Look Back, Look Here, Look There: A Triple Movie Review

2015 A.D. beckons, but I must say, this year, I do not feel ready for it. What am I missing? Haven’t a clue actually. Besides the obvious difference in not being with my family at the moment, I have no annual traditions. I don’t watch the ball drop in NYC. I don’t drink or kiss or sing to begin the new year. I’m not insane enough to venture to The Strip for fireworks and drunken tourists. (For one, I’ll never find my car again.)

So what have I done instead? Watched movies, naturally. Three of them today, in fact – one for the past, one for the future, and one for the present. They’re not at all “New Year’s Eve” related, in the way some films are created for Christmas or Valentine’s Day. I just felt that for any new year tidings, one tends to look to the future – resolutions and the like – seeking to the change the past, while also enjoying the here and now. It’s a difficult balance any normal day of the year, to be sure.

Now if you want to ignore the first two paragraphs, just think of this as a triple feature! Ta-da!

My choices were as follows: Past: Sense and Sensibility; Future: Elysium; Present: The Theory of Everything (this could qualify as past, if you want to see it that way, but since Hawking is still alive. . .)

Read, enjoy, and have a Happy New Year, all you villains (both always and sometimes). Cheers!!!

(Note: For the sake of brevity, these reviews come with stats, i.e. names and more names, my blurb of thoughts, and finally, the ratings.)

Sense and Sensibility (1995) 131 min, PG

Elinor, Marianne, and their mother

Director: Ang Lee
Writers: Jane Austen (novel), Emma Thompson (screenplay)
Cast: Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Greg Wise
Patrick Doyle

Marianne: Always resignation and acceptance. Always prudence and honour and duty. Elinor, where is your heart?

Under the beautiful direction of Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and actor/writer Emma Thompson (Love Actually, Nanny McPhee), this recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s first published work (under an alias) does its job well. It keeps the spirit of the novel in that  the viewer appreciates both having sense and sensibility in the development of a relationship. You don’t really know which one wins at the end; it’s a mixture of both.

Kate Winslet (Titanic, Finding Neverland) and Alan Rickman (Harry Potter, Die Hard, Sweeney Todd, everything good and British) were the two stand-outs for me, though the relationship portrayed the best was the one between the Dashwood sisters, Elinor (Thompson) and Marianne (Winslet). Any time watching an Austen story, however, one must keep in mind the strictures of women’s roles in society back then. Emotions just weren’t . . . expressed as freely (or you were considered a slut, I think). Lee and Thompson conveyed such difficulties well, without dragging down the humor of Austen’s voice, which I love.

Rating: B
ASV Villainy Rating: I – Inspired
The “evils” of the Austen world are already apparent. But in order for our heroines to fit the bill, all they’d need to do is follow the conniving harlots that backstab other women with gossip and scandals. Could they take over the world doing so? Doubtful.

Elysium (2013) 109 min, R

Max strives to keep living when the mission goes wrong

Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writers: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Wagner Moura
Ryan Amon

Android Medic: Miporol, extremely potent, will keep you functioning normally until your death. Please take one pill with each meal. Thank you for your service.

Elysium lies somewhere between Apollo 13 and, oh let’s say, Avatar on the epic scale, with the definite organic flair of District 9 (and seeing as Blomkamp directed both, that makes sense). It’s a story about the wealthy and the poor, with a gap between them that spans much more than miles on the ground. Yet as daunting as you might think it’d be to stage a rebellion when your opponents are orbiting your planet, Blomkamp skips all that and plunges you right into this version of the year 2154.

No, it’s not Halo.

I’ll be honest, it starts very slow. The action doesn’t match District 9, but there are plenty of gory deaths later, if that’s your bent. The storyline didn’t bring me to tears, but neither is it terrible to watch.

Matt Damon (Bourne Identity, Good Will Hunting, a shitload lot of others) brought a surliness to the hero Max that made me chuckle; he’s flawed, and Blomkamp makes no apologies or quick redemption for him. Average performance. Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) (who plays Agent Kruger), oh ho, now that’s a different matter. He was all kinds of psycho this time. None of the courageous development of Wikus Van De Merwe. A little strange with Kruger’s katana, but he still used guns and grenades well enough. Every scene with him was a good one.

