Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Megan Leavey – A True(ish) Tale about a Marine and her Dog

Megan Leavey feels like a movie that started out as a pet project, gained momentum as a pet project, and made it to the big screen as a pet project, complete with some decent actors and, in the case of the screening I attended, a heartfelt introduction from Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. His office was instrumental in helping real-life Marine corporal Megan Leavey adopt Rex, the bomb-sniffing dog that served alongside her in Iraq. If you’re a sucker for a tale about a woman and her dog, then Megan Leavey is there for ya. Hoorah.

Churchill Review

Another movie about Winston Churchill? There have been dozens over the years illuminating various eras and roles in his life. This one takes on just a few days. But what days they were! Churchill takes the audience for a behind the scenes look at the political wrangling leading up to D-day and Churchill’s reluctance to commit British troops to the Allied operation. It’s one more film that portrays him as an egotistical and difficult man, though here his wife, who was most likely his saving grace, tempers his enormous presence. You know how it ends, if you know any history, but getting there is really more psychological drama than war movie.

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z (pronounced zed in the British fashion) tells the “true” story of the intrepid Lieutenant Colonel Percy Fawcett (Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy) who was sent to Bolivia in 1906 to map the country’s borders for the Royal Geographic Society (RGS) and stumbled upon clues to a lost civilization deep within the Amazon. He made numerous trips back and forth between England, where his wife (Sienna Miller) and children lived, and the Amazon. And he eventually disappeared into the jungle. The film is a beautifully shot tale of obsession in the last age of the great world explorers. Slightly too long, it is nonetheless entirely worth your time.

Cézanne et Moi

Cézanne et Moi offers a view of a friendship that spanned nearly a lifetime. It’s the story of the bond formed in an Aix-en-Provence childhood between two great artists of the late 19th century, painter Paul Cézanne and writer Émile Zola. Surprisingly devoid of paintings and writing, it’s mostly about the men’s relationship. There are warm moments you recognize as signs of a deep friendship but also painful scenes of betrayal. Not terribly deep, it’s an entertaining trip through the Paris art world as the world is leaving behind the Impressionists, as seen by one of the great post-Impressionists whose work was not yet recognized for its greatness and a writer on the rise.

The Zookeeper’s Wife

Just in time for Passover… a new Holocaust movie! It’s hard to believe that 80 years after Hitler hatched his maniacal plan to exterminate Jews, there are compelling stories of faith, survival, heroism and sacrifice still making their way to the big screen. The Zookeeper’s Wife isn’t nearly as gripping and powerful as the likes of Diary of Anne Frank or Schindler’s List, but it’s a valiant effort and comes along at a time when the nation – and the world- can use a good reminder to “never forget” what happened, how it happened, and the dangers of a lunatic leader with a cult following. Not to mention the importance of resistance – and persistence. For that very reason alone, it’s worth checking out The Zookeeper’s Wife, based on the nonfiction book by Diane Ackerman. It recounts how a Polish couple who ran the Warsaw Zoo helped save hundreds of Jews during the German invasion, by using the zoo as a way-station for men, women and children to escape from the ill-fated Warsaw Ghetto.

Cinema Clash podcast: Kong Skull Island; The Ottoman Lieutenant; The Last Word; Neruda; The Marseilles Trilogy

On this edition of the Cinema Clash with Charlie and Hannah: An epic monster movie that’s thin on story but big on spectacle; a love triangle wrapped in a weak war drama set in the Ottoman Empire; Shirley MacLaine gets the The Last Word in a film that Charlie detests and Hannah struggles to defend; a Chilean poet-turned-politician gets the fictionalized biopic treatment; and not one, not two, but three French films for the cinephilic Francophile (aka Charlie). Ooh-la-la! Listen now, or download for later!

I Am Not Your Negro

This brilliant documentary walks its audience through the Civil Rights era with undoubtedly the most articulate and engaged guide possible – James Baldwin, writer (The Fire Next Time, Notes of a Native Son, Go Tell It on the Mountain), intellectual and social critic. Using archival footage from his many speaking engagements on television and at key locations during the Civil Rights fight, along with voice-over from a book that Baldwin never finished (read by a very reverential Samuel L Jackson), the film is told entirely in his words. And his thoughts about the state of the black life in America in the 60s sadly still apply today.

Cinema Clash: Split; xXx: Return of Xander Cage; The Founder

Mainstream Chick faces off with her cinematic nemesis Charlie over: M. Night Shyamalan’s creepy psychological thriller Split starring James McAvoy as a guy with 24 alternate personalities who kidnaps three teenage girls; xXx: Return of Xander Cage, an action movie starring Vin Diesel in the second sequel of a franchise I’d never heard of. It’s pure camp. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!; and The Founder, a not-so-feel-good biopic starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc.

The Founder

The Founder is the antithesis of a feel-good movie. It’ll leave you with a bitter aftertaste, not to mention second thoughts about grabbing a burger at McDonald’s. On the surface, the movie has a similar vibe to The Social Network (about the founder of Facebook) and Steve Jobs (about the co-founder of Apple). All three focus on the origin stories of iconic companies and the people who got trampled – or simply left behind – as the brands took off. But The Founder (about the “founder” of McDonald’s) is missing a few key ingredients – namely drama, tension, and the development of characters that you may want to care about. The cast is good. The movie is weak.

Hidden Figures

How did we not know about this story before now?! That’s the biggest question I had after watching Hidden Figures, what I venture to call the best feel-good movie to hit theaters in recent weeks, months, or possibly even years. It’s based on the fascinating, true story of three African-American women who were part of a segregated ‘human computer’ division at NASA that ‘did the math’ that helped send astronaut John Glenn into orbit at the height of the space race in the early 1960s. Talk about the right stuff. These women had it.