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Interstellar

I’ve long been a fan of Christopher Nolan’s work and this film has been hyped up for months with teasers and trailers mixed with Nolan’s notorious secrecy. But does the end result match the expectations?

In the future Earth is slowly dying and humanity’s only chance for survival is to travel through in space through a black hole to find a new home. When Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) a Former NASA pilot, is offered the chance to go on this incredible journey his has to leave his kids behind, despite his daughter Murphy (Mackenzie Foy) insistence that he stays. Will Cooper be able to find the inhabitants of Earth a new home, and how long will the journey take?

When you’ve been anticipating a film for so long sometimes the finished work ends up being a disappointment. I don’t hate the film. It’s an accomplished movie but with many flaws. It’s a slow build up but the set-up is interesting, a world which is slowly suffocating its inhabitants, where schools change the history books in order to keep their children grounded as farmers rather than look to the skies. Here the world looks familiar but its on its last legs. Going into space is the only hope. As expected  Interstellar looks amazing. The cinematography looks great and probably would look even better in IMAX.

The story really kicks off when Cooper and the crew, which includes Anne Hathaway’s sullen Brand, goes into space. But its a problem when I end up liking the robots on the space craft more than most of the human characters. I know that Cooper’s relationship with his daughter is meant to be the heart fo the movie (and she’s obviously his favourite child-I felt sorry for his son Tom who barely gets a look in), but the majority of time the relationship felt forced and manipulative rather than a natural pull at the heartstrings. The film constantly falls into sentimentality throughout and can become quite dull at times (something I rarely say about Nolan’s work). It was more interesting watching the crew’s journey in the black hole and beyond.

The film is overloaded with science-babble, some of which (ok most of it) I struggled to understand. And as the film went into the last act it tries to link all its ideas together in a everything-happens-for-a-reason explanation, which only results in a lot of eye rolling from me. It didn’t help that it became even more cheesy by the end.

Cutting down the running time and sentimentality would have made a better movie, but you can’t help but admire Nolan’s ambition. A director whose not afraid to take risks means not everything will hit the mark but the world would be a less inventive place without him.

Rating 3/5 – visually spectacular but not as emotionally involving or as exciting as it wishes to be

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Les Miserables

I came out of seeing Les Miserables an emotional wreck. I wasn’t expecting the film to hit me this hard. After all everyone’s singing –it can’t be sad right?

Very wrong.

The basic plot of Les Miserable starts in 1815 when prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is set free after nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread. When he breaks his parole to start a new better life for himself under a new identity he is followed by Russell Crowe’s Javert who is determined to bring him to justice. Years later Valjean’s life crosses that of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) and her daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen and later Amanda Seyfried) changing his life forever.

It’s astonishing that Tom Hooper is not nominated for Best Director at this year’s Oscars. The scale of this film is immense and he handles an all-star cast and the extravagantly detailed sets with aplomb. Anyone else might have let the grandness of this film overwhelmed the film itself, Hooper manages to keep everything in order and produce a fantastic film at the same time.

As the film is set in three time periods it appropriate that there’s three actors who stand out in each time period.

In the film’s first section set in 1815, Hugh Jackman is amazing as Jean Valjean. When we first see him he is thin, haggard, a prisoner whose been barely treated like a human for nineteen years. His desperation shows throughout his face and his transformation from petty criminal without hope to a well-respected man with a new sense of dignity and responsibility is convincingly portrayed. He thoroughly deserved his win at the golden globes.

Speaking of golden globe winners-best supporting actress Anne Hathaway steals the second part of the film based eight years later.  Although she is barely in the film Hathaway makes a huge impact. Her character’s Fantine’s fall from grace is harrowing and Hathaway bares it all in her performance. Fantine is broken and has given up everything for the love of her child. It was a risk for Hooper to make the cast sing live on film, rather than in a recording studio but it pays off when you hear the emotion and despair in her voice during “I dreamed a dream”.

