Sunday, 28 June 2009

Interstate 60 review

There is something about finding a random movie that I've never heard of before, watching it and realising that it's not just a good film, but I actually feel so priviliged to have seen it, because now I want everyone else I know to see it!

The best way to find these random movies? Always go by actor or director. I have a list of actors that I think will generally do original, unusual films that are more likely to be one of these unknown gems. Yesterday was a Gary Oldman effort (a good sign to begin with as he is my absolute favourite of all the actors in my list).

The film was Interstate 60. The setup was possibly one of the least original out there. James Marsden is Neal. a young man trying to work out what he wants to do with his life. Deep down he wants to be an Artist but finding himself constantly rejected from Art schools around the country because he's "the wrong sex, the wrong colour and his family have too much money". His forceful father has decided that Neal is going to become a lawyer. At his birthday dinner a discussion occurs as to what Neal's birthday wish was. A waiter at the restaurant convinces Neal to tell his wish. Neal wishes for 'an answer'.

Moments later Neal is knocked out and wakes up in a hospital. Here's where the story takes a turn to the fantastical and where it really begins to set itself apart. Neal finds himself seeing billboard signs that aren't there. These signs lead Neal to a mysterious man, with a rather suspicious delivery job. Neal takes the job and begins a cross-country road trip down the unmapped, unknown Insterstate 60. A cavalcade of strange and unusual characters appear on this journey, beginning with the exceptionally odd O.W. Grant - the 'waiter' from the restaurant. Grant informs Neal that this road trip is his wish come true. Throughout his Journey Neal comes across a town where raves and addictive drugs are legal, a town filled with nothing but Lawyers, the Museum of Art Fraud and a variety of other strange places and people.

The script is witty and Neal comes across as a guy who, despite seeming filled with indecision, is actually very clear on his views and who has a moral code that in this day and age seems almost as exceptional as the magical Interstate. Oldman manages to give Grant a whimsical charm, mixed with an underlying sense of danger and the supporting cast all exhibit extreme, odd characters in such a way that you actually recognise many facets of humanity found in everyday life. Chris Cooper in particular stands apart. A former ad exec with strict views on telling the truth and a disturbing way of ensuring compliance from those who don't share in those views.

This film was great fun to watch, hugely involving and inspiring in that it's ultimate message seems to be less about attaining dreams and more about the experiences you get from following them. The ability of the Interstate to experience multiple times and events that occur, don't occur, will occur and could have occured leads to a third act twist that really backs up the idea that any decision can have unexpected consequences. It is, naturally, this twist that really forces Neal to reevaluate his life and make 'the right choice'.

Some films shove morals down your throught, some avoid messages and rely solely on spectacle or quirky ideas. Interstate 60 manages to be both inspiring, amusing, exciting and thought-provoking, whilst appearing to be little more than a few quirky ideas thrown into a road trip movie.

This was a perfect film to help me cope with that morning after feeling as it didn't have a confusing storyline, but it did keep me guessing and the intelligent humour definitely cheered up my day!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Going where many have gone before...

Great weekend. More specifically, great trip to cinema. So great that I thought I would right a little review.

I saw Star Trek on Sunday evening and I've gotta say... I may have been swayed a little. Alright, a lot.

Firstly, for a film to get me interested, having an explosion in the first 5 minutes really doesn't hurt!

What really surprised me by Trek was that along with suddenly being thrust into a massive space battle, you're also very quickly thrust into a highly emotional moment. I expected a few things from Star Trek, but tearing up during the opening sequence was not one of them.

Abrams is clearly a man who knows his action sequences, as if we couldn't tell from the excellent Alias and Cloverfield. That is why, whether you are a Trek fan or not, this should keep any sci-fi / action movies fan happy. There is little in the way of dragging, expositional scenes. instead, when the action drops, drama rises and tension flows from the screen almost continuosly (apart from the occasional comic relief, provided, unsurprisingly, by Simon Pegg and also through the rather engaging relationship between Kirk and Bones. Their close, gently mocking friendship plays beautifully and provides a sense of fun that would be desperately needed were we to be left with only the antagonistic relationships between Spock/Kirk and Uhura/Kirk.

The one draw back was that with such a varied, large cast of key characters, combined with a surprisingly complex storyline, a few people did get left behind, with only a handful of scenes between them.

Sulu (John Cho) and Chekov (Anton Yelchin) suffered mostly from this, as did Scotty (Simon Pegg).

However, everyone had their moment (I had a Star Trek fan on hand to explain the sly nods to the original series / actors) and all the lines that even I know were included.

Pine gave a solid performance as Kirk, but to my mind this film really belongs to Zachary Quinto as Spock.

While Kirk ticks every box in the 'How-to-construct-a-hero' list (Dead parent, rebellious attitude, ladies man etc.) Spock is a character that simply demands your attention. Quinto manages to imbue Spock with an underlying sense of fear and uncertainty that are in direct confliction with the outer quiet confidence he allows his shipmates to see. Combined with the rarely referenced relationship that he has with Zoe Saldana's Uhura Spock is a constant mystery. He manages to switch from calm, practical and closed-off, to a complete explosion of fury and pain in nanoseconds during one key confrontation with Kirk halfway through.

All in all, I am very much hoping for another film with these actors and Abrams back in the Director's saddle. Who knows, I may even go back and watch the original series. I'm told they're rather good...