[Toxic Chemical] Double Feature: Dark Waters + The Devil We Know (doc)

I know lots of people have been watching all kinds of epidemic-related movies lately given the Coronavirus outbreak. Apparently Contagion, Outbreak, etc. have gained popularity in rentals, as well as in torrent downloads!

Well, my hubby and I actually decided to watch something equally grim and also proven to be quite lethal. It started with my husband who watched parts of the documentary The Devil We Know with his co-workers, so we decided to make that and the feature film version, Dark Waters as a double feature.

Directed by Stephanie Soechtig, The Devil We Know documentary uncovers one of the biggest environmental scandals of our time. It focuses on a group of citizens in Parkersburg, West Virginia taking on a powerful corporation, DuPont, after they discover it has knowingly been dumping a toxic chemical known as C8 into the local drinking water supply. PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) chemicals is found in Teflon and many other products that have become a staple to Americans, so obviously it’s a hugely lucrative business for DuPont. Workers at the DuPont plant had given birth to deformed children, suffered from cancer caused by the toxic chemicals, AND local farmers lost many of their herds because of it. The scariest part is, C8 is apparently found in the blood of 99.7% of Americans!

It’s scary that the term ‘the devil we know’ is actually in one of the documentations in regards to the scandal, as DuPont knew how dangerous C8 chemical was to humans for decades. In fact, even after 3M informed DuPont that PFOS causes liver cancer in rats, and 3M began phasing out PFOS and PFOA in 2000, DuPont still refused to do likewise.

One of the most heart-wrenching individuals featured in The Devil We Know is Bucky Bailey, whose mom worked in the Teflon sector of DuPont when she was pregnant. Bucky was born with one nostril and one eye lower than the other, enduring multiple surgeries since he was an infant. It was so devastating to watch him fearing that his own child would be born the same way, that’s just one of the shocking stories of victims impacted by this horrifying chemical contamination.


We actually watched Dark Waters first before we watched the documentary the next day. The film centered on Robert Bilott (Mark Ruffalo), a corporate defense attorney who took on an environmental lawsuit against DuPont. Starting in the late 90s, the film chronicled Bilott’s relentless legal battle despite being initially reluctant to do so. A farmer from Parkersburg, Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), who knew Bilott’s grandmother, came into his law office and gave me numerous VHS tapes of his recording of his cows all dying mysteriously, suffering from bloated organs, blackened teeth, and tumors.

There’s such a consistent dread in the film that almost made you feel sickened by the toxic chemicals and the audacity of the DuPont executives. Bilott is also featured in The Devil We Know documentary, and though Ruffalo’s mannerism don’t seem to resemble the real attorney, I think he captured his passion and tenacity. Bilott risked a lot to take on this project for about 20 years, including his own job and his family. The strain in his marriage is palpable as he began to get dragged deeper and deeper into the case while DuPont remained defiant. Anne Hathaway played his wife Sarah, and Anne is quite effective here in a memorable supporting role.

As with many dramatizations, there are some things the film embellished, you can read more about the truth vs fiction here. The film is directed by Todd Haynes, who I have to admit is an interesting choice, but I think he did a pretty good job. It’s more of a slow-burn drama that shows the arduous David vs. Goliath battle. I certainly came away feeling furious that such a thing was allowed to happen, amazed that such dangerous substance wasn’t regulated by the EPA, and horrified how companies like DuPont managed to get away with practically everything. I mean, the $16.5 million fines from EPA, even the hundreds of million in case settlements, are really just a drop in the bucket for a company that earn tens of billions a year selling products with PFOA.

Both the doc and dramatic feature are eye-opening and unsettling, but both get the message across about this environmental scandal. Dark Waters isn’t quite as gripping as Michael Mann’s The Insider however, which carries a similar theme about a whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand (played brilliantly by Russell Crowe) going against the huge tobacco companies. Still, I highly recommend these two films and they work perfectly as a double feature!


