Monday, November 10, 2014

Interstellar [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

First and foremost, I am not a huge science fiction fan. I always try to get into science fiction and for the most part it doesn't hold my interests. That's not a knock on the genre at all, because there are still many films from the genre I enjoy. It's more a testament towards my inability to truly think about these types of films and process them. To take in science and scientific methods we put to use currently and mold them into what they could become in the future. They're always cool thoughts and ideas, when done properly. 'Interstellar' is one of these films, to a tee, and for the most part, I was into  this. Nonetheless Christoper Nolan's 'Interstellar' is quite a bear of a film to take in.

'Interstellar' follows the story of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA test pilot. He and his family are living in the not so distant future on earth. The earth is now ravaged by blight, as dust storms ravage the land. Humankind as regressed to an agrarian society and have been forced to mostly try to survive by becoming farmers. Cooper lives with his father-in-law, Donald (John Lithgow), his son, Tom (Timothy Chalamet), and his daughter, Murpy (Mackenzie Foy). Murphy believes she is being haunted by a ghost and Cooper tells her to prove it scientifically. Later on, Cooper finds out that this "ghost" is a unknown form of intelligence sending them coded messages. The coded messages lead Murph and Cooper to a secret NASA facility that is still operational. There they meet one of Cooper's former professors, Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who informs Cooper that a wormhole has been discovered orbiting Saturn. He then tells Cooper that the only way to save the world, is to go through the wormhole and find a distant plant that can be inhabited. The also believe that extra-dimensional beings have been trying to contact them through said wormhole. Cooper is recruited to pilot Endurance, a spacecraft that is to follow The Lazarus mission. The Lazarus was a mission that sent 12 scientists to different planets, through the wormhole, so see if life could thrive there. Of those 12, three sent back promising data, Miller, Edmunds and Mann. Cooper ultimately decides to pilot Endurance, much to the chagrin of Murphy. Cooper and his crew, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Brand's daughter, Romilly (David Gyasi), a physicist, Doyle (Wes Bently), a geographer and two multi-purpose A.I. robots, CASE and TARS (Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart), set off on a two year journey to save the inhabitants of earth.

It's hard to even put into words any way to describe this film. 'Interstellar' is a film that is chalk full of science, that will appeal to it's core audience going to see it. But, it's not slouching in the story department either. Despite only understanding what was going on on a purely basic level, the story was good, and very engaging. The original story is gripping, unfolds in a great way and keeps anyone who can get into it, engaged for the duration of the film. I mention that last part, because 'Interstellar' is quite a commitment, clocking in at a little under three hours. Credit the direction of Christopher Nolan, the vision of Kip Thorne, a theoretical physicist, and Linda Obyst, along with writer Jonathan Nolan. Without the core of people that have been involved with this, in some form or another, since 2006, we wouldn't be seeing this now. Moving onward, the writing is top notch and the strong performance, yet again, from Matthew McConaughey helps make me like this film even more. Without McConaughey's strong performance, I don't think I would've liked this film as much as I did. I'm a big Matthew McConaughey fan and I still look forward to anything he's in going forward. Once the move starts rolling along, Jessica Chastain turns in a strong performance as well and it's always a welcome sight to see Matt Damon and Casey Affleck in a film. Michael Cain was fine, as usual, but I still refuse to see why Nolan likes Anne Hathaway so much. Because to me, she really is the weakest point of the main characters in this film. I can't comment on the actual science going on throughout, but I can say that it all sounded like it was correct. Haha. The characters were great as well, especially Cooper and Murphy. Cooper is the cornerstone of the film and provides a strong presence throughout. He's not only the hope for the world told in this film, but also gives the viewer hope in the film itself. The paring with his daughter, Murphy, is a wonderful story, of the bond two family members can have. No matter what distance, or time, is between them. The chemistry the two have, on-screen together or in separate scenes throughout, is truly heartwarming. The special effects and cinematography were no slouch either, as the film looked great. Whether it be the vast scenes set in space or the rolling landscapes of the planets shown (including earth), this film was shot beautifully. The score was also done well, especially the closing scenes, which brought out a haunting melody that I really liked.

'Interstellar' definitely isn't for everyone, especially if you're not big into science fiction. I gave it a try because I'm a big fan of Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey. While it's not my favorite film involving either of these two, it's a great film nonetheless. The story is original, the acting is great, the look is beautiful and the direction is fantastic. 'Interstellar' is a film that you're either gonna really like or really hate. I don't see much middle ground, but I happen to fall on the side that enjoyed this film.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Big Hero 6 [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

You can tell a film's age range by watching previews, looking at genre listings and the like. I like to see what kinds of audiences they attract when I happen to see a film during its opening weekend. 'Big Hero 6' is a 3D animated feature, obviously geared for the younger audience with it's look and marketing. The crowd at my showing had quite a few kids. There were also teenagers, I saw people my age, as well as older folks who looked to be in their 40s and 50s. Disney knows no bounds when it comes to age. If you've been watching Disney all your life, each film, as the world progresses, becomes a bigger and grander experience. It doesn't matter if you're 6 or 60. 'Big Hero 6' isn't just just an exhilarating spectacle, it's a heart-warming tale that only Disney could tell like this.

