Sunday, January 25, 2015

No Salvation In Sight

Exodus Gods & Kings makes two lost hours feel like wandering the desert for 40 years.

ON CONTINUITY 

ARTH VADER (AV): I guess to be completely forthcoming, the epic biblical tale of Moses, the Egyptian prince who learns of (and eventually embraces) his hebrew heritage to herald God’s word to lead the Jewish slaves out of captivity and on a path to the promised land is the framework of this film. While the Christian Bible can be (in some circles) grounds for controversy and interpretation, the story follows the book of Exodus rather loosely. As is the case with all film adaptations, this movie takes some ‘creative liberties’ with the screenplay. But this, as the saying goes, is just the beginning. How did this movie hold up for you, old friend? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Well Vader, as far as continuity goes, anyone that has really read the scriptures knows that there is little by way of continuity with this film beyond the fact we have a man named Moses and the story takes place in Egypt. It is rare when we have a film so far from the source material that it should just be presented as something totally new with no connection to it’s given title.

CASTING DIRECTING & ACTING

AV: Christian “Batman” Bale plays the leading role of Moses, Prince of Egypt (and not very well I might say). The casting is in short, a hot mess. John “Is there another Transformers movie coming?” Turturro is cast as the Pharaoh Seti and Aaron “Jesie” Paul is cast as Joshua. If those sound like baffling casting calls (and they ALL are) try Sigourney “Ripley” Weaver who shifts in for a hot minute as Tuya. Director Ridley “Please stick to Aliens” Scott does share a stunning vision of ancient Egypt that is curiously not offensive and is a cinematic spectacle. That is to say it looks incredible. As for the acting… in a word; “meh”. What’d you think, Pontificator? 

TP: The casting of this film has been something of a controversy from the beginning Vader. Yes I acknowledge the talent of Christian (how ironic is his name given the material) Bale, Joel Edgerton, and John Turturro, but it should also be noted that all the Egyptian royalty in the film were cast with people of European descent while the underclass and places were cast with people of African descent. Not only was this historically inaccurate, but just plain ridiculous.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: Though I did leave the theater with my socks on, the visual effects were quite impressive. From the CGI armies in the opening conflict to the parting of the Red Sea in the film’s finale, the VFX are a spectacle to behold and gives the viewer a grand sense of scope and impressive vision. Most notable were the seven plagues that are unleashed upon the Nile and Egypt; one does a get a sense that these plagues and natural disasters are indeed overwhelming. 



TP: The special effects were done well, but I think by leaving the source material (the Bible) so far behind, it was a missed opportunity to really do some wonderful things onscreen. I really enjoyed the costuming and while no new ground was broken with the effects, there was certainly an opportunity to do much better than was done.

A DEEPER LOOK

AV: Soapbox time here kiddies! Honestly, how many more movies must we wade through of prominent Black roles being portrayed by White actors? Christian Bale as Moses? C’mon Hollywood! Does it strike anyone as whacko that there are no prominent actors of color in movie that takes place in Africa? Whats next, redoing the Godfather with all Asian actors speaking in an Italian-American brogue? It’s getting ridiculous. And that is the word I would use to describe this whole film. Even deeper–because this is the deeper part of the review–the film seems to go out of its way to portray Moses as a crazy person and not a biblical character of historical importance. In short, the film seems to take a very neutral stance on the subjects of God, Miracles and the character of Moses himself. Spirituality aside, it’s hard to enjoy a film that has no sense of self conviction. Thoughts, P-Man? 

TP: Look... the fact that Moses and Ramses II were separated historically by 200 years is just the tip-off the iceberg for me Vader. This presentation of Moses being some schizophrenic that apparently sees children that aren’t really there was absolutely idiotic. The presentation of the plagues as some kind of explainable natural occurrences that happened by happenstance was equally idiotic. I absolutely lost it when they showed Moses chiseling the ten commandments… I mean what??? The Bible says God wrote them with his finger, but the message here is a crazy old guy that sees imaginary people somehow came up with the moral backbone of civilized society. Ridley Scott took out the very thing that makes this story so alluring and exciting… God. I honestly would have gotten more enjoyment out of watching a remastered presentation of “The Ten Commandments!

