Interstellar – Film Review

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Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to this review of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. Before we begin I would like to flag up that I will be referring to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey at various points throughout. Such a comparison may seem obvious, lazy, or unhelpful but I hope you will trust me when I say that comparing this latest Sci-Fi epic to The Greatest* Science Fiction Film of All Time™ helps to put the film, and its critique, into context. Happy? Then I shall begin.

A few generations from now the world is not the technologically advanced utopia we have come to expect. Instead our planet is slowly dying. All crops fail apart from corn as dust storms roam across the harsh landscape of America. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a former pilot and engineer whose time is now best spent running a farm with his children, Murph (Mackenzie Foy & Jessica Chastain) and Tom (Timothée Chalamet & Casey Affleck), and their Grandfather (John Lithgow). While Tom is happy enough following in his father’s footsteps Murph is fascinated by science. Sadly this is a world in which the scientists have failed and government money is better spent feeding the population instead of inspiring a generation.

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Life is dirty and bleak; Cooper seems resigned to the daily struggle to put food on the table and keep dust out of his children’s lungs. After a certain series of events too convoluted for me to explain here, Interstellar‘s own large black monolith, Cooper and Murph stumble across the secret base of what is left of NASA. Now headed up by Professor Brand (Michael Caine) and his daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway) NASA are not looking for a way to save the world but for a whole new planet for our species to move to. With the help of a wormhole pioneering explorers have already travelled to distant parts of the universe to find a viable planet but now one final scouting mission is needed to travel through the wormhole and see how they got on.

Naturally Cooper is the best man for the job and after some contemplation, and vehement disagreement from Murph, he blasts off into the void with Amelia, Doyle (Wes Bentley), and Principal (David Oyelowo). As Cooper and company search for a new home for the human race they are forced to confront whether a human can truly put the interests of mankind ahead of personal safety and the lives of their loved ones. In an adventure involving relativity, the fifth dimension, and interstellar travel Christopher Nolan bends space, time, and your mind.

But is Interstellar any good?

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Whatever my fellow audience members may have thought about Interstellar they have to admit that it is an ambitious and brave endeavour. Well… brave in the way a film can be; lives are not being put at risk here. The ambitious bravery comes in the form of including tricky science for the audience to absorb and risking people not understanding what is going on or simply getting sniffy because the science isn’t 100% accurate. It’s a difficult line to tread, teetering between incomprehension and derision, but for my money Interstellar succeeds. To fully understand the plot one has to take on a certain amount of understanding of relativity, the concept of time as a resource just like fuel, and experiencing the world in dimensions beyond time. In my opinion Nolan manages to get the basic scientific principles across well enough that nobody who is paying sufficient attention will find themselves adrift. Go to the toilet at the wrong moment though and you may want to borrow somebody else’s notes.

As for those who feel the need to take Interstellar to task for not being 100% scientifically robust, as happened with Gravity, I have very little patience. I am assuming that this a modern trend to make people feel superior by allowing them to apply derision to films that are otherwise enjoyable. No Interstellar should not be used in a science lesson but I wouldn’t use 2001: A Space Odyssey either. Did Kubrick get assessed badly for suggesting that evolution was sparked by the arrival of a large black obelisk or were critics able to accept this as a forgivable plot device essential to the story being told? Science Fiction is what it is because it is not factual. It is fiction. What is important is that the film in questions takes its own fictional science seriously and does not contradict itself. Interstellar has its own rules, explains them, and applies them. Turn your nose up and I will confiscate your light saber.

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Rather than debate the laws of physics I suggest you instead just enjoy the unimaginable visuals and infectious sense of adventure that Interstellar has in abundance. Films with this scope and imagination are few and far between and should be appreciated as such. What Odyssey lacked in emotional weight (or baggage) Interstellar is bursting with. While Odyssey‘s Dave struggled in space without any sign of a family, his wife only appearing in a sequel (played by Mary Jo Deschanel), McConaughey’s Cooper is constantly aware of his family back home on Earth. The weight of the mission to rescue mankind is made apparent through the adversity experienced both in a distant galaxy as well on the planet we call home. Interstellar wants to tug at your heart as well as muddle your mind and is mostly successful. While I did feel the struggle felt by Cooper and family occasionally the Nolan brothers’ script pulled a little too hard. One particular speech by Hathaway’s Amelia is more likely to deliver sniggers than sniffles. Bend space and time all you like but don’t over deliver on the sentimentality. In a film with two prominent female scientists it is a shame that one finds herself compromised by emotions.

The overall effect of Interstellar is one of awe. Despite some flaws the film as a whole is a visual feast and dramatic juggernaut that explores the flaws of humanity as much as it does the far reaches of the universe. Below you will notice that I have given the film a full five stars and I do this not because it is a perfect feature or my greatest film of the year, let alone all time. I give it five stars for ambition and execution. For trying something a little different. You may not like it; it might be too convoluted, too simplistic, or just try too hard for your tastes but hopefully it will give you at least one moment when your eyes widen in surprise and wonder.

