Tag Archive: 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.


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.

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.

It is hard to write a review without revealing the plot. Suffice to say the heading (above) sums it up really.

I have mixed feelings about this genre of film. I do not like, enjoy or relish violence – that includes fictional violence even if the context makes it relevant to the story. I get that action movies and thrillers involve explosions and people being killed. The villain usually gets their comeuppance in the end. That said, I did go to see “Skyfall” at the Cinema and, with the aforementioned caveat, I was impressed.

This is an action film with a plot and a narrative that referred to other episodes and icons of the Bond series. The choice of car was a case in point. As well as the action scenes (violence/extras being shot at or exploded) there was humour (I actually laughed out loud at one point) and poignancy. The Ralph Fiennes character (present in just five scenes) kept you guessing and eventually we are shown whose side he is really on.

And, in this film, Bond is not a young man so one of the narrative threads is whether/how much that matters. We also learn a little about Bond’s background. Incidentally, “Welcome to Scotland” will never seem the same again.

It will be interesting to see how Q turns out. By the way, the one bit I correctly predicted involved Q: suffice to say, beware what you plug in.

One niggle: we were told that they were District line trains but they were not. Anyone who has been on the London Underground will recognise tube trains such as run on the Piccadilly line. The plot needed the train to run on the District line. I guess they filmed at the disused station at Aldwych – an ex Piccadilly line branch.

My overall impression is that the maker of this Bond film is a storyteller capable of holding more than one idea at a time; and they painted for us characters who can hold our interest.

The story is nonsense but told well enough for the suspension of disbelief for a couple of hours or so.

I think I would watch it again; this time knowing where the surprises are and relishing them. All of them apart from one, near the end.

Four stars, I think, or 9 out of ten (one deducted for the violence)

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