How Do You Review Half a Movie?

Ever since watching Mockingjay part 1, I have been trying to figure out how to review it. I really enjoyed it, but I know the purpose is to set the table for part 2. I felt the same way about the “Dark Water” episode of Doctor Who, but in that case I only had to wait a week for the resolution, not a year.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows more or less started the trend of splitting the final book in a series into two films, but there was only a eight month wait in between installments. Allegient, the third book in the Divergent series, will continue the trend. The question remains: Is it really worth it? In the case of the Deathly Hallows–absolutely. I think some of the other Harry Potter films should have been split in two, but that’s another story.

Here’s yet another labored television analogy: In some ways Mockingjay part 1 felt like a “bottle episode.” What’s a bottle episode? Glad you asked. A bottle episode is when an episode of a TV series takes place mainly in one location; usually it’s done to save money. I’m not saying this is what happened in Mockingjay part 1, it’s just what it felt like, since most of the movie takes place in a bunker. In certain cases, the bottle episode can be one of the best of the entire series, since it is often used for character development.

I feel that we got to see a lot of growth from Katniss in this film, mainly because she has become the face of the revolution, whether she wants to be or not. Unlike Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, Katniss wasn’t born into destiny–she had it thrust upon her. It’s up to you to decide if that makes Katniss the more interesting character.

A lot of people say that Mockingjay was the weak link in the book trilogy; having not read the books, I cannot say. Yeah, I know. I do think it made for a fascinating film, or at least, half of one. Even though most of the movie consisted of people having conversations, I was never bored. I thought it was well paced, and made me even more excited to find out what happens next. The film flew by rather quickly; maybe due in some small part to the one hundred twenty-three minute running time, and partly because the last two films I saw in the theatre were Gone Girl and Interstellar. I don’t mind long movies, and in some cases, they could stand to be even longer.

Minor spoiler ahead.

As for the ending? I thought Catching Fire had the better cliffhanger. The ending of Mockingjay part 1 wasn’t bad, but I cannot be the only one that thought it should have ended with a “Clang!”

Giant Japanese Monster Good

I finally got around to watching the latest Godzilla movie. It’s far better than the 1998 version, despite containing one hundred percent less Jean Reno. I could say that the 2014 film was worth watching and leave it there, but you know me better than that.

Peter Bogdanovich has a bunch of Orson Welles stories, and one of them is Welles’ description of a “star part.” According to Welles, a star part is when the other characters constantly refer to someone that the audience has not seen; in his example it was Dr. Wu. After much discussion, one of the characters says, “Here comes Dr. Wu,” then the curtain closes to signify the end of act one. This is one time that my rambling has an actual point, and my point is this: For all the talk about Godzilla, he doesn’t show up until about an hour into the film, and then we only get to see his back.

I liked the first hour of Godzilla. Sure, it was mostly a bunch of people talking, and a few dramatic moments, but it held my interest, and that’s not always an easy thing to do.

The first hour is fairly typical of these kind of blockbuster movies: You have the government and scientists working to solve the problem, and another storyline involving a family that often has a tragic backstory. Of course the two sets of characters have to come together to save the day; that’s Scriptwriting 101. Not to mention the fact that someone has to have a “crazy” theory that proves to be true.

I understand that the director, Gareth Edwards, was holding Gozilla back in order to have the big reveal as late as possible, so that he could maximize the impact. Well… After that brief glimpse of the King of the Monsters, the film drags for the next half hour. I’m not talking watching a Honey Boo Boo marathon at your in-laws’ house on Thanksgiving kind of drag, but it was pretty slow.

Another blockbuster trope is when a character just happens to be at the right wrong place at the right wrong time, over and over again. In Godzilla, that character is played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Speaking of tropes, his character, a Navy Lieutenant, just happens to have a particular set of skills that is required to pull off the mission.

