Spotlight on indie sci-fi 400 DAYS – Q & A with writer/director Matt Osterman

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400 Days is a psychological sci-fi film centering on four astronauts who are sent on a simulated mission to a distant planet to test the psychological effects of deep space travel. Locked away for 400 days, the crew’s mental state begins to deteriorate when they lose all communication with the outside world. Forced to exit the ship, they discover that this mission may not have been a simulation after all.

Starring: Brandon Routh, Caity Lotz, Ben Feldman, Grant Bowler, with Tom Cavanagh and Dane Cook
Directed and Written by: Matt Osterman

Available on VOD (Amazon) and iTUNES: January 12, 2016
Available in Theaters: January 15, 2016
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Rated: Not Yet Rated

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MattOstermanI love indie sci-fi films and I had seen the trailer a few months ago and was intrigued by it. When I later learned that it was made by a Minnesota-native, who still lives in the Twin Cities area, I definitely wanted to feature it on my blog. Thanks to my friend and fellow Twin Cities Film Fest’ staff Matt Cici who introduced me to Matt Osterman. He was one of the speakers at a TCFF Educational Events back in October, but I wasn’t able to make it then, so I’m glad I finally got the chance to meet with Matt to talk about his film.

Matt grew up in Wisconsin but since college he had made MN his home. Filmmaker wasn’t on his career checklist but he was a big movie geek. His parents gave him a black/white TV for his room so he could watch reruns of Twilight Zone from an early age. He had always been into writing and telling stories and one day he had a lightbulb moment that he wanted to go into making movies.

Here’s my Q&A with Matt:

Q: You wrote as well as directed this film. What’s the biggest challenge in adapting your own work?

A: Well, that in and of itself is literally the biggest challenge, not having the aesthetic distance to properly judge something. You get so close to it, and though you know it better than anyone else but that’s also a curse because you can’t take a step back and look at it objectively. So that’s difficult but what I did was I tried to get as many feedback as possible throughout the entire process. Hopefully they can be honest with you and say ‘hey this part sucks, what are you trying to do, etc.’ So I tried to incorporate that into the process, you know, just lose the ego and try to take it all in. Whatever makes the project better.

You chose to live Minneapolis, far away from the filmmaking mecca of L.A. and NYC. How have you been able to make it work somehow, as you’re also raising a family here in Minneapolis?

You know, it’s been ok so far. Luckily living here we have a great quality of life and it’s a lot cheaper to live here than it is out there. I have a family so living in Minnesota has afforded us a lifestyle that you can’t really get anywhere else without a huge bank account. So I have to travel up there quite a bit but I have a manager who lives out there in L.A. so he’s sort of my ear to the ground and he can set up meetings. I’d say, ‘hey I can be out there for a week so let’s get all of our meetings in.’ I don’t know what opportunities I’m missing because I’m here. But because I’m a self-generating writer/director, you can write from anywhere. I don’t have to be over there to write, and in some ways it’s better because you’re away from the ‘bubble’ y’know and you can bring your own unique voice and not get caught up in the industry’s crap.

Q: Now, let’s talk about casting. You have three actors from CW’s superhero series (Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz were in Arrow and now in Legends of Tomorrow, and Tom Cavanaugh’s in The Flash).

A: Well, Brandon, Caity and Tom weren’t [in those series] before we cast them in this movie.

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Q: Ah so that came afterwards. So did you have a lot of input into casting, a certain wish list if you will in terms of what type of actors you want for the roles or did you just trust your casting managers?

A: No, we actually cast them ourselves. So I had a say as to which actors we hire. We met with hundreds of actors out there, it was insane. We didn’t have auditions as we went with a higher level of actors who already had a lot of taping and projects to look at. You get a sense of what skills and range they have. Especially for a low budget film, it’s more like they did you a favor than the other way around. So with a lot of them you just met with them and talk about the story and try to understand it, and see if they have the right vibe for it. So I easily have met with at least a hundred actors for all the roles. Now, for these four in particular, I was familiar with all of them and I went back to watch some of the stuff they’ve done and was sold. It’s a business as well, so you want to get people that would get the distributors excited and people around the world would want to watch. So it’s always a mixture of who’s right for the role, who has talent and who is well-known enough to make it happen.

I couldn’t be happier with people we cast, they were all amazing and did an awesome job.

Q: Talk about the filming locations a bit. Where did you shoot this film?

