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The Ocean’s 11 Series (Anyway, That’s All I Got)

ocean's 11

This week, we decided to look back on the series of films that has led up to this past week’s release of Ocean’s 8. We start all the way back in 1960 with The Rat Pack, make our way through Steven Soderbergh’s trilogy, and finally arrive at the newest installment. Afterwards, we take some time to read some of YOUR feedback (we’re sorry it took this long), which will be concluded in next week’s episode. Hosted by Sam Noland, Jason Read, and Anthony Battaglia!

Question For You: What is your favorite heist movie? Leave a comment below, send us an email (ataigpodcast@gmail.com), or hit us up on Twitter: @AnywayCast

Go on…The Ocean’s 11 Series (Anyway, That’s All I Got)

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Second Opinion: Seriously, ‘Interstellar’ Is Worth Another Watch

interstellar

Christopher Nolan’s ambitious sci-fi space epic Interstellar has proven itself to be a very contentious topic of discussion among hardcore moviegoers (and Nolan fans). And in the three years since its release and after Nolan’s newest film Dunkirk, the debate has only gotten more divisive.

Some liked it, some (including Jon Negroni himself) didn’t, some were indifferent, etc. Despite all this debate, Interstellar has managed to gain a surprisingly devoted following, many of them (like myself) even more impressed the second time watching it.

As the title of this article suggests, I remain a staunch defender of Interstellar. Yes, it definitely has flaws, but there’s still a lot to love. When I first saw the movie, however, I was sad to say that I didn’t like it much. I found it boring and confusing, and it just kind of left me disappointed. It wasn’t until the recent release of Dunkirk that I decided to give it another shot, along with some other Nolan movies, to gain a fresher perspective.

I was amazed by how much I loved Interstellar the second time.

I almost didn’t think I was watching the same movie, and I eventually came to the conclusion that time was the key factor here. It had been over two years since I first saw the film, so I had actually forgotten a lot of what had happened, weirdly enough. I did remember most of the actual plot thanks to a combination of my disjointed memory and some of the online discussions I had observed over the years, so I pretty much knew the basic premise going in, which I think made for a much more complete experience. An emotional one.

In fact, the emotion of it all is what surprised me the most watching Interstellar the second time. The personal story of the characters, the beautiful imagery, and the score by Hans Zimmer all worked together to sell me on humanity being at stake. I truly felt like time was running out and that every second was important. The relativity scene and the docking sequence stick out as being especially tense and heavy, making for some decent thrills among the more conceptual material.

On top of all that, I was impressed by how Nolan balanced all this heaviness with a very unique story about a father and his daughter. Although Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and Murph (Mackenzie Foy and Jessica Chastain) don’t have a lot of screen time together, the connection between them managed to be as potent as it needed to be, even across time and space (a point the movie directly addresses, of course).

interstellar

That said, I attribute this successful character relationship to the editing by Lee Smith. He cut these scarce scenes together in just the right way for them to display the mutual care between Cooper and Murph and how they can’t seem to move on, even though it may be in their best interest to do so. The performances by McConaughey, Foy, and Chastain obviously help too. They’re able to convey the pain of leaving a loved one behind in a very convincing way, and I was excited to see where the story was going even though I already knew the ending. That’s not easy to pull off.

But what I liked the most while rewatching Interstellar was the overall message I must have missed the first time around. It might be a hackneyed thing to say, but I was impressed by what I think Nolan was getting at with a recurring motif in the movie in the form of Professor Brand (Michael Caine) repeating these lines from a Dylan Thomas poem:

“Do not go gentle into that good night; Old age should burn and rave at close of day. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

First, recall the premise of the movie: humanity is on the verge of extinction and/or famine as a result of a second dust bowl destroying the world’s resources. You get the sense early on that most people have basically accepted their fate and are just trying to have as good a time as possible before it all slowly ends.

What I think Professor Brand, and by extension Christopher Nolan, is getting at with the poem is that we shouldn’t just give up on life. We possess the intelligence, the potential, and the technology to resist the natural order of things, and we should use our humanity wisely. Just because we can. Why not fulfill our potential as intelligent beings?

It’s this kind of compelling philosophy that makes me love science fiction as a genre.

