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Interstellar: A review/critique of a NOT so stellar movie.

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Interstellar: A review/critique of a not so stellar movie. SPOILER INCLUSIVE!

Film:  Interstellar (2014)

My Rating:  .5 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (I took the 6-pack back for a refund – skunky beer!).

Genre:  Adventure/Sci-Fi

Rating:  PG-13

Runtime:  169 LONG mins

Directed by:  Christopher Nolan

Writers:  Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Nolan

Stars:  Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, others…kinda

Interstellar pic

Yes, this film has been out for a while now obviously.  I missed it in theaters and that was on purpose.  I don’t go to the theater because I want to be completely engrossed in a film (especially one I’m paying $$$ to see – remember when movies were $2.50 a ticket?!).   I want to be immersed completely into a film, the sights, the sounds, which is extremely difficult when there’s a drunk couple screaming at the screen while sitting a row or two in front and of course there is always the person on their cell phone sitting but a seat away from you.  The theater experience sucks these days despite the technologies available to show film.  The human element pretty much ruins it so yeah I’m a little behind in seeing Interstellar.  Thank God for Netflix and thank God I was able to hold out for the disk to arrive in the mail rather than buy the dang thing.  I managed to sit through the nearly 3-gruelling hours last night but I was too drained to follow up with an immediate write-up so instead I went to bed and had some really bad dreams.  You know a film is bad when it leads to nightmares and it isn’t a horror film!  (Note: I don’t have nightmares at all regardless of the genre of film I’ve watched so the negative impact Interstellar had on my sleep is indeed scary).

Okay, okay, so that was a long opening paragraph that has let you know I didn’t like the movie.  Now you must be asking exactly what was so bad, right?  The answer would be pretty much everything.  Everything except the Hans Zimmer score which from what I’ve read is something that the positive reviewers for Interstellar have pooh-pooed as the ONLY negative.  Funny.  I found the score to be different.  Very different.  But at the same time it was a refreshing change from the usual score associated with such films.  I’m not bagging on the scores of other movies of the genre.  I’m just saying that this was a welcomed departure from the norm.

SPOILERS BELOW – I don’t usually do the spoiler thing but it couldn’t be helped.  Why?  Because this film bothered me so much that I really wanted to pick apart some of the more prevalent flaws (fatal flaws) in this thing.  SPOILERS BELOW

 

You ready for this mess?  I know you read the script.  It's too late to turn back now.
You ready for this mess? I know you read the script. It’s too late to turn back now.

 

Now what didn’t work?  EVERYTHING else.  I don’t want to write a novel here but the last time a sciency doctor was played as bad as the Dr. Brand character of Anne Hathaway was Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) in The World Is Not Enough.  I will not dignify Hathaway’s character by calling her “Dr.” anymore in this review/critique.  It would be an injustice to the scientists of the world.  Why was Hathaway’s character even included in the film especially when she had no power on the mission, other than to be annoying, as Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a pilot, who seems to be in charge of humanities destiny because he can fly a ship?  A ship that seems to also be able to be flown by the talented and underutilized monolithic robots I might add.  Just dumb.  How convenient by the way that the secret NASA base where the saviors of humanity were busily working on things like solving gravity and building circular concrete structure underground was just an evening drive from Cooper’s farm.  A secret NASA base where old friend/boss/professor Michael Caine was in charge and wasn’t surprised that Cooper just wandered on in.

One more thing about the robots; what exactly are they made of?  They seem to be constructed of nothing but titanium, level III bullet proof Gorilla glass, and unobtanium/adamantium because they take a beating and their electronics don’t have so much as a hiccup.  My wife spills a little water on her ipod and it’s toast.  I really wish all electronics were built like those robots.

I know.  I know.  There's only 2-more hours left...of crap!
I know. I know. There’s only 2-more hours left…of crap!

Another thing that absolutely didn’t work was the universe where this was all going down.  If the planet was starving and in such miserable shape like we are led to believe, and the governments were unable to provide security (as mentioned with “there are no more Marines” and the lost Indian air force drone sequence which contributed next to nothing in the story by the way) there would most likely not be the safe little farming communities and industrial capabilities to keep folks using heavy machinery or gas powered vehicles.  If you look at the vehicles used in Interstellar there are gas cans everywhere.  Where are they getting the gasoline especially if the world can no longer maintain security?  It comes down to this: people will be fighting and fighting everywhere.  I saw no evidence of this.  If you’ve seen Looper you’d see a more realistic near future sci-fi representation of what farming would most likely look like in a depressed future.  Everyone in that universe is armed to the teeth and paranoid paranoid paranoid and rightly so.  They aren’t the type to take in a baseball game in between massive dust storms that are slowly choking them all to death.  It would be fantastic if they did though as there are few things I love more in this world than baseball.  I believe I would be all but alone in the stands watching a game if the life of humanity was at stake like it was every day in the Interstellar universe.

