Bad Movie: Count Dracula(1970)

Scene from Count Dracula(1970)

Released: 1973(US)

Director: Jess Franco

Rated: PG

Run Time: 98 Minutes

Christopher Lee: Count Dracula
Herbert Lom: Van Helsing
Klaus Kinski: Renfield
Maria Rohm: Mina
Fred Williams: Jonathan
Soledad Miranda: Lucy
Paul Muller: Seward
Jack Taylor: Quincey

Count Dracula is one of, if not the most iconic figure in horror.  Thanks to Bram Stoker’s legendary tale about the character, Dracula has been a prominent figure and an inspiration for many of the vampire tales over the past century.  In film, many people have portrayed the character in many forms starting with Bela Lugosi in the original 1931 film.  Frank Langella, Gary Oldman, Thomas Kretschmann, and most recently, Luke Evans have played the character use their own unique talents.  But there’s nobody who has played the character more prominently than Sir Christopher Lee.  The man is a living legend.  At 6′ 5″, Christopher Lee is towering and can seem to be imposing.  Having starred in several Hammer Horror films as Dracula, Lee made a name for himself playing villains.  Sadly, not even his appearance in Jess Franco’s Count Dracula can save this low-budget disaster.

Jess Franco’s film opens with Jonathan Harker on his way to Transylvania to meet with the mysterious Count Dracula, who has purchased land in London for some reason or another.  After staying at an inn before taking a stage-coach to Dracula’s castle, Jonathan begins to experience some strange things and is unable to get a good night’s sleep.  When he finally arrives at the castle, he is greeted by Count Dracula and is offered a room.  Before he knows it, Jonathan finds himself trapped and realizes that Dracula isn’t who or what he appears to be.  After escaping the Count, Jonathan wakes up in a mental institute run by Dr. Van Helsing.  With Mina and Lucy, Van Helsing determines that Dracula may not actually be human.  As someone who has actually read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I was surprised at how literally the book was interpreted.  While I admit that it was interesting to see the film interpreted that way, it had the problem of Dracula not being in the movie as much as he should be.  In the book, Dracula didn’t actually have many physical appearances, but you could feel his presence and how he manipulates the world and people around him.  Dracula’s manipulation in Jess Franco’s movie boils down to “Lucy.  Lucy.  Lucy. Lucy,” and “Mina.  Mina.  Mina.  Mina.”  Dracula is supposed to have incredible supernatural powers.  I understand that this is a low-budget affair, but the extent of Dracula’s power seems to transform into a bat that is being swung around on a piece of string.

Honestly, I like some of the shots that were used, and while it is obviously not London, some of these shots kind of set the sinister mood.  I thought that was pretty decent.  Christopher Lee IS Dracula.  The guy’s immense frame allows for a very an intimidating and imposing villain.  Lee uses his size and voice to great degree in nearly everything that he does, and it’s no exception here.  The man is hypnotizing to watch.  He inhabits the character the so well that it is no surprise that most people associate Christopher Lee with Dracula.  Herbert Lom does a pretty good job as Van Helsing.  He brings a dead seriousness to the role that’s kind of the trademark of Lom’s.  He’s famous for playing Captain Nemo in Mysterious Island, and he brings that same kind of presence to this film.  Unfortunately, things go downhill from there.  As I mentioned earlier, Dracula doesn’t appear very often in this movie.  For a book, I think that’s okay, because the author can get away with a villain manipulating events without being seen, but for a movie, you need to see the villain.  In some ways Count Dracula is a little TOO faithful to the book.  The scene at the inn didn’t need to be there.  It slowed things down.  Renfield is another issue here.  He doesn’t say a damned word.  Klaus Kinski is just….there.  And he screams….a lot. There’s nothing particularly menacing about somebody who doesn’t say a word.  In the book, Renfield is insane, but there is a deliberate method to his madness that in the end doesn’t make him seem that crazy.  In this film, he’s clearly nuts.  Outside of the Christopher Lee and Herbert Lom, the acting is atrocious.  Franco’s constant and irritating use of extreme close-ups are ridiculous.  Who does he think he is, Sergio Leone?  Not only that, when the camera DOES zoom in, the actors look like they’re staring intently at something just off camera.  They look like they’re staring into somebody’s soul.  High drama, ladies and gents.  If you want to come across as a serious actor, stare intently at something.  I think most actors get it wrong: they’re not staring intently enough at things.  It’s all about the staring!  

