Two Film Review : Interstellar and Birdman

You may be wondering why I’m lumping these three films into one post. Well, fact of the matter is that both Interstellar and Birdman need second viewings from me to really get into full review mode. I have pretty laid out opinions on both but I don’t think I could justify a full post for each one without having seen the film a second time.

IMDB Score – 8.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 73%

Directed By – Christopher Nolan
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy, John Lithgow, Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, Bill Irwin, Wes Bentley, Josh Stewart, David Gyasi, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Topher race, and fucking finally, Ellen Burystn

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

Okay, I need to get this out of the way first. I saw this film almost three weeks ago. If you have not seen this film in a REAL IMAX theater with 70mm film, please do so. It will most likely be one of the last times you will seeing something this new be projected on film. The projectionist in me had a field day with this one. I was privileged to be able to see this at the Lincoln Center IMAX which is one of the largest screens in the country and most likely the world. Regardless of your opinion of the film, it’s something to be seen in 70mm before film goes the way of the 8 track and seatbeltless vehicles.

That being said, I didn’t particularly love this movie. I didn’t really hate it either. What I ultimately came to was a feeling of mild satisfaction mixed with utter bewilderment. I’ve been a fan of Nolan from the beginning. I generally believe The Dark Knight, Memento, and The Prestige to be some of the best films of the decade. Interstellar marks the second film in a row from Nolan that not only failed to meet my expectations but seemed to lack in the screenwriting that characterized his earlier films. This was just a mess story wise from beginning to end. In fact, parts of it nearly ruined the whole thing for me.There were instances in the film where decisions were made at the blink of an eye, huge decisions, LIFE ALTERING DECISIONS, MADE AFTER ABOUT TEN MINUTES OF THOUGHT. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper is the worst father ever. What he does to his daughter in this film is just atrocious. I hated his character for like 40 minutes after this happened. There is also huge jumps in timeline. Basically Matthew McConaughey goes from farmer to in space in like three days. Sure, he was a NASA fighter pilot a long ass time ago, but you don’t get trained for space in three days. You just don’t do it.

The dialogue was also pretty bad. Anne Hathaway delivers a monologue in the middle of the film, about love, that nearly had me puking in the auditorium. It came off so cheesy and forced that I couldn’t stand it. A big character reveal in the middle of the film also progressed in a way that could be seen a mile away. This character also forgets who he is and ruins pretty much everything. The end of the film, which will be talked about for some time as it is very “2001”-esque, kind of muddles the entire thing for me. Like, I get where they were going with that. I get how unimaginable space can be an how it works, but to put it all together like that just seemed like Nolan was trying to be more profound than he needed to be. I don’t like throwing around the word pretentious often because I think that it insults creativity, but the end of this film teetered on being a bit pretentious. Also, the BIG emotional reunion end the end of the film, the one that the audience has been waiting for the entire three fucking hours, was over in like four sentences. Seriously, fuck Matthew McConaughey’s character in this movie. He’s the worst.

What did I like? First off the acting was pretty top notch. Matthew McConaughey was in full form as he has been for the past two years. There are a few scenes in this movie that really struck a chord with me emotionally and that was all on MM. Michael Caine continues to be sad Michael Caine and that’s okay because the man is a true legend and makes my eyes water every time he is sad. The voice acting from Bill Irwin, who voices the robot TARS, was a wonderful addition to the cast and might have been my favorite character. The robots were awesome by the way. At first I thought they were too weird but then I really got into the functionality of them. The action and space sequences were gorgeous to watch in 70mm. It made the effort to see this is IMAX all worth while. Also, Mackenzie Foy can act. That girl is going to be big if she continues acting.

Overall the film just wasn’t up to what I thought it was going to be. As far as space movies go, I enjoyed Sunshine and Solaris much more but there were definitely some great reasons to see the film. The camera work, the acting, the practical effects mixed in with CGI, all made this a film to see. It just happened to be a mess in the story telling department that may get better with a clearer viewing but I’m not holding my breath. Nolan gets points for doing it in film though. I’ll give him added points for that.