Need more of what didn’t work?  The explorer Romilly, who volunteers to stay behind and research the singularity (hoping to solve gravity) only to be rejoined with the returning Cooper (McConaughey) and Brand (Hathaway), seems pretty well-balanced despite 23+ years of being alone in a tin can.  That’s not to say he wasn’t just a little bit off but he looked to handle their return a lot better than I expected him to.  I know he slept a little but even if he slept for 80% of the time they were gone that’s still 4-5 years of solitary confinement the guy had to endure.  By the way…they are flying these ships all over the place, near a black hole which is a pretty significant body of gravity (understatement), and they are worried about fuel all the time but I wonder just what is propelling and fuelling these craft here and there and without a heavy and long acceleration how to they figure on getting anywhere?  Tremendous plot holes.

Another whacky thing is the Matt Damon character of Dr. Mann.  I wonder if Chris Nolan was stoned out of his mind when he thought any part of that idea was good.  Things big and large about this entire sequence bothered me to no end like how Dr. Mann sealed himself up in the hibernation tank (funny that if people are in that liquid for years they don’t have even a little bit of the prune look, right?).  The system doesn’t look like a very good one when you have to rip open the bag to get someone out like Cooper had to do by the way.  So Dr. Mann is awake and happy he isn’t dead and he explains his robot in a jumbled pile just broke down and they all seem to buy it pretty quickly and move on to the exciting data that makes them believe on the surface of this cold, cold planet they can breathe!  Yay!  We can’t grow SHIT here but at least in certain parts of this ice cube of a world you can breathe the air.  Cooper and Dr. Mann go for a long walk to see this breathable surface (why didn’t they fly there??) and Cooper has part of his helmet broken by Dr. Mann so Mann can kill him and escape the planet.  Cooper of course survives though it shouldn’t be such an issue because the pressure of his suit should have kept the toxic air out of the suit for a time being…nice that the suits don’t have some means to affix an emergency patch by the way.  If he’d only brought some futuristic duct-tape foam patch kit thingy he would have been just fine.  Of note is that Matt Damon isn’t billed in this film and I think for good reason.  Why would he want his name associated with it?

Anybody, with all our technology and stuff, notice the GIANT approaching waves?  Nah...me neither.
Anybody, with all our technology and stuff, notice the GIANT approaching waves? Nah…me neither.

Wait…there’s more!  Dr. Mann has had the foresight to rig his robot to explode if the secret information he hid was accessed.  Yep.  What if someone accessed it while he was sleeping?  He’s okay with killing everyone including himself?  And the robot helping poor Romilly, a super advanced robot by the way, can’t go “hmmm that looks like a bomb?”  Fine so Dr. Mann steals a ship, flies through the ice clouds (I’ve never seen ice able to float by the way) to the mothership but he cannot dock because the automatic docker has been turned off by one of the super robots as a precaution.  Precaution against what!!!??  Against what!?!?  AND THEN the super smart Dr. Mann doesn’t think much of opening a pressurized door into the vacuum of space.  What could go wrong he thinks as he is shot out like a cannon point blank into the unsecured airlock hatch?  By the way the computer during all this is telling him he isn’t in a secure dock but close enough seems to be okay with the good doctor.  To me this was Chris Nolan and his brother (the co-writer) deciding it was time for something else to blow-up and give Cooper a chance to save the day by daringly docking with the spinning ship while Brand passes out.  I’m going to drop the mike here because it hurts my head to think about anything else concerning this trainwreck of a film because thinking on how Cooper survives the black whole (WHICH NOTHING CAN ESCAPE!!! Except maybe love and good intentions) and is then found floating in deep space with minutes of air left in his little space suit which seems to be able to both keep him warm despite the incredibly cold reaches where he is found and also shielded from the Hawking radiation (and other neat killy things) from the singularity he was hanging out in to then meet up with a bunch of people just cruising around in giant space cylinders while Brand sits alone on their new world just hanging out.  Glad they had all these ships and technology at hand but didn’t think to send anything to help her.  Cooper of course then steals a ship with relative ease (great security by the way for a pretty valuable resource smart guys) and with probably not so much as a snickers bar with him he flies off to hook up with her so he can start farming on their new world no doubt.

Blah!!!!  What a bunch of junk this all was!  Do not use the IMDB.com rating on this one.  This is NOT AN 8+ film.  Not at all!

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Longmire picked up by Netflix for season 4

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Awesome news from Variety (yeah like more than a month ago I know!).  Longmire has been picked up by Netflix.  Shame on A&E for dropping their #1 show.  Sorry I haven’t reviewed this series yet.  I’m waiting to watch Season 3 before I get a more thorough 6-pack rating completed.

Q:  Who needs to be worried on A&E about #1 Longmire being cancelled?

A:   Whoever is #2.

longmire_series_tv_poster_by_marrakchi-d5esccl (1)

So yeah, Longmire has some shortcomings, like some middling writing but the setup for a terrific long-running series is there in spades.  The actor that plays Sheriff Longmire (Robert Taylor) is excellent.  The whining Katee Sackhoff (from Battlestar fame) has promise but needs some heavy character work and to STOP LOOKING LIKE SHE IS ALWAYS GOING TO CRY!

