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Posts Tagged ‘Strong To Highly Recommended Movie’

Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.
  —  Alan Turing
Codebreaker” (2011)  —  movie review
Codebreaker is a “docu-drama” about the life of Alan Turing, the famous mathematician who lead the team which developed the computer which broke the “Enigma” German code machine back in World War II.  Turing is played by Ed Stoppard.  The “drama” portion of this film is mostly from the journals of Dr. Franz Greenbaum, who was the psychiatrist Turing was forced to see for counseling. Dr. Greenbaum is played by Henry Goodman.
This film was made for TV and was aired in 2011 in the UK under the title: “Britian’s Greatest Codebreaker“.  The title was changed and the film had a limited theatrical release in the US in 2012, so you may find it noted with either year of release.
The documentary portion of the film is interspersed into the drama and features a series of interviews with relatives of both Turing and Greenbaum, a few of Turing’s colleagues / contemporaries and some otherwise famous folks from mathematics and the computer industry.
Of course the “psych” interviews delve into Turing’s childhood, schooling and his homosexuality.  The documentary interviews try to give a lay-person’s explanation of some of Turing’s main computer breakthroughs.  For those who don’t know, Turing is considered one of the creators of both digital computers / computing, and of artificial intelligence (AI).
Turing is reputed to have died from suicide by poisoning.  This film does nothing to explicitly contradict that conclusion, but it offers slim insights into the conspiracy theory that Turing might have been killed off by the British government in the interest of state secrecy.  In any case, some 50 years after the fact, Turing was given a full pardon for his “crime” (indecent acts) as well as a formal apology from the British government.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly recommended.  Although no where near the “movie” which followed in 2014 (see below) for production value or drama, this made for television movie was just as interesting and probably more informative.  If you are interested in computers, AI or the history surrounding WWII, I think you’ll enjoy this film.
The Imitation Game”  (2014)  —  movie review
This is my third or fourth time viewing this movie and my initial review can be found here.
This movie is based on the book / biography: “Alan Turing: The Enigma” written by Andrew Hodges.  The movie is a dramatized version of “basically” historical events with liberties taken for “drama”.  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as Alan Turing, (Alex Lawther plays a young Alan Turing), Keira Knightley plays Joan Clarke (the female / “love” interest), Allen Leech plays John Cairncross (a Russian agent / collegue of Turing on the project), Rory Kinnear plays Detective Robert Nock, Mark Strong plays Stewart Menzies (the MI6 super-spy), Matthew Goode plays Hugh Alexander (one of the brilliant collegues), Charles Dance plays Commander Denniston (Turing’s commanding officer at Bletchley Park ).  The basic premise is that a brilliant Turing invents a general purpose computer to defeat the Nazi coding machine “Enigma”, thus saving lives by helping to end the war faster.  Their work is performed at Bletchley Park.  Turing (and the team) are successful, but because it is all TopSecret, there is no record of his achievements until much later (several decades) and Turing has committed suicide in the meantime.
The movie (and presumably the book) is based on fact. Turing was a real person; he was brilliant, he did come up with this codebreaking machine.  Also, he was homosexual; he was subject to hormonal “treatment” to “cure” his desires; he did die in 1954.  Beyond that, there are a number of points which are probably better handled in the “Codebreaker” TV movie reviewed above.  To begin with, I don’t believe he was autistic (as is implied in this movie).  I gather he had a mild stutter, but nothing like what is implied in the movie.  He was homosexual, but he was not as closeted as the movie implies.  My understanding is while he was open about it with his friends and colleagues, he was not what would be described as “flaming”.  He was “in love” with Joan Clarke and did propose to her and later break off the engagement.  By “in love” I mean he cared for her deeply, although it appears the relationship was more than Platonic but less than physical.  At any rate, as portrayed in the film, Turing does tell her he is gay and she did appear to not care (in real life) about his sexual preferences.
