Weekend Viewing Roundup: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015) + SULLY (2016)

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How was your weekend everyone? It’s been a busy one for me, but a productive one. I actually did go to the movies, which is rare actually for me as I usually go to press screenings on week nights. But after dinner my hubby and I felt like checking out the new AMC theaters with the new reclining seats, which are indeed awesome! SULLY was the only one we’re interested in that is less than 2 hrs long, though it felt a bit eerie watching a plane crash scene in NYC on the weekend of 9/11.

In any case, on Friday night, we also rented a movie we’ve been curious about for some time…

The Man Who Knew Infinity (2015)

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The story of the life and academic career of the pioneer Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and his friendship with his mentor, Professor G.H. Hardy.

I have to say that being terrible at math, I’m not that familiar w/ the subject of this biopic. But Of course, just checking on Wikipedia, he’s an extraordinary man whose math theories are still being used today.

Stories about geniuses are popular biopic subjects in Hollywood, i.e. A Beautiful Mind, The Imitation Game, etc. The film traced his humble beginning in Madras, India and how he ended up at Trinity College, Cambridge in the 1910s. Dev Patel bears no resemblance to the real Ramanujan, but he seems to be the only actor of Indian descent working the British film industry could think of to cast. He’s a likable actor, and I think he’s quite believable in the role.

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Jeremy Irons plays G.H. Hardy, Ramanujan’s mentor who invited him to Cambridge to the first place. The film began with Hardy’s voice over saying how much he owed Ramanujan, which suggests there’s a deep friendship between the two. The rapport between the two characters is a bit of a slow built. The main friction between the two is that Hardy refuses to publish Ramanujan’s theories without proofs, whilst Ramanujan’s convinced all his theories add up. There’s also the fact that Hardy didn’t seem sensitive enough to the challenges Ramanujan faces at Cambridge, including his sense of alienation the fact that he’s an Indian studying amongst British intellectual elites.

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As far as biopics go, this one is pretty straight forward. Though the subject matter deals with theorems and formulas, I wish the film is less um, formulaic. The film could’ve been really engrossing under a skilled/experienced filmmaker, but this is director Matt Brown‘s sophomore work, so overall it’s pretty dry. It’s an intriguing journey about a brilliant person, but yet I just wasn’t as involved or moved by his story as I expected. The performances are pretty good, though I’ve seen more impressive work from everyone involved, including Toby Jones as J.E. Littlewood, one of Ramanujan’s advisers. Stephen Fry barely made a dent though as he only appeared briefly in the film.

I do appreciate the spirituality aspect of the protagonist who’s a devout Hindu. Contrast that with Hardy who’s a professed atheist, there’s a few interesting banters between them. Ramanujan said at one point that “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.” He still prayed regularly when he’s at Cambridge, so faith certainly played a big part in his life. The film also showed his selfless nature that he hid his illness from his friend. The fact that the university was being used as a hospital during World War I, he also felt that his condition just wasn’t bad enough as the soldiers that he deserved care.

I suppose the film is still worth a look if you’re curious about Ramanujan’s story. Though it wasn’t a great film, I’m still glad I saw it and the protagonist no doubt has a story worth telling.

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SULLY (2016)

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The story of Chesley Sullenberger, who became a hero after gliding his plane along the water in the Hudson River, saving all of the airplane flights 155 crew and passengers.

The last Clint Eastwood-directed film I saw was Invictus which was back in 2009. It also happens to be the shortest film he has directed at 96 minutes, which is the reason we picked this one when my hubby and I was deciding on which new release movie to see on Saturday night.

It really is quite a feat that a film where the ending is well-known, given that it happened only seven years ago, still manages to be quite riveting. Of course Eastwood got the best man for the job, there’s practically no other actor of his stature who’s as skilled AND as likable as Tom Hanks. He’s the perfect actor to play the quiet hero whose selfless and humble traits are something to aspire to. I also think Aaron Eckhart is pretty good here, though I wish Eastwood had given someone as talented as Anna Gunn more to do.

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I didn’t see this movie in IMAX but it was filmed with IMAX cameras so I bet it looked even more spectacular on screen. The plane landing scene on the Hudson river is as suspenseful as it is stunning to watch. Kudos to Eastwood and screenwriter Todd Komarnicki for keeping SULLY afloat when it could’ve easily been a tedious based-on-a-true-event types of movie. Just remember this is a film, not a documentary. There’s likely a great deal of creative license taken in the way the NTSB investigations played out.

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So that’s my weekend recap. What did YOU watch this weekend, anything good?

