Thursday, November 20, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: Planet X



"And now then, eager young space cadet, here is the course we shall pursue to find Planet X. Starting from where we are, we go 33,600 turbo miles due up. Then west in an astro-arc deviation to here, then following the great circle seven radiolubes south by downeast. By astro-astroble to here, here, and here, then by space navigo-compass to here, here, and then to here and here. By thirteen point strato-cumulus bearing four million light-years, and thus to our destination. Now do you know how to reach Planet X?" -  Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century

Check out the Heavenly Body of the Week Space Database.
That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Film Review: Alejandro G. Inarritu's Birdman

To say that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman, the Mexican auteur's fifth feature film, is a surreal, visually batshitcrazy, tragi-comic near-masterpiece, and self-parodying industry satire, full of sound and fury, signifying the hidden depths of Michael Keaton's bravura comeback performance, is not just some hyperbolic overselling of the product. It is, in all reality, the heartfeltiest of statements from a critic who has become overly jaded lo these many years of film watching in these deteriorating days of cinema. This film is a vibrant slice of proverbial fresh air, in the otherwise rank stench of the modern moviemaking slaughterhouse. I told you I was jaded, but when one experiences a film such as this, with its Wellesian outlook and Kubrickian mannerisms (both cinematic attributes that are not new to Inarritu's oeuvre), even the most jaded of critics has to stand up and say huzzah.

As far as the story goes, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), as the full title reads, is about Riggan Thomson, a has-been actor, once famous for playing a movie superhero, attempting a comeback, not in his native Hollywood, but trodding the boards of Broadway. Michael Keaton's performance of Riggan, a performance that is not only a comeback, but a comeback that could win the actor his first ever Oscar, is dead shot brilliant. Playing basically a version of himself (Riggan mentions his last time playing Birdman was 1992, the very same year Keaton last played Batman) Keaton has never been better. Combining his skills as a dramatic actor with his absurdest ability at black comedy, Keaton is what one would call remarkable in the role of faded star. Add to the mix, an arrogantly charming Edward Norton, in one of his finest performances, and a surprisingly visceral Emma Stone, not to leave out Andrea Riseborough and Naomi Watts (both great as well), and you have one hell of series of movie performances. but even with this trio of performances, Birdman may actually be all about the look and feel of what is going on. A look and feel made all that more powerful by the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki, last year's Oscar winner for Gravity.

Lubezki, who has worked regularly with Inarritu's fellow Mexican New Wave compatriot, Alfonso Cuaron, gives the film a feel of neverending twisting and turning, as his camera weaves through the convoluted back hallways of the film's main setting of a Broadway theatre, and every once and a while spilling out into the streets of the theatre district. Admittedly manipulated to seem like long unbroken shots, the visuals of the film still rock and reel us into an edge of our seats position throughout the film's two hour or so running time. Add to this bravura camera work, some intriguing fish-eye views and ultra close-ups, and the film has the feel of both claustrophobia and wide-eyed wonder. Inarritu also infuses his film with a magical realism as well, that aforementioned wide-eyed wonder, as Riggan may or may not have the power of telekinesis, the director, who also co-wrote the script, giving us contradictory viewpoints throughout. To say that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman is a surreal, visually batshitcrazy, tragi-comic near-masterpiece is certainly not mere hyperbole, but a welcome rave-worthy critique spewing forth from a jaded critic looking down upon a mostly tired industry. Inarritu takes multiple stabs at critics in his film (Keaton even quotes Flaubert in his anti-critic diatribe) but that doesn't stop this one from going on and on. Dare I even say, the best film of 2014...so far. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Starlets: The 10 Sexiest Ladies From the Golden Age of Hollywood

