Interstellar Review

7 11 2014

christopher nolan movie

(Disclaimer: I’ve been accused of being a Nolan fanboy before, but I’ll do my best to stay objective here.) Christopher Nolan’s latest work departs from the action-packed nature of Dark Knight Rises and Inception,  trading dreams for black holes and fist fights for time jumping. There’s the trademark blend of blockbuster and philosophical, and at nearly three hours, it takes a while for the space travel to even take off (zing!). However, the longer segment on Earth is time well spent, and it you can endure the marathon length, there are some great payoffs.

 

Cooper Nolan

Meanwhile, on Hoth…

Chris Nolan’s brother Jonah penned the script all the way back in 2008. At the time, he intended somebody like Spielberg to direct, but after his brother’s directorial rise in recent years he was able to take control instead. Basically, the planet has been running out of food/crops ever since The Blight (some sort of parasite) and the subsequent giant dust storms. This is a futuristic world that was thrown back into a situation not unlike the Great Dust Bowl of the 1930’s. So when Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) finds out that there may be a chance off-galaxy to find a new livable world, he joins Emilia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and crew to jump into a black hole near Saturn. So yes, it’s a sci-fi plot, but it attempts to reach for higher themes then your typical sci-fi flick. Are we alone in the universe? What could we have wrong about science? What is mankind destined for, and what should and shouldn’t we sacrifice to get there? And finally, what does love have to do with all this? (Talk about a curveball).

If it sounds a little heavy, it is (and thank goodness for the fair amount of humor included). And some of these themes and elements (especially the time manipulation) cause some logical leaps in the movie. For example, why is Anne Hathaway’s character not decades older than Cooper in the film’s final act? Did the black hole slingshot slow time down for her too? Or heck, the ending is pretty ambiguous, so maybe what we’re shown of her was in the past? Also, the whole “other civilization” thing is sort of an easy way to explain plot developments, but is not fully explained. I don’t need to know everything, but I would have liked to know why Murph was so important to them in the first place.

Amelia Brand

You’ve got some explainin’ to do…

Potential plot (black) holes aside, let’s get to one of the strongest parts of the movie- the cast. The heart and driving force of the movie is unquestionably Cooper and his daughter Murphy (played very well by both Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain). Their scenes together in the first act of the movie kept the later parts from falling apart. We could believe Cooper’s drive to see them again, and this was a huge source of the film’s emotional impact. It was so effective in fact, that I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed at the less-than-ideal way this plot was resolved. I’m not saying it was a negative; I just like happier endings, okay?  It was a huge surprise to me when Matt Damon showed up near the third act, and kudos to them for keeping it a secret from most of the audience. His portrayal of Dr. Mann effectively sold that he had lost a few screws up there during isolation. The fact that he was Matt Damon distracted a little, especially considering the initial surprise of such a big actor appearing out of nowhere. I may have complained about the ambiguity of Anne Hathaway’s final state, but she carried her weight as Brand, somehow selling us on her love for a man we never physically see. Finally, it’s always nice to see Michael Caine in a Nolan project, but I wish he had a little more to work with during his shorter screen time. Topher Grace and John Lithgow must have just wanted to be in a Nolan film, because their parts were so small I barely had time to notice them.

Matthew Cooper Interstellar Nolan Foy

He did give her a terrible name though…

 

The musical score (once again by the great Hans Zimmer) and special effects were top-notch. My serious advice is to see it in IMAX, because I did not (yet). Nolan loves using those rare, expensive cameras, and around a whole hour of this space epic was shot with IMAX cameras. Besides the spectacle, I could have also benefited from the superior speakers in an IMAX theater. The speakers in my auditorium were so janky some higher musical moments were all but ruined. Hopefully this isn’t widespread but there have been some reports of faulty sound experiences.

 

Murphy Nolan

Somebody really hated Signs…

To sum this all up, Interstellar is a deeply introspective film that trades the action and pizazz of Inception or Dark Knight Rises for an emotional and philosophical sci-fi journey through the stars. You’ll laugh, you’ll tear up, and you’ll definitely look up the plot explanation later just to figure out everything that was happening. But that’s a typical Nolan movie, right? Because of the slower pace, it lacks the re-watch potential of some of his other movies, but this is one trip you don’t want to miss.





