Category Archives: 2015 Oscar Nominees

Interstellar (2014)

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A new story of space exploration from the mind of Christopher and Jonathan Nolan. Interstellar presents us to a future where resources are becoming scarce and people are forced to go into agriculture in order to sustain life on Earth. Military funding is over but this does not matter since a huge dust bowl is threatening to kill all crops and thus, end humanity’s means of survival. That is until an engineer-turned-farmer by the name of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) finds a secret branch of NASA that is developing a ship that will take them through a wormhole into a different galaxy that has potential planets that humans might be able to migrate to.

Interstellar is very far removed from anything that Christopher Nolan has done previously. It is very much in the vein of Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) or Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity (2013). That being said, you should expect more of a drama in space rather than psychological-thriller/Batman genre that Nolan has gained fame for. Hans Zimmer who is once again collaborating with Nolan also takes a turn away from his usual music. The soundtrack to Interstellar is wonderful and brings out the emotion of just about every scene that it is applied to.
Visually, the movie is breath-taking much like Gravity was when it first hit theaters. Beautiful vastness of space is never overlooked within either film. The difference is that unlike Cuaron’s movie, Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema spark our imaginations by giving us different worlds, black holes, and other strange things to look at. They successfully manage to make us remember why we are so fascinated with space exploration. The knowledge of knowing that there’s something out there and risking everything to reach it is something that humans have been doing for ages and Interstellar is an ode to what humans can achieve when they set their minds to it.

The acting in this movie was carried pretty heavily by Matthew McConaughey. Overall everyone did fine but McConaughey’s character (Cooper) was the only one that had enough of a character build up to give significance to his scenes. Having left his family behind, Cooper is always thinking about getting back to his daughter Murphy (Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy). Other characters like Brand (Anne Hathaway) and her father (Michael Caine) have their moments but because their characters are restricted to being scientist working to save humanity, their big scenes tend to fall flat in comparison to Cooper’s scenes. Murphy, who is played by three different actresses, is a major part of Interstellar. Mackenzie Foy is the child actress who plays Murphy for the first part of the movie and maybe I’m not the best judge when it comes to child actors but she did an absolutely splendid job. Jessica Chastain who played Murphy in her later years also had a few big scenes but her character was mainly centered around being emotionally distant.

*SPOILERS*
Sitting at close to 3 hours in length, Interstellar isn’t without its faults. Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, the story isn’t that complex. It’s simply astronauts trying to find a habitable planet to migrate to. The fact that this concept is married with a lot of real world physics does not make the actual plot of the movie more complex. There was also the matter of the black hole that somehow led to Murphy’s room. Early on in the movie the audience is told that there is something or someone that is helping the people of Earth to find a way to save themselves. By the end of the film, it is still not completely clear how the wormhole or the room within the black hole came to be or if it was truly a product of human engineering. There’s also the strained relationship between Murphy and her brother that is never truly resolved (they hug and make up that easy??). These are a few things that jumped out at me and I’m sure there’s other things to pick at
*END SPOILERS*

Interstellar as a whole is a visually stimulating movie that is excellently made. Characters have some sense of emotion but seem pretty empty and non memorable in the grand scheme of things. The pacing is really slow but picks up enough to keep viewers engaged for the entirety of the film. Much like Super 8 (2011), Interstellar is brilliantly made but ultimately a forgettable movie. This is not because of its flaws but because it’s plot and content is so familiar to those that we’ve seen years before through the eyes of Steven Spielberg and other directors in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s really worth a watch but one viewing was enough to leave me satisfied with this space drama.

TL;DR: Gravity 2.0. More visuals, physics, and plot but far from Nolan’s best work.

Rock-It Raccoon Rating: 7/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Metacritic: 74%
IMDB: 8.9/10

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

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With a mega cast that includes Oscar nominated actors like Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly promised an entertaining time. The movie is small chronicle of Gustave M. (Ralph Fiennes), a concierge at one of the most renown hotels in the world. Although it follows Gustave, the story is told by Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) who worked as a lobby boy (Tony Revolori) in his youth and became the concierge’s apprentice. When Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a hotel regular, is murdered, a series of events unfolds that has Gustave and his lobby boy on the run.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has a little sprinkle of everything placed throughout its story. Moments of humor, suspense, and romance are all carefully laid out and spread out enough to keep the movie fresh. Unlike other directors, Wes Anderson stayed focused on the story of the Grand Budapest and did not spend too much time giving screen time to the large amount of A-List actors that are in the film. Not only did this make the story run smoother, it kept the movie from feeling like it was dragging on too long. One of the more interesting choices that I noticed was giving Willem Dafoe’s character, Jopling, very little lines in the movie. As a villain, this limited dialogue helped emphasize the danger that the character represented to everyone else and worked wonderfully. The cast for this movie did not disappoint and no matter how small the role, it seemed as if every actor fit in perfectly into their roles.

Wes Anderson is a director known for his unique style of portraying characters and locations and Grand Budapest is not an exception. Just about every scene in the film looks as unique and interesting as the last. Everything from the hotel to the train that the characters are in have their own unique feel. This feel is not only because of the way the movie is shot but also because of the great score that Alexandre Desplat composed for the film. Every character, location, and event in the film has a certain charm that is not present in a lot of other movies.

It’s hard to watch a film by a director like Wes Anderson and not compare the Grand Budapest to the rest of his films but this might be his best movie. Of course, choosing his best movie comes down to preference but it is hard to deny that the Grand Budapest Hotel is some of his best work. With a moving story and his trademark look, Wes Anderson has created a story that is memorable and enjoyable to watch. Nothing feels out of place and for its running time of 100 minutes, it packs quite an array of thrills, laughs, and even a little heartbreak.

TL;DR: Some of Wes Anderson’s best work. Worth the price of admission.

Rockit Raccoon Rating: 9.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%

IMDB: 8.4/10

MetaScore: 87/100

 

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