Have you seen either the film or the documentary? Well, what did you think?

Netflix Original Movie: The Last Thing He Wanted (2020)

Oh where do I begin with this one… frankly, I’m still a bit discombobulated by what I just watched last night. When I saw the trailer over a week ago, The Last Thing He Wanted looks like an intriguing political thriller, and the fact that acclaimed writer/director Dee Rees is at the helm made me even more intrigued to see it. After I watched the film, I found out it’s based on Joan Didion‘s Orange Prize-winning novel, the UK’s ‘s most prestigious literary prizes. Well, despite SO much going for it, plus a star-studded cast, this movie still doesn’t amount to much.

The film actually started off to a pretty riveting start. We see Anne Hathaway‘s Elena McMahon, a veteran DC-based reporter who’s covering El Salvador’s political crisis in the early 1980s with her colleague Alma (Rosie Perez). They barely escape with their lives as paramilitary troops storm the press office and started shooting. But as soon as she’s back in DC, her editor ends up sending her to cover Reagan’s re-election campaign. She took it begrudgingly, only after Alma encouraged her to take the assignment as a way for her to interrogate top ranking politicians. One of them is George Shultz (Julian Gamble), a then Secretary of State of the Reagan administration, whom she suspects is involved in weapons smuggling in Nicaragua.

During the campaign trail, she gets a call from her absentee father Dick (Willem Dafoe) who turns out to be ailing in the hospital. It’s when Dick asks her daughter to be his sub to complete a ‘deal of a lifetime,’ which involves flying to a mysterious location with a huge amount of mysterious cargo, that things start to really go awry. The place she lands turns out to be Nicaragua and finds out her Dementia-suffering father is actually an arms broker. Soon things spiral out of control and it’s clear Elena is out of her depth.

I have to say the plot is actually not that convoluted on paper, but somehow the muddled script and haphazard direction makes it feel that way. About a half hour in, I was already pretty frustrated with the movie… and growing even more irritated by Hathaway’s melodramatic acting. Initially, I sympathized with Elena and rather enjoyed seeing a plain-looking Hathaway in a role I don’t normally see her do. But her narration and [over]acting style here quickly becomes more and more aggravating. It also doesn’t help that the camera work with its random focus-shifting style makes me a bit dizzy. I don’t know if the DP is trying to add tension in the many scenes of people having conversations, but it’s quite distracting.

Then there’s Ben Affleck (who reportedly replaced Nic Cage) in a role of a mysterious ambassador. As a comic-book fan, obviously I get a slight kick out of seeing former Batman and Catwoman on screen, but soon I also get irritated by Afflecks’ lethargic acting style though his screen time is pretty minimal. Then suddenly there’s a scene that comes out of nowhere that takes me out of the movie entirely. Spoiler alert (highlight to read): What’s with the half-boob nudity?? Is Dee Rees trying to brazenly show a nude woman who’s a breast cancer survivor?? I think we got that point across from her expository dialog with her dad earlier on.  By that point, my hubby and I just looked at each other, completely aghast by this befuddled, incoherent mess that’s unfolding before us on screen. I have to say Affleck’s expression is basically the same throughout the movie, whether in bed with a naked woman or eating pie with his colleague.

Now, I’m not familiar with Didion’s work but I’m willing to bet the novel is far better than its screen adaptation. In fact, I still think it’s an intriguing story that when done properly, would be a potent international thriller. But the way it’s adapted here, screenplay written by Rees and Marco Villalobos, feels disjointed with an uneven pacing from start to finish. The central character Elena is nearly impossible to relate to as a human being, and her motives are incomprehensible. Her relationship with her father is an odd one that doesn’t ring true. Even the way the film tries to paint her as a caring mother who’s constantly on the phone with her young, unhappy daughter in a boarding school barely registers.