Rating: CWould I watch more films made for this universe? Meh, maybe. Bottom line, I’d much rather watch the sequel for District 9. WHERE IS IT, BLOMKAMP?
ASV Villainy Rating: B – Bad to the Bone Yea, you’d think Max would have a higher rating with his surgically attached exoskeleton and cranial downloader, but it’s not like he really knows how to use it, and it’s all a three-year-old design. The police droids far outnumber him and the futuristic weapons (including a handheld force field Kruger uses) can oppose him easily. Finally, add in the medbays that can essentially heal freakin’ anything, and yea, not gonna take over the world without lots of help.

The Theory of Everything (2014) 123 min, PG-13

Director: James Marsh
Writers: Anthony McCarten (screenplay), Jane Hawking (book!!!)
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis
Jóhann Jóhannsson

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope.

This film should be winning all kinds of awards. Yes, it’s already been nominated. I know that. I just mean that if it doesn’t win, I’ll be utterly flabbergasted. Why? Because I spent WAY too much time during this movie crying. It was that good. I had the headache borne of trying to suppress too many tears to prove it, OK? (And a soaked sweater as well because I forgot to bring tissues; where’s a hobbit when you need a handkerchief?)

Gosh, I don’t know where to start.

A huge thank you to Jane Hawking for letting Anthony McCarten and James Marsh (Man On Wire, Project Nim) adapt her book into this amazing movie. Major, gigantic props to Eddie Redmayne (Les Miserables, The Pillars of the Earth) for an unbelievably realistic performance. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), a.k.a. Lou Gehrig’s disease, or “that ice-bucket challenge thing,” is never a pretty disease to watch unfold, and most will avert their gaze. It is plainly heartbreaking, and yet, I could not stop watching Redmayne on the screen.

He wasn’t always in a wheelchair.

It was in the way he demonstrated his muscles failing one by one, the way he reassured his kids and wife that everything was going to be fine, the way he smiled and joked even when he couldn’t speak, the way his eyes still searched the world for discoveries. I mean, holy freakin’ crap. How did you do this to me? Oh wait, I know. Marsh and his vision and Jóhann Jóhannsson (Prisoners, Wicker Park) and his music. ARGHGHJEMAR. Let’s be honest, I knew I was screwed the very first scene. Two guys on a bike and the chords swell, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever heard.

I’m shaking my head now even as I type, because I won’t say much more. You’ll just have to watch it.

I will say, however, that as awesome a job as Redmayne did, Felicity Jones (Like Crazy, The Invisible Woman) complimented him perfectly. The Theory of Everything is, after all, the story of Jane and Stephen, how they met and lived, their sufferings, their conquests. Jones gave us rare insight into what truly makes someone strong of heart. Depth; that’s what I’d say about her acting in one word.

Now if you want more focus on just the cosmologist, there’s always Hawking (2004) by director Philip Martin and writer Peter Moffat to see as well. Oh, and it stars Benedict Cumberbatch! (I haven’t seen it yet, sadly.) If this movie doesn’t convince you, then that one can. Or other books, or his actual works. Dr. Stephen Hawking CH CBE FRS FRSA is an awe-inspiring, beyond brilliant man, after all, not just a cosmologist/theoretical physicist who has given us a view into how time began (and will end). Check out his TED talk, too!

But back to the film. Accompanying Redmayne and Jones are some of my favorite faces in movies, and not only because I recognize them elsewhere. Harry Lloyd (The Iron Lady, Game of Thrones) plays Brian, Hawking’s encouraging college mate. David Thewlis (Harry Potter, Kingdom of Heaven) portrayed Hawking’s professor and friend Dennis Sciama. And finally, Charlie Cox (Stardust, Merchant of Venice) and his curly brown mop personified adorable as Jonathan Hellyer Jones, a choir director and essential friend to the Hawking family. All of them did exceedingly solid work.

I’m glad I watched The Theory of Everything on the eve of a new year. Its recurring images of light (starlight, ultraviolet light) and fire (fireworks, embers in a hearth) gives life to ideas that are so essential to everything that we are. Even if you don’t agree with the answer (or theory), you must confront the question.

Rating: A+ Not as long a review as this movie deserved, I swear. But I seriously have no bad things to say about this movie. Nothing.
ASV Villainy Rating: WF — We’re Fucked Who’s to say Professor Hawking hasn’t already taken over the world? Maybe he uploaded his mind into the internet and no one’s the wiser. He’ll see us to the end of time and back. Truly though, it will be a day to mourn when he passes. They say we all die twice. First, when our bodies and minds fail us; and second, when someone says our name for the last time. Mr. Hawking, here’s to you, because you’ll far outlive me. 🙂

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