Christopher Nolan

“Interstellar,” the latest blockbuster from director Christopher Nolan, manages to secure the trifecta of convincing emotion, stellar effects and an overall creative design. It utilizes the enormity of outer space to its full advantage, showing off incredible worlds and expansive galaxies. The movie soars, thanks to its breathtaking scope and enormous size. It also delves into the emotional connection between family and highlights how that bond is tested from great distances.

As severe weather threatens Earth’s dwindling food supply, former space engineer Cooper, played by Matthew McConaughey, does his best to protect his family from the unforgiving dust storms that plague the country. After he and his young daughter Murph, played by Mackenzie Foy, stumble upon the remains of NASA, Cooper is offered a chance to lead a team on the most dangerous mission possible — finding a new planet in a far off galaxy in order to relocate humanity. Crushed to leave his family behind, Cooper, along with fellow astronaut Amelia Brand, played by Anne Hathaway, ascend into the dark recesses of space to seek a new home.

The magnificent aspect of the film is the sheer size of the world constructed by Nolan. It’s enjoyable to experience the massive set-pieces he has dreamed up, even though they all are similarly barren and deadly. The combination of practical and computer-generated effects blend perfectly to forge an almost tangible universe. The vast, quiet emptiness of the solar system is beautiful and contends with 2013’s “Gravity” for the best cinematic presentation of outer space. Even Nolan’s depiction of Earth as a desolate land blanketed in dust is an entertaining place to traverse, as well as an ideal setting to introduce characters.

The connection between Cooper and his daughter, as well as his relationship to the rest of the crew, fuels the story. Nolan shows how their bond is able to transcend both time and space, as he examines how the variation of time can impact the relationships of the crew members and the people left back on Earth.

While McConaughey is great as the caring, emotional Cooper, it takes a while to buy into his role as a down-to-Earth genius. By the time the narrative reaches the first of many emotional climaxes, however, he is able to pull off the heartbreaking portrayal of a man sacrificing everything for his family and home planet. Hathaway is solid as the determined crew member, but she is underplayed and lacks a strong presence. Foy is stunning as Cooper’s wise and headstrong daughter. Jessica Chastain also makes a great unexpected appearance.

The only issue with “Interstellar” is a confusing narrative packed with exposition-heavy dialogue. While the film is obviously a science-fiction epic that has to dive into jargon-heavy explanations, it is difficult at first to go along with the scientific concepts blended in with the story. The plot is complicated and, while fast-paced and emotional, seems to hide its failings and inconsistencies behind the science.

“Interstellar” is a gigantic, ambitious film that is occasionally thought-provoking. Although the narrative is patchy in a few places, it delivers an emotional punch that will resonate with anyone who has ever sacrificed for someone else. A great leading performance by McConaughey and some of the most magnificent special effects ever used to illustrate the galaxy make “Interstellar” a noble addition to Nolan’s brilliant filmography.  

Photo Credit: Albert Lee | Daily Texan Staff

Christopher Nolan, the director of “Inception” and “The Dark Knight” trilogy is a vocal advocate for shooting movies on celluloid film, which has been the traditional method used to make movies since the creation of motion pictures. His choice to release his latest film “Interstellar,” a science fiction epic, on celluloid rather than screening it through a digital projector has fed the heated debate about which format is the best to shoot movies.

John Lewis, the theater operating manager at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, said that the museum will host the screening, especially since the museum will be changing its IMAX film projector to a digital projector in January.

“We strive to make sure any presentation of a Hollywood screening is shown at the best quality,” Lewis said. “We have held off on replacing the film projector for this event. We’re proud to be showing it on film.”

Lewis said that while film possesses better quality than digital, it is more expensive to produce and appears to be losing favor in the industry. Nevertheless, he thinks that by presenting “Interstellar” on film, Nolan is trying to send a message that filmmakers should still use the medium.

“Film shows the best picture when the projector is maintained by a skilled professional,” Lewis said. “But I think the industry prefers digital because it’s cost-effective. I also understand that the main moviegoing public doesn’t have the untrained eye to see the difference, but, as an IMAX manager, I want to present a film in the highest quality possible.”

Richard Dahms, general manager of Galaxy Theatres Highland, believes that films such as “Interstellar” deserve to be shown the way the filmmakers envisioned, even if it leaves theaters that have dismissed their film projectors at a disadvantage.

“If this is the way the director wants [the film] to be seen, I’ll be happy to show it in the way it was meant to be seen,” Dahms said. “It’s up to the theaters to present the movie the way it was meant to be shown from the director’s vision.”

However, radio-television-film professor Thomas Schatz disagrees with the notion that theaters should be forced to use film when more advanced formats are available, even though it goes against the sensibilities of directors who are loyal to celluloid. He said that the use of actual film to screen motion pictures will eventually become an obsolete process.

