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

 

Starship Troopers (1997)

Starship-Troopers

Original Theatrical Release Date: November 7, 1997
Director: Paul Verhoeven

In the distant future, the world is a fascist and militaristic society where a person can only become a citizen by joining the military and its never ending fight against an insectoid alien race looking to destroy humanity. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) is the son of two wealthy non-citizens who is looking to join his girlfriend Carmen (Denise Richards) in the armed forces in order to be with her and to gain his citizenship. Soon, though, the realities of military life and the hardships of the war separate Johnny, Carmen, and their friends from one another and they must overcome the chitinous tide of the Bugs if they are ever to reunite.

This film is based on the (much better) science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein – adapted to the screen by Edward Neumeier.

It’s been a while since the last time I watched this movie, but my brother gave me the DVD for my birthday this year. I was kind of interested to see how all the special effects and everything held up over the last 17 years. I was not disappointed to find out that most of it still looked pretty decent after all that time. The only thing that seemed dated at times was the retro-futuristic 1950’s-as-interpreted-by-the-late-1990’s hairdos and clothing styles for the characters. Other than that, though, I was transported through the film’s fun tongue-in-cheek narrative style.

I still have no idea where Casper Van Dien went to after the late 1990’s – but as Johnny Rico he was decent (if somewhat unbelievable) as the screaming, gun-firing, tough-guy lead. Denise Richards co-stars with her full and pouty lips as the always-effervescent (but still wooden) pilot Carmen Ibanez. Also, I was shocked to see Neil Patrick Harris in his role as Carl Jenkins – a role I forgot he’d done. (The last thing I remember him in was Harold And Kumar)

The bugs were creepy and not cheesy. The “internet” – style videos interspersed throughout the film add a nice touch, though the internet of the “future” looks pretty dated compared to our own, now. There is a creepy and unbelievable love triangle in the movie, but the real draw is the action sequences – which are peppered liberally throughout the movie. Still, the movie is a bit too long for an action flick.

All in all, not a perfect movie – but a nice flick to come back to every now and then if you want some sci-fi action.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Starship Troopers

Hello, Again

For those of you who don’t know me too well, I’m in my fourth semester with an MFA program called Stonecoast. Well, I’m stopping in to say that due to all the work associated with this program, I’ve been away for a couple weeks and over the next six months until I graduate, I’ll be working on my thesis – so I won’t be able to do as many reviews as I normally do.

Stonecoast has been amazing, thus far. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many different and talented authors including Dolen Perkins-Valdez (Wench), Nancy Holder (Resurrection, Domino Lady, Buffy) , Michael Kimball (Undone), David Anthony Durham (Acacia: The Sacred Band), James Patrick Kelly (The Wreck of the Godspeed and Other Stories), Elizabeth Hand (Radiant Days) and Elizabeth Searle (Girl Held In Home) (. I’ve also had the pleasure of working closely with authors such as Mur Lafferty (Shambling Guide To New York City), Thomas Morrissey (Faustus Resurrectus), Laura Navarre (By Royal Command) and Magdalen Braden (Blackjack and Moonlight) among other many talented writers of all genres.

This is not to say that I won’t be doing any reviews, though. I have a backlog of both new and old pop culture items to post reviews on. Until then, here are a couple pictures of me at my residency in Freeport, Maine:

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Stonecoast Day 4 011 Stonecoast Day 5 030 Stonecoast Day 5 119 Stonecoast Final Day 024 Stonecoast Final Night 025

Man of Steel (2013)

Man of Steel (2013)

Original Theatrical Release Date: June 14, 2013
Director: Zack Snyder

Kal-El was sent from his dying planet, Krypton,  as an infant by his father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and his mother Faora-Ul (Ayelet Zurer). With him, they sent the hopes and wishes of their entire Kryptonian race. Raised by human parents after crash-landing on Earth, Kal-El was renamed Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) and eventually had to come to terms with his extraordinary and god-like abilities, using those abilities to help others though they didn’t always realize it. However, when another survivor from Krypton – Zod (Michael Shannon) shows up and demands that Earth give up this “Superman” or face dire consequences, Clark/Kal must choose a side. The Kryptonians or the Earthlings.

Now, before I get down to brass tacks, I need to say something: I am not the biggest Superman fan in the world. Don’t get me wrong. I love the basic idea of his character, and his abilities are cool for the most part…but the dude is just too invulnerable. Sure, he’s got his weaknesses but they sort of change over time depending on the needs of the story line (in the comics, anyway). Plus, they’re really specific weaknesses – like Kryptonite, a rare green rock from space – really?! Also, Superman is an alien and it’s hard to identify with him already on account of his insane god-like abilities – but when you also throw in the fact that he’s not even human, then there is definitely a disconnect.

With that said, I don’t think this was the worst Superman movie I’ve ever seen.

I came into this film with no real expectations other than to be entertained for a while. I was entertained for the most part, for sure. Zack Snyder’s direction was the usual fare of fight sequences and thoughtful, introspective scenes. The writing by David Goyer was decent, but some of the elements were too clearly designed to be almost like a parable. The acting was decent by Henry Cavill and the rest of the cast, and it was nice to see Russell Crowe back in shape a little bit. He’d been looking a little chubby the past few years. However, some of the special effects were wonky and some of the story elements had me going “really?”, and that’s all on top of the movie being way too long. Two and a half hours with not much really to show for it.