ON SEQUELS

AV: Biblical spectaculars are an emerging genre in Hollywood but I don’t know if they should. This film was like a warm cup of tap water. Bland, hard to swallow, does the job but with no flavor or flair of any kind, and as you’re taking it in, you just know it could be so much better. With any luck, this will be Ridley Scott’s only biblical endeavor, seeing as how it was dedicated to his deceased brother. I will respectfully not offer any more negative feedback. 

TP: I pray (literally) that Scott stay far away from any other biblical material and they let this travesty of a film fade away in the annals of crappy interpretation and missed opportunities. 

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Exodus: Gods & Kings: So if you like biblical spectaculars (plus or minus the spectacular) than you give this flick a go. A forgettable experience to be sure but not without some merit. Also, if you like watching movies that depict horrific scenes of horse violence, then you have a winner here. I swear, Ponty more horses are killed in this film than a little bit. Still, if you’re in the mood to watch a batch of A-Listers dial-in some mediocre performances, then Exodus:God & Kings is waiting. Afterward, you’ll see why I parted with only three (3) busted blocks and was all too happy to find the promised land—namely the theater exit.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Exodus: Gods and Kings: Knowing the source material well, there was very little I enjoyed about this film aside from the costuming. It was inaccurate both biblically and historically and omitted the one element that would have made it something special…God. With that, this film only freed two (2) busted blocks and drowned the others in the Red Sea 

Exodus: Gods And Kings  2.5 / 10 Busted Blocks

Friday, January 9, 2015

One Hobbit To End Them All

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies Is A Surprisingly Exciting Finale 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): In what has likely been described as a horrific re-interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic novel that chronicles gentle Bilbo’s discovery of Sauron’s ring of power, The hobbit films have been a mish–mash of too much CGI, over-inflated plot and drawn-out story telling. Tolkien’s grand prequel to the great ‘war of the ring’ has been studied in middle-schools and high schools all over the world for nearly 40 years. The continuity of this film with it’s two predecessors is in alignment, though they have scant little to do with the original content but lets face it, these days that just doesn’t matter anymore, does it Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): There is little to discuss here with regards to continuity Vader, since the films left the books a long time ago. Legolas is not even in the Hobbit, nor is Tauriel…but it was still entertaining to see them in this film. If it’s about accuracy to the book…we’ll have to read the book. This film was not made for accuracy, but to deliver entertainment and rake in dollars, and it does a modicum both.

CASTING, DIRECTION & ACTING 

AV: Nothing really new on the casting front for this film, old friend. The acting was solid, as each character reprises their roles from the previous films with some interesting introspection from Richard (Thorin Oakenshield) Armitage and Benedict (Dr. Strange) Cumberbach; as both the dragon Smaug and the frightening Necromancer. In his portrayal of the Dwarf lord struggling with his own inner turmoil, Armitage puts on a somewhat cardboard but nonetheless convincing tortured soul, adding to the old adage ‘heavy is the head that wears the crown.’ 

One thing that must be reiterated is how much of a master Peter Jackson is at depicting epic battles where massive armies collide, pan in, bring us into the battle up close and personal and then back out, is breathtaking. 

TP: There is really nothing to say concerning the casting and acting in this film–both were superb. I was especially pleased with Thorin (Richard Armitage) and Bard (Luke Evans). The directing could have been better though as I had some issues with the way the battle unfolded but I’ll get into that later.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: Here is where every Lord of The Rings film excels, P-Man. The opening engagement with Smaug The Terrible is CGI at its finest. While not breaking any new ground in the digital visual effects arena, the entire film is as impressive as ever. Say what you want about Jackson’s film making but these films are a wonder to behold. From the fantastic beasts to the grotesque monsters, movie-goers will be astounded at how good these films look. 

TP: We all should be very familiar with what to expect for effects in these Middle-Earth films…and this film delivers, although because of the subject of the the film, I had higher expectations than normal. The CGI was superb and the costuming was second to none, however, with that said… there is so much more that could have been done given we had an army of Elves that should have been doing all the things we have come to expect from watching Legolas (although Legolas is exceptional, regular Elves are also extremely impressive).


TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: I must confess, that after the last film (The Desolation of Smaug) I was very much expecting another visually compelling flop. What we got was a pretty good action flick, but one devoid of story, dialogue, and ultimately merit. What this says to me is we got exactly what many thought we were going to get—a long, drawn-out over-indulgent, over-blown and over-the-top series of films that told in nearly eight hours what should have taken about half that time. The Hollywood self-inflicted formula of three-film trilogy franchises makes great sense to investors, producers and the studios, Not so much for film integrity. Fantasy film giants like George Lucas (prequel trilogy) or Peter Jackson (LOTR) seem to take truly landmark works and destroy their own legacies. It’s very literally snatching defeat form the jaws of victory. And Pontificator, it is so demoralizing. How say you? 

TP: Battle of the Five Armies had me expecting to see the most epic fight scenes… ever. I mean, both300” films and “Troy” stand out for the fights and battles. Now I’m not suggesting that there be more blood and gore, that would have detracted from the film, but I am suggesting that Jackson should have taken FULL advantage of presenting an ARMY of Elves. Why didn’t we see wave upon wave of Orcs being obliterated by the more agile and skilled Elves? Look at all the Elves armed with bows and realize there is not a single arrow shot from them during the entire forty-five minutes of battle. Although there was a great showing for the Dwarven King, there should have been incredible showings for any Elf on screen. I just didn’t get the sense that the Elves were the absolute elite and most feared combatants on Middle-Earth, and that’s exactly what anyone watching the film should have gotten…from the battle, not the formation displays before the battle.

Also, where was the resolution at the end? Did the Elves get what they came to mountain for? Did the men get what was promised? Why did the battle end when the good guys were so clearly outnumbered…even with the introduction if the Eagles? There were just too many open questions the battle created instead of resolutions to the problems at hand. Am I also the only one that noticed the premier Orcs were played by indigenous New Zealanders’ Manu Bennet and John Tui (message?)?

ON SEQUELS 

AV: While I have (mostly) enjoyed each LOTR film installment, I don’t need anymore. 

Seriously.

Thank you for the wonderful experiences Mr. Jackson, I'm happy we went there and back again with you. Now lets just move on shall we? I’m sure Mr. Jackson has more tales to spin and this Tolkien world / franchise has been tapped out. That said, I vote ‘no’ to further Hobbit-flavored sequels. P-Man? 

TP: I second that vote Vader! It seems the Tolkien family has the rights to the Silmarillion so we won’t be seeing any film adaption to that any time soon. Given the way the Elves were treated in this film, that’s probably a good thing. I’m against any notion to start making up Middle-Earth stories just for films (although that works fine for video games). 


RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies: The best thing I can (probably) say about this film – and hopefully the franchise – is that its over. This last film was a fun watch from a visual effects standpoint but it was a hot mess, no story and even less reason for being. I'm happy to have seen them all and I’m done. Still, the movie could have been worse (hardly a selling point) so for that, I give Battle of the Five Armies a fitting five (5) Busted Blocks.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies: A good film with superb acting and great effects. Out of all the Hobbit films, this should have been the one to blow the doors off the hinges. Instead I came away with a sense of unfulfilled opportunity and thoughts how it could have been better. That alone has this film cleaving only seven (7) busted blocks as the rest escape in battle. 


The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies 6 /10 Busted Blocks

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hard Not To Mock The Mockingjay

With the next installment of The Hunger Games franchise, Katniss & company try really hard to keep audiences engaged. 

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): The numbers are in and The Hunger Games will go down as one of the most beloved movie franchises in Hollywood history. Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen–heroine of the downtrodden–takes on political corruption and societal oppression in this landmark series of fiction books–and now films. As installment three in what is (presently) a four-film story arc, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is clearly the set-up for the ‘beginning of the end’ of the terror-riddled reign of the Capitol over the 13 enslaved districts. The story picks up some time after the end of THG: Catching Fire. Speaking of fire, were you burning with desire to see this flick Mr. Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): I was indeed sitting in fiery anticipation of this film, Vader. The third installment of Hunger Games picks right up where the second film left off. In the continuing story of Katniss Everdeen, we are closing in on the final curtain and it will either be the freedom of the oppressed, or their continued subjugation. Personally I’m hoping for the freedom, but wouldn’t the latter be one heck of a plot twist? 

