Man Who Knew Infinity Review

Man-Who-Knew-Infinity-posterToday I had the chance to see the new biopic called The Man Who Knew Infinity. While nothing too spectacular it is a solid inspirational true story about someone I knew nothing about before seeing the film.

Infinity stars Dev Patel as real-life mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan who grew up in a poor neighborhood in Madras, India but had a knack for numbers and mathematical formulas. He even believed the formulas came as visions from God to him, and he knew he needed to share them with the world.

infinity2He also gets married to a gorgeous Devika Bhise who starts off doubting his endeavors but ends up supporting him going to England and meeting with professors at Cambridge. I thought her and Patel had a nice chemistry together and kind of wish the movie had just been about their relationship (of course that wouldn’t be true to life but I would love to see something else with the two of them in it).

infinityRamanujan meets a professor named GH Hardy played by Jeremy Irons (I guess this is his year for biopics with already appearing in Race). The two men become friends despite their cultural and religious differences. Ramanujan is all about the new idea while Hardy encourages him to find the proofs behind the inspiration.

inifnity3To be honest, this is where the movie lost me a bit. They weren’t successful in explaining the math to a math moron like myself and I got a little bit bored watching them at chalkboards working out equations. I’m sure what they were doing was groundbreaking but since I don’t understand the math or concepts it was hard to get excited. Theory of Everything had its problems but it at least made tough concepts easier to understand than this did. Same with Imitation Game.

infinity4The Man Who Knew Infinity ends up being a tragedy but that part of the film is highly predictable. Still I didn’t mind it following basic, by-the-numbers biopic formulas. I don’t need every movie I see to be new and different.

On the whole it is dry during all the math talk and the conversations between professors about whether to ‘grant the Indian fellowship’. That was boring but the relationships were good and the performances sincere. I liked supporting work from Toby Jones, Jeremy Northam, Stephen Fry and Arundhati Nag as Ramanujan’s mother.

Bi0pics on big names like rock stars, generals and inventors are great but I also enjoy these more obscure films as well. The Man Who Knew Infinity tells a good, if standard story and I’m glad I saw it.¬† I would recommend it a rental when it comes out at the Redbox or a stream on netflix.

Are any of you seeing The Man Who Knew Infitity? What did you think? What’s your favorite biopic? Walk the Line and My Left Foot are two of my favorites.

Overall Grade- B-

Advertisements

Jungle Book Review (2016)

(My Youtube review)

I know some of you have been wondering when I would finally post my Jungle Book review here on the blog. I posted my youtube review on Thursday night, so make sure you are subscribed to both the blog and channel because sometimes I don’t have time to update both at same time (I’m only one person friends ūüôā ).

I also wanted to wait to see the Jungle Book a second time on IMAX today before posting this review. I find on these big films it is often helpful to see the movie twice just to make sure my first read was accurate. I can confidently say I had the same experience in both screenings, so I’m pretty assured about my feelings.

It’s a good movie. I liked it a lot. Is it perfect? No but what movie is? Let’s talk about the pros and cons.

jungle-book-2016-posters-mowgli-balooThe biggest pro is the world building. Especially in IMAX 3D it was such an immersive experience.¬† I don’t think since Avatar I have been so immersed in a world at the theater. Maybe Gravity might be a good comparison. This is made all the more remarkable by the fact that it is all digitally created- down to the smallest blade of grass! Recently I have seen some terrible green screen work in films like In the Heart of the Sea or Gods of Egypt. Not here. There is no other word to describe the visuals but amazing. This is one to see on the big screen in 3D (which I almost never recommend).¬† Trust me on this one.

jungle book castThe voice talent is also all superb. Everyone from Bill Murray as Baloo, to Ben Kingsley as Bagheera, and Idris Elba as Shere Khan nails their characters.¬† It doesn’t feel like they are copying the iconic performances of the animated film either.¬† They are their own characters both in the script and vocal performances.

jungle book33I also really enjoyed the darker take on the story because even though I love the original animated film I admit it I like it mostly for the songs. This is more accurate to the book and particularly the beginning and ending I was really engaged with the story.