“Practicality-wise, it’s ridiculous,” Schatz said. “It’s easier to convert a digital file onto the screen. The celluloid image is superior in some ways, but celluloid is toast. It’s over. We’re getting to a point where digital is advancing to where it’s nearly indistinguishable from film to most people.”

Schatz said that movie theater attendance is dipping lower and lower, and that, while some filmmakers may use film as a means to achieve perfection
in their movies, it may not even matter due to decreased attendance rates and the need for theaters to adapt to digital equipment to shave costs.

As the release date draws closer, Paramount Pictures is preparing for the debut by holding several special advanced screenings on Nov. 5 at various venues in Austin. The film will also be screened digitally starting Nov. 7, which is the movie’s official release date.

At first glance, “Transcendence” seems like an obvious choice for Wally Pfister, making his directorial debut after a long stint as Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. Much like Nolan’s “Inception,” it grapples with massive sci-fi ideas and has visual-effects-driven action scenes. Unfortunately, the film’s ham-fisted script wastes an overqualified cast, and while Pfister does a serviceable job behind the camera, “Transcendence” is a misfire.

Johnny Depp stars as Will Caster, a charismatic scientist on the verge of a breakthrough in the field of artificial intelligence. After an assassination attempt leaves him poisoned, his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) teams up with fellow programmer Max (Paul Bettany) to import his consciousness into a computer. As Will is drawn further into the limitless powers of his character, Evelyn begins to wonder how much of her husband is left in the increasingly powerful machine.

“Transcendence” starts strong, framing the implications of an all-powerful artificial intelligence as a chilling cautionary tale. But as Will becomes near-omniscient, the film’s science grows sillier, and some of the elements the film introduces in the later half are so improbable that the characters don’t even attempt to explain them. A few of the more outlandish ideas would be a little easier to swallow with a cast genuinely committed to selling them, but that’s not the
case here.

Among the film’s impressive ensemble, Rebecca Hall is the only one who emerges unscathed, making Evelyn’s passion and conflicts palpable and moving. Unfortunately, her character is hugely passive throughout the film, existing mostly as a tool to enable Will. Depp, meanwhile, is completely unengaged, turning in a performance that sheds his oddball charm in exchange for monotone disinterest.

Bettany is perhaps the biggest victim of Jack Paglen’s script, which frames Bettany’s character as a driving force for the narrative but keeps the decisive moment in his arc offscreen. Co-stars Morgan Freeman, Kate Mara, and Cillian Murphy are also underused, and the biggest mistake Pfister makes is the egregious waste of this excellent cast.

Though he has yet to master the intricacies of story and character, Pfister establishes himself as a capable visual filmmaker. The massive underground data center Will designs is a suitably unsettling, sterile location for the film’s second half, and Pfister displays a strong affinity for mesmerizing shots of nanoparticles in scientifically improbable action. But he flubs a few moments, particularly in a climactic action beat where he cuts away from a pivotal moment at the exact moment the audience needs to see what’s happening.

No one could blame Pfister for wanting to step into the director’s chair after his exemplary work on the “Batman” films, but “Transcendence” feels like the product of a long list of called-in favors. While Pfister shows promise, the film’s script is a black hole that sucks the talent out of everyone in its gravitational pull, and “Transcendence” never manages to transcend beyond the shortcomings of its story.

Review

Christian Bale stars in “The Dark Knight Rises,” the final film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. (Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.)

Has there been a film this year more anticipated than “The Dark Knight Rises?” Christopher Nolan’s take on the Batman saga has lent an unprecedented level of prestige to the superhero genre, and for the four years since “The Dark Knight,” audiences have been asking if Nolan would be able to stick the landing in his finale. While it’ll take repeat viewings to determine how “The Dark Knight Rises” stands among its predecessors, the film is a truly grand finale, an epic conclusion that beautifully contrasts crushing despair and unyielding optimism.

Eight years have passed since Harvey Dent was killed and Batman slipped off into the night. A bold new act stemming from Dent’s death has freed Gotham from crime, and a retired Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has been reduced to limping around his mansion in solitude. However, new problems are always rising, notably in the form of Bane (Tom Hardy), a relentless mercenary with an elaborate plan to bring Gotham to its knees.

Audiences have been bombarded with marketing for the film for the past year, but one of the movie’s simplest pleasures is seeing how the disparate pieces of the story fit together. Nolan has a lot of ground to cover, from Bane’s reign of terror to Batman’s return and to Commissioner Gordon’s (Gary Oldman) overwhelming guilt over his role in Batman’s exile. The film is tightly wound, its pieces precisely measured. Nolan builds an unrelenting momentum throughout, packing the film with grand, elaborate set pieces and establishes small recurring motifs that tie the film’s themes together elegantly.

There’s a definite sense of things ending here, and Nolan operates with pure confidence. He shows the most prowess in his direction of the film’s action scenes, and his use of IMAX cameras gives the film an appropriately epic scale. He also makes some bold choices, taking things to unexpected levels of chaos, and the final battle for Gotham is a marvel, a sweeping orchestra of violence and sacrifice. Even more effective is Batman’s first fight with Bane, a punishing encounter that puts Batman in some very real danger with Nolan staging the throwdown as an intimate but hopeless conflict, the moment when Batman finally meets his limit.