Hollywood has always been a place high in glamour, but never so much as back in what most film historians call the Golden Age of Hollywood. Stretching from the last days of the silent era to the fall of the studio system, basically from 1925 to 1959 (just to put some hard numbers on the thing), the Golden Age of Hollywood was a place chock for of glitz and glamour. This was a time where the men were dapper and the dames were drop dead gorgeous. That's right, I'm talkin' about classic Hollywood here, so I can call 'em dames if I wanna! Anyhoo, with this in mind, I decided to make me up a list of those aforementioned drop dead dames that I thought were the so-called bee's knees. The sexiest ladies from that oh so Golden Age. Now since there were so so so many beautiful women in Hollywood back in the day, many oh so beautiful ladies ended up missing the list. Sexy stars like Jean Harlow, Vivien Leigh, Clara Bow, Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Susan Hayward, Jeanne Crane, Joan Fontaine, Olivia de Havilland, Fay Wray, Dorothy Lamour, Dorothy Mackaill, Carole Lombard, Maureen O'Hara, Ida Lupino, Kay Francis, Miriam Hopkins, Lupe Valez, Jean Arthur, Joan Blondell, Kate Hepburn, Mary Pickford, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford (before she was all eyebrows and shoulder pads) were sadly left on the proverbial cutting room floor. Other ladies, such as Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, and Natalie Wood are left off the list due to the major parts of their careers taking place after the end of that oh so Golden Age. So, without further ado, let's get on with this thing.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Runners-Up
Ann Dvorak * Hedy Lamarr * Judy Garland * Una Merkel * Veronica Lake

Any self-respecting top ten list just has to have some runners-up, and this top ten list is no different. Pre-code beauty Ann Dvorak, the knock-out little sister of Scarface; the gorgeous Hedy Lamarr, as brilliant as she was beautiful; the tragic Judy Garland, whose sultry voice only added to her sexiness; funny girl Una Merkel, the sassy, sexy sidekick of the early sound era; petite powerhouse Veronica Lake, the witch everyone wanted to marry. These are the five classy, classic beauties who just missed out on the list proper. But speaking of that list proper, let's get on with the damn thing. Oh, hold up a sec, we have one more addition before we actually get on with the damn thing...

Special Mention: Peggy Cummins

Okay, I had to throw Peggy Cummins in here. Anyone who has ever seen Gun Crazy, understands why this was a thing I just had to do. Granted, Miss Cummins is far from a household name, even for those into classic cinema, and Gun Crazy is really her one hit wonder of sorts (yeah, there was Night of the Demon, but c'mon!), but damn that girl and those guns sure do make for great looking movie. Plus, placing her in as a special mention, may just be a cheap shot at getting eleven lovely ladies into this list...or sixteen, if you count the previous runners-up. Yup.

10. Ingrid Bergman

This beautiful woman played many parts in many movies, and played them all well, damn well, but she will always be known for her classic portrayal of iconic movie love interest Ilsa, in Casablanca. A lady who almost came between not only two men, but two (or more) warring nations. A classic beauty from the hinterlands of Sweden (okay, actually she's from Stockholm) Ingrid Bergman took Hollywood by storm before running off with a married Italian director and becoming an outcast for a while. Yeah, outcasts are sexy, baby!

9. Grace Kelly

Not only one of the most stunning figures in Hollywood history, but Grace Kelly was the very epitome of her own name. The grace that Miss Kelly put forth (and yes, Grace was her real first name, not just a studio affectation) equaled her amazing looks. This fellow native Pennsylvanian made just fourteen films (three of them with some guy named Hitchcock!) before being swept off her high heels and turned into the Princess of Monaco. Always stunning and always a vision of grace and beauty. That was Grace Kelly. And hey, she could get into the middle of a good murder mystery with the best of 'em. Just ask Hitch.

8. Barbara Stanwyck

Stanwyck may not be the typical ideal of beauty, and therefore is not mentioned in many of those inevitable most beautiful actresses list (ya know, like this one) but her classic looks, her steely reserve, and her snarky way of delivering her lines, makes Babs quite sexy in my book. There is a story about when Babs was filming Forty Guns, and a stuntman refused to do a horse stunt because he thought it was too dangerous, and the then 50 year old Stanwyck stepped in and did her own stunt. Now that is fucking sexy as all get out!! From her sultry Precode days to her later years of embarrassing stuntmen, Babara Stanwyck deserves to be on any sexy ladies list.

