Film Review by Sedai

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Watched this a few weeks ago. Very good but very draining. I probably will watch it again but not any time soon.

I feel like Von Trier would appreciate your review. I don't think he wants anyone to like his films - he doesn't want to create a feeling as gentle as "like". He would much rather people hate his movies than like them. Hearing your girlfriend stormed out would make him smile

Good review.

A system of cells interlinked
Thanks! I felt quite drained after I watched it, but it lingered in my mind for a day or two afterward as I pondered the subtext etc. Thanks for reading!
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” ― Thomas Sowell

A system of cells interlinked

Spike Jonze, 2013

Next up from Spike Jonze we have some speculative science fiction focused on Artificial Intelligence. Her is a character study of an average guy, played by Joachin Phoenix, stuck in a gloomy society in which technology has become a bit too ubiquitous. A new computer operating system has just been released, with the claim that it actively learns and adapts to its user - not a new idea, but one I am quite interested in. Surprisingly, this is a more compelling study of Ray Kurzweil's ever-looming AI singularity than than 2014's Transcendence - a film specifically concerned with the AI Singularity. Science fiction that focuses on its technology more than its characters doesn't fly with today's audiences - society has moved on. In Her, Jonze deftly weaves the technology and characterization together in a way that both disarms and captivates the viewer in subtle ways. In doing so, a human story emerges that, because of its trappings, is fresh and affecting on multiple levels. In some ways, I was reminded of 1984's Electric Dreams, a film that explored similar ideas in a more rudimentary way, but that ultimately never reaches the emotional or intellectual heights of Her.

Phoenix underplays the role with a simmering desperation and constant sadness that pulls the viewer into his world, and I couldn't help but feel for him as the story progressed. Equally engaging for me was the cautionary nature of our tendency to let ourselves fall too far into the world of technology; a world of loneliness and separation from our peers. There are several scenes that feature the main character walking through the city, while he and everyone around him are jacked into their own little world created by their devices. Sadly, this aspect of the film isn't fiction, because I see this all around me every day. The only difference between our society and the one in the film is the fact that cell phone hand sets aren't needed anymore, as the tech has gotten small enough to be attached to the ear. The city seemed part functional society, part lunatic asylum, as everyone walks around talking to themselves, completely oblivious to what is going on around them. Human interaction is at a minimum in most of the scenes, and the interaction we do see is forced and awkward. Almost every relationship, romantic or not, that we see in the film is deteriorating - gray clouds swollen with somber, mirthless rain.

My favorite film is Blade Runner, and I like exploring the ideas presented in films of its type - speculative science fiction that breaks down existential ideology while also exploring the perceived limits of technology. Her is similar in some ways, borrowing some key concepts from the dusky-hued replicant Rachel in Ridley Scott's iconic masterpiece. Her goes a step further, if not stylistically but thematically, in completely removing the physical body from the budding consciousness of the AI. In doing so, Her plumbs the depths of the soul, and then asks us to play a game of turnabout, examining humanity from the perspective of the AI - a brilliant and thought-provoking stroke by the film makers.

I enjoyed Her as a contemplation piece, and everyone involved did a fine job, but if I had to level one complaint at the film, it's that it just isn't very much fun. I was reminded of 1999's Solaris - another speculative science fiction film that explores identity and death in a really somber way. I like both films a whole lot, but doubt that I will watch either of them very often, simply due to the fact that they kind of bum me out. Regardless, Her is absolutely worth seeing, and I recommend it to fans of both science fiction, and those interested in existential pieces.

Lastly, I must quickly mention one of my favorite books, Neil Stephenson's The Diamond Age, which is the first example I can recall of a piece of adaptive technology that learned from and subsequently taught its user. Samantha, the learning computer in Her (voiced by The Avenger's Scarlett Johannson) is a clear descendant of the Propaedeutic Enchiridion, or teaching book, in The Diamond Age.

