Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Interview (2014)

So by now we should all know the story behind this movie, or its release I should say. Threats and hacks, which may or may not have been related, caused the movie to be canceled 2 days before its theatrical release. It then went from being a throw away comedy to one of the most talked about films this year. Everybody wanted to see it now, so of course Sony took advantage of that. They released it in a select group of theaters, and then pushed it online though various digital distributors. Almost makes you wonder if they had this planned all along. So now that we can see the movie that sparked all this nonsense, is it actually worth watching?

The Interview is about two friends who work in television. James Franco plays David Skylark who interviews celebrities for his talk show. Seth Rogen plays Aaron Rappaport his producer. Franco is all about entertainment, and not so much actual news and current events. His show has a bad reputation, but seems to have a large following thanks to the work of Rogen. There is a story that comes out saying that Kim Jong-un actually really enjoys american media, and that Franco's talk show is his favorite thing on television. Rogen comes up with the brilliant idea of using the Olympics committee to try and get a message to North Korea asking for a interview, and it actually ends up working. They are granted a 1 hour scripted interview which instantly grabs the attention of the entire world. North Korea is thought to have working nukes that could reach the US at this point, so the CIA decides to take advantage of Rogen and Franco and ropes them into a assassination attempt on Kim Jong-un.

The easiest way to tell if you will enjoy this movie is to simply ask yourself, did you care for any of Rogen's other big films. "This is the End," "Pineapple Express," "Knocked Up," the humor is similar in all of these. If you are not a Rogen fan, this film will not do much to change that. It follows the same kind of formula his past work does. Crass humor, a lot of homosexual stuff, and violence tossed in for fun. That is not to say they do not have some very creative and even intelligent humor. It is just not the main focus of the film. Running gags, drug use, and shock humor are all present. The film easily earns its R rating many times over. If you are a Rogen fan, none of this will phase you however. You will enjoy the movie and enjoy the humor. I myself laughed quite a bit at it. Unlike "This is the End" where the constant sexual jokes eventually wore on me, "The Interview" seemed to keep its humor fresh throughout most of the film. Much like "Pineapple Express" it did seem to turn into a action film at the end, but it worked well enough within the context of the movie. If you read any news story about Kim Jong-un right now, top comments will probably be quotes from this film. There were just so many memorable moments.

Acting, well that is hard to talk about here. Acting was fine, this was a comedy though not a drama. No real huge moments for the different actors to shine. I did feel Franco played up his role a little to much at times. Randall Park did very well with Kim Jong-un, he really was great in that role. His part had the most emotional range, and he seemed to do well with everything he was given. I would be interested to see him in something more serious just to see how good of a actor he really is. There were also some cool cameo's I won't ruin for you.

This movie took a current issue and made it into a joke. It has some valid points to it however. I didn't expect it to go so in depth with how messed up North Korea is. They discussed what would happen if they were able to kill Kim Jong-un, and why it may not be the best idea. They gave some interested figures and facts about the people and how they are treated. They really did a good job with how they presented the country and the way the citizens view Kim Jong-un. I don't know how accurate what was presented is, but from what little I have heard and read in the news it wouldn't surprise me if it was mostly true. I read a story about how damaging this movie could be to the North Korean government because of this. The fact that a simple comedy film took the time to include all this, and to a extent that is actually worried a government is commendable. Is it Rogen's funniest work yet, probably not. But is could easily be the one he is most proud of simple due to the response it is receiving.

If you are thinking about seeing this movie based solely on the hype it is getting now, I would say go ahead and give it a shot. It presents a issues that is very much real, in a way that anybody can understand. There are solid comedic moments, but if you are not into low brow humor you will not enjoy it as much as others. Be advised there is some gore, though not a lot. And it is absolutely not a movie for family night.

I often judge a movie by whether I would watch it a second or even third time. Pacific Rim was the perfect example of this, I could watch that movie over and over again. This is another unique case. Kim Jong-un will continue to show up in the news, and this movie will remain relevant for a long time because of that. That also makes it one that will be easy to re-watch as we continue to be annoyed by its main villain. Right now North Korea is suffering from a internet shortage, probably so its citizens will not watch this movie. They are of course blaming the US, if that doesn't make you want to watch "The Interview" then nothing will.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Interstellar (2014)

I managed to catch Interstellar on my anniversary trip with the wife. We were in a town with a IMAX and we had never been to one. Everything I had seen on this movie made it look like the perfect fit for that format. Now my wife hates space, I don't blame her for that. But this was oddly her idea, as the movie wasn't even on my radar at the time. I didn't do a write up at the time though, so this is a good 10 days after the fact. I will try to do a simple overview, and should hopefully stay out of the heavier points of the film.

The story is pretty much the entire film here. Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey is a ex pilot. He and his daughter Murph played by Mackenzie Foy end up finding a military base run by a old friend of Coopers. Professor Brand played by Michael Caine. Brand tells them the world is ending and only has a small amount of time left. There are dust storms that are killing all the crops, and we can only grow corn at this point in time. Somebody has put a wormhole however right outside our planet. We do now know who, but we do know it was intentional. That wormhole gives us access to 12 other planets that may be inhabitable. Nasa sends a subject to each one to monitor and record data to be sent back as to whether we can live there. Cooper is tasked with going to the 4 remaining planets and finding out which one we will settle on. Brand is meanwhile trying to figure out how to get the human race there. The majority of the 3 hour film takes place as Cooper leads a team to the different worlds in search of answers to both problems.