Guest Post @ Digital Shortbread Blog – My review of Night Train to Lisbon (2013)

This review is my contribution to Bite Sized Reviews over at @ Digital Shortbread Blog

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Night Train To Lisbon is a historical-tinged drama where a chance meeting leads a Swiss Professor to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. Based on a best-selling novel by Pascal Mercier and directed by Danish director Bille August, the film stars Jeremy Irons in an understated yet engaging performance.

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Though Iron’s Raimund is the protagonist, it’s Jack Huston who’s also a standout in the film. He’s fantastic as the young doctor Amadeu as there’s a mysterious quality about him, and there’s quite an alluring chemistry between him and Mélanie Laurent. The always enchanting Charlotte Rampling is marvelous as a woman who’s personally connected to Amadeu and fiercely protective of their past.


Check out my full review by clicking the image below

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Superlative Casts Wasted In Mediocre Films – In the Valley of Ellah, The Ides of March & Margin Call

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Greetings all and sundry!

Between bouts of less than strenuous snow shoveling. I’ve taken refuge within the recent fare of The Sundance and Sony Channels. To acclimate myself with some interesting contemporary offerings. And maintain a sense of loyalty to Julian of Dirty With Class. And his suggestion that I sometime stray from my comfort zone of earlier Classic Films.

To that end, I have plunged deep into titles that tickled my interest as their trailers and ads when first unleashed on the populous. Either for their visuals, tightly compressed and less than two minute story lines. Or their casts. Which, surprisingly in hindsight appeared and delivered far beyond the parameters of their assigned tales.

Allow me to introduce …

Superlative Casts Wasted In Mediocre Films

Chronologically first in line is this odd little offering from Paul Haggis and “Based on actual events” of the early Iraq War.

In The Valley of Elah: (2007) – Sundance Channel

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Whose central plot device focuses upon returning G.I. Specialist Mike “Doc” Deerfield (Jonathan Tucker). And his strange and grisly death after suddenly going AWOL after a few weeks stateside.

Enter Mike parents, Army veteran and retired Army Intel Sergeant, Hank (Tommy Lee Jones). And his stoic wife, Joan (Susan Sarandon), who has already lost one son to a helicopter crash during a Ranger training exercise..

Being the concerned father, Hank travels to his son’s home station. Starts asking questions while hitting the first defensive line of an Army stonewall. And doesn’t buy the less than orderly goings on of the Army investigation for a minute. In retribution, hank takes a look at his son’s barracks room and finds Mike’s smart phone. Hoping it may have something hidden within its high tech innards.

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Frustrated, Hank has a discussion with Joan, who channels her inner June Lockhart from the 1960’s CBS fci-fi series, Lost In Space. And sends Hank out to find some help from the local police. On the way, Hank drops Mike’s phone at a local computer shop and asks the resident nerd or geek to run a complete diagnostic and dredge up what he can.

At the police station, Hank sees Detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron) deep in discussion with the distraught wife of a returned G.I.. Who had drowned the family’s pet dog in the bathtub while her husband had his son watch. Detective Sanders takes the report, but there is nothing she or the police can do. And there’s even less Sanders and the cops can do regarding an AWOL soldier. Not her problem. Not her jurisdiction.

Until a few days later and a crime scene pops up with a burned and dismembered body in the middle of nowhere. The local P.D. is more than happy to lateral the scene and crime over to the Army. Since the scene is on the outskirts if the military reservation, Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

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Hank wants to stick his nose in, but the Military Police have little time and no use for a long retired brother in arms. Angered, Hank starts playing with his son’s phone. Which had suffered heat and fire damage. And its stored videos are garbled, but show images of G.I. interrogating and later, torturing Iraqi soldiers.

Hank get a call from the base and an officer takes Hank out to the crime scene. And later the morgue. Where Jason Patric‘s Lt. Kirklander starts asking questions about Mike’s possible involvement in drugs. Nudging the possibility that a cross border gang may be responsible. Since a glass pipe was found under Mike’s mattress.

Hank and Sanders return to the crime scene and determine that Mike was brutally killed and immolated elsewhere and deliberately dumped between battling civilian and military jurisdictions…

I’ll leave it right here for Spoilers’ sake.

Overall Consensus:

Paul Haggis is a well respected, revered and feted screenwriter. Attached to many award winning films. And that said. He should stick to what he knows and does best!

His direction of this first of a small number of “Anti-War” films is parochial at best. He knows how to set and stage scenes. And arranges and choreographs whatever action scenes there are in a copy book or primer fashion. No scene leaps out memorably. Though, Mr. Haggis claims credit for the film’s adaptation and screenplay.Even when Tommy Lee Jones’ Hank near weepingly informs his wife that their youngest son is dead.

