Tag Archives: Anne Hathaway

Movie reviews: ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,’ ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’

Disney

By Tim Lammers

“Alice Through the Looking Glass” (PG) 3 stars (out of 4)

Wonderland is as buoyant, beautiful and bright as ever in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” a satisfying prequel/sequel to the 2010 billion-dollar blockbuster. Despite a thin storyline, the film is once again bolstered by a lovable cast, spectacular visual effects and stunning production design and costumes. Fans will likely favor the original “Alice” to this follow-up, but it’s an entertaining film nonetheless.

Mia Wasikowska returns as Alice, who after three years of adventures at sea and exploring new lands with her late father’s ship returns home and is beckoned to Underland by Absolem (voice of Alan Rickman, in his final film role), the blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly. Turns out that Alice’s old, dear friend the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) is dying of a broken heart, since he happened upon a remnant that reminded him of the tragic loss of his family to the Jabberwocky years before.

After pleas from the White Queen (Anne Hathaway) and company to find a way to save Hatter, Mia sets out to snatch from the personification of Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) the Chronosphere – the power source that runs the Grand Clock. It will enable Alice to travel back in time and right the wrongs of the past – that is if her enemy, the banished Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter), doesn’t get the device first in a bid to get her crown back.

While Wasikowska and Depp are as strong as they were in “Alice in Wonderland,” Bonham Carter once again steals the show with her big head, bombastic personality, wild chants and maniacal laughs. Her performance alone makes “Through the Looking Glass” worth peering into, even though the time travel narrative falls far short of the events that sparked “Wonderland.” Baron Cohen (along with some CGI mechanical minions) proves to be a grand addition to the “Alice” film family as Time, a touchy taskmaster whose ticker is weakened by the Red Queen and her wicked wiles.

While “Alice Through the Looking Glass” has its share of flaws, the film’s spectacular visual effects make up for the shortcomings. Director James Bobin smartly crafted several jaw-dropping sequences, including trips across the Oceans of Time (which allows the film to cross over into prequel territory). The film also boasts stunning costumes and breathtakingly beautiful settings, both real and virtual. They’re wondrous visions to behold.

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“X-Men: Apocalypse” (PG-13) 2 stars (out of four)

X misses the spot in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” a lackluster follow-up to 2014’s brilliant “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” With a tedious 2 hour 20 minute runtime, an overload of visual effects and a plot spread far too thin across too many characters, director Bryan Singer’s fourth “X-Men” film is without question his weakest. It’s a shame because the talent is all there, but ultimately, they’re trounced by the overambitious storyline.

Picking up 10 years after the events of the 1970s (and the rewriting of X-Men history) with “Days of Future Past,” “Apocalypse” picks up in 1983 with the unearthing of the titular character, the all-powerful mutant taking the form in an armored, blue-skinned Oscar Isaac. Once entombed in Egypt, Apocalypse’s followers figure out the key to unleash the mutant, who is hell-bent (along with his four horsemen) on imposing his powers on the citizens of Earth because they’ve lost their way.

Having the wherewithal to even tap into the immense mind powers of Professor Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), Apocalypse seems unstoppable, that is until Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and a new band of mutant recruits (Tye Sheridan as Scott Summers/Cyclops, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler) spring into action to recover their kidnapped mentor and desperately attempt to defeat a seemingly undefeatable enemy.

As passionate as Singer has been about the “X-Men” movie universe since the first film in 2000, you can’t fault him for trying to make the most out of his latest opportunity to tell another tale about the Marvel movie mutants. Yet at the same time, it feels like he’s trying too hard to one-up what transpired in “Days of Future Past” both in terms of the film’s overwhelming special effects and about a dozen mutants, causing the film to lose its focus.

By the time “X-Men Apocalypse” limps to the end, you get the sense that this current iteration of the “X-Men” movie saga is up as its next generation is trained to take on its next foes. It’s too bad, considering the prequel films that came before it started off with such promise, only to end in such an underwhelming fashion. It’s a real disappointment.

Movie reviews: ‘The Intern,’ ‘Sicario’

Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway in 'The Intern' (photo -- Warner Bros.)

By Tim Lammers

“The Intern” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of four)

“The Intern” is one of those rare movies that, no matter how predictable it is, a talented filmmaker like Nancy Myers at the helm and stars like Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway have you walking away with a big smile on your face. Even with the trailer it’s pretty evident exactly how “The Intern” is going to unfold, but it’s expertly executed.

