Interstellar (2014)

interstellarRoze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Christopher Nolan brings us not only his 9th directorial triumph but the most ambitious film of 2014. Starring the likes of Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain and a black hole or two; this film was always going to be one of the most anticipated films of the year. Interstellar, not only directed by Nolan but also co written with his brother, tells a story set in the distant future where earth is failing to provide humanity with enough food to survive. In anticipation of Earths demise, NASA prepares a mission which could not only save humanity but take them to places they have never been before.

All year round Interstellar has burdened us with its teaser trailers, teaser’s for the teaser trailers and just your average trailer keeping with Nolan’s trademark ambiguity. Well I guess it worked as they’re sitting on a healthy 330 million worldwide box office two weeks into their release. Further proving the pull power of the Nolan, McConaughey, Sci-fi combination. Although they were probably hoping for a bigger opening weekend, only to be foiled by Big Hero 6.

There have been big questions surrounding this film since its release, such as whether or not the hype took away from the films experience and without Nolan would Interstellar be getting a lot more criticism than it has been. In my opinion either way this film achieved what it was meant to do, which was give the audience an experience that would leave them pondering and debating. It’s been two weeks now and there are still discussions about the films theories, the science and the story. I can’t remember the last time I watched a film and was still thinking about it this far past my viewing. Except for Blonde and Blonder, I mean to this day I can’t think of a film that I’ve hated as much as that, despite it’s gorgeous leads. Interstellar on the other hand is memorable for the right reasons. Yes there are problems with the screenplay relating to character logic and plot holes involving who “they”are and probably some of the science, but in all honesty they weren’t as prominent until I sat down and fully digested the film. Upon viewing I was in awe of the visuals, the acting, the father-daughter relationship and even the science. Interstellar absorbs you into the film, making you think and emotionally invest into McConaughey’s character and his motivations. You can criticize the film as much as you like but there is no doubting that this is a must see film of 2014, not necessarily because it’s a great film but because it’s an ambitious film.

Interstellar is beautifully crafted which is a given for Nolan films nowadays as he reimagines space as a grand piece of spectacle while keeping its beauty and mystery intact. While we don’t get an intense sense of zero gravity and false orientation as Gravity of last year, we are still able to indulge in it’s bleak vastness and vacuum environment. The creation of the black hole alone is masterful which turns out to be scientifically accurate and may have even prompted a new discovery. There is no debate over how great this film looks, everything from the worm hole to the corn fields. Space isn’t the only bleak environment as earth is depicted as just as hopeless and on the brink of destruction. We have had some awesome illustrations of space lately and after ‘Gravity’, hopefully this becomes the standard for space films.

Going into this film I really didn’t know what to expect. The trailers advertised a lot of corn fields, a teary McConaughey and a few shots of the unknown, but I still made my way to the theater. Which only further proves that you can still make a badass trailer without giving away too much and still entice an audience. Granted I would never miss a Nolan film especially a Nolan film set in space. That being said, did the ambiguity help the film? for me it made it even more of an experience, which is exactly what watching a film should be. I’ve seen enough films after viewing a trailer and thinking “wow, it really didn’t hold back on giving away those plot points”, and ultimately your sitting waiting for those moments. So finding out that Interstellar is a lot more sentimental than I would have anticipated made for quite an emotional and unexpected experience.

Amongst the scientific mumbo jumbo at the heart of the film is a story about love and how love itself is a force to be reckoned with. It may seem a bit icky on paper and overly familiar but I totally bought into it because we’ve not seen love explored at this scale and optimism before. We’re told that love is “quantifiable” and how it might even “transcend space and time” during a love drunk speech by Anne Hathaway, a speech that initially felt off but with reflection made sense. But what really sells it are the performances by Matthew McConaughey and child star Mackenzie Foy. Their bond and their love are ultimately the stars of this film and without it, the film would have undoubtedly fell flat.

Initially this film starts off very negative, openly blaming humans for earths demise and current situation where farmers are more valuable than engineers. Only preventing the very nature of humans, which is to explore. What I liked is the progression from pessimism to optimism. McConaughey’s character has an epiphany of sorts, realizing no matter what happens humans will find a way, as we are also survivors by nature. Once the film goes in this direction, I couldn’t help but feel inspired and positive about the world we live in now.

Another element I enjoyed was the representation of time, and how time is different in certain parts of the universe. We learn that gravity has a lot to do with that. Knowing McConaughey is under some time pressure to see his children makes the film even more suspenseful and grueling. We understand that he has waited his whole life for this moment, to explore and discover new worlds, but ultimately he’s doing it to save his children. It kills him inside knowing that he’s going to lose time with them but the prospect of seeing them live in an even bleaker future is even worse. It’s a hard hitting reality about the preciousness of time and how much we depend on it.