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Susan Sarandon does anger and the sudden bereaved mother well. But Carol Burnett did it better in the made for TV movie, Friendly Fire in 1979. Cinematography by Roger Deakins is serviceable. And a bit clever with New Mexico outlands and Morocco substituting for Arizona and Iraq, respectively. And polished by editing by Jo Francis.

Also not a fan of the heavy-handed, Boogeyman treatment ladled onto Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Something that little is known about, but quickly becomes the catch all for any tense or erratic behavior beyond what is considered the “norm”.

Which takes into the sometimes murky world of politics. In an adaptation of the play, Farragut North. Originally written by Beau Willmon, who shares screenwriting credit with the film’s director, George Clooney and Grant Heslov.

The Ides of March: (2011) – Sony Channel

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Which boasts Ryan Gosling as junior political campaign manager, Stephen Meyers. Attached to the Presidential campaign of Pennsylvania Governor, Mike Morris (D), (George Clooney. Who’s not afraid to occasionally throw his weight around). Tied up in a slowly tightening race against fellow Democrat and Arkansas Governor, Ted Pullman (Michael Mantell).

Both candidates have connections and money to burn. But need the endorsement of North Carolina Governor, Franklin Thompson (Slippery Jeffrey Wright), who controls 356 convention delegates.

Now that the primary characters have been noted. The meat of this tale hangs mostly upon and is brought to the fore by secondary players. Specifically, Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti, in fine form!) as Tom Pullman’s manager, front man and perhaps, bag man? Who meets with Meyers in private and delivers Meyers to a sit down with Duffy’s boss. Media and message specialist, Paul Zaza, (Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Laconically used to his power and rarely raises his voice.). Who is intrigued by Meyers and is in search for a new Padawan to mentor and teach the ropes and ins and outs to.

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Meyers and Duffy talk. And Duffy offers Meyers a position on the Pullman campaign. Which Meyers turns down in an effort to curry favor with his new girlfriend, Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood). Young. Idealistic. And utterly naive and out of her depth in her desire to be part of “An honest campaign, where integrity matters”.

Molly is an intern with the Morris campaign and is also the daughter of former Senator Jack Stearns (Gregory Itzin) and Chairman of the Democrat National Committee.

Meyers is bounced around as offers of Sec State are made to Morris by Duffy through Pullman. Counter offers are made in return by Zaza. Just to the the juggled balls even and airborne and Thompkins’ delegates in the mix as major leverage.

No one is playing well with the other. All anxious to hold onto whatever favorable numbers are in the polls. Meyers tries calling Molly to no avail. So Meyers begins poking around where he shouldn’t. Back to Iowa and a stopover shared by Molly and Morris. Molly is pregnant by Morris. Meyers pays bag man and delivers money to Molly for an abortion. Meyers fires Molly from the campaign with orders for her to keep quiet.

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A New York Times reporter, Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) braces Meyers with what she knows about Meyers’ meeting with Duffy. And wants more. Threatening to publish what she knows unless Meyers wants to help himself. Confronted with a leak. And Molly’s sudden overdosing. Meyers decides to take on Morris. Who has just enough information and gossip to implicate Meyers in Molly’s death. And cuts Meyers off at the knees while being handed his walking papers.

Seeking revenge, Meyers talks to Duffy, who wants nothing to do with Meyers’ rogue, duplicitous activities. Paul Zaza is even less friendly. Filling Meyers in on his personal beliefs in loyalty. And Meyers coming up far short. Admitting to Meyers that he leak that sent The New York Times after him. And not really caring. Because Meyers doesn’t have what it takes for full contact politics.

I’ll not violate the Prime Directive regarding Spoilers and pull over right now.

Overall Consensus:

Having followed the rough and tumble of politics inside and just outside Washington, DC for forty plus years. And crediting everything I know about how Democrats play the game to the late, great political novelist, Ross Thomas. I just didn’t buy the premise of the entire film.

Never doubting for a moment that Mr. Clooney’s Mike Morris would win the nomination. Basically due to his hair and good looks. I also expect something more imaginative than long telegraphed twists and standard plot devices.

That said, the battle is fought exceptionally well in the trenches by Mr.Giamatti’s and Philip Seymour Hoffman. And their characters who exude worldly weariness over the daily give and take. Addicted to the give and take of power, while doing everything they can to protect their candidates. To these men, it’s a job. Which becomes a career over time. With wins and losses. As long as the wins outnumber the losses. To Ryan Gosling‘s Stephen Meyers. It’s an adrenaline charged rush. That requires, and later demands recognition.

