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Blu-ray Review Interstellar Blu-ray Review (1 Viewer)

Neil Middlemiss

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Interstellar Blu-ray Review

Interstellar is an epic, flawed, conceptually ambitious, and surprisingly intimate film from one of cinemas most exciting directors, Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight, Memento.) Featuring excellent performances from the entire cast, with Matthew McConaughey’s lead as Cooper being another exceptional moment in his filmography. On the grandest cinematic canvas, Nolan explores the closeness of a father with his children, across time and space, impossible situations, and the direst of threats to humanity, anchoring the enormity of the story with the smallest, most emotionally potent of threads. That the film does not connect with all of its ambition should not diminish the power of what has been accomplished.



Studio: Paramount

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1, 2.35:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD

Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French

Rating: PG-13

Run Time: 168 Min.

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, UltraViolet

Disc Type:

Region: A

Release Date: 03/31/2015

MSRP: $39.99




The Production Rating: 4/5

“We've always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. We count these moments as our proudest achievements. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we've just forgotten that we are still pioneers. And we've barely begun. And that our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.”



In a near future, where the world is affected by food shortages brought about by a ‘blight’ affecting crops, and where the slowly deteriorating options for food crops has given way to barren lands and dust storms, farming is perhaps the most noble and necessary skill. Earth is reeling from the disaster of food shortages. There is no more military, no more exploration of the skies above, and almost all resources and functions have become dedicated to mankind’s survival in the here and now. A former pilot, Cooper (Matthew McConaughey,) farms corn with his young son Tom, and daughter, Murph, until he is mysteriously led to a private facility where work is underway to save humanity. Cooper is quickly inducted into a four-person mission to pilot Endurance, a secretly maintained and improved craft - a legacy from the defunct NASA days, into a black hole - journeying across the universe, and distances that would otherwise take hundreds of thousands of years to make at the speed of light, to find hope for man’s future. In accepting the duty, he must leave behind his children to the care of his father-in-law, a decision his son accepts, but his daughter, with whom he is a kindred spirit, does not. The nature of the travel; the dilation of time, the experiencing of different elapsed time as a result of the missions proximity to the enormous gravitational mass of the black hole, mean his children will age considerably faster than Cooper. Both time and distance are forces against which cooper cannot escape.

Interstellar is expectedly mature filmmaking from Christopher Nolan, working from a screenplay written with his younger brother, Jonathan, and features some the most grounded exploration of the science of gravitational force, black holes, and the conceptually fascinating experience of time dilation put to film. Less veiled and symbolic than Stanley Kubrick’s outstanding 2001: A Space Odyssey – a film which Interstellar has, in part, been inspired - Nolan’s impressive film sets about with similar intent to that of Kubrick’s masterpiece, examining space and the challenging adventure of man through the prism of scientific exploration, testing of man’s capability, and a curious mystery established as a foundation for the story. The film largely succeeds. Through solid dialogue and the fine balance of visual effects and storytelling, the seemingly high-concept notions of time dilation become natural, graspable elements of the story for broad audiences.

Any serious science-fiction fan or steward of astrophysics (of which this reviewer is both,) will be familiar with the root concept of gravitational mass and time dilation. Even Star Trek: Voyager showed exceptional emotion in an episode (“Blink of an Eye”) exploring the rise and fall of a world over centuries as the USS Voyager orbits a planet that experiences time at a much faster rate than the area of space above the planet) and the concept is fascinating fodder for science-fiction. And the concentration on what the difference of time experienced has on a father and his family across the gulf of space is magnificently, intimately portrayed. It roots the heart and emotional center of the film, with the ache and helplessness of different aging serving as a dramatic constant. Time becomes the threat; the enemy; the element of danger – and is an effective ‘villain.’ The film is not without its flaws, however. There’s an unfinished sense about Interstellar. Marvelous ideas are established and explored, with some deeper philosophies introduced for the viewer to ponder (and not for the filmmakers to unravel for us, thankfully,) but still, there’s a sense that there was more depth to gain from key moments in the film.

