Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping


The film industry is unlike any other business on earth. The general economic rule is if you make a good product, and if there is demand for such a product, people will buy it. And then you’ll be successful and live out the rest of your days in a Spanish villa. But it seems to be the exact opposite in the film industry. It is completely unpredictable. The best product may flop, while a mediocre one will capture the public’s imagination and make truckloads of cash. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is one of those good products that inexplicably flopped, despite good reviews, a solid cast, and songs about “Ibitha” and Bin Laden. Okay, re-reading the end of that last sentence may explain why it didn’t do so well.

Created by The Lonely Island, the satirical songwriting trio who wrote most of Saturday Night Live’s best “Digital Shorts” (looking at you, “Dick in a Box”), the film sticks to their most beloved target: the absurdity of the popular music industry.

Conner (Andy Samberg), used to be part of a boy band known as the Style Boyz before breaking out as a solo artist. Of the remaining Style Boyz, one is his DJ (Jorma Taccone) and the other left the music scene entirely to become a farmer (Akiva Schaffer). The film follows the typical behind-the-scenes story: Conner is coming out with his second album, sales aren’t going as well as expected, his manager is nervous, and a new upstart is edging in on his territory. It also has atypical stuff like wolf attacks, bee attacks, giant robot heads, and a magic trick gone awry.

Like how This is Spinal Tap skewers rock music, Popstar decimates pop music and its artificiality. It’s the funniest comedy to come out in a long time. See it before everyone else does. And don’t watch the trailer.

Grade: B+


TIFF2016: The Belko Experiment


It’s the steel doors that keep Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) from thinking its a practical joke. Heavy and impenetrable, they cover every window and exterior door in the Belko building, trapping the 80 employees inside. Only minutes earlier an ominous voice on the intercom told them they had to choose three employees to kill. The COO (Tony Goldwyn) doesn’t take it seriously. It’s just a practical joke, he says to calm down his staff. Someone’s just taking the piss, so take it easy, have some water and enjoy being away from your desk for awhile. But then people start dying. And the ominous voice comes back on: phase one complete; moving on to phase two.

Equal parts Battle Royale and The Office, The Belko Experiment takes office politics to an extreme, and incredibly violent, level. It doesn’t matter whether they’re a mechanic, chef, salesman, janitor, computer programmer, or executive. Once the thin veneer of job titles that they hide behind are stripped away the characters are left with a simple choice: kill or be killed. Obviously, this being a Midnight Madness movie, the characters don’t sit around waxing philosophical about the immorality of the situation or how quickly we give in to our survival instinct; they start grabbing knives, blowtorches, pistols, shovels, staplers, and anything else that resembles a weapon and begin spilling blood.

Wisely, the characters in the film are categorized into three groups: the staunch pacifists, the reluctant participants, and the scarily enthusiastic thugs. Throughout the nightmare, office employees float between these groups – often selfishly joining the one that offers them the greatest chance of survival at that moment. It’s fun to see how the different approaches play out – such as the pacifists trying to get the attention of the outside world to circumvent the whole “killing each other” thing to the thugs rationalizing their brutality by saving employees with kids but then coldly murdering the elderly (and anyone who disagrees with them, or that they just plain don’t like).

This clever distinction between the characters is all but abandoned for the inevitable gruesome showdown in Phase Three, which despite all the creative killings and unrelenting chaos, starts to feel a bit repetitive when everyone is acting like a monster.

The Belko Experiment has a great premise, diverse characters, thrilling action, close calls, and makes you wonder what you would do in such a scenario. Probably just hide in a ventilation shaft.

Grade: B+

Sidenote: There’s some stomach-churning scenes when employees are lined up against a wall to be executed. Even though I’m pretty jaded when it comes to movie violence (it’s all make-believe after all), it was pretty hard to watch weeping co-workers face the inevitable end of their lives at the hands of their friends and colleagues. I prefer violence coming from over-the-top caricatures rather than the coldly calculating perpetrators that seemed all too real in these scenes.


TIFF 2016: I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House


Lots of staring, and not much else in I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House.