7. Louise Brooks

The ultimate Pre-code flapper chick, Lulu was iconic in her famed bobbed haircut (that hairstyle was a huge trend thanks to Brooks), playing prostitutes and other fallen women, until her refusal to work within the all-powerful studio system, essentially ended her career shortly after the sound era began. After this she became some sort of half crazy recluse, but before this, her roles in some of the best, and sexiest, silent films ever made, make Louise Lulu Brooks an easy candidate for this list.

6. Lauren Bacall

Yeah, Betty Bacall was drop dead gorgeous, but it was that raspy, breathy voice that made her go beyond mere looks, and into the realm of pure sultry sex appeal. The lovely and talented Miss Bacall is the star on here with the longest career, having just shuffled off this mortal coil earlier this year, but the brunt of her career took place in that aforementioned Golden Age of Hollywood. Oh, and damn if she doesn't know how to whistle. Just put your lips together and blow.

5. Rita Hayworth

Margarita Cansino, as she was born, was one of the most desired pin-up girls of the WWII era, and of course then there was that performance of Blame it on Mame in Gilda. Though her natural hair colour was dark brown, almost black, and she famously went  blonde for hubby Orson Welles in The Lady from Shanghai, Rita was mostly known as a knock-out redheaded beauty. Hell, the lady even married a prince (more than a decade before Grace Kelly) and according to some stories, had the cocktail (the Margarita!) named after her by a lovestruck bartender-cum-drink inventor.

4. Janet Gaynor

The adorable Miss Gaynor was the veritable bee's knees (yeah, I used that term again!) back in the silent days, even becoming the very first Oscar winner for Best Actress in 1929, and even though her career ended just a decade after the sound era came in, and is therefore unknown in today's circles, even by many film fans, I haven't forgotten the classic actress who just so happens to be the cutest thing Hollywood has ever had going for it. And, if you want to go the stereotypical male route of lesbians being hotter than straight women, then Miss Gaynor has that going for her as well.

3. Gene Tierney

I still stand by the statement (which I have made in other posts) that Gene Tierney has the sexiest overbite in Hollywood history. Her beauty was more than enough for Dana Andrews to fall madly, obsessively in love with her in Laura, and this was after seeing just a portrait of the girl. Tierney made a career out of playing femme fatales, and even though all these men know she is bad news, they are willing to take the chance. I think it might be that overbite.

2. Marilyn Monroe

Yup. The ultimate blonde bombshell. Marilyn was so sexy, and so known for that sexiness, that most people forget that not only was she a great comedic actress, with some of the best comic timing in Hollywood history (just watch Some Like It Hot) but also a great dramatic actress as well (just watch her final completed film, The Misfits). And just like the other ladies on this list, talent just makes the sexy even sexier. But alas, no matter how sexy Marilyn (just one name needed) may be, she is only number two on this list, which means we now get to number one...

1. Greta Garbo

So how could any self-respecting list of the sexiest, the most beautiful classic Hollywood actresses, not only include the great Greta Garbo, but also not put her in the top spot? No self-respecting list could do that. Garbo (only one name needed here) was the epitome of classic beauty. That face, that voice, that aloof, don't give a fuck attitude. It all adds up to make Garbo (again, just one name needed!!) the sexiest actress from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Hell, it makes Garbo the sexiest actress from any time period. Heads and shoulders above all her contemporaries AND anyone who came after. Forget Clara Bow, Garbo is the true It Girl. The true It Woman.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The 11 Question Interview Presents Bob Bretall

Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of The 11 Question Interview, wherein I pose eleven esoteric questions to various equally esoteric personalities. Here we go...

