Gravity (2013)

Clear Skies With a Chance of Satellite Debris.

Gravity (2013)In my film criticism class, my professor practically beat us over the head with today’s movie.  Every day he would ask us if we had seen it yet.  The first time he asked us was probably the first I had heard about this movie.  It was just such a bland title and I had no real interest in the people starring in the movie.  But after a few weeks of this questioning, I felt like I just needed to see what all the hubbub was about.  And that’s what led me to see Gravity, written by Jonás Cuarón, co-written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, and starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Paul Sharma, and Orto Ignatiussen.

The crew of the Space Shuttle Explorer – veteran astronaut Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), flight engineer Shariff Dasari (Paul Sharma), and first-timer Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) – are on a routine mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope when an unexpected Russian mission strike on a defunct satellite starts a chain reaction of debris that heads straight for the Explorer.  When the debris reaches the Explorer, Shariff is killed and Dr. Stone is sent hurtling out into space, but Kowalski manages to recover her before it’s too late.  But their troubles are not over.  Their only hope is to make it to a Space Station and use its module to return to earth, but oxygen and fuel on Kowalski’s thruster pack is cutting their time window very close.

Okay.  I kind of see what the teacher was going on about.  This movie was very well done, but I wouldn’t actually put much stock into the story.  It was a pretty basic survival story.  IN SPACE!  But since they kept the story basic, I really couldn’t find that many issues with it.  The only issues I took were with the things that probably exist in real life that they used in the story.  Like fuck those Russians for starting all this shit in the first place.  You couldn’t give America a phone call just as a heads up?  I also take issue with whoever designed the doors on the space stations.  I understand there’s probably some pressure reason for them to fire open as fast as they do, but don’t you think it might be a little dangerous to have something fling open so fast in an area where people cannot stop themselves from travelling infinitely in a direction they are flung?  There simply must be hinge technology available that can reduce that potential problem.  There were also a few parts to the story I felt were unnecessary, such as Dr. Stone’s entire interaction with Aningaaq over the radio.  It also made me mad that these people wouldn’t just start speaking American like good, civilized folk!  They also had a little reveal with Kowalski as Stone was going unconscious at one point later in the movie that I wasn’t entirely shocked by as it seemed they had intended.

The real reason to see this movie is entirely how it was presented, and the credit should go to Alfonso Cuarón.  It’s gripping almost the entire way through.  At first I found myself worried by the fact that the camera movements were so disorienting and nauseating, but I imagine being in space would actually be pretty disorienting and nauseating.  I also noticed that they barely used sound in the movie, but then I remembered that in space no one can hear your soundtrack.  That’s a classic cliché!  There was one time that they played some music, and it kind of made me laugh, but that also might have been the relief I was feeling by that point.  It’s when Dr. Stone is standing up near the end of the movie.  The music they play (and how they film it) makes the simple act of standing up look so epic, but it kind of was by that point.  I then realized that I was being disoriented and nauseated from the edge of my seat, because that’s where the movie kept me.  Everything was a close call and a brush with death, and on more than one occasion they did more than get brushed by death.  They kissed death straight on the mouth.  If you were able to peel yourself from the moment long enough to look around, the movie was also very beautiful.  The Earth was in the background of most scenes, and looking at the aurora borealis (or whichever aurora they showed) from above was very beautiful.

The performances in this movie are another reason it works so well.  This is by far the best thing I’ve ever seen Sandra Bullock in, and I’ve seen Demolition Man!  But she really kissed this movie’s ass!  She was really good.  Granted, she mainly just had to be scared a lot, but she did that very well.  The only issue I took with her was that she perhaps gave up on trying to save someone in the movie a little too easily.  George Clooney was also very pleasant for what he did in the movie.  It really was more the Sandra Bullock show.  And that is it!  This has got to be the most limited cast movie I’ve ever seen.  This movie had a couple of other people involved in the cast, but most of them were voice only and the movie would’ve worked just as well without them.

