Movie Review – Interstellar

Movie Review - InterstellarMy one word review would be: disappointed.

I think Christopher Nolan tried too hard to make a modern day 2001 A Space Odyssey. The ships looked much like 2001. There were long, drawn out scenes of docking. The robot TARS simultaneously pays homage to HAL and the monolith. And of course the visuals throughout the movie echo back to 2001.

The best thing I can say about the movie is the acting is top notch. Matthew McConaughey was excellent, and I thought Mackenzie Foy, the young daughter, was fantastic in every scene.

I have a big problem with Anne Hathaway’s role. Her acting was, as usual, superb, but her role was completely wasted on her talents. For such a long movie, there was surprisingly little time devoted to giving her character, Amelia, any meat. Amelia was either giving technical dialog, devoid of emotion, or frantically reacting to something. There wasn’t any time for play and bonding between the characters.

I’m tempted to give this movie a much worse rating, but the acting pulls it out of the gutter.

One more thing: stop playing blaringly loud music over dialog. There were numerous times I had no idea what the actors were saying. It was distracting all the way through the movie.

Grade: C+

Upon further review..
It’s been a few years since I posted the original review, and I’ve seen it a few more times since then. I still don’t love the movie, but I’ve warmed up to it a little. I’d bump the grade up to a solid B, maybe even B+. It is, for me, an easy movie to rewatch because it’s so beautifully filmed, and the music is outstanding, even though my original observation that the music plays too loudly over the dialog still holds.

About The Peetimes: I would recommend that you use the 1st Peetime. #1 is a perfect Peetime. There’s no character development, action, or plot development. #2 has some dramatic scenes, but they are easy to sum up. #3 has one long tension building scene but you’ll be back before it reaches the climax..

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Interstellar. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – First Man

 

Movie Review - First ManFirst Man is a thoughtfully crafted, well-made film that a lot of reviewers seemed to love. Ryan Gosling definitely dove into the part. The nostalgia of returning to the 1960s was neat, and the scenes in actual space were close to brilliant at times.  It felt like being there, as the Saturn V thundered out of our atmosphere. There was a sense of transcendence, viewing the Earthrise from orbit, and it was a sight that made even the  generally reticent Armstrong crack a big old smile (more on him, later). The space shots looked very real, albeit coupled with a slightly grainy film quality, making it feel more like the 60s.

The space images alone made seeing this in IMAX worth the extra price. I wish there were more scenes in space and on the moon, but you can’t have everything you want in a movie, now can you?

Some thoughts: a lot of the purposefully jiggly hand-held camera work was distracting, especially in the many long, quiet interpersonal scenes. It underscored the “documentary” feel, but I noticed it too much, taking me out of the moment.

I understand the story is supposed to be a deeply personal and intimate story of one man’s journey to overcome his emotional pain, and eventually do something extraordinary.

The “one man” in question is Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) –the first man to walk in the moon. It was an amazing moment for mankind, but make no mistake: this is not an exciting movie. It’s a slow burn of a tale, and takes a long time to get anywhere. We spend relatively little movie-time in space, and barely any on the moon. For a 2 hour and 20 minute film, there’s surprisingly little story to tell.

From the perspective of the film, it seems like the moon landing was incidental to the plot, instead focusing quite narrowly on Armstrong’s inability to move on emotionally from the death of his daughter (and his colleagues in the space program). It seemed to me that 1/3 of the movie was devoted to extreme closeups of Gosling’s face, who did a great job showing almost no emotion behind his cold, blue eyes. I saw these close eye shots of him so many times that I started tracking it in my Peetime notes. It happened so often I eventually gave up. But, as with the hand-held camera jiggling, noticing the trick pulled me out of the story.

So then, with all this attention lavished on Armstrong, why do I feel we never got to know him? It’s a long movie, but Armstrong is still a cipher by the end. I understand he wasn’t a demonstrative or friendly man in real life. That’s got to be hard to base a long movie around. The viewers never get past his eyes and into his head. A few expositional scenes from others were used to describe him, instead of letting us, the viewers, get to empathize with him ourselves.