A: The ship we built in a sound stage in L.A. It’s all custom-built and again, we’re very low-budget so we had to be very smart with how we build things. And since it’s all a simulation it didn’t have to look like a real working spaceship. So we’re afforded an extra wiggle room there where if it’s truly a spaceship, people might say ‘hey that didn’t look like…’ but luckily we didn’t have to deal with stuff like that.

When I wrote the script I knew I wanted to do it and I knew I wouldn’t have someone give me $20 mil to make the movie. So I made sure that the spirit of the story would fit into this film.

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Ben Feldman & Brandon Routh

Q: I just read an article on Metropolis.com that the future of sci-fi films are indies instead of big blockbusters. It made me think about indie sci-fis like Another Earth, Ex Machina, and The Machine which also stars Caity Lotz. So what are your thoughts about that, do you think the future of sci-fi films are independent films vs big-budget ones like say, Interstellar?

A: Well, Interstellar is sort of its own thing. It’s done by Christopher Nolan who pretty much could do whatever he wants right now. And that film, I’d say, still kept a lot of the indie spirit because it wasn’t afraid to tackle big ideas and challenging concepts, which are the opposite of what most studio films are right now. So they [the studios] usually go with something very broad so they could sell internationally and they’re very smart about what they do, obviously it’s a business and they’re doing it extremely well. So I can’t begrudge them at all for that. But yeah, you’re exactly right, indie films are more about challenging ideas which sci-fis need, it’s giving us a different lens or perspective to view things. You need that to be able to talk about various issues and what not, so I think we’ll see a huge explosions of indie sci-fi films. Especially where sci-fis has been traditionally effects-driven films and you can do that on the cheap now, or find ways to get more bangs for your bucks. Like what we did, a lot of the effects in our film are practical effects. We had a few visual effects here and there to elevate the rest of them.

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Tom Cavanaugh

Q: It makes me think of how good District 9 was, the film by Neill Blomkamp which was made relatively cheap by Hollywood standards ($30 mil) compared to its follow-up Elysium which was nearly four times more expensive to make ($115 mil). The latter was all CGI, explosions and had no heart. It was like a superhero Matt Damon in space or whatever. So a lower-budgeted sci-fis actually appeal to me more.

A: Yeah well, most low-budget films, you don’t have money to throw at a problem, y’know. So you have to think hard about how to solve those problems. A lot of the times with big-budget movies, they run into an issue and they’d just throw money at it to camouflage it. Whereas we, we have to find ways to organically incorporate something or find an interesting solution that’ll make a movie better because of it. And a lot of limitation is actually more freeing, and that’s the fun part for me, like engineering has always been interesting to me. Problem solving is always so fascinating.

Q: This is the first project out of Syfy Films out of the gate. How’s it been working with them. Were they involved from the beginning in terms or financing or just distribution?

A: Syfy has been absolutely amazing, real supportive and a real champion for the film. A lot of smart people over there so I’ve been really lucky to have been associated with them. They came in after we started shooting. I’m not even sure if Syfy Film had existed or not as an entity at that time, perhaps they were in the process but certainly they weren’t ready to buy anything at that point. We tried to finance this ourselves but we did have other partners come on that bought the film so we have a domestic and international distribution. XLrator Media for domestic and Content Media handles the international rights. So they bought the film a week into production so we didn’t even have anything to show, we had some footage and they saw the cast and they liked it so they jumped on board. Then later when we had the rough cut, Syfy jumped on it immediately.

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Brandon Routh & Caity Lotz

Q: If you don’t mind sharing, what’s the budget and financing process for the film?

A: It’s all privately-financed, so I partnered with producers that are L.A. based. So they have producers and financiers that they work with, and they said ‘hey we have this movie, it’ll be great, trust us.’ So they’re part of various production companies, not big studios, so they’re pretty much involved in the indie world. So they’re able to get the money and we went and made it. Our movie’s made for well under a million dollars.

Q: You mentioned that your film is like a puzzle. What do you want the viewers to get out of your movie, or what do you intend it to be for the viewers?

A: Going into it, and all the way into the process even up until now, I want people to watch it and after that they’d have a conversation afterward about their own interpretation. Because there are multiple interpretations that they can get out of this film. For me, I enjoy movies that aren’t wrapped up in a neat bow at the end and hand you the ending on a silver plater. Nothing wrong with those movies, in fact most movies are that way, y’know, nice resolution. But I really like movies that challenge the audience and say ‘we’re not going to connect the dots for you, you have to pay attention and come to your own conclusion at the end and then hopefully talk to someone else who perhaps have a different interpretation of it.