Interstellar is in UK cinemas from 7th November 2014.

*Arguably/allegedly

The Dark Knight Rises – Trailer Dissection

With so many people rediscovering our teaser dissection for The Dark Knight Rises, I thought it only fair to provide a dissection of the full trailer, and give people something slightly more worth their time. It is Christmas after all. And as the only comment on the previous dissection was “This isn’t much of a dissection”, I am going to take this way too far and show every single shot from the trailer regardless of interest or sanity.

If you haven’t seen the trailer yet it is embedded below:

Now onto the dissection… Continue reading

STUDIO and New Empress: Film Magazines for Women?

Studio New Empress film magazine

With half of the Mild Concern team being female and the other half currently studying how to be a woman, we were curious about all the buzz surrounding new film publications, STUDIO and New Empress. Both are being touted as “for women” with the former claiming to be the “first and only of its kind”, while the latter just tries to convince you that it’s “not quite as pretentious as it might sound”.

Launched earlier this month, STUDIO is digital only and marketed as “the UK’s first film magazine for women”, leading us to conclude that it must be modern and forward-facing. So let’s check out how STUDIO describes itself.

Packed with witty editorial and Hollywood news, plus all the latest movie reviews…

Sounding pretty standard so far.

STUDIO stands out from other film magazines with…

Yes? yes?

…its distinctive pages dedicated to the hottest film-inspired fashion, proving to be the one-stop source for female film and entertainment enthusiasts.

What?

You are kidding me. The single thing that “Britain’s first women’s film magazine” picks out as what it has to offer us over and above the offerings of Sight & Sound or Little White Lies is HOT FASHION?

Just take a look at that cover.

Continue reading

Alice in Wonderland – Review

Yes this is a little late but Mild Concern doesn’t have the benefit of press screenings and as Alice is still top of the UK box office this is still relevant, totally. I’m afraid what follows is another positive review, damn my good viewing judgement!

I chose to see the film in 2D so I could focus on the film without weird, slightly off images and tired eyes and I’m glad I did. Tim Burton is well known for his stunning and unique visuals and Alice does not disappoint, the beautiful imagery did not need 3D to make it sumptuous and entrancing. Such a good looking film requires big words.

Admittedly I was worried at the start as the “real world” was suitably dull and shot in standard fashion, all the better for highlight the wonders of so called Underland. It turns out Alice was mistaken about the name in her previous visit and this is her second time down under. Alice does feature quite a few familiar events but the story quickly veers off from the classic Disney plot to have Alice destined to destroy the Jabberwock giving a more satisfying conclusion to her time in Underland.

Mia Wasikowska does an admirable job carrying this film from start to finish though in her scenes at the very start and finish she seems to put all her effort into the accent rather than the acting. Johnny Depp is as good as expected portraying a truly disturbed hatter, though it was odd to hear him share scenes with Barbara Windsor’s Dormouse.

Other performance highlights included Matt Lucas’ charming Tweedledee and Tweedledum and Stephen Fry’s purring Cheshire Cat. Anne Hathaway continues her journey towards being an actress I actually like, though black lipstick on her huge lips is a bit horrifying. It’s a real shame that amongst all these great character performances Helena Bonham Carter has chosen to completely steal Miranda Richardson’s performance from Blackadder. it works well but is a little lazy.

Alice is a good looking and enjoyable journey and it was a relief to see a fantasy film made by a company that can afford to do it properly after so many Sci-Fi Channel original movies. Real actors were distorted in all sorts of ways and blended seamlessly with the computer generated scenery and charaters. Sadly the film’s destination was a little bit of a let down as after the final showdown it ended with a bit of a whimper.

It is a children’s film after all so not particularly challenging but enjoyable and nice to look at all the same.

Valentines Day – Review

Thanks to a complete misreading of the listings I wound up seeing Valentines Day last night and let’s just say I took the bullet for you. You don’t really need me to tell you that this was not a good film; it is obviously a film designed for a certain date, flimsily plotted with short barely connected stories and sprinkled with a few well known faces.

The rest of the audience seemed to be really enjoying themselves, I will even confess to laughing more than once and it was nice to see a brief cameo from Kristen Schaal, but the movie was for the most part completely pointless. At least one of the storylines didn’t even remotely progress and those that did either consisted of a pairing breaking up, getting together or both.

Most of the acting was good enough if not exactly stellar; it’s not as if the script was helping them out at all. However the two performances that rose above mediocrity into awfulness were those by Eric Dane and Taylor Swift. While Swift clearly had too much energy and was almost spilling out of the screen, Dane appeared as bored as me and made no effort to act at all.

If any of those involved were to do well out of this film it is Anne Hathaway and Topher Grace whose short plot was  as amusing and touching as Valentines Day had to offer. If their story were a short film I might recommend you watch it but as it’s entangled with the rest of this mess of a film I say steer clear.