At The Movies With Javid #27

TOP FIVE (2015)

Before I watched Top Five it was described to me second hand as ‘the black man’s Birdman’. Given the positive reception of the latter I can see why people went with that phrase, but I didn’t like Birdman very much, so it wasn’t enticing.

I can see the similarities. Top Five is a movie that ambles along, telling the story of an actor/comedian, played by Chris Rock. He used to be funny and considered relevant with a successful comedy movie franchise, but has faded into the background as he tries to get support for a serious film he’s made.

It follows a day in the life of Rock’s character, as does a New York Times interviewer.

You see, Rock is marrying a reality star, and of course questions exist about whether it’s meaningful or if it’s just an attempt to make each of them relevant for a little while longer. His film is being panned and people keep asking for the next film in the franchise. Yes, the premise is very similar to Birdman, but it’s an entirely different film.

Unlike Birdman we get a deeper insight into the character than a voice and drums in his head. We don’t just learn where he came from – we see it. While the interview may be an overly simple way of finding out a lot about the protagonist, you feel like it’s all worth learning. We’re taken out and about, as opposed to Birdman’s limited confines.

There are bits that are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, bits that are emotive, bits that everyone can relate to. While Keaton’s character in Birdman is cynical and somewhat unlikeable, Rock’s character comes across as an ordinary guy. He feels more real.

There are a host of differences between Top Five and Birdman, but the biggest is that Top Five didn’t forsake the script and characters for technical grandeur. 8/10

INTERSTELLAR (2014)

"Did I lock the back door? Shit.."

“Did I lock the back door? Shit..”

Matthew McConaughey in space? It didn’t sound like the most enticing prospect but I gave Interstellar a go anyway. From now on I’m calling him Farmer Joe because I can’t be bothered typing the last name anymore.

It’s the future, and the world is full of dust. YET NO ONE SNEEZES. Of all the somewhat unbelievable things that happen in this movie, that’s the one that outrages me most. Dust storms are a regular occurrence coating houses, cars, and towns in inches-thick layers of dust – AND NO ONE SNEEZES! WHAT?!

Farmer Joe and his kids live on one of few remaining farms. He’s a damn good farmer. It turns out he’s also a DAMN GOOD ROCKET DRIVER, which is handy because scientists have one last hope for the future of humanity, and no one to drive the damn thing! Of course he has to leave his kids behind in the knowledge that he’ll probably never see them again, but oh well.

There’s a big wormhole out near Saturn, and (thankfully, to save time) some people have already been sent out to look for inhabitable planets. Three candidates have been marked, and now it’s up to Farmer Joe and co to suss them out and see if they’re fit for us to mess up.

The first three-quarters of the movie, which involves discovering the mission and sussing out some of the planets, is brilliant, even if it does whizz over things at the start. The space scenes give us an impression of what 2001: A Space Oddyssey would look like today – the absence of sound is done well and it looks great. The characters are all simple enough.

Time becomes a factor in many ways, particularly in the last quarter of the film. Wormholes, black holes, time dilation, physics, spirituality, it gets awfully conceptual awfully quick (although you could say the last ten minutes of 2001 does too).

It picks up the pace rapidly, and needs attention. The movie is nearly three hours long and just before the ending parts start you realise it starts to feel that long too, which makes the final parts even more contrasting. I was personally underwhelmed, but it obviously needed time to sink in.

Reflecting on it later, I tried poking holes in it to convince myself I didn’t like it, but it turns out I did. I thoroughly enjoyed a very large part of Interstellar. I didn’t like the ending personally but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an apt one, or that it made no sense. It was a fitting ending, I just didn’t like it.

It’s an epic tale, well told, and that’s the most important part. 8/10

PADDINGTON (2014)

Gee, I wonder what happened.

Gee, I wonder what happened.

Racism, xenophobia, animal cruelty, conservation, the struggle of the middle class, the drug trade, the weather in London – all controversial topics that are all dealt with in some way in Paddington if you look deep enough.

You probably shouldn’t.

Hooray for the re-hash of another childhood memory, made to cash in on our nostalgia and the desire to keep children quiet for a little while. I can’t wait for Gumby to come back.

Fish out of water? More like bear out of jungle as a creepy-but-adorable looking Paddington makes his way to London looking for an explorer after his home is wrecked and his grandfather is killed (although we never see the body, which left me waiting for a plot twist).

What follows are socially-awkward moments, and harrowing Dickensian scenes of a bear with a marmalade addiction left on his own.

Thankfully the children and wife of some poor fool decide to take a talking bear into their home (because that’s what people do), where he starts to wreak havoc and do a great job of not fitting in – because who needs cultural hegemony!?

Nicole Kidman plays the horribly archetypal taxidermist who wants to kill Paddington and stuff him. I like Nicole Kidman, boing! I wanted to make a sexist joke involving the word stuffing but I’m not quick enough today.

After deciding the family would be better off without him, Paddington gets captured, things happen, everyone learns the true value of love and family (because who needs money) and he turns the family home into a marmalade manufacturing plant

It’s nostalgic, the graphics are very impressive, Nicole Kidman is hawt – they’re all good things about Paddington.

But the story, the characters, all the turning points, they’re incredibly predictable and have been done a thousand times. Nostalgia only goes so far. 5/10

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