I understand that this version of Count Dracula was released in 1970, but it is an absolute mess of a film.  I’m a huge fan of Christopher Lee, but this is definitely not one of his best movies.  His performance is okay, we just don’t see a whole lot of him.  I definitely understand that they were trying to be as faithful to the book as possible, but Bram Stoker’s novel is one of those books that shouldn’t have a direct interpretation.  As I said earlier, there is a huge difference between books and movies.  When you’re adapting something like Dracula, you have to be willing to throw some stuff out.  Franco really didn’t and the movie really suffers for it.  Also, Keanu Reeves did a better job playing Jonathan Harker.  Yes, I said it.  Fred Williams just butchered it entirely.  Jess Franco’s Count Dracula is probably one of the worst adaptations I’ve seen for Bram Stoker’s fable.  Still, it’s better than Dario Argento’s film, not that would be difficult in any circumstance.  It’s really hard to find the positives in a movie where the negatives are so painfully obvious.  Hammer Horror this is not.  Not even Christopher Lee can save this movie from slapped with a Bad Movie label.  It’s pretty bad.  4/10.

Superheroes and the Force

For your previewing pleasure today, I present to you 2 trailers:  One for Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  So…hold on to your butts.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

This is the second trailer for J.J. Abrams upcoming Star Wars film.  Anybody who knows me will tell you that I’m a gigantic, big huge fan of George Lucas’s movies.  Even the prequel movies have a special place in my heart, despite their problems.  For years, I had been hoping that George Lucas would change his mind on making the sequel trilogy.  Why?  There’s a whole lot to tell after the events of Return of the Jedi.  Since Lucas sold his company and his film rights to Disney Studios, we will be getting that Sequel Trilogy, starting with The Force Awakens.  When the first teaser hit the Internet, I felt like a kid again.  This second teaser gives me that feeling again, and I’m excited for this one.  Let’s take a look at it.  The opening of the trailer features the familiar LucasFilm logo and then it cuts to a desert where the scrolls and reveals an X-Wing and an Imperial Star Destroyer buried in the desert.  Then we get to see the remains of Darth Vader’s helmet.  Why that’s in there, I have no idea.  I can’t wait to find out.  We get a closer look at some of the characters including the film’s apparent villain, Kylo Ren.  The trailer features some of the action that we will see including the Millenium Falcon flying through the remains of a Star Destroyer being chased by a Tie-Fighter.  The music that is used really sells the mood and gets you pumped.  I’m not sure who says it, but a character is reciting some of the words the Luke said to Leia during the Battle of Endor.  But the biggest reveal of the trailer is at the end, when we see Han Solo and Chewbacca for the first time since Return of the Jedi, and Han says, “Chewie, we’re home.”  Yes.  Yes we are.  Starring, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Max Von Sydow, Lupita Nyong’o, and Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Star Wars: The Force Awakens jumps into hyperspace December 18.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice

On one hand, I’m excited for this movie.  I loved the hell out Man of Steel.  I thought it was a proper way to reboot the franchise, and give it a little bit more grit.  The idea of Superman going up against Batman is not new.  In fact, the movie apparently borrows from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  Batman’s suit looks absolutely fantastic.  Ben Affleck himself looks to be in pretty great shape for the role and it looks like he’s going to do a pretty good job.   I really hope so.  Henry Cavill obviously is returning as Kal-El.  He was fantastic, so I expect to see more of the same from him.  On the other hand, I’m very worried about this movie.  I feel that we should have gotten another Superman-only film before we got to this story-line.  They’re also giving cameos to most of the major DC superheroes in this movie: Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, and Aquaman.  I don’t know how long they’re going to be in it, but I don’t see the point.  This film is going to be leading up to a full-blown Justice League film, so I do understand that they want to introduce the main protagonists, but they’re trying to pack in a lot of stuff for a 2 and a half hour movie.  Stuff’s going to be left out or half-baked.  Certain ideas just aren’t going to cut it.  We’ve seen what happens to comic book movies when they try to put in too many characters and sub-plots.  Those movies are generally problematic, especially if said characters don’t get an introductory movie the way Marvel did.  The Avengers succeeded because they didn’t need to go into the backstory of each character.  The character-specific movies did that.  Batman V. Superman isn’t getting released until next year, and from what I’ve seen of next year’s movie slate, Batman V. Superman is going up against some major competition.  Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Captain America: Civil War are slated to be released next year.  Zack Snyder’s movie may end up getting lost in the shuffle, because the amount of HUGE movies coming out in 2016.  I’m pretty sure it will be a successful movie financially, but I don’t think it’s going to be on the same level as Man of Steel.  Starring Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Laurence Fishburne, and Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, Batman V. Superman flies into theaters March 25, 2016.  I’ve got my fingers crossed for this one.  Please don’t fail.  Please don’t fail.  Please don’t fail.

Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice official website.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens Official Website.


Mortal Kombat X


Released: April 14, 2015

Plaftorms: PS4, XBox One, PC(Steam)

Developer: NetherRealm Studios

Publisher: Warner Bros. Games

Price Tag: $59.99

Rated: M for Mature

WARNING: I will be describing certain fatalities in detail, so be warned: These fatalities are graphic and extremely violent.

Before I really get into this review of the latest iteration in the Mortal Kombat video game franchise, I would like to say that I’m a massive fan of Mortal Kombat.  I’ve been playing the game since it first showed up in arcades in 1992.  Before Mortal Kombat showed up, video games had been considered mostly kids’ toys.  It was something they did after their homework was done.  Violence in those games was really cartoonish and not realistic.  Then Mortal Kombat comes along and everybody loses their shit.  This was the same time Street Fighter II was released, but MK(Mortal Kombat) was different in that it featured digitized actors on a 2d fighting plane.  It was certainly different.  It handled pretty well with some interesting characters including a thunder god, a Bruce Lee-inspired character, and some ninjas.  But the one thing that really separated MK from the pack, and was really criticized for, was its display of ultra-violence.  By ultra-violence, I mean fatalities.  These are techniques in which you perform a sequence of button presses that would kill your opponent in particularly gruesome fashion.  The most notorious of the bunch was Sub-Zero’s spine-rip fatality in which he ripped off the person’s head with the spine attached.  Parents and politicians alike were outraged that somebody could make such a violent game.  As a result, the ESRB(Entertainment Software Ratings Board) was established.  Over the years, the game has gotten multiple sequels, movies, TV and Youtube series(I reviewed Mortal Kombat Legacy).  It is one of the largest and most popular fighting game franchises in the world to date.  With the release of Mortal Kombat X, there are a number of issues and controversies plaguing the game at the time of release, particular for the PC version, which I am currently reviewing.  But before I delve into those issues, I’m going to go over the game itself and what it entails.

Mortal Kombat X is the latest and quite possibly the goriest entry into a franchise that goes back over 20 years.  The previous entry, simply titled Mortal Kombat, which I will refer to as MK9, came out in 2011 and was essentially a kind of a reboot for the franchise after the fairly controversial release of the crossover game, Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe.  I didn’t think that was a particularly bad game.  Unfortunately, the folks over DC didn’t want to see their characters get eviscerated by Scorpion or Raiden, so they forced the producers to scale back on the brutality and blood of the fatalities.  For those of us were fans of the ultra-violent finishing moves, this came as a shock.  Mechanically, the game was fantastic, it played like a Mortal Kombat, minus the fatalities.  MK9 did a 180 and gave us not only a graphically improved game, but it also returned to us the brutality that the series is known for.  It garnered great reviews and was a solid fighter in its own right.  MKX is also a very solid fighter and a blast to play.  The mechanics are very solid with combos being fairly easy to pull off.  The game features a selection of over 20 characters at the time of this writing, including series regulars like Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Jax, Reptile, Raiden, Kung Lao, and the four-armed Goro.  New to the series includes the sons and daughters of some of the characters, including Cassie Cage, Jacqui Briggs, Takeda, and Kung Jin.  Other new characters include, D’Vorah, an insect-inspired character; Ferra and Torr, which is a kind of a two-for-one, Kotal Kahn, the new Emperor of Outworld and Erron Black, a gunslinger from Earth Realm.  Each character has three different variations, effectively giving the game a total of over 30 characters.  Each character comes with his or her own set of special moves.  Scorpion has his iconic spear that you can use to grab the opponent and bring him closer to you so can so some pretty severe damage.  Sub-Zero has his famous ice ball which freezes people in their place allowing you to deliver some major punishment.  Each variation of each character comes with its own set of moves and combos, making this one of the deepest entries into the franchise.  It’s absolutely amazing how much detail went into making each character and variation unique.  The combos are easy to pull off.  It is surprisingly satisfying when you can juggle these guys and just lay waste to them.

