Category: films


Interstellar (12A)

Strictly speaking this could have been called “Intergalactic” but that is splitting hairs, I suppose.

This was a superbly crafted and well-produced film set in  a possible near-future earth. NASA has become an underground organisation because people have accepted, as an overriding priority, the growing of food under dust-bowl conditions beset by blighted crops – space travel has been confined to myth and propaganda. In this world we are introduced to an ex-NASA astronaut, Cooper, and his family, currently doing his bit on the family farm with his father-in-law and his two children. After some twists and turns, our hero discovers that his skills are needed elsewhere so he leaves his family in order to save humanity. He is sent through a “wormhole” (a short-cut through space) to re-establish contact with some explorers who went on ahead.

There is some physics involved here because the astronauts travel at near-light speeds meaning that hours experienced by travellers works out as years passing for those left behind. That hazard of space-travel is one of the sub-themes running through the film: what happens to the people left behind? What happens to the travellers when they get back? How do they deal with the changes?

I found it a bit mawkish at times. For me, sentimental old fool that I am, that meant reminding myself that these were pretend families and the heart-wrenching moments merely a plot device.

Another theme was a poem by Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night” (click link for the full text on PoemHunter). I suppose it was intended to help us understand Professor Brand (Michael Caine) with its defiant pessimism. Or maybe his bleak optimism. While I am not a fan of this pessimistic world view, I find it a mark of a good drama, film, TV show etc, when it can weave more than one strand together – sometimes in contradiction with each other, sometimes in appreciation of another work, sometimes with a nod to the past, sometimes with tongue in cheek.

The special effects were, well, effective, the plot was OK, the acting fine including the capable old hands of John Lithgow and Michael Caine. Forgive me, but you will have to look up the names of the main characters for yourself (e.g. the official website) as I did not recognise them; they performed well enough to bring an appropriate tear to the eye. Special credit should be given to those who played the Murph character. At a published 169 minutes (more like 3 hours) it was perhaps a bit overlong. For a fellow cinema-goer. sitting a few seats away from me, that was “three hours I shall not get back again!”

On its presentation, effects, acting skill and well-crafted narrative this merits at least 4 stars. However, two reasons for giving it three: I liked it but it is not one I am in a hurry to see again, nor do I intend to get the DVD; secondly, its sentimentality was a bit over done.

Do watch it if you like sci-fi / thrillers; it is safe for teenagers.

Overall, 3 stars or 7/10.

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“10. No snake-handling.

9. You can believe in dinosaurs.

8. Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them.

7. You don’t have to check your brains at the door.

6. Pew aerobics.

5. Church year is color-coded.

4. Free wine on Sunday.

3. All of the pageantry – none of the guilt.

2. You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized.

1. No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.”

Slightly flippant, but made me smile – Courtesy of the late Robin Williams

Muppets Most Wanted

The best word to describe the cinema we visited is probably “cosy”. The seats were comfortable, you could recline in them, and each pair had narrow table large enough to put down your drink – that includes a pot of tea if you so chose! I don’t know how they make a profit because the prices were fairly typical of your average cinema and there were about 100 or so seats in total. And the pre-feature adverts were mercifully short.

As for the film, “suitable for all ages”, we enjoyed it. The plot was straight-forward (world tour for the Muppets acting as cover for the nefarious criminals) and had few surprises. However, the Muppets and their human co-stars did well in a film that was most definitely not taking itself too seriously. The line in the opening number about the sequel not being as good as the first (I think this is their eighth) says it all. The slapstick catered for the younger audience; meanwhile I took to cameo spotting and references to other films (I think I saw, “Johnny English”, “The Colditz Story”, “The Shawshank Redemption” and “James Bond”). One very young member of the audience behind us was audibly upset by one scene featuring the “Bad Frog” but other people seemed all right.

I found the film overall was OK, my young companion thought it was brilliant – 4 and a half stars or 9 out of 10 from them, 3 stars or 5 out of ten from me. Between us that is 4 stars or 7 out of 10.

The Bible on Channel five

A number of people have commentated that this might be worth watching. Although there are some details I might quibble over (see Wikipedia article) it will be interesting to see if it captures the imagination as it did in America earlier this year. More info here.

Despicable Me 2

Out of the mouths of babies and children…

… after a few seconds, literally, as the film got underway, the cinema echoed to the sound of young children laughing and giggling (ours included) – and the story had not even started yet. If the laughter of children is the benchmark of a good film, then Despicable Me 2 scores very highly very quickly.

There is a plot, some peril and slapstick violence but the heart of the film is both entertaining for the children and amusing for adults. I suspect that the only group that would not be impressed might be adolescent teenagers – there were too few in the theatre to tell. I do not want to give anything away but it is fair to say that the antics of the minions varied between amusing and hilarious; Gru’s deadpan wickedness (but not really) worked but I wonder if the “master-criminal-with-the-heart-of-gold-he-never-realised-he-had” motif would be sustainable for a third movie. Among our favourite bits was the fire engine scene (no give away there as it appears in the trailer) and the set-piece musical items at the end. I know I’ve seen the singer with the sequined hat crooning a romantic song somewhere but I can’t remember where.