3/5

IMDB Score – 8.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 94%

Directed By – Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring – Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Lindsay Duncan

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

What a show. I don’t particularly know what the show meant or if I was 100% into it, but what a goddamn show.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the film is shot in a way that looks like one long take. You can tell where the edits are, but the film chugs on like an engine through the entire run time. It didn’t come off gimmicky. It came off glorious. The fact that Emmanuel Lubezki was able to keep every single frame of this movie gorgeous as shit while still maintaining the longness of the shot is a true thing to watch. The film also had this rhythmic drum fill that permeated the entire film from start to finish. It was like a heartbeat, getting faster and louder as scenes unfold into chaos. It was such an opposite kind of feeling from the rest of Iñárritu’s work that it almost made me forget who made the film. His previous movies are all filled with depressing situations and heartbreaking performances. I laughed out loud in this film. I was having a fucking ball. The whole cast pretty much had be heaving. Well, maybe not Emma Stone’s character, but she was still sassy enough to give me a chuckle.

The acting is top notch. We’re going to see at least two major award nominations from this film. Keaton is the star. He is in nearly every scene and completely solidified himself as “back in form”. The film goes into a meta sense as I realized just how alike Keaton and his on screen character Riggan were. Both are actors who portrayed superheros in the 80s and have been away from the spotlight for some time. Both are trying to make a comeback and in the case for Keaton, he does, in a big way. The guy just hit it out of the park. Edward Norton steals every scene he is in. It reminds me a little of when Robert Downey Jr. got an Oscar nomination for Tropic Thunder because he was so goddamn funny. You could make the case for Melissa McCarthy as well but I don’t find her funny. Norton is going to complete that triangle. His character of Mike is so out of his mind that it can only be achieved by Norton, who is himself a lot like his on screen character. He was hysterical and also hammered in the scene chewing jobs just as well. Everybody else was fitting for their role. Emma Stone could sneak in the Oscars but honestly I felt her performance to be a bit overdone. Galafianakis was on point as always. I’ve considered him to be one of the best underrated actors for a while now. Watts finishes the top of the line up as she always does. She’s a professional and it shows.

The only reason I didn’t shower this film with praise is because there are so many subtleties in this film that I just can’t grasp them all right now. The ending left my head spinning a bit and there was a lot of dialogue I missed the meaning of because the film was rolling by my face at a million miles an hour. Will this affect my rating? Not really. It just makes this review a little shorter than usual.

See this film. It’s something that you’ll be thinking of for a long time and itching for a second viewing. I may have to see this again before it leaves theaters.

4.5/5

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Update and Film Review – The One I Love (2014)

So, here’s an update on why I haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve been battling depression for the better part of my adult life. Some of you may have read a few things on this website that has dealt with some personal events and thoughts. I try to keep this website movie related but sometimes I just need to write out my feelings on a medium that won’t just be read by myself in a few months. My fathers side of the family is riddled with depression history and while I’ve managed to function correctly since high school, a month ago everything kind of came crashing down. I had a week where the only time I left my bed was to work and the work I did was shit anyway. So I decided to get some help and see a psychiatrist and ask if maybe medication was right for me. I started taking a mild anti-depressant about a week ago and I’m finally finding the energy to sit down and write. I have been watching a few movies here and there but most of them are either films I’ve seen already or movies that have been talked to death. I recently watched all three Indiana Jones films for the first time. Do I need to talk about them? No, because everybody and their mothers have seen those films. Expect more musings from me in the near future. I think I actually might make it to the theater tonight. We shall see. Here’s a short review of something special I saw last night. As always, thanks for reading…

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 81%
ON NETFLIX

Directed By – Charlie McDowell
Starring – Mark Duplass, Elizabeth Moss, and Ted Danson

Nope. You’re not getting a trailer for this one. Hell, you’re not going to even get much of a review. This is a film that you need to go in blind. The only thing I can tell you is that Duplass and Moss are married and are seeking help in the form of counseling from Danson suggests going away for a weekend. That’s it. That’s all you get. The film isn’t something that is going to absolutely blow you away with mind bending twists and turns, but rather it’s a film that just can’t be talked about in any form of detail without giving away key plot points that make the film a fun watch.