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It might also help to use locations in Pennsylvania to help tell and sell the tale of a Pennsylvania Governor’s desires to rise in political ascension. Instead of major and outlying cities in Ohio and Michigan!

Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael is noteworthy in using these sometimes cramped and uncredited locales to add a touch of damp, dour, cold, dingy winter weather to buttress a rather tame, pedestrian.story.

Which glides us to the final installment in independent story telling. Orbiting slowly and re entering in stock market crash of 2007 and its near fatal effect on Goldman~Sachs and other Wall Street firms.

Margin Call: (2011) – Sundance Channel

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Which opens to the noise, clamor, hustle and bustle of another day’s trading on the floor. Though, something new is added. Expensively suited supervisors taking busy traders aside and handing them their pink slips. With whispers to not clear their desks or offices. Just leave!

Watched in slack jawed and stunned awe by Junior risk assessment analyst, Seth Bergman (Penn Badgley). Senior Trader, Peter Sullivan (Zachary Quinto) and Trading Desk Supervisor, Will Emerson (Paul Bettany). Something foul is afoot as traders are escorted out. Amongst them, Peter and Seth’s boss, Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci). Master numbers cruncher. Head of risk management on the trading floor. And nearly unrecognizable in a few days’ stubble.

The three subordinates watch as Dale is led towards an elevator. Peter steps close and Dale manages to pass a USB Memory Stick. With the waning “Be Careful” as the elevator doors close, Peter plugs in the stick and starts stripping the mathematical algorithms. Discovering a whole submerged iceberg of useless and junk stocks, bonds and mortgage backed securities. Far exceeding projections from any time in the past. Or present.

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The exchange house is hemorrhaging money. And drastic measures are needed as department heads decide to burn the midnight oil. each wondering if their heads will be on the block. As Senior Risk Management Officer, Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore) starts going over the “Formula”‘s numbers and projections. Seth and peter call in Will Emerson. Who calls his higher up, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey solidly in touch with his inner Jack Lemmon).

The players make their entrances in whispered asides and brief encounters. As Will, Seth and Peter go to the skyscraper’s roof for a smoke or last bit of fresh air before the dawn. With Will trying to allay fears while not really knowing much of anything, himself. As a helicopter makes itself known before circling and landing on the upper, night lit helipad.

The first of several meetings is called. With Division head, Jared Cohen (Simon Baker, from L.A. Confidential and The Mentalist. Radiating smooth confidence in expensive attire) and Corporate CEO, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons. A veteran of past “hiccups” and anxious to find the limits of immediate damage). His opening soliloquy is equal parts familiarity with what may occur. And a desire for ideas. Any ideas which might help allay or soften the inevitable.

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Ms. Robertson adds to the discussion with the news that “The Formula” is real and a worst case scenario will soon be at hand. While Sam responds to Tuld’s wanting a plan of action with a dawn to dusk sale of anything and everything. At least 40% sales on stocks and shares at 85 cents on the dollar by 11 o’clock. With recalls to brokerage houses throughout the day. Starting at 65 cents on the dollar afterward and continuously whittling down as excess ballast is dumped, But to what end?

Survival, of course. Creating what is sure to be a long, hard and full day ahead. As lower tier traders go seek privacy to cry or panic. And their bosses sweat out what can be retrieved or gained.

As the man with the plan, Eric Dale is sought out for whatever other input he might be able to add in regards to sales and options. Eric is at home. In his recently purchased and refurbished house in Brooklyn. And Will and Peter have their breakfasts interrupted. And are dispatched to find whatever the can. or bring him back.

In the interim, Ms. Robertson has a tete a tete with Jared over whom is going to be asked to fall on their sword and be a sacrificial lamb. Sarah is having no part of it. While Jared knows that she is. And will be. While Sam takes the just arrived floor traders asides and delivers not exactly a pep talk, but more of a plan of strategy.
Mentioning bonuses to individual and team of traders for achieving or exceeding their assigned quotas.

The morning bell clangs and the air is alive with calls out and the sales feeding frenzy begins. With Will laying on all his charms while giving away whacking great chunks of toxic stocks at slightly better than minimum loss. That will surely approaching maximum before the day is out.

Overall Consensus:

Here we have an instance of an A-List cast being used to less than their absolute potential. In a film whose dialogue could use one or two scenes of unbridled and angry scenery chewing. We have utter, serene, near glacial calm as the bottom is falling out of a touch stone brokerage house.