Now in terms of the dialogue, it was very hit and miss. I understand that there are some complicated concepts and theories needing to be explained using scientific terminology and such. At times it was quite interesting and even enlightening but for the most part it just went over my head. Thanks to the fast pacing and heightened dramatic tension, it was easy to stay engaged in the dialogue, even though there were parts that I wish I could have rewinded and watched again. That being said if they would have toned down the science talk it might have made it a lot easier to fully connect with the film. Another problem was the expository nature of the dialogue. At times it was subtle and I didn’t mind that, but there were a few moments that stuck with me because it took me right out of the film. It’s never a good thing when one character is starting a conversation with “remember that time… blah blah”, unless its purely nostalgic. Nevertheless I can look past that for everything else this film is, which is pretty darn beautiful.

Interstellar may not be a perfect film, but for me, it’s not too hard to look past its flaws and see something pretty special. It has the spectacle, the aesthetics, the performances and the score to make this a fully captivating film. And if you aren’t happy with that, there’s even a talking robot that tells sarcastic jokes! We need more films like this.

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Europa Report (2013)

europa report 4Roze-Rating: 3 / 5

Europa One will be the first spacecraft to carry Men and Women deeper into space than ever before. Their mission is to board one of 63 of Jupiter’s known moon’s, Europa, one of the closest habitable places in our Solar System. The crew set out for a long journey to their destination leaving them alone in space after communication breaks down with earth. They have to conquer the danger’s of space but also their mental well being.

Europa Report adopts the found footage style of film making, and with editing it literally feels like a documentary/news report. Since the premise sets up a groundbreaking time for mankind and space travel, camera’s are set up within the spaceship so that earth can follow the crew’s every move. This gives the films style a rational reasoning. For its low budget I think this was a pretty smart move because it made little weaknesses in special effects forgiving and added some form of realism to the film. Overall we’re given an even better insight to life in space, if not thrilling it is definitely interesting.

What I found is that this film really focuses on it’s science more than cheap thrills or cliched disasters. Europa is actually the closest habitable place in our solar system and could possibly hold some form of life, we have no idea and in that respect it is quite thought provoking. I’m not much of a space nerd but it does provoke questions about space and life that I rarely think about. If your truly into Sci-Fi and enjoy the Sci more than the Fi then Europa Report may be up your ally. To me it’s what diminished the enjoyment of the film, I quite like thrills and good special effects when it comes to Sci-FI and this didn’t offer much. There was definitely a sense of suspense when intended but I’d like to see more out of a film set in a place that’s actually reachable. All the science stuff kinda went in one ear and out of the other because you expect it to be nonsense.

It was nice seeing some familiar faces in the cast. Sharlto Copley probably the bigger of the few, known for his work in Sci-Fi. Of course he plays more of a tame character in a realistic setting this time as opposed to his over the top badass’s. If your a fan of Dexter, it will be quite a reminiscent moment seeing Christian Camargo again AKA Rudy; luckily over his serial killer ways. The rest of the cast includes Michael Nyqvist (Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol), Daniel Wu (The Man With The Iron Fists), Anamaria Marinca (Five Minutes of Heaven) and the lovely Karolina Wydra in her first major film role. In honesty there are no major performances, what the film lacked was chemistry between the group. The only character that seemed to be connecting with other characters was Sharlto Copley. Other than that they were solid.

Gravity (2013)

GravityRoze-Rating: 5 / 5

A group of astronauts are sent out on a seemingly routine space expedition until mayhem ensues. Mission control warns the space crew that a Russian missile strike has just destroyed a satellite causing a chain reaction of debris to head in their direction. Before they can evacuate, the debris destroys their space ship, leaving only Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski as the sole survivors.

Alfonso Cuaron returns to mainstream film making with this groundbreaking Sci-Fi thriller, avoiding fantastical space adventures and bringing us a terrifying film about the true dangers of space. As far as how factual the film is, it must be the most realistic space film we have had in a long time as we are captivated by zero-gravity and breathtaking imagery. Gravity finally brings us a film where there is no noise in space, and surprisingly it’s a hell of a lot more scarier than having your ears ravaged by loud explosions. Not having that ability of anticipating danger around you and losing that sense makes you more vulnerable than you would think. Seeing that on screen really gets your heart pumping.