In addition to the obvious classic tower setup, we have a story mode which is essentially an interactive movie with some QTE events.  QTE’s are Quick Time Events.  You have to push certain buttons at a certain time to avoid getting damaged and to progress the story.  It’s not a mechanic that I particularly care for, because it can take you out of the story.  I’m not going to delve into the story of the franchise, because there really isn’t a whole lot there, and that’s not why we play these games in the first place.  But it is nice to see NetherRealms put that in.  It’s surprisingly well-done, but woefully short.  I completed the story mode in about 3.5 to 4 hours.  The previous game gave me twice that.  Normally, I would complain about it, but it was surprisingly engaging and visually pleasing.  In this entry we have the offspring of some of the main characters, so that adds kind of a family element to the story, which is surprising and it works.  The motion capture for the story mode is incredible.  This game is awesome to look at.  It’s a good-looking game.  The backgrounds for the fights aren’t static like they were in some previous games, but feel organic and very much alive.  They are also pretty interactive, because you can use certain objects to pummel your opponent with.  The X-Ray moves, which were introduced in MK9, are basically pre-animated combos that feature graphic depictions of bones break and organs being brutalized.  It’s gut-wrenching, yet very awesome at the same time.  Now this brings me to the fatalities which is the most iconic technique that the franchise is known for.  These moves are BRUTAL.  For example, one of Scorpion’s fatalities involve him using a fireball going through an opponent leaving the heart attached by a few strands of flesh.  Gruesome, yes?  He’s not done yet.  After that, he takes one of his swords and slices his opponent’s face off.  It’s extremely detailed and very graphic.  Unfortunately, that brings me one of the biggest issues facing the game.  The game itself runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, but when you pull off an X-Ray move or a fatality, it jumps to 30 frames per second.  That is a severely noticeable drop, and unnecessary thing to do.  It takes you out of the game when you see such a violent shift.  I guess somebody thought it was a stylistic choice.  Well, it didn’t work.

Outside of the single-player story mode and traditional tower modes, we have an online section of the game which you can use to play with other people around the world.  I’m not a multiplayer kind of guy, so I kind of skipped over the whole online thing, but there are people out there who really enjoy that.  So, I couldn’t honestly tell you about the multiplayer component.  One of the more interesting online components is in the Living Towers mode.  This is very interesting, because one of the towers is updated on an hourly basis with different challenges according to what NetherRealms has in store.  Another changes on a daily basis, while the third changes on a weekly basis.  That allows for a great deal of variety, and is a welcome addition.  These towers are often challenging but can be rewarding at the same time.  When you first start up the game, you are asked to join a particular faction, whether its the White Lotus, Special Forces, Lin Kuei, Brotherhood of Darkness, and the Black Dragon.  Each faction has its own unique perks.  For example, each faction has its own set of fatalities that you can use, and there is a meta-war going on between the factions that you can actively be a part of.  You don’t even have to play against another person.  Everything you do as part of that faction goes towards the overall score for the faction.  It’s wild.  There are also a different set of finishing moves called brutalities that require you to meet certain criteria in order to execute them.  This truly adds to the replayability of the game.  There are also mainstays of previous games including a Test-Your-Might mode in which you have to smash certain objects by button-mashing essentially.  You get rewarded with gold coins.  If you fail, you get treated to a fatality.  It’s darkly humorous.  It’s gory, but it is funny at the same time.  You get gold coins for everything that you do in the game, including combos and fatalities and beating stuff.  Those coins can be used in the game’s Krypt mode, which lets you explore cemeteries, caves and temples.  You can unlock skins, fatalities, brutalities, concept art, music and some new Easy Fatality tokens and Skip Fight tokens.  The Easy Fatality thing is a major issue which I will discuss towards the end of the review.  It’s controversial, to say the least.