I also love movies that has those *refrigerator moments.* It’s when you watch a movie and you enjoyed it but something sticks with you. Then you find yourself a couple of nights later at 2 am, you can’t sleep, then you’re staring at your refrigerator looking for a snack and go ‘oh that’s what that meant’ or ‘ oh I get that now’ I love movies that live beyond the time you watch it and I find that it’s frustrating for people. Now that the film’s out internationally, and of course some are illegally downloading it, I’m getting angry tweets from people. Some said ‘how could you forget to write an ending?’ and I said, ‘well that wasn’t quite THAT, but there’s been a history of movies that didn’t get wrapped up in a pretty neat bow.


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Where to watch 400 Days


Have you seen 400 Days? Let me know what you think!

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Good/Bad Movie Surprises of 2014

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It’s the day after Christmas and I’m taking a bit of a blogging break so I can catch up on reviews. I couldn’t help starting a bunch of year-end lists though, I’ll be posting them towards the end of the year and spill over into January. It’s always fun making lists and I was inspired by Ms Mariah’s comprehensive list of Best/Worst of 2014. So speaking of inspiring posts …

… here are what blogger’s been chattin’ about this past week:

Let’s start with the Christmas-themed posts. Josh shared his Top 10 Christmas Songs, whilst Chris shared some of his to get you in the festive mood. Meanwhile, Dell shared about the movie he grew up with: A Christmas Story.

Now, while some are still thinking about their 2014 lists, Steven‘s already set his mind on movies he’s anticipating from next year. Check out Part 1 of his Most-Anticipated list!

My pal Cindy once again posted a thought-provoking topic that bring back lots of movie memories, this time she focuses on Memorable Opening Scenes.

Margaret’s Rambling Friday is always a lot of fun! In this week’s edition, she posted first footage from Game of Thrones season 5 and offered her quick thoughts on SONY’s The Interview

Lastly, Mark reviewed British indie thriller ’71 starring this year’s young rising star Jack O’Connell; while Melissa and Dan posted their thoughts on two indie movies that I enjoyed from this year: Chef and Begin Again 


Speaking of those year-end lists, I was thinking about some of biggest movie surprises of 2014. I’m just gonna list a few just to keep the discussion started, so let’s start with the positive.

GOOD SURPRISES

These three movies took me by surprise as I wasn’t even anticipating them, yet I ended up enjoying the heck out of them and would easily see them again.

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John Wick

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Edge of Tomorrow

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Big Hero 6

NOT-SO-GOOD SURPRISES

On the contrary, I had been anticipating these and there’s plenty of hype surrounding them, but they all pretty much let me down. These aren’t the worst films I saw (there’s a separate list for that later), I just expected so much more but found them to be rather meh, boring even. It’s too bad as all of them had such a stellar cast!

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The Monuments Men

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Interstellar

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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies


So, what are your good and bad movie surprises from 2014?

November Recap + Top Movie of the Month

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WOW, would you believe it, we’re already in the last month of 2014! I’ve been sort of blissfully disconnected from the blogosphere the past few days, so I was quite flabbergasted that tomorrow is December already. Seems that the year have flown by much quicker than I could keep up with.

Anyway, it ends up being a rather slow month for movie-watching for me, but I think December will be another busy one with a bunch of press screenings already scheduled in the next few weeks, starting with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Into The Woods and Night at the Museum 2.

Posts you might’ve missed:


New-to-me Movies:

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Rewatches:

  • Sense & Sensibility (1995)
  • Superman Returns (2006)
  • Licence To Kill (1989)

Favorite Movie of November 2014:

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I had been anticipating Birdman for some time because I’m a fan of Michael Keaton and it’s great seeing him in a lead role again. Well he certainly did NOT disappoint! It’s truly as bizarre & surreal as I expected it to be, but it’s also poignant, emotional and unlike anything I’ve seen all year. Review coming sometime next week.


So, what movies did you get to see in November and which one is your favorite?

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Interstellar on IMAX 70mm VS. Standard 70mm

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Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Interstellar is now in theaters and it might be the most divisive film that I could remember in a long time. Some loved it (including yours truly), some didn’t care for it and others just thought it’s way too long and/or boring. That’s what great about films, we all have different opinions about them and if we all like the same thing then the world will be quite boring.

