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.


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.


Film Review : Elysium (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 69%

Directed By – Neil Blomkamp
Starring – Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Shartlo Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, William Fichtner, and Wagner Moura

In the year 2154, the very wealthy live on a man-made space station while the rest of the population resides on a ruined Earth. A man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds.

One of my favorite theater experiences of my life was walking into “District 9” without really a clue what it was about and being glued to the screen for the duration of the film. It was a sci-fi movie that was both unique and entirely captivating. It featured amazing acting, badass action, and state of the art visual effects on the equivalent of a shoe string budget. It encapsulated the idea that completely original cinema is alive well and that all it needs is the backing of executives. Blomkamps follow up to that film is a promising yet ultimately disappointing one. I had high hopes for the film and couldn’t get out to see it in theaters due to its bad box office results and frankly disheartening reviews. I’m going to have to agree with the negative reviews on this one but the film does feature some positives.

What I liked…

There were some great set pieces in this that showcases not only Blomkamp’s visual style but his ability to shock his audience with a perfectly timed gruesome scene. “District 9” certainly had its share of shocking scenes and I expected more of those in Elysium. We got a few, one coming from a perfectly timed grenade, but overall the dead spaces between the action was just too boring for me. Matt Damon wasn’t terrible but it seemed like he was phoning it in at times. The only real acting highlight for me was Shartlo Copley who played a pretty menacing villain.

What I didn’t like…

Like an earlier original sci fi film, “Oblivion”, this film just seemed to be too heavy on visuals and futuristic set pieces and just completely skimped out on a coherent and logical plot. Too many times I was sitting there going “Why the hell is this happening? I hope they’re going to explain this—-okay they’re not explaining anything”. That;s not good for a film that is almost 100% comprised of technology that we don’t have right now. If you’re going to introduce a device that can put somebodies face back together then you should at least tell us why the hell that is even possible considering the man had no damn face. Also, Jodie Foster should stop acting. I’ve never really been a fan of hers and this was possibly the worst acting I’ve seen all year. She tried to be this cold robotic evil woman but it just came off completely corny and just plain strange. You can’t just movie your face around while trying to give off a horrible accent to make yourself seem more bitchy. It was horrible. The ending could be seen from space and they totally ripped off the ending to “Blood Diamond”. The whole film just fell apart at the end without really having a leg to stand on besides a very promising middle.

Overall it just wasn’t very good. I think if Blomkamp gets a big budget film again he’ll prove he’s one of the best up and coming sci fi film makers but to be honest he really didn’t do much to impress me with this.


Film Review : Oblivion (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.0
RT Score – 54%

Joseph Kosinski directs this sci-fi thriller a couple years after his take on Tron. I still haven’t seen Tron: Legacy but I could tell from the visuals in the trailer that it’s a beautiful looking film. My thoughts as Oblivion ended were that Kosinski certainly has a future in the industry as a visual up and comer. The film is gorgeous. The first half of the film gave us grand views of a desolate landscape that once was the Earth that we know. The action pieces were pretty good as well as Kosinski didn’t fall into the popular habit of making the action too fast to realize what the hell was going on. The problem I ultimately had with the film wasn’t the visuals but every other aspect of the damn thing.

Michael Arndt, who won and Oscar for his fantastic Little Miss Sunshine screenplay, helped Kosniski write the screenplay and pretty much failed on all accounts. There were some ideas that were there. I’ll give them that. The problem is that they’ve been done before. This film could have been called 2001: A Blade Runner Moon. Just think about that and then try not to kill me for potentially ruining this film for you. There was just way too many recycled concepts used in the second half of this film. I also had no real connection towards the characters. Tom Cruise gave a respectable performance but got nothing really out of the supporting cast besides the typical awesome voice of Morgan Freeman.

Overall it was definitely a watchable attempt new sci-fi. There was just little substance to have a lasting effect on me. Perhaps seeing Gravity multiple times has ruined sci-fi for me.