I will say that Moss and Duplass are fantastic together. The chemistry they have resembles a real husband and wife going through a struggle and let’s just say their performances are very layered. I was very impressed with both of them.

The film really gets to the core of what it means to spend your life with somebody you love and while I can’t go into why it does, the ending of the film is very uplifting and promising if you yourself are going through the same problems.

Please see the film. It’s on Netflix. It’s one of my favorites of the year.

4.5/5



Film Review : Fury (2014)

IMDB Score(Presently) – 8.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 79%

Directed By – David Ayer
Starring – Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf, Michale Pena, Jon Bernthal, Anamaria Marinca, Anamaria Marinca, and Jason Isaacs

April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Out-numbered, out-gunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Writer/Director David Ayer has had an interesting career so far. We have seen his brilliant times with the writing of Training Day and shit, even U-571. We’ve also seen his horrible times with Sabotage, Harsh Times, and the absolutely atrocious SWAT. I’ll never forget a character in SWAT, before blowing his brains out, looking toward Samuel L. Jackson and delivering this gem of a one liner…”Goddammit Sarge!” If you’ve seen the film you know what I mean. I can’t look at Josh Charles the same anymore. Ayer is obviously talented but I feel like he slips into a bad crime novelist whose books frequent airports from time to time. Training Day was obviously amazing, but besides End of Watch, his work has been mediocre at best recently. Fury, was ultimately a frustrating film with some moments of brilliance. The likes of a full length film with no glaring problems might be behind Ayer for now.

There hasn’t been a film dedicated to tank crews that I can remember. You see the air force, ground troops, hell, even fighter pilots highlighted in films, yet until now nobody has highlighted the work that tank crews did during WW2. For the most part, it was almost a death sentence. Like flamethrowers in Japan, a tank is like a huge target for enemy fire. You’re not going to last long unless you take the tank out FIRST. US tanks were also poorly made compared to superior German Tiger tanks. US tanks were slower and would routinely be taken out by enemy artillery. In short, tankers didn’t live long. This crew has though. Brad Pitt and company have been together for years and when a newcomer (Lerman) comes along, he needs to be broken in fast or else he’ll risk the lives of the entire crew. We’ve seen this before with Ayer. A newbie comes into the world of hardened veterans and has to see the horrors of the job before he can become one of them. Honestly, my interest in this film wasn’t the story. I’m a big WW2 fan and the concept of a film dedicated to tank crews scratched my history itch.

I had problems with the film. For one, the music in the film was just overbearing. The film was intense enough. I didn’t need a blaring orchestra to remind me that I should be in suspense. Somehow, the death and firebombs going off on the screen did it for me. It was distracting. I also had a problem with a few scenes that not only took the pace of the film and brought it to a grounding halt, but it also didn’t make a lick of sense. The biggest offender of this was the breakfast scene with the German girls. The only thing I liked about this was the performance of Shia LaBeouf but we’ll get to more of that soon. Jon Bernthal tries WAY too hard to be a crazy person and the film decided that rape didn’t exist in War and that every German girl who was being FORCED to cook and serve these troops would also sleep with them. It was insulting. The film had some of the most violent scenes in a war movie since Saving Private Ryan but they had to sprinkle glitter over these men when they interacted with women. It was just odd. The whole scene with the younger girl and Lerman was just a set up to what happened after they exited the house. It was cheap and amateur. The final scene was also completely nonsensical and dragged out. A particular scene, after the battle, after literally hundreds of people died, was laugh out loud bad. Those of you who have seen it will know what I’m talking about.