The supporting cast is pretty much wasted here, though not because of the actors’ performances. The one character I find intriguing is Perez’s Alma and Edi Gathegi‘s Jones, but both characters are so underwritten. There’s also Toby Jones appearing towards the end as an expat who runs the hotel Elena is staying at. Now, I like Toby Jones, he’s a great character actor, but their scene here feels so disconnected from the rest of the movie and goes on way too long. Speaking of the ending… well, as if the rest of the movie weren’t enough of a head-scratcher, the finale is one big WTF moment. To add insult to injury, the finale also feels like a ‘Minnesota goodbye’ where it just went on and on, complete with all kinds of slo-mo and over-drawn narration.

Now, I’ve described this film in the worst possible way and it pains me to do so. This is the third* feature by Dee Rees, and I know just how tough it is for a female director of color to get a job in Hollywood. I suppose every director should be allowed to have a misstep or two, heck, most male directors continue to get job after job even after making multiple misfires. In any case, I wouldn’t use this one as a film that define Rees’ work, but it’s truly unfortunate that this movie is as bad as it is given all the elements–story, setting, cast–seemingly in place.

* I incorrectly said this was Rees’ first feature in my original post, but she had done two features prior to this, Pariah and Mudbound.


Have you seen The Last Thing He Wanted? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – ROCKETMAN (2019)

Directed by:Dexter Fletcher
Written by: Lee Hall

I’m always hesitant to review biopics; it just feels weird to critique a story about someone who actually exists, and it’s tricky to talk about the writing, because who am I to say if something seems rushed or melodramatic if it actually happened that way? Fortunately, this movie still gives me a lot to talk about.

Rocketman chronicles the life of iconic musician Elton John (Taron Egerton), from his childhood with a self-absorbed mother and emotionally distant father (Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh) to his meteoric rise to fame after teaming up with songwriter Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and his following struggles with substance abuse and depression, feeling cripplingly lonely despite being adored by fans all over the world.

Taron Edgerton with Bryce Dallas Howard and Richard Madden

While story-wise this is a straightforward biopic, it’s also a jukebox musical, incorporating several of Elton John’s more well-known songs into non-diegetic numbers used for exposition and scene transitions. It’s a creative use of the music, and I love that it’s used in a different context than just scenes of Elton writing or performing within the narrative. But the pacing is a little weird; there are a few musical numbers at the very beginning, but then there’s a long stretch without one, and the few that come after that are inconsistent. It’s a great storytelling method in theory, and the musical numbers don’t dull the darker aspects of Elton’s life; the titular song “Rocketman” is performed during a heartbreaking suicide attempt, and “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” sung by Bernie Taupin after following an argument with a drug-and-booze-addled Elton John, nearly made me cry. I just wish the filmmakers had committed to the style a little more.

Edgerton (Elton) with Jamie Bell (Bernie Taupin)

Besides that, though, I don’t really have anything else to complain about. The cast is spectacular; Taron Egerton is perfect as Elton John, both dramatically and musically (Egerton does his own singing in the film). Jamie Bell is wonderful as Bernie Taupin, and he and Egerton have excellent chemistry. Richard Madden is amazing as the suave but slimy John Reid, Elton John’s abusive manager and ex-boyfriend. After only seeing Madden play the noble Robb Stark in Game of Thrones, I was impressed to see him pull off a much more villainous role.

Madden as John Reid

Obviously, I can’t talk about an Elton John biopic without addressing the costumes, which are just as spectacular as the music and the acting. Besides being beautiful and elaborate and wonderfully glittery, they play as much of a role in the storytelling as the music does; the movie begins with Elton bursting into a drab, gray room for a substance abuse group therapy meeting wearing a bright orange jumpsuit, matching bedazzled demon horns and enormous wings, and heart-shaped rhinestone sunglasses. As the scenes alternate between him in the group therapy setting and flashbacks of his life and career, he gradually strips the costume away.