So, yes, the critics loved this movie. You can see that on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score, however, seems a lot more evenly divided, with a middling overall grade. Basically, First Man was competently done, but not stirring or thrilling. I don’t know how Apollo 13 was such a fantastic film, and this one (taking place in an overlapping time frame with the same historical figures) fell short.

Here’s my conclusion. This film is, first and foremost, a biographical drama. The space program is merely a framework for telling Armstrong’s private story. In that sense, it’s a success. Nicely done within those parameters.

But if you’re looking for a rousing space epic, this isn’t your film. In my theater, people hopped up all over the place to hit the bathrooms — even during the climax of the moon landing scene. As the credits began, a few people started a halfhearted attempt to clap, but gave up quickly when no one else seemed to care.

The science and history seemed rigorously accurate (although the ‘bracelet’ thing might be a storytelling liberty). It’s just unfortunate  the first man walking on the moon was too distracted by personal demons to enjoy the experience. I mean, it’s THE MOON, MAN! You’re going where no man has gone before! Enjoy it a little.  🙂

Grade: B

One Last Note: There were some good ‘action’ moments here and there —  the flight of the Gemini, the tragedy of the Apollo 1 astronauts trapped by the door, the awe-inspiring Earthrise, the sequence with the Saturn V blasting off, and docking with the LEM. (Dan and I visited a real Saturn V at the Kennedy Space Center, and walking under it was a total highlight. And it was sweet to see the VAB here, which really impressed me in person. It’s bigger than the brain wants to accept.) So, I’d say those were the standout moments. The moon scene was surprisingly underwhelming. I know why they filmed it this way — to focus exclusively on Armstrong’s experience — but I wish it had been an ensemble with the three men instead.

(Learn how closely the movie followed Neil Armstrong’s real life, and enjoy the photos showing the differences between the real historical figures, vs the actors’ faces.)

About The Peetimes: Here are 3 good Peetimes, nicely spaced out. You won’t miss any action, or even much dialog, during any of them. The middle one, at 1 hour and 7 minutes, gives you a whole 5 minutes to run and pee, so try to shoot for that. It’s a long film, so you should definitely use a Peetime to stay comfortable through the lunar landing climax. A lot of people got up and down at bad times during the opening showing. .

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of First Man. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Through the Wormhole – Are We All Bigots?

Morgan Freeman has a Science Channel series called Through the Wormhole. I highly recommend the series for those interested in learning about a broad range of topics from is the universe a simulation to is privacy dead.

One of my favorite episodes is about the nature of racism: Are We All Bigots? In this episode Freeman comes at this question from a number of angles, as he does the topic in every episode. Below is, what I think, is one of the most important segments.

If you like that clip then I highly recommend you watch the entire episode. You can buy it on YouTube for $1.99 (No affiliation with RunPee.)

Opinion
I have to accept that part of my brain is bigoted. It does things (and sometimes gets away with it) that I don’t like.

That may sound like an odd thing to say: my brain does things that I don’t like. What am I if not my brain and it’s decisions? I think its clear, especially if you watch the entire episode of Are We All Bigots, that our brain instinctively makes decisions without the consent of our brain’s rational consciousness. (Not that consciousness is always rational.)

What researchers have proven is that we are not always in control of our thoughts and actions. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior, but it’s a reality we have to deal with. For instance, when someone is addicted to gambling, or food, a drug, whatever, you can’t attribute that to poor character, or weakness.

Our brains evolved to cope with many situations we no longer face. In this modern age we can manipulate those situations in ways that were never possible while the circuitry in our brains was evolving to help us survive. When we eat carbohydrate-rich food — bread, rice, cake, sweets, etc. — our brain says, “OMG, this is great. More please.” That’s because during our evolution there was hardly a chance that we could overeat those things because of their scarcity. That part of our brain doesn’t understand that we now have unlimited access to calories, and don’t need to overeat at each opportunity. The only way to stop ourselves is to use our rational consciousness to intervene and put the breaks on. Again, the rational part of our brain isn’t always in control — much as we might wish it.