De Niro stars as Ben, a 70-year-old retired widower, who, while he keeps himself busy, bores easily of retirement. Hoping to make himself useful somewhere, Ben becomes a senior intern at a highly-successful Internet clothing e-tailer, the brainchild of a smart but hyper Jules (Hathaway). Assigned to Jules, Ben soon discovers that the business magnate really has no time for him, until his clear knack for business and his affability around her colleagues makes her realize that his experience in work and life could help her get out of the rut of the company’s growing pains.

A smart comedy that artfully plays to both millennials and adult moviegoers, “The Intern’s” strongest suit comes with not only De Niro and Hathaway’s performances, but wonderful supporting turns by the likes of Adam Devine (“Pitch Perfect” and its sequel), Rene Russo (as an office masseuse who catches Ben’s fancy), Andrew Rannels (as Jules’ business confidant). Linda Lavin turns up, too, and is playfully hilarious as a fellow senior of Ben’s who tries her not-so-subtle best to lure Ben on a date.

De Niro is as brilliant as usual in “The Intern,” demonstrating once again that there’s no genre he can’t play in. A mild-mannered, chivalrous gentleman, De Niro is so effective as Ben that even his subtle facial expressions speak 1,000 words. Hathaway, meanwhile, is completely charming as the exasperated Jules

, who’s desperately trying to balance the demands of work life and her suffering personal life as a wife to stay-at-home dad (Anders Holm) and mother to a young daughter (JoJo Kushner).

The biggest struggle Jules faces in “The Intern” is the investors’ insistence to hire a CEO to take her place because she has too much on her plate, at least until its revealed that a personal crisis leaves her facing the biggest dilemma of her life. Ben, of course, tries to guide her through this dilemma, but the outcome – which will have a lot of moviegoers asking, “What would I do?” – may leave a whole lot of people disappointed. It’s the sort of unpopular creative decision Meyers (who also wrote the film) makes that holds “The Intern” – a good film – back from being a great film.

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“Sicario” (R) 3 stars (out of four)

“Prisoners” director Denis Villeneuve tackles another bleak landscape — but with uneven results — with “Sicario,” a take on an American drug enforcement unit’s attempt to dismantle a deadly drug Cartel in Mexico. Unlike “Prisoners,” which left open a tiny bit of mystery, Villeneuve leaves the audience pondering a solution for what seems to be a hopeless situation. Part of the frustration on the moviegoer’s behalf stems from the fact that there’s no real resolve to the Central American drug import problem in real life.

British actress Emily Blunt plays a FBI agent who reluctantly reports to an operation run by a shady CIA agent (Josh Brolin) and ambiguous Department of Defense advisor (Benicio Del Toro). A by-the-book agent, Blunt’s character, Kate, immediately becomes troubled by how Matt (Brolin) and Alejandro (Del Toro) are willing to get their hands dirty to bring the cartel leader down.

With a running time of about two hours, “Sicario” (which mean “hitman” in Mexico) somehow feels slow despite a fascinating premise. It’s not exactly predictable, either. Perhaps it’s just that, in the end, they just haven’t gained any ground from a narrative standpoint. It’s too depressingly close to real life.

Reviews: Tim Lammers talks ‘Interstellar,’ ‘Big Hero 6’ on KARE-TV, more

Interstellar

Tim reviews the sci-fi action drama “Interstellar” and the family animated superhero comedy “Big Hero 6” on KARE-TV in Minneapolis with Bryan Piatt below. Also, you can read Tim’s review on BringMeTheNews.com and hear Tim review the films on KQRS-FM (7 minutes in) WCCO-AM (15 and-a-half-minutes in), K-TWIN-FM and KSCR-FM. Also read Tim’s interview with “Interstellar” writer-director Christopher Nolan HERE.

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Interview: Christopher Nolan talks new dimensions of ‘Interstellar’

While filmmaking is at its heart an art form, acclaimed writer-director Christopher Nolan has also always been on the forefront of embracing the science that powers the industry, especially the technical aspects of shooting his movies — still on film, mind you — and presenting them in the IMAX format.

And in the case of his latest epic, the sci-fi opus “Interstellar,” Nolan doesn’t only want audiences to board the rocket with Matthew McConaughey and company, he wants them to feel it.

“In the IMAX format, we aggressively mixed the sound in what we call the low-end. We want you to feel the seat shaking like you’re in a rocket. We want you to feel exhausted by the end of the film, but in a good way exhausted,” Nolan told me, laughing, in a phone call from New York Tuesday. “However, as much the film has to say in terms of its themes and ideas about humanity, it’s first a roller coaster ride. I want them to feel like they’ve been through an experience with these characters. It’s paramount to what we do.”

