Reviews, Science Fiction

Interstellar

Interstellar

Copyright © 2014 by Paramount Pictures

Story
Food is scarce and Earth has become inhabitable due to its drastic climate change. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his daughter, Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) uncover the location to a secret NASA installation headed by Professor Brand (Michael Caine). Brand discloses the motive of this mission hoping for Cooper’s participation in piloting the ‘Endurance’ along with team mates, Amelia (Anne Hathaway), Romilly (David Gyasi), Doyle (Wes Bentley) and automatons, TARS (Bill Irwin) and CASE (Josh Stewart). They are tasked to retrieve data from three planets which are possibly suitable for mankind’s survival. The teams of Miller, Edmunds and Mann have been deployed through a wormhole and ‘Endurance’ makes its first visit on planet Miller. A costly mishap occurs and the team has only enough fuel for one more planet should they choose to return home. As time passes, the adult Murphy (Jessica Chastain) works tirelessly with Brand for a solution in transporting the rest of humanity away from Earth’s continued deterioration via gravity instead of rocket launchers.

Review
Acclaimed director, screenwriter and producer, Christopher Nolan who single-handedly reinvented the screen adaptations for comic books (‘The Dark Knight’ trilogy – a pinnacle with the second part garnering a posthumous Oscar for a scene-stealing Heath Ledger, the only superhero movie to produce a win in the acting category and is the most nominated in its genre, previously held by ‘Dick Tracy’) and developing mind-bending thrillers such as ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’ and ‘Inception’ (an exceptionally original concept years in the making) has done it again.

‘Inception’ took the fundamentals of a great heist film and ornamented it with the moralities of corporate espionage from the subconscious mind via shared dreaming in the guise of a summer blockbuster made more memorable by the breathtakingly poetic action. Watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt fending off highly trained subliminal projections in a revolving room is still a tough act for many to beat. In his latest, Nolan’s fascination for the sciences will assuredly elicit an upsurge of strong feelings.

You may be at odds on the plausibility of its outcome and it could leave you with even more unanswered questions than practical answers for its overarching quest about the unknown but there is no denying of Nolan’s profundity stamped all over the saga. The philosophical context hidden in the human drama becomes relatable (though quite a handful) as actual scientific terminology and logic are used as the basis for the elaborate plot supported by theoretical physicist and executive producer, Kip Thorne.

Bolstered by a bravura showing from McConaughey and is co-piloted efficiently through Hathaway’s piercing glances of a woman equally as conflicted as the father of two, the real star of the show undoubtedly belongs to Cooper’s brilliant and resourceful progeny, Murphy who is adorably introduced by Foy, tenaciously carried on in Chastain’s astounding depth and the twilight of her life comes full circle in Ellen Burstyn’s brief but loving interpretation.

If the technicality could prove disconcerting, Nolan is the man to deliver spectacular yet engrossing action just as proceedings seemed to be meandering. Whether it is a gargantuan tidal wave threatening the astronauts’ mission or Cooper pursuing a disoriented shuttle, they are never short on being awesome. ‘Gravity’ may have struck box office and Oscar gold, ‘Interstellar’ will survive the test of time as a worthier companion to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (pay attention for those references). Whatever can happen, will happen.

Rating
Entirety: A
Acting: A
Plot: A-

Rated PG-13 for some intense perilous action and brief strong language

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Animation, Reviews

The Book of Life

Book of Life

Copyright © 2014 by 20th Century Fox

Story
Childhood friends Manolo Sánchez (Diego Luna), Joaquin (Channing Tatum) and Maria Posada (Zoe Saldana) are reunited many years later after Maria is sent away for causing a ruckus in San Angel. Now, a skilled matador, Manolo and Joaquin, a revered protector of the townspeople are in love with the educated beauty and her predicament is used as a wager between La Muerte (Kate del Castillo) and Xibalba (Ron Perlman). La Muerte has picked the gentle and caring aspiring singer to be Maria’s suitor while her partner hopes the brawnier Joaquin will be a better match. Should Xibalba win, he will exchange reigning duties with La Muerte as the new ruler in the ‘Land of the Remembered’. To tip the scale in his favour, the meddling spirit’s extremities may eliminate one of the friends permanently from the bet.

Review
It is timely for any movie to be spirited away in the direction of the supernatural comes Halloween and animation is getting more adventurous with a palate for the dead. Some of the finest which tackles this difficult topic with care and sensitivity belong to Tim Burton (‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘Corpse Bride’ and ‘Frankenweenie’). Celebrated Japanese animator, Hayao Miyazaki also took a shot at it and the Oscar-winning anime (sole winner) is still the highest earning film in Japan to this day.

Other significant and whimsical but underrated offerings of the past that deserve mention for their amusing observation on the afterlife would have to include ‘Monster House’, Coraline’ and ‘ParaNorman’. Now, you can tag on this quirky, funny and delightfully made Mexican folklore to the list of must-see shows but have yet to watch. It happens. I actually just completed ‘Oculus’ a while back and the verdict: deftly crafted.