'Big Hero 6' follows the story of Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a genius 14-year old, who has already graduated high-school and is a robotics expert. Hiro, along side his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), who also excels at robotics, and his aunt, Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), live in San Fransokyo, a futuristic hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo. Tadashi is worried about his younger brother because his talents are only being put towards illegal underground robotic fights. One day, Tadashi decides to take Hiro to the robotics lab he studies at, at his university. Upon arrival Hiro meets all of Tadashi's friends and classmates. GoGo Tomago (Jamie Chung), a girl who thrives for adrenaline, who is working on electromagnetic wheel axels. Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), a guy who is highly meticulous (almost neurotic) and is an expert on laser cutting. Honey Lemon (Génesis Rodríguez), a girl with a highly bubbly and infectious personality, that works in the field of chemistry. Finally, there's Fred (T.J. Miller), a huge comic book-fan, who isn't in the department and is the school's mascot. Tadashi then shows Hiro what he's been working on, a personal healthcare robot named, Baymax (Scott Adsit). Hiro also gets to meet the head of the department, Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell), who urges him that if he were to join the university, his talents would be pushed. Hiro decides to apply to join the school and with help from everyone, Hiro designs his own robotics project that wins him entry into the university. After the presentation, Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk), owner of a big time robotics company, offers to buy Hiro's project, to which he denies. As Hiro and Tadashi walk home together, a fire breaks out at the presentation hall they were just in. Tadashi runs back in to try and save Professor Callaghan, but the building explodes, killing anyone who may have been left inside. One day, a few weeks after the incident, Hiro accidentally activates Baymax and also discovers what's left of his invention, in his jacket malfunctioning. Baymax thinks the piece of machinery is trying to go somewhere and the two end up at an abandoned warehouse full of his invention. There is also a mysterious man in a kabuki mask, who seems to be controlling them all, who attacks them. Hiro, Baymax and the rest of the team must now band together, because San Fransokyo is now dealing with an evil mastermind.

Who needs Pixar to give us film that hits us right in our emotional gut? Well, we all do cause Pixar is awesome, but Disney by itself isn't too bad at it either. I was expecting a much different film, more akin to 'Wreck-It-Ralph.' Without all the emotional stuff, but with more of the laughter and action. 'Big Hero 6' isn't just a movie for kids, it's a film that will please anyone, of any age. It celebrates fans of comic books, the "nerds" who invent the things we use, the families that keep us strong and the friendships we have that keep us going. The story is pretty straightforward, as a group of people must band together for the first time, to stop an evil mastermind from destruction. That isn't what makes this film good. It's the writing, the characters, the humor and the world that just envelops you.

The world of San Fransokyo is gorgeous. You'll feel yourself getting lost in the background of a sweeping scene or noticing well crafted backdrops in almost every scene as well. Once you get to see the city a a whole, you'll appreciate this film even more, as it's wonderfully crafted. The feel is vibrant and fun throughout. Even the action sequences convey this well, as they are as lively as the world they're set in. Speaking of action, the scenes are fantastic. The originality of the technology, combined with the imaginative ways to use them is awesome to watch unfold. I must say the montage of building their suits may have been one of my favorite parts of the film. Then seeing it all in action was a welcome touch, as any scene involving combat was done well. The voice acting was another good spot, as I was worried from the trailers that I wouldn't like the cast throughout a whole film. They, as it turns out, were really good. Especially, Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, T.J. Miller and Daniel Henney, as Hiro, Baymax, Fred and Tadashi respectively. They all fit their characters well and it was a pleasure that they got to voice them. The writing in this is top-notch, as each character is written well and has a distinct style. The team itself is fine, but this film goes nowhere without Hiro and Baymax. They are the glue that holds everything together in this film. They are also the best duo I've seen on screen in awhile. The smarts and emotion of Hiro combined with the, almost innocence, of Baymax, created truly entertaining scenes and moments. It's not just all fun and games though, as 'Big Hero 6' tackles a huge issue that we've all struggled with in one form or another, the loss of someone. The child-like and straightforward Baymax, simply tells us to be with people, do things we like to do or even just give someone a hug. We get to see Hiro before, we get to see the group (and Hiro) struggle, but we also get to see them come out on the other side. We get to see that things may be dark at times, but there's always something that can spark the ignition we all have. That is what sets this apart from a lot of other "kids movies." The willingness to deal with a big issue, like losing someone, and being able to handle extremely well.