CASTING, DIRECTING & ACTING

AV: You know, it would, Pontificator. It might even make the franchise more compelling. Like all modern futuristic fantasy flicks of late, the cinematography of the Hunger Games movies is terrific. The visual effects are very good. And the cast is, well, all the usual suspects. J-Law brings her normal well-presented intensity to her Heroine. Woody (I still can’t jump) Harrelson joins all the pretty young faces to reprise their classic roles. The great Donald (President Snow) Sutherland and the late (and also great) Phillip Seymour Hoffman round out the super cast of Mockingjay, part 1. Surprisingly, Vienna-born Director Francis Lawrence (no relation to Jennifer) who has directed such sci-fi hits such as I Am Legend, Constantine and Catching Fire, tries like heck to bring a rather boring, calculated screenplay to a better place but to no avail. Thoughts Mr. P? 

TP: All the usual suspects are back (as you have covered)… with some new faces added to the mix. Julianne Moore debuts as President Coin and delivers the role of a leader that doesn’t have all the answers, but seemingly knows when to take guidance in those times of ignorance. Mahershala Ali (from one of my all-time favorite television series, 4400) also debuts as the premier military man on the side of the people. Natalie Dormer (of Game of Thrones fame) introduces us to Cressida, a defector from the Capitol with a singular talent for film. Admittedly this film takes a different tone than the first two in the series, but the pace is still steady and the buildup to the final film is definitely palatable. 

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: Oh I wish I could agree, sir. Perhaps you are a more insightful movie watcher than I am. When it comes to SFX, the visual effects in this film are decent but the story is so muddled, I found it hard to simply sit-still and try to endure the onset of wrist-watching, yawning and the fluttering ever-heavier eyelids, For me, Mockingjay just never really took off. There is frighteningly little that can be called a visual effects in this film as everything simply feels like something I've seen in the past. Would you agree P-Man?

TP: I would have to disagree, oh Dark One, about the sentiments in the beginning of your paragraph, but agree on the latter. Great special effects is what I expected, and that’s exactly what I got. There was no new ground broken here, just everything we have seen before done the same way as before. That in itself might be a detraction since with every new film we hope to find better effects than the last, but I submit that it is also a blessing to not be subjected to worse effects than previous films. There isn’t too much to say about explosions and the plethora of aircraft shots except that they were consistent to expectations…as was the set designs and costuming.

TAKING A DEEPER LOOK

AV: What surprised me the most was how downright boring this film was. I watch a good number of films over the course off a year and they range from blockbusters to indie films and beyond. The film seemed to only set the stage for the next one. It served no viable storytelling purpose as the characters sort of saunter from scene to scene. Whats more, I have a ton of additional concerns that were left unanswered that leave this film hanging for me. First, no one else has called it out so I will; it is IMPOSSIBLE to bring down two advanced, state-of-the-art fighter jets  with an explosive tip arrow. Could you do this to an F-35 or an F-22 Raptor? No. In one of the film’s three (yes, 3) action scenes, Katniss brings down two jet fighters with an arrow. Wha–!? 

Here is the deeper issue for me. This film is targeted to young people (mostly young girls), tweens to early 20’s. This franchise speaks to political unfairness. The injustices the elite visit upon the downtrodden and social inequities of a violent caste system that forces young people to eviscerate each other for sport because the government “says so.” Are any of these young women even ‘getting’ this? Do they even care? Or is this just more “cool warrior chick” stuff like a Ripley, Sarah Connor or that dopey Twilight girl that has already faded from memory? And if not, why does this film series even bother? 

And the dialogue, oh God. Listen old friend, I struggle as it is with many of this year’s films in this genre. The two Hercules films, Transformers 4, The Giver and Sin City 2. This has NOT been a stellar year for the spoken word onscreen for sci-fi flicks. This movie is no different. Katniss goes from refusing to be the voice/face of the rebellion to essentially “ok I’ll do it” inside of 20 just minutes. Here’s a hint Hollywood, we already knew she would agree. Please stop wasting our time. Help me out here, Pontificator, please tell me I'm on the wrong track. 

TP: Well… clearly I wasn’t nearly as displeased as you were old friend, so I don’t think I’m going to be much help. This film departs from the disturbing subject matter of children killing children and instead gets grounded in the more palatable struggle of an oppressed society seeking to break free of their oppressors. This is a familiar story that has been seen in reality many times…and it’s just eerie how the film parallels much of the current climate of out of control law enforcement. Just as profound as that is the use of the media in the film (and similarly in reality)  to paint carefully crafted pictures of what special interests want others to believe as truth. This was the draw of the film for me as watching it simply highlighted the state of the world today, although not yet to the degree that Panem is. Yes the film had less violence and action as the previous ones, but the reflection it gave was so much more interesting… and relevant.