This past week I met someone from the Ontario Film Authority. That’s the not-for-profit company that classifies films for distribution in the province. These are the people who get paid to watch movies – and then classify it as “PG”, “14A”, “18A” etc. I asked if there were any openings, as that sounds like my dream job. How hard could it be to watch an ultra-violent Quentin Tarantino movie and report back that it’s probably not great for kids under 18 to see it? I could be making cash hand over fist. Alas, she brushed aside my job request and told me that’s not actually as great as it sounds. “There’s a lot of crap out there,” she said, referring to the thousands of less-than-stellar movies that have to be rated every year. She must have been thinking of I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House when she said that.

This time last year I saw Osgood Perkins’ debut feature February (now inexplicably titled The Blackcoat’s Daughter on IMDb) and was very positive about it – even if, judging by the IMDb rating, I’m in the minority of those who liked it. I’m not a fan of his sophomore effort. It’s presented as a haunted house story about Lily (Ruth Wilson), a nurse looking after a dying horror novelist (Paula Prentiss) whilst being occasionally tormented by a ghost. However, more accurately, it’s a one-woman film following Lily mumbling under her breath, fiddling with the dials on an old television set and trying to gather the courage to read a horror novel called The Woman in the Walls which – surprise – is literally what the haunting is about.

Most one-actor films have some sort of gimmick – there’s Buried (set entirely in a coffin), Locke (set entirely in a car), and Cast Away (set mostly, but not entirely, on a deserted island). While this film seems to fit the mold – being set entirely in a country home – it misses a key part of the one-actor film: they still talk to other people. In Buried and Locke, the leads spend the entire film talking to other people on the phone, trying to make sense of their situation and solve the problems they find themselves in. Likewise, Cast Away creates a character – the lovable Wilson volleyball – for Tom Hanks to talk to. Let’s just say the only scene of Lily talking with another person – and having that other person intelligently answer her – involves a discussion about mold removal. Other than that, it’s back to our regular mumble-to-myself programming.

It’s not scary (a constant voice-over cuts out any tension – for example, there’s the typical scene where Lily walks by an open doorway and doesn’t notice – gasp – the ghost that the audience does…only to have her voice-over immediately cut in to say: “I didn’t notice the ghost that night but saw her later on”), it’s lazy (it uses the same jump-scare twice…watch out for that television screen!), and worst of all, pretentious. There’s lots of Terrence Malick-esque rhetorical voice-overs about ghosts and repetition of the line “The pretty thing you see is me”, which upon reflection, seems a tad narcissistic.

The correct title of this film should be I Am the Pretty Bored Nurse that Lives in the House and Avoids Talking to Other People, unless it’s about Mold.

Grade: F

Sidenote: The film starts off with a good hook when Lily (in voice-over) states: “I just turned 28. I won’t live to see 29.” Creepy stuff. And then the next scene – this is after her very first day in the house, mind you – has the estate manager (Bob Balaban) checking in on her and saying that she’s been in the house over eleven months now. So the film fast forwards from day one to day 330. I guess nothing interesting happened in those eleven months. It’s too bad they didn’t fast forward any further; nothing interesting happens in the last month of Lily’s life either.

TIFF 2016: Colossal


The first time we see Gloria (Anne Hathaway) she’s apologizing to her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) for staying out all night. It’s clear she’s a bit of a mess as she  stumbles into the apartment and tries to balance herself against the wall. Tim complains that he only ever gets to see her when she’s hungover. I can only guess that Tim isn’t much for parties, otherwise they might be able to be hungover together. Alas, this is one alcoholic binge too many and Gloria is sent packing – back to her hometown to ostensibly “find herself.”

What she finds is an old friend (Jason Sudeikis) and a limitless supply of booze – he’s the owner of the town’s bar. The stage is set for a alcohol-soaked romance between the two with some challenges and life lessons along the way, until that romantic comedy premise is derailed when a gigantic Godzilla-like monster attacks Seoul. Oops. Let’s just say the monster attacks are connected to Gloria’s homecoming and overshadows the film’s earlier “will-they or won’t they” story line.

Colossal is an unpredictable film. It’s a buffet of different genres – the aforementioned romantic comedy, an addiction drama, tones of a 90s-esque thriller, sci-fi monster movie and a shaggy dog hang-out picture. It may sound like the tone of the film is all over the place, but the central concept – as absurd as it may be – grounds the plot so that all the developments feel organic, if unexpected. It’s an entertaining ride throughout.