The film is very smart in how it handles space and even time travel to a extent. Time is different out there, and it affects the explorers in different ways then the people on earth. One planet they visit effects them in 7 year increments every hour. So 1 hour on that planet for Cooper is 7 years back on earth for his Daughter. This means we get multiple actors for the different roles which was interesting. There is also a mystery in the opening of the film that spans the entire thing and the 80 or so years the film takes place in. Everything has a point to it, and if a question arises it will be addressed later on. The story was simple, but well put together in a way that created great depth. The acting was all very well done, which is exactly what you would expect with McConaughey, Caine, Hathaway, and Damon as some of your bigger roles. But one of the main things that really caught my attention was the way they shot most of the space of vehicle sequences.

This movie has a lot of space shots in it. If you read my review on Guardians of the Galaxy, you know I love space. Guardians had pretty and colorful space that was simply breathtaking to see. Interstellar has realistic space that is dark and depressing. That doesn't mean it wasn't a visually impressive movie, but simply that it was more realistic in how it portrayed space. They also had a tendency to not actually show the ship or pod as it was flying. It would show a on board camera that was attached to the hull or rear of the vehicle. I don't know if that was to save money, or create a effect, but it was unique. It didn't pull me out of the moment, and it may have even added to the drama at certain points. In movies like Star Wars you want to see the ship, they are usually fighting and doing cool things. In interstellar we don't have space battles, so the closer look makes it feel more realistic instead of giving off a fantasy vibe. The effects when we do get a wide shot are great though. And there were a few moments that IMAX screen really got to shine.

This is a Christopher Nolan film. Chances are you are familiar with him as a writer, director, and producer. He has done some big name films, heck most of his are big names. If you know me however, you also know I don't particularly care for him. He started strong, but recently he has been in rather poor form. From the lackluster finally to the Dark Knight, to the Man of Steel which I had to turn off multiple times before I could force my way to the end. Interstellar for the most part seems like a return to greatness, that is before the finally. I won't spoil anything, but the film could have been 30 minutes shorter and much better for it. The entire ending actually drug the whole thing down for me.

It was a smart well written movie that simply over stayed its welcome. Decent visuals, and interesting camera work add to the overall feeling of the film. Space is dark and depressing, just like it should be. The only real issues were the eventual reveal as well as some just straight up stupid moments spread through out. The movie did lull at times, and the pacing was a little off. Overall not a bad film, but one I will probably never see again. The high point? Robot TARS voiced by Bill Irwin.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

I ended up seeing this movie a few weeks ago while on vacation. I never got around to doing a write up on it, and sadly forgot about the whole thing until just recently. So while the movie is no longer fresh in my mind, I figured I could still put some something about it.

The story is about a young boy named Hiro, his brother Tadashi, and a robot named Baymax. Hiro has lost his way and is starting down a path that his brother does not want to see him on. Tadashi manages to trick Hiro into visiting his school and introduces him to his friends who are all Scientist or Engineers in one way or another. Well except for Fred, he is just the school mascot. This visit inspires Hiro who decides he wants to join his brother. Hiro is a robotics genius and has been making money fighting in illegal backroom battles up to this point. With the help of Tadashi and his friends he is able to make something truly amazing and wows everybody at the audition. If everything went well however, we would be left without much of a movie. Suffice to say something bad happens, and a villain is born. Hiro teams up with Baymax, a nurse robot, and goes after the bad guy.

The movie is based off of a older comic series with ties to the X-men franchise. That comic book series was awful. Seriously don't go read it, trust me on this. The heroes are all pretty unlikable, which given their ages makes sense. And they vary so much from their movie counterparts, that the only real connection is the names. Wasabi no Ginger goes from being a magic blade wielding sushi shef, to a hippy simply called Wasabi. Honey Lemon goes from being the sex symbol of the team and fighting with only a open jacket to a frumpy conservative. Baymax is the biggest change from not only his abilities to his entire persona. While these may sound like changes I didn't like, it is actually the opposite. They changed all the characters into more likable and better variations of themselves. They even changed all their powers to be science based which was cool. They created a team that children could look up to, and that parents wouldn't mind their kids being exposed to.

There are a lot of great moments in this film. From the low power Baymax sequence that makes him appear almost intoxicated, to pretty much every battle sequence. The film has a lot of emotion early on and does a good job of carrying it for the duration. I never felt like I wasn't invested once it took off. And a lot of that has to do with the great writing and voice work. There are a few known names in the film. Alan Tudyk has a decent size role. Damon Wayans Jr. who you may remember from the simply awful "Let's be Cops." Maya Rudoph played Hiro and Tadashi's aunt Cass. And T.J. Miller played Fred, the school mascot and comedic relief of the film. Everybody did very well however, even those I did not mention. Everything about the presentation of the film was spot on and really added to the overall experience. The art style was amazing and I loved the city shots. The animation was fluid and when the robots and battles started up, it was damn impressive to see.

The movie had a good comedic tone to which surprised me. Baymax had a simple intelligence and constantly had me laughing with how the robot responded to the world. From his fist bumping, to the way he talked about the cat. He never failed to make me smile, and I don't recall any of his attempts at humor just falling short. He also provided some of the more emotional moments in the film. I really enjoyed this character, and would say he is easily the best thing Pixar has come up with in years. Fred was the other spectrum of the comedy. He was stupid, but in a good way. He had some good moments, but nothing that compares to Baymax. Also he had a entire segment about his underwear that was a complete miss for me. It is only worth mentioning as it was also re-used in the post credits scene. That one may not be worth sitting around for, at least it wasn't to me.

So Big Hero 6 at a glance.....Good story with strong emotion and great moments. Stunning animation that is fluid and visually appealing. Great voice work and mostly solid writing. Add in a strong ending that had my full attention until the credits started, and you have a solid winner in my book. The fact that they changed all the characters to be better influences is a plus. And I loved the way they mixed up the power sets.