The cast does what it can to add suspense with inflection and decades of experience with the spoken word. Especially Kevin Spacey’s Sam. Who has too many years in. Wants out badly, but the present opportunity offers little in return. Sam does what he does, because he needs the money.

While Jeremy Irons knows the present situation is terrible. But survivable. The only real “third wheel” is Demi Moore‘s Sarah Robertson. Who approaches the requisite anger level for such a situation. Railing against the men over her coveted position, while being brushed aside at nearly every turn.

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Surprisingly, it’s Stanley Tucci who calmly, quietly underplays and subtly manages to steal then own every scene he’s in. His talk with Will on the steps of his Brooklyn home is a wonder to follow as explains hours and days of travel saved with a bridge he’s helped design between Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Direction by J.C. Chandor is adequate and mostly shot in one of Goldman’s deserted office towers. Though his screenplay could have stood a second review and possible re-write.

Personal Notes:

I don’t mind “Bad Cinema”. Some offerings are my favorite Guilty Pleasures. What I do mind are producers (And these films’ list of producers are all excessively long) putting their money on the line to assemble A-List and ‘Dream Team’ actors saddled with less-than-satisfactory projects under the reins of less than proven directors.


Check out Jack’s other posts and reviews


Agree? Disagree? Your comments are welcome!

Happy Birthday Jeremy Irons + James Lipton! Watch their conversation in Inside the Actor’s Studio

Jeremy Irons turns 65 and James Lipton, the host of Inside the Actors Studio, turns 86 today.

I’ve always been fascinated by the 60-min interview because it feels more relaxed and intimate and you really get to know the actor Mr. Lipton is conversing with. And that’s the thing, it feels more like a guest speaking candidly to a host instead of a staged interview.

InsideActorsStudioIn the early 1990s, Lipton was inspired by Bernard Pivot and sought to create a three-year educational program for actors that would be a distillation of what he had learned in the 12 years of his own intensive studies. In 1994, he arranged for the Actors Studio – the home base of “method acting” in the USA for over 60 years – to join with New York City’s New School University and form the Actors Studio Drama School, a formal degree-granting program at the graduate level. After ending its contract with the New School, the Actors Studio established The Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in 2006. (per Wiki)

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Check out the interview below. Mr. Irons even serenaded the audience with his guitar! 😀


Jeremy John Irons was born in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, which is a small island just off the south coast of England.

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Quick Bio:
He trained at the Bristol Old Vic School for two years, then joined Bristol Old Vic repertory company where he gained much experience working in everything from Shakespeare to contemporary dramas. He moved to London in 1971 and had a number of odd jobs before landing the role of “John the Baptist” in the hit musical “Godspell”. He went on to a successful early career in the West End theatre and on TV, and debuted on-screen in Nijinsky (1980). In the early 80s, he gained international attention with his starring role in the Granada Television serial adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel “Brideshead Revisited” (1981), after which he was much in demand as a romantic leading man. He went on to a steady film career. (per IMDb)

I’ve always admired Mr. Irons, though I’m guilty that I haven’t seen a lot of Irons’ earlier works, but if I were to list top five roles of those I have seen, I’d probably list The Mission (check out my Music Break spotlight of Gabriel’s Oboe), The Lion King, The Man in the Iron Mask, Stealing Beauty, and Margin Call. Yes I know he’s not on for very long in the last film, but when he does, it was definitely the most memorable parts of the film. On top of his considerable talent and classical training, the tall thespian also has a gift of screen presence. It’s impossible not to notice him when he’s on screen, and when he opens his mouth, he absolutely commands attention.

TheLionKing_ScarHis vocal performance as Scar in The Lion King is downright iconic. His rich, haunting voice works absolutely brilliantly. The only person I could think of in this role would be Alan Rickman. Interestingly they played brothers in the Die Hard movies (Hans & Simon Gruber), though never share a screen together. Now, you’d think it’d be impossible to match the iconic booming voice of James Earl Jones, but Irons’ sinister raspy voice is indelible in its own right. The way Scar whispered ‘Long Live the King’ before throwing his own brother Mufasa off a cliff remains one of the most heart-wrenching death scene ever filmed, not just in animated features, mind you. I always tear up whenever I watch it and I remember hating Scar with a passion. Apparently the Disney animators were so impressed with Irons’s performance that they worked his features into Scar’s face!

His singing segment of Be Prepared with the Nazi undertones is perhaps the most memorable Disney villain songs ever. I guess Irons will always be known for his deliciously evil roles as he’s not afraid to take risks in his career.