The game isn’t perfect, I can tell you that.  I had pre-ordered the game so I could get Goro as a playable character.  However, because I pre-ordered the game on Steam, which is a software platform for games that you can buy and download digitally, MKX was broken on release.  I’m not kidding.  Valve, the guys behind Steam, decided to try a new method of delivering games to their customers by essentially allowing them to play the game while it’s downloading.  It’s not necessarily a bad idea if executed properly.  Blizzard’s been doing it for years with Starcraft II and World of Warcraft.  They have it down to a science.  Valve has no idea what the hell they’re doing.  The game downloads in DLC packs.  DLC is Downloadable Content.  See, DLC is used to add stuff to a game that wasn’t in the initial release.  The problem with the PC release is that when the game pre-loaded, we got 3 gigs at the start, but the rest of the game didn’t start downloading until a couple of hours later.  When it did, and we were  allowed to start the game, it was broken.  Horrendously broken.  The only modes available were training and single fight.  The bulk of the game was NOT available at the time it was released.  So, most of the people, including myself got screwed at the beginning because Valve failed to test their new method properly.  A lot of people weren’t even able to start the game.  I didn’t get to play the game properly until around 5 PM that day, when they finally fixed the game.  Now, they fixed it relatively quickly, as it could taken about a week or so for most companies to get their shit fixed.  The damage had already been done.  Tons of people took to Steam and delivered either sarcastic reviews or just plain ripped on the developers and Steam for a such a botched release.  This is easily the single worst release for a Mortal Kombat game I’ve ever seen.  See, PC users don’t usually get a lot of fighting games.  That’s generally a console thing, so we have to take what we can get.  Another glaring omission is the lack of stage specific fatalities, where you can use the background as a way of murdering your opponent.  It’s been a staple of previous games, so the lack of it here is puzzling.

There’s another issue that isn’t just restricted to Mortal Kombat X, but it’s one that truly needs to be addressed.  I mentioned earlier that in the Krypt you can get tokens that will make performing fatalities easier.  For PS4 and XBox One users, there is DLC that you can purchase that will give you a certain number of Easy Fatality tokens.  For 99 cents, you get 5 tokens.  For 5 bucks, you get 30 tokens.  A lot people have issues with that because, when you use those tokens, they’re gone, until either you find more in the Krypt or you pay more.  That’s called a microtransaction and it really has no place in a triple-A title.  Another one is where you can pay 20 bucks and unlock EVERYTHING in the Krypt.  In the previous title, the DLC was limited to new characters which were NOT included on the disc.  The DLC for this game is ridiculous.  For DLC characters, we are getting Tanya from Mortal Kombat 4, we’re getting the Predator from the movies, Jason Voorhees and Tremor.  The characters I don’t have a problem paying for because some of them I really want.  But the skins, the tokens and the unlock I DO have a problem with.  It’s a blatant cash-grab.  That’s what it is.  This is not necessarily a developer issue, but it is definitely a publisher issue.  They get away with it because the consumers are willingly paying for it.  For a game like Mortal Kombat, though, I’m starting to see people lash out at these business practices.  Look, I have no problem with DLC as long as it’s substantially worth it.  All new characters?  Definitely worth it.  Skins?  Not so much.  This kind of business practice isn’t limited to Mortal Kombat X, but the game definitely highlights a major problem within the gaming industry.  The publishers aren’t the only ones at fault here.  You also have to blame the consumers for allowing it happen.  There is no single entity to blame for this fiasco.  I’m as much at fault for buying into this stuff as anybody, so I’m not a special snowflake.  I understand that the publishers are in it to make money, but nickel-and-diming the consumer isn’t really the most ethical way to go about.  Make no mistake, these publishers are nickle-and-diming us with these microtransactions and useless DLC.  The PC launch I can blame squarely on Valve, though.  That was a mess and it didn’t need to happen.