Despite all of the praise I’ve given it, I still don’t think Interstellar is a perfect movie. Most of my flaws stem from pure filmmaking aspects. For instance, I think the shifts in tone between intellect and emotion can be very jarring at times, and some scenes can be a little too wordy and bogged down in exposition.

interstellar

I think there are numerous wasted characters, as well, most notably Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) and Dr. Mann (Matt Damon). They’re both a bit underwritten and don’t have as clear motivations as you’d expect from the rest of the script. Plus, Dr. Mann is a little on-the-nose in that one scene I don’t think I have to spell out.

Also, and this is painful to say, the ending is…perfunctory. I think most people agree the story wraps up sappy and with little apparent thought put into the broader implications of the whole enterprise. I don’t want to accuse the studio of meddling, but it really seems like someone put something into the movie at the last minute in an attempt to make the film more accessible. Who knows?

Problems aside, I’m happy to say I finally got my money’s worth after almost three years. If there’s anything I would like you to take away from this belated review, it can be found right in the title. Maybe Interstellar is worth another try. Coming from the perspective of someone who came around after just one rewatch, I think there could be more to it than you originally imagined.

Second Opinion Grade: B+


 

Review: How ‘The Intern’ Became One of My Favorite Movies of the Year

the intern review

The Intern was directed and written by Nancy Meyers, and it stars Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, and a host of other actors you’ll probably recognize. De Niro plays Ben Whittaker, a 70-year-old man in retirement who applies to become a “senior” intern at an online fashion company in New York. He’s assigned to the young and perpetually busy CEO, Jules Ostin, who is played by Anne Hathaway.

Watching the trailers for this, I had low expectations for The Intern. From the outset, it looks like another phoned in De Niro movie devoid of a good story and interesting characters. And to be fair, I’ve never gravitated toward the work of Nancy Meyers, who wrote and directed Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated.

They aren’t terrible movies (well, besides It’s Complicated), but I had a hard time connecting with the older characters in these movies. Jack Nicholson was fine in Something’s Gotta Give, but he didn’t strike me as someone I actually knew in real life going through what he goes through.

In other words, these movies just aren’t that relatable.

the intern review

With The Intern, Meyers has finally delivered a film that gives the audience something endearing to grab onto, no matter your age. This movie is downright charming and pleasant to watch. It’s funny, even though it doesn’t really need to be.

And best of all, the characters in this film have something a lot of 2015 movies have been severely lacking in my opinion: effortless chemistry.

Like this year’s Paddington, these characters come to life best when they’re interacting with each other. Hathaway and De Niro, in particular, fire on all cylinders as two unlikely friends who prove that a movie about platonic relationships can be incredibly interesting.

At one point in the movie, Jules refers to the effect that Ben has on her, citing that she feels calm around him. That’s pretty much how I felt about this movie. It really is the first feel-good film of 2015 that  over-delivers on that description.

the intern review

The Intern isn’t perfect, of course. Some of the laughs are a little screwball, and it suffers almost too much from its sunny vibe and lack of compelling drama (though there’s still plenty in the third act). But this otherwise ho-hum source material is elevated by the believable chemistry of these characters and Meyers’ knack for building memorable atmosphere (she almost makes Brooklyn feel like a small town).

My favorite scene, which I won’t spoil, happens near the end of the movie and involves both of these characters in a very vulnerable state. It’s drawn out on purpose because at the end of it, you see the true emotions coming from one of these characters in a way that hits you in the gut. It’s excellent storytelling that is owed in part to Meyers’ ability to extract honest performances from these seasoned actors.

Some critics will bemoan the lack of diversity or insertion of more relevant social issues. Personally, I think it was for the best that The Intern shied away from these topics because we’re already getting droves of more serious films this fall that address racial politics, transgender rights, and so on. The Intern is a self-contained commentary on what it means to work hard and collect worthwhile experience, even if it is a little fantastical at times. That’s all The Intern needed to be in order to make my day after watching it.

the intern review

Grade: A 

It’s one of my favorite films of the year so far, not because it has a lot to say, but because it does an excellent job saying it. If you’re looking for a movie that will offer a quick escape that will stick with you after watching it, then I can’t recommend this one enough.

If you’ve seen The Intern, let me know what you think in the comments, and be sure to listen to this Sunday’s podcast, where we’ll talk about the movie in more detail.

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

Review: ‘Les Miserables’

Image Courtesy of aceshowbiz.com

People have been waiting a long time for Les Miserables to hit the big screen. Constantly regarded as one of the greatest musicals to ever hit broadway, this piece of work has, until now, been an undertaking some would call “unfilmable.” Well, I’m here to let you know that, yes, this movie works, and it just might be the best movie you’ll see this year. Maybe.