Speaking of devilish roles, he’s recently wrapped the SHOWTIME series as Pope Alexander VI in The Borgias, which follows the Borgia family as they rise to power in the Roman Catholic church. The tagline says: Sex. Power. Murder. Amen. ‘Nuff said. His next project is a Western Thriller A Magnificent Death from a Shattered Hand, a directorial debut from… Thomas Jane?? Color me intrigued 😀


Let’s wish Jeremy Irons a happy birthday. What’s your favorite role by the British thespian?

TV Miniseries Spotlight: The Hollow Crown

I’ve heard of it but somehow it fell off my radar. Not sure how as I’m a sucker for this kind of stories… AND Tom Hiddleston! Well, thanks to my good pal Terrence for sending me the trailer link via Twitter. What a pal he is… oh btw, don’t forget to vote on his weekly Time to Vote Tuesday. Great topic today, as always!

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The Hollow Crown is a new adaptations of Shakespeare’s tetralogy of history plays comprising the ‘Henriad’ for the BBC’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad: King Richard II; King Henry IV, Part 1; King Henry IV, Part 2; King Henry V. The plays chronicle a continuous period in British history from the end of the 14th century to the aftermath of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Together, the plays comprise a story with recurring themes of power struggles, redemption, family conflict and betrayal. (per IMDb)

I can’t friggin’ wait to see this! It’s no surprise that I LOVE all things British, including films about British monarchy, and man, I definitely would watch this for the cast!!

Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal/Henry V
Jeremy Irons as Henry IV
Ben Whishaw as Richard II
Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt

There are also notable British actors in the supporting roles: David Morrissey, John Hurt, Julie Walters, oh and James Purefoy as Thomas de Mowbray, 1st Duke of Norfolk.

Here’s the trailer:

Now, for my UK friends, this is probably old news and perhaps you’ve even seen this on BBC Two. But it’s finally making its way to our shores. It will air on PBS’ Great Performances on Friday, September 20. But if you can’t wait THAT long, it will be released on iTunes, VOD, and DVD on August 27th.

Click on each image to see a larger version

Telegraph UK has some very nice things so say in its 4.5 stars review. I particularly like what it says about Hiddleston:

Hiddleston’s performance was a clever one. He is a cerebral actor and for that reason failed to convince in his early scenes (in Henry IV Part One) as a roister-doister. It was only when his heart was heavy, meditating on his destiny in a corpse-strewn foreign field, that you realised his quiet power.

The Guardian also says that “…The Hollow Crown feels as good as TV Shakespeare is going to get.”

So yeah, I’m so game for this!! I think I can handle 500 minutes of Shakespeare with THIS cast. I hope there’s a bunch of special features in this as well. I wouldn’t mind a whole video journal just on James Purefoy getting into costume and make up 😉

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Well, I’m already sold on this one before I read that director Sam Mendes is one of the executive producer! Even from the trailer, this looks like an epic with lavish locations and astute details on the set pieces and costumes. This miniseries has won several awards, including BAFTAs for Best Leading Actor (Ben Whishaw) and Supporting Actor (Simon Russell Beale). It was also nominated in the music and costume design category.

The Shakespearean English might be a bit hard to follow for someone like me but I’m willing to give it a shot, especially with Hiddleston’s gorgeous voice reciting them, he’s an actor who’s born to play this type of roles! Plus, with the right technique, even this old language could have a contemporary feel.


So what do you think folks, are you up for this? For those who’ve seen this, please let me know what you think!

Music Break: Ennio Morricone’s The Mission – Gabriel’s Oboe

I’ve been wanting to feature this haunting score for a while now, and since Easter was just a few days ago, I thought it’d be fitting to feature it this week.

TheMissionPosterEnnio Morricone is one of my favorite composers of all time, with Cinema Paradiso being one of my favorite scores ever. There’s something so highly evocative about his music, and whilst Cinema Paradiso is more lush and romantic in nature, this score for Roland Joffé 1986’s film The Mission has a poignant and haunting quality to it. It’s one of those pieces I’d describe as so achingly beautiful as whenever I listen to it, it pierces my heart and stirs my soul.

I saw this film years ago and after seeing the trailer last night, I’m compelled to see it again. The story centers on 18th century Spanish Jesuits try to protect a remote South American Indian tribe in danger of falling under the rule of pro-slavery Portugal. It features fantastic performances from major thespians such as Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro and Liam Neeson.

