Christopher Nolan’s reverence for “2001: A Space Odyssey” is evident throughout “Interstellar” (wide release), which references Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece so often that it would not be amiss to call it a homage.
But while the earlier film was wordless for long stretches and deliberately enigmatic, Nolan’s is verbose, trying to explain everything that happens in genuinely scientific terms. As a result, it lacks the sense of mystery and awe that permeates its model, coming across as heavy-handedly literal instead.
Matthew McConaughey is efficient but little more as a former NASA pilot picked to head a mission into a newly-discovered wormhole that could lead to a planet capable of supporting human life — a desideratum, since Earth has become so parched that it can no longer produce the food needed to support its dwindling population.
Accompanied by a pretty fellow astronaut (a stiff Anne Hathaway) as well as a robot that looks suspiciously like a monolith until it unwraps itself to amble about, widower McConaughey leaves behind his children in order to investigate potential candidates for humanity’s new home. He must also contend with another NASA explorer (Matt Damon) who had been sent through the wormhole years earlier.
Meanwhile his daughter (Jessica Chastain), who has aged at a much faster rate than he has, awaits his return with no little anger over his abandonment of her. “Interstellar” is often visually breathtaking, especially when viewed in the big-screen Imax format. And in terms of sound it is positively overpowering.
But all the dialogue about the theory of relativity, gravitational singularities and fifth dimensions eventually grows wearying, and it still cannot keep the uplifting ending from being confused and more than a little ridiculous. The close of Kubrick’s film frustrated some viewers as well, but it was on another artistic level altogether. Nolan’s ambition in “Interstellar” is clear, but his reach has exceeded his grasp.
“Big Hero 6”
Disney’s new animated 3-D family film “Big Hero 6” (wide release) is essentially a boys’ adventure story in modern dress, in which a young boy bonds with a cuddly robot that looks like a cross between the Pillsbury Doughboy and the Michelin Man. And when a masked villain appears to threaten the city, he uses his engineering skills to transform the naïve, childlike machine — as well as some human pals — into superheroes who can overcome the menace.
The first half of the movie is quite charming, and if the story grows more conventionally action-oriented in the later reels, it still remains likable to the end.
“The Great Invisible”
The Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 is revisited in Margaret Brown’s sober, thoughtful documentary “The Great Invisible” (Angelika).
The film is almost equally divided between an account of the disastrous explosion on British Petroleum’s offshore rig — using archival footage and testimony from two survivors, both of them psychologically traumatized as well a physically injured — and reflections on the continuing impact of the oil spill on the Gulf Coast, in terms of both the ecology and the lives of local residents. With an amusingly garrulous church volunteer as a guide, we meet impoverished fisherman who have yet to receive the compensation they were initially promised and observe the environmental damage that still hasn’t been properly addressed.
To provide ironic contrast, the film offers footage of oil executives at industry conventions conversing over drinks and cigars or bidding millions at government auctions for the right to build hundreds more rigs in the Gulf though it is still reeling from the BP spill.
Since the American people’s attention span has grown very short as the nation lurches from one crisis to the next, “The Great Invisible” performs a service by reminding us of a major disaster that is no longer at center stage.
Keira Knightley scrunches up her face a lot and flails about almost hysterically as the heroine of “Laggies” (wide release), a mediocre romantic comedy about a 28-year-old woman at a standstill in her life, uncertain about whether she should take a job or stay with her longtime boyfriend.
Her idiotic solution is to take a week off and crash with a high school girl she has just met. In the process she becomes a surrogate mom and shares romantic feelings with the kid’s divorced dad.
Sam Rockwell is agreeably loose as the new man in the immature woman’s life, but otherwise “Laggies” is just as feeble as the many movies — often starring Seth Rogen — about guys who have a similar problem with arrested development.