At the end of the day, Mortal Kombat X is a very solid and competent fighting game.  It’s loaded with content and visually spectacular.  It has a number of interesting modes and the faction thing is a very cool idea.  It’s very playable and for people familiar with Mortal Kombat, it’s easy to get into.  For people who are new to the series I would recommend going with an earlier title so you can actually develop a feel for the system and how the games work.  Honestly, though, you can’t really go wrong with MKX.  It’s a really good game, but a lot of factors keep it from making it a great game.  If you love the franchise, the game is a no-brainer, provided you don’t fall for the microtransaction BS.  NetherRealms Studios delivered another solid game, but Warner Bros. is starting to behave a lot like EA Games and I really wish they wouldn’t.  Personally, I would still recommend Mortal Kombat X despite some of the issues and controversies because it’s just that damn good.  It’s not perfect, no game truly is, but I feel the positive aspects of the game outweigh the negatives.  So what is my score for Mortal Kombat X?  A video game is a vastly different beast than a movie and I can’t treat them the same way.  A movie plays out the same way for everyone, so it’s easier to give a proper score.  People have different experiences playing a game, and don’t play it the same way, unless it’s Rambo: The Video Game.  But you shouldn’t be playing that turd anyway.  That’s my outlook on Mortal Kombat X, so if you disagree with me, feel free to leave a comment or question.


Released: November 2014

Director: Christopher Nolan

Run Time: 169 Minutes

Rated PG-13

Matthew McConaughey: Cooper
John Lithgow: Donald
Anne Hathaway: Brand
Michael Caine: Professor Brand
Wes Bentley: Doyle
David: Gyasi: Romilly
Matt Damon: Mann
Jessica Chastain: Murph
Topher Grace: Getty
Casey Affleck: Tom

I have a question I would to put to you all:  If the world as you knew it was coming to an end, and the only way to save mankind was to to find another planet to live on, would you do it?  The catch?  You would have to leave behind everything you have ever known and loved with the possibility of never coming back.  I want you to think about that question for a little bit.  I’ll address that a little later.  When 2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968, it changed the way we look at science fiction and how we saw our future in space.  It was slow, but deliberate.  It visually striking and dealt with the science of space travel fairly realistically.  This movie came out before we landed on the moon, so it was incredibly intriguing.  It was criticized for being too slow, but that was a deliberate choice on Stanley Kubrick’s part.  The film’s use of music, combined with the aesthetics of outer space made for a compelling space opera of sorts.  It’s not an action movie, so some people were turned away.  But the film we got was incredibly smart, beautiful and hypnotic.  It was the first film I reviewed for this website, and I consider 2001 to be one of the greatest science fiction movies ever made.  So, it seems interesting that my generation’s 2001 comes in the form of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.

Opening in a future after overpopulation and ecological disasters have reduced mankind’s workforce to farmers, including former NASA pilot, Cooper.  Faced with the possibility of not having food for the season, humanity seems to be on the brink of total annihilation.  After discovering coordinates in the form of binary codes, Cooper and his daughter, Murph find the location of a hidden NASA outpost.  This group of scientists have devised a plan to find another planet to inhabit as Earth appears to be dying.  As it happens, they have discovered a wormhole near the planet Saturn that appears to be a gateway to another galaxy.  Cooper just happens to be the best pilot that NASA had so they recruit him to pilot the ship that will explore the vast reaches of space in the hopes of finding a new home.  Torn between leaving his family behind and trying to save mankind, Cooper reluctantly agrees to pilot the craft.  Remember the question I asked earlier, about sacrificing everything to save humanity?  That question lies at the heart of Interstellar and makes for a compelling and human story.  While I enjoyed most of Christopher Nolan’s prior films, none of them have actually connected with me on an emotional level.  Interstellar does.  At the heart of the story is a man trying to do the right thing for his family, and that means leaving them behind for a greater good.