Gravity is a fantastic movie.  The story is basic, but who cares because I was riveted the entire time with a nervousness I’ve scarcely felt for a movie I’m fully aware is completely fake.  This is not a movie for the weak-hearted or the weak-stomached, because I consider myself strong in constitution and even I was a little queasy in this movie.  And Sandra Bullock is better than I’ve ever seen her.  I don’t know if this movie is still in theaters, but if it is I recommend you go see it.  And if it isn’t, just go and buy it when it comes out.  Gravity gets “Either way, it’s going to be one hell of a ride” out of “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.”

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Apollo 13 (1995)

Houston, We’ve Had a Problem

I feel that not having seen a movie as classic as Citizen Kane until recently was excusable because I was nowhere near alive when it came out.  But for me to have not seen a classic movie such as today’s movie when it came out when I was 12 is a problem.  PROBLEM SOLVED!  I’ve now watched this movie.  I and the entire world had heard about this movie and the event it was based on for quite some time, AND it stars at least 2 people that could be in my list of top actors (as well as many others I like a lot), AND it was also directed by a great director, yet I hadn’t seen it.  I had not seen this movie until now because … uh … well okay, I have no idea why I didn’t see it.  I guess I just took my time.  And so, just over 16 years late, I present to you my review of Apollo 13, written by William Broyles and Al Reinert, directed by Ron Howard, and starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan, Clint Howard, David Andrews, Xander Berkeley, Miko Hughes, Mary Kate Schellhardt, Max Elliot Slade, and Emily Ann Lloyd.

Astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) is giving a tour of NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building when he gets informed that he and his crew – Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) – are getting their mission to the moon pushed up from Apollo 14 to Apollo 13.  Having just recently watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon during the Apollo 11, Lovell says he wants to get him some of that action.  During training, it is determined that Mattingly is unable to go because he was exposed to measles and may get sick mid-mission, so he is replaced by Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon).  They get all launched up and that’s when shit hits the fan … continuously for the next hour and a half.

Most people were probably well aware of this before I was, but this is a damned good film.  The story seems like one that would be hard to get wrong when you base your movie around a real life event that captured the attention of the world so thoroughly as it did, but they did not get it wrong.  They got it so right that it kind of bummed me out that I wasn’t alive to witness the world around this time, and even more so around the Apollo 11 time.  Instead, I got to grow up in the time where NASA says we’re not going to the moon anymore and, by the way, we’re gonna shit all over Pluto’s face and call it a bitch planet.  I don’t even know who you are anymore, NASA.  In fact, I’m not even going to capitalize your name anymore.  Anyways, this movie definitely tells nasa’s story with gusto.  It starts out perhaps a little slow, but once you get up into space, it really doesn’t waste very much time before it starts shoveling tension on to you, and it doesn’t really let you unclinch your anus until the last minute or so.  I also found it pretty amazing that this movie was able to turn something as boring as watching people do math and flick switches into something so riveting and engrossing.

You know what takes that there great story and elevates it so much?  PERFORMANCES!!  Tom Hanks, as it turns out, is Tom Hanks!  This dude is the best.  He always has the most real and emotional and charming portrayals of characters in the movies he’s in that you can’t help but love him and feel for him.  In this one, he really doesn’t overdo it and freak out as most of us would in his position.  I would lose my shit, at least that’s what nasa said when I tested to be an astronaut.  (Psst.  I cried and peed myself while filling out the application)  He was the glue of the team and, probably, the movie.  I love Ed Harris a lot too.  He had to keep his shit together and get everyone around him on task following these tragedies and didn’t allow himself to lose it until those astronauts were safe, finally breaking down into tears.  Paxton and Bacon were very good supporting characters on the mission, but they both let the events get to them and they freaked out a little, but Hanks put the kibosh on that nonsense.  I get the feeling that Hanks might not like Gary Sinise very much though.  Assuming (as I do) that he has control over the movies he’s in, he fucks with Sinise every time he’s in a movie with him.  What do you want to do to Gary in Forrest Gump?  Cut them legs off, and make him a drunken whore-monger while you’re at it.  What about Apollo 13?  It wouldn’t work to take his legs off.  Uh…give him the measles and make it so he can’t come into space.  Then tell him later he didn’t actually have measles.  Fuck you, Gary!  But Gary did bring it pretty well to the movie.  He was noticeably bummed out about not getting to be on the mission, but didn’t throw the whole “I was on Earth while you guys were counting the minutes to your deaths” back in their faces.  Instead, he kind of saved the day from the ground.  Hanks should really give this guy another chance.

