REVIEW: Interstellar

Interstellar

Interstellar
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Bill Irwin

It was only a matter of time before Christopher Nolan made a space epic. In Interstellar, he treats the universe in a similar way he treated dream-space in Inception; that is, he plays boundless absurdity with such straight-faced showmanship and serious sense of purpose that the movie feels much bigger and more important than it actually is.

Interstellar is about Matthew McConaughey saving humanity from the dry near-apocalypse of climate change.  He plays Cooper, a widower engineer-turned-farmer who lives in the Dust Bowl of the future with his father-in-law (John Lithgow) and two children.   It’s easy to tell that Cooper’s daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy) is his favorite, though we’re not with her or her brother Tom (Timothée Chalamet) as children long enough to really understand their relationship.

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Short Takes: Out of the Furnace, Kill Your Darlings and Drug War

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Out of the Furnace- This unremittingly bleak drama centers on deeply flawed brothers in Pittsburgh.  Russell (Christian Bale) is a heavy drinker who kills a woman and her kid drunk driving and lands in jail while his brother (Casey Affleck) serves several tours in Iraq.  Once he is out of jail, his brother goes missing after a series of increasingly brutal organized fistfights to pay off debt.

Director Scott Cooper makes no effort to give the audience a payoff.  The (plentiful) violence is treated as deeply troubling and is never without consequences.  Although a lot of the story is absurd and simplistic, there is an honest humanity that makes it surprisingly effective. Grade: C

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Kill Your Darlings- An uneven but thrilling attempt to capture Beat writers in the act of inventing themselves.  The story centers on Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) leaving a turbulent home life for an even more turbulent time at Columbia.  He is drawn to Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), and the two form the chaotic, and ultimately tragic, core of the movie.  Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) also show up in drug-fueled flashes.

Kill Your Darlings treats the period with much affection, but director John Krokidas also injects crucial visual flare as well as modern music.  There is too much repetitive literary quoting underlining the theme over and over, but Krokidas brings an exhilaratingly reckless, chaotic vision to material that would otherwise seem stuffy and pretentious.  Grade: C+

drugwar

Drug War- One of the most intense and entertaining movies of the year.  Drug War is an action movie examination of China’s obscene drug policy.  Rather than overcrowd their prisons with drug offenders (like in America), people who possess more than a certain amount are just executed.

Johnnie To’s movie is about a meth dealer caught in between the police and those higher-up in the trade than him.  He offers to help the cops take down the others in exchange for prison time instead of a death sentence.  To creates organic, often breathtaking action sequences throughout, shaming most Hollywood releases on a fraction of the budget.  Grade: B+

REVIEW: The Town

The Town
Directed by: Ben Affleck
Written by: Ben Affleck, Peter Craig, Aaron Stockard (screenplay) Chuck Hogan (novel)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper

The Town might just be another cops and robbers tale honing Boston accents and boys with their big toy guns and cars; but then again, it might be something different, something with a little less Irish blood and brawn and a little more Ben Affleck brains.

Before Gone Baby Gone, Ben Affleck would have seemed like the most unlikely director. As an actor with little few roles worth remembering and as a celebrity who could have romanced a whole lot better than Jenifer Lopez, Affleck had relatively little for anyone to talk about. But as soon as his directorial debut was released in 2007, the film gained attention and respect as one of the best movies of the year, making Affleck the talk of tinsel town. Continue reading

Our (Belated) Best Male Performances of the Decade

1. Daniel Day-Lewis- There Will Be Blood– Towering doesn’t even begin to describe Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic deconstruction of the American Dream.  He commands the screen with a ferociousness and method that makes him peerless among other living screen actors.  As Daniel Plainview, he creates a vision of greed as a replacement for love that is ferocious, haunting, and uncompromising.  Though Anderson was the visionary behind the camera, it would not have come to full fruition without the help of Day-Lewis.  Who else could belch the line “I drink your milkshake!” and make it sound like the coming of the apocalypse? Key Scene- In a three hour movie where he appears in every scene, it’s hard to choose one.  In the end, I decided between two confrontations between Plainview and the preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano).  The infamous “milkshake” scene actually takes second place the the excruciating baptism Plainview is ordered to endure to get the land he wants.  Now in Sunday’s arena, he is forced to pay for the sins of his past, namely humiliating the preacher by smacking him around in the dirt.  Now getting the sin slapped out of him and water thrown in his face in front of the whole congregation, Plainview loses that ever-important control.  In a surprising release of emotion, he appears to reach out to the son he abandoned.  Whether he likes it or not,  he’s been gotten to, and there will be… well, you get the idea.

2. Heath Ledger- The Dark Knight– A short-lived career bore many fruits for the late, great Ledger.  His performance in The Dark Knight won him a rare posthumous Oscar, though he would win the award almost any year he was nominated.  Nolan’s realistic retelling of Batman called on a new take for the Clown Prince of Crime, and Ledger answered with a vengeance.  Wielding a smile carved into his face, chipped paint, and mangy hair, he managed to create a definitive image of an already legendary character.  It’s an unforgettable performance that will haunt you forever.  Key Scene- The best scene in the entire movie is when Joker and Batman muse in a grim prison interrogation.  Ledger is terrifyingly real in the scene, laughing  as Bale’s Batman pummels him.  “You have nothing!  Nothing to do with all your strength!” he bellows.  It’s one of the best movie scenes in years thanks to his artistic dedication to this larger-than-life villain.

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