Interstellar (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: November 7, 2014
Director: Christopher Nolan

In the near future, Earth and its inhabitants are in danger. Crops are being destroyed by something called “The Blight” and food is growing scarce. The entire planet is beginning to resemble the American Dust Bowl of the early 1900’s. A farmer, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), is a former engineer and pilot who is struggling with the way the world now works and his own wasted potential. When his daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) discovers coordinates through a strange magnetic phenomenon in her room, he heads toward the location the coordinates indicated and finds himself helming a mission at the behest of  the remnants of the NASA space program to make a last-ditch effort at colonizing another planet in order to save humanity.

This movie had a lot going on in it, and a lot going for it. Christopher Nolan, even if he makes the occasional yawner *cough*DarkKnightRises*cough* also knows his stuff – despite what critics might think about his film making missteps. I went to see this in theaters with my girlfriend and although the movie was a little too long for my tastes (169 minutes!) what I experienced was at least worth one viewing, although this is one of those movies you could watch multiple times in order to see all the little things you might’ve missed or may not have gotten the first time through.

The acting was all really well-done, although I’ve never been a massive fan of McConaughey. However, he does decent work and this film is no exception. He’s actually been churning out some decent material recently, come to think of it. I will never get tired of Anne Hathaway (because I naturally have a crush on every brunette actress in the land) so it was nice to see her opposite McConaughey for the duration of the film.

As far as the science behind the film goes? That, I leave up to you to decide and I can’t really get into a ton of the specifics without spoiling everything – but I really think this movie requires a suspension of disbelief in order to enjoy it fully.

With that said, there are some cool action scenes (really only a couple) and there is a surprise (at least for me) cameo by Matt Damon that I thought was really neat, and the robot TARS voiced by Bill Irwin was really, really cool. For me, TARS made the film, elevating a lot of dialogue and character interactions with brief spots of humor.

All-in-all, this was a very enjoyable film and I would definitely watch it again, but it had some small problems and could have used some more editing to cut out some flashy and uninteresting parts. (As much as I love Lithgow, his character really didn’t add anything at all to the story).

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Interstellar

 

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Legend (1985)

Legend (1985)

Original Theatrical Release: April 18, 1986
Director: Ridley Scott

Jack (Tom Cruise) is a boy at one with the forest, embraced by the Elves and other faerie creatures. He is pure of heart and has fallen in love with a girl, Lili (Mia Sara), and has decided to let her see a Unicorn up close and personal. Lili, overcome by wonder, touches one of the horned creatures of myth and unwittingly lures it into a trap set by the forces of Darkness (Tim Curry). One unicorn is felled and its horn chopped off, plunging the world into an ice age from which it may never recover and Lili is abducted by Darkness and his minions, leaving Jack to save the world, the woman he loves and the remaining unicorn from a terrible fate.

This is one of those films that sort of just slipped through the cracks. Against films such as Willow, Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and others, this movie was swallowed up and lost in the shuffle. Because of its sometimes-meandering story, it doesn’t hold up against those other films all the time. However, the visuals and the mood captured by Ridley Scott still hold up after all these years. I recently re-watched this film, since I hadn’t seen it in more than a decade, and I was extremely impressed with how almost none of it looks cheesy – even by 1980’s standards.

The acting style used by all of the actors is very Shakespearian and fits the tone of the piece well. Everyone is very dramatic and classical. Evil creatures wave their hands and belly-laugh as they take delight in that evil. Darkness, played by the very-talented Tim Curry, looks like something that stepped out of Hell. Jack, played by a very young Tom Cruise, crouches in his forest rags and does somersaults and climbs on trees. The landscape is surreal and fantastical and embodies everything fantasy – which makes sense because Ridley Scott reviewed many classical fairy tales in order to get the right feel for the film. He definitely succeeded on that front.

If anything, give this film a shot just to look at it. The story is a bit more complex than people think, so take your time to analyze all that Legend has to offer before dismissing it. Is it the most perfect fantasy film? No, not by any means – but its voice is one that should be heard.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Legend

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (1994)

Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) lives a charmed life, despite being born with a lower I.Q. than most – as well as a physical deformity of the spine which forces him to wear corrective leg braces. Gump’s mother (Sally Field) pushes and encourages him enough that he eventually sets out on his own and ends up witnessing lots of events in recent history that have shaped the world. On his journey of self, he chases love – in the form of Jenny Curran (Robin Wright), his childhood friend and crush – and also experiences war, happiness, loss and the gamut of the human experience, proving that despite his setbacks, Gump is wiser than most of us can say we are.

