INTERSTELLAR REVIEW

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STELLAR casting and special effects. Shame, I just wasn’t INTER it.

I know. Not my best. BUT here we are. Well, certainly hyped. BUT did that hype help or hinder? There’s only one way to find out.

Christopher Nolan tackles the sci-fi genre in one of his most ambitious projects to date and . . . to mixed results for me.

Now for the record. I am a Nolan fan. Memento is still up there in my top movies list. Inception left me in awe. The Prestige was a well crafted thriller. I loved what he did with the Dark Knight franchise and Insomnia was an underrated crime thriller with the late great Robin Williams.

So it pains me to say that his latest offering left me unfulfilled.

I mean, science fiction isn’t my favourite genre but I love Twelve Monkeys, Blade Runner, etc.

In a nutshell, Interstellar is about a team of explorers who travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

BUT this is Christopher Nolan. And as we know, it’s never going to be that easy . . . or that simple.

He chose a perfect leading man in Matthew McConaughey. Great to see him fully resurrected from the movie scrapheap.

I will do my utmost NOT to divulge too much spoilerific information. So consider this a warning.

The opening hour was slow burning but had the slightest feel of a dystopian Signs. Thankfully without the CGI aliens allergic to water.

The idea that crop farming is a crucial asset as food and supplies are vastly running low was a scary and all too realistic premise.

I loved the satire in which the children have been re-educated into learning that man did not land on the moon, just to focus on their agricultural studies. Crazy. Delusions of grandeur no longer an option (Regardless of what conspiracy nuts think of the Moon landing).

John Lithgow was wasted in his role. He was somewhat passive and frankly unnecessary. Merely the guardian to Cooper’s kids.

Mackenzie Foy was brilliant as Murph. She worked well with McConaughey and made their fractious father/daughter relationship that much more endearing and engaging.

Murph’s fascination with a ghost in Cooper’s den made this feel more like a rural supernatural drama than a sci-fi flick.

However after an hour and some cryptic puzzle solving (keeping that as vague as I can), Cooper is soon initiated into NASA for a life-saving and utterly bonkers mission.

That did annoy me a little bit. We had all this build up for an hour or so AND THEN SUDDENLY BOOM! LIFT OFF! We’re in space.

Such a quick transition after some mind-numbing exposition about wormholes and coma-induced hyper-sleep by regular Nolan stalwart and screen icon, Michael Caine. All this scientific mumbo jumbo and not even a training montage?

Cooper is an engineer. That’s good enough for us. Chuck him on the ship. Okay . . .

Michael Caine isn’t very good at accents (AND a lot of people know that) BUT he still makes a memorable impression in his rather subdued science guy supporting role.

The cinematography of Hoyte Van Hoytema (that’s a real name) was breathtaking. A visual tour-de-force for the eyes alone. Even the desolate planet that is essentially made up of crashing waves looked stunning. This certainly rivals Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey on looks.

The second half of the film was tense, strange but hypnotic as tempers rose and theories pondered. A lot of bloody theories. Although I was intrigued by how staying on one planet for one hour would equate to 7 Earth years!  Mental!

The film score by the legendary composer Hans Zimmer complimented the atmospheric tension perfectly.

I don’t know whether it was me or the the cinema surround system BUT it was incredibly loud. So much so that it drowned out several of the characters and the scene stealers that were TARS and CASE. Seriously by the end, I wanted Zimmer to SHUT UP! I couldn’t hear what they were saying!

TARS and CASE? What the – What’s an interstellar journey across time and space without some robotic companions?!

The visual effects brought the robots to life. Their rapid wheel movements made the geek in me EEP a little. Voiced brilliantly by Bill Irwin (How The Grinch Stole Christmas) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds).

Irwin’s deadpan delivery made for some top notch banter between the robotic comedian and Cooper. Reducing his humour functions. I wish I could do that on a few people.

Anne Hathaway was very good as Brand. Her speech debating the ethics of love should have come off a little pretentious and long winded BUT her delivery made it highly engaging philosophical guff.

The cast was a fantastic selection BUT I felt that a few faces just blended into the background; William Devane, David Oyelowo, Casey Affleck and Wes Bentley (Oh dear!).

David Gyasi delivered a good turn as Romilly while Jessica Chastain was excellent which was crucial as the film drew to it’s mind boggling conclusion.

The quest for habitable planets did have some surprises along the way and made for some tense and exhilarating moments. A race against time as supplies and resources are running thin for our crew. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. I ain’t saying nothing. BUT of course, there is a twist.

The twist! It’s the Nolans. Of course, there is a twist. Now, I saw it coming a mile away (Don’t mean to brag or anything). But the how? Woah. Not so much.

The explanation is crazy! Timey-wimey wormhole guff involving God knows what. Jonathan Nolan certainly put his theory of relativity into practice. BUT I felt that the deciphering and explanation went on far too long and then where I thought I had figured it out, I then didn’t and so on.

Inception had me actually stunned. This left me baffled and as I asked my colleagues what happened? I realised I did know what was going on BUT found plot holes. The scientific stuff might have been accurate but the decision making and events leading up to said twist were NOT so clear.

It didn’t help that as I went to tweet my 140 character review; the #InterstellarPlotHoles had already started trending.

The mix should have been heaven for me but it’s just didn’t deliver for me. I felt numb and had a head ache. I’m not stupid BUT this made me feel a little.