Mowgli is also a much more empathetic character (less whiny) than in the animated film.¬† Speaking of Mowgli, Neal Sethi is excellent in the part.¬† To think he did all his acting in a green screen room with puppets is remarkable, but even without that knowledge it’s a good, heartfelt performance.

THE JUNGLE BOOKNow to a few things that didn’t work for me. Both times I saw the film I got a little bit sleepy in the middle. Particularly in the sequences with Baloo and King Louie. I loved Bill Murray as Baloo but just the story kind of stalled there.¬† The King Louie stuff was almost one too many villains¬† and he was a little bit too mean for my taste. He’s supposed to be a smooth talker and he’s more of a bully in this film.

The other problem I had was in this section.¬† This is where we get both of the songs- Bear Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You. I love both of those songs in the animated musical but in this darker version (especially with King Louie) it didn’t really fit to have them break into song. It kind of took me out of the movie to see them singing all of the sudden.

Once Mowgli goes back to the wolves then it starts to pick back up again and I was engaged but I’ve seen it twice and both times that middle section lost my interest. Sorry…

jungle book2The other concern is that it is very scary. I know the animated film isn’t perfect but at least it is something you could watch with your entire family.¬† There is no way I could take my 6 and 7 year old nieces to this film. Shere Khan is very scary and attacks and kills characters. Louie is very scary and Kaa for her brief moments is scary. It kind of bums me out a little bit that it can’t be more of a family film but oh well.

Finally, there will be some people who will be annoyed at some stuff that is missing. Kaa is only in the film for about 5 minutes. The elephants are briefly seen. No vultures or their cheerful singing. I am willing to forgive and accept this new version but that may annoy some purists.

It might sound like I didn’t like the film which is untrue. I did like it. It was a magnificent experience, and I thought it was all done extremely well. But for me I still think Cinderella was better. It was more engaging from start to finish with no middle act lull.¬† Plus, it was more consistent in tone¬† throughout, and I just thought it was very magical. I also like that it is a family film that teaches a lovely message of kindness and courage to young girls. This film excludes those young kids because it is so scary.

But for a visual experience and for something new I definitely recommend seeing Jungle Book. I think you will really enjoy it.

Overall Grade B+

Talking Maleficent

You guys all know my feelings for Maleficent. It was my least favorite movie of 2014 and that includes Transformers: Age of Extinction….

This week in my youtube Disney Canon Project we are up to Sleeping Beauty, and I had several requests to review Maleficent. Well, I’ve already ranted about the film and declared it¬† my worst of 2014 and so just harping on it more felt redundant.

So I thought it would be cool to get another perspective. Thankfully my friend Emilee was willing to join me for a discussion of the film, which she enjoyed. She didn’t think it was perfect but she liked it.

I think we ended up having a good discussion, and I can see things from her point of view. I still hate the film but at least I can see why it worked for her, and I think that is cool. I know a lot of you hate Maleficent too, but I hope you listen to another perspective and don’t just troll it.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to talk with a friend about movies even if it is one I don’t particularly care for. If any of you would like to join me for a discussion on a movie or have an idea for a future discussion let me know in the comments section.

Midnight Special Review

midnight-specialToday I saw the new film from director Jeff Nichols called Midnight Special. Despite its trashy sounding title, it turns out to be a pretty good little scifi film. Like so many quality films these days some will find it boring but I thought it was great.

midnight specialMidnight Special tells the story of a boy named Alton Meyer (Jaeden Lieberner) who at the start has been abducted by his father Roy (Michael Shannon) and friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton).  But this is no ordinary boy.  He has supernatural powers that allow him to communicate with other life forms and lands. His eyes grow strong with blue light and he overtakes buildings and homes.

He is so strong in fact that he has inspired a cult that follows his words like scripture and honors him like a God, which he kind of is in this case.  The leader of the cult is named Calvin Meyer (Sam Shepherd) and he and his followers have been tracking dates Alton gives them and on an upcoming one something special is to occur.  This is what inspires Roy and Lucas to take Alton from the cult.