Even if you’re not a hardcore Elton John fan (which I’m not; I spent most of my childhood thinking of him as “the guy who wrote the Lion King songs”), I would absolutely recommend checking out Rocketman. It’s a fascinating look at a musical idol’s background with an incredible cast and memorable music. It’s definitely a movie I plan on watching again.

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Have you seen ROCKETMAN? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review – THE HUSTLE (2019)

Directed by: Chris Addison
Written by: Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer, and Jac Schaeffer

The Hustle follows two con artists: bold and brash Penny (Rebel Wilson) and cool, calculating, professional Josephine (Anne Hathaway). The two meet when Penny travels to the glamorous French Riviera town where Josephine lives in the hopes of scoring some bigger cons, and Josephine feels there isn’t room for the both of them. The two make a bet on which one can scam a young tech millionaire, Thomas Westerburg (Alex Sharp) out of $500,000 within a week to prove which con artist reigns supreme-and Penny has learned more of Josephine’s tricks than Josephine might realize.

My biggest gripe about The Hustle is that the story it delivered wasn’t the story that was advertised; from the IMDB plot summary to the TV and radio commercials, the movie was described as being about “female scam artists […] who team up to take down the men who have wronged them,” and that really doesn’t happen at all. That would have been an interesting twist on the con artist movie trope, especially considering this movie is already a remake of a remake (1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story). Firstly, the two barely team up; Josephine briefly trains Penny in her more sophisticated scamming ways, and the pair does scam a handful of men out of expensive engagement rings, but the team-up portion of the movie doesn’t last long; most of the focus is on the two women competing, which is a pretty tired relationship dynamic. Secondly, the women don’t target “men who have wronged them.” While Penny does focus on men who are exceptionally shallow, and Josephine briefly mentions that men underestimate women, which is why it’s easy to scam them, none of it is personal; they’re just doing it for the money and the jewelry, which, again, isn’t exactly a fresh motivation for a con artist story.

The leading ladies are the movie’s saving grace; while the material isn’t brilliant, Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway do a spectacular job with what they’re given. Rebel has proved her comedic skills time and time again, and her performance in this movie is no exception. Anne is hilarious as well, especially when she’s pretending to be someone else for a con (her German doctor persona toward the end cracked me up), although as just Josephine she is a bit one-note. The supporting cast is good as well; Alex Sharp is genuinely likable as Thomas Westerburg, and Nicholas Woodeson as Albert, one of Josephine’s employees, gives an especially funny performance despite having next to no dialogue.

While the plot and dialogue are pretty forgettable, the acting is enjoyable, so while I wouldn’t say The Hustle is worth seeing in theaters, it might be worth a watch if it’s available on Netflix or any other streaming service.

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Have you seen the latest THE HUSTLE? Well, what did you think? 

Trailer Spotlight: Ocean’s 8

It’s the last week before Christmas and the present comes early! I’ve been excited for this all-female Oceans flick for some time. Normally I’d say we don’t need another reboot/sequel/spinoff what-have-you… but y’know what, this year (well, any year really), an extra dose of girl power is extra awesome. 2017 is the year of Wonder Woman, and 2018 will be the year of Wonder Women. I mean this is as close as we’re probably gonna get to an all-female Avengers flick!

This is the one to watch just for the cast. Bullock + Blanchett + Bonham Carter … just those three alone is enough to shell out full price cinema ticket (if I had to pay that is). My hubby and I watched this right after dinner and he’s as pumped as I am to see this [is it any wonder I love my man?]

So Sandra Bullock is playing Danny Ocean’s sister Debbie, I wonder if this all-female Oceans flick idea happened when she and George Clooney were filming Gravity four years ago. In any case, buh-bye Clooney, Pitt, Damon & co. and hell-o ladies!! Fresh out of prison, Debbie Ocean plans a big heist at the Met Gala in NYC. What a team she’s put together: Lou (Cate Blanchett), Nine Ball (Rihanna), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Constance (Awkwafina), Rose (Helena Bonham Carter), Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway), and Tammy (Sarah Paulson). Too bad Elizabeth Banks dropped out of the cast, though I don’t mind Jennifer Lawrence isn’t in this (apparently she was offered a part).