There are also a number of other factual inconsistencies: the character Hugh Alexander did handle most of the supervisory / administrative duties for the team.  He was not “really” Turing’s supervisor and Turing was uninterested in those duties and most office (and real) politics.  The character John Cairncross may or may not have been a Russian agent.  In either case, he and Turing did not work together and I’ve read it’s unlikely they even met or knew each other.  Finally, Turing was not add odds with Commander Denniston, but it seems there was some issue with funding, a letter was sent to Churchill by the team and Turing’s name was on the letter, but it was from the whole of the team, not just from Turing.
Okay.  So after all that, was the movie any good and did I enjoy it?  Yes and very much so.  I admit I am a fan of both Cumberbatch and Knightley. I also quite like Mark Strong as I see him in more things (the “Kingsman” series is top of this list).  Because I spent a career in computing, I already knew of Turing and some of his accomplishments, so it was nice to see it dramatized and put up on a big screen film.  Final recommendation: (still) highly recommended.  I am a fan of the two leads, the specific (codebreaking / history) and general (computing / WWII) topics are also of personal interest, so I had a natural predisposition to enjoy this film.  But, beyond my personal interests (biases), I do think this was a good film / drama and worth the time of anyone who happens to view it.
For those wondering about the movie’s title…  Turing wrote a paper about computing and artificial intelligence which proposed that if a person sat in front of typing instrument (what we today would call a terminal or workstation) and could type in a series of sentences and questions to “someone” at another workstation using normal language and could not tell the responses came from a machine, then the machine, was in fact, intelligent.  This is the simplified version.  The more complete version had three participants: the human testing / judging, a human responding, and a computer responding.  In this case, the judge had to decide which responder was human and which was the machine.  In some variations, the judge isn’t advised one responder is a machine until after completing several question / response cycles.  Basically, the test was evolving to add a blind control situation: the judge didn’t know there was a test or what was being tested until after the cycles.  I found it interesting that the producers of the movie would try to educate the audience about this aspect of computing and AI even though it had little to do with the premise of the movie, that is, a long-suffering individual genius breaking the German code machine.
As an aside (and final note), the movie shows Turing out running cross-country several times.  What isn’t specified is that he was a world class distance runner who nearly qualified for the British Olympic team in the marathon.  Again, nothing earth shaking, but I found the detail interesting.
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On This Day In:
2018 Until Integrity, Decency, Wisdom, And Humility Return
Just Tell (And Re-tell) The Big Lie Often Enough On Fox News
2017 To Laws, Not Office Or Individuals
Beast / General / Civil
2016 Patronage
2015 For Blogs, Too!
2014 Righteous Anger
2013 An Irish Blessing
2012 But Is It Worth It?
2011 Let Us Start
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Today’s movie(s) review is for the Baahubali series:  “Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015) and “Baahubali 2 – The Conclusion” (2017).
Now, before I get into my review, a few comments.  I have a few Indian friends from my time in Saudi Arabia, but I have practically no experience with their culture: historic or mythological.  I have only seen a handful of Indian movies and those, recently viewed (mostly in the last five years), on NetFlix.  What I’m taking so long to say is I have little to no background to understand Indian history or its cinema.  I watched the first movie because it was recommended by NetFlix and the second, because I enjoyed the first.
Baahubali: The Beginning” (2015)
This movie stars Prabhas as Shivudu / Baahubali (the hero / good king), Rana Daggubati plays Bhallaladeva (the bad guy / evil king), Ramya Krishnan plays Shivagami (the Queen designate), Sathyaraj plays Kattappa (the loyal / royal bodyguard), Anushka Shetty plays Devasena (the good king’s mother), Tamannaah Bhatia plays Avanthika (the good king’s girlfriend), Nassar plays Bijjaladeva (the bad king’s father and husband of the Queen designate).
Although a “foreign” film, the film’s speaking portions have been dubbed into English, but the movies’ songs remain in the original tongue, so to understand them you have to have your closed captions turned on.  I highly suggest you do this, as the songs add meaning to the movie.  They are not just background filler or for mood setting.
Basically, the plot is a mythic tale of heroism and courage in the face of evil.  The good king’s father is betrayed and the baby king is saved by the courage of a court handmaiden.  The infant (now named Shivudu) is adopted and raised by “regular” folk, but he quickly demonstrates strength and intelligence beyond his villager status.