Bane was always an interesting choice for this film, but Nolan deploys a fascinating version of the character, finding strong thematic parallels between his hero and his villain. It helps that Hardy gives an intense, nefarious performance, playing Bane as a strategic and physical menace, and the cold mercilessness Hardy carries himself with is just as frightening as the gnarled mask that nearly swallows his face.

Fellow “Inception” alumni Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard show up here, and while Cotillard plays Miranda Tate with unflappable warmth and professionalism, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s performance as rookie cop John Blake proves to be one of the film’s most valuable assets. Blake has a lot in common with Bruce Wayne, but instead of putting on a mask, he puts on a badge and an uniform, with Levitt bringing a genuine decency and nobility to the character. It’s hard to make a compelling character out of someone so fundamentally decent and sure of himself, but thanks to Levitt’s incredible work, Blake is a vital character — an optimistic beacon in Nolan’s pitch-black universe. Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway proves another worthwhile addition to the saga, bringing her easy charm to the slippery Catwoman.

Christian Bale has always been hard to read as Bruce Wayne, and it’s never been clear whether Wayne’s guarded demeanor demonstrated remarkable control or a lack of range. In this film, Bruce is taken to some very low, vulnerable points, and Bale brings out a desperate side to the character, taking visible joy in the slow redemption Bruce earns over the course of the film. One of the few legitimate complaints about “The Dark Knight” was the over-the-top Batman voice, but here, Bale has perfected his hero’s gravelly rasp, using it sparingly and to great effect.

Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman have represented a trifecta of figures that Bruce and Batman look up to, and each of them gets strong moments to play here. Freeman is at his best when he’s letting his twinkling enthusiasm for Bruce’s alter ego out of the bag, while Caine’s performance is more nakedly emotional, full of fear for what Bruce’s return to the cowl might mean. However, Oldman’s take on Commissioner Gordon has always been one of the strongest parts of Nolan’s trilogy, the most decent man in a town desperate for them, and Oldman remains a smart, vital ingredient to the film.

On the technical side, Nolan is working at the top of his game. His creative, extensive use of IMAX technology aside, the film is gorgeously shot by frequent collaborator Wally Pfister, and Hans Zimmer turns in an impeccably constructed score. Zimmer works in small themes for each major new presence in the film, and as things build to a climax, the different musical notes begin intersecting and playing off each other wonderfully. Also worthy of special mention are the film’s sets, which are memorable and detailed, especially the dank, rocky hole in the ground where a massive chunk of the film is set.

Repeat viewings are needed to see how “The Dark Knight Rises” will play in the future, and small nitpicks like plot holes and a few false notes in the closing moments might stick out more. However, that doesn’t make Nolan’s final chapter any less entertaining, the first showdown between Bane and Batman any less terrifying or the fiery return of the bat signal any less triumphant. While “The Dark Knight Rises” isn’t a perfect movie, it’s easily a great one, and when the Dark Knight finally does rise, it’s pure cinema, a moment of catharsis and victory, and an absolutely worthy finale to one of cinema’s best trilogies.

Visionary writer-director Christopher Nolan makes his return to cinema for the first time since “The Dark Knight” with “Inception,” a refreshingly intricate and visually stimulating alternative to the prequels, sequels and slapstick comedies that constitute this summer’s lineup.

In “Inception,” Nolan creates a dream world. Dom Cobb, played with great emotional depth and ferocity by Leonardo DiCaprio, makes his living by invading the subconscious of slumbering citizens.

Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) hires Cobb and his crew to do his corporation’s dirty work and carry out a dangerous mission: to plant an idea in someone’s mind. This is to be performed on the son of a dying industrialist, Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). While on the job, Cobb is filled with formidable memories of Mal (Marion Cotillard), his wife and the mother of his two children. Dom, in every sense of the word, cannot get Mal out of his head. Mal is a pivotal character in the film and provides the foundation for Cobb’s internal struggles.

The charming Joseph Gordon–Levitt plays Dom’s right-hand man, Arthur. Tom Hardy plays Eames, the “crook” of the team possessing the ability to change his physical appearance, a vital tool in the business. Both actors provide the comic relief in a film that is otherwise a high-stakes thriller. Ariadne, the newcomer (Ellen Page), is recruited by Cobb to work as the architect who constructs the dream world. Ariadne learns as she goes, just as the audience does, and her emotions reflect the audience’s emotions. Batman veteran Michael Caine also stars in the movie.

Inception is a piece of cinematic genius. DiCaprio brings great vigor and strength to his role. With an ensemble cast of leading actors and actresses, as well as a powerful and haunting score by Hans Zimmer, the film takes you on one hell of a ride. Fans of “The Prestige” and “Memento” will not be disappointed in Nolan’s ambitious feature.

Grade: A