MIDNIGHT SPECIALAt the same time the cult gets called in mass to a high school to be interviewed by the FBI, who are also doing their own investigation into Alton and his powers. The lead investigator is Paul Sevier (Adam Driver).

midnight special2We also meet Altdon’s mother played by Kirsten Dunst in a very heartfelt believable performance- best I’ve seen from her in years.

midngith special4Midnight Special is a bit of a slow burn but it builds a believable story that gives you time to contemplate what is happening. I liked all of the characters including Driver as the FBI agent (although I admit getting Kylo Ren out of my head was hard at first!).  Michael Shannon is tremendous as Roy who is desperate, practical and honest at the same time. Joel Edgerton as Lucas is a new believer in Alton but fresh with conviction.  They are all great.

midnight special6What I liked most about this movie is the way it dives into belief and what that means for our choices.  Alton is a figure of hope for all different kinds of people.  For the cult who have turned him into a God, for the disaffected who still love him, for the new believers who are in awe, and for those like Sevier who believe because they have seen great things, he has impacted all of their lives in a powerful way.

All good scifi should be about something and I think this film passes the test because belief changes all of us in one way or another.  Belief can even break your heart on occasion.

It’s also so beautifully filmed by Jeff Nichols and has great performances throughout.¬† Think of it as ET without the laughs!

Overall Grade- A-

My youtube review-

Animated vs Burton Alice in Wonderland

Many of you know I am doing a Disney Canon rewatch over on my youtube channel.¬† I’ve honestly been surprised how different my experience has been with several films- with my either looking more highly or slightly down on films from my 2014 watch.¬† I mean there are very few Disney films I don’t like on some level, so I suppose degrees of liking will vary depending on mood/situation.

Anyway, I am up to week 13 which means Alice in Wonderland.¬† I love Alice in Wonderland and it ended up at #11 in my original Disney Canon ranking.¬† This time it could end up even higher.¬† What struck me on this watch is how it is nonsense but nonsense with a purpose.¬† Alice says she thinks the world would be better if it was nonsense and all books had pictures, right was left, up was down etc.¬† So when she gets to Wonderland she experiences her vision of what she thinks will be better and it turns out it isn’t.¬† There’s something interesting there.¬† How often in life do we think another world/lifestyle would be better but if we walked around in our dream world it might not be so great?

Alice’s journey is non-linear as far as plot.¬† She meets one character and experiences their version of nonsense.¬† Whether it is an insane tea party, an angry Queen of Hearts or a blubbering philosophizing caterpillar.¬† Some people don’t like that lack of structure but I love it.

I actually just read the book for the first time and posted a review on my other blog.¬† I loved the book as well.¬† It’s funny, endearing and magical. http://smilingldsgirl.com/2016/03/29/teaser-tuesday-alice-in-wonderland/

The voice cast here may be the best in Disney history and the artwork from Mary Blair and team is geometric and rich in detail.  I love it.

So here is my youtube review of the Animated Alice.

—————–

Now let’s talk about the 2010 Tim Burton version.¬† I did not like this movie when it came out in the theater but I knew I needed to rewatch it for the upcoming sequel so I tried to go in with an open mind….and boy do I still dislike this movie.

First of all, it entirely gets the purpose of Alice in Wonderland wrong.¬† She thinks that nonsense is better and she gets a chance to confront that belief.¬† In this version she is escaping a stuffy proposal because she’s a free spirit. Groan…They keep saying in the film it is her dream but what proof have we gotten of that in the real life segment?¬† And who dreams of these things?¬† It makes sense for Alice in the animated film to dream of a world of nonsense but who dreams of prophecies, battles, apocalyptic death and destruction?¬†¬† That makes no sense where an angry version of nonsense does make sense.

Even if you accept a different purpose for the story, the purpose that they chose is incredibly generic and boring.¬† Alice is the chosen one we’ve seen in a million other movies who is prophesied to save Wonderland…oh excuse me Underland (gag me).¬† I mean how many movies from Twilight, Harry Potter, Narnia, Hunger Games do we see this story arc.¬† What they’ve done is take a bright unusual story and turn it into the most milk toast of stories.

