Interstellar: A return to old-school Sci-Fi

Interstellar 2014This film is a highly fanciful return to old-school sci-fi movies. There is some science interspersed with fiction, making it more akin to last year’s Gravity than Kubrick’s 2001 , to which it has been favorably compared. It’s not quite up to the standards of that classic film, but that doesn’t mean one should dismiss it completely.
Matthew McConaughey is adequate, but not wholly comfortable within his character, retired NASA pilot turned farmer Cooper. His role as pilot extraordinaire and earnest engineer lays rather heavily on his shoulders. He’s much better cast as the loving father and farmer in the opening segments. Anne Hathaway seems miscast in this piece, and literally adrift within the space opera. Michael Caine’s character of Professor Brand seems to be almost written in as an afterthought, which means it’s a bit confusing as to why he’s there. John Lithgow as Cooper’s father-in-law is similarly under-utilized in the script.
Only the character Jessica Chastain portrays seems to be well-rounded. She’s completely comfortable in her role as the daughter Murphy, who is left behind on Earth. The story centers around a wormhole discovered by NASA scientists after an apocalyptic Earth event. McConaughey and crew must travel through it to three possible planetary candidates in order to ostensibly re-colonize the inhabitants of Earth.
The plot holes are big enough to fly the Starship Enterprise through with plenty of room to spare. This is not high-brow sci-fi, but this movie, special effects notwithstanding, signals a return to the old-school style of science-fiction space operas we remember from the fifties and sixties. Films like Forbidden Planet, or Invasion of the Flying Saucers come
to mind if you’re old enough to remember such flights of fancy. In other words, you must suspend disbelief and simply enjoy the special effects. At some point, you may even check your watch as the running time is 169 minutes, well in excess of 2 ½ hours.
This film comes not highly recommended, but recommended for lovers of science fiction. As long as you walk in with your eyes wide open, and not expecting the wonders of 2001: A Space Odyssey, you probably won’t be disappointed.

St Vincent- The Dark side of Murray

St vincent Fall 2014Bill Murray’s Vincent doesn’t want to know his neighbors. And when Melissa McCarthy, his neighbor, finally becomes laden with pain and misery, she knows better than to tell her crabby neighbor Vincent. “It’s a long story” is all she volunteers, knowing he couldn’t be bothered with the details of her sorrow. Yet he reaches out to her in the most telling and cursory way. It’s a pivotal moment, yet a quiet one in an uneven film. “What’s the punch line?” he asks. For this character to even ask is a major breakthrough.
The film, St Vincent, is a dramatic one with occasional touches of the signature comic relief we’ve come to expect from Bill Murray. The showstopper is the child that binds the curmudgeonly character to the rest of the plot. Without him, the film becomes unworkable. The knocks on this plot come from critics pointing out the fable elements of the story which are introduced late in the film. But there’s not enough saccharine sweetness to throw off the rhythm of the basic premise-St. Vincent is no saint. However, looking beneath the dark surface, there is also light. That is the point. This is Murray’s film, and he plays the part well. No one else would attempt this unique role, or be able to pull it off as Bill Murray does.
The dark side of Murray has always been on display. It took St. Vincent to shine the light on a gifted actor born to play the role of this particular curmudgeon with a heart of gold buried deep inside. There are some 6 degree elements when you consider Jack Nicholson’s take on the funny miser in “As Good as it Gets”. But for the most part, this is simply Bill Murray, warts and all, on display as we’ve never seen him. There were some hints of the dark side in “Scrooged”, but Murray was simply too young to play a full blown bore. And we’ve always known he’s had it in him to play this darker version of himself. Without holding back, he is spot on, hitting all his marks with humor and bad grace.
If you love Bill Murray, you should complete the circle and see this film. We’ve known him as the wise guy, the talk show persona, his Saturday Night Live characters, the comic hero & legend, and then there’s the dark side of Murray. Here is the maverick who doesn’t give a damn, but we like and admire the honesty on display. The wit is still there, without the charm. Don’t be fooled by the previews, this is not one of the early Murray comedies. This is more a dramedy, perhaps. But it’s well worth the effort for those who’ve loved the characters that Bill Murray has portrayed through the years. St. Vincent is one that completes the circle.