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Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Director Gus Van Sant has brought us some very powerful films in the past — Milk, Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, to name just a few — and he frequently pushed the envelope in the way he tells a tale — To Die For, My Own Private Idaho — but his latest is a pretty straight forward bio of alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan. Played by chameleon Joaquin Phoenix, the arc of the tale is Callahan’s coming to terms with himself after a life-changing accident while getting sober at the same time. There are some funny moments for sure, and an odd romance, and also some insightful AA bits. And it is a pleasant entertainment, though not terribly memorable.

Review: The Captain (Der Hauptmann)

The Captain is not for the faint of heart. It’s the true story (or some version of it) of a German deserter in World War II, who finds a suitcase containing a Luftwaffe captain’s uniform and assumes the role, building his own band of brothers from deserters he finds along the way, and committing truly horrifying acts in the name of the Führer in the waning days of the war. Pvt. Willi Herold (Max Hubacher) simply by virtue of a uniform becomes a sadistic leader. Inventing a mission straight from Hitler himself, he quickly loses his fear of being caught and tests the limits of his own brutality. And there are no limits.

Review: Love, Cecil

I’d known about Cecil Beaton as a photographer for decades, but had no idea the breadth of his creative talents. Love, Cecil is a beautifully crafted documentary about him that blends his own interviews with those of his many admirers and friends (and a few enemies) with readings from his many diaries by Rupert Everett, and most importantly showcases his prolific output. From photographing the Royal family for decades to art directing My Fair Lady, to changing the way fashion was portrayed in print, he seemed to never stop working. Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland (Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict), the film wisely lets Beaton’s art take center stage and could more aptly be titled, “I love Cecil!”

Review: Shock and Awe

The most shocking thing about Shock and Awe is how shockingly flat it turned out to be, given the star-power behind it as well as the timeliness of its core message about the role of the free press in a democracy. With a cast list that includes Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones and actor/director Rob Reiner, the biggest question you’re left with after the film is the same question raised in the film itself: How the hell did this happen? It should have been so much better – so more people might actually see it.

Review: Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti

If you are a lover of modern art in the least, you’re most likely familiar with Paul Gauguin’s work, particularly the bold colorful paintings he did while living in French Polynesia. Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti explores his first voyage there during the years from 1891 and 1893. Tired of the Paris scene, and looking to inject something new into his work, Gauguin decided to go half a world away to free his soul to create. And from the paintings I’ve seen in museums around the globe, it worked. French actor Vincent Cassel (Black Swan) plays Gauguin with his usual abandon, disappearing into the role of the driven artist in the exotic world of his dreams. The film won’t give you many insights into his work though. It’s a fictional view of his life with one particular girl/muse. It’s absorbing, but also seriously lacking.

Quickie (documentary) Reviews: Three Identical Strangers; The King

Three Identical Strangers is a fascinating documentary that runs the gamut from joyous and surreal to shocking and sad. It tells the story of three complete strangers – Bobby Shafran, Eddy Galland, and David Kellman – who serendipitously discovered, at the age of 19, that they were identical triplets who’d been separated at birth and adopted by three different families in New York. Their story became a tabloid sensation in 1980 as the trio quickly bonded and capitalized on their newfound fame. But that’s just part one of the story. The second part is far more sinister, revealing details of the brothers’ adoption and their families’ unwitting participation in a secret psychological study about human behavior and nature versus nurture. It’s the type of documentary that tells a great story and lends itself to plenty of discussion and debate long after the credits roll.

Review: Whitney

Whitney, the new documentary about Whitney Houston has it all. Star power, incredible performances, heroes and villains, a sexual abuse bombshell, and the self-destruction and ultimate tragic death of its subject. But its greatest flaw is that it feels like her family and inner circle had way too much control over what went into this big documentary. And its most glaring deficiency is that Robyn Crawford, Whitney’s best friend, probable lover, and seemingly the only person who cared about her well-being rather than her success, was not interviewed. Nonetheless, what you’re left with is a documentary that kept reminding me of Amy, the Amy Winehouse documentary, where you know the sad outcome and you really just want to know why someone with so much talent would kill herself.

Review: Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy

If you don’t know about British artist Andy Goldsworthy, this documentary is a great way to get your feet wet. He’s hard to classify artistically, since there are not a lot of others doing what he has been doing so beautifully for decades, collaborating with the natural world in sculptural land art, temporal pieces, and photographed performances, using found materials, stone, even his own body. I’ve loved his work for ages, and this film takes you on a 3 year walkabout with him as he creates his magical experiences. There was actually a moment during the film when I was in awe. This is a must see for art lovers!

Review: Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

She was considered the most beautiful woman in the world when she came to Hollywood in the 1930s from her native Austria. She forced Louis B. Mayer to sign her to a high-dollar contract simply by walking through a room. No one could take their eyes off her. And she became a huge star during Hollywood’s Golden Age, but what Hedy Lamarr loved most was inventing. From childhood, she lived to take things apart and figure things out. She had a brilliant mind, but her beauty was all anyone cared about. And as this eye-opening and frustrating documentary shows, her ideas changed the world, even as she got no credit for them. That is, until now.

Review: Molly’s Game

Molly’s Game is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, a competitive freestyle skier who famously blew her Olympics chance and then rose to the pinnacle of the high stakes poker world running the most exclusive games in the country. The film is writer extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin’s (West Wing, The Social Network) directorial debut. And it’s intense. Jessica Chastain is outstanding as Molly. She’s smart and driven and living large. And Idris Elba is very easy on the eyes as Charlie Jaffey, the high-powered lawyer she hires to save her when it all comes crashing down and the FBI comes after her.