Now about the visuals.¬† This film won Oscars for visual effects and costumes but to me it looks extremely flat and one-note.¬† Everything is gray and brown and a lot of it can feel quite garish and gross (how about the mote of heads…). I can see why they are pleasing to some palates but to me it is completely bland and seen it a million times. To me it is remarkable that Mary Blair with essentially black backgrounds gets more creativity and better world building in the animated film than all of this 2010 version accomplishes.

Then we have the performances and characters. Mia Wasikowska is completely generic and boring as Alice.  What is great about Kathryn Beaumont is she seems to have the personality of both a grown up and a child. Here she is a free spirited independent girl- yawn!

As far as the other performances, they don’t realize that in the animated film these characters are on screen very briefly so they don’t ware out their welcome.¬† Here Johnny Depp as the marose Mad Hatter is very annoying and nobody should want to hear Helena Bonham Carter shrieking for a nearly 2 hour movie.¬† It’s just awful. The one stand out for me is Alan Rickman as the Caterpillar who is perfect for the part.

I know a lot of people like this film but I really hate it.  On the rewatch I honestly dislike it just as much as Maleficent.  Just not for me I guess.

Here is my video review of 2010 Alice in Wonderland

—————————————————————————–

I know that is throwing a lot at you guys in one post but I would love to hear your thoughts on either film.  Thanks so much! And if you like my videos please give them a thumbs up and subscribe because each Wednesday I post my Disney Canon reviews. Next up Peter Pan.

Race and Risen Reviews

This will be a bit of a quick review but I wanted to let you know what I thought about both Race and Risen. I feel they are both better than their RT scores might lead you to believe.

I grouped these films together because I feel they have the same strengths and weaknesses.  If you are someone who requires super original stories than Race and Risen might not be for you.  But if you can appreciate a solid genre film outing than I think there are things to like in both films.

Race-

race posterRace tells the story of Jesse Owen’s and his journey to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.¬† This was the time the Nazi’s were using the Olympics as a PR stunt and the movie does a good job showing that dynamic and the debate the US Olympic Committee had in attending the games.¬† I also did not know about the pressure put on Jesse and other athletes to individually boycott the games.

Stephan James is great as Owens and I really liked Jason Sudeikis as his coach Larry Snyder.  It feels a little drawn out and could have started sooner to get things moving close (over 2 hours is too much for this kind of story).

That said, I thought they got the period details right and Sudeikis embodies a Clark Gable type charisma that fits the era very well.  There are too many subplots but the acting from Jeremy Irons, William Hurt and others is great.

Overall, it’s an inspiring story that’s pretty well told.¬† I think you would enjoy going with your family.¬† There wasn’t much that is offensive and it could start a good discussion about race, discrimination both in the past and in our current society.

Overall Grade- B

Risen_2016_posterRisen is a very unique and strong entry in the faith-based film genre.  It stars Joseph Fiennes as Clavius who is a Roman Tribune who is responsible for looking into the lost body of Jesus Christ.  It kind of becomes a CSI Jerusalem at a certain point!

There were a lot of refreshing choices they made in this film.¬† First of all, to tell the story from the perspective of a non-believer was compelling and interesting for a faith-based film.¬† They also take the subject seriously without much preaching.¬† It’s just the story without the dogma of some religious films.

It’s very well made and acted.¬† I liked the cinematography and overall feel of the film.¬† It’s actually pretty gruesome for a faith-based film; although, I don’t think anything too bad.¬† There were a few points that were a bit repetitive in feel but overall the 107 minutes goes by pretty briskly.¬† The performance by Fiennes is good and his journey feels authentic and subtle.

There are some problems.¬† I didn’t like the portrayal of the apostles as kind of ‘Jesus and his Merry Men’.¬† They were a little too silly for my taste.¬† I also didn’t like the portrayal of Mary Magdalene. As the only female presence in the film I felt the transformation I see in her in the scriptures should have been more accurately shown.