Interstellar also is modestly snagged, beyond some too ‘on the nose’ scripting, by a plot development before the final act of the film which feels far less fresh and considered than the rest of the film. The story of Interstellar is clearly examining the manner in which mankind would operate, with unadulterated heroism and unconscionable selfishness vying for survival, as the situation becomes ever more dire, yet late in the film the somewhat bumpy deviation, which serves as a catalyst for the finale, feels contrived, robbing some of the grandeur and, frankly, intimacy of the story at that point. The ending of the film takes additional liberties with the scientific grounding – in ways that I, again, won’t spoil here, but I will say that I was ultimately satisfied with the turn of events as the film closes.

The cast are superb in their roles, with Matthew McConaughey delivering yet another terrific performance as practical, aspirational man grappling with the choices he’s made and the world he’s left behind (and trying to save.) There is surprising weight in his performance, in quiet moments and through his unassuming manner as a leading member of the dangerous 4-person crew. As his fellow members, Anne Hathaway as biologist Amelia Brand, Wes Bentley as Doyle, David Gyasi as Romilly, and Bill Irwin as the voice (and puppeteer) of the ex-military, mobile, intelligent machine, TARS. Each are finely cast, with Hathaway’s Brand demonstrating a fine balance of capability and vulnerability. John Lithgow is wonderfully understated as Cooper’s father-in-law, Donald, and Michael Caine reliably solid as Professor Brand, architect of the mission and father to Amelia. Jessica Chastain’s strong headed delivery of the older Murph, and Casey Affleck’s older Tom – Cooper’s grown children – are very, very good, and follow fine portrayals of these characters from the younger Mackenzie Foy and Timothée Chalamet.

Interstellar, despite some imperfections, is a superbly entertaining, masterfully crafted, and expertly portrayed film. Though it may not achieve the intellectual heights it sets about exploring – finding greater success in the emotional center of the film – Interstellar is still to be applauded for its ambitious reach.



Video Rating: 5/5  3D Rating: NA

Director Nolan insisted on shooting Interstellar on film, a position that required Paramount to make an amendment to its policy of phasing out the use of film (over digital,) and has been seen as a major moment in the saving of Kodak film. Shot on 35mm film, with a significant portion shot on 70mm for IMAX (shot using 15/70mm IMAX cameras,) - providing a shifting aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and 1.78:1, the organic feel of the picture is welcome. While digital can stun with the clarity of images, there is nothing like watching the detail of film and the inherent warmth, familiar flare if the lens from concentrated light sources, and the texture that is awash over the scenes. On Blu-ray, Interstellar shines. Clarity is impressive, with cloth textures, facial textures, and the lived-in wear and tear of surfaces in the homes and aboard the Endurance rich. Others have noted a stray hair noticeable on one particular shot. That isn’t enough to affect the video quality score.

Visually, Interstellar is a grand adventure with fascinating landscapes (some courtesy of isolating glaciers,) tactile sets, and contrasting color palettes for different places and times. On earth, there is warmth from the dust-blown towns and homes are punctuated with vivid green fields (where crops survive,) the craft, Endurance is heavily toned in whites and contrasting greys/blacks, and the planets visited themselves provide variations on the cooler palette.



