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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This Is Where I Leave You (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: September 19, 2014
Director: Shawn Levy

The Altman family siblings; Judd (Jason Bateman), Wendy (Tina Fey), Phillip (Adam Driver), and Paul (Corey Stoll) – are summoned by their mother, Hillary (Jane Fonda), to sit in mourning together for a week in a traditional Jewish practice called Shiva (which literally means ‘Seven’ in Hebrew) at their father’s dying request. This, despite their father being an atheist, brings them all together under one roof and into contact with people from their collective pasts. What ensues is loads of family antics.

I saw this film in the theater with my own siblings. It wasn’t really on my list of movies to see, but it turned out to be an okay film and I’m glad I went with my own brother and sister to see it because it really gave some nods to the sibling dynamics that we’ve all experienced.

Most of the movie has some decent moments but overall, there wasn’t much substance to grasp onto or to really sink your teeth into. It felt almost more like an episode of a long-running television show than it did a feature film. I think what really saved this was the comedian actors and actresses who headlined this movie – especially Tina Fey and Jason Bateman.

Is this a bad film? Not by any means. It just didn’t pack much punch. It wasn’t especially funny, nor especially deep or poignant. There are definitely enough laughs to merit at least one watch-through and I’m sure there are some people out there who will genuinely connect with the film more than I did. For me, it just didn’t go anywhere new. We’ve seen this movie before in multiple incarnations.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For This Is Where I Leave You

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: ★★★

Chrono Trigger (2011 – Wii)

Chrono Trigger (1995)

Original Release Date: May 16, 2011
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square

Chrono Trigger is a video game masterpiece.

As the main character, Crono, you begin your tale in Guardia in 1000 A.D. being woken up by your mother. You rise, go to the Millennial Fair which isn’t too far from your house, and accidentally bump into Marle, your soulmate. Moving around the fair with her, you eventually lead her to your friend Lucca’s science experiment that she’s showcasing for everyone. It’s a teleportation device. Trying it out to impress the new lady, you are transported from one platform to the other and come out fine on the other end. Marle decides to try and disappears, accidentally transported back in time to the middle ages. You jump in after her and are taken on an epic journey through time that culminates in a battle for the fate of the world with a giant, planet-destroying parasite named Lavos.

I originally played this on the SNES back when it first came out. (I rented it from Blockbuster) Back then, I was simply blown out of the water with the quality of the game. I’d stay up nights playing it, telling all my friends about it (who were all busy with the Playstation 1 that had just come out) and I was emotionally invested in the game which hadn’t happened for a long time, if ever.

First off, the creative team behind the game was earth-shattering.

  • HIRONOBU SAKAGUCHI: The creator of the Final Fantasy series
  • YUJI HORII: The creator of the Dragon Quest series
  • AKIRA TORIYAMA: The man behind the artwork in Dragon Quest/Dragon Ball Z
  • YASUNORI MITSUDA and NOBUO UEMATSU: Behind the music of Xenogears and Final Fantasy, respectively

Wow. That’s some amazing talent all bundled up for one game.

At the time of its release, Chrono Trigger was revolutionary and had multiple endings, graphics that were pushing the limits of the SNES’ capabilities, an amazing storyline which advanced character development and an amazing battle system. For the Wii, everything holds up still today and I’d rather play the Wii port of Chrono Trigger than most of the games available for the Wii, even the newer ones. (And one of my friends reminded me today that the Nintendo DS has the best version, with a new dungeon and everything)

If you like RPG’s at all, do yourself a favor and sit down with this amazing game. Of course, you might not like it but I guarantee most of you will.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Game Trailer For Chrono Trigger (Wii)