BIAS

I have no bias with this work. I had never seen the play, read the book, or known any crucial plot points before seeing this film (not for lack of wanting. I had tickets to the broadway play in 2008 but the show was canceled due to the writers’ strike. I’ve been charred ever since.)

So this review is coming from the words of someone completely unfamiliar with the source material, so take my opinion for what it is. I won’t be in the business of trying to compare the movie to the book or play, since I simply can’t.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Image Courtesy of projectqatlanta.comIf you don’t know much about the story or backdrop, know that you will be entering a biopic of sorts centering around the character of Jean Valjean played by Hugh Jackman, with his story taking place over a period of about 20 years (40 if you count the unseen prologue) in 17th century France.

Yes, the movie has plenty of supporting characters, but the story really revolves a long chase scene between Jean Von Jean, a convict who broke parole but is seeking spiritual redemption, and Javert, the ruthless policeman who hunts him played by Russel Crowe.

The movie carries many themes, with one of the most prominent being freedom. Halfway in, the story coincides with the second French Revolution that took shape in the 1830s. The story coincides beautifully with these events, making it a fitting period piece.

This movie is truly a musical, with characters constantly singing and very, very rarely speaking out of song. I don’t have to have seen the broadway play to know that the music is one of the world’s most celebrated scores, constantly pulling at your heartstrings throughout the movie’s long 2.5 hours.

Oh yeah, the movie is long. If you don’t have the RunPee app (an app that shows you when the best times are to take a bathroom break) GET IT. I did and benefitted greatly, since the movie is constantly introducing new characters and jumping forward in time, though there are plenty of long song sequences you can cut short.

Back to the music, you may have already heard that the movie has pioneered a new method of recording the music. Rather than produce all of the singing in a studio months before production, most of the singing recorded is actually being sung on camera, and it shows. The raw emotion in the sound this creates is extremely noticeable and provoked many in the audience to tears, literally.

WHAT WORKS

Pretty much every scene with Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, who plays Fantine, is pure gold. Their performances overshadow most everything else about the film, and awards will most likely be handed out. The music is phenonemnal, though the only songs that really did it for me were “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “Red and Black,” and “Do You Hear the People Sing?” Everything else was fine, but there was just so much singing that many of the others songs were cluttered and forgettable. Something I’m sure purchasing the soundtrack would cure.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK
I’m not going to say that Russell Crowe did a poor job. He really didn’t. I’m just burdened with having to compare him to Hugh Jackman. The performances were far apart in my opinion, mainly because of Crowe’s lack of emotion, though perhaps that’s what the character of Javert calls for.

The sets are hit or miss. They ranged from epic in scale, especially towards the beginning, but then meander to looking like something out of a Lemony Snicket novel. It was too noticeable for me to forgive.

I know British accents are all the range, but do we really lack the capacity for pulling off French accents in America? It’s annoying to watch a French Revolution movie where the 8 year old is leading one of the most epic battle songs sounding like Kelly from Misfits. 

On a more serious note, I hesitate to judge the story, which I frankly found rushed. Yes, this is a different medium. Movies can’t do what books do. I just wish that more explanations between time skips could have occurred. You absolutely have to pay close attention, or you will be yearning for more.

I also wish they could have done more with Cosette, played by Amanda Seyfried, though I’m appreciative that they took full advantage of Sacha Baron Cohen, who played Thenardier the Innkeeper.

IS IT WORTH WATCHING?

For most people, definitely yes. It’s pure drama with some action, so don’t expect much humor. If you want to get truly involved in a long, gripping, and performance-rich musical, you will get what you paid for with Les Miserables. Almost everyone can appreciate the beauty behind the music, but the movie is definitely not for everyone. If you couldn’t even handle the music breaks in Phantom of the Opera, for example, then this is definitely not the movie for you.

For fans of the source material, I can say with confidence that every person I know that has seen both the play and the movie have greatly enjoyed this. I’ve yet to hear of disappointment from the fans. There was a standing ovation at the very end, which turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever witnessed. Not a dry eye in the house.

I highly recommend that you see this in theaters! I can’t imagine the sound being better in your living room. On a final note, here is my favorite quote from the movie that gave me chills: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

 

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