Gravity has really pushed the bar for technology in film, that alone has made the film what it is, a special effects triumph. The attention to detail is commendable and would make any real life astronaut less prone to ripping their eyes out during viewing. I don’t know how they did it but I want to know very badly as you get a real sense of that zero gravity and how frustrating it would be floating around up there; cool at first but when disaster strikes, it’s less than ideal. Ultimately that’s what makes Gravity so riveting, it’s realism makes space expedition scary even if the possibilities of the events depicted are very low and that’s why we can’t take our eyes off the screen.

Beneath the engaging visuals and thrilling action sequences is quite an emotional narrative. The film explores the themes of getting through a series of bad situations and the rebirth of our protagonist Dr. Ryan Stone. With the constant orbit of debris, disaster will strike multiple times if you happen to be in the line of fire. Throughout the film we’re wondering if Stone will make it or even have the desire to carry on as we learn of her hardships on earth. There is an important scene where we see Dr. Ryan Stone curled up resembling a fetus in a womb, there on we’re given the impression that there’s an emotional growth to come.

As for performances they were brilliant with added emphasis on Sandra Bullock. Thinking about it, these role’s must be what most actors dream about. Firstly it’s a freaking space film, secondly it’s totally groundbreaking and thirdly you get to wear a space suit. By landing this role Bullock has really shown us what she’s made of, steering away from comedies and doing something a lot more thrilling. I hope she continues making films like this.

Gravity will definitely be getting some awards during award season and rightfully so as this is probably the best film I’ve seen all year. I’m a total sucker for a good thriller with awesome special effects. If you’re into sweating involuntarily throughout a film then Gravity is for you.

Elysium (2013)

Elysium-2

Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

Niell Blomkamp returns with his second directorial and written feature film continuing on with the science-fiction genre he is so fond of. Elysium is set in the year of 2154, where the world has become vastly overpopulated and the overall economic condition has diminished. The poor are left to live on earth while the rich are free to live on Elysium, an artificial planet just off earth. Max Da Costa (Matt Damon) is our protagonist, committed to leaving the criminal lifestyle he once had. Holding a solid job at Armadyne Corp, he is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation forcing him back with his old criminal pals in order to live. Only way to do that is to break into Elysium.

There’s one thing that Elysium will give you and that is an eyegasm. The overall design for this film is amazing, you feel as if your in an apocalyptic world on earth with its shanty town aesthetics and Elysium truly looks like a vista of vivid green vegetation, still lakes and luxury houses. You can tell the design team had a great time during the production of the film. from the start I had an impression that it couldn’t go wrong since it looked so great and sci-fi is typically fun. But for such a profound topic of high classes taking extreme measures just to get away from the poor, it was nothing more than a mash up of Minority Report and District 9. The premise was interesting but it was executed with a cliched plot and storyline.

Elysium is a shallow sibling to District 9, it has the perfect visuals but a weak script. For a sci-fi action film this will satisfy a lot of audiences looking for a fun flick. It has the action, love interest and a showdown fight, it kind of plays like a video game in that respect. In terms of the story that’s all that can be said about it, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. The protagonist has a few days to live, in order to live he needs to get somewhere with a cure, along the way there are people out to kill him but once realizing the bigger picture of the results of his predicament, Spock comes to mind, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.

In honesty I enjoyed the action. There are a few cool gadgets used making the scenes a lot more interesting, and in the end gave it that extra bit of appeal. Although there are a few off putting aspects such as the facial reconstruction scene, the machine claims that a mans brain is still somewhat functioning despite a grenade explosion to the face. It’s unrealistic but the scene itself is pretty cool so I can let that go. What I can’t let go is Jodie Foster’s accent. That has to go down as probably the worst accent ever in film. It was as if she couldn’t decide how she wanted her character to talk as her accent was inconsistent throughout the whole film. She sounds like a hybrid of American, English and South African combined, it’s annoying but totally amusing.

As for performances Matt Damon does his thing, it was good seeing him in an action role again bringing back my desires for a Jason Bourne return (needs to happen). Alice Braga is growing on me as she’s now starred in three pretty decent futristic/post-apocalyptic films in Repo-Men, I Am Legend and now Elysium. She has a knack for these roles and fits them. Despite Jodie Foster’s crappy accent, her intimidating aura is weirdly sexy which is quite an achievement at 51 and still looking great. Lastly Sharlto Copley puts in another great performance for Niell Blomkamp. I’m really hoping to see more from him in the near future as he’s simply awesome, he plays the creepy card just as well as the badass card.