I probably won’t buy the DVD but would watch it if it appeared on TV.

As a family film 4 stars, for children probably 5 stars; overall 8 out of 10.

A must see for the fans, good enough for sci-fi buffs and fine if you like an action movie.

On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is “I don’t mind watching Star Trek”, 5 is “I try to catch every episode” and 10 is “I dress up and go to conventions” then I am somewhere round 4 1/2. (A similar figure applies for the Star Wars series.) I have seen all the movies but I couldn’t say if I have seen every episode – I missed several of the early Deep Space 9 episodes and have no idea whether I caught all of the Next Generation, for instance. Some of the movies didn’t really work.

However, this reboot on a parallel timeline seems to be working OK. I could have done with a little more character development but this is an action film after all. Treading the fine line between remake and rehash is not easy but I think they have pulled it off: the storyline so far has been familiar but not the same as the original series. I don’t want to give anything away but suffice to say the Uhura-Spock interaction is an interesting development. Captain Pike gets injured but not as in the original series. And as for the adversary in “Into Darkness” we have ‘Khan meets Moriarty’, you might say.

As ever, I wish I had a volume control for some of the action scenes which were pretty much set-piece. There were enough plot twists to keep us interested although the solution to the captain’s lethal situation was obvious to anyone paying attention. I liked the nod to Star Trek II in the latter half of the film. Overall, I enjoyed this film – even the closing credits (especially the music) made me smile.

If it makes it to our TV screens I will watch it again.

4 stars, 8/10

And it most definitely was part two. I enjoyed watching this film – at least, I felt the satisfaction of seeing the resolution of a story that has been unfolding in the books and in the films over more than a decade. You did need to have seen part one to make most sense of this final episode and if you have not been following the series either in the books or in film, I would not start here. You really do need to start at the beginning or at least with one of the earlier episodes to follow the plot easily. Parts of the film were spent tidying up previous loose ends so, for example, we finally get to see what made Snape tick.

I was pleased that the film included the epilogue that is in the book; not so much because it showed that “and everyone lived happily ever after” (not all of them did) but it did allow us to confirm the redemption/restoration of at least one of the characters.

If I were to give this film a rating it would be three stars out of five. That reflects the fact that I enjoyed it but where others in this series were very good, this one was just plain good.

Will this stand the test of time? I don’t know. Perhaps it will go the way of “Star Wars” and go out of favour for a decade or so until the children who grew up with Harry Potter grow up to have children of their own and brush the dust off the books to read them again.

The King’s Speech

We went to the cinema to watch this several days ago. It is hard not to give away some parts of the plot. After all, the film is based on real people and events in history that some people alive today and will remember. The surprises come not in the events but in the characters.

I hesitated to decide exactly what I think about it. On the one hand it is definitely a film I would like to see again – perhaps at the cinema or on DVD or when it finally makes it on to our TV screens (Freeview in our house). On the other hand our trip was spoilt by the fact that there was something wrong with the music track which sounded rather wobbly. It was suggested that perhaps that was deliberate in order to parallel the struggle with public speaking that was going on the screen at the time. We discovered afterwards that the track had worn out and that a new one would be sought for. Meanwhile I’m not sure whether my wanting to see the film again has more to do with wanting to hear the music properly (and the CD costs about the same as going to the cinema).

Another reservation came from an acquaintance who said they did not intend to see the film on the grounds that it was too intrusive. After all, the heart of the film is based on true events and centres on a very public figure (one who had greatness thrust upon them you might say) coming to terms with a very private and, at the time, embarrassing condition of which he had been made to feel ashamed. Although the main character in the film died decades ago his daughter (whose character also features in the film as a young girl) is still very much with us. Now, I’m not in a position to distinguish between fact and poetic licence but there were a couple of moments in the film which were perhaps more sensitive than others. The first one was where the speech therapist got Bertie to swear (“theraputic” was a term someone used) because he had observed that his client appeared not to stammer when he was angry. Bertie was reluctant because the royal family were not supposed to swear – at least not in front of others – so there was his embarrassment to contend with as well.

The other ‘private’ moment was when the new king burst into tears and cried “I’m not a king!” I don’t know if this incident ever happened but this was another instance of his vulnerability coming to the surface. So maybe we, the audience, should feel at least a little bit uncomfortable prying into such a sensitive and private moment – even if the power of the scene is in part due to the skill of the actors as much as it may be true to life.

Despite those two possible reservations, I really appreciated the film for its portrayal of someone struggling and failing to overcome his weakness. You see, it is not the fact that he tried and finally succeeded in being able to make a public speech. No, it is the fact that he failed and kept on failing. To persevere when you keep failing requires courage and strength of character. It struck me that what we were being shown was a person who appeared to have a weak character – in awe of his father, overshadowed by his older brother – and yet had admirable  perseverance.

His speeches were not notable because he spoke well (Churchill was a better orator) but because he did speak.

I would recommend this film.

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