Interstellar (2014)

bg

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

 

Advertisements

Star Trek (2009)

Star Trek (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: May 08, 2009
Director: J. J. Abrams

James Tiberius Kirk (Chris Pine) is a hot-headed young man with a lot of potential. Under the tutelage of Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), he is expected to rise in rank although he sometimes goes against the grain and earns the ire of instructors such as Spock (Zachary Quinto). When the planet of Vulcan becomes endangered, the newly-commissioned USS Enterprise and her crew must come together to stop an evil Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana).

Let me start out by saying that I was never a massive Star Trek fan, so I’m not sure how my review would hold up against a true fan of the original series. I did watch a lot of the original, with Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Spock and Kirk, but it was such a long time ago that I don’t remember a lot of it. I am more familiar with Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even then, I’m a little fuzzy on the Star Trek mythos.

With that said, I do have to say that I enjoyed this entry into the Star Trek franchise. Say what you will about JJ Abrams, but the man knows how to direct action. There were plenty of fight scenes to wet the palate, and there is even a Beastie Boys cameo (in the form of music – lest we forget, the Beastie Boys are huge Star Trek nerds) during a cool action scene.

In this first film, the characters (I think) were a little more true to their television counterparts than in the second film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. I actually liked the casting choices of Zoe Saldana as Uhura and Zachary Quinto as Spock. (And, of course we get to see Leonard Nimoy back as Spock as well. Shhhhh!) I think Chris Pine plays a great Kirk. He is arrogant, a womanizer and indeed looks “corn-fed”. You want to hate him but his charm wins out.

Bana was lackluster as Nero – screaming and full of rage.  The Romulan ship was pretty neat. Not sure I was sold on the Uhura/Spock love entanglement, however.

All in all, this film might frustrate some hardcore Trekkies I know, but people must remember that it’s supposed to be an alternate timeline. Whether or not that helps, I’m not sure. As a non-Trekkie, I found this an easy introduction to the Star Trek characters, and I enjoyed the ride. It didn’t get too involved in the normal political mess (boring) of the television program and instead focused on the action and drama.

(Oh, and the weird thing is that you get to see Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s dad. Yup.)

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Star Trek

 

All-New X-Men #1 (January 2013)

All-New X-Men #1 (January 2013)

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Creative Team: Brian Michael Bendis, Stuart Immonen, Wade Von Grawbadger, Marte Gracia

Cyclops, one of the most prominent members of the X-Men and one of its original members, is now a fugitive wanted by almost every costumed hero and government entity in existence after the Phoenix Force corrupted him and he killed his former mentor, Professor Charles Xavier. Dying from another mutant transformation, and out of ideas, Hank McCoy (aka Beast) goes back in time to bring back the younger version of Cyclops to hopefully talk some sense into the present-day version. Maybe together they can save mutantkind.

I hadn’t really heard much about this series as I’d been out of the comic loop for a few months, but I noticed the older costumes on the cover. I am hoping to cosplay as the 60’s version of Cyclops, so I figured I’d pick up the first three issues to not only use for reference, but also to see what it was all about.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Issue #1 opens with Beast writhing on the ground, dying from a new manifestation of his mutation. He prays that he is allowed to do something good for mutantkind before he dies, and then we move on to Cyclops and his new teammates, Magneto and Emma Frost, liberating and recruiting new mutants who are popping up everywhere.

This first issue started out just a LITTLE slower than I would have liked, but the action picks up toward the end enough to have kept me hooked until the next issue. Bendis knows what he’s doing, I think we all know that. There were a couple of typos I noticed here and there (way to go, editor), but otherwise it was a good read.

The art by Stuart Immonen (Pencils), Wade Von Grawbadger (Inks) and Marte Gracia (Colorist) was amazing. Sometimes I noticed that, for whatever reason, it looked like Immonen phoned it in on the faces in some of the smaller panels but he really does action very well. The inks give his work some solid depth and the coloring, of course, makes it pop.

I think this series is going to do pretty well.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Here’s a sample page from All-New X-Men #1!
all-new-x-men-1-preview-10

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

The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (1990)

The Difference Engine, by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling (1990)

Release Date: September, 1990
Publisher: Victor Gollancz Ltd
Author: William Gibson, Bruce Sterling

The Difference Engine is a novel set in 1855, primarily, and concerns the invention of an analytical engine (essentially a computer by today’s standards) by a character named Charles Babbage. This sets off a spur of military and industrial advances that didn’t actually come until about a hundred years later in actual history. In this alternate history, Britain/The UK is vastly more powerful than they were in reality because of this and there are also lots of other little changes like America being fragmented (due to Britain’s involvement in hindering them in fear that they would rise in power as America does in actual history).