ON SEQUELS

AV: Unfortunately, the inane use of the term “Part 1” right in the title implies their are subsequent follow-up “parts.” (Sigh) That means we all have to sit through another 2+ hours of J-Law making more uninteresting speeches about rising up against the capitol, something no one in the world should even need to have to hear. The real depressing news is that we can likely expect more of the same in “Part 2.” 

TP: We all know there is one more film set to drop to complete the series… in 2015, and I’m looking forward to it. 

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: Audiences have already spoken with their wallets and their attendance so my review may be moot. However, if you haven’t seen this film, I would encourage waiting for it to come to HBO/NetFlix/Red Box or whatever post-theater viewing venue you prefer. For me, this film is NOT good. Its’ boring with a paper-thin plot, amateurish dialogue, and woefully poor story pacing. And while I freely admit I’m outside the demographic of this film–or even this franchise–I couldn’t stomach giving this installment of Hunger Games more than three (3) Busted Blocks.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1: With the film moving out of the arena and pulling up alongside real life, it had a different, but no less interesting, tone. The ideologies of right and wrong meet in the middle when the same tactics are used by both sides to advance their narrative, whatever it might be… which is why this film shoots down seven (7) busted blocks in the name of freedom. 


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay:  5 / 10 Busted Blocks


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Disney Goes Big With Big Hero 6

Disney delights us again with another animated spectacular, this time with a little–known Marvel tale about a boy and his robot.

ON CONTINUITY 

ARTH VADER (AV): Based on the the short-run Marvel Comic of the same name, Big Hero 6 (BH6) is about a haphazard collection of reluctant, would-be heroes and their quest to do right with skills and powers they newly acquire. Once wrung through the Disney filter of family-centric storytelling, BH6 quickly detracts from it’s original source material but does in such a way as to give the film a unique charm all it’s own. Though stacked with Marvel talent on the consultant and writing side (Joe Quesada & Jeff Loeb we’re looking at you guys) the film feels uniquely Disney and truth be told, there is no Marvel co-branding in the identity and marketing of this movie. An interesting move wouldn’t you say, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Disney owns Marvel Vader, and they want us to know it. Big Hero 6 is a fun and arguably better departure from the source material. The film differs from both comic iterations with many character details, but the truth is that a straight comic adaption would have been just as lost and ignored as the comic itself. The biggest change, Beymax, is what actually made the film a hit from the miss it was as a comic 

CASTING, DIRECTION & ACTING

AV: With some decent voice characterization work from some A-List talent, BH6 is a seamless family-friendly story that does not insult the intellect of the adult-minded viewers. The story-centric camera-work of directors Don Hall and Chris Williams do a masterful job of pacing the audience through a new CGI-powered take on the Hero’s journey. The acting was bit campy but we gotta remember it’s a kid’s flick / family film–and ultimately I’m alright with it. V/O performances from Damon (The Other Guys) Wayans Jr., Comedian TJ Miller and Ryan (Hiro) Potter were all great but it was the flat out brilliant voice work of Scott (We’re The Millers) Adsit that was the runaway hit. Portraying the sensible, sublime and low-key robo-oaf Baymax. He was certainly my fav, P-Man. 

TP: The “acting” is really the brainchild of the animators in bringing these characters to life…but more about that in the next section. The actors voicing the characters were excellent choices, despite the biggest name in the cast being James Cromwell (Star Trek: First Contact). Other recognizable names for me were Daniel Henney (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and Jamie Chung (Sin City: A Dame to Kill for) and I had absolutely no complaints with the delivery of their talent. The pace of the film was certainly engaging and displayed everything at the right moment for a solid film. 

SPECIAL EFFECTS 

AV: The visual effects are quite familiar so I won’t spend much time commenting there. The art direction however (the visual style of the film) is refreshingly original and bundled together with the right amount of style, attention to detail, and originality. I thought the film did an expert job of depicting different ethnicities, genders and personalities. I didn’t feel the animation was particularly landmark but it was a good looking product. 

