Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Green Book

Who’d have thought that the director of Dumb and Dumber would bring us the best movie of 2018? With two great performances from Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight), Green Book is based on the true story of a working-class New York Italian bouncer (Mortensen) who was hired to drive a classically trained black pianist (Ali) on a tour through the Jim Crow South. It’s the best road trip flick in ages as it explores race and class through an unexpected friendship. And it is by turns sad and funny and sweet and horrifying. It’s a must see!

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

We’re so used to Melissa McCarthy being the funny actress, that’s it’s hard to imagine her otherwise. But nobody’s going to question her acting chops after her turn as Lee Israel, true life best-selling author turned celebrity memorabilia forger. While there are certainly funny moments in this adaptation of Israel’s book about her descent to the remainders table and her newfound skill writing faux letters in the voices of some of the great authors of the 20th century, McCarthy’s Israel is a caustic misanthrope whose only friend is her cat. That is, until she meets aging party boy Jack (Richard E. Grant, Gosford Park, Withnail & I) who becomes her drinking buddy and partner in crime.

Review: The Great Buster

The full title of this documentary is The Great Buster: A Celebration and it certainly is that. From Dick Van Dyke to Mel Brooks to Werner Herzog, silent film star Buster Keaton aka The Great Stone Face is lauded for his enduring influence on film and comedy. This comprehensive bio-pic is from director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) who loves telling the stories of the great men of cinema. And Keaton surely was one of the greats. The film is a fairly straightforward chronological telling of his life and career featuring lots of talking heads and film clips from his movies. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, the film will no doubt make them want to see his work. And for those who already knew him, it’s a loving reminder of a man way ahead of his time.

Review: A Private War

You simply can’t paint all journalists and all of journalism with the same broad brush. A Private War reminds us of that. The film follows the last ten years in the risk-fueled life of the Sunday Times of London foreign affairs correspondent Marie Colvin. The American-born journalist dedicated most of her adult life to exposing the human atrocities of war across the globe, up to the very moment of her untimely death in the besieged city of Homs, Syria on February 12, 2012. She was 56. A Private War pays homage to Colvin’s bravery, tenacity and bravado, while also exposing the physical and psychological trauma that resulted from the choices she made. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Beirut, Hostiles) plays Colvin with admirable precision, nailing her unique voice and mannerisms; and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades, Anthropoid) delivers a strong supporting performance as Colvin’s frequent partner in the conflict zones, British-soldier-turned-photojournalist Paul Conroy.

Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

As biopics go, Bohemian Rhapsody is not a great movie. But it does feature plenty of strong performances and a final act that more than makes up for its shortcomings – particularly if you’re a fan of Queen and/or grew up in the ‘Live Aid’ generation. Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the men and music that made up the iconic British rock band fronted by Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek, TV’s Mr. Robot) from 1970 until his AIDS-related death in 1991. To this day, the band plays on – in various incarnations – with Mercury’s influence still vital to its core, though his energetic presence is sorely missed. He was a unique dude.

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Review: First Man

I love Ryan Gosling (La La Land, Drive, The Notebook). I love space dramas, and true stories, and American heroes. I’m a big fan of director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land). But I just didn’t love First Man – much as I really, really wanted to. It’s a solid flick, for sure, with some great visual effects and a moving narrative about the risks and sacrifices astronaut Neil Armstrong (and many others) took in one way or another to advance our exploration of space. I was a mere toddler when Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, but I can assure you I was plopped in front of the TV along with half the planet to watch history unfold. No #FakeNews here! President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge, and we sent a man to the moon. How awesome is that? This is the stuff of movies! Which brings me back to… First Man.

Review: Hal

In the 1970s, there was a director who made an extraordinary series of socially conscious and brilliantly entertaining films. His name was Hal Ashby. From Harold and Maude to Being There, his films have endured, yet when people speak of filmmakers from that era, Scorsese and Coppola are most often the names that come up. Most likely that is because they continued to make great films while Ashby’s glory days lasted only a decade. Nevertheless, Hal is a great reminder of his creative genius and the still contentious relationship between art and commerce.

Review: Colette

Colette is considered to be the greatest French writer of the 20th century, and how she rose from her humble country girl roots to be the toast of Belle Époque Paris society is a truly entertaining and inspirational story. Bringing her to life in this fine biopic is Kiera Knightly in one of her best performances. Colette was an early fighter for women’s equal treatment and the film is a beautifully shot #GirlPower story. This not the big biography of Colette though. It’s the first chapter of her story, the story of how Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette became Colette, how she became a writer, and how she became an independent woman. There is so much more to her story, but this small part makes for a fun ride.

Review: Love, Gilda

I loved Gilda Radner! She’s the only celebrity whose death has ever made me weep. So when I heard there was going to be a documentary about her, I was thrilled. But while Love, Gilda is a nice walk down memory lane, it doesn’t really capture the magic that made so many of us adore Gilda. It’s a fairly chronological telling of her life story with a wealth of of archival footage and audio. And a lot of the film, despite being about one of the funniest, most joyful people ever, is kind of a buzz kill. But maybe it works best for people who didn’t know and love her from way back, with no memory of her boundless heart, like the director herself who only came to appreciate her after doing fundraising videos for Gilda’s Clubs, the cancer support centers started by Radner’s  husband Gene Wilder after her death.