Tag Archives: Inception

A Few Not-So-Scientific Thoughts on ‘Interstellar’

I’ve been feeling under the weather this week and haven’t been up to the task of pondering the mysteries of “Interstellar,” especially while under the influence of Nyquil.

(Come to think of it, the Nyquil might actually help.)

But I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t say something about Christopher Nolan’s grandiose and truly grand space opera.

“Interstellar” has been out for a week, so I’m a little late to the party but this is a film still worth discussing and it will be for some time.

Do you find yourself on the fence about whether to see the movie? Think it’s over-hyped or looks boring or too similar to “Gravity”? I’d like to give you a gentle nudge toward “yes.”

If, like so many of us, you were mesmerized by Nolan’s past work, which includes such shamelessly entertaining, elegantly realized, smart, sophisticated opuses as “The Dark Knight” and “Inception,” you won’t want to miss “Interstellar.” It is by far the director’s most ambitious, spectacular, challenging and flawed endeavor yet.

I grew up on the writings of science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Bradbury believed it was the destiny of humankind to throw off the bounds of our planet to explore and colonize other worlds. This, he theorized, was the way we would achieve immortality. We should never look up at the stars and be content to remain where we are.

“Interstellar” is alive with the same spirit of optimistic humanism. Like Nolan’s previous films, it is exceptional on a technical level, transporting in a way moviegoers crave but rarely experience. It’s also a film full of big ideas, pushing its audience to engage their brains, to think.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you know the basic plot. “Interstellar” features Matthew McConaughey, continuing his recent, unbroken streak of praiseworthy performances, as Cooper, an engineer and pilot turned farmer living on an overpopulated Earth on the brink of environmental disaster.

Cooper is a widowed father to the fiercely intelligent, stubborn Murphy, nicknamed “Murph” (Mackenzie Foy). As Dust Bowl-like conditions consume the Earth, he’s forced to make a decision between watching his daughter grow up on a doomed planet or leaving her behind in a risky bid to save her and the entire human race.

One of the delights of a Nolan film is that what you’ve seen in the trailers barely scratches the surface of the story. Many surprises await in “Interstellar,” which is why I’m not going to say any more about the movie’s premise. There’s much to spoil, but you won’t hear it from me.

In general terms, “Interstellar” is a movie about the tension between science and the unquantifiable things that make life worth living — love, faith, self-sacrifice.

It’s a science nerd’s dream — or perhaps nightmare, depending on how literally you take Nolan’s interpretation –a movie in which scientists pull out pencil and paper to explain the theory of relativity and how a wormhole works. After that, they might launch into an emotional monologue about how love transcends space and time. (Anne Hathaway plays one of these folks and she’s absolutely lovable, as always.)

If you don’t care much for science or sentiment, you’ll still be blown away by the grandeur of “Interstellar’s” visual effects as Nolan delivers upon his promise to take us to three distinct worlds beyond our galaxy and to brush up against a black hole, which the scientists aptly name “Gargantua.”

Like last year’s “Gravity,” “Interstellar” MUST be seen in IMAX. Nolan shot portions of the film in the format and, while the visuals are astounding, it’s the sound that is most effective, rumbling from state-of-the-art speakers. It literally shakes you in your seat, an amazing sensation perfectly suited to the otherworldly perils depicted on screen. I’m betting this will be the movie to take home all those mysterious sound editing and mixing Oscars in a few months.

Composer Hans Zimmer really outdoes himself with a musical score featuring the sound of organs. Listening to it is practically a religious experience.

“Interstellar” is by no means a perfect film. It’s overlong, takes itself too seriously at times and contains a third act twist that will lose some viewers. I admit that by the end, it had lost me.

The movie’s lines are not as sharp and clean as “The Dark Knight” and “Inception.” Its heightened sense of wonder and hints of the supernatural recall “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” the early films of M. Night Shyamalan and, strangely, “Field of Dreams.”

Whatever its faults, “Interstellar” is still ten times more captivating than most of the movies released in 2014.

You’ll reflect on it. You’ll wrestle with it. You may not physically movie from your cushy IMAX chair, but you’ll feel like you’ve been light-years away.

Photo: http://www.comicbookresources.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hiddleston Vamps It Up, Hardy Takes a Drive: What to Watch This Weekend

The end-of-summer movie doldrums have arrived with nary a major new release in sight this weekend.