TP: After BH6 in regular format, I wish I had taken the initiative to see it in 3D.The special effects were great and exactly in line with what I was expecting from a Disney film. Animation is a serious medium and few do it as well as Disney does.


TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

AV: BH6 fires (and hits!) on all cylinders for me. It taps directly into the current insatiable hunger Hollywood and the movie-going public seem to have presently for super hero. Its fun enough for the uninitiated, dopey enough for little kids and delightful even to the hardcore Marvel/DC/Comic industry fan base. The film hit on all the right beats at all the right times; a sense of loss (first w/parents, then w/the brother), the mysterious villain, the bond that develops among warriors, the ‘rainbow coalition’ of characters who band together to overcome an adversary too intense for any one of them to overcome. Modern humor blended with an almost sickening balance ethnicity, BH6 delivers on every front. What did you think,old friend? 

TP: For a children’s film, this movie really takes a profound look at the human condition. My son (he’s 19), after seeing the film, asked me if I thought the villain was evil. It’s an interesting query as I didn’t see the villain as truly evil as I did broken by grief and anger. These emotions don’t prompt evil in a sense of aspirations of world domination, but a specific  and simplistic goal of revenge. Is revenge evil…or is it extremely human? If we label revenge evil, then how do we also label the motivations for it…namely sadness and anger? I think “evil” is Lex Luthor deriving pleasure from causing the deaths of millions of people, but losing some perspective while dealing with grief is something else entirely different. Even the hero of the film showed the same humanity as the “villain” whereas true evil to me, is a lack of humanity. I’d be very interested in how the young children in the theater with me viewed all this. 

ON SEQUELS

AV: While the Disney movie-deployment model tends not to favor direct sequels, I can see either a direct-to-DVD release or even possibly a weekly-installment cartoons series. I did leave the theater with a favorable take on wanting to see more BH6 in the future. And if the post-credit cut scene is any indication, there is loads more storytelling that can come from this world. 

TP: Of course they should go to this well again and get another bucket of success. The challenge will be to have a story as engaging and connective as the first since the very foundation of the team was the driving force behind the film’s relevance. 


RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Big Hero 6: In case it’s not clear at this point, I really enjoyed this movie. Doing what it does best, Disney has carefully crafted another winner that is a clear modern story that is richly diverse in culture and character that makes a strong case for making more films with this kind of formula. Colorful, fun and insightfully glib, Big Hero 6 is a solid film for everyone. So with a handful of Nano-bots, I toss nine (9) Busted Blocks right through the portal and watch for more films like this in the future.

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Big Hero 6: With great animation, effects, and acting, this film was a lot of fun to watch and was extremely entertaining. Our humanity was captured, not only in the animated acting, but also displayed in the motivations of both the hero and the villain.  Disney has taken an irrelevant team, and given them new life, busting eight (8) super big blocks.


Big Hero 6: 8.5 / 10 Busted Blocks



Monday, December 8, 2014

Interstellar is (somewhat) stellar

With no shortage of quirky speed bumps, Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar takes mankind (and audiences) on a trip that is literally out of this world.

ON CONTINUITY

ARTH VADER (AV): The big day arrives and interstellar opens to a $50 million (domestic) weekend. Christopher (Dark Knight) Nolan delivers an original but all-too-familiar plot of an Earth dying out and withering natural planetary resources, Interstellar offers a new twist on an old science fiction story, would you agree Pontificator? 
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Interstellar is a human driven story about extraordinary circumstances Vader. It grounds us with situations we can understand and relate to…like family, but also bombards us with things we can’t quite wrap our heads around…like time paradoxes. That said, the continuity of the film is great, until you try to figure out the “how” of it all…then you’re just lost cause the film never finds this either. 


CASTING, DIRECTION AND ACTING

AV: With an oscar-worthy cast flitting across the screen like so many… (ahem) stars, I had higher hopes for this film’s story. The quality of the screenplay is middle-of-the-road, with enough holes in the plot to foment and entire year’s worth of swiss cheese. The cast is first rate (I will leave the casting call inhale very capable hands of my co-blogger) but the acting was–at best–dialed. The forced ‘your-line-is-read-here’ dialogue is mostly flat and predictable. The story pacing is good and Nolan’s now-famous cinematography does not disappoint. P-Man, tell us more about this (Inter)stellar cast. 