Transcendence Review

25 04 2014

Johnny Depp bomb poster

I really wanted to like this movie. Transcendence boasts an interesting sci-fi premise, a dream cast (for me at least), and was directed by Wally Pfister, who was the cinematographer for The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception. Fool-proof formula, right? Well, for most of the movie, everything seemed to work together decently. However, an awkward shift in tone and theme during the latter half of the film, coupled with some other (smaller) issues, proves to be a virus that this movie just can’t handle (badum-tss). First, let’s get this out of the way- Johnny Depp is a phenomenal actor, but he’s grossly misused in this role. “Robotic” should never describe a Depp character, but here he’s intentionally monotone and unfeelingly hollow the entire film. I don’t remember one time he ever broke his distant demeanor, which ultimately made him unrelatable as a character. Instead, his performance goes from detached to creepy to boring to creepy boring. It simply wasn’t a good fit (I kept wanting  him to start yelling, “I’ve got a jar of dirt!” or “Where’s the RAM gone?!”)

 

Cillian Murphy Morgan Freeman Johnny Depp

Mr. Fox and Scarecrow investigate Wayne Industries.

 

The rest of the cast is comprised of very capable actors who needed more meat in their character’s screenplay. I’m not sure if Cillian Murphy was supposed to be a hero or villain (more on that later), but it was the blandest 2D role I’ve seen him in. The kicker is he usually delivers a super creepy bad guy (Scarecrow in Batman Begins, also RedEye)  or at least a good everyman (Inception). In this film, he plays a very low key Federal agent who tries to shut down Depp’s machine. Morgan Freeman must love doing sci-fi movies, because his only role here is to walk around scenes looking worried. Rebecca Hall stands out, not only because I heart her acting, but because the writers thought at least one character should have a range of emotions. We sympathize her in her loss, and want her to escape the dangers even though they’re ultimately of her own making. However, ultimately we aren’t really shown if her sacrifice at the end was a good choice or bad, and that sort of cheapened her development for me. But hey, it was fun to see all these actors/actresses in the same shot together.

 

Rebecca Hall

Unfortunately all the star power combined won’t draw in crowds if the writing falls flat. Why would the movie build up just how eerie and menacing a human/computer AI hybrid could be, only to change tones at the end with a line like “People fear what they don’t understand’? What, were we supposed to decide that maybe changing all of humanity into robots with a hive mind would be the greatest thing since Wi-Fi? Yeah, people can be so close-minded. I guess I was just confused as to what the movie was trying to say, or maybe it was just trying to be too smart by being ambiguous. Anyway I would have also preferred more a of climax as well. Instead, it got all hyped up, and then…just sort of ended on a note of melancholy. That sentence could also describe the movie’s gross income so far.

So is it worth a watch? Yes, especially if you enjoy some science fiction and the listed actors, but this is easily a better RedBox rental than a $10 theater outing. And make sure to unplug your local network first.

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp’s face after hearing the box office results.





“/” – Person of Interest Review (Episode 17, Season 3)

19 03 2014

POI banner

“/” has also been labeled “Root Path” on other sources, but honestly they could have just called it “Root Episode” or even “Root Becomes a Cyborg” if they were feeling cute. Person of Interest definitely enjoys mixing up the formula unexpectedly (such as last week’s episode that occurred all in the past), and this week started with an example of just what Root (Amy Acker) has been up to these past few weeks. She’s become quite efficient with her link to The Machine, as each mission seems completely random or coincidental in its plan, but is obviously being controlled by the artificial intelligence behemoth. But when her mission sparks an Irrelevant number, Finch (Michael Emerson) and crew have to decide how to handle her, or if that’s even possible anymore. She decides to stay solo, until both Decima and Vigilance crash the party. It turns out that janitor whose number came up is a pretty important guy, and Greer (John Nolan) and his Decima Tech have figured out a nifty way to cut The Machine’s link to Root. What’s a reformed(?) psycho hacker killer to do? Short answer- learn how to play nice with Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Finch, and maybe also get a surgical implant that will permanently keep her in tune with The Machine. Yep, Root’s sort of a cyborg now.