Shivudu struggles against a cliff / waterfall, meets his future wife, saves his mother from imprisonment by the evil king and then leads a revolt against the evil king.  The royal bodyguard realizes at the end who the real king is (now called by Baahubali) and the movie ends.
“Indian” movies, to me, means bright colors, a cast of thousands, and (at some point) dancing.  By this strict definition, this is an INDIAN movie.  But, is it any good?  Particularly to a “Western” viewer?  Yes and YES!!  This is an action movie, a love story, a drama and a special effects extravaganza.  Much like any comic book adaptation (DC or Marvel) or any Chinese martial arts (fly by wire) movie, you have to suspend your understanding of physics, gravity, biology and human anatomy and then just settle in and enjoy the show.
Final recommendation: if you like action movies with drama, romance (but no sex), color and terrific scale – you will enjoy this movie – strong to highly recommended.
Baahubali 2: The Conclusion” (2017)
This movie (with essentially the same cast) stars Prabhas as Shivudu / Baahubali (the hero / good king – father and son), Rana Daggubati plays Bhallaladeva (the bad guy / evil king – young and old), Ramya Krishnan plays Shivagami (the Queen designate), Sathyaraj plays Kattappa (the loyal / royal bodyguard), Anushka Shetty plays Devasena (the good king’s mother), Tamannaah Bhatia plays Avanthika (the good king’s girlfriend), Nassar plays Bijjaladeva (the bad king’s father and husband of the Queen designate).
This movie relates the palace intrigue which resulted in Kattappa killing the first good king (Amarendra Baahubali), who is the father of Mahendra Baahubali (the second good king).  Kattappa assists the son in reclaiming the throne and everyone lives happily ever after.  (Not so happily for the bad king and his father, of course.)
Is this sequel better than or equal to the original?  Better?  No.  Equal to?  Well, okay.  I enjoyed the first movie more and the sequel really just seems like more of the same.  Does that make it bad?  No.  It just makes it the same.  It should be noted, the Indian people voted with their wallets.  The original was the second most sales (in crore) of all time in their internal market.  What movie did it replace?  You guessed it.  The original / first movie.
Final recommendation: Strong to highly recommended. You can definitely watch this movie without viewing the first and enjoy it on its on merit. Again, good acting, drama, romance and vast scale special effects.  One more comment: this movie is not currently dubbed into English, so you are committed to sub-titles.  This was tolerable, but I definitely would have rated it higher if I could have enjoyed the visuals more and not had to bother with the distraction of reading.
Series recommendation:  Strong.  It isn’t often you can watch a series in or out of order and still enjoy both movies.  I think this is one of those rare series.  One caution for non-Indian viewers: my understanding is this a story about a “possibly” historic / mythological hero and kingdom – much like King Arthur in English lore.   You shouldn’t come away feeling you have any real knowledge of Indian history or geography, anymore than watching Marvel’s “The Avengers” teaches you anything about American politics or history.  Oh, yeah…  You’ll need lots of popcorn because each film is over two hours long.
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On This Day In:
2018 Nothing
2017 Approval First
2016 In Search Of Words
Day 2 – Blending
2015 At What Price?
2014 Intricate And Subtle Order
2013 Attention To Detail
2012 Aequanimitas!
2011 Consider This

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Collateral  (2004)  —  movie review
Last night I took an evening off of Christmas movies to watch and action movie.  My choice was the 2004 thriller “Collateral“, starring Tom Cruise as Vincent (a contract hitman) and Jamie Foxx as Max (a taxi driver).  Basically, Vincent is in Los Angeles with a night to kill (as in five targets to murder).  Max is the lucky taxi driver who gets a cash bonus to drive Vincent around as he does his dirty deeds.  Max awkwardly discovers Vincent is up to no good, but Max is convinced (by Vincent) to assist.  Action and hilarity ensue…
Okay, maybe NOT hilarity, but this is a pretty entertaining movie.  To start off, Tom Cruise is a bad guy.  Yeah, I know Tom has done a few bad guy or against-typecast roles in the past, but (for me anyway) I have to think about when was the last time I saw Tom as a “bad” guy.  If I have to think, that means I’m open for surprise.  I was both, open and surprised.  Tom was Tom (“run Tom, run”), but Tom was also pretty good.  Strike that,  VERY good.  Jamie Foxx is also mildly “against-type” cast in the role of ne’er-do-well taxi driver who dreams of owning a luxury limousine service.  It’s only in the last few minutes of the movie where Foxx reverts to super-hero and saves the day.