Since Nolan is a huge proponent of film, Paramount and Warner Bros. decided to release the film in 6 different technical formats, it maybe the first time in history that Hollywood studios had released a film in so many formats. Here are the different formats the film was released in:

  • IMAX 70mm with aspect ratio switching between 2.39:1 and 1.44:1
  • IMAX Digital with aspect ratio switching between 2.39:1 and 1.90:1
  • Standard 70mm with constant aspect ratio at 2.20:1 (my favorite aspect ratio and I use it for my mini home theater)
  • Standard 35mm with constant aspect ratio at 2.39:1
  • 4k and 2k Digital with constant aspect ratio at 2.39:1

As you can see the studios spare no expense when it comes to pleasing Nolan and of course us the paying customers. Since I saw the film on IMAX 70mm and standard 70mm, my review will only cover the two formats and which I think is the better viewing experience.

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I first saw the film on IMAX 70mm, Nolan shot over an hour of footage with IMAX cameras and I think this might be the best IMAX presentation I’ve seen yet. Although I have to admit that some early scenes bothered me with the quick switching back and forth of the different aspect ratios, thankfully that problem went away as the film progresses. To me digital presentation cannot match 70mm’s bright and vibrant color, the contrast and black levels were so much better too. I forgot how much I miss seeing film’s texture since so many movies today were shot and presented in digital form. Two sequences in the film that just blew me away were the tidal wave in the water planet and when they tried to dock the space ship to the main one, I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who have yet to see the film but for those who saw it, you know which scenes I’m referring to.

[Ruth’s note: I found this photo posted on a tweet that seems appropriate to include on this post]

Seeing those sequences on the tall 7-story screen and bright color of 70mm, I felt like I was in the movie with the actors. With so many scenes ripped right out of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, I now know what it must’ve have been like seeing Kubrick’s masterpiece for the first time on the big screen back in those days.

Another reason why I love seeing this film on IMAX is the loss-less surround sound. Nolan mentioned that he really want the audience to be part of the movie so he and his sound designer created the most immersive surround sound I’ve heard since Gravity, it’s really too bad that he didn’t use Dolby Atmos for this film. I’m planning to see this film again on IMAX 70mm because it’s truly was an experience.

So a couple of days later, I’ve decided to go see the film again, this time on a standard 70mm screen. For anyone who wants to know more about 70mm, you can go here. Alas, their website is horrendous looking, but I got in touch with the site’s owners and told them I’m willing to redesign it for free, so once I have some downtime from my full time job, I’m going to redesign that site and it will look much better! Anyway, back to 70mm, the format was quite popular back in the 50s and 60s, some of the epic films from those eras were filmed in this format including Lawrence of Arabia, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Ben-Hur, West Side Story, Patton, Cleopatra and much more. Heck even Quentin Tarantino will shoot his new flick The Hateful Eight in 70mm, so I can’t wait to see that.

The local theater here in MN is one of the only 9 in the whole country that’s currently projecting Nolan’s picture in 70mm so it’s definitely a treat to have experienced it. Also, I haven’t been back to this theater in over 20 years because they stopped showing films in 70mm. Unfortunately though, the viewing experience wasn’t as immersive as it was on IMAX. The smaller 2.20:1 screen didn’t really give the visual grandeur like on an IMAX screen but I still love the rich color and brightness of 70mm. Also, this 70mm theater uses an old DTS surround sound and it just couldn’t hold a candle to IMAX’s lossless surround sound.

InterstellarIMAXSo my recommendation is if you want to see Interstellar like it’s meant to be seen, please see it on a true 70mm IMAX and if there’s a standard 70mm theater near you, you might want to check it out too. Of course I understand not many people are able to see it on these formats since there aren’t a lot of IMAX and 70mm theaters around. Nolan said in an interview that if the audience felt like they were part of an experience in his film then he succeeded, that I totally agree with. Sure the film has its flaws and some of the scientific mumble jumble didn’t really make a lick of sense to me but it’s still one heck of a ride.

Final Scores:
IMAX 70mm 5 stars out of 5
Standard 70mm 4 stars out of 5

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So which format did you see Interstellar in? Are you a fan of seeing films on IMAX?

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!