The last part of the film takes place nine years later. It’s here where newcomer Samantha Barks (from tv’s I’d do Anything) stands out against the Hollywood heavies acting beside her. It helps that she played Eponine in the west end. As lonely, hopelessly in love Eponine she conveys much more feeling and emotion than the bland love story between Marius (Eddie Redmayne) and Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) does. Her song of unrequited love for Marius in “On my own” shows her impressive vocal range whilst pulling tightly on your heart strings. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the poor girl.

It’s fair to say that Anne Hathaway and Samantha Barks break my heart in this film.

However the film is not without its flaws. It does feel too long at times, where the story seems to drag. I didn’t feel emotionally connected to the story of Cosette and Marius (mostly because I cared about poor Eponine instead). Also Russell Crowe doesn’t have the strength in his singing voice that the other actors do, although it’s not as bad as others may have you believe, but he does struggle with the singing but then that is the risk in letting all your actors sing live. However he acts the part well and is an intimidating antagonist to Jackman’s Valjean.

These points however don’t get in the way of a heartbreakingly, emotional film full of terrific performances.

Rating 4/5

Tears, young love, unrequited love, death, a man on the run and a student uprising-the film packs a lot in its 158 running time, but it wasn’t a disappointment.

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The Dark Knight Rises

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There aren’t many movie sequels that live up to the original. There are even fewer trilogies that make the grade. Seriously, I can only think of The Bourne series and the Indiana Jones films as examples where the quality has been maintained the whole way through. Can Christopher Nolan’s latest Batman film join that elusive list?

For those who don’t know The Dark Knight Rises is set 8 years after the events of The Dark Knight. After Harvey Kent’s death has been blamed on Batman, Gotham has been relatively crime free, while Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has hung up his cape and is living like a recluse. Threatening Gotham’s new found peace is Anne Hathaway’s morally ambiguous Selina Kyle (aka Catwoman, although she’s never called that on screen) and Tom Hardy’s villainous Bane.

I’m a big fan of Nolan’s work as a director. As with Inception and the previous Batman films Nolan isn’t afraid to mix intelligent films with high entertainment value, and The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t disappoint. Nolan gives us dramatic car chases, fights and most memorably Gotham’s football stadium imploding on itself. But the audience is also treated to discussions on state responsibility and tensions between the haves-and have not’s.

Whereas most trilogy fail by introducing too many new characters to the mix (looking at you Spiderman 3) the characters slip effortlessly into Nolan’s world and serve a purpose to the plot instead of feeling shoehorned in. Finally Nolan gives us a strong female character in Selina Kyle, she brings a sense of fun sometimes missing in the Batman series and her quips bring plenty of laughs to the screen. Also making a great debute to the Batman series is Joseph Gordon-Levitt as police officer John Blake who gives the film heart as he encourages Bruce Wayne to come back into action.

The film’s main antagonist Bane is a good opponent for Batman to end his trilogy with. He is a mix of brawn and brains, showing he is more than a match for Bruce Wayne as shown in their brutal first fight together. Wayne has been out of the crime fighting game for a while and having gathered various injuries, Bane knows how to use those weakness against him and comes across as a credible threat to Gotham’s stability.

There are a few downsides to the film. Michael Cane’s Alfred doesn’t have as much screen times as in the earlier films, and the romance between Bruce Wayne and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate is dull with little chemistry between the two. There’s much more spark in his encounters with Catwoman. Although Tom Hardy is great as Bane, he has a distracting and sometimes inaudible voice that’s almost as irritating as the voice Bale puts on for Batman. Was there a secret bet going on as to who had the more ridiculous voice?

There is more I want to comment on in this film but it does involve huge spoilers which I wouldn’t want to ruin for anyone else. But there were moments in this film which made my inner fan girl scream with delight. A good film to end on.

4/5

About as brutal and serious as a blockbuster gets, Nolan’s Dark Crusader will be missed.

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