But it’s not perfect. The characters are drawn a little thinly, and it would have helped to flesh them out a bit more. It’s not entirely clear what Gloria’s past relationship with Sudeikis was – they were friends, but good friends? Were they only close in elementary before drifting apart in high school and losing touch after? Did they have a “thing” together? It’s all rather hazy, which may be reflective of Gloria’s perception of life (she often doesn’t remember conversations she’s had the night before, or the people she was with). However, some of the climatic moments of the film require understanding who these characters are and why they’re damaged. Lacking defined characters ends up limiting the impact of the twists that come later – and the motivation behind them.

I guarantee Colossal is something that you’ve never seen before. Where else will you hold your breath watching two drunk adults fighting in a schoolyard playground and hope that the people of Seoul will be okay?

Grade: B+

Sidenote: With gender-swapped remakes all the rage right now, I wouldn’t mind seeing Single White Female remade with Jason Sudeikis in the Jennifer Jason Leigh role.


99 Homes

andrew garfield 99 homes

Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) in “99 Homes.”

I saw 99 Homes almost two years ago at TIFF 2014 and haven’t been able to shake it. It’s a powerful film about the 2008 financial crisis – told from the point of view of the hundreds of thousands of families who were evicted from their homes after the housing bubble burst. It is a perspective that has been unfairly overlooked in films about this subject – which prefer to focus on the big financial firms, their executives, and the role they played in bringing about the collapse. This is a movie about the people that were destroyed along the way, which can’t be neatly compartmentalized in graphs or pie charts.

Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is a construction worker who supports his mother (Laura Dern) and young son (Noah Lomax). They live in a small, but beloved, house in Florida. There’s a knock on the door and Dennis answers. It’s a sheriff and Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), an e-cigarette smoking real-estate broker. Dennis is told that he and his family are being evicted and that he has two minutes to pack his personal belongings. It’s not a pretty scene. Director Rahim Bahrani (who Roger Ebert proclaimed to be the next great American director) keeps the camera tight while the family goes through a gamut of emotion – shock, disbelief, anger, and then finally, scrambling to put some of their belongings in a duffel bag before they’re literally kicked to the curb. It’s powerful and heartbreaking.

The family moves to a motel, occupied by dozens of other families in similar situations. Without any other options for work (obviously, being skilled at home-building wasn’t an asset during this time) Dennis ends up being employed by Carver, evicting other innocent families from their homes. While it’s an obvious bit of plotting (normal guy makes a deal with the devil and his morality suffers), Michael Shannon is compelling as the unapologetic and amoral opportunist. He is so good in the role that it’s not only believable, but practically understandable, that Dennis becomes his protege. I just wish that the shades of grey extended to Dennis’ family, who end up viewing the world in such a black-and-white way that you can see the strings of the screenplay guiding them.

The film’s climatic moment is a quiet speech by Shannon about how there’s no nobility in being poor. It’s outrageously cynical and bitter, and a difficult pill for the 99% movement (clearly evoked by the film’s title) to swallow. Carver’s point is clear: no one cares what the “losers” think – America is a country built for the “winners.” And even though the “losers” may occupy the moral high ground, they can keep it. What’s the moral high ground worth when you don’t have shelter and can’t feed your family? It’s a brutal and depressing position, delivered so well that it’s astounding Michael Shannon is consistently overlooked by the Oscars (move over Sad Leo memes, the Sad Michael memes shall be born…if he ever gets nominated again).

99 Homes is the perfect counter-point to the slick fun of The Big Short. There are no celebrity cameos to describe obscure financial terms, a star-studded ensemble, or a sense of good triumphing over evil. Instead it’s a movie about the people on the ground, the people who just have to endure a system that doesn’t care about them, that they don’t understand, and that takes their homes away from them.

Grade: B+

The Big Short


If you saw the Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg 2010 comedy The Other Guys, you may have noticed something a little bit “off” about the end credits. While the feature was a typical over-the-top comedy (Ferrell and Wahlberg play “odd couple” partners who inadvertently solve a major case despite plenty of hijinks along the way), the end credits took a surprisingly serious turn with facts and figures from the 2008 financial crisis. After the fun and lightheartedness of the film itself, the end credits splashed a dose of cold water on the whole thing. It was clear that the people behind the film were justifiably outraged about the crisis and the fact that no one in the financial industry suffered any consequences for their creation of the whole mess. It felt like a message to the audience – if you thought this comedy was outrageous and unbelievable, just look at how nuts the real world is. So for those who saw The Other Guys, it probably wasn’t that surprising that Adam McKay, the director of that movie and other acclaimed comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers, was tackling a dramatization of Michael Lewis’ 2010 book The Big Short.