Most-Anticipated Movies of the rest of 2014 (September – December)

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Well, since I’ve posted my Top 10 of the year so far and Summer Blockbuster Months are quickly coming to a close. I’ve already got my eyes set on what’s in store for the rest of 2014! Now, there are going to be movies I’ll be seeing next month that aren’t on this list because well, I’m not really hugely anticipating them. In fact, there is no movie that screams MUST SEE in all of August, though most likely I would be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy, Into the Storm, Expendables 3 and Sin City 3, so I’m just going to start the list with September all the way to the end of the year.

   Sept2014

A Walk Among the Tombstones (Sept 19)

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Private investigator Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson) is hired by a drug kingpin (Dan Stevens) to find out who kidnapped and murdered his wife. Blurring the lines between right and wrong, Scudder races to track the deviants through the backstreets of New York City before they kill again.

Director: Scott Frank
Starring: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Ruth Wilson


Ok so normally this isn’t my cup of tea but I quite like this cast. Neeson is always reliable in bad ass action movies, but it’s most interesting to see Downton Abbey alum Dan Stevens (who’s also in BBC’s Sense & Sensibility) and miss Jane Eyre herself Ruth Wilson. Seems that Stevens wants to break into Hollywood but I didn’t expect to see him in two R-rated thrillers in the same year, he’s also in The Guest that’s supposed to be out in the Fall as well.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (Sept 26 – Limited)

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Once happily married, Conor and Eleanor suddenly find themselves as strangers longing to understand each other in the wake of tragedy. The film explores the couple’s story as they try to reclaim the life and love they once knew and pick up the pieces of a past that may be too far gone.

Director: Ned Benson
Starring: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain

I’ve made a full post on this one so visit that page for more details on that movie, so you can watch the trailer there.

Mildly interested in:

The Two Faces of January (Sept 26 – Limited)

A thriller centered on a con artist, his wife, and a stranger who flee Athens after one of them is caught up in the death of a private detective.

Director: Hossein Amini
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac

I had never heard of this before last night, but Viggo and Oscar in the same movie? Yes please! The trailer looks pretty gripping, though this is a feature film debut from a screenwriter with a rather spotty track record, so we shall see I guess. Should be worth a rental with this cast, at the very least.

The Drop (Sept 12)

Bob Saginowski finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost.

Director: Michaël R. Roskam
Starring: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, James Gandolfini

Interestingly enough, last year I had another movie with Noomi Rapace (Dead Man Down) on my most-anticipated list but I still haven’t seen that movie. Apparently this is Mr. Gandolfini’s last screen appearance, which would make this rather bittersweet. I do like Hardy but the trailer is pretty meh, but who knows, it could still be a good one.


Oct2014

Gone Girl (Oct 3)

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With his wife’s disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it’s suspected that he may not be innocent.

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Missi Pyle, Neil Patrick Harris

It’s been four years since I saw anything by Fincher (The Social Network). He did The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo which isn’t my cup of tea, but this who-dun-it type of thriller intrigues me. I read that Gillian Flynn, the author the novel is based on, is interested in ‘exploring the psychology and dynamics of a long-term relationship.’ To me, the slow-burn, character-driven approach is certainly far more intriguing than just a fast-paced action thriller. I always think that Affleck is a better actor than director but hopefully he does all right here. I do like Rosamund, glad she’s getting more prominent roles in Hollywood.

,,,

Birdman (Oct 17)

Birdman

A washed-up actor who once played an iconic superhero must overcome his ego and family trouble as he mounts a Broadway play in a bid to reclaim his past glory.

Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Andrea Riseborough


Nice to see Keaton in a leading role again, and given that he did play an iconic superhero before certainly feels like it’s art imitating life. Billed as a comedy, a dark comedy no doubt, this looks as bizarre as ever! I’ve only seen Babel and 21 Grams from Iñárritu which were both dark and grim, so I’m curious to see him direct a comedy. Oh, and I also love miss Riseborough, though I’ve been hoping the talented Brit would score a leading role soon.

Mildly interested in:

The Judge (Oct 10)

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Big city lawyer Hank Palmer returns to his childhood home where his father, the town’s judge, is suspected of murder. Hank sets out to discover the truth and, along the way, reconnects with his estranged family.