Audio Rating: 5/5

Paramount provide Interstellar with an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, faithfully aligned with the theatrical experience, with one notable caveat. Some movie-goers complained about the sound mix in the theatrical screenings, with issues of unintelligible dialogue drowned by audio at the low end, and even complaints that Hans Zimmer’s score was too overpowering (the organ in particular.)
That isn’t the case here. Dialogue was never an issue through my calibrated home theater system – with everything intended to be heard and clearly understood being heard and understood. The low-end audio was impressive, aggressive at times, and moving when the action pulsed, or the emotional potency quotient was amped-up by the perilous journey.
Hans Zimmer’s score for Interstellar is an excellent sonic accompaniment to Nolan’s bold reach. The score, derived from a note Nolan shared with Zimmer asking the Oscar winning composer, with whom he has now collaborated five times, to write music for an intimate father-son story the composer had outlined on a single page. That intimate beginning is the resonating center, emotionally, of the film, and though Zimmer is given ample opportunity to unleash the power and volume of his considerable arsenal of sound, buoyed at times in this score by the sound of Organ, recorded at Temple Church in London. The score is a superb example of music serving as the connective emotional tissue, representing a kernel of humanity in the enormity of both time/space and the pressures of the mission at hand. In the context of the film, Zimmer’s score is absolutely wonderful (I’ll confess, I am listening to the score as I write this review.) The score won’t immediately standout with memorable themes, but its DNA is so intrinsically linked with the visuals, I believe that if you were to hear passages of the score outside of the film, you will easily be taken back to the story of Cooper and his sacrifice.



Special Features Rating: 5/5

Interstellar features a fine collection of extras, including an extended version of The Science of Interstellar, a broadcast special covering the grounded science at play in the film. A terrific and fascinating piece that heightens appreciation for the mind-blowing concepts that exists in the furthest reaches of the universe we can see (and some much, much closer.)

The TARS and CASE feature, which takes a look at Nolan’s desire for a practical machine to be onset with the actors (augmented with CGI on where necessary,) is particularly satisfying given how unique and memorable these machines were in the film. As a lifetime fan of film scores, Cosmic Sounds, which cover’s Hans Zimmer’s process for creating the soundtrack, is also noteworthy.

Disc One
Feature film in high definition

Disc Two

The Science of Interstellar: Extended cut of the broadcast special.

Plotting an Interstellar Journey: Discusses the film’s origins, influences and narrative designs.

Life on Cooper’s Farm: Bringing Americana and the grounded nature of a farm to a sci-fi space movie.

The Dust: Learn how cast and crew avoided sand blindness, and see how to create, and clean up after, a catastrophic dust storm.

TARS and CASE: Designing and building these unique characters and how they were brought to life on set and in the film.

Cosmic Sounds: The concepts, process, and recording of Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable score.

The Space Suits: A look at the design and build of the suits and helmets, and what it was like to wear them.

The Endurance: Explore this massive set with a guided tour by production designer Nathan Crowley.

Shooting in Iceland: Miller’s Planet/Mann’s Planet: Travel with the cast and crew to Iceland and see the challenges they faced in creating two vastly different worlds in one country.

The Ranger and the Lander: A look at the other two spaceships in the film.

Miniatures in Space: Marvel at the large-scale models used in the explosive docking sequence.

The Simulation of Zero-G: Discover the various methods that the filmmakers used to create a zero gravity environment.

Celestial Landmarks: Explore how the filmmakers used practical special effects informed by real scientific equations to give the illusion of real space travel for both the actors and the audience.

Across All Dimensions and Time: A look at the concept and design of the Tesseract, which incorporated a practical set rather than a green screen.

Final Thoughts: The cast and crew reflect back on their Interstellar experience.

Theatrical Trailers

Disc Three
Feature film in standard definition

Digital Copy of the Film (Ultraviolet, iTunes, Google Play)



Overall Rating: 4.5/5

Interstellar is gripping at times, pulsing with tension and spectacle, and deeply personal at its center. Director Christopher Nolan bravely takes a number of risks –in terms of story, science, and visual effects – and through these risks, as he has said, he seeks a way to leap from making a good film to a great film. The risks largely pay off. There will be some debate over the important, mysterious thread through the film, something I have purposefully stayed away from in my review above to avoid any potential spoiling of the experience for newcomers – but debate is good. A film that you can walk away from with little to contemplate simply won’t risk becoming a great film.

