If I am to fashion a book,
I’ll need a spine.
Sometimes you are awed by cinema films because of the immensely beautiful special effects and the use of unparalleled images. The other time it’s the inventiveness of a story and the way it’s structured. And in other films, you look with admiration at the way certain actors play their role. Is it obligatory that a movie looks phenomenal to you? Or does it happen sometimes that while reading a novel, in which the sophisticated juggling with words creates literary excitement, you have difficulties to keep your eyes open and your head nods back after a short period after which a little snoring is heard? Well, in that case, it might be better for you to ignore this film. Because in “The Professor and the Madman” there are no breathtaking special effects to be found and the emphasis is on the literature from this world. For me, this was a masterful and fascinating story about how the world-famous “Oxford Dictionary” was put together.
A practically impossible task.
Even though this takes place around 1850, there are certain facts that can be found in our contemporary society. And, of course, there are also substantial differences. The film is not just about the realization of an almost impossible assignment with limited resources. It’s also about the existence of class differences, scientific ignorance and the application of inhumane practices in psychiatric institutions. It demonstrates the pretentious behavior of the wealthy class and the political juggling in intellectual circles. And in between these topics, there’s the Scotsman James Murray (Mel Gibson) who, with the help of countless strips of paper, miles of knitting yarn and with a ton of patience, tries to contain and interpret every existing English word in literary history. An assignment that requires immense efforts to the detriment of his wife and children.
Literature isn’t a sexy subject.
I’m aware that literature (at least for me) isn’t exactly a sexy subject. I already assumed that this film wouldn’t be intense or exciting. But just like with “Kill your Darlings“, this historical drama fascinated me. And this because of the challenge Murray took on. I looked in disbelief at the method that was applied. And I was constantly wondering if this was achievable. It’s an era where people didn’t know the word digital yet (one word they don’t need to concentrate on) and they didn’t have computers at their disposal. No indexed work file with linked cross-reference tables on which one could release SQL statements, to do big data analyses. No, everything was scribbled down with old-fashioned ink pens on sheets of paper and then attached to the walls. Can it be more primitive? It’s wonderful to see that James Murray actually applies the principle of content management here by encouraging the English people to write down English words and send them to them by mail (indeed no e-mail).
Brilliant acting by Gibson and Penn.
It’s mainly the brilliant acting of the gentlemen Mel Gibson and Sean Penn that makes the film more interesting. Gibson plays the Scottish academic and autodidact who, despite the opposition of the established values from the Oxford Board of Directors, is appointed as the driving force behind this renowned work and is a model of perseverance. My favorite scene is where he’s introduced to these intellectual snobs who don’t even bother to hide their aversion. The moment Murray lists all the languages he knows and I saw those bewildered faces of the narcissistic academics, it immediately reminded me of the scene in a student bar with Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting“. There, too, such a rich man’s son with a snobbish attitude was put in his place in a brilliant way.
Overacting? Nope, he’s just plain nuts.
Mel Gibson’s sparring partner is William Chester Minor (Sean Penn), an American army-doctor and war veteran who is haunted by delusions. In a phase of extreme madness and schizophrenia, he kills an innocent passer-by and ends up in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. In short, an institution for criminal madmen. The doctor on duty there, Dr. Richard Brayn (Stephen Dillane), initially envisages a decent treatment (which leads to certain privileges such as a large room with a gigantic library). But towards the end, he eventually seems to be a supporter of terrible techniques anyway. It’s thanks to a book that Minor received from his victim’s widow (In my eyes, the weakest aspect in this film) that he finds out that Murray asked the English people for help. And that’s the impetus for Minor to get to work and to overload Murray with thousands of words for the dictionary. The way Penn plays this tormented and insane man is simply formidable. And yes, this tends to look like overacting. But isn’t it necessary to portray this type of individual? Minor is after all nuts.
The beards intrigued me.