Director: David Dobkin
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Robert Duvall, Vera Farmiga

It’s been a while since I saw RDJ on screen without his Iron Man suit, but this premise doesn’t immediately appeal to me. I’ll see what the buzz says if this one is worth seeing on the big screen.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (Oct 24)

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Based upon the comic book by Mark Millar, and depicts a veteran secret agent who leads a young protege into the world of espionage.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Colin Firth, Mark Hamill, Mark Strong, Michael Caine

When I first saw the poster a few weeks ago at a local cinema, it definitely piqued my interest! There’s not a single name on it, but I knew Vaughn had directed X-Men: First Class. Well, now that the trailer is out, I actually don’t know what to make of it, and not in a good way. Sure the cast is awesome but I just don’t have a good feeling this would actually be an awesome movie. Still, color me intrigued, let’s hope the movie would be as good as the poster!


 Nov2014

Interstellar (Nov 7)

Interstellar

A group of explorers make use of a newly discovered wormhole to surpass the limitations on human space travel and conquer the vast distances involved in an interstellar voyage.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck


Ok so every single time I saw this trailer I kind of teared up a little. Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here, the tagline says. Just what the heck does it even mean? It’s as cryptic as ever, as most Nolan’s films that’s based on his own concepts are, but I know I can’t wait to see it! The cast is terrific, though most of them are Nolan regulars, esp. Michael Caine. I’ve been intrigued by McConaughey’s casting here, but I expect that he, as well as the film, will deliver!

Hunger Games Mockingjay – Part I (Nov 21)

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Katniss Everdeen reluctantly becomes the symbol of a mass rebellion against the autocratic Capitol.

Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland


The promos for this one has been doing a phenomenal job in getting me pumped for this movie. The second movie ended in such a cliffhanger that got me all riled up. I still wish they hadn’t split the finale, but this cash-grab trend seems to be here to stay [sigh]. In any case, it’d be sad to see Philip Seymour Hoffman here, he’s SO good as Plutarch, he’s the one I most look forward to seeing on this final installments!

The Imitation Game (Nov 21)

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A historical drama film about British mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst and computer scientist Alan Turing, a key figure in cracking Nazi Germany’s Enigma code that helped the Allies win World War II, who was later criminally prosecuted for his homosexuality.

Director: Morten Tyldum
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, Mark Strong, Matthew Goode


Mr. Turing certainly has an incredible story worth-telling, and with Cumberbatch playing him, it naturally piques my interest. I LOVE espionage movies, even more intriguing that it’s based on a true story. The all-British cast looks great, nice to see Matthew Goode here as well. That guy is so underrated it’s criminal! I sure hope this would fare much better than Cumberbatch’s previous biopic [on Julian Assange] The Fifth Estate, but if it’s anything like the emotional & gripping trailer, I can’t imagine it’d be worse.

Mildly interested in:

Big Hero 6 (Nov 7)

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A group of six superheroes are recruited by the government to protect the nation.

Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Starring: Alan Tudyk, Jamie Chung, Maya Rudolph, Genesis Rodriguez

I had never even heard about this project before but the trailer does look funny. It has the Wreck-It Ralph! feel to it, so it should be pretty enjoyable.


Dec2014

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dec 17)

The Company of Thorin has reached Smaug’s lair; but can Bilbo and the Dwarves reclaim Erebor and the treasure? And, if so, can they hold on to it?

Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage

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I know some people call this whole trilogy thing a cash grab and all but I’m not one of them. I LOVE this universe and Peter Jackson’s so committed to this whole franchise and he has a palpable love for this story. I can’t wait to see the final journey for all the characters, especially Thorin & his band of dwarves in their quest to reclaim their lost kingdom. Wish they’d release a trailer already, but hopefully that’ll happen soon!

Unbroken (Dec 25)

Unbroken

World War II hero Louis “Louie” Zamperini, a former Olympic track star, survives a plane crash in the Pacific, spends 47 days drifting on a raft, and then more than two and a half years living in several Japanese prisoner of war camps.

Director: Angelina Jolie
Starring: Jack O’Connell, Miyavi, Domhnall Gleeson, Garrett Hedlund


The story of Mr. Zamperini is an extraordinary one to be sure. Not only what he has endured, to hell and back, but what he did after he survived the whole ordeal. The devoutly-Christian man actually sought out those who’ve tortured him during the war and forgave them. What a perfect story to experience on Christmas Day!

Mildly interested in:

Exodus: Gods & Kings (Dec 12)

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An interpretation of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt as led by Moses and related in the Old Testament Book of Exodus.

Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Christian Bale, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton, Aaron Paul

I’m all for Biblical stories… well, so long as it actually respects the source material. The Moses I know from the Bible  I love the actors but they all seem miscast to me and this trailer did nothing to alleviate my dread about this project. Totally agree with Drew on this: “Moses is apparently the next Maximus, which has me worried that Scott wants so badly to recreate Gladiator that he’s literally going to botch the whole thing. Moses was not a warrior. This is not scripture.” I still have a sliver of hope that Ridley Scott would somehow prove me wrong about this movie, but I’m not holding my breath.


Well, that’s just what I’m looking forward to in the next five months. Which one(s) are you most excited about?

The Weekend That Was… RIP Peter O’Toole & Interstellar teaser

How’s your weekend everyone? Was it an eventful one or busy with Christmas shopping? Well, the arctic air still hasn’t left us yet, it’s really getting pathetic that we got excited when temps go even 15 above zero! Today it’s almost 30˚ F and boy did it feel good! Here’s a recap of what I saw, as well as a few film-related events happening this weekend:

Well this weekend I got to see the new *rePOTO_CameronMackintoshimagined* version of The Phantom of the Opera, created by Cameron Mackintosh. It’s incredible that POTO is celebrating 25 years on Broadway this year and this new production — with a new set, choreography, lighting and scenic design — has premiered in the UK last year. This is the third time I saw POTO on stage and I was mesmerized once again. It’s really all about those gorgeous, haunting music and the younger cast definitely bring the story to life. I LOVE the stage production but it also makes me appreciate the 2004 film with Gerry Butler in the title role, which is decidedly faithful to the stage version. I appreciate both format but the nice thing about the film is that I can easily watch that over and over again on my Blu-ray 😀

As I saw three advanced screening during the weekThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (check out my thoughts on the movie), Saving Mr. Banks and Inside Llewyn Davis), so this weekend I opted for home cinema. Thanks to Kim and Fernando for recommending these two animated features.

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As a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon, I definitely enjoyed this short film immensely. The baby dragons are as adorable as ever, but once again, the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless the Night Fury is at the heart of it. I can’t wait for the follow-up to HTTYD coming next year!

HunchbackOfNotreDame

I actually have seen Hunchback of Notre Dame a long time ago but for some reason I didn’t remember much of it. It’s darker than the average Disney animated features, but the story demands it so it works well here. Of course it’s not without the conventional Disney ballads and goofy-but-endearing characters, but the story definitely has a good message of good vs. evil and a heartwarming tale about the triumph of the outcasts.


This weekend, we saw the passing of a true Hollywood legend, Peter O’Toole. Apparently he was being treated at London’s Wellington hospital after a long illness. He was 81.

RIP_PeterOToole

I had just seen his most iconic role in Lawrence of Arabia for the first time earlier this year. In fact, I got the Blu-ray version and both my husband and I was really blown away by it. It definitely lives up to the masterpiece status, both the film and Mr. O’Toole’s performance are hugely iconic. I have only seen Mr. O’Toole in The Lion in Winter, his cameo in One Night with the King, and his voice work in Ratatouille. I should try to see his comedic work in My Favorite Year (which my friend Kevin has reviewed here) and How To Steal A Million with Audrey Hepburn.

Farewell Mr. O’Toole, may you rest in peace.


INTERSTELLARbnr

As 2013 draws to a close, soon comes a time of huge buzz and anticipation for 2014 movies. One of the big ones is Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi INTERSTELLAR. I just had to post the trailer here in case you haven’t seen it yet:

In the future, governments and economies across the globe have collapsed, food is scarce, NASA is no more, and the 20th Century is to blame. A mysterious rip in spacetime opens and it’s up to whatever is left of NASA to explore and offer up hope for mankind.

Ok so yes I’m a bit of a Nolan groupie but his trailers always get me salivating and frustrated that we have to wait a whole year for this!! The story is intriguing and mysterious, as every Nolan film is shrouded in secrecy. But the cast also got me excited. Matthew McConaughey is hotter than hot right now and I LOVE Jessica Chastain, plus the supporting cast looks great with Nolan regular Michael Caine, John Lithgow, David Oyelowo, Anne Hathaway and Casey Affleck!

Oh, I also just came across this brilliant fan-made, crossover video from episodes of BBC’s Dr. Who and Sherlock. It’s too awesome not to share:


Well, that’s the weekend recap folks, what did you watch this weekend?