There is great splendor in the visual effects on display. The lensing effect as the explorers approach the black hole is a beautiful rendering of one of the things described in great detail in a number of expertly written books from expert and notable authors, including the great Neil deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kako, and others. The masterfully rendered effect, based on the scientific work of Kip Thorne, displays the gravitational lensing effect, and the accretion of light and matter – it is fascinating and good reason Interstellar won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

I have a strong feeling that, over time, Interstellar will become even more appreciated than it is today, and it has been widely critically celebrated. It is a film that rewards repeat viewings. A fine film, with a superb high-definition release from Paramount.

Recommended!


Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss


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Josh Steinberg

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Neil - I think this is the best written, most enjoyable appraisal of "Interstellar" I've read since the movie came out. I feel pretty much exactly the same as you about the movie. I preordered the disc a while ago and forgot it was coming this week. After reading your review, I can't wait to see it again!
 

joshEH

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Received a text last Thursday from Best Buy informing me that my copy was on the way (supposedly with two additional supplemental featurettes not included in the "mass-market" version). Looks like it should arrive either tomorrow or Tuesday -- can't wait to see this again.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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Josh Steinberg said:
Neil - I think this is the best written, most enjoyable appraisal of "Interstellar" I've read since the movie came out. I feel pretty much exactly the same as you about the movie. I preordered the disc a while ago and forgot it was coming this week. After reading your review, I can't wait to see it again!

Thank you, Josh!
 

Josh Steinberg

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Neil, just curious... without wanting to post too much by way of spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen the movie, when you wrote about "a plot development before the final act of the film which feels far less fresh and considered than the rest of the film.", were you talking about


Matt Damon's appearance in the film? I like him as an actor, but I didn't love the role...it was a little disappointing to have this movie that starts of exploring the unknown and venturing to places we've never seen and can barely imagine end up coming down to two guys having a fistfight. I think I get the point that the filmmakers were going for by including this plotline, but I'm not sure that it entirely worked for me.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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Josh Steinberg said:
Neil, just curious... without wanting to post too much by way of spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen the movie, when you wrote about "a plot development before the final act of the film which feels far less fresh and considered than the rest of the film.", were you talking about

Matt Damon's appearance in the film? I like him as an actor, but I didn't love the role...it was a little disappointing to have this movie that starts of exploring the unknown and venturing to places we've never seen and can barely imagine end up coming down to two guys having a fistfight. I think I get the point that the filmmakers were going for by including this plotline, but I'm not sure that it entirely worked for me.
That's precisely what I was talking about. I understand why, it was in part a depiction of humanities failings, but the film deserved for it (and the plot function it served as) to be, well, bolder, less obvious.
 

Josh Steinberg

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Neil Middlemiss said:
That's precisely what I was talking about. I understand why, it was in part a depiction of humanities failings, but the film deserved for it (and the plot function it served as) to be, well, bolder, less obvious.

Also got me thinking just now, the way you said some of the dialogue in the movie is a little too on the nose (which I completely agree with), in that section of the film:


To begin with, he's named "Dr. Man" (or Mann, perhaps). And at least two characters separately refer to him as being the best of humanity. So just with those two things, that's enough to make you start suspecting the character isn't trustworthy. I just couldn't help but get a feeling that "something bad" was about to happen when they finally encountered him, so that sequence didn't have maybe all of the tension or mystery that the filmmakers might have hoped for. I just thought of this, but what if Dr. Mann had done the terrible thing he did in the movie, but changed slightly so that we don't ever meet him. What if Mann had gotten to his planet, found out it was worthless, and still sent that message that it was the place to go, but somehow died in hibernation, or otherwise was killed before they made it? Then you'd have the astronauts still falling prey to humanities failings, you still have Dr. Mann's lie, and you still have the mission being seriously compromised for having stopped at a planet they didn't have the resources to visit. You'd lose Dr. Mann being there to explain Michael Caine's betrayal, but I feel like that information could still have been brought into the movie somehow.


Additional thoughts that might be considered spoilers, about an earlier section of the film..