A system of cells interlinked
X-Men: Days of Future Past

Bryan Singer, 2014

Light Spoilers

Saw this Saturday afternoon as the final part of an X-Men watching spree. I am glad I took the time to catch up with the old flicks, some of which I hadn't seen in several years, as it ultimately served to enrich the entire experience. I watched X-Men, X2, X3: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, and finally, this latest installment. On a technical level, Days of Future Past is tough to beat, bringing the latest and greatest in special effects, and arguably the strongest cast to the table; the screenplay is also the best of all the films as far as I am concerned. That doesn't mean it is without flaw, though. The middle section suffers from some minor pacing issues that kind of nagged at me here and there. I think the film spends just a bit too much time moping around in the middle section, but just a bit! The material was necessary, but could have been trimmed slightly to keep things moving. I know X3 gets a lot of flak, but that film is actually paced the best of the bunch, even if it crashes and burns in spectacular fashion by the third act. The score is also better in X3, with a dramatic, memorable melody that enhanced the emotional component of some scenes. Days of Future Past has an adequate score, but I can't recall anything memorable about it. For instance, none of the scenes reached the excitement and elegance of the battle of wills between Dark Phoenix and Professor X from X3, which is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. X3 has plenty of issues, but that scene is pure brilliance.

Enough about the inferior X3 though, because on some levels, Days of Future Past just totally rocks, and soars to heights only imagined by its predecessors. Having pretty much no exposition in regards to who people were or what their powers were was a breath of fresh air. I am sick to death of origin stories and all that comes with them, so it was nice to see a film by a director that recognizes that his audience is familiar enough with the world and characters of the films to just get right to it. And get right to it, it does. The opening sequence is dark and desperate; gone are the hands-on-hips heroism and snarky one-liners. The "Future" X-men are under attack by foes they clearly can only hold at bay for a few minutes before being overcome. Their solution to the problem of an enemy that can't be beaten had me scratching my head for a sec, but I didn't waste too much time pondering exactly how it could work - that's not why I bought this ticket! Most mutants are dead or imprisoned, and the raggedy bunch we see have the aspect of doomed prey fighting for their lives. It's clearly understood that the war is over, the mutants have lost, and it's only a matter of time before the X-men follow suit. Luckily, time just happens to be on their side. A plot is hatched to use time travel to forever alter the course of history in an attempt to stop the war before it ever starts. Yes, we have seen this before - it's not the most original premise, but more a re-telling of a classic sci-fi trope.

After watching all the films close together, I worried a bit about continuity, because there were already some glaring holes when you considered all the other films together, but Singer et al. take a page from the Abrams book, using time travel to smooth out the rough spots and course-correct, and like Star Trek a few years ago, it is mostly a success. One of the nice surprises about Days of Future Past is that after i saw it, I felt the previous films, especially X2 and First Class, were actually enriched by the retroactive continuity updates. When we saw those films years ago, we were led to understand that Eric and Charles had a complex, checkered past - now we know why. Singer wisely focuses most on his best talent, with Michael Fassbender's Magneto, Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique/Raven, and James McAvoy's Charles Xavier getting the most screen time, followed closely by series standby Hugh Jackman as the ever-recognizable Wolverine. We know Jackman can bring it, and now pretty much IS Wolvie to many of us, and J Law can participate in a shampoo commercial and get nominated for an Oscar, but it's Michael Fassbender that just owns Magneto, stealing every scene he is in. Ian McKellan is a great actor, but I've never felt that he had either the stature or the simmering anger necessary to play Magneto properly. Fassbender just knocks it out of the park.

At its core, Days of Future Past is a human drama about the battle for someone's soul; something other X-films have aimed for, but that none have achieved quite so well. I think this is an achievement for a comic film of this magnitude, daring to parse out a final act that isn't massive set-piece after massive set piece with more and more energetic and triumphant battle sequences hammering audiences until their eyes glaze over. This shows a maturation of Singer's style, and from what i can tell, he actually cares about these characters - they aren't just action figures for him to to use in kinetic action sequences full of CGI. There is still a climax, one that is complex and elegant in its handling of time travel and tension, but Singer keeps things restrained enough that the character play stays front and center throughout, in no small part due to the wonderful cast of supporting players like Game of Thrones' Peter Dinklage, Inception's Ellen Page, and American Horror Stories' Evan Peters, with a scene stealing performance as Quicksilver. This scene, set to Jim Croce's Time in a Bottle, had the entire theater cheering - it's just a lot of fun.

