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

Film Review : August Osage County (2013)

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IMDB Score – 7.4
Rotten Tomato Score – 64%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Actress – Meryl Streep
Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actress – Julia Roberts

Directed By – John Wells
Starring – Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Julliane Nicholson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewish, Dermot Mulroney, Misty Upham, and Sam Shepard

A look at the lives of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose paths have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Oklahoma house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.

I remember seeing the trailer for this, the one above, in theaters during the fall and thinking that it was going to be a drama fest filled with amazing actors doing fine work. Well, that’s exactly what I got. However, I ended up liking the film, mostly due to the fact that the “fine” work by the actors actually turned out to be outstanding work done by the actors.

Adapted from the successful Broadway play of the same name, the film takes place at the home of the Westons, a husband and wife with three middle aged daughters, played by Roberts, Nicholson, and Lewis. Each of them have their own unique qualities but what I find in common with all three is that they have had to put up with the same mother, played wonderfully (duh) by Meryl Streep. You know, when I saw that Streep was nominated again this year I kind of sighed and said to myself…again? Really? It’s not because I think she doesn’t deserve it. She does. Every time. She’s the greatest living actress and is definitely in the top five of all time. She’s incredible at what she does and carries this burden by being one of the most modest and caring people in the business. It’s just getting boring seeing her name on the ballots every year. By the time she hangs up her career she’ll probably have two or three more awards to her name. I’m actually starting to feel okay with that. She was pretty awesome in this but I think the Academy got it wrong when they gave her a nomination in the leading role. This isn’t really her film. This is Julia Roberts film, who gave the performance of her career. The fire coming off both of these two for the entire duration of the film was really fun to watch. It was like actual daggers were being hurled through the air with every sentence spoken. They were the highlight of the film that was chock full of acting highlights. It was like a musical for acting. There were these little five to ten minute intervals in between these songs of incredible acting from every single member of the cast besides Breslin and Mulroney, who just didn’t have big enough roles. It’s a film reminiscent of something like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” except we have more people involved. It just may be the best acting as a whole I’ve seen all year.

The film itself was okay. There was so much drama that it became overwhelming at some times. There must have been at least seven or eight SERIOUS events that would normally cripple a family for a while all occurring within the course of a few days. It was a rapid fire machine gun of melodrama that frankly came off a bit overachieving but it certainly didn’t detract from the film. It wasn’t a distraction, more of an annoyance. There were some messages embedded inside that were nice touches but most of it are things we see, albeit carried out a bit worse, in every single episode of Law and Order or TV family drama. Had the film been four hours long I could have had more time to process the events and seen where they led but things happened and then disappeared when the next disaster or fight took place. It left me feeling a bit empty towards the end.

The direction was nice though. Wells had some beautiful shots in the soaked sunlight of the midwest while also using the darkness of the house to his advantage. Any scene involving Streep with her wig off were gorgeous and powerful. There were also clever shots using reflections to show the eventual progression of a character into somebody else. I’d like to see what he does next.

Overall I enjoyed the film. The acting in it is just A+. There really isn’t any way around it. The awards and nominations were deserved even though I feel Roberts should have been given more recognition as a leading role. It’s exhausting and funny, but a film worth watching if you’re into that kind of thing.

3.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Savages, A Separation