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?

FlixChatter Review: Love & Friendship (2016)

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You already know I LOVE period dramas and I adore Jane Austen. This was one of the Sundance films I couldn’t wait to see and it absolutely didn’t disappoint! Love & Friendship is an adaptation of Austen’s short epistolary novel Lady Susan that was published posthumously in 1871. Writer/director Whit Stillman changed its name but the focus is still on Lady Susan, played brilliantly by Kate Beckinsale.

Lady Susan Vernon is a beautiful widow who’s famous for her dalliances and flirtatious nature. As she waits out all the colorful rumors about her in her in-laws estate, whilst securing a husband for herself and her reluctant daughter Frederica. Chloë Sevigny plays her American best friend Alicia who’s loyal to her despite her husband’s threat to send her back to America if she doesn’t sever her ties with Susan.

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Right from the start, Stillman’s script infuses the movie with such biting wit and his direction is whimsical and fresh. I enjoy each character’s introduction, clearly labeled in an amusing fashion that makes it easy to understand who’s who in the story. One of Susan’s suitors is her sister in-law’s brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) who’s immediately smitten by her against his better judgment. The truth is, it’s very easy to be charmed by Lady Susan, as was I throughout this movie. In fact, this is perhaps one of the rare Jane Austen movies where there’s a lack of swoon-worthy Austen hero. But we do have an utterly hilarious character in the form of Sir James Martin, played by Tom Bennett who stole every scene he’s in. That ‘Churchill’ bit in the trailer got chuckling but it’s even funnier in the movie.

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I enjoyed this movie immensely and I think the fact that it’s more of a satire than a romance drama, it’d be as enjoyable for those who are normally not into this genre. Described as the most irresistibly devious of Austen protagonists (who’s not shy of admitting the fact that she has a married lover), Beckinsale shines in the lead role with her beauty and wit. The way she spins things to make it sound as if it’s everyone else’s faults but her own, when confronted with something that’s actually true, she’d say ‘Facts are horrid things!’ She delivers the most cunning, devious lines with such breezy, sunny disposition that’d charm the wits out of you. I’d say she’s utterly bewitching in this role, which is a welcome change considering I haven’t been impressed by anything she’s done lately. This is the second time Beckinsale has starred as an Austen character (the first time was in Emma in 1996), but this one is definitely a far superior performance. She has a nice chemistry with Sevigny, whom she co-starred with in Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (1998).

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The movie is also gorgeous to look at, with sumptuous costumes (by Irish costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh), lush cinematography and picturesque scenery (apparently Ireland subbed for Regency England here). I absolutely adore Beckinsale’s purple dress featured in the poster. The music by Benjamin Esdraffo is lovely and adds that touch of whimsy. But it’s the droll and dry humor that keeps me engaged, I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in an Austen movie. I mean Pride + Prejudice + Zombies was hilarious because of the amusing juxtapositions, but as far as a straight Austen adaptation, this is by far the funniest. But then again I’ve always found Austen to be a funny and witty writer, and that’s what makes her social commentary on class and manners in polite society so wonderfully timeless.

Speaking of PPZ, interesting to see Emma Greenwell and Morfydd Clark from that film, who played Mr. Bingley’s sister and Mr. Darcy’s sister, respectively. Also fun seeing reliable British comic actors Stephen Fry and James Fleet as part of the ensemble.

At only an hour and 32 minutes, the movie flows with such upbeat energy. Kudos to Mr. Stillman for his brilliant work here, which made me want to check out his other films. I was privileged to see him talk about this film following the screening, and the New Yorker has such dry British humor, which explains the wit that transpires in the script. I might even check out his companion novel, titled Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated. I think the fact that Stillman is a huge fan of Austen’s work (though he admitted that he disliked Northanger Abbey) definitely helps in making this such a delightful adaptation. This is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.

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Have you seen ‘Love & Friendship’? I’d love to hear what you think!

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