I remember seeing this back around the time it first came out, and I remember being blown away. So, I figured I’d revisit it, since it’s on Netflix, and to tell you the truth – Forrest Gump holds up pretty well over time.

Forrest Gump, the character, is one of Tom Hanks’ better roles. I’m no Hanks hater by any means, but he has a particular style that doesn’t lend to camouflaging his own personality. When I see him in films, I have a hard time separating film Hanks from real-life Hanks that I’ve seen. In Forrest Gump, this isn’t a problem.

Much like Billy Bob Thornton’s role in Slingblade, this is one of those times where you wonder if they’d have been able to make a film like this nowadays. There are some questionable messages in the film that critics would pounce on in present times, but for the time it was made it was a nice reflection on the Baby Boomer generation.

The movie is based, of course, on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom from 1986, although in the book, Forrest Gump is a pretty different character. Also, there are a few different events in the book that never made it to the movie version – like when Forrest went to space (would’ve been strange to see Hanks in space in Forrest Gump as well as in Apollo 13, amirite?!)

The only thing that didn’t really hold up too well was when it showed footage of Forrest in the old newsreels and footage from things and events that Forrest was privy to witnessing as history in the film progressed. You could really notice it. Other than that, though, the cinematography was great and the pacing of the film was really well done.

If you haven’t seen this one yet – do. It’s a classic.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

Machine Gun Preacher (2011)

Sam Childers (Gerard Butler) is a real-life hero formed from the virtual ashes of a hardened criminal who found God and became a construction worker. While on the job, Childers meets a priest from Africa and is inspired to visit, ending up in Sudan and Northern Uganda, where he helps to build an orphanage and ultimately moves on to becoming a liberation fighter trying to save Africa’s children from the clutches of an evil warmonger who uses them as children soldiers in his army.

Machine Gun Preacher is based on the true story events of the real Sam Childers, who endorses the film. The movie is more drama than the trailer and cover art depict, and less action, but there is not enough action OR real-life documentary-style filming to make this as interesting as it could have been. Gerard Butler is passable in the role but looks nothing like the real Childers (not to mention his accent slipping through more than once) and the filmmakers could have dealt more with the more interesting side of Childers’ story which saw him pitting his Christian faith against acts of violence. If they had explored that side of the equation, then the movie could have been great….but as it stands, the movie is just sort of ho-hum with no real staying power. It doesn’t really distinguish itself from other generic action films and there are much better dramas out there to boot.

Still, I think it’s at least worth watching once, if only for your introduction to Sam Childers himself, so you can know a bit about his back story if you’re so inclined. Michelle Monaghan is nice to look at and it was cool to see Michael Shannon as well.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)Original Theatrical Release: July 27, 2001
Director: David Wain

It’s 1981 at Camp Firewood in Maine, and it’s the last day of camp. Beth (Janeane Garofalo) has a crush on the nerdy astrophysics professor, Henry Newman (David Hyde Pierce), who is trying to save the camp from a piece of Skylab. Meanwhile, other campers and counselors all have their own piece of drama to play out in the camp’s microcosm before the big talent show that will wrap up the summer.

When I first watched Wet Hot American Summer, I only caught the end of it, and I was really confused. For one, I had never heard of it. Second, I thought it was a real 80’s movie and I was trying to do the math in my head because I saw that Paul Rudd was in it. Obviously, I figured it out and then watched the film in its entirety but they did such a great job making it feel vintage that it felt less like a spoof on those classic 80’s flicks and more like it was one of them.

This film showcases a lot of talent; The aforementioned Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Janeane Garofalo, Joe Lo Truglio, Michael Ian Black, Amy Poehler, A.D. Miles, Christopher Meloni, Molly Shannon, Ken Marino, Bradley Cooper and others. Most of these actors work well off each other, and you can see many of them together in other films like Role Models.