Granted that both fables revolve around family, the outcomes could not be any more different. The Tatum-starrer communicates with the dead for help but the Jason Blum-produced sleeper is dead set on taking lives. Nevertheless, the twists at the end may leave the respective groups cheering for more or flummoxed (I would go for the latter but let’s not kid ourselves, the toon in question, like many before it will reap its happily ever after).

That does not mean the ride is not a fun one to relish. Things really kick in full gear when an unpredictable decision is made and the viewers are thrusts along with Manolo into the ‘Land of the Remembered’ for a literally polychromatic experience. The disparity between the living and the deceased is fittingly represented on how we live our lives in real life – lifeless and pallid while alive but teeming with vivacity in the sweet hereafter.

Even though it can be discordant for traditional to be laced in pop references and bridged by contemporary and original compositions, the songs are bonded riotously to Spanish-sounding beats, a means commendably used in ‘Happy Feet’ for many of the show’s toe-tapping numbers. The charismatic cast of Luna, Tatum, Perlman and del Castillo also boost the sometimes forced humour in its already labyrinthine second act which could be daunting if you are surrounded by preschoolers who are merely warming themselves up before ‘Big Hero 6’ is unleashed.

However, what it lacks in style is highly compensated with wit and originality from the brilliant mind of Jorge Gutierrez, most renowned for the award winning ‘El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera’. As ingenious as a Guillermo del Toro fantasy (he is producer after all), this winner will not only beguile but more importantly, for its venerable contribution to Mexico’s rich and diverse culture.

Rating
Entirety: B+
Acting (Voice): A
Plot: A-

Rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images

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Horror, Reviews

Annabelle

Annabelle

Copyright © 2014 by Warner Bros. Pictures

Story
Before ‘The Conjuring’, there is ‘Annabelle’, a rare collectible made of porcelain presented as a gift to Mia Form (Annabelle Wallis) from her doctor husband, John (Ward Horton). On the same night, their neighbours, the Higgins are viciously murdered by their daughter, Annabelle (Tree O’Toole) and her lover. They break into the Form’s home and Annabelle takes a liking to Mia’s collection. Mia is stabbed but before more harm can be done, the police arrive and gun down the man while his partner kills herself, clutching the doll. Soon, strange occurrences manifest in the couple’s quiet life and Mia realises the only way of stopping them is by offering this malignant force something dear to her.

Review
As a tease, the demonic doll’s torment of the two nurses in ‘The Conjuring’ got the show off on the right foot and it piqued audiences’ interest enough for a spinoff to be released a year later. Even when James Wan decided to only assume producing duties, anticipation was still sky high for how the prequel would play out. After all, long-time cinematographer of Wan’s, John R. Leonetti, handpicked to shepherd another case from the Warrens should at least be visually unison to the 2013 hit, right?

Having worked on the last three of Wan’s smashes, Leonetti does a respectable job in achieving singularity through a few well-staged fright sequences which could either leave you scurrying to the nearest exit or cower inescapably in your seat. Early on, it is established that a spirit of a girl named Annabelle has resiliently seized control of the doll’s hollowed façade. Although not as innocent as made out to be, the film corroborates the smug-looking plaything’s genesis in a ‘wrong place, wrong time’ setup.

The inclusion of the occult jolts back fond memories of ‘The Exorcist’, ‘The Omen’ (not the pointless remake) and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ (which this tale is heavily ‘inspired’ from) and the grisly murder at the beginning effectively sets the course for other chilling moments to come. Trust me, once you are through with the whole enchilada, cute and sweet will indubitably go hand in hand with gory and revulsive. Though we have seen a plethora of ‘damsels trapped in a stalled elevator’ in various forms, if done unnervingly foreboding can still yield unexpected results (of the good kind, anyway).

Unfortunately, the good cannot outweigh the bad. Credit to Leonetti for creating a ghoulish mien befitting of Annabelle’s stature but hackneyed storytelling squanders its potential to be more than just a humdrum affair. Household objects springing to life and acting malevolently. Check. Floors and doors creak for no apparent reason merely to rattle rather than terrify. Check. Ghostly apparition clad in white redolent from the wave of Japanese and Korean spook fest that was prevalent in the early 2000s. Check. An ominous manifestation bent on an unspeakable evil and is conveniently appeased by a nurturing figure. Check.

Do not even get me started on the blatant plagiarism from ‘Rosemary’s Baby’; it is tolerable to name your chief characters after principal actors from the aforementioned old time favourite and it invokes nostalgia when the unmistakable baby carriage makes its ceremonious entrance but no one in their sound mind will accept a second-rate cookie-cutter barren of any ingenuity. For all its flimflam, ‘Annabelle’ comes up way too short and should have simply stayed as a short.

Rating
Entirety: B-
Acting: B
Plot: C

Rated R for intense sequences of disturbing violence and terror

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