Interstellar Review

interstellar-poster-3I just finally got back from seeing Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi space movie Interstellar and my response is WOW! In a way my experience with this movie was kind of unique when compared with other bloggers and reviews you might see.  Most people were extremely excited for this movie and then when it was different and more challenging than they expected they were disappointed (at least most people I know).  I on the other hand because I had waited had the opposite situation.  I was expecting to be bored and was totally engrossed.  So perhaps chalk it up to low expectations but I thought it was great!   I am also not a Christopher Nolan fangirl.  I love Inception but his other very popular movies I am more mixed on because I do not like scary or violent movies.

interstellar3I also am a huge fan of 2013’s Gravity and I wondered if I could tolerate another space movie since that one was done so well.  Well in my opinion Interstellar is an entirely different experience from Gravity.   It is like a combination of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Wrinkle in Time (wrap your brain around that).  Gravity is more of a thriller in space where this is a sci-fi drama.

I will try and tell you the plot but I actually don’t think the plot matters that much.  It’s about the experience of characters more than the intricacies of black holes and tesseracts. It’s kind of like in Star Wars we didn’t need to know all the  mumbo jumbo about midi-chlorians  and how the force works.  We just need to see that it is working.  We didn’t need to know about trade alliances and intergalactic treaties.  We just needed to know these are the good guys, this is the obstacle and these are the bad guys.  That’s the difference between the prequels which fail and the originals that succeed (and terrible acting, special effects and writing…)

With Interstellar I do not need one more minutia explained to me.  I just need to see it happen and how the characters react as they face challenges.  That’s it and it does it very well with stunning imagery and relationships that feel genuine and sincere.  Some have said it is boring.  I honestly did not feel that way.  I was engrossed the whole way.  To me Interstellar checks every box of a great sci-fi film.  It has characters I like, cool setting, action, mounting tension and strong allegorical or teaching plot elements.  Again, I do not need to know anything about the science. It could be complete hokum and it wouldn’t matter because within the world of the movie it works.  A lot of people hate the ending but I found it emotionally moving and again right what I wanted in a good sci-fi movie.

interestellar5The heart of the movie is a man named Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey.  He is an engineer/farmer who lives in Texas with his 2 children and father in-law (Mackenzie Foy, Timothee Chalamet and John Lithgow respectively).  It feels like a real family and the movie does a good job building up their relationships in the early sections.

interstellar6They are living in a dust-bowl world where crops are dying and the human race is in danger.  It is unclear what the timeframe for the world’s destruction is but again that doesn’t matter.  All that matters is we have an ending and a reason to go into space. Cooper had been a skilled pilot and through various means he and his daughter named Murphy meet a man named Prof Brand played by Michael Cain and his daughter Dr Amelia Brand played by Anne Hathaway.   They have been operating NASA under secret with a plan to dive into a wormhole to find 3 potentially habitable planets.  The hope is they can move the human race to these planets as earth is dying.

interstellar4Cooper is recruited to lead the mission but he knows going into the wormhole will likely mean his family will age ahead of him because of the theory of relativity.  His daughter Murphy tries to get him to stay but he goes and she is very bitter for some time.  Eventually she grows up to be both Jessica Chastain and Ellen Burystyn who actually all look a lot like little Mackenzie Foy so it works.  Casey Affleck plays the son Tom as an adult. He stays hopeful longer but eventually is forced to give up on his father but he stays in the old home running the farm.

interstellar7Amelia, Cooper, 2 other astronauts and 2 robots (who I loved. They have different comedy and truth telling settings. I kept waiting for them to be creepy robots but they weren’t)  are on the mission. Fairly quickly they get through the wormhole and must decide what planet to try and visit first (astronauts had been sent to all the planets previously).  They end up meeting up with another astronaut played by Matt Damon and have one challenge and adventure after another.  Their relationships are tested and they have to make difficult decisions to save themselves, their family and the human race.  Now that is drama!  I don’t want to give much more away about the plot.  But again I really thought the ending worked for this kind of story and movie.