No spoilers, but I thought the final monster battle was just okay. Then again, what final monster battle could be considered epic? One would think a CGI monster battle has more potential for greatness than a fight between guys in rubber suits. I guess the filmmakers wanted to keep true to the spirit of the original films, instead of going over the top.

According to reports, there will be a sequel in 2018, and I for one am looking foward to it. I can’t get enough of little Japanese kids wearing baseball caps. Wait, that came out wrong.

In Which I Totally Misinterpret Interstellar (part 2)

This is a reminder that there will be spoilers.

Meanwhile back on Earth, a now adult Murph is a scientist working alongside Professor Brand, father of scientist/astronaut Amelia Brand. Prof. Brand concocted two plans to save the human race: Plan A consists of building space stations capable of transporting people to whichever planet is deemed best. Plan B is to use the ferilized eggs onboard Endurance to populate one of the planets. The twist is that Prof. Brand knew that Plan A was never going to work because he couldn’t resolve the math. He also knew that without Plan A, the government wouldn’t fund the project.

The crew of the Endurance arrive on Mann’s planet, only to find out Mann falsified the data so that NASA would send a shuttle and he could go home. The fiend!

Anyway, stuff happens, Romilly and Mann are dead, so Coop and Brand have no choice but to take their damaged spacecraft to Edmunds’ planet. In order to do this, they must first slingshot around the wormhole and drop the ship’s weight. The robot TARS was ejected into the wormhole so it could collect data and send it back to Earth.

Side note: Anyone else expect Coop to say, “I hate funny robots,” at some point in the film?

Just me then?

Coop disengages his shuttle from Endurance so that Brand will have an even better chance at reaching her destinaton. Then Coop hits the eject button. What happens next is best explained by someone far smarter than I, because it gets more than a bit time wimey.

Anyway you look at it, Coop and Romilly’s decision to go to Mann’s planet was the correct call. It doesn’t matter if the decision was based on data, logic, instinct, selfishness, or whatever. If they had gone to Edmunds’ planet without ever going to Mann’s planet, it would have caused a paradox that I won’t even try to explain. Yes, I know that the Doctor claims that paradoxes tend to work themselves out, by and large, but Christopher Nolan would never be able to get away with it, because haters.

Interstellar also proved something that I think we all knew in the backs of our minds: The least threatening thing in the universe is Topher Grace holding a lug wrench.

In Which I Totally Misinterpret Interstellar (part 1)

A lot has been writen about Interstellar over the past week or so; some of it good some of it bad. So, what is the film really about? That question is probably best left to those far smarter than myself, but that has never stopped me before. Remember, this is just opinion–I could be wrong.

In most of the Interstellar reviews, the discussion has been about the science and/or the plot. In school, science and math were my worst subjects. As for plot, if I knew how create and structure plot, I would write novels and screenplays. As it stands, I’m just another idiot with a blog.

I don’t know if it ever entered the minds of screenwriters Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, but while watching Interstellar I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of decisions made by the characters were based on selfishness or sacrifice. Then again, what one person sees as a sacrifice may be seen by another as selfishness.

Spoilers from this point forward.

Early on in Interstellar we see Coop and his children chasing a drone that has been flying around aimlessly for years. Coop uses a laptop and some sciencey wiencey device to make the drone land near a lake or reservoir, then strips it for parts that will be used on his unmanned farm equipment. Coop’s daughter Murph, asks why couldn’t he just let the drone fly around, since it wasn’t harming anyone. Coop’s reply is something like, “Because it needs to learn how to be have a purpose, like the rest of us.” I am sure I got the wording wrong, I wasn’t taking notes.

The main plot of Interstellar revolves around Coop going on a mission that will hopefully result in finding another planet that will sustain humans, since Earth is pretty much screwed. Coop is making a sacrifice, Murph thinks he is being selfish, or at the very least, cruel. Coop trained to be an astronaut, but never got to go to outer space because NASA’s funding was taken away. The government decided that space exploration was a luxury, and the money should be spent trying to fix the planet. Textbooks state that the Moon landing was a hoax, so that people don’t get the idea that there may be an answer beyond the stars.