It’s the same for how our brain reacts to people who are different from us. Generally speaking, for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, people from outside their tribe wasn’t always a good thing. Like a dog barking at a stranger, we evolved to be wary of different than us. It’s only through life experience that we can retrain our brains. Essentially, we need take that part of our brain that makes snap judgments and pet it, and say, “Hey, it’s okay. These different people are okay. Don’t get worked up.” Over time, that part of our brain will relax. But, we must recognize that it’s always there, ready to wake up again and bark at the next different person that passes by.

I want to make racism go away; from myself and my country and all of humanity. I believe the only way this will be possible is to acknowledge that part of our brains evolved to be wary of different people — because it gave them an edge in survival.

When we see racism, in ourselves or others, we need to make an effort to retrain us/them. And just like training a dog, the best method is positive reinforcement. Because when you yell at someone for being bigoted it’s about as effective as yelling at a dog — pointless and counterproductive. (Even though it feels as good as eating chocolate cake dripping with melted fudge and covered in icing.)

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

First Man Opinion — Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

When I was in college, I worked at the United States Space Academy. It was an amazing experience. I grew up fascinated with space and science. I literally cried when my parents dragged me out of the Space and Rocket Center after our first, and only, visit. Years later, when I got to work there, it was rewarding to have the opportunity to help young children experience the joy and wonder I had when I was their age.

Obviously I’ve never flown in space, but I understand better than most the incredible technical hurdles it took getting to the moon. I’ve studied math, physics, and history, and the history of space exploration in depth. There is no doubt that the United States of America achieved something wholly remarkable when Neil and Buzz landed on the moon. But it is truly an epic achievement by all humanity. The USA would have never achieved all they did, in the time they did, if it wasn’t for the German engineers that came to America after WWII. Those engineers would have never come to the USA had the Allies not defeated Germany.  And the Allies couldn’t have defeated the Axis powers if not for the sacrifices of the British people early in the war, and more so the Russian people throughout, who sadly endured horrors that are hardly acknowledged today.

How could anyone land on the moon without radio communications — invented by an Italian? How could they navigate to the moon without calculus — invented by an Englishman and a German? (Note: Newton did it first; Leibniz did it better.) Without Modern Analytic Geometry — invented by the Frenchmen René Descartes and Pierre de Fermat — Newton and Leibniz wouldn’t have the tools to invent calculus in the first place.

As Newton said, If I have seen farther, it is only because I stood on the shoulders of giants. The United States of America finished a long endurance race that began millennia ago when a group of hominids — Homo erectus — discovered that putting meat and vegetables in fire made them more palatable and, unknowingly, more nutritious. Without that discovery, the moon would be nothing more than a bright source of light for a week out of the month to a bunch of bipedal hominids who don’t know what a month is.

The night before Apollo 11 returned to Earth Neil Armstrong signed off by saying:

The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort; next with the American people, who have, through their will, indicated their desire; next with four administrations and their Congresses, for implementing that will; and then, with the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU, the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface. We would like to give special thanks to all those Americans who built the spacecraft; who did the construction, design, the tests, and put their hearts and all their abilities into those craft. To those people tonight, we give a special thank you, and to all the other people that are listening and watching tonight, God bless you. Good night from Apollo 11.

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Where’s the American Flag in First Man?

Movie Review – First Man

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Apollo 11 Trivia Quiz

Apollo 11 Trivia

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Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.

Movie Review – Hidden Figures

 

Movie Review - Hidden FiguresHidden Figures is an exciting, feel-good film about lady scientists from the Cold War Era – three brilliant NASA women, who happen to be black. In the Mercury capsule orbital time period, segregation was alive and well…but the movie, based on actual people and events, showcases how much good can be achieved when people work together for an important cause.

