Friday, September 26, 2014

Mr. Nobody

Mr. Nobody is an intellectual exercise.  It is a puzzle presented to the audience who is expected to follow along as the main character lives parallel lives simultaneously based upon different choices he could have made as a child.  If you understand even the slightest amount about Quantum Physics, which is about my level of understanding, then the movie makes perfect sense.  On the level of the sub microscopic, individual particles can live parallel lives where they can be in multiple places at once and the outcome of events depend upon both probability and how those events are observed.  How you observe an event after it happened can actually change what happened.  At the macroscopic level we don't normally see this weirdness, and therefor this weirdness defies all notions of common sense, but the evidence shows that this is actually how the universe works.  A few people smarter than me think that the universe is a self replicating fractal creating parallel universes, so that every possible event that could happen actually does happen in a different universe.

The movie uses people to illustrate some pretty advanced concepts in physics without explaining that this is what it is doing.  I knew that is what is was doing when the movie briefly asks why does time only flow in one direction?  The movie answers the question by using every day examples to illustrate the concept of entropy, which is how disorder always increases in a closed system, although the movie never mentions the term.  You see, according to some people who ought to know, the reason why time only flows in one direction is because of entropy.  

The movie seems to hit every concept that I informally learned about physics over the last few years.  Even the tagline "If you never make a choice, anything is possible" refers to Schrödinger's cat.  This is deep stuff. 

Never mind.  To the casual observer the movie is designed to be a fable about how different choices in our lives could lead to different outcomes.  Well, duh.  

In the year 2095 at the age of 120, a man known only as Mr. Nobody is the last mortal person on earth and he is dying.  Everybody else on the planet has had their telomeres adjusted to become immortal.  Why Mr. Nobody hasn't had his telomeres adjusted is not explained.  At the end of his life he reflects on the choices he has made, although it is not clear which choices he made.  It appears as if he made many different choices and lived many different lives.  Or is it just his failing memory playing tricks on him?

Is the movie engaging?  It is.  It is also brilliant, but movies like this that are a little too deep and surreal run the risk of losing the audience.  Whether you like this movie depends upon how much you like to be challenged by what you are watching.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Richard Roper on Cloud Atlas.

Star Trek Nemesis



takes over the Romulin Star Empire and prepares to declare war on the United Federation of Planets.

The first ten Star Trek movies are a mixed bag with some being very good while others are barely O.K. and maybe a couple aren't so good.  Which film is which is a topic of much controversy among fans.

One could think of this movie, along with its predecessor, as the films that killed Star Trek movies until they could be rebooted in 2009 by J. J. Abrams.  Although the film knows how to hit all the right notes that Star Trek The Next Generation fans love, it doesn't quite know how to play the song.  The pace of the film is barely adequate with much of the time spent on conversation.  In short, it is a little too cerebral and intelligent:  The film philosophizes about life and what makes us who we are.  There are some very good action sequences and special effects, but the film lacks the energy, originality and downright joy that the reboot films have.  The movie is too constrained by the TV series that it was based on, so it took a reboot to give the film franchise new life.

That isn't to say that I didn't enjoy watching it a second time.  Anyone who is a fan of Star Trek The Next Generation will find the film enjoyable and consider it a necessary conclusion to The Next Generation saga.  People who aren't familiar with the TV series or aren't fans might not understand what is going on. 

Rating:   
For Star Trek fans:  * * *
For everybody else:  * * 1/2


Friday, September 19, 2014

The Machine

Researches try to create an artificially intelligent killing machine but things go horribly wrong when the robot soldier rebels against its masters.  

Have we seen stories like this before?  Too many times.  There have been a variety of stories about some new technological breakthrough that backfires and other stories about robots or computers turning against their creators.  The movie seems way too familiar, but there are other elements that are kind of cool, like creepy brain damaged soldiers who have been "fixed" with computer chips and a budding romance between the robot, who just happens to look like a sexy super model, and its creator.

My problem is that I didn't believe any of it.  The story makes very little sense to me.  If you were going to create a killer robot soldier, you would also create a ton of safeguards to make sure you can control the technology.  Furthermore, you wouldn't be claiming that you don't understand what it is that you just created and you wouldn't be treating it like a person, which everyone in this film does.  Ten or twenty years from now when we have real robots,  people will look at this film and think that it is absurd.  Or maybe they won't.