Actually, as I think about it more and more, there are a bunch of little things in the plot that don't make sense to me, or rather, doesn't sound to me like things that people in their situation wouldn't have thought of. For instance, they go through the wormhole with the plan of checking out three planets in one system. Makes sense. But they wouldn't have decided which planet to visit and in which order to visit them in while the mission was in the planning stages? (Or was perhaps there was a line of dialogue which said they couldn't get the transmissions about which planets to visit until they went through?) Dr. Brand has the observation when deciding which planet to go to second that they should go to the furthest one, because the other choice is too close to a black hole, and that not enough can happen near a black hole for life to form. It's a great observation, but how did that thought not occur to them before they visited any of the planets? And when they're deciding which planet to go to initially, they make it seem like the water planet is right there, the second planet is also close (but not as close), and the furthest one is three months journey away. If going to the water planet costs seven years of Earth time for each hour, and you have to figure just landing and taking off take that much time... wouldn't visiting the furthest planet and then working back to the closest one still be better than visiting the close planet, if visiting the close planet costs seven years at the least?


But the most important thing for me is probably this - months after its release, I'm still thinking about the movie, still talking about it, still asking questions. I think its heart is pure, and if the execution is occasionally a little clunky, so be it. I'm probably nitpicking things here I wouldn't nitpick for most other movies, and it's only happening because the movie is aspiring to do more than a lot of movies aspire to, so if every grand idea doesn't quite hit as it should, and if some of the things the characters do don't always make perfect sense, I'm still a big fan of this movie.
 

haineshisway

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The sound mix is not the problem in understanding what some of the actors are saying - it is the mumbling and talking so low that any character who is more than an inch away from whoever is speaking would not be able to understand or even hear a word they were saying. This happens in many films of today - actors and directors somehow think this is what being "real" is - to which I say, hogwash. It's a real problem when you can't understand dialogue in films that are trying to tell a story with spoken words.
 

Rob W

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Would it have killed them to make the effort to only include film cells of the actual Imax scenes ??
 

TravisR

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haineshisway said:
The sound mix is not the problem in understanding what some of the actors are saying - it is the mumbling and talking so low that any character who is more than an inch away from whoever is speaking would not be able to understand or even hear a word they were saying.
That's basically what I thought about the mix when I saw the movie in the theater. Any time that I had a problem hearing something, it seemed like a creative decision (an acting or directing choice to mumble, loud sound effects deliberately drowning out dialogue a little bit) rather than an error.
 

Neil Middlemiss

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Josh Steinberg said:
Also got me thinking just now, the way you said some of the dialogue in the movie is a little too on the nose (which I completely agree with), in that section of the film:


To begin with, he's named "Dr. Man" (or Mann, perhaps). And at least two characters separately refer to him as being the best of humanity. So just with those two things, that's enough to make you start suspecting the character isn't trustworthy. I just couldn't help but get a feeling that "something bad" was about to happen when they finally encountered him, so that sequence didn't have maybe all of the tension or mystery that the filmmakers might have hoped for. I just thought of this, but what if Dr. Mann had done the terrible thing he did in the movie, but changed slightly so that we don't ever meet him. What if Mann had gotten to his planet, found out it was worthless, and still sent that message that it was the place to go, but somehow died in hibernation, or otherwise was killed before they made it? Then you'd have the astronauts still falling prey to humanities failings, you still have Dr. Mann's lie, and you still have the mission being seriously compromised for having stopped at a planet they didn't have the resources to visit. You'd lose Dr. Mann being there to explain Michael Caine's betrayal, but I feel like that information could still have been brought into the movie somehow.


Additional thoughts that might be considered spoilers, about an earlier section of the film..