INTERSTELLAR

Opening on IMAX screens across the country Wednesday and everywhere Friday, “Interstellar” stars McConaughey as Cooper, a farmer in an unspecified time in Earth’s future where conditions reminiscent of the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s has eliminated much of the world’s food supply. Blight has eradicated wheat and farmers can only grow corn, and as Cooper finds out from the now secretly-funded NASA, his children’s generation will be the last to survive on the dying planet.

A former pilot and engineer whose aspirations were waylaid because of the planet’s deteriorating condition and shift in the government’s fiscal priorities, Cooper finally gets his chance to live his dreams and command a space module on a potential life-saving voyage that will secure Earth’s future. However, the mission comes with great sacrifice as Cooper, a widower, will be forced to leave his 10-year-old daughter, Murph (Mackenzie Foy), and teenage son, Tom (Timothee Chalamet), behind — possibly forever.

A film that explores such concepts as wormholes, black holes and the notion of love transcending space and time, “Interstellar” also stars Nolan’s frequent collaborator, Michael Caine, as Professor Brand — a theoretical physicist who formulates Cooper’s trek to new galaxies; Anne Hathaway as Brand’s daughter, Amelia, a doctor venturing with Cooper whose emotional vulnerabilities cloud the mission; and Jessica Chastain as the adult version of Murph, who has come to resent her father over feelings of abandonment.

Always one to ground his films in real life and present the details as accurately as possible, Nolan went to great lengths to quantify the scientific aspects of “Interstellar.”

Nolan is ready to admit that the scientific formulas will likely be hard to grasp for the average audience member, but that’s OK since he’s not as much concerned about people learning about what it takes to  travel through a wormhole as he is having them travel through one as part of the cinematic experience.

“There is a lot of science in this film, but it’s there for the people who are interested in it and want to dig a little deeper. I liken it, otherwise, to watching a James Bond film where he’s trying to diffuse a nuclear bomb. You don’t need to know how that works, you just need to know that if he doesn’t do it, it’s going to blow up,” Nolan said, laughing. “I like to think that the film has emotional clarity — narrative clarity — but it has to be a fun ride first and foremost.”

Much like the uncertainty that clouds the dusty Earth in “Interstellar,” Nolan said he faced a fair amount of unknowns creating the film. Driven by the idea of presenting images never seen on film before, Nolan said he feasts in a way on fear. Otherwise, no risk means no reward.

“Every film you want to have things in there that really frighten you, and there were plenty of those experiences I wanted to find out for myself in ‘Interstellar’ in terms of what things would look like and feel like (in the depths of outer space),” Nolan said. “I had a great team, from visual effects supervisor Paul Franklin and (special effects coordinator) Scott Fisher, to the great theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. Kip was able to work with the visual effects guys and give them the actual equations for how a wormhole would look, how a black hole would bend light around it. He explained it and they were able to render it more accurately than it’s ever been done before.”

Nolan said one of the great things he found out working with the likes of Thorne was that at times, he found out “truth is indeed stranger than fiction.”

“We were coming up with stuff in real science that was far more mind-blowing than anything I could think of as a writer,” Nolan said. “That gave me a lot of confidence in addressing these cosmic issues, because you’re dealing with hard facts and hard science, and ultimately getting imagery that you’ve never seen before.”

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While “Interstellar” is grounded in reality, the last thing Nolan wanted to do was alienate his audience by layering in contemporary, hot-button issues like climate change or global warming to set up the dying planet narrative. Instead, to avoid any sort of “movie message” storyline that would come off as preachy, he and his co-screenwriter brother, Jonah, rooted “Interstellar” in a setting akin to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

Simply put, Nolan said his responsibility as a filmmaker is to entertain his audiences, not push an agenda on them.

“We go to the movies to escape, and that’s why the film isn’t about global warming or addresses climate change,” Nolan explained. “‘Interstellar’ deals with an agricultural crisis of the type that has happened before, and that was to give the idea of the film credibility. I want people to feel afraid for the end of the world at the beginning of the film. I want them to feel like these guys really have to do something to save it.”

Nolan noted that if he were indeed trying to push something onto his audiences, he woefully fell short.

“Very specifically, Michael Caine’s character says, ‘We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.’ That certainly isn’t a very great environmental message,” Nolan said, laughing. “I hadn’t have done a good job if I was supposed to be wagging my finger.”

If anything, Nolan says he hopes “Interstellar” will make people think about humankind’s relationship with the planet and our place in the universe, and ultimately, what else is out there.

“Right now the film is about fiction, but I believe one day one day we are going to strike out to the wider universe in real life,” Nolan said. “I hope we do that out of choice rather than necessity. In a movie, it’s got to be out of necessity. You’ve got to understand that these guys have to do this right now. They have to go.”

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