Film Review – Gravity (2013)

IMDB Score – 8.8
RT Score – 97%

What can be said that hasn’t been said already about Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece Gravity? First off I want to make an urgent plea for anybody reading this review to see this film in theaters, not only a theater, but a nice one. Go see this in an AMC with fake IMAX or travel and see it in the real thing. I’m going to be dishing out a lot of dough to see this in IMAX multiple times. It’s a theater experience you really CAN NOT MISS. That being said let’s get to the review.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my film of the year. This is arguably the most visceral theater going experience I’ve ever had as well. I forgot to breathe through the entire film. You may look at the run time of 90 minutes and feel sad that it isn’t longer. I couldn’t sit through a two and a half hour film like this. I would have a heart attack. From the absolutely stunning 12 minute first unbroken first shot to the rolling of the credits I couldn’t catch my breathe. I was in a constant state of intensity. Did I mention that there are only two actors in this film? TWO! It’s am achievement unlike any other to make such a flawless film with only two people. Cuarón steps in front of James Cameron for creating a world that we have never seen before but guess what…actually exists. Have you been to space? Yeah me neither. Well, this film takes you there. It’s the most realistic portrayal of space I have ever seen and according to most space people, is very accurate in depicting what would actually happen during a disaster like the one occurring in the film. Cuarón took a huge leap of faith by making a film with no explosion noises in the background. There is no sound in space and Michael Bay can suck a fat one after seeing this film. What was thought to take the audience out of the fear of doom actually made it that more horrifying. It’s a film that utilizes silence as a tool and utilizes it well. The film though is not completely silent. There is a wonderful booming score to really lift the dread through the roof. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. It was wonderful.

The acting is also very good. I’m not even talking about Clooney. George hams it up the only way he knows how and while it was wonderful to watch, it wasn’t a stretch from his normal screen personas. This is Sandra Bullocks movie. I’m not fan of hers. She’s always fallen into the category of “I don’t mind them as a person but holy shit do they annoy me on screen”. Bullock hasn’t been that annoying but she has had her moments. Not in this film. She carries it. From start to finish she does a fantastic job portraying a person in utter peril. I believed she was in danger and I was strung along wishing and hoping she’d be okay. The transformation she goes through in this film is outstanding and a great piece of writing.

Don’t let the state of the art visuals and camera work fool you. This is an art film. It’s got this deep theme of rebirth and meaning of existence and a hint of religious overtones that make it more than a thriller in space. I obviously can’t go into much without giving away spoiler points but lets just say that Sandra Bullock goes through many stages of emotions that are artistically crafted through images.

Speaking of images, I can’t say enough how floored I was by the look of this film. I’m a camera nerd and the shots in this thing are nothing I’ve ever seen. There are shots going through space and into helmets and back into space without cutting leaving me to wonder what kind of sorcery Cuarón concocted to pull these shots off. This is why it’s so utterly important to see this on the biggest screen possible. It just isn’t justifiable to see it on a small screen.

This is my film of the year. This is the best action/thriller/sci fi movie I’ve seen in forever and I’ll be damned if something else comes along knocks this off as my number one film of 2013. When awards season comes around if this film doesn’t sweep the technical awards then they have no meaning anymore. There has never been a film like this and unless Cuarón decides to devote another seven years of his life to one project then there never will. Here I come Gravity. Prepare to take a lot of my money in the next two months.


Film Review : Europa Report (2013)

IMDB Score – 6.5
RT Score – 77%

I love sci-fi films. Hell, I’ll watch pretty much anything set in space which explains the awful decision to watch Apollo 18 a couple days ago. I don’t know what it is but I’m just fascinated by anything being set in space. I love the loneliness the characters have to deal with and if they are’t dealing with that then they’re most likely dealing with f’in aliens. This film is subtle. It’s technically a found footage film but instead of the camera being held by an idiot ala Randy Marsh the footage was literally found by the private company who paid for this space mission to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons. The crew is made up of a bunch of science folks and engineers played greatly by some great actors that I haven’t seen in a movie in a while including Shartlo Copley (District 9), Michael Nyqvist (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Anamaria Marinca (4 months, 3 weeks, 2 days), and Christian Camargo (Dexter’s brother).

I found the film to be a highly suspenseful and creative piece of sci-fi. NASA actually worked with the filmmakers to make sure that the look and language of the film matched the real thing. What that gives the viewer is a very realistic look at what a voyage like this would be like. Some of the film looked like you would be watching it on CNN and that gave a very real feeling when shit started to hit the fan. I’ll be the first to admit that the story was full of plenty of holes but the end result was still a very harrowing film that kept you on the edge of your seat for most of the time. The acting was great and the ending hit home without coming off too cheesy. You really can’t ask for more in a low budget sci-fi film about space exploration. Fans of Moon and Sunshine will love this film.