Darke Reviews | Interstellar (2014)

Well, after some dental surgery I can’t talk but I can at least type. Good thing I don’t do podcasts or video reviews yet. I went to this half expecting to fall asleep from the medication or exhaustion and general apathy. I went into Interstellar thinking it has been overhyped to hell and back. So one thing I need to explain right at the start here, which is there are different kind of films. There are bad films, good films, indie films, art house films, tentpoles, and entertaining films. You may mix and match these to your hearts desire. For example The Room qualifies as Indie, Bad, and Art House. Big Hero 6 is both good and entertaining, while Starship Troopers is bad and entertaining. So where does Interstellar land on this weird venn diagram?

Well to be honest, Art House and Good. I normally wouldn’t start with that, but you may have noticed one of the optional traits missing. Let me explain.

The director is Christopher Nolan, of Batman and Inception fame, which I am on record as having no love for. I feel he is a bit too egotistical and wants to show just how “artsy” he can be at the sacrifice of good story, logic, or deformation of otherwise good characters. I honestly think he buys his own press about how “brilliant” a director he is and has gone beyond visionary into pretentious. I don’t feel that this movie is any different. It was hard not to watch the movie without imagining Christopher Nolan hopping around behind me going “see how visionary I am…you haven’t seen that before!” The problem is I have. So much of this movie I have seen before, not always better, but before. I saw Star Trek II, 2001, 2010, Alien, and Aliens.  I saw Red Planet, Mission to Mars, Event Horizon, and oh did I mention 2001? Yes. I think Nolan looked at the great films of sci fi, the truly great masterworks and wanted to try his turn at the helm, and from that I can say he …is ok. But because of his style, and partially my bias, I don’t think thats a pass, just a neutral.

The story of course is by his brother Jonathan. Jonathan I think is overly influenced by his brother, but its hard to prove where the flaw is. Having written Memento, the Prestige, and The Dark Knight shows talent, but then Dark Knight Rises shows he doesn’t know how to get himself out of a corner and doesn’t logic it out. It shows that he doesn’t truly and fully understand the characters he is writing at all times. Obviously, he too was a fan of all those movies I referenced and for his part in combining them did well enough. There are sci fi elements I have not quite seen, but was able to predict, but most of the story beats themselves are pure paint by numbers.

Thankfully the actors in the film redeem most of the directorial and writing flubs. McConaughey isn’t my favourite actor, but I don’t hate him. He’s fairly solid here, but becomes too reserved for reasons I would welcome to someone to explain to me. Hathaway is remarkable in her role and I do buy her role as a scientist, which isn’t a slight on female scientists, but actresses playing BAD scientists. Remember Hollywood thought we should by Tara Reid as an archaeologist (Alone in the Dark) and Denise Richards as a Nuclear physicist. Hathaway comes across sound and intelligent and is fairly strong and inspiring. The most inspiring for me is Jessica Chastain. Her role as Murp(y’s Law) is strong, determined, and highly intelligent. She’s one of the brightest points to the film along with the actress that plays the young version of her Mackenzie Foy (The Conjuring, Twilight: Breaking Dawn). It was creepy how easy I could see one growing into the other, not like the garbage that was Looper with Joseph Gordon Levitt becoming Bruce Willis. The rest of the cast is filled with familiar faces doing unfamiliar things and are all turning out some of their better performances. Even the voices of the AI’s are good.

Now visually – the movie is stunning at times and repetitive at others. Their take on the black hole is breathtaking to the point I almost wish I had seen it in IMAX. Honestly, I can’t go too deep into discussing the visual artistry without speaking to scenes so need to stop there to avoid spoilers. The film is really well done from a technical perspective – until the end. Dear Selene above, the Return of the King had less endings and was less long winded! The music is good and used to the right effect to the point I am debating trying to get my hands on the score.


The movie is a beauty. It is cinematic, art inspired, and yes Good. But I don’t know that I can send anyone to the theatre expecting to be entertained. It is a strong movie, but not always entertaining. I did find myself sitting up once or twice, but overall it was just Good and OK.

Christopher Nolan’s pretentiousness is in high form and only mitigated by the actors and sometimes by the visuals.

So – if you are in the mood for a 3 hour long Sci Fi space opera? Sure go see this.  Otherwise, sorry folks give this one a pass and go see Big Hero 6 this weekend or save your money for Hunger Games in two weeks.


Darke Reviews | Les Miserables (2012)

So, let’s talk Les Miserables.

I know my site partner didn’t like it. Not her thing, me however, cried about every third song thanks to the delivery and performances by the actors within.

Director Tom Hooper (The Kings Speech) took a lot of risks in his approach to this film. He cast mostly unknown to (hollywood) actors through the film that would have to deliver some of the most gut wrenching songs to hit broadway. He then made a very controversial decision to record the actors singing live, rather than ADR in a booth much later.

Typically when a musical is done for film, the actors will sing live as they are being filmed, then go into a booth weeks or months earlier to be recorded for the voice overlay in the movie. Not this time. What happens with this style is that you now have all the raw emotion that the actor is delivering in face and body language brought out in the voice as well.

Starting with Hugh Jackman as Jean valJean’s, no stranger to broadway, in Valjean’s Soliloquy, brought all the range of emotion from anger to remorse in a single song. It was near perfect for someone like me who had never seen Colm Wilkinson perform this live.

Anne Hathaway’s performance as Fantine. I don’t know where to begin? When Uma Thurman played her in the non musical version a few years back I was excited to see her fate. Now…I was moved to tears by the raw nerve level pain she expressed in I dreamed a dream. The trailer only conveys part of it folks. You truly feel for this woman and it’s all Hathaway.

As much as I would want to NOT talk about Sasha Baron Cohen or Helena Bonham Carter, they both turned in an above average and completely deplorable performance as the Thenardiers. They were everything that they needed to be and more. Well cast, well sung, well performed.

Samantha Barks, who also played Eponine in the West End production, nearly had me bawling with every word during On My Own, Heart Full of Love and her final song. She is possibly the most tragic character in the film next to Fantine.

The other performers such as Russel Crowe’s Javert who you actually feel sorry for by his final song, Eddie Redmayne (Marius), Aaron Tveit (Enjolras) and David Huttlestone (Gavroche), all perform as well but none of them quite drive the same level of emotion as Jackman, Hathaway and Barks.

The movie, as epic and moving as it is (half our theatre was in tears) is not without its flaws. Amanda Seyfried’s performance as Cosette didn’t move me at all, and in fact hurt a few times with her high notes. I would have preferred Emma Watson (who had also auditioned for the part). I do admit I am not a fan of the elder Cosette or her songs in the play to begin with so, your mileage may vary.

I was not as moved by Empty Chairs as I had hoped, but that may be my own expectations after the Jonas brother performance during the 25th anniversary concert. The desire to be “realistic” in the escape from the barricade was nauseating to say the least. Finally, the director and cinematographers desire to do close ups for most every solo was a bit overdone by the end of the film. I like Hugh Jackman, I didn’t need to know where every pore on his face was with 40 feet of face!

If you are a lover of the original novel, it’s musical adaptation or musicals in general, this is an absolutely must see film. You should have stopped reading this review and been in line already! If you enjoy a good tear-jerker, good drama and the story this tells go see it!

If you aren’t a fan of any of the above, steer clear. This film will likely not do it for you.