Thanks Netflix for saving another good show!

Cheers!

J.W.

Helix:  Looks Like A Really Fast Car…Shame About The 4-Flat Tires

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Series Review:  Helix

My Rating:  1 craft beers on a 6-pack scale (to get through this turkey I needed WAY more than a 6-pack!). I will be accepting donations to help me get through the suffering that is sitting through the first 13-episodes of this disaster.

Genre:  Sci-Fi/Thriller

Runtime:  13-episodes 40-45 mins each

Directed by:  Various

Creator:  Cameron Porsandeh

Stars:  Billy Campbell, Kyra Zagorsky, Jordan Hayes, Hiroyuki Sanada, Neil Napier

HelixSyfy So I caught a commercial/trailer for this series more than a year or so ago and filed it away in my brain.  As time went by it hovered in my memory until it merged in my mind with the commercials for The Strain (which I still need to watch) and Fringe (which I have watched most of but still need to watch the last season+).  Being busy with work, life, and naps I’d all but forgotten about Helix.  I haven’t watched Syfy since they killed Stargate: Universe so I never caught the series when it was first run.  Then, a couple weeks ago, Helix popped up on my Netflix radar and the memory of this promising series resolved from the fog.  I added it to the queue and prepared for a marathon.  I primed the couch and stocked the larder ready for a Saturday morning start for the planned day-long session.  Unfortunately my plan was derailed when I found Helix to be…not so very good.  If I’m going to spend a whole day sitting on my butt watching the TV, instead of doing the dozen or so more productive things, the program needs to be pretty good.  Not great.  Just pretty good.  And Helix definitely does not as “pretty good.”

I managed to make it through the first season but it took me far longer than I had originally planned.  I simply seemed to find things to do instead of watch Helix like…wash my car in the rain, reorganize the glassware in the kitchen cabinet according to height, and count the servings and calories in my emergency ration stash so I know exactly what’s in inventory for when that alien invasion occurs (which I assume is soon).

As is my normal practice I will not include any spoilers in this review though I can tell you that one of the main-ish characters in the first several episodes doesn’t make it half-way through the first season and THANK GOD for that!  If you watch Helix you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the acting of the clichéd bandanna wearing, rock music enthusiast, straight-talking scientist Doreen character is simply terrible.  Terrible.  Terrible.  The acting is bad.  The reasoning her experienced and supposedly intelligent character uses is simply awful and really detracts from the story.  Just about every second her character is on the screen time is better spent taking out the trash or checking your work email on the iPad (yes both of those are similar tasks).

The main character of Dr. Alan Farragut, played by Billy Campbell, is not so very good by itself but thanks to the terrible Doreen character your ire is not focused entirely on him.  Why he feels the need to talk in a husky/whiny voice (tough to pull that off at the same time) for the entirety of the first season is beyond me.  I need to also mention that Campbell is 30-years older than the character played by Jordan Hayes.  I won’t go any further on the subject but it is worth noting.  If you watch the show you’ll understand.  Thankfully there are moments of mystery that work to pull you into a slowly developing story.  From time-to-time Dr. Hatake, played by Sanada – perhaps most recognized as the swordmaster in The Last Samurai – pops in and drops a little morsel of mystery like Hansel and Gretel leaving bread crumbs.  Now if only those bread crumbs led somewhere interesting.  There was so much promise in this show in the beginning but it just kinda continues on without really getting all that interesting.  There’s some side story going on regarding stolen children I think.  I should know but I found my attention often waning throughout this turkey.  Oh, one last glaring issue with Helix.  The team led by Campbell that is trying to do…whatever it is that they’re trying to do…is part of the CDC.  Is that organization really so inept that a group of their most senior scientists runs off to cure a big bad bug and when the home office doesn’t hear from them for a long time there’s no response?  Just one of the many, many plot holes in the show.

I’ll probably watch the second season when it’s on Netflix but I won’t seek it out.  When it shows up on the recommendations list I’ll add it to the queue but not before.  I’m not going to search it out.  I do have to mention that there was one thing I enjoyed about the show.  The hokey elevator music that plays during the title crawl is out of place and yet it’s oddly catchy.

Now can I recommend you spend a weekend watching this?  Sure…but only after you’ve expended all other entertainment options, completed all chores, and reorganized your hope chest.  Note: as I wrote this review I’ve steadily deducted points from the rating.  I’m going to stop here out of concern I’ll soon be into negative numbers which isn’t fair to the two or three people that worked hard to bring you Helix.

Cheers!

J.W.

P.S.  75K+ words into Sigma Draconis and more than a third of the way through the 2nd edition of The Bellerophon: Ambush which I hope to republish soon.  I’m excited about both projects and the many, many project yet to come.  SD is going to be cool but very different than my first book.