There's a guy. He's kinda the comic book guy. No, not the one from The Simpsons. This guy is the real comic book guy, not some cartoon joke version. This guy is the real thing. His name is Bob Bretall, and he knows pretty much anything and everything about comic books. Everything from the early pre-golden days of comic book history to the latest happenings at Image and Valiant. Bob knows the secret identity of every damn superhero around, and he knows how Scrooge McDuck began his fortune. Oh yeah, and Bob is also a Guinness World Record holder. Yup, that's right. Bob, at 95,000+ comic books, Bob is the official record holder for the largest private collection of comic books. Bob also runs a website called ComicSpectrum, for which I write comic book reviews. If you check out his site (and ya know ya should!) you can find lots of fascinating comic book related stuff, including great pics of his personal, record setting collection. So there ya have it. The comic book king, Bob Bretall, in all his record setting glory. But now we move on from our short bio of the guy, and turn our heads toward the 11 questions we had the guy answer. So without further ado, here are those 11 questions, and Bob's great replies...

***********

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

  • My brothers were much older than me (8 and 10 years older) and were in college learning computer science when I was in elementary school, so I always wanted to follow in their footsteps and get into computers.  I ended up doing just that, I have a BS and MS in Computer Science and have been working in the field since about 2 weeks after I graduated high school when I got my 1st job, that I kept the entire time I was in college.

If you were on that proverbial desert island, and could bring just one movie, one book, and one piece of music, what would movie, book, and piece of music would you bring?

  • Movie: Casino Royale (James Bond - The Daniel Craig one)  Hey, do I get a Blu-Ray Player & TV too or do I just get to look at the box art on this desert island? Book: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Music: The Four Seasons by Vilvadi (I'm listening to the London Philharmonic performance of this as I fill out this interview).

If you could choose one person from throughout history, real or fictional, to have a beer with, who would that one person be, and why?

  • It would be a "Coke Zero" in lieu of a beer on my side and it would be Stan Lee.  He's the co-creator of the Marvel Universe and the man responsible for getting me into comics.  I love hearing him speak and having a private chat with him would be great, I'd ask him more about his early days and building up the relationships with other creators.  I'd try to get him away from the stock answers about how he came up with the idea for Spider-Man.

If you had to live the rest of your life inside a comic book or comic strip, which comic book or comic strip would it be?
  • Well it certainly would NOT be a super-hero comic or The Walking Dead, as much fun as those are to read.  Being a civilian in any comic that's really exciting to read would pretty much suck :-) I think I'd pick Archie.  Riverdale is a pretty idyllic place (as long as I didn't get stuck in the "Afterlife with Archie" version).

If you could sing one song on American Idol, what song would you sing?

  • Would this fantasy involve me actually being able to sing on key?  (I normally sound horrible). I'll go with "I Love LA" by Randy Newman, because I do, and I've actually been rollin' down Imperial Highway with a big nasty redhead at my side...

If you had to pick just one item of food to eat for the rest of your life, what would that food be, and why?

  • Chili. It's my favorite food and you can prepare it a number of ways as long as you don't throw beans into it, which (just in my own personal book) are a crime against chili of the highest order ;-)

Which comic book character do you think has been the most criminally undervalued, and should get their own title, immediately?

  • Uncle Scrooge.  The richest Duck in the world and a self-made man.  He built up his fortune from nothing by his own hard work and guile.  An adventurer of the highest order.  Handled by the right creators, he has starred in some of my favorite comics of all time and I'd love to see a new master creator step up and take the character to new heights.  It can be done,  Don Rosa is widely acknowledged as being a worthy successor to Carl Barks, so there has to be someone out there who can take the character to new heights in the post-Rosa era.

If they made a movie of your life, who would play you?

  • Ben McKenzie (Jim Gordon on Gotham) Hey, let's cast someone way better looking than me, we'd want people to go see this alleged movie, right?

If you had a sports team, what would you name it?

  • "Let's Read a Book"  (Sorry, I'm not a sports fan......)

After the Zombie Apocalypse happens, what attributes would make you a valuable member to a survival group?

  • I would be totally screwed in a zombie apocalypse based on my physical abilities.  I'd have to fall back on organizational and strategy skills.

If you could choose any two cartoon or comic characters, to be your parents, whom would you choose?

  • Thomas & Martha Wayne --> Wayne Foundation $$$, come to Poppa!!!