But overall it’s a solid entertaining film.¬† It doesn’t preach too much and has a good story.¬† I think Christian viewers will really like it and I hope it does well.¬† It’s certainly a step in the right direction for faith-based films.

Overall Grade- B

Here is my youtube review of Race and Risen. I’d be really grateful if you checked it out and gave it a thumbs up if you like it.

Screenwriting Interview w Melissa Leilani

Hi guys!  I had the cool experience today where I got to interview screenwriter Melissa Leilani and find out what it is like to write a script.  She was the main writer for a film I loved in 2015 called Freetown.

Freetown is a faith-based film but one that is approachable to anyone.  It tells the story of a man who must smuggle 6 missionaries out of Liberia during their brutal civil war.  Things are tense and Brother Abubakar is a man of practical faith mixed with a healthy dose of skepticism.  It makes him a very compelling character.

What I really appreciated about Freetown is that it told a compelling story and let the messsaging take care of itself.¬† Unlike many faith based films (that I still find some value in) I didn’t feel it was preachy or forcing a message upon me.¬† In fact, my friend Yusuf who is Muslim liked the film as much as I did.

Here are both of our reviews:

I think you might find it interesting to watch the film and then listen to the interview about her experience.  However, I also think it will be interesting if you are just interested in screenwriting or writing in general.  We do get off topic a few times (we have very similar movie and theater taste!).  She has a theater background so her transition from playwright to screenwriter was very interesting to me.

Anyway, this is only the 3rd interview I have done, so if you have any feedback that would be great.  I hope you enjoy it.

45 Years Review

45 years-4It’s funny I went to the theater tonight and scores of people were coming out of Deadpool with smiles on their faces.¬† I’m sure they had a great time and that’s awesome. I instead went to see 45 Years and I was alone in the theater and came out literally sobbing.¬† Quite the contrast! But I wager to say in 10 years my experience will be the more memorable one. Suffice it to say, I have a new entry in my Best Movies of 2015.

45 years-245 Years is a very simple movie.  It tells the story of a week in the life of a couple before they celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.  On day 1 Geoff, the husband, played by Tom Courtenay, gets a letter in German informing him that the body of the love of his youth has been found and he can come and claim it.

Kate, the wife, played brilliantly by Charlotte Rampling, is aware of the relationship but is surprised when the news is so impactful upon her husband.  She starts to wonder if there was a side to this old relationship she never knew about? Has her husband of 45 years been honest with her?  Was she the 2nd choice over his true love? All of these questions are asked by Kate as the days unwind.

45 years-3I think what made this movie so particularly moving for me is Kate reminds me so much of my beloved Grandmother.  She is one of my best friends but in the last 2 years her health has not been well and it is difficult for her to talk on the phone.  This has made talking to her quite difficult since we live in different states.  Watching this movie made me realize how much I miss my Grandma.

45 years-5Even Charlotte Rampling’s look and disposition reminds me of my Grandma. I loved the way she had her life ordered and was a bright light to all in her circle.¬† When she finds out her husband hasn’t been completely honest with her the devastation is so palatable.¬† You can see it in Rampling’s whole body not just her face.¬† I wanted to give her a hug.

If it hadn’t been so late I would have called my Grandma right after and told her I loved her.¬† I’m going to do it tomorrow. That’s the kind of emotion this movie evoked in me.¬† I was literally sobbing.¬† I just love my Grandma so much.

45 yearsI know what it feels like for people you love to come out of nowhere with news and to have to absorb it as best you can,  so I related to that storyline as well.  I related to having to come to grips when you thought the person you loved was one way and turns out to be another.  There is nothing harder than that in my opinion.

Some will probably find this boring.¬† It’s kind of like Boyhood in the way it is just about a week in the life of this couple.¬† Some people don’t like that kind of movie.¬† Some may not like the somewhat ambiguous ending, but I thought it was pure truth.¬† It may be the best movie I’ve ever seen about marriage.¬† That’s not hyperbole.¬† It’s really how I felt.