I am going to jump around a bit, since I figure that if you are reading this you have seen the film and know who the characters are.

When Coop, Brand, and Doyle land on the surface of Miller’s planet they realize it is covered by water, and what they thought were mountains were in fact waves. For some reason, Brand wants to collect Miller’s data, then the shuttle is hit by a wave which floods the engines, literally, and kills Doyle. To further complicate matters, every hour on the planet equals seven Earth years. By the time they return to the Endurance, twenty-three years have passed. Yikes.

Side note: Am I the only one who thought of the Doctor Who episodes “The Doctor’s Wife” and “The Girl Who Waited?”

Probably.

Due to the passage of time, the Endurance is short on fuel. Coop and the now older Romilly want to go to Mann’s planet, and if it proves inhabitable, return to Earth. Brand states that Edmunds’ planet is the better option, due to the data received. Brand also says that Coop is being selfish for wanting to go home to be with his now grown children, and that if he would give up that notion they could go to both Mann’s and Edmunds’ planets. Coop claims that Brand is in love with Edmunds, and she is not being objective.

This seems like a good place to end part one.

Interstellar

Interstellar is a devisive film; that is if you pay any attention to the Internet, which I don’t recommend if you value your sanity. There is a reason why some people never click the “comments” button. For the most part, the the critical respose has been positive, while the general public seems equally divided into what some refer to as “Christopher Nolan fanboys/fangirls” and “Christopher Nolan haters.” At least that is how it appears to those of us who fall into neither camp.

Without going into spoilers, Interstellar is set in a future where crops have been hit with something called “blight.” The last ever okra crop has come and gone, which is fine by me. That is until a friend pointed out that okra is a key ingredient in gumbo, and I do like me some gumbo. The only remaining crop is corn, which is some people’s worst nightmare for reasons I won’t get into. You know who you are. At least there wasn’t a scene where someone rattled off a list of corn based foods in the way Bubba did with shrimp in Forrest Gump.

It is also not a spoiler to state that the only hope for humanity is to find another planet capable of sustaining life. It’s up to you to decide whether or not the plot and/or science hold up. You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to understand how plot works, as for science? That’s best left to those who have seen every episode of all the various Star Trek series. I like Star Trek, so I kind of went with it. I am also a fan of Doctor Who, which meant I had no problem with all the timey wimey stuff.

I enjoyed Interstellar, but I can see why some may not hold the same opinion. If you are searching for the next 2001: A Space Odyssey–this isn’t it. Maybe you could compare it to 2010, but only tangentially. Interstellar is also not the next Inception.

Interstellar is its own movie, which is a good thing. But that’s my opinion. I like discussing films as much as the next person, I just don’t want to get into an arguement about it.

The Social Network

After watching Gone Girl, I started thinking about David Fincher’s oeuvre and somehow I skipped over The Social Network. It’s not that it’s a bad film, quite the opposite, it’s that it seems to be the least likely film that Fincher would make. Some may say that distinction belongs to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but that film does deal with the themes of life and death.

Ever since Fincher made the switch from film to digital with Zodiac his films have become even more visually striking, and to a certain extent more Kubrickian. That’s my opinion anyway. Everything seems to “pop” in a way that is almost hyper-real, yet it never takes away from the film.

Some people descibe the begining of a project as “Starting with a blank canvas,” but with The Social Network it seems that Fincher started with a black canvas and shined a light on the parts he wanted to expose. The same could be said of Benjamin Button. It’s not that The Social Network is a dark film, it’s just that a lot of scenes were shot at night or in very dark rooms.

At least that’s my memory of The Social Network; I’ve only seen it once, then once again with commentary. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, quite the contrary, it’s that once I saw it, I got it. I am sure that I will watch it again someday.