Per IMDb, the eight main cast has won four Oscars, two Emmys, eight Grammys, six Golden Globes, five BAFTAs, and 10 SAGs combined. Woo wee! #girlpower

I totally forgot about Richard Armitage in this, he didn’t have a single line in the trailer so I have no idea who he’s playing. I barely noticed James Corden either until I saw it a second time. No matter though, forget the boys, it’s all about the ladies whoopin’ it up!

Not sure how involved Steven Soderbergh is on this spinoff, but given his track record with bad ass female in his movies I’d imagine he’d approve. This time we’ve got Gary Ross (Hunger Games, Seabiscuit) in the director’s chair and he wrote the script with Olivia Milch (one of Variety’s 10 screenwriters to watch in 2016).

I’m always up for a heist flick and this seriously it looks like a riot! The worst thing about this is the wait… June 8 can’t come soon enough. Well now I now what I’ll be anticipating come Summer movie season!


What say you? Thoughts on Oceans 8’s first trailer?

Mini Reviews of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 & Colossal

Hello there folks! It feels like it’s been ages since I wrote my last review, but it’s actually just a week ago. Well, I saw two Charlie Hunnam films in two weeks… The Lost City of Z and King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I really enjoyed both, the latter is enjoyable though probably not your thing if you don’t like Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style. I’ve liked the rugged Brit for some time but I’m really quite taken with him now, uh-oh. It’s not like I have time for a new crush now though, ahah, but I sure want to see more of the bloke 😉

So here’s my review of the last two recent movies I saw:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Ok so I have to admit the release of this one sneaked up on me. If it didn’t show up on the weekly press screening list I wouldn’t have known it’s coming out. I was one of the few people who think the first one was just okay, not spectacular. I did rewatch it months later and found it to be entertaining, but nothing that warrant a sequel. But hey it’s Marvel, of course there’ll be a sequel if it hits $100mil.

Well the team is back in full psychedelic color and fun retro 80s music. This time the main plot is basically to unravel the mystery of the protagonist Peter Quill’s true parentage. It might’ve been better to release this in June around Father’s Day, not that there’s anything particularly profound about the father/son bit though. It’s tough to care for their relationship when it’s so thinly written, I didn’t even particularly care for Kurt Russell‘s casting.

Just like the original, the best part of the movie is the team spirit and all the bantering between the supporting characters. I still find Rocket (the raccoon voiced by Bradley cooper) and Drax (Dave Bautista) the funniest characters, and I’m glad they seem to beef up their roles a bit more here. I’m getting a bit tired of Baby Groot, there I said it. Yes it’s cute at first but after a while it’s just meh. I also don’t find Chris Pratt all that charming anymore, or maybe I still haven’t recovered from how awful Passengers was). There’s also more focus on the sister rivalry between Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) that’s not particularly interesting. The only parts I did find quite moving is the plot involving Yondu (Michael Rooker). Oh, they also added a new character Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and her banter with Drax is quite amusing.

I feel like the novelty factor of the first movie quickly wears off. What seemed to work in the original just seems recycled this time around. Even the retro music sounds kinda meh to me. Director James Gunn & co. seem to put more effort in having a visual spectacle than an engaging story, but then again that’s kind of what I expected from this sequel. Overall, it was entertaining for two hours but nothing sticks in my mind and definitely not something I’m keen on seeing again.


Colossal (2016)

I saw the trailer on Friday night and immediately decided to see it the next day. I decided I didn’t want to know anything about it other than the trailer, and y’know what, it’s refreshing to go see a movie rather ‘blindly’ like that.