Now, I had been entertaining the idea that this would be sort of a darker version of Superman, sort of how Christopher Nolan brought Batman back to his gothic roots. I was right in a way, but wow…I was not expecting the level of wanton destruction Superman caused during the fighting with Zod. In other incarnations of Superman, Supes would have tried to direct the fight to the countryside or somewhere uninhabited….but in the film, Superman uppercuts his opponents through skyscrapers, toppling the buildings, and he doesn’t have time to save anyone. Crazy. My other gripe was the way in which Jonathan Kent’s (Kevin Costner) character was handled. The writers wanted him to be “Uncle Ben” to Clark but it didn’t translate nearly in the same way as the poignant character of Uncle Ben did to Marvel’s Spider-Man.

All in all, it was decent as an action flick. I wouldn’t go in thinking much more than that, even if you’re a Superman fan. I am interested to see if they change anything up during the sequel. Guess we’ll find out! (EDIT: I’m feeling like the upcoming sequel will be a shit show, but I hope they prove me wrong. They are CRAMMING IN so many characters. It’s crazy.)

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Man Of Steel

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 (2012)

Original Air Date: April 1, 2012
Stations Airing: Disney X D, Disney Channel
Number Of Episodes In Season: 26

Peter Parker (Drake Bell), was bitten by a radioactive spider which granted him spider-like powers such as the ability to crawl on walls and increased strength and agility, as well as an internal warning system he calls “Spider-Sense” which usually lets him dodge incoming attacks.

At the beginning of Season 1, Peter has been Spider-Man for one year. He’s still learning, and when S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Chi McBride) offers to give him training that will make him into the “ultimate” Spider-Man, Spidey can’t refuse. The catch is that he has to lead a fledgling group of other superheroes including Iron Fist (Greg Cipes), Power Man (Ogie Banks), Nova (Logan Miller) and White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love) and show them what ropes he DOES know, and he reluctantly agrees.

The show is a good mix of silly with the serious. Spider-Man has always been about the humor, and Deadpool has sort of taken that away from him in recent years…but Spidey, in this series, acts a bit more like Deadpool than is normal, with constant breaking of the fourth wall. To me, this is a good thing at least in context of the show because the show itself is kinetic and hyper-stylized, and is definitely aimed at a younger audience.

Older fans, don’t worry. I am a long-time Spidey fan and I actually really like this series. The team-up is a strange but cool concept, and there are constant throwbacks to story threads found in the Ultimate Marvel Verse. Spider-Man also teams up with other heroes in different episodes, like Thor, Dr. Strange, Iron-Man and others.

All the staple Spidey characters are there, including Aunt May, Flash Thompson, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson.

The action sequences are really well-done, and the humor is usually spot-on. One thing I didn’t really like is how sometimes-annoying Spidey’s voice is. Otherwise, all the voice acting is good.

If you want more serious Spider-Man viewing pleasure, there are definitely other choices, but at least watch this one through the first season because you’ll get a feel for how the rest of the story’s going to go.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Trailer For Season One Of Ultimate Spider-Man

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Original Theatrical Release: August 27, 2004
Director: Jared Hess

Napoleon (Jon Heder) lives in a small Iowa town, where there seems to have congregated a long list of off-the-wall eccentric characters including his crazy family – Kip (Aaron Ruell), Uncle Rico (Jon Gries) and Grandma (Sandy Martin). At his school, he pursues a girl named Deb (Tina Majorino) and tries to help his newfound friend Pedro (Efrem Ramirez) become the class president and defeat the obnoxious Summer Wheatly (Haylie Duff).

The big draw to this film, in case you couldn’t already tell, are the zany characters. The story is there to fit the characters, and not the other way around.

Heder is definitely at his best here, playing the squinty, annoyed and overly-confident but tragically clumsy Napoleon who must constantly wade through the others in the cast to get anything accomplished in his life…from his squabbling brother Kip, who wants to be a cage fighter and somehow gets more attention from the ladies….to his Uncle Rico who does nothing but eat steak and wish he were still in the 1980’s.

There are many worthy moments of comedy cold and there are lots of catchphrases still being used even today from the film (and even a new animated show, which I’m not sure is still on or not).

The locations where the film was shot hold a sort of nostalgic charm that you can’t find in today’s hustle-and-bustle cities and it’s really fun to see a world where you’re really not sure if it’s supposed to be the 1990’s or if it’s really just that backwater there.

This is a classic, for sure.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Napoleon Dynamite

Cruel intentions (1999)

Cruel intentions (1999)

Original Theatrical Release: March 5, 1999
Director: Roger Kumble

Kathryn Merteuil (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and Sebastian Valmont (Ryan Phillippe) are step-siblings. Both are extremely attractive and twisted individuals. Sebastian can have any woman he wants. Well, almost…except for Kathryn and it drives him crazy. Kathryn decides to make a wager with Sebastian, betting him that he can’t bed a virgin waiting for true love, named Annette (Reese Witherspoon). If he loses, she gets his jaguar. If he wins, she has to sleep with him. How far is he willing to go?

I watched this back when it first came out (I had a thing for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Yes, I did.) I think I appreciated the film less then, than I do now.

On its surface, it’s just a vehicle for the twenty-something actors to look edgy in their fledgling careers, flaunting skin and excess. However, at its core is an express message of sexuality, temptation and virtue that reveals itself at a slow pace throughout the length of the film. (Albeit through the POV of jaded, rich white kids from New York)

Some of the movie watches like a high-school dramatic play, but other times it shines with devious tittilation and complex character motivations. Overall, it’s better than some films in its genre (Such as Wild Things) but it’s not amazing by any definition of the word.

PS – I have never read the novel, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, that it was based on (Choderlos de Lacios) so I can’t speak as to the differences from the book to the film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For Cruel Intentions