There were some great story developments and character moments in this episode. Unfortunately Decima Tech stole the key piece of hardware for their Samaritan AI, which if completed would place all of the main characters in immediate peril (do I smell a season finale?). Just as game-changing, however, was Root and Finch’s  little heart-to-heart in the Finch Cave. I suppose the main question is if she was manipulating him or if she really does feel deep regret for past actions. I’m pretty sure her protectiveness of Finch isn’t a show at the very least. He ultimately suggested they collaborate a bit more, which is probably a good idea, with her being so omniscient now and everything. Is there really a choice at this point? Anyway, if it keeps Amy Acker around longer, I’m on board.

I can’t wait to see where they go from here. Root’s now almost unstoppable, so the writers obviously have to keep her away from NYC for some of the time, or else Finch and Reese’s job just got super simple. She has the closest thing to superpowers that this show will have (even with Batman Reese), so they would have to curb her abilities somehow if she ever becomes a full-fledged member of the team.

Amy Acker / Root Path POI

Computer Class 101.

Points of Interest:

1. Fusco’s nicknames for different people are always a highlight. “Coco Puffs” for Root is probably one of my favorites.

2. I love how Person of Interest‘s show runners alter the opening when it suits the episode, from rewinding in last week’s flashback episode to Root taking over narration this week. Not every show adds these extra touches, and it’s pretty classy.

3. There were a lot of funny quotes this hour, with one standout being Reese’s “I think she likes you, Finch.” Also, Shaw’s little adventure with Vigilance proved humorous somehow as well.

4.   Seriously, this show has one of the best rogue’s galleries on TV. You never know which complex villain will resurface, whether a faction baddie like Vigilance and Decima Tech or a grayer villain like Elias or Root. Or is Root even a villain anymore?

5. What do you think- can we trust the new-ish Root? Comment away!

Final Score:

POI four half bear





Iron Man 3 Review

7 05 2013
iron man 3

More like Iron Men 3

 

This weekend I joined the masses of people who went to watch Robert Downey Jr.’s autobiographical movie: Iron Man 3. Seriously, it’s hard to think of an actor who’s embraced his character as much as Downey Jr. has, but it seems to have been a good thing, as the role’s made him as rich as Tony Stark. Anyway, Iron Man was the Marvel film franchise that birthed the whole Avengers cash machine, and in my opinion is one of the only Avengers standalone films that stands on its own two feet and doesn’t feel like just a setup/promo for the BIG Avengers movies. Was Iron Man 3 strong enough to wash Iron Man 2 from my memory?

 

Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man 3 hand

Trivia: Robert Downey Jr suffers from a crippling case of insecurity.

 

Short answer: Yes. It’s got a new director, endless one-liners (almost too many), and pretty sweet action sequences (at least sweeter than an old guy swinging two whips). It even has a sequence in my good ol’ hometown of Chattanooga (more on that in a few). Robert Downey Jr. and pretty much everybody else seems be having a blast (though I would be too). Guy Pearce is surprisingly effective as a pitiable character and a villain. However, is it perfect? “NOO!” would scream a surprisingly large number comic book fanboys (also more on that in a sec).

 

Yes, of course he takes his shirt off in the film.

Yes, of course he takes his shirt off in the film.

 

I’m not one of those fanboys (I mean, Bruce Wayne could beat up Tony Stark, right guys? Oh shoot, don’t burn down my Batman fortress, Marvel followers), but I did have a few reservations about parts of the movie, but first how about a big (SPOILERS) tag? My main beef with the Iron Man films is how seriously two-dimensional nearly every female character is (with the usual exception of Pepper Potts). Rebecca Hall’s character was no exception, which is a shame because anyone who’s seen movies like The Town or The Prestige knows she can act, but there’s just not much to her character (besides a plot device). On another picky note, martial arts Pepper Potts at the end didn’t quite do it for me (what does that stuff give, strength and training?). Also, the Avengers references, while I guess are necessary, aren’t handled very well, leading to an almost tacked-on feeling.