The concept for Colossal is pretty bizarre and it’s definitely ripe for some comedy gold, but I find it to be a pretty engaging drama as well. The story centers on Gloria (Anna Hathaway),  an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in NYC when her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) kicked her out. So she moved back home to her parents’ abandoned house, while at the same time a giant creature came out of nowhere destroying Seoul.

In the trailer it’s made clear that there is Gloria is somehow bizarrely connected to this phenomenon, and when it’s revealed how, it’s really quite hilarious! I don’t want to give too much away because I really think you should go into this movie knowing as little as possible, but there’s an interesting message about friendship and taking responsibilities for one’s action.

It’s kind of a coming-of-age moment for Gloria, and her character evolution is quite believable.  I have to admit I’m not Hathaway’s biggest fan but she is quite effective and relatable here, which makes me root for Gloria despite her obvious flaws. I also like Jason Sudekis as Gloria’s childhood friend Oscar, who’s more than just a comic relief in the movie. However I feel like his character is oddly written, it’s as if the revelation to his true self seemed to come out of left field. But at least his character has an arc whilst Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell as Oscar’s friends barely registered.

Overall I enjoyed Colossal immensely. It was amusing with some thoroughly enjoyable moments. I haven’t seen anything by Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo before, but I applaud his originality and wit, even if the execution isn’t perfect. The movie is so absurd at times but therein lies the charm. It reminded me of Safety Not Guaranteed, which I also saw on a whim a few years ago, with a bit of Pacific Rim thrown in.

I highly recommend this one if you’re in the mood for something out of the box.


Well, have you seen either one of these? What did YOU think?

Musings on Christopher Nolan’s INTERSTELLAR

InterstellarBannerI’ve been a big fan of Christopher Nolan‘s work, in fact I’ve seen all of his work and they’ve pretty much range from great to fantastic. I’ve been looking forward to Interstellar like most movie fans, but to be honest with you, for whatever reason, a couple of weeks before the film opened and as the hype reaches its tipping point, I started to feel… indifferent. In any case, I went to see it Saturday night anyway and instead of a straight review, this is more of my reaction to the movie… what I like and don’t like about it, so pardon if I’m rambling a bit…

The film is essentially about a small group of people going on a space travel adventure to save mankind. Well that’s the elevator pitch version anyway, but at the heart of it is a father/daughter relationship that transcend through space and time. I don’t remember seeing a specific year mention but the story is set in the future when the earth as we know it is dying, food is scarce as dust bowls continually wipe out farm crops. Matthew McConaughey plays Cooper, a widower & former NASA test pilot who’s now taking up farming with his father in-law and his two kids, Tom & Murphy. Cooper hasn’t quite given up his space aspiration as when he and his kids spotted a drone flying close by, Cooper gets all giddy and drives through those supposedly precious corn fields to chase after it.

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I discussed some crucial plot points here, so beware if you haven’t seen the movie

It’s perhaps one of the only truly joyful moment in the film, and it’s obvious that his 10-year-old daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) shares his enthusiasm for science and space. Soon Cooper is reunited again with NASA in its secret hideaway. How did he get there? Well apparently a dust storm through an open window spells out the coordinates of its location in morse code. Say what? Well, that’s just one of the mind-boggling things about this movie and we’re just getting started. When Cooper gets to NASA, the elder professor Brand (played by Michael Caine, natch) tells him of a possible solution to humanity’s crisis and that is they’ve got to find a sustainable planet on the other side and Cooper is the only man for the job. Hmmm, wouldn’t you think that if he’s truly the only person for this crucial mission, NASA would’ve sought him out instead of waiting for him to somehow stumbles into their base? I mean, Cooper lives pretty much just down the road and they know he has the skills to pilot their ship.