Hollywood is busy taking stock of a disappointing season — it was the worst summer at the box office since 1997. As usual, it was a season dominated by childish fare, including hits “22 Jump Street,” “Godzilla,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” “Maleficent” and “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”

The good news is that fall is on its way with a tantalizing selection of “grown-up” Oscar bait and enough art house offerings to satisfy even the most snobbish cinema palate.

If you’re looking forward to the more sophisticated films of fall but find yourself at a loss this weekend, here are a couple of recent home viewing releases to tide you over until fresh reinforcements arrive.

Whether renting or streaming, you can’t go wrong with the pair of intriguing dramas below. Released in mid-August on DVD, they’re easily two of the most compelling films of 2014.

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Only Lovers Left Alive
R (language, brief nudity)
123 minutes

The artful, eccentric films of writer-director Jim Jarmusch are legend (“Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai,” “Coffee and Cigarettes,” “Broken Flowers”) but these languidly paced gems can often be a chore to sit through.

Not so with Jarmusch’s latest, which is a total delight, dark, romantic and playful and starring the irresistible Tom Hiddleston and often creepy, always fascinating Tilda Swinton at their very finest.

People may think that the sappy, sparkly bloodsuckers of “Twilight” effectively killed off the vampire film, but then a movie like this comes along, delightfully toying with the genre in clever ways that would make Anne Rice proud.

Just pause for a moment to let that sink in. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is a vampire movie. By Jim Jarmusch. Oh yeah.

Hiddleston and Swinton play centuries-old creatures of the night, old souls and soul mates who live on separate continents, only to reunite in the inky midnight of his improbable hometown of Detroit.

Hiddleston’s Adam is a brooding Byronic bloodsucker with a passion for beautiful old instruments, mainly guitars, and a talent for composing moody rock music that has teenage groupies encamped outside his house.

This drives Adam crazy. He’s an analog guy in a digital age and he’s not happy about all the changes he’s seen in his immortal lifetime. It’s got him so depressed that Swinton’s Eve is concerned enough to make the exhausting red-eye journey from her home in exotic Tangier to cheer him up.

Eve is Adam’s polar opposite, free-spirited, cultured and open to new things — she’s got an iPhone while Adam is still stuck on rotary. She’s not so modern, though, that she’s forgotten her rich past. One of her best friends happens to be Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), the guy conspiracy theorists believe wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Jarmusch has a lot of fun with that.

The director’s vision of the 21st-century vampire lifestyle is hilarious, sexy and literate in ways that will make English majors swoon. Adam and Eve are like rock stars, staying up all night, with their disheveled hair, shades and gloves, listening to music, debating existential questions and jonesing after their next fix (they’re vegetarians and blood is like a drug to them).

In true Jarmusch style, “Lovers” never goes quite where you expect it to. When the credits rolled, I had fallen head over heels for this wonderful, bookish, effortlessly cool film.

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Locke
R (language)
85 minutes

Tom Hardy is one of the most talented young actors of his generation, proving his subtle charm, versatility and serious chops in such films as “Bronson,” “Inception” and “Lawless.”

He’s a forceful guy and we’re used to seeing him in films that are violent or big on spectacle, which is why the quiet, brilliant one-man show that is “Locke” comes as such a surprise.

Penned and directed with considerable minimalist style by Steven Knight (writer of “Closed Circuit,” “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things”), “Locke” consists entirely of Hardy alone inside a car as his character makes a late-night drive from Birmingham to London.

The movie begins as a mystery. Ivan Locke has abruptly abandoned his post at a construction site, where he is supposed to be supervising a critical cement pour. His mission is urgent and we slowly learn where he is headed and why in a series of frantic phone calls between him and his irate boss, his worried wife, an increasingly drunk co-worker and a panicked woman from his past.

“Locke” is a thriller in the truest sense but it’s a rare film in that its dilemmas are moral ones. As Hardy takes one harrowing call after another — his car is conveniently equipped with a state-of-the-art hands-free system — our feelings about Locke’s motivations are in constant flux. Is he a man of integrity or a man who can’t let go of his destructive past?

Knight uses shifts in lighting to conjure up a mood of suspense. This is one of the most stressful movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Other actors give voice to the ensemble Locke speaks to via phone but this is all Hardy’s show and it’s amazing how he brings the screen to life, simply sitting behind the wheel of a car.

The sole flaw to be found in “Locke” is Hardy’s occasional railings against his character’s dead-beat dad, who he imagines is sitting in the backseat. It’s a distracting theatrical device in a ride that is otherwise impressively smooth.

Photos: Yahoo, YouTube