45 years-6Tom Courtenay is also wonderful in the role.  You want to hate him for the dishonesty and the pain he is causing Kate but you can also see why he left the past in the past. It felt authentic and real to the way such a man would behave. We all know older men like Geoff.

I’m not saying don’t see Deadpool.¬† Go see it.¬† Have some laughs if the content is your thing, but make time in your schedule to see a film that something to say about life.¬† Make time to see 45 Years. It was a stunning film and I’m so glad Charlotte Rampling was nominated for best actress. She is much better than either Cate Blanchett in Carol or Brie Larsen in Room.

The rest of the supporting cast is wonderful and gives the entire experience a lived in feel.  It seems like a real group of friends, a real community that surrounds Geoff and Kate.

Props to director Andrew Haigh for his tremendous achievement.  I loved this movie and I encourage all of you to see it.

As far as content it is rated R but it is a pretty mild R.  There are a few F words and one mild scene of sensuality between the couple.

Overall Grade- A+

My youtube review:

Blindspot 2: Tron Review

So I was going to review the anime classic Ghost in the Shell for my February Blindspot pick but I started it and it had too much nudity for me to be comfortable with.  So, as a replacement I decided to watch the Disney sci-fi classic Tron.

The Blindspot project is where we watch and review a classic film we have never seen before.¬† I had never seen Tron before tonight but had heard how great it was from many people.¬† Now that I’ve seen it I can see why they like it so much.¬† It’s a thoroughly unique, creative, entertaining sci-fi film.

tronTron was made in 1982 and it’s pretty amazing when you think of the visuals involved.¬† Just as a point of comparison, Pixar made their first short, The Adventures of Andre and Wally B in 1984, and that is about a minute and a half.¬† This is a whole movie made 2 years earlier heaped full of visual effects both real and computerized.¬† It’s incredible to watch and you can’t help but wonder ‘how did they do that?’

tron3The story in Tron can be very confusing so it is perhaps better to just enjoy the visual experience, but I will try to summarize it.  Basically Jeff Bridges plays Flynn a computer programmer who designs a video game but his boss played by David Warner stole the credit and passed the coding off as his work.

In an attempt to hack into the computer system and change the coding Flynn gets sucked into the computer itself.  When he arrives in the computer world, he finds a system of subjugation where the MCP (Master Control Program) manipulates the programs and gets them to deny their belief in the Users (or humans playing the game).

As a User himself Flynn has the ability to use energy and change things for the programs.  He and a program named Tron (Bruce Boxleitner) and Yori (Cindy Morgan) work to destroy the MCP before it destroys all the Programs.

Through destroying the MCP, Flynn the Programs can begin to communicate with their Users, Flynn is sent back and he is given the credit for his designs.

tron4It is kind of convoluted but I didn’t care.¬† I was able to keep track and found it creative and different.¬† I see so much that feels the same that it is refreshing to watch something like Tron that is so out there.¬† Kind of like Blade Runner, it is nice sometimes to watch a movie that is a little hard to figure out- that makes you think.

tron6All the performances are good. I particularly liked Jeff Bridges who I thought was very attractive in the role! What a great smile! He was a great ambassador to this world and you felt like you were learning about it along with him.

I also liked Cindy Morgan, Bruce Boxleitner and David Warner.  They are all good and elevate the material.  This is not like Jupiter Ascending where the visuals apologize for terrible acting.  They all do a good job.

tron-helmet-kissThe score by electronic musician Wendy Carlos is also a real standout.  It merges synthesizer sounds with classic orchestra.  I particularly liked the final number that uses a pipe organ.  There are also 2 songs from Journey, which is kind of cool.

Tron won’t be for everyone.¬† I am sure there are people who will think it is boring.¬†¬† It is kind of confusing but just go with it, just enjoy it.¬† Some of the visuals look a little dated but it all works within the world of the movie and is consistent in its approach so that did not bother me.¬† I really thought it was a cool sci-fi film and something different and unique.

Overall Grade- A-