Currently browsing the "Biopic" category.

Review: Harriet

Harriet Tubman was an extraordinary woman and she deserves to have her story told (and to be on the $20 bill.) She was a tiny, illiterate slave, but she was also fearless and smart. She escaped her bondage, but returned into hostile territory to bring hundreds more people to freedom as a key figure in the Underground Railroad. And this new film Harriet touches all the high points of her heroic tale. But despite a great cast doing their best, the film never really rises to the level her amazing story deserves.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2019

Another super tiring weekend in the bucolic Virginia hamlet of Middleburg watching more films than I should! I predicted early on that this festival would outgrow itself and I think it has come to that point. Too many people know about it and the growing pains have become chronic overcrowding at venues without room for expansion. I’m already searching for another festival for next year. (All suggestions are appreciated.) I saw fewer films this year, too, just nine — Marriage Story, The Capote Tapes, The Aeronauts, Frankie, Waves, The Report, The Two Popes, Atlantics, and Knives Out. I only gave one of them four stars and several were surprising disappointments. For too many it was great cast and great performances in an otherwise just okay movie. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Review: JUDY

Renée Zellweger is the total package to play legendary performer Judy Garland. Zellweger is an actress who can sing (Chicago), do drama (Cold Mountain) and deliver a punchline (Bridget Jones). She leverages all of the above to bring life and star power to what might otherwise be a rather dry biopic about the singer and actress who rose to fame as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and died some 30 years later of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 47.

Review: Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins

If you don’t know who Molly Ivins was, you’ll be a fan by the end of this doc. If you do remember her, you’ll fall back in love. And after watching it, everyone will wish there were a journalist of her intellect and humor around today to take on the political class in America and abroad. Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins is a pretty straightforward telling of her life and times. But what times they were. She tackled some of the big stories from the late 60s to the era of W (she coined that moniker) with such a keen eye for people and their motivations, and she pulled no punches. The film is by no means the definitive story of her very full though cut short life, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to be with her for its 93 minutes.

Review: Official Secrets

Remember back in 2003, when US Secretary of State Colin Powell went before the United Nations to make the case for war against Iraq, basing his appeal on what later turned out to be false intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to Al-Qaeda and Weapons of Mass Destruction? Of course you do. Need a refresher, or a reason to get your blood boiling all over again? Official Secrets should do the trick.

Review: Vita & Virginia

Vita Sackville-West was a British socialite and a popular writer in the 1920s. She was also fond of scandalizing the society in which she lived, especially with her female lovers. Virginia Woolf was also a writer at the time, though less popular, but Lady Sackville-West set her sights on her after meeting at a dinner party. What followed was a relationship that lasted a decade and was responsible for one of Woolf’s greatest books, “Orlando.” Vita & Virginia is the story of these two women as they come together passionately for a while and then remain friends for a while. The film feels a lot like the lost lesbian episode of Downton Abbey, and while the performances are quite good, the costumes gorgeous, and the sets to die for, this telling of the famous literary romance does leave you less than satisfied and wishing Julian Fellowes had had a hand in it.

Quickie Review: Pavarotti (documentary)

Don’t get me wrong. My appreciation for Pavarotti does not mean I appreciate having been subjected as a kid to live radio broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera every Saturday afternoon. That was strictly my parents’ thing. Sure, I survived the likes of Madame Butterfly, Carmen and La bohème. But I didn’t have a clue what anyone was singing, and didn’t much care. So how do I know of Luciano Pavarotti? He was all over the place in my youth, opera’s ambassador to the world at large. He was on morning shows and late night television, the Muppets and Sesame Street, and featured in commercials for Shower to Shower and American Express. He had a larger than life personality, an infectious smile, and yes – a really big voice.

Review: Rocketman

This one took some serious rumination, because as much I would love to say I loved Rocketman, I can only say I liked it. I’m still thinking about it though, so it’s possible my verdict will change over time, much like my initial reaction toward Bohemian Rhapsody which impressed me more upon second viewing. It’s not fair to directly compare Rocketman and Bohemian Rhapsody however, because even though they share a director (sort of, in part) and touch on similar topics relating to music, addiction, sexuality, excess, friendship, family and betrayal – the movies themselves are quite different, narratively and stylistically.

Review: Wild Nights with Emily

The Emily of the title is the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, long thought to be a delicate recluse who was afraid to publish her work. But that, the film tells us, is an entirely false narrative devised for profit after her death. In fact, Dickinson was a strong and passionate woman who carried on a life-long affair with a woman who was her childhood friend and later her sister-in-law who lived conveniently next door. Played by miscast SNL alum Molly Shannon, Emily is certainly an unconventional poet, but also an early women’s rights adherent pushing for women to have the same opportunities as men and to be taken just as seriously. While it is a potentially heavy subject, the film has a light tone, which works most of the time. It’s an odd little romcom that plays off the juxtaposition of Emily’s real life with the sanitized version told by Mabel Loomis Todd (Amy Seimetz), Emily’s brother’s sly mistress, who as her de facto biographer took great liberties with Dickinson’s legacy, despite having never actually met her.

Quickie Reviews: Gloria Bell; Yardie

What’s with all the remakes of decent if not exceptional foreign films lately? In recent months, we’ve seen Americanized versions of the 2011 feel-good French film The Intouchables (remade as The Upside), the 2014 Norwegian crime drama In Order of Disappearance (remade as Cold Pursuit), and now, Chile’s 2013 romdramedy Gloria (remade into Gloria Bell). In the case of Cold Pursuit and Gloria Bell, we’re treated to nearly shot-by-shot, word-for-word redundancy delivered by the same directors who helmed the original, well-received foreign flicks. Hey, let’s just throw in a lead actor popular with American audiences and do it all over again. Box office gold, right? Um, no.