Film

A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)

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Director: Ron Howard
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 135 min.

This film is based on the life of eminent mathematician John Nash.  It took a number of Oscars and Golden Globes in 2002 and well deserved them. The acting, writing, and directing were all wonderful.

John Nash has a brilliant mind, but his social skills are somewhat lacking.  He mumbles when he talks, avoids eye contact, and analyzes every situation–from pigeons in the park to women in bars–in terms of mathematical patterns.  His ability to see these natural patterns will lead him to his “equilibrium theory,” which has had a great impact on a number of scientific fields, especially economics.  As he completes his doctorate at Princeton and continues to a faculty placement at M.I.T., he gathers a small following of friends, colleagues, and admirers which will become a strong support network for him later in life.  Among them is his student Alicia de Larde who quickly becomes Alicia Nash.  But John’s brilliant work in mathematics brings him attention he did not anticipate.  Recruited by a mysterious government agent for an anti-communist code-breaking project, John finds himself swept up in a world of secrets, conspiracy, and danger.  As his secret life causes his behavior to grow erratic, Alicia begins to fear for her husband’s health and sanity.

The screenwriters take some liberties with the real story–glossing over a few periods of Nash’s life in order to make the John-Alicia love story more prominent, but those decisions serve the film well.  It is a great story, great cinematography, and great acting.  I enjoyed it immensely.

THE FIGHTER (2010)

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Director: David O. Russell
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 116 min.

As tends to be my habit, I missed seeing this film in theaters.  But I’m glad I finally got to see it.  I really enjoyed it!

Micky Ward has always looked up to his older brother, Dicky.  Dicky was a very talented boxer, but his glory days have passed and now he, along with his mother and a mess of other relatives and pseudo-relatives, is determined to train Micky as the next great fighter.  But soon, a cocaine addiction leads Dicky into jail and Micky must decide whether loyalty to his family is getting in the way of his career.  With the help of his girlfriend, Charlene, Micky begins to win fights and make a name for himself.  But can he really succeed without Dicky’s help?

This film is based on a the lives of Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund. It is rated R mostly for language and violence, as well as some “adult situations,” as they say.

INCEPTION (2010)

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Director: Christopher Nolan
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 148 min

This film is based on the premise that technology exists which allows people to infiltrate and manipulate the dreams of other people.  As the story opens, Cobb, an expert in dream technology is on the run from the law, forced to hide abroad and work for corporations illegally.  After a failed operation, Cobb is approached by the head of a major corporation for a job.  If he is able to penetrate the dreams of a young business man and plant an idea that will cause the man to break up his company, then Cobb’s employer will see to it that all charges are cleared from his name and he can return home to his children.  Cobb takes the job, but in order to succeed, he must escape the ghosts of his mysterious past who seem to sabotage him every time he enters the dream world.

The film takes advantage of the similarity between dreams and the medium of film–the quick cuts from one scene to another without having to know exactly how the characters got there, the seemingly impossible or improbable events that we take for granted, etc.  Just as the characters sometimes have trouble sorting out what is dream and what is reality, so does the audience.  This is not a movie to watch when you are tired or unprepared to pay close attention.  But if you like a solid science fiction concept and like trying to figure out what is going on in a mysterious plot, this is a great film.

HAMLET (2009)

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Director: Gregory Doran
MPAA Rating: Not Rated (originally a stage play)
Running Time: 180 min

This particular production of Hamlet was originally a stage production for the Royal Shakespeare Company.  It stars two actors who have both played prominent roles in serious classical theatre but also in science fiction television shows (David Tennant, aka the Tenth Doctor of Doctor Who, and Patrick Stewart, aka Jean-Luc Picard of Star Trek: The Next Generation).  I loved every minute of it!  And if you are a David Tennant fan, you should also check out the Much Ado About Nothing he did with Catherine Tate in 2011!

Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a revenge story.  The play opens just after King Hamlet has died and his brother, Claudius, has married the Queen and taken the crown.  But the ghost of the dead king comes to his son, young Hamlet, and tells the Prince that Claudius murdered him.  Throughout the rest of the play, Hamlet struggles to come to terms with his father’s death, his mother’s re-marriage, and his uncle’s treachery and to avenge his father’s death.  Meanwhile Claudius must determine how much Hamlet knows and how best to deal with the problem Prince without arousing suspicions.

There have been many Hamlet films made, and strictly from a cinematic perspective, this particular production is not the best; it was originally designed for the stage.  But the acting is incredible, and the director (Doran) takes great pains to make the play modern and accessible, without losing the original meaning of Shakespeare’s work.  It’s a bit on the long side (3 hours), but Doran, Tennant, and Stewart really bring the story to life.  This is one of my favorite interpretations of Hamlet.  If you enjoy Shakespeare, it is definitely worth watching.  If you have read or seen Hamlet before and thought it made no sense and was not accessible in any way, this might be the production to try!