I had trouble rating this, as I feel I need another viewing to really pass judgment, but in the end, I ended up giving it a
until I see it again. It may go may go down... only time, and additional views, will tell.

A system of cells interlinked
I do feel like it was just a wee bit over-hyped, but it's damn good, so I guess it is expected. I do want to see it again before really passing judgment on it. Thanks for reading!

A system of cells interlinked

(Nolan, 2014)

Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, the epic space travel adventure that was supposed to be Nolan's 2001, ended up being much more divisive when it hit theaters than many people expected. One only need briefly scan the reviews on the internet before they find someone claiming the film is the best science fiction film in the past decade, while the next review might slay the film completely as overlong, tedious, melodramatic and several other critical issues that completely ruined the experience for the viewer in question. I pitched my tent in the former camp pretty much as soon as the end credits rolled. Is the film long? It sure is. I certainly didn't find it tedious, but I can see how others would.

Interstellar, which stars Matthew McConaughey (Mud, The Wolf of Wall Street), Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises, Don Jon), and Michael Caine (The Dark Knight, Inception), focuses on the last years of the planet Earth. The ecosystem has broken down, most food species have died off, and the last of the genetically engineered corn the people have been surviving on is starting to fail - they figure they have just about one generation left before the human race dies off. McConaughey plays Cooper, a retired NASA pilot turned corn farmer. He lives with what's left of his family in an old farm house in corn country, in a community that is still trying to live life like the old days, even if daily life is often broken up by massive dust storms that rip through town, sending the inhabitants scurrying for cover like so many doomed rats.

Life proceeds normally enough, except for Cooper's daughter's odd obsession with what she claims is a poltergeist living in their family home. The first 15 minutes or so of the film are an odd mix of tone, and the viewer isn't quite sure which direction the film wants to go in. Is this a paranormal ghost story? A family tragedy? With all this talk of corn, ghosts, and dust storms in a little town, one may start to wonder why this film is called Interstellar, and not Casper Goes to Nebraska. Much of the early farm country stuff is some good old fashioned character development and world building, and Nolan takes his time letting the viewer settle into the morose daily life on a dying, agrarian world. After a small breakthrough in regards to the family "ghost", Cooper is presented with a dilemma by Caine's aging scientist: Take one last trip into the cosmos to pull off one of two possible plans.

Plan A dictates that Cooper buys Earth enough time for the scientists to perfect an equation that will allow a massive exodus off-world for the remaining population, while Plan B is a contingency for a Plan A failure, which when carried out, would attempt to deposit embryonic payloads onto suitable worlds in another galaxy. How can all of this be done? I won't reveal that here, but let's just say that the viewer is expected to makes some leaps of faith and logic here and there. Interstellar is concerned with its characters first, and with creating wonder second. Logic and reality fall quite a bit farther down the list, to be sure. I actually enjoyed some of the leaps they took, which had a classic feel to them, as if borrowed from a bygone era of science fiction that relied more on imagination and wonder then attempting realistic looks at future technology and society. The science is not so absurd as to reach out of the screen and shake you, as was the case in 2014's Lucy, but it plays with some of the same concepts Besson's film did, and some of this stuff is highly theoretical.

I can't talk about much more of the film's content, as that should be discovered by the viewer, and not some some loquacious reviewer! I will say that Nolan has once again gone above and beyond in terms of structure, toying with time and space in creative ways, while maintaining a starkly human story the entire time. It does slip into melodrama a bit too much here and there, so if i had to find a chink in the armor, that would be it.

I find myself fascinated by the film as I work today. Certain moments work so well, the viewer is seized by what's on screen; quiet moments and loud moments, sad moments, wonderful moments; all strung together in the vast dark, lost in the waves. Interstellar is an epic science fiction film for the ages, simultaneously visiting some familiar territory, while also pushing the envelope. A must-see film for fans of the genre.

I mentioned yesterday in Goodies' thread that I had no interest in Interstellar. Your review(excellent by the way) has me rethinking that stance. I'm not much of a Sci-Fi fan but I don't want to miss out on something that might be special.

"""" Hulk Smashhhh."""
Nice reviews. Wasn't really a fan of Interstellar.
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