Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

November 3, 2014 at 1:20pm

Nerd Alert! for sci-fi opus "Interstellar," The F-Bombers, Jon Stewart and more ...

Matthew McConaughey as a farmer/astronaut/dreamer. Photo courtesy of Legendary Pictures

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All right, all right, all right, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.


The 2014 holiday movie season kicks off in a big way this weekend. That's right, Thursday brings Drafthouse Films' American release of the 2013 Japanese actioner Jigoku de Naze Warui, or, Why Don't You Play in Hell? (Technically, the Nipponese title translates to "What's So Bad About Hell?" Either English translation is chock full of awesome.) I quote the distributor's pitch word for word: "There's a war going on, but that won't stop the inexperienced but eager wannabe film crew The Fuck Bombers from following their dreams of making the ultimate action epic. Ten years ago, yakuza mid-boss Ikegami led an assault against rival don Muto. Now, on the eve of his revenge, all Muto wants to do is complete his masterpiece, a feature film with his daughter in the starring role, before his wife is released from prison. And The Fuck Bombers are standing by with the chance of a lifetime: to film a real, live yakuza battle to the death ... on 35mm!" Also, did I mention it's called Why Don't You Play in Hell? And there's a film crew of yakuza mobsters? And that crew name? And that apparently, the don is that sex-crazed atomic monster from last year's reboot of Godzilla?

OK, so maybe that won't be everybody's first choice at the cineplex; but it did get good reviews, despite a gleefully blood-soaked climax. If you prefer family-friendlier entertainment, your huckleberry this weekend is probably Disney's Big Hero 6, also known as Why Don't You Play in a Manga? You've seen the commercials and trailer by now, of course, but you may not be aware the movie's based on a recent Marvel Comics team. In the funny books, Japanese outfit Big Hero 6 was led by a mutant ronin dubbed the Silver Samurai, and - how cool is this? - based in a theme park called Cool World. (No, not the one animated by Ralph Bakshi.) Hiro's a tween-age boy who joins the ensemble along with his bodyguard, shape-shifting robot Baymax. The team also features super-chef Wasabi-no-Ginger, a woman named Honey Lemon who wields a magic purse, and a dude who transforms into a kaiju called Fredzilla. Amazingly, all these characters other than the Silver Samurai appear to have crossed the gap into the cinematic incarnation. Critics have fallen for the movie, despite its gleefully blood-soaked climax. Spoiler alert: Wasabi-no-Ginger gets diced, Honey Lemon is squeezed while searching fruitlessly for an Altoid, and Baymax goes POP under the tread of an incautious Fredzilla. There will be no Big Hero 7. It's an odd narrative choice, I feel, especially from The Walt Disney Company, aka The Fuck Bombers.

More cerebral viewers have been eagerly awaiting Jon Stewart's directorial debut, Rosewater, which launches its slow release schedule this weekend. If you're a regular Daily Show viewer, you doubtless know it's the film version of Iranian Maziar Bahari's book Then They Came for Me, which dramatizes Bahari's 2009 detention at the hands of Iran's state police under accusations of spying for the West. Among the clueless evidence presented was a tongue-in-cheek interview Bahari gave Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones. You might also want to check out Les Miz actor Eddie Redmayne, an early Oscar hopeful for his portrayal of the young Stephen Hawking, in biopic The Theory of Everything.

It's an amusing coincidence for the Hawking film to open the same day as Christopher Nolan's sci-fi opus Interstellar, as this perpetuates a longstanding (friendly) competition between Hawking and leading American astrophysicist Kip Thorne. In 1975, Hawking made a wager with Thorne that has since become notorious in space-nerdy circles. Thorne believed black holes are real and that X-ray-emitting object Cygnus X-1 is such a collapsed star. Hawking was also hopeful that Cygnus X-1 would turn out to be a black hole, but he bet on the converse as a way of covering all possible eventualities. The prize at stake? If Hawking won, he'd receive a four-year subscription to Private Eye magazine. Ultimately, however, Hawking conceded to Thorne. "I paid the specified penalty," Hawking writes, "which was a one year subscription to Penthouse, to the outrage of Kip's liberated wife." Chandrasekhar and marital limits aside, Thorne helped Carl Sagan with wormhole concepts for Contact, and now Thorne's the astrophysical brains behind Interstellar. This new film's said to be more 2001: A Space Odyssey than Gravity. Early reviews are somewhat mixed, but it's safe to assume we'll get killer visual effects along with the best-looking astronauts ever, Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway. Space madness!

Interstellar, of course, is an adjective that means "between stars." It's what lay people mean, more often than not, when they say intergalactic ("between galaxies"). Nolan hopped on board the Interstellar crew when Steven Spielberg, who first developed the project along with Thorne, lost interest. Originally, the script was called Why Don't You Play in a Wormhole?, in which Anne Hathaway morphed into a singing, sobbing kaiju.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you never get hired as a production assistant by The Fuck Bombers. As résumé credits go, it'd look shady.

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Pop Culture,
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