***********
I would like to thank Bob Bretall for taking part in The 11 Question Interview. A great collector and a great person. I will be back soon with a brand new 11 Question Interview and a brand new 11 Question Interviewee. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web. I'll close out with Bob's official Guinness Book of World Records photo.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: The Comet known Simply as 67-P

This week's Heavenly Body is the rather boringly named comet, known simply as 67-P. Seriously NASA, I know you can come up with better names than this. Howzabout Comet Sinister or Grey Gardens, or maybe just Bob. Anyhoo, I guess, for now, 67-P it is. But the reason good ole 67-P is our Heavenly Body of the Week, is that NASA landed a probe on the bitch. That's right, we landed a spacecraft onto a speeding comet. Cool. Cool cool cool. Oh, and in case you wanted to get an idea of the size of our buddy 67-P, here is a handy pic of the comet, as if it sat in downtown Manhattan.


That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Some Supposedly Annoying Stuff That I Actually Like

Yeah, many might call the people and things spoken of in this post, a bit on the annoying side. Hell, some might call them downright annoying as all get out. And yes, these folks might just be right in their assessment (sometimes), but hey, I like 'em, and I'm not about to apologize for it! So, without further ado, let's get to these aforementioned so-called annoyances. Huzzah!

All About That Bass - Yes, this is one of these Macarena, Barbie Girl, Don't Worry Be Happy kinda songs. The ones that get stuck in your head, whether ya like 'em or not. But ya know what? This one doesn't get on my nerves like it does many others. First of all, from a musical standpoint, it is high and mighty over most of the pop music of today. Taking from the girl group sounds of the 1960's (a sort of poppy, lesser Amy Winehouse), Meghan Trainor's number one hit single, and matching pink-hued hit video, is not only musically fun, it is also an anthem of sorts, to the idea of positive body image. With lines like "I see the magazines workin' that photoshop. We know that shit ain't real" and "You know I won't be no stick figure silicone Barbie Doll" and "'Cause every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top," the song is actually a good message to young girls who see such ridiculous standards of the perfect body in movies and TV and magazines. I must admit that I am not much of  a fan of Trainor's other songs (at least the ones I've listened to), but this one has a beat I can get into, even without the positive message. So whether or not you thing this seemingly overplayed hit song is annoying, you gotta realize that it is indeed, all about that bass. Now shake it like you're supposed to do.

Shia LaBeouf - Yeah, he was a Disney star, but so was Ryan Gosling. Yeah, he did all those Transformers movies, and that is never a good thing. And yes, his recent (as in the past year and a half or so) antics may even top the previous two things in their inherent annoyance levels, but hey, I think the guy's kinda fun. Putting aside that LaBeouf is actually a talented actor who hasn't gotten the recognition he deserves (check out Lawless, Nymphomaniac, and Fury) due to some hilariously bad acting choices (did I mention those Transformers movies yet?) I enjoy the guy for his aforementioned recent antics alone. Trying to channel Joaquin Phoenix and his meta-derived breakdown a few years back (and there's another good candidate for this post, but his acting prowess washes all the crazy away), Shia has gone seemingly batshitcrazy for the folks watching at home. Yes, it probably is mostly an act, like Phoenix, but some of his obvious mental derangements may be a real life thing, and the guy just decided to go for broke with his already happening possible breakdown. From wearing the bag over his head to his snarky tweets aimed at other celebs to his performance art installations, it's been a long (well, not that long) strange trip indeed. And not to mock real mental illness (he may not be faking...maybe) but I really have enjoyed Shia's antics. So much so, that I have even set up a Facebook page commemorating the actor's performance piece. Said page can be found at S.L.A.P.: The Shia LaBeouf Appreciation Party page. 'nuff said. Moving on...