The robots
The robots

It hopefully goes without saying that the special effects are astonishing and they feel palatable and real not like a green screen world.  There is humor mixed in with tense scenes where I honestly did not know what was going to happen.  That’s a real accomplishment in 2014 to make a sci-fi movie that surprises people.  There are very few character tropes and contrivances needed.  Just a story about relationships, family and exploration in space!  It’s like the Lewis and Clark of space movies.

intestellar2Most movie fans that I know look back at 1969 Oscars and wonder ‘how the heck did 2001: A Space Odyssey not get nominated for Best Picture?”.  I mean it might not be everyone’s cup of tea but to not even get nominated is ridiculous.  After all, how many people are still talking about Oliver! these days!  I have a funny feeling we will have the same experience in 2061 with Interstellar.  We will wonder what the heck were they thinking nominating a forgettable movie like The Theory of Everything over Interstellar? It’s kind of sad actually.  I only wish I had waited to do my best of 2014 because this and several other recent views would certainly have made the list.

The only problem I had with the movie was I did not care for the score.  Hanz Zimmer is great but I found the  music to be overbearing, too loud and at times distracting.  I would have gone with a more soft, subtle score like they had in Gravity which had long stretches with no music at all.

But that is a very small complaint.  I loved it! A great sci-fi movie.

As far as content there isn’t much to offend.  It does have tension and maybe one swear that I noticed but it’s pretty clean.  Kids might find it hard to follow but it just depends on the kid.  If they like sci-fi movies than they may love it. It’s certainly always good for kids to see movies that challenge them and make them think in new ways.  Interstellar will totally do that.

Overall Grade- A+  Content Grade- A

Scrooge 25: The Worst Christmas Carol Movie Ever Made

ghosts_of_girlfriends_past02I know some of you out there enjoy reviews of bad movies and I would include myself in that group.  I’ve tried to keep these Christmas Carol reviews positive but I decided to take my hand at being witty and write about what is without a doubt the worst Christmas Carol movie ever made.  If anyone tries to defend this garbage I will be stunned.

Yes, this is even worse than the Tori Spelling Christmas Carol movie.  At least Tori had a little bit of fun with how bad they were.  This junk actually takes itself too seriously.  There are no jokes.  Nothing funny at all.   It’s even worse than All Dogs Go to Heaven Christmas Carol (although not by much) because it has way more potential to be good.

We are a talking about a The Ghosts of Girlfriend Past made in 2009 and starring 2 Oscar winners Matthew McConaughey and Michael Douglas.  Decent actresses of Jennifer Garner and Emma Stone and directed by Mark Waters of Mean Girls fame.  It was written by Jon Lucas who wrote The Hangover and Wedding Crashers.

All of that talent produced this junk!

Now I am a staunch defender of the romantic comedy.  We all experience romance.  It’s a part of life where other genres are not part of most of our lives.  When they are done right they are an important part of cinema and very entertaining for poor saps like me.

The Ghost of Girlfriends Past screams of a board meeting where people came up with a gimmick and then pumped out a movie using the latest flavor of the months.  They didn’t have an idea or a theme.  It was the ultimate in cynical film-making.  No effort, no attempt to do anything creative or different. It’s not even stupid funny.  It’s just 95 minutes of vanilla laziness.

So here’s the gimmick.  Matthew McConaughey is one of the least convincing photographers in movie history and the ultimate womanizer.  He is never condemned for these choices but actually applauded for them.  It is just time for him to settle down with the old friend Jennifer Garner now that he has sowed his wild oats…

jennifer garnerThe movie never stops to ask why a woman like Jennifer Garner would want a womanizing jerk like McConaughey?  She is merely the puppet that is waiting when he is ready to accept her.  This is after they dated as adults and he left her after a one night stand.  Groan.

She is even the one who started him on the path to photography by giving him his first camera.  Because we know all women in these types of movies are there for is either be frigid ice queens or adorable hags who can’t get a date.  Double groan.

Here’s the main problem with this movie (well one of many).  The whole point of a Christmas Carol is to show Scrooge how isolating himself from others and from the faith and hope of Christmas has made him a terrible, horrible person and hurt other people.  This is a new understanding for him.

In this film, McConaughey has used people too much so showing him people doesn’t show him something different.  It’s merely one in the same.  It makes everything that is intense and thought provoking in the original story feel crass, manipulative and incredibly stupid.  There is no reason to believe McConaughey’s change in the end because he hasn’t been shown anything different, certainly nothing worthy of a dramatic life shift.