Side note: Have you ever listened any of David Fincher’s commentary tracks? As soon as the studio logo(s) appear he starts talking and doesn’t stop until the end credits begin. Also, there is no introduction nor goodbye. It’s kind of a work of art in its own right.

A lot has been made of the script for The Social Network, which apparently took a lot of liberties with the truth. Does it really matter? Up to a point, I guess. The same could be said about Argo. I don’t want to say, “Who cares?” because this is a story about people who actually existed and are still living. Then again, if you go around spreading falseshoods they eventually become history. For an example of this, go see Interstellar.

The script for The Social Network was written by Aaron Sorkin, and to say his style of writing is an aquired taste is a bit of a understatement. When it works, as in The Social Network, it is something to behold. His most recent TV series, The Newsroom, is something people love to hate. I haven’t seen it, but I watch the What the Flick?! recaps on Youtube because they are hysterical. I almost want to watch The Newsroom to see for myself what could inspire such vitriol.

Much like Mark Zuckerberg, many have a devisive opinion of Aaron Sorkin, and that sort of thing demands my attention. At the very least, the minimal amount of my attention.

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Disney

The battle for top movie of the weekend is between Interstellar and Big Hero 6. No matter which one “wins,” I am positive far too much will be made of the result. If Interstellar makes the most money, it will be a triumph for original (non-sequal/non-tentpole) films. If Big Hero 6 is number one, it goes to show that Marvel/Disney make the best films, and it proves once and for all that Christopher Nolan is an overrated hack.

Now you know why I never, well almost never, click the comments button.

I want to see both films, but due to time and budget constraints I will only get to see one in the theatre, and that one is Interstellar. However, it will be sometime next week before I get to see it, due to the previously mentioned constraints, and that’s okay. I have embraced the concept of the 11 a.m. show time which allows me to have the afternoon and evening to think about the film, as opposed to sleeping on it and totally forgetting every plot point.

I am so old.

I do want to see Big Hero 6, but I can wait for blu-ray, just as I did with the Lego Movie. It’s not that I don’t want to go to a theatre packed with kids; I don’t want to go to a theatre packed with kids and their parents. Also, I don’t want to sit through a half dozen age appropriate trailers for far inferior films–I will get my fill when I watch Mockingjay part 1.

I heard one reviewer on Youtube say that studios are going to have to get over this idea that children’s films cannot last longer than ninety minutes because kids supposedly have a short attention span. I agree, but often these same critics will complain about films being too long. I believe that a movie should be as long as it needs to be. So, this weekend go see Interstellar while your kids watch Big Hero 6. Twice.

Yet another reason I am not at all enthusiastic about the prospect of seeing Big Hero 6 in a theatre is: Disney movies are sad. Always have been, always will be. I don’t want people to know how much of a emotional blubberer I am; I like to cry in privacy. That being said, some reviewers have stated Big Hero 6 isn’t all that sad, but it does have some moments of sadness. However, the short film, Feast, that preceeds the main attraction is said to be very emotional. I really don’t want to use up all my tissues before the movie even starts.

I’ll just leave that there.

It was announced this week that Disney/Pixar will make a fourth Toy Story movie. Many have complained that the third one wrapped up the story of Andy and his toys in a nice little bow, so why bother? The short answer is: money, and lot’s of it. Disney keeps making Pirates of the Caribbean movies and those haven’t been good in years. Speculation is since Disney now owns Star Wars and Marvel Comics, they want to include those toys this time around. Of course the Internet will blow up with all the back and forth discussions (arguements) about whether or not Disney will be allowed to have Iron Man, Spider-Man, and Wolverine together in Toy Story 4, since they sometimes appear as a team in animated TV shows. I’ll let the lawyers sort that one out.

I have no opinion on Toy Story 4, since I have only seen the first one. It was excellent, but it put me through the emotional wringer and I have no desire to return. Toy Story was sadder than Morrissey reading The Fault in Our Stars to a room full of kids with terminal cancer.