'Big Hero 6' is a film that's almost two hours, but you want it to keep going because it's so enthralling. The astounding visual imagery, the great score, the fun characters, the thrilling action, the laugh out loud lines (and moments), the heart-wrenching emotion and the captivating Baymax, keep you sitting in your seat through the credits. You should stay until after the credits too, because there's an awesome post-credits scene. 'Big Hero 6' isn't redefining how a superhero film is told. What 'Big Hero 6' does, is bring a new level of personality, and just plain fun, to the superhero genre that can seem really stale.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Nightcrawler [A Fat Jesus Film Review]

Going to theaters to see a film everyone is raving about is something special. Something that's kind of hard to describe. For all the people who chose to still see 'Oujia' this past weekend, and even the ones I saw at the theater tonight going to see it, they missed out on that special feeling. Not to mention 'Oujia' is one of the lowest rated films to come out this past month. I felt bad for them at times when there was a breather in the engrossing story 'Nightcrawler' tells. This is the type of film and the type of performance (from Jake Gyllenhaal) that we may be talking about in the coming months when the Golden Globes and The Oscars roll around. 'Nightcrawler' isn't just a film, it's an experience.

'Nightcrawler' follows the story of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a man living in Los Angeles. Louis is a man driven by the need make a name for himself, no matter what it takes to do it. He makes ends meet by stealing things such as copper wire and fencing to sell to construction companies. One night on his way home, he comes across a car crash on the highway and pulls over to help. A man with a video camera, Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), and his partner, run up to the police saving a woman from said car, recording it all. Louis asks Joe what he's doing and if he has any job openings. He learns of the world of video journalism and proceeds to buy himself a cheap camera and radio scanner. One of his first nights out, he haphazardly films a man who had been shot as part of a robbery and sells it to a news station. The morning news director, Nina (Rene Russo), likes the footage and tells Louis to keep it up. Giving him advice, that the news that sells, is minorities committing crimes in the more well-off parts of LA. Louis then decides that he will need help in these endeavors and hires an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), a young person in need of money. They begin to delve deep into video journalism and try to get footage of increasingly gruesome crime scenes. Louis and Rick become increasingly important to Nina at the news station and also a thorn in the side of Joe. Louis is a man out to make a name for himself and he will stop at nothing to do it. 

This was a film I've been excited for ever since I saw the first trailers for it. It looked fresh, it looked exciting and Jake Gyllenhaal looked to be great in it. I was not disappointed by any of my expectations coming out of the theater. I almost don't even know where to start because this film sucks you in from the opening scenes. The story is highly original and I loved not knowing where all the increasingly dangerous decisions Louis was making, was going to end up. Louis' character aside, the story of him trying to reach his goal, and doing literally anything to get to it, added another level to the film. You're rooting for Louis to achieve, because he seems to be a down on his luck guy, living alone in his tiny apartment. But then the film wears on and Louis' eccentric, and almost emotionless tendencies, make you start to wonder if you really want him to achieve his goal. The people around him, Nina and Rick, almost have to deal with him as much as Louis deals with his inner struggles. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Louis perfectly and he really brings out everything I just mentioned about him. He portrays the charisma, the knowledge, he most certainly posses, and the emptiness it sometimes takes to be the best at video journalism. Gyllenhaal spectacular throughout and demands your attention when he's on the screen. The more you process Louis throughout, the more you can see Gyllenhaal really embody him. Rene Russo and Riz Ahmed are welcome additions to the supporting cast. Both are great whenever they're on-screen as Nina and Rick respectively. The interactions between Russo and Gyllenhaal are fast paced, lively and at times heavy. While Ahmed and Gyllenhaal's scenes are filled with action and tension. Bill Paxton is also good in the limited time he's on-screen. The true glue behind this fantastic story and acting, comes back to Jake Gyllenhaal as Louis. Without this performance this film wouldn't be as good as is it, plain and simple. The film, that mostly takes place at night, is beautifully shot. I love when you can showcase a big city, like LA, well. The music throughout is top-notch and really adds to a given scene. This is a crime thriller and there's plenty of great action laced throughout. It has a runtime of nearly two hours, but I can honestly say I never checked the time from the moment the trailers ended, until the credits started rolling.

'Nightcrawler' is among the year's best films to be released. It's a fast paced, hi-octane thriller that never lets the audience go. The original story and the fantastic performance by Jake Gyllenhaal is all this film needed to look good. When you add in the great writing, supporting acting and thrilling action, you get a great film. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Jake Gyllenhaal gets nominations come awards season. He truly does deserve it for his performance in this wonderful film.