Following the NASA encounter, the film doesn’t waste any time to shoot Cooper into space. Discussions about this movie would likely involve wormholes and black holes which frankly go way over my head, but there are a plethora of plot holes as well to contend with. The one I mentioned in the above paragraph is just one example. Apparently famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson have been tweeting about the ‘Mysteries of #Interstellar’ which you can find here. I kept nodding as I read each tweet, especially the one where Cooper cracks his helmet on one of the planet’s he visits and he’s even able to remove his gloves during a fight. Wouldn’t you think the Planet’s air is toxic to the human body??

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Now, plot holes in sci-fi movies are common, in fact, it’s kind of inevitable… I mean it’s ‘fi’ for fiction after all. Interstellar does have the appearance of being grounded in realism however, in fact, Nolan hires a real astrophysicist Kip Thorne in building the Black Hole for the movie and to ensure the depictions of wormholes and relativity are as accurate as possible. But yet, one doesn’t need to be a scientist that a close proximity to the black hole would’ve killed those astronauts instantly and thus that planet being so close to such black hole, which Cooper’s team dub Gargantua, simply cannot exist. I have to admit though, it’s been fun reading about all the stuff that don’t make sense in Interstellar. It seems that with a lot of Nolan’s movies, analyzing it is as fun as watching his movies.

That said, I was more than willing to suspend my disbelief and go along for the ride. And what a ride it was. The imagery and visual effects is nothing short of tremendous. It’s something that I’ve come to expect from Nolan’s team, and they did not disappoint on that front. Everything is so meticulously-crafted. Though I’ve seen a lot of spaceships in other sci-fi films, I’m still in awe looking at all the details of the Endurance ship and all the other set pieces. Instead of his usual collaboration with Wally Pfister (who was busy making his first film Transcendence), we’ve got Hoyte van Hoytema in charge of cinematography. The Dutch-Swedish cinematographer impressed me greatly with his work in HER, but he’s outdone himself here with his astounding work. The earth landscape rivals the beauty of Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven, but it’s the visuals of the outer space and the barren alien planets that’s really breathtaking. But whilst the film’s scenery is truly a feast for my eyes, my ears aren’t so lucky. Hans Zimmer‘s score is often so loud to the point of irritation and it drowns out all the dialog, especially during the NASA visit where Brand is giving Cooper a tour. Perhaps it’s intentional, as this article points out, but really, I wouldn’t care about the thematic significance when my ears are hurting, y’know. I listened to the soundtrack later on and really enjoyed it, though I still love his work on Nolan’s Batman films more.

InterstellarStill5Sometimes I feel that perhaps I’m not smart enough to get Nolan’s movies… let alone TWO Nolans working together. Christopher and his brother Jonathan ‘Jonah’ Nolan collaborated on the script as Jonah originally developed it for Steven Spielberg who later passed on the project. To say that Interstellar is discombobulating is quite an understatement. I LOVE using that word whenever I get the chance to, but I don’t necessarily enjoy being in a constant state of bewilderment. The entire sequence involving Matt Damon is completely lost on me, not only did Damon’s casting completely take me out of the movie – “What’s Jason Bourne doing here?” “Wait, is this Elysium 2.o?” – the whole storyline of Dr. Mann wanting to kill Cooper felt preposterous to me. So he goes space crazy, okay… but I really didn’t expect the sudden villain-y scenario here and it’s a subplot I could do without.

I haven’t quite recovered from Mann’s um, riddle and Nolan’s already hit me with another as the film seemingly raced towards the finale once the film passed its two hour mark. I was totally baffled by the sequence of Cooper and the robot TARS inside some kind of a tesseract portal, supposedly built by ‘future us’ [as Cooper said during his frantic mumbling] which implies there’s advanced humans in existence by then who could build such a thing. Suddenly Cooper discovers it’s him who’s actually the *ghost* that haunts Murphy’s and knocks stuff off her bookshelf. There’s too much to digest here that my mind wander a bit, admiring the gorgeous scenery of that fifth dimension portal or whatever the heck that is. The whole time I kept thinking ‘how did they do that?‘ Then suddenly Cooper is floating again in outer space and before you know it, he gets rescued and wakes up in a whole new earth. O-kay…

When I wasn’t scratching my head pretty much the entire time, there were moments that I winced at the constant sobbing scenes that reminds me of Spielberg’s schmaltz-fest War Horse. Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a genuinely emotional moments. I was quite moved by the father/daughter relationship in various points of time, the tearful goodbye and the reunion come to mind, but at times, I felt like I was deluged by over-sentimentality. I don’t know, maybe Nolan felt he’s got a reputation of being a cold or emotionally-detached that he went a bit overboard trying to refute that?