The main theme, called Gabriel’s Oboe, is one of the most stirring piece of music I’d ever come across. The name of the score refers to the scene where Father Gabriel (Irons) travels to Iquazu Falls, climbs to the top and plays his oboe. The Guaraní community who lives above the Falls had tied a priest to a cross and sent him over the falls to his death, but the Guaraní warriors were captivated by the music and allowed Gabriel to live.



Morricone’s score for The Mission was ranked on #1 in a poll of the all-time greatest film scores and is ranked 23rd on the AFI’s list of 25 greatest film scores of all time. Morricone received a second Oscar nomination for The Mission, but lost out to Herbie Hancock’s jazzy score for Bertrand Tavernier’s Round Midnight. (per Wikipedia)

I owned a couple of Sarah Brightman‘s CD, and one of my favorite songs from her is Nella Fantasia (In My Fantasy). Well, apparently it was based on Morricone’s Gabriel Oboe theme he did for this film! Brightman was such a big fan of that music that he begged Morricone to put lyrics to the theme to create her own song.

My next song was originally an instrumental written by the composer Ennio Morricone for the film The Mission. About three years ago I wrote to Mr. Morricone, asking whether he would give me permission to turn this particular piece into a song. He flatly refused. So every two months I would send yet another begging letter, until I think he became so sick of me that he finally relented. And I am really glad that he did, because I think it works beautifully as a song. (per Wikipedia)

Here’s the Sarah Brightman‘s rendition of Nella Fantasia (I can only find the live version):

Few scores are as exquisite and powerful as this one… Mr. Morricone is certainly a legend amongst even the best film composers ever, and this stands at the top of his amazing work.


I hope you enjoy today’s Music Break. Thoughts on this film and/or its music?

New Releases Reviews: A Good Day to Die Hard and Beautiful Creatures

Happy President’s Day! I’m blessed that I get a day off today, woo hoo. Nobody likes Mondays so it’s always nice to get Monday off 😀

I’ll reserve my weekend roundup until tomorrow, but instead I’ve got a couple of new release movies for you. Perhaps those of you who get today off are considering to see either one of these. Are they worth a watch? Well, read on.

A Good Day to Die Hard

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Well, where do I start? If only the studio and everyone involved take the film’s title to heart and put a bullet right in its head and kill this franchise once and for all!

I’m actually a big fan of the Die Hard franchise mind you, Bruce Willis is always fun to watch as the reluctant action hero. The first three Die Hard are fun to watch, and I even like the fourth one (despite the silly Justin Long casting) and the internet-terrorism theme was quite timely. Now this time, our wisecrackin’ John McClane travels to Russia on a mission to save his estranged son. John hasn’t even made it to his hotel yet from the airport and he soon gets caught in a building explosion and shoot out. It turns out the rebellious Jack McClane is a CIA operative who’s on a mission to prevent a nuclear-weapon heist from happening. The plot involving a high-ranking Russian politician Viktor and a government whistle-blower Yuri (I’m surprised neither one is named Ivan!) is really stretched thin, as the movie is far more concerned with explosions and shoot-em-ups.

You know how young boys like to crash their match cars and destroy things? Well I feel like watching an 8-year-old boy playing with his toys here, except that the boy here (director John Moore) was given close to $100 mil worth of playthings to smash as he pleased. Within the first twenty minutes there’s a huge explosion, guns blazing like there’s no tomorrow, followed by a relentless car chase that never seem to end. I haven’t seen sooo many cars being smashed, crushed, mangled so much so quickly. At first I was laughing at its inherent preposterous-ness but the amusement doesn’t last long. All the deafening clanging and bullets wheezing grow more and more tedious by the minute and I’m afraid not even Bruce Willis self-satisfied smirk can’t save this movie.

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It certainly doesn’t help that Jai Courtney has zero charisma and the father/son dynamic between him and Willis are ridiculously lame. Forget ‘under developed,’ as the screenwriter never even bothered to make any effort to imbue any sense of wit or fun in their dialog. Willis’ usually amusing wisecracks are frustratingly repetitive as he keeps saying over and over again that he’s on vacation. It’s just so stupid as John wasn’t really on vacation as the reason he went to Moscow was to get his son back. Even his famous ‘yippikayay’ line was so uninspired and was delivered kind of under his breath that some people around me didn’t even realize he even said it. Poor Mary Elizabeth Winstead was completely wasted as McClane’s daughter, but did she even read the script??

Now, I have to give it to Willis that at the age of 57 he still looks good enough to run around, jump, leap from tall buildings and blazing semi-automatic weapons at bad guys. But it’s getting to be a bore to see him playing himself over and over again. I can’t even tell the difference between his role here and in RED, yet another action franchise that’s fun initially but will likely overstay its welcome.