I particularly like Vincent repeatedly telling Max: “We’re in this together” and “We’ll both get through this”.  Max wants to believe he still has a chance to live through the night.  We, of course, have been told by the police of a similar case in Oakland, where a rampaging taxi driver killed several people and then committed suicide.  So, we pretty much know how it will “really” end up for Max at the end of the ride.
So, final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended!  I really enjoyed this movie.  (Maybe I’ve been over-dosing on too many Christmas movies and I need to clean out my system?)  The type reversals for the two main actors was a big part of the enjoyment, but still, it (the enjoyment / entertainment) was there.  This is not a movie for kids.  The body count alone is enough to restrict access (rated “R” for violence and language), but for mature viewers, I didn’t find it to be gratuitous, over the top or offensive.  It was part of the story.  Are these “defining” roles for either of the main actors?  No.  But they are both against-type (mostly) and they both carry it off.
The question is:  “A man dies while riding on the MTA.  How long until somebody notices?
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On This Day In:
2017 Falling Forward One Step At A Time
2016 And Without Expectation
2015 Just Do It
I Am A Runner
2014 Some Things I Learned (Mostly) In The Army:
2013 Who You Are
2012 Mine Stands
2011 Aversions

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 The Fifth of November

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
V For Vendetta” (2006)  —  movie review
V For Vendetta” is a political / action / thriller / drama set in a future United Kingdom / England, dystopian / fascist state.  The movie stars Hugo Weaving as V (the hero of the movie), Natalie Portman as “Evey” Hammond (the naive initiate), Stephen Rea as Eric Finch (the good cop just trying to do his job), John Hurt as High Chancellor Adam Sutler (the evil ruler), Tim Pigott-Smith as Peter Creedy (the head of the state police / the muscle).  The basic plot is a secret governmental agency is trying to find a disease (and cure) they can use as a weapon and gain control of the country / world.  They get the disease, but end up creating “V” as the cure (by accident).  “V” escapes, as does the disease and it becomes a world-wide pandemic.  To “protect” the U.K., the governmental agency seizes power and the state becomes a means of keeping a few (Sutler and Creedy) in more or less absolute power.  Except “V” comes back to exact his revenge.
So, damsel in danger.  Saved by hero.  Hero tries to convince damsel he is hero.  She doesn’t believe him and almost gets them both killed.  Hero goes to “extraordinary” lengths to convince her he is “good” and she finally believes.  Meanwhile, hero is playing all kinds of heck with the government.  The good cop is trying to capture the hero.  All the bad guys get their due.  Hero dies.  Damsel promises to remember him.
This movie is somewhat of a classic at this point – in the dystopian and anti-fascist movie genre.  Shockingly, this is the first time I have seen it all the way through!  I had previously seen lots of parts and a couple of times almost all of it, but I bought the DVD on sale for a $1, so what the heck.  It’s also on TV and NetFlix a lot, but I don’t enjoy watching movies with commercials (most of the time) and I just never got to it on Netflix before this.
Is this a “great” movie?  No.  But I do think it is a “classic”.  How’s the  acting?   Pretty good…  In a BBC / Masterpiece Theater kind of way.  Plot?  Action?  Special effects?  I found the plot a little confusing.  There are some “memory” scenes and I was a bit confused by the beginning / intro.  The action is mostly good to very good.  The crescendo death battle is definitely “classic” at this point and you can find multiple versions of it on YouTube.  That, and the two buildings which get blown up (the “Old Bailey” and Parliament) are both also done well as special effects.