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[End of spoiler section]

Fortunately, the actors are more than up for the task to bring the humanity aspect of this space drama. McConaughey is a convincing everyman here, that I’m willing to overlook his Southern accent playing a character supposedly being from the Midwest. He has an effortless chemistry with Foy who plays his young daughter. My second favorite performance is Jessica Chastain as the older Murphy, not only she resembles Foy but she carries the same sensibilities and stubbornness displayed in her younger self. I’ve never been a big fan of Anne Hathaway but I think she acquits herself well, even delivering such a such a mawkish speech as “Love is the one thing that we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space” referring to her long lost love Dr. Edmund who went on a previous NASA mission. I’ve mentioned how I feel about Matt Damon above, I really wish they’d cast someone less famous & less ubiquitous than him. Michael Caine is always reliable, though they totally botched the aging process of his character [aka he basically doesn’t age at all in 23 years!]. John Lithgow and Ellen Burstyn both delivered a memorable performance despite their brief screen time.

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The longer I mull over it, the more I feel that Interstellar is a film I appreciate but not love. It’s not because it’s too confusing because I have loved other films I don’t completely understand, Nolan’s own Inception being one of them. It’s just that in the end, I just don’t feel as much connection with any of the characters and their journey. Despite all that crying in the film, overall the film didn’t tug my heartstrings as much as I had hoped. Heck I was more affected by the relationship of the robot Baymax and its protagonist Hiro in Big Hero 6, that movie was so joyful and emotional all at the same time. Speaking of robots, I thought TARS is a hoot and perhaps as memorable as any of the human characters. And hey, for once the robots are actually loyal to the humans whilst the main enemy of man is ‘Mann’, get it? 😉

The film has been called overly-ambitious and that its intellectual reach exceeds its grasp. I can’t refute either of those points, but I still have to give props to Nolan for making something bold and audaciously cerebral. I’m not just talking about dazzling us with jaw-dropping visuals but in the way he challenges viewers with stupendous and imaginative ideas. I appreciate that Nolan never asks us to ‘check our brain at the door’ or dumb stuff down to make things more digestible. But at the same time, there is also such a thing as having too many ideas and themes to process in a single film. There’s perhaps enough substance here to warrant say, a miniseries. The movie is nearly 3 hours long but it’s still not enough time to focus on one of those ideas, the result is sensory overload that threatens to suck the joy out of what’s supposed to be a piece of entertainment. I might revisit this film again later when it’s out for rental and perhaps I’d have a different opinion then.

Interstellar_TARSThis is one of the longest musings I’ve done in a movie, which is funny as I originally wanted to do a mini review of it but it proved to be impossible as there’s so much to say. Despite my gripes and what a lot of reviewers have said that it’s a beautiful-but-flawed film, I still urge you to see it. It’s the kind of film that’s meant to be seen in as big a screen as possible, as some of the sequences shot using IMAX camera are simply stunning. However you feel after you see it, Interstellar is still a worthwhile experience and it also makes for a fun discussion/reading afterwards. The Nolan brothers are certainly one of the most powerful siblings working in Hollywood today. Even if this one isn’t quite a masterpiece, they’re still a force to be reckoned with and I still look forward to what Chris Nolan will come up with next.

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So, that’s my thoughts on Interstellar. Do you agree/disagree? I’d love to hear what you think!