The Difference Engine felt more sci-fi than I am normally used to (I’m primarily a fantasy reader). Rather than dealing with time travel, like in books such as The Anubis Gates, it’s just characters from Britain in the 1800’s and the way they supposedly spoke. It was initially difficult to read because of this, and because of all the idioms and terms the characters used (One example being the word “flash” which in context meant “cool”, I think, how we use it today. One of the characters saying to Sybil, the main character, “A gal looks very flash in bed, with black silk stockings,” was the only exception to that rule. In any case, some of the idioms were a bit confusing to my American eyes, and that’s okay because it’s another time these characters live in and it’s good if they don’t sound modern. If one of us went back in time today we probably would barely be able to understand folks back then, and vice versa.

The setting was very detailed and rich in this novel. There were all sorts of little nods to things that weren’t immediately obvious but impacted how I viewed the scene. There was one part where a character named Huxley was walking back and forth and the writers threw in the fact that he was walking on a Turkish carpet. The novel was filled with examples like that, and it really helped fill out the world. It’s all in the details, man.

The characters were the real draw to The Difference Engine, and there were lots of them. We had Sybil Gerard (she’s the primary main character) who is essentially a prostitute, or a fallen woman who courts politicians and affluent men. (Sybil also happens to be a character borrowed from another novel by Benjamin Disraeli; Sybil, which I’ve never read). There is also Edward “Leviathan” Mallory and he is somewhat of an explorer/paleontologist. Finally, there is Laurence Oliphant, who is the literary version of the actual author Laurence Oliphant from the 1800’s. As in The Anubis Gates, we get to see the fictional/alternate versions of historical figures (which I always find interesting) other than Oliphant, too…including Lord Byron, who also appeared in The Anubis Gates and John Keats, who is a kinotropist…essentially someone who operates mechanical screens. Sam Houston, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Karl Marx are all mentioned and appear at various points, too.

This novel is complicated, but in a good way. If you can get the hang of the lexicon that the authors use, you’re sure to enjoy it. You may even pick up a few more words to use in your own vocabulary. (I kind of want to use “flash” now). The novel seems dense at times….but also mostly in a good way, though I did have to wade through some of it because I’m not very cerebral or sci-fi oriented. As a fantasy reader, I could definitely still appreciate the amazing alternate history world of fantastic machines and technology that Gibson and Sterling have created. Give it a shot, it’s definitely worth your time!

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check out a free preview of The Difference Engine HERE

If You’d Like To Know What A Difference Engine Actually IS – You Can See It In Motion Here

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983)

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers (1983)

Original Release Date: 1983
Publisher: Ace Books
Author: Tim Powers

The Anubis Gates, by Tim Powers, is a very complicated novel that deals with the concept of time travel and is also considered one of the foremost classics of contemporary steampunk fiction (though I’m not one-hundred percent why that is, seeing as there really isn’t any steam or punk) .

The story is set in 1983, after a brief introduction that takes place in the 1800’s. The protagonist of the story, Brendan Doyle, is asked to a meeting by a millionaire named J. Cochran Darrow because Doyle is a poetry expert and is noted for being very intimate in his knowledge of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and a poet (created by the Tim Powers for the novel) named William Ashbless…and the romantic poets in general.

Darrow has apparently figured out the secret of time travel, in which there are multiple windows through time (able to be calculated mathematically) in which someone can just pop in for the duration, which varies from entryway to entryway. Darrow is charging people one million dollars each to go back in time and see a lecture put on by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. During the trip, Doyle is kidnapped and misses his jump back  to present-day and finds himself living on the streets of London in the 1800’s, reduced to panhandling and other money-making schemes in order to survive long enough to find a way back or at the very least live out his days in comfort with his knowledge of the future. Along the way, he meets many incredible characters such as Lord Byron, William Ashbless, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, a magical and sadistic clown named Horrabin, Muhammad Ali (not the boxer…the Ottoman commander in Egypt in the 1800’s) and an evil shape-shifting werewolf serial killer named Dog Face Joe.

Yup.

Tim Powers is great at setting the scene. He uses authentic phrases and language that I actually had to look up to know what it meant. If I hadn’t looked it up, I still would have been able to glean what it meant due to his use of context, so it was sort of fun to have that choice. An example of how he did this is during a conversation between gypsies at the beginning, where two men are conversing and it goes like “Will you eat some dinner? They’ve got a hotchewitchi on the fire, smells very kushto.” Hotchewitchi is hedgehog/groundhog and Kushto means “good”. I had to look those both up but then later on it was alluded to in context and I figured out I most likely wouldn’t have had to look them up in the first place.

The characters are all very memorable and I really enjoyed getting to meet Lord Byron and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. The setting was very detailed. We saw London through the eyes of a modern man seeing what had changed from 1983 to the 1800’s. It was really neat.

There were a few drawbacks, such as some pacing issues (I felt, anyway) toward the end and some confusing shifts in time where we miss entire swaths of Doyle’s shenanigans.

Overall, if you like Steampunk or Sci-Fi, time travel or fantasy (especially all of the above) then check it out. It’s a good read.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Check out a preview of the book for free, HERE

 

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)