So, what was good? Well, the sound design was top notch. I expect nominations for that team because each round and explosion sounded like the real thing. There were two tank battle scenes that REALLY stood out thanks to amazing sound design and very intense interior shots of the tank crew in action from inside the tank. I was on the edge of my seat for these. The camerawork was also overall pretty great. The opening scene looked like a leftover scene from War Horse. Yes David Ayer, I just compared you to Spielberg. You can relish in that. The acting was also top notch from Pitt and LaBeouf, specifically Shit (I’m leaving this typo in because Shia would find it funny). These are the roles that the kid needs to be doing. He needs to take this crazy persona of his and stick it into his acting. He was a marvel in this film, showing an unbelievable amount of range. His character, Bible, was a God loving Christian outside of the tank, and a ruthless gunner inside. LaBeouf handled it wonderfully. I was very impressed. Pitt was also very solid as the leader although he really shined when interacting with LaBouf and Lerman. The rest held their own with Lerman giving a good performance and Pena and Bernthal just kid of slogging through.

The film was worth a ticket. It was a bleak look into war that didn’t stop when things got too hectic, unless German lasses were involved. There were some intense scenes and a whole storyline that was devoted to tank crews but there were some serious flaws in the logic behind some of the scenes in the film. It also serves as proof that Shia LaBeouf is still a talented actor when given the right role.

3/5



Film Review : Non-Stop (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 60%

Directed By – Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring – Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, and Lupita Nyong’o

An air marshal springs into action during a transatlantic flight after receiving a series of text messages that put his fellow passengers at risk unless the airline transfers $150 million into an off-shore account.

Back when I was working at the theater, I had an employee whose movie opinion I was constantly frustrated with but at the same time respected. He loved films I hated and hated films I loved, but always explained his reasoning with sound logic. When this film came out I was convinced it was going to just be another vehicle for Liam Neeson to be a badass and fuck up bad guys. I knew it wasn’t going to be like “The Grey” which was one of the better winter releases of the last couple years. I expected something along the lines of Taken 2 meets Red Eye. My friend lauded the tense build up and reveal being unexpected. Well, he one of those two things correct and one entirely wrong. The latter ended up ruining the entire film for me.

The synopsis above pretty much sums up the plot. Liam Neeson plays an alcoholic air marshall who has zero people skills unless it involves making little girls happy. Julianne Moore literally plays one of the most useless characters I’ve ever seen on film. He character was not needed in ANYTHING. She served no purpose to the plot other than to shift the suspicion from time to time and to be a person Liam Neeson has to save. Julianne Moore is completely wasted in this movie. In fact, the whole cast is pretty much wasted besides Neeson, who still wasn’t that great. Lupita Nyong’o, who won a fucking Oscar, has maybe three or four speaking lines in the entire film, and the ones she has are lines that could have been given by anybody. It’s just really strange how misused the entire cast was.

Despite the cast, the first half of the movie was actually pretty damn engaging and creative. The use of the text messaging, while annoying to most, actually didn’t bother me that much. I was intrigued by how this person was killing people and still being able to text while doing so. Is it stupid? Hell yeah it is, but I was still sucked into figuring it out. The 180 that both the trailer and the synopsis spoils made for some interesting plot devices and I actually wanted to know how Liam Neeson was going to get out of it.

Then the final third started to happen. We start to learn who the real criminal is and I was lost. It was such a disappointment when the big shocker of a twist happens and all I could think was “Really?”. The action in the last third was completely bonkers and the whole problem with the cast came into full play because I didn’t care about anybody anymore. It ruined the whole film for me.

There were ultimately some good techniques used in the first half of the film. The end and the fact that none of the characters had any depth save for Liam Neeson and you really start to lose your audience. It ended up being an average film with a shit ending. I wouldn’t waste your time unless it’s on cable and you have nothing better to do.

2/5



Film Review : Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

IMDB Score – 8.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Matt Reeves
Starring – Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Toby Kebbell, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer, and Gary Oldman

In the wake of a disaster that changed the world, the growing and genetically evolving apes find themselves at a critical point with the human race.

ALL HAIL CAESAR!!!

