhanced the story with more depth and texture. (Such as, what else was Mark Watney doing while he waited for the rescue plan to be put in action?) Some scenes were very short--a second or two--and others were many minutes long and much more detailed. Most were seamless, and it took several seconds to register, "Wait. This is new."

In addition to the added scenes, several cut scenes are also included as features that weren't put back into the Extended Edition, a couple of which should probably have stayed IMHO--primarily the "sleeping arrangements" discussion that would have further clarified the Johanssen-Beck relationship, and a musing by Watney while looking out the port in Earth orbit that was quite poignant and most likely intended to preface the original ending.

I'm not sure if the new scenes themselves were worth what amounted to a double purchase for me, but the special features certainly did. There were some closer looks at The Martian special effects, sets, story development, science, etc. that were amazing. I also saw two science panels, one facilitated by Andy Weir (the author of the novel) about the efforts to send a manned mission to Mars. The other panel was a bit more manic--having one panel member that was obviously excited about his work and somewhat eccentric--but the information they brought forward was mind-blowing.

Synthetic biology. Replicators. CRISPR. Cutting edge technology that's on the verge of taking us in new directions we haven't even imagined up until now. Why take food to Mars when we can generate it once there? Why bother with the time and expense of developing and shipping supplies to Mars (ala the Ares Missions) when we can build them in place from components that exist on the planet itself? Why send humans to Mars to live and work in environmental suits and habitats when we can adapt the human body to thrive in the Martian environment? Wow.

The Martian Extended Edition ended up offering some great viewer Easter eggs, packaged with a jaw-dropping learning experience. Well worth the price for me, even though I already own the original release.

It was a 'Go' squared.

Have a great week.


  1. Of COURSE I've seen the Dish. And driven past the real thing several times. It's a great story and we Aussies are very proud of our small part in one of history's greatest events. And I love extended editions where you learn more. Very often the extra bits of movie deserve to have hit the cutting room floor (or whatever the digital equivalent is - but the extra bits make up for it.

  2. That's awesome, Greta. Do you have any photos of the trip? Was The Dish movie shot on the actual location? Really great story!

  3. The movie was filmed at the Dish in Parkes (as far as I know). You might find this interesting.

    And I have a photo of the dish itself. I'll post it on FB.

  4. The photo and link have been added to the blog. Thanks, Greta!


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