What is an intense realization of the life Scrooge could and should be enjoying becomes a clipshow of his greatest hits.

ghosts_of_girlfriends_past18Michael Douglas is the Marley character and it is an embarrassing performance.  He tells Conner that in order to not get his heart broken he should love women and leave them.  Yeah because that doesn’t lead to any heart break…I know he is trying to put on a Hugh Hefner persona but it comes off as cliched and stupid and insulting.  This is Michael Douglas’ grand advice for bedding women (this is the way this movie looks at women):

“So here’s a couple of tips. When you first meet a girl you give her two compliments above the neck. Yeah, tell her she’s got nice lips, nice eyes, nice hair… she’s intelligent, her moral ethics, whatever crap comes to your mind. Then just when she begins to thinks that you’re another – you know – vanilla nice guy that she can tool around with all night without getting naked… then you *insult* her! Flip the power dynamic and your let her know that you’re here to play”

Are you kidding me movie?

Then we get the usually delightful Emma Stone as the Ghost of Girlfriends Past and we get to see how Jennifer Garner was a surrogate mother figure for Conner and he didn’t ask her to the prom and all went to pot. Again, there’s nothing mind altering that McConaughey learns here, nothing that makes him wonder about his life.

ghosts emma stone For Present we get Noureen DeWulf where he learns that his friends make fun of him when he is out of the room…Wa, wa, wa.  That’s the kind of thing that makes someone really change their life.

There is also a scene where 3 of his former loves bond over the fact that he dumped them via a conference call.  Isn’t that hilarious…These women are also told by past to “Don’t be sad, you whiny bitches”…That’s right they had the chance to be with McConaughay so they don’t have any right to complain or have feelings.  They aren’t human beings but neither is he.  He is worse than a bad soap opera character.  At least those men have some drama to their past!

matthew_mcconaughey_and_noureen_dewulf_in_ghosts_of_girlfriends_past_2 And then finally we get Future by Olga Maliouk where he finds that Jennifer marries his friend Brad who is actually a nice guy.  Never good in a movie when we actually want the girl to pick the other guy…

About this time McConaughey says “Really? I mean, now a days being a single means, what? You’ve lost your way? That something is missing? Never mind that every night I swim in a lake of sex, and they fall asleep in each others arms, spooning. ”

And he is right.  There are of course concise and thoughtful answers to why his life is shallow and bad but in the world of this movie he is right.  There is no good reason given why he should be doing anything different.  No convincing case is made for him to change his life and like I said it isn’t even funny.

The movie just assumes, like it’s women, that the audience is too stupid to realize that.  We will just accept that he needs to change even though the plot hasn’t convinced us of it.  Instead we feel manipulated and unsatisfied with the ending for Jennifer Garner.

009GOW_Olga_Maliouk_001McConaughey wakes up in time to save his friends wedding and tell Jennifer Garner that she is the one for him.  Groan, groan, groan.

This movie sucks because the lead character is unlikable and stays unlikable.  The twisting of a classic story into this premise is insulting and stupid.  The writing isn’t funny.  The character doesn’t work because he isn’t shown anything different from his life?

He is not offered a new perspective or shown how he is wrong.  He is merely shown more of how he lives his life.  It’s like if Scrooge was just taken to various counting houses he’d worked at over the years.  Sure that would make him change and yet the  movie expects us to buy that?

Women are treated like objects to check off a list and then it tries to redeem itself by making the jerk a good guy and all the women readily forgive him as if we are all sheep and he is leading us off a cliff. And the dialogue for the women is insufferable.

There is no chemistry between Garner and McConaughey or any of the other women.  Nothing is funny.  Nothing is clever.  There is no skill in any of the movie making at all.

I saw this piece of junk in the theater- yes you read right I saw this in the theater with friends and it made me so angry I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen.  To take a story about ultimate redemption and turn it into a booty call is insulting.  What were they thinking?  I’ll tell you what they were thinking- they assumed we were all so stupid that we wouldn’t care that it had lazy characters, stupid story, pandering writing, stupid women and a story that doesn’t make sense.

Matthew-McConaughey-in-Gh-001So, that’s the worst Christmas Carol movie I’ve ever seen and will always be on my short list of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  It’s trash.  Complete trash.  Nobody was trying to make a good movie here.  There is no spark, no effort, no creativity.  Nothing. On top of everything it’s actually even kind of boring.  There’s just nothing. It’s an insult to the name of Dickens.