Gah! I just want to see it again!A couple years ago I was shocked by how much I liked the reboot of The Planet of the Apes. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking that they must have just ran out of idea because Tim Burton already ruined a great franchise, but to my surprise Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a fantastic attempt to reboot the whole series. Well, it is almost certain that this is going to last a while because “Dawn” is cleaning house at the box office and just so happens to be one of the best action movies I’ve seen since District 9. I mention that film because it was the last time, other than Inception, that I was blown away by an effects driven action film. I was on the edge of my seat. I was slacked jawed at the entire middle act. I walked away from the theater immediately thinking of when the next time I could go back to see it. I needed a little pick me up this week.

The film starts out with a stage setting sequence that actually doesn’t suck for once as it tells us about the fall of the human race due to our dance with science and the need to help old people with Alzheimer’s. There are few who were genetically immune to the epidemic and survived but are now forced to live in mad max style colony with gas generators and filth running in the streets. This isn’t a human world anymore, at least not near San Francisco. The outer forests of California, which look like the Amazon in this film, are now colonized by a much more advanced society of apes led by the one, the only, fucking Caesar. Seriously, he may be one of my favorite movie characters after this film. The writing staff who worked on this film just nailed the character and all his moral glory. Caesar is still living with familiar faces such as Maurice the giant Orangutan and Koba the scar faced lab ape. Caesar also has a new family comprised of a son and wife, both of whom play a big role in the film. It’s funny but the film picked a great time to be released with all the tension in Israel and Pakistan, but also stuck to serious moral issues of family and friendship. I won’t go to far into the plot because it’s a ride you want to take on your own but the trailer gave most of that away anyway.

I was surprised by how much the story of the film payed homage to Shakespeare, Julius Caesar to be specific, which is a funny joke if you ask me. It seems like it would be at least. A subtle retelling of Julius Caesar about an ape…NAMED CAESAR? It sounds crazy, but it actually worked quite well as we see tension and fighting within the ape colony. This is their film by the way. Do not go into this film thinking that you’re going to get a whole lot of Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke. They are there only to progress the storyline as the natural enemy, meaning being human, of the apes. The real meat and potatoes is all ape baby and the actors behind these apes should be heaped with praise. HEAPED. Andy Serkis continues to be an absolute treasure in a motion capture suit. “Rise” was impressive enough, but this film takes motion capture to a whole new level. There were more close up shots of all the apes doing ape things that made me believe I was watching the real thing. The only ape that looked CGI was Caesar’s son Blue Eyes, who for some reason just could not shake the fact that he wasn’t real. Every other ape, mostly the villainous Koba, looked completely genuine and was helped greatly by their motion actors. Speaking of Koba, Toby Kebbell may have outshined Serkis with his performance. If I was present in front of Koba I would be shitting my pants. His scarred body and menacing jaws would have had me running in the other direction as I was actually pretty frightened in the theater, which doesn’t happen much. The on screen humans, led by a great actor in Jason Clarke, all did a fantastic job hooking me emotionally into the story. There were some moments that just weren’t needed much, mostly having to do with the kid and girlfriend of Clarke, but it didn’t distract too much. Gary Oldman was fantastic as always and had two really great scenes in where he both gave a speech and made me teary eyed. The cast was a home run.

The action was just top notch. There was one scene involving a tank that seriously almost made me stand up and clap. It reminded me of shots that Alfonso Cauron would construct in Children of Men. It’s easily my favorite shot of the year and may be my favorite shot since Gravity came out. The gigantic ending set piece which climaxed the film was pretty awesome but seemed to mirror the final set piece in “The Amazing Spiderman” too much. I was into it, but it just seemed to similar. The whole est of the film was so unique that the ending that the ending battle just let me down a tiny bit. Oh, and finally, we arrive and end with Caesar. The opening and final shots of his face are just perfect. Perfect!

As you can see, I loved the film. I want to see it again. Hopefully I’ll see it again because it was a blast to watch and a serious contender for my top films of the year. I’m so glad it’s making money because Matt Reeves is a talent behind the camera and really seems to have a grasp on this franchise. Hell, Nolan couldn’t even make two outstanding Batman films back to back. He made a Dark Knight sandwich with two stale pieces of bread. This is the making of a serious sandwich fit for a king. An ape king. FUCKING CAESAR!

4.5/5