TP: The casting of this film was excellent as was the acting. There was a tremendous amount of talent in this film (Michael Caine, Anne Hathaway, even a surprise appearance of Matt Damon) but don’t fool yourself for a moment into thinking this film wasn’t carried by Matthew McConaughey. He absolutely set the tone of the film and the directing gave it a pace that complimented his style and allowed everyone else to present their talent.

SPECIAL EFFECTS

AV: If you’re going to journey to the stars, your movie has got to look good. This movie, looks good. What I struggled with was the old Star Wars-esque vision of worlds defined by one geographic feature (Jungle planets, Ice planets, etc,) At first, the explores touchdown on a gravity-dense world defined by 1000-foot tides that sweep across the planet. While that science is horribly flawed, the visual effect is astounding. But all this planet stuff pales next to this film’s biggest visual effect – the robots! Hot damn, if I could have a robot like CASE or TARS I dare say my life would be pretty darn sweet! Well-written and even better imagined, Nolan’s vision of super-funny, supper-enabled ‘bots is a definite film highlight. 

TP: Visually stunning is the only way to describe the effects of this film. From the scenes on a slowly dying Earth to the awesome sequences of deep space, seeing this film in IMAX was the only way to see it. We often talk about how the best CGI is the kind you never think about while watching it. Well, this film delivers that type of quality as everything looks very real giving you a sense of being wherever the film takes you.

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK

AV: There is a lot not right with Interstellar. Too many plot holes, time gaps, implausible science and downright confusing character motivations. For one, I struggle with trying to determine some hard dot ignore points. First, Why would you send so many humans out when you had such sophisticated robots to do the hard stuff better and faster? How did Cooper to stumble across a secret NASA facility just down the road? Why was he then the single most important person for the mission? Do you mean to tell me that after spending nearly 80 (Earth) years struggling to get back in touch with each other that 98-year-old Murph and 124 year-old Coop spend just 3 minutes together before he decides to shoot off into space to find a stranded Anne Hathaway? 

Too many things that don’t come together (which we can expect in Nolan films, remember: Inception, Dark Knight Rises) but there does come a point when I can no longer gorge myself on a steady diet of unexplainable plot points and non-sensical science. I did truly enjoy the film but this one goes onto the shelf for me. Ponty? 

TP: Great points Vader! This was a long film topping out at almost three hours and given that it wasn’t constant action, it’s a testament to the quality of the script an the actors that it was so engrossing that it never felt like a three hour film. The film kept the pressure on as it constantly flowed with an “all is lost” feel even though McConaughey was the constant beacon of hope. The science of the film could have been much heavier than it was and I was glad when they decided to simplify some of it for the audience by simply telling us things like “every hour there is seven years here.” This made for some hefty heart dropping moments when they showed just how the effects of time relativity really works. The only gripe I had was that I really did not need to be treated to another time paradox plot. In the end you are left to question the “how” of it all and the only answer given leads you in a never-ending loop of impossible.

ON SEQUELS

AV: Umm, no. This is a stand-alone film. One that will do particularly well at the box office but I don’t ever need to relive any part of this film or story again. Good film, one and done.


TP: A great film that could certainly stand alone…I can certainly see how a sequel could be made, given the unanswered (or should I say unsatisfactorily answer) of how it all came about and the leaving off of where it all goes from here. That said, given one of the main points of the film was to save humanity, I’d say accomplishing that closes the door on a sequel.

RATE IT!

ARTH VADER rates Interstellar: Interstellar is truly an epic, big budget Hollywood juggernaut. Whats more, it will likely be on the lips of the Hollywood in-crowd when oscar season rolls around (Though I am doubtful of its chances). The film is fun, big and kinda dumb (as C Nolan films go). Still, there is solid entertainment and the very 2001: A Space Odessy-like ending is a bit tough to swallow. Still, it is a solid event (enhanced by IMAX) and one that entertains, in spite of its sited flaws. I will venture out into the stars with seven (7) Busted Blocks and move on to the next great sci-fi epic. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Interstellar: A fine film filled with heavy drama and great acting, then accented with killer special effects, there isn’t too that can be said about it that isn’t positive. It takes you on a journey not only into space, but into our own humanity as well…  and delivers eight (8) busted blocks just in time to save us all.  

Interstellar: 7.5 / 10 Busted Blocks