I get it that a certain ‘suspension of disbelief’ and escapism is to be expected from a Die Hard movie, but I think this one fly waaay past my tolerable threshold. Seriously, the McClane duo are apparently made of rubber as no matter how far down they fall or how hard they smash into things, they both manage to come out unscathed with not even a twisted ankle!!

Director John Moore hasn’t directed anything since 2008, which was the equally dreadful Max Payne (funny that they both got 16% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). I sure hope he takes a much, much longer directing hiatus after this one for all our sakes. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of this tired franchise as it once again tops box office! 😦

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Beautiful Creatures

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When I first saw the trailer of this film, the first thing that came to my mind is ‘oh not another Twilight!!’ Here’s another supernatural teen romance based on a popular young adult novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, and of course they’re trying to capitalize on the Valentine’s Day weekend to suck lure young audiences in.

Instead of a rainy small town on the West Coast, this time we’re taken to a small town in South Carolina called Gatlin where there are “twelve churches, one library and no Starbucks.” That’s what narrator Ethan Wate tells us as the film opens. Ethan is a 16-year-old cool kid who likes to read ‘banned books’ and he’s been having a recurring dream that torments him. Suddenly there’s a new schoolgirl in town, a gloomy 15-year-old Lena Duchannes, known as the niece of the reclusive Macon Ravenwood whose family line been living in that town for centuries. Ethan immediately takes a shine to the new girl who reminds her of the girl in his dreams, and soon learns that she’s a witch, or ‘Caster’ as her family prefers to call it. Well everyone in school finds out who she was the day she uses magic to shatter the glass window of their classroom when she was bullied. It turns out that the reason for Lena’s angst (beyond the typical teen angst that is), is that on her sixteenth birthday, she will be claimed for either Light or Dark. The whole film largely focuses on how Ethan could save Lena from going Dark and also figure out how he is connected to her.

Good thing I read Wikipedia before I went to the screening, so at least I know just who the heck are Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson playing in this movie, as those two are the main draw for me in seeing this. Well, Irons plays the debonair-looking Macon whilst Thompson was in scenery-chewing mood the entire time — complete with her amusing Southern accent — as Serafine, Lena’s mother who’s an all-powerful Caster but takes the form of Mrs. Lincoln, the mother of Ethan’s BFF. Viola Davis also has a small but important part as Ethan’s governess of sort who’s a seer who can communicate with the dead. Emmy Rossum on the other hand, seemed to have too much fun with her role as the rebellious Ridley, Lena’s cousin who’s turned Dark for some time, that she overacted in most of her scenes.

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Now, I find the whole black magic stuff quite repulsive, not to mention baffling as so many things just don’t add up. Not having read the books, I’m willing to wager that there are perhaps more depth in them than what’s depicted on film. But that’s just speculation, I’m not that interested in this story to ever find that out. Thankfully, the movie is not devoid of some wit and humor, albeit some of them are quite campy. Director Richard LaGravenese (who also co-wrote the script) infuse some comical aspects into the characters and there are some references to some famous works like To Kill A Mockingbird that I find quite amusing. Alden Ehrenreich as Ethan is actually quite likable and nowhere near as morose or vapid as any of the Twilight boys, though he also likes to stare creepily at the girl he fancies quite a bit (is that what teenagers do these days?? I wouldn’t know). Australian Alice Englert (apparently she’s director Jane Campion’s daughter) could’ve been more captivating as Lena, but at least she doesn’t annoy the heck out of me.

Though I enjoy some of the performances and the beautiful Gothic set pieces and cinematography (the snow scene is quite lovely), I feel that the word I use to describe this movie is laborious. The long drawn-out exposition threatens to grind the movie to a halt by over-explaining things instead of focusing on crafting a love story worth caring for. The young actors have decent chemistry, but their relationship descend too much into melodrama and insipid melancholy. I think the more mature actors are having more fun in this, especially Emma and Emmy, relishing on the chance of being oh so evil.

Overall, I don’t find this adaptation would appeal much to those outside of the young adult demographic. There is a good message of sacrificial love at the end of the film, which I thought is quite refreshing to see. But unfortunately it was soon dampened by an eye-roll inducing cliffhanger finale set up for an inevitable sequel. Heh, I guess it’s too much to ask these days to just have one good movie, but no, the studio seems set to give us (I’m going to use the dreadful words again) sequels that overstay its welcome [sigh]

2.5 out of 5 reels

Have you seen either one of these films? Well, what did YOU think?