Actually, as I think about it more and more, there are a bunch of little things in the plot that don't make sense to me, or rather, doesn't sound to me like things that people in their situation wouldn't have thought of. For instance, they go through the wormhole with the plan of checking out three planets in one system. Makes sense. But they wouldn't have decided which planet to visit and in which order to visit them in while the mission was in the planning stages? (Or was perhaps there was a line of dialogue which said they couldn't get the transmissions about which planets to visit until they went through?) Dr. Brand has the observation when deciding which planet to go to second that they should go to the furthest one, because the other choice is too close to a black hole, and that not enough can happen near a black hole for life to form. It's a great observation, but how did that thought not occur to them before they visited any of the planets? And when they're deciding which planet to go to initially, they make it seem like the water planet is right there, the second planet is also close (but not as close), and the furthest one is three months journey away. If going to the water planet costs seven years of Earth time for each hour, and you have to figure just landing and taking off take that much time... wouldn't visiting the furthest planet and then working back to the closest one still be better than visiting the close planet, if visiting the close planet costs seven years at the least?


But the most important thing for me is probably this - months after its release, I'm still thinking about the movie, still talking about it, still asking questions. I think its heart is pure, and if the execution is occasionally a little clunky, so be it. I'm probably nitpicking things here I wouldn't nitpick for most other movies, and it's only happening because the movie is aspiring to do more than a lot of movies aspire to, so if every grand idea doesn't quite hit as it should, and if some of the things the characters do don't always make perfect sense, I'm still a big fan of this movie.

Regarding your second spoiler -

I believe in the film they did not have all of the information they needed to make a fully informed decision (it could be that lost transmissions, etc., rendered the question of which order in some flux. I also think that visiting the water planet made sense because it was close and could not be ruled out as they received one hopeful transmission (which later turned out to be somewhat misleading due to the time dilation)


And you are right, if a film with flaws can keep our minds occupied - and remain actively discussed - it's certainly done something right!
 

Neil Middlemiss

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joshEH said:
OK, for reals this time ;) -- here's the actual IMAX cel I received the other day with my Best Buy edition:


Interstellar_IMAX_film_cel_2_zpscnxksz0m.jpg

I believe my cell is from the same scene (just a few moments after that moment,) - I'll try and post it later.
 

KeithDA

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What film cell?

Here in the UK we were offered a nice digibook special edition (these are not common over here) but no film cell. :(
 

Reggie W

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haineshisway said:
The sound mix is not the problem in understanding what some of the actors are saying - it is the mumbling and talking so low that any character who is more than an inch away from whoever is speaking would not be able to understand or even hear a word they were saying. This happens in many films of today - actors and directors somehow think this is what being "real" is - to which I say, hogwash. It's a real problem when you can't understand dialogue in films that are trying to tell a story with spoken words.

I don't know, Bruce. In the theater it did seem that many scenes had issues where the music or other sound effects sort of overtook the dialogue. When I watched the blu-ray in my home theater all dialogue was perfectly audible with the exception of I think one line spoken by Michael Caine where he was in fact in mumble mode.
 

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Wonder why they call it a "cell" instead of a "frame?" It's my understanding that cels refer specifically to animation. Sounds like marketing jargon to me because "cell" sounds more collectable. If they're going to use that term, you'd think they'd at least get the spelling correct. I know. I'm nitpicking. It does look, Josh, like you got one of the 35mm scenes. Bummer. I got lucky. Mine is a full IMAX frame of McConaughey in the ship. Mine also had a nice condensation of the book about the making of the film. Seems to be a WalMart exclusive. Cool magnetized case, too, though I wish it had some sort of slip cover for everything. It was on sale this week for $22.95. It's one of the nicer-looking sets I've seen in a while.

interstellar-walmart-exclusive-720x297.jpg
 

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I guess I didn't think the movie "contrived" that plot point. It seemed to naturally flow with the idea that we do whatever it takes to survive, which was apart of the whole movie. I found the movie to be riveting. I only perceived one continuity error, and the hair took me out of the movie because you don't see those too often anymore. Actually, I was quite shocked to see it on the disc. Is is a fault of the people or inherent in the process? Anyways, it was well worth the money.
 

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I watched it last night. Interstellar was blind buy. At first I was thinking about the science, but put that aside and just rolled with the story. A good near-three hours. No regrets. It will stay in my collection for later viewings.
 

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