Essentially, the film is about a select group of financial outsiders who realize that the mortgage-backed securities market is destined to crash (like a Jenga game, which the film uses as a nice visual metaphor) and decide to place big bets to make a fortune off of the disaster. The outsiders are played by Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, and Ryan Gosling, among others. And yes, these are the heroes of the film.

In arguably the film’s most important scene, Brad chastises our “heroes” after they confirm their suspicions that the whole real estate market is being run by idiots. They giddily jump up and down on the floor, until they are reminded (by Brad, the only unambiguously good man in the movie, of course) that what they are celebrating is the collapse of the American economy. That sobers their celebration pretty quickly.

That’s the scene that stuck out for me from The Big Short. Are these characters heroes? It’s nice that they’re outraged and indignant about the reckless greed of Wall Street, but they profit off that very arrogance and recklessness. At the end of the film, only two groups emerge unscathed: the Wall Street firms that are bailed out after brokering the whole mess in the first place, and our heroes, who vastly multiply their bank accounts.

The Big Short tackles the same themes as The Wolf of Wall Street, but whereas Scorsese’s film felt like a chocolate sundae this one is a steaming helping of broccoli. Its frustration with the financial system is its greatest strength, but the heavy-handedness with which it tells the tale leaves the film feeling a bit like an after-school special.

Grade: B-

Side note: I have to commend The Big Short for characters breaking the fourth wall to address that some events that play out onscreen didn’t actually happen, but make for better drama. A refreshing acknowledgement to take the film, although based on facts, with a grain of salt.

TIFF 2015 Review: Anomalisa


The back of Michael Stone’s head in “Anomalisa”

I feel like Michael Stone. The protagonist in Anomalisa has a unique ailment – everyone he sees has the same face and speaks with the same voice. It’s called Fregoli syndrome, apparently. To him, the whole world is just one person. It’s frustrating, confusing, and depressing. But then there’s Lisa – and Stone can see her and hear her as an individual. She’s an anomaly. An Anoma-Lisa. This movie’s supposed to be an anomaly, but I can’t see it.

Utilizing puppets and stop-motion animation, the film takes place over a twenty-four hour period at the fictional Fregoli hotel in Cincinnati, where Michael Stone (David Thewlis) stays on the eve of giving a speech about customer service at a conference. The other characters he encounters are flat, lifeless, and speak in a perpetual monotone, all voiced by Tom Noonan. They all have the same face, and the purpose of using puppets is clear – their blank faces, abnormal movements, and indistinguishable bodies emulate, and emphasize, what it would be like to have this condition. But the use of puppets isn’t exactly necessary. A thematically similar scene in Being John Malkovich (also scripted by Charlie Kaufman) does the same thing, but was performed in live action with CGI. It would’ve been more effective if this film was in live action as well – the use of puppets distances the audience from the material and is a constant reminder of a much better puppet film –  yes, Team America: World Police.

I can’t figure out what’s so enjoyable or thought-provoking about this movie. The comedic material is tired and third-rate with obvious observations like: what’s the deal with keycards that never seem to work, why is hotel shower water always too hot or too cold, and which telephone button do I use to order room service?  The protagonist is an unlikeable twat who looks up an old girlfriend for a one-night stand, and when that doesn’t work, has one with Lisa instead. The “groundbreaking” puppet sex scene is a poor man’s retread of the sex scene in Team America. It’s a slice of life movie with characters you would never want to hang out with in real life, but have to suffer with through the film’s interminable running time of ninety minutes. There can be beauty in the mundanities of life, but Anomalisa doesn’t find it.

This was the most disappointing movie of TIFF for me. Charlie Kaufman is a brilliant screenwriter who has created three of my favourite films of all time. But Anomalisa doesn’t go any further than its high concept premise. Michael Stone is depressed because he can’t understand anyone else. I can’t understand what anyone else sees in this movie.

Grade: D

The Hunt


Mads Mikkelsen in “The Hunt.”

Innocent until proven guilty is supposed to be the hallmark of the criminal justice system. The prosecution has to prove – beyond a reasonable doubt – that the accused actually committed the crime that he or she is accused of. At least that’s the theory.