I respect the Nolans for bringing brains back to the blockbuster. It is very clever and brilliantly shot. The effects are to die for. BUT the story and pace dragged on too long for me and the final result wasn’t all it cracked up to be for me.

It’s hard not divulging plot points to quarrel elements. I mean the drone? What up with that?

It is certainly worth seeing and did something that not many films do these days. Get you thinking and talking. BUT for the right reasons? We shall see.

Timey wimey and hardcore sci-fi fans will love this. Others may feel a little bored and a little baffled. Best film of 2014? Sorry, that falls short. Different and diverse BUT also dense and difficult at times for me.

Alright, alright, alright for me.

3.5/5

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TRANSCENDENCE REVIEW

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Transcen-dunce or dense. A mind numbingly drab affair of a concept that has just enough meat to be a generic TV movie you’d expect to see on late night SyFy. You know you’re onto a loser when the opening five minutes pretty much tells you what to expect and an established cast sleepwalk their lines and fail to make an impression. The list of contenders for worst film of 2014 keeps growing.

*WARNING POTENTIAL SPOILERS* A surprising . . . ly slow and spoilerific post-apocalyptic opening made for strange viewing, followed by a flashback piecing together the aftermath. Slow but go on. This is soon hit with mind numbing techno gobbledygook that even the normally prolific powerhouse that is Johnny Depp is so bored of explaining. Basically the gist is that controversial scientist Will Caster (Depp) is the foremost researcher in artificial intelligence who is working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. ZZZZZZ! However, this has made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. A crazy sporadic two minute killing spree soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat. Unexpected (if you don’t remember the trailer) and engaging, I thought here we go. Boy, was I wrong?

Their attempt to destroy Will inadvertently becomes the catalyst he needed to succeed. Fighting for his life, Caster becomes a participant in his own “transcendence” by uploading himself and becoming a power mad information feeding virtual freak. If I had known, the journey that was in store, I would have stayed at home. There is a surprisingly stale chemistry between the beautiful Rebecca Hall and Depp. It was as if writer James Paglan thought; well they are a couple, you must feel for them. We won’t enforce the feelings or develop them. Just insert some corny, generic couple-y moments that take up too much screen time. Once Depp is uploaded, he becomes a monotone and incredibly droll menace that dithers in the background. Hall does her best to carry the film with an impeccable accent. The divided loyalty and questionable motives behind the rebooted Depp made for potentially engaging viewing but it didn’t really go anywhere. An elongated and drawn out 45 minutes building up to Depp’s upload did not do any favours for patience. His drawn out complexion and wirey helmet (easy now) was reminiscent of a demented Hellraiser. Again, nothing surmountable.

I mean the battle and debate about the ever-growing potential of AI is always an intriguing one. “Was Caster really there at all or did the AI get too clever?” was intriguing at certain points. But at a whopping two hours, there just wasn’t enough with the inevitable ending vastly approaching. Fantastic to look at. The visual effects were good. A redeeming sequence in which “Caster” has managed to develop nano bots to create an army of super soldiers delivered the little action that appeared to be on offer with some more familiar supporting faces; Clifton Collins Jr (The Event, 24) and Josh Stewart (Criminal Minds, The Dark Knight Rises). However, there is one scene which had me in stitches, whether they ran out of budget or poor editing, one of the enhanced nano bots shows off his incredible talents by jumping up two steps on a ladder. If I could find it, I would show it. Hilarious.

That’s not all that’s hilarious. The story makes no sense at all. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman do absolutely nothing to uplift this mess. Because their characters do absolutely nothing. Even though they are aware of the dangerous effects of Caster’s ever-growing power, they just look at charts, mumble some data mumbo jumbo, rush about at the end and . . . watch from the sidelines. Freeman proved one thing. That even with his dulcet tones, he can make any bad line good. “With one of the most advanced security measures in the world, my own team got killed by poisoned cake”. Paul Bettany’s character gets imprisoned by a terrorist cell. Sits about staring blankly into nothingness while being lectured at by Kate Mara’s cyber hippie terrorist. His motives become dreadfully unclear in which it skims forward two years and he’s joined the cell. Freeman even asks him how they got to him. A shrug. That’s all we get. A shrug. Something I fear the writer or director did while making this.

A dreadful directorial debut for Wally Pfister. Now Pfister is a talented cinematographer who has worked extensively with Christopher Nolan for the last decade on some of his biggest hits to date. With Nolan as executive producer, no one would have expected this. Pfister delivers a mess, a beautifully shot mess, but a mess all the same. Perhaps stick with the cinematography? Harsh, maybe. The idea was an intriguing prospect but a lack of pace, a plot holed story line with an inevitable ending is hardly going to make this a memorable film. I mean I’m going to remember this for the two hours I lost. This also marks another step down for the prolific Depp. He is still a talented actor and the argument that he has been poor since Dark Shadows is harsh. His performance redeemed The Lone Ranger in my opinion but it was still a flop. And this film will do him no favours. Perhaps a better look at the script before accepting the wonga. That’s the only reason why I think, or hope, that the cast took this.

It just proves that a little thing called story, along with some others called character, plot and interest still count. Sleep walking performances, along with a by the numbers story line, relying on the popularity of familiar actors does not a good or profitable movie make. I fear the memory of the film will transcend, evaporating like the little nano-bots into nothingness. Avoid or upload at your own peril. 1/5

Currently ranks #168 out of 169!