 

Rebecca hall

Pictured: missed potential

 

One part apparently rustling some fan’s feathers is the film’s treatment of The Mandarin (AGAIN, SPOILERS FOR THE UNINITIATED). Personally, I loved Ben Kingsley as both Evil Mandarin and Comic Relief Mandarin, not to mention the reveal of the facade being an extremely effective plot twist. Yeah, I get it. If they had portrayed The Joker as a washed-up actor who wasn’t even a real villain, but the invention of say The Penguin, I wouldn’t be wearing this Christopher Nolan fanboy shirt right now. But The Mandarin’s not The Joker, is he? Outside of comic book readers, I doubt anyone would recognize him (I didn’t), and I think the writers’ choice fit the movie. If anything, his early propaganda videos were kind of cheesy, but it makes sense later when you realize the whole thing was a sham.

 

ben kingsley iron man 3

Ben Kingsley at home.

 

Finally, what’s with Chattanooga and movies lately? Water for Elephants, 42, and now Iron Man 3 all either filmed in Chattanooga, TN (the first two) or actually were supposed to take place there (this one). However, short of putting “Chattanooga” on a couple of signs, they really didn’t bother at all trying to make it look like the city (sorry, this is a personal rant).

 

Pictured: Chattanooga

Pictured: Chattanooga

 

Instead, we got an unimpressive small brick building that represents what the writers thought a city in Tennessee should look like. (Ahem) I think I’m done now.

 

Chattanooga location Iron Man 3

Pictured: Not Chattanooga.

 

Anyhoo, Iron Man 3 isn’t the most profound movie, but it’s an epically fun blockbuster with some great stylized action (finally). And of course, stay after the credits.

 





Dead Reckoning- Person of Interest Review (Episode 13)

1 02 2013

CBS Person of Interest Banner

“Dead Reckoning” brought back all the ghosts from John Reese’s past and continued to raise the stakes until everything (or at least two people) exploded in a fireball. You know it’s going to be a good one when the person of interest is Kara Stanton, who effectively used her “afterlife” to make Reese’s and Snow’s lives miserable. Snow’s character has been a rather dynamic one, as he went from the villain who was always in control to his humiliated, spiteful role as Kara’s puppet. He still played the villain well, and managed to back-stab two more people during the hour.  The episode started right after Donnelly’s untimely death, followed Kara’s manipulative plans to use her old partners, and ended literally with a bang, or more specifically a car bomb taking out two important people (or did it?).

Shoot, after these last few 24-ish episodes, with their fully-serialized pace and cliffhangers advancing the main plot, it’s going to seem weird going back to the normal person-of-the-week formula. Still, now everyone can chew on what Finch’s name on the paper at the end really means, and what will happen if someone finds that paper. Does Finch have a darker history than we’ve been led to believe? Overall, this was another attention-grabbing episode that still managed to fit in some strong character moments.

Fusco Carter and Finch

Who’s missing here?

1. What the surprise ending? Did Snow really off himself and Kara? It’s a fitting end to the two back-stabbing agents, but holy cow, I didn’t expect it so soon. Maybe it’s because Annie Parisse joined the cast of The Following. Who knows, she’s already come back from the dead once.

2. This may have been the closest shave Reese has been in, and it was a great scene between him and Finch, showing just how far each will go for the other.

3. Fusco was noticeably not the comic relief this episode. Anyone notice that?

4. Was the shadowy guy controlling Kara the same actor from Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises (the Wayne Enterprises Board Member), or am I just seeing connections because this show is connected to a Nolan? EDIT: Apparently it was John Nolan, who is Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s uncle, and by the way he was in those two batman movies, although IMDB doesn’t list Person of Interest under his works yet.

5. I can say I have absolutely no idea where Finch’s involvement with the mysterious organization will go, although I’m sure it will be this season’s finale.

Conclusion:8.5/10





100% Accurate Predictions for 2013 Blockbuster Movies

24 01 2013

So what’s going to happen with this year’s top movies? Read on, if you dare, for an unbiased and gritty look into the future.

February

A Good Day to Die Hard

Poetry.

Poetry.

Prediction: Bruce Willis will wow audience in the newest Die Hard installment, leading them down a “philosophical masterpiece,” effortlessly blending  deep themes with an original story line.

March

Oz the Great and Powerful

James Franco. Now he's Oz.

James Franco. Now he’s Oz.

Prediction: James Franco, vowing vengeance against Spider Man, travels to Oz, a magical place anyone on a drug trip can visit.