While I found Jim Parsons a bit underused (does he just not know how to act, except as  Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory?), Kevin Costner shone as the color-blind leader of the Space Task Force Group. His character, Al, didn’t care if you were female, or had dark skin…he wanted his space flight program to be successful. Full stop.

She blinded me with science!

And you couldn’t help but love the John Glenn character, willing to fly only if his favorite female ‘computer’ said so. Awwww. Go, team! I’m proud of them, and that this bit of history even happened.

Is the film exciting? Not really. This isn’t Apollo 13, and the only gripping section occurs during Glenn’s orbital re-entry. But it IS a good character study, and the three women headlining the film perform their roles brilliantly. There are some truly stand-out moments from each of them. There’s also some good humor here. One unnecessary romantic plot-line detracts from the story, but otherwise Hidden Figures is quietly brilliant.

And who hasn’t secretly done their homework in the bathroom, at least once?

Grade: A-

About The Peetimes: These are all good Peetimes. It was easy to find them, since it just isn’t an action film, even though it is a true story about a tense time in the space race. 

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Hidden Figures. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Jill Florio

Co-Creator of RunPee, Content Director, and Managing Officer. RunPee Jilly likes sci fi movies, fantasy films, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder.

Movie Review – The Martian

Movie Review - The MartianMatt Damon is at the top of his game. It’s an enormous challenge to ask an actor to spend so much of the movie acting in a vacuum (no pun intended), with few opportunities to interact with other characters. Matt’s charm and charisma make every scene he’s in shine.

Some critics commented that this movie is “One big promotional campaign for NASA.” (Like that’s a bad thing.) You won’t just be entertained; you’ll be educated. And by all means, take your adolescent kids to see it. They’ll certainly learn something, and hopefully be inspired to come home and do more research on the various topics covered in the movie.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: My focus was to have Peetimes with as few scenes as possible with Watney (Matt Damon) in them. The scenes that Watney are in are mostly montages, with little or no dialog. #1 A good Peetime. There’s an important story development, but it mostly involves long stretches of Watney driving and digging. #2 You should leave as soon as the above line is spoken. Nothing else important is said during their conversation. A new character is introduced right at the end of this Peetime. #3 A good Peetime with little dialogue to miss. This is mostly a process scene that leads into an increase in tension. #4 There’s no dialog during this Peetime, but it’s also only 3 minutes long, and important action happens shortly afterward.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Martian. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Movie Review – Gravity

Movie Review - GravityI enjoyed Gravity, but didn’t love it. I’m not going to grade the movie on its scientific accuracy because if I did, it would get a D, at best. Instead I’ll only consider the story aspects.

My biggest beef with Gravity is the character development. The movie is only 90 minutes long, which doesn’t leave enough time for both action scenes and character development. The struggles and challenges that Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) goes through leads to the character breaking down. But we don’t know anything about her inner turmoil until after the fact. I think if they had made the movie another 30 minutes longer, and included something of Ryan’s past, then the audience could have felt the emotional experience as well.

Basically, the movie was in 3D but the emotional content was in 1D.

That said, the 3D excitement was riveting, and certainly worth seeing.

As I mentioned, there are a lot of scientific inaccuracies. Instead of reviewing that myself, I’ll just give you a link to a good overview of some of the things they got wrong in the movie. Most of these can be forgiven, because the story needed to assume certain things in order for it to work.

Note: the article below is full of spoilers.

http://science.time.com/2013/10/01/what-gravity-gets-right-and-wrong-about-space/

RunPee Wife was less than impressed with the movie. Jilly’s review would read something like this: Sandra Bullock breathes heavy; there are lots of electronic buzzing and dinging noises. Things blow up in space. Nothing else happens. The end.

Grade: B-

About The Peetimes: There’s not a lot of downtime in this movie. RunPee Wife agrees that the Peetime I found is about as good as it’s going to get...

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Gravity. (What we mean by Anything Extra)

Buy the movie from Amazon.com on DVD or Blu Ray

Creator of RunPee. Aspiring author.