The Hunt is a searing dramatic example of this basic failure. Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre from Casino Royale, Hannibal from the excellent television show…Hannibal) is a quiet, friendly kindergarten teacher named Lucas. The kids love him and he has strong support from his community and wide group of friends. But despite a history of being a well-liked member of society, his life unravels because of a horrible accusation. This isn’t a courtroom movie – there is no trial, and the only scene that takes place before a judge happens offscreen. But the community determines that Lucas is guilty without any proof – and that’s that.

This is a frustrating film. In a good way. Lucas is powerless to stop public opinion. He becomes toxic and is treated as a persona non grata. He is shunned by his friends. And you can’t help but sympathize and be furious about the situation.

The film is very clear that Lucas is not guilty of what he has been accused of. The most aggravating scene in the film is when the kindergarten principal and her friend/associate – I think he’s a social worker – ask the little girl what happened with Lucas. The audience knows nothing happened; the little girl knows nothing happened; the adults suspect something happened, but don’t know what. And the “confession” is a series of suggestive questions that the little girl only answers by nodding her head because she thinks that’s what the adults want to hear while she just wants to go outside and play. And with that, Lucas’ fate is sealed.

The setting of the film is important. Lucas lives in a small town where everyone knows him. He seems like a good guy, perhaps a little quiet, but nothing out of the ordinary. The community knows that he has an ex-wife, and is going through a custody battle with her. He shops at the same stores, and goes hunting with many of the town’s men. But despite their familiarity with Lucas and his good nature, he’s instantly branded an outcast without a second thought. The townsfolk exact their retribution in cruel, violent ways, and you wouldn’t be wrong in wondering who the real the monsters of the film are.

Why is it that we can constantly criticize the government for its failings and stupidity, but when that same government accuses a citizen of a crime we blindly accept it’s correct without a second thought? It’s a good question, and one that watching The Hunt brought to my mind.

Grade: A 


Nightcrawler-2014I kept thinking about capitalism while watching Nightcrawler. Specifically those individuals that become “titans” of industries and whose lives require mandatory biographies. Alright, I was thinking about Steve Jobs. And how he was a big asshole to everybody but is still revered rather than reviled today. That’s the power of success. I think Lou Bloom is cut from the same mold, albeit a criminal and sociopathic version, so the comparison may be a bit of a stretch.

Nightcrawler is an amoral rags-to-riches tale. Although I wonder about characterizing it as “amoral.” The veneer of power, success, and wealth seems to make ethics a fluid concept. Who cares how Lou Bloom got where he is when he’ll just be envied and idolized for what he’s become?

Lou is a petty thief and scoundrel. He strips copper wire and steals scrap metal from private property. He doesn’t make a lot of money. It’s hard to be a good negotiator when you’re selling stolen goods. Even professional thieves can only get fifty cents on the dollar. Lou settles for less but dreams of more. He incessantly recites lines from self-help business books and websites, but it’s hard to tell if Lou’s encyclopedic knowledge of mantras reflects his belief that hard work really does get you ahead or if he’s just recycling phrases to get to his next score. He eventually finds his calling on the scene of a fiery highway crash: taking freelance footage of crime scenes to sell to the highest television news bidder.

The film plays out like a business textbook case study (albeit the darkest possible version imaginable). Rookie entrepreneur starts out with small contracts and small rewards. The money he earns is invested back in the business to buy better equipment and an employee to be competitive with the larger players. A merger is offered, and declined. The rookie focuses on creating the best product, and one the competition cannot replicate. The competition is eliminated and a hostile partnership with a news broadcaster is solidified, guaranteeing a steady stream of income. The rookie businessman finally has something he’s never had in negotiations before: leverage. And an empire is born.

Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors working in Hollywood today. His latest projects (Enemy, Prisoners, End of Watch) are all fantastic films, and simply having his name attached to a project these days is practically a guaranteed endorsement of its quality. Nightcrawler is no exception to this rule. His portrayal of Lou Bloom in the film is a bug-eyed, electrifying performance and his emaciated appearance is a direct reflection on the emptiness of his soul. This ain’t no heartwarming Gyllenhaal. He’s on full-on creep mode in this film.

What I like about Nightcrawler is its subversion of the American Dream and unapologetic cynicism. Instead of working hard and being rewarded for your hard work, the message is boundless ambition, moral elasticity, and bending the rules as far as possible.