April

Oblivion

Morgan Freeman Oblivion

Morgan Freeman goes Book of Eli

Prediction: Tom Cruise journeys to the late Planet Earth, which has long stopped supporting human life. This is not to be confused with M. Night Shyamalan’s (red flag!) new movie After Earth, which also features a recognizable movie star journeying to the late Planet Earth, which has long stopped supporting human life.

May

Iron Man 3

He's like Batman, only not sad that he's a superhero.

He’s like Batman, only not sad that he’s a superhero.

Prediction: Robert Downey Jr. continues being a filthy rich guy who is likable but also annoyingly self-absorbed. He also plays Iron Man.

Star Trek into Darkness

star-trek-meme-into-darkness

Prediction: KHAAAAAAN!

June

Man of Steel

Superman can be a jerk.

Superman can be a jerk.

Prediction: Man of Steel becomes the year’s most anticipated movie, answering the question if Christopher Nolan can make a Superman movie that is actually watchable.

July

The Wolverine

The Wolverine Poster

Shirt Not Included, Unnecessary Sword Is

Prediction: Hugh Jackman sings his way through this bold musical retelling of the X-Men’s origins. Can Wolverine find redemption and appear in the next twelve X-Men movies?

August

Red 2

Red 2

This time they’re wearing ridiculous costumes!

Prediction: Laugh your way through yet another action comedy about aging action stars. This one’s even a sequel, so it’s twice as fresh!

September

Star Wars Episode 2- Attack of the Clones

Mace Windu is not impressed

Nor are we with this movie.

Prediction: Re-watch George Lucas teabag your childhood, but this time it’s in glorious 3-D! Watch two generally unlikable lovers frolic in meadows and ponder to yourself how much better Darth Maul could have made this disappointment of a movie.

October

Paranormal Activity 27

Actually, this would be better.

Actually, this would be better.

 

Prediction: Gasp in horror as doors creak and toilets become possessed. However, most of the movie will feature such standbys as dumb people sleeping and dumber people making home videos. They’ll still charge 10 bucks to see this.

November

Thor: The Dark World

Thor Funny

Ladies…

Prediction: Thor returns  to pretend his movie franchise isn’t around just to advertise Avengers 2. However, Chris Hemsworth guarantees this is at least one comic book movie your girlfriend will want to see.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

Peeta Meme

Awkward teen romance included!

Prediction: Will Katniss and friends leave us hungry for me, or will the movie’s appeal go up in flames? Wow, that was even painful to type. Either way, the third book’s a disaster, so it goes downhill after this.

December

The Hobbit- The Desolation of Smaug

Smaug the Draghen

Sweet Concept Art of Smaug.

Prediction: Peter Jackson continues his drawn-out film tradition, with a forty-minute segment devoted to the proper way to braid a dwarf’s beard. Rumors abound that we’ll actually get to see the dragon this time, unless Jackson decides to split it into two more movies.





Dark Knight Rises Review in Five Sentences

25 07 2012

SPOILERS! YE BE WARNED.

1. Dark Knight Rises is not supposed to be The Dark Knight, so swat that idea off your plate from the get-go; Nolan shifts from the style of film noir to revolutionary epic.

 

Bane In Dark Knight Rises

What. Now.

 

2. Cillian Murphy’s cameo was a welcome surprise, proving once again that if Nolan likes you as an actor, he’ll use you in his movies as much as he can (hello, Michael Caine and everyone else from Inception).

 

Dicaprio in Dark Knight

Nolan had Dicaprio in The Dark Knight, but later edited him out.

 

3. I had to eat my dismal predictions of Anne Hathaway playing Catwoman (although she was never called  that name in the movie) and Bane as a villain choice (during the final fight, I seriously thought he was going to break Bats again).

 

Bane

And I did.

 

4. I can’t say for sure if Dark Knight Rises is my favorite Batman movie, since Batman (and Michael Caine) were surprisingly short on screen time, and Joker is the only villain from the previous movies who doesn’t get screen time or even a mention.

 

Joker and Two-Face

Ironically, these two were used the least in the movie.

 

5. However, Nolan crafted a fantastic ending  to his trilogy, blending the signature dark tones, emotional tug, and storytelling to complete what will become the definitive story of Batman as far as the mainstream culture is concerned; it’s more than a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie, period.

 

Bonus Sentence: Would it have killed Nolan to pull a Harry Potter and make eight movies instead of three?