Despite my major qualms with the film, it feels like it is worth watching.  Once.  There is enough going on in this movie to make it creepy, interesting and intelligent.  It is a dark film to be sure, but most of it kept me in suspense.  I think that the ending doesn't rise to the level of the rest of the film, but up to that point it is a compelling ride.

Rating:  A weak * * *


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Niki Lauda - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1976 F1 battle between Niki Lauda and James Hunt was dramatized in the 2013 film Rush, where Lauda was portrayed by Daniel Brühl. Lauda himself made a cameo appearance at the end of the film. At this point Lauda said of Hunt's death, "When I heard he'd died age 45 of a heart attack I wasn't surprised, I was just sad." He also said that Hunt was one of his small number of friends, a smaller number of people he respected and the only man he had ever envied.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Thor: The Dark World


In my mind I imagine a group of writers sitting around asking themselves what they could write that hasn't already done before?  Tough challenge.  But apparently they came up with using Norse Mythology and armies wearing 14nth century armor along with dimension shifting portals and rocks that tear people to pieces and an evil god named Loki who can get his way by creating illusions.  This makes the movie feel like a bit of a mess, but it is a mess that has its own internal logic and it works as a comic book adaptation.  This makes a good popcorn movie that you can sit back and enjoy, just so long as you don't try to overanalyze it.

Rating:  * * *

Locke


Presented for your consideration:  A man driving in a car with a hands free cell phone so that he can talk to various people.  Amazingly, this is the entire movie.  This reminds me of Lebanon where the entire movie was shot inside a tank.  However, this is a much better movie.  What makes this movie great is that the man is driving urgently toward a purpose that is a dark secret.  He has left behind a lot of details that he needs to clean up and he tries to do that by phone.  Although he is able to deal with some of these details, the phone conversations reveal that his life is falling apart because of one mistake he made.  His ultimate goal is to do the right thing even if that costs him everything, which it does.
 
This is a brave movie to spend 90 minutes with just one actor inside a car, but it works.  It works really well.
 
Rating:  * * * .5


About Time

Take a simple premise like being able to time travel to any part of your life that you lived before and then explore that in a romantic comedy and you end up with an incredibly charming and sentimental movie.  It is part Groundhog Day and part The Butterfly Effect, but more a story about life and how we choose to live it.  Domhnall Gleeson played Ron Weasley's older brother in the Harry Potter movies and he has a Rubert Grint quality about him as an affable comic loser trying to make good in life.  How he uses his time travel ability to improve his life has many consequences both good and bad. 
 
The movie blends all its elements really well.  It will leave you with a smile and a few tears. 
 
Rating:  * * * .5




Sunday, September 7, 2014

Enemy


I have witnessed a few movies whose meaning is so cryptic that they require some deciphering and maybe an internet search to figure what the movie is suppose to mean.  One of my favorites is Mulholland Drive which I did not figure out until about 5 minutes after I finished the film.  Another related David Lynch film is Lost Highway which is so weird and so creepy that it required an internet search to understand its meaning.  Unfortunately, Lost Highway is a bit of a bore.  Both movies are heavy in adult themes and depressing as all get out. 

There was also Stay, which is a psychological thriller that is also highly depressing and completely puzzling, until the ending, which is so kind to explain what is really going on.  Still, I think that some of the audience might not understand it.  The film is interesting, but the movie is such a downer that after watching it I immediately bought a ticket to Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit just so I could watch something more uplifting.

Then there is Enemy, which probably cannot be fully understood without an internet search afterwards.  This is an interesting film because you will spend the entire movie trying to understand its deeper meaning, but fail.  The final scene comes as a shock and the movie abruptly ends without any explanation and you are left wondering if the filmmakers give a crap about the audience?  When you do go online and read what the movie is suppose to mean then you might be scratching your head as to  how the filmmakers expected the audience to figure this out from what was presented in the movie?

But the movie is entertaining because it follows a string of events that keeps the audience in suspense.  It starts with a rather dull college professor who discovers that he looks exactly the same as a movie actor.  He becomes irrationally obsessed with this actor and goes to extreme measures to try to meet him.  From there events only get weirder. 

Rating:  * * *

Being cryptic is not the same as being brilliant.

John Coffey