What I’ve Been Watching: Interstellar


Science and fiction are two words that shouldn’t really belong together within a genre. Science, to give it its precise definition is “study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” That is, it deals with facts and that which is observable in some way. Fiction on the other hand deals with the imagination, things which are unknown and unobservable. What is it about the theories and practice of science that so provokes the imaginations of creators and audience members alike when it comes to science-fiction as a genre?

Interstellar is a film Spielbergian in its set-up (he was originally set to direct the film). There is a father, Cooper, (McConnaghey) doing his best to provide for his two children in the aftermath of a worldwide famine which has wiped out most of the world’s crops. With the earth becoming unsustainable for human life, Cooper, a former NASA pilot gets recruited to go on a mission to find other planets the people of earth could move to.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Gone Girl


I feel like I’ve written extensively on the subject of adaptations, covering it in my reviews of Life of Pi and The Great Gatsby for example. Adaptations are a strange and contradictory beast. All adaptations must balance being true to the spirit of the original work with the desire to bring creativity and imagination to their version of the story.

David Fincher is a director well suited to one of these two things. Whether with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Fight Club he knows how to successfully bring well-loved books to the big screen. However, I would argue the creativity and vision of a true auteur when doing so. He is the director a writer wants to work with since it will primarily be the writer’s version of events which ends up on the big screen (cf. Aaron Sorkin’s The Social Network).

In the case of Gone Girl, it is difficult to see any changes Fincher requested from Gillian Flynn’s book, since the two are virtually indistinguishable. The film relies entirely on the strength of the plotting, story and characters of the source material. This is by no means a bad thing, since the book is one of the most exhilarating and clever novels I have read in recent years. However, for me the experience does not differ much from merely re-reading the book.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Boyhood



Some ideas for films are so simple and wonderful one wonders why they haven’t been done before. Boyhood is the fictional account of a boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane), as he grows from boy of six to a man of eighteen. Filmed over a twelve-year period we see how him and his sister, Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s real-life daughter) change both in the sense of their personalities and physical forms. We also see how their concerns change from moving home and haircuts to romance and recreational drugs.

The story’s scope is not limited to Mason and his sister, however, we also see how his mother (Patricia Arquette) and father (Ethan Hawke) change and do their best to support their children in spite of the difficult circumstances that often arise.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Guardians of the Galaxy


Guardians of the Galaxy could come across as kind of an oddity in terms of Marvel’s films. It doesn’t open with a superhero coming to terms with their new abilities, neither is it based on earth, or is even concerned with earth (constantly referred to as “Terra” in the film). However, like other Marvel films it is an origin story, it’s just it’s concerned with the origin of a team, rather than the origin of a character’s abilities.

The film opens with Peter Quill aka Starlord (Chris Pratt) stealing an orb which everyone in the film wants their hands on. This includes Gamorrah (Zoe Saldana), Rocket the Racoon (Bradley Cooper), and Groot (Vin Diesel). However, their attempts to get if off Starlord land the four of them in jail. They attempt to escape and are helped by Drax (Dave Batista) who joins their newly formed merry crew.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Summer Blockbusters (Dragons, Apes and Mutants)

how-to-train-your-dragon-2-posterThis summer has left me somewhat busier than usual due to finding myself a Mrs Observealot to share my adventures in time and space with. Because of this I’ve not had the time to write up my thoughts and insights into many of the summer’s films I’ve been fortunate enough to catch.

Three of these films are X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and How to Train Your Dragon 2. All are big budget, high quality films, but more importantly thematically they actually have a surprising amount in common.

More so than most other big budget franchises, X-Men, Planet of the Apes, and How to Train Your Dragon are all about two rival groups and the struggle to find peace between them.

For this reason, all three films appealed to me as someone who grew up in Northern Ireland in the midst of such a struggle. Whether the ‘other’ are mutants, apes, or dragons there is a sense in these films that peace is a possible, if difficult, outcome, and the protagonists in all these films are all doing their hardest to bring reconciliation to their worlds.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Godzilla


In 2010, Gareth Edwards released Monsters, an indie film shot with a tiny cast and crew that was a great example of the kind of ambitious sci-fi film one could make for next-to no money. Now with a bigger budget, bigger crew, more famous cast, and possibly the biggest of big monsters comes Godzilla.

It’s a film that starts off promisingly. The action starts in Japan (as every good Godzilla movie should) where we see Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) lose his wife in an accident in the nuclear power station he’s working in. Cranston is told the accident was caused by an earthquake, but he begins to suspect a cover-up and starts to investigate.

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What I’ve Been Watching: Bad Neighbours


Bad Neighbours (or simply Neighbors if you’re of an American persuasion) is the latest Seth Rogen vehicle that in some ways is a spiritual sequel to Knocked Up in the sense that it sees his character coming to terms with the reality he is no longer young enough or irresponsible enough to be invited to the wildest parties.

In the film his character, Mac has a wife, Kelly (Rose Byrne), and a baby daughter Stella. The start of the film sees them having to cope with the realities of being young parents, such as not being able to drop everything to go out with their friends. However, these issues are brought all the more to the fore when a fraternity house moves in next door. Led by Teddy (Zac Effron) and Pete (Dave Franco), things quickly turn sour between the two households as the students want to party, and the family want a decent night’s sleep.

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