Rapid Review: Margin Call (2011)

margin call poster

“There are three ways to make a living in this business: be first, be smarter, or cheat.”
– John Tuld

SYNOPSIS: A respected financial company is downsizing and one of the victims is the risk management division head, who was working on a major analysis just when he was let go. His protégé completes the study late into the night and then frantically calls his colleagues in about the company’s financial disaster he has discovered. What follows is a long night of panicked double checking and double dealing as the senior management prepare to do whatever it takes to mitigate the debacle to come even as the handful of conscientious comrades find themselves dragged along into the unethical abyss. – via IMDB

margin call office

GRADE 5I was so excited for this. I had big dreams for this. I did. I mean, did you see that cast? Wow! Some serious favourites of mine there, and all in one movie? Yes, yes, let me see! Plus, ratings to boot?! On board! Ugh. What a waste. My fiancé passed out within forty minutes, all the while playing card games on his phone because he could not get into this. Me? I stuck it out, hoping for a turning point that just never came, and I think that was more disappointing than anything else. The story was not an easy one to follow, not all of us trade stocks, are insane mathematicians or are rocket scientists, and this film seemed to forget that at the best of times, completely running away with what was happening. I, for one, was majorly lost, though I pieced together what was happening, why, and all that. I was unhappy about it. I love a movie that makes you think. This is not that. This is one of those movies that just makes half the viewers feel like idiots, and that is just offensive. It was a really bland, boring movie overall. The performances were really good, and I kept waiting for Simon Baker to get up to some Patrick Jane shenanigans, which he didn’t, but oh well. Tucci was very good, as always, Quinto is amazing (loved his rocket scientist bit), Spacey dominated, of course… but even with all of these things, this movie did nothing for me. Nothing. What a pity. Especially by the time that I got to the end. Basically nothing happened and I felt like I had been robbed of my time, which was totally not fair, but happens far more often than we would like to acknowledge.

Rapid Review: Transcendence (2014)

transcendence poster

“Once online, a sentient machine will quickly overcome the limits of biology. And in a short time, its analytic power will become greater than the collective intelligence of every person born in the history of the world.”
– Will Caster

SYNOPSIS: Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp) is the foremost researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence, working to create a sentient machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known with the full range of human emotions. His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists who will do whatever it takes to stop him. However, in their attempt to destroy Will, they inadvertently become the catalyst for him to succeed-to be a participant in his own transcendence. For his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) and best friend Max Waters (Paul Bettany), both fellow researchers, the question is not if they can…but if they should. Their worst fears are realized as Will’s thirst for knowledge evolves into a seemingly omnipresent quest for power, to what end is unknown. The only thing that is becoming terrifyingly clear is there may be no way to stop him. – via IMDB

johnny-depp-transcendence-good question

GRADE 3.5What the hell man? Johnny Depp’s redeeming role… that’s what this was supposed to be. Instead I saw a drunk Jack Sparrow scientist in the beginning. However, he was massively improved by the end of the film. I was not a fan of the plot whatsoever, and it was incredibly sad to see such a great cast go to waste. I mean Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, and Cillian Murphy? Johnny Depp and Rebecca Hall? It was just such a disappointment overall, and I want to make mention of how stupid it all was. Meh. I feel like I wasted so much time here, and I will never get it back. I mean the reviews came back pretty negatively, but even though I was not necessarily excited to see it, I still wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I was hoping for something worthy or Depp’s talent. It started just fine, and then it just lost the plot. And not gradually, either. It’s like the ground opened up and it went into freefall. The script left a lot to be desired, although the plot progression was the one thing that was more sturdy than most other aspects of this. Plus there was Kate Mara, and I really don’t like her very much, so she just irritated me endlessly every time she came on screen. Depp only impressed me more towards the end – those of you who have seen this, I am sure you will agree that it was more of a call back to the older Depp style. Overall, the movie was ludicrous. I just could not slot in with what was going on at all, which is a pity. I really wish it had been something more.