Final recommendation:  Strong to highly recommended!  It is a movie which left me thinking it about it, so it’s difficult to describe it as an “action” movie, but it is also that, too.  I enjoyed it and now that I’ve watched it all the way through, I definitely want to watch it again in the not too distant future.  If nothing else, to make me think about it a little more deeply.  On its own, that’s a pretty good recommendation for any movie – genre classic or not.  Oh, yeah.  The verse above (which is recited in the movie) is from the poem referring to “Guy Fawkes Day”, which is 5 November each year in England.  Back in 1606, Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators wanted to blow up King James and Parliament.  They failed and were all executed.  “V” had better luck…
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On This Day In:
2017 Black And White
Advice For #DumbDonald
2016 Mirror, Mirror
2015 Speaking With Forked Tongue
2014 The Code
2013 Eventually Formed
2012 Remember To Vote Tomorrow
2011 It Sounds Like Chaos Theory To Me

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The Message (1976 / 1977) — movie review
Today’s review is for “The Message” (originally titled: “Mohammad, Messenger of God“), which was released in Arabic in 1976 and in English in 1977.  The English version of the movie stars Anthony Quinn as Hamza (the Prophet’s uncle), Michael Ansara as Abu Sufyan ibn Harb (the leader of Mecca), Irene Papas as Hind (Abu Sufyan’s wife), Johnny Sekka as Bilal, and Michael Forest as Khalid.  Although the movie is “about” Mohammad, the movie follows the Muslim tradition of not portraying the Prophet or his voice.  Therefore, the movie has a few awkward scenes where the camera appears as the Prophet’s view and his lines are said (or rather repeated) by one of the actors on screen.  The movie depicts the historical drama (biopic) of the Prophet from his conversion until his death, and the birth / growth of Islam as a religion.
I first saw this movie almost twenty years ago when I was working as a contractor in Saudi Arabia for their national steel company: Hadeed.  A co-worker of mine, who became a friend, was trying to convert me from being Catholic into a Muslim (Sunni).  This may sound a bit strange, but I found almost all Muslims felt it their duty to Allah to try to convert all non-believers.  This was never a pressure-sale kind of thing, it was simply an attempt to share the joy of his / their faith.  In any case, my first viewing had the benefit of having an English speaking Saudi there with me to elaborate on parts of the movie.  Obviously, I didn’t have this luxury for this second viewing.
To start off with, the movie is just under three hours long.  I think this is partly an effort to stay true to the story and partly for the production value of making the film into an “epic” like “Lawrence of Arabia” or any of the Cecil B. DeMille Hollywood Jewish / Christian epics.  Due to life getting in the way, I had to break up the viewing this week into chunks of 30 minutes, 60 minutes and 90 minutes.  I don’t believe the viewing (or this review) suffered from this as I now do this quite often.  The nice thing is the movie is free on YouTube, so you only have to write down where you stopped and you can go right back to that spot or a couple of minutes earlier with no problems at all.  I must admit to finding viewing of older movies (particularly made for TV movies) on YouTube to be a lucky fortune for me.
So, is the film any good?  Is it accurate?  Did I learn anything about Islam which I didn’t already know?  Yes, yes and yes (well, kind of).  This is not a “great” movie in the sense of great cinema.  It is a great movie in the sense of relating God’s will for mankind.  I don’t mean God / Allah seeking to turn everyone into a Muslim as much as God’s will to have men live in peace, respect women, help the poor and those less fortunate, and most of the doctrines of the other two religions of the book (“the Bible”).  Given the length, the movie has slow parts, but it also has some fairly well done battle scenes (for its time and special effects).
Is the movie accurate?  Not being an expert on Islam, I can’t definitively speak to this.  I can only say my friend felt it accurate enough to recommend to me (and view with me) and to relate that Wikipedia says the historian advisors worked on the entire filming while the religious experts did not.  The religious experts quit before the movie was completed.  It should be pointed out the film took over half a decade to get completed and was shot with two different casts (one for Arabic and one for English).  Part of this delay was due to the difficulty of keeping funding and part was due to location issues – some of the countries involved in shooting pulled their permissions over religious grounds.