There are several facets that are beautifully worked out. Such as the detailed decor in which the story takes place. London during the 19th century with its typical costumes, way people behave and attributes. But above all, the interaction between the two extremely brilliant gentlemen is perfectly portrayed. Two tortured intellectuals. The one because of the obstructions and impossibility of the assignment. The other because of the inner demons that make his life unbearable. An individual suffering from a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). An unknown condition in those days. The dialogues in which the two gentlemen show their love for English vocabulary is sublime to watch. The way in which they both perk up while saying one word after the other with a smile is a feast for the eyes. Perhaps the corny storyline about the widow Eliza Merrett (Natalie “Game of Thrones” Dormer) didn’t really fit in with the whole and the emphatic message about regret and forgiveness was a bit over-the-top. But despite those shortcomings, I found this historic film based on true facts fascinating enough. So if you have questions about the origin of dictionaries, you shouldn’t miss this film. At the same time, you also have an idea about academic intellectualism (and their self-righteous and arrogant attitude) and the horror of 19th-century psychiatry. But what I wondered the most: are Gibson’s and Penn’s beard the result of natural beard growth or props?
My rating 7/10
Adopt a Highway: Melancholic And Endearing Film That Will Touch A Sensitive Nerve
When you commit a third violent crime,
you will be put away and put away for good.
Three strikes, and you are out.
Every now and then you come across such an unknown, idiosyncratic film, which was probably made with a modest budget and for which no huge marketing budgets have been made available. A film you don’t really expect too much from. That’s “Adopt a Highway“. It’s not a cheerful or action-rich film. I really expected a depressing drama. And even though there’s a moving moral in it, you can say there’s also another hidden message in this film. A message of hope, compassion and modesty.
The introduction shows how Russell Millings (Ethan Hawke) leaves prison after being imprisoned for 21 years. Reluctantly. Somewhat anxious and timid. A man who’s alienated from society and who struggles to keep up with the contemporary pace. Someone who has never used a mobile phone, the internet or e-mail. And all thanks to a short-sighted policy in which someone is sentenced to a heavy sentence when he gets involved in something for the third time. No matter how small the criminal offense is. The so-called “three strikes” legislation. In Russell’s case, it is about owning a few grams of marijuana in the state of California. Something that has become virtually legal after those 21 years. An unreasonable punishment that ensured that he wasn’t given the opportunity to develop into a decent citizen.
Ethan Hawke’s brilliant performance.
Ethan Hawke probably demonstrates his best acting performance here. The way he plays Russell is simply breathtaking. He’s in the spotlight almost constantly. And his clumsy way of conversing and interacting with others is simply sad and pitiful. It’s not clear whether Russell used to be mentally deficient from a young age already or if he got numb from the years of imprisonment. In any case, he’s treated by the official authorities as insignificant and is left to himself a bit. He tries to live an honest life and tries to avoid following the wrong path again. A simple life where he earns a living as a dishwasher in a fast-food chain and sleeps in a motel. Until he discovers the adorable Ella (Savannah Sucher) in a garbage container.
A baby’s gratitude.
Even though from the outset he realizes that it’s almost impossible for him to take care of a baby, he still hesitates to hand over the lovely baby to the authorities. What follows are touching moments that he experiences with the few-month-old Ella. His ignorance about taking care of a baby and the sense of responsibility that he suddenly experiences, take away the attention of the depressing life that he led until then. Even though Ella’s discovery brings a turning point in Russell’s life, this wasn’t the central theme for me. This helpless and innocent little girl shows gratitude in a spontaneous way. No disinterest, impatience or incomprehension as adults treat him. The most emotional scene is the one on the beach where Russell tells a part of his life story.
A second chance.
“Adopt a Highway” is a melancholic and endearing film that will touch a sensitive nerve with many viewers. Well, in my case it did. Some will call it a corny ending. I thought it was a logical conclusion. An example of humanity. It’s also a film about getting a second chance in life. I was surprised by the Blumhouse logo and I already assumed that this would be a very sinister movie. That’s certainly not the case. The explanation for the Blumhouse connection lies with the director Logan Marshall-Green who appeared last year in the Blumhouse production “Upgrade“. “Adopt a Highway” is, therefore, his debut as a director. And as far as I’m concerned he can certainly direct such a gem again. I’m ready for it.