Review: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

a beautiful mind poster

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?”
– Dr Rosen

John Nash (Russell Crowe) starts at Princeton University in 1947. There on the Carnegie Scholarship for mathematics, he is definitely the odd one out. He has difficulty making friends, and does not start on a good foot with his classmates. Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas) and he have a terrible rivalry due to both being there on the same scholarship. He sort of befriends a group of bright science and math graduates – Ainsley (Jason Gray-Stanford), Bender (Anthony Rapp) and Richard Sol (Adam Goldberg). His most unlikely friendship however is with his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who is a little bit of a crazy literature student.

a beautiful mind nash on campus
“Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.” – John Nash

Nash is faced with extreme pressure to come up with something brilliant, something amazing and make his way in life from there. He will not write any paper and be published, though. It has to be original, it has to be fresh and defining – it has to be the one. A random idea strikes him while listening to his friends talk, and freshly defines governing dynamics. Due to his latest breakthrough, Nash is offered a job at MIT, and he chooses Sol and Bender to join him.

a beautiful mind
“Man is capable of as much atrocity as he has imagination.” – William Parcher

Nash has risen in esteem, though he seems not to be the most patient or gifted teacher. He does some work at the Pentagon where he has to crack a code, and shocks codebreakers when he deciphers the code mentally. Feeling his talents are lost at MIT, he jumps at the opportunity that William Parcher (Ed Harris) gives him. It is a top secret assignment that is perfect for Nash. He has to crack codes from magazines and newspapers for the United States Department of Defence to foil a Soviet plan. His discoveries are to be delivered to a secret mailbox.

Nash falls in love with his student, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly) after she makes all the relevant moods. Now Nash has a family, and this complicated the work he is doing for the government. Nash meets up with his best friend, Charles, and is introduced to Charles’ niece, Marcee (Vivien Cardone). They get along famously. Soon Nash marries Alicia and she becomes pregnant, and their lives begin. However, the work with Parcher gets out of hand, and Nash seriously needs to rethink how things will work, and tries to get out of the business, though Parcher will not let him go. All the strings come loose at a guest lecture at Harvard University when Nash tries to run from Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer), whom he believes is a Soviet agent. Nash is taken to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

a beautiful mind nash's office

Soon it becomes evident that Nash is a schizophrenic, and that Charles, Marcee and Parcher are figments of his imagination. Alicia will not accept that her husband is a lunatic, and investigates. Her, Sol and Bender establish that Nash really is losing his mind, and that so much that he believes is real is actually not. Nash undergoes numerous types of therapy to “fix” him, and is eventually released. Alicia and Nash try to piece their lives together, but Nash is embittered about the pills that he needs to take. They affect his mind – he cannot do mathematics anymore, and he cannot be with his wife or care for his child.

a beautiful mind nash in love
“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” – John Nash

How will the couple overcome the difficulties of Nash’s disease if he refuses to take the pills and acknowledge there is a problem? Nash cannot live a life without mathematics, and is taking the blow terribly hard of not being able to be the promising genius he was supposed to be. His friends and wife stand by him, and are all desperate to help him by and make things right. Martin Hansen becomes incredibly important to Nash’s recovery or acknowledgement of the issue. Will Nash ever be the genius, ever be respected for the evidently phenomenal mind that he has? Will he even be able to be the mathematical prodigal again and be honoured for it?

After an incident where Nash endangers his infant son and accidentally knocks Alicia and the baby to the ground (thinking he’s stopping Parcher from killing her), she flees the house in fear with their child. Nash steps in front of her car to prevent her from leaving. He tells Alicia, “She never gets old”, referring to Marcee, who although years have passed since their first encounter, has remained exactly the same age and is still a little girl. With this, he finally accepts that although all three people seem real, they are in fact part of his hallucinations. Against Dr. Rosen’s advice, Nash decides not to restart his medication, believing that he can deal with his symptoms in another way. Alicia decides to stay and support him in this.

Nash approaches his old friend and rival, Martin Hansen, now head of the Princeton mathematics department, who grants him permission to work out of the library and audit classes. Years pass and as Nash grows older he learns to ignore his hallucinations. Eventually he earns the privilege of teaching again.

A Beautiful Mind garners a solid 9/10. I know it was based loosely on John Nash, but loosely or not it was a heartrending story. It was stunning, yet so sad. It depressed me. Genius and madness really do share the same side of the coin. I thought Russell Crowe nailed his role, he was absolutely perfect, and depicted Nash as someone I felt so sorry for yet could not help but admire and respect just for his sheer intellect. It was a great cast that they put together, truly, and the camerawork was fantastic. For me it was an incredibly gripping story and did not have one dull moment in it. It is worth the watch. I have not seen it in years, but it struck me deeply once more when I watched it again. I honestly felt that this was one of Crowe’s truly defining roles. Nash’s story is sad, and the brief read that I looked into shows that they were more or less accurate in the rendering of his life and his madness as well as how it all progressed. There were so many times that I was just sitting there wishing someone would see these figments in his mind just to validate his paranoia. The anger I experienced with how he was mocked and ridiculed is beyond measure. People can be the cruelest and most truly vile and nasty things under the sun, so undeserving of respect. This movie kept me riveted – if you have not seen it, get on that immediately!