David Wain did an overall good job on directing this, but the story was sort of all over the place. For what it is, it does well, however disjointed some may find it. As a Mainer, it was a delight to see all this quirky action taking place, seemingly at random, in Maine. There is a scene where the characters “go into town” and end up in Waterville, Maine…and it’s just so ridiculous that it had me cackling.

If you like silliness, partake in this film. If silly is not your thing, then you should probably stay away. Rumor has it, by the way, that Wain is working on Wet Hot American Summer 2. Can’t wait!

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Wet Hot American Summer

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige (2006) Original Theatrical Release: October 20, 2006
Director: Christopher Nolan

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and his wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo) along with Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are all assistants to a master magician, all trying to learn his secrets. When something goes awry during a performance and Julia dies, Robert blames Alfred for her death and the two become bitter enemies and eventually master magicians themselves. They are in a magical arms-race, where one tries to outdo the other for supremacy on the stage. When Alfred comes up with a trick the likes of which nobody has seen, Robert becomes obsessed with trying to discover his secret – leading him to dark experiments that no man was ever meant to tamper with.

This is one of those films that sort of flew under the radar. Christopher Nolan hit it big with Batman Begins, but not many people even remember this film or talk about it despite its star power and cool premise. It also came out at the same time as another magician-centric movie called The Illusionist, which some folks consider to be the better film between the two magic movies.

David Bowie as Nikola Tesla was a huge bonus in this movie for me, as well as the always-lovely Scarlett Johansson’s role as Olivia Wenscombe (ironically also a secret agent in this movie, just like she was as Black Widow in Iron Man and The Avengers respectively)….but those are just on a personal level. Bale and Jackman are great at going head-to-head with each other and this is one of Jackman’s best serious dramatic roles to date. It has a heavy sci-fi theme that once you get into is actually really great, and it ends up unfolding like a sort of parable.

Go see it for the actors. Go see it for the great direction by Nolan. Go see it for David Bowie and Michael Caine. It’s good stuff. The only downside, for me, was that it was maybe a little too long in letting the story unfold but on the other hand,  it constantly keeps you guessing and keeps you on your toes.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Prestige

Lars And The Real Girl (2007)

Lars And The Real Girl (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: October 25, 2007
Director: Craig Gillespie

Lars Lindstrom (Ryan Gosling) has a problem, and nobody knows what it is. He’s painfully shy, full of anxiety, is super-awkward and can’t even have dinner with his family, let alone have a normal conversation with a girl. When he tells his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and Gus’ wife Karin (Emily Mortimer) that he has met someone over the internet, they are ecstatic for him. However, Bianca is not what they expected. She is a sex doll that Lars ordered online. Lars’ family, friends and the town must now find a way to deal with Lars’ delusional beliefs that Bianca is a real girl who not only talks to him, but loves him back.

I remember hearing about this film a while ago, and since it had Ryan Gosling in it, I sort of shied away from it because he tends to be in a lot of movies I didn’t think I liked him as an actor. However, this film seemed to have such a quirky idea and personality that I figured I’d give it a shot.

First off, I think the premise was the best part about this film. A town set “somewhere” up north, which is somewhat reserved and apparently full of churchgoing people, having to deal with an otherwise healthy and kind individual who is in love with a sex doll….that’s great stuff. What it lacked was the proper focus and execution.

The movie felt like it dragged on forever. I understood what the film was trying to do fairly early on, so to have to watch it all unfold at a snail’s pace somewhat lessened the impact of the film’s idea. Also, they sort of moved “six weeks later” from the point Lars first hears about the doll until he had ordered it, and you don’t really see anything in between. It was the only jarring part of the movie, to me.

Gosling’s acting was great, honestly. The whole cast was acting up a storm, so no complaints on that front.

There had to be a little suspension of disbelief because of certain things, like an ambulance that is willing to pick up a sex doll and waste money/time and potentially interrupt someone’s REAL emergency…all because he is Lars? When he doesn’t even seem to be that well-liked at the start of the film? So, there are things like that in the movie that are somewhat hard to swallow.

It makes for a great date movie, I’m sure…or if you really like Ryan Gosling in sweaters.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Lars And The Real Girl