Christopher Nolan has always managed to get good performances from his actors in his other movies, but not like this.  The acting in this film is superb, and it really connects with you on an emotional level.  Matthew McConaughey anchors the film as Cooper.  We can tell that he really loves his family and is emotionally torn between being there for them and leaving the Earth to find a new planet, so they can have a future.  John Lithgow plays Donald, Coopers father-in-law and his voice of reason.  Michael Caine plays Professor Brand, the man who came up with the science and the plan to save humanity.  While he seems to be a regular in Nolan’s movies, Caine is in top form here.  Anne Hathaway plays his daughter who volunteers to be a part of the mission.  While she comes across as a bit stand-offish at first, you begin to see how she reacts to everything and it takes an emotional toll on her as well.  All the actors bring their A-game and as a result we have some of the greatest performances of 2014.  Getting the audience to truly connect with characters is fairly new ground for Christopher Nolan, but he has a talent for really making these people human.  So when they are faced with real dangers, we fear for them.  The best movies often have actors in roles that you can relate to because they seem so real, and the actors make it real.

It also helps that the visuals in Interstellar are well…..stellar.  This movie is a visual treat and you have to see it in high definition to really get the scope of what’s on screen.  The ship’s entry into the wormhole is one of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen.  It’s absolutely nuts.  When they emerge from the wormhole they try to land on a planet that’s covered in water.  Because it so close to a black hole, it has a huge effect on the tidal waves.  These things are MASSIVE.  It’s incredibly intense to see them try and get away.  There’s an ice planet that they visit that is stunning.  Iceland seems to be a very popular country to film movies like Interstellar and Oblivion.  Iceland offers a very bleak, desolate and yet extraordinarily beautiful landscape.  Even when the ship is passing by Saturn, you really get the feeling of being there in the ship when they pass by the rings.  It sends chills up your spine.  The visuals in the film are among the best I’ve ever seen.  The robots are also pretty cool.  Like 2001, Nolan wanted to make this movie as real as possible, so he hired theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to help out.  They’re dealing with a lot of unknowns when dealing astro-phsyics and quantum mechanics so some of that may be confusing for some people.  Some of that definitely went over my head, but it lends a little more authenticity and reality to what’s happening on the screen.

While the film definitely has intense moments, it’s by and large a drama set in outer space.  It just happens to work very well.  I made comparisons to 2001, but it’s really hard not to.  The film has a lot of detail in it, like 2001.  But some of the sequences don’t necessarily work that well.  I’m not going to spoil it, but towards the end of the movie, things get a little too weird.  Add on top of that, Nolan also indulges in one of the biggest cliches I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi movie: stranded survivor that isn’t who or what he appears to be.  I’ll say no more on that, other than it is a nail-biting scene.  It’s just not wholly original.  While the film is nearly 3 hours long, I didn’t really notice as it kept my attention.  But there are scenes that could have been trimmed a little bit.

The music by Hans Zimmer doesn’t disappoint.  It has very Phillip Glass-feel to it which makes it very hypnotic and intense.  It’s definitely not the usual shtick that Zimmer conjures up for his movies.  The music is absolutely unique and really adds to the emotion of the goings-on.  I’ve really become a huge fan of Hans Zimmer of the past decade because his music is usually grand and epic, but the music in Interstellar is different.  But that’s a good thing.  We don’t really want the same kind of stuff over and over.  While the film isn’t perfect, it still stands heads and shoulders above a lot of other movies that were released last year.  Interstellar is one of those movies that you have to see to believe.  It’s extraordinary in its scope and the performances by the actors outshine most of the movies in 2014.

I wrote this because NASA actually has a mission planned that will put men on Mars in the next 30 or so years.  It’s also a one-way trip, so the people who are volunteering for it will have to give up everything they have ever known for this venture.  I’ll be honest, I’m not sure I have the kind of courage that is required for such a massive undertaking.  But it’s an undertaking that needs to happen.  The tagline of Interstellar is “Man was born here, but it was not meant to die here.”  Space exploration is the last great frontier that we have yet to truly breach, and the potential for humanity to grow beyond its cradle is something that should inspire everyone.  I’ve always believe that our future as a species is not on Earth.  It can only sustain us for so long, so it’s only natural that we need to explore and expand into other parts of our solar system and the rest of the galaxy.  There is so much out there, that the odds of finding a planet much like our own is relatively high.  Maybe that’s just the optimist in me, but I think that space exploration should bring us together so we CAN have a future.  Interstellar gives a potential glimpse into such a future.  This movie is highly recommended.  I’m giving a 10/10.  This one is not to be missed.