Grade: A


An interdimensional disappointment.

An interdimensional disappointment.

There are just some directors who shouldn’t attempt to do the mushy stuff. Play to your strengths, rather than make a half-baked story about parental responsibility, loss, and the enduring power of love. Christopher Nolan makes cold films, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering his filmography contains multiple movies that rightfully deserved to be called masterpieces. But his films are not good at being sentimental, or expressing emotions beyond jealousy, ambition, or dogged perseverance. Any time Nolan’s films have attempted a romantic subplot, they’re always the most criticized and forgettable parts of his films (looking at you Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige, and Katie Holmes/Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Dark Knight trilogy). Sure, the guy can create movies about pining for a lost love (Inception, Memento), but if that love is still alive – fuhgeddaboutit. Interstellar handles the complex themes of family, love, and the “fifth dimension” through clunky, awkward dialogue that’s on par with some of the crap George Lucas wrote for Star Wars Episode Two: Attack of the Clones. This movie is hugely disappointing.

Earth is going through a transition period – humans can only grow corn. At least, I think that’s what was going on. It’s all very confusing, because characters still drink beer, the water system still seems to be functioning, and kids still have to take science classes in school. It really doesn’t seem all that bad. Meanwhile dust storms are commonplace, and archival footage of the folks who lived through these terrible times reminiscing are interspersed throughout the first quarter of the film, and then that faux documentary trope is all but forgotten to move into the outer reaches of space.

But anyhow, Matthew McConaughey ekes out his existence as a farmer (of corn) with two kids – the dull son and the precocious daughter – whilst living with his grizzled father-in-law who moonlights as the kids’ grizzled babysitter. The daughter thinks a ghost lives in her room, and some spoookky occurrences gets Dad to start believing in the supernatural force too. Yada yada yada, ghost leads McConaughey to hidden scientific outpost and off on a rollicking space adventure, minus the rollicking part and heavy on the scenes talking about wormholes, relativity, and the quantum mechanics of love (not joking). There’s also supposed to be some poignancy about leaving your family behind to do something IMPORTANT and how you sacrifice making memories with your kids because you’re doing IMPORTANT things. Yes, the film is romanticizing a world where “work-life balance” is severely tilted to the work side of things.

The biggest problem I have with the film is the motivations of every single character don’t make sense.

1. McConaughey

McConaughey’s character is the dad who has to leave his kids behind to “save the world” but is tortured by the anguish that he won’t get to see them grow up. But he doesn’t have to leave. This is the future, where robots exist, and despite McConaughey being the “best damn pilot NASA has ever seen and the only one who can captain this ship” in the film’s climatic piloting scene McConaughey asks the robot to fly the ship for him to make a difficult manoeuvre. Half of the adventure is spent on auto-pilot while the human passengers slumber peacefully in cryo-sleep. Yet McConaughey is such an integral part of the mission because he can fly so good. Ugh.

Also, he’s supposed to love his children so much, but about half-way through the movie he forgets he has a son. Just watch. There’s a point where he’s crying because both of his children are growing up in front of his eyes, and then later, he’s just concerned about his daughter. I don’t know, I just find it a little difficult to empathize with a character when he doesn’t even really care about his kids.

2. Unnamed Celebrity Cameo

Yep, a Hollywood star pops up later in the film. He has a plan that makes absolutely no sense when you take the three seconds to think about it. Let’s just say he tells a fib, and then when he could own up to that fib, he decides to make it 1000x worse, and I still can’t understand what his endgame was. Please explain if you know.

3. Everyone else

This is getting long-winded, so every character has an issue. The first “Red Shirt” character stands beside a door that leads to safety. Instead of walking through the door himself, he watches for several minutes as another character is carried through the door after travelling a mile away. The stupidity of the character overshadows any of the pathos of his death.

Jessica Chastain’s character is supposed to be brilliant, but can’t see through the weakest of twists. Casey Affleck’s character inexplicably wants his suffering wife and child to die on his farm, even when offered the chance of medical care and safety.

Interstellar uses wafer-thin characters, cheap storytelling twists (way too much deus ex machina for one movie), and dresses it up using first-rate special effects and long-winded technobabble to make us believe that we’re watching something important and goads us to care more about the character’s plights than they do themselves. I didn’t buy it.

Grade: C