Did I learn anything?  Yes, but not really anything “major-new”.  I was reminded of things and certain parts were emphasized in this second viewing (and background reading), and I think that was a good thing.  My Saudi friend either wasn’t aware of the political issues, the funding / duration issues or the multiple version issues, or if he did know about them, didn’t feel they were important enough to mention them to me.
I would say, that if you are coming into Islam blindly by stumbling onto this film, you will certainly learn a lot about the faith.  However, it should be recognized the similarities between Islam and Christianity are cherry-picked to hi-light the beliefs most closely aligned, and the differences are virtually ignored (unstated).  I don’t have any problem with this because I am aware of some of the differences.  They might be more problematic for someone less informed.
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended movie.  It is an older movie and it shows in the production values.  A historically based epic, I think the movie faithfully relates the story-line of the beginnings of the Islamic faith.  As such it is recommended viewing for anyone interested in comparative religious studies, Middle-Eastern history or, more specifically, the Islamic faith and its origin in Saudi Arabia.
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On This Day In:
2017 Not Yet That Well-Organized
2016 Probably Whatever Was Sought Yesterday
2015 What We Choose To Divide Us
2014 Peace With Honor
2013 Dangerous Systems
2012 Useful Science
2011 Say It, But Please Don’t Make Me Listen

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Leap Year”  (2010)  —  movie review
Today’s review is for the 2010 rom / com, “Leap Year“, starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.  Adams plays a real estate stager (someone who “cons” buyers by making property look nicer than it is) and Goode plays a bitter / sarcastic pub owner / innkeeper.  The third main role is played by Adam Scott.  He plays Adams’ cardiologist boyfriend, Jeremy.
Anna (Adams) goes to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend (Jeremy / Scott) on February 29th (duh, “Leap Year”), on the way, she meets Declan (Goode).  A series of comedic incidents ensue.  Blah, blah, blah.  They fall in love, but try to deny it to themselves.  Blah, blah, blah.  Anna returns to Boston with her boyfriend – now fiance, Jeremy.  Blah, blah, blah.  Anna returns to Ireland and her true love.  Happy ending, kissing at sunset.
Is this any good? Does it work as a rom / com?  Yes, and yes.  There are only two issues: 1) getting soaked in the rain (repeatedly) and pelted by hail, is miserable, not romantic; and, 2) people seem to walk incredible distances extremely quickly.  Aside from these two minor breaks with reality, I enjoyed the movie thoroughly.  I particularly enjoyed the old men’s banter in Declan’s pub. A perfect stereotype of an Irish pub.
A couple of other points: I’m not sure if I’ve type-casted Scott or not, but he was completely unbelievable as Adam’s boyfriend.  I didn’t think I was an Adams’ fan, but I’ve seen her in multiple roles (“Doubt“, “Man of Steel“, “Julie & Julia“, and “Arrival“), and, okay, I’m sold.  She’s pretty good.  In those other movies, I don’t think the camera “loves” her.  In this role, it does.  And, then there’s Goode…  Watching the movie, I thought: “This guy is great!  I wonder what else he’s done?”  So, of course, I looked him up and he was in “Watchman“, “The Imitation Game” and “Downton Abbey“.  All of which surprised me because (suddenly) I said: “Wow!  He was good in all of those, too!”
Final recommendation: strong to highly recommended.  As a fairy-tale rom / com this is a better than average movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed the two leads and the various predicaments they got into and out of.  It’s not a believable story / movie (see above), but it’s got beautiful Irish scenery and I found myself wanting them to have the happy ending.  That, in itself, is a pretty high recommendation for any rom / com.
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On This Day In:
2017 Explaining My Equally Meager Results
2016 Every Tool And Every Chance
2015 Something That You Love
2014 Not Really At All
2013 Listening And Deserving
2012 I’m Still Not Certain
2011 True, False And Useful

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