The only thing I find more regrettable than not being alive when Apollo 13 and Apollo 11 actually went down was the fact that it took me so long to watch the awesome movie about it!  Apollo 13 is what happens when you take a real life event, retell it in an awesome, tension-filled way with a great director, and perform it superbly with actors who are supremely awesome.  There was not a part of this movie I did not like.  It’s available via Netflix streaming, so you too have no excuse to not be watching this movie right now save for the overwhelming compelling nonsense streaming from my fingers right now.  I will be purchasing this movie for my collection post haste, so you should in the very least be watching it streaming.  Apollo 13 gets “So long, Earth.  Catch you on the flip side” out of “Pluto, you’re still a planet to me.”

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The Abyss (1989)

RedBox and Netflix better start picking it up, I’ve got nothing new to watch! Oh well, that doesn’t mean I can’t watch some good movies. With over 1000 movies on my walls, I’m good to go for some time. Today, one of my favorites, The Abyss, starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn. Let’s dive right in! Yeah, that’s a pun alright.

The Abyss starts off with a nuclear submarine crashing near some giant chasm in the ocean. Ed Harris’ roughneck team of underwater oil drillers is called in to salvage it. They send down his ex wife (Mastrantonio) and some marines (One of them being Johnny Fuckin’ Ringo himself, Michael Biehn). They salvage the warhead and, while doing so, they see this shiny purple alien thing that looks like a gay nightclub. Then, Biehn starts going Depth Nuts (They have some technically name for it, but I forgot it. Suffice to say the depth makes him nuts) Biehn commandeers the ship and tries to send the warhead down into the trench to destroy the aliens for no reason other than he’s completely depth nuts. Then Ed Harris has to fix it.

I really like this movie. The acting is all pretty solid. Biehn is once again really good at crazy. The slow progression of his depth nutsness is great to watch, even up until the end of it when he’s cutting himself like a melodramatic teenaged girl. Mastrantonio is great in the movie, but I’m confused by her. I assume the 80’s thought she was attractive. Well you get to see her boobs at one point, so there’s that. Also, for Scrubs fans, Dr. Bob Kelso has a brief bit in this movie, though I hadn’t noticed the first time I saw it because I hadn’t seen Scrubs yet. I feel like Harris’ team in this movie could have easily been the inspiration for Bruce Willis’ team in Armageddon, as Armageddon takes the same basic principles. Roughneck group of oil drillers enlisted by the government because they’re the best darn oil drillers ever. Everyone doubts them, but then they end up being better at it than the military. There’s also a fight scene between Biehn and Mastrantonio in these underwater submersibles that is quite possibly the most peaceful chase scene on film.

There is a gripe to be had with the movie though, and that’s the ending, so skip this paragraph until you’ve seen it or decided you don’t care. ::SPOILER ALERT:: So the entire movie is this really claustrophobic movie with the tension building and building between the drillers and the depth nuts that kind of comes to a head with the defeat of Biehn, but then it goes on a little more till Harris has to go disarm the nuke that Biehn sent after the aliens. He does and is fixing to die at the bottom of the abyss and is then rescued by the aliens, who basically show him they were about to lay the smackdown on humanity for all our feudin’ and a fussin’, but they decide not to because Harris said he loved his wife when he was about to die. So it’s totally Deux Ex Machina with a little ham-fisted “No more war” message tacked on at the very end.

That all being said, I still dig this movie. I give it a “Watch them shits” out of 568.