2 Broke Girls - In today's TV world, some may even say the New Golden Age of Television, the old school, multi-camera situation comedy is thought to be a lesser form of entertainment than the hipper, and admittedly often wittier, single camera comedies around. In other words, shows like Modern Family and Veep are better (and cooler!!) than shows like The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men. Granted, this may be true (besides, most shows are better than Two and a Half Men), but that doesn't stop a show like the quite silly (and not really all that hip or cool, no matter what it thinks) 2 Broke Girls, from becoming what one might call my guilty pleasure TV show. Now, I don't necessarily believe in the idea of guilty pleasures. If I like something, no matter how hated it is by others, I am not about to feel guilt over such a thing. I like it, get over it. So, I suppose that means 2 Broke Girls is my guiltless guilty pleasure. Reminiscent of those long gone old school cheesy Three's Company-esque sitcoms of the 1970's and 1980's, but with a more freely sexual attitude (ya know, censors change and all), 2 Broke Girls may very well be a stupid, poorly written piece of garbage in some people's minds, and on some level they may be right (its constant barrage of jokes and one-liners are nothing more than mere retreads from other shows - jokes and one-liners you can see coming so much that you can pretty much say the lines with the characters), but I enjoy the hell of the stupid thing. Plus it has Kat Dennings at her bitchy, snarky best. Gotta love sarcastic bitches! I know I do. And no, that was not meant as an insult, but instead as a compliment. Get over it. I think Dennings would be fine with that descriptive. Huzzah to 2 Broke Girls!!

Carl Grimes - Granted, in season one, and throughout most of season two, Carl was a huge pain in the ass to pretty much everyone else spending the opening weeks and months of the Zombie (don't use that word!) Apocalypse with him, not least of all, his suffering (and insufferable) mother. I mean really, the damn kid wandered off all the freakin' time. It's a fucking Zombie Apocalypse people, keep a better eye on your child!! And yes, these stupid wandering off antics ended up getting Dale killed. Fuckin' little brat! but then something happened in season three. Suddenly Carl was no longer the bratty kid wandering off, but an integral part of the group's walker-killing strike force team. Hell, he became such a badass that he even went above and beyond the call of duty, killing the living as well as the dead. Yeah, he's no Daryl or Carol, but the kid has gone from annoyance to asskicker, which means I now like Carl Grimes. He reads comic books, hangs with "big sis" Michonne, eats as much damn pudding as he damn well pleases, and all while kicking major walker ass. Hey, and he had to kill his mother too. He even tried a few playah moves on Beth. You go Carl, you go boy. And this is just the TV Carl. In the comics he is even more badass. He kills Shane (and not just after he turns, like on the show) and he even loses an eye, and as everyone knows, eyepatches rock!! - well, at least in fantasy. So there ya go, all my reasons for liking the once annoying as hell brat known as Carl Grimes.

Yoko Ono - And now for the big showstopper!! Yeah yeah, I know. many claim that it was Yoko who broke up The Beatles. Really!? Really!?? My lovely wife has a theory that the day John Lennon had to put his name to Ob La Di Ob La Da, was the true beginning of the end of The Beatles. I prefer my wife's explanation to anyone thinking Yoko split up The Beatles. It just seems more reasonable. John loved her and so do I. She is a very unique artist and a talented songwriter. Okay, perhaps her singing isn't up there with Judy or Babs (yeah, that's right...and I'm straight too) but I like that too. The lady has a punk aesthetic. She always has, and even now, at the tender age of 81, she's still got it. From the bed-ins to The Plastic Ono Band to the Two Virgins photo shoot to Grapefruit and her experimental films to Strawberry Fields in Central Park, Yoko rocks, and always has!! My wife and I occasionally play on pub trivia teams, and we are always named John & Yoko. And we are kinda hated, because we almost always win, but I digress. So many people hate Yoko. I mean really really hate hate hate the lady. I just don't get it. I for one would love love love to hang out with Yoko Ono. Hell, you'd be an idiot to not want to hang out with Yoko Ono. So there!