You can see “Adopt a Highway” on Vudu, iTunes and Amazon.com
My rating 8/10
Low Tide: It’s Quite Obvious That It Won’t End Well
Eight, nine, ten. A thousand.
You boys find any more coins,
give me a holler.
Once and a while I like to watch a well-made coming-of-age movie. Such a film about juvenile innocence in which a radical event shakes the pleasant life of one or more young people. A life experience many of them look back at when they are adults. Like in “Stand by me” where a group of comrades goes looking for a corpse to become famous. In “Mud” it’s about two rascals helping a fugitive. And “Rockaway” shows two brothers who come up with a daring plan to get rid of their violent father. In most cases, things get a bit out of hand, making the impact on the involved kids even greater. Or it should be such a fairy-tale story as “The Goonies” (also aimed at a youthful audience) with a whopper of a happy ending so that you can walk around for days with such a broad smile that people are convinced that a coat hanger got stuck in your mouth.
Let’s bully Benny’s.
Admittedly, “Low Tide” is a bit reminiscent of “The Goonies“. Here you have two brothers, Peter (Jaeden “The Book of Henry” Martell) and Alan (Keean “Alita: Battle Angel” Johnson), who find a bag of gold coins while plundering beach houses of tourists. Golden coins of such value that it could be a way out of their futureless life situation. The whole story is situated in a remote region of Jersey Shore. A shabby neighborhood where fishery plays an important role. And tourism is also flourishing thanks to the wealthy day-trippers from the surrounding areas. The teenagers call those day-trippers Benny’s (residents of Bayonne, Elizabeth, Newark, New York). Alan, Red (Alex “A-X-L” Neustaedter) and Smitty (Daniel Zolghadri) hate them and therefore adhere to one rule during their raids. Homes of the local population are categorically shunned when they go looting once again.
A charming film full of frivolity.
There’s something charming about this film. It radiates frivolity and carefreeness when you see the three bosom friends joking at the fair. Acting tough and flirting with girls passing by. A summery atmosphere full of joy and mischiefs. Of course, their nocturnal escapades cannot be approved. For them, it seems like a game and a way to get money to sponsor their daily activities. Parental control is nil since Alan’s father has been at sea for some time. The rest seems to be parentless (no idea what Red’s family situation is) or their parents have no time or desire to worry about them. Even when Smitty loses a shoe and breaks a leg during such a nocturnal adventure, the three don’t seem to worry. It’s only when Peter is involved and a valuable treasure is found that the tensions starts to rise. Suddenly there’s discord within the close friends’ club. Distrust and greed arise. And when the local police officer Kent (Shea Whigham), who keeps an eye on one of the rascals, begins to meddle in their affairs, the real personality of some is struggling for dominance.
Not too bad but disappointing.
Despite the generally fascinating acting and the beautiful images presented in this film, there are a few shortcomings in this movie. First of all, the story itself is interesting, but on the other hand, it’s a bit too simplistic. You can easily summarize it all in a few short sentences. But most of all, there’s mainly a lack of tension. It’s quite obvious that it won’t end well. And that such a handsome guy like Alan will get some major attention from girls he meets, even though she’s a Benny, with a romantic tête-à-tête as a result, is not really a surprise and something you could expect. Red’s aggressiveness reaches a peak as his suspicion grows more and more. And they begin to feel the hot breath of Sergeant Kent down their neck. And yet the film fails to end up in an apotheosis. The outcome was actually disappointing, even though it was a logical conclusion. No spectacular firework (as can be seen at the end of the movie) and far too predictable. Unfortunately, because it still was a charming film.
My rating 5/10
Bloodshot | Official Trailer -HD
Action, Drama, Fantasy
February 21, 2020 (Post Production)
Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzálaz, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Guy Pearce, Lamorne Morris
After he and his wife are murdered, marine Ray Garrison is resurrected by a team of scientists. Enhanced with nanotechnology, he becomes a superhuman, biotech killing machine – Bloodshot. As Ray first trains with fellow super-soldiers, he cannot recall anything from his former life. But when his memories flood back and he remembers the man that killed both him and his wife, he breaks out of the facility to get revenge, only to discover that there’s more to the conspiracy than he thought.
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