I'm sure there are many other people, places, and/or things with which other people are greatly annoyed while I like and/or love 'em, but I think we'll going to cut me off right here. Ya can't top Yoko!Maybe I'll do another post like this and include things like the movie Ishtar or the acting prowess of Nic Cage or the joke, my favourite joke (and voted worst joke evah!): What's brown and sticky? A stick!! Who knows? That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Film Review: Christopher Nolan's Interstellar

Christopher Nolan, at times, has tried to be Lang and Welles, Leone and Hitchcock, all with varying degrees of success. Now he takes a stab at being Tarkovsky or Kubrick or Spielberg, or whomever he is trying to be in Interstellar, and in this endeavor, the director fails oh so miserably. Nolan claims to be inspired by Spielberg, saying he wants to recreate the magic of Close Encounters, and is obviously channeling something from Kubrick's 2001, but really, if one were to compare this film to those of the past, this is Nolan's Solaris. Both films begin with their respective cameras eying up an Earth bound country home. Both films have a man leaving loved ones behind (in both films, an old man and a little girl) to travel into space. Both films show a tortured soul watching videos from home. Both films show what could be hallucinations or actual time-warped events. Both films show the vast emptiness, and loneliness of space. But still, no matter his skill as a filmmaker, and Nolan has made some pretty good films in his time, Interstellar comes nowhere close to the depths of Tarkovsky's classic film. But enough about the comparisons, and rather obvious ones at that, to other films, how exactly does Interstellar stack up on its own terms?

Interstellar is Nolan's ninth feature as a director. The British born auteur has given us some early, visceral indie projects (The Following and Memento) and some intriguing Hollywood fare (The Prestige and his remake of Insomnia, a film no better or worse than the original) but the guy is most known for his Dark Knight Trilogy and the highly over-praised Inception. Now along comes Interstellar, a film that gives Nolan a hat trick for disappointing this critic. Yes, the director has some intriguing ideas up his proverbial sleeve, but lately these intriguing ideas have fallen flat as can be. After Inception, a film that pretends to be much more clever than it really is, The Dark Knight Rises, where it seems as if the director (and probably Batman as well) is just going through the so-called motions, and now Interstellar, a film that seems to have no idea where it is even going, one begins to wonder just what they saw in Nolan in the first place. But I digress, as I am edging back toward the comparative notes of earlier. On its own terms, Interstellar has the aforementioned intriguing ideas in veritable spades, it just doesn't know what to do with such ideas. much like in Inception, we are given a repetitive series of explanations as to just what is going on...and on...and on. Yes, we get it. The Earth is dying and we need to find a new home in a new galaxy. Sure, there are some real pretty special effects happening here, but must you explain how relativity works with every chance you get? I think once might be enough. Can't you just tell a story, and leave it at that? The film could have been shortened by twenty minutes if you took out all the time the characters stopped to explain things to each other. And then we have that damn Dylan Thomas quote that we keep hearing repeated, just in case we missed it the first few times. But now I am ranting, so I digress one final time.

The film stars Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (I love saying that descriptive) as a one-time test pilot turned farmer in the dying days of the planet, who gets mysterious, possibly other-worldly messages leading him to the hidden stronghold of the now desanctioned NASA, whereupon he is immediately enlisted to pilot a spaceship through a wormhole next to Saturn, in order to find an inhabitable planet for the human race to survive. We also get Anne Hathaway (also an Oscar winner), Jessica Chastain (Oscar nominee), Casey Affleck (another Oscar nominee), David Gyasi, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine (another Oscar winner, and this time a two-timer), and a few surprise (read: uncredited) tagalongs (one of which may be yet another Oscar winner). We also get that aforementioned relativity, and how just a few hours on one planet near a black hole will equal 23 years back on Earth. We get a lot of posing and posturing, and oft-times rather ham-handed acting from a group of actors who should be better, much much better. There are a few particularly unwatchable moments from Hathaway, Chastain, and even McConaughey, that make us wonder if these are even the same actors who have done so much better work in other films. And then there is that ending. Not to spoil anything (though the whole film smells a bit spoiled) let's just say that this ending is one of the most ridiculously contrived pieces of cinematic hogwash this critic has seen in some time - and this critic has seen a lot of ridiculously contrived pieces of cinematic hogwash in his day. And I haven't even touched on how Nolan can suck the humanity out of anything he makes now. Maybe another time. So yeah, that's what I think. I am also thinking that I want the